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Calling the Curtains
Author: Viskey Utsadanas
Rating: PG 15
Notes: For Mooncat,
a birthday present she's been looking forward to
ever since New Year's Eve. And I'd like to add that I don't have an English version
of this episode, so the dialogues are probably wrong. I got a transcript from http://www.twiztv.com, but I think it is
faulty in some places. So bear with me, and correct me if I'm wrong. I also
adapted the dialogue a tiny little bit in some places to make it more readable.
(Really just a tiny little bit)
Furthermore, I guess I've seen this episode so often and thoroughly now that not even Mooncat herself can compete with me anymore! (Ha! Say that about Without Reservations, Kitten!) – Well, okay, it was mainly the bits that have Face in it, but that's just what she wanted: Curtain Call from Face's POV, so I'm hardly to blame.
Summary: Face's POV in Curtain Call
HAPPY BIRTHDAY KITTYKITTEN MOONCAT!
What, how... what...
Face stood with his gun pointing at Clayton on the ground, but he had no clear idea yet what had really happened. All that had registered with him was a gunshot, and gunshots prompted an immediate, automatic reaction in him: duck for cover, pull your gun and get ready to shoot. Since there was nowhere to duck, Face had pulled his gun and stood ready to jump out of harm's way. But first he had to find out what the heck was going on.
There was Clayton on the ground, and there was Murdock on the ground.
Murdock was rolling, rolling away from Hannibal's touch.
Murdock had shouted something, right before the shot had rung out. Just what had it been? Face couldn't remember, not for the life of him. He drew a complete blank.
Then there had been the shot, and then some hustle.
Just what, by all saints, had happened?
Face pulled himself together and put the things in order, that were kind of fluttering wildly around in his head. There had been a shot, Murdock lay on the ground, rolling away from Hannibal...
Murdock had been hit. He was shot. He was in pain.
The realisation hit him like a punch to the gut, and Face quickly re-holstered his gun. He scooted over to Murdock, wishing he was drawing the wrong conclusions, and that Murdock was okay, but he knew that it was silly. Murdock was most definitely hit, and Face was wary to touch him, because he just had no idea how to without giving things away.
What Face wanted to do was yell at Murdock for being such a stupid ass to let a dope like Clayton shoot him. And then he wanted to gather him in his arms, press him close to his chest, and just hold him tight. Hold him.
But, of course, he couldn't. There was the fact that Murdock was hurt, and hugging him would hurt him even more. And also there was the fact that hugging Murdock fiercely would hint that his feelings went beyond acceptable comradeship.
"It's Decker," Tawnia quipped.
Perfect, Face thought. But on the upside, the mention of Decker brought him back to reality, and his mind started working properly again.
They had to get away from here, away from Decker.
If anyone other than Murdock were hurt, maybe they would let Decker get to them, so the wounded man could get the needed medical treatment. – Depending, of course, on the severity of the wound. But with Murdock? Things were a little more complicated than that with Murdock.
Not that Murdock would let them anyway. His cover would be blown, and he wouldn't let that happen. Probably couldn't. Because despite his abilities and general functionality, he did have problems, and he did need help. He needed a place where it was safe to hand off responsibility every once in a while.
Face took Murdock's arm and helped Hannibal get him into the van.
'Get your paws off him!' Face thought furiously, but kept to himself as much as he could. It was actually nice of Tawnia that she was worried, and that she wanted to know about Murdock's condition. But the plain truth was, she wouldn't know what his condition was if somebody screamed it right into her face. She had the best intentions, but that's where it ended. She had no talent for this kind of work, none at all.
After Tawnia had withdrawn her hand, Face carefully checked on Murdock, one hand resting on his shoulder to calm him. Or maybe himself, Face wasn't sure, because he was so confused. He was scared as hell because of Murdock, scared he might lose him. He would be alone again. After finally finding a person who could actually stand him, even in a relationship, he wasn't prepared to let it slip away again. He just needed somebody in his life who needed him. – Needed him in a personal, intimate way, not because he was good with guns and knew how to get rid of evil characters. Many people could do that. But Face needed someone who loved and needed him, just him. And Murdock... Face hoped that Murdock would be that one. So far things had looked promising. None of them had said the words yet, but things had definitely looked good.
So seeing Murdock in pain now... holding on to life with his stubborn will... It looked as if things were starting to slip away from him once again. Face swallowed a sudden attack of panic and instead looked down at Murdock's chest, where a stain of blood slowly spread on his t-shirt.
Of course Face had seen Murdock wounded before, numerous times. But that had been when they'd still been just friends. It had been different then, way different. Because now Face loved Murdock, and Murdock hopefully loved him back. If nothing else, Murdock cared enough to make Face feel special, whenever they were together, and even sometimes, when they were not together. Murdock had that much power over him.
Of course, Face could have asked, or prompted an answer by confessing his own love, but so far he hadn't dared. Jesus, he was such a chicken. But what if Murdock said no? Wasn't it better to live the illusion while it lasted?
Pulling Murdock's jacket aside a little, Face looked at the bloodied t-shirt once again, and the small hole in it. It looked so unspectacular, almost as if it wasn't anything serious.
But of course it was. The seeming lack of bleeding only meant that he was bleeding inside. – You didn't collect a bullet in the chest and not bled profusely. "He's lost a lot of blood, Hannibal," Face therefore said, although that was hardly news for anyone, not even Tawnia. She wasn't that dense.
Hannibal said something about luck and a doctor, but Face didn't listen too well, his attention was with Murdock and the vibrating energy that still emanated from him, despite his serious wound and his slouch.
Hang on, how were they going find a doctor in this area? There wasn't a soul for miles around. Face looked up. Dammit, but he had to pull himself together. He couldn't fret over Murdock the way he was. "It's a pretty isolated area, Hannibal. Who knows how far it is to the nearest doctor?" The question came out almost like an accusation.
"And we can count on Decker to cut off our only way out," Hannibal agreed. "We may have to improvise."
"Improvise?" Face didn't very much like the sound of that.
Some more brave but insane talk from Murdock, but Face didn't listen. He tuned him out for sanity reasons. He couldn't keep a cool mind and listen to Murdock's vibrant voice at the same time. In fact, he better block out Murdock altogether. He couldn't look at Murdock as being Murdock, better look at him as... just as... as somebody. Just another comrade.
Face looked at the man's wound again. – Well, he looked at the bloodied t-shirt, trying to imagine what was under it. Trying to prepare himself for later, when he would no doubt see it. It would be nasty. Face had seen wounds like this before, in Vietnam. A few of those who sustained them had survived, but the majority had died.
Please, just don't let... Inadvertently, Face's eyes were drawn up to Murdock's face, and Face felt a wave of insecurity wash over him. How could he just blank out Murdock? He had become the centre of his life, after all. How... 'Well, live without a centre for a while there," he scolded himself in thought. 'It's not as if you haven't done that before.'
Tawnia was reaching over again, touching Murdock on the arm. Face wanted to yell at her to mind her own business, and leave Murdock the heck alone, when Murdock brushed her hand away with just a brief touch of his fingertips. Tawnia had to be really spooked or she would have insisted.
"Will you still love me when I'm gone..." Murdock's voice brushed Face's ear, and much as Face tried to not let it get to him, there was a shiver running down his spine.
BA complained about Murdock talking nonsense, but it was empty words. BA was worried sick.
"I'm afraid he's getting an infection, and then he'll get a high fever," Hannibal said.
Oh boy, please not that. Face was busying himself with Murdock's t-shirt again. He didn't want to hear Hannibal's assessment of the situation, because he knew the outlook only too well. Murdock was in serious trouble, and Face right along with him.
"Face, you gonna have to scam it."
Of course. – Scam what? Face searched his brain, and there were Hannibal's last words: someplace isolated, out of the way, off the highway. They needed a hideout.
Face took a calming breath. Then another. And another one. It wasn't working too well, so Face gave up on that approach to calming himself. Instead he closed his eyes, dismissed the difficulty of breathing, and focused his thoughts on his objective: SCAM.
Someplace isolated, out of the way, off the highway. Isolated, out of the way. A hideout. Scam an isolated place. Something peaceful, scam... Scam a place... scam... scam...
The scam was a solid one – a little elaborate maybe, but bound to work.
Face knew those weekend-hunters: going up into the wooded hills for a weekend's vacation without having an inkling of what they were actually doing, lucky if they could tell the one end of a rifle from the other. They would hike the woods and shoot at more or less anything that moved. In the end they'd shoot a bunny, go home to their rich homes and claim they'd shot a bear.
It should be easy enough to impress them.
They had no idea of their own abilities, and usually, when people were off the mark about their own abilities, they overrated themselves. It wouldn't be any different this time.
Yes, this should be easy.
Tell them some big, harebrained story and send them off wandering for a couple of hours. More, he didn't need, because a few hours from now, things would be over, one way or another.
Face quickly shook his head and forced the thought out of his head. He didn't need any distractions right now.
Work fast, smooth, efficient.
Face stumbled up to the hut and banged his fist against the door. "Hello, anybody in there? Hey, anybody home?"
When the door opened, he let himself fall forward and right into the arms of two men, who caught him and guided him to a chair.
Little setback: these two weren't rich. They were simple folk – generally speaking as well as mentally.
But the plan could still work. All Face had to do was add some money to the story, and it'd run smoothly.
The story itself was awful. Big Bear Old Luke... But Chip and Chap, as Face had quickly dubbed them, bought it. Old Luke my ass, Face thought. It was a wonder anybody should believe such nonsense, but the truth was, the weirder your story gets, the more likely people will believe it. They think that nobody would or could make up so much nonsense, therefore it had to be true. – Simple – faulty – logic that worked in Face's favour, so he kept it up, babbling about Old Luke, and how the bear had ripped his eye out. – Good Heavens, he thought to himself, even as he blurted how they'd probably just had lunch and couldn't take the sight of it.
"Well, I tell you one thing," Chip said excitedly. "It's a good thing that Old... uh... uh... uh..."
"Luke," Face helped out, wondering how you could be so dim to not remember such a simple name.
"... that Old Luke," Chip picked up his sentence," didn't meet up with Richie and me, 'cause you're looking at two dead shots." And he grinned proudly.
Face feared losing his countenance for a moment. Dead shots – yeah, sure. If those two bozos were dead shots, then he was Queen Victoria resurrected. But he didn't give them time to elaborate on their "skills", they shouldn't get too excited, and get ideas of their own. Face had to keep them where a good mark had to be: hanging on his every word. So he quickly spoke again, throwing out a few big words, talking about what exactly he did with big bears. – Eat them, yuck!
Face stuffed some tobacco into his mouth. "He's out there somewhere. Big as day and twice as mean." He could see how Chip and Chap were intrigued by his words as well as by his awful behaviour. They viewed him as a curiosity, not unlike a freak-show attraction. Good. It was all running according to plan. Now sink the ten-grand-hook, and the road was clear.
"Ten thousand dollars?!" Chap asked unbelieving.
Face nodded, and threw out some more big words. Check from the governor. – Hey, might as well go with the big blokes: big bear, big money, big blokes. Chip'n'Chap bought it instantly. – After all, who, if not the governor, would have ten grand to spare? Therefore, when Face turned to the door telling them there was a bear in his future right before collapsing, they quickly guided him over to their bumpy sofa, advising him to rest some.
They were so eager to hunt down non-existent Old Luke, they hardly took the time to say bye-bye.
They weren't even properly out the door when Face already turned to look after them with a triumphant grin and pulled off the eye-patch, which became very irritating and itchy after a while. He got up and scooted out of the house as he heard Chip'n'Chap drive off. Yes, this had worked nicely. A good scam, all in all. Almost a shame to waste so much fine acting on two half-brained bozos.
BA came driving up, and Hannibal complained about how long it had taken him.
Face felt anger rise in him. "Twelve minutes, Hannibal! I had to say hello!"
Then Face made the mistake of looking at Murdock. He looked considerably worse then when Face had left him only minutes ago. He was weak, a sheen of sweat on his face.
Things didn't look good, and Face immediately pushed Murdock out of his mind again. Concentrate on the mission instead. Concentrate on the mission, right. See this as a row of tasks. Task one: get a hideout – achieved. Task two: find an escape route – in process, Chip and Chap had a map on their table. Task three: worry about that one when you get there.
The map was of enormous help, Face thought sarcastically, as he looked it over. The next medical facility was 40 miles to the south, and there was only one road leading there, namely the main road out of this valley. And Decker, as Hannibal had so aptly noted earlier, surely had that blocked.
It was insanity. They were stuck in the middle of nowhere, with a man's life hanging on a thread, and goddamned Decker swarming around snooping after them, making everyone's life miserable.
"Hannibal, unless there is a backdoor out of this place, it's Decker's ballgame," Face said sombrely.
Hannibal came over to look at the map with Face. And of course, Hannibal saw the Ranger Station immediately.
Face had seen it as well, but he hadn't mentioned it, because he was sure that Decker was setting up camp there. It was the perfect spot, after all. It was pretty much at the centre of the valley, and it had a phone-line to the outside world.
"Lieutenant, you got it. Take Tawnia," Hannibal ordered.
Fine, Face thought irritably, shove her off on me. He didn't want to take Tawnia along, she was not cut out for this. Playing a dumb bimbo with cleavage, that was something she was good at. Not that she was dumb. She was pretty smart, actually, but it was a business kind of smart. She was a good enough reporter, as she could make connections in her mind and such. But she was bad at thinking on her feet. She always needed instructions. "Well, uh, what do you want me to do?" Face asked, although what he really meant was: What do you want me to do with Tawnia?
"You'll think of something," Hannibal said confidently as he returned to... M- ... his... side.
And he was stuck with a woman who had no practical talents other than dressing up. Oh swell.
"We're on our way," he announced, and took the keys to the van from BA.
Outside, he climbed into the driver's seat, and Tawnia got into Hannibal's usual seat. Face started up the van, hardly waiting for her to sit down and shut the door. He drove off with a bit more gas than necessary, but he felt stressed, and letting the tires spurt some dust and rubble relieved a bit of it.
"Face, d'you think Murdock will be alright?" Tawnia asked worriedly. "He's lost so much blood..."
"Oh, Murdock, he is tough," Face replied with conviction. He almost believed it too. It was true, Murdock was tough. It was hard to believe sometimes what he'd been through, but he'd always come out of it alive. – He'd sustained his share of scars, but the point was, Murdock was still alive. "He is like a piece of rawhide when it's just gone out of therapy. Yeah, he's got the kind of strength that counts." True, true.
Face pointed to the side of his head to make sure Tawnia got the message. It was true, Murdock was clever, smart, intelligent and all the synonyms, but his mental strength was just part of it. The bigger part was his passion, but there was no way Face could explain that to Tawnia. She could only admire the Team's passion, but she couldn't understand it. And Murdock was the most passionate of them all. How could he ever explain to her what made Murdock thrive?
Tawnia was one of the regular world. She didn't want to realize that, but it was the truth. And it had been people of the regular world that had landed Murdock in the mental asylum, because contemporary society just didn't know how to deal with people like Murdock, and Murdock didn't bother playing along with the regular rules, although he could if he wanted.
Face reminded himself that Tawnia was still there next to him, waiting for an answer that she could make sense of. "Don't you worry about Murdock," he assured her, and himself too. "A few weeks, and..." Face searched for words. He had to keep it superficial... well, not superficial, but inconspicuous. He didn't want Tawnia to know. – Not that there was anything to know, nothing definite, anyway. Just... feelings and notions.
Craziness, yes, that was a safe topic, so Face quickly steered into that direction. "Uh... A few weeks and he won't be able to distinguish reality from a couple of breadsticks. He's quite a guy..." And scams too, yes. Murdock had assisted him with quite a number of scams over the years, and they were a safe topic as well. "We sure ran a lot of scams together..."
Tawnia didn't reply. She just sat next to him with a smile, happily allowing him to con her into believing Murdock would pull through.
"There's a certain elegance, poetry, to the man," Face said, more to himself and his memories, than to Tawnia, and there was. Murdock could run smooth and wonderful scams, because he was so creative...
Then again, his creativity was also his biggest weakness. Sometimes he went totally overboard with a scam. Like... like that one time in Africa. Really, in the middle of nowhere, wilderness for miles around, and Murdock stood there in this dingy little shop, complaining about lack of English Tweed and original pressings of Hey Jude! – On the upside, he'd looked absolutely fabulous in that uniform...
A smile flickered across his face. Murdock in uniform was something, especially his army dress uniform with all the bars and badges, the shiny buttons... the cap. Murdock looked great with caps or hats. They accentuated his face.
To think of the fight the staff at the VA had put up in the beginning over Murdock's liking for caps! Face had to shake his head with the memory. They'd told Murdock that caps were outdoor wear, and he should take it off when indoors. – Really, give a man in a psychiatric institution a few more problems to deal with, why don't you?! Face had been fuming back then. What harm could there be done by wearing a baseball cap indoors? As it was, Murdock had solved the problem in his own style. He'd gone outside into the gardens, had set up camp, and had declared that since baseball caps were outdoor wear, he'd have to go and live outdoors from then on. That had alerted some big shots, and they'd given the nurses and orderlies a speech about being petty with an already troubled man.
Since then, a lot of things had become easier for Murdock than for other patients. Getting his own telephone, getting his own computer game console. Probably even conning him out was easier than it would have been. Murdock's file probably was flagged "do not interfere too much". Whatever it was, Face wasn't going to complain. With the number of times he'd had to con Murdock out... Face had to chuckle, thinking of some of the stories they'd pulled to get him out. Tuberculosis, radiation, organ transplants... The number of ridiculous excuses was long.
And of course there were those other visits... the ones he'd made to really just visit Murdock.
It had been during one of those visits that they'd ended up lying on Murdock's bed, face-to-face, and whispering to each other. Somehow they'd come to discuss girls, and their respective experiences with them. Apparently, what Murdock lacked in quantity, he'd made up in variety.
Face had had trouble believing some of the things Murdock had claimed he'd done, and had suddenly felt very dull and boring in comparison...
"Oh, nonsense, Faceman!" Murdock protested good-humouredly. "How could you ever be boring?"
"Well," Face answered, trying to avoid squirming. "I mean... is this really all true?" He didn't want to believe it. Sure, he'd had a threesome once, but only just once, and it hadn't been all it was cracked up to be. Murdock, though, claimed to have had a lot of fun in a triangle relationship he'd had going in his senior year of high school.
"There was Trudy, Elena and me," Murdock confirmed the latest of his stories with a broad smile. "But that doesn't make me any more exciting," Murdock toned down.
"So what would make somebody exciting?" Face asked.
Murdock closed his eyes, wandering off in his mind. "Looks, of course. It sounds superficial and shallow, but it's true. Good looks do make you interesting, sexually speaking. I mean, the good looking guys always have more fun, isn't that so?" Murdock re-opened his eyes and looked at Face. "I mean, you did have a lot of fun, didn't you?"
"There you are then. So looks. Then there's money, of course. Money weakens most girls' hearts. Money means power, and power means safety, and girls wanna feel sheltered and protected in a relationship. And of course, it makes them more important than other girls. Mating with the alpha male makes them the alpha female, and who doesn't want to be alpha? I mean, it's all in the genes..." Murdock trailed off and shook his head once. "Gotta stop reading those magazines," he said to himself.
Meanwhile, Face was thinking that he certainly had the looks, and that although he didn't really have much money, he made a good show of appearing to.
"Then there's also manners," Murdock went on. "Nobody wants to go to bed with someone who belches and farts and stinks and such, no matter how good he may look."
Face thought with satisfaction that he did have manners. That already made three out of three. He hid a smile, but obviously not well enough.
"You like that, huh?" Murdock asked teasingly.
"Well, three out of three," Face answered. "How could I not like that?"
Murdock just chuckled softly, and Face went back to silently revelling in the warmth and coziness next to Murdock.
"For me," Murdock spoke up again, "there needs to be spirit and brains as well. I mean, I don't want to just hump somebody, and then, when I try to strike up a conversation, all I get back in response is uhms and ahs, and confused looks. And the character..."
Face closed his eyes, lulled into a kind of floating state of mind by Murdock's deep, soft voice. Three out of three, he kept thinking, before he corrected himself. Four out of four. He was smart and could keep up with Murdock intellectually... almost.
"I need to be able to connect with my partner's character. Need to know he's a good person and all. You know, somebody who... Are you awake?" Murdock asked tentatively.
Face nodded lazily. "Yeah, go on, 's nice listening to your voice," he said, although, truth be told, he was on the verge of falling asleep.
"As I said," Murdock continued, his voice dropping to an even lower level. "I need somebody who really cares. Not just about me, but... you know... generally. All that makes a person exciting and appealing."
Face smiled. It was so very much like Murdock that he couldn't just reduce himself to the physical.
"Sex-appeal," Murdock muttered. "Unruly hair..." Murdock's voice had dropped to a whisper. "Eyes that have no limits..."
Face opened his eyes solemnly and found himself suddenly very close to Murdock, like maybe three inches from his face.
"You are all that," Murdock whispered.
"You saying I'm exciting?" Face whispered back, and he couldn't keep the happy smile from spreading on his lips.
"Very," Murdock answered.
Face closed his eyes for a second, and when he opened them again, Murdock was even closer. So close, in fact, that Face couldn't focus his eyes anymore, and Murdock's face stayed blurred.
"You are the most exciting person I've met in a very long time," Murdock whispered imploringly. "Just look at you." he closed in a bit more, and at the same time reached out to touch Face's cheek.
Face realized that they were entering new territories, and that there was no going back. They were headed straight towards something surpassing friendship, something that had a lot to do with sex. They'd been headed this way for a while now, but this was the point of no return. Only five minutes ago he could have gotten up from the bed, bid Murdock a good night and left. But now it was too late. There was no turning back.
Face wasn't sure if that was a good thing – more exactly, he was sure it was a bad thing – but he couldn't help it. Sometimes circumstances were stronger than any man's resolve could be.
"You have all it takes," Murdock whispered.
"You're talking rubbish, Murdock," Face replied, reached for Murdock's head, pulled him in and pressed a quick kiss onto Murdock's lips. "But you're sweet."
"You have it," Murdock repeated, determined.
"Face, are you alright?" Tawnia's urgent voice broke through Face's thoughts.
"What?" Face pushed the pleasant thoughts of his and Murdock's first night together to the back of his mind. This was not the time, and not the place.
"You alright?" Tawnia asked again, still worried.
"Oh, yeah, yeah, I'm fine," Face assured her. "I must have tuned out back there..." Oh yeah, and how he had tuned out. Despite having shared many pleasant nights since then, this first night was still Face's favourite memory.
Face had to force himself back to reality once again. He couldn't go all dreamy and sappy now. Arriving at their destination helped him focus a lot. "Uh-oh," he mumbled to himself, seeing the ranger station surrounded by army cars. "Decker," he muttered dejectedly. He had known the nerdy Colonel would set up camp here. So why was he feeling dejected?
Face opened the door and slipped outside, and a second later Tawnia was outside as well, standing next to him and looking over at the ranger station.
"Face, you can't go in there, not with Decker and his men in that ranger station," she said.
To her defence, she sounded worried about him. But was she completely forgetting why they were even here? Why this entire thing was even necessary? Face only kept his temper in check, because he knew it wouldn't amount to anything, and it would only create noise. So he just said, "Yeah, that does present a challenge, doesn't it?" and gave her a disapproving look, while she wasn't watching. Really, what was she thinking? That he was going to sneak in there for the fun of it? There was Murdock's life at stake, and whatever it took, Face was going to do it. No matter what the consequences were. He would grovel in the dirt at Decker's feet if that was what it would take. Why was she tagging along anyway? There was no way she could be of any help. – Oh right. Hannibal sent her along to get rid of her.
"You're sounding like Hannibal on a jazzy day," Tawnia said, as she followed him along the path, towards the guards patrolling the perimeter of the ranger station.
"Yeah? Well, he rubs off on you after a while," Face replied, his attention with the guards. "Just wait and see. If you stay with us for another ten or so years, you'll be no different." Not that Face believed she could ever make it that long. And even so, she'd never be like them. It wasn't in her blood.
"How'll you get inside?" Tawnia asked after a moment of silence.
"On my own two feet, what did you think?" Face answered, not giving her anything.
"Face, don't tease me, not now!"
"Sh!" he warned her, and for emphasis turned around for a moment with his finger at his lips.
"Sorry," she whispered.
"I'm gonna get myself one of those uniforms," Face told her, also whispering. She wouldn't let it rest until he'd told her. She was curious by nature, and her profession worsened it.
"Sh, now. We're closing in."
Thankfully Tawnia really did shut up at that warning. Face scooted down the slight slope, taking momentary cover behind some vegetation. When he turned, Tawnia was right behind him. He gestured to her to stay behind, and then he rounded the bush, took a solid stand behind the guard, and patted him on the shoulder once.
The poor man turned around, not knowing what was up.
"Slumbering?" Face said with a grin, and even while he punched the man out, he thought that he definitely spent too much time hanging out with Hannibal. He was way too jazzy. He quickly caught the man before he could hit the ground and dragged him back around the bush.
"Face, the uniform will never work," Tawnia said. "Decker will recognize you the moment you walk in!"
"Oh, I don't know," Face gave back irritably, already undoing the unconscious man's buttons. "A little jewellery, maybe an ascot, with just the right touch, it'll look terrific," he quipped ironically, and went on to undress the man.
"Face, are you listening to me? You go in there and you'll be on the first flight to Leavenworth."
'And so what?!' Face thought angrily. "Now listen!" he snapped at her. If she was too dense to catch on to his irony, he would have to spell it out for her: "Without those medical supplies Murdock is dead, so it doesn't matter what the risk is, now does it?" She looked a bit chagrined after that. "And, like you said: the worst that could happen is, I go to prison," Face went on. "Not exactly my idea of a little fun in the sun, but the hours are regular, the food is palatable, and there's plenty of starch in the shirts." Just why in hell had he said that now? He didn't feel like making jazzy remarks, but that's exactly what he'd done. Hannibal... Hannibal was rubbing off on him. He couldn't stop himself, even though he knew just how serious their situation was, how bad Murdock was off. He hadn't exaggerated. Not getting supplies to Murdock meant his almost certain death. If he couldn't pull this off, then he would have to send Decker to save Murdock's life.
But before it came to that Face was going to do his best to pull it off, get the meds, get them back to the cabin, treat Murdock, hightail it out of this godforsaken place and live happily ever after, confessing to Murdock just how much he loved him.
"Face..." Tawnia's voice pulled Face back to the present.
He shouldn't get lost in fantasies of the future, when the deeds of the present were what counted. "Besides," Face quipped, "people very seldom look at what's right under their nose..." He looked away for a moment, before he looked back at Tawnia. "Right?" he asked. It could almost be taken as a rhetorical question tag, but Face suddenly had real doubts. It was right, wasn't it? Yes, yes, of course he was right. Most people were dumb. They never took the shortest, easiest way.
"Just..." Finally, Tawnia seemed to have run out of words.
"You could always help me here, you know?" Face told her, and pointed at the man's shoes.
"Of course, sorry." Tawnia set to work immediately, and together they had the guard stripped to his underwear in a minute.
Tawnia even helped Face get dressed, handing him the various items of clothing, and tying his boots, while he fiddled with the shirt.
"Do I look good?" Face asked, putting the MP-helmet on.
"Be careful," Tawnia replied.
Not what he'd wanted to hear, but then, she was right. He had to be careful. He nodded at her. "Wait for me at the van. If I don't show up in... uh..." Face checked his watch, "... in twenty minutes, go back and tell Hannibal they most likely got me, and that I'll send Decker to take care of Murdock. So long, chica." He turned on his heel and carefully stepped out into the open.
He walked towards the ranger station and made sure he
looked as if he owned the place. It worked fine enough while he was still far away, but the closer he got to the building, the
tighter the hold
And both men were probably inside, just where he had to go. Couldn't be helped, now could it? Face quickened his step just a bit and reached the door to the station. He opened it, and... true enough, there stood Colonel Roderick Decker, talking into a radio.
Luckily, for Face, Decker stood with his back towards the door, so he didn't see who entered, and luckily, he was too busy with his conversation to bother and turn around to find out.
Face felt his heart beating wildly in his chest, but he didn't feel comfortable so close to Decker and a whole bunch of MPs, and the fact that he knew that he had to do this did nothing to calm him down.
He scanned the room quickly, there was a kitchen area divided from the main room by a counter and a low swing door. Crane stood there, but he was busy staring at a map, so Face decided to go to the kitchen and get himself some coffee. Nothing less suspicious than a hard working MP getting himself a cup of coffee, right? Face went over to the swing door with slowly measured steps, listening in on Decker's conversation, finding out what he was up to, making the best out of the crappy situation at hand.
"... search all along the south shore. And check those old boathouses! Out!" Decker barked.
Good. Decker was completely off the mark. The team was west of the station, which meant they were relatively safe at the moment. It also meant, that if Decker was concentrating on the south, they would leave the valley due north.
The phone rang, and Face had just enough time to squeeze past Crane before the man turned and picked it up. Face busied himself with the thermos and a cup, making sure he heard what was said.
"It's Major Denton, Colonel," Crane said.
"Yes, Major?" Decker took over the phone.
Face poured himself his alibi-coffee, and did it reaaally slowwwly.
"Good, I'll arrange for helicopter transport to be waiting for you at the airbase to fly you and your men in."
Helicopter transport?! Face hoped he'd misheard, but he knew he hadn't. Boy, Decker was really bringing out the big guns today!
"You, with me!" Decker barked another order, and from the corner of his eyes Face saw him wave at the Ranger.
Good, one man less to worry about. Face cast a quick glance over at his goal: the first aid kit, hanging on the wall right next to the kitchen window. All it took now was getting rid of Crane. Everybody else, who might remain in the station, was not a problem. They didn't know his face – at least that's what he hoped – and wouldn't suspect him to hold them at gunpoint suddenly. But Crane was another story.
"Soldier!" Crane spoke in Face's direction, holding out the big field-phone, but thankfully without really looking at him. His eyes were again glued to the map.
Face's heart dropped, and his throat went dry.
"Get me Sergeant Collins on the radio," Crane continued, still not looking at Face.
And what could Face do? Right, he reached out, took the phone and pretended to dial, while he wondered how much damage the device would do to Crane's head when he whacked him with it.
"We have problems with a car, sir," a young MP told Crane, and with that became Crane's and Face's saviour. – Because Crane left with the MP, and thus got spared that blow to his head, and Face was relieved of hours of guilt, wondering if maybe he'd killed Crane with that phone.
The station was empty now, Face the only person left. He quickly got rid of the cup and radio, and took the kit off the wall. He slipped it out the window before he followed the same way.
Caught between the station's wall and some bushes, Face crouched down, opening the kit and quickly checking its contents. It wouldn't do any good if he wasted precious time by getting an insufficient medical kit back to Murdock. If there wasn't everything they needed in this kit, Face would get up now and walk straight up to Decker, laying out the situation for him.
But there was everything there. Antiseptic, bandages, painkillers. Face closed the kit again, and started to scoot back to the van. He risked a quick glance at his watch. Eleven minutes.
"Face, you're amazing!" Tawnia greeted him with big eyes and an unbelieving smile. "I can't believe you pulled it off!"
"Well, green always was my lucky colour," Face gave back, looking around nervously. He thought he'd heard something. "We better move out of here... too much company around here for my liking." He climbed into the van and started it up.
Tawnia climbed in as well, holding the kit tightly to her chest.
Face was driving towards Chip'n'Chap's hut when he suddenly saw a suspicious number of tire-marks disturbing the dirt road. Decker and his gang had been here.
"Face, what's wrong?" Tawnia asked confused, when Face pulled over to the side and stopped the van.
"Decker was here," Face told her, but didn't explain to her how he knew. Instead he took the radio and checked the wavelength, if it was tuned in to the MP's channel. The setting was correct, but there wasn't much said, just "nothing in sector so-and-so" and the likes.
"Face?" Tawnia asked again.
"I don't know what's going on," Face said nervously. Damn it, but if Decker had found the hut, yet didn't have Hannibal, BA and Murdock... Face's heart clenched for a second... then they must have left in time.
Only, where could they have left to?
"Face, does Decker have them?" Tawnia asked anxiously.
"No," Face said. "If he did, the ether would be busting with activity." He nodded at the CB-radio once. "But that's quiet. Unless..." Face quickly switched through the channels again, but there was no activity on any other channel either. "Hannibal must have heard them," he concluded.
"And...?" Tawnia was short of biting her nails with nervousness.
"And they left!" Face snapped at her. She wasn't dumb, for Heaven's sake, so why didn't she think for herself? – Okay, she was not made for this... she was anxious... nervous... her brain was probably on strike. "The only question now is: where did they go?" he added more calmly.
Tawnia looked at him hopelessly
"Don't worry, was a rhetoricas question," he couldn't stop himself saying. Then he stepped on the gas and slowly proceeded along the road. If Hannibal had changed their position, he would have put up a sign for him so he could find them.
"What?" Couldn't she be quiet for a second?
"Murdock... he will make it, won't he?"
She sounded close to tears, and Face felt a bout of sympathy for her. She was so absolutely not cut out for this. It had to be ten times worse for her than... than it would have been for Amy.
"Murdock will make it," Face said with grim determination. "He's seen worse... he's pulled through, he's always pulled through."
"Face, Face my friend?" Murdock's voice was barely more than a whisper, but Face heard him just fine. He was tuned in to him, he had his senses honed where Murdock was concerned.
"I'm here, Murdock."
"Face... Face, will there be flowers?"
"What?" Face had his full attention focused on Murdock, but that didn't mean he always understood what the man talked about.
"On my grave," Murdock whispered, and a smile played around his lips and his eyes became dreamy, almost yearning. "Will there be flowers on my grave?"
Face's throat tightened up, and he had to force the words out: "No, there won't be a grave, Murdock, you won't die... you won't die..."
"Will there be flowers?" Murdock asked again, seemingly not even hearing Face's answer.
"Yes," Face choked out. He'd tell Murdock whatever he wanted to hear. And dammit, if he wanted to hear there were going to be flowers on his grave, then he would! "Yes, there'll be flowers," Face said. Speaking became a bit easier as he continued. "Daffodils, lilies-of-the-valley, forget-me-nots, pansies, violets..."
"Thistles," Murdock mumbled.
"Do you like thistles?" Face asked, and his throat clenched up again.
"They're my favourite flowers... thistles and orange carnations."
"There'll be thistles and orange carnations on your grave..." Face's voice failed him at the last word. Murdock couldn't die, he couldn't die.
Face swallowed the tears threatening to ambush him from inside. It had been one of the worst nights in the camps, when Murdock had started to talk about his grave. He had been beaten almost beyond recognition, his handsome face turned into a brownish-red mass, his back looking pretty much the same.
The laboured breathing indicated broken ribs, both legs were broken for sure, as well as eight of his fingers. None of this was in itself life threatening – excepting the broken ribs, maybe, because if one of them punctured the lung...
But it had to be painful beyond imagination, and it probably wasn't a wonder Murdock wished for death to come. They'd worked on him and still were far from finished, because Murdock hadn't said a thing. Not yet... not yet...
"Face, are you alright?" Tawnia asked, and this time Face was forever grateful for the interruption. These thoughts weren't good for him, absolutely not good for him.
"I'm sorry, I spaced out there for a second... again," he apologized with a weak smile.
"I didn't want to conjure bad memories," she half asked, half apologized.
"Ah, not your fault, Tawnia," he calmed her down. "It's the situation, they're bound to come. The bad ones, but also the good ones." The good ones, yes. – "You have all it takes." – "You're talking rubbish." – "Come back, Face, soon." – "Always... anytime." – "Promise." – "I promise."
"Is that Hannibal?" Tawnia leaned forward in her seat and squinted her eyes.
Face stopped the van and looked too. Yes, there was Hannibal, walking down the road, looking like he didn't care much whether he was seen or not. Murdock had to be really bad off then. Face stepped on the gas again and quickly drove up to Hannibal.
"Face!" Hannibal greeted him, climbing into the back of the van and sitting down in Face's usual seat. "About time. Murdock's in bad shape."
"Is he now?" Face shot back irritably. Did Hannibal think he didn't know that?
"Just step on it," Hannibal gave back, ignoring Face's tone. "I'll tell you how to get to our new position."
The new position was an abandoned mine, not too far from Chip and Chap's hut. Face parked the van and quickly leaned a few branches against it. Hannibal or BA must have prepared them while waiting for his return.
The cover wasn't too good though, and it wouldn't hold if somebody cared to really look. But dammit, they didn't have the time to do it properly. A superficial cover would have to be enough.
Tawnia had helped put up some of the branches, and in favour of that had put the medical kit aside. Now that they were done, Face picked it up, because he very much preferred carrying it himself. It gave him the much needed illusion of being capable.
"This way," Hannibal told them and showed them around some bushes to the entrance of the mine.
When they entered, they could hear BA frantically calling out to Murdock.
For a second Face's heart stopped beating. They weren't too late, were they? Murdock hadn't just died there while they were outside, trying to hide that stupid van, had he?
Face swallowed hard.
No, no. If Murdock had been that bad off, Hannibal would have gotten to the nearest phone or radio and called Decker... Oh no... no...
But Hannibal had looked as if he didn't really care if the MP caught him on that road there...
No, please, Face thought desperately.
Hannibal seemed to have similar thoughts, because he approached the scene apprehensively, almost hesitantly. – Wary to find out the harsh truth.
Side by side they walked deeper into the mine.
"Murdock, come on! I was just playing about that crazy bit. Come on, buddy!" BA shook Murdock gently.
Hannibal knelt down next to Murdock's unmoving form, and reached out to check on his pulse. "It's alright, BA, it's gonna be alright," he said softly.
Gonna be alright? Face hardly dared believing his own ears, but when Hannibal said it was going to be alright, then it was. And that could only mean that Murdock wasn't dead yet. He was still alive.
Still alive. Face felt relief as well as worry wash through him. Now that he had Hannibal's confirmation, he could see the faint rising and falling of Murdock's chest. Yes, he was still breathing. 'Now do what you can to keep it like that.'
'Get a grip and a move on, Lieutenant,' Face told himself. 'Don't go wasting your time - Murdock's time – by submitting to senseless frenzy. He's alive, you can save him. You can help him. Get your act together, and do what's necessary.' Face looked down at the kit, remembering that it held everything they needed. "Grab the light," he told Tawnia, and since it was an instruction, she was quick about doing what was asked of her. She took the lamp off the stone it'd been sitting on and held it up high.
Face put the kit down on the stone and shot another quick glance at Murdock. He had looked worse than this before... Face quickly looked away again. He opened the kit, wanting to look over the contents once more. Had he overlooked something? Had he been too optimistic when judging the usefulness of the supplies?
"He's too weak to be moved," Hannibal said, and Face's attention was drawn to him. "We have no choice."
Face nodded. That had been pretty much clear from the beginning, hadn't it? But he didn't say anything, nobody needed him being petty right now. So he just took the bottle of antiseptic and handed it over to Hannibal.
"I'll have to get that slug out with everything it took in with it," Hannibal continued, handing Face his knife, before thoroughly rubbing his hands with the antiseptic.
"Hannibal, if you're not careful, you're gonna wind up killing him," Tawnia said anxiously.
"He knows what he's doing," Face defended Hannibal, pulling off a piece of cotton to disinfect the blade of the knife. "Vietnam was a great teacher."
That quietened her.
"We haven't got much time," Hannibal spoke up again. "Decker's got this whole area covered, it won't take him long to find us."
Face shuddered with the thought. If Decker found them before they were done treating Murdock, then... He quickly shut his mind down. No thinking. He was here to assist Hannibal. Hannibal was going to be the doctor, and he was going to be the nurse. End of story. Nothing more to add.
"Scissors," Hannibal ordered. "I gotta cut the t-shirt."
"Murdock will love you for that," Face said, then bit his lip. No thinking, he reminded himself. No thinking for the duration of this operation. No more thinking ever if Murdock...
Don't think it, don't think.
"I'll get him a big pizza for compensation," Hannibal said absent-mindedly. "Scissors," he then ordered again.
Face handed him the instrument, then looked back into the kit. What would Hannibal need next? He'd need lots of gauze and bandages, more antiseptic, tweezers...
From the corner of his eyes, Face saw Hannibal pull the ruined t-shirt apart. Murdock's chest was reddened, but it still didn't look too bad. Dammit, if the blood was all gathering inside Murdock's body, it would coagulate, and a small clot of blood could easily be sucked into an artery, and...
Face shook his head, looked over to Tawnia and watched her face as she looked down at the scene. There was sympathy and fear on her face, but also a bit of fascination.
Face wanted to jump her and throttle her. This was not something to be fascinated by! This was... this was...
"Hold him still, BA," Hannibal demanded, his voice low and his words slow with concentration. "I can't work if he's fidgeting around."
"I'm holding him as tight as I can," BA gave back irritably, but Face could hear the worry in his voice.
"The slug is too deep in," Hannibal said with frustration. "I can't even feel it from this side! Let's hope I can get to it from the back, or Decker's really our only choice left."
"Help me turn him around, BA."
Face stared down into the kit again, pulling bandages from their place and stuffing them into new places, busying his fingers, keeping his mind off things.
"Face, you're in the way," Hannibal scolded tersely, and Face immediately jumped to his feet.
"Get over here," Hannibal ordered, pointing to his left side. "I need you where you can hand me things."
Face just only nodded. There was nothing to say. Hannibal was right.
Murdock moaned when BA laid him down, almost forming intelligible words.
"More antiseptic," Hannibal ordered, and Face was glad to have something to do. He took the bottle, poured some of the liquid onto Hannibal's hands.
"Murdock's skin too," Hannibal said, rubbing antiseptic onto his hands once again. "I want to have him clean when I cut."
Face poured more of the antiseptic onto a pad of cotton. "Get the shirt off," he gruffly told BA, while he put the bottle of antiseptic back into the kit. He didn't want to do it. He didn't want to touch Murdock, didn't want to cause him pain, not even when he knew there was no other choice. He didn't want to think of Murdock.
Right. You got a patient.
BA was done pulling the cloth aside, and Face quickly swiped the pad over the exposed skin.
Hannibal was going to need the tweezers once he got to the round. Right. Face quickly dug them up from the kit, disinfected them, then held them prepared in his right hand, and patiently waited until he was needed again. Don't think.
"Alright," Hannibal said, and it could be heard how nervous he was about this. Sure, he'd done it before, but you never got used to this kind of thing. He carefully positioned the knife and made a small cut, just enough to break the skin.
Face pulled a face as he watched. There was blood coming, but it was alarmingly little. Hannibal carefully pushed a finger into the wound, feeling around, pulled the finger out, deepened the cut with the knife, carefully pushing the blade in, then felt with the finger again.
"I can feel it," he announced. He handed the knife over to Face, and Face quickly handed him the tweezers in return, and as soon as Hannibal took those from him, Face was already grabbing the next items Hannibal would need. Badges of gauze and more antiseptic. By the end of this ordeal, the bottle would be empty. Well, better too much than too little in this case.
The bullet was sitting pretty close to the skin, after all, and Hannibal was quick about pulling it out. He dropped it into the kit with repulsion, and then dropped the tweezers.
Face more or less pushed the bottle into Hannibal's hands, wanting him to work faster. Time was running out for them.
"What do we do about Decker?" Tawnia asked.
"I've got an idea," Hannibal answered her, taping gauze over the wound in Murdock's back. "Turn him back around, BA."
BA did, and again Murdock protested with pained moans.
"Sorry, Captain, can't be helped right now," Hannibal apologized. "Decker doesn't know about Murdock, not for sure," he then said, explaining his idea while he cleaned and bandaged Murdock's entry wound. He'll suspect the wounded man is you," he looked at Face briefly.
"Me? Hannibal, one look into his face, and –"
"Exactly. That's why we don't let him see his face. Give me some more of those bandages." Face did, although he did not quite understand what Hannibal was getting at.
"BA, wrap his head," Hannibal ordered, handing BA the bandages.
"But..." Face threw in. He still didn't get what Hannibal was aiming at. Usually he wasn't that slow, but maybe his "don't think"-mantra had worked just a tad bit better than he'd planned.
"We'll claim it's powder burns... it'll work. You'll have to hide, though."
Face didn't like that part of it, he didn't want to leave Murdock's side. He was about to put up a fight about it when he picked up the sound of sirens in the distance. Decker was approaching.
"Hannibal," Tawnia said anxiously.
"Speed it up, BA," Hannibal ordered, ignoring her. "Face, get in the back of the mine. Don't let yourself be seen."
"But Hannibal..." Face knew he was behaving silly and irrational. But he just couldn't help it. He didn't want to go.
"It'll work out, Face," Hannibal reassured him. "They'll have to carry him out, and I don't think they will let us do it. You're still in uniform, when the time's right, you step up and take over. Make sure you're with him. I'll try and have BA and me go with him as well, but I'm not sure Decker will let us. You make sure you're with him and get him to a hospital. Make sure he makes it." Hannibal squeezed Face's shoulder encouragingly.
"There's an old mine entrance here!" Somebody shouted in the distance.
Face and Hannibal looked at each other for a moment.
"Go now," Hannibal ordered, and Face did. He stepped around the corner where the mineshaft made a turn to the right and hoped it was good enough. He couldn't be seen, but at the same time had to stay close enough to follow things, so he'd know his cue.
"Smith! It's Colonel Decker! You're surrounded!" Decker's voice came into the mine. He sounded tinny and overly loud, so he was speaking through a megaphone. "I want you and Peck and Baracus and Miss Baker, if she's in there, to come out with your hands up. You have fifteen seconds!"
"Are you done there, BA?" Hannibal asked nervously.
"Just about, Hannibal," BA answered.
"Keep working, I'll go outside, meet Decker, play for a bit more time."
There was complete silence for a few seconds, and then Hannibal's voice could be heard faintly. "I have a wounded man in there, he needs immediate medical attention." After that, Face didn't understand anything anymore. He could still hear them talking, but couldn't make out the words.
"Be prepared," BA said lowly.
"Prepared?" Tawnia asked dumbly.
"Just leave it all to us," BA declared gruffly, and then there were already approaching footsteps.
"What's the matter with Peck here?" Decker asked coldly.
"He's got some powder burns, a gun exploded in his face. And he's got a shoulder wound, real bad..." Hannibal answered seriously.
"Check him, Sergeant. I'm not in the mood for any tricks," Decker ordered, still without sympathy.
Face was seeing Hannibal's Plan A slip. Decker wasn't going to let them all stay with Murdock, he just wasn't. The guy was colder than a dead fish. That only left the hope that Decker would concentrate on Hannibal, BA and Tawnia so much that he wouldn't pay too much attention to the men in uniform. That was the only way Hannibal's Plan B could work.
Of course if they'd found the poor soul Face had taken the uniform from by now, Plan B wasn't going to work either. Decker was not overly inspired, but he was not dumb. If he had one uniform less than he had men, he would take a really close look at everyone in a uniform. – If that was the case, then Face would have to think up a Plan C, and quickly.
"He's in pretty bad shape, sir," somebody said.
"He needs blood," Hannibal threw in.
No shit, Hannibal, Face thought. Murdock needs a whole lot more than just blood! He needs blood, proper stitch-work, proper disinfectants, rest, painkillers...
"Have this man moved to the A-Team van," Decker quickly decided.
Good, Face thought to himself. At least something. It would have been more of a challenge if the MPs had had a suitable vehicle themselves. But transporting a severely wounded man in a jeep or a sedan was not practical and could cost Decker points in his file. Being the career-oriented man that he was, Decker wasn't going to risk that.
"You're not hit," Decker went on in a snide tone. "Why didn't you fight your way out?"
'Because Hannibal is a good commander, and you are an asshole!' Face thought heatedly, but kept standing still in his hiding place.
"After you, Lieutenant-Colonel Smith," Decker gloated.
Face heard the shuffling of feet, and hoped he'd time his appearance correctly. A few seconds should be enough...
Face stepped around the corner when he once again heard footsteps approaching. There was an off chance that Decker was returning, but Face didn't really think so. Decker was surely too busy gloating over Hannibal.
There were two soldiers walking up. They didn't seem to be surprised at seeing him already there, and, more importantly, they didn't recognize him.
"I got that, Corporal," Face addressed one of the two men. "Make sure the van doors are open."
Being a good little soldier, the corporal left immediately, leaving Face with the other man, a sergeant.
Now all Face had to do was get past Decker and Crane. The other men on the hunt obviously really didn't know who they were actually after. Face took the bars of the litter and lifted it. But Decker and Crane had been on the game for a while. Face could even imagine Decker having the A-Team's pictures at home... not exactly on his nightstand, but definitely somewhere in his house. This plan could still go south if Decker happened to look at "Peck" being carried out. If he slipped his glance just a little bit upwards...
Hopefully Hannibal did his job and made Decker look the other way.
For a moment Face was blinded by the sunlight when he stepped outside, but he recovered soon enough. He couldn't see his team mates anywhere. So did that mean they were in the van, after all? Face hardly dared to hope.
Decker stood leaning against a sedan, looking at what looked to be a map, with Crane right next to him.
Face quickly lowered his head so all they would see was the uniform and the helmet should they look up – which they didn't. Good. And since they were paying so little attention to the uniformed guys, Face assumed that the poor soldier he'd ambushed was still lying in the bushes, stripped down to his underwear. He'd have to drop Decker a note about that man, and how it really wasn't exemplary leadership to lose men without even noticing it.
They reached the van, and both back doors were wide open.
Face chanced a look, and there they were: Hannibal, BA, Tawnia, all sitting, waiting for things to happen. "I'll drive, you watch the prisoners," Face told the corporal he'd ordered earlier to open the van's doors. He made his voice sound cool and authoritative, like the voice of a man used to giving orders. He wasn't met with protest or even strange looks. One guard for the infamous A-Team? They should be surprised. – Hell no, they should be suspicious. But they were used to following orders, so they did. Corporal something-or-other climbed inside, the other soldiers closed the doors, and Face quickly rounded the van to the driver's side, carefully keeping his head down. Not worth thinking about if he should be recognized now, in this last stage of their escape.
But everything went well.
When he climbed inside, Face already saw BA pointing a rifle at the poor corporal, and Hannibal holding one finger to his lips in the universal gesture for silence.
The corporal looked at Face with hope and despair, but Face only grinned at him, a hint of jazz catching him. "Now that's what I call quick work," he said. "Even for you." Then he started up the van, and reversed.
Hannibal got rid of the corporal by pushing him out the passenger side door. "Step on it, Lieutenant!" Hannibal ordered, grabbed the rifle from BA and started shooting backwards, at Decker's cars.
Face followed his order and stepped on the gas. The tires squealed and spurted dust, and they were quickly headed out.
"What about the roadblocks?" Face asked, as he sped down the road.
"I'm sure Decker's called them off."
"How can you be sure?" Tawnia asked.
"Because Decker is a peacock," Hannibal explained, as he leaned back in his seat and tucked a cigar into his mouth. "And we are his tail of multi-coloured feathers. He was so sure he'd got us back at that mine, he called all his men in to show off. He wanted all of them to witness his success." A grin flickered over Hannibal's face for a second. "Alas, all they witnessed was yet another failure. – BA, how is he?" He then asked seriously, and turned around to the back of the van, where BA and Tawnia were kneeling next to Murdock.
"If we don't get him proper treatment in an hour..." BA's voice trailed off.
"Step on it, Lieutenant," Hannibal ordered again.
'No need to order me,' Face thought, gripping the wheel a bit tighter. One hour was manageable. One hour tops, and he'd get Murdock back.
Face felt like his intestines had been swapped for a millstone. Doctor Ausper seemed to be a nice enough person, but he took much too much time examining Murdock for Face's taste.
"A hunting accident, eh?" Dr. Ausper inquired. Seemed as if he didn't quite believe it.
"Yes," Hannibal insisted. "I have no idea how it could have happened, but suddenly he went down, and..." he stopped there.
Dr. Ausper had two nurses turn Murdock to the side, so he could examine the back. "The bullet went right through?" he asked.
"Alright, alright, I see it didn't," Ausper interrupted, pulling off the pad that covered the cut. "Nice cut, though. Nice field operation... You're not a doctor, are you?"
Hannibal shook his head. "Not exactly. But we had to do some doctoring in Vietnam."
"Vietnam, huh?" Ausper nodded at the nurses to lower Murdock back down onto the gurney. "That's a good teacher, indeed. Do you know his blood type?" he went on without missing a beat.
"AB negative," BA answered, "same as mine. You can have some of my blood."
"Good, it's always good to have donators," Ausper said. "You can go with nurse Huntington, she'll take your blood. If you'll excuse me, gentlemen." With these words Ausper pushed the gurney with Murdock on it out of the emergency room and down a corridor. One of the nurses went with him, and the other nurse, evidently nurse Huntington, led BA over to another room, where she prepared a big needle and a bag.
Face was left alone with Hannibal and Tawnia. He felt dazed. After all the activity, after fighting to save Murdock second after second, he was suddenly left with nothing to do but wait, and he wasn't very good at that. Even during the drive here, when everybody else had been subjected to inactivity, Face had been driving. It hadn't been much, but it had been at least something.
Dammit, but they were supposed to be the guys who made things happen! They were not supposed to be helpless and out of control. They were the ones for whom there were no dead ends or even roadblocks. They were superhuman. Nothing could touch them. They were under a lucky charm, always pulling out with a smile and a wink and not a scratch anywhere.
Hannibal was tucking his cigar stub into his mouth. He rolled it from one corner of his mouth to the other. He was as nervous as Face was. He was as worried.
Dammit, Murdock had been in such bad shape: his pulse in the critical 150s, his breathing shallow and fast. He'd even stopped sweating.
"How long will it take?" Tawnia asked.
Face wished she'd finally show some tact and just leave. Or at least keep her mouth shut.
"We'll see," Hannibal answered her curtly.
Tawnia nodded, but thankfully didn't say anything more. She went over to the coffee machine and got herself a cup.
Hannibal walked over to the window, looking out, surveying the area. They were not out of the woods yet. They'd filled Decker's cars with bullets, but there was no telling what he'd come up with. That man was nothing if not persistent.
Face sat down in a far corner. He folded his hands and prayed. He had only one word on his mind, and he repeated it over and over again, sending it upwards to God: Please.
After a long while, Face suddenly had to think of carnations and thistles, arranged in a bunch. In that moment he knew that everything would be alright. Murdock was going to pull through, no matter what the odds were. Carnations and thistles. It had become a code between them for: "I feel crappy, but heck if I let that get in my way!"
Murdock was going to be fine.
"Heya muchachos," Murdock greeted them cheerily, albeit still weakly. He'd only been out of operation for two hours, and was just waking up.
"Captain, you gave us a scare there for a while," Hannibal chided good-humouredly. "I expect you to never do that again, understood? How're you feeling now?"
"Snug as a bug, fine as a pine, good as a wood, nice as a –"
"Stop talking nonsense, Fool," BA interrupted. He tried to grumble, but it couldn't overlay the affection and relief.
"– spice," Murdock finished with a small smile.
"Don't test the man's patience," Face warned, happy he could finally look at Murdock again without half panicking, or feeling the need to shut him out.
"Oh," Murdock said tiredly, the anaesthetic still having a hold on him. "Man's got oodles of patience..."
BA just only hmphed this time.
"Well, I think we'd better leave you alone, Murdock," Hannibal spoke again. "You sleep some and get back on your feet."
"That an order at the border?" Murdock asked, his eyelids already dropping.
"More like an observation, it seems," Hannibal answered warmly. Then he squeezed Murdock's good shoulder briefly. "I haven't thanked you yet, Captain, for saving my life."
"Never mind, you're too kind," Murdock mumbled, obviously getting on a rhyming-spree, and then added, with a happy smile, "oodles of noodles..." – after which the drugs claimed his consciousness and pulled him under.
Face was all wound up and nervous a he walked down the corridor. For almost two weeks he hadn't had a chance to see or even talk to Murdock. They'd kept away. Hannibal and BA had made appearances here and there to draw Decker's attention and lead him away from Murdock, while Face, supposed to be severely wounded, had had to stay hidden.
But now, finally, Face had a chance to see Murdock. He was still in the hospital and would still be weak, but at least they would have a chance to talk. Alone. Without Hannibal or BA being in the way, so Face could finally say The Words.
"Faceman," Murdock greeted him, happy as ever to see him, when Face entered his room.
"Murdock, how're you feeling, are you okay?" Face asked concerned, because Murdock looked kind of pale.
"I'm fine, man, I'm fine," Murdock answered with a grin. Then his smile turned warmer, and so did his voice. "I'm fine, Face, really."
For a moment they were silent, just looking at each other.
"I was so scared," Face confessed, letting it break out of him. Usually he didn't admit to such feelings... any feelings. Admitting to feelings usually just caused him problems. But then, hadn't he promised to himself that today he'd admit to the biggest feeling there was?
"Me too," Murdock said softly. He looked at Face, then down at his fingers. "I thought I would die, and I was so sorry that you'd be alone again."
Face's heart missed a beat, then almost burst, and a moment later Face blushed furiously. One of his first thoughts had been exactly that. He hadn't thought of the pain Murdock had to be in, or the fear. He had only thought of how he'd be alone again if Murdock died. He had only thought of himself. What an egotistical bastard he was! How could he ever hope that Murdock would love him?
"It's okay to think like that," Murdock said calmly, reading Face's thoughts off his beet red complexion. "When my dad got sick, I was angry with him, thinking, how can he be sick and leave me, only two years after mom died? How can he do that to me? – It's not bad thinking like that, it's only natural."
"But you were a boy, I'm an adult," Face contradicted vehemently.
Murdock just shook his head with a smile. "You can't grow up in matters like these... Well, you're better off if you don't. Cause growing up in this context... It would mean you're losing loved ones on a regular basis, and who would want that?" Murdock shook his head minutely. "No, be happy you're still a child in that respect, and keep it like that. The alternative is much too sad. When the loss of your dear ones doesn't shake you up inside and wreck your beliefs and rock your emotions anymore, when losing people becomes customary, when you can brush it off like daily business..." Murdock cleared his throat. "It's nice to see that Nam couldn't hammer that custom into you. It's so nice to see you're still completely human in that respect, despite everything that happened to us in Nam."
Face wished Murdock would stop talking like that, because it gave him the creeps. Had Murdock grown accustomed to death? If so, when? Surely before Nam. Because he hadn't seen any worse than Face had, and Murdock was the stronger one of the two of them. – Would Murdock be able to brush off his death as daily business as well, should it happen?
"No," Murdock interrupted Face's thoughts. "There's no reason for you to feel bad about thinking what you thought," Murdock reassured him. "After all, the one who dies, he loses his life, yes, but what does he gain? We don't know. But those who are left behind, they know what they lose, and they know they will not gain anything. They will never again hold the ones they love. It's perfectly alright to think the way you were thinking."
Face hung his head, hiding his face from Murdock in shame. It made no difference what Murdock said, because it wasn't true. It was all just designed to make him feel better. Well, it wasn't working.
"Really, Face. Don't create problems where there aren't any."
Face nodded, but didn't look up.
"Can you look me in the eye when you agree to what I say?" Murdock asked.
Face very slowly lifted his head. He fully intended to lie to Murdock, tell him that he was right, and that it was all forgotten. But when he saw Murdock lying there in his hospital bed, pale and tired, yet with a warm glow in his eyes, it was too much. "What the hell were you thinking anyway?!" he erupted in sudden anger. "Jumping in front of Hannibal like that?! I mean, nice and brave! But it was stupid, Murdock, stupid! It almost got you killed!"
"But if I hadn't, then it certainly would have killed Hannibal," Murdock countered seriously. He held out his hand, and after a moment of hesitation, Face took it. Murdock gently rubbed his thumb across the back of Face's hand, while he spoke on. "So what were my choices? He's my colonel, I can't let him be hurt, let alone killed." He paused for a moment. "What would you have done in my position? Wouldn't you have jumped?"
Face sighed defeated. He would have, in a heartbeat. Hannibal had that power. He elicited total dedication. He didn't do it consciously, and sometimes Face felt that he even hated this power he
held over people; he didn't want anyone to die in his place. But the fact remained that Hannibal influenced people in a way that made them ready to die for him; and some had.
"I guess I would have, yeah," Face admitted.
"See?" Murdock asked gently, pulling Face closer. "So are we on even grounds again?"
Face looked Murdock in the eyes. He saw acceptance in them, and a bit of mischief. Yes, they were on even grounds again. Simply because Murdock wouldn't accept anything else.
"Oh, what am I gonna do with you?" Face whined, releasing the tension inside him.
"A kiss would be a nice start," Murdock answered, lowering his voice to a lewd whisper.
"Here?!" In the public? Was Murdock crazy? – No wait, don't answer that.
"Why not here? Do you think I want to wait another two weeks until they release me, then maybe another week till you can come see me? I haven't kissed you in nearly three weeks, I'm suffering from withdrawal symptoms here!"
Face couldn't stop himself, he had to ask. "And those withdrawal symptoms would be...?"
"... would be making the nurses here very unhappy with me, because they have to change my pyjamas and bedspread every morning." Murdock pulled Face yet a bit closer. "I have the most impure thoughts and dreams about you," he whispered. "Very impure... indecent... exciting... arousing..."
Face's body tingled all over. When Murdock talked like that, he was damned irresistible. So Face bent down and pressed his lips onto Murdock's.
It started out heated, but soon toned down to a gentle, reassuring kiss. They were tasting the other one's life and the strength of their friendship.
"Oh, and Face," Murdock said, when they parted after a lengthy while. "There's something I've wanted to tell you, I just never thought the time was right, or the place... I wanted to make a really big show of it, you know, Gone with the Wind style. But now..." a shadow crossed his eyes. "But now, after what happened, and after realizing I very well might have thrown away all the chances I got... Well, I don't think time or place matter that much anymore." Murdock stroked Face's cheek once. "Nothing matters as much as letting you know this: I love you."
Face swallowed. He wanted to say the words in return – after all, that's what he'd come here for in the first place: confess his love. But before he could even get the first word out, Murdock spoke again.
"It's okay," he said, "you don't have to say it. I know you love me, I don't need you to say it with words."
Face sat at his lover's bedside, feeling overwhelmed. Murdock knew how hard it was for him to put feelings into words, but more importantly, Murdock knew that he loved him. Murdock was always so smart about these things. 'I love you,' Face thought with awe.
Murdock broke into a wide smile. "Oh, Face, if only you knew how talkative your eyes can be," he said, before pressing his lips onto Face's hand, his look holding Face's. "I love you, and anyone who looks at you can see that you love me."
"Yes," Face said. He smiled. He still had a mission to complete, and he could put it into words. "I love you."
Viskey Moonbat HeroMouse 2006
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