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The Longest Journey

The Longest Journey
by SnowFlake

Rating: G
Copyright: May 2002
Summary: Continuation of my stories 'Coming to Terms' and 'Terms of Surrender' (can be found in the VA archives), in which the team in the early days of being on the run from the Army reaches the difficult decision of returning an increasingly delusional Murdock to the psych ward against his will. This short story deals with Murdock's emotional fall-out following that decision.
Warnings: very, very slightly slashy.
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be. No money involved in any way.
Author's note: For witchbaby on her birthday. Hope your day is wonderful and filled with all things nice and sweet! Thanks to Mel's and DC's instant beta service :) You guys rock!

The longest journey is the one
that takes us home again
I know - because I've travelled
that road many times

~E. Dahlgren~

Your steps are soundless, but whining hinges betray you as the screen door closes behind you. I feel you hesitate in the semi-darkness; I feel it, but I won't turn around.

I want to hate you.

All three of you. For what you did.

I know you tried everything you could think of, stuck with me until you ran out of options. And I know you had to keep a low profile for a very long time, you would've been picked up in a split second if you'd tried to see me; the MPs were apparently swarming all over the place after I got back.

I doubt I'd have known you anyway, I was kinda free falling.

Still falling, but I'm finally starting to regain enough wits to at least flap my arms. Not sure it works. Sometimes I think it does; I look around and I see things for what they are. I see that you never deserted me; that we're still a team, no matter how much the little voices in my head try to tell me otherwise.

But then the next second I see nothing but a blur, frightening and undecipherable, and all I know is that you left me behind.

You left me.

For a long time I thought I did. Hate you, I mean. But Doc tells me I only hate one person. Guess it's good to have someone to focus that feeling on. Only problem is that this person is a little unreliable, not always there all the way, if you know what I mean.

No. Don't touch me.

I see your hurt, catch a quick glimpse of it before you choke it down when I shrug your hand off my shoulder and make a wide circle around you to put distance between us, turning my back on you when the single reason you came out here is me.

I'm walking this knife's edge. Betrayal and anger raging on one side, deepest sorrow dwelling silently on the other. And the slightest thing makes me go head over heels to either side.

Hate would be so much easier.

One would think I'd be used to it, to the constant roller coaster ride between highs and lows, to the things that whisper madness in my head. Hell, I should be on a first name basis with them by now. That's a thought; maybe I should start naming them.

Here's Harry - keeper of nightmares so bad I can't even remember my own name when I wake up. Roger - guardian of panic attacks and the dust bunnies under my bed who occasionally get me for company during the aforementioned attacks. Seth - proud parent of paranoia.

You haven't moved behind me. I know you're just as miserable as I am, if not more so. Your guilt doesn't allow you to be mad at me, even though I think I deserve it. You've always had this ability to turn things around, turn them on yourself. I see it when you smile, Faceman. You smile and smooth things over like you always have, but there's this look in your eyes, this defeated look I haven't seen since... since never.

How did we end up here? Unable to even look at each other, much less talk to each other. I don't know, don't even know where here is, and I don't know how to leave.

Even with my back to you I see your reflection in the dirt-streaked window. Hands thrust deep in your pockets, shuffling something around with the tip of your shoe. A curtain of longish hair hides your eyes.

You look different. The same, but different.

Without the fatigues, the AK-47, the responsibility of command, the fear and pain, you look just like the twenty something man you should be. Until you brush the hair out of your eyes and meet mine in the almost-mirror of the glass. Not even the layer of dust that coats it can cover the fact that there is no youth left in you, and that the pain has never completely gone away.

I try not to look too hard in the mirror, there's so much missing it scares me, but I think that statement goes for me as well. For all of us.

After a brief second you break away, gathering your jacket around you as you turn to leave. But you stop, shifting your weight from one foot to the other, indecisive, before giving up and sinking down on the top step.

I hear Hannibal through the open window. His words are lost on the way, but the voice is familiar and comfortable.

He got me out from the ward (can't remember how long it's been, time goes by without a trace these days) and it felt so good to see him. Like I was going home again, like all was right in the world, with the exception of a few things in my head not quite wired the way they should be just yet.

And you were waiting for me.

Waiting. For me.

B.A. was scowling when I walked in, watching intently as you shuffled the deck of cards. He must have been in a good mood, I know for a fact B.A. hates playing cards with you because you cheat. Yes, you, Face. You cheat. And you almost always get away with it. It's like a dare for you, seeing how far you can push it without getting caught. B.A. hasn't caught you since that time in Phan Rang.

He'll catch you again, one of these days when you're lulled into thinking you're home safe. Big Guy isn't stupid. Far from it. He sees more than most people, he just likes to keep his opinions and conclusions to himself.

Even though it is against my nature I'm following B.A.'s lead, because things have gone from good to bad, and I can't even tell you when or how or why.

But I know what will result if I open my mouth. Backward, wayward, hurtful things, things inside out and upside down. So I move away when you try to talk to me, when you try to find that connection that we used to have.

The concrete is cool as I lower myself down next to you, a foot of empty, cold space between us. You open your mouth to speak, but I shake my head without looking at you, and you swallow the words.

No words, Face. Please. I can't give you the absolution you need right now. It's there, somewhere deep down, but I can't reach it. I lose my way in the white noise that lines my thoughts when I try. I keep moving in illogical circles, keep getting lost in my head, going deeper and deeper.

Anyone who's seen an exit sign raise a hand.

Don't know how it happened, but all of a sudden we've closed the distance between us, and we're shoulder to shoulder on the steps. We sit in silence watching the horizon fade into darkness, and I ache inside.

A moment ago I couldn't bear your touch, but now I can't seem to breathe without it. I ricochet cruelly between pushing you away and needing you. You keep telling me things will be all right, every opportunity you get. I want to believe you, Face, I do. It's just, well, you're not lying as convincingly as you used to.

I sense them before I feel them, your fingers brushing over my knuckles, lightly as air, hesitantly, as if asking forgiveness for the intrusion. Ready for yet another rejection.

I turn my palm up and welcome them. Cold fingers slowly twine with mine. Maybe I'm not the only person who needs convincing here?

~ The End ~

(c) SnowFlake 2002


The Longest Journey by SnowFlake



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