I was asked to expand on a scene from one of my stories (Standing Watch) where Hannibal talks about first meeting Face. Thank you to that individual for the suggestion…hope you enjoy the story!
Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith considered himself to be the kind of person who didn't judge a book by its cover. He waited until he had a look inside and did some reading before making any decisions.
But with Peck it was different; he didn't even take the time to look past the bronze tan and dazzling white smile. Hannibal took one look at his polished exterior and had already made up his mind…he didn't like the kid. So he kept the cover closed and went with his gut instinct as it didn't often fail him.
Peck held his own during the field training exercises that first week, passing by men that were twice as big and strong as he was…and that included B.A. Baracus. Adding to Hannibal's disdain was that he made it look easy. He even wore a smile at the end…nobody should have the energy left to so much as curl their lips upward after such a session. It was mind boggling and infinitely frustrating for the colonel.
Hannibal glanced briefly at his new Lieutenant's file: Templeton Arthur Peck…even his name sounded stuffy and pretentious. Age 22…highly doubtful. He skipped past everything else, focusing solely on his short, but impressive, military career. The young man had moved quickly up the ranks, but none of that mattered to Hannibal. He was sure the kid wouldn't last long in his unit…soldiers like him never did.
Peck was cocky, strutting around as if he had been there for months instead of mere days. He was a fast talker and smooth operator and had most of the unit under his thumb from the moment he opened his mouth. But Hannibal wasn't fooled by his charms…they would get him nowhere but dead in the middle of battle. And soon the others took a hint from their commanding officer negative vibes and began to give the newbie the cold shoulder as well.
Peck had been there exactly a week when Hannibal purposely picked the blonde for the graveyard shift watch over camp. He was quite surprised when the lieutenant readily accepted the duty with an agreeable 'yes, sir' and didn't utter one word of descent. Everybody who was put on that detail at least moaned and groaned a little bit…but not Peck.
A couple of hours into the shift Hannibal heard his voice coming through the radio. It was hushed and had a strained sound to it.
"What is it, Peck?"
"It's not good…Charlie's headed our way."
"How far away?"
"They're almost on top of me."
"Damnit! How many of them?" There was no response…the radio line went dead. "Peck?"
Hannibal sprung into action mobilizing his troops. By the time the enemy arrived they were ready but it was still a tough battle. Had it not been for Peck's warning, however, it wouldn't have been a battle at all; it would have been a massacre.
Peck. It struck Hannibal that he had yet to see his new lieutenant. He recruited B.A. and Ray to join him on his search. They headed in the direction of the watch point which was about half a mile from the camp. But they didn't discover their missing teammate until they were two miles beyond that.
There he stood, leaning casually against a tree and smoking a cigarette. The whole team had just fought tooth and nail while Peck stayed back and did nothing. If he thought a radio call would be enough to get him off the hook, he had another thing coming. Hannibal saw red, and his anger stopped him from seeing anything else around him. Holding his arms out to stop B.A. or Ray from advancing he muttered, "I'm gonna kill him."
But once he reached the kid he realized that there was nothing casual about his stance. The hand that held the cigarette to his lips was shaking fiercely as was the rest of his body. But it was the blue eyes that got him; usually sparkling with life, they now appeared clouded and full of fear.
"Yes, Colonel, sir?"
Even his voice was shaking, Hannibal realized. And the lieutenant wasn't looking at him, he was looking beyond him. It was then that Hannibal turned and did the same.
His eyes opened wide with surprise at what he saw. The kid had taken out over a dozen VC soldiers by himself. B.A. and Ray's faces reflected the same shock that he felt.
"I'm sorry, sir."
The soft voice spun Hannibal back around. Gone was the confident young man, replaced by a scared kid. "Sorry?"
"I…I tried to lead them away…too many of them. I failed…I'm sorry."
"You're what?" Hannibal asked a bit too loudly causing Peck to startle. He held out a hand to steady him, but Peck pulled away. In a gentle tone he said, "Hey…you okay?"
He must have realized that he let too much real emotion because he forced himself to look Hannibal in the eye. "I'm fine, sir."
Unsure if he believed the statement, Hannibal motioned the others over without breaking his eye-hold. "Listen to me, lieutenant. You have nothing to be sorry for. You did damn good out here tonight."
Peck took a long drag from his cigarette before tossing it and grounding it out with his foot. "Nothing about killing is ever good."
Hannibal didn't answer. But when he reached his hand out, this time on instinct, the kid didn't pull away.
B.A. and Ray cautiously joined the duo, unsure about what they were walking into.
"You alright, man?" B.A. asked
Hannibal still wasn't sure he believed it. "Let's head back."
"Good idea. We've been gone so long that Murdock'll probably send out a search party to look for this search party," Ray quipped.
They moved in silence. Hannibal took up the rear and watched Peck carefully as he walked stiffly between Ray and B.A. Gradually the pace slowed and the lieutenant seemed to be favoring his right side.
When they were moving at just about a crawl, Hannibal had enough."Where are you hurt?"
The darkness and camouflage may have concealed any injuries, but it couldn't hide the obvious pain in his voice. "I'm okay…it's not that bad…really."
Hannibal stepped in front of his men. "That's not what I asked."
"Shoulder and side, sir. But I can make it back to camp."
Peck's body betrayed his words as he pitched forward. Six hands reached out and carefully lowered him to the ground. Not surprisingly, the injured man immediately struggled to get back up.
"Stay down a minute," Hannibal ordered while unbuttoning the shirt to assess the damage. There was a deep trench in his side, but at least the bullet had gone through. His shoulder, however, showed a nasty entrance wound, but no exit."
There was no way the young man would be able to walk the rest of the way back; Hannibal was amazed he had made it this far. He looked at Ray. "Run back and have them set up in the med tent." Turning to B.A., no words were needed.
The muscular sergeant ever so gently lifted Peck into his arms.
The protest was weak and slurred. "Don't need…to be…carried."
"You ain't got nothin' else to prove, man. You just relax now, hear?" B.A.'s tender tone and touch worked in great contradiction to his hardened exterior.
Hannibal couldn't help but smile as the blonde allowed his head to rest against the massive chest.
Hannibal remained by Peck's side in the med tent, despite being told numerous times that he needed to leave. But he had to see this through to the end; to make sure the kid was okay.
The colonel watched as the side wound was inspected, hoping that he would give in and pass out already. But the kid was tough and just lay there gritting his teeth. It wasn't until they began to irrigate the gash that he allowed a moan to escape; the morphine wasn't cutting it.
"Just breathe through it, kid," Hannibal encouraged. It was the first time he had called him "kid" out loud, but even in his weakened state, Peck didn't miss it.
"M'not a kid," he mumbled.
'The hell you're not,' he thought. Before he had a chance to respond, however, a nurse was placing a mask over Peck's nose and mouth. "They're gonna put you to sleep so they can get that slug out of your shoulder now. You'll be just fine."
Peck nodded his understanding slightly and moments later his eyes began to drift shut. Hannibal waited until he was sure he was completely out before leaving the tent. Upon exit he was met by his entire platoon solemnly waiting for word. News had travelled fast about the new man's heroics and Hannibal had a feeling they were all feeling a bit ashamed of the way they had treated him…but none as ashamed as the colonel himself.
After briefly addressing his men, he slipped off back to his quarters to grab a quick shower and some clean clothes. More important, however, he grabbed something he wished he had spent more time when it was first placed upon his desk: Templeton Peck's file.
Hours later Murdock found Hannibal sitting beside Peck's bed, his eyes glued to the inside of a manila folder. "Interesting reading?"
Hannibal sighed and rubbed at his weary eyes. "You could say that."
The lanky pilot pulled a chair up. "How's he doing?"
"He hasn't come around yet. He lost a lot of blood, so they say it could take a while."
"He'll be okay." Murdock patted Hannibal's shoulder sympathetically. "How 'bout you…are you okay?"
Hannibal shrugged. "How could I have been so wrong?" He was still reeling from what he had discovered inside of Peck's file. His arrogant lieutenant who he had been sure was born with a silver spoon in his mouth was instead an orphan who had been abandoned by his parents at an early age. "I judged a book by its cover and, boy, was I ever wrong."
"But look at that cover," Murdock said while pointing at the still figure on the bed. "Pretty damn perfect if you ask me…it threw you off. I mean look at that face."
"Yeah, look at that face," Hannibal repeated somberly.
"That's what I think we oughtta call him…Faceman."
Hannibal chuckled in spite of himself; somehow it did seem fitting. Peck's face had completely fooled him and made him question his own integrity…that's a pretty powerful face.
"You're only human, colonel. You're allowed to make some mistakes."
Murdock stood. "No problem-o. Before I go, though, what was your first impression of me?"
"I thought you were crazy."
"See…you got that one right."
Hannibal smiled as Murdock winked and practically skipped out of the tent. The smile faded as he turned his focus back to the bed. A short time later the young lieutenant began to shift and moan.
Hannibal took his hand. "Shh…it's okay…you're okay." Two pain-filled blue eyes fluttered open. "Welcome back, Face." Seeing the look of confusion at the name, he added, "I finally got past your cover, but I still have a lot of back reading to do. Plus it looks like you are about to start a new chapter in your life, kid."
The explanation did nothing to help. "Are you okay, sir?" Peck croaked through the roughness of his throat. "Did you hit your head or something?"
"Or something," Hannibal answered grinning widely.
"Did I hit my head?"
Hannibal laughed. "No. I'll explain it to you when you're feeling better."
"Oh…okay." His eyes were already starting to close again.
The last thing the newly-named Face heard before drifting off into a peaceful and healing sleep was, 'I love it when a plan comes together.'