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<p><b>Title</b>: “Pretenses”

“Pretenses”
by  Charli


Rating: PG-13 to PG-15-ish
Type: Light SLASH. Wartime Action and Drama.
Pairing: Face/Murdock
Summary: My view on how Face and Murdock might have got together, A mission in
Vietnam doesn't go as planned, and out of the horror comes something that they will treasure in the future.
Warnings: SLASH (male/male). Vietnam war setting. Contains violence and bloodshed. Minor character death. Kinda sappy and angsty at parts.
Disclaimer: If I owned them, then I'd be a damn lot richer than I am now! :o)
Chronology:
Vietnam, before the Hanoi robbery, etc., and then back in LA, some years later.
Thanks: A huge THANK YOU to
Casper and Monte for Beta'ing this for me. Thank you very, very, very much for all the help!!! You're stars!
Archive: Yes, please. I'll send html files to ateamfanfic.org, if anyone else wants to put this anywhere, please tell me.
Comments: Pretty, pretty, pretty, please.

 


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 


"Murdock,"
Hannibal roared. "Murdock, go!" The pilot was glancing around frantically at the men running at them from all directions, and at the VC who were quickly closing in. "Murdock," Hannibal shouted, trying to make himself heard above the roar of the Huey. The screams of men being mown down as they raced for the chopper, the shriek of shells overhead, and the pinging of bullets echoed around them. "Murdock!" Hannibal tried once more to snap the pilot out of his daze. The chopper was crammed with men, and if they stayed there much longer, all of them would die. "Captain," he snapped again, pulling rank.

Murdock turned to face him, scared brown eyes shaded by his blue baseball cap. The heavy earphones of his headset had slipped. One was resting on his cheek, the other on his temple, and the strap had slipped back, making him look lost. His eyes pleaded with
Hannibal. They couldn't leave them behind, not all those men. There weren't any more choppers there. How long would it be until others arrived? Possibly too long! They just couldn't leave any of them behind.

"Captain, go!"
Hannibal ordered.

Murdock saw the sense in this, knowing how full his bird was, and he obeyed, reluctantly, pulling back on the stick so the overloaded chopper slowly rose. He kept his eyes down, staring resolutely at the control panel, so that he wouldn't have to see the faces of those who weren't aboard, those who realized they had little hope, that there might not be anyone left to rescue by the time more choppers arrived. He didn't want to see the tortured, helpless faces of those soldiers. Men who threw down their useless guns and raised their arms in helplessness as his chopper left, leaving them alone with the enemy, and possibly little chance of escape.

Temp hung on grimly to the chopper, hemmed in by others, the vibrations going right through him, making his teeth chatter, jarring his aching muscles. The noise of the rotors, the roaring sea of trees below them, the pounding of his adrenaline-fueled heart, all pressed in on him. It all seemed to be going past so slowly. The chopper appeared to barely be moving, and yet the bullets that punched neat holes through metal and flesh alike were so fast. Pinging shots ricocheted off the sides of the chopper alarmingly often.

It was all a blur to Temp, all of it moving with agonizing slowness. He tried to stay alert, tried to keep his exhausted eyes focused on the VC appearing through the forest. But then, he just couldn't look anymore, so he clenched them shut instead, trying to block out all the distressing images. He was so tired, so very, very tired, everything felt like it was moving in painful slow motion.

Opening his eyes once more, Temp focussed on a man in front of him balanced on the landing skids of the chopper, staring at him in a mixture of fear and relief. He also was smothered in jungle mud and mould, with thin red scratches covering his face and arms, trophies from the forest below. His helmet had fallen off, and hair stuck out oddly, caked in mud. He was looking at Temp in desperation, his eyes wide with adrenalin, green flecked through with brown, staring through him.

The Slick jerked suddenly and Temp's stomach lurched. The note of the engine changed to a more strident, urgent tone, the heavy growl of the engine overlaid with a strained scream. The man balancing on the strut slipped, and his eyes wrenched away in abject terror, his hands pulled taut, gripping at the sides of the hatchway, desperately trying to hang on.

Wriggling through the people around him, Temp cautiously reached around the side of the hatchway he was crushed up against, and stretched his hand out to the fallen man. With one hand he grabbed hold of the soldier's wrist. The man looked up, and their eyes met again. Deep, frightened pools of ocean blue, against terrified green orbs speckled with hazel. The side of the hatchway was digging red lines into the soldier's palms, which were greased with sweat, and slowly slipping as the chopper began to ascend and pick up speed.

Eyes locked, desperation and fear a common bond. Leaning out over the hatchway, even with his eyes looking directly at the soldier he was supporting, Temp could not fail to see the betrayal on the faces of those left behind. Those who saw the overloaded chopper leaving, and slumped down, defeated, knowing they had no other way out.

The soldier jerked as he dangled in the air, like a puppet whose strings had been pulled too tight. He writhed, eyes rolling in agony, dark blood gargling up from his throat and spilling out in a frothy liquid over taut, pale lips. Temp stared in horrified revulsion, unable to tear his eyes away, squirming to get his other arm free from where it was trapped against the side of the Slick, to try and grab more tightly at the soldier's arm, whose dead weight grew heavier as he slipped further, his hands limp, lined with red where the metal edges of the bird had dug into them. He was looking at Temp again, eyes not quite focused, rimmed with purple, bloodshot in agony. They rolled one last time, and he slid from Temp's fingers, wriggling in the air as he fell, another gargled scream echoing from his bloodied lips.

Temp stared, uncomprehending, dazed, his mind forced further into stuttering shock, his hand still stretched out of the chopper, still reaching for where the soldier had once been. The soldier whose resting place would never really be known, just lost, somewhere out there in the vast
Vietnam jungle.

 

..........................................................

 

Murdock set the chopper down on the landing pad, back within safe territory. He let the engine idle down and slumped over the controls, resting his forehead against the stick, closing his eyes and trying to block out the images that were vivid in his memory. The images of those he'd had to leave behind.

 

Temp was one of the first out of the chopper, pushed out as the other men fought to feel solid, safe ground beneath their feet. He leaned weakly against the metal as the chopper quickly emptied. Each man called their quiet thanks to the pilot and slowly moved away, trailing mud and jungle debris behind them.

Hannibal gave the Captain a reassuring pat on the back as he climbed out. Murdock nodded and raised his head. He looked behind him, the chopper was empty now, except for mud, leaves and a few soiled bandages, the blood on them dried to an almost harmless looking brown. He fingered a hole in the metal just beside his head. It was an exit hole, the ragged edge on the outside of the chopper. The bullet had obviously just missed him when it streaked in and pierced out through the Slick's armoured hull.

He waited a long moment more, until most of the other men were out of sight and sound. Then he climbed slowly down from the cockpit, easing his stiffened muscles. Everyone was gone already; to the showers, to have their wounds patched up, or to the bar to drown out the memories of this fateful mission, and to toast all those who'd been lost. He knew that was probably where he would also be later on that night.

Temp was still there, though, leaning against the side of the beaten up chopper. He was trying to light a cigarette, but his hands were shaking too badly, so he gave it up, and stamped the match and the cigarette into the ground before striding away.

Murdock watched him for a long minute as he headed off, feeling a pang of concern, before shrugging and finally walking away himself.

 

...........................................................

Rolling over, Murdock banged his head on the rough post of the bunk and hissed in pain. He couldn't sleep. In fact, why was he even trying to sleep? He knew he'd never get any rest, and if he did drift off, the faces of all those men left behind would just come along to haunt him. He got up, jammed the baseball cap on his head, and shrugged into his jacket. Hands deep in his pockets, he wandered outside. Where would everyone else be at this time? Probably getting drunk, or stoned, or both; trying to drown out the memories of all those betrayed faces. Murdock found himself wondering where Temp was and what was he doing that night.

Temp threw himself down in the corner of the supply shed. He pocketed the lock pick he'd used to gain access to the building, and shuffled around the stacks of dusty crates out of sight of the door, just in case someone looked in. He unscrewed the lid off the small glass bottle he carried and took a swig, gasping. It was
Vietnam liquor, potent, hard-hitting stuff.

He dragged his hands through his hair. Why was he here? Not just here, hiding in a supply shed intent on drinking enough to hammer himself into oblivion for a few hours, but here, in the middle of the stinking jungle, in the middle of this stinking war? Leslie, he thought with a heavy sigh, beautiful Leslie Becktall. That's right. That was why.

Almost unconsciously, he hugged his arms to his body. His wrists bore thin scars from a time when he had almost ended his life. It had certainly ended his ambitions. So he'd joined the army, and went to
Vietnam. No need to think here, just follow orders and do what was asked of him. That was really why he was here, he knew.

Murdock looked up at the stars, clear shining pinpricks of light in the dome of the dark sky. What was it like to be a star, to live for a hundred million years, and look down on the life of humans as a mere, inconsequential mote, in the sea of all life in the universe? What would it be like, to never have to fight, to never have to argue, to be up in the sky all the time, without ever having to fly? He walked past the local bar, where rowdy song broke out from the murky interior. There were too many people there that night, so he passed on without stopping.

Temp was jerked back into reality by the pain of the burnt out cigarette searing his fingers. He flicked it away, grinding it into the floor with his heel. The strip of light across the top of the door had faded from bright yellow to a crumbly orange, and now to a bleak, washed-out grey, only slightly lighter than the shadows of the shed itself. He could hear no sounds from the rest of the camp; the noise all swallowed up by the jungle night.

Murdock paused at the supply shed and pushed gently at the rickety door. It was latched shut from the inside. He pushed it harder.

Temp's head jerked up as he heard someone at the door to the shed, pushing on the rotting wood.

Giving the door a hard shove, it yielded, and Murdock slid into the confines of the supply shed, the door closing behind him with a soft squeak of rusty hinges.

The door swung closed, footsteps crunched on the dried mud littering the floor, fallen from boots that had trekked from one end of the jungle to the other, time and time again.

Murdock reached for the light switch in the murky darkness. The bulb did little to alleviate the shadows. Peering around and over the large wooden crates, their contents poorly few, he nearly missed Temp slouched in a corner.
 
A silhouette against the bulb appeared over the top of a crate, a thin head topped with a baseball cap and searching brown eyes, that Temp was almost certain hadn't seen him. Murdock moved away, and Temp nearly gave a sigh of relief, which caught in his throat as the lanky pilot suddenly slumped down next to him on the battered boards.

For a while they exchanged no words, silence stretching between them. Then Murdock plucked the little glass bottle from Temp's hand and took a swig of the liquor, coughing as the strength of it hit his throat.

Regaining his breath he handed it back to Temp. "You okay?" he asked him at last.

Moments of quiet once more passed between them.

"We had to leave a lot behind today," Temp finally whispered.

"Yeah, a lot," the pilot agreed, those tortured faces replaying in his mind once more, "too many."

More quiet. There was a distant rattle of a passing jeep jolting through the jungle, but that was all.

"You ever think this war is gonna end?" Temp asked, his face somber, suddenly lit by the glimmer of a match as he coaxed a cigarette to smoke, and inhaled deeply.

"Someday, I guess," Murdock said, watching the glowing end of the match as it faded from red to dark, cold black, on the floor where Temp had thrown it.

"Until then, we just keep dying?" Temp asked bitterly.

Murdock nodded slowly. "That's what we signed up for."

The following silence was broken only by Temp puffing on the cigarette, and Murdock when he shuffled closer, as the shadows deepened, along with the darkness outside.

............................................

 

Darkness fell completely upon the jungle, while the two soldiers slumped in the back of the supply shed talked in muted whispers, a bottle of alcohol passing between them, its level steadily falling. Smoke drifted from the forgotten cigarette Temp held in one hand, his head now on Murdock's shoulder, his hair soft against the pilot's cheek. Murdock shifted around, peering at Temp's face in the dim light of the shadows thrown by the dusty crates, his hair lit through with gleams of gold where the light from the naked bulb brushed across it.

Murdock felt a strong emotion stirring deep inside, and on impulse he leaned forward, closing the small distance between them, and kissed Temp, his lips brushing lightly across the other man's. Then he pulled back, his heart giving a tight squeeze of remorse.

What was he doing? Was he crazy? Murdock froze, watching hesitantly for Temp's reaction. The wait seemed forever, while the other man's warm breath brushed his skin, as his eyes looked deep into his; ocean blue against dark liquid brown.

Temp froze, and for a moment, time stood still. To the young soldier, even the eternal rustle of the jungle had gone quiet. Then he leaned over and kissed the pilot back. He'd never done that before; never kissed another man. He didn't know what he expected, or why he thought it would be any different. It felt good; hot lips and Murdock's tongue sliding against his.

They only broke apart to breathe.

Temp looked into Murdock's dark expressive eyes and felt sure that if the modest amount of alcohol, and the passionate kiss they'd just exchanged, hadn't made him feel hot and flushed already, he would have blushed deeply.

..............................................

A lifetime later, in a world remote from the Jungles of Vietnam, Murdock pulled back from their kiss and peered into Face's eyes. This night, it felt just as it had in
Vietnam, all those years ago.

..............................................

All that time ago, Murdock had leaned forward for another long, deep kiss, tasting Temp's glorious lips, muted groans elicited from them both, followed by more. Then later, the pretense in the morning, and ever afterwards, that nothing had ever happened during that long, desperate, needy night.

..............................................

Not this time, Murdock thought, not now, not ever again would he allow that, as he had in that other world, that other time. This time would be different.
 

..............................................

Murdock looked deep into his lover's eyes, eyes that had been turned solely towards him for five long years. Five long years of ups and downs, but ultimately, also of great happiness.

Face smiled, happy lines wrinkling around his eyes and mouth.

Looking into his lover's eyes, Murdock thought of that night long ago in
Vietnam, and the pretense after it all. Then years later, in a cheap motel in Bad Rock, with almost the same surroundings; sagging walls, a floor covered in mud and dust, a single bare bulb overhead, and the two of them, who, deep down, did remember.

And now, once more, here in Face's latest suite, lying together between silk sheets, no light except that of the dawn creeping across the sky and through the open window, highlighting the streaks of silver now growing in his lover's hair, and the smile more dazzling than any conman's grin.

It wouldn't matter where they were. Stinking jungle, rotting hotel, swanky apartment, it was all the same, 'cause he would always love Face, no matter what. He would always cherish this man. This man he had fallen for, a long, long time ago, back in the dark jungles of
Vietnam.

Dawn broke across a brilliant sky, as the men curled together, knowing that today, and for all the tomorrows yet to come, there was no longer any more need to pretend.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

 

Finis.

 


Pretenses by Charli

 

 


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