Disclaimer: I don't own them, didn't create them, and don't pretend to. :)
Warnings: Hmm, some language, nothing too shocking.
Summary: Face learns the meaning of a children's rhyme, to the team's amusement.
Pants On Fire
"One of these days, Faceman, you're gonna singe those fancy pants of yours!" Murdock's half-crazed howl still echoed in Face's ears as he slipped into his usual seat in the back of B.A.'s van and slammed the side door closed. Face tried not to think about the look of insane delight on his friend's face as Murdock had pronounced that odd sentence. He'd looked like a judge gone mad, like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
"How did Murdock take it?" Hannibal turned around immediately to ask, his teeth clenched around an expensive cigar that Face had provided him with not too long ago. Hannibal was referring to Murdock's…reluctance…to go back to the V.A. just now. According to Murdock there was some new therapy being tested out called "Dance Therapy" and the pilot was very unwilling to do anymore folk dancing with the "drooling, drugged up guy from across the hall" because he wasn't a good dancer and stepped on Murdock's toes.
Which of course had prompted Face to lean over with a smile and confess to the rather attractive nurse in charge that Mr. Murdock had spoken of nothing but the dancing during his weeks recuperating from donating his kidney to Colonel Marchond and was eager to get back to it—which was probably what had made Murdock shout off that ludicrous statement as Face had been on his way out.
"Ah," Face pushed that thought away for now and smiled. "He took it just fine. No problems at all." Maybe it was the concern for Murdock in the Colonel's blue eyes, or maybe it was habit, but the lie came out as smoothly as softened butter with almost no thought beforehand. Face did feel a slight twinge in his stomach, but that was probably from where Murdock had kneed him when Face had been dragging him, kicking and whining, back into the hospital.
Hannibal and B.A. exchanged a look before B.A. started up the van, Face noticed. They probably suspected the lie, since Murdock had been quite vocal about not wanting to return to the Vet. so soon, but Hannibal spoke up before Face could add anything.
"Really?" Hannibal raised his eyebrows and inquired politely. The look in his eyes spoke volumes and made Face wonder again why he'd uttered the lie in the first place. But for whatever reason he couldn't back down.
"Oh yeah." Committed now, Face waved a hand dismissively and kept going. "Well, he argued a bit, to be honest. But he settled down once we were inside." Face's side twinged again, but he ignored it and continued to beam innocently at the Colonel. Hannibal just nodded once slowly and then turned back to the front. His posture seemed almost offended, and Face was adept enough at reading body language to know that the Colonel probably really was bothered by his lie.
Face frowned slightly, wondering if that had been disappointment in the Colonel's eyes and if perhaps he should tell the truth, but shrugged the worry off after a moment when neither Hannibal nor B.A. said anything, so the three of them sat in silence for a while. It was almost suffocating and the large van suddenly seemed too small. Face tried to think about something else.
"What's wrong, Lieutenant?" Hannibal asked suddenly as B.A. headed off the freeway and they drew closer to the apartment building where Face was currently staying.
"Wrong?" Face looked up sharply. "What do you mean?"
"Not like you to be so quiet," B.A. said gruffly, never taking his eyes from the road.
"Well, not all of us are the strong, silent type like you, B.A.," he answered pleasantly. B.A. just growled, but what else had he really expected? Still, he eyes the other man warily for a moment.
"Lieutenant?" Hannibal prompted.
"One of these days, you're gonna singe your fancy pants?" Face nearly whispered and then sighed in irritated exasperation.
"What?" Hannibal looked amused again, as usual.
"Something Murdock said. Singe my pants?" Face shook his head and looked down at his pants. They were Armani and tailored to fit. They better not get singed or burned. Then he caught himself. Why was he even listening to Murdock's rants? The man was certified.
"Crazy Man is sayin' you need to stop lyin' to your friends." B.A spoke roughly and glanced at him in the rearview mirror.
"It's from that kids' rhyme. You know, liar, liar, pants on fire?" B.A. went on and smiled for a moment, probably at some happy childhood memory. When he caught Face's amazed look though, he scowled fiercely and looked back at the road.
"B.A. I didn't know you understood Murdock so well," Face murmured uncomfortably to change the subject. He'd never heard that rhyme before.
"Murdock might have a point there, Lieutenant." Hannibal looked thoughtful. "I trust you, kid, but you do try to scam your friends a little too often."
The low steady growl emanating from B.A.'s chest seemed to support the Colonel's words, and now Hannibal was staring at him with a tiny grin and a dangerous twinkle in his eyes that usually meant the man was on the jazz. Face stared back and wondered what would be best to say.
"I don't lie to you guys that much…" he began and the van slammed to a stop. B.A. turned around to glare at him.
Face knew better than to argue with an obvious sign of B.A.'s legendary temper. He nodded cautiously and opened the door and saw that they were actually outside his apartment building. He sighed in surprised and relief, glad that he wouldn't have to walk the rest of the way home.
"Thought you might like a while to rest before our meeting tonight," Hannibal said around a merry laugh. "I know it's not necessary, but I want you to be there when we meet our potential new client."
Face sighed again, but nodded.
"I should have known I wouldn't get away that easily." He stepped out of the van and stood with his hand on the door.
"Relax, Face. It should be a piece of cake."
"That's what you said about that job for that judge, and you remember the trouble that was."
"See you tonight, Face," Hannibal continued as if Face hadn't spoken, but the dangerous, whimsical light was back in his eyes. He was close to laughing again too. "And try to cut down on the stuff you tell us. You gotta trust us sometime, kid. It just might save you someday."
Mostly ignoring Hannibal's statement, which like many of the Colonel's comments, bordered on melodramatic anyway, Face nodded hurriedly and moved to close the van door. It wasn't like he lied all the time, or about anything truly important, but their nagging still hurt. If Hannibal hadn't just said he trusted him, Face would have taken their words a lot more personally.
He watched his teammates drive away with a strange feeling in his stomach. But that was probably either due to Murdock's attempt to get out of folk dancing or the fact that Face hadn't really eaten since yesterday. He knew there was no food in his apartment, but there were plenty of takeout menus and it was close to noon.
Face turned around and strolled into the building, trying to decide what to order. He'd finally decided on pasta in the elevator; though anything but seafood would have done. The Team's last mission had been in a small fishing town and he just knew the stink of fish guts still hung about him like a cloud, no matter how much cologne he put on. He wrinkled his nose at the thought, then pulled out his keys as the elevator doors opened and stepped out into his hallway, only to stop dead.
His gaze started at the pale, tasteful carpeting of the hallway floor, and moved up to black stiletto heels and shapely calves, and from there to the nicely rounded figure wrapped in an expensive, and very form-fitting, silk dress, and finally to the long blonde hair cascading over a slender neck and framing an exquisitely heart-shaped face that was dominated by pouting red lips and wide green eyes. The eyes were filled with tears and the beautiful lower lip was trembling.
Face smiled, straightened his tie, and stepped forward.
The woman was standing in front of a door two doors down from his and looked up at his approach. He saw her eyes scan him quickly and knew, rather smugly, that she liked what she saw. He shoved his words with the team to the back of his mind.
"Is something wrong?" he asked warmly when he was close to her.
"I…" she started to say, then smiled. "It's so silly to be crying about this."
"I'm sure it's not," he assured her immediately and handed her the handkerchief from his pocket that exactly matched his tie.
"I need a ride today to a photo shoot. My cousin lives here and I was going to ask her, but she's not home."
"You see? I just knew that you had to be a model," Face told her appreciatively. "A ride? I've got some free time. I don't suppose you'd be interested in allowing me to take you?"
"I don't know…" The girl hesitated. "I don't even know your name."
"Easy to fix. I'm Templeton Peck." He held out his hand. She took it and he enjoyed the warmth of the brief contact.
"So where are we headed, Samantha Morris?" Face teased playfully.
"San Marco, up the coast," Samantha paused to look at him worriedly. "Is that too far, Mr. Peck?" It was a few hours' drive along the highway. If he went he would not be back in time for client meeting with Hannibal. But they didn't really need him there. Hannibal had even said so. If Murdock had been there and had read his thoughts just then, as he sometimes did, he probably would have commented that Face was such a good con man that he could talk himself into anything.
"Call me Temp," Face said smoothly. "San Marco? Too far? It's one of my favorite places. They've got this restaurant there that has the best seafood you've ever tasted. You know, come to think of it, I've been craving some for weeks now." He smiled his brightest.
"Really?" she asked breathlessly.
"Oh, yes. In fact, we should have a late lunch there. The head chef will cook something special if I ask." When Samantha didn't say no, he moved on. "What time is your shoot?"
"Two." Her mouth formed a sexy little "O".
"That sounds wonderful." Her were shining now and not with tears.
"Then it's settled." Face clapped his hands together. "Get your things and just let me go make a quick phone call."
He let them into his apartment quickly and seated her in the living room with a glass of Perrier before hurrying to his bedroom to make the call. Hannibal picked up immediately and Face momentarily puzzled over why he was still in the van but shrugged it off. Probably traffic.
"Ah, Hannibal, I won't be able to make our meeting tonight. My building is having a mandatory tenants' meeting."
"What's her name?"
"Hannibal." Face did his best to seem offended. "Why do you always assume it's a girl?"
"Because it always is. It's not like you have to lie about it anymore, Face." The Colonel did not seem amused now.
"Now, Colonel," Face felt that painful pull around his stomach. He was so hungry that he probably really could eat some fish.
"Have you checked her out?" His commander seemed concerned.
Face most definitely had.
"I mean if she works for the military." Hannibal continued, probably knowing Face's answer.
"Hannibal, if I was meeting some girl, and I'm not saying I am, but if I was, she most definitely is not Decker's type."
"Then whose type is she?" The Colonel asked dryly.
"Look, Hannibal, I gotta go. I'll call you later."
"Face…" But Face hung up before the other man could finish and headed back to Samantha with a smile of satisfaction.
"Ready?" he asked warmly and helped her to stand.
Well over an hour later, cruising down the coast highway with Samantha in his Vette, Face's smile of satisfaction returned. He forgot all about his sense of unease and Murdock's reference to some children's rhyme and concentrated on Samantha's legs instead. There was nothing like speeding down the California Coast in a Corvette with a beautiful, long-legged model in the seat next to you to boost a damaged sense of worth. All it needed was music.
He pushed in his favorite Blondie tape with a grin for Sam and turned the volume up just as "One Way Or Another" came on. Samantha smiled back and whispered something under her breath that sounded like "So you do like blondes."
"What?" Face wondered curiously. That seemed like an odd thing to say.
"I like this song!" she said loudly over the music and touched his arm. He nodded since it was his favorite too and stepped down harder on the gas pedal before smiling back. At this speed, he had to concentrate more on the curves of the road than Samantha's, but maybe it was for the best. The sooner they got to San Marco, the better.
The tape finished before he spoke again.
"So what kind of shoot will it be?" He asked curiously as they zoomed past a sign that read, "Welcome to San Marco, You'll Never Want to Leave".
"Should be a good one. Nice background and scenery, but mostly we'll be focusing on faces."
"Well, yours is well worth it." The compliment was genuine, but it slipped out with the ease of years of practice.
"Oh!" Samantha exclaimed as he slowed down to drive through the picturesque little town. "My hotel! That's where they've reserved a room for me."
"You have a room already?" Face tried to control his smile. Samantha glanced at him through her eyelashes.
"Yes," she said softly, finally, and Face nodded. Food could wait.
"You should check in then." He found a parking space the next moment and took it as a sign that life couldn't be better. Then he picked up her bag for her and escorted her to the lobby. Face knew from past experience that it was best not to seem too pushy, since after all, this girl barely knew him, so he stopped politely at the elevator.
"I guess I'll hang out around town until you're done, Sam," he said with what he thought personally was his most genuine-looking smile. Samantha raised her eyebrows and looked surprised.
"Oh you can't wander around town. It could take hours. Why don't you come up and wait in my room?" she suggested.
"Well, if you don't mind." Face leaned in close to her to press the elevator button. She laughed softly to herself.
"I don't mind," she whispered and hummed a few bars of his favorite Blondie song to herself. Face smiled, thinking of what Hannibal to say about this. Probably worry that it was some sort of trap and then scold him for lying to get out of the client meeting.
Samantha's room was large and spacious, with a nice view of the ocean. She seemed surprised at how big it was in fact, but Face was quick to reassure that it meant that the modeling agency must think highly of her. She disappeared into the bathroom with an almost shy grin at that and urged him to explore the minibar since it was all paid for.
Those were almost Face's favorite words.
He started to hum too as she turned on the shower and began searching the contents of the minibar for some food. It was hardly caviar and champagne, but he settled for peanuts and a Coke and sat back on a nearby chair, enjoying the view and contemplating the promise of his immediate future.
He must have been hungrier than he'd thought, because the peanuts were almost all gone when Sam came back out. She was, to his disappointment, fully dressed. But she smiled brightly when she noticed his snacking before apparently getting a good look at the clock by the bed.
"I've got to go!" she called out in a panicked voice and grabbed her things. She was halfway out the door before she turned back and blew him a kiss. "Now, you stay…right…there!" she warned teasingly and wiggled a finger at him before closing the door.
Like he had any intention of leaving. Face smirked at that and finished off the Coke since the peanuts had made him so thirsty. But since he had several hours until she came back, maybe he should watch TV or something. He got up out of the chair and swayed for a moment, a thick blackness swirling around in front of his eyes. Inside the black were thousands of little tiny sparkles, like stars. Face studied them dizzily for a moment, before shaking his head to clear it. The action only seemed to make it worse.
Face held tightly to the sides of the chair and very slowly took a step toward the bed. He was so hot all of the sudden. He pulled at the collar of his Valentino shirt in order to get some air and barely noticed when the material ripped though it would have cost him a fortune if he had actually paid for the shirt. Murdock hadn't hit him that hard, he thought distantly, and he hadn't once fainted from hunger in his life. I've been drugged. The thought came on a wave of nausea as he collapsed facedown on the bed. His last thought before he slipped into unconsciousness was that Hannibal had been right.
Face knew he was awake only because he could hear voices, since, unlike some members of the team, he could be sure that hearing voices meant he was conscious and surrounded by real people. The world in front of him was black, and he felt the rough material of the blindfold scratching against the skin of his face. His hands were tied tightly at the wrists and his feet at the ankles. He could feel the thick braids of the rope.
Oh God, he groaned silently and struggled to clear his head so he could figure out where he was and who had him. It couldn't be Decker. Decker would not have drugged him, though he would have sent Samantha. That meant it was someone much less predictable and he had no way of contacting the team because he hadn't told them where he'd be going. Murdock's words played clearly in his mind. Maybe Murdock had meant his pants would be singed metaphorically, Face thought dizzily as he cautiously pulled against the ropes. They held him without giving an inch and he stifled a sigh.
"How much did you give him?" asked someone in a harsh German accent, sounding almost concerned, and picked up his wrist to check his pulse. The Germans? Face thought vaguely and shook his head. That made no sense.
"He's awake," the person still holding his hand spoke, the words loud next to Face's ear. Face's muscles clenched painfully and he forced himself to relax so that whoever these bastards were wouldn't see his fear.
"Good." This speaker was farther away, the accent almost Chinese. Chinese? Face shook his head again. "Maybe we can get the truth from him now." There a long, drawn out and almost maniacal laugh, as if the thought pleased whoever was speaking.
Face's heart started to beat faster, a sign that the drug was wearing off. But more than that, he knew exactly what these men meant by "getting the truth from him." Not again. He fought against the memories and made his lips form a smile.
"I doubt it, even my friends can't manage that," he joked weakly. The person closest to him snorted. The sound was quickly altered to more of an evil chuckle, but it was odd enough to make Face turn in that direction curiously. Then from the corner of the room came the sound of the door opening. The person next to Face moved away hastily, creating a slight breeze.
"Man, what are you crazy fools doin' now?" the voice was so gruff and exasperated it could only have belonged to one person in the entire world.
"B.A.?" Face wondered aloud and heard two disappointed sighs from the other side of the room. His blindfold was snatched off and Face could suddenly see that he was still in the hotel room, but in a chair against the wall, and on the other side of the room were Hannibal and Murdock, grinning like the crazy fools B.A. had just called them. "Guys? What are you doing here? How did you find me?"
B.A. started to giggle. The sound was always so startling from him that Face had to stare at him for a moment before turning back to his commander.
"Honestly, Facey, I thought you were smarter than that," Murdock spoke in a German accent and laughed too before crossing over to the minibar and digging around for something to drink. He did not, Face noticed, pick a Coke.
"You…" Face couldn't even finish the sentence. "That was not funny! What kind of joke was that, dammit?" he practically snarled. Hannibal smiled gently before pulling out his lighter to light another cigar. "How could you scam me like this?"
"Face, we just thought you should realize how dangerous it is for you to not trust us," Hannibal came over and pulled out one of the knives from his belt to cut the ropes. Face jumped up, rubbing his wrists dramatically even though they weren't really very sore. His heartbeat began to slow a little but he continued to glare at his friends.
"Stuff like this is why I don't tell you where I'm going in the first place!" Face answered that smartly, then focused on something else. "And Sam was in on this too I suppose?" He ignored Hannibal's words for now.
"'Course," Hannibal patted him on the back comfortingly. "Actress in my latest movie."
"An actress…" Face nodded and sighed. Perfect.
"Besides that, Facey, it just hurts when you lie to us for no good reason," Murdock turned to him with a rare serious look.
"We wanted you to know how it feels when your teammate lies to you, man," B.A. grunted. They were all staring at him with warm, concerned looks now. It was almost too much to take. Face could only bear it for a moment before he let out a long sigh.
"All right, all right. I promise not to lie to you guys anymore…" he began instantly.
"A promise you can keep, Faceman," Murdock corrected him and slurped his juice drink.
"Yeah." B.A. slammed one fist into his palm threateningly. The act made Hannibal smile. Face quickly put both hands up in the air in surrender.
"Fine, fine," he cleared his throat. "I promise to try not to lie to you guys so much."
"On pain of getting your fancy pants set on fire," Murdock added. He and B.A. shared a grin. It really must be important to them to make those two agree, Face realized with a start. He stared at his friends for a moment as he decided. He wondered if he should let this slide without some sort of retaliation, but the possible repercussions from B.A. were a strong deterrent.
"On pain of getting my…fancy pants…set on fire," he finally agreed with another sigh and rolled his eyes.
"Good," B.A. said abruptly and went to open the door. Samantha was standing on the other side looking anxious.
"You guys play weird jokes on each other," she commented with a nervous smile as she came in. Face stepped away when she came close to him, but with an apologetic look. She didn't look too disappointed to be honest. She went over to stand next to B.A. after he closed the door.
B.A.? Face shook his head and wondered where had his promising day had gone.
"Now let's go get some food." Hannibal rubbed his hands together. "I'm sure you're hungry, Lieutenant and this place has a great seafood buffet."
"About that, Hannibal. I think I really ought to be heading back to L.A. I've got lots of work to do to prepare for our next client." Maybe it was the look of delight and anticipation on the Colonel's face just at the thought of a seafood buffet, or maybe it was because it was a tough habit to break, but Face reached for any excuse to get out of eating more fish and set about straightening his twisted clothes. He almost missed the look Hannibal and Murdock exchanged, but he did notice how the Colonel slipped Murdock something behind their backs. "Really," Face continued with a slight, wary frown as Murdock came to stand behind him. "And I need to clear out of my apartment soon… The…ah…original owners should be returning any day now."
His teammates all smiled at him widely, even Murdock who had come back to stand by the Colonel and B.A. He handed the Colonel back his lighter with a brief salute Samantha was staring at the carpet by Face's feet with wide eyes. Face wondered why just before he started to feel a little warm. A faint wisp of smoke rose up before his eyes and with a sinking feeling he looked down at his pants.
Murdock had set the bottom of his pants on fire.
Face realized this just as the heat reached above his socks to the skin of his legs. He yelped and ran to the bathroom and the shower.
"Nice, Murdock, nice," Hannibal commented. "Ah, I love it when a plan comes together."
"These pants cost more than your whole outfit, Murdock!" Face yelled furiously as he put out the fire. Well they would have, if he'd paid for them. His shout made them all laugh, he noted sourly.
"Liar, Liar, Faceman," Murdock and B.A. sang out amid pleased giggles.
"Pants on fire," Face finished with a sigh and rested his head against the shower tiles. It had seemed like it would be such a nice day too. He really needed to make some new friends.
A moment later he laughed but quickly stifled it so the others wouldn't hear. It wouldn't do to spoil their fun. They should enjoy it while it lasted. He was already planning his revenge when Murdock came in to check on him.