Title:

Title: THROUGH THE VALLEY OF CLICHES

Copyright 2000

Author: Reckless (weisel@mediaone.net)

Rated: R (more or less)

Disclaimer: The A-Team characters belong to Stephen J. Cannell and Universal.

Warning: Violence, angst, h/c, war memories, death, sexual innuendo, severe mental distress, torture, slashy thoughts. But all made in jest.

Comments: Please. ABUSE WELCOMED. [Special thanks to Fingers, auntiehill, Lark and Elizabeth Kent for their comments]

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A Brief Explanation:

A month or so before writing this parody, I posted a list of Top 10 Overused Plot Devices in A-Team Fan Fiction on a mailing list. After posting that list, and hearing additional suggestions from other users, I received a challenge: use all of those plot devices in a single story. Thus, this parody was born.

This is a very goofy spoof on many of the conventions in A-Team Fan Fiction, particularly hurt/comfort fiction. However, by its very nature, it may strike close to home for a few readers. Please understand that this is PURELY INTENDED TO BE IN GOOD FUN and is not intended to criticize any particular author or work. So please, if you see a particular scene or sentence that looks familiar, do not assume that I am lampooning your or anyone else's story. In fact, most of these plot devices appear in many stories and I have used (and will continue to use) many of them myself. So please read this with tongue planted firmly in cheek and appreciate the silliness.

And if that doesn't work, try to remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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THROUGH THE VALLEY OF CLICHES

Lieutenant Templeton Peck was speeding along the highway in his 'vette, enjoying the cool breeze blowing through his golden hair. Days like this made him feel great to be alive, even if he lived his life as a fugitive, convicted of a crime he didn't commit, suffering from constant nightmares of being tortured in a Vietnamese prison camp, always struggling with his fear of abandonment, never able to stay in one place for too long, with the military always at his back, with no chance to ever have the life he always hoped for. Yep, he was happy to be alive. It was a great day.

And about to get better, Face thought, as he saw the back end of a blond sticking out from the front end of a little red convertible. He knew he was a sucker for these types of situations and Hannibal would be peeved if the lieutenant got caught again. But, Face shrugged, how could he deny a damsel in distress?

Pulling the 'vette to a stop in front of the convertible, he nonchalantly climbed out of the car and made his way to the lady. Her long blond hair was all he could see -- well except for her shapely derriere in the too-short shorts. Face corrected himself. There was no such thing as "too-short" shorts. She must not have heard him, so he cleared his voice. The woman lifted her head, but did not turn.

"Can I be of any assistance, ma'am?" he inquired as he straightened his tie.

"Most definitely" came an impossibly low voice from the lady in front of him. She swung around, and Face found himself staring into a set of dark, beady, and most definitely male eyes.

"Kyle."

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"The Faceman late for check-in ag'in?" BA Baracus asked his commanding officer.

Hannibal nodded and BA knew what had happened.

"Aw, man. Don' he ever learn to leave things to the auto club?"

"No. If he did, we wouldn't be able to keep rescuing him from sadistic torturers."

BA nodded. "I'll go get the fool."

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"What the?" Face wondered as he woke up in a dark room. He tried to raise his right arm, but it was chained to the wall. So was his left. As he looked down to see if he could reach the lockpicks conveniently hidden in his pants, he discovered that his clothes were gone and he wearing a pair of camouflage fatigues.

'Why do the guys who capture me always seem to have a spare pair of fatigues laying around in my size?' he thought. 'Just once, couldn't they have a nice Armani sport jacket? A Calvin Klein sweater? Hugo Boss? Polo by Ralph Lauren?'

Just as he began to wonder how much the producers had been paid for this blatant product placement, Face's musings were interrupted by the sound of a key in the door. As the door swung open, light flooded the room.

There, like a figure out of Face's worst nightmare, stood Dougie Kyle.

"Welcome, Lieutenant."

"Go to hell, Kyle."

"Oh, I'm sure you're going to get there first. Bwahahahahaha."

"What the hell was that?" Face asked.

"Why, it's the evil laugh that all bad guys give before they torture the good guys."

"Couldn't you make it sound more convincing? I mean 'Bwahahahahaha' sounds like a sick sheep."

Kyle stopped, looked pensive for a moment, and cackled again. "HAAAHAAAHAAAHAAA." He stopped and looked back at the chained lieutenant. "Sound better?"

Face bobbed his head slightly as he let the sound linger in his brain. Chills down his spine? Check. Hairs raised on the back of his neck? Check. A sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach? Check. Yeah, he was suitably scared now. Looking back at Kyle, Face nodded.

"Good," said the larger man. "We're going to have some fun."

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"This is a bad idea, Hannibal," BA said.

They had driven through the streets of Los Angeles all day. Face had been missing for at least ten hours and could be anywhere by now.

The team had searched all of the usual places -- the survivalist camps in the desert, the basement torture chambers scattered throughout Beverly Hills, the houses next door to Face's apartment -- to no avail. Hannibal had even stripsearched the priests at Face's old orphanage in case any of them turned out to be sadistic madmen out for revenge. As each lead turned into a dead end, the frustration in the van grew, and they were now down to Hannibal's last lead.

"Nick's Casa de Camouflage and Canes?" Murdock asked incredulously. "What do you think this place has to do with Facey, Hannibal?"

"Captain," the colonel replied, "have you ever noticed that whenever we find Face after he's been kidnapped, he's always in fatigues?" Hannibal chomped on his ever-present cigar. "Someone has to supply them."

"Umm, but Hannibal, couldn't the bad guys get them at the local army/navy store?"

Hannibal grinned. "It's not nice to point out plotholes. Besides, if Face is involved, they also need chains, ropes, canes, bamboo cages, sweat boxes . . ."

"But Hannibal," BA cautioned cautiously, "you're assuming whoever got the Faceman is a one-stop shopper."

Hannibal kept speaking, his voice taking on a sing-song tone. "Shackles, electrodes, whips . . ." Hannibal seemed to be enjoying his thoughts just a little too much.

The list continued long after they entered the store. Once inside, they had no trouble finding Nick. The man was the size of a small barn and wearing a uniform full of medals he obviously had never earned.

"I want to know about one of your recent purchasers," Hannibal threatened in his most threatening tone, the threat evident to anyone who heard the threat.

Nick looked at them and smiled. "You must be the A-Team. One of my customers left you a present."

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"Ahh, you went to Nick's Casa de Canes and Camouflage, didn't you Kyle?" Face wheezed as the cane rained down on his back. "I recognize the workmanship."

"Yes," Kyle agreed. "Nick does good work. And I got bulk and frequent buyer discounts."

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The team had just listened to the tape. Why did it always have to be Dougie Kyle?

"Colonel, I have your man here. Say something Peck?"

Some strangled words came through. "Awwwwwaaaaaawwwww." But the team knew their meaning right away.

"Come on, BA. Face is being held in a hidden campsite in the Appalachian Mountains," Murdock announced.

"How'd ya know that fool?"

"The way he pronounced the 'aaaa' in the middle."

"Oh," BA said, "when you put it that way."

"Yeah," Murdock rejoined. "When we were in the POW camp, Face told me that if he ever said 'aaaa' like that again, it meant he was thinking about the Appalachian Mountains."

"Sergeant," Hannibal commanded. "Step on it."

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Somehow the team managed to drive the van cross-country in a matter of hours. They also had no trouble locating Kyle's camp despite the fact that the Appalachian Mountains extend 1,600 miles from Quebec to Alabama. That was because Murdock detected the mooing of a rare Pennsylvania free-range longhorn cattle in the background of Kyle's tape and pointed out that the cattle are found in only one part of the Appalachian Mountains. Inexplicably, the rare Pennsylvania free-range longhorn cattle neither lived in Pennsylvania nor were free range. Come to think of it, their horns also were pretty short. Actually, the only surviving Pennsylvania free-range longhorn cattle were penned up on a small farm in the northwestern tip of South Carolina.

"Hey, Hannibal, ya sure we in the right place?"

"I don't know, BA. All that razor wire, the concrete bunkers, the armed guards with the automatic rifles? I guess it could be the ladies' aid society."

"Jus' thought the Tupperware party in the center of the yard was a little odd."

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Despite his broken ribs, bruised back, damaged kidneys, hemorrhaging liver and collapsed lungs, Face was pretty upbeat. He had refused to break under Kyle's torture. Now the lieutenant was trying to figure out why he was lying in the middle of an oversized, plastic container. Actually, he was really trying to figure out why anyone would need such a large container. Maybe if Kyle had an entire cow to freeze all at once . . .

Face decided it would be better to stop wondering.

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Under cover of darkness, the team quickly, silently, deadly, stealthily and ferociously took out Kyle's guards. Slipping unnoticed into the compound, Hannibal headed for the building that looked the most like the center of operations. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the ladies changing room -- unfortunately only because, at most paramilitary compounds there are not that many ladies changing in the middle of the night.

"Should we come back tomorrow, Hannibal?"

"No," answered the disappointed colonel. "We'd better try to find Face."

"Where?" whispered BA.

Hannibal scanned the compound, but did not have a clue. Feeling a tapping on his shoulder, he looked up at Murdock who pointed across the compound.

"There, Hannibal."

"How do you know, Murdock?"

"I . . . just feel it, Colonel."

Hannibal nodded. He knew how close Murdock and Face were. They really were more like brothers than teammates. The colonel trusted their bond and followed the captain across the compound. Hannibal's trust was rewarded a few minutes later when BA pointed out a signpost.

"Look, Hannibal," BA said.

Hannibal followed BA's index finger to the sign. It was a post with an arrow pointing to their right. The name of a location was printed on the arrow.

"Toilets, BA? Do you really think Face is in the toilets?" the colonel asked incredulously.

"No, man. Underneath that one."

Hannibal looked again. Directly underneath the "Toilets" arrow -- and pointing in the same direction -- was another arrow. This one read "Instruments of Torture."

"Good work, Sergeant."

The team sped across the compound, following the "Instruments of Torture" arrows until they reached a small building near the corner of the facility.

"This looks to be the place," Hannibal said. "See? There's a 'Rack room,' 'Whipping room,' 'Celine Dion Records room.'"

The color drained from Murdock's face as he heard the last room. To Face, that was a fate worse than death.

BA studied the sign as well. If anyone had subjected his Li'l Brother to hours of Celine Dion, they were gonna hurt.

Hannibal wondered about the last room. He kind of liked Celine Dion.

"Everyone in positions?" Hannibal asked. It was, in truth, a silly question, since they were all going to go through the front door at the same time and there really were no positions to take. Nonetheless, BA and Murdock nodded.

BA knocked the door off its hinges with a single blow and the three men burst through.

"Umm, BA?" Murdock said.

"What, ya crazy fool?"

"You know, that door was unlocked." Murdock turned the knob on the door that was now resting on the ground.

They proceeded through the hallways of the structure, which, from the outside, seemed only about the size of a tool shed. Yet inside, they found themselves delving down underground through the twisting warrens.

"Hannibal, it gettin' colder down here?"

The colonel had noticed the rapidly decreasing temperature as well. He had barely completed his responsive nod when they turned a corner and were met with a sight that made their blood run even colder than the freezing room.

There, in the center, was a large pink, plastic container. Inside was a very still and quite frozen figure; the blond hair and features of Templeton Peck were unmistakable.

On the outside, there was a note:

Dear Colonel Smith

I'm very sorry I've missed you, but I am assured by the Tupperware™ Representative that this case will hold all your large foodstuffs and cryogenics for years to come. Please let Lieutenant Peck know that I enjoyed his company and will look forward to joining him for a drink sometime in the future. Maybe a frozen daiquiri.

Douglas Kyle, Maj., U.S. Army (ret), nutball, psycho and ubervillain

"Damn it, Kyle got away." The anger in Murdock's furious voice was plain.

"That's okay, Captain. He always does. After all, we need him to come back and threaten Face in the last chapter."

"So what we gonna do with the frozen Faceman?" BA asked.

"Take the whole container, BA," the colonel commanded. "We'll defrost him in the van."

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Loading Face into the van, the team pulled the lid off the container. With a resounding pop, it came off and they could see that their friend was enclosed in a large block of ice.

"That's a really good seal, Hannibal," Murdock commented, noting Hannibal's concurrence.

"Hannibal, 'ccording to this map, there's a hospital 'bout twenty miles down the road," BA called from the front seat.

Murdock concurred. "They can set up a proper hot water bath and treat the hypothermia."

"No, Murdock," the colonel rejoined. "We can't take Face to the hospital. BA, turn the heater on and head for Bad Rock."

"But Hannibal, Bad Rock's on the other side of the country."

"That's true, Captain, but we need the services of Maggie Sullivan, Miracle Doctor.™ Only she can save Face."

"But isn't she just a rural general practitioner who has a small examining room in her house? Doesn't she see patients in her robe?"

Hannibal's eyes gleamed with lustful and no-so-lustful thoughts. "That's why she performs such miracles."

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Over the course of the next few hours, the van's heater slowly defrosted the block of ice. As the van sped down the interstate, it left a trail of water that flooded two nearby farms and a highway rest stop.

"Okay, hold onto him," Hannibal ordered as he and Murdock lifted the Face popsicle out of the container. The colonel checked for a pulse and was relieved when he found a weak and thready one.

As they laid Face on the ground, the scope of the abuse he had suffered became clear. They saw the blood, the bruises, the broken bones, but even more horrifying was the way Face's hands covered his ears and his face contorted in a rictus of pain.

"Oh God, Hannibal. Kyle did it. He subjected Face to Celine Dion," Murdock wailed. How could Face ever recover from the torture?

"Hey, man. Li'l Bro's strong. He gonna come outta this." BA's words left no doubt.

As if in response to BA's words, Face suddenly began convulsing.

"What's happening, Hannibal?" Murdock cried.

"He's suffering from some technobabble, poorly researched explanation here."

"Are you sure?"

"Of course. I found it on the internet. Oh, and it looks like Face's heart stopped." Hannibal checked for a pulse but could not find one. He then turned to the driver's seat. "BA, stop the van."

The sergeant slammed the van to a harsh stop and leaped into the back of the van. Hannibal continued to issue commands.

"BA, get that spare car battery and some shock absorbers. Murdock, find some of those leftover electrodes that I got at Nick's and remove the coil from that seat."

"Not ma van, Hannibal! Nobody touches ma van"

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Working quickly, the team managed to shock Face's heart into beating again with the portable crash cart they jerry-rigged out of the car battery, coil, spark plugs and leftover electrodes from Nick's Casa de Canes and Camouflage. And, as if by clockwork, Face's heart stopped nearly every hour on the hour. Thankfully, the team was using a Sears Die Hard™ battery that could keep up with the lieutenant.

To try to keep Face's spirits up on the drive cross-country, Hannibal and Murdock sang to the younger man. They sang a song that had kept their spirits up in the Vietnam prison camps, a song that Face, as an orphan, had never had a mother to sing to him. The sounds of "You are My Sunshine" reverberated around the van for hours.

As dawn broke the day after they had left South Carolina, Face stirred. Murdock, who was softly singing next to the lieutenant, grasped Face's hand.

"Hey, muchacho, good to see you back." Leaping out of the passenger seat, Hannibal moved to Face's side, all the while continuing the soft refrain of "You are My Sunshine."

Face's sapphire blue eyes stared up at the roof of the van. He grasped Murdock's hand.

"P-please . . ." he whispered. "P-please let . . . m-me die . . . I-I . . . don't have the . . . the strength . . ." His voice trailed off.

"Come on, Faceyman," Murdock begged through his tears. "Don't let Kyle win. Show him you're strong enough to get through the beating."

Face's eyes, blue as the daytime sky, opened wide, and he grabbed the collar of Murdock's shirt. "N-no . . . not . . . the beating . . . I . . . I c-can't take the . . . damn song . . ." Face promptly lost consciousness.

Murdock looked blankly at Hannibal, who returned the dumbfounded gaze. Finally, Hannibal spoke up. "But we don't know any other songs."

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Mercifully, the team arrived in Bad Rock the next day.

"So where to, Hannibal? The hospital? Maggie's house?

"No, BA. Find the skankiest, dirtiest little motel around here," the colonel answered.

It did not take much time before they found a place that fit the bill. They caught the sign reading "Fleabag" right away. Actually the motel was really called "Fledabaugers," but the "d," "u" and the "ers" in the neon sign were burnt out.

Hannibal and BA leaped out of the van, giving Murdock instructions to take care of Face, and then entered the front office.

Seeing them, the man behind the desk groaned. "Not you again."

Hannibal grinned. "Hi, Mack."

"Don't 'Hi Mack' me," the desk clerk hissed. "Do you know how much trouble I had getting the bloodstains out of the rug the last time you checked in?"

Hannibal stopped and looked at BA. "Sergeant, didn't I instruct you to take special care to remove the bloodstains? Now apologize to this man."

BA looked sheepish. "Sorry."

Hannibal grinned back at Mack. "Okay. Now we need a room."

The desk clerk studied them for a moment before he turned and perused the mounted row of keys to vacant rooms. As he lifted the key to room 12, he stopped.

"Will this involve surgery or just a gunshot wound?"

"Surgery," Hannibal responded without hesitation.

Mack returned the key to room 12 to the wall. Instead, he took the key to room 6, turned, and gave it Hannibal.

"We made this room up special. It's got a drain on the floor for easy clean-up. I'm sorry that it's got no carpet, but you know how it is."

Hannibal grinned again. "I knew we could count on you, Mack."

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Only a few minutes after they had carried Face into the motel room and set him on the bed under the velvet Elvis, Maggie Sullivan, Miracle Doctor™ arrived with her new assistant. Preoccupied with his lieutenant, all Hannibal caught was a first name, Mary Sue something or other.

Almost immediately after they arrived, Face had another incident, provided you can call someone's heart stopping, lung collapsing and spleen rupturing an "incident."

Grabbing the Die Hard™ battery, Maggie began CPR. "Quick, Hannibal, we need to open him up," she ordered.

Hannibal scanned the room for her surgical supplies, but found none. Since Bad Rock was not exactly large enough to have a local surgical supply store -- although Mack at the front desk was discussing opening a side business out the back of the motel -- Hannibal ordered BA to run over to the local diner.

Using a few straws, napkins, a spoon, and a butter knife as a scalpel, Maggie quickly removed Face's spleen and inflated Face's lung. Within moments, the lieutenant was breathing easily into the multi-million dollar heart-and-lung machine that Maggie had stashed in her living room. Well, it might have passed for a multi-million dollar heart-and-lung machine if it weren't made from paper plates and the water hose of a pick-up truck. But it sufficed.

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Once Face's condition stabilized, Hannibal stepped outside the room and lit his cigar. Normally, he would not have bothered with leaving the non-smoking room, but Maggie suggested that the cigar and the oxygen tent might not get along. He shrugged. That had never stopped him before. But why start a fight with her when he hoped they might be able to sneak away to her house and test out a few of the little purchases he had made at Nick's.

Maggie's assistant -- Mary Sue, he reminded himself -- was sitting on the steps running down to the parking lot, tears running down her face.

"It's difficult to see, isn't it," Hannibal said as he sat down and put a hand on her shoulder. "We live so close to the edge that we get used to death."

"T-that's not it," she sobbed. "We almost lost him . . . just when . . ."

Hannibal looked at the girl. She looked like your average young teenager, but something about her was so familiar. He took in her blond hair and fine features. Then she looked up at him and he saw the unmistakable blue eyes set against her pale skin.

Shocked, he fell away from her. "You . . . you're his . . ." He couldn't complete the sentence.

"Yes, Hannibal. My father is a member of the A-Team. My father. . . is . . . Bosco Baracus."

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Despite having most of his internal organs turned inside out with a butter knife, Face woke up only moments after surgery. His blue eyes, dark as the turbulent ocean in a storm, fluttered as the room slowly came into focus. A horrific apparition appeared in front of him, and he began to jump away in fright before he realized it was only Murdock.

"Hey, muchacho."

"Mmmaaaaanneemmm"

"That's good, Faceyman."

"Mmmaaaaanneemmm"

"No, I don't think we've got any silk pajamas."

"Mmmaaaaanneemmm"

"Yes, that was BA's daughter who was assisting during your surgery."

"How is he, Murdock?" Hannibal asked from the doorway.

"I don't know, Colonel. He keeps saying 'Mmmaaaaanneemmm' and I have no idea what it means."

"Why don't you try removing that fuel pump from his mouth?"

"Good idea, Colonel." The pilot drew out the pump, which had only hours before been under the hood of BA's van. "What were you trying to say, muchacho?"

"Why do I have a fuel pump in my mouth?"

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BA sat talking with his newly discovered daughter. The resemblance was eerie, like he was staring into a mirror. Except, of course, the reflection was a white, teenage girl with blue eyes and blond hair.

"I don' understand. Why didn't your mother ever tell me 'bout you?"

"She knew you were on the run. After you met at that Lawrence Welk appreciation society event . . ."

"Shhh. Not so loud. The team thinks I was attending a reunion of my local Black Panthers cell."

"She didn't want to worry you . . . Besides, after she died, I've managed to take care of myself."

"But ya only 13."

"Yeah, but I graduated from college last year. I can get by on my own . . ."

"So why'd ya come to Maggie?"

"I'm deciding between going to Yale Law School or Harvard Medical School, so I wanted to see what medicine was like."

"But if ya so smart, what are ya doing with some rural GP?"

"I wanted to learn from the best . . . Maggie Sullivan, Miracle Doctor™. She gives me lots of chances to test my mechanical genius."

"You're a mechanical genius?" BA felt his heart swell with pride as he heard that.

"Yes. And a classically trained pianist . . . And a beauty queen . . . And an opera singer . . . "

A loud scream from inside the motel room interrupted her recitation. Well, almost.

"And the winner of the National Spelling Bee . . ."

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Hannibal raced into the motel room in response to the scream. "What is it?"

"It's Face, Hannibal. He . . . He's . . . in the corner."

It was true. Face was curled up in the fetal position in a corner of the room. He had ripped out his IV's, pulled out his tubes and the water hose that had once been the multi-million dollar heart-and-lung monitor was now lying on the floor. Face's blue-green eyes were wide with fear.

"He's having a flashback. What did you do to him, Murdock?"

"Nothing, Colonel. I just tried to give him some ice . . ." Murdock's voice trailed off as the realization dawned on him. He suddenly understood what Face was remembering.

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Face's mind was trapped in Vietnam. He relived the team's capture while on a routine mission down to the local PX so that Murdock could pick up the latest comic books and Face could hit on the female supply clerks. They did not really need the helicopter, but Murdock liked to fly everywhere and nobody complained about taking the long way around. Hanoi might have been a little far north, but it had such lovely flora and fauna that everyone enjoyed the nice flight. Even BA did not complain too much.

Until they crashed and wound up in General Chao's notorious prison camp.

"Are ya sure we're in the right place, sucka?" BA asked the VC guard who dragged them into the camp.

"Hey, now that you mention it," Murdock added. "I don't recall any of the tour guides mentioning bathing beauties as part of the POW camp scenery."

"And the volleyball court is a little out of place," Face commented.

The guard stopped. He called over his second-in-command and they conferred over a map for a while. Then he said something in Vietnamese and the four men were dragged out of the camp in another direction.

"What he say fool?" BA asked, knowing that Murdock had learned Vietnamese -- as well as cryptography, cartography, geography, mammography (ok, BA did not really know what he was talking about)-- during his two months of flight training with the CIA.

"They followed the wrong map. They accidentally took us to the Hanoi Club Med."

Three hours later, they were in the right place.

"This man has insulted the people of North Vietnam," screamed General Chao a few days later as his guards dragged Face out of the interrogation center and dropped him in the open area of the camp. In his haze and delirium, Face remembered spitting out the foul concoction that Chao had poured down his throat.

From behind him, he could hear Hannibal and Murdock whispering. "What did Face do?" the colonel asked.

"He refused to drink one of those frozen, blended coconut, rice, dog meat concoctions . . ."

Face shuddered at the recollection. The VC could beat, cane, brand and rape him, but they would not make him drink. He was strictly a single-malt scotch man. Face knew that his refusal meant an even worse punishment.

From his kneeling position, he watched the two large guards carry out a large metal pole. The men wore black leather gloves, a clear sign the either the writers or wardrobe department were running out of ideas as they recycled Hannibal's signature equipment. Then Face noticed that the pole was frozen. Seeing that a long electrical cord ran to the interrogation center, Face's blood ran cold.

"This man refuses the hospitality we provide him. He resists even when we give him this," Chao screamed as he pulled out one of those little, paper umbrellas that invariably get stuck in cheap, tourist-trap Mai Tais.

"Too Holiday Inn for me, Chao. They only use silk umbrellas at the Ritz," Face spat.

The Vietnamese general turned redder by the minute. "As punishment, this man will stay for two days on display."

Face knew what was coming and took comfort in Hannibal's near-silent "Hang in there, kid" as one of the guards grabbed Face by the jaw and forced his mouth open. The guard pulled Face's tongue forward and forced it against the post. Face's tongue stuck fast against the frozen metal.

"Gwaaahhhh" was the only sound Face made.

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"Gwaaahhhh," the present‑day Face screamed from the corner as he thrust his tongue in the direction of Murdock and Hannibal.

"Come on, muchacho. It's only a flashback. You're safe, Faceyman, best buddy . . ." Only Murdock, because of their bond forged by their years of torture, could bring Face out of this nightmare.

Murdock slowly approached, but leaped back as Face jumped forward trying to catch Murdock with his tongue. That was too much to ask of the pilot. No bond was worth getting slobbered on.

"Lieutenant," Hannibal called, resorting to Face's military discipline (what little there was) to break through the flashback. "You're not in Vietnam. You're in the Fleabag Motel in Bad Rock."

Somehow that worked. Face blinked as he came out of his fugue state. "Fleabag?" he whispered before promptly passing out.

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Hannibal stepped back out on the patio to get BA's help in moving Face back into the bed. By that time, BA was anxious for some assistance.

"And a runway model . . ."

"BA," Hannibal interrupted. "Can you give me some help?" The sergeant leaped at the opportunity and was inside before Mary Sue could finish listing her next accomplishment.

"And a principal in the Bolshoi . . ."

Once inside, they quickly lifted Face back into the bed and got him reattached to all of the straws and auto supplies. Seeing that Face was still trembling from the flashback, Murdock crawled into the bed next to the lieutenant in the hope that his body warmth would comfort his best friend. Curled against one another, both men quickly drifted off to sleep.

"Hannibal, ya think there's somethin' weird about that?"

"What do you mean, sergeant?"

"This curlin' up together in bed. Ya think there's something deeper to all this?"

"No, BA, it's just two normal, heterosexual men bonding."

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Leaving BA and Mary Sue at the motel to keep watch over Face and Murdock, Hannibal swiftly made his way to Maggie's house and received the thrill of his life. There in the driveway was an eighteen-wheeler, the words "Nick's Casa de Camouflage and Canes" plastered on the side. Maggie came outside to meet him.

"Just a little delivery," she said.

Like a child on Christmas morning, Hannibal watched the deliverymen carrying boxes out of the truck.

"Maggie, you didn't?"

She nodded, obviously pleased with herself. "I did."

"It's just what I've always wanted . . . My very own 'box.'"

"So, Colonel," she said with a seductive grin, "you want to go test it out."

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Over the next few days, Face slowly recovered. He probably would have recovered faster were it not for Mary Sue continuing to list her accomplishments.

"And I spent last summer in the peace corps . . ."

"BA," Face whined. "I'm starting to suffer from low self-esteem and, in my condition, I can't exactly go pick up some bimbo."

"And I'll be on the U.S. Olympic riflery team . . ."

"Oh great, Mother Theresa with a gun," Face grimaced.

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"Murdock, what are we doing here?" Face complained as the captain pulled him up the walkway to the Bad Rock Observatory. Given the size of the town, it was not much of an observatory. Really, it was a round room with a small telescope, but no one in Bad Rock seemed able to tell the difference. They still ponied up five dollars a pop to look through the tiny lens so they could then conclusively end the eternal debate over whether the moon was really made of green cheese. They might have argued about the surface of Mars too, but the telescope was not powerful enough to see that far.

"Muurdoooock," Face whined. "Couldn't you have brought Hannibal or BA?"

"No." Murdock stomped his feet for emphasis. "BA's catching up on his years apart from his daughter. And Hannibal's still in the box."

Face rolled his azure eyes. He had always thought of Hannibal as the closest thing Face had to a father. But the image of your dad hanging out in an authentic Vietnamese sweat box kind of weirded Face out. It kind of got him excited, too. Hmm. Maybe he would have to ask Hannibal for some fatherly advice.

"Aww, c'mon Facey," Murdock begged with his puppy dog eyes. "You've barely been outta the motel all week. This'll be fun. We can look at the stars."

"Oh, all right," Face sighed. He could never resist it when Murdock looked up with his brown, puppy dog eyes. "Just as long as Mary Sue doesn't show up to tell us she's flying the next space shuttle mission."

Neither man saw the cold beady eyes that were watching them enter. "I've got you now, Peck."

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Hannibal was lying in the metal box, staring up through the small holes at the stars. He thought about the past week. They had rescued Face from certain death. BA had found his long-lost daughter. And Hannibal had spent the past two days roasting in the heat of day and freezing in the cold of night. All in all, it was a pretty typical week for the A-Team.

With a smile, he rapped his hand against the metal wall, listening to the tinny echo reverberate around the small space.

I'm really going to have to get Face to give this a try, he thought. The box could be so refreshing and could not be as brutal as those spa treatments the lieutenant paid an arm and a leg for. Hannibal knew a thing or two about Swedish massages. He had suffered through one once and had been unable to walk for a week.

The thought of Face cheered the colonel. Hannibal had always thought of the younger man as the closest thing he had to a son. Face was the son that fate kept him from having. Wasn't it part of his role as the father to dispense wisdom?

The distant sound of music brought Hannibal out of his reverie. The lilting melody sounded familiar and he strained his ears so he could hear the words.

"Near, far, wherever you are . . . I believe that the heart does go on . . ."

The words made Hannibal's blood run cold with fear. And not just at the image of Leonardo DiCaprio turning into an ice cube.

"Maggie!!!" Hannibal screamed. "Get the key and let me out . . . Face is in danger."

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"Damn it, Kyle. What have you done to him," Murdock yelled as he tried to cover his ears and protect himself against the painful sounds of the wailing chanteuse trailing out of the large radio resting on Kyle's shoulder.

"And you're heeeeeeeere in my heart . . . and my heeeeeeaaaaaart will go ooooooon . . ."

In agony, the captain vowed that he would make Canada pay for letting Celine Dion loose on the world.

Face was in even worse shape. Crouched on hands and knees, his cerulean eyes scrunched up as in pain, the blond man was leapfrogging uncontrollably around the circular room. As Face slammed into one curved wall after another, Murdock could only think that Face looked like a tortured pinball.

Kyle laughed cruelly at the ricocheting lieutenant. "I always wondered what would happen if there were no corners in the room."

Just as Kyle finished the last "Ha" in his latest "hahahahahahaha," Hannibal and BA raced through the door. At the same instant, Face ran headfirst into BA's chest, snapping his neck back and leaving the imprint of BA's large, gold, crescent moon ornament on the lieutenant's forehead. Face fell limp to the floor.

"NOOOOOOO!!!" screamed Murdock as he raced to Face's side. A stunned Hannibal and BA could only watch.

Murdock felt for a pulse, but could not find one. "Oh no, I think he's dead . . ." The captain began to rapidly pound on Face's chest.

"HA!!!" Kyle announced triumphantly. "My victory is assured. Peck's death will destroy you, Smith. He's always been your weak link. Ha. Ha. I've defeated the A-Team."

BA started to advance on the crazy ubervillain, but Kyle pulled out a nine millimeter and pointed it at the burly sergeant.

"Don't come closer, Baracus, or we're going to test if that gold is bulletproof." Turning to Murdock who, having pulled a hammer out of his pocket, was bashing it against Face's chest, Kyle ordered the captain to get up and move next to Hannibal and BA. Kyle motioned for the three men to move away from Face's lifeless body.

The remaining members of the team circled the room, so that they were now standing opposite the door. Face lay at Kyle's feet.

"I'm going to enjoy this, Smith," the psychotic villain announced. "First Peck . . . Now . . . I think I'm going to shoot the little crybaby there."

Murdock was leaning heavily against the colonel's side as the tears ran down the captain's face. "I-I . . . n-never . . g-got t-to . . . t-tell . . . hi-him . . ."

"Shut up, ya crazy fool?" BA said. "This ain't the time . . ."

"B-b-but . . . I-I-I n-n-never . . .t-t-t-told F-F-Face t-t-that I-I-I l-l-loved hi-hi-him."

"Stop it, ya crazy fool, ya usin' too many dashes."

Hannibal stood there silently, a hundred questions swirling in his head. Murdock and Face? What the hell was up with that? How had he failed? Where had all those dashes come from? Why had he left Face alone knowing that Kyle might be out there? Why had he spent the day in the box? Actually, the last thing wasn't really something he questioned; Hannibal knew the answer to that and actually wondered why he had gotten out of the box.

"You won't get away with this, Kyle," Hannibal growled.

"Yeah, sucka," BA added uselessly.

Kyle raised the gun and aimed at Murdock. "Say your prayers, nutcase."

From Kyle's feet, a weak voice said, "I think that's my line."

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The fight did not last long. Despite having just received CPR with a ballpeen hammer, Face showed no ill-effects and immediately overpowered the psychotic thug who must have outweighed Face by 50 pounds. He first swept Kyle off his feet and then leaped on top of the ubervillain, pounding him with his fists. Face was no longer the glib conman, but he was now the trained Special Forces killer.

"This is for kidnapping me." He threw a right cross.

"This is for beating me with your bulk discounts from Nick's." He threw a left uppercut.

Across the room, Hannibal watched in amazement. 'Bulk discounts?' he wondered. "Why didn't I know about that?"

"This is for turning me into a frozen entree." Face fired a low blow to the groin. This not being a boxing match, no points were taken from Face. BA and Murdock, however, winced at the sight.

"And this," Face yelled, "is for the Celine Dion music." The overhand right struck Kyle right on the bridge of the nose, knocking him unconscious.

As Kyle collapsed in a bloody pulp, the rest of the team knew it was over. Seeing Face collapse, because people don't normally recover from CPR that fast, only confirmed that.

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Face remained unconscious in the motel for the next two days, Murdock never leaving his side. It had taken so much courage for Murdock to confess the feelings that he had kept hidden since the first moment that he had seen the blond con artist in Vietnam.

gratuitous flashback to Vietnam omitted

Back in the present, Murdock wondered whether telling Face about his true feelings would ruin their friendship. Should he just let things stay the same as they always had been? No, Murdock needed to confess his love for the other man. Isn't that what Dr. Richter had told him?

gratuitous flashback to a therapy session omitted

"Murdock." Face's weak words brought Murdock out of his reverie.

"Hey, Faceyman," Murdock replied softly. "We thought we'd lost you. The Die Hard™ battery finally ran out of juice."

Face smiled and looked up at the captain's puppy dog eyes.

"Face," Murdock said slowly. "There's something I need to say . . . I love you . . ."

"I know, Murdock. I love you, too."

"No, Face, not like that. I mean I love you."

"I know, Murdock. I love you, too."

"Darn it, Face. You're not listening. I love you."

"I know, Murdock. I love you, too."

Brown puppy dog eyes met clear, pale blue eyes.

"You mean that, Face? Really?"

gratuitous sex scene and references to "hard members," "throbbing organs" and anything "engorged" omitted

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Two days later, Hannibal sat on the front steps of the motel smoking his cigar. Mary Sue was on the far side of the parking lot, but not far enough away.

"And a nuclear physicist . . ."

Hannibal did not hear what came next, because she was drowned out by the sound of the sirens. Looking up, he saw the three green, military sedans come tearing into the parking lot.

They unfortunately missed Mary Sue. Couldn't Decker do anything right?

Hannibal raced inside the motel room, interrupting Face and Murdock, who were placing a telephone order with Nick's.

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"We're trapped, Hannibal," BA said, stating the obvious.

The motel room had only one entrance and the MPs were making it pretty difficult to get to the van.

"Awww gee," Face sighed. "I never thought we'd go out like this. And before I even got a chance to test the new box."

"That's okay, Facey," Murdock whispered softly to the lieutenant. "At least we got these few days together."

Face nodded as the words sank in. He turned to Hannibal so he could say what he had always wanted, but had never been able to say.

"Hannibal . . ."

"Face?"

"I . . . umm . . . I wanted to tell you that you've been the closest thing to a father that I've ever had."

"And you've been the closest thing to a son I've ever had, kid," Hannibal answered.

Murdock said nothing, but tears fell from his puppy dog eyes. He took Face's and Hannibal's hands and motioned for BA to join them in a group hug.

BA said nothing as he looked at the faces of the men who had been his teammates for so many years. Finally, embracing them, he spoke.

"I love you guys."

In their moment of bonding, the team barely heard the noise come from the center of the room.

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"Pssst. Over here."

Hannibal looked up over Face's and Murdock's shoulders. There, his head sticking slightly out of a hole in the floor, was Mack, the desk clerk.

"This is a private moment . . ." the colonel began to warn.

"No," Mack interrupted. "C'mon. I've got a way out of here."

BA glowered. "Why should we trust ya, sucka?"

Mack answered quickly. "I want to help. I know who you are. I know all about the A-Team. You see . . . my sister-in-law's, niece's, best friend's, brother's dentist was in the same POW camp with you guys. He always talked about you and, well, I guess I owe it to him."

"Oh, well, since ya put it tha' way." BA and the rest of the team followed Mack down the drain.

Within minutes, the team had emerged in the front office and slipped out the back way and around to the side of the building. Decker's MPs still stood between the team and BA's van.

"Aww, Hannibal," Face whined. "How are we going to get to the van?"

"I'm coming up with a plan . . ." Hannibal thought for a moment.

"He's on the jazz," BA moaned.

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Mary Sue watched transfixed as Decker counted the minutes before his soldiers began blasting the motel room. She had been on the far side of the parking lot when they arrived and no one connected her to the fugitives inside.

Suddenly, out the corner of her eye, she saw a glint of gold from the side of the building. She smiled knowingly and began to creep up behind the MP closest to her location.

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"Ouch, that looked painful." Face winced as Mary Sue took out one of the MPs with a spinning drop kick.

"Yeah," BA said admiringly. "Third-degree black-belt, ya know."

"Oh. I missed that one," Face said. "I must have been in cardiac arrest when she mentioned it."

They watched Mary Sue take the soldier's M-16 and fire it in the air, forcing the other MPs to dive to the ground. The diversion successful, the team raced to the van.

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Leaping into the van, BA got the motor running almost immediately. As he started to drive, he turned to Hannibal.

"Mary Sue?"

Both men could see her running across the parking lot to the van so she could join them.

"BA." Hannibal's word was a command, not a question.

BA looked quizzically at the colonel before a sly grin crossed his face. "Riiiiight, Hannibal." The sergeant pushed the accelerator to the floor of the van.

Mary Sue never saw it coming. Figuratively, that is. After all, it was pretty difficult for her to miss the speeding, half‑ton black van with red detailing that sent her flying before it raced off into the sunset.

~fini

For people who are interested, the original Top Ten List of Overused Plot Devices was:

10. Face gets beaten / shot / raped / otherwise traumatized.

9. Said beating / shooting / rape / other trauma brings on a flashback to Vietnam / abuse in an orphanage / abuse by a foster
parent.

8. Face or Murdock winds up "in a corner" during a flashback.

7. The team's goose is cooked except they just happen to run into a doctor / sheriff / other person who just happens to know
someone who served with the team in Vietnam or was imprisoned in the same POW camp.

6. Hannibal considers himself to be like Face's (usually) or Murdock's father.

5. Face (usually) or Murdock thinks of Hannibal as their father.

4. A team member stops breathing or receives CPR and one day / hour / minute later is beating the bad guys to a pulp.

3. Maggie Sullivan, Miracle Doctor™: Even though she is a rural GP, Maggie somehow manages to perform lifesaving surgery
or miraculously appear with a heart monitor and crash cart when needed (usually at some backwater motel).

2. The team manages to carry a dying member half-way cross country (or the world) to receive the ministrations of
Maggie Sullivan, Miracle Doctor™.

1. Dougie Kyle, Ubervillian

Since I posted the original list, the following seven devices were added:


17. You Are My Sunshine. You know the song; you know the cliche.

16. A "Mary Sue" joins the team.

15. The team members confess that they love each other (platonically). Also known as "I Love You Man" or "ILYM."

14. Face or Murdock reveals slashy feelings to the other.

13. Murdock's puppy dog eyes.

12. Face's eyes. What shade of blue are they

11. Face or Murdock curl up with the other in bed to comfort the other after a nightmare or flashback. Purely platonic.