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Disclaimer: The A-Team doesn't belong to me, I'm not making any money from this.
Summary: A glimpse of Murdock's early days at the VA.
The nurses had seen it before, in men who'd been prisoners of the Vietcong. Dr O'Brien, who was approaching retirement, had seen the same thing in men who'd been prisoners of the Koreans.
O'Brien's patient, Murdock, ate his meals in the VA dining room and carefully, the movement concealed by his body as much as possible, he slipped scraps of food onto his lap. A handkerchief was unfolded there. One bite for him, one for the handkerchief. If anyone else left the table leaving food on their plate that would be quickly taken too and slipped into the handkerchief.
The cleaners would find small stashes of food hidden in various places in Murdock's room and complained that it was unsanitary, but O'Brien told them to leave them where they were. The nursing staff said they would sometimes see Murdock awake at night, checking the places he'd hidden the food, as if to reassure himself it was still there.
O'Brien kept an eye on Murdock to make sure he was getting enough to eat. The Captain had already been too thin when he first came to the VA a few months ago and obviously hadn't been taking care of himself. He was reassured that Murdock would usually go back for second helpings and that his weight was increasing.
"They would sometimes not feed them for days you see." Dr O'Brien told the young psychiatrist who was joining the staff, Richter his name was, as they reviewed the patient files that Richter would take on when O'Brien retired. "So even though they were given a barely adequate amount of food when they were fed they would still save some of it, to see them through when they were given none."
"But surely the food would go stale, rotten even?" Richter said, puzzled. The old doctor looked at him and felt almost sorry for him, for the things he was going to have to hear about as he started treating these men.
"Dr Richter, I've listened to men describe how they ate grass, cockroaches and worse to stay alive. A piece of stale bread would be a banquet to them." Richter had looked shocked as he took that information in.
"But why does he continue to do it here? Surely he trusts us to keep on feeding him?"
"No, Doctor, he doesn't trust us to do that, not yet. That's part of the reason he's here."
A month later Dr O'Brien's retirement day came around and he made a final tour of the psychiatric ward saying goodbye to his patients. He found the whole floor was being given a spring-cleaning, all the rooms being stripped and disinfected. Murdock stood at the door to his room, playing with a yo-yo, watching the cleaning staff at work.
"Captain Murdock," O'Brien said, holding out his hand. "I'm sorry we've only had a relatively short time to work together."
"Doc." Murdock said, shaking the doctor's hand. "It's been... well you've helped me a lot you know. I mean, I was just a wreck when I came here. I know, I know there's still lots of work to do, but I'm making progress, you said, I'm getting there." He looked a little anxiously at Dr O'Brien. "I am getting there aren't I?"
O'Brien saw the cleaners in Murdock's room dropping small, paper wrapped parcels into a plastic sack and saw Murdock glance at them. He seemed entirely unconcerned as his carefully hidden packs of scraps were tossed into the garbage.
"Yes, Murdock," he said, reassuringly, smiled to Murdock and to himself. "You're getting there."
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