"I think Face needs a new name."
"Yeah. I mean, Face is cool and all, but it just doesn't fit, y'know?"
"No, Murdock, I don't know."
"Neither do I." Hannibal turned in his seat, frowning at Murdock. "What do you mean, it doesn't fit?"
"Well, look. There's 'BA', Bad Attitude and all that. And there's 'Hannibal'. One of the greatest military leaders in history. And 'Howling Mad' has the perfect tone for a daring pilot, right? But what's 'Face'?"
"Master scam artist, maybe?" Face's voice had a bemused tone to it, but Hannibal thought there was something else, as well. And he didn't like the direction Murdock was going.
"Sounds good to me." Hannibal lit a cigar and stared at Murdock, hoping he'd take the hint.
"Yeah, but 'Face' sounds like a con man. I mean, everybody else's name sounds like a real soldier."
"Are you saying I'm not a real soldier, Murdock?"
Damn. Hannibal sighed. There was nothing subtle about that tone. "Murdock, what is all this?"
Murdock shot an apologetic look over at Face, who was having none of it. "It's just the name. See, there's this new guy, Reece, at the VA. And we got to talking about the team, and..."
"Talking in what way, Murdock?"
"This was about Nam, Colonel. Not now. I know better than that!"
"Okay, so what were you talking about?"
"Just about the stuff you did over there, you guys and Ray and the whole gang. And we were talking about the nicknames, and he said he didn't think 'Face' sounded right. And so I explained why Face is called 'Face', and he didn't see why we needed a con man at all." He looked around. Hannibal was practically staring right through him; BA was glaring into the rearview mirror. Face was looking straight ahead. "He said it, I didn't! But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was the nickname that was off, not, well, Face."
"Well, I happen to think things are fine just the way the are. Okay, Murdock?"
Murdock opened his mouth, then thought better of it. He nodded unhappily, glancing over at Face, who was perusing the newspaper once more. Hannibal turned back around in his seat, satisfied the topic was over and done with. At least as far as Murdock was concerned.
Hannibal woke up with a start. A noise in the hall outside his motel room. He knew BA was on watch tonight, but old habits die hard. He got up quietly and pulled on a pair of pants, grabbing his sidearm as he reached for the door.
The hall was empty, but he saw the door at the end just closing. He moved quietly down the hall, not wanting to alert BA if it was just one of the night staff. The door swung silently open, and he found himself standing next to a large dumpster. He relaxed when he spotted Face's silhouette by the corner of the building. He strolled over, making just enough noise so Face would know he was coming.
"Face. Why doesn't it surprise me to find you up at..." he squinted at his watch, "three o'clock in the morning?"
"Just getting some fresh air. The room was kinda stuffy."
"Hmm. Fresh air by the dumpster, huh?" He shook his head. "Murdock got to you today."
"What? No, that was just...Murdock."
"So what would you have chosen?"
Face sighed, shaking his head. "Geez, Hannibal...I don't know. How about 'Rocky'?"
"Look, Hannibal, I'm Face. That's all. Just...Face. I'm fine with that."
"You're not 'just Face'. Among other important things, you're my second in command. Do you understand what that means?"
"Yeah, Colonel, I read the manuals."
"Apparently not well enough. It means, Lieutenant, that I chose you. I chose you to take over for me when needed, to make the tough decisions when I'm not there, to question my decisions so I don't screw things up. I chose you because I can trust you to do things right. The fact that you are also a master con man was just a side benefit."
Face looked out over the parking lot. "Okay, Hannibal. Gotcha."
"Good. Now, I'm going back to bed, and I suggest you do the same." He turned and walked back past the dumpster. At the door, he turned and looked back at Face, who was still staring at the parking lot. "Goodnight...Rocky."