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Escapism

Escapism
By Leia Fee

RATING: G.  It's pretty harmless.
SUMMARY: Response to the 'Characters Favourites' challenge/exercise from the SB-2 list.
Set around and after the end of the episode _Bounty_  (mostly because I wondered what book Murdock was reading)
WARNINGS:  Well it's a bit soppy
PARTS: Complete

 

"You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself."

Murdock let the book dangle against his knee and stared reflectively across the lawn.  He could probably recite the whole passage if he put his mind to it, but after the past few days it rang so true it nearly scared him.

He'd known almost without a doubt how the rest of the team would react to his--he hesitated to say 'kidnapping', not liking the implication of helplessness it conveyed.  He'd known instantly that once they found him gone, and out of contact, that they'd try for the radio trick they'd used before.  Known with absolute certainty that they'd find him, and later that they wouldn’t hesitate to go back for Kelly.

Yet he hadn't, and still didn't, truly know what he would have done had anything happened to her.  Hadn't even been able to tell whether the freezing, sick feeling in his stomach was fear or fury.

He raised his book again.

Maybe he didn't want to know.

"You learn to watch other people, but you never watch yourself because you strive against loneliness.  If you read a book, or shuffle a deck of cards or care for a dog, you are avoiding yourself."

He dropped the book to his side again.  Too close.  Too accurate.

He closed his eyes and lifted his face slightly into the breeze.  He just wasn’t in the right mood for this book, much as it meant to him

"Murdock, you have a visitor."

"Huh?"  For a moment it was difficult to untangle himself from his own thoughts and he responded automatically with a dazed sort of waffle about bills.  He had turned back to his contemplation before he realised the young doctor hadn't gone away.

"It's not a bill collector--it's a lady."

The world suddenly snapped into sharp focus.

"A lady?  Where is she?"

+

Murdock picked the last of the melted cheese off the bottom of the pizza box.  He avoided meeting Kelly's eyes even while feeling guilty about doing it.  After her quiet invitation to tell her his 'long story' she hadn't pressed and he hadn't volunteered and he felt guilty about that too.

 "What are you reading?" Kelly asked as the silence started to become uncomfortable.

Murdock closed the book and pushed it towards her.  He gave a small inward smile at the though of the way Face would shake his head at the dishevelled state of it.  Murdock was one of those who believed books were there to be read--not arranged on a shelf to be admired.  He mercilessly bent back the spines and folded down the corners of pages to mark his place and read in the bathtub.

Kelly picked up the battered volume with what seemed like inordinate care given its already dog-eared state, and looked at the cover picture. 

A small, oddly squat-looking plane flew low over an almost black sea, its stubby landing gear almost touching the tossing waves where the reflection of its running lights gleamed.

Murdock shrugged almost in embarrassment as he watched Kelly looking at it.

"Bit of artistic license there," he admitted.  "Pretty though."

"West With The Night," Kelly read the title aloud.  "What's it about?"

Murdock shrugged slightly again.  "Flying.  Mostly."  He leaned forward to tap the author's name.  "1936 she flew non-stop across the Atlantic.  Little single-seater plane, no radio.  Mostly in the dark..."

"Sounds lonely."

"No!"  Murdock reacted without thinking and Kelly jumped, startled.  "No, no that's not what it's like.  It's... I don't think I can explain it as well."  He stared off into the distance for a few seconds before continuing.  "Being alone in a plane isn't like being on your own on the ground.  It's...  You're not responsible for anybody except yourself.  Y'know?  And nobody is responsible for you, except yourself.  Its... comforting.  And liberating.  At the same time..."  

He grinned suddenly.  "I'm making no sense at all here am I?  Anyway even if you're not coming over all introspective it's a wonderful adventure story.  I loved it when I was a kid.  Bush flying and crashes and near misses and safaris and races.  Great stuff!"

His gaze drifted off again.

"She understands flying.  Really understands it.  I don't mean the physics and aerodynamics and engines and lift and all that stuff.  But how it feels.  What it's like up there."

Murdock picked up the book and after a glance down at it, looked up to met Kelly's gaze.  His smile this time was heartfelt and almost playful.

"She even knows why all us pilots are a bit loony.  'Cause there's no logic in flying you know.    The things that make people think it's dangerous--the speed and the height--are really the things that keep you safe, keep you airborne.  When your engine quits and all you want to do is avoid hitting the ground, the only thing you can do to recover is dive towards it.  Gotta take off into a headwind, but what you want to speed you along is a tailwind.  No wonder pilots are contrary."

Kelly smiled at him.

"I don't think you're contrary, Murdock."

Murdock half dipped his head away, trying to keep his tone light.  "Ah, you don't know me yet."

Kelly followed his movement refusing to let his eyes slip away from her's

"I feel like I do.  I want to."

After a moment her tone lightened and she smiled.

"Maybe I should start with reading that."

Murdock hesitated a moment then slid the book across the table towards her. 

Her hand lingered a moment against his as she reached out for it.

"I'll bring it back next time I visit."

Murdock felt a silly uncontrollable grin spread across his face.

"Next time?"

"Of course," Kelly said firmly.  "Didn't think you could disappear on me that easily did you?"  She grinned suddenly.  "I can be just as unreasonable as any crazy pilot."

Without warning she flung her arms around him in a fierce hug which left him too startled to return it until she prodded him in the ribs and demanded, "Is that all right with you?"

Still grinning, Murdock nodded.  "Absolutely."  He returned the hug.

"Absolutely."

End

---

Notes for the curious

West With The Night by Beryl Markham, is pretty much everything Murdock enthuses about in this story.  It absolutely should be read by anyone with even the faintest liking for flying, for adventure or just for downright beautiful, poetic prose.

The title came from both my own fondness for reading as a form of escapism and from the memory of one of the more memorable quotes from the book which observed that: "Flight is but momentary escape from the eternal custody of earth."

 

 


Escapism by Leia Fee

 

 


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