One of Our Own
Summary: Do you ever have days when you think 'either way you're gonna lose'?
Author's Note: Once again, I have to thank everyone who commented for 'Murdock's Poem' and I hope you enjoy this just as much. Well, let's begin then.....
four men sat contentedly around the campfire as the flames danced for them.
Filled up on the hearty meal B.A had conjured up, they were relaxing and gazing
thoughtfully up at the inviting stars.
It had been a strenuous day and it didn't help having a scorcher of a sun trailing them. It was a lot cooler since nightfall and they knew they had to make the most of it if they were going to last another day herding cattle to San Mortase. Hannibal knew that if they were going to be ambushed, Ursell's men would do it on the last leg of the trail, that's why he decided to set up camp and let the team get a full night's rest.
Murdock removed his Stetson and replaced his plastic toy gun back into its holster. He was getting fairly cold so he reached for his Mickey Mouse face backpack. Pulling out a chequered shirt, Murdock slid it over his head and then put his arms into the sleeves. Face, who had been shirtless all day did the same as both of them exchanged tired smiles. Hannibal wore a blue denim shirt, unbuttoned with the sleeves rolled up that showed the signs of his labour with sweat patches under his arms while he lay with his hands behind his head.
The cosy feeling each of them absorbed, even with the looming invasion, showed in their tired expressions as only the cackle of the fire could be heard with the occasional 'moo' from Murdock checking on the cattle. They rarely had times like this together and it was nice.
B.A softened his rucksack with a few fist poundings before placing it under his head on the ground. It had been so hot that B.A had to remove his gold, which was a 'Dear Diary' moment for the rest of the team. Growling with discomfort, B.A fidgeted about trying hard not to get into a position where his neck would hurt in the morning. He somehow felt strange at not having gold wrapped around his neck, but was relieved at not having to lug it around all day. B.A had enough baggage with Murdock around, so he tried hard not to quibble about it.
Face had been surprisingly quiet all day. Hannibal wasn't sure whether there was a problem or it was just the heat. Face had detested the idea of having to do this 'job' from the get-go, so to not have him throw it in your face every time he spoke was peculiar behaviour for Face and everyone could sense it too.
"Hey Lieutenant," Hannibal began, not moving from his relaxed position. "Is there anything wrong?"
Face waited a while as he decided what could he reveal without breaking his promise. "In what sense Hannibal?"
Seeing that Face might have been willing to talk, Hannibal sat up and looked at the worrying Lieutenant through the strong fiery flames. "Well, you seem a little down kid, lack of charisma. I know this isn't the perfect 'job' for you, but you've been very passive."
Face swallowed hard, he wanted to tell his commander everything and he knew that it wouldn't take long for him to figure it out. Face wasn't sure to just leave it be and if the Colonel found out, he found out. "I just feel a little under the weather, I should be alright in a few days I guess."
Hannibal could tell Face had done a total 180 and seeing how close he came to telling, Hannibal decided not to push him. Face told when he was ready, but still, he hated having to wait while he could see his friend was in torment over something. Their friendship was worth more than the nagging white lies Hannibal detected, so, lying back down he joined the other two in the land of slumber leaving a dubious Face watching the mesmerising flames.
As the coyotes howled in the distance, Face was feeling unchaste at lying to a man who trusted and worried about him so.
stretched upwards as he yawned, giving an invigorating wail, which caught the
disgusted glance of an unhappy B.A who was rubbing at his neck. Hannibal had
been up and had gone off to check the cattle. They had been fairly restless
last night as if they knew something about the ambush. Dismounting Moonbeam,
Hannibal secured his horse with the others.
"They're very jumpy out there guys," He began to inform as he removed his gloves. "We're going to have to be very careful when we reach San Pola canyon."
Everyone nodded to show they understood the plan. It was already getting hot and it wasn't even 7am yet. Murdock was trying to persuade B.A to let him massage his neck, but the stubborn Sergeant forcefully refused causing Murdock to sigh.
"You're more stubborn than a mule B.A. All I wanna do is help you out!" Unfortunately for him, B.A was in a foul mood from the get-go and Murdock had lit his already short fuse.
"You callin' me a mule?! I'll show you mule." B.A lunged at the Captain, grabbing him around the neck. Murdock fell to his knees as he gasped for air.
"HANNIBAL!!!!!!!!!!!" Murdock managed to scream hoarsely between coughing for air. His arms flailed all over the place as he kicked up clouds of dust.
"You wanna call me a mule?!" The screwed up face asked, knowing that as soon as Hannibal came over, he'd have to let go.
"B.A!!" Hannibal scorned as he made his way over from the horses. "Let go of him!"
"The stupid foo' called me a mule!"
"LET GO!" Hannibal's irate tone was final and someone who didn't listen to it was very foolish, so, reluctantly, B.A released his deadly grip.
Murdock began coughing and spluttering in short, painful gasps for air as he rolled on the ground, rubbing at his neck. B.A became concerned, he didn't realise he was holding on that tight. Apologetically, B.A grabbed Murdock by the arm and pulled him to his feet, only to have the Captain retch up all over him. B.A cringed as the warm vomit soaked into his trousers. Hannibal had to hold back laughing seeing as Murdock had had the final word, so to speak!
"Go take him to the wagon B.A. And don't get killing him again. It's bad enough we're short of ranch hands as it is, we don't need to turn on each other as well!"
B.A sighed depressingly as he helped his friend over to the wagon by the horses. He not only regretted doing what he did to Murdock, but he also regretted ever coming out here. It was a little past 7am and the heat was killing him, plus it didn't help the putrid stench emitting from his trouser front. Murdock just groaned as he let B.A virtually drag him.
Hannibal placed a cigar in his mouth and proceeded to light it, only to stop on seeing a sullen Face staring at the glowing embers from the fire. His eyes were unusually baggy, as if he had been up all night. Sighing and then putting his lighter away, Hannibal walked over to his second in command.
"What's up kid? Still feel a bit sickly?" Hannibal asked knowing full well that wasn't what was troubling him.
"Colonel, what would you do if you knew something, but promised someone not to tell, but," Face paused as he swallowed. "But you really wanted to tell someone."
Hannibal looked into his worried blue eyes and knew he had to be unbiased with his answer; he knew that no matter how much he wanted to help Face with his dilemma, he had to steer him true.
"Well kid, I'd keep the promise, no matter how much you wanted to tell. I've always taught you that." He replied, not realising how fatherly he sounded to the lost soul in front of him.
"Yeah I guess," Face sighed, "But I really need to tell someone."
Hannibal could see him agonising over whether to tell him, but he remained trustworthy in his opinion. "Trust me, it feels good to know you've kept a promise. The person who made you promise can only elevate this pressure you feel."
Hannibal lit his cigar and patted Face on the shoulder encouragingly, producing an inkling of a smile from the Lieutenant. Face knew his commander and friend was right, so he conceded with a nod.
"Alright then, now I'm going to check on Murdock, let's hope B.A hasn't killed him yet!" Hannibal laughed but stopped when Face wasn't smiling along with him. "You gonna be OK?"
Face just nodded as he continued to gaze into the dying fire. Hannibal got up, very concerned for his friend, and slowly made his way to the wagon, checking over his shoulder at Face. 'What is it that had Face so torn apart? What is it?!' Hannibal tried to think what it could be, but was distracted by the conversation coming from the wagon.
"I am not!"
"Yes you are!"
"I am not!"
"You're a stupid fool!"
"Now, now boys," Hannibal interceded as he pulled back the flap to the wagon. "Don't get started again. I see you're feeling better now Cap'n."
"Yeah, well I was telling HIM," Murdock sharply pointed at B.A, "I wouldn't have thrown up my supper if he hadn't strangled me!"
B.A growled loudly as he screwed up his face and looked threateningly at Murdock, who returned the stern gesture.
"C'mon you guys, we've got an ambush to ambush and I don't need to have my men caught off guard."
Murdock stuck out his tongue at the fuming Sergeant causing B.A to clench his fist ready to punch him.
"Hey B.A, stop that will you and go check the herd, I've got a bad feeling about them."
B.A grunted and pulled himself up, giving Murdock one last evil stare.
"Cap'n." Hannibal smiled to stop him from doing something to B.A he would later regret. "Don't even think about it!"
B.A got out of the wagon leaving a pouting Murdock looking at his commander.
"Awww Colonel, why d'ya do that for?"
"Well, because he would have beaten you to a pulp for starters!"
"Hmmmm, guess you're right." Murdock agreed as he rubbed his throat.
Hannibal climbed into the wagon and sat opposite him where B.A was. "So Colonel, what can I do you for?" He asked knowing something was troubling Hannibal.
"Face seems to be a bit down lately."
"Yeah I know, he's been a right party pooper since he got me outta the VA a couple of days ago." Murdock perkily informed.
"Hmmm, yeah, ever since he got you out." Hannibal puzzled over it, but still nothing definite answered why Face was so glum. "Look, do you think you could go and talk to him, you know, listen to him for a while to figure out what's wrong with him. I can't have him getting killed when we're ambushed, I just can't risk that."
"Sure Colonel, no problemo." Murdock was just as concerned and he had a little knack of getting Face out of his slumps, he was confident it would be like any other chat, they were like brothers which made it even easier.
strode up to Face who was packing away his shirt and taking out his steering
gloves in case he had to lasso a stray from the herd. It was even too hot for
his vest and his naked, tanned chest was already feeling clammy.
"Whatcha up to?" Murdock asked as he gazed over Face's shoulder at what he was doing.
"Ah nothing much, what about you?" Face quickly diverted, trying not to look at the perky Captain.
"Well, I wanna talk to you about somethin', but you have to promise not to tell a soul." Murdock replied, placing a friendly arm around Face's shoulder.
Instantly, Face shrugged off Murdock's arm and picked up his bag. Before turning around he wiped his eye with the back of his hand. Murdock was filled with confusion, Face had never denied him like that, never. Even when Face was angry with him, Murdock knew he couldn't stay mad at him forever.
"Sorry Murdock, I don't think I can do that." Face spoke and then disappeared off towards the herd leaving Murdock donning a very serious and worried expression.
The tremble in his voice told Murdock that something wasn't right. He'd learnt to read the signs and Face was the easiest. A con man that could con himself out of a lion's mouth, but not out of emotions, that was one thing Face was terrible at and what Murdock picked up on from the beginning. Rubbing at his chin, the thoughtfully Captain was determined to figure out what was the matter with his friend.
Murdock was saddling up his horse as Hannibal walked past puffing on his cigar.
Murdock shrugged raising his palms upwards and then shook his head. Hannibal looked ahead to see Face mounting his horse, he bare chest sparkled as the sweat beads reflected the sun. Face looked to find Hannibal's eyes quizzing over him from next to Murdock. Swallowing hard, Face knew that Murdock had told Hannibal and that quizzical look showed he was slowly putting the pieces together. It wouldn't be long and the worried Lieutenant was becoming fearful of the consequences of with holding important information, especially from Hannibal, making him a little more indecisive as to whether to tell him.
Tugging at the reins, Face withdrew from the eye contact but Hannibal continued to gaze.
"I've got to find out a way of helping Face, he's going to end up getting himself killed if he's not careful."
Murdock steered towards a straying calf as he 'mooed' at it politely to get back with the others. B.A had been driving the wagon and the rickety old thing was kicking up dust by the cartload and the fact there was no speed to the thing, B.A was very uptight about the whole situation. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he continued to keep alert for the ambush from Ursell's men. Face was watching the right flank with Murdock meandering along the left donning his Mickey Mouse backpack. B.A mumbled to himself, as all he could see of in front of him was the annoying smirking face of an over-glamorised mouse bobbing up and down.
Hannibal rode Moonbeam ahead of the herd knowing that if they were spooked, he would be caught in a mad stampede that would cost him his life, but if it meant being able to warn the rest of his men, then there was no question as to his duty. Even though Hannibal was sharply alert, he still couldn't help wonder what Face was thinking; holding back from the team, from his friends. Somehow, he knew it involved Murdock. Someone would have to be a fool not to realise that. It was usual for Face to withhold his feelings with him and B.A, but Murdock always got through to Face. 'A little bit of insanity is good for ya!' As Murdock had always quoted and it was true too. Now all he had to do was figure out why he was finding it hard to open up to the Captain and distancing himself from someone he saw as his brother. Just as he was beginning to piece everything together, his thoughts were ended as a bullet grazed past his head, causing him to jolt sideways. As soon as it had surprised Hannibal, a wail bellowed out from behind. Glancing around, he found Face slumped over his horse's mane clutching at his shoulder.
"GET THEM OUTTA HERE!!" Hannibal shouted to B.A and Murdock as he raced over to Face to save him from the onslaught and spooking cattle that looked set to break. Picking Face off his horse and onto his, Hannibal began to speed Moonbeam up as they tried to avoid the bullets ricocheting off the canyon walls as they watched B.A, Murdock and the herd reach safety to engage the back-up plan.
As hope seemed to ride with them, a fatal shot saw Moonbeam collapse beneath the wounded men as Hannibal instinctively tried to break Face's fall. As they rolled in the dirt, they came to stop behind a large, protective rock. Immediately, the Colonel withdrew his gun and propped Face up against the rock. It was easy for Hannibal, doing more than one task came naturally to the fighting leader. As he tried to pinpoint the gunmen, Hannibal checked his Lieutenant's wound. The bullet had gone clean through his right shoulder as it seeped constantly. Hannibal thanked god that Face had not worn a shirt, as there was no lodged material that could cause the quivering Face even more harm or infection. The scratches on his body were only superficial from the rumble in the dirt, so Hannibal dismissed them as easily.
"You alright kid?"
"Yeah, but it hurts like hell!!" Face croakily replied as he was beginning to feel the effects of his blood loss.
Hannibal looked Face deep in the eyes and knew that he had to find out Taking his neck-chief off, he passed it to the weakened Lieutenant, who mustered his strength to hold it to his wound.
"Good, hold on there Face and B.A and Murdock will help us soon. Erm Lieutenant, I can't let you fight this on your own."
"I know and I trust you Hannibal, whatever you say goes," coughing noisily, he continued. "I know you'll get me out of this and that I'm not fighting this wound alone."
"You trust me?"
"You know I do," Face replied looking skeptically at his commander as bullets were whizzing past them.
"Then tell me what's up with Murdock."
Face looked in shock at his Hannibal, "You know? But how? I-I didn't."
"I don't know, but the way you've been treating Murdock lately was a good sign." Hannibal looked up and fired a few shots in return to the gunmen's and then kneeled back down to Face.
"I can't tell you, I just can't. Please don't make me!!" Face pleaded, his eyes wide with fear.
"You trust me don't you?" Hannibal repeated, knowing he had to break his friend to help him.
"But you can trust me." He promised.
"I CAN'T!! How am I meant to tell him he's dying?!"
bullet ricocheted off the rock, but Hannibal didn't flinch. He was staring,
wide-eyed at the wincing Lieutenant not being able to comprehend the words that
had flooded out of Face's mouth.
"Did I just hear you right?" Hoping that what Face had said was delirium setting in.
"Yes, Murdock's dying," Face sullenly began, "and he doesn't even know it."
Face was so ashamed at keeping it away from Hannibal, let alone Murdock and topped with the nagging pain, he closed his eyes and hung his head. It was all he could do to fight the tears welling up. Screwing up his face in pain from his shoulder, Hannibal was becoming concerned and snapped out of his trance-like state. The initial shock had settled, but his mind was whizzing around with questions; questions that needed answering, but not before he got his companion to safety. Checking his watch while he counted Face's pulse enforced the need to get him to hospital. Hannibal removed a shirt from Moonbeam's saddle, which had snapped loose, probably saving their lives from being crushed under the horse. As gently as he could, he assisted Face's arms into the shirt. Groaning with pain, Hannibal tried hard to reassure him, but it was difficult when with every word he spoke, Hannibal wanted to ask about Murdock.
"Why him?" Face asked quietly. "He's so full of life, it's just not fair!" It was unstoppable, the tear ran down his check and he didn't even have the energy to wipe it away.
"Look kid, are you sure about this? I mean, how did you find out?" Standing up, he fired his gun and hit someone as a scream resonated throughout the canyon followed by the crashing of rocks on the ground. He kneeled back down to tend to Face.
"You know when I was checking him out? Well I had all his forms and stuff, you know, like all the doctors had and I had gone..." Face began to fade out slowly until he stopped. Hannibal was very concerned. The colour had drained out of Face and Hannibal could see he was having trouble breathing. The hell-bent sun continued to pound down on them not helping the wounded Lieutenant. All Hannibal could do was wait and hoped that the rest of his team would come back soon to initiate the plan. Checking his magazine, he sighed, they were wounded and low on ammo, could things get any worse?
Hannibal was drained. Face had been in and out of consciousness for the past hour and each time, Hannibal had thought Face was not going to come out of it. He had managed to hold off the gunmen, wounding at least 5 of them, but Hannibal knew that they were still greatly out numbered and the wound to his head was beginning to take it's effects. Feeling dizzy, he sat with his back against the rock next to Face.
"He's got a brain tumour." Face turned his head and looked upsettingly at Hannibal who had his eyes closed. "Are you OK?"
"Yeah I'm fine, it's just hot as hell here!"
"I didn't believe it when I saw his records." Face coughed weakly. "I went to see Richter about the mistake. But he said it wasn't a mistake at all and that I couldn't tell Murdock. I forget why, perhaps the shock or something."
Hannibal didn't budge but it all made sense now. All the headaches and the sickliness Murdock had complained about. Hannibal had just saw it as being under the weather and he was upset he hadn't seen the signs earlier.
"I can't believe it, I won't!" Hannibal denied.
"You can't say anything Hannibal, promise me?" Face worried.
"You can trust me, but I have to know if Richter is right, I have to!"
Face saw the painful expression on Hannibal's face; he knew he was hurting and not just emotionally. As he opened his eyes, they were sharp and crisp and showed no expression. Face noticed for the first time that it wasn't Hannibal's eyes that told he was weak, like the others, it was his eyes that protected his emotions.
Suddenly, a loud, revving engine sounded in the distance. As Hannibal pulled himself up from his slumped position, he saw his plan - B.A's creation.
"It's about time, huh?" Hannibal tried to joke, but as he looked at his companion, he was out cold. Finding his pulse, Hannibal was uneasy, as it had slowed incredibly from the last time Face passed out.
As the B.A-made vehicle got closer, a trigger happy Captain howled from a turret as he shot into the canyon at the gunmen. Hannibal signalled B.A over as he could see a concerned driver looking at the wounded Face.
"DON'T STOP FIRING CAP'N!" Hannibal commanded as he picked Face up in the fireman's hold and sprinted for the vehicle.
"Is he alright?" Murdock called down through the turret, worried about him.
"We need to get him to a hospital, quickly!" Hannibal urged.
"We took the cows across the river to San Mortase Colonel, that's why it took us a little longer. There was a hospital in the town there -- 15 mins max." B.A informed and put the vehicle into full speed as Murdock continued to spray ammo at the gunmen while they drove through the San Pola canyon.
It had been a week since Face had been in surgery for his gunshot wound but he still wore the cloth sling to support his arm - Hannibal had made sure of it.
Hannibal had his graze seen to and was treated for heat exhaustion against his will of course, but Face made sure of that!!
Murdock groaned, awaking B.A from his deserved nap, who alerted the others over to his bed. He looked so pale and unlively that it pained them all to do nothing while they just waited. Richter had said it was inevitable and they just had to wait.
Seeing his family around him, Murdock forced a smile and closed his eyes again. Just as they were all returning to their chairs, the door opened speedily, revealling a very happy Dr. Richter waving a sheet of paper in front of him.
"It's all clear!" He announced breathlessly. "They had mixed up the results, and the second check shows he has nothing!"
"Well what's the matter with him?" Hannibal asked, still concerned about Murdock's status.
"It's the flu!"
"Thank GOD!" Face spoke, saying what was on all their minds. Richter smiled and left them alone with their friend. They turned to look at Murdock with refreshed smiles. They were so glad it wasn't fatal. After getting Face into hospital and informing the local law of the gunmen, Murdock had begun to disintegrate, so they had to rush him back to the VA taking a very drugged up Face out of intensive care the day after his operation. So they made Richter take the tests again and they were so glad they did.
"A..A..AHHHHHCHHHOOOOOO!!" Murdock erupted.
"Gusuntite!!" they replied in unison as they laughed, only to be interrupted by the door opening again to reveal a panting Richter keeling over, only managing to stay standing by holding onto the door frame.
"Decker's here!" He worriedly reported.
"That man has the perfect timing!" Face sarcastically joked.
Laughing deeply, "I love it when a plan comes together!!" Hannibal grinned as B.A and Face were climbing out of the window.
"HANNIBAL?!" B.A called. "Get off tha jazz and outta the window!!"
The End :)