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Memorial Day

Memorial Day
by Capt H. Martin "Howlin' Thunderbird"

Rating: PG-13 (for mild language and thoughts of war)
Warning: a lot of musings, first person. A little depressive

Disclaimer: For the enjoyment of me and others; the original A-team characters do not legally belong to me
Comments: would be very appreciated
Summary: A the Wall, the Vietnam War Memorial, Murdock reflects back on those who have died. A little special Hannibal and Murdock interaction
AUTHOR'S COMMENTS: This fic is not new, but has always had a special meaning for me, as I wanted to do something special in tribute to those who died. For me, it was Desert Storm, and this story I'd like to dedicate to my buddies who were lost and the families of those who've died in all these wars, including this most recent war in

...Murdock, Thomas E.
Lieutenant 1947-1971...

The list goes on and on, a list hundreds of feet and million names, all carved in black marble and onyx. In a way it's fitting for a hero such as he to be carved here, to have his place among the many other young men and women to have give up their hopes, dreams, and even lives for their freedom and ideals in which they once believed in. I hold to the same ideals still today, my own little memorial for him. Numbly, I know that each one of these names, each one of these lines built of thousands, is a hero. For many people, I suppose, coming here is to gaze somberly at a mass of names that really have no significance. They are merely words, names carved on a wall... except to those like me whose memories still hold the deeper truth to this hidden away in our hearts.

In a way, I know only those like me will ever really truly understand. Those who have not only lost the lives of their heroes, but who remember it. Those who were there and survived. There were times, years ago, when I wished I could have been the one who had bled to death instead of Tom. But it wasn't to be. And now that I've lost my brother, the man who meant more to me than my own life multiple times over, and all I have left of him is a memory, like a light dimmed until it barely even casts a shadow in a dark room.

My throat constricts as I gaze at row upon row of names, birth dates, death dates. I know I am not the only one who grieves. Each one of these people, unsung and despised heroes as they have become, was once someone somebody loved. Someone's father, brother, son. Each one has a story, one only those who truly understand will ever see, written in invisible lines between the stone-chisled letters. These people weren't always names on a wall, symbols in an enormous carved memorial. They were once like Tom, individual people with hopes and dreams, people with families, friends, likes, dislikes.

So many times, people overlook the stories between these lines, the volumes to be read written deep between each letter. It isn't out of ignorance for the most part, it is simply that they do not see it there. Their eyes cannot read the tale of love, grief, life, and dreams between the words.

But I can. It is all so plain to me. As I reach forward and brush my fingers across the engraved name of my brother, someone of whom I haven't even spoken of to Hannibal, though he is nearly a father to me, tears prick at my eyes, shimmering my vision. I take a deep breath and lift my chin high, determined not to cry. I promised Tom that I wouldn't cry forever, that my tears would fade, that I would somehow learn to live alone. And look at me now, I found a way. I have a life now, protecting and running with the team, but my heart wrenches deep in my chest, cries trying to tear from me that I don't let escape my lips. I'm keeping my pledged promise I made that night so long ago, half buried in black mud. I know, were he here, though the world has rejected me as socially unacceptable, I know Tom would be proud of me.

But not half as proud as I am of him. It has been about eleven years since that sunset in the sky of Vietnam. Looking back, I stand in silent amazement and pride. I know deep inside myself that though I was the one of the two of us to get the glory and acceptance, he was the real one who stood for what we all believed in. Or, at least, most of us. Some of the men back there hadn't cared whether or not the battle would go on to forever. But I wouldn't have had Tom's courage, or the heart to sacrifice myself in so many ways I didn't even know until now. Were I the one running through the jungle, taking a fatal number of bullets in order to save another man of whom I never knew's life... I shame myself but I probably would not have had the guts to do it. Tom did, though. He saved the young man's life and lost his own in the process.

At least that's a hero's way to die. Sometimes I wish I were with him. Death itself doesn't scare me as it does so many people. What could be worse than living out the rest of one's existence under the label of incurable insanity. Not that I don't enjoy my condition at times, but right now, I'm not sure what I feel past the gut-wrenching ache that this always creates deep inside me. I'm not sure if I *should* feel, if I should be here now. Death would be the easy way out of this black hole of insanity... wouldn't it?

I promised him I would never look down on him, no matter what happened. I snort disgustedly and wipe my cold, wind-flushed cheeks with the back of my hand. What a thing to say to my brother only hours before he died. What I should have said, was what I really felt and wish I could tell him now. That I'd miss him. And, oh God, it hurts! I rest my palm flat on the cold marble wall, tracing his simple name with two fingers lightly. "I'm sorry, Tom," I whisper, the wind slicing through my worn leather jacket and through my very skin itself. "I should have been there faster. If I'd only made that one move, if I hadn't freaked at the thought of firing on that other chopper, I could have saved you."

I hear no answer to my words. No comfort, no soft voice. All that is here, though others walk by me, is me and this cold stormy chill. "Whaddya think of us now?" I continue to say into the wind. A tear slips unnoticed down my cheek, my eyes glistening with tears that will remain, for the most part, unshed. "On the run, lost... Damn, I miss you."

I hold my chin steady, trying to swallow the tears trickling down my cheeks, down the back of my throat, and I glance briefly toward the team, but they don't even see me... Finally I can't hold back and feel myself slide against the wall down to my knees, curling into myself as shuddering cries try to tear the guts from deep inside me and I can't control them. "Why didn't I save you when I had the chance..? Oh, god, Tom I'm sorry... I'm sorry..." I trail off in whispers, pressing my cheek against the cold smooth wall that gives no comfort. A flash of lightning streaks past, followed by a cruel crack of thunder breaking the heavens above as into little pieces. Rain begins to fall, droplets running down my jacket, soaking through my clothes, plastering my hair to my forehead.

My fingers trace the engraved letters slowly, a lifetime of memories returning like the rushing flood of chilling rain soaking me through. I promised myself I wouldn't cry, but what can I do? Why did he have to die, why was it so necessary that those bullets tear my brother into bleeding pieces in my arms. No, no-one will ever truly know the stories behind these names, none will ever know just how much life is behind these simple letters I touch, all the fears and dreams. He wanted so much to ask his girl to marry him and make a life with her, to pass on our generations back home in Texas. But he never made it that far.

He died.

And I, somehow, survived. Or did I?

I'm curled in sobs here now, not knowing where I'm going to go, what to do. I'm crazy, how am I going to live?

What am I going to do in my life?

I try to reach the goal of sanity, but I don't know what'll happen to me if I'm declared sane. My current home in the veteran's hospital will toss me out and I'll need to find a place to live, a job to do. I can't go home. My father disowned me when I was sent to the asylum. The team will probably let me shack up with them, but somehow my life feels like it's torn into shreds now, even after eleven years.

Eleven years insane, half of them I don't even remember. I've gone on with my life, from the moment my friend died, but every time I come back here I still cry. I cry until I can't breathe. Weeping for the ones of us who have had to lose their loved ones, for myself, for the home I don't know if I'll ever be able to have anymore.

Another gust of wind whips strands of my hair around my face from underneath my hat, ruffling my leather jacket, slicing through me but I don't care. The darkness is falling in my world now, carrying me away even if I struggle to the blankness of another world below reality, a world somehow more real to me than real, surreal. I feel the tears trickling down my cheekbones, down my cheeks to my chin, feel them slide down against the marble as I press my face against the wall. God... Oh please, it hurts so much... I *can't* survive, I *can't* live like this..! Why? Why did it have to be like this? Why Tom? Why did I have to be insane? Why can't I have a home to go back to anymore?

"**Why?!!**" I scream toward the sky, my eyes scanning the billowing slate clouds as they spatter rain down onto my cold cheeks. My eyes flash with fury and frustration and pain, welling with more tears. "Why?!" My voice cuts out, hoarse and I close my eyes, burying my face into my lap with a heartbroken whisper. "Why..?"

"H.M.?" A soft, light voice breaks through hesitantly. I bite my lip to stifle back my cries from him. Dangit, he's too young to be here on the run like this. It'd be so easy to just let it out, but I can't show him my tears. Course, I'm crazy, so I have a right to be the homeless child I've become.

I turn and catch Face's gaze, my own glittering with tears.

His soft, wide blue-green eyes widen a little more and he crouches down carefully, hesitant. "Are you alright?"

I wish I could tell him... he's the only one who can reach me, can understand this twisted reality, understand the voices I always hear whispering, murmuring in the back of my mind. I swallow the tightness in my throat, managing a hoarse, pained whisper. "Y-yeah," I shiver, drawing as much of my walls against the world around me as I possibly can.

He looks unconvinced... worried about me I think. Worried? I snort. Why be worried about me? I'm only lost in this world of mine alone, this insanity. Don't be worried Facey, I got friends... I got the voices, the people who tell me things, to do, to act. Without the voices I'm lost... or am I? The voices draw me away, drag me deep into this darkness spinning around me. It's... oh, it's c-cold... it's so *cold*. His voice somehow registers deep inside me. "Murdock, you don't look alright. Come on; Hannibal wants us back in the van. We've got to go." Something grips my arm, his hand.

No! I growl deep in my throat and yank my arm away. Don't touch me! After another moment, reality slip in again, and I let out my held breath, suddenly so worn out. "Yeah," I agree softly. Face rises to his feet and I push myself upright, climbing up the wall until I can stand on my own. The two of us begin to walk back along the path toward where B.A parked the van, the wind howling and kicking up around us, spraying droplets of rain spattering against my leather jacket. Tem starts ahead of me as I cross the lawn toward the warm van. I bury my hands deep in my pockets and glance behind me for a long moment, my eyes traveling the length of the wall. So long... so many names, so many lives...

Hannibal's eyes echo Face's concern as they watch me. He rests one hand gently on my shoulder, catching my eyes as much as I wish I could be alone right now. But I can see it there, something that wasn't in Face's gaze. Without a word, I know Hannibal understands, of anyone. He knows what it's like to come and see the memory of someone loved who was killed. I don't really know that much about him, especially anything personal, but I know enough to know he's lost people too. I can see it in his eyes just like it is in mine. He's lost someone too. He and I are two of the few who really understand the stories written between the lines on that wall.

I let him read my eyes, and study his own crystals of ice blue. They're not hard, like the usually are, not crazy. They're almost... sad. "You ready to go, Captain?" he finally breaks the stormy silence quietly.

I nod silently, the ache inside me still there deep inside, a cold black hole that feels like it'll never really heal. At the same time, there's a resolve there now. Knowing someone understands somehow touches my soul, bringing me back from the dark jungle of twisted memories. I glance beside me into the van, catching Face's uncertain gaze as he watches me. I can't help but smile slightly, a small touch of warmth in my eyes. He doesn't understand me and never really has. I never used to let him. But he cares about me, and he's a friend I never thought I'd love but I cherish now. I can barely feel anything really anymore, but there is a little glimmer of warmth. Tem smiles slightly, his eyes shining and sparkling. He pats the seat beside him as I climb up into the van. I turn, finally summoning enough gumption to speak. "Colonel?"

Hannibal turns, raising one eyebrow in question. "Yes, Murdock?"

I pause, hesitating and swallow tightly. "Do you miss him too?" I'm taking a gamble on the things I read in his eyes, what I think I know, on the fact that maybe we can understand each other.

The colonel doesn't say anything, his eyes falling to the carpet. Long seconds pass of tense silence, and I'm beginning to regret speaking up at all. Finally, he speaks, the eyes of the rest of the team on the two of us. "Yeah," he whispers, lifting his blue regard to mine. He frowns slightly, quiet. "How'd you know?"

A smile, maybe crazy but I don't care, twitches sadly at the corners of my mouth, my eyes gleaming. "You read it too."

Face stares at me, completely and utterly lost and B.A. scowls, shaking his head in disgust. "Fool's crazy," he mutters. I can't stifle my grin.

Tem and I trade glances, and finally Face just chuckles and breaks the quiet melancholy feeling between us all. "Come on, guys, let's go eat."


Memorial Day by Capt H. Martin "Howlin' Thunderbird"



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