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I'll Stand By You

I'll Stand By You

By Beth

Warnings: This fic is rated PG for now. There will be angst, romance and injury of character(s) in future parts. Will up the rating as necessary. Nothing too much in this part though.
Summary: A tragedy befalls one our guys before a big event.
Comments: Always welcome
Disclaimer: Of course I'm just borrowing them.
Notes: Loosely based on a true story. Don't wanna reveal which parts until the end. Please forgive any typos or grammatical errors. Just written on the spur of the moment. And now...




"Tomorrow's gonna be the best day of my life, Faceman." Murdock could hardly suppress his excitement as he fidgeted in the passenger seat of the 'Vette.

"I gotta admit, Murdock. I never thought I'd see the day." Face stared off wistfully into the horizon. Tomorrow would be bittersweet for him. It warmed his heart to see Murdock so happy, but at the same time he was jealous, jealous of Kelly. Marriage had a tendency to estrange friendships. Face couldn't stand the thought of losing his best friend in any capacity.

Face's thoughts were interrupted by a fat raindrop hitting him right between the eyes. "I think you'd better put the top up, Facey. Don't want those tuxes getting drenched."

Face chuckled. "Okay, but since when are you worried about your wardrobe?" He attempted to raise the convertible top, but to no avail. "Aww, man. I just had this car tuned up and looked over. How could- I just don't understand," he spluttered.

The trees whipping in the wind indicated an upcoming storm that, judging from the darkening sky, would promise to be fierce. The air hung heavy with the acrid smell of ozone. A flash of lightening lit up the sky over the tree tops. "Maybe we oughta find shelter."

"Where would you like me to pull over, Murdock? There's nothing around for miles." Leave it to Murdock to pick a shop twenty miles down a bumpy, curvy road. Road? Roads lead someplace. They were out in the middle of nowhere.

Face executed the upcoming turns expertly, but he could feel the tires losing their grip on the newly rained-on pavement so he eased up on the accelerator. Murdock flipped absently through the dials of the radio searching for a suitable song. A loud rumble of thunder close by caused them both to look up at each other. Face understood the urgency Murdock was trying to convey with his eyes so he once again pressed on the accelerator.

A bolt of lightening followed by a loud crack of thunder sent shivers down Face's spine. Murdock cowered into his seat like a small child, the sight accentuated by the blue baseball cap. "This is ridiculous, Murdock. Why are we both getting the willies from a little thunderstorm?"

"Wobblies," Murdock corrected. "And I dunno. Just got this feeling. I really think we should sit this one out, Face."

Face shook his head. "Nope. We're both being ridiculous. A little rain and thunder never hurt anybody." Harbinger. A great bolt of lightening struck only feet away as Murdock half raised out of his seat in amazement.

Face saw Murdock pointing before he heard the tremendous CRACK! The bolt had hit a large oak tree at the side of the road. As it fell earthbound, Face reacted by slamming on the brakes which caused the 'Vette to go into a sideways skid. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't stop the car's sideways motion. The car careened towards the falling tree at an impossible speed. There was a large crash and then all that could be heard was the lonely sound of the windshield wipers clearing the raindrops off the shattered windshield.



Part 1

**Warnings: This part is R for angst and injuries. Maybe some language.

Face awoke to the rhythmic pounding of his head in tune with the windshield wipers. He gingerly brought a hand up to finger the bump on his forehead. It came away sticky with blood. He leaned his head back and tried to get his vision to clear. Blinking rapidly was slowly bring the world back into focus.

He tried desperately to recollect the events leading to their predicament, but his head remained fuzzy. Murdock?! His heart leapt in panic. He had been so intent on clearing his head that he momentarily forgot his passenger. He squeezed his eyes shut for several seconds and then reopened them in the hopes of sharpening his visual acuity.

It had some effect because suddenly Murdock's slumped over form came into view. "Murdock, you alright?" There was no response save for the windshield wipers mocking him. "Come on. Wakey, wakey." He lightly slapped the bruised cheek of his best friend. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to arouse the pilot.

Face began to survey the damage. The oak tree had fallen half onto the metal hood of the 'Vette on the passenger side, splitting itself down the center so part of the tree lay next to the mangled car. The sideways skid must've caused Murdock's side to impact the tree and bounce back because the car lay at a forty-five degree angle from the trunk of the tree. That explained why he had escaped with only a mild concussion at worst, but he would have to check out Murdock. That feat would be easier if his friend could talk to him.

Face unbuckled his seatbelt and leaned over Murdock. His pupils were equal and reactive so at least a serious head injury could be ruled out at present. Murdock's arms appeared bruised and scratched, but nothing major there. However, his pulse was weak and thready. It was reaching heights in the 120's. He was getting shocky. But why?

Face's eyes finally gazed upon the floor of the 'Vette. At first glance it had just appeared wet from the rain, but as he got closer the smell was unmistakable. The metallic odor of blood wafted up from the floorboards. He touched the liquid to confirm his fears. He had to determine where Murdock was bleeding from before his friend succumbed to the hypovolemic shock that threatened to overtake him.

Face frantically searched the pilot, throwing caution to the wind. He couldn't see below the waist because the dash had collapsed upon the pilot's legs. "Dammit!" Face swore to himself. 'It must be an artery,' he thought. The pool of blood under the dash appeared to be spreading outward as he watched.

He picked up the mobile phone to call for help, but he couldn't get a signal out here amongst all these trees. Face threw the receiver angrily at the console. He had to act fast. He looked over and was relieved to see the steady rise and fall of Murdock's chest. That was at least reassuring. "Hannibal, BA, I hope you guys are wondering where we are," he whispered to himself.

An idea suddenly occurred to him. Maybe he could drive the car far enough to get help. His hand hovered on the ignition. It was then that Face breathed in the heavy perfume of gasoline. Oh God! Had he turned the key... The impact must've caused a leak in the gas tank. He had to get the two of them out of the car before it exploded.

Face jumped out of the driver's side and went around to Murdock's door. He was able to yank the door open with surprisingly little effort despite the damaged body work. Face had a brief mental debate with himself as he knew that moving a crash victim was highly unorthodox with the high risk of spinal injuries. "Well, better paralyzed than dead, buddy." He wrapped his arms under Murdock's shoulders and tugged gently. Murdock didn't budge.

Face added a hand under the pilot's backside, but still he couldn't get Murdock's limp form out of the car. The gasoline odor was pungent now. Time was running out. He gave a fierce yank and was rewarded with a small amount of movement. If only he could free Murdock's legs from underneath the dash board.

The Lieutenant leaned down and reached his hands underneath the console. Immediately his hands became slick with blood. Face would have to appraise the injuries later. He was feeling his way around for a way to free up the pilot when he smelled his worst fear. He looked up horrified to see the first wisps of smoke coming from the side of the 'Vette.



Part 2

**Warnings: NC-17 for angst and graphic description of injuries, some language


"I don't like it, Hannibal. Those fools been gone too long."

"Relax, BA. You never know with those two. Face is probably whining and dining some sweet young thing. It's not like it's the first time those two have ignored an order to check in." Hannibal lit his cigar with a flick of the lighter. "Besides," he added, "Face knows to get Murdock back here tonight for the little shindig we're throwing."

BA shook his head. "That's true, but-"

"Tell you what. If they're not back by dinnertime we'll retrace their steps and see if we can turn over the rock they're hiding under." Hannibal studied his watch. "That gives them a little over an hour. Satisfied?"

BA nodded, relying on the Colonel's judgement. However, he was a man of action and it was all he could do to keep himself out of the driver's seat of the van. He slammed his fists together. "If I getta hold of those two fools and they're alright, I'm gonna kill 'em myself!"


Face began praying to every deity and saint he could conjure up in his mind. He worked feverishly to free Murdock's lower torso as the smoke thickened around them. Out of desperation he tried to push the dash up with his shoulder as he struggled to move the limp form. There was some give in the plastic so he repeated the action. "Come on, come on. Just a little more," he grunted with the effort.

The process was unrelentingly slow. Face continued, at first not registering the faint crackle of paint bubbling. He turned his attention to the back of the vehicle to find bright orange flames licking up from the rear. The fire was closing in on the gas tanks at a rapid rate.

"Dear God!" Face was on the verge of hysterics. What if I can't get him out? Nonono. There could be no doubts. The panic turned into adrenaline coursing through his veins. With one great shove of superhuman strength the dash cracked under the pressure applied by his shoulder. Murdock was yanked free with a violent tug. Face ran into the treeline, Murdock slung over one shoulder, not pausing to look back.

A sudden burst of hot air pushed him to the ground as if a giant hand came out of the sky and swatted him forward. The sound of the explosion followed his fall. Murdock landed a few feet in front of him, remaining unconscious through the entire episode. Face sat up, stunned at the bonfire raging before him. Had it really been that close?

A groan from Murdock diverted his attention away from the blaze. He got a good look at the pilot's injuries for the first time. One leg lay at an impossible angle. A quick inspection confirmed that no skin was broken, but the bones within were shattered. Face would have to find a means to splint it.

However, that leg was the least of his friend's problems. The other leg was obviously the source of the bleeding. A patch of blood expanded outward from right above Murdock's knee, and was already pooling underneath where he lay. Face took a swiss army knife out of his pocket and cut away the stained khakis from the site of the injury. As soon as the material was removed the Lieutenant came face to face with the end of Murdock's femur. The white jagged edges were a stark contrast from the blood that was spurting out with every pulse beat. Clearly an artery had been knicked or severed.

Face had seen all kinds of injuries in Vietnam. He knew what he had to do - and what it would cost his best friend in the long run. Quickly he stripped off his suit jacket and his shirt. He ripped the sleeve off one arm. Face found a fairly sturdy stick on the ground close by. Gingerly, moving Murdock's leg as little as possible, he placed the strip of cloth above the knee. Taking the stick he twisted the cloth until the blood stopped flowing out of the wound, fashioning a tourniquet.

Once Face was satisfied that sufficient pressure was placed on the wound to stop Murdock from bleeding to death, he went to work on the other leg. He used the remainder of his shirt and a couple of tree limbs to form a makeshift splint. Murdock moaned and mumbled, but never came to.

Face was becoming increasingly worried despite his first aid expertise. Murdock, who was tan even in the winter, was now a nice shade of grey. Beads of perspiration rolled off his ashen face, but when Face touched him he was cold. At least they had the trees as some form of shelter, but the sun was beginning to sink and the fire was dying out. Face knew he could never make it out of here with Murdock after dark. He couldn't - no, wouldn't leave Murdock out here alone in the night.

Face placed his jacket under Murdock's head and then leaned up against a nearby tree. As he prepared for his nightlong vigil, he hoped and prayed that Hannibal and BA would come looking. It was Murdock's only chance of making it. So he watched and waited...



Part 3

**PG-13 for angst, hurt character. Nothing too bad. For other disclaimers see Prologue.

Hannibal peeked out the curtains at the sinking sun. He chomped on his cigar deep in thought. BA flipped absently between channels. He couldn't even tell you the score of the Cubs game at this point.

"Alright," Hannibal sighed, breaking the silence. "Let's go, BA. I don't think even Face would have gone this long without checking in unless they ran into some trouble."

"What's the plan, man?" BA was off the couch before the Colonel finished speaking.

"You know the location of the shop they went?" BA nodded. "Did they mention going anywhere else?" BA shook his head this time. "Well, let's start by retracing their route. Maybe we might come across something."

BA hesitated for a second. "Should we tell Kelly?"

"No need to get the bride upset the night before the wedding over what's probably nothing." Hannibal hoped he sounded convincing. There was a horrible gnawing in his belly that indicated he felt otherwise.

He tucked a handgun into the waistband of his pants before climbing into the van. He folded his arms and leaned back, keeping his eyes pealed for anything amiss as BA pulled out of the drive. The headlights cast an ominous glow before the van in the twilight. Hannibal hoped they would have enough light. He had a gut feeling time was crucial at this juncture. They couldn't afford to miss anything.


Face awoke with a start. He hadn't realized he had closed his eyes. Some time must have passed because the sun had almost dropped below the horizon and the first stars of the night began to kiss the sky. Crickets chirped softly in the background as Face made his way over to where Murdock lay.

Face checked his handiwork. As of yet, there was very little blood since he had applied the tourniquet. Thank God for small favors anyway. But the leg was cold, so cold, and it had a bluish cast in the twilight. Face prayed it was the light and not the lack of circulation to the extremity.

The young man gingerly began feeling the damage done to the other leg more thoroughly. When he got to a certain spot around the ankle, Murdock gave a soft moan. Face became hopeful, "Come on. Wake up, Murdock. Please," he pleaded.

He was greeted with a tiny view of those soft brown eyes staring blearily back at him. Face didn't think that he had ever seen a lovelier sight. He grasped his friend's hand, wanting the contact as much for himself as for Murdock. "Say something. Speak to me."

Murdock gently cleared his dry throat. "Facey, that you," he croaked.

"Yeah, buddy. It's me. How do you feel?"

As if to answer him, Murdock begin shivering uncontrollably. Lips trembled over chattering teeth. "Can't feel anything. Cold," he slurred.

Face wrapped his body over Murdock's torso. "Sorry, we don't have any blankets. I'll have to do." Murdock nodded, too out of it to respond in his usual joking manner. Face saddened at this thought. He lovingly adjusted the pilot's baseball cap. It was then that Face could feel the heat emanating from Murdock's forehead. He was probably getting an infection on top of everything.

Face decided he'd have to leave at first light to get help. Murdock wouldn't survive twenty-four hours out here. He'd be lucky if he could get him through the night being out in the middle of nowhere with no supplies.

Murdock gave a soft cough as if protesting Face's last thought. His head lolled from side to side as if trying to move away from the pain that he claimed he couldn't feel. Face knew better. Murdock was in agony, but he never admitted his pain. Instead he covered it with jokes or worse - silence.

"Talk to me, Facey," he whispered.

Face began talking about anything and everything he could think of. Once in a while Murdock would moan, but otherwise all was silent save for Face's voice. If it wasn't for the slight rise and fall of Murdock's chest sometimes Face was sure...well, he couldn't dwell on that now.

He wrapped his arms tighter around his best friend, trying to stave off the cold and the bad thoughts that kept running through his head. A new emotion began to eat him, guilt. He pushed it to the recesses of his mind, praying for the speedy coming of the light because that's all he could do at the moment.


BA shook his head in disbelief. They'd been out searching for two hours and hadn't turned up anything. They had been up and down this road several times. "I don't think they came this way, Hannibal."

Hannibal took a map out of the visor. He studied it for a few minutes. "You know there are some backroads, but why would they have taken them? There's no construction. It's definitely not faster." Hannibal shrugged. "May as well give 'em a try though."

BA made a U-turn and headed back toward a side road. "Who knows? Maybe Face was trying to appease the fool. He always gives into him."

"Ayeah." Hannibal barely acknowledged, fully engrossed in the map.

They drove for a bit longer in silence, both of them scanning the landscape for anything that would lead them to their two missing team members. With each minute that passed BA and Hannibal grew more disheartened.

Hannibal leaned back and lit a cigar. BA gave a brief look of disgust. He couldn't stand Hannibal smoking in his van, but at this point if it helped the Colonel come up with a better plan, he was willing to put up with it.

BA tried to wave the smoke out of his face discreetly. It wouldn't get out of his line of sight. The smoke wasn't coming from inside the van, it was coming from outside of it!

Almost simultaneously Hannibal said, "Pull over, BA. I think I see something over by those trees."



Part 4

**Warnings: R for angst, hurt character, description of injuries. May be a swear word or two.

BA responded immediately to the Colonel's order. He swung the van alongside the smoldering wreckage. The vehicle was a mere smoking skeleton. From here it was impossible to tell if the vehicle belonged to the conman.

Hannibal's thoughts paralleled BA's as he grabbed a flashlight out of the glove compartment and hopped out of the van. BA turned on the high beams to aid their search. The acrid smell of smoke ate through his nostrils as soon as his feet hit the dirt road. BA joined Hannibal alongside the wreckage, noticing for the first time the gigantic tree smashed into the side.

Hannibal was bent over the interior. "See anything, Hannibal?"

Hannibal shook his head, discouraged. "It's too cooked to get a definite make on it. Maybe you can make an identification under the hood."

BA nodded his assent as he made his way to the front of the car. An object halted him in his tracks. "Lemme see the flashlight for a minute." Hannibal handed it over. BA's suspicions were confirmed. He picked up the black high top converse as if he were handling glass. After studying it he passed it to Hannibal.

"Definitely Murdock's," he concurred out loud to BA's silent offering.

"Soaked in blood. Crazy man must be hurt bad."

Hannibal took a deep breath. "They couldn't have gotten far if that's the case. Face's probably not much better off." Hannibal scanned the area, trying to reason the best action to take. A snap of a tree branch caused his head to turn. There was a soft rustling of leaves. Probably just an animal, but Hannibal put one hand on his revolver just in case.

The rustling became louder and fell in a rhythm of footsteps. Hannibal drew his gun and motioned for BA to do the same. He crouched down as he saw a figure emerge from the treeline. He cocked the hammer and stood up. "Alright. Come out with your hands where I can see 'em, scumbag!" he commanded. "Or you'll be-"

"Hannibal! Don't shoot. It's Faceman."

Face came running out of the trees and nearly collapsed at Hannibal's feet. "You alright, kid? What happened?"

Face shook his head, struggling to slow his heart down. "No time for that now. Murdock, he's hurt really bad. We gotta get him to a hospital." Face wandered off back into the treeline, and the other two followed.

They only walked a short distance before coming upon a still figure lying among the fallen leaves. Face knelt down beside him and tenderly took his hand. "It's alright now. Hannibal and BA are here. We're gonna get you fixed up properly." The man gave no indication that he heard or understood.

Hannibal and BA knelt down beside the Lieutenant. Hannibal checked Murdock's pulse, the cold sweat not going unnoticed. "His legs..." Hannibal looked at Face for some explanation.

"I know. I did the best I could. He was bleeding to death."

"Dude's gray. We need to hurry and get him to the professionals."

"Get the stretcher out of the van, BA. I want to move him as little as possible." BA left and was back in no time.

Between the three of them they were able to maneuver Murdock onto the stretcher without causing too much movement. He was placed in the back of the van with Face right beside him. BA climbed into the driver's seat and sped off.

"Lemme take a look, kid. You gotta pretty nasty bump yourself." Hannibal was making his way into the back of the van.

Face brushed him off. "It's nothing. A mild concussion at worst. Just chalk it up to a bad headache. It's Murdock we gotta worry about."

"Wanna tell me how it happened?"

Face sighed and touched Murdock's forehead. Reluctantly he began to relay the sequence of events. Face's head hung low as he finished the story.

"Wasn't your fault you know. It couldn't have been avoided." Face nodded absently.

The van screeched to a halt outside the local hospital's ER. Face blew out a breath he had been holding. He had been granted a temporary reprieve from that conversation, at least.

In a blur of events Murdock was placed on a gurney and whisked away behind closed doors. Face looked around the crowded ER. He felt like he had been transported back in time to a war zone. Mother's with screaming infant children sat in chairs. Men with bleeding limbs next to them. Some people stood around the edges looking bored. Doctors yelling commands, nurses frantically answering them. "Clear!" Then, "Charging!" The noise was unbearable. But worst of all was the knowledge that his best friend was in the back fighting for life and limb, and there was nothing he could do about it. Helpless, he planted himself in a chair to endure the wait - and pray.



Part 5

**Warnings: PG-13 for angst, hurt character. Nothing too bad in this part.

A doctor came walking purposefully out of the double doors. There was a grim expression on his face as he began shaking his head. Face's heart nearly stopped as the figure approached him. The doctor walked past and Face let go of the breath and the empty coffee cup he had been holding.

Face hardly noticed when Hannibal sat down in the chair next to him and placed a fatherly hand on his knee. "He's a fighter, Face. You know that." Face nodded absently which he had been doing a lot of lately. "More than that, he's a survivor. The camps, the VA..."

Face's eyes pierced Hannibal's. "You don't have to tell me that," he whispered harshly. "I shared a bamboo cell with him, remember? The things he endured..." BA, sensing tension, meandered over. "Look, I- I'm sorry. I - I don't know..."

Hannibal met BA's eyes. The waiting was eating at all of them, but Face was at the breaking point. He wouldn't let anyone touch the bump on his head until Murdock was looked after. He just kept draining coffee cup after coffee cup until he couldn't tell whether his hands were shaking from nerves or from the caffeine.

Another figure in scrubs appeared. This time he didn't walk past. "Are you gentleman family of Mr. Murdock?"

"Y-yes," Face stammered. He couldn't bring himself to ask the question and the doctor's expression was unreadable.

"I'm afraid his condition is very grave. He needs surgery to repair the injuries to his legs, but we need to get him hemodynamically stable first."

"What does that mean, doc," Hannibal questioned.

"He's lost a lot of blood. We infused a couple units of blood already, but it's not doing much to bring up his blood counts. We need to get him more stabilized before we take him back to surgery."

"What kinda surgery are we talking here?"

"His left ankle was shattered beyond recognition. We'll have to go in and pin it. It's doubtful he'll ever be able to bend his ankle properly again with all the hardware it's gonna take. Right now we have the leg splinted because that's not our primary concern. That surgery will have to wait a couple days." Hannibal prodded him with his eyes to continue. "Right now our main concern is his right leg. There was a compound fracture of the femur that caused the popliteal artery to be severed. That's why he lost so much blood. To make matters worse an infection has set in and he's beginning to get septic. The circulation to the leg has been severely compromised. If we don't go in immediately and revascularize the leg, he may lose it."

"My God. The tourniquet I placed on..." Face put his head in his hands.

The doctor placed a hand on his shoulder and kneeled in front of the conman. "You saved his life. An arterial bleed is very serious. It's very possible that he will lose his leg anyway if we can't contain the infection. The fracture had already compromised circulation to the leg so applying the tourniquet made very little difference in that respect. You did the right thing."

Face wished he could believe that. "You don't understand. He's-" a pilot. Your best friend. About to marry Kelly. To get his life back on track. There was a thousand ways he finished that sentence in his mind.

BA stepped forward. "Enough talk. Can we see him?"

The doctor stood up and pointed to the doors. "Briefly, before we take him to the OR. He's in the first room on your right beyond those double doors. He hasn't regained consciousness."

"Thank you. Doctor-" Hannibal offered his hand.

"Dr. Saybrook," he finished as he returned the shake. "Don't be too long. I'll update you after the surgery."


Hannibal and BA entered the room first. Face was reluctant. Intellectually he knew the doctor and Hannibal were right, he couldn't have done anything different. But his heart wouldn't let him believe their words. He had been on this side of the bed too many times where Murdock was concerned. Murdock *always* bounced back, but maybe he had used up his luck this time.

As the three of them approached the bed, it occurred to Face that he looked dead despite the constant, but fast rhythm of the heart monitor. So many tubes and wires, none of which he knew what they were. All he knew was that they served a purpose. Some fed blood into his veins, while others fed antibiotics and other fluids into his friend.

BA untangled some iv tubing so he could get at Murdock's hand. He gave it a strong squeeze. "Don't be gettin' any ideas about going anywhere 'cause I won't let you give up, ya hear fool?" BA half expected Murdock to smile at this remark, but instead his lips remained motionless, parted slightly under the oxygen mask. The sight was beginning to overwhelm the muscular giant. He stepped back into a corner.

Hannibal began stroking the thinning hair. He couldn't put his thoughts into words. Face stood frozen to his spot unable to come any closer. The solemnity was broken as nurses and orderlies came in. "I'm sorry, but we have to get him to the OR now," a plump nurse apologized.

Hannibal stepped back as they disconnected all the monitors and got him ready for transport. They began moving the gurney towards the door when Face suddenly yelled," Wait!" He went up beside the gurney and touched Murdock's bruised cheek. "I'm so sorry" was all he had a chance to say before Murdock was taken from his side.

BA turned to Hannibal. "Somebody better call Kelly and let her know what's going on." Hannibal agreed.

"I'll do it," Face spoke up.

"No, Face. I'll do it. You need to sit this one out." Hannibal took some change out of his pocket and made his way over to the pay phone. BA slung an arm around Face's hunched shoulders and led him to a couch in the waiting room.

A few minutes later Hannibal rejoined them. "She's on her way."

"She alright?"

"Yeah, BA. I didn't give her too many details. I figured it'd be better to fill her in face to face." Hannibal sighed. Twenty-four hours ago they had been planning a party and a wedding. He hoped they wouldn't have to plan a funeral instead.

Hannibal didn't think he could stand losing one of his team, especially Murdock. It had hurt so bad to watch him deteriorate mentally. But Murdock had gallantly fought his way back after over ten years of battling the demons. If he made it out alive, but lost his leg, how far would it set him back? Could he fly again? Too many questions and not enough answers floated around in his head.

He squeezed his eyes shut trying to ward off the headache that was pulsating at the edge of his temples. When he opened them Kelly was standing before him wringing her hands. How much time had really passed? He wasn't sure in this sterile bubble.


"Colonel Smith. How is he? Is he gonna be alright?" Her eyes shone brightly with fresh tears.

He put an arm around her and led her to a chair. "I don't know how to tell you this, kid..."



Part 6


The conversation with Kelly had gone about as well as could be expected. She had cried quietly against Hannibal's shoulder and begged to see Murdock, not quite believing in the reality of the situation. Her request was granted once Murdock was brought in to the recovery room several hours later.

Hannibal kept a hand on each of her shoulders as he steered her towards the curtain Murdock lay behind. Except for the bandages and monitors, he looked as if he were merely sleeping.

"He doesn't look so bad. In fact he looks...peaceful," Kelly stated.

It's not how he look, lil mama," BA glanced up from the chair he was sitting in. "He lost a lotta blood. And he's got an infection, real bad. Docs say he might lose his leg even though they operated and fixed the blood vessels. Might not walk properly again." BA shook his head sadly.

"I don't believe it. That would mean - no, he couldn't take that." Kelly sank into a nearby chair weak with the realization.

"I'm afraid so." Face sounded tired. "I don't know what it's gonna do to him if they can't fix it." Face's voice turned cold as he addressed Kelly. "So if you have any notions of leaving him -"

"Face, now is not the time," Hannibal admonished.

Kelly stood up, her eyes shining with fresh tears. "The thought never even crossed my mind. I- I love him with all my heart."

"Yeah, but when times get tough people tend to run out on him." 'Myself included' Face thought to himself. "He's had enough bad blows, he doesn't need anymore disappointment."

"If you're referring to his tenure at the VA, I am well aware of that whole story. I had to fight him to come visit him, but I still did. And once he got out and went to Virginia with you guys, we kept in touch. And now here we are. Time, distance, and a mental ward didn't keep us apart. What'd make you think I'd run now?"

"Well, you don't know everything. Just don't hurt him." Face pointed an accusing finger in her direction and then disappeared behind the curtain, leaving the others dumbfounded.


Several more days passed, broken up by two more surgeries. Murdock never fully returned to consciousness being so doped up on the anesthesia and painkillers. Face, for whatever his reasons, remained wary of Kelly.

Murdock's left leg was now in a cast up to his knee after the ankle was set surgically. He was taken back to surgery the next day to remove some of the dead tissue and infection from the other leg.

Dr. Saybrook came out after the third, and what they hoped would be the final surgery. He approached them in Murdock's room much the way he had approached them that awful first day. He sighed and took a seat in front of the team, now joined by Kelly. He began to answer their unasked question. "It didn't do as well as we'd hoped. The infection's much deeper than we had anticipated. It's getting close to the bone. As of now we are strengthening the course of antibiotics we're giving him, but if the infection invades the bone we'll have no choice but to amputate." Dr. Saybrook paused to let this new information sink in.

"What happens if you don't amputate," Hannibal asked.

"Most likely the infection will invade his system, he'll become septic and die as a result." Dr Saybrook made every effort to remain professional, but the thought of losing a patient unnerved him. "I have to know, if Mr. Murdock does not regain consciousness in the interim, is there someone who is empowered to make decisions for him?"

Face cleared his throat. "I'm his power of attorney, but what does that have to do with me?"

"If we do have to amputate, you'll have to give the green light."

The color drained out of his face. How could he be responsible for making a decision like that? A decision that could affect Murdock's whole life. He was damned if he did, damned if he didn't. Hannibal must have read his mind. After the doctor walked away, he whispered in Face's ear. "Let's just hope it doesn't come to that, kid."



Part 7

**Warnings: R for swearing, angst, some sappiness. Kinda heavy on the medicine lingo in parts. Spoiler: Bounty

Kelly lightly stroked Murdock's cheek. The bruise was fading slightly, giving his cheekbone a yellowish cast in contrast to the green strap of the oxygen mask. The only light emanated from above the bed, casting shadows in the corners. Kelly realized just how eerie the hospital could be at night. Her only company was a few night nurses, the only sound their footsteps on the linoleum echoing back.

She had convinced the guys to go shower and change while she stayed with Murdock. It was a difficult battle, but she finally won out. There had been no change in his condition for nearly twenty-four hours now.

A nurse entered quietly with the intent of taking Murdock's vital signs. Kelly got up out of her chair and went over to the window. The view was dismal at best. She closed the curtain to try to shut out the night. "That's odd" she heard the nurse mutter.

Kelly turned to ask what she meant, and saw the nurse retaking the vital signs. Her creased brow worried Kelly. "What's the matter?"

"Could be nothin' hon." The nurse was a matronly woman that reminded Kelly of her own mother. "His pressure's down a bit and so is his temp." She flipped back the blankets to check the circulation in his legs. "Everything seems in order here. Good pulses. Nice and warm. Relax, honey." Kelly felt her shoulders relax at the reassurance. "We'll keep an eye on him. Just holler if you need anything." That said, she left the room leaving Kelly alone again with her thoughts.

How could this have happened? *Why* did this happen? They had waited so long to be together, and now this. Kelly couldn't help but wonder what was next. It seemed like it was always something with Murdock, whether it was related to his mental health or his physical health, she was always in a state of worry. Kelly smiled despite herself - she wouldn't want it any other way. Murdock was himself, unique, and she loved him for it.

No one in her whole life had made her feel that special, wanted. She had loved him from the moment he had held the mirror up to her and called her 'pretty girl.' What she wouldn't give to hear those sweet words again. She wiped an errant tear away and reached out for his hand.

When she squeezed his hand he gave a small gasp. Kelly's heart leapt at the thought that he might be coming around. But the small gasps turned into big gulps as he struggled to take air into his lungs. Kelly called out for the nurse, frantic.

She arrived with two other nurses. Kelly was pushed to the side as they began to work on Murdock. One of them made a call, she assumed to the doctor because minutes later the three nurses were joined by two physicians.

"What's the story," the taller doctor asked.

The matronly nurse gave a brief history and then went into what had just happened. "Sats are down in the 70's despite the nonrebreather. BP's down 80's over 40's. Temp's not registering anymore. He's tachy at 120."

"Alright, he's septic. I'm gonna tube him and then will move to the ICU." The taller doctor began gathering the instruments with the help of the nurse. "Ma'am?" He directed this at Kelly who took a step forward in response. "Are you his wife?" Kelly shook her head numbly. "Well, do you have decision-making power? Is he a DNR/DNI?"

"N-no. That's Face," she stammered. "And no. He isn't a 'do not resuscitate'."

"We are going to put a tube down Mr. Murdock's throat to help him breath. I think you need to call this Face down here because his conditioning is worsening fast. I'll have to talk to the team, but my feeling is they'll wanna amputate as soon as possible. The infection in his blood stream is causing his system to shut down."

The doctor returned his attention solely to Murdock. Kelly ran down the hall to the nearest phone. Her fingers were shaking so badly she had to redial the number of the hotel twice before getting through. It rang several times before someone picked up.


"Hello, Face? It's Kelly. I think you need to come down here right away." Her voice was strained with tears.

"What is it? What's wrong?" Face was panicking.

"They're taking Murdock to ICU. The infection's a lot worse. I think they wanna amputate now. I - I don't know, but you need to get down here now. He's not doing so well." Kelly broke down, unable to control the sobs any longer.

"I'm on my way. Gimme ten minutes." There was nothing but silence from the other end. "Kelly?"

"Yeah," she sniffed. "I'll see you in ten minutes outside the ICU."


Face ripped the phone out of the jack and threw it against the wall. Hannibal rushed out of the bathroom to see what the commotion was. "We gotta go," was all Face offered.

Hannibal cocked his eyebrows waiting patiently for an explanation. BA entered with an armload of food as Face began to explain. "That was Kelly. Murdock took a turn for the worse." BA scowled.

"So grab the keys, BA. Let's go Lieutenant," Hannibal commanded throwing on his jacket.

"Sonofabitch," Face said sinking down onto the bed. "GODDAMMIT!" He screamed the latter with such venom that even BA jumped. "I never wanted to make this decision. I never asked for this."

"And you think the fool did? He in there fighting for his life, but he need help. He need you to be strong for him." BA paused to let this sink in. "He ain't a quitter, Faceman and neither are you. He countin' on us to save him like he save our asses all those times."

Hannibal offered a hand to help Face off the bed. "You'll make the right decision, Face. Murdock's instincts never fail him, and his instincts told him to trust you. But right now we need to get to the hospital. So come on."


Face agonized over everyone's words. He tried to recall any conversation that he might've had with Murdock that could possibly help him make his decision as they were on the way to the hospital. None came to mind. He tried putting himself in Murdock's mind, but that was impossible. Murdock was unpredictable and had surprising strength. And not just any strength - the kind of the inner variety that mattered the most.

As the three team members made their way down the corridor to the ICU, Face remained unsure as to what to do. He knew one thing though, he had to see Murdock alone.

He asked the others to wait outside. The figure in the bed looked surreal. It was Murdock, but somehow it wasn't. The machine was breathing, not Murdock. The other tubes and wires added to the effect.

"Murdock, I can't stand to see you like this. I never could. I wish you would wake up and tell me what to do, but I know you can't." Face sniffed back a tear. "I love you and want to do what's right, but I don't know what that is." Face grabbed Murdock's hand to keep himself from falling apart. "Please help me." Face was openly crying now, but he didn't care.

After a few minutes the tears subsided. "I hope one day you can forgive me, or at least understand my decision." Face gave Murdock's hand one final squeeze before going off to sign the paperwork.



Part 8

**Warnings: PG-13 for language, angst, some sap

The surgery was over in a matter of hours and within two days Murdock was shipped out of ICU onto a regular floor. By the third day he had begun to come around at brief intervals, and the infection was retreating, beat into submission by the antibiotics.

Face more than anybody ached to see those warm brown eyes staring up at him again with complete awareness, but every time he played out the scenario in his mind those brown eyes darkened with anger and hurt as Face explained his decision. His stomach knotted with dread. His eyes panned down the length of Murdock's body, not failing to notice the unevenness to the lower half. '*I* did that. *I* caused that.'

He ran his finger through his hair self-consciously, fighting back the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. Kelly came up behind him and lay a hand on his shoulder. "You really care a lot for him, don't you?"

"Yeah, more than I can say. You do too, don't you?" He paused. "Of course you do. Look Kelly, I'm sorry for being such a bastard..." Face trailed off as a soft moan rose up from the bed. Kelly immediately rushed to Murdock's side, but Face stayed back in his chair.

"Pretty girl," Murdock rasped. A big loopy grin lit up his face. "I must've died and gone to heaven 'cause there an angel here with me."

Kelly smiled through her tears of joy. Face groaned. "Since when did you start using my pickup lines, Murdock?"

"Well, that one never worked for you so I thought a lil southern charm might help it along. Whattaya say? Did it work, Kelly?" She nodded, biting her lip.

Murdock looked around, seemingly noticing his surroundings for the first time. His expression changed as he began to remember what had happened. "How long have I been here?"

"A little over a week, Cap'n." Hannibal grinned over an unlit cigar as he entered the room with BA right behind him. Face gave him an imperceptible shake of his head to tell Hannibal Murdock hadn't noticed yet.

"Good to see you awake finally, man," BA added.

"Oh, no. Kel...the wedding. I am so sorry. Awww, Facey. The 'Vette...." Murdock slumped down against the pillow.

"Yeah, the 'Vette's demolished. But you're still here and that's the important thing. " Face laid a hand on his shoulder to relay his sincerity.

Kelly sat down on the bed next to him and began stroking his hair. "Don't be sorry about the wedding. I was so worried about you, HM. We can put it off for a little while until you recover. I'm just so glad you're alright."

Murdock grimaced. "You hurtin', buddy," Face asked. He mentally chided himself for asking a stupid question.

Murdock nodded. "My legs are killing me, especially the right one. What exactly is the damage here?" He began to inspect himself as the four exchanged glances, all thinking the same thing - phantom pain.

Hannibal quickly caught his attention. They wanted to break it to him as gently as possible before the painkillers wore off completely and he discovered it himself. "Cap'n, there were some serious injuries to your legs. The left ankle was shattered. The docs went in and pinned it surgically. They say it should heal, but you may not be able to bend that ankle very much." Hannibal hesitated. That was the easy part.

"What aren't you saying, Colonel?"

Damn Murdock. He was always good at reading people. Hannibal gave a look to the others that told them to back off a little bit. Murdock would need space, he was sure of that. "Your right leg...there was a compound fracture, you lost a lotta blood and it got really infected. Murdock, we almost lost you to the infection. We had to let them do it."

"Do what," Murdock asked warily as he began to lift the covers. His hand disappeared underneath the blanket. A loud wail escaped his lips. "Noooo. How could you let them?"

"I'm so sorry, Murdock." Face was crestfallen.

"Honey, it'll be okay." Murdock eyes flashed fire at Kelly. She recoiled at the sight.

"No, it won't...ever!"


"Look, don't placate me. Just - just lemme alone." He turned his face toward the window, ending the discussion.

"Murdock..." Face began to plead, but Murdock kept his back turned. Hannibal steered Face out of the room. BA and Kelly obediently followed.

Once they were a little way down the hall Hannibal stopped the group. "I don't know about you guys, but I don't think it'd be a bad idea if we enlist the help of an old friend of Murdock's."

"You mean Dr Richter?" Face's eyes lit up at the idea.

"Exactly. Couldn't hurt. This might set Murdock back. He's starting to withdraw again, and who could blame him. He's just been dealt a large blow. Could help him to talk it out with someone other than us. And he'll definitely need help to face the situation. Besides it's been awhile. I thought they kept in touch."

"They do," BA offered. "Call him. I know I'd be messed up but good by now in his place."

"Face, you still have the number tucked away somewhere, don't you?" Face already had the card in his hand which caused Hannibal to grin. "Well, get him here, kid."

Face went off to call the psychiatrist. He would plead, beg, hell he'd marry his daughter if that's what it took to get him down here. Anything to help Murdock, anything....



I'll Stand By You 1-8 by Beth
I'll Stand By You 9 by Beth