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All the Difference

All the Difference

By Dragoness


Rated: G

Summary: The team makes a discovery about a friend and themselves.

Disclaimer: Alex is mine. The A-Team (Alas!) is not.

Warnings: None (It is rated G, after all.)

Comments: Please




Alexis Crowe sat quietly in the shade, her back propped against the graceful white trunk of an aspen tree. Face, who had been assigned the task of loading the coolers and the fishing gear for the afternoon's leisurely jaunt, paused to look at her. She wasn't the supermodel type he was accustomed to, but she was still attractive, with her lightly tanned skin and silky, red-gold hair that was always tied up away from her neck. Her eyes, though that's what always held everyone's attention. She had eyes that were bright and sincere. Not quite blue, not quite gray, and not quite green, they seemed to constantly change with the light.

She had only met the team a few short months ago, but already she had proven to be a valuable if somewhat unlikely ally. B.A. had surprised the whole team when he suggested that Alex guide them on their holiday outing; but once over their initial shock, they had all endorsed the idea, Murdock more enthusiastically than any of them. Of course, Murdock did everything more enthusiastically than any of them.

So here they were, camped in a saddle of the Colorado Rockies, surrounded by chipmunks and open sky. Alex was at home here. Literally. Born and raised among the granite peaks. It made Face wonder what drastic change could have made her move to a place so utterly foreign as L.A.

She seemed to be in a contemplative mood just now, sitting silently with her eyes turned upward to the shimmering canopy above. Face turned away and continued loading, slow and deliberate in the tranquility of the mountain summer.

"Hey, Alex, can I ask you somethin' ?" Murdock bounded out of nowhere to drop cross-legged onto the ground next to her.

"Sure." She leaned over sideways to pluck a wild dandelion that stood at the very edge of her reach. The head was white with seeds, and she blew gently to watch them drift lazily away on their silky parachutes.

Face recognized the tone in the pilot's voice and paused to glance across at the two of them. Murdock was going to ask her. It was a question that he asked of anyone he had seen more than twice, and Face was always intrigued by it. Was this Murdock's way of sizing people up? Or did he just like to watch them scramble for a quick answer to a touchy subject? Face had to admit, some of the responses could be rather entertaining. But more than that, something he couldn't explain made him particularly curious to see how Alex would react.

Murdock was looking at her slyly out of the corner of his eye.

"Do you think I'm crazy?"

Alex didn't look at him right away, but lowered the dandelion and took a deep, thoughtful breath.

"I suppose that depends on how you define 'crazy'," she said. "Sometimes I think that 'crazy' is just a label that people use to distance themselves from people they don't understand." She turned her head and met his gaze, steadily, as few others would. "You're unique, Murdock. You're different, odd, unusual. And if that's all it takes to be crazy, then the whole world should be locked up in a padded cell."

Murdock cocked his head to one side. "You really think so?"

"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't."

Murdock bowed his head a little, as he always did when he mulled over a complicated concept. The bill of his ever-present baseball cap hid his face.

Suddenly he sprang to his feet. "I better go see where Billy went," he said. "You gotta watch him close, or he'll run off." With that he strolled off downstream, whistling and calling after his imaginary dog.

Alex watched him go, absently blowing the last of the dandelion seeds away on the light breeze. When the stalk was finally bald, she stood and wandered over to stand beside Face as he closed up the last of the packs and tossed it into the Jeep.

"Well, that's that," he announced cheerfully. "As soon as Hannibal and B.A. get back from their hike, we can head on up to that fishing spot you were talking about."

"You know, it's funny," Alex mused, as she leaned leisurely against the side of the Jeep, "I never would've pegged you for the fishing type."

"Yeah, well, even a guy like me can use a quiet afternoon by the side of a lake once in a while."

Both of them drifted off into their own thoughts for a while, absorbing the sun and the scent of the aspens, before Face tentatively broke the silence.

"How do you do it?"

It took Alex a moment to awaken from her reverie. "Pardon?"

"How is it that you always know exactly what to say to Murdock all the time? I mean, you two met for the first time, what, three months ago? I've known the guy for more than ten years, and I still don't understand him half as well as you seem to."

Alex shrugged. "I don't know. Shared experiences, I guess."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I've spent some time on the Funny Farm myself."

Face's eyes widened. "You mean . . ." He lowered his voice dramatically. "As a patient?"

"You don't have to whisper, Face," she replied matter-of-factly. "It's not a big secret."

"Why didn't you say something before this?"

Alex shrugged. "No reason to."

"No reason? Alex, we can get into some pretty sticky situations. Can you imagine what would happen if . . ." He drew himself up short.

"If I were to flake out on you guys in the middle of a mission?" Alex finished for him. Face winced. It sounded so unfeeling. "You're afraid that I'm gonna get caught in the crossfire one day, and it's gonna push me back over the edge."

Face sighed and nodded.

"I suppose that's a legitimate concern." Alex tilted her head ever so slightly to the side. "But what about Murdock?"

"What about him?"

"You don't seem to have any reservations about taking him with you."

"Well, at least we had some warning about him. And anyway, we've seen him under pressure. His methods may be a little strange, but he comes through."

"And you don't think I will."

Face hesitated. "I didn't mean it like that."

"Sure you did. And I understand." She laid a hand on his arm. "I do. And you need to understand that mental problems don't always work that way." She pushed herself away from the side of the Jeep and began gesturing with her hands, almost like she was giving a classroom lecture. "Some disorders are there for life. They can be worked out of your system and still come beck to haunt you. Post-traumatic stress is like that. But some can be corrected. Like mine. I was in for depression. But I worked through it, and it's over, and it's been over for a long time."

There was silence. The rush of the brook and the distant chatter of a jay were the only sounds. At last Face spoke, his voice quiet and uncharacteristically humble.

"So what made you get better?"

Alex slouched against the Jeep again, burying her hands in her hip pockets. "I can't really say it was any one thing," she answered. "The doctors sure weren't much help." There was a trace of resentment in her voice, but it drifted away as she went on. "Meds helped at the beginning. Meeting the other patients helped, too. Not quite in the way everybody thought it would, though. There was some really weird stuff going on with some of those people, and frankly I was fascinated by it. I started watching them. I think having something new and different to pay attention to kept me from concentrating on myself so much."

Alex looked into those blue eyes that captivated so many women, and suddenly realized what he was really asking. It was a question she couldn't answer.

"I guess the main thing was: I just wanted it bad enough," she continued. "It's a long, hard road, Face. And if you're not willing to do anything and I mean anything to get there, then it just doesn't happen."

Face nodded, only partially comprehending. After a moment of digging absently in the dirt with the toe of his hiking boot, he voiced the question that she had sensed.

"Do you think that's why Murdock's been there so long?"

Alex sighed. "I don't know," she said frankly. "That's a question only he can answer."

Face nodded again, and Alex could see a whole flood of questions, hard questions, roiling beneath his gathered brow. She waited in silence for them to come in their own way.

"Sometimes . . . I wonder . . ." he started, and stopped. He tried again. "Do you think we're doing the wrong thing? I mean, when we play along with his delusions? Like petting Billy and stuff?"

Alex couldn't help but smile. "Those aren't delusions, Face. They're just pretend games."


"Yeah. Like kids do. Murdock is one of those rare people that never lose touch with their inner child." She cast her eyes downward. "I kind of envy him that way."

Face blinked at her. Envy Murdock? But now that he came to think about it, didn't they all? Didn't the goofy guy continually inspire the whole team with his happy-go-lucky attitude? Face suddenly realized he was smiling, in spite of himself.

"No," Alex went on, "the stuff that got him committed is the stuff that happens inside the ward. The stuff you're not around to see. And he has to work that all out on his own." Face's smile faded a little, and Alex reached out to give his shoulder a little encouraging squeeze. "You're not doing anything wrong, Face. As a matter of fact, from where I'm standing, you've got most things absolutely right."

"What things?"

"The way you talk to him, the way you make him a vital part of everything you do. You treat him like a friend, not a freak. He doesn't feel like he has to hide his problems from you. Believe me, that makes all the difference in the world."

Just then Murdock came bounding out of the trees, zigzagging back and forth across the clearing and making little barking noises as he went.

"Hey, Face!" he called. "Toss me Billy's Frisbee, will ya? I think I left it on the front seat."

Alex smiled and winked at Face as he stepped around her to reach into the Jeep.




All The Difference by Dragoness



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