This is a little one-shot digging into Face's past, especially some of the things he wouldn't readily tell even his best friends.
"Face, go ahead and secure the roof."
It was all Hannibal had to say, the handful of words making him cock his head in somber acknowledgement before sending him to the back of the van where he'd stowed the rifle needed for that specific job, the type he loathed the most.
The plan wasn't going to be easy, and the expectations from the locals to stay clear of any unnecessary violent actions only served to make matters worse.
Swan Hill, a tiny village a couple hours east of Escondido was being terrorized by a group of Tongs, ruthless Chinese thugs causing every shop and restaurant owner to lose their business if they couldn't pay the horrendous „rent money" demanded by the crooks.
And that's if they were lucky.
The team had been hired by the local Reverend, a lanky, opinionated man, about mid-forties, clean cut and down to the point when it came to his wishes of how the situation was going to get resolved.
Undoubtedly, the fact that he'd managed to find and hire the A-Team in the first place should have given him an idea of their standard operating procedure, which unfortunately sometimes included some form of bloodshed, a fact the religious leader shied away from vehemently.
Nonetheless, he seemed to be desperate enough to at least consider some deviations from the plan, being that he'd exhausted all the conventional avenues…in that case, them being the unconventional alternative.
And while the Reverend had somehow accepted the fact that there might be confrontations, he'd been adamantly using every opportunity to remind them that any undo violence was to be strictly avoided, or they'd forfeit the remainder of their salary.
And thus far, besides Murdock's bloody nose, they'd been doing quite alright.
To the pilot's defense, it had been one of Hannibal's Approach-at-will plans that had caused mayhem a few hours ago, the scene at the local bar loosely translated into provoking the group of Tongs until there was a fight in order to look for any weaknesses in their defenses.
Hannibal's excessive overuse of the term „arrogant slime balls" seemed to finally coax a reaction out of the band of eight goons, resulting in exactly what the Colonel had been looking for- a fist fight.
Unfortunately for them, these guys were trained martial artists, making quick work of even BA's strong grip and Hannibal's fast hands.
Face himself had been unceremoniously tossed through the window, spending most of the fight in blissful unconsciousness, while Murdock had landed face-first on the bathroom tiles, Hannibal ending up behind the bar and B.A. on top of him.
Naturally, the Colonel had been proud of the end result of their hostile encounter, citing that at least now they knew what they were up against.
It had made him sigh, swallowing a remark about being able to gauge that before they all ended up battered and bruised.
And now, short of two hours later, they were supposed to leave town or suffer through a repeat performance from earlier in the day.
Almost on autopilot, Face opened the back doors of the van, then reached into the weapons arsenal, bypassing his beloved Ruger this time around, knowing that Hannibal's plan required heavier firepower.
As such, he settled on his sniper rifle, an old but trustworthy Dragunov he'd scammed off a Czechoslovakian soldier years ago during their investigation into a diamond heist. The smooth finish and outstanding accuracy had grown on Face and he knew it would be the weapon of choice considering what they were up against.
„How's the arm, oh Facial One?"
The matter-of-fact question pulled him out of his deep state of brooding and he glanced up briefly, his eyes meeting Murdock's, the injured Captain studying him intently, despite the bag of frozen lima beans draped over his nose.
„Fine.", he countered, not entirely truthful and yet, like so many things in his life, lies had found a way to leave his tongue a lot easier than the truth.
Trying to escape the genuine prying and those curious brown eyes settling on him; Face carefully assembled the weapon, ensuring that all pieces were clean, the important ones oiled, and that the scope was still in working condition after some of their recent driving on less-than well-maintained back roads.
„Do you think Reverend McDaniels will be mad if we give those Tongs a concussion? I think I owe them one after what they did to my face. What do you think of my face, Face? It's the face, Face, and nothing but the face. Right, Face?", Murdock asked innocently playful, a hint of worry hidden beneath his skillfully chosen words.
„If I have to interfere, a concussion will be the least of their worries.", Face added somberly, unable to glance back up at the pilot for fear of getting dragged into the open-ended conversation Murdock would want to have about their plan and his particular role in it.
Instead, he clenched his jaws and reached for the box of ammo, the bipod from another case near the back bench and a radio receiver.
He wasn't just damn good when it came to handling guns, he was actual sniper material, experienced and skilled enough to quickly and effectively kill even at long distances, whenever the need arose.
He'd done just that for a few months before first meeting Hannibal, his astonishing accuracy combined with his natural ability to talk himself out of any predicament making him a prized asset for many of the unscrupulous Generals back then.
How lucky for him to finally cross paths with a certain genius of a Colonel who managed to handle his demons, mold his character enough to keep him out of trouble and guard him from the dark shadows of the military leaders eager to exploit his talents.
Undoubtedly, becoming part of the A-Team had been a Y in the road for him, possibly making a difference between eventually getting killed in the line of duty, or devoting his life and skillsets to helping other people who were being oppressed and terrorized.
As such, his talent for sharpshooting had been put on the backburner, that benefactor rarely ever getting used unless something really bad was brewing on the horizon.
Suffice to say, there was only one reason for Hannibal to position him on the roof and that was that the Colonel expected trouble. The kind of trouble that could potentially exceed the creativity of the A-Team, and with it, endanger or harm others.
And after meeting those Tongs, there was no doubt in Face's mind that they weren't playing with lollypops here.
If anything, they were going up against ruthless killers, highly armed madmen, their only line of defense being ingenuity, the element of surprise, and a sniper on the roof to keep the plan running smoothly.
Take out one bad guy to save a village of innocent people sounded good enough on paper. And yet, it brought on a cold sweat that nearly made the light blue dress shirt stick to his chest.
„Are you sure you're ok?", came Murdock's next question, his voice lowered enough that neither Hannibal nor B.A. could hear it from the front seats, the words causing him to flinch ever so slightly.
Ironically enough, he knew that his best friend had noticed the move.
„Yeah, why?", Face countered casually, one eye squeezed shut as he completed some final adjustments on the scope, then testing it, then adjusting again, all the while trying to keep his composure calm and controlled.
„Well, you've been aiming that rifle at the floor of B.A.'s van for the past few minutes, so unless you're planning on redoing the interior before our meeting with the Tongs, I'd say something is bugging you bad..."
Lowering the Dragunov, Face swallowed an insecure response about needing to get back into the feel of things but instead shrugged dismissively.
„I'm just trying to concentrate, that's all."
Murdock nodded faintly, his caring brown eyes never leaving his friend.
„You're not planning on proving your marksmanship today, are you? I mean, these Tongs are bad guys and all but...you know, we're back in the States now, this isn't 'Nam anymore. Once we hide the van, the big guy and I are gonna work on something to block their way out of this alley and destroy their cars, so…really…we don't think you need to do anything…that extreme. You just get to sit up there and watch us do our crazy stuff from afar. Take a break from the jazz. Applause would be appreciated after the fact though."
While Murdock's senses were right on target, Face didn't feel like assuaging the pilot's concerns today.
He knew that the use of his specific talent was a necessary evil from time to time, that he had to protect the team no matter what and he would do everything in his power to accomplish just that.
Then again, Murdock's worries undoubtedly had a lot more to do with the damage any interference of this kind would do to his already battered soul.
„We'll see.", Face muttered curtly, before leaving the safety of the van and heading toward the roof access some three buildings down the road, doing so with the dread of a child being summoned to the principal's office.
Step by step, he conquered the rungs of the rusty fire ladder, mentally preparing for the job at hand, feeling the shoulder strap of the rifle across his chest, the heavy weight of the Dragunov turning into that of his conscience the higher he climbed.
Even if, by some divine intervention, his talents were not going to be needed today, he still had to get ready.
And that included moving his mind into that dark spot, the one where he had to cast his feelings aside and do what the hour demanded, no matter how much it went against his, heck everyone's principles.
His skillset was a part of his colorful past, Face tried to argue, and while he didn't like talking about it all that much, he couldn't just throw it out like yesterday's garbage.
He wasn't exactly proud of some of the things he'd done before meeting Hannibal, that much was true, but he also knew that not everything had been by choice and that it was impossible to undo any of it.
Orders had to be followed.
If he hadn't been the one pulling the trigger, somebody else would have taken over that position.
Early on in their partnership, Hannibal had talked to him about some of those difficult missions, urging him to begin focusing on the A-Team and put those dreaded memories in a drawer labeled PAST, keeping them close when he needed them, but making sure they wouldn't surface at some inconvenient time, causing him to make mistakes.
Back then, a few years younger and a whole lot cockier, Face had been wanting to counterargue with some wise-guy answer, until he saw the truth in Hannibal's somber glance, the horror those seasoned blue eyes had witnessed, making it so much clearer that the Colonel wasn't just giving him some stereotypical lip service like many military leaders before him had done.
Oh no, not by a long shot.
He was talking from his soul. And it mattered to Face more than he could ever possibly put into eloquent words.
He wasn't sure if Hannibal ever told Murdock or B.A. everything about that part of his past. The suicide missions. The dangerous assignments. The blood spilled so many hundred yards from his position; comfortably far away from his conscience, at least back then.
On the other hand, Murdock, in his intuitive ways had the ability to sniff out the skeletons of his past with those cued senses hidden beneath his mad-man antics. He'd probably known about this in one form or another since they first met.
But B.A.? Part of him was afraid to share the memories of those missions with the Sergeant for fear that he would look at him differently then. Questioning his morals even, or worse yet, his part in the team. What would he think he if found out that there was a dangerous monster hiding beneath all that expensive aftershave, cordial antics and million-dollar smile?
But it had been his job. His specialty. His fate even.
The regrets of his past helped shape him into the person he was today, fueled his desire to make up for his actions by helping those who needed help, and perhaps, one day, even find redemption for all the sins he committed, all those wrongs he could longer change.
Face entered the roof of the five-story building at last, inhaling deeply, feeling the crisp air enter his lungs and help clear his mind.
Carefully glancing into each direction, he evaluated the clouds, the sun's path, wind speed, humidity, temperature.
Next, he prepared his equipment, once again double-checking every screw and nut, even verifying that the scope was still adjusted properly.
Then, drawing in a heavy breath, he laid down next to the Dragunov, flat on the ground, shoulders slightly raised, right leg angled to allow for a quick escape, just like he'd learned so many years ago.
The ledge on the roof was small compared to others, forcing him into an even flatter position than usual, the gravel digging into the bones of his skinny chest and hips.
With his head just high enough to peek through the scope, the barrel safely resting on the bipod, his index finger next to the trigger, Face waited in his position, barely having been there for a few minutes before his radio sprung to life.
„Apple Three, this is Apple One, are you in position?"
Face smiled at Hannibal's sobriquets, then reached for the radio in his left side pant pocket.
„Apple One, I am in position.", he answered matter-of-factly, never moving a single muscle except his left arm and lips, the right side of his body completely frozen in place as it guarded the Dragunov.
It had been a while since Hannibal last used his services as a sharpshooter and as such, it felt strange and discomforting each time he had to return to the rooftops, hoping and praying that the assignment would not cause any bloodshed- at least no more than what had already been committed.
Through his earpiece, he'd barely heard the Colonel verify both B.A.'s and Murdock's position, before all hell broke loose in the streets down below.
Two limousines full of Tongs came barreling down the street, the sound of squealing tires accompanied by that of angry voices.
Apparently, it was rendezvous time.
And these guys weren't bringing flowers and chocolate.