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Lifeline

Lifeline 

by:  Snickersmobo

 

Rating: PG -13

Warnings:  Death of a major supporting character.  Light slash.  Don't think I put a swear in here yet.  

Summary:  We all deal with death in our own way.  Face's POV.  Maybe a paragraph of Murdock's POV for clarification but mostly Face.

Pairing:  F/M

Disclaimer:   Not mine.  I love my A Team men though.  I don't think anyone would pay money to read my fics.

Author Comments:  Hmm…we're trying hard at this.  Constructive criticism is welcome and appreciated.  I really need to go back to basic grammar class, but I hope the story is still enjoyable.

Thanks to my beta's Carl of Corvino (whose patience must be immense), Leia, and Mooncat (who I would like to add as co-author practically).  All grammatical errors are still mine.

 

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I hear the telephone ring.  I'm in our bedroom and Murdock's in the family room, so I let him answer it.  Not to mention that I'm too lazy and content right now. 

 

We spent the morning making slow, passionate love.  The kind of love one can only dream would come true.  We've been together for six months intimately, but friends for nearly 20 years.  In this time we've been together, I've often regretted all the precious time we've lost.  But not for very long.  We're making up for it now. 

 

I love Murdock.  I've always loved him, but now…now I feel complete.  My heart and head are in the best place they can be.  I'll never love anyone else the way I love Murdock.

 

Speaking of him, Murdock should've brought me my coffee by now.  He said he'd be right back.  It's been ten minutes since the phone rang and I realize suddenly I haven't heard Murdock's voice since then.  Curious, I get out of bed, slipping on my robe, to check on him. 

 

I find him sitting on the floor by the phone.  "Murdock…Murdock?" I ask putting my hand on his shoulder. 

 

He looks up to meet my gaze, and I see fear and pain in his eyes.  He's pale as a ghost. 

 

In a toneless voice he recites, "Dr. Richter's dead.  He was murdered in New York City.  He moved there after we came here to Langley." 

 

Shocked, I kneel down next to him and quickly pull him to me, putting my arms around him.  Expecting him to let me hold him in comfort, I'm surprised when he pushes away.  I watch him get to his feet feeling slightly hurt. 

 

"Face, you want breakfast?" he asks on his way to the kitchen. 

 

Something's not right here.  Outside of the team, Richter's the most important person to him.  He's been treating Murdock since Nam.  Even with him being declared sane, Murdock phones him once a week just to keep in touch the way friends do.

 

I pick myself off the floor to follow Murdock into the kitchen where I watch him crack eggs into a bowl. 

 

"Do you want to talk about it?"

 

He curtly replies, "There's nothing to talk about.  Richter's dead.  End of story, Facey."

 

As Murdock pours the eggs into the frying pan, I question him,  "I don't understand… this is Richter we're talking about…the man who's been treating you forever."

 

Murdock pulls the bread and butter out of the refrigerator, ignoring me.  Once he puts the bread in the toaster, I stroll over and turn him around to look him directly in the eye.  I don't like what I see there.  The pain and hurt are gone.  His eyes are bright and shining now, mirrors reflecting back at me my image.  He's hiding.  I haven't seen his eyes like this since Nam, where he hid from everything and everyone until he could no longer hide from himself and ended up in the VA hospital for over thirteen years.

 

Murdock breaks from my grasp…this time to stir the eggs.  The toast pops and he butters it.  He turns back to the eggs and picks up the pan to scoop the eggs onto the plates on the counter.  The toast follows onto the plates and he brings them to the kitchen table. 

 

"Face, get the milk, will ya?"

 

I grab the milk out of the refrigerator to join Murdock at the table where I carefully watch him eat his breakfast.  I'm feeling scared right now.  Murdock should be showing some kind of emotion.  Crying would be good.  Getting angry would be even better.  Anything's better than this unemotional zombie in front of me.  The fact that Murdock's eating is downright terrifying.  He never eats when he's upset.  Well, one thing's for sure, I can't eat.

 

I rise from the chair pushing it back,  "I'm calling Hannibal at the compound."

 

I stay at the compound too, but, occasionally, I manage to slip past the Abels to spend the night with Murdock.  I'm grateful I stayed last night.  If I hadn't, what would Murdock…..I can't even think about it.

 

I dial the telephone in the family room while watching Murdock through the door.  He's eating and drinking as if nothing is wrong. 

 

As I wait for someone to pick up the phone on the other end, Murdock raises his voice, "Tell Hannibal we'll be ready for the new mission by noon."

 

The mission?  Richter's dead and Murdock wants to go on the mission?  This is really bad.  He's not in denial.  He clearly knows Richter's dead.  He's completely aware right now.  Murdock's the most emotional team member of us all.  He's never afraid to cry, to give someone a needed hug, to kiss, to get angry.  He wears his heart on his sleeve.

 

My thoughts are broken when Hannibal answers the other end of the phone. 

 

"Hannibal, Dr. Richter's dead,"  I burst out,  "He was murdered and Murdock's behavior's scaring me…he's not acting the way he should for someone so important dying on him." 

 

"Okay, Face, calm down.  Now tell me what happened exactly."  Hannibal's calm words help me to compose myself again a little and I proceed to report to him the events of the morning.

 

When I tell him that Murdock wants to go on the mission, Hannibal abruptly replies, "No.  Murdock's in shock.  He's in no shape for a mission.  Besides, he'll never forgive himself for not attending the funeral.  I'll tell Stockwell the mission is canceled.  And I'll talk with him about Richter's murder, see what he can find out."

 

I'm relieved, knowing Hannibal is going to take care everything.  He'll make Stockwell pull some strings to find out who killed the doctor.  And most of all because he and BA are on their way over.  Murdock needs all of us now. 

 

After, I hang up the phone and return to the kitchen.  Murdock's cleaning the breakfast dishes.  Silently I watch him, feeling utterly helpless.  I need for him to know I'm here…I care.  I need so much to hold and comfort him in my arms, but I can tell by his body language he isn't going to let me. 

 

As soon as he starts discussing the mission I interrupt him, "We're not going on the mission, Murdock." 

 

"Face, the doc's death's no excuse to not go.  What's done is done.  Ya'll need your pardons." 

 

His eyes are still hiding, mirroring.  Seeing him like this makes me want to call Richter, but of course, I can't.  The thought that one person who knows Murdock better than the team is dead pains my heart.  When you love someone as much as I love Murdock, you fear for his or her constant safety…and in my case…his sanity.  Of all the shrinks Murdock's been seen by through the years…  Richter's been the only one he trusts.  I personally believe that Richter's the only shrink that could outsmart Murdock…could see through the personas…see the real person behind them.  Now he's dead.  I don't understand Murdock's reaction right now.  If Dr. Richter were a team member, would he react the same way?  I wish I knew how to help him.

 

After the dishes are loaded in the dishwasher, I watch Murdock walk down the hall to the bathroom.  I hear the shower water running through the pipes.  My heart's breaking for Murdock and he doesn't know it.  I move into the living room to reflect on my earlier musings.  Murdock's always emotional.  You can tell at a glance what he's feeling and thinking - happy, sad, depressed, angry.  It's in his eyes, his stature, and his voice. 

 

Right now…  I don't know what he's thinking and feeling.  He's hiding what he should be feeling and I don't know how to reach him.  I know him so well.  I know he loves me.  Why doesn't he trust me enough to let me in?  To let me help him, comfort him?  It's been a half hour since the phone call and my Murdock has turned into this unfeeling stranger before me.  And it scares me.  I need to take care of him.  I've been doing it for so long that it hurts me to not be able to do it now.

 

The knocking on the door interrupts my thoughts.  I rise from my seat to open it.  Hannibal and BA enter, glancing around looking for Murdock. 

 

"He's in the shower." 

 

"How is the crazy fool?"  BA questions me.

 

Answering him the best way I can, I tell them about the last half hour, about Murdock's reactions, and my thoughts.  I can read their faces that they're deeply concerned. 

 

"Hannibal, he still wants to go on the mission."  I further mention.

 

"Stockwell's assigned the mission to another team, Face.  He's seen Murdock's psychiatric records.  He can't risk Murdock losing it during a mission.  Even if he didn't reassign it, you know we could never abandon Murdock, even if he doesn't know it himself." 

 

The noise of the water running through the pipes is gone, so I know Murdock's finished his shower.  A few seconds later, Murdock, in a towel, comes out of the bathroom to make his way to our bedroom. 

 

His voice echoes, weirdly cheerful, down the hall, "Hi guys…be ready in 20 minutes…Face get a move on or we'll be late reporting to Stockwell."

 

Both BA and Hannibal raise their eyebrows in concern.  Sighing, I shake my head sadly and head to the bathroom.  No matter what happens next I still need to shower sooner or later, so it might as well be now.

 

I turn the shower knob and step into the water.  Usually, I take forever in the bathroom, but today I'm very quick, so quick I'm sure I set a record this morning - that's if anyone were to be keeping one.  While I let the hot streams of water run over my body my thoughts never stray from my soul mate.  My Murdock.  My Murdock who's hurting deeply now and shutting me out.  Tears mix with the falling water and I wonder if Murdock cried too while he was in here.  I didn't think so.  If he cried, I would've heard it in his voice when he came out of the bathroom.

 

Grabbing a towel after I shut off the water, I, too, make my way down the hall to our bedroom.  Murdock's not in here.  I hear voices in the other room while I dress, but I can't make out what they're saying.  Murdock enters the bedroom as I finish dressing. 

 

"Hannibal's making us go the funeral.  Said we leave as soon as we pack our bags," He informs me. 

 

There's no emotion.

 

His voice is matter of fact.  While we're packing out things he complains he'd rather not go, but since Hannibal made it an order, there's no choice.  God bless Hannibal for knowing his men better than they know themselves.  No matter how Murdock's feeling right now, he'd later deeply regret not having gone to the funeral.  We finish packing and leave the bedroom.  I can hear Hannibal hanging up the phone. 

 

Hannibal softly speaks, "Stockwell's working on who killed Dr. Richter.  He's streamlining the process of the autopsy.  The body's going to be released to Richter's wife this afternoon.  The good doc is now New York City's finest number one crime victim priority.  Guys, take a seat while I phone Richter's wife." 

 

We sit on the couch as Hannibal dials the phone number.  Stockwell must have given him it.  I never thought Stockwell to be the good guy, but I guess he has a compassionate side.  First, he relieves us from a mission, now he's helping us with Richter. 

 

There's no love lost between Stockwell and Murdock.  There's history the team doesn't know about…I know…I can see it in Murdock's demeanor and attitude when they're in the same room together. 

 

I wonder what this is going to cost the team.  Whatever it does cost us, Hannibal's making the deal or will make the deal.  Whatever the price, Hannibal thinks it's worth it...thinks Murdock's worth the cost.  I have no doubts as I send a small prayer to the man upstairs that Murdock and I have such good friends.  There are no doubts about BA's loyalty either.  He loves both of us so much.  He may not show it with outright affection like Murdock, but he shows it in more subtle ways.

 

Hannibal hangs up the phone and I realize I didn't hear a word of the conversation. 

 

"The funeral's in LA.  We're going to escort Dr. Richter's body and his wife there.  Murdock, apparently you were his favorite patient," Hannibal slightly grinned as he said this,  "His wife was clearly impressed with my offer to escort them.  BA, get the van ready."

 

BA leaves through the door not protesting with one word on the upcoming flight.  Like I said, BA loves Murdock.  Richter being dead ranks up there with one of us being dead in BA's mind.  He understands how much Richter means to Murdock. 

 

Throughout Hannibal's speech, none of our eyes left Murdock.  Still no emotion.  At least not speaking is consistent when Murdock's upset.  It's the only thing he's done, or I should say not done, that's him…when the crap hits the fan.

 

Murdock rises from the couch after BA leaves to turn on the television.  He plays with the dials until he comes to a cartoon and sits down on the carpet directly in front of the TV.  Hannibal and I exchange glances as we watch this.  A few seconds later Murdock's laughing while watching the cartoon.  This isn't normal behavior for someone who lost a person so close to him.  I lower myself to the floor to get closer to Murdock.  Once again, I place my arms around him and he pushes me away. 

 

"Murdock." I call out attempting to grasp his hands in mine. 

 

He's having none of it.  In a voice so low I can barely hear him, "I'm okay, Face.  I know Richter's dead…we're going to New York to meet his widow to escort her and the docs' body to California.  We're going to the funeral."

 

Anguish fills my heart as I hear him.  God, he's in so much pain while trying hard not to show or feel it.  I want to heal him, hold him, take his pain away, make him feel safe,  make him never feel anything other than happy and safe.  I've been trying to do that since the war.  I know it's not possible, but I can't help but to keep trying. 

 

"You're scaring me,"  Finally I manage to grasp his arms,  "I love you, HM.  I'm here for you.  Let go…cry…the team's here for you.  You're not going to fall as long as we're here for you.  You've made it this far, I love you so much.  So much.  You're not alone."

 

I look hard at him, but Murdock's not hearing me. 

 

He breaks free from me as he gets up off the floor, "Don't worry Face.  I know what's going on."

 

Murdock is so far from being okay and, Hannibal, BA and I know it.  How are we going to get through to him?  To get him to feel what he should?  How can he not express his feeling to us…to the team…his best friends?  We love him so much, we care about his well-being…and his sanity.

 

Hannibal and I watch Murdock saunter down the hall to the bathroom again.  We exchange looks.  It seems it's all we're doing - exchanging looks. 

 

BA and Hannibal know about Murdock and me being together.  They're supportive, though I sense they're somewhat uncomfortable when we show physical affection in front of them.  We both understand this and keep our lips and hands to ourselves in their presence as much as we can. 

 

I see concern, fear and grief in Hannibal's eyes.  Grief for the murdered psychiatrist.  Richter was important to the team also.  We were and still are immensely grateful to him for bringing Murdock back to us.  Without Richter, I wouldn't have Murdock in my life.  The team wouldn't have Murdock in our lives. 

 

If I could give someone the greatest gift in life, it would be to give him or her the gift of Murdock's presence.  God!!!  I love him so much, I can't imagine life without him.  I don't want to imagine life without him.  As for Hannibal's concern and fear, those emotions were easy to know... they were for Murdock. 

 

"Face, I don't know.  I'd give anything right now to see Murdock being over emotional now…even Billy's welcome.  At least that would tell us Murdock's dealing with this in some way." 

 

"Hannibal, I agree.  I don't know what to do.  He won't let me in.  He won't let me touch him.  He's so vulnerable right now.  He's going to crash and I don't want him left alone." 

 

As I speak, I realize I'm vulnerable too.  I'm barely keeping it together now…my fear's so great.  What's going to happen when Murdock crashes and burns?  And he will.  He has to.  Richter's dead.  I'm overwhelmed by my thoughts of the repercussions of when that happens.  Murdock's reality coach is gone.  That's why we're here.  It's why I'm scared.

  

The front door opens and BA enters.  The van's ready.  I walk down the hall to knock on the bathroom door.  Murdock comes out and together we pick up our bags and leave the apartment with Hannibal and BA.

 

We're sitting in our usual seats in the van.  Murdock's behind BA who's driving.  I'm behind Hannibal.  I've been watching Murdock out of the corner of my eye.  He's been reading his stash of comic books for the past four hours.  I'm pretty sure he's been reading them because he's been turning pages and quietly laughing at some of the panels.  Hannibal's been trying to initiate conversation about Richter, but Murdock's having none of it.  Richter's dead and that's that, almost what he said to me earlier in the kitchen.  The drive's a silent one compared to the usual verbal assault Murdock hits us with. 

 

Aided by directions provided by Dr. Richter's wife, we arrive at their house in New York City.  Her name is Annabeth.  We pick her up and drive to the airport.  Murdock moves to the rear van seat to allow Annabeth to sit in his. 

 

"His body's being transported to the airport and it'll be put on the plane complements of a Mr. Stockwell."  Annabeth was short on introductions.

 

We hadn't introduced ourselves, yet she was staring at Murdock while she spoke. 

 

Murdock isn't paying attention so he doesn't respond.  He's reading his comic books.

 The drive is a quiet one, where only Hannibal introduces the team members.

 

We pull into the private plane departure parking lot.  A New York City coroner van is parked in front of us.  I sneak a peak at Murdock…still no reaction.  Two men throw open the rear door on their van, reaching for the gurney the doctor's body is laying on.  The two men head to the baggage area of the plane with the doctor's body. 

 

Meanwhile we grab our bags and proceed to the departure gate where we immediately walk onto the plane.  Murdock walks toward the cockpit wanting to fly.  There's a pilot and copilot sitting in their respective seats.  It's Abel's Ten and Fourteen.  We know them well. 

 

As the others head to the back of the plane, I linger in the front wondering if Murdock should really be piloting in his condition.  I don't think he should, but so far he hasn't done anything to lead me to believe he can't do it.  Abel Ten gets up from his seat to let Murdock take over the controls.  He must not know the reason for the flight, for if he did, he probably wouldn't let Murdock take his seat.  I don't want to cause more problems for Murdock so I'm not say anything.  I join the others in the back of the plane.

 

Hannibal gives me a questioning look as BA growls, "Crazy fool shouldn't be flyin.  Don't know about this Hannibal.  He's crazier than usual."  I agree with them, but since Abel Fourteen is with him, I didn't see a reason to upset Murdock further. 

 

It's a long six hours flight, but we slept for most of it.  BA took a sleeping pill.  I nearly joined him, eventually though, I fell asleep on my own.  I didn't wake up until Murdock's voice announced our decent into LA.  It was then I realized Murdock didn't sing, howl or talk crazy stuff over the intercom the entire flight.  I'm not sure why, but I guess it's out of respect for Annabeth and, as I was desperately wishing for, also finally, a sign of grief. 

 

Murdock lands the plane, pulls up to the gate and soon the seat belt sign is turned off.  We exit the plane.  Murdock meets us as we leave and we proceed to follow Hannibal.  As par for the course, he's been in contact with Stockwell during the flight.  Annabeth mentions she made arrangements for her husband's body to be picked up and delivered to the funeral home.  Since we always carry our luggage on and off the plane ourselves, we didn't have to claim it and therefore we leave without further delay.  We exit the airport to find a man holding a sign reading 'Richter'. 

 

Hannibal walks up to him,  "We're the Richter party." The man hands him the keys and tells him where he can find the rental van.  We follow Hannibal to the van where he hands the keys to BA.  Silently, we pile into the van and my eyes are once again set on my lover.

 

"Hannibal, I need to go to our house," Annabeth requests as she gently dabs the tears on her cheeks,  "We never sold it, and right now it's empty." 

 

We drop her off and head to the nearest hotel where I scam us some rooms.

 

By now it's very late and Hannibal orders, "Meet us in the lobby at 0800 hours for breakfast.  Stockwell's influence has paid off for once; the viewing and funeral are already tomorrow."

 

Some moments later I turn on the light as I pull Murdock into the room with me.  I wrap my arms around his body.  I stare hard into his eyes in an attempt to gage his mood.  This time I see nothing.  His eyes are devoid of life. 

 

"Murdock, please…I know you're hurting.  Please let me in.  I'm here for you.  Talk to me."  I desperately try to reach him. 

 

But I get the same answer as the last time I tried it.  "Face, I'm 'kay.  Just tired….I want to go to sleep."

 

Though I'm holding him in my arms, Murdock feels so far away.  I don't want to let go, but I do.  Murdock walks into the bathroom to get ready for bed while I unpack our bags and call the desk for a wake up call.  I knock on the bathroom door and hand him his toiletry kit.  When he comes out, I trade places with him. 

 

After I finish in the bathroom, I'm disappointed to find Murdock already asleep as I make my way to the bed.  I thought making love to him might help him connect with me, but apparently it's not going to happen tonight.

 

*************

 

The wake up phone call rings at 0700 hours.  As I answer it, I become aware I'm alone in bed.  After I hang up, I go to the bathroom to check on Murdock.  But he's not there.  I take a look around and immediately notice his jacket and cap are missing.  Oh, no!  Where is he?!  I dress quickly and bang on Hannibal and BA's door.  BA, dressed, answers it.

 

"Is Murdock with you?" I ask, knowing I sound on the verge of panic.

 

BA's answering scowl told me he wasn't in the room.  Hannibal must have heard me through the bathroom door because seconds later he came out dressed.  We head to the lobby speculating that Murdock's taking a walk.  It makes sense, but I don't think that's what Murdock's doing. 

 

"Hannibal, I don't think he's out taking a walk.  I think he's gone running."   

 

"Where to Face?"

 

"Not running to…running from…running from today…running from us."  I answer bitterly.

 

"Why is the crazy fool running from us?" 

 

"BA, I don't know why, but I think Richter's death's shaken Murdock's sense of being.  His eyes…last night…they were…were so empty...it scares me...I don't know how to reach him …I don't know how to help him.  He's hurting bad right now and I think he's trying to deny it to himself.  I don't even know where to look for him." 

 

I feel tears welling in my eyes.  I'm desperately worried now.  If he's running from us, the team, and from me, then he's not well at all. 

 

"Guys, I don't think he's emotionally or mentally stable right now."  God, I had hoped I would never have to say these words.

 

Hannibal swears under his breath, "What're we going to do?"   

 

Solemnly, I shake my head, not having an answer to his question.

___________________________________________________

 

I was keepin it together rather well until we hit LA.  Before then…I distracted myself by readin and flyin.  Didn't want to think about the 'doc bein dead and all.  I sure as hell didn't wanna talk about him being dead either.  I know I hurt Face yesterday…not talkin with him…not lettin him touch me, but I just couldn't think about the doc.  I was doin so well avoiding the issue until I woke up this mornin real early.  I always wake up before Face and, usually, I initiate our mornin love makin, just not this mornin.  This mornin we're gonna bury the doc. 

 

As soon as I had that thought in my head, the rest of them came tumblin out.  I can't control them.  This deep feelin of pure dread's in my heart…like maybe I might lose it again and not be able to come back 'cause the doc won't be here for me.  I guess that's why I ran… why I'm here where I am.  It's one of the few things the team doesn't know about me.  That I'm always afraid I'll lose my mind again.  The truth is…well, that I'm not sane.  I'm still manic-depressive with undifferentiated schizophrenia.  Basically I'm still crazy.  The doc agreed to release me though, cause he knew I'd have left LA to be with the team when they relocated to Langley.  The team doesn't know it, but it's why the doc moved to New York City; to be closer to me.  I've been seein him on the sly since we've been at Langley.  We've been meetin once a week in DC.  See, I've met Annabeth before.  The doc musta explained to her that the team didn't know about our continued therapy and she kept the secret yesterday.  I don't think she'll keep it long, though, what with me takin off and all.  

 

Bet you're wonderin where I am, huh?  Well, I've a secret place by the ocean I've been goin to for a long time.  No one knows about this place, not Face, not even the doc.  Through the years, the good doc's given me day passes when I needed to be alone with my thoughts.  After he met the team a few years ago, he let me out whenever I wanted.  It's nice here.  I can look down from my ledge in the cliff and see the ocean waves.  I love the sound of the surf poundin the rocks.  If you're wonderin if I'm gonna jump…right now the answer's no.  Tomorrow or the day after?  Don't know.  That's the problem being crazy and all….I don know how I'm gonna feel on a daily basis.  For the most part the drugs keep me stable…but with the doc being dead…who's gonna give them to me?  He's the only one who knows the real me.  The team and Face don't even know the real me. 

 

Another thing the team doesn't know:  The fact that I'm still takin pills.  I've been hidin them in my comic book collection in the apartment and in my jacket during a mission.  Ya see, I'm havin a real hard time adjustin to life on my own.  The nights Face stays with me are the only real nights I sleep.  Without Face, I feel so alone and scared.  That's why I work so much, I don't wanna be alone. 

 

The doc and I talked about me returnin to the VA cause I'm slidin backwards some.  I don't wanna leave the team so we were gonna step up the therapy sessions to twice a week and daily phone calls, except during a mission.  So I guess that's the big question now; return to Langley or to the VA? 

 

Without the doc the VA isn't gonna be the same.  Without the 'doc I'll never be the same.  It hasn't hit me yet.  I'm thinkin rationally and my heart don hurt.  Glancing at my watch I realize the funeral will start soon.  With a last look down the cliff I make my way back to the road to use the telephone to call a taxi.

___________________________________________________

 

We're at the funeral home now and BA is updating Annabeth, "Murdock's missin.  We been lookin for him all mornin." 

 

Annabeth's doesn't seem to surprised by this revelation.  In fact, her expression looks as if she wants to tell us something. 

 

This doesn't go unnoticed by Hannibal and he asks her gently, "Annabeth, do you have something to say?"

 

She glances at me and I know she can see I've been crying. 

 

Sighing deeply, she replies, "Yes, but I don't know whether I can.  Patient/Client confidentiality."  

 

I put my hand on her shoulder and look at her pleadingly.  "If it has anything to do with Murdock, please tell us."

 

She glances from BA to Hannibal then back to me where her eyes rest.  After a moment she nods and moves forward, her hands requesting we follow her into another room where she asks us to sit down.  Her news is big.

 

To say I'm shocked to find Murdock's still seeing Richter as a patient would be an understatement.  I can't believe he never told me or told the team.  The shock and disbelief are clearly visible in BA's and Hannibal's faces' too.  This is major news to be hiding from the team.  What else is he hiding? 

 

Hannibal is already ahead of me, "Annabeth, what else do you know?"

 

But she shakes her head, "Hannibal, doctor/patient confidentiality doesn't allow me to talk about it.  That confidentiality extends to me also." 

 

I rack my brain trying to see the signs of Murdock slipping and I just don't know.  Several weeks ago I saw him swallowing some pills and asked him about it.  He told me it was aspirin for a headache. 

 

"Annabeth, is Murdock taking prescription drugs?" I ask.

 

"Face, I can't answer that."  She responds, looking away from me.

 

My heart's pounding so loud I'm surprised no one else can hear it.  Murdock's been slipping and he didn't tell me…he didn't tell the team.  Was that why he took off?  I can feel tears welling in my eyes again as BA puts a comforting arm around my shoulder.  We have to find Murdock.

 

The funeral director enters the room to announce the procession's ready to go. 

 

As we leave, Hannibal announces, "We'll start looking for Murdock right after the funeral."

 

Annabeth looks at me and asks, " Face, do you want to ride in the limousine with me?" 

 

I think she knows about Murdock and me because she gives me a concerned look as I accept her offer.  I'm grateful to her in allowing me the honor of escorting her.  BA and Hannibal go to the van. 

 

The limousine driver starts to drive, each lost in our own thoughts, until Annabeth breaks the silence.

 

"Face, Murdock was my Alexander's favorite patient.  Because of him we moved to New York City so he could still treat him.  We tried for jobs in DC, but there was nothing available so New York City was as close as we could get."

 

She continues on while I listen, "Alexander thought Murdock to be very special and unique…doctors are supposed to be detached emotionally from their patients, but he loved Murdock like a brother."

 

"Annabeth, the team owes Dr. Richter so much and that debt extends to you also.  If there's anything you ever need, you only need ask."  I assure her, knowing that I'm speaking on behalf the entire team.

 

We enter the cemetery where the limousine driver takes a left turn onto the blacktop and we follow the path to the burial site.  I assist Annabeth out of the limousine and escort her to the site.  Six men I didn't know open the back door of the limousine to retrieve the casket.  I look around hoping to catch a glimpse of Murdock, but instead I see about fifty vehicles parked on the blacktop and groups of people heading toward us.  Annabeth must have used a friend's phone all night to gather so many people on such short notice.   

 

Suddenly, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I know Murdock is nearby.  I can feel him. 

 

I walk over to Hannibal,  "Murdock's here."

 

We look around to see Murdock eventually make his way to us.  Murdock kisses Annabeth on the cheek and she whispers something in his ear.  She's probably telling him that we know he was seeing Richter and that we know about the prescriptions.  Murdock glances over at us and I still don't see anything in his eyes.  I walk over to him where I gently squeeze his hand and he squeezes back.

 

Murdock whispers in my ear, "I'm sorry, Face." 

 

Only when the eulogy begins I let go of his hand.  I hear ashes to ashes, dust to dust, but tune out while I look at Murdock carefully.  Hannibal is standing on the other side of him and we catch each other's eyes.  I know Hannibal's pissed at Murdock for not confiding in us…after all, anything that affects one member of the team affects us all.  I'm hoping Hannibal has a plan to deal with all of this.  If he doesn't do it right, Murdock may spook and disappear again.  Right now, I have no intention of letting Murdock out of my site and I'm sure BA and Hannibal agree.

 

I can't help but wonder what is wrong with Murdock.  We thought Murdock was declared sane.  If he isn't, then what was Richter doing releasing him?  Does he need to go back to the VA?  I don't want that for Murdock, but I want him healthy and whole.  I look up as the ceremony is ending.  Everyone is starting to walk away.  Many stop to give their condolences to Annabeth. 

 

But Murdock stays at the grave.  He looks at us and quietly says, "Guys, I need to be alone right now.  Give me time, please."

 

After a moment of hesitation BA, Hannibal, and I reluctantly move to the cars to give him some space.

___________________________________

 

They know I've been seein the doc and takin the drugs again.  Right now I can feel the teams eyes on me.  I know a Hannibal lecture is comin soon and rightfully so.  Not sure what I'm gonna tell them.  I don't know what I'm gonna do.  Here, I'm sittin here in front of the doc's grave and I still don't feel anythin.  What's wrong with me? 

 

Throughout the ceremony, doctors, nurses, family members, and friends of the doc were cryin and sobbin, but not me.  Even BA had tears in his eyes.  The man who brought me back to life is dead and I can't cry.  So what's gonna happen to me?  I can feel this bone chillin fear in me and I desperately pray I can stay in control. 

 

Is that the reason I can't cry?  'Cause I need to stay in control?  Probably.  I don't wanna think about this right now, so maybe I should say goodbye to the doc. 

 

"Hey, doc.  You had to go and get yourself killed, huh?  I tell ya what.  If New York City's finest don't find your murderer, I will.  That's a promise.  And, no, I won't promise I won't kill them either.  The scum who took you away from me is gonna go down.  I gotta tell ya, doc.  I don't know what to do.  I feel lost, scared, and alone… even with the team here.  I don't know, doc.  You're my lifeline…and now you're gone... and I don't know if I can or will survive this.  I miss you already.  I can feel the purple wobblies comin, doc.  You're the only one who can make them disappear.  What if they come, doc?  What if they come for me?  I can feel myself slippin here doc.  I need you, doc.  Please…I need you."  My whispered voice trails off, unable to move, unable to comprehend what's happening to me now.

________________________________________

 

Everyone except Hannibal, BA, and I are long gone.  Murdock's been sitting in front of Richter's grave for a half hour.  I finally decide he's been there long enough and walk up behind him.

 

"Murdock." I gently call to him.

 

He doesn't turn around or look up and I fall to my knees in front of him.  I cup his chin in my hand and raise his head up.  Relief fills me as I see tears on his cheeks.  He's eyes are wild with fear and panic.  This time he lets me hold him. 

 

"Face, I'm scared.  The purple wobblies are comin for me."  He says, his voice trembling. 

                                                    

I hold him closer to me,  "It's going to be okay, Murdock.  I have you.  You're safe with me."

 

He's shaking so hard, I don't think he believes me.  I pull him to his feet, putting my arm around him.  We walk to the van where Hannibal and BA are waiting.  One look at the state Murdock is in and they wordlessly climb into the van.  Once in the van, I sit Murdock as close to me as possible.  His shaking hasn't stopped and he's now holding on to me for dear life. 

 

"He's rambling over and over that the purple wobblies are coming."  I tell the team somewhat helpless.

 

Hannibal turns in his seat giving me a fully alarmed look.  With my hand I signal him to get me the sleeping pills. 

 

BA must have seen the signal in through the rear view mirror because he offered, "Hannibal there's some in mah bag here."

 

Hannibal pulls out two pills and hands them to me along with some bottled water we had stashed in here.  I'm a little unsure about putting more drugs in his system not knowing what else he's taking. But when the purple wobblies are on the scene, Murdock's in really bad shape.  I hand the pills to Murdock, who promptly puts them in his mouth, and I raise the water to his lips as he tilts his head back.  We've done this many times in the past,  I know exactly how much water to give him.  It doesn't take long and he falls asleep on my shoulder, which is wet with his tears.   

 

We arrive at the hotel.  BA carries Murdock in his arms to bring him inside.  I quickly turn down the covers.  BA lays Murdock down on the bed and takes his shoes off while Hannibal removes his jacket and hat.  I put the covers over him.  Once we were done we take a seat. 

 

Hannibal picks up the phone to call Stockwell.  He asks for the name of the hospital where Richter worked.  It's another VA hospital and Hannibal writes the number down.  He hands me the phone while dialing the number.  When I ask for Dr. Richter's secretary, and I am put through immediately to the night supervisor.  I'm so distraught I had forgotten the time difference. 

 

"Hello, this is Dr. Campbell.  I'm calling to let you know I'll be taking over the care of Mr. Murdock.  Will you please forward his medical records to 143 Sutton Street, Langley, Virginia?  Also, can you fax a copy of his current diagnosis and prescribed medications?" 

 

Hannibal's ahead of me and had written down the hotel fax number he got out of the directory. 

 

"The number is 555-3472.  Will you fax it immediately as Mr. Murdock is taking Dr. Richter's death very hard and I need to prescribe something for him?"

 

After I hang up the phone I go to the lobby to wait anxiously for the fax.  So many things could be wrong with Murdock.  No more than five minutes pass before I have the paper in my hand. 

 

I read it as I walk back to the room.  The manic depressive diagnosis doesn't surprise me, but I'm floored by the undifferentiated schizophrenia.  That's a heavy duty illness.  I remember Murdock being diagnosed with it in the beginning, when he first had his breakdown.  I thought the doctors made a mistake then.  I've always believed Murdock was making up his personas as well as hearing voices and seeing invisible people…seeing Billy.  And the meds.  These are heavy duty, too.  Some of the drugs Murdock hasn't had to take since he was institutionalized in the beginning.

 

How could he have been slipping backwards and none of us noticed?  I return to the room and hand the papers to Hannibal.  I search Murdock's bag for the pills.  Nothing's in there, so I search his jacket and, sure enough, that's where they are.  They're loose in the pocket, but I'm relieved to see that he brought them.  I put them back and turn to Hannibal.  He's put his hand to his forehead and is shaking his head.  He looks up with a sad and questioning look to me and mouths "schizophrenia."  BA, who had read the diagnosis over Hannibal's shoulder, is pale and looking away.

 

It's been a long day and we're all tired.

 

"Face, BA…I want someone awake at all times to watch Murdock.  I'll take the first shift.  BA, I'll wake you in four hours."  There's clearly no arguing with Hannibal now.

 

BA lies on the couch and I climb into bed with Murdock after taking off my shoes.  I don't care what Hannibal and BA think.  Under the covers, I put my arm around him and hold on to him for dear life.  The thought that I will not lose Murdock is in my mind as I eventually fall asleep.

 

I wake up as BA nudges me.  The clock reads 06:00 am.  BA should've have woken me up hours ago.  I look over to him and smile gratefully.  Yawning, I rise from the bed, heading to the bathroom.  When I come out, BA is sitting on the edge of the bed staring at Murdock.

 

"Face, do ya think the fool's gonna be okay?"  BA whispers as I come around the bed.

 

"I don't know, BA.  I wish I had a better answer, but I don't.  I don't think even Hannibal can come up with a plan to fix this...to fix Murdock.  If Richter couldn't fix him, I don't think anyone can.  I'd give anything to make him sane." I sigh. 

 

BA gets off the bed. "I'm gonna get us some breakfast." he says before he quietly leaves the room.     

 

I sit in the chair to watch Murdock sleep.  He's been asleep for over ten hours and should be waking soon.  I don't know what to do or think.  I know in my heart Murdock belongs in the VA and, yet, I don't want him to go.  Sure there's a VA in the DC area, but it would mean we wouldn't be together as often as we are now.  I know that's sounds selfish, but I need Murdock.  I need to be with him everyday and sleep in the same bed with him every night.  I want to make love to him everyday, forever and ever.  Even though we don't have that now, eventually, after our pardons, we would.  It's been this thought that has sustained me on the nights we've been apart. 

 

Another sigh escapes.  I'm going to have to research the schizophrenia diagnosis.  I don't know much about it, except people hear and see things that aren't there.  And what's with the undifferentiated term?  I don't know, but it doesn't sound good. 

 

I hear Hannibal stretch on the couch and look up to see him walking toward me.

 

"BA went to get us breakfast, though, I can't say I'm very hungry right now, Hannibal."

 

He sighs,  "Face, there's plenty enough to worry about without you not eating.  Murdock's going to need us to be at one hundred percent.  He'll notice you're not eating and he'll worry himself sick thinking about you."

 

"You're right, Hannibal," I reply, while scratching my head.  "Any chance you came up with a plan last night?"

 

"Yes, but I'm afraid it's not much of one.  Face, you know Murdock needs to go back to the VA?  We can't help him the way he needs to be helped.  We couldn't fifteen years ago and we can't now either.  We'll still break him out for missions and vacations as long as he's functioning."  I can see in his eyes how much this is hurting Hannibal, too.

 

"I know, but I don't want him to go back to the VA.  I want him to be normal like everyone else, Hannibal.  Well, maybe not normal, but not schizophrenic and manic-depressive.  What if he becomes a danger to himself or others, or even us?  And he won't even know he's doing it.  He could never live with himself if he found out he physically hurt us somehow.  You remember how he was when we first broke him out of the VA.  He didn't know who we were or where he was.  He damn near killed himself in his attempts to get away from us.  We can't go back there, Hannibal.  Murdock can't go back there.  Why can't he get well?"

 

"I don't know, Face.  Maybe there's something else hidden in his memories that's not allowing him to get better.  Whatever the case, Murdock needs treatment.  I'm pretty sure Stockwell will get him the best doctor there is.  Stockwell isn't likely to give us our pardons soon, so he needs us and he needs Murdock."  Hannibal pats my shoulder in comfort before going into the bathroom.

 

I hear sheets rustling and I get up from the chair to sit next to Murdock.  Surprised I see he's awake and his brown eyes are clear but sad.  He pulls me down next to him and kisses me softly.  We both put our arms around each other.  Thank God Hannibal and I had been whispering.  I don't think he heard us, but it's obvious he'd been waiting for Hannibal to leave.

 

"I need to make love to you, Face.  I have to have you inside me.  I need  you."  His voice sounds so desperate.

 

"Murdock, Hannibal's still here and BA will be back any minute now."  I reply, giving him another kiss.

 

But he pleads again,  "Get rid of them, Face.  Make something up."

 

Too late.  Both the bathroom door and the hotel door open simultaneously as BA and Hannibal enter the room.  I reluctantly pull away from Murdock and sit up on the bed.  Murdock sits up, too, but keeps the sheet over his body.  Knowing Murdock, he's hard as a rock right now. 

 

"Hey, fool, I gotcha a big old greasy breakfast sandwich.  Face, no cereal, so you gotta sandwich too.  Hannibal, you gotta bagel.  There's plenty of coffee and juice too," BA announces as he puts everything on the table.

 

BA dips his hand in one of the bags to pull out his milk.  Hannibal tosses me the sandwiches, and then walks the coffee and juice over to place them on the nightstand.  I hand Murdock his sandwich, which he unwraps slowly.  I know Hannibal wants us to eat first before we have the discussion on what to do with Murdock. 

 

Murdock's going through the motions of eating, but he's doing it very slowly.  BA and Hannibal have long since finished eating and are waiting for us.  I'm finishing up, but Murdock's only eaten half his sandwich.

 

No one has spoken since BA came through the door.  Murdock gives up eating, wraps the remains in the paper, and throws it at the garbage.  Two points for Murdock.

 

"Hannibal, you don't need to say it.  I should've told everyone sooner…about seein the doc…bein back on the meds." Murdock states in a subdued voice, staring at the bed sheet. 

 

"Why didn't you tell us?  We're a team, Murdock.  We're your family.  Don't you know how much you mean to us?"  Hannibal gently scolded.

 

"Yeah, fool.  Why not let us know what's goin on with you?"     

 

Murdock's taking so long to answer that I'm not sure he will.

 

"I don't wanna go back to the VA."  Murdock avoided answering the question altogether.

 

Not that that would stop Hannibal.  "Murdock, we have a copy of your medical diagnosis.  It's very serious.  You should never've been discharged in the first place, and you didn't answer the question.  Why not tell us?"

 

"I did answer…I didn't tell you because I know you wanna put me back in the VA.  The doc and I discussed it.  I didn't wanna go, so we were gonna step up the program.  Now he's gone and I still don't wanna go."

 

"How are you going to get better if you don't go back?"  I ask.

 

"Face, I'm never gonna get better.  What I have, there's no cure for.  It can only be controlled with medication."  Murdock looks at me finally as he says this.

 

I see fear in his eyes.  Why's he afraid?  Something more is going on here.

 

"Murdock, what are you so afraid of?"  My voice is so low that I'm not sure Hannibal or BA can hear me.  I'm not sure if I want them to hear this.

 

"Not here, Face."  He whispers in my ear.

 

That does it.  We need to be alone to discuss this.

 

"Hannibal, BA, can you give us some time alone?"  I plead to them.

 

Hannibal looks from me to Murdock, then back to me and nods.  "Okay, but this discussion is not over guys.  We'll give you an hour.  Come on, BA."

 

They leave.  Murdock immediately pulls me to him and begins kissing me. 

 

"Wait a minute.  We're going to talk here.  Right here.  Right now."  He stops kissing me and holds me in his arms. 

 

I want to look at him while we talk, but if Murdock wants to hold me, then I'll let him.  I place my head against his chest. 

 

"I'm always gonna be sick, Face.  Can you live with that?"  I can hear the fear in his voice.

 

I try to sooth him,  "I love you, Murdock.  I can live with anything as long as I have you in my life."

 

"What if…what if I can't…if I get worse, Face.  I may get worse.  Without the doc, I'm not sure what's gonna happen to me."

 

"Whatever happens I'm not leaving you.  Hannibal and BA will never leave you either."

 

His arms tighten around me.  "I've been slippin backwards.  A couple of weeks ago, I was out walkin and, suddenly, I was back in Nam talkin to Ray Brenner.  I've been flashin back too.  And when I come back to the real word, I just feel so lost and alone cause I don't know where I am."

 

This is more serious than I thought.  Murdock is symptomatic.

 

"Uuummm….I…uh…a couple of times… I…uh…wanted to die."  Panic is welling up in me at his whispered confession, but I battle it down.

 

I break away and turn around to face him. 

 

"What did you do?" I ask as I stare straight into his eyes while holding his hands in mine.      

 

"I called the doc and he talked me back to reality.  I keep a note in my wallet with his name and number so I can call him."

 

Okay.  But Richter isn't around to do that anymore.

 

"Why would you want to go and kill yourself for?  Don't you know how devastating that would be for us?  For me.  I need you.  I love you." 

 

The first words were hard to get out.  I'm afraid of the answer.  I'm hoping he can see how much he means to me.

 

Murdock shakes his head,  "I know.  But I can't control the flashbacks.  When I come out of them, it's like I forget about you guys and all I know is I have this overwhelming feeling that I don't wanna live anymore.  That it's all too much and I can't cope anymore.  It's different this time around.  Richter and I were gonna try to find out what's causin it to happen again."

 

"Ok, we have to find out what's causing the flashbacks."  I bring myself closer to kiss him on his lips. 

 

Murdock responds in kind.  Barely breaking apart long enough for us lay on the bed, we continue kissing.  Just like Murdock wanted earlier, I too, want him to know how much I need him by making love to him. 

 

And that's what we do.  The gentleness of it brings tears to our eyes.  We've always had this emotional connection, but, during sex, the connection to a higher level.  It's what we both need right now.

 

********

 

We had barely finished dressing when Hannibal and BA return.   

 

Hannibal looks to us.  "How are things here?"

 

"I've been havin flashbacks, Hannibal.  I don't know what's causin them.  I don't think bein in the VA is gonna help, but I'll go if you insist."  Murdock tells him, more calmingly now.

 

"Why don't you think it's going to help, Murdock?" asks Hannibal.

 

"Just isn't.  I didn't trust anyone except the doc.  To most the staff, I'm just another crazy to be given drugs that will shut me up.  I don't think I can trust anyone else enough to talk with them.  Never could before, so why should now be any different."

 

I wonder if Hannibal and BA realize how much Murdock's leaving out of the discussion.  It's not my place to tell them.  I look hard at Murdock, wanting him to confess everything to them. 

 

"Is there anything else you'd like to tell us, Murdock?"  Trust Hannibal to pick up my look.

 

"No."

 

Damn.  He isn't lying.  It's the way Hannibal phrased the question.  Of course, Murdock wouldn't like to tell them anything else.

 

Hannibal frowns.  "All right Murdock.  We'll do it your way, for now, with several qualifiers that are nonnegotiable.  You have to promise to tell us immediately when you've had a flashback.  I need to know every time you have one so I can evaluate your condition.  I can't risk the safety of the team.  The second one is you will see another doctor.  I don't care if you don't trust him or her, but you need professional care.  Will you go along with this, Captain?" 

                                                                                                                        

Hannibal's eyes are piercing Murdock's.  Murdock's squirming from the intensity of Hannibal's eyes and voice. 

 

"I'm…uh…um…I'm not sure I can do that Hannibal.  Before you get all mad at me, it's not that I don't wanna do what you're asking. It's just I might not be able to.  Um…sometimes after a flashback I, uumm, I'm not really in control of myself.

 

I silently beg Hannibal to push this, but he doesn't.

 

"As soon as you are in control, will you tell us?"

 

Murdock looks him in the eyes and promises seriously.  "I'll do my best, Hannibal."

 

"That's acceptable for now.  Well, guys, let's head back to Langley."

 

I look at Murdock and know he means to keep his promises to Hannibal as best he can.  It's when he can't that bothers me.  The flashbacks are leading him to suicidal tendencies.  If Murdock doesn't tell him soon, I know it's my responsibility as the team executive officer to tell Hannibal and BA.  I steal a look at Murdock and pray for him and his sanity if not for us, but for him.  He deserves all the good things that life has to give and not the mess the war left him with.     

 

 

The End

 


Lifeline by Snickersmobo

 

 


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