Disclaimer: I do not own The A-Team, their property (yes, I mean the van), their friends or their enemies. If you recognise something, it's probably not mine.
It's been three weeks since Face took the shot.
It's been three weeks since BA snapped Carson's neck like a twig.
It's been three weeks since they last heard Murdock laugh and joke around.
It's been three weeks that Hannibal has spent trying to put his team back together.
BA's a surprisingly sensitive man. He feels things more deeply than he generally lets on and even then only to a very few loved ones. His mama and his team. That's it.
When Face took the shot, when he saw Murdock fall, blood covering the side of his face, he snapped. Carson tried to run, but BA was faster and closer than either of them thought. He reached out with his left arm, snagged the back of Carson's collar and yanked him close, a parody of a lovers' embrace.
If he hadn't struggled quite so much, BA thinks, he might have just ended up in jail. But he had jammed his elbow back into BA's gut with surprising force, enough to make the big man temporarily lose his breath. BA had retaliated, making sure Carson knew it was a pointless exercise to resist. He cuffed him upside his head which seemed to slow him down but hadn't been enough to knock any sense in to the man.
If Carson had just kept his mouth shut, he might have just ended up in jail. But he apparently couldn't help himself. As he wriggled in BA's grip, he had turned his head towards McAlister and Murdock and laughed. BA hadn't seen anything funny in the situation and the sound of his adversary's laughter had been the final provocation.
BA's heard of the red mist but he'd never really thought it existed; even in the depths of the jungles of Vietnam at his lowest ebb it was only a myth, an excuse used by homicidal and deranged kids fighting in hell. He thinks differently now. Carson's laughter was the trigger and BA barely felt his arm snake round his neck, other hand gripping the top of his head tight. He doesn't remember exactly what he did next but when the red mist lifted, he had a limp, dead body in his arms.
Carson would never laugh at Murdock again.
He can't really recall what happened next. He knows Hannibal finished off two of the goons with precision, leaving them senseless on the ground to be trussed up like a Christmas turkey, one fled like the coward he clearly was, and Face floored the last one with a perfect knee shot. He thinks Hannibal must have dealt with the cleaning operation with his usual efficiency and they've been at this apartment ever since.
He looks over to the closed door leading from the living area where he's standing to the master bedroom. Hannibal had insisted Face take it but he'd refused. BA thinks it's because he can't stand to be alone with his thoughts and he can't blame him.
Face is sitting on the couch, physically in the same room as BA but as far away as he's ever been. BA knows he's wrestling with his guilt and he hesitates to intrude on that but the lieutenant has been staring out of the window for the best part of three weeks now and BA doesn't know much about mental health but he's pretty sure that's a bad sign.
Moving tentatively to sit next to him, BA rests a hand on his friend's shoulder, ignoring the complete lack of reaction.
"You had to do it, man," he says. He's told Face this over and over and over and he hopes soon the message will sink in. "Fool'd say the same thing and you know it."
He gives Face's shoulder a squeeze and when there's still no response, he sigh softly and moves to stand up. As he rises slowly to his feet, he see one single tear trail down Face's cheek and his heart breaks slightly.
The guilt is killing him. He knows BA and Hannibal don't blame him but now he thinks he shouldn't have taken that shot. It wasn't clear. It was never clear. Even for a sniper of his abilities, and he's never doubted those, it wasn't a clear shot. There was always going to be collateral damage. And the only person to get caught in the crossfire was Murdock.
He knew the second his finger pulled the trigger that he was just as surely shooting his best friend as McAlister. That last look from Murdock is imprinted on his brain. He'll never forget it. The forgiveness before he'd even done anything, the understanding, the silent acceptance. But it's the trust Murdock had shown him that cuts the deepest.
Murdock trusted him to do the right thing. At the time it hadn't crossed his mind that he wasn't doing the right thing. He acted on instinct, years and years of training. He had done it to save their captain but now, in the cold light of day, he doesn't think he should have done it.
He can't sleep so he doesn't even try. Hannibal tried to make him take the master bedroom, heal up and rest he'd been told. Thing is, every time he shuts his eyes, he sees Murdock's face. Sometimes he's sad, sometimes he's laughing at Face, sometimes he's thoughtful and sometimes, most of the time, he's covered in blood and grey matter.
So he stays in the living area where he's safe from the nightmares that come when he does drop off, exhausted beyond comprehension. He knows Hannibal and BA will wake him, won't let him get lost. He hears them talk to each other in muffled, concerned tones and it comforts him that there's still life but the one voice he longs to hear, the one that matters most, is conspicuously missing.
That soft, Texan drawl that he's become so accustomed to is absent. He longs to hear it, just a word or a burst of song, and the fact he won't is his fault. BA and Hannibal can tell him as many times as they like he had no other choice but he'll never believe them as he replays the scene over in his head.
He startles as the phone rings and is aware of Hannibal moving to pick it up, cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth. Face wonders vaguely if the colonel knows he's chewing it more vigorously than usual.
"Yes," Hannibal says, followed by a long pause. Face can feel him looking at him and keeps his own eyes studiously directed at the view out of the window.
He listens as Hannibal voices general 'okay' and 'I see' and 'when?' down the phone. It's the last one that grabs Face's attention enough to turn his head towards the colonel. He doesn't know what to make of his expression but he's looking directly back at him.
Hannibal puts the phone back in its cradle and takes the cigar from his mouth. Then he breaks out into a small but reassuring smile.
"Murdock's asking for you," he tells Face.
Hannibal smiles as he tells Face the good news but he's not expecting the reaction he gets from his lieutenant. The kid just sits there, staring blankly at him before slowly shaking his head.
"No." His lips are definitely moving but Hannibal can barely hear him.
"What'd you mean, 'no'?" he asks, confused. He was so sure this would be the news to break his lieutenant out of his catatonic state.
Face keeps shaking his head. "No," he repeats. "No. He doesn't. Why would he? I shot him. I nearly killed him. He doesn't want to see me. I wouldn't want to see me. Why does he want to see me?"
Hannibal frowns at the rising hysteria in the kid's voice. He's got up off the couch and is pacing up and down, not really looking at BA or himself. Hannibal looks at BA who is clearly just as confused as he is. The sergeant takes a step forward, blocking Face's path, bringing him to a halt with a hand on either shoulder.
"What you talking about?" he demands.
Hannibal watches from the side lines. He loves Face like a father and he really needs to be there for him but there are times when being in charge means taking a step back. BA's bluntness might just be what he needs to snap him out of this.
He watches as Face looks up at BA and silently rejoices. This is the most response they've got out of the lieutenant since the shooting. Face seems to flounder for words and Hannibal is just about to step in when BA pulls him into a bear hug and says,
"Wasn't your fault, Faceman. Ain't no-one gonna blame you for what happened, least of all that fool."
"He's right," Hannibal agrees, stepping forward and putting a paternal arm round what he can see of Face. "Now, Murdock's asking for you. Can you do this?" His voice doesn't hold any room for argument but Face shakes his head anyway.
Hannibal looks at BA who has lifted his head to watch the colonel over Face's shoulder. There's a silent question there and BA smiles sadly.
"Just give him a minute," he says, and loosens his hold on Face, who is shaking. Hannibal nods knowingly at BA and when the kid finally turns to face Hannibal, the colonel can see red rimmed eyes and tear trails.
"Okay?" he asks, softly, and when Face just about manages a nod he continues, "Stay here with BA. I'm going to fetch Murdock and then you two need to talk. Okay?"
The VA has never felt so safe so why does he feel so alone? Why does he feel as though something so important is missing? He's used to feeling incomplete but this is different.
He's been back here for a while. He doesn't know how long, time loses its meaning for him occasionally when there's nothing to look forward to. Dr Richter tells him its okay to not know, he tells him it's okay to live life according to his own timetable but there are blanks in his mind right now, more than the usual.
The first night back, the night Hannibal dropped him on the street out front and watched until the orderlies had taken him inside, he had no explanation as to where he'd been this time. There had been a long, confusing session with Dr Richter. They had both tried to work out where the stitches on his scalp had come from. Murdock was convinced he'd been attacked by an eagle for his baseball cap but the doctor kept asking him how he'd been shot.
He told Murdock the stitches are definitely the result of a bullet wound, and while he's at it, where did his patient get those bruises on his ribs and round his neck? Murdock didn't understand what he was talking about but apparently he's good at denying that which he simply doesn't want to deal with.
Eventually, Richter had shaken his head and had Murdock taken back to his room. Murdock thought the doc must be worried about him because the orderly locked the door and seemed to take up position outside.
Sleep hadn't come easily that first night. Or rather, it had but it didn't last. There were nightmares. Face with a gun, pointing at him, a hand at his throat, explosions, confusion, pain, and terror. He woke screaming, sweating and fighting the orderlies trying to restrain him.
The sedatives they gave him helped for a while but now they've stopped giving them to him and he's left to his own devices in his room. He's still confused, still doesn't really know how he got shot but he thinks it's something to do with that first nightmare.
Richter comes to see him every day, always asking the same question – how did you get shot? Murdock's starting to remember but he's not going to tell. He trusts Richter more than anyone outside of the team but the doctor still doesn't about his involvement in their missions and he's not going give that up at any cost.
He remembers McAlister throttling him, he remembers Face lying on the floor, gun steady and true, and he remembers embracing gravity to throw McAlister off balance. Then he has a vague recollection of pain, blood, something else covering his head and face. The floor was hard and there was a weight on top of him. He thinks that's probably when he lost consciousness because he doesn't remember anything else until Hannibal left him.
Stroking the top of Billy's head he wonders where Adam is. Adam's the orderly who talks to him in the evening, who watches the sunset with him and lets him talk about anything and everything. He thinks it strange the man hasn't been to welcome him back. Maybe Hannibal can clear that one up for him sometime.
Maybe Hannibal can clear it all up for him, but mostly he thinks he needs to talk to Face.
BA doesn't like this. Face is the one who scams Murdock out of the VA and the fool's only just gone back in. Surely Hannibal is going to raise some suspicions this soon. But he needs to stay with Face while the colonel works his own unique brand of magic.
There'd been little discussion after Face's breakdown. Both BA and Hannibal are relieved in a way that it's finally happened. Hannibal made the decision to bring Murdock to Face rather than the other way round, telling BA that it was safer for everyone that way. BA had to agree.
So here he is, hovering in the living area with a silent Face. He's unsure whether to say anything to break the silence but just as he's wondering where to start, Face sighs.
"Do you think he even knows what happened?" he asks the sergeant.
It's a good question, BA thinks. Murdock often doesn't know what's going on but then, just when it counts, he's as reliable and solid as any of them. Maybe he remembers, maybe he doesn't.
"Don't really matter," he tells Face who just looks up at him, confused.
"Think about it," BA says, really wishing Hannibal were here having this conversation instead of him. "If he don't know, he ain't hurting. If he does know, well, he's asking for you so he obviously don't care what happened to him."
He's quite pleased with his explanation. For a man of few words he finds people tend to listen when he does have something to say. Certainly Face seems to be thinking about it.
"Yeah," he mutters, "maybe, but what if…"
He's interrupted by the door of the apartment opening and BA offers up a silent 'thank you' when Hannibal appears in the doorway as if by magic, Murdock hovering behind him, almost reluctantly and BA wonders if this was such a good idea after all, wonders if these two are really ready to talk.
Face looks up as the door closes softly behind Murdock. Hannibal said they have to talk but he's not sure what to say, doesn't understand why the captain is so keen to see him after what happened. Murdock looks pale, more fragile than he's ever seemed before and yet Face can see an underlying strength that he wishes he had for himself.
Hannibal has moved past him and there's no avoiding it now. Murdock is looking right at him and Face can feel his heart pounding, trying to escape out of his chest. He smiles hesitantly at his best friend, unsure of the reception he's going to get.
"Murdock," he starts, before trailing off, worrying his lower lip with those perfect teeth of his. "Murdock," he tries again. "I'm so sorry."
He's not sure what he was expecting from Murdock but the pilot just stands there and tilts his head to one side.
"Aw, Faceman," he replies and Face can't believe how relieved he is to hear that soft drawl again. "It weren't your fault. You had to do it."
"But I nearly killed you," Face insists.
"And McAlister would have killed me." Murdock moves forward until he's standing in Face's space. "You did what you had to do, and I'm real grateful for it."
Face reaches up and rests his hand on Murdock's cheek, just millimetres from the red, angry scar that starts at his hairline, disappearing under the ever present baseball cap. Murdock reaches up and covers his hand with his own.
"I'm okay," he whispers so quietly Face doubts BA and Hannibal can hear him. Leaning forward until their foreheads meet, Murdock asks "But are you?"
Face shakes his head slowly, confused. "What d'you mean?" he asks. "You're the one who got shot."
"Caught in the crossfire," Murdock counters. "You shot McAlister. I just didn't drop quick enough or low enough. That's not your fault."
"Murdock." Face doesn't know how to explain to this man in front of him who seems to have an infinite capacity for forgiveness. "I thought I'd killed you. When I took that shot… I knew… I knew I wasn't going to miss you. And I did it anyway."
"But you knew it wouldn't kill me," Murdock reassures him.
Face thinks about it. Murdock's right – he did know the shot wouldn't be fatal to his friend but the knowledge doesn't erase the image of his bullet hurtling towards the pilot, dislodging his cap and carving a groove through his hair, McAlister's head erupting in an explosion of blood and bone and grey matter, covering his friend as they both dropped to the ground like a stone, neither of them moving.
Murdock straightens up, and Face instantly mourns the lack of contact.
"I trust you, Facey," he's saying. "Always."
Hannibal watches the interaction between his lieutenant and his captain with pride. He looks to BA who is as transfixed as he is by the conversation. Face and BA have both taken a life, something they haven't done lightly and Hannibal knows they're both going to need to work through it in their own way.
But he knows they won't have to do it alone.
His team is healing.
They're not okay. But they will be.
Author's Note: This has been a labour of love. It's not perfect and there are probably glaring plot holes along the way (and brownie points for anyone who spots the continuity error) and a few bits that could be tied up a bit better. However, I think you're all capable of filling those hole how you see fit and make this story a little bit your own too. Thank you to everyone who has read, followed, commented and enjoyed this story. To those guest reviewers I couldn't respond to - thank you.