A/N: A little introspective based on the episode 'The Big Squeeze'. Thanks to Sophia Hawkins for giving me the idea. I do not own any characters or anything having to do with TAT, I make nothing from this.
Still. Perfectly still. With his light, evenly controlled breathing, Hannibal appeared to be dead. And to most of the people gathered at his "funeral", he was dead. Or, rather, Sean O'Shay was dead.
Caked in heavy makeup and dressed in a suit, he lay in the coffin. Unable to open his eyes or move, his ears were finely tuned into what was going on in the room. He heard Murdock's Irish lilt as he asked Face and B.A. if they were friends of the bride or groom and he surpressed a smirk; he always did joke that a wedding was like death for a man. Having never married, the only blessing of war was that the Army had provided him with a ready made family in the men he had spent more than a decade with. None of them would admit it out loud, but they were a tight family and they knew it.
Hannibal had seen plenty of death, had said goodbye to plenty of friends and fellow soldiers over the years. Playing dead now left him plenty of time to think. Hannibal didn't know how long they would continue to life life on the run, underground, as soldiers of fortune, a modern team of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Each morning he hoped that they all survived another day, and his greatest fear was the one day that one of them would not.
He listened intently as Murdock gave Gino Giani and his daughter Theresa the note; he was counting on them to understand. Hannibal heard people approaching his casket and knew it was B.A. and Face by the weight and pattern of their footsteps. As they stood before the open casket, he wondered what they were thinking. Although it was just for a split second, and they all knew it was a set up, for a fleeting moment he could sense real emotion from them. The moment was soon over and they took their seats.
Hannibal heard B.A.'s comment to Face that he had never looked so good. Huh, Hannibal thought briefly. Maybe when his Aquamaniac days were over, he could always get acting jobs playing crime scene victims.
Murdock approached and paused before the casket for a moment, then dramatically swept down into the casket and planted a big dramatic kiss on Hannibal's cheek. It was unplanned and caught Hannibal off guard, but he managed to stay perfectly still. With his lips pressed against Hannibal's cheek in a kiss, Murdock very quickly whispered "Before it's too late, thank you. For holding us together as a team and a family, for being a Colonel and a father to three young men who needed you and who will always need you. Now on with the show!"
The moment was over quick as lightening as Murdock stood up and continued with the funeral. Jack Lane would be there soon; it was showtime. Hannibal tightened the grip on his weapon and knew, however, that those were words he would never forget.
The van was eerily silent as it lumbered down the road. The Naked Lady was destroyed, they had been announced as folk legends on the radio, and they would be back to their various homes before long. Hannibal was uncharacteristically quiet, lost in thought as he stared out the windshield, cigar in hand. Always calm, always cool, he wasn't about to let on to the fact that he was thinking about his own mortality and his unique team that had somehow become family over the years. Hannibal masked his deep thoughts with a nonchalant look and a few twirls of his cigar; Face wasn't the only one who could run a good con.
His mind drifted to his Sergeant. Although the team came together quickly, B.A. had been the first one Hannibal hand picked for his team in Vietnam after observing his genius with all things mechanical. B.A. was loyal from the start from a military perspective, but carried a huge chip on his shoulder when it came to the older man in a father or mentor position. B.A. remembered his father and because of that, it took time for Hannibal to break through the gruff facade and get to know the real B.A. as more than a soldier under his command, but as a son.
Face...Hannibal's thoughts turned to Face next. He was the one with nothing to lose in Vietnam, and it showed. None of them left the war unscathed, but he was the one who arrived damaged. Reckless to a fault, not caring if he lived or died had made Face Hannibal's biggest leadership challenge. Hannibal was the one who had taken the time to form Face into the soldier he knew he could be before Face managed to get himself thrown out of the Army. Face was the one who had hit Hannibal square in the jaw the first time Hannibal called him 'son', screaming that he was no one's son and didn't need a father figure before storming off AWOL for the rest of the day. After hearing what parts of his story Face revealed later, Hannibal didn't have the heart to punish him. Although Face earned his name based on his uncanny ability to get anything from anyone based on his charm, fast talking, and good looks, Hannibal also knew that the 'face', the mask, was a cover for his deepest insecurities and fears.
He heard Murdock turn a page of his The Plays of JM Barrie book and Hannibal's mind quickly drifted to his Captain. From their first meeting in Vietnam when Murdock had pulled them out of a hot LZ to now, Hannibal's heart held a special place for their team pilot. Although pilot, he was also so much more. While Hannibal trusted any of them with his life, if he absolutely had to choose whom he trusted the most, it would be Murdock. He knew Murdock wasn't really crazy but used it to the advantage of the team and to drive his fellow brothers a little bonkers on purpose. He also knew that there were times when the personas and antics were a cover for the war wounds that never really scarred.
Murdock turned a page of his book occasionally, but wasn't really reading it anymore. His mind was fixated on the mental image of Hannibal in a coffin. In reality, they all knew that this line of work could cause an early death for any of them, but if they survived their jobs as soldiers for hire, Hannibal could easily be the first to die just based on age. Murdock thought of what the death of Hannibal would mean. It would be the end of their days as hired soldiers, he knew. The team wouldn't continue without any one of them. Hannibal had stepped in as a father to all of them, and to Murdock that meant showing him a father's love and support through the good times and bad; Hannibal and the rest of the team had seen Murdock through some pretty bad times, for sure. It was Hannibal who had apologized for the way Murdock's biological father had treated him as a young boy, and it was Hannibal who showed Murdock what a healthy father-son relationship looked like. He hoped his whispered words to Hannibal earlier hadn't embarrassed Hannibal, no one on the team made it a point to reveal their inner thoughts. However, Murdock knew that without Hannibal to help bring him through the the worst memories, he wouldn't be the person he was today.
Face stared at the back of Hannibal's head, lost in thought. He knew Hannibal's death was faked, obviously, but couldn't shake the unsettled feeling it left in the pit of his stomach. Hannibal was the one that made sure Face wasn't left in the brig to rot after the worst of his stunts in Vietnam. Hannibal was the only that took a punch from him and didn't punch back in the war; it was Hannibal's tough love that not only kept Face alive in the war but gave him purpose. He truly was the only father Face ever had known. Face knew he needed to find a way to let down the mask and tell Hannibal just what he meant to him, but he also knew there were just some things Hannibal knew instinctually. The very first time, years ago, when Face didn't last out at Hannibal when he called him 'son', they both knew they had finally become family. Neither realized what they were missing until that moment.
B.A. was in a daze as he drove. Hannibal was the one to initially temper B.A.'s angry fists, to formulate the constant plan, and who helped bond them all together in the beginning. It was Hannibal who had first picked him, and B.A. knew that it was Hannibal's cool head that kept him and the rest of the team alive while they were POWs. Ultimately it was Hannibal who had kept them together after the trial and to see Hannibal 'dead' in a casket made B.A. truly realize what having Hannibal for a leader meant for him. B.A. thought briefly of his childhood in Chicago, growing up with just his Momma around most of the time and how the hardest part of heading off to war was leaving her alone. Hannibal had formed him into the man he was today, and it was a man that made his Momma proud. B.A. didn't realize how much he needed Hannibal until they finally became a team in Vietnam. War wasn't something he would wish on anyone, but he was quietly thankful it brought Hannibal into his life.
The van rolled to a stop in front of Face's place where they would all spend the night. One by one they piled out silently; one by one Face, Murdock, and B.A. all quickly clapped a hand on Hannibal's shoulder momentarily, as they entered the apartment.
Hannibal's eyes met each of them as he took the cigar from Face's fingertips. "Men," he finally spoke, "I love it when a plan comes together."