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JOURNEY’S PATH

JOURNEY'S PATH

by Closetfan

 

Rated: PG-13

Summary: The Team helps Hannibal's friend at the LA docks by looking into a shady situation. Will impersonating a longshoreman be the least of Murdock's problems?

Warnings: Language, Violence.

Disclaimer: Don't own the Team, the concept or intend to infringe on any copyrights. I'm not in it for the money, which is good, 'cause there isn't any. I do it for the jazz, man, for the jazz.

Many, many thanks to Pam, the most patient and supportive beta in the world.  Also, to the members of the ATeam Storyboard, who nursed me through this fic. Y'all are the best!

 

***

"And for a long time yet, led by some wondrous power, I am fated to journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the immensity of life, to survey through the laughter that all can see and through the tears unseen and unknown by anyone."

 

Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls, 1842, vol. 1, chapter 7

***

Murdock's eyes snapped open, his hand reaching for a sidearm that was no longer there. Shaking his head, he rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hands. "Musta been dreamin' -- still in ops mode," he mumbled to himself, squinting in the predawn light to make out the time on the digital clock across the room -- 5:30.

He rolled to a sitting position. Oh, well. Had to use the can anyway. Shrugging on a robe for the nurses' benefit, he shuffled sock-footed to the door. Not that the VA nurses hadn't seen everything under God's sky at one time or another, he grinned to himself on his way down the hall to the communal bathroom.

"Why, Captain Murdock!" The night nurse looked up, brightening, as he padded past on the way back to his room. "When did you get back?" She grinned, leaning forward conspiratorially on the counter of the nurses' desk. "Was the Dr. Watkins who was working on a case study for intermittent memory loss the same Dr. Brown that I met last spring when you went to Michigan to donate a kidney? The day shift went on and on about him."

New Paragraph The nurse regarded him with a twinkle in her eye, and Murdock offered her his most charming, boyish smile. Consuela was one of his favorite nurses, but he knew better than to try to put anything by her. Especially since he had just sneaked back into the VA a few hours ago, after their last mission.

"Well, anyway," she continued, "I'm glad you're back. We've missed you." Consuela pulled his chart, flipping through the pages. "Goodness!" she gasped. "You've been gone almost two weeks -- according to this, you were only supposed to be gone for five days. What happened?" She held up her hand to silence him. "Wait - I don't want to know. Did you at least have your medications?"

Murdock shifted from one foot to another, trying to concentrate. "Uh, mostly, I think, but I'm a little hazy on that one." He gave her another, fainter smile. He wished he could remember....

Consuela came from behind the desk. Putting her arm through his, she began walking him down the hall to his room, chatting soothingly. "Come on, Captain. Why don't you go back to your room and I'll bring your morning meds now, as long as you're up. That way, you can go back to sleep for a few hours. Don't mind me, but you look like ten miles of bad road. It said in your chart that Dr. Richter wants to see you right away when you get back, but I think a little more rest before then would be okay. I'll call his office as soon as his secretary arrives and set up an appointment for you for after lunch."

Murdock nodded wearily. "Thanks," he said, stifling a yawn with the sleeve of his robe.

Smiling, Consuela gave his hand a squeeze and shooed him into his room before heading to the drug locker. She had no idea what caused Captain Murdock's sometimes prolonged absences from the VA, but for whatever reason, Dr. Richter had instructed the staff not to interfere with them. All she knew was that her favorite patient often came back from these jaunts looking the worse for wear.

Shaking her head, she unlocked the cabinet, checked her chart for the latest dosages, and started filling a little paper cup with pills.

***

"So what kept you away so long, HM?"

"Well, ya know, Doc, sometimes things get a little more," Murdock's hands did a barrel roll in the air as he searched for the right words. "Well, more complicated than expected. Few wrinkles in the old sheet, if you know what I mean...."

Alexander Richter nodded, tapping a pen on his desk. He was familiar with Smith's plans. The man lying on the couch in the corner of his office, eyes half closed, was trying hard to appear casual, but he looked like a child waiting to be chewed out.

"I understand, HM. And I know that it's important for you to be with your friends. You all demonstrated to me in South America how you can handle yourselves, and watch each other's backs."

Murdock's eyes opened a bit wider. Maybe Richter wasn't so PO'd. After all, he'd met the guys. Hadn't they saved him in South America from that lunatic general? Maybe he'd just let this one slide by without beating the issue to death....

"However," Richter continued.

Murdock closed his eyes, deflated. Just ride with it, he told himself. The man means well. He just doesn't understand.

"You must know that you're not taking the best care of yourself when you leave the hospital for such long stretches of time. I know you were feeling good before you left. Your medications were adjusted, your therapy was progressing well. Now it's all set back two weeks, and you know that can take a long time to make up."

Richter looked up from his notebook at the man on couch. As the lecture had continued, Murdock's eyes had shut tighter and his brow had furrowed. His knees were now bent, his legs inching up the couch. His arms were wrapped tightly around his chest, each hand clutching the opposite arm.

The doctor changed his tone, softened it a bit. Talk would do no good if Murdock shut him out, and he could see by his body language that was where he was heading.

"You missed a doubles match at the Club on Friday, too," Richter said, smiling. He knew how much his patient enjoyed getting out every week or so to the Beverly Bay Country Club to play tennis.

"Yeah?" Murdock opened his eyes, just a little, looking at the doctor with curiosity. "How'd you do?"

Richter chuckled. "I got creamed. You may be my patient, but you're a much better tennis player than Dr. Hanson."

"Crappy backhand," Murdock said, finally smiling.

"The worst." Richter was pleased to see Murdock's body relax a little and his eyes open again. The doctor moved from behind his desk and sat on the edge of the chair across from the couch.

"I know," he began, "that you want to get out of here some day. But you know, and I know, it's not going to be easy. We have to stay on top of things like dosages, keep up with your therapy, if you're going to continue making progress. You've been doing so well. I really hate seeing setbacks."

"I'm okay Doc, really. And if it helps, I didn't mean to be gone so long."

"Well, try to hold it back for a while, then. We need to do some tests, check where you are with your meds. How were you with those, by the way? Did, uh -- Face? -- was he able to get you any...?" Observing the guilty look on his patient's face, he let the question hang.

"Well, Doc, you know there's a lotta pharamacias in Mexico, but not exactly in the area we were. But I was fine with the pills up till two days ago. No wait -" he paused for a moment, his brow furrowing again. "Three days? I forget." He gave what he hoped would be a disarming grin. "You know me! But I'm fine now. Consuela gave me my morning meds and I had some more right before lunch. Feelin' tons better already. Just need to sleep for a couple of days."

Richter leaned back in his chair and sighed. The A-Team was a double-edged sword for his patient. Although his frequent missions with the Team caused disruptions in Murdock's schedule of treatment, they seemed to give him a reason to try to hold on to the threads of sanity he'd worked so hard to gather up over the last ten years. Richter was afraid that if he forbid these excursions, if he cut Murdock off from seeing the Team, even for his own good, the pilot would drop those threads entirely.

He'd observed first hand the changes that came over Murdock when the Team was absent for periods of time. Distracted and worried, his paranoia would kick into high gear. It had taken years to calm the voices in Murdock's head, but in these instances they came back with a wailing, shrieking vengeance. Telling him every terrible thing that could be imaged was happening to his Team - his friends, his family.... That they needed him, and he wasn't there. Night terrors could only be calmed by heavy sedation. His usual harmless, mildly amusing visual hallucinations, like Billy the dog, took on more sinister forms. It seemed nothing would ease the symptoms.

Nothing, that is, except the ring of the phone. A trusted voice, telling him everything was fine - that they'd be there to see him soon. And then the pilot would struggle back. Wait for his friends. Work hard to show them that he was okay, that he was with them.

Richter smiled again at the tired looking man before him. "Just stick around for a while this time. I've got another doubles match this week, and I have to overcome last week's humiliation. That won't happen if I'm playing with Hanson."

***

Murdock brought his chopper in as low as he dared. "The Howlin' Mad Taxi Service has arrived," he called into the microphone in his helmet, waiting for Hannibal's response. The only sound he heard for a few moments was the thumping rhythm of the rotors as he hovered close to the treeline.

"I repeat, this is Jolly Seven. Acknowledge please, I need your coordinates." The LZ was hot, and he was worried that if he didn't hear from the Team in the next few minutes....

"Murdock!" Hannibal's tinny voice echoed over the static on his headphones. "Hurry up! We need to get out of here...."

"I'm on the scene, guys," he called. "Pop your smoke." His eyes squinted in concentration as he scanned the horizon. No sign of the usual signal. "Pop your smoke, guys," he repeated loudly, clipping each word.

"Murdock!" Hannibal's voice in his ears again. "Murdock, where are you? We need pick up, now!"


"Where are you?" Murdock's voice rose in frustration. "Pop the god-damned smoke, Hannibal! Where are you?"

"Over there!" the copilot called, pointing slightly behind, to the right. "Is that them?"

Murdock swung the chopper around in time to see what seemed to be a swarm of VC aiming an anti-aircraft gun directly at them.

"Jesus Christ!" Murdock heard his gunner's yell just as an explosion slammed into the back of the Huey.

"Murdock, we're being overrun! We need you here now!" Murdock could barely hear Hannibal's voice over pops of gunfire in the background. "We're gettin' killed down here, Murdock, where are you?"

Murdock could barely see through the sweat pouring down his face as he struggled to control the chopper. "I can't find you!" His throat was raw from yelling. "Where are you? Hannibal, I can't -" He felt the chopper jolt underneath him as it took another hit. He heard the copilot's screams, the smoke making his throat burn and eyes tear as he fought a losing battle with the chopper, feeling a strange sensation of weightlessness as the dying craft pitched towards the ground....

Murdock was jolted awake by the ringing of the phone. A magazine that had fallen unread onto his lap when he dozed off after an early dinner went flying to the floor.

"Hey, Murdock, how ya doing? Get a good night's sleep?"

He rubbed his eyes with one hand and frowned slightly. Hannibal didn't usually make contact so soon after they got back from a job. "Slept like a little baby, boss. Y'all okay?"

"Yeah, we're all fine."

Murdock let out the breath he had been holding and lead his mind away from the frightening thoughts that had been forming, back to the conversation at hand.

"Listen," Hannibal continued. "I got a call last night from an old friend of mine, Jake Miller. He's a supervisor on the docks, and he needs us to look into a situation for him. It should only take two or three days. All we've got to do is gather some information from the inside, then Jake'll hand the whole mess over to the police. Piece of cake. I want to send Face by get you."

"Geez, Hannibal." Murdock hesitated. "I don't know. Richter's kinda pissed off. You know he normally doesn't give me much trouble about being AWOL, but this last time he was pretty mad with me. Said he didn't want me going off again any time soon."

"I really need two men on the inside, Captain," Smith said in his most innocent, convincing tone, "You and BA. Are you up to it? C'mon, Murdock." The pilot could picture his commander, cigar clenched between his teeth, grinning. "Would *you* believe Face as a longshoreman?"

Murdock closed his eyes for moment. He was still so tired, and his stash of travel meds had been entirely used up on this last mission. For someone normally so good at math, he'd wildly miscalculated the number of pills in the baggy hidden under his bed. Restocking, even for a short job, would take at least a week of palming at least one dose of medicine a day.

Next time, he told himself, he'd be more careful about keeping a running tally as he built up his private stock.

But, like the Colonel said, it was only for a couple of days. And Face wouldn't last even one as a dock worker....

"Murdock? You there?"

"Yeah, Colonel. I'm here - I'm fine. Yeah. It's fine. Okay." He forced himself to concentrate. "Tell Face to wait for me at the front entrance, though -- I'm gonna have to do the hundred yard dash. No way he'll be able to spring me legit the day I get back, no matter how much the nurses drool over him."

Dr. Richter is not going to be pleased, Murdock thought as he pulled the small flight bag from under his dresser and began to throw in the things he would need for the next few days. But some stuff is just more important than keeping your shrink happy....

Twenty minutes later, he was huffing at full speed across the front lawn of the VA, with three much younger orderlies trailing by a wide margin. He whooped wildly as he leapt into the front seat of the 'Vette. The car shot away from the cub and wove its way into the traffic heading down the street, disappearing into the twilight.

 

(TBC)

 


Journey's Path 1 by Closetfan
Journey's Path 2 by Closetfan
Journey's Path 3 by Closetfan
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Journey's Path 5 by Closetfan
Journey's Path 6 by Closetfan
Journey's Path 7 by Closetfan
Journey's Path 8 by Closetfan
Journey's Path 9 by Closetfan

 

 


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