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This page last viewed: 2017-12-13 and has been viewed 2683 times
by Catherine C. Plummer
Summary: A late night phone conversation between Murdock and Face
Warnings: A little language, a little on the serious side
Disclaimer: The A-Team belongs to Stephen J. Cannell, not me.
The integration of good and evil is the only way to heal the
nightmare. That is what the transpersonal psyche is trying to do in
dreams of Vietnam. – Harry A. Wilmer
Murdock's eyes snapped open; his heart pounding. Where was he?
The room was small, closed and not quite dark. Quiet. He squeezed his eyes shut, disoriented. It was better to be on the safe side and pretend to still be asleep. He had been in 'Nam just a few minutes ago, all the noises and smells of making war still fresh in his mind and senses.
Now he could hear the sounds of a long hollow corridor outside the closed door, muffled voices further defused by the echoes of the space. The sharp, damp odor of ammonia and some other disinfectant, a solidness on the back of his throat, almost made him choke. He opened his eyes cautiously and saw artificial light streaming through a small window in the door that led to the lonely corridor.
The VA. He was in his room at the VA. He could make out his movie posters and the friendly shadows of his basketball hoop and video game. It was never really dark here in the hospital, even at night. Vietnam had always been so black you couldn't see your hand in front of your face.
Murdock's breathing gradually spiraled back to normal, but he couldn't
stop the crawling his skin was doing. It started with his hands, a persistent
feeling of hundreds of fingers poking and
prodding just below the surface. You would think it would be relaxing, like a massage, but all it did was drive him to the edge. There was a sense that something was going to happen, and happen
soon, but it never did. The feeling traveled up his arms and down his torso like a river, until he could feel his entire body consumed with the rushing of it. He wanted to scream, but that would only bring the orderlies, and the medication that was a standing order on his chart.
Swinging his feet out of the bed and tugging his T-shirt down, Murdock started pacing his small room. He hugged his arms against his body, attempting to contain the feeling. Sometimes activity calmed the sensations that threatened to send him spinning back into Fantasy Land.
He smiled grimly at that thought. Reality just wasn't real enough yet
to have much of a hold on him, and night and these nightmares could rob
him of it so easily. He felt as if he had too much energy
and somehow his body had to get rid of it. Sound, movement, crawling skin – it was all the same. The anxiousness of it drove all other thoughts from his mind for a time.
Tonight the feelings, the sensations, the uneasiness, wouldn't stop.
Finally he rolled himself into a ball on the bed, knees to chest, back
against the headboard, and grabbed the phone. He knew it
was late, very late, by the stillness of the night and the VA, but he needed to hear the voice of his best friend.
It was a while before he heard the click indicating the phone had been picked up, and even longer before a familiar voice, muzzy with sleep, answered with a whispered, "Hello?"
Murdock breathed a sigh of relief, relaxing some now that he had heard Face's voice. He rocked slowly, eerie fingers still running just under his skin.
"Hello?" The voice was more awake now, and sounded suspicious.
That startled Murdock back to the here and now. If he didn't answer,
Face would hang up, and the call would probably send the entire team scrambling,
thinking Lynch was on to them. It had been
five years since they had escaped from Fort Bragg, but the Army hadn't forgotten the A-Team.
"Face? It's me." His voice sounded deeply depressed even to himself, but he couldn't make it sound any different.
"Murdock? Just a minute." Murdock heard the muffled sound of voices through the hand that Face had put over the phone's mouthpiece. /Damn! Face wasn't alone./ He felt guilty for interrupting, but not guilty enough to hang up and leave his friend in peace.
Murdock waited, still rocking, as he heard the clunk of the phone being
put down on a table. He could hear Face getting out of bed, talking soothingly
to his bed partner, and imagined him putting on
"I'm back, Murdock. I'm going to change to the phone in the living room so we can talk. Give me another minute."
Murdock didn't say anything, gathering his thoughts, such as they were. He heard another click as the living room phone was picked up.
"H.M.? You there?"
"I'm here, Tem." He tried to focus, using Face's voice to keep him in reality. He wasn't that close to losing it, was he?
"I've got it, Sherri." There was a gentle click as the bedroom phone was hung up. "What's going on, Murdock?"
"Ah, I... I just woke up and had to talk to ya. Sorry."
"That's okay. You don't ever have to apologize to me."
"But I know someone's there."
"She was leaving when the phone rang; she has an early shift. Don't worry about it. I wouldn't have told you to call *anytime* if I hadn't meant it. I scammed the phone for you, didn't I?"
"It's all-right, buddy; I'm here. Nightmares back?"
Face knew about the nightmares; he had been through most of the things
that had caused them – Vietnam, the prison camp, the team's arrest, the
darkness. All of the team had had some
nightmares back in Nam, but Hannibal and B.A. didn't seem to be troubled anymore. Face still had a few. Face knew what it was like to be ruled by the night, the darkness not hiding you from the enemy because the enemy knew exactly where you were. Your own mind was the enemy now. Murdock was glad that the VA was never completely dark.
"Yeah," Murdock shivered, clutching his knees closer to his chest.
"Sorry I can't be there with you right now, H.M."
"Yeah, me, too."
Sometimes it just added to the crawling of his skin, but other times
it helped to have one of the guys hold him after a nightmare. Most of the
pilot crews bunked together in Vietnam, but Murdock got tired of people
going back to the States just when he was getting used to them or, worse
yet, getting shot out of the sky. The emptiness of that was too much for
him at times. The boots didn't understand, and once they did, they had
their own problems. Hannibal, Face, B.A., and Ray
just kept re-upping, joking that they didn't have anything better to do back in the World, so he had moved in with them. They seemed to live charmed lives; at least they would always be there. When the team had shared the same hooch in 'Nam, there had always been someone there to comfort him after a nightmare, someone who understood and could make him feel safe.
"I don't wanna to be alone, Face." Murdock swallowed hard. "When can ya get here?"
"It's two a.m.," his friend replied gently. "It will be hours."
Murdock sighed deeply.
"Look, Murdock. I'll come get you today; I promise. You can spend the next couple of days here with me. I'm out at the beach; you'll like it."
"Thanks, Face." The bad dreams always seemed to run a few nights and
then stop again; he didn't understand why. Being with Face and the team
always helped him through those nights. He
wouldn't be able to sleep until he was with them.
"Now, are you going to be okay for a few hours until I can get you out without too many questions?"
"No..." Murdock felt himself rocking again, his skin still crawling with some strange energy. He heard the sound of his bed thumping against the wall and suddenly stopped, worried about the orderlies.
"How about telling me about it then? We can talk until you feel better."
"Nooo..." Murdock sniffed loudly.
"Ah, Murdock, don't start." Face's voice was wheedling. "If they sedate you, I won't be able to get you out. Just listen for a minute; you don't have to say anything. Was it the one you had in 'Nam, before the POW camp?"
"Yeah," Murdock replied softly, rubbing at the tears that were threatening
to run down his cheeks. Face was right. If he got all worked up, it would
mean the meds. He needed the team more than
he needed medication.
"That time the team was in country, the emergency extraction along the river?"
"Yeah," Murdock didn't want to think about it, didn't want to talk about
anything that reminded him of the war. Dr. Richter said that talking about
the nightmares took away their power. Murdock
felt that inside himself too, but it was still hard. Maybe he could talk to Face. At least with Face he wouldn't have to go into the details of what happened; his friend knew all too well.
"Everything's going smoothly, there's some fire, but nothing too bad..." Face started, encouraging Murdock to go on with the story himself. "Just like it really happened."
"I still don't know how I got the Huey in there. She liked to fly, but she didn't wanna go in there." Murdock continued, shaking his head and thinking back to that day. He didn't understand how his mind could turn something so good into something so bad while he slept. "I was lucky that day."
"Weren't we all." It wasn't a question, just a weary observation from Face.
Murdock thought about that for a moment. True, things could be better for the team than they were now. Murdock was in the VA, and he knew he belonged here. The rest of the team was on the run from a false charge, branded criminals, living in a new place from week to week. But, they had made it through the war with no lasting physical damage. Hannibal always said they just had some problems to work through now.
"Yeah," he agreed quietly. "We were all lucky."
Murdock thought back to that particular A-Team pickup. It was routine except for the enemy fire. But then, all the flying in Vietnam had been routine except for the enemy.
Those damn green tracers! He couldn't hear the shots over the noise
of the chopper's rotor, but he knew that they were being hit. He ignored
the fire, controlling the bird through it all; nothing was more important
than getting his unit out and back to base. He remembered the door gunner
providing covering fire as he lowered the Huey. The men below didn't even
wait for him to land,
but grabbed onto the skids. Normally, he would have chewed them out at the first opportunity for unbalancing the lady, and putting her in danger, but he understood the urgency.
The ride back had been a bumpy one, but they had all made it. Just a few holes to patch on the Huey.
In the nightmare, the chopper overbalanced and he fought to get her
back in the air again. Just as he was winning that battle, the Huey was
hit and he lost control, never to be recovered. The feeling of
helplessness was overwhelming. The results in the nightmare were capture and death for himself and his friends.
He had had that same nightmare until it was joined by others after the POW camp and Operation Phoenix.
"Murdock," Face startled him out of the reverie. "You ever think about how young we were then?"
"Nah." Murdock tried to think back to what was another life, at least in the light of day.
"How old were you when you got to 'Nam, Murdock?" Face persisted.
"Nineteen, fresh out of flight school." He knew Face had been even younger, scamming his way into the Army, a promotion, and Special Forces training a couple of years before he had any right.
"Nineteen couldn't even vote in those days." Face sounded disgusted. "It still can't legally drink in most states now. B.A. was only eighteen."
"So?" Murdock encouraged, more than willing to not think about the nightmare
anymore, to forget the helplessness and loss of control. He leaned against
the headboard now, his legs stretched out
in front of him. His skin just felt like skin, but he didn't notice.
"They gave us so much responsibility." Face seemed almost angry. "I
mean, shit, have you seen a nineteen-year-old lately? I don't even trust
them to drive on the freeway. And there we were,
fighting in a war, trying to act as if we knew what we were doing. Who else but a newbie would lose his helmet in his first firefight?"
Murdock laughed softly, remembering how green he had been. "After the first tour, I kept re-enlistin' because I was more afraid for the boots than I was for myself. I just couldn't stand thinkin' of one of 'em takin' my place and dyin'."
"Me, too. I didn't need that on my conscience. A lot of them had trouble making it through the first couple of weeks. I figured I didn't have any family and I knew how to stay alive."
"Yeah." Murdock shifted the phone to his other ear. He could hear the
persistent sound of a defective cart wheel rolling and stopping, rolling
and stopping, and the shuffle of feet in the
corridor. Music from a radio drifted down the corridor from one of the rooms. The nurses would be making early morning rounds soon.
"I'm not saying we couldn't handle it. We had Hannibal to help us grow into it."
"Never had a better teacher than the Colonel," Murdock agreed.
"Father Magill was a good teacher, but Hannibal never let me get away with *anything*. I guess it's what I needed then."
Murdock laughed silently, thinking that Face still needed someone like that.
"The sisters at the orphanage tried, but I didn't feel like I had a family until I met you guys." Murdock could hear his friend sigh.
"Sometimes it seems like all we did was kill people over there, Face. What else were we there for?"
"Don't think that way. We kept each other alive. We kept other kids alive. That's more than most nineteen-year-olds do. We were so young." Face said that last a bit wistfully.
And the team had found each other over there in country, Murdock thought; a tie that had lasted once they were back in the World.
Murdock felt a tear roll down his cheek as he thought about those days with a fresh perspective. Face was right; they had done what they had to do at a very young age. Maybe he could forgive himself for the ones he couldn't save, for the times he didn't have total control. It might not stop the nightmares, but it was a start.
Murdock blinked his eyes and yawned.
"Facey, I think I can get some sleep now."
"Good. I'll be by in a few hours to pick you up."
© Catherine C. Plummer 2000
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