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Reflections In The Rain

Reflections In The Rain
By Leia Fee  

 

RATING: PG-13
SUMMARY: Face and Murdock wait out a  wet night and bad dreams. (Which isn't as slashy as it sounds;-) )
WARNINGS: Rather a lot of angst, some nastiness during the
Vietnam flashback (implied, non-graphic), an occasional expletive
PARTS: Complete.
NOTE:  Lines of +++++ and change of font, indicate shifts from present to flashback.

 

 

 

Another thunderclap crashed overhead and Face woke with a start for at least the fifth time that night.  He stretched as best he could in the cramped confines of the van's driver seat and looked round to see if anyone else had woken.

 

There was no sound from the back so he assumed Hannibal and B.A. were still sleeping.  He glanced across the van to where Murdock was curled up on the seat, arms wrapped around his head and his long legs drawn up close to his body.  He was twitching slightly but seemed to be sound asleep.

 

Face sighed and fidgeted trying to arrange himself in some position where he could actually get some real sleep.

 

"Is it raining?"

 

Face nearly jumped out of his skin at the sudden soft voice.

 

"Jeez, Murdock, you scared me half to death.  I thought you were asleep.  Yes, it's raining.  Pouring down actually."

 

"Thought it was me."

 

"No."  Face frowned.  Murdock had not moved from the tight ball he'd curled into and there was something unsettling about his unusually quiet tone of voice.

 

"Are you all right?"

 

"I was dreaming."

 

"Nightmares?" 

 

Murdock nodded slowly, uncurling enough to stare out at the darkness through the van window.

 

Face watched him quietly, waiting to see if he'd talk about it.  It wasn't the first time he'd suffered from bad dreams.  They'd all had their share of nightmares after the war and each had found their own way of dealing with them to some degree or another.  With his erratic mental state, Murdock had mostly had limited success and frequently woke in frightened confusion or outright panic, relieving ten year old horrors.

 

"I don't like the rain."

 

"I don't think anyone particularly likes the rain, Murdock."

 

"I used to.  When I was a little kid.  We didn't get that much of it and when we did I'd run outside in it.  Right away from the house and everybody 'til all you could hear or see was the rain.  It was like being in a different world.  Quieter.  Even when the rain was really loud.  Like magic."  He smiled faintly.  "It drove my mom nuts.  She'd stand on the doorstep with her coat over her head, yelling for me to come back in.  She'd act like she was really mad at me for going and getting wet again, but she'd always have warm towels ready when I did come in."

 

He stopped again and turned his head to look at Face.

 

"I can't remember anything I did last week at the hospital but I can remember every last detail about those towels.  The way the colour was faded in places because they were so old and the way they were sort of soft and scratchy at the same time.  The way they smelt when they were drying.  That's weird isn't it?  That's not how memory's supposed to work."

 

"I don't know," Face replied quietly, wishing he had a better answer.  He'd never seen Murdock in quite this mood before and wasn't certain how to deal with it.  He seemed calm enough but so distant.

 

"Later—after my mom died I'd still run outside whenever there was a rainstorm.  I found out that if you stood and watched the rain long enough you sort of lost track of up and down and ground and sky and it was almost like you could float up into the air."  He paused for a moment, staring back out of the window.  "Like you could just fly away."

 

"Is that when you decided you wanted to be a pilot?" Face asked.  He'd never heard Murdock talk so much about himself before and was curious.  Besides, he figured talking had to be better than more nightmares.

His question drew another faint smile.

 

"Na.  Think I'd wanted that since I was old enough to know what a plane was.  Before that, maybe.  My mom told me I had a tantrum one day when I was three, because of her pet bird.  I made her let it go.  It was supposed to fly, not be in a cage." 

 

There was another long pause.

 

"I don't remember my mom having a pet bird.  Just her telling me about it.  You'd think I'd remember that though.  Probably one of those character-defining moments the shrinks go on about.  Memory's weird."

 

"Yeah."

 

"Face?"

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Where are we?"

 

"We're halfway up a hill in New England.  Don't you remember?"

 

"Just checking.  Rain's stopped."

 

"Yes."  Face was surprised he hadn't noticed that himself.

 

"Morning soon?"

 

"Yeah, just a few more hours."

 

"Do me a favour?"

 

"Sure."

 

"Wake me if I start...  If I look..."

 

"If you look like you're having another nightmare I'll wake you up," Face promised.

 

"Thanks," Murdock whispered as he rested his head back down on the seat.

 

Face watched him for a few moments then stared out of the window and resigned himself to the fact that pretty much any chance of getting back to sleep was well and truly gone. 

 

He wondered what Murdock had been dreaming about.  He could probably guess.  Sometimes it had seemed as though the weather in 'Nam only ever varied between the two extremes of choking heat and torrential rain.  He sighed and listened to the wind whistle around the van.

 

++++++++++

 

"Weather's coming in," Face commented, looking at the sky.

 

B.A. scowled.

 

"Weather's already here.  Ain't no one gonna be flying in this."

 

"He'll be here."  The unassailable confidence in the Colonel's voice silenced both of them. 

 

"How far we from the LZ?" B.A asked.

 

"Should be a clearing right in front of us."

 

A few more steps proved Face right.  There was no sign of the helicopter yet so they settled themselves into the bushes to wait.  The wind whipped the jungle around them into a sea of thrashing greenery.  Face busied himself checking their supplies, and tried not to think about how long they'd last if the pick-up didn't happen.

B.A. muttered something inaudible as the first spots of rain landed and Hannibal put a hand on his shoulder.

 

"At ease, sergeant, Murdock's never missed a pick-up yet.  You can bet he's not going to start with us."

 

As if on cue the sound of a Huey's rotors sounded over the wind.  They watched as it banked into the wind and descended slowly, bucking against the gusts but landing safely.

 

"Weeeeeohhhhhh!  It's blowing a good'un tonight!"  Murdock yelled over the wind.

 

The three of them smiled through the rain as they sprinted to the helicopter.  Nothing ever seemed to put a dent in the pilot's irrepressible energy.

 

"Get your asses in gear and on this bird willya? I think I left the stove on!"

 

"Go, Murdock!" Hannibal instructed, almost before he was on board.

 

Murdock took one hand off the controls for long enough to give a typically sloppy salute.

 

"Yes, sir!  Welcome aboard Flight 432: Storm Chaser.  Tonight, points of interest along our route will feature torrential downpours, gale force winds and all the turbulence your stomach can handle.  If you look to your left--"

 

"Shut up!" B.A. roared from behind him.  "You're crazy!"

 

"Too right!  Who else but Howlin' Mad would be out here in this weather?"

 

Murdock let out a whoop as, without warning, the helicopter dropped several feet then lurched violently to the left.

 

B.A. leaned, back and closed his eyes as Murdock murmured sweet nothings to the controls.

"We gonna die up here."

 

"Nope.  We'll die when we hit the ground after crashing from up here."

 

"I said shut up!"

 

Surprisingly Murdock obeyed, but probably only due to the fact that all his concentration was now focused on flying.  He leaned into the controls as though he could stabilise the tossing craft by force of will.

 

++++++++++

 

Face woke with a start, surprised that he had dozed off after all.  Feeling slightly guilty, he checked on Murdock who was snoring quietly, apparently untroubled by dreams this time.

 

The rain had started again and Face pulled his jacket more tightly around himself.  He'd always been good at putting aside the memories stirred up by the occasional bad dreams but it was a lot easier when you were in a warm, lit house instead of out in the middle of nowhere in the dark.

 

++++++++++

 

The first crack of thunder was accompanied by a fork of lightening which lit up the sky around them.  Murdock shrieked back at it as everyone else gripped their seats in grim silence.

 

As the light died away, the heavens opened and torrential rain cut forward visibility to zero.

 

Murdock hissed through his teeth.

 

"Hey, any of you guys play blind man's bluff as kids?"

 

"Murdock, this really isn't the time for games," Hannibal replied.

 

"No game.  We have to put down 'til this passes or they're going to be finding the pieces for months."

 

He took the helicopter down until they were skimming above the canopy, almost brushing the trees.  Face glimpse the clearing a moment before Murdock banked right to head for it.

 

"I regret to inform our passengers that we will be making an unscheduled detour.  Please take this opportunity to enjoy the attractive arboreal scenery as we--"  A loud crash and the sudden whistle of wind past his face cut Murdock's sentence short.  "Woah!  That wasn't thunder!  Somebody's shooting at us!"

 

Face clung even tighter to his seat as the helicopter spun away from the obviously occupied clearing.  Further gunfire followed them though it was partially drowned out by the sound of tearing metal and the shriek of the wind through the damaged craft.

 

"Get us down, Murdock!" Hannibal ordered.

 

"Whole!" B.A. added fiercely.  "You get us down whole."

 

"Just buckle yourselves in and hold on!" Murdock yelled back.

 

Through the wind and rain and clamour it was almost impossible to tell whether their descent was controlled or not.  Murdock was silent again which they all recognised as a bad sign and the ground rushed towards them at what was surely an unsurvivable speed.  At the last possible moment, Murdock pulled up and they skimmed a few feet above the ground before hitting it.  Hard.  A few seconds of stunned silence followed, broken only by the sound of the wind and rain.

 

Face gathered his wits quickly, surprised to find himself unharmed except for a few scratches.  He looked around quickly and heard Hannibal's calm voice ordering,  "Report."

 

B.A. was the first to respond and it was more a question than an answer.

"We're alive?"

 

Face gave an incredulous laugh.

 

"We should not have survived that.  Someone likes us."  He raised his voice.  "Murdock, you are one, crazy, brilliant--"  He stopped short when there was no flippant answer forthcoming. 

 

"Murdock?"

 

"Captain Murdock, report," Hannibal ordered.

 

The voice that answered was faint and sounded dazed.

 

"Here.  'M fine. Jus' a bit... tangled up..."

 

"Tangled..."

 

"Yeah, the front of this poor bird got a bit crunched when we hit the deck."

 

The three of them unbuckled themselves and moved towards the cockpit.  They could hear Murdock still murmuring, apparently to the helicopter this time.

 

"Sorry, lady.  There was really no dainty way to do that."

 

"Murdock?"  Face saw him first and was unable to restrain a horrified cry.  "Oh God."

 

As Murdock had told them, the front of the helicopter was indeed crumpled, the cockpit was little more than twisted debris and caught in the midst of the destruction Murdock was slumped limply in his seat, his legs caught in the torn and tangled metal.  Blood glittered on the torn surfaces and darkened the fabric of his flightsuit but he looked up and gave them a dazed smile.

 

"Next time, I get to sit in the back with you guys, okay?"

 

How the hell can the man still be making jokes, Face wondered.

 

Suddenly shouts became audible over the sound of the weather and it became clear just how much trouble they were in.

 

"We need to get out of here."  Hannibal calmly handed out orders.  "B.A, see if you can untangle our pilot here.  Face, get the first aid kit from the back.  We'll need to do some patching up en route.  Murdock," The pilot looked up at him quizzically.  "You just stay put."

 

"Can do, Colonel, sir."

 

Face found the familiar wry humour of his teammates comforting even with the enemy closing about them and he allowed himself to feel some optimism for the first time since they'd come under fire.  He ran for the first aid kit and returned just as B.A. was lifting a very pale Murdock from the wreckage.

 

"Going to carry me over the threshold, sweetheart?" Murdock mumbled.

 

"Shut up fool, or you can stay here," B.A. growled, but in spite of the gruff tone he held Murdock cradled safely in his arms.

 

"All right," Hannibal barked.  "We're going to head north into the thicker cover.  B.A, if me and Face take care of our friends out there, can you carry Murdock?"

 

"Yeah, if he don't keep jabberin'."

 

Hannibal smiled.

 

"Face, you're with me.  Let's see if we can make ourselves some room to manoeuvre out there."

 

"Got it."

 

"Colonel."  Murdock reached out to grab his arm.

"What is it, Murdock?  We need to make a move here."

"I know that.  But you three... You should just go.  A grounded pilot who can't even run away from the enemy isn't going to be much use."

 

"We don't leave people behind."

 

Murdock protested but Hannibal cut him off with a wave.

 

"It's not open for debate.  B.A, Face, let's move."

 

++++++++++

 

Reluctantly, Face found himself wondering whether it would have made any difference if they'd just run for it.  He instantly despised himself for even considering it.  Probably wouldn't have made any difference anyway, he told himself.  They'd been hopelessly outnumbered.

 

He looked down at Murdock still curled on the seat.  His eyelids were fluttering slightly and he made a small noise in the back of his throat.  Face moved to touch his arm to rouse him but Murdock gave a little sigh and relaxed again.

 

Great.  He's sleeping like a baby and I'm having his share of the nightmares.  He felt guilty again for the thought.  He could hardly begrudge Murdock a good night's sleep.

 

He'd had had it worst even back then and they'd never figured out why their captors had singled him out.  Perhaps it was because he was already injured and vulnerable, or they saw him as an easier target because he wasn't Special Forces like the rest of them.  B.A. had offered the opinion, and Face was inclined to agree, that he had simple frustrated them.  Most people screamed and sobbed and begged.  Murdock simply babbled deliriously, or sang long and usually obscene songs or swore at his tormentors in assorted languages, some of which Face was convinced he'd made up on the spot.

 

The problem was, that as the months dragged on, what had started as a defence mechanism had increasingly consumed him.  The man they knew as H.M. Murdock was lost among the varied facades he presented to their captors.

 

'Disassociative Personality Disorder' the psychiatrists would later diagnose it as, but trapped out in the camp it simply seemed as though their friend had crawled inside his own head to hide.

 

++++++++++

 

"He's getting worse."  Face kept his voice at an emphatic whisper, trying to avoid waking the subject of their discussion who was curled at his side, having finally fallen into a restless doze.  "He doesn't know where he is half the time.  He barely knows who he is."

 

"He's losin' it," B.A. said bluntly.  "They gonna break him."

 

Hannibal sighed.  "By the time that happens, he's not going to be able to remember anything of value to them."

 

"Then they'll kill him."

 

Hannibal shook his head resolutely. 

 

"We'll be out of here before that happens."

 

"And how we gonna do that?" B.A. asked.

 

"Haven't you noticed the activity here lately?  When we crashed, this was an unknown base.  We found it by accident.  There were one or two vehicles here, a handful of soldiers.  All right, there were enough to outnumber us, but not nearly as many as are here now.  They've even got a helicopter coming in and out.  Not so easy to keep an eye on all of that."

 

Even Face shook his head doubtfully.  "Even if we can get hold of the helicopter, who's going to fly it."  He gestured at the sleeping pilot.  "Him?  He doesn't even know his name some days.  He can't fly like that."

 

"I can always fly."  Murdock was apparently not asleep after all.  His voice was faint but he seemed more lucid than he'd been in days.  "Get me in a chopper and I'll fly it."

 

Hannibal leaned over and squeezed his shoulder.  "You're the best pilot I've ever met, Captain Murdock.  I believe you could fly us out of here in your sleep.  All we need to do is get you a bird."

 

"Sure thing.  I'll like one of those pure-dee green ones please." Murdock smiled broadly and for a few moments before he fell back asleep, he seemed himself again. 

 

Face looked at Hannibal.

 

"You don't really believe we can steal a chopper and just fly out of here, do you?"

 

"Honestly?  I think it's unlikely.  But we need to keep focused on something."  He pointed at Murdock who was sleeping silently with a faint smile on his lips.  "He needs to keep focused on something."

 

The harsh morning light struck the camp and Face's first thought was that it had finally stopped raining.  His second was to realise that it was not the light which had woken him but Murdock muttering fervently to himself.

 

"Don't lose it.  Hold it together.  They're not going to let you up in the sky if you lose it, friend."

 

He broke off when he noticed Face was awake and his voice changed to a breezy, conversational tone.

 

"Good morning, Faceyman.  And did you get a comfortable night in these beautiful scenic quarters?"

 

Face smiled at him in surprise.  Hannibal clearly had a point.  With the thought of an escape plan in motion, Murdock had managed to pull himself together somewhat.

 

"I had a lovely night, Murdock.  But you're not going to have such a good morning if you wake B.A."

 

"But it's such a glorious sunny day, I would never forgive myself if I let him miss it!"

 

He leaned over to where B.A. and Hannibal were still sleeping and made a shrill impression of an alarm clock.

 

"This is your early morning waaaake up call!  It's I-don't-really-know-what-time in the morning and the sun is shining!"

 

B.A. shot bolt upright and narrowly missed grabbing Murdock by the neck when the pilot scooted back over to his own side of the cage.

 

"You crazy fool!  You ever wake me like that again and I'll..." He left the threat hanging.

 

Hannibal sat up more slowly, looking unruffled by the early hour.

 

"Good morning, Captain.  You're in fine spirits today."

 

Murdock shrugged and gave him a slightly manic grin.  "What's not to like?  Such a lovely spot, such fine accommodation and it's B.A.'s turn to cook breakfast!"

 

Face glanced nervously across the camp at the pacing soldiers.  While Murdock's high spirits were preferable to the near catatonia of the past few days, they were drawing unwelcome attention.

 

"Pipe down a bit can you, Murdock?"

 

"Huh?  Sure.  Anything for you, Faceman!" Murdock declared in a marginally quieter tone.

 

It was too late though and two of the men were already heading towards them.  Murdock followed Face's line of sight and seemed to shrink.

 

He scuttled to the far side of the cage, cringing against the bars, all his temporary elation lost.

 

"Don't let them take me.  Please.  Don't let them.  I can't..."

 

Face moved over to comfort him and Murdock grabbed his jacket, twisting his fingers into the material.

 

"Please don't let them hurt me.  No more.  Promise me.  Please."

 

Face felt his insides twist.

 

"I can't, Murdock.  You just have to hold on."

 

"I can't!  I can't do this anymore.  It hurts and I get confused and I can't always find myself again afterwards.  I can't hold on any more.  I can't."

 

B.A. came over to join him.

 

"Yes.  You can.  You crazy, man.  But you still stronger than they are."

 

Murdock shook his head and B.A. grabbed him by both shoulders and repeated himself emphatically.

"Yes.  You are."

 

"It's not for much longer, Murdock," Hannibal stepped in with his support.  "Just think about that pretty green chopper we're going to get you.  You'd better starting planning our course home 'cause we're out of here just as soon as Face gets his hands on it.  And you know he can always get his hands on anything."

 

Murdock looked from one to the other of them and grinned through chattering teeth.

 

"'Kay," he whispered.  "But Faceman you just better get the right colour because I'm ready to fly."

 

The soldiers were at the bars now.

 

"We'll see if he talks as loudly to us, shall we?" one of them sneered.

 

Murdock was shivering violently, but didn't protest as they reached in and dragged him out and Face could hear him murmuring to himself.

 

"Fly, fly away..."

 

By the time soldiers had hauled him a few yards away, the usual morning sounds of the camp were interrupted by the incongruous sound of Murdock belting out a Frank Sinatra song at the top of his lungs.

 

"Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away..."  

 

++++++++++

 

Murdock shuddered suddenly and woke just as Face reached over to shake his shoulder.

 

"Face?"

 

"Still here, Murdock."

 

"Where are we?"

 

"New England."  Face frowned in concern.  "Murdock, I told you that already."

 

"Oh, yeah.  Sorry.  Sometimes I get confused.  Forget things."

 

"That's all right.  Don't worry about it."

 

"It's the weather.  Everywhere looks the same in the rain and the dark.  Wind's picking up too."

 

He shivered.

 

"Are you cold?"  Face asked.  "I think there's another blanket under the seat."

 

"Not that cold.  Summertime isn't it?"

 

Face nodded.  "Just a freak, summer thunderstorm."

 

"In New England," Murdock repeated, as though trying to fix it in his mind.  "What time is it?"

 

"Almost four."

 

"I wish the rain would stop."

 

"Yeah, me too."

 

++++++++++

 

The rain had returned and night had fallen before the guards dragged Murdock back.  B.A. caught him as the guards shoved him through.  His eyes were open but unfocused and his lips moved soundlessly as B.A. carefully laid him on the ground.  B.A. settled him as comfortably as he could then looked up at Hannibal, an almost accusing expression on his face.

 

"I told you, they'd take it out of his hide if he went on like that."

 

"He'll be all right."

 

"No!  He won't be all right!  He isn't all right!  Look at him!  They did that to him 'cause you went and got his hopes up.  All that talk about gettin' out of here.  He ain't gettin' out of here!  None of us are."

 

B.A. finished his tirade and slumped back against the bars.  Murdock shifted his head slightly to stare out at the rain.

 

"I know my responsibilities to this team, B.A.," Hannibal said quietly.  "This was a special assignment.  We could have had any pilot I asked for.  I asked for Murdock.  So don't think I don't understand how my decisions on this mission have affected him."

 

B.A. fell silent.

 

"And we are going to get out of here," Hannibal continued firmly.

 

Murdock stirred and rolled over.

 

"You asked for me, 'specially?" he whispered.

 

"Yes I did."

 

"'M sorry."  He sounded dazed and Hannibal looked puzzled.

 

"Sorry?  What for?"

 

"Crashed, didn't I?"  Murdock gave a choked laugh.  "And after I spent all day dodging everyone so they couldn't tell me the pick-up had been scrapped too."

 

"Scrapped?"

 

"'Cause of the weather.  Already lost one team, no point losing a chopper and crew as well, they said.  That's what I heard anyway.  But they couldn't find me to tell me that."

 

"But surely when you went to sign out the chopper...?"

 

"Think I'm nuts don't they?  By time they realised what I was doing I was already in the air.  I just didn't hear them telling me I wasn't s'posed to go."

 

Even in his current state the look of fake innocence on Murdock's face was irresistibly comic.

 

"Captain Murdock, are you telling me that you disobeyed orders, snuck off base and stole a helicopter to come and retrieve us?" Hannibal asked sounding as though he was barely suppressing laughter.

 

"Uh, yeah," Murdock admitted, then frowned.  "I didn't mean to tell you that.  Hard to keep my head straight." 

His eyes slid away from their faces and went back to staring at the sheets of rain.

 

"I can see me out there.  Looking at me.  Can't you see the way the rain makes a mirror?  I can't tell which reflection is me though."

 

Hannibal frowned at this and shook Murdock's shoulder.

 

"Murdock.  Stay with us. We're still getting out of here.  We still need you to fly."

 

"Anytime," Murdock whispered before slipping into unconsciousness.

 

++++++++++

 

"Still with me, Murdock?" Face asked.  Murdock blinked and tore his gaze away from the rain running down the window.

 

"Still here.  What time is it now?"

 

Face checked.  "4.15"

 

"Is that all?  Faceman, don't tease.  What time is it really?"

 

"Murdock, it really is 4.15."

 

Murdock stared back out of the window.

 

"Feels like we've been here for hours.  What time is it?"

 

Face sighed. 

 

"4.15."

 

"Oh.  Yeah, you said."

 

Twice, Face thought but didn't correct him.

 

"Just try to relax okay?  We'll be out of here as soon as it's light."

 

"'Kay.  Wish I could have brought Billy along."

 

"I don't think he'd be very happy stuck in the van."

 

"Well neither am I.  We could have kept each other company."

 

"Hey," Face jokingly protested.  "Aren't I keeping you company?"

 

"Oh, sure.  Sorry.  I do miss Billy though."

 

++++++++++

 

"He was talkin' to that damn imaginary dog last night."

 

"He's getting worse again," Face agreed.

 

Hannibal frowned then pointed across the camp.

 

"They're coming back."

 

"Something must have happened.  They can't have had him an hour yet.  Usually takes longer that that before he even stops telling them nursery rhymes."

 

All three of them watched in concern as two guards hauled Murdock along.  Unusually, he was conscious enough to be staggering between them instead of being dragged, and he sounded as though he was giggling.

The guards shoved him into the cage and hurried off.

 

"What's going on?" Hannibal wondered aloud, watched the guards hurry across the camp.

 

"Murdock?"  Face was trying to get some sense from the pilot who was still laughing.  A choking, painful sounding giggle, mixed with gasping almost incoherent words.

 

"I heard what I wasn't supposed to hear they didn't know I could hear, didn't know I could understand.  They're tearing strips off each other in there for letting me hear."

 

"Hear what, Murdock?" Hannibal asked urgently.

 

"I know a secret.  Wasn't supposed to know, no, no.  Shhhhh secret secret.  Soldiers don't know.  Prisoners don't know.  Only crazy Murdock knows."  He spoke in an odd sing-song voice then started giggling again.

Hannibal caught him by both shoulders and shook him gently.

 

"Murdock.  Listen to me.  What did you overhear?"

 

"Secret."

 

B.A. shook his head. 

 

"He didn't hear nothin'.  Just crazy talk."

 

"They did bring him back early," Face pointed out.  "Something happened."  He leaned in next to Hannibal. "Come on, Murdock, talk to us."

 

"It could be important.  It could help us get out of here.  This is not the time to lose it, Captain." Hannibal said in a no-nonsense tone that made Murdock shake his head slightly as though struggling to focus.  He blinked at him several times before speaking.

 

"You said we were getting out of here.  Said we'd have a chopper.  You promised."

 

"We will get out of here.  First, you need to tell us what you overheard."

 

"Can Billy-dog come with us?"

 

"Of course.  Now come on, let us in on this secret."

 

Murdock nodded and adopted a conspiratorial tone.

 

"Heard them talking, two of them, probably thought I was still out or couldn't understand or wasn't listening but they talked like I wasn't there.  One asked when they were out of here.  Said it was about time anyway, said the camp was too big, too visible.  Been seeing too many of our Hueys going over."

 

Hannibal looked at the other two then back at Murdock.

 

"Murdock, did they say when they were leaving?"

 

"Soon, soon.  Days.  But then the Chao came in and he tore them out for talking in front of me so I don't know if that's still the plan."

 

"If they need to move, then they need to move, whether or not a few prisoners know about it," Hannibal said confidently.  "This could be the ideal distraction."

 

"Or the ideal way to get ourselves killed," B.A. muttered.

 

Hannibal gave him a broad smile.

 

"Not us!"

 

++++++++++  

 

A crash of thunder made Murdock jerk upright, suddenly rigid with fear.

 

"Woah."  Face caught his arm.  "Take it easy.  Still just weather."

 

Murdock flopped back into his seat, shivering.

 

"Just weather," he repeated.

 

++++++++++

 

"This weather isn't going to have helped," Face commented.  The rain had let up after two solid days of downpour and the ground was a mudding skating rink.

 

Hannibal looked out at the chaos engulfing the camp.

 

"It's not going to help them anymore than us though."

 

Beside them, Murdock stirred and woke, immediately resuming the hacking cough that had torn at him since yesterday.  He murmured feverishly and Face helped him to sit up and drink some water.  If any of them had doubts about his fitness to fly they kept them to themselves.

 

Hannibal nodded in the direction of the approaching guard.

"Here we go."

 

"The guard stopped outside the cage and grunted at them.

 

"You.  Out."

 

They shuffled out.  B.A. looped his arm around Murdock to support him when he staggered.

 

"Ready to go?" Hannibal asked and got two nods and a dazed shrug in return. 

 

The guard barely had time to look startled before he found himself on the ground.  Hannibal snatched his weapon and looked around to see how many people had noticed the brief struggle.  Apparently in the chaos, no one had.

 

"Right, get to cover."  He gestured towards the treeline.  "We'll work round the edge of the camp to the landing area."

 

They ran towards to the trees, Murdock managing only a few steps before B.A. tossed him over his shoulder.

Moments before they reached cover, the sound of strafing fire made them hurl themselves to the ground.

"That came from the air," Murdock gasped as he tried to move from where he had landed on top of B.A.

 

"He's right," Hannibal said, twisting his head to look.  "That's one of ours."

 

"Yeah but do they know we're some of theirs?" Face asked as a second round hit the dirt near their feet.

 

"Get to the trees.  They can't tell friend from enemy from up there," Hannibal ordered.

 

They scrambled along the ground until they were a few feet into the underbrush and lay panting.

 

The camp personnel fell or scattered into the jungle as the buildings blew apart and the vehicles on the ground burst into flames.  It didn't take long.  The attack had been so sudden and effective that any warning had obviously been useless.

 

Once some level of order was starting to return to the clearing, Hannibal picked himself up.

 

"Come on then.  Looks like we're getting a ride home."

 

He strode out into the clearing with Face and B.A. supporting Murdock between them, close behind him.  He cast around trying to catch someone's attention.

 

"Lieutenant!" he finally snapped at a harried looking young pilot standing beside his just-landed helicopter.  The man grabbed for his weapon and Hannibal raised his hands placatingly.

 

"Colonel John Smith," he introduced himself.  "My team and I have been prisoners here since we went down about two klicks away..."  He hesitated over the date but continued, "Some months ago.  My pilot needs medical help.  We need a ride home."

 

The officer stared straight past him.

 

"Holy God is that Murdock?"

 

Murdock looked up groggily at the sound of his name.

 

"Jeez, man.  We was sure you were dead.  The weather you went up in…"

 

"Chance?"

 

"Yeah, it's me."  The lieutenant stepped forward but Hannibal caught his arm.

 

"We need to get him back to base now.  He's been badly injured.  Can you catch up on the chat later?"

 

"Oh sorry, of course."  The young pilot looked sheepish.  "I'll call in and get permission right away.  They can send another bird out here, I'll take you home myself."

 

Hannibal grinned at his team and gestured at the helicopter.

 

"All aboard."  He clapped Murdock on the shoulder as they passed.  "We got ourselves a ride."

 

"Aww I wanted to fly."  Murdock staggered sideways causing B.A. to make a grab to stop him falling to the ground.

 

"You ain't flyin' nowhere 'til you can walk, fool."

 

"Oh.  Well I s'pose tha's reasonable," Murdock slurred before passing out entirely.

 

They lifted him into the helicopter and climbed in after him, slumping to the deck.  Their short rations and close confinement hadn't allowed for much exercise and the exertion of the day had exhausted them all.

 

"Okay.  We're cleared.  You ready to get out of here, Colonel?" the lieutenant called from the front of the helicopter.

 

Hannibal smiled.

 

"Take us home."

 

Murdock roused as the engines started and a shiver ran through him.  He rolled over until he was lying on the deck with the side of his face and both hands pressed against the metal.  As the helicopter lifted, he let out a rising yell, in tune with the increasing tone of the engines.

 

"Wooooooaaaaaaahhhhhahaha…" He broke off into a loud, mad, delighted laugh.  "Goooooing up!"

 

"Still got that take-off buzz, huh?" came an amused voice from the cockpit.

 

"Always!" Murdock yelled.

 

++++++++++

 

Murdock was leaning back in the seat with his eyes closed, but Face suspected he hadn't gone back to sleep.  His breathing was too regular, too controlled.  Face watched him for a few moments then looked up out of the windshield of the van and smiled suddenly.

 

"Hey, Murdock.  Look.  The sun is coming up."

 

Murdock blinked and opened his eyes.

 

"Ooohhh pure-dee."

 

He tipped his head to one side, wide eyed as a child, and watched the pink and yellow light turn the dispersing thunderclouds into a colourful spectacle.

 

He turned to Face and grinned broadly.

 

"You know, it's going to be a perfect day for flying!"

 

 


Reflections In The Rain by Leia Fee

 

 


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