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This page last viewed: 2017-08-15 and has been viewed 1602 times
Summary: Just a little conversation between friends.
Warnings: A little angst, a little comfort
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, wish I did. Etc.
Templeton "Faceman" Peck sat silently at the edge of the water. His bare toes curled and uncurled in the damp sand beneath his feet. He gazed steadfastly at the horizon, completely lost in thought.
A few feet away, the tall lanky figure of HM Murdock gazed thoughtfully at his friend. As if coming to a conclusion, he started forward, silently approaching the still figure.
"Hiya, Faceman! I was wondering where you had got to!"
Jerking slightly in surprise, the younger man looked up.
"Jeez, Murdock! Make some noise next time, will ya?"
"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you, muchacho."
"You didn't scare me! I was just, uh, startled, that's all."
"Mind if I grab a piece of beach and sit with ya?"
Face waved at the sand beside him, and watched quietly as his friend folded his long lean body into a seated position at his side.
"So, Faceguy, why'd you run off from the celebration? I woulda thought you'd want to unwind after that last case."
"Oh, I don't know, Murdock. I guess I just wanted a little peace and quiet; I just wanted to sit and think, y'know?"
"Well, you gotta admit, Face, you left rather abruptly. I mean, one minute you're standing there talking to us, the next....poof! You're gone!"
Murdock looked over at his smaller companion, noticing the shadows in Face's eyes and the downcast expression on his face. The pilot's chestnut eyes, serious for once, noticed the stoop in the shoulders of his best friend as well as the slightly defeated air emanating from the conman. Wrinkling his brow in concentration, Murdock thought back to the conversation that Face had been involved in with his friends. Suddenly, his eyes opened wide as he began to have an inkling what might be bothering his friend. He hadn't heard the exact words, but he knew Face had been talking with BA. Probably the ugly mudsucka' had said something that had wounded the youngest team member's pride.
"Y'know, Facekid, the Baracan one didn't mean anything by what he said."
Straightening up and schooling his expression, Face denied that anything was wrong.
"C'mon, Face. This is me, Murdock. I'm your friend. Don't try and con me. Y'know, you keep everything inside. And when you do that, it begins to eat away at you, gnawing at your insides 'til the pain gets to be too much and you explode. I don't want to see you explode, Face. I don't think I could take that. I know you don't talk much about yourself, but whatever you say to me stays with me. Let me help, kiddo. Please."
Sighing, Face slumped back into his previous position.
"You know, Murdock, I envy your relationship with BA."
"Huh? Why? We fight all the time! I drive the guy batty! Half the time, he wants to kill me! How could you possibly envy that?"
Smiling slightly, Face explained. "You bait him on purpose, Murdock. BA knows that. You two bicker constantly. But, underneath it all, I sense the underlying affection. The big guy isn't exactly one for being demonstrative to those he cares about. You know that, he knows that. Heck, we all know that. But, he enjoys those little sessions with you. When you were shot, you should have seen him. All he wanted was for you start talking to Billy, or to become some new character designed to drive him nuts. That's the way the two of you show affection for each other. I'm surprised you didn't realize that. He does."
Murdock sat quietly, thinking about what Face had said. His dark brown eyes twinkled as he nodded.
"Yeah, you're right. I guess I knew it all along. BA'd never admit it though. And I sure as heck won't point it out to 'em! But, it works for us. Not to mention, he's so easy!"
As Murdock began to chuckle, Face joined in.
After the two friends settled back down, Murdock looked at his friend quizzically.
"Er, Face. You know that BA cares about you. Don't you?"
"Does he? I guess so. It's just that we never really talk to each other. You're usually paired with him. When I'm with him, we just don't say much. I've always had this feeling that he doesn't approve of me."
"Why would you think that?"
Face shifted in the sand uncomfortably. He wasn't sure if he wanted to mention his fears to Murdock or not. But, sometimes he got tired of keeping everything inside. He knew he was insecure, but he really couldn't help it. Maybe if he shared with his friend, it would help. But could he?
"Er, this isn't easy for me, Murdock. You know that I don't talk much about myself, my *true* self, that is."
Biting his lip, Face looked to his friend for help.
Murdock drew in a quick breath. Face was looking to him for support. Could he do it? He suddenly wished he was someone else, someone more like Hannibal. But, Face was willing to talk to him, HM Murdock. The pilot had no illusions. He knew that he had problems. But the personas that he wore from time to time, the games that he played, his dog Billy, and baiting BA all helped to keep the purple wobblies at bay. He was able to let off steam and stave off going really and truly insane. Face didn't have such a release valve as Murdock did. Face was always the consummate lady's man, the calm, cool and collected individual that kept Hannibal's plans from going too far awry and that kept him and BA in line. Face was their anchor. But, who was Face's guide? Who kept him sane? Who kept the conman from letting go, from running away, from being swept into the dark, swirling abyss? Who? Could it be....him? HM Murdock?
Bending over and placing his head in his hands, Murdock wondered if he could do it. He was afraid that if he failed, he would lead his best friend on a one-way ticket to Hell. But, if he didn't, what would become of Face? Would he crack? Would the younger man be able to regain the calm composure and assured outlook he always showed to the world? Or, would Face finally let go of the fine, invisible line that tethered him to reality? Would the handsome young man give in, and let himself be swept away into a maelstrom of flotsam and jetsam that would either land him in jail or in the loony bin? Murdock didn't want to find out what would happen. No matter the cost, he would help his friend.
Glancing now at Face, Murdock noticed that he had hung his head, staring between his outstretched legs at the sand. 'He thinks that my silence is my answer. God, please don't let it be too late!'
Murdock scooted closer to his friend, and put his arm around the slim shoulders. "I'm here, muchacho, and I'm not going anywhere. Please, Face. Talk to me."
Sighing, Face leaned back into his friend's shoulder. He couldn't look at him. It would be much easier talking with his eyes staring out to sea.
"It's just that, well, when BA said the reason we did so well on the mission was because I was such a good cheat and liar, it hurt, you know? I mean, yeah, I guess that's what I am, but hearing it put like that, well...."
Murdock sat silently, inwardly fuming. 'Way to go, big guy! Jeez, you've got such a way with words! Didn't you know that would hurt your little brother? God, what do I say?'
"Face, you know that was BA's way of giving you a compliment! He was just saying that you were the main reason the mission went off so well! He was proud of you!"
"Huh! If you say so. Y'know, I've just always had the feeling that BA doesn't approve of my scamming. In his mind, it's wrong. And, if what I do is wrong, then that means I'm not a very good person."
"No! Face, BA knows that your scamming and conning helps the team! It helps us help other people! He knows that you never hurt anyone with what you do! Believe me, he doesn't think any the less of you for it."
"I don't know, Murdock." Face sighed. "You remember back in Nam he didn't approve at all of some of the things I got the guys. Especially Hannibal's cigars! He may not have said anything, but I could see it in his eyes."
"Yeah, right. Like BA was one to tell someone else the difference between right and wrong! The colonel had a hard time keeping BA out of the brig because of his bad attitude and propensity to end up in a fight! What he used to think doesn't matter, though, 'cos he didn't know you then. He does now and he knows that what you do helps us to keep ourselves away from Decker as well as to help other people! Whatever he used to think, I know that now he's proud of you! I've heard him telling Hannibal about some of your scams, and how good they are, how they helped us to get what we needed! Heck, without you, he'd never have all the parts for his van, or for whatever it is we need to build when on a mission! Believe me Face, I've heard him sing your praises!"
"Really? You're not trying to con me, are you Murdock?"
"Moi? Con you? Au contraire, mon cher, I can't con a blind man without your help! That big angry mudsucka' just doesn't have your way with words, that's all. He was trying to tell you that he was really proud of you. His word choice may have sucked, but believe me, that's all it was!"
Sighing, Face leaned further into his friends embrace, shivering slightly.
"You're cold, Faceguy. Here, let me put my jacket around you."
"No, Murdock. You'll be cold then."
"Nah! I've got on a long sleeve shirt. All you've got on is that sleeveless number. I know it turns the chicks on, muchacho, but it's not much for keeping the cool ocean breeze at bay!"
Shrugging out of his jacket, Murdock placed it around his friend, and then settled back in the sand, his arm once again around the younger man's shoulders.
Leaning once again back against the older man, Face looked out to the west, admiring the pinks, corals and purples of the sun which was now racing downward to the horizon.
"Um, Face? I've got a question for ya. You don't have to answer if you don't want to, but it's something I've often wondered about."
"What is it, Murdock? If I can answer you, I will. You've helped me so much this afternoon that I owe you at least one free question!"
"Er, well, I know that you don't like talking about your past. But, I've always wondered....exactly when did you start scamming? How'd you learn to do what you do?"
Face stiffened within Murdock's embrace.
"Ah, sorry Face. Just forget it."
"No," Face said quietly. "I promised that I'd answer you. Let me just think a minute how to begin."
As the sun began to disappear into the waves, both men sat unmoving. Then, Face began to shiver again. Murdock reached his other arm around Face, clasping his hands loosely on the younger man's chest. The waves lapped quietly at their feet; the entire area seemed eerily quiet. When Face finally began to speak, Murdock almost jumped at the invasion of the silence.
"You know that I was five years old when I turned up at the orphanage. You've also heard how I didn't talk for several months after that. What you don't know is what it was like. To say that I was small for my age is an understatement. I was small and very thin. Add that to the fact that I didn't speak, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out how the older kids treated me. Some of the kinder nicknames were Stupid, Idiot and Muteboy. I don't know how many of the kids taunted me with 'cat got your tongue, Dumbo?' When I finally began to speak, it wasn't any better. I was tiny and had this really blond hair, much lighter than it is now. Some of the nuns would say I looked like a little angel. Most of the kids started calling me Angelface. They didn't mean it in a kind way, either. The nuns were really nice to me, trying to get me to eat more, helping me in my studies, and running their fingers through my hair. This went over really big with the kids, let me tell you.
"Some of the boys would trip me in the halls, push me down hard, even punch me in the stomach. All I wanted to do was to fit in, so I never told on them. When I cried, they'd call me crybaby. So, I learned early on to not cry, to not let them hear how they'd hurt me.
"One day, I overheard a couple of the older boys talking. One of them was saying how much he wanted a yo-yo. The other kid wanted a harmonica. I went to one of the Sisters, and told her I wanted a yo-yo and a harmonica. She got them for me. Then, I gave them to the two boys.
"The word got around how I'd gotten those things, and pretty soon lots of the boys were asking me to get them stuff. I did my best to get any and everything they wanted. Part of it was self-preservation. When they thought I could get them stuff, the boys wouldn't hit me. But, part of it was I just wanted to fit in. I wanted the kids to like me, to be my friend.
"I knew deep down that the only reason the guys hung around me was what I could get for them. But, I let myself forget that. I let myself believe that they liked me for me!
"As time went on, I got better at the scamming. I started getting things for myself, too. Just so I could be a little happier, a little less lonely. The nickname Angelface stuck, though. One day I told the other boys to just call me Face. I hated the angel part of it. From what I learned from the Sisters and Father Magill, what I was doing was not the least bit angelic, 'cos to lie was a sin, and to steal was against the Ten Commandments. I didn't want anyone calling me Angelface, 'cos that was like sacrilege. So, the boys started calling me Face. That's where my nickname originated.
"Occasionally, I'd get caught out in one of my scams. So, I learned at that point how to perfect my innocent look. Or, I'd look very sad and say I was sorry. I made my lip tremble as if I was about to cry. Usually, I'd get out of any punishment, or whatever penance I had to do would be very light.
"I scammed, cheated, conned and lied so much the next few years, it just became part of my persona. I could do it blindfolded, with no effort whatsoever. But, whenever I let myself think about it, I always wondered if the kids liked me or just what I got for them. Because of what I learned from the Sisters, I knew what I did was wrong. So, I figured no one really liked me. After all, I didn't even have a name. I mean, the church gave me one, but it wasn't mine....not really. I wasn't born with it. To myself, I was just Face. Some name, huh? Not really even a name, just a body part. I was just a part, a thing. I had no respect for myself. I knew no one liked me, because who was I? A nameless thing who lied and cheated, and got cool stuff for the other kids so they wouldn't beat my brains out.
"The Sisters seemed to like me; so did Father Magill. But, I wasn't sure. I didn't trust anybody, because nobody could trust me. The Father seemed sincere, but maybe he was just conning me?
"Then, I went off to college. I played football. Girls flocked around. I had lots of friends, or so it seemed. I met a girl and fell in love for the first time in my life. Then, she left without a word. Just another one who had conned me. I still couldn't trust anybody.
"So, I joined the army. Join the army and see the world, huh? Yeah, right. They sent me off to Nam, where I scammed my way into a rather cushy position. Still scamming, still conning, not letting my true 'face' show. But, one of my scams turned sour. I was about to be court-martialed, until Hannibal decided he wanted me in his unit. He wanted me for my ability to get things. Just someone else who didn't want me, but what I could get 'em.
"Then, I met you and BA and Ray. You seemed to like me, but I couldn't be sure. So, I did what I did to protect myself. I'd scam things you all liked. I got you comic books, Ray booze, and BA machine parts. But, when we were out in the jungle, when it was just us against the VC, there wasn't anything I could scam. So, I became a good soldier. No one cared about me and I didn't care about anyone. I became good at point. I think maybe I had sorta a death wish. I'm not really sure, Murdock. I didn't want to get killed, but I think maybe I didn't care a whole helluva lot, either. Anyway, I was good at it; it took the place of scamming in the jungle so the guys would tolerate me, you know?"
"God, Face. Didn't you realize that we cared about you? We didn't care about the stuff you got us; I mean it was nice, but we coulda lived without it. I know you were good at point; BA and Ray told me about it. But, they were worried about you. They said that you didn't show any real signs of self-preservation. You may not have realized it, but they were always watching your back, being extra protective of you. Hannibal even came to me one day and asked me if you had a death wish. I know that he felt very protective of you, too. It wasn't your scamming, Face, it was you. We loved you."
Murdock hugged the slight figure within his embrace, wishing he could take away all the hurt and the pain. He now had a slightly better idea about where his friend came from, but he knew there was lots that Face hadn't told him. He knew that from the nightmares his friend had had in Nam that weren't about Nam, for one thing. He knew that Face had had several foster families over the years, but the younger man never mentioned them. He was glad, though, that his friend had let him inside his past, if only a tiny bit.
Face looked up at Murdock, his azure blue eyes sparkling in the dying sunlight with unshed tears. Reaching up, he touched Murdock's face with his hand.
"Thanks, Murdock. I love you too, y'know. I'm no better than BA with words and sentiment, but I do."
"I know, Facey. I know."
"Since we met in Nam, I've....well, I've always felt this connection with you, Murdock. You're the best friend a person could ever have. You....you're my anchor, Murdock."
Closing his eyes sharply at the growing emotion, Murdock hugged the precious figure in his arms even tighter. "And you're mine, Facey. You're mine. You keep me sane."
"Murdock, do you know what a touchstone is?"
"Er, uh, sorta. I think."
"A touchstone is a kind of stone, used to test the purity of gold or silver. It's used to determine the quality of gold by judging the color that a streak of gold makes on the touchstone. You're my touchstone, Murdock. In other words, I compare things or people to you, to see if they're worthwhile. You show me what's pure and true."
Stunned, all Murdock could do was stare at his friend.
Grinning, Face looked up at his friend. "In this whole crazy world, Murdock, at least to me, you're the best. Everything else has to be held up to you to see if it's worthwhile. I'm not so good with words that aren't part of a scam, but you're the purest person I know. I love you, Murdock."
Sighing, Face leaned back against his friend, finally relaxing completely for the first time in days. As he truly unwound, his breathing deepened and became slow and steady as he relaxed into sleep.
Looking down wordlessly at his friend, Murdock realized how much he truly loved the person he held in his arms, his brother. He only hoped that he could live up to the standard that Face had set for him.
"Captain, is everything all right?"
Looking to his right, Murdock saw Hannibal and BA striding towards him and his charge. Straightening slightly, Murdock grinned at his fellow teammates.
"Couldn't be better, Colonel. Couldn't be better."
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