I hope you enjoy this. I'm still quite new to writing stories for The A Team, so I'd really appreciate any reviews - thank you kindly!
"Face, we're still waiting for your vote." Hannibal chose not to turn around to talk to his Lieutenant who was sitting in his usual place in the back seat of the van.
"Hmmm," replied Face, but he wasn't really listening.
Or he didn't want to talk. Right now Face couldn't be sure which it was.
The team were heading home after wrapping up their latest job. They'd been in Mexico for the last three days, but now they planned to get something to eat before dropping Murdock back at the VA hospital.
"Chinese or Italian, Lieutenant?" prompted Hannibal, addressing him formally, but without making it sound like an order.
"Hurry up, Face," snapped BA as he drove the van through the backstreets of L.A. "I'm hungry. If you can't choose, I'll choose. I'm votin' Italian."
"Ummm… yeah," said Face, absentmindedly.
"Earth to Faceman!" yelled Murdock, loudly.
Finally, Face realised he was being spoken to. "What?" he responded, shooting a disgruntled look at Murdock.
"Food!" growled BA.
"Oh, right," said Face. "Er… yes, food."
Hannibal turned to BA and rolled his eyes. "Italian it is," he said, decisively. "We'll go to Bella's."
BA nodded and with a screech of the brakes he spun the van around in the road, heading towards their favourite pasta restaurant.
Face wasn't hungry and eating was the last thing on his mind, but he wasn't sure if he was quite ready to go home yet either.
'Home' for the time being was a penthouse apartment he'd scammed for the next two months. It was certainly luxurious, with all the mod-cons, but it could also feel big and empty at times like this. As much as he didn't feel like talking right now, or eating, he also didn't feel like going back there alone.
"What's gotten into you, Face?" asked Murdock. "You've been real quite since we got back from Mexico."
Now Hannibal twisted round in his seat before speaking. "Murdock's right," he said. "In fact, you weren't yourself the whole time we were there."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," replied Face, sarcastically. "Next time I get tossed out of a window, shot at and kicked in the head in the space of three days I'll try to remember to act more like myself."
"Are you badly hurt?" asked Hannibal, with genuine concern. "Is that why you're being like this?"
Face gingerly rubbed his shoulder. "A little sore," he admitted. "But I'll be fine." He sighed deeply. "Maybe I'm just done with being myself?" he offered.
Hannibal and Murdock exchanged a worried glance. Even BA turned his head momentarily to stare at Face. It wasn't like Lieutenant to be so dour.
Face was suddenly aware the others were looking at him and he realised how his words might have sounded. He forced a smile onto his lips.
"Relax," he urged. "I didn't mean it to sound like that. I'm not about to throw myself under a bus or anything. It's just…" he trailed off and considered his next words. "I was just…. wallowing. OK? A guy can wallow occasionally, can't he?"
"Well, that depends," said Murdock. "On what exactly it is you're wallowing in. Now, if we're talkin' about mud - like the magnificent hippopotamus, keeping cool in the great rivers of sub-Saharan Africa – then sure, wallow away. It's great for the skin, y'know. Mud, I mean. Cleans out the pores."
BA looked round and glared at Murdock. "Face ain't talkin' about no hippos, fool!" he snapped.
Face sat back in his seat. "Can we just drop it?" he begged. "Please?"
Hannibal shrugged. "Only if you're sure you don't have a problem," he said.
"I'm sure," Face replied. "I'm fine."
"Good," nodded Hannibal.
"Good," Face repeated.
They drove for a few more minutes without anyone saying another word. The only noise was the hum of the engine and BA's occasional grunts of frustration at the actions of other drivers on the road.
Murdock cast a sideways glance in Face's direction. They were all exhausted, but Murdock was convinced there was something else bothering Face.
The Mexico job had been tougher than any of them had expected. The bad guys had fought dirty and their clients – a brother and sister desperate to keep their family business out of the hands of corrupt officials – had been close to surrendering when Hannibal's plan had finally come together, more down to luck than anything. Even Hannibal had been a little worried about this one, although of course he'd never admit that to his team
Eventually, Face spoke up again.
"It's just," he began. "It's just, I was thinking how nice it would be to have somewhere..."
Hannibal frowned. "I thought you didn't want to talk about it?" he said, without turning around.
"Well, y'know, after a tough job like that one," Face continued, ignoring Hannibal's interruption. "It would be nice to have somewhere to go to relax."
"Somewhere like..." began Hannibal and this time he twisted in his seat to look at Face. "A country club?"
"Exactly!" exclaimed Face, jabbing a finger in Hannibal's direction.
Murdock shot Face a sympathetic look. "So that's what this is all about," he said understandingly.
It had been just over a month since Face's attempt to join the Beverly Bay Country Club had ended in disaster and the more time passed, the more he thought about it and the more upset he became. He'd spent months trying to get in and then it was all taken away from him before he'd had chance to enjoy the result of his hard work.
"Face," said Hannibal. "If it bothers you that much we'll find you another country club to join."
Face glared at him. "One that isn't a front for a money laundering operation, you mean?" he said, sarcasm returning to his tone easily.
"And preferably one that General Fulbright doesn't frequent either," noted Murdock.
"Thank you for reminding me," retorted Face. "Just in case I'd forgotten how spectacularly wrong that whole decision was."
Hannibal frowned. He hated it when Face was so hard on himself. "You weren't to know, kid," he pointed out.
Face threw himself back in his seat and ran his hand through his hair. "I just wanted to... to... to be somebody," he said, wishing it hadn't come out in such a whiny tone.
Murdock slapped his shoulder affectionately. "You are somebody, Faceman!" he exclaimed. "You're The Faceman!"
Face rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Murdock," he said graciously. "But, I mean somebody else. Somebody who enjoys long lunches, a game of tennis or two, maybe a round of golf. That's who I wanted to be. Just for a few hours a month, that's all. I don't think that's too much to ask, is it?"
"I understand," replied Murdock. "I, too, occasionally like to pretend to be someone else."
BA glared at him. "You do it all the time, fool, 'coz you're crazy!" he exclaimed. "Face ain't crazy!"
"Thanks, BA," noted Face, willing to accept any kind of compliment. "Look, guys, just forget I said anything."
"Can't do that," replied Murdock. "We gotta snap you outta this. Oh… oh, I've got an idea!" Murdock's eyes widened with excitement as he continued. "We'll make our own club, the four of us! We're already a team, so from now on we're a club too. We can get some little membership cards printed up, have meetings - I'll be Club Secretary, I take perfect shorthand. Look."
Murdock proceeded to pretend to write something in an invisible notebook – his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth as he worked – before presenting it to Face.
"Very neat," said Face, nodding in approval, although of course there was nothing to see.
BA looked over his shoulder. "You can't take shorthand!" he growled. "That notebook and pen only exists in your crazy head!"
"Murdock," began Face, his lips twitching into a small smile. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, but it's not really the same. Please can we just not talk about this anymore? I'll get over it. It's no big deal."
"It's a big deal to you," noted Murdock. "We just gotta figure out why you're so depressed."
"I'm not depressed!" insisted Face. "You're blowing this whole thing out of all proportion."
He took a moment to make sure what he'd just said was correct. He really wasn't depressed… was he? He didn't think he was, he was just a little fed up. That's all. Nothing to worry about… except now his friends were worried about him, so maybe things were worse than he thought? He started to wish he'd kept his feelings to himself.
"I think I can help you, Face," said Murdock, seriously.
"Make it quick," snarled BA. "I can't take you bein' all miserable no more, Face. You're gettin' us all down."
Face looked at him incredulously. "Says Mr Happy-Go-Lucky," he retorted.
BA growled, but said nothing.
Murdock grabbed Face's arm. "You gotta trust me on this," he urged. "You need to talk about it. I do have some experience with this kinda thing, y'know."
Hannibal nodded. "He has a point, Face."
"Thank you, Colonel," smiled Murdock. Then his expression became serious again. "Now, Face, just make yourself comfortable on the couch, take a deep breath and talk to Doctor Murdock."
Face shook his head. "You're not a psychiatrist, Murdock, you're a psych patient," he pointed out. "There's a big difference."
Murdock's eyes widened. "Is there really, though?" he offered, knowingly.
Face threw his hands in the air in resignation. He didn't have the strength to argue with Murdock today. He shuffled in his seat and got himself into a semi-reclining position.
"There," he said. "I'm on the couch. So what do you want me to say?"
"Close your eyes," instructed Murdock and Face obliged. "Good, now I need you to tell me about Ashley Hemmings," he prompted. "Why him?"
"Why not?" replied Face. "It was just a fake I.D."
"Was it?" queried Murdock. "Or is Ashley Hemmings the person you secretly want to be?"
Face propped himself up on his elbows and he glared at Murdock. "No!" he insisted. "It's not my secret fantasy to be a boring accountant. I just needed a bland identity so I could get my membership. You're reading way too much into this."
"Hmmm," Murdock pondered, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
Face closed his eyes again and thought about what his friend had suggested. Maybe Murdock was right? Maybe joining a country club meant more to him than just having somewhere nice to go where he'd find pretty girls on reception and fresh towels in the locker room? Maybe he did have some deep rooted need to be someone else?
No, that was silly.
Suddenly he wasn't sure if he wanted to play this game anymore. He really didn't want to get so deep inside his own head… but perhaps he should? If it was the only way to sort himself out maybe this is what he had to do? He shuffled uncomfortably in the seat and wondered what to say next.
His thoughts were broken as BA screeched the van to a halt.
"We're here, guys," Hannibal announced. "Therapy's gonna have to wait. Let's eat."
"Hey!" exclaimed Murdock. "We were just gettin' started!"
Face swung his legs back around and sat upright in the seat. "And now we're done," he said with a grin. "Y'know, Murdock, maybe you've hit on something here," he continued as BA and Hannibal got out of the van.
"I'm not followin' you, Face," replied Murdock, as he slid open the side door.
"Talking," replied Face, waiting for Murdock to jump out before clambering across the seats and getting out himself.
"But… but you didn't say much," noted Murdock, slightly puzzled.
"Maybe I didn't need to?"
The two of them followed the others into the restaurant.
Meals together were often chaotic and tonight was no exception.
BA objected to Murdock lining his olives up around the edge of the dish and serenading them, so much so that his dinner almost ended up in his lap. Luckily for Murdock, Hannibal was able to soothe BA, allowing him to eat his pasta instead of wearing it.
Face found their antics strangely comforting.
His appetite had returned almost as soon as they'd entered the restaurant and he felt much better now he'd eaten something - he never could resist Bella's famous Chicken Cacciatore. He rested his cutlery on the side of his empty plate and chuckled as Hannibal placed a firm hand of restraint on BA's bulging bicep. This wouldn't happen at the Beverly Bay, he noted.
But that's where he wanted to be… wasn't it? That's where he would feel more at home, mixing with people who didn't sing to olives, or try to punch their friends…
Or was that just where Ashley Hemmings – the dull accountant - would feel at home?
Dessert prompted more singing from Murdock and it was all BA could do to stop himself lunging across the table.
"BA!" Murdock scolded him. "Surely you can appreciate fine, Italian opera? Look, even Faceman's smilin'… oh, wait…"
He paused, almost doing a double take as he looked at Face.
"Faceman's smilin'!" he repeated as a huge grin spread across his face. He slapped Face affectionately on the shoulder.
Face's smile grew wider and he nodded. "Yeah, I am," he agreed.
BA scrunched his forehead into a frown. "Murdock singin' to his food cheered you up?" he asked.
Face shrugged. "I don't think it was just the singing," he noted.
Hannibal grinned at him. "The company?" he asked.
"Oh there's nothing I like better than spending the evening watching you trying to stop BA from hurting Murdock," replied Face, with a grin to match Hannibal's
The more he thought about it the more he realised his recent behaviour had been completely unnecessary. He was comfortable with who he was. Sure, if he had the choice he'd make a few changes – like not being a fugitive on the run from the military – but he didn't need to play golf, or eat caviar for lunch to be content.
Something had changed in the last couple of hours and he suddenly realised why.
He glanced around the table and smiled broadly. Murdock was babbling something unintelligible about ice cream, BA was wringing a serviette tightly in his hands, presumably as a substitute for Murdock's neck and Hannibal was sitting back in his chair enjoying a cigar.
These were the things that were important to him, Face realised, not playing tennis with tiresome business executives and stuffy lawyers. All his earlier misery about the country club suddenly seemed unimportant. He let out a slow breath, determined to enjoy this moment of clarity. He didn't need to be anyone else... he didn't want to be anyone else.
He was Templeton Peck, one quarter of The A-Team. Only three other people got to say that and that made him smile even more.
He was Face – soldier, scam artist extraordinaire, shameless flirt, loyal friend... and life was good.