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Angels Shooting Fire
Summary: Revised & Expanded - Murdock falls in love, but there are complications - is the relationship strong enough to weather the storm?
Warnings: Mild language, suggestion of sex (M/F)
Note: I'd like to acknowledge singer/songwriter Atoosa (check her out on CDBaby.com). Her songs were the inspiration for this story, you'll see the lyrics of several throughout.
Disclaimer: No, I don't own the A-Team or any of the associated characters (darn!). Nancy Clay Murdock and her friends and family (other than Stockwell) are mine, for better or worse.
Across the Tarmac
The Team had just returned from another mission. They had been working for General Hunt
Stockwell for just over a year now, and it was almost becoming routine. They were working on unloading the cargo
plane that had been their transport for this most recent mission to
Murdock looked up as a small plane landed on the strip and grabbed Face's arm, "Looky there Faceman - I think I'm in love! That is one sweet bird, a Taylorcraft BD12."
"I'm glad to hear you're finally getting a social life, again, Murdock - now if you're done wandering around you can help me with the bags."
Murdock picked up a couple bags and headed towards the van, parked on the tarmac, "It's kinda hard to have much of a social life when you spend all your time lookin' for a job. I'll probably be on the unemployment line again. Figures, too, I liked working at the turkey farm - them gobblers are great company!"
"Only you would like working on a regular basis with fowls! They stink! You're better off with a different job anyway, you got way too attached to those birds." Face said with a grimace.
"Nice thought, Facey, but there are only soooo many
minimum wage jobs in
"Look on the bright side, Murdock, you get to
expand your horizons once again."
"Hey," Face offered, "have you talked to Doc, the guy that runs the airfield - maybe he could use somebody. One big advantage would be that you can tell him when you're gonna be gone, He already knows you work for Stockwell."
"Let's get this straight," Murdock said irritably, "you guys 'work' for Stockwell, I'm along for the ride. Stockwell's made it clear where I stand in the overall order of the universe. Besides, I already talked to Doc - he said Stockwell told him 'no way', I'm persona non grata."
"Listen fool, at least you get to go where you want." BA growled, "I ain't seen Mama in a year - an' it's looking like it's gonna be even longer."
"I know BA, and I don't mean to complain. I'll find another job eventually." Murdock said soothingly. "Maybe I will talk to Doc again. He's been havin' trouble keeping a mechanic on . . . maybe if I promise not to tell Stockwell, he'll give me the job."
"Hello," Murdock stopped, and stared toward the Taylorcraft again. A young woman, about 5'4", with auburn hair was standing up from looking under the hood. "I think I am in love."
"Yea, yea, Murdock, we heard before, it's an Andy Taylor plane. Whoopee!" Face said.
"Taylocraft - but I ain't talkin' 'bout the plane, Facey, take a look at the pilot!" Murdock exclaimed, "It takes more than a little skill to fly those little puddle-hoppers - my kind o' lady!"
Meanwhile the young woman had turned and started walking towards where the Team was unloading, between her and the hangar. Murdock was still standing there gazing fixedly towards her and her plane. He absently checked wind speed and direction thinking that she had to be a darn good pilot given her smooth landing in the stiff cross-wind, and as she moved closer thinking she was a very pretty woman.
Frankie came up beside him and hissed, "You're staring, Murdock." Murdock's eyes grew wide as the young woman caught his gaze and smiled.
She was only a few yards away and had heard Frankie's admonishment, and her sky blue eyes danced with amusement, "He's absolutely right, it's not polite to stare," she said. Murdock looked quickly down in embarrassment.
Face turned at the new voice and raised an eyebrow at his friend, as the young woman continued on her way to the hangar. Once she was past, Murdock began walking in a small circle, mumbling to himself, and Face grabbed his arm and hissed, "Go talk to her Murdock - maybe you really could have a social life."
Murdock shook his head, "Naw, I can't just walk up to her and start talkin'. . ."
"Sure you can, Murdock," Frankie encouraged, "she even smiled at you."
"More likely laughing at me for standing there like an idiot," Murdock said miserably, "Besides how do you know, maybe she was smilin' at you . . . or Faceman. Probably not me."
"You're never gonna know if you don't talk to her." Face said, pushing his friend after the young woman, who had disappeared into the hangar.
"Face is right, man, you gotta have more confidence in yourself." BA agreed, nodding.
"I don't know what to say to her . . ."
"How about trying, 'Hi, I'm Murdock, what's your name?'" Face said, exasperated.
"You could ask her about her plane . . ." Frankie offered.
"What's going on here, you guys are supposed to be
unloading the plane, not standing around yapping,"
"Just pretend she's one of your socks, fool. Then you won't have any problem!" BA said, laughing.
"Very funny, BA," Murdock said irritably. Facing his four team mates all looking at him expectantly, he finally gave in, "Alright, I'll go talk to her," he turned and started towards the hangar, still grumbling, "but I don't think that pretending she's Socky is gonna work. She looks nothing like him - she's way prettier . . . I gotta go talk to Doc, anyways."
Hannibal chuckled as he watched Murdock walk towards the hangar, then he turned to the other three, "What are you guys still standing around for - Come on - let's get this equipment unloaded!"
Nancy Clay was just returning from another weekend
visiting her father in
As she approached for the landing, she caught a rough sound in the engine noise. It had been recurring periodically throughout the flight, and it was starting to worry her. She taxied to her normal storage spot and shut down. She opened the door, tossing her bag to the ground from the seat next to her then unfolding herself from the cockpit.
She took a deep breath and stretched- there were times when she thought it would be nice to get a larger plane. But her Taylorcraft was a classic and she loved it. She had restored it herself and couldn't imagine flying a different plane, it would be like committing adultery.
After tying the plane down, she opened the hood, quickly scanning the engine components that she knew so well and carefully checking connections and looking for leaks on the cooling engine. It was a routine she followed pre-flight regularly, but nothing popped out at her as being wrong. It had been a rough flight, and she was too tired to really dig into it. She also knew she wasn't likely to have time over the next week to work on it herself so she decided to head to the hangar and see if Doc had time to check it out.
She straightened up, closed the hood, picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder. As she turned to head towards the hangar she noticed a tall, lanky guy in a brown bomber jacket, 'Another flyboy captivated by the Taylorcraft,' she thought, it certainly wasn't the first time. But as she got closer she noticed that his eyes were following her.
'He has a nice smile.'
Once in the hangar, her thoughts turned back to the plane, she walked up to the desk and smiled brightly, "Hi, Doc, how's it going?"
"Lousy, lost another mechanic today. Don't know any reliable airplane mechanics looking for work do ya?" Doc asked, distractedly.
"Sorry, no . . . I hope that doesn't mean you won't have time to take a look at Aunt Bea and give her a tuneup," Nancy said, her tone hopeful, "she's running rough every so often during the cycle . . . I took a quick look but didn't see anything right off," she caught Doc's eye and held it, "She probably just needs some tender loving care, but I don't thing I'm gonna have time this week to provide it."
Doc smiled and shook his head, "I'll put her on the
Hello . . . Maybe next time
The door to the hangar opened and Murdock walked in. He delayed walking to the desk, where he saw the young woman standing talking to Doc. Try as he might, he couldn't think what to say to her, his mind was a blank.
"I'm not such bad company, am I?" Doc asked
jokingly, then he turned and caught sight of Murdock, "Hey, I see you
brought this plane back in one piece!"
"No real problems," Murdock replied, quietly, walking slowly to the desk and leaning at the end opposite where the young woman was standing, "other than the fact that she's leaking oil like a sieve and flies like a tank. May need a little body work, too . . ."
She glanced at her watch, it was getting late anyways, "Well, I'll see you next weekend Doc - good luck finding another mechanic." she turned and hurried out to the parking lot.
"See ya later
Murdock's eyes had been following
"Listen Murdock, I'd love to hire ya, but you know what I'm up against . . ." Doc let the sentence hang.
"You'd never know I was here, Doc - I'd keep a low profile." Murdock looked at Doc with puppy dog eyes. "Please, Doc, I know I'm on the unemployment line again, after this last week, and I really don't wanna answer another want ad."
Doc looked at Murdock with a calculating gaze, and finally said, "Alright, Murdock, I'll give it a try - but we're gonna have to keep it low profile. I don't want the General seein' ya here. And, if he shows up you better disappear. He's my best customer, and I cannot afford to alienate him."
"You got it, Muchacho . . . and Doc, thanks, you won't be sorry!" Murdock turned to leave then stopped and glanced back asking casually, "By the way, who was that lady?"
Doc glanced up, and smiled knowingly, "That pretty little thing that just left?" he asked. When Murdock nodded, he answered, "Name's Nancy Clay. She's been a customer for five or six years. Why, you interested? I'm pretty certain she's single . . ."
"Naw, just curious," Murdock said indifferently, "she's got a nice T-craft. I noticed it when she landed."
"Is that all you noticed, son?" Doc asked, raising his eyebrows, "If so, I'd be thinking you're crazier than you let on."
"I mighta noticed a couple other things . . ." Murdock said hesitantly, an uncertain smile on his face, "but I think maybe she's a little outta my league."
"You never know if you don't try . . ." Doc said leadingly.
"Maybe next time . . ." Murdock said with a shrug.
"Suit yourself," Doc said. He looked at Murdock seriously, "By the way, I need you to start tonight, the repair backlog is killin' me."
"I'll be back as soon as I'm sure the General's cleared out. I assume he'll be in this evening for a debriefing - so I'll be scarce 'til he's gone." Murdock turned and headed back out to the tarmac. "See ya later, Doc."
As expected, General Hunt Stockwell showed up that evening to be briefed on the mission just completed. Everything considered the mission had gone well, and he was pleased. Truth was that the A-team had turned out to be a very valuable asset. He had not been overly charitable to them at the start, part of that stemming from his history with Captain Murdock. But now he was seriously considering how he was going to convince the Team to sign on for work voluntarily after their pardons were received.
Time would tell.
He'd been giving them more freedom lately, but the situation was still
not secured with the military. They were
being stubborn where the A-team was concerned - apparently too many years of
being made fools of. But within the
limited confines of
After the debriefing, he headed back to the airfield, he
had meetings in
Murdock called Doc from the compound, "Has the vulture taken flight yet, Doc?"
"They left almost 45 minutes ago. Get your butt over here, boy, time's a-wasting!"
"On my way, Boss-man."
Maybe this time . . .
Murdock spent the next week working on Doc's backlog of plane repairs. BA even came and helped him. The van was in tip top condition, and BA was bored.
It was Friday evening, and Murdock had pulled the Taylorcraft into the hangar to start work. He'd managed to work his way through all the critical repairs. He and BA had even worked late on Monday to get the cargo plane fixed up. Doc seemed pretty happy with the arrangement, and had told Murdock he'd allow it to continue indefinitely, as long as the General didn't find out.
"This is a classic, BA, deserving the utmost respect. Handle her with kid gloves, big guy!"
"I handle ever'thing careful, fool, unlike you!" BA glowered "and stop talking 'bout the plane like it's alive - it's just a plane!"
"Just a plane, JUST A PLANE?" Murdock cried. "I'll have you know that this is one of the great classics - an aeronautical wonder to be beheld. Not only is it a great flier but economical to boot. Give her the respect she deserves, you big ugly mudsucker!"
"Don't you start with me, fool, I'm here helpin' you 'cause I was feeling generous. But your crazy talk is wearing thin, man!" BA was advancing on the pilot as he spoke.
From the hangar door came
As they headed for the counter, where
Face looked at BA, then at Murdock and said, "Murdock, I wouldn't test that theory until after BA has gotten to eat."
As they started to eat, conversation turned towards Murdock's failure to talk to the owner of the plane sitting in the hangar.
"I can't believe you didn't talk to her. I've never seen you at a loss for words before. What's the problem?" Face asked.
"I don't know," Murdock said "She was talking to Doc when I walked in, and then she was gone - I didn't really get a chance . . ."
"You mean you delayed until you didn't have a
chance. You know she's not just gonna stand around waiting for you to make a
"Well, it doesn't really matter now, does it?" Murdock said dismissively.
Doc came in a few minutes later and walked over to the counter, picking up a piece of pizza. "Can anyone join this party?" he asked.
"Help yourself, Doc."
"Speak for yourself, Hannibal," Murdock said, picking up his fourth piece of pizza, "I'm just getting started."
Doc noticed the plane in the hangar, "You got the Clay T-craft in, huh," he said.
"Yep, haven't started yet. She sounded a little rough, but not bad." Murdock said.
"A little rough is the worst she gets,
"Aunt Bea?" Face asked.
Face looked at Murdock triumphantly, "I told you it was an Andy Taylor plane!"
"Technically, it's a Bea Taylor plane." said a voice from near the door. Nancy Clay was standing there watching the gathering with amused interest.
Murdock caught sight of her and panicked . . . He still couldn't think of anything to say, and he knew the guys were none too subtle when it came to something like this. He decided the best strategy was to separate himself from the group, so he turned and his long legs carried him quickly to the other side of the plane.
"No thanks," Nancy said with a smile, walking towards the gathering by the desk, "I had fast food a little while ago, and can't handle any more grease tonight." She had noticed the pilot from the previous weekend, in mechanics coveralls, striding towards Aunt Bea, and found herself thinking that she was glad she had taken the time to stop by home and freshen up before coming to the 'port.
Doc took up the introductions, "
"Murdock is hiding on the other side of the plane,
Doc," Face hissed in response to Doc's casting glances. Face was beginning
to get irritated, here was Murdock's chance to meet
"Murdock, I don't think you've met Nancy Clay,
Murdock stood up from where he was crouched beside the tool box with a nervous, but broad smile, "Hi, it's nice to meet you," he held out his hand.
"I'm gonna go clean up the pizza,"
"A little match making,
Aunt Bea's the Real Matchmaker
Murdock stood and watched
"I'll keep that in mind." Murdock said, picking up a socket and moving
She stepped aside slightly as he set to work, and cocked her head off to the side, "Maybe I should help, just to make sure."
"I don't think there's room under this hood for more than one person, even a little short cake like you," he said grinning, "Why don't you have a seat and supervise. You know it's never a good idea to operate on your own child, anyways."
"That may be true, but this child is more like a
Frankenstein than a blood relative, I think there's a difference."
"So you restored her yourself?" Murdock asked, interested.
"Yea," she said, smiling, "Dad gave me a choice at 14, a car that ran or a plane that didn't. I think he was trying to discourage me from flying but it didn't work."
As Murdock worked, they discussed the restoration work
An hour and a half later, Murdock had finished cleaning
and lubing everything. He asked
The engine purred and
"You're all set," Murdock said, "You might as well taxi her on out to bed and tie her down."
Murdock stepped back from the plane and
"Thanks a lot HM."
"Any time, Short Cake," Murdock said smiling, "It's a pleasure working on such a fine aircraft. Besides, none of the other planes comes with as good company."
"Yea, it is late," he said, looking absently at the clock. He was trying to come up with something to say to keep her from leaving.
Murdock finally sighed in defeat, his mind was a total blank, "Well," he said, smiling at her ruefully, "Good night."
About half way to the door she stopped, 'this is stupid,' she thought to herself, 'he's the most normal guy you've met in ages, if you want to go out with him, you ask him.' Shoving her hands into the back pockets of her jeans she turned resolutely, "So, HM, what are you doing for dinner tomorrow?" she asked, rocking back nervously on her heels.
Murdock straightened and looked at her in surprise, "I haven't got any plans," he said, "rarely do."
"Would you like to maybe get a bite to eat with me? Charlie's has great burgers."
Murdock did a mental head slap, 'of course, a date, why hadn't he thought of that?'
The hesitation spooked her, 'damn, guess I read that wrong,' she thought, and rushed forward to fill the silence, "It's alright if you've got other plans . . ."
"NO," Murdock said, louder than he'd intended, "I mean . . . I don't have other plans . . . and I love a good burger. Can I pick you up around 5?"
He moved over to the bench and took the card from her as she stood up and held it out, "It's not hard to find," she said, continuing uncertainly, "and my work number is on the front . . . if something comes up and you can't make it."
He smiled as he realized that she was just as nervous as he was, "Wild horses couldn't keep me away," he said reassuringly.
"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then," she said with a shy smile, backing towards the hangar door. After a final wave she turned and walked out to the parking lot.
"Yea, see ya tomorrow," Murdock said as
The third message was from Trixie Martin, her best
friend, who wanted to know where the heck she was and when she was going to
stop by for a visit.
The fourth and final message was from her father, "
It was hard to believe that Thanksgiving was less than a
week away. So her Uncle was going to be
able to make it. Thinking back she was
pretty sure she hadn't seen him since last Christmas. She had mixed feelings about this. Her Uncle was her only real link to her dead
mother, besides her Dad. He always had
interesting stories to tell about when he and Mom were kids, and she never
tired of hearing them. But it never failed that he would bring up her
"disappointing" choice of careers, failure to finish law school, and
other short-comings. The visits almost
always ended with them angry at each other, and
Her father said it was because they were too much alike
- which just irritated
Stringing Them Along
Saturday morning dawned cool and crisp and sunny. Murdock woke early, as usual, and headed for the galley kitchen in his small apartment to start coffee. He went down and picked up his paper then headed back up to the apartment to read the news and drink his coffee.
The phone rang at 8 - it was Face, "So, how did it go last night?" he asked.
"OK - Aunt Bea is in top-notch working order, once again." Murdock said.
"Great," Face said, "Did anything interesting happen."
"Naw, it was a pretty routine tune up," Murdock said, grinning mischieviously, "Hey, what are you guys having for breakfast, I haven't eaten yet."
"I think Hannibal's making your favorite,
pancakes. You should come over . . . We
can talk about your evening." Face
offered. Murdock hadn't even mentioned
Murdock knew what Face was fishing for, "I'll be over in about half an hour," he said, and hung up.
At the compound,
"As usual, Murdock, your timing where food is
concerned is impeccable. Everything's
ready, and I think Frankie's already set the table. Let's dig in!"
They all sat down at the table and passed plates. Conversation was scarce until most of the
food was gone. Then Face looked at
Murdock and asked tentatively, "So, Murdock,
"Yeah! You know she restored that plane herself? It wasn't even in running order when she got it and it took her the better part of a year. No wonder she babies it so much." Murdock was smiling, knowing that he wasn't providing the information that his friend really wanted.
"Sounds like you two really hit it off,"
"It was nice to have someone to talk to, since you guys all left." Murdock said looking pointedly around the table.
There was a long silence, broken by Frankie, "Enough!" he exploded, "Just tell us, did you ask her out or not?"
"Nope," Murdock stated flatly.
All four of his friends started talking at once.
"What do you mean, you didn't ask her out . . ." Face said.
"I can't believe you, Murdock . . ."
"Fool's losin' it . . ." BA growled.
"You've got to be kidding me . . ." Frankie sputtered.
The outbursts faded to silence as they all realized that Murdock was sitting there, arms crossed, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
"She asked me out . . . to dinner," Murdock's grin was wide enough to split his face in two, "I'm pickin' her up at 5 this afternoon."
"All right, Murdock!"
"Man, ya gotta love women's lib!" Frankie said.
Two Women and a Baby
Nancy and Trixie met, as planned, for lunch at the local
"You know, when I was pregnant, I had people falling all over themselves to open the door for me. Now, when I'm carrying a real live baby and 10 lbs of accompanying luggage, they let the door slam in my face. Now I ask you, does that make sense?"
"That's what babies do." Trixie said, "She's really holding her head up now, and looking around. She recognizes mine and Joe's voice, and she's been smiling - and no it is NOT gas!"
"Are you enjoying your sabbatical?"
Trixie shrugged, "It's nice being home with Emma . . . I'm enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. You remember, I was really afraid I was going to get bored, but so far that hasn't happened. We'll see if that lasts the whole year."
The waitress came, brought coffee, and took their orders. Emma stirred and cooed, then settled back to sleep.
Trixie smiled, "Don't I know it!"
"He's fine," Trixie said, "he's actually
been taking more time to be at home, with Emma here, which has been really
nice. He's scheduled for some training up in
"So," Trixie said, "What have you been up to?"
"You know, you really ought to tell Riley to take a flying leap and find a real job. You'd be a shoe-in for the FBI or CIA - I hear they're both hiring right now."
"You're starting to sound like my Uncle,"
"That's what I mean
"Well, there are advantages to working for
Riley. I know the work isn't always
exciting, and the pay isn't great, but I don't feel bad telling him off, and he
lets me get away with it. And I
don't have to worry about world or even national politics when I'm working a
"Still sticking to your Uncle? You know,
"My job isn't that 'sucky',"
"Besides," she added, "I like Riley, we make a good team. And I still have a lot to learn."
"I question who teaches whom more," Trixie said, "But I have to admit that you seem suited to this PI business. I don't think I could do it."
"Don't sell yourself short, Trix, you're just as
nosey as I am!"
"Who're you callin' nosey?" Trixie glared at her friend.
The waitress showed up with their lunch and the two friends dug in with relish.
"So, is there anything else interesting going on in your life? I haven't seen you for a week and seems like we're having the same conversation we always have," Trixie said.
"What - really?!? Trixie exclaimed. "Who is he? Do I know him? Where did you meet? Where's he taking you?" Trixie ran out of breath.
"Whoa, one question at a time," Nance said, laughing, "Has it been that long since I went on a date?"
When Trixie started to reply,
Trixie laughed, then prompted, "Well . . .," turning as Emma began to fuss.
"I don't think you know him, his name is HM Murdock. He works for Doc out at the airfield, as a mechanic. That's where we met. And as far as the date, I asked him out, and I am taking him to Charlie's for dinner."
Trixie was preparing to nurse Emma, who had awakened very hungry. "So, what's he like?" she asked.
"He's kinda shy, but he seems really nice. He's got one oddball bunch of friends that
always seem to be hanging around.
Something about them is familiar . . .,"
"What's he look like?" Trixie asked, waggling her eyebrows.
"Nice . . .,"
"Sounds promising," Trixie said approvingly. "You'll have to bring him over for dinner some night so I can meet him."
After leaving Trixie,
"Adams Investigations," Riley answered on the first ring.
"You haven't been at it that long - see what happens tonight." Riley said, "You know these kind of things take persistence.
"As much as I'd love to spend the evening in my car
watching a guy scratch himself and drink beer in front of the TV, I can't,"
"You've got a date?" Riley said disbelievingly.
"Yes, I have a date,"
"With a guy?" Riley asked.
"No, with an ape," she said irritably, "Of course with a guy."
"Sorry . . ." Riley said hesitantly, "It's just that, you know, your dance card has never been that full . . ."
"That's not what I meant," Riley said, "You're just always sort of . . . stand-offish, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. I'm just surprised that you're going out. It's not like you've ever dated a whole lot, at least since I've known you."
"That's because I have an asshole of a boss that makes me work all the time."
"Now I know that's not true - you're boss is like
solid gold," Riley said teasingly, then continued more seriously,
"It'll be fine," Riley said soothingly, "Just don't be too . . . you. Ya know what I mean?"
"No, I don't know what you mean. If I'm not me, who am I supposed to be?
"You know, act like a . . . a normal woman." Riley grimaced as he said it, knowing the reaction was not going to be pleasant.
"Go to hell, Riley."
Something in Common
She walked to the door and took a deep breath before opening it. Murdock was standing on the front steps, holding a fistful of daisies and looking just as nervous as she felt.
"Hi," Murdock grinned and stepped through the door. He held out the flowers, as if on afterthought, "Um, these are for you."
"This is a great place," Murdock said, looking around as he followed her through to the kitchen, "Real roomy."
"Over on the east side of town, in a little efficiency apartment. It's not much, but I'm accustomed to cramped quarters. Not sure what I'd do if I had this kind of space."
"Lived in a small place in LA, huh?"
Murdock shoved his hands in his pockets and took a deep breath - this topic didn't usually come up quite so early in a conversation, but there wasn't any avoiding it, and he really wanted to get it over with. It was better to know what she thought now, before he got too attached. Erica's reaction to the revelation had just about done him in.
"I lived at the VA in
He nodded, looking down, "Yea, that's what they call it. It's not something they really cure you of, they just help you learn how to manage it. I do pretty good most of the time."
Murdock hadn't been prepared for this flat acceptance of his past residency at the VA, and found himself inexplicably pushing the issue, "So, it doesn't bother you that I spent ten years living in the mental ward of a VA hospital?" he asked pointedly.
Her eyes widened as she realized what she'd blurted out. She looked away suddenly, heading towards the refrigerator, "Can I get you something to drink, OJ, iced tea, milk?"
"Sure, I'll have a glass of iced tea," Murdock said, taken aback by her statement, "What - - - what happened?"
"You don't remember?" Murdock asked.
I have nightmares about it, but it's hard to figure out what's real and
what isn't. I went to therapy for
several years, and it helped me learn to deal with the anxiety, but I still don't
Murdock's brown eyes were sympathetic, "I'm really sorry about your Mom, Nancy. It must have been really difficult to come to terms with it, especially at such a young age."
"Thanks," she said sincerely.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping the
drinks, each lost in their own thoughts.
Like a crumbling tower you fall to pieces
And mend the cracks on the surface
And hope to God nobody notices
The best of you fell in the creases
She considered how appropriate these words were for her. Sometimes it was very easy to hide behind that façade of normalcy that therapy had allowed her to construct. But deep inside she knew that her life would always be affected by what she had seen - even if she didn't remember it except in her nightmares. She could certainly understand Murdock's uncertainty about her reaction to his past residency at the VA - and she admired him for bringing it out in the open so readily.
She pushed her chair back, and smiled at him warmly, "You know, this conversation has taken a decidedly depressing turn. Why don't we head on over to Charlie's and see if we can find something more upbeat to talk about."
Murdock grinned and stood up as well, "You got it, besides, I'm starving."
When they arrived at Charlie's, they took a booth near the back of the restaurant. Charlie's was a bar and grill with a big screen TV in the bar to pull in the sports crowd. At just a little after five it was still pretty empty, with the big crowd coming in around seven for whatever prime-time game was playing.
They placed their drink orders and then sat flipping through the menus and talking idly about the entrees.
A thought seemed to occur to Murdock and he looked up from the menu, "Oh, Doc said to tell you that he put the tune up on your tab."
"I figured he would."
Murdock grinned too, "Don't let Doc hear you say that, he already told me he was going to dock my pay for the dating services rendered. Next thing you know he'll be setting up a paid escort service."
"I can see the ads now, 'Dinner and a Lube,'"
They were still laughing when the waitress stopped by to
take their orders. After she left,
"Well, I was born in
"I sometimes wonder how my Dad did it,"
"No 'home' to go to," Murdock said ruefully, "My Dad basically dumped me on Gram and Gramps, and disappeared, I haven't seen him in more than 15 years. Gram died when I was 16, and Gramps was only 6-months behind her," he smiled in reminiscence, "I don't think Gramps wanted to go on without Gram - they were real close. As for my Dad . . . he didn't even come to their funerals."
"I'm so sorry,"
"Don't be, it's not your fault," Murdock shrugged, "Besides, my Dad was no great loss and I figure Gram and Gramps are still keepin' an eye on me."
"So, how about you, where did you grow up?" he asked.
"Just outside of
"It's great that you've stayed so close all these
Murdock cocked his head to the side, "If you're asking 'cause of how he dresses, naw, that's just the big guy. He likes to be unique."
"No, I was asking because he seems so familiar, and
I can't figure out why."
In explanation, Murdock offered, "Oh, BA just has one of those faces."
"Oh yea, I see guys that look like that every
"Yea, like I said, one of those faces," Murdock repeated, abruptly changing the subject, "Look, here's dinner - it looks great. I'm starving."
"It's high metabolism - I can't seem to put on any weight no matter how much I eat. Drives Facey nuts!" Murdock said, picking up his burger and digging in.
"'Face', where did that nickname come from?"
"We call him 'Face' 'cause he's so good
lookin' that's all you notice. You
totally miss the hands which are busy taking everything you got." Murdock
said, smiling, "He was our supply officer in '
"And 'Hannibal', that's an unusual name - makes me
think of Hannibal Lecter."
"His given name is John, but he's the man with the
plan. Developed a reputation as a great
strategist, like Hannibal of Carthage - you know the guy that crossed the
"BA . . . ?"
"Stands for 'Bad Attitude', and trust me he earns the nickname," Murdock said. He grinned mischievously "But, if you really want to annoy him, call him 'Scooter', that's what his Mama calls him."
"He looks like he could snap me like a
"Oh, annoying the big guy is something I do a lot - though not intentionally . . . OK, not always intentionally," Murdock amended, "He's really a big pussy cat."
"Sounds like you don't get along very well,"
"Oh, I know BA'll always be there for me. The problem is, he'd give me the shirt off his back, but he'd be torn as to whether to let me wear it or use it to string me up by my toes!"
"Frankie's a late addition, I guess you could say
he was kinda drafted." Murdock said, "He didn't serve with us in '
"Hannibal's an actor?"
"I guess you could say that . . . he starred as the Aquamaniac in all those B-movies that came out over the past decade."
Murdock glanced around and said, "You're pretty good at keeping the subject off of yourself," he said, "now tell me about Nancy Clay."
"How'd you end up in
"I went to the
They had basically finished their meals as they were talking, and a short, dark-haired man, who looked like a manager, stopped by the table, "Hello Nancy," he said familiarly.
"Hi Charlie, how are you?"
Charlie grinned broadly, "You'll have to excuse me,
we aren't used to seeing
"Thanks, Charlie, I needed someone to come over and
make HM want to run away."
"I was just impressed that a man had the guts to ask you out," Charlie said, his eyes taking on a teasing gleam.
Murdock was unabashed, "Unfortunately I can't claim
that honor -
Charlie looked at
But even as she said it, Charlie was pulling her up from the table and steering her towards the piano, "Come on, I'm sure HM won't mind and one song won't kill you!"
She sat down at the piano, with her hands on her knees and thought a few minutes about what to play. Finally she decided on a song by Atoosa:
You can lie but I am on your mind
And the way that you've been searching I'll be searching all my life
You remind me of an old, old song on the radio
That I used to sing to myself at night
You remind me of an old, old friend that I used to know
And when I think of him it always makes me smile
I'm pulling time through the trenches
With you burning down my fences
Run with me in gold and purple dresses
Speaking your native tongue, draw me into trances.
You remind me of the gold that floats through my window
Bleeding through purple horizon folds
There are times that I'd admit that I miss you
And watch the fall bring in the cold
Sweep out the old
I'm pulling time through the trenches
With you burning down my fences
Run with me in gold and purple dressed
Speaking your native tongue, come on draw me into trances
So I'm going to shut down all my senses
When you scream, you can be offensive
Did you know I would rather be reckless?
And panting I'd much rather be breathless
You can lie, but I am on you mind
And the way that you've been burning I'll be burning all my life.
Murdock was still clapping when she got back to the booth, and she gave him a little mock bow before sitting down.
"That was great!" Murdock said, "I've never heard that song before. I really liked it."
She glanced back over her shoulder, than looked back at Murdock, "I'm really sorry about that. Charlie thinks it's his mission in life to get me to be more . . . out-going."
As if on cue, Charlie came back over, "Not bad, not
bad at all - wish I could convince you to do it on a more regular basis,"
He turned to Murdock, "You know, I never would have known she could play
and sing like that if I hadn't gotten her drunk one night. Just a little tip," he added with a
broad grin and a wink, before turning away.
The waitress had brought over the check and dropped it on Murdock's side of the table. Murdock picked it up, looking at it idly.
"OK," he agreed, "but only if you let me take you out for dessert."
"You have room for dessert?" she asked incredulously.
"I always have room for dessert!" Murdock smiled, "There's a great little diner near my apartment that has the best pie in the world, not to mention good coffee."
"Sounds good - The sports crowd is starting to show
up and it's getting a little loud in here, anyway,"
They talked non-stop on the road. At the diner, they took another booth, this time near the door. The waitress, who greeted Murdock like an old friend, brought coffee over and they ordered pie.
They talked easily.
Murdock shared some stories of the team's antics, being careful to limit
it to non-mission-related stories.
"You are never going to get to sleep tonight,"
"Naw," Murdock said, "you want a real buzz you drink Mountain Dew - the caffeine and sugar combo is killer. After a six-pack you need coffee to bring you back down!"
By now they had been sitting and talking in the diner
for a couple hours.
Murdock looked at his watch, "Jeez, look at the time. Sorry Blanche, didn't realize it was gettin' so late. Hope we haven't held you up."
"You ain't hurtin nothin', HM," she said smiling, "I hated to interrupt. You two seemed to be having such a good time."
Murdock handed Blanche enough money to cover the bill, with a generous tip, "Sorry for taking up space for so long Blanche. Buy Terra an ice cream cone on me. G'night!"
He held the door for
"You must eat there a lot."
"I eat there a fair amount, it's convenient," Murdock agreed, "and Blanchey's a sweet lady. She's raising her granddaughter on her own, and I don't think she's got two nickels to rub together."
"You're not so bad yourself," he said, smiling.
They rode in comfortable silence the rest of the way to
her townhouse. He parked in the drive
"Me, too," he said smiling broadly at her, "maybe we could do it again, real soon. Like . . . ," he cocked his head to one side, "tomorrow?" his tone was hopeful.
"How about a picnic lunch? I make a mean chicken salad!" He said, "I'll pick you up around 11?"
"OK," she agreed, "do you want me to bring anything?"
"Just yourself," he said.
He moved up a step, so he was one step down from where she was standing. With their height difference, it put their faces at about the same level. He smiled tenderly, looking into her sky blue eyes, then with a hand behind her neck he gave her a brief but firm kiss on the lips. He pulled back and looked into her eyes again.
She opened her eyes and smiled shyly at him before looking down self-consciously.
She looked up, "Goodnight, HM," she replied, belatedly.
At the bottom of the steps he turned, a wide grin once again plastered across his face, "Can't wait 'til tomorrow!" he said taking a few steps backwards as he spoke. With a final wave he turned and jogged to the truck.
How Did it Go?
Murdock actually woke up kind of late for him - it was almost - and the phone was ringing.
"Hullo?" he said groggily.
"Did I wake you up?" Face asked in surprise.
"Maybe . . ." Murdock said, lifting his head and looking at the clock.
"Just called to see how things went last night," Face said, "You must have been out late."
"Got home about one." Murdock said. He smiled thinking about the evening.
"So . . ." Face prompted.
"We had a great time," Murdock said, "In fact, we're goin' out again today. I'm picking her up at for a picnic."
"Another date, already, huh?" Face asked, "Where are you gonna take her?"
"I thought we could go in to DC to the Mall and have lunch then maybe check out the Smithsonian museums," Murdock said.
"Murdock, are you sure you want to go to a museum - doesn't sound very . . . romantic," Face said.
Murdock considered what his friend had said, "I don't
know, Facey, I think
Face sighed, "Murdock, it's your second date, you should take her somewhere more . . . normal."
"Listen Face, I know you mean well, but I gotta do this my way," Murdock said.
The phone rang, and she ran down the stairs to answer it, "Hello?"
"So, how did it go?" Trixie asked bluntly.
"And . . .," Trixie asked, "you aren't getting away with that. C'mon, give."
"You sound kinda . . . dreamy, must have been some conversation," Trixie said.
"It was nice, we talked about all kinds of
things. You know, kind of . . . got to
know each other,"
"So, are you going to see him again?"
"You make it sound like it's amazing that he asked
me out after the first date,"
"It's just that . . . well
"Thank you, Riley Adams!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Trixie asked.
"That is exactly what Riley told me yesterday, before my date. Well, for your information, HM doesn't seem to be intimidated at all."
Trixie found herself smiling, "Don't get mad
"I do not need to be handled by
"What you really mean is that I'm
"No - just very competent and self-sufficient." Trixie said, "A lot of men find that to be a put off."
"So, basically, you are once again agreeing with
Riley, and think I'm not a 'normal' woman. Honestly, do you two get together
and think, 'How can we make
"You say 'bitch' like it's a bad thing," Trixie said laughing out loud at the indignance in Nancy's tone, "I was merely pointing out that part of the reason you haven't gone out more is that you tend to scare men off."
"Well, I guess it doesn't matter, because HM doesn't
seem to be bothered it,"
It was a nice day, in the upper sixties and sunny. Still, they both wore jackets, because when the breeze blew and the sun wasn't shining it felt chilly.
"Maybe a picnic wasn't such a great idea," Murdock said as a strong breeze whipped up, briefly.
"Oh, I don't know,"
Murdock looked at her and smiled, "I'm glad you don't mind. I've been feeling a bit claustrophobic . . . I was ready for a day out in the open."
"I thought you were used to cramped quarters,"
"Not all the time," he said.
"Yea, from all the stories you told about Face breakin' you out of the VA I question just how much time you actually spent there," She cocked an eyebrow at him.
He grinned, "I'll never tell."
They found a spot near
"Maybe we should just lay down and take a
Murdock turned and looked at her - she looked so peaceful and beautiful. He resisted the urge to touch her cheek and instead said, "I think we should get up and walk - that'll counteract the effects of overeating."
"No, but if we don't get moving, we won't make the
They spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum
wandering around and discussing the various displays. Murdock tried to convince
Nancy and Murdock were laughing and glancing over their shoulders at the guard as they left the museum, "Jeez, you'd think we were gonna steal somethin'," Murdock said, "I feel like a kid that got caught with his hand in the cookie jar."
"You're a pilot caught in the air and space museum
after hours - I'd say the 'kid with his hand in the cookie jar' analogy is
"You're in the same boat, Short Cake!" Murdock said, affectionately. He put an arm around her impulsively and squeezed. She laughed and gave him a playful nudge, "Hey - be nice I'm just telling the truth," Murdock said in mock pain.
"You're just lucky I didn't rat you out to the
They teased and joked as they continued down the Mall,
taking their time. By the time they'd worked their way back down to the
As they approached the Mall, the Vietnam Veteran's
Memorial was almost directly in front of them, and they wandered in that
direction. They stopped at one end of
the Wall, and stood still, both lost in their own thoughts. A cool breeze blew, and
It was the first time she'd been to the Wall. She had heard a lot about it since it was dedicated just a few years ago, in 1982, but she had always avoided downtown DC - traffic was terrible and she had no real reason to go.
Now, standing here, she was struck by the simplicity of
the statement. It seemed hard to believe that all of these people had had their
lives cut short in
She looked up at Murdock, he had been there and lived through it, he and his friends. That kind of experience had to forge a deep bond. It was no wonder they were so close. She wondered what his thoughts were as he stood there gazing at the monument. He was standing right next to her, but from the look on his face she could tell that in his mind he was somewhere else entirely.
After a few minutes, she placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, "HM . . ." she said quietly. He seemed to come back to the present slowly, and turned to look at her, a smile appearing gradually as he took in her presence.
"Seemed like you were a million miles away,"
"Naw, just a few thousand," he said looking back at the Wall, "Sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday, the memories are so vivid . . . it's almost like I'm there again."
He turned towards her, again, and looked deep into her eyes, "I'd always come back to you, Short Cake."
Their eyes locked and the world around them seemed to fade away. They moved together, as if in slow motion, and when their lips met, they were both swept up by feelings that they had been holding in check. When they parted, Murdock smiled as the wind blew her hair around her face in a cloud. He reached up to help her tame it, his fingers caressing her cheek in the process.
She latched onto the first excuse that came to mind. Glancing at her watch, she said hesitantly, "It's getting late - and I've got a whole week's worth of work to get done in two and a half days. I really should be getting home," She looked up at him with a weak smile.
He slid his arm around her shoulders, "OK," he
said, turning her in the direction of the truck.
On the way home, she was grateful for the gear shift between them. It gave her some breathing space and a chance to get her chaotic emotions back under some semblance of control.
At her townhouse, Murdock walked her to the door. When
she turned after opening the door, he was standing close, and
Nancy was finding it nearly impossible to think clearly with him standing so close, and finally broke the contact, stepping back into the house, "Good night, HM," she said, a little breathlessly.
He smiled at her tenderly, "Good night, Short Cake. Can I call you tomorrow?"
He chuckled, "That's OK, I don't have anything better to do than wait for a lovely lady to get home."
"Can't wait! 'Night again, Short Cake - and sweet dreams!"
Back to Reality
She dragged herself out of bed and headed in to the shower. As she showered and dressed she ran over the entire evening in her head. Just thinking about the kiss made her feel hot and flushed all over again.
She glanced at the clock in the kitchen, it was late, and she really needed to get into the office and find out what the case load was for the week. Riley had told her they had a new client, and they still had several other open cases, besides - and it was a short week to begin with. She didn't even bother to make any coffee, deciding to pick some up at the McDonald's drive thru on her way to work.
Murdock had to get to work, too, and as was his habit, he was up early. He had breakfast, then called Doc and made sure that the General wasn't scheduled in before heading out for the air field.
As he drove, his thoughts turned to the woman that he
was now certain he was falling for. More
than anything he had wanted to stay with
It was a long day. Doc had gotten in three planes with problems, none of them straight-forward. Face had stopped by around 10, but Murdock was elbow-deep in a Corsair and didn't have time to talk. So Face asked if he wanted to come by the compound for lunch and he agreed to show up around .
When Murdock walked in at the compound, he could smell a
roast - one of his favorite meals! He
wandered in to the kitchen, and
"Sure smells good, Colonel," Murdock said, "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"Sure, why don't you set the table while I finish carving the roast."
"Where're Face, BA, and Frankie?" Murdock asked as he started getting out plates and silverware.
"Out back, running the course,"
"We've missed you hanging out here this past
Certainly Stockwell hadn't made Murdock's transition any
easier, with his obvious antagonism towards the pilot.
"There is one thing, though," Murdock said, interrupting Hannibal's thoughts, "She recognizes you guys . . . she hasn't remembered but she was feeling me out about you pretty thoroughly at dinner Saturday. Do you think it's a problem?"
"Trust me," Murdock said seriously, "I
The back door opened and BA, Face, and Frankie came panting in, looking exhausted, "Good work out, guys?" He asked, grinning.
"Don't whine Lieutenant, it's not very
"You guys better get cleaned up, lunch'll be on the table in 10 minutes," He added.
One by one, Face, BA, and Frankie all got showers, and about 20 minutes later they were all seated at the table, and eating.
"So Murdock, are you going to be seeing
"Hope so," Murdock said between mouthfuls, "I'm gonna call her tonight, after work."
"She could come over for Thanksgiving dinner on
"She's headed home to
Murdock looked at BA thoughtfully, "You know, I'm
not sure, I'll have to find out" he said, then turned to
"Yes Murdock, and try to get a nice bird,"
"Yea, but don't get too attached to it!" Face teased.
The message light was blinking, and
"Yea, it's been one hell of the day."
"You sound tired," Murdock said, "Have you had dinner yet?"
"No, I couldn't face anymore fast food today."
"How about I bring you something over?" he asked.
"HM, you don't have to do that . . ."
"I want to do that," he said, "It gives me an excuse to come see you."
I'll be over in half an hour," he said, and rang off.
She ran the last few steps, and opened the door. Murdock had two carry out boxes -
"Blanche said to tell you 'hi,'" Murdock said
as he came in, confirming Nancy's suspicions, "She packaged these up
herself. Hope you like cabbage
rolls." He looked
The smell of the food was making
In the kitchen,
He grinned at her, "Sorry, did I scare you?"
But when she looked up he was still standing there, and he smiled repentantly when he caught her eye, "Sorry, guess I got kind of side tracked - you smell really good."
Nancy laughed nervously, "You wouldn't have said that half an hour ago - I spent a good portion of the afternoon in a smokey station house," She gave him a gentle nudge to the other side of the kitchen. "Go get the silverware, flyboy," and he went, reluctantly.
She pulled the plates down, transferred the food to them, and took them to the kitchen table, where Murdock had laid out the silverware and sat down.
"This really smells great - much better than
"So, what were you doing in a station house today?" Murdock asked curiously, as they began to eat.
"When the responding officers say 'Ma'am, you're gonna have to come with me' it generally means you're going to get to spend some quality time at the local police station," she said ruefully.
"And what exactly did you do to gain the interest of the local constabulary?" Murdock asked facetiously, in his best Englishman impersonation.
He grinned at her, "I think you're trying to change the subject!"
She smiled guiltily, "Well, I was trying to convince an uncooperative gentleman that he should take his daughter back to her mother. He didn't want to, and the situation sort of deteriorated from there."
Murdock looked at her uncertainly, "Maybe you should start from the beginning . . ." he suggested.
"So you called the cops after all?" he asked.
She looked at him a smiled, "So, what did you do today?" she asked, as if she'd just told him about a trip to the market.
"Whoa - he had a gun?" Murdock was looking at her in disbelief, "was it loaded?"
Murdock was just staring at her, "Do people threaten you with guns regularly?"
Murdock just nodded and started eating again, his mood
thoughtful. They ate in silence for a
few minutes, then
"Spent most of the day at the airfield - Doc had several planes in for repair and maintenance - nothing even vaguely interesting, especially compared to your day," he said with a smile.
"Have you ever thought about giving lessons?"
Murdock shrugged, "Have to have an instructor's license for that . . .," he said vaguely, then switched the subject back to her again, "You know, I can't believe you're so relaxed about this guy holding you at gun-point - doesn't it bother you at all?" he looked at her, his expression serious.
She looked up and their eyes locked for a few seconds
before she picked up her empty plate and glass and headed towards the kitchen
sink, "I wasn't relaxed about it at the time, but it's over now and nobody
got hurt. No point in stewing over
it," she said flatly, "It's a hazard of the job - if we're gonna be
together, then you're gonna have to get used to it."
She had her back to Murdock, who had a thoughtful smile on his face at her comment and replied, "Yea, I guess I will have to get used to it," his tone conveyed his feelings, and Nancy lost her grip on the glass she was putting in the dishwasher. It crashed to the floor and shattered on the linoleum, scattering glass shards all around her bare feet.
Murdock jumped up, "Are you OK?"
He stepped gingerly across the kitchen, stopping at her
Fifteen minutes later, Murdock came silently into the room. He sat on the arm of the couch next to her and started rubbing her shoulders, "You need to relax," he said soothingly, "It's all cleaned up - only casualty was a glass."
She turned and looked at him, "Um . . . You should go," she said flatly.
Murdock dropped his hands to his lap, looking at her in confusion, "What's wrong?"
"HM, I'm tired, and I really do think it would be best if you left."
He stood as well, "OK," he said uncertainly, "I'll see you tomorrow?" he asked tentatively.
Murdock didn't want to agree to it, but he knew he'd stepped over some line and wasn't sure how to get back, at least she hadn't said she didn't want to see him again at all, "If that's what you want, OK," he said carefully, "But at least say I can call you."
Finally, a small smile touched her lips, "Of course you can call," she said, "It's just that . . . I have a lot to do during this short week, and I don't really need any . . . distractions," she finished lamely.
Murdock gave her his most winning smile, "I'll call you tomorrow, then, and I'll try not to be too distracting," he was trying to look in her eyes, but after a brief glance up at him with a small smile, she had looked back at the floor, her demeanor more than a little uncertain and shy. He leaned down and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before heading for the door. "Take care, Short Cake," he said, as he left.
Murdock drove home slowly, uncertain how to handle his
own feelings about
He described what had happened and asked Face what he thought.
"Maybe she's frigid, Murdock." Face offered.
"No way, Facey, not after the way she kissed me last night." Murdock was hoping for a more helpful suggestion.
"Maybe you just caught her off guard," Face said. He really wasn't sure what to tell his friend, he'd never dated a woman that hadn't been more than willing to jump into bed, "Maybe she has some kind of sexual problem."
Murdock sighed, "Really, Face, everything isn't about sex." He said in exasperation. "I mean, we were having a really nice time and she was starting to relax, then all of a sudden she doesn't even want me around. I'm getting mixed signals, and I don't know what to think. We've had a couple great days together, talking and getting to know each other. Then suddenly, when it starts to get comfortable, she's pulling away . . ." Murdock trailed off, as a thought occurred to him.
"You know, Facey, she's acting a lot like you do when you're around Amy lately," he mused out loud.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Face asked guardedly.
"I mean," Murdock said pointedly, "That you're afraid to show Amy how much you care about her, 'cause you're afraid of what that's gonna mean."
"And just what does it mean, Murdock," Face asked testily.
"It means that you need her. That you want to have her around. That you want to make a commitment."
"They shouldn't have let you out of the VA, you're still delusional." Face said, almost angrily.
"See, that's exactly what I mean," Murdock continued calmly, "Every time we talk about it, you go into this big denial mode, and pretend that you don't love Amy - but I know you do, I've seen the way you look at her."
Face sat at the other end of the line, absolutely dumbfounded. How had a conversation about Murdock's love life turned into this? He did not love Amy, sure he cared about her, she was member of the team, but that was all there was to it.
"Murdock, you're wrong."
"No I'm not, and you know it - deep down you know
it. You just need to admit it to
yourself. And you better hurry up,
"Thanks, Face." Murdock added gratefully, "Talking about it really helped."
"Anytime, Murdock." Face said uncertainly.
Nancy and Murdock spoke briefly on Tuesday night. Nancy had gotten in late, once again, and didn't call him back until almost 10. She was short with him on the phone, claiming fatigue. She told him that she'd be leaving for Chicago the next afternoon, and she'd call when she returned.
After she got off the phone, she sat at the kitchen table and idly flipped through the paper, not really seeing anything. She was hoping that a few days away from Murdock would help quiet the feelings he aroused in her every time he was near. Unfortunately, even hearing his voice was starting to have that effect. In her heart, she desperately wanted to see him, but her head was stubbornly refusing to give in. She gave up pretending to read the paper, and headed upstairs to bed. She needed to get in to the office early, so she could finish up some paperwork before packing and taking off for Chicago.
The next morning was uneventful. She finished up the reports and billing that needed to be done. Riley came in around noon, and they discussed the holiday, and case status. Nancy told him she'd be back sometime Sunday, and would see him bright and early Monday morning.
By 12:30 she was packed and headed to the airfield. When she walked in, Murdock was standing at the desk, making notes in the repair log. He looked up and a dazzling smile lit his face when he saw her, "Hey, Short Cake," he said, straightening up, "Doc said you had called. Aunt Bea is all gassed up and ready to go."
Nancy felt like her heart was going to thud itself right out of her chest. She smiled and managed, "Thanks, HM," with only a slight tremor in her voice.
He came around the end of the desk, walking towards her, still smiling broadly, "Missed seein' ya yesterday," he said, "Do you have to go right away?"
Nancy backed away, looking at him almost warily, "I really should get going," she said in a rush, "It's a long flight and I promised Dad I'd be home for supper." That was a flat out lie, she'd told her father she'd probably be late, and not to wait supper for her, but she had to get out of the hangar, it was starting to feel very crowded.
Murdock's smile faded and he looked at her almost sadly, and said, "Well, have a good flight. I'll see you when you get back?" It was almost a plea.
She looked at him, and saw how much she was hurting him. But she couldn't seem to help herself, "Sure, I'll call you . . . sometime next week." It sounded lame, even to her ears.
"Right, next week," he said quietly, the hurt showing plainly on his face.
"Well, 'bye," she said detouring around him carefully and hurrying out to the back field.
"Goodbye, Short Cake."
Murdock arrived at the compound early Thursday morning. He had promised Hannibal he'd help him with dinner preparations. Hopefully, that would help keep his mind off Nancy - certainly having some company wouldn't hurt.
When he arrived, he met BA driving down the drive, "Hey, where ya goin', big guy?" Murdock asked as they came even with each other.
"Don' tell Face, but Hannibal convinced Amy to come out for the weekend. I'm goin' to pick her up at Dulles now."
"Amy's coming? That's terrific news!" Murdock said enthusiastically. Amy was like a sister, and her presence always lightened the mood.
When he got in the house, he found Hannibal alone in the kitchen, stuffing the bird. He looked out the back sliding door and saw Frankie and Face playing one on one. He headed on into the kitchen and set about making the cranberry relish without so much as a greeting.
"How's it goin', Captain?" Hannibal asked, taking in the long face. "You're awfully quiet today."
Murdock shrugged, "Guess I'm not really in the mood
to celebrate," he admitted, "
"I just wish she'd reel me in, 'stead of throwin' me back," Murdock said glumly, talking about it was making him feel worse.
Murdock put down the knife, and turned to face Hannibal, leaning against the counter, "Yea, I thought so, too," he said quietly, "Then Monday night I went over, and things seemed to be goin' great when all of the sudden she told me I should go . . ."
Murdock launched into the whole story, starting with her phone call Monday night. When he got done relating the events of Monday evening, he continued with the brief phone call on Tuesday night, then ended with her departure the previous afternoon, "I mean, it was like she was runnin' away from me, Hannibal. I don't know what I did wrong . . ."
Murdock looked up at
Murdock looked at
Murdock was shaking his head doubtfully, "I hope
you're right, Colonel," he said. Picking up the knife, he started cutting
up oranges for the cranberry relish, "I shouldn't let it ruin the holiday,
anyways. After all
"I thought they were all your favorites."
When she got down to the kitchen, her father, Carl Clay, already had the turkey out of the refrigerator and was cutting up veggies to stuff it. She walked over and kissed him on the cheek, then poured herself a cup of coffee.
Her father looked over at her appraisingly, "So, what have you been up to over the past week or so. I missed you last weekend. Is Aunt Bea OK?"
"Aunt Bea is fine, she just needed a tune up,"
"I talked to Hank at the airfield last evening,"
Her father turned and looked at her directly, "If you got in in the afternoon, where were you until 9 last night?" he asked.
Nancy had ended up getting in late the previous evening, mostly because she had driven around aimlessly after arriving, not feeling much like talking with her father. He'd always been able to tell when she was having one of 'those' days, and she hadn't felt like answering any questions about the cause.
She sighed, there was no point in lying to him, he could see through that a mile away, "I was just driving around," she said vaguely, "I needed to think."
"The flight from
She looked down into her coffee, stalling. Finally, her father said, "Alright, out with it. What's bothering you?"
"I don't know what came over me. We had such a wonderful time, and then all of the sudden Monday I started feeling . . . trapped and I just started pushing him away," Nancy said miserably, "Oh, Dad, the look on HM's face yesterday afternoon when I practically ran away from him. . ." her voice trailed off.
"Who is 'HM'?" her father asked, coming over to sit by her, the turkey forgotten.
Her father smiled knowingly. He remembered after her mother had been killed, Nancy's reaction to anyone who tried to get close to her, including him, had been the same. The Therapist had explained that it was a natural reaction, and part of the PTS, but it had taken three years of therapy before she had begun to overcome those problems. This guy must have really gotten to her for her to begin reacting like this. He stood and went back to stuffing the turkey, "I think maybe my little girl is in love," he said casually.
"You know, I only knew your mother a month before I asked her to marry me. She resisted, too, but in the end she gave in. Don't scoff at it, honey. You've always known your own mind, and never taken long to make decisions. In so many ways, you're like your mother," he smiled in reminiscence, "I think in your heart, you know the truth. What you need to do is convince that stubborn Stockwell head of yours that maybe it's not such a bad idea."
At the compound, Murdock had turned on the Macy's parade. Frankie and Face had come in, and all three were sitting around the TV, watching the floats and balloons go by. Murdock rose from his spot on the couch, "Anybody want anything to drink?"
Face and Frankie both mumbled 'no,' so Murdock turned and headed into the kitchen. He heard tires crunching on gravel, which meant that BA was back from the airport with Amy. So, Murdock detoured and headed out the front door.
The van pulled up and Mrs. Baracus open the passenger side door while Maggie Grant and Amy Allen came out the side door. Murdock smiled, the Colonel had more than one surprise up his sleeve. BA looked happier and more relaxed than he had in some time.
Murdock grinned at Amy and gathered her into a big bear hug, "Man is it good to see you, Chaquita!" He said enthusiastically. Amy smiled and gave him a big hug in return. "It's good to be here," she said.
"Hey there, HM, how 'bout a hug for an old lady?" BA's mother asked.
"I don't see any old ladies here," Murdock said, stepping forward and giving her a hug as well. Then he turned to Maggie, "Hey Mags, the Colonel sure will be glad to see you."
She came forward and gave Murdock a kiss on the cheek, squeezing his shoulders affectionately, "It's been way too long since I've seen my boys."
Murdock moved to the back of the van and helped BA unload the luggage.
"Where is Face . . . and
Murdock smiled, "I don't think they realize you're here - they're inside."
They moved up the steps together and Amy held the door open so the others could pass inside.
Maggie moved up beside him and his arm fell naturally
around her shoulders, "Hey, babe, it's great to see you!" They kissed briefly, then
BA's mother was beaming, "Scooter just about turned himself inside out," she said, "Thank you for sendin' Maggie to get me. I really wanted to see my Scooter for the holidays."
Face had heard the voices and his head popped up over the back of the couch like a jack in the box, "Amy?" He said, and jumped up, heading towards the gathering in the hall, "What are you doing here?"
Amy made a face at him, "It's nice to see you, too, Face," she said sarcastically.
"I didn't mean it that way, it's just . . . well, I thought you'd be with your folks for Thanksgiving," Face explained.
"I get to see Mom and Dad and Angela and her family all the time," Amy said, "But I really miss you guys. Life seems awful boring without you around."
By now, Frankie had moved into the hall, and Hannibal indicated him, "Amy, Maggie, Mrs. Baracus, I'd like you to meet Frankie Santana. Frankie, this is Amy Allen, Maggie Grant, and Mrs. Baracus."
Frankie shook hands with each in turn but wore his most charming smile for Amy, "It's a real pleasure to meet you Amy. I've heard so much about you. But none of the guys mentioned how beautiful you are," he leaned over her hand and kissed it.
Face looked like he wanted to pound Frankie, "That's enough," Face said testily, "Amy's a team member and off limits."
Murdock looked at his friend, and a fiendish smile lit his face, "I don't think that's true, Facey, 'member, when Ames went to Jakarta, she gave up her official team-member status." Face looked at Murdock sharply as Frankie took Amy's arm and escorted her into the living room. Murdock just smiled and shrugged, tagging along behind carrying luggage.
Frankie laid it on thick, and Murdock was beginning to wonder if Hannibal hadn't coached him. Face was turning red, and looked absolutely priceless. After about half an hour, he stood up and literally slammed out of the house. Hannibal caught Murdock's eye, and Murdock nodded and followed Face out on the back deck.
"So, Face, what seems to be the problem?" Murdock asked casually.
"You know damn well what the problem is," Face said angrily.
"I think maybe you're jealous," Murdock said.
"No," Face said forcefully, "I just don't think that Frankie should be hitting on Amy, she's a member of the team!"
"Not anymore, Face . . . that excuse doesn't hold water," Murdock said evenly.
"Well, Frankie doesn't have any business drooling after her like that," Face sputtered, "It's . . . it's just embarrassing."
"Embarrassing for whom?" Murdock asked directly, "Frankie, who's just paying attention to a beautiful woman, or you, who's being a total idiot."
Face just glared at Murdock and remained stubbornly silent.
"Alright, Face, listen," Murdock said calmly, "I'm gonna do you a big favor . . . I'm gonna go inside and send Amy out to talk to you. I think you should do yourself a favor and tell her how you feel." With that, Murdock turned on his heel and headed back inside.
True to his word, Murdock sent a rather confused Amy out to the deck a few minutes later, and before she could say anything, Face said, "Listen, Amy, I don't know what Murdock told you, but he doesn't know what he's talking about . . ."
"Face," Amy interrupted, looking puzzled, "I don't know what you're talking about. Murdock just said that you wanted to talk to me."
Face looked at her, and allowed himself to really just look. Murdock was right, he did feel more for her than he cared to admit. What if she didn't feel the same? 'Well,' Face thought, 'As Father Magill would say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.'
He took a deep breath, looking at her feet, "Amy, I . . . ," he looked up into her eyes and continued, just as uncertainly, "I don't know how to say this . . . but, I was thinking that maybe you, well . . . you and I . . . you know, maybe we could . . ." his voice faded.
"Face, you're an idiot when it comes to women," Amy said flatly
Face searched her face, the line of her mouth was grim but there was a light in her eyes. He gave her a winning smile, "But I'm a cute idiot."
Amy looked at him severely and his expression sobered, "I know I don't have a great track record, Amy, but I'm willing to try to change . . . for you . . . Scout's honor," he held up his hand in the Boy Scout salute.
Amy moved forward and put her hand over his, "You were never a Boy Scout, Face," she said, but she moved closer, "I have some major reservations about this."
"Join the club," Face said, pulling her into a warm embrace, "but I can't stand the thought of you with somebody else."
Amy looked at him very seriously, "Face, I'm willing to give this a try, I really care about you, but promise me one thing . . ."
Amy looked down, as if trying to decide how to put it into words, then looked up at him, her expression very serious, "If you decide that you've made a mistake, please be honest enough to just tell me and end it. Can you give me that much respect?"
Face cupped her face in his hands, "Amy, I respect you very much. I think that's probably what's held me back all these years. But now, I'm ready to make a commitment . . . to you. I would never cheat on you."
Amy smiled at him, "I'm going to hold you to that, and Face," she grabbed his shirt collar in both hands, "If I ever catch you with another woman, I'm gonna have BA break you in two."
"Sounds like a deal too good to pass up," Face said, before kissing her thoroughly.
Inside, Murdock was watching the pair with keen
"I would, Colonel, if I wasn't worried that Face was gonna chicken out . . . again." But when he looked back out the window, it was obvious that Face had finally given in. Murdock smiled and moved back into the living room to watch the rest of the parade.
Nancy and her father picked up Hannah Gaylord, the woman
who had been housekeeper and friend all the time
At , Hunt
Stockwell arrived and swept into the house.
He apologized for his tardiness, but explained that it was
unavoidable. He greeted his
brother-in-law formally, then stopped in front of Nancy, who smiled warmly and
welcomed him with a kiss on the cheek. He squeezed her shoulder and said, "It
is so good to see you again
"Well, you could stop by sometime when you're
Dinner was already on the table, and so they all sat down, said grace, and then started to eat.
"Yes, Uncle, I still work for Adam's
"You know, I heard that the FBI was hiring again," he said conversationally, "Agent Fiore said that there's still a spot for you, if you want it." Agent Fiore had been one of Nancy's instructors when she went to the Academy.
Nancy grimaced, "Do you have to start this so early in the dinner," she asked, "I've told you a dozen times, I have no desire to work for the government."
Hunt Stockwell looked at his niece appraisingly and said bluntly, "You are wasting your talents at Adam's Investigations."
"Maybe I want to waste my talents."
"You have so much promise, so much potential. At least talk to Agent Fiore, maybe you'll change your mind."
"I have not, and will not change my mind."
"Why must you be so stubborn about this. There is so much you could learn at the FBI. Have you considered your future at all?"
"Riley is going to make me a partner."
"Partner in a dead-end business."
"Just drop it, Uncle, I refuse to debate my career
with you, yet again."
Her uncle's expression was inscrutable, as usual, and he didn't reply, but he did stop badgering her. The remainder of the meal was eaten in relative silence, with some innocuous conversation about the weather and current events.
After dinner, Nancy and her father cleared the dishes and cleaned up while Hunt took Hannah into the living room. Nancy and Carl joined them a short time later.
They sat around the living room and had after dinner drinks, chatting idly. Carl Clay watched with interest as his daughter rose from the chair and prowled the room once again. That was the third time in the last half hour that she'd made that same circuit. Her agitation was plain to see, and he had a feeling he knew what the source was. She hadn't admitted it, but he felt certain he was right about this HM person she was seeing. She hadn't known him long, but she had fallen hard, and now was having trouble dealing with her feelings. The best thing would be for her to go and see him.
Carl stood and looked at
When they got to the kitchen, her father looked at her and said, "Go on, get outta here. You've been pacing like a caged cat. You need to go take care of this thing with HM."
Relief warred with anxiety on her face, "Dad, I can't just leave . . ."
"Sure you can. Besides, you don't really want to spend the rest of the evening with a bunch of old fogies like your Uncle, Hannah and me. I'll give your apologies to our guests."
"Dad, I don't know what to say to him," she said apprehensively.
"You'll think of something - the point is that you need to face up to the situation. You hurt someone, and you should make it right."
"Of course I am," her father said smiling. He gave her a quick hug and a push towards the door.
"You're sure you don't mind . . ."
"Doc, I need to know where HM is,"
Doc pursed his lips and said peevishly, "What do you want to see him for?"
"He moped around here until almost 11 last night - I don't know what you said to him, but he definitely wasn't himself," Doc was looking at her severely.
Doc relented, and gave her a small smile, "I'm glad to hear you've come to your senses, he's a good guy." He pulled a pen and paper out and wrote down the address with some basic directions.
Murdock had gone for a long walk, back to the pond
behind the compound. He was happy for Amy and Face, they seemed to be easing
into their new relationship without any problem. But sitting in the house with them, and
Hannibal and Maggie, was driving him to distraction. He was resisting a very strong urge to hop on
the next commercial flight to
He threw stones into the water and watched the ripples
spread across the water surface. He
shoved his hands in his pockets and thought about
What was he going to do if she didn't call when she
"I'm alright, just needed some fresh air - walk off all the turkey and trimmin's," Murdock replied with a slight smile.
Face looked at his friend in concern, "
Murdock sighed miserably, "What am I gonna do,
Face? I love her . . .
Face put a comforting arm around Murdock's shoulders, "
Murdock nodded, and smiled weakly at Face, "Thanks, Face," he said quietly.
Face rubbed his arms, "Come on Murdock, let's go back inside - it's getting cold out here."
"Go on in, Face - I'll be back in a little bit," Murdock said smiling, "I'm too wound to sit in the house right now."
"Do I know you?" she asked warily, she hadn't been expecting anyone, especially a woman, to come out and greet her, particularly before she rang the doorbell.
Maggie stepped forward, "No, we haven't met but I've heard quite a bit about you . . .," she said, smiling and holding out a hand, "I'm Maggie."
She looked down and asked hesitantly, "How's HM?"
Maggie cocked her head to the side, considering the
young woman seriously, "Quiet," she said honestly, "he talked to
Maggie leaned on the railing next to her, "I know exactly what you're thinking," she said quietly, "And trust me, it would be easy now, but it would hurt tomorrow. You need to go talk to HM and work this out."
Maggie chuckled, "Been there, done that," she said ruefully, "Trust me, once you get past this, it's mostly good. I'm not going to say that life will be perfect, but at least you'll have someone to share the good and bad with."
"No," Maggie said and smiled at the disappointed look that crossed the younger woman's face, "He walked out back awhile ago, I think you'll find him somewhere between the back deck and the pond. You can't miss the trail that leads back there."
Murdock was at the back of the yard when he heard the
sliding door open and close. He looked
up to find
She caught sight of him as he stepped into the light near the base of the steps, "Hi," she said with a tentative smile.
"Hi," Murdock said, keeping his expression carefully neutral.
She moved across the patio and down the steps fiddling nervously with the flashlight in her hands. She stopped a couple feet in front of him and looked up, "I . . . wanted to apologize for how I behaved yesterday . . . and Tuesday . . . and Monday . . .," she smiled self-deprecatingly, "basically, I've been a real jerk all week and I'm really sorry," she looked up at him trying to gauge his reaction.
"OK," he said, his gaze soft.
Nancy wasn't sure what she had expected, but she didn't feel like she'd said enough, "I didn't mean to hurt you, HM . . . it's the last thing I'd want to do, if I was thinking clearly, which obviously hasn't been my strong point this week . . . truth is, I'm not too sure what to do about this whole thing . . ." she stumbled to a stop
"What thing?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
She began haltingly, "You know . . . this thing . . . between us . . . I've never felt this way about anyone, and I just . . . I didn't know what to do . . . I thought maybe by getting away from you I could make it go away . . ." she sighed heavily, "You know, you really scare the hell out of me."
"You take down a crazed idiot waving a gun in your face and I scare you?" he asked, his expression amused.
"Yea . . .,"
Murdock watched her for a moment, then asked, "So, did it work?"
She looked up at him in confusion, "Did what work?"
Murdock shrugged, "Getting away, did it make the feelings go away?"
He smiled, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm glad to hear that . . . I'd hate for this to be a one-way street."
"Does that mean you forgive me?" she asked tentatively.
"Nothing to forgive," he said, smiling at her
affectionately, "I'm just glad you're here. I was starting to think I
might hafta fly to
"Guess I beat you to the punch," she said with a smile, then looked at him seriously, "There's just one more thing, HM, if I start acting like a jerk again . . ."
"Don't worry Short Cake, I'll let you know."
He put a finger under her chin, and looked at her very seriously, "Just don't forget that, huh?"
A breeze whipped up at that moment and
He steered her up the steps with a hand at the small of her back, "Did you meet everyone?" he asked as they moved towards the back door.
"Not everyone," she said apologetically, "I
kinda ran through after
"I'm glad you didn't."
They went in the back door, and everyone in the room
fell silent. Murdock grinned, "I
know some of you have met
Maggie chuckled, "I never thought I'd see the day HM would spend more time on the ground than in the air at an airfield."
Murdock grimaced, "I really would prefer flying the planes to working on them - I'd rather leave the grease-monkey work to big ugly mud-suckers," his dark eyes glittered mischievously as he looked over at BA.
Nancy looked at Murdock in surprise, then turned her attention to BA with concern as he started growling at the pilot, "If Doc know what's good for him, he find a real mechanic and stop lettin' a crazy fool work on his airplanes."
Amy saw Nancy's reaction, and put a hand on her arm to get her attention. She leaned in to whisper in her ear, "Don't sweat it - this is just how Murdock and BA are - you'll get used to it."
Meanwhile, Murdock was goading BA further, "At least I'm not afraid to get on an airplane . . . I mean who'd believe a big, muscle-bound he-man would be afraid of a little old airplane."
"Only plane I won't get on is one you're flyin', fool," BA retorted.
"Not true - 'member that time we were working on the landing gear of that commercial flight, and it started takin' off - I wasn't flyin' that plane, but you still froze up like the Antarctic."
"That different . . ." BA started.
"You guys are always knockin' me out and puttin' me on a plane with the crazy man - why you think I hate to fly!" BA said angrily.
Amy chuckled, "Come on, BA - you know it's the best way to travel. Murdock's a great pilot. It's just that the aircraft he gets to work with aren't always top of the line."
"Yea," Murdock agreed, "It's not my fault Face is always scammin' substandard equipment."
"Hey," Face said in surprise, "How did this turn into my problem?"
Amy looked at him with a small smile, "Well, Face, you have been known to clip more than one plane off the rental repair line."
"That was Murdock that did that, not me!" Face protested.
Murdock crossed his arms, "Where do ya think I learned it?"
Face looked at him sullenly, "Not from me, you didn't."
Murdock grinned at his friend, "Come on Facey, don't be so modest. Everything I know about scammin' I learned from you."
"Ain't much," BA said scornfully, "We always better off when Face doin' the scammin' 'stead of Murdock."
There were three, knowing snorts around the room, and BA was the one who voiced what they were all thinking, "Hannibal, wi' you we always gotta be flexible."
Face took up the explanation, "
And Murdock finished hastily, "Right Hannibal - they never work right - they just work."
The evening continued in much the same vein for the next
two hours. They took particular pleasure
in sharing various crazy stories about Murdock. By the end of the evening,
Around ten Nancy and Murdock headed out. Maggie told them to be back the next morning
for breakfast at . They exited to a chorus of goodbyes, and
walked down the front steps together. Murdock walked
He leaned against the car hood with his hands in his pockets, "Want me to pick you up around tomorrow morning?"
"OK, then, I'll see you in the morning," he said, turning to walk to the truck.
Murdock stopped and turned to look at her thoughtfully, "I
She looked up at him and smiled warmly, "I'm not going anywhere . . . and I think I'd be very disappointed if you didn't . . ."
He walked up to the other side of the open door as
He looked into her eyes seriously, and
He closed the distance, cradling her head in both hands
He put her hands to his lips, then let her go, shoving his hands into his pockets. He smiled at her tenderly as he stepped back from the car, "Good night, Short Cake . . . sweet dreams."
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