Summary: Hannibal has a surprise for Face.
`Hurry up, Face!! The guys'll be wondering where we are!' Hannibal's voice floated up from the foyer.
`Be there in a minute!' the young man called back, straightening his tie. It was his birthday, and the rest of the Team were taking him out to dinner at his favorite restaurant, so he wanted to look his best...
Hannibal shook his head, smiling. Even when dressing casually, Face took a lot of care with his appearance. On more formal occasions, it was even worse.
As he waited, his mind went back to another birthday, half a world away, and half a lifetime ago...
It had been a day like any other in the jungles of Viet Nam: hot, humid, enervating. Luckily, it had also been quiet.
About an hour after dinner, the commando team led by John `Hannibal' Smith could be found in their leader's quarters, enjoying a knock-down, drag-out game of poker. Hannibal smiled around his latest cigar as he watched his Sergeant take a friendly swipe at his Lieutenant, accusing him of cheating on the last hand. Face ducked the half-hearted punch easily, and told B.A. to shut up and deal.
`Hey! Is this a private party, or can anybody join in?'
The voice belonged to their favorite pilot, 'Howling Mad' Murdock, so called because of the crazy stunts he pulled to get soldiers safely in and out of their assigned missions.
`Sure, Captain!' Hannibal called. `C'mon in!'
`Man!' B.A. groused, `they'll let anybody on this base!' His smile belied his sour tone of voice.
Immediately, Face was on his feet, opening the door for Murdock, who was carrying something heavy wrapped in a blanket. After a hurried, whispered conversation, the item was stashed on the Colonel's bunk.
Grabbing a beer, Murdock joined the others at the table, and was soon engrossed in the game.
Later that night, the game broke up. The beer cans, ashes, and other detritus were swept up, and the cards collected and put aside for the next time. Just as the guys were about to bid their Colonel `good-night', Hannibal picked up a folder from his desk and opened it.
`Uh...hold on a minute there, guys. I have a bone to pick with our good Sergeant here.' He looked up, a twinkle in his eyes. `It seems he never bothered to tell us that today is his birthday.'
B.A. could feel his face flushing. He'd never been one to make much of a fuss over it, especially since his momma hadn't been able to afford to do much more than bake a cake and have some neighbors over. So it made him a little nervous when the other members of his team looked at him with an amused look on their faces.
Hannibal looked at Face and Murdock. `You two want to do the honors, guys?'
As they went to retrieve the package Murdock had brought, B.A. looked at them suspiciously.
`Hey, man! What's this all about?'
`Well,' began Face, `it was Hannibal's idea.'
`Yeah,' the Colonel conceded, `but Face arranged it.'
`Don't look at me, big guy,' Murdock protested as they set the thing down in front
of B.A. `I just flew it here!'
`Uh, sorry about the blanket, B.A.,' Face added. `We just didn't have time to wrap it properly.'
B.A. looked at each one in turn, noting the barely-suppressed grins before picking up one corner of the blanket. Carefully, he pulled it back. He wouldn't put it past them to sneak some big lizard into the camp.
What he saw, however, was the corner of a red metal box. Flipping off the rest of the covering, he was amazed to find a full-sized tool box. Between the latches and the handle was a brass plaque reading: Sgt. Bosco A. Baracus.
`Well, go ahead,' Murdock urged. `Look inside.'
Eagerly, B.A. unfastened the latches, lifting the lid to disclose every possible tool a mechanic might need; there were even two or three each of the most useful ones. He was stunned. It was so much more than a poor boy from the housing projects of Chicago could ever have hoped for.
He looked around at his team-mates, a lump in his throat.
`Man, you guys are the greatest,' he murmured.
Hannibal put a hand on his shoulder.
`Sergeant,' he said honestly, `you are without doubt the best mechanic, ordnance officer, and non-commissioned officer I've ever known. There's not a man outside this unit I'd rather have by my side on a mission, or just back in camp. You deserve the best.'
Silence reigned in the emotionally-charged atmosphere of the tent.
`Well, guys,' Face said, breaking the spell, `I think I'm going to take a walk before I turn in. See you all in the morning!' He gave them a smile before he left. Only trouble was, it wasn't reflected in his eyes.
`Uh, Colonel?' asked Murdock after a few moments, having noted the tension in the Lieutenant's voice. `What's with Facey?'
`Something I should have taken into consideration a long time ago, Murdock,' Hannibal replied sadly, watching his lover walk away across the compound. `He doesn't like birthdays, and doesn`t celebrate his. Hasn't since he left the orphanage.'
`Why's that, Hannibal?' B.A. chimed in.
`At the orphanage, he was just one of many kids. Besides, he doesn't know his real birth-date,' the Colonel sighed. `What's on his military record is the birth-date he was assigned by the orphanage. It's the date he showed up on their door-step - just another reminder that his family didn't want him.'
`Man, that's gotta be rough on a kid,' B.A. murmured. The others nodded in agreement.
Murdock pursed his lips, thinking. It wasn't that long ago that he and this three-man commando team, misfits all, had begun to think of themselves as a family. The previous Christmas, B.A. had even sent a photograph of the four of them to his mother.
`Hey, Hannibal,' Murdock said, the wheels in his head still turning. `We're his family now, right?'
`So, why don't we just choose a new birth-date for him, and use that?'
`Sounds like a plan, Captain. But how to you propose to do it?'
`It'll have to be completely random, Colonel,' the pilot said, picking up the cards and starting to shuffle them. `For the month, we use the whole deck. For the date, numbered cards only; face cards count as zero. You pick the card for the month; B.A. and I will each pick a card, and we add them together for the date. How's that sound?'
`Sounds crazy, fool,' B.A. growled; then he grinned. `But I like it.' Hannibal nodded, too.
`Do it, Captain,' he smiled.
Once the cards were shuffled to his satisfaction, Murdock fanned the deck and offered it to the Colonel. `We'll all draw first, and work from there, agreed?'
Hannibal pulled a card from near the middle of the pack. When it was offered to B.A., he drew from the left half of the deck; Murdock's came from the right half. Putting down the rest, Murdock looked at Hannibal.
`Ok, sir, what've you got?
`Nine of hearts. That means September.'
`Okay, big guy. Show us your card.'
`Ten o' diamonds.'
`And I've got the seven of clubs. So we have September 17 as Face's new birth-date.'
`That's only a few weeks away, crazy-man.'
`Yeah,' said Hannibal. `So get your thinking-caps on, guys. I want to have something really special to surprise Face...'
The sound of footsteps hurrying down the stairs broke into Hannibal's thoughts. He looked up to see his lover coming down to join him. The beige tweed three-piece suit and burgundy tie set off the golden-blonde hair perfectly, and he sighed, almost wishing they didn't have to go out.
`How do I look, Hannibal?' Face asked.
`Like a million bucks, kid, as always,' the older man replied, pulling him in for a deep kiss. `But we'd better be going. The maitre d' is going to give away our table if we don't get there on time.'
Face grinned. `I wouldn't mind, if it meant spending more time alone with you. But I don't want to disappoint B.A. and Murdock.'
Nodding in agreement, Hannibal put his arm around his husband's waist, and guided him to the car...
Good food. Good wine. Good company.
Hannibal sat back and watched as his men laughed and joked and talked about everything under the sun. There were no gifts; none were needed. Time in each other's company, with no bad guys firing bullets at them, was no longer the rare commodity it once had been for them, but was still a gift to be savored.
Not unlike another time...in another place...
It was 1930, local military time; 7:30 PM for civilians. Hannibal had sent Face on an errand while Murdock and B.A. smuggled a cake from the mess tent, and he was due back any minute. Finally, he was spotted crossing the compound, and they scrambled to look normal.
When Face entered his Colonel's tent, he could feel tension in the air. As he looked around, though, things seemed pretty much as they always did: Hannibal with his feet up on the desk, going over a file; Murdock and B.A. arguing over a card game. But, on the table, between the pilot and the mechanic...
He stared at the cake with the lit utility candle stuck in middle.
`Happy Birthday, Face,' Hannibal said quietly, looking up from the file he was supposedly reading...
`Today's not my birthday,' Face said bitterly.
`Well, uh...you don't really know that for sure, muchacho,' Murdock told him. `Anyway, it is now,' he added with a grin.
`Yeah,' chimed in B.A. `We family now. So we decided to give you a birth-date o' your own.'
`Face,' Hannibal stood and draped an arm around the young man's shoulders, `you're a very valuable member of this Team. We know how you feel about the date in your file, so we chose a new date for you. And this is it.
`Now, we didn't know what to get you that you couldn't scam better yourself. So, as B.A. says, we're family, and a special time together is our gift to you.'
The silence that followed was broken by the sound of a can of beer being opened.
`Here you go, muchacho,' Murdock said quietly, offering the can to Face.
`Beer and birthday cake. What a combination!' The young Lieutenant smiled at last, and accepted the brew.
Face blew out the candle, wishing silently that his erstwhile family could always be safe, then shared out the slices of cake with his friends.
They talked long into the night, sharing memories, jokes, as well as hopes and dreams for the future. For the first time in his young life, Face felt like he truly belonged.
At long last, the get-together broke up, but not before a final toast: four cans of beer touched together as if they were crystal glasses holding the finest wine, in honor of the youngest member of the Team.
After the others had left, Hannibal pulled his lover into his arms.
`Happy, kid?' he asked tentatively.
Face smiled up at him, and nodded. `I've never been happier. Thank you, John...'
`Earth to Hannibal! Earth to Hannibal!'
The voice shook Hannibal out of his reverie. He looked up to see three pairs of eyes looking at him. He grinned sheepishly.
`Sorry, guys,' he apologized. `Just lost in my own thoughts, I guess.'
`I hope they were pleasant ones,' Face said.
`Without a doubt,' his lover replied.
The conversation wound down shortly afterwards. Everyone was tired, but happy. They stood, raising crystal glasses filled with Face's favorite wine, touching briefly in a toast to the youngest member of the Team...
Hannibal listened to the water running in the shower. He could imagine the hot water running over the lean body of his husband, and it made him ache to join him. However, he had one last little surprise in store...
Face came out of the bathroom, wearing only a pair of silk pajama bottoms, to find Hannibal waiting for him. He noted the sparkle in the older man's eyes at the sight of his nipple rings, and felt himself pulled into a loving embrace.
`Happy, baby?' Hannibal asked.
`Never more so, John,' he sighed. `I'm so glad you and the guys chose a new birth-date for me all those years ago. It's truly mine, and no one can take it away from me. Even if I someday find out my real birth-date, it won't matter. I'll still celebrate this day.'
Tilting his head up, he welcomed Hannibal's kiss, savoring the taste and touch. By the time it ended, they were both breathless.
Face reluctantly turned away to set his alarm clock, and frowned when he saw the little package lying on his pillow.
`Hannibal, you didn't have to do this,' he sighed.
`I know, baby,' Hannibal told him, `but I wanted to. I've been dreaming about this since you first surprised me when I got back from my last business trip.'
Face cocked an eyebrow at Hannibal as he picked up the elegantly-wrapped box. He took his time unwrapping it, deliberately teasing his lover.
Opening the box, he gasped softly and looked at his husband.
`Gold, John?' he whispered.
`You deserve only the best, Tem,' Hannibal told him, caressing the soft cheek.
Face sat down on the bed, stunned. The older man's full acceptance of the piercing made him feel more loved than ever.
His trembling fingers couldn't manage the fastenings on the original rings, and he looked up at Hannibal in a panic.
The Colonel chuckled and knelt in front of him, taking his lover's face in his hands and lightly kissing him. Sliding his hands down the smooth chest, he gently removed the stainless steel rings, then carefully inserted the new gold ones, enjoying the younger man's needful moans. Once they were in place, he couldn't resist kissing and teasing each nipple to hardness before leaning back to take in the full effect.
`They're just as beautiful as I'd hoped they'd be, baby,' Hannibal breathed. `More. Because they're on the most beautiful man I've ever met...'
He took his young husband in his arms, kissing him thoroughly as he eased him down onto the bed, savoring the touch of the younger man's hands caressing his back.
Face knew he was in for a night of incredible passion. But the best gift of all - the one that really mattered - was Hannibal's love...
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