“A trust exercise?”
“Yeah, we’ve been having these sessions at the VA, supposed to improve relations between the patients and the staff.”
“Is this that thing where you fall backwards and the other person has to catch you?” Face asked.
“That’s right.” Murdock confirmed. “It’s kind of fun.”
“Sounds good, Captain, let’s give it a go.”
“Aw, Hannibal, you really think I’m gonna trust this crazy fool to catch me.” BA complained.
“Well, I think in your case, big guy, we might need two people to catch you.” Murdock said, grinning a little. He made his face serious when BA glared at him.
“Come on over to the mats here.” Hannibal led his men over to the gym’s crash mats. They had the place to themselves, it was closed, but BA was a friend of the owner’s and he let them use the gym out of hours.
“Who’s first?” Hannibal said.
Murdock raised his hand, saying “Oo, oo, me, me.” Face rolled his eyes. Hannibal grinned.
“Okay, I’ll catch you first.” Hannibal said. Murdock followed him onto the mat, stood a couple of feet in front of Hannibal and let himself fall backwards. Hannibal caught him under the arms and then heaved him back to his feet.
“Thanks, Hannibal. That was fun!” Murdock said.
“This is stupid.” BA growled.
Face nodded in agreement. “We all know we can trust each other, what’s the point of this? Anyway, I don’t trust you guys, I think you just want to see me fall on my ass.”
“Yeah,” BA agreed. He and Face had their arms crossed defensively, frowning at Hannibal and Murdock.
“Can you believe these guys?” Hannibal asked Murdock.
“So suspicious,” Murdock said. He and Hannibal swapped positions and Hannibal fell back into Murdock’s waiting arms.
“C’mon, BA, your turn.” Reluctantly BA moved onto the mat.
“We’ll both catch you,” Hannibal said. “I mean I don’t want to put my back out.”
BA scowled at this. “If you guys drop me I’ll kick your butts so far you’ll have to catch a train back.”
“We’re not gonna drop you,” Murdock said, “Quit stalling.”
BA gave a long-suffering sigh and stood with his back to them. He glanced over his shoulder.
“We’re ready.” Hannibal said.
“Is the fool ready?”
“Yes, the fool’s ready.” Murdock said, “Now fall will you, you big ugly mudsucker.”
Face closed his eyes, fearing the worst, as BA fell backwards.
“See, BA, no problem.” The other two men hauled him back onto his feet. “Though I’m glad you left your gold in the locker room.” He turned to the lieutenant. “Okay, Face, now you and Murdock catch him.”
Face looked thoughtful for a moment, then he smiled, said “Sure, this seems fun after all. Let’s do it.”
And for the next few minutes they did several “exercises”. Face had suddenly become very enthusiastic about it. Eventually though he said. “That’s been really useful, but you know, I have a date in like an hour. I’d better hit the showers.”
“Face.” Hannibal said, quietly, taking his arm as he went to walk off the mat. “You think I haven’t noticed that you’ve only been catching and not falling.”
“Busted!” Murdock said, grinning.
Face pulled his arm away from Hannibal.
“I really do have to rush.”
“Not till you do one fall. We’ll all catch you.” He had become quite serious.
“Hannibal, it’s really not necessary.” Face protested, “You know I trust you guys.”
“Why the hell should I need to prove it?” Face asked, his voice becoming suddenly angry. “After all we’ve been through, why should I need to play some stupid game to prove what you all know?”
BA looked down, embarrassed.
“Forget it, Hannibal.” Murdock said, his tone serious. “Face is right, it is stupid. None of us needs to prove anything.”
“Okay,” Hannibal said, severely. “We’ll forget it. I guess we’re pretty clear on the way you feel, lieutenant.”
“What, because I won’t play some silly game?” Face asked, furious now, “Which I just know is a set up to make me fall on my ass so you can all have a good laugh.” He stepped towards Hannibal getting up in his face.
“Okay, that’s enough.” Murdock stepped forward, between them. “Face, you don’t want to be late for that date, do you?” Face backed off then turned as if to go to the locker room.
“Wait, Face.” Hannibal said. He walked off the crash mat. “We do it here. Not on the mat.”
“That’s right. No mat. If you hit the floor you could really be hurt.” Murdock and BA watched with bated breath as Face walked up to Hannibal. He didn’t speak, but turned his back on the Colonel.
“I don’t know if I can.” He said quietly.
“Just relax.” Hannibal said.
Face closed his eyes and finally he let go, let himself fall backwards. Hannibal caught him, lowered him to sit on the floor and crouched behind him.
“Thanks, Face.” He said. Face put his head down.
“I’m sorry, Hannibal. It’s just hard for me,” he said quietly.
“I know, kid. And maybe you were right. Maybe we would have let you fall on your ass on the mat, just for the joke. But you know we’ll always catch you when it really counts, don’t you?”
“Yes,” His voice was almost a whisper.
“Okay,” Hannibal slapped Face’s shoulder. “Get a move on, Lieutenant, can’t keep your date waiting.” He pulled Face to his feet and Face went off to the locker room, his expression thoughtful. BA followed him. Murdock came to stand beside Hannibal.
“Wish I’d never suggested it.” Murdock said, with a sigh.
Hannibal looked at him, “Not at all, Captain, very useful exercise I thought.”