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Dear Sherry,

A Place To Belong

by: SoulSeeker

 

Rating: NC-17 for strong adult language and some warm fuzzy - slashing feelings. Nothing outrageous just one kissing scene. Some mention of suicide. Kinda dark and angsty.

Summary: A conversation between two mothers. Not what people might think. Takes place during Lease with an Option to Die.

Disclaimers: Don't own 'em , just plays with them every now and then. O.K more now than then. If anyone decides to sue, I got about 32 cents to my name and if you need it that bad you can have it. I do own Ronnie and anybody that doesn't belong to The A-Team. I also don't own any songs in the story. Words with ' and ' between the " and " indicates more then one conversation at a time. Well, you'll see later. Remember, Comments, comments, comments.

 

 

 

                                                              A Place To Belong

 

       I'm sitting at Mrs. Baracus's large dining room table and staring at a handful of plastic baggies; each one filled with a neatly printed label and the colorful pills that I got from Dr. Maggie Sullivan. A well-worn copy of Drugs: Uses and Side Effects and a battered notebook are stacked neatly in front of me. All I have to do was sneak a peek at Murdock's charts every once and a while to keep up with the changing meds and Dr. Maggie supplies the pills. It's a lot easier and a lot less riskier than pilfering them from the medical cabinet at the V.A. I always wrote down the drug, dosage, and affect of the drugs in the notebook; hoping to somehow hit upon the miracle combination to bring Murdock back from the brink of madness. So far, I've collected twenty-four of them. I'm half way though number twenty-five. The notes are also useful in pinning down any negative side effects and allergies. However, now they're all worth absolutely nothing. 

 

    I glance over to the sofa bed where Murdock was sleeping. Correction. More like drugged into unconsciousness. He's completely buried under mounds of Mrs. B's quilts. To her credit, Mrs. B didn't even blink when I asked for extra blankets, even though it was warm inside the apartment. She told me that she could turn up the heat but I declined the offer. I explained that Murdock got cold at night and was used to sleeping under a ton of blankets so that he wouldn't make the rest of the team suffer from the raised temperature. Five minutes later, Mrs. B handed me several handmade quilts, explaining that they were made by five generations of her family, passed on from mother to mother; even one that she made herself. At first, I was reluctant to use them, stating that heirlooms so precious shouldn't be used as ordinary bed covers. Mrs. B just tapped me on the arm and said, "Don't be foolish, Baby. What's the use of having quilts if they're not gonna be used? We always used these for family anyway. And Baby, ya'll are family. Besides, tradition says that some of them should go to the new bride in the family. And I don't happen to see any new brides cooling their heels around here. Now, hush up and go help Scooter make up that sofa bed and get you some sleep. You both need it." She shot B.A. stern look.

 

    "Awww, Mama. Please don't start that now. You know I can't marry anyone when we still on the run. It wouldn't be right." B.A. tried to explain himself, blushing and bowing his head. I was amazed that he could blush from one word from his mother.

 

    "Don't you 'Awww, Mama' me. I know that you can't marry now. You won't be on the run forever, though. You can still look around. It doesn't stop you from finding someone and bring her around here for me to meet. I ain't gettin' any younger, you know. I would at least like to have one grandchild before I go. Now just get started lookin', you hear? And make sure she's a church goin' gal!" And that was that. As B.A. once said, "Ya' don't argue with Mama. Ya' always gonna lose anyhow." And he was right. You never argue with Mama.

 

       So, here I am, 1:00 in the morning, unable to sleep, and staring at a bunch of useless pills. Useless because Murdock flat-out refused to take them. I can't believe it was only four hours ago that Murdock and I had talked. Shit, four hours when my suspicions were confirmed. Three hours ago I made, no I guilted, Murdock into taking sleeping pills. Told him that since he hadn't slept the night before, Mama was kinda worried about him. One night he could get away with an excuse of insomnia, a second night wouldn't wash since Mama knew that he hadn't taken a nap that afternoon. Murdock had tried to argue with me, saying that he didn't need the pills to sleep. He could drop off  without them. The guilt part was when I asked him what would he do if he had a nightmare. Did he really want to wake an elderly woman up with screams? It was dirty pool and I felt like a low-down dirty dog for using it, but I would say anything to get Murdock to take those pills.

 

     I let my mind wander back to the conversation that I had with my lover. After B.A. chased Murdock around the room a few times he had to be rescued by Mrs. B. After the scolding Murdock just up and disappeared. No one took any real notice of it and it wasn't until Hannibal and I took over the chore of cleaning up, giving B.A. and his mother a little more time together; that Hannibal cornered me in the kitchen and pointed out that Murdock barely touched his food. He asked me what the hell was wrong with Murdock. I tried to hedge out of the conversation by asking him if wanted more cigars. I found little shop that sold  exotic types and wanted to know if he wanted something a little different than his usual brand. Hannibal told me to cut the shit and answer the question. He told me that he knew about the incident in the basement. He wasn't blind and my little quip about the heart attack was just a distraction. He knew that Murdock had completely zoned out on them. He knew the real reason that I pulled Murdock away from B.A. and the bomb was because I wasn't sure how he would come out of the trance-like state that he was in. Sometimes he was fine... a little spacey but fine. Sometimes he went into a full-blown flashback, complete with screams and panic attacks. You just never knew with Murdock so you really didn't take any unnecessary risks. None of us could afford Murdock flaking out at such a critical moment. So now that the mission was over, I was ordered to find out what was eating him.

 

     I knew just where to look for my missing pilot. Whenever Murdock was troubled, or just needed some time alone to think, he always headed for the highest point. It was instinct for him. So he climbed a tree, the top of the van, or in this case ... a roof. Anything to be up as high as possible. 

 

    And there he was, sitting way too close to the edge for my peace of mind. His feet dangled over the ledge and his hands were loosely clinched fists resting by his sides. He was staring at the dark night sky, searching for any signs of stars in the inky, smog filled sky. I took a moment to watch him, silently telling myself that we were wrong. That we  were just making mountains out of mole hills. That we were just overreacting over nothing. So he hadn't slept in the past few nights. Big deal. We all had periods of not sleeping from time to time. So what if he hardly ate anything. We all knew that his appetite fluctuated from near starvation to a period of steady eating for days. He zoned out briefly. It wasn't as if it lasted for long. Murdock had been known to slip into a trance-like state for hours, even days at a time. He's better. He really is. He's doing o.k. He's fine. He's … I had almost convinced myself of that little fact when I noticed Murdock's left fist. It was twitching. Oh....Shit! Murdock was off his meds. Completely and totally off.

 

Twitch.

Twitch.

Twitch.

 

    I watched the almost hypnotic motion of the hand. It was the weirdest reaction to the complete absence of drugs that anyone had ever seen. It just showed up one day, years after he'd been committed, totally out of the blue with no explanations. And it was always the left hand. It completely baffled the docs at the V.A. Half of them said that it was a physical reaction to the complete withdrawal of any and all  medication. The other half said that it was a psychoneurosis reaction. His subconscious told his body that it no longer had any chemical restraints and the lack of boundaries caused a psychological seizure of some sort. The head shrinkers blamed the medical docs and the medical docs blamed the head shrinkers. The only thing that the docs could agree to was that it was the damnest thing they ever saw. All the team knew was that it was our only real early warning sign that Murdock was heading for the deep end. He could go from a happy-go-lucky mood to a deep dark pit of despair in the matter of minutes. A depressed Murdock was a suicidal Murdock. We all saw it happen too many times before.

 

Twitch.

Twitch.

Twitch.

 

     The thing that really pissed us all off was that Murdock knew about it. He knew about it. He may have gotten rid of most of the meds that the V.A. shoved down his throat but he always took at least one or two. Any one or two. Even taking aspirin avoided the twitch. He knew and he still went completely off them. I wondered how we missed the signs. Well, to be honest, none of us had been looking for any. We were all so worried about B.A.'s mother that none of us had been seeing any change in his behavior. He had always been a little off the wall so we hadn't paid any close attention.

 

     I wondered how I had missed the signs. For God's sake, I was sleeping with the man! Why hadn't I noticed anything? Of course, I hadn't really been paying any attention to odd behavior in the middle of hot passionate sex with Murdock. Kinda hard to think when all the blood flowed from the big head to the little head that was shoved into Murdock's tight ass. Who noticed anything when they were busy cumming their brains out? I mean, really, who did!? So it wasn't really my fault, was it? I tried to make sure Murdock took his meds, but I hated nagging him. He always gave me a little lost boy look when he was nagged. It made me feel like an ogre. Besides, Murdock should have been taking his meds. He should've. It wasn't my fault. It wasn't our fault. It just kinda happened. Didn't it? Maybe. Kinda. Sorta. Hopefully.

 

Twitch.

Twitch.

Twitchtwitch.

 

  Determined to find out what was going on with him, I approached the seated figure, making sure that I lightly scuffed some loose rocks on the roof. We learned long ago not to sneak up on Murdock when we weren't on the job. Too many bad reactions over the years had taught us that. I softly called out to him, hoping not to startle him off the edge. The only sign that Murdock gave that he heard me was a half- cocked head before he went back to searching the night sky. I reached him and crossed my arms loosely around Murdock's middle. He immediately tensed up. I fought the urge to tighten my grip and just pull Murdock off the ledge. I knew that if I tried, Murdock would instinctively fight; causing him or me or both of us to fall off the apartment building to our deaths. I felt him relax a little when he realize that he wasn't going anywhere. The ledge was at a perfect height so that I was able to rest my head on Murdock's shoulder with no problem.

 

Twitch.

Twitch.

Twitch.

 

    We just listened to the hum of the city for a while. I waited a few more minutes before speaking. Turning my head and softly kissing Murdock's neck, I asked him, "What's wrong, baby? What's eating you up inside?"

 

     There was such a long pause that at first I wasn't sure that he heard me. Finally he took a deep breath and let it out slowly before he answered. "What makes ya think anythin's wrong, Face?"

 

    Oh…fuck! If the twitching hand wasn't a clue, the voice was. Murdock's voice was dull, thick, heavy, flat, totally devoid of any accent or emotion. Nothing at all like the sweet honey-slow Southern drawl that I was used to hearing in the middle of the night; cuddled up together after a bout of slow love making. Taking a deep breath I tried again.

 

    "Why are you off your meds, Murdock?"

 

    There was another long pause before he answered. "What makes you think I'm off my meds? I'm still taking some of 'em." 

 

    I gently reached around, capturing the twitching hand and brought both of them to rest in Murdock's lap. I let Murdock stare at our hands for awhile before speaking again.

 

     "Want to tell me another lie? We promised each other a long time ago to always tell the truth. Now, why are you off your meds?"

 

    Murdock shifted a little in his seat before he finally answered, "Somethin' was makin' me itch."

 

     Franticly I searched the inside of Murdock's jacket sleeves, checking his arms for the telltale signs of an allergy rash. Murdock had a bad habit of scratching an itch until nothing was left but a raw bloody mess. He wouldn't stop unless he was physically restrained. Finding nothing, I quickly ran my hands under the tee-shirt, feeling his stomach and chest. 

 

    Murdock captured my questing hands and said, "Not there. Not on me. In me. Inside my head, deep in my brain. Like thousands of tiny maggots wigglin' around. Makin' my blood creepy crawl and my toe-nails furry. She can't take me without you." 

 

    I was used to the abrupt switching of conversation from Murdock. Over the years we could talk about three or four totally unrelated topics in a single conversation about something completely different. The trick was to try to keep up with Murdock's stream of consciousness. Most of the time it wasn't too difficult. Well, some of the time anyway. Tonight was no different.

 

     "Who can't take you without me?" I asked, hoping that this conversation wouldn't have too many twists and turns. Murdock didn't say anything for awhile. He tighten his hands around mine in an almost painful grip.

 

    "Mrs. B. She can't have me without you. She can't! We're a package deal. You and me. Together. You said so!"

 

    Oh, so that what was bothering him? That comment from Mrs. B. about adopting Murdock? To tell the truth, comments like that no longer bothered me. Oh, when I was growing up in the orphanage, I was almost desperate to be adopted. By anyone. But, I had Father Magill and the other priests and nuns. As the years went by without an adoption in sight, Father Magill took me aside and told me, "God has a special family in mind for you, my son. One day you'll find them and nothing will ever tear you apart from them. He always has a plan for everyone. Trust in God, Templeton. He'll never let you down."

 

    For a long time, I didn't really believe the old priest. After all, I had grown up, went to collage, met and lost Leslie, and then went to Vietnam. It was in 'Nam that I finally found my family, one by one. Hannibal was clearly the father of our odd little group. Not because of his age, but how he always looked after his 'boys'. B.A. was the older brother. A little over protective sometimes but ready to beat up any school yard bullies. Murdock was anyone from the mischievous little brother to the strange uncle living in the attic. You could never tell from one day to the next which one he'll be. I wasn't sure what my role filled. Maybe a third cousin or something, but I knew it was somewhere in the family.

 

   Softly kissing the side of his neck, I tried to reassure him. "I'm a little too old to be adopted now. Besides, I have you and the rest of the team. That's more then enough for me." 

 

     Murdock quickly shook his head. "No. No, you need a mother's love. Everyone needs a mother's love. It's not enough. She'd have liked you. I know she would've." 

 

    I was pretty sure that another topic switch had happened. "Who? I think Mrs. B likes everyone."

 

     Murdock was shaking his head again and tighten his grip on my hands. "No, not Mrs. B. My mother. She would have liked you a whole lot. Wonder what it would have felt like." 

 

     Was that another switch? I wasn't too sure so I decided to risk a question, "What? Being adopted? I don't think about that anymore."

 

    Another shake and tightening. "No. I wondered what it would have felt like to be blown into itty bitty teensy weensy tiny bits by a bomb. Or to fall off the building. Do ya' think we'll hear the splaaat? Would it hurt? Think they have chocolate ice cream in heaven?"

 

    A sudden cold shiver crept down my spine, like I'd suddenly been doused in ice water. Oh … double fuck! How long has he been having these thoughts? Still resisting the urge to drag him off the edge, I carefully phased my next question, probing gently, "How often have you thought about this? Was it before we came to Chicago?"

 

    Another shift, and because we were so often in tune with each other, I didn't even have to see his face to know that Murdock was frowning when he thought about that question. "Awhile. Yeah." Two direct answers to two direct questions. 

 

    I fought the urge to yell at him, thinking 'It's not really Murdock's fault. I know he's trying hard; trying to stay on the meds. Sometimes he just can't help himself.' Heaving a deep silent sigh, I asked my next carefully thought out question.

 

     "Why didn't you say anything before now? We could've done something about it."

 

    Murdock snuggled deep into my embrace before he answered in his little lost boy voice, "Ya'll woulda left me behind. Wanted ta meet B.A.'s mama. Still miss mine. Wanted to meet her, see what she was like. She's pretty, ain't she? Not at all like the big mud sucker. I hear their screams in the middle of the night."

 

    "Yeah, baby. She's real pretty. She's real nice too. Whose screams, sweetheart? When's the last time you slept?" I had to swallow a sudden lump in the middle of my throat. Murdock gave a shudder and it had nothing to do with how windy it was up on the roof.

 

    "The guys from the camp. Dead and dyin'. Dyin' and dead. They're all around me, all the time screamin' and talkin'. Talkin' and screamin'. Blamin' me. Yellin' at me to join 'em. Babies crying for their daddies. Daddies that they'll never see again. Never even met. I shoulda been a better pilot. It's my fault we crashed and had to go to..toto that place. My fault. You jus' shoulda left me there. I deserved to die for getting' ya'll in that mess. I wanna see my mother again. The last time I slept good was the night before Mama joined the angels."

 

    I fought back the tears at the sound of utter defeat and despair in his voice, thinking, 'Oh, God! He's crashing fast! How he managed to keep it together this long I'll never know. And he's right. We never would've brung him if we had known. We'd have insisted that he stay and get stabilized before we even thought of taking him on a mission. But, B.A. was upset about his mother and we just never saw anything wrong. Or wanted to see anything wrong. I have to make him get some sleep. We'll think about it more in the morning.'

 

    Hugging Murdock tightly I tried vainly to reassure him. "It wasn't your fault we crashed, Murdock! You did all you could! In fact, if it had been any other pilot we'd all died that day. You saved our lives! You did! It was two days after the crash when we were captured and we were klicks away from the site. They didn't know about the Huey. They didn't know you were a pilot at first!"

 

     I pulled Murdock off the ledge and shook him by the shoulders, trying to get though to the distraught man. "It! Was! Not! Your! Fault! Do you understand?" 

 

    He just looked at me with big sad brown eyes. I knew that he wasn't listening to me. He never did when he blamed himself for something. Looking into the slightly glazed look, I had my own flashback to the fateful crash. I wasn't lying when I said Murdock did all he could.

 

 

    "'Oh, God!! Oh, God!' 'Get us outta here man! Get us out!' 'Fuck a duck!' 'Every gook must be firing at us!!' 'Shit, this tin can's fallin' apart!' 'Get us the motherfuckin' outta here Howling Mad!!!' 'I'm hit! I'm hit!' 'Medic! Where's that motherfucking medic at!?' 'That bastard's dead, man!' 'Fuck it! Sam just bought a trip home in a fuckin' body bag!' 'These Fuckin' New Guys are droppin' left and right!' 'Oh man, we're dead! We're all dead!' 'Shut the fuck up man!' 'Jesus H Christ! When those sonsafuckin' bitches gonna run outta ammo!?' 'Hurry fuck up and get us outta here, H.M!' 'We got a motherfuckin' target painted on us!' 'Shit, look at the holes in this piece of shit!' 'I can't see 'em! Where are the motherfuckers?!' 'I can't see anything for all this jungle shit!' 'Where the hell are they?!' 'Shit! Where are those bastards?!' 'I'm hit!' 'Hang on, man!' 'Damn it, another Fuckin' Cherry just bought a ticket back to the World!'

 

    'Where are sonsofbitches?! I can't see shit either!' 'Where are those short lil' assholes?' 'Another Cherry just got busted!' 'I want off this fuckin' ride! I'm too short for this shit!' 'About to get shorter, asshole!' 'Shut the fuck up, Carlos!' 'This is one fucked up war, dude!' 'Fuck it, we're screwed!' 'Where those cocksuckers hidin' at?!'" I can hear the screams of all the men in the chopper. Everyone was ether yelling or shooting out the doors or both. The simple pick-up from a short mission just went to hell in a handbasket! Out of nowhere it seemed as if the whole NVA army was taking potshots at us. The jungle's so thick it's hard for my guys to get a bead on the enemy. I shove guys out of the way, trying to get to the front. The chopper's taking hits from all sides, making the craft lurch from side to side. I smell smoke from our own guns and the scent of burning oil . 'Must have hit an oil line' I vaguely think. Stumbling over men, finally crawling to keep from being pitched out of the chopper, I finally reached the front. Hannibal had tried to haul me back, telling me to stay still. I ignored him. I have to reach Murdock. I have to make sure he was alright!

 

    Reaching the front, I stick my head between the pilot's and co-pilot's seat. The first thing I notice is the fact that Jerry, the co-pilot, is dead. An unlucky bullet had taken half his face off, along with most of his brains. Poor sweet Jerry, sitting there, strapped into his seat with most of his brains decorating his lap. Jerry, from Mississippi, one of Murdock's favorite co-pilots. Dead. Jerry, who didn't blink twice when Murdock introduced him to Gertrude the Huey. Most of the other pilots were too serious for Murdock's off the wall humor and he delighted in making other people squirm with his bug-eyed wild man act. Naming his Slicks and Hueys Gertrude and insisting that others call them by it made the other pilots uncomfortable. I remember when Murdock introduced Jerry to Gertrude, grinning all the while. Jerry just smiled, tipped his helmet back and said, "Pleased to meet you, Ma'am." Murdock shot him a shit-eating grin, slaps him on the back, and buys him a round of beers at the base bar. I asked him later if he thought Murdock was crazy for naming his choppers Gertrude. Jerry just kinda looked at me, thinks for awhile and finally said, "Well Face, I'll tell ya. I don't think too many of these ol' boys are completely sane around here nohow. I jus' figure one more don't matter. 'Sides, I have an uncle that likes to make moonshine stark nekked. If that ain't crazy I don't know what all is."

 

    I instantly liked the kid, privately thinking that all Southerners were completely off their rockers. Ray once asked him why the name Gertrude. Why not Marylyn or Farrah or even Ellie May? Murdock just kinda looked at him and said, "Why not?" Why not indeed. Unlike most guys from the South, Murdock and Jerry never judged others by their skin or religion. Poor fucker is deader then a doornail now. Looking forward I see that parts of windshield are either gone completely or spiderwebbed into millions of pieces. Blood dotted the glass that was there. The controls are smoking, shooting off sparks from exposed wires. I can't figure out how Murdock is able to fly with all the smoke surrounding the cockpit. I finally look over at him, swallowing hard. Murdock looks like hell. Blood covers his face and most of his chest. I not sure if it's Murdock's or Jerry's and I don't want to know. Sweat pours down his face, making little rivers in the blood covered cheeks. Murdock's arms shake with the effort to keep Gertrude in the sky.

 

    I notice a large piece of metal sticking in his leg, causing more blood to pool on the floor of the plane. Parts of him twitches when an exposed wire makes contact with bare skin. Incredibly, the captain has a grin on his face and he briefly turns to me, showing a wild maniac gleam in his eyes; he looks like he's having the time of his life in this shit storm! Murdock turned forward, opens his mouth, and started to belt out, "You ain't nothin' but a Hound Dog!" Just as I'm about to ask just what the hell he thinks he's doing, two sets of hands grab me and haul me back. B.A. and Ray keep a tight grip on me, not allowing me to go anywhere. "Don't distract 'em man! Let the crazy suckka land this thing! After that I swear I'll kill 'em and never step foot off the ground again!" B.A. growls, clearly scared out of his wits. Ray chimed in, "Yeah, Face. You'll just distract 'em being up there! Let 'em do his magic and we'll land safely! He's never let us down before! He needs to concentrate!"

 

    I look at them as if they were as crazy as Murdock! Pointing towards the cockpit, my finger shaking, I finally manage to get out, "You-you know what that maniac is doing up there?! That fucker's singing!! Can you believe he's singing?! He's actin' like we're on the way to some Sunday picnic!! This ain't no ride in the park!! We're getting' shit kicked outta us and he's fuckin' singin' up there!!" I knew I was on the verge of hysteria and couldn't help but thinking that Father Magill would wash my mouth out with soap if he ever heard what I just said. Not to mention all the Hail Marys, Our Fathers and penance I would have to do. 

 

   Hannibal just looked at me and asked, "Oh, yeah? What's he singing?" Rolling my eyes I reply, "Elvis. He's singing 'Hound Dog'." Hannibal just grins at me and said, "That right? Let me know when he starts 'Blue Suede Shoes'. I love that one!" I stare at him, speechless. Pretty soon the guys on the chopper stopped screaming obscenities and are yelling requests. "'Hey, Murdock, sing 'Jail House Rock!' ''How about 'Return to Sender'?' ''Love Me Tender'!' 'Heartbreak Hotel!' 'Proud Mary!' 'Hey, asshole, that ain't no Elvis song!' 'Who the fuck cares?' 'He know any James Brown?' 'James Brown? Where the fuck you from, man?' ' 'Detroit, asshole!' 'Fuck all that shit! I wanna hear 'Rescue Me'!" There's a lot of laughter after that one. I give up. Maybe I'm the crazy one! 

 

   Suddenly someone yells out, "Shut the fuck up!! Just shut the motherfucking up!! Anybody hear that?!" We all shut up and listen. We hear nothing beyond the groaning of the chopper and Murdock's clear tenor voice. The enemy guns are silent. We made it! The yelling starts all over again, only this time it's over good news. "'All fucking right, man! We outta the Hornet's Nest!' 'Knew that crazy bastard 'll get us through!' 'The fuck you did!' 'We get back to base after this I'm gonna drink myself blind!' 'You already blind motherfucker! Can't hit the broadsidea th' barn standing two feet away with a bazooka!' Fuck you Asshole!' 'Drinks on Ronnie!' 'Buy ya' own drinks ya' fuckin' moocher!' 'Everbody Shut Up!! We're not outta the woods yet! He's still gotta land this bird!'" This last from Hannibal. He's right, we realize. Just because the gooks aren't firing at us, doesn't mean we're out of danger. We still gotta land and I have a feeling that it won't be pretty. Hannibal and I made our way back to the front to Murdock. Sticking our heads between the seats, I avoid looking at Jerry. We interrupt Murdock in the middle of 'Chantilly Lace' by the Big Bopper.

 

    Looking at us over his shoulder, he grins at us, "Weeellll Heelllooo Baabbbbyyy!!! What's shakin' ya' bacon? To what do I owe for this lovely visit this fine day?" He sounds remarkably like the late singer. "What's our situation, Captain?" Hannibal asked, getting right to the problem. Turning towards us again, Murdock grins at us, "Situation normal, all fucked up Sir!" Snapping a little at him, I practically yell at him, "Tell us something we don't know, Murdock!" Shooting another grin at me he said,"Did ya' know that the Blue Whale is the largest mammal on Earth?" "Murdock!!! Stop fuckin' around up here! What are our options?" "How you muchachos feel about crashin'?" "It doesn't exactly fill my heart with joy and gladness!" "Well, how 'bout crashin' and dyin'? How's that make ya' feel? Gotta pick one or the other, baby!" Interrupting us Hannibal finally snaps out, "If you two are finished with your lovers spat, tell us what's going on, Captain!" Glancing at him, I could help but to think, 'Naahhh! He couldn't know! Could he? Nah, just an expression. Probably. Maybe. Hopefully?'

 

    I almost missed Murdock's reply and mentally groan to myself. His Southern accent was more pronounced, thicker and heavier. Extreme stress or anger did that to him. Either those or when he was pulling one over on unsuspecting Yankee Cherries. Man, I loved to see those guys faces after they talked about that 'ignorant in-bred red-neck hick' they had just met in the bar turned out to be their pilot. The shock on their faces were priceless. God, I hope I get to see that again. "Well, Suh, it's like Ahh said b'fore. We gonna crash fore sho'. Nutten Ahh can do 'bout that. Mosta these lil' dohickeys and thingamabobs ain't a workin'. Gonna havta guess. No flat places ta land, do mhaa bes' tho'. Gotta lighten' tha load a lil'. Chunk everthin' out th' door tha' ain't breathin' or attach ta somethin' breathin'. Keep everthin' tha' useda breathe too. Store all ya' baggage in th' overhead compartments. Strap ya'selves down. Place ya' trays in the upright positions. Don't pinch the stewardess. Put ya' heads between ya' legs an' kiss yaasses goodbye...."

 

    We left him in the middle of his little impromptu speech to carry out the instructions about lightening the load. B.A. and Ray rigged the remaining cargo to explode on contact with the ground. No sense in letting Charlie get their hands on anything that might be used on our guys. The chopper begins to shudder badly by the time we finish strapping ourselves down. Gertrude begins a high pitched whine when we drop another couple of feet. The skids of the chopper are brushing tree tops and above all of it, we can still hear Murdock singing something from Buddy Holly. Shit! Whose next? Richie Vallens? Apparently some of the others have the same thought. 'Fuck! Don't that crazy bastard know any songs by somebody who didn't die in a plane crash?' ' Elvis ain't dead, asshole.' 'Oh yeah? I saw his last movie. That fucker died in the box office!' 'That was cold, man.' 'Not as cold as my dick's gonna get if we don't make it back to base. I promised that new nurse I'll take her out when we get back. Nothing like a little round-eyed pussy!' 'You fuckinbullshitin' man! Don't nobody gets to the new nurses before Faceman here!' 'That's a fact! Faceman probably charmed her panties off before she stepped off the truck!'

 

    I was about to reply to that when the plane took a sharp half roll to the left. Shit! He can't be serious about landing in the middle of the jungle! He really is crazy! The straps hold us in but they don't prevent us from being tossed against each other and off the sides of the aircraft. There's a horrible screeching noise as the tree branches tear into the plane. Everybody's yelling and praying again. "'Dear God, get us safe on the ground!' 'I don't think He's listening anymore, Carlos!' 'Try again! Maybe He stepped out for lunch!' 'Don't you dare blaspheme, Jack! God'll get ya' for sure for that!' 'Hey, as long as He don't take the rest of us with him, He can have that heathen!' 'I ain't no heathen! I'm an atheist!' 'Thought there weren't no atheists in fox holes!' 'Take another look, Einstein! We ain't in no fox hole!' 'Fox hole, plane, don't matter! Hey, any port in a firestorm, baby!'" Another pitch to the side and Oh Holy Fuck!!! I think my right shoulder just been dislocated! No, not think. It is! The pain races along my shoulder and into my side. Before I could do anything, another shake from Gertrude sends me head first into her side. There was nothing after the darkness.

 

   I wake up on the ground, Ronnie's face looming over me. "Youse o.k. L.T.? Ya took a hard knock onna head. Talk ta' me, man!" Ronnie's Brooklyn accent is thick and heavy. I take stock of myself. Pounding head and the pain in my shoulder had gone down into a dull roar. My arm is strapped down to my chest and there's a bandage around my head. B.A. or Ray must have relocated my arm and took care of the head wound. "Yeah, I'm o.k. Ronnie." Shit, was that my voice? I sounded weak and shaky. Clearing my throat I tried again. "What happened?" There, better. "What happened? We crashed, that's what happened! Big time, too." Looking around, knowing Murdock's crash history, I tried to find the remains. Tapping me on the knee, he points upwards. "Not down here. Up there! Crazy fucker landed us in tha trees!"

 

    Following his finger I gaped at the sight of the chopper stuck in the trees. It looked for all the world like an insect stuck in a gigantic spider web. Now I know now why Murdock wasn't too concern with crashing in the dense jungle growth. High above us, pointing nose down, the thick jungle vines held her hostage. The top rotor blades were completely snapped off. Huge chucks of metal were gouged out of Gertrude and the tail rotor was hanging by a slim cable. The sunlight winked off the glass littered jungle floor. The smell of oil and gas was heavy in the air. It looked like some toy that an angry child had thrown away. Long cables trailed out of the chopper doors, wrapping around the surrounding trees. Must have been how they got everybody down.

 

   Looking at Ronnie I asked, "Anybody hurt?" What I wanted to ask, but didn't dare, was 'Did anybody die?' I dreaded an affirmative answer. Murdock always took it hard if someone died in one of his crashes. Even though it wasn't his fault, he always blamed himself. He always tried to land nose down if there wasn't any choice, to protect the guys in the back. No matter that it might end his life, his first thoughts are always to protect his passengers. "Yeah, but nutten serious. Ever'bodies mobile. We los' t'ree guys b'fore the crash tho'. Hannibal and the others wrapped an' secured the bodies to tha' chopper. We hated ta' do it, but it beats puttin' 'em in a shallow grave and this way, scavengers and th' fuckin' V.C. can't get to 'em. Capt'n said he could find this place again inna dark. Don't see how he foun' it inna light. Crazy bastard. My grandma, God rest her soul, said that crazy people were touched by the Hand of God. Didn't believe it 'til now. Ain't no other reason we ain't all playin' a harp or roastin' in Hell right now. Murdock had ta've been touched by God!"

 

    Ronnie helps me up and I walk a little unsteady towards the guys. Taking another look at the wreckage, I silently agreed with him. Nothing but the Hand of God could have saved us this time. God and Murdock's piloting skills. Ronnie left to help with the other wounded, muttering something about insane lunatics, slanty-eyed slopeheads and a fucked up backwards country. Hannibal, B.A. and Ray were gathered around a map, trying to find a way out of this nightmare. The other guys were either pulling guard duty or tending to the injured sitting on the ground. I found Murdock sitting by himself, head hanging down, injured leg bandaged and his arm propped up on his raise uninjured leg. He had stripped off his flight suit and was dressed in a spare set of jungle greens that he kept under his pilot seat for emergencies.

 

    He looked like the rest of us; just another grunt on the ground. He kept the clothes in case of a crash landing, just in case he was ever captured by the enemy. It wouldn't do for any pilot to be caught on the ground. The V.C. really, really hated pilots. We've come across too many bodies of unfortunate pilots to dismiss the reports as just mere rumors. As much as I've already seen and done in this war, those bodies always caused me more nightmares then I care to think about. I don't knows what goes though Murdock's mind when he sees what little remains are bought back to base, knowing that he knew these men; or just the knowledge that these guys were pilots, just like him. As far as we know, he's never mentioned what he felt about what happened to them. That one day that it just might be him that a patrol finds like that. Just the thought of the day we might find Murdock's body in that state was enough to send me to the latrine to throw up. 

 

   I sat down next to him. He wouldn't look at me, but I could see that someone, probably Ray, had cleaned the blood off his face. I knew that he wouldn't have noticed it himself. In fact, he once went almost a whole day with blood painting half his face from a head wound and he never noticed. "Pretty sure that Ronnie thinks that you walk on water. If he was a woman he'd probably want to have your baby." Nothing from him. Not even a lewd gesture. Please, say something to me! It took a full five minutes before he spoke to me. "You alright, Faceman?" His voice sounded flat and dull. Most likely some form of shock. Trying to lighten the mood a little, and tell the truth, I said, "My shoulder tried to take a trip to Mars without the rest of my body and it feels like a marching band took up residence in my head. A tone-deaf marching band." Nothing. Not even a token chuckle. "Sorry about that, man. I crashed again. B.A.'s gonna pound me inta th' ground for sure this time." I stare at him. I can't believe it! He's blaming himself?! "It wasn't your fault, H.M. In fact you probably saved our lives. On second thought, no probably about it. You did save our lives!"

 

    Murdock says nothing for a long time. "My fault that Jerry's dead. Nothing you can say that can change that fact. I was suppose to be co-pilot today. I was suppose to be in that seat. Me! I was suppose to let Jerry do the pilotin' today. Was trainin' him for his own Chopper. Ya'll need all the air support ya'll can get. But he got a letter today. His wife just had a baby girl. She has a head full of red hair. There was a picture enclosed. Beautiful baby. He said she looks jus' like his wife. Sure didn't take after him. She named her Jackie, after the former First Lady. She apologized for it not bein' a boy. Said that they could try for that boy he wanted when he got back. Never gonna have that chance now." Please God. I wanted him to say something before, but now I want him to just Shut Up! "It still wasn't your fault, Murdock." He just went on as if he never heard me. He probably didn't. "He was jus' so excited and I knew that he wouldn't be able to concentrate on flyin'. You guys needed a steady hand, and since I know every fuckin' thin', I took over. Me and my big ego. I was suppose to be in that seat today. I was gonna ask him somethin' ... don't remember what now ... and his face ... his face just kinda exploded a little. Big chunks ripped from his body. Blood everywhere. Some of it landed on me. In my eyes and mouth. Couldn't see anything but a red haze. It tasted like warm copper pinnies. Think that makes me a vampire now, Face?"

 

    Oh, God! He sounds really bad now. He still hasn't looked at me and I just want to pull him into my lap and hold him close. But I know I can't do that. Not here and not now. Taking his face in my hand, I force him to look at me. "It was not your fault. In fact, if it had been anybody else at the controls, we would have all been killed. You know that! We know that! Jerry knew that and that's why he didn't fight you about being co-pilot! If he really wanted to be Captain, he would have argued with you until you gave up. It! Wasn't! Your! Fault!" He looks at me with big sad brown eyes. The same eyes....

 

 

... the same eyes that were looking right at me now. I blink. Damn, how long was I out of it? Couldn't have been for long. A few seconds, a couple of heart beats, maybe. Not for long, I know that. Early on, when we were first on the run, I had a flashback that lasted ten minutes. No one could get though to me and I didn't remember anything about it. Murdock had panicked and it took days for us to finally calm him down. Murdock hadn't even started to fidget yet. Shit, I lived all that in just a few heart beats. What kinda Hell does he visit? He would zone out for hours, days sometimes. Even though he says he doesn't remember anything, we all know he's lying about it. He remembers and still never talks about them. But, we let him have his secrets. We don't like it, but we know he needs something to himself. Something that doesn't involve the team or the shrinks. Something all to himself, even though we know it tears him up inside.

 

    Smiling gently at him, I rub my hands lightly up and down his arms. I'm gonna have to con him now, and it makes me sick inside. I don't want to, but he needs sleep and I'll do anything to make sure he gets it. Making sure he's looking in my eyes, seeing me, I tell him, "I want you to sleep tonight. I know you didn't last night, no, don't try to lie and say you did. After your guard duty shift and mine, you kept B.A. and Hannibal company during theirs. And no, they didn't say anything to me about it. I overheard B.A. tell Mrs. B. that you drove him crazy during his shift."  Just a small lie among the big ones.

 

    Shuffling his feet a bit, he mumbles, "Tattletale." I grin a little at that and think, 'Thatta boy, Murdock! Show some spunk, now!' I half expect to hear him say the old Tommy Smothers line about how Mom always liked him best. But, the moment passes and the half smile that had formed faded. O.K., time to get serious now. Making sure he's still listening to me, I go in for the kill.

 

    "Murdock. Honey. I want you to take some sleeping pills tonight. Just for tonight. You need to sleep and I know you won't be able to do that without them." His eyes filled with panic at the thought of those pills. He hated taking anything to make him sleep. He once said that them made him feel trapped. Like he couldn't escape any bad dreams. Like he was drowning in fear and that he was afraid that one day, he just wouldn't wake up, ever again. But we all knew that there was no way around it this time. He needed sleep and he needed to do it tonight.   

 

    "I can sleep tonight on my own, Faceman. Really I can! You'll see. I don't need any pills. Honestly!" His breathing hitches some, like it always does when he's trying not to have a full blown panic attack. He talks faster, trying to either convince me or himself. "Honestly, I can! Just you wait and see! I'll be visiting Sleepy Land before my head hits the pillows! I can drop off without help. So, I don't need anything at all! Nothing at all!"

 

    Shit! Now he's all but begging for a reprieve. What's next? Him on his knees, crying? Time to put the last nail in the coffin. There's a big lump in the pit of my stomach over what I have to do next. Still smiling at him, I decided to go all out and use the big guns. Guilt. I thought that Catholics and Jewish mothers had the corner market on guilt, but we don't come close to him. Murdock can feel guilt over someone having a hang nail in China.

 

    "I know that you'll try to sleep. I do. But you know and I know that you'll just toss and turn for a few hours and then you'll be wide awake, looking for something to do for the rest of the night. And if you do manage to sleep a little, you'll wake up with nightmares. You know you're prone to them. We're used to them, but B.A.'s mother isn't. Do you really want to wake her up with your screaming in the middle of the night. She's an old lady and she might be frightened. You don't want that, do you?"

 

    I know what he's thinking now. Not that Mrs. B. would be scared that he screamed all Bloody Mary from a bad dream. It would be that Mrs. B. would be scared of him. That she'll look at him with fear and just more than a little bit of pity. The one thing that Murdock feared above all else, it was that people were scared of him. As if insanity was catching. He's gotten more then a few of those looks from clients over the years. Those cases we tended to try to end quickly, just to get him away from those judgmental eyes. Those eyes that condemned him for his madness, his frequent flights of fancy. Those eyes that caused more torment then nightmares ever did. Those eyes that sent him into a deep depression for the simple crime of not being normal. I hate those eyes.

 

    Dropping his head and studying our feet, he softly whispers, "O.k. Face. If I have to. I'll take them. If you really want me too. I will."

 

     Suddenly I hate all of this. I hate the situation. I hate those fucking pills. I hate that he has to take them all the time. Hate that he can't function without them. Hate that he has to go though this nightmare shit by himself. Hate that we all feel helpless. Hate that he has to feel this way. Hate that we're not enough for him. Hate that I'm not enough. Hate that the doctors can't fix him. Hate that he needs a chemical crutch to keep him from falling into a canyon of darkness. Hate that I feel helpless to help him. Hate that I have to con or bully him into this. Hate that I have to sometimes force feed pills to him. And above all of this, in this time and space, I hate myself

 

    Smiling softly, I try to reassure him again, "It's not what I want, baby. It's what you need right now." Taking his hand in mine, I lead him towards the roof top door. Half way there, he stops dead in his tracks. Looking at him, I don't even ask him why. Still hanging his head and holding on, he reaches around his back with his free hand and takes his gun out of the waistband of his khaki pants. 

 

    Handing it to me butt first, still not looking at me he urgently announces, "It's not loaded. Honestly. Check it yourself. Go on."

 

    I check; not because I don't trust him. I do. But I check because he wants me too. I check because he wants me to and it makes him feel a tiny bit better when I do as he asks. Empty. Nothing less then what I'd expect from him. He's not allowed a hand gun at the V.A. so he always has one when he's with the team. Even if there's no case, just a weekend with the two of us or the four of us, carrying a gun makes him feel safe. Protected. Useful.

 

    It's not the fact that he gives me an empty gun that makes my heart flutter a little, missing a few beats. It's the fact that it's empty that does it. And the fact that he's aware enough of his recent actions that prompts him to give up his firearm to me. He knows that I could have quietly picked his pocket, when he's not aware of it; later on or when he's asleep. It's the fact that it's empty that really bothers me. It's empty because he thinks that he might use it on himself later. Not planned. Might. The idea that one day it might not be empty when he feels this way, that one day he just might use it; that's what really gives me nightmares in the middle of the night.       

 

    Leading him towards the door again, we go a few more feet before he stops a second time. I silently wait for him once more. Digging the toe of one sneaker in the rooftop, head still down, he asks his loaded      questions, "You ... uh ... you think maybe ... umm ... maybe they'll be disappointed in me, Face? You disappointed in me?"

 

    I know now that he's still in the red danger zone, at a critical junction. He's always afraid that he'll disappoint us somehow. Let us all down. It's one of the things that we have in common; we both hate to let anyone down. If he thought any of us were ever disappointed in him in any way we might as well push him off that ledge ourselves.

 

    Cradling his face in both of my hands, making sure that he was looking in my eyes, seeing me, hearing me. Looking deep into his soft brown eyes, I poured my whole heart into the truth. "Nothing, baby, nothing that you could ever, ever do, will disappoint me or the others. We love you. I love you. Forever and ever, remember? That's what we promised each other. To love each other forever, no matter what." And just to drive that point home, I leaned in and softly kiss him. Our tongues touching briefly once, twice, three times. It wasn't a kiss of lust or want or passion. It was a kiss of pure love.

 

    Breaking away, I looked into brown eyes that had a slightly glazed look that had nothing to do with drugs. I kinda felt smug about that. Me, I put that befuddled look in his eyes every time we kiss. As if he just saw the most wondrous sight in the world. It always made me feel as if I was king of the universe. It still does.

 

    Taking his hand in mine once again, I lead him though the roof top door. Once we cleared it and shut the door, Murdock gently tugs his hand away from mine. At my silent questioning look, he just looks away and mutters, "We promised B.A."

 

    Ahhh, I remember now. Just before we boarded the plane B.A. took both our shirts in his large hands and shook us a little, just to our full attention you understand.

 

    "I don't want any of your crazy jive, ya' hear? No holding hands, no hugging, no touching, no moony-eyed looks, no disgusting pet names, no smoochy faces, no kissing at all! My mama's a proper lady and she don’t know nothing about this gay stuff! Ya'll behave, ya' get me? I don't care what you two do, but you ain't gonna 'do' anything under her roof! I ain't gonna tolerate Mama being upset! She get upset, I'll get upset! So, don't get me upset! Get it? Got it? Good!"

 

    It did no good to point out that she was already upset. If she wasn't, she wouldn't have called us. Gently, but very firmly, we disentangled ourselves from his tight fists. Smoothing down my shirt I hear Murdock calmly tell B.A. that of course we wouldn't do anything to upset his mother, what did he take us for?, and then he climbed aboard to begin his pre-flight check.

 

    Oh hell, that should have tipped me off right there that Murdock was a little off. Usually when that subject came up, he would prop one hand on his hip, the other in a limp-wristed poise, flutter his eye lashes and lisp, "Why, hush up honey chil' ya' ain't got nutten to worry about. We wouldn't do anythin' to embarrass anybody. Now come on Facey Wacey, we gotta Gay recruitment rally to go to and we wouldn't wanna be late for that, do we? No, we don't! We needa few more good men to cross over to the other side of the street, so to speak. Then we gotta register for that Cher look-alike contest over at the local fruit bar." And then he would swish his hips back and forth as he ran from an enraged B.A. with Hannibal and I hurting ourselves by laughing so hard.

 

    We started walking down to Mrs. B.'s apartment, not speaking or touching at all. Murdock kept his hands in his pockets the whole way, more to hide the shaking hand I think, then out of the fear that anyone will see us holding hands. We were quiet the entire way, a comfortable silence. As soon as we enter Mrs. B.'s apartment, Murdock smiles at her and ensures her that he's fine, nothing wrong at all, just needed a breath of fresh air and he's sorry if he worried anybody. I notice that the smile doesn't reach his eyes. I pulled Hannibal away while Mrs. B. fusses over him and B.A. growls, and give a quick explanation of what was going on. We all know that from now on, Murdock couldn't be left alone; not for one second will he be out of sight from one of us. Not to sleep, eat, change his clothes, piss, shit, or shower by himself. We know very well by now that it doesn't take much time for him to hurt himself if he really wanted to.

 

    Hannibal takes Murdock into B.A.'s old room to get ready for bed and to make sure that he took the pills. Hopefully the little talk that he'll insist on having will go well. Mrs. B. hands me the extra covers and makes B.A. help me get the sofa bed made, making sure that all of the quilts were on Murdock's side, while she changed into her bed clothes. As much as mother and son wanted to stay up to make the visit last, the long day was getting to everyone. I filled B.A. in as much as I can on the situation so far, hoping that he would have some new angle to add. For all his grumbling about Murdock's crazy antics, he could be incredibly sensitive in handling his dark moods. He tells me not to worry about transportation; he'll get a van in the morning and take the first leg of driving back to L.A. Of course we'll have to drive back. No way could we handle a drugged up B.A. and take care of Murdock at the same time. It'll take all of us to keep an eye on him and for once, B.A. wasn't gleeful about not flying. Somehow that felt very wrong.

 

    A very somber Hannibal and Murdock came out. Murdock wouldn't look anyone in the eye and Hannibal gave me a small shake of his head, silently telling me that the talk hadn't gone well at all. After I changed into pajamas and brushed my teeth in the small bathroom off the hall, I was ready for sleep. Saying our good nights, we all went to bed; Murdock and me to the sofa bed, Hannibal and B.A. in his old room, and Mrs. B to hers. B.A. had the spare cot with Hannibal taking the bed at Mrs. B.'s insistence. You didn't argue with Mama. She surprised me when she came out of B.A.'s room after saying her goodnights to them, and tucked us in. No one had ever tucked me in before, too many of us at the orphanage and too few grown-ups to handle that particular job. It felt nice. Murdock was already asleep when she removed his cap and kissed him on the forehead. After my goodnight kiss, she wished us sweet dreams and went to bed.

 

    After a few hours of just laying there, knowing that I wouldn't get any sleep for awhile, I got up and gathered the pills and books, trying to make sense and come up with a solution to this whole mess. I was still stuck on the problem when a rich alto voice next to my ear said, "Is this a private party or can anyone join?"

 

    I was so startle that my arm knocked the books and most of the baggies off onto the floor. Some soldier I am, huh? Got snuck up on by an elderly lady. Now I know where B.A. gets his stealth from. For such a large man, he can be awfully quiet when he wants to be.

 

    "I'm sorry Baby. I didn't mean to scare you like that. Are you alright?" Looking up from my crouch on the floor, gathering everything up again, I flash her a reassuring smile.

 

    "Yes, Mrs. B. I'm fine. Just startled me a little I guess. I thought everyone was asleep by now. I didn't wake you up, did I?"

 

    "No, Baby. You didn't wake me up. With all the excitement the last few days, I couldn't sleep myself. And just what are you doing wide awake I might add? And I told you to call me Mama."

 

    Smiling at her again, I place everything back on the table and hold out a chair for Mrs ... Mama next to me. Good manners were learned and practiced at the orphanage. Father Magill made sure that we all pulled out the chairs for the nuns at meal times and to always be polite. He always said that good manners would carry on after we grew up and left, it was something that would never leave us. He was right. No one could ever guess how many cons were pulled off just by using good manners.

 

    "Goodness, child. Are you feeling alright? How many medications do you have to take? Should you even be up? Maybe you should lay down now, is there anything I can get you?"

 

     Her misplaced concern made me want to cringe. She's looking right at the pills sitting on the table again. I knew I had to tell her the truth. I couldn't let her think that anything was wrong with me; to let her worry about someone else's health. Me, a practical stranger, when she has so much more to worry about when her son is on the run from the military. Besides, I have the feeling that she could sniff out a lie at fifty paces, no matter how much charm I could layer on. And of course, there's the fact that she could probably turn me over her knee and spank me, broken arm or no broken arm. She's B.A.'s mother and she deserves the truth. No matter how much it hurts.

 

    Still smiling, although a little sadly now, I tell her, "No ma'am ... uh Mama, those are Murdock's medications."

 

    "He needs all these? What are the books for then?" I could almost laugh at her disbelieving tone. Almost. It is almost hard to believe that someone needs all these pills in one day. It was almost funny when Murdock said that he took so many pills that he rattled when he walked. It almost made me laugh until I remember how fucking serious he was being at the time.

 

    "The docs at the V.A. gives them to him to get him to function in reality, or, as close to reality that they can get him. I use the drug book to look up the meds, find out what they do, and I write it all in that little notebook there. It helps to keep track of everything he's on and to help find out any latent allergies or negative reactions that might pop up later. It's saved our hides more then once in the past, knowing what's going on in his system."

 

    "You love him very much, don't you?" She can't really mean what it sounds like, does she? Please, don't let it be what it sounds like. Oh, God, how do I answer this one? I can't really lie, but maybe I can bend the truth a little. A little misdirection may be in order.

 

    "Of course I love him. He's my best friend. I love Hannibal and B.A. too. Also Father Magill, the priest who practically raised me at the orphanage, and a few of the other priests and nuns there. Some of them liked the Bible verse 'Spare the rod and spoil the child' a little to much. To tell the truth, not to be bragging, but I usually deserved what I got. When they could catch me. I was a fast runner back in my day. Oh, don't worry. Once Father Magill found out about them, they weren't there for very long. He didn't tolerate any form of abuse of any kind there."

 

    Dear God, I'm babbling now, aren't I? I'm starting to sound like Murdock during one of his high speed rants. Mrs. B. gave me a shrewd glare and frowned at me. I broke out in a sudden sweat. I wasn't surprised that she called me on my little truth bend. Alright, an out and out lie, happy God?

 

    "I mean 'love' as in the Biblical sense and you know it. You know that I mean the way a woman loves a man, but in this case, a man loving a man. Scooter told me all about you and I may be an old lady, but I got eyes and a brain in my head. I know what's going on under my own roof. Don't try to smooth talk your way out of this. I can't be charmed by anyone's good looks, you know. I know more then most about what's been going on in this old world. People think that old ladies like me don't see anything that's going on, but we see plenty. I'm still 'with it', as you young folks would say, in today's society, you know. I know the score. Now, you sit right there and don't move. I'll be right back." And with that, she left.

 

    I just sat there, stunned. I can just imagine what 'Scooter' told her. No wonder she hadn't wanted to 'adopt' me. Who would want a lying, scheming, thieving, con artist for a son? My own parents didn't want me. Better yet, who would want a queer for a son? Hell, who would want two queers under their roof? I got a cold chill along my spine. Shit, she knows! She knows about me and Murdock! Oh, God! She's gone to get B.A and make him throw us both out of her house! No, beat us up and then throw us out! No, she'll make him shoot us. It's no less the what we deserve for upsetting her. No, beat us up, throw us out, and then shoot us! He wouldn't want to do it, but he'll do anything for his mother. I wonder how far I can drag a drugged up Murdock. I may out weigh him, but he has a good couple of inches on me. Maybe I can get Hannibal to help me. Or even B.A. to help drag him to the curb. It's the least he can do after beating us up, throwing us out and shooting us. 

 

    I was so caught up in my fantasy nightmare, that I didn't register Mama when she came back. I didn't really 'see' anything until she plopped a bottle of Jack Daniels in front of me and turned around to get a couple of glasses out of the cabinet. I was so shocked by the sight of that bottle that I failed to pull out her chair for her. Mama had booze in her house. Not the usual cooking sherry that anyone would expect, but Jack Daniels. Hard liquor. An alcoholic drink. A bottle of alcoholic drink. The same-self woman that B.A. swore didn't even sip sacramental wine at Easter. She poured a few fingers into both glasses and nudged one in front of me. 

 

    I was still staring when she said in an amused voice, "Well, close your mouth and drink up, Baby. You look like you could use a belt right now." Still in shock over the fact that Mama had demon alcohol, as Father Magill used to call it, that I slugged back the drink. The burning trail hit my stomach with a vengeance and made tears come to my eyes. I just barely restrained myself from a coughing fit.

 

    Casually reaching over, she pounded on my back. The amused voice was back. "I just meant for you to sip it, Baby. Not drink it all at once. Haven't you ever had Jack Daniels before?"   

 

    Still coughing, finally tampering off a little, I ruefully answered her, "Yes, ma'am ... uh Mama ... Ol' J.D. and I have shook hands more then a few times. I didn't know that you knew what it was. Does B.A. know that you drink?"

 

    Snorting indelicately, she poured us another two fingers before she spoke. "Yes, I know what Jack Daniels is. And I don't 'drink'. 'Drink' indicates someone who imbibes all the time. I don't. My doctor recommended a few sips every now and then before bedtime to help with the occasional nights that I can't sleep. It's not addictive like sleeping pills and it's actually good for the heart. And before you get that worried look on your face, there's nothing wrong with my ticker. He said to think of it as preventive medicine. I keep a bottle in my lingerie drawer so that no one finds it. So, no. Scooter doesn't know anything about it, and he won't, will he?"

 

    I knew that it wasn't exactly a question being asked. I gave her a smile that said, 'No, he won't find out from me.' We sip in silence for a while. I look over at Murdock's still form. I knew that he wouldn't have moved an inch. He never does when he's sedated. I just need to know for myself that he was still there. That he was alright. Yep! Still there and still asleep. I don't know whether to be relieved or not.

 

    "You didn't answer my question, Baby. You love him, don't you?" She must have seen me watching him.

 

    Smiling a little sadly at her, I answered truthfully. "Yeah, Mama. I love him very much. And he loves me. We're each others heart and soul. I don't think that either one of us would last very long without the other. I've come to respect your opinion a lot and I pray that we haven't disappointed you in anyway. I hope that   we don't disgust you too much. I know that most of the world doesn't approve of our kind of love. But, it's right for us."  

 

    She snorts and sips again. "I'm not disgusted by love, Baby. There isn't anything wrong with true love, no matter who it is. Man and woman. Man and man. Woman and woman. God made all kinds of love and He never makes mistakes. Only man. The only love I'm disgusted by are those bastards who go after children. So, no. I'm not disappointed in either one of you. As long as it's true love, I'm alright with it. And I can see that it is."

 

    I'm shocked by her language, but I wisely say nothing. We sit in silence again. I watch Murdock and she watches me. Hesitantly she asks me, "What was he like before he was ... sick?"

 

    I couldn't help it this time. I winced. Laying her hand on my arm she asked, "What? Did I say something wrong, Baby?"

 

    I tried to reassure her. "No, you didn't say anything wrong, Mama. It's just ... it's just that when someone says 'sick' like that in connection to Murdock, it always sounds as if the only thing wrong with him is a summer cold or the flu. That he can be cured just as quickly. He's not sick. He's mentally ill. Huh. Mentally ill. It took me, all of us really, a long time to come to terms with it. To believe it. Murdock never seemed to have any problems accepting that. I don't think that he thinks of himself as mentally ill; more along the lines of 'crazy as a rat in a sh... outhouse' as he likes to say." Great save Face. Real smooth there.

 

   "Sometimes I think that he doesn't want to get better. Just ... sometimes. Frankly, I think that he's enjoying himself all too much. As to how he was before, well, sorta like he is now, but not as outrageous. He liked to tell jokes, pull pranks and sing while he flew missions. He liked to let out a Rebel Yell during take-offs. Made B.A. crazy with that. He's still a great pilot. Still sings and yells during take-offs and B.A. would still be annoyed if he wasn't knocked out all the time. But he had his serious side to him. Pick any subject at all and he could carry on a conversation about it. No bulls ... uh ... beating around the bush about it. He knew what he was talking about. And read. He read all the time. Anything and everything that he could get his hands on. Fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, technical manuals, horror, autobiographies, histories, classics, even the romance novels that the nurses in the MASH units craved. It wouldn't have shocked me in the least to find out that he read all the files in all of the offices, even the top secret ones. Nothing was safe from him. Once, he read War and Peace in three weeks. Can you believe it? Three weeks. He read it between missions, during meals, he could even walk and read at the same time. Dam ... darnest thing I ever saw. He even read it when he was suppose to be asleep; had a flashlight under the sheets. I think that if he could have figured out how to keep the pages dry, he would have taken it into the showers. And he could remember every word of it.

 

   He once told me he had a photographic memory. Maybe that's part of his problem now. He remembers every detail of that living horror. Any way, one night the base was being shelled by the enemy, and there we were, stuck hiding in a half buried steel pipe, praying that we wouldn't be next to be hit. It was the team and a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears newbies who had just stepped off the truck that morning. Never saw combat before. Heck of a welcoming they had. The rest of the team and I were pretty calm about the whole deal. We'd been though similar attacks before. The new guys were beginning to fall apart when Murdock started to recite War and Peace. From memory. We were used to his little rants by then, but they looked at him as if he just sprouted a second head and announced that he and his brother were there to sell them insurance. Half way though page three, and we knew it was page three because he told us, the newbies were calming down. It was a few hours before dawn that the shelling stopped, but we were so engrossed in the tale, that none of us moved. It wasn't until his voice gave out around chapter four that we made him stop. Those new guys kept pestering him though, wanting to know what happened next. He always picked up right where he left off, until B.A. and Ray made the guys stop bothering him. Told them to read the book if they wanted to know how it ended. I think that they did it to keep his voice from going out so often. Or, maybe to just shut him up, I could never really tell back then."

 

    I pause to take another sip and Mama waited for me to continue. "When we were in the P.O.W. camp we had to do things to keep our minds occupied. To keep our minds off the pain." Please, don't ask about that time. No one needs to know about that. "Murdock either sang or recited Shakespeare from memory. He knew the characters, lines, and even stage directions. Everything. It drove the guards to distraction. He never seemed to lose his place though. He always seemed to pick right up from where he was last; lines, scenes, acts and all. But, all good things come to an end, as they always say. He got the worse of it all. The Cong hated pilots, and the General that ran the camp, wanted to break him more then the rest. Either break him or kill him. The more they took him, the longer he spent away from us, well it began to affect him. He began to slip from reality. It was like his photographic memory was missing some of the negatives. He started to mix the stories up. Did you know that Macbeth dated Juliet and Puck had been crowned emperor of Rome? But despite the twisted stories, we still encouraged him to talk. We knew that if he was still talking, no matter that most of it made no sense at all, then he was still there, ya' know? Still in reality somewhat. It was when he got quiet, stopped talking, we became really worried. As B.A. said, 'A quiet Murdock jus' ain't right'. He began to withdraw into himself. Cut himself completely off from the rest of us. His body was there but his mind was somewhere else. Some place where we couldn't reach him, help him. Then he would be back to babbling again. Towards the end though, of our fun little trip to Hades, he got real quiet for a real long time."

 

    "And now?" Came the soft question.

 

    "Now? Now he doesn't have the concentration to get half-way though a comic book before his attentions starts to wander. He has his good days and his bad days now. The only thing that he can really focus on for long periods of time is flying. In the air, he can hold it completely together. He's all there. You said that B.A. told you all about us and that you knew we were together. What did you mean by that? What exactly did B.A. say?"

 

    "He didn't have to tell me a thing, Baby. I could see it in your eyes."

 

     At my questioning look, she pulled something out of her sling and placed it on the table in front of me. It had a faded red and green ribbon attached to it. It was the Christmas picture that I had smuggled to her through various underground contacts during the first year that we were on the run. It was mostly composed of Vets that believed that we'd been set up; men that had known us and wanted to help. Many whose asses were saved by Murdock and were willing to risk their freedoms to pay back a debt they thought they owned him. They might have felt that it wasn't enough for their lives, but it more then covered the cost. They provided clothes, money, food, identity and transportation. They kept us safe at times and got us the meds that we needed to keep Murdock calm in his most violent and irrational states. They were a God send and at times I wondered where we would have been without their help.

 

    Seeing the picture again for the first time in years, I was assaulted by memories. Man, we look young back then. Young and yet, so old and wise at the same time. Murdock and I were on the bottom, my arm slung over his too thin shoulders. I was facing the camera but my eyes were drawn to Murdock's wide smile. His hands were cradled to his chest. It looked like he was holding something but his arms were empty. Hannibal and B.A. were behind us, both of them smiling as well; even though B.A.'s was a little sad. He really missed his mother.

 

    Pointing to Murdock, she asked, "Why was he holding his hands like that? Did he hurt them some way?"            

 

    Chuckling a bit, I told her about the Christmas picture. "No, Mama. He's just holding his dog Billy up for you to see. Billy's invisible and he wanted to make sure that you saw him. Murdock was in his hyper stage at the time; never stopped moving, never slept. He was like that for days at a time. We didn't know where he was getting his energy from because he never seemed to eat or sleep much. All we knew was that it was wearing us down and the only way for us to get him to sit still long enough for the picture was to promise him that Billy could be in it. It took a lot of talking from my end to get B.A. to agree to that. I don't think that he's ever forgiven Billy for 'ruining' the picture."

 

    "Why the picture? You boys could have been caught so easily. I was worried about Scooter but I wouldn't have wanted him to take any unnecessary risks. And I didn't know that Murdock was in Fort Bragg with you. The papers never mentioned him and I saved every story about you three."

 

    Taking another look at my slumbering lover, I decided to tell her about the beginning, as painful as that might be. "Murdock wasn't with us in prison. By that time, we had heard about his breakdown. We figured that he was just faking at the time. Luring the army into a false sense of security before he made his move to break us out. The thought that he was really ill never crossed our minds at the time. After all, he'd survived a P.O.W. camp and went right back to the war, none the worse for wear. He was a little more twisted but nothing that alarmed us at the time. We were all a little crazy back then. You had to be to survive the missions we went on. No sane man would have had a snowballs chance to come back alive. When we broke out we went looking for him. We found him in a veterans hospital in Oklahoma. That place was a real cess pit. They kept him drugged and restrained most of the time. They also physically abused him. These were people who were suppose to help him, not ... hurt him like that. He got enough of that from the V.C.

 

   Once we were away from there, we managed to get an investigation started. They didn't stay open for very long and most of the docs and nurses were jailed for assault and abuse. It was the only good thing to come out of that place. At first we thought that it was the drugs that was making him act ... differently. We really had no idea at the time that he wasn't faking. It wasn't until weeks after the drugs had completely left his system that we understood that he wasn't playing. He was sick. Very sick. He went from one end of the spectrum of emotion to the other. From severe insomnia to sleeping for days. From babbling for days on end to not making a sound at all. From a happy mood to such a violent rage that it took all of us to hold him down long enough to sedate him. From sitting huddled in a corner, shaking with fear to literally bouncing off the walls. From wanting to be close to us to not being able to get with in three feet of him before he starts to scream in terror. He had panic attacks at the snap of the fingers. The only way thing that seemed to stay constant was the night terrors, the flashbacks and the almost non-existing appetite; most of the time we had to force feed him. No way to predict the next crisis, the next combination of madness. No way to control him without drugs. We never knew just what would set him off. It could have been anything out of the blue and never the same thing twice. No way to predict the next attack. It wasn't until after he tried ... he tried to hurt himself, that we realized that we couldn't help him." 

 

    Please God, don't let her ask about that too. It's almost too painful to even think about how close we came to losing him. "I think that hurt the most, ya' know. We protected him as best we could in the camps. When the guards came for him, we tried everything within our powers to prevent him from being taken. We protected him in 'Nam when the brass wanted to keep sending him on suicide missions. The only thing we couldn't seem to protect him from was his own mind. It was as if his mind was ambushing him for no other reason then to torment him. Because it could and he had no way to fight. There was nothing we could do to make him better. When he went ... downhill ... we knew we had to commit him somewhere. A friend told us about Westwood in L.A. They had a great record of success for treating vets and no rumors about any kind of abuse. So, we checked it out very carefully. It was perfect for all of us. It allowed him to get the help he needed and it was a great place for us to blend in.

 

   By that time he'd withdrawn completely. He was worse then when we were prisoners. We couldn't reach him at all. The day that we committed him, I locked myself in my hotel room and got drunk for three days. Went though two bottles of J.D. and a bottle of Scotch. I'm still surprised that I didn't die of alcohol poisoning. Hannibal and B.A. could have broken in and stopped me, but I think that they were hurting just a bad. They settled for pounding on the door and calling me all kinds of fool. They didn't even have the decency to wait until I got over my monster hangover before they laid into me for being so stupid. That was the last time I ever got drunk. It took a year for Murdock to start to recognize us. Another year past before he began to remember things that happened for more then two days in a row. Two years of visiting allowed us to break him out for a few hours here and there. We took him on picnics, the beach, little day trips to get him used to being on the outside.

 

   It was hard for him at first. We kept him with us, away from other people as much as possible to help him relax. He was still ... nervous ... around people he didn't know. Another year of improvements let us keep him out overnight, again a few days here and there. No jobs yet. We finally took him on a small job after we were sure he was better, that he could cope. Sort of like a trial by fire. He had a few rough patches at first, but he did better than we thought. It only took us seven years to do it. He's had a few setbacks, that was to be expected, but he's been with us on jobs ever since. And that's the whole sad story."

 

    No way was I going to tell her that I cried and thought seriously about killing myself in that hotel room. Glad I didn't go though with it now. I also wasn't going to tell her that it took me and Murdock ten years to become lovers again. After what went on in the camp, I'm still amazed that he's ever let me touch him like that again. He's never spoken of it, but the whole camp knew that the pilots were being repeatedly raped.

 

    Mama smiled at me and said, "I know about the day you had to put him in the hospital. Scooter called me and cried for ten minutes. He was so worried about you that day."

 

    I couldn't believe it. "B.A. cried? B.A.? Your son, right? Big guy, wears lots of gold, growls a lot? The same guy that only truly smiles is when he's gonna really put a hurt on you? You sure? He was worried about me? Why? I was fine, Murdock was the one that was off his rocker. He was the one that needed help. Why cry over me?"  

 

    Mama good naturedly slaps me on the back of my head and mockingly growls at me. Now I know where B.A. gets that from. "Yes, my son. He was worried more then you know. He said that he didn't know what would happen to you without that 'fool' to take care of. He said that you needed to take care of him. That that's what you did in the camp and you've never stopped until now. Then. Whatever. I guess you're still taking care of all of them now. That's what mothers do you know. Worry and take care."

 

    It was in the middle of a sip of J.D. when it hit me just what she meant. I was a mother? This time, I couldn't stop myself from choking. She had a devious look in her eyes when she pounded on my back. She had the nerve to grin at me.

 

    I managed to sputter out, "Me? A mother? I realize that it must have been a long time for you, but I don't have the necessary equipment to be a mother. And while we're at it, since I'm involved with another man, I'll never be father either. And I'll never give up Murdock to become one."

 

    "Oh, hush child. Motherhood has nothing to do with biology. Well, in part it does, so don't snicker like that. What are you? Twelve? Real motherhood has to do with heart. What you feel inside of you. A lot of women are mothers who don't deserve to be. Women who abuse their kids. Whose never loved them. Real mothers, no matter the gender, loves with their whole hearts. And that's what you do."  

 

    I couldn't do it. No matter what she thinks, I couldn't let her look through rose-colored glasses at me. Maybe I was being a bit of a masochist about it, but I was a thief, con-artist, and a liar. She deserved to know that about me.      

 

    "Mama, I know you mean well, but I'm not the person you think. I'm not sure what B.A.'s said about me, and as unlikely as it may seem, he must've sugar-coated most of it. I'm a liar, a thief and a scamming con-artist. Its what I do and what I am. I'm sorry to be harsh about it, but there it is. I don't deserve your admiration."

 

    "That's a load of bullshit!" Shocked again by her language, I could only stare open mouthed at her. "You heard me! I said bullshit! You ever stole from your friends? You gonna steal from me or my friends? Some poor soul whose saved all their lives for something, gonna steal from them?"

 

    "No, but ..." She didn't let me get very far. Didn't get a chance to tell her about ripping off that boat lane battery from Murdock.

 

    "That's right! You only took things from the bad guys and only for the good of the team. Never for really for yourself. Right? Right! Mothers sometimes steal things too. No more looks like that. I'm talking about a different kind of stealing. Mothers 'take' things from their children all the time. Things like candy and too many horror comic books. Not to hurt a child but to try to keep harmful things from them. It's not stealing, it's protecting. Scooter told me that you're in charge of the team's finances. They wouldn't have put you in charge of money if they hadn't trusted you, would they?"

 

    "Well, it kinda had to be me. I'm better at numbers and investing then they are. I'm the only one responsible enough to handle money and to keep an eye on the bottom line and the future. Hannibal would have spent the money on cigars, B.A. on cars or guns, and Heaven only knows what Murdock would have spent it on. Someone had to take the money reigns; problems and all."

 

    "And as for lying. You've never lied to your friends have you?"

 

    "Well, actually..."

    "Never to hurt anybody, right? Right. Mothers lie too. About the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny. Monsters under the beds of bad children, and there are no bad men in the world. We tell them that they'll live happy lives for ever and ever. Mothers and daddies never die, never leave them. That nothing bad will ever happen to them. That's the biggest lie of all. Have you scammed and conned me or your friends?" 

 

    "Well, see ... "

 

    "Only for their own good, right? Only things that had to be done. I've scammed and conned Scooter plenty of times. Why do you think he likes milk and vegetables so much? He used to hate milk until I convinced him that it wouldn't give him cooties. He was four at the time. Never mention that to him, by the way." 

 

    Trying to make a point, against myself, I shot in with, "I've scammed a lot of great places to live over the years. You might say I've stolen other peoples lives."

 

    She gave me another look and a snort. "It's not like you can rent under your own name. You still need a place to live. However nice it is, I bet you leave it exactly like you found it. Replaced the food you ate and cleaned up before you left. Right?"

 

    "Well ... "

 

    "Besides, there's other things you've done. Good things. Don't ask, I'll tell you. B.A. told me that you made him go to the dentist to get some cavities filled, right?"

 

    "Well, he wouldn't go before. No matter how bad his teeth hurt. I kept telling him to lay off the candy bars, but you know him. Stubborn as a mule."

 

    "He told me you took care of Hannibal when he got the flu. That you usually take care of them whenever any of them are sick, even if you're as sick as them. True or false?"

 

    "Only because they take such lousy care of themselves. Somebody has to deal with them. They wouldn't take cough medicine if their lives depended on it. I have to nag them about it all the time. Did he tell you I always whined about it?"

 

    "Yes, but I know that it's an act. You don't want them to know that you enjoy taking care of them. You like being needed. Mothers like being needed. It's not very macho, is it?"   

 

    "Guilty, I guess. Yes, I whine a lot. Yes, it's an act. Yes, I like being needed. I need to be needed. I learned that in the orphanage, I suppose. Being needed made me noticed among all the others. Getting  something or doing something got appreciation. Now being needed makes me feel loved. I know it doesn't really make sense, but it's how it makes me feel. If they need me, they love me. And before you give me one of your looks, I know that they'll love me even though they wouldn't need me. But, it didn't start out that way. In the beginning I didn't think that they even have me around if I didn't get things for them, stuff that they needed or wanted. It didn't take long for me to realize that they just like having me around."

 

    "Tell me the truth, now. Did you ever resent Murdock's illness?"

 

    "No! Never. It's not his fault that he's ill. It's not something that he can help. Why would you think that?" I began to sweat again. Fact is, sometimes, only sometimes, I did resent him. Just a little and not for long. And I always felt guilty about it.

 

    "Truth is, sometimes I resented Ben for dying. I know that wasn't a very Christian attitude to have at that time. But I couldn't help how I felt. Did Scooter ever tell you how his father died?"

 

    Mutely I shook my head. B.A. never mentioned how he died. Just that he loved him and was very proud of him. I had a feeling that she was going to share something with me. Something she's never shared with anybody. It gave me a warm feeling inside.

 

    "Ben was a mechanic, a good one. That's where Scooter gets his gift for fixing engines, I suppose. Well, one day he was walking home from work when he saw an apartment building on fire. The firefighters hadn't gotten there yet, and there was some people trapped inside. People were standing around doing nothing when Ben went into that building. He managed to get three people out before the roof caved in. By the time the firefighters got there, it was too late for him and the child he was carrying. He died a hero. We were both proud of him for that. It was something that I tried to inspire in Scooter. To do the right thing, no matter what the risk is. Yes, he gave up his life, but three other people lived who wouldn't have had a chance. You couldn't ask for anything better. To be remembered as being someone who cared about complete strangers. But, sometime during my grief, I began to resent him. I resented that I had to raise a little boy all on my own. I resented that Scooter had to be the man of the house at the age of ten. I resented that he cared so much about strangers that he lost his life. So much so that he's never gonna come home to a wife who loved him and a son that adored him. I resented that he never saw Scooter grow up to become the fine man that he is today. Never met the good friends that he has now. The family that he has now. Both of them. Believe it or not, but I was the one to teach him how to throw a football. Took me three weeks of secret lessons from a cousin to learn how to throw straight. I think Scooter was more proud of me learning then by my teaching him. I went to every football game he played in and cheered the loudest. Everything that he tried growing up, I was there. Over time, though, I stopped the resentment. I realize that although Ben wasn't here on Earth, he was watching everything from Heaven. And he would have been very proud of all of us."

 

    " I know that he'll probably never get any better then he is now. I just want him to be well again. To be like he was before. To never have to spend so much time apart from each other, with him in the V.A. and me on the run. Is that completely selfish or what?"

 

    "No Baby. I don't think that's not selfish at all. I know that you want him to get better. We all want the people we love to be alright. There's nothing wrong with that. And you realize already that it may never happen, but you've accepted that a long time ago. The important thing is, you still love him; illness and all."

 

    "I do still love him. Illness and all. Sometimes I wonder, I know it sounds ridiculous now, but sometimes I wonder how different he'll be when he's cured. No longer insane I mean. Will he still love me? Will I still love the sane Murdock? I mean, some of his charm is his ability to be anyone he wants. To be playful and loving. Will he still be that way later? What if he doesn't want me anymore? What if I don't want the New Murdock? Have we been jeopardizing his chances of getting better by taking him on our cases? Are we doing it deliberately just to keep him with us? If he's better, will he decide to leave the team? Leave me? It's worries like this that keeps me awake at night."   

 

    "There's nothing wrong with you at all. Feelings like that are normal. Worries like that are normal. I know it doesn't seem like it at the time, but God has a plan for everything. Everything will work out in the end. Just trust in Him and everything will be alright."

 

    It was eerie the way she almost said the exact same thing that Father Magill had said years ago. Eerie but nice. Nice that someone that just met me but still cares about how I feel.

 

    "Well, I guess it's time we both went to bed. Tomorrow will be a hard day for us all. Hard to say goodbye when I'll never know when I'll see my babies again."

 

    I help her to clear off the table and give her a kiss on the cheek. She slipped the bottle into her sling to hide it again in her room. I stop her before we cut off the kitchen light. "You ... uh, your not gonna mention this to the others are you? I mean about me being a mother, will you? The last thing I need is to get Mother's Day cards from the team. The teasing could last for years."

 

    Patting me on the cheek, she winked at me. "I'll keep your secret if you'll keep mine. Deal?"

 

    We both look at the hidden bottle. Winking back at her, I kiss her again and declared, "Deal. Goodnight and sweet dreams. I'll see you in the morning."

 

    I watch her go into her room and crawl in beside Murdock. Tomorrow will be a hard day for all of us. No matter how much I wanted to spoon behind him, I think about B.A.'s promise. I can't break it without him knowing about our late night conversation, so I settle for holding his hand under the covers. It's his left and the meds that he's taken has finally stopped the twitching. I marvel at a new feeling. I feel at peace. Home. I have a place now. I am a mother.

    

       The end.

 

 

Author's notes:

 

    O.k., o.k. Before the questions start to come, I'll try to answer a few now. Although I'm from the South, I'm not a racist and I mean no disrespect to any race, nationality, or religion. Yes, the language is raw but it's in the middle of a war. I don't think that they managed to always be polite in a stressful situation. And if being shot at and someone trying to kill you ain't stressful, I don't know what all is. I write Southern so I'll include some definitions for Yankees. Non-Southerns to the rest of ya'll. (big grin here) Jus' cause we talk slow don't mean we is slow. We drop our g's faster then Jerry Fallwell dropped his drawers in a motel room. As for the Brooklyn accent, I hope I got it right. The only New York accents I've ever heard came from N.Y.P.D. Blues and cheesy Mob movies. Yes, I have a cousin Jerry from Mississippi, but he's still alive. I had an uncle that used to make moonshine but I have no idea if he wore clothes or not. Hope so though, that fire got mighty hot I reckon. Still got a couplea cousins in the family business. No idea on their state of dress either. Despite how others think, we're not that close of kin. Both of my parents weren’t related by blood. As for the hidden booze, that's a true story. My great-great grandmother, God rest her soul, kept a bottle of J.D. in the exact same place and for the exact same reason as Mama in the story. She lived until she was 92 and I still miss her sharp wit. She never fooled around about telling people off and she always spoke her mind. Just like Mama B. She past away three years ago, five generations enjoyed her love. However, she mostly knitted, but she had quilted in the past and some of her mother's mother's have been passed down through the generations. I have one that's over 100 years old from her side of the family. Ain't kin great! I'm also aware that the plane crash most likely didn't happen that way, but I thought it made a nice imagery, don't you think so? Most of the stories I've read about Vietnam, the enemy was the harshest towards the pilots. Called them spies and accused them of working for the C.I.A.  

 

    Definitions:

 

    Nekked : As the late great humorist, Lewis Grizzard, once said, it's all in the pronunciation and spelling. 

N-a-k-e-d means you ain't got no clothes on. N-e-k-k-e-d means you ain't got no clothes on and you're up to somethin'.

 

    Cherries or Yankee Cherries: New recruits just arriving in Vietnam. Never seen combat before. Yankee Cherries is self explainin' I hope.

 

    Busted Cherry: New guy died

 

    the World: Anywhere that's not Vietnam or the surrounding counties that's also involved in the war

 

    Yankee: Anybody that ain't from the South. California may be a Southern state but it's been over run by Yankees for years.

 

    I hope I got all of the questions and definitions answered. If not, I'll be mighty pleased to answer any of 'em left.

                 

  


A Place To Belong by SoulSeeker

 

 


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