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Who I Once Was

Who I Once Was

By: stompy sara

Rated: PG

Warnings: Slash (m/m situations). No real language, but. . .

"What can I get for you?"


The club was the kind of place where young professionals went to posture near the bar. Face just wanted a drink, and this was the closest thing to his latest office where he could hear himself think. He looked around, smirking. The games children played. He sighed, stared into his glass, suddenly felt old. Odd.He'd never felt that way before, ever.

Across the bar, a young man prattled into a mobile phone while the girl he'd come in with stared off into space, looking bored and irritated. Face shook his head.If the guy was looking to impress her, he'd better come up with something else. The 'I'm a busy guy and you can tell because I've got to conduct business right-this-minute' ploy wasn't working. Amateurs.Face would've -

He stopped that train of thought wistfully.Recreational flirting wasn't an option anymore. He would never admit it, but sometimes, he missed the chase.

A woman, closer to his age than the general crowd, arranged herself on the barstool next to him, gave him the appraising eye.Face smiled instinctively.She ordered her drink and got a little closer.

"You fit in around here about as much as I do."

Face chuckled. "Yeah, well, I was at the office late again. . ."

"I know how that goes. I should just get an apartment downtown. Save on gas that way."

"My office has a pull-out couch and a small kitchen, actually. But my, uh, better half would take that the wrong way."

"Ah." The woman's face betrayed her disappointment only slightly.

"Uh, no. I'll probably go home after this drink. Sometimes I just. . . "

"Need to get away by yourself?"

"I've gone that route before. Don't take this the wrong way, but it's the reason I got divorced. I guess I'm just too independent, too much my own person. I like my freedom."

Face almost laughed aloud. Freedom? You don't know the half of it, lady. "We've only been together a little while. I'm used to having my own space, and we're learning to adjust, a little at a time.I used to go back to my apartment, turn on the stereo, relax and have a drink. It just feels, you know, too crowded there now. Sometimes. God, I must sound like a terrible boyfriend."

She laughed warmly. "No, no. Everyone needs their own time! My ex reverted to the dark ages as soon as we were married. Suddenly I was the one who should keep the house spotless and have dinner ready for him when he got home, be at his beck and call.Never mind the fact that some days, _he_ was the one who got home first."

"Well, there's absolutely no danger of that happening to me. Our situation is - unique.No, I just - to tell you the truth, I used to date a different woman every week." Face swirled the ice in his half-empty glass. "Settling down never even occurred to me.I was perfectly happy with the way I was living my life. Then suddenly - well.There just wasn't any time to think things over, I guess." Was that true? Doubts could creep up and grab you so suddenly. Face stared out into the dimly-lit lounge, watched the give and take between complete strangers, knew the thrill of not quite knowing what would happen if you approached someone, reading their body language, their eyes. He did it for the job, still. But sometimes -

"You have regrets?" The woman pulled his attention back with that all-important question. Her eyes were lovely and green, not too much makeup, her hair and clothing tasteful but understated, in that way only designer clothing could accomplish. Face never looked at other men. But women could still catch his eye, like his memory was reminding him of who he once was. Did he know that anymore?

Was he someone different now?

The door of the club opened then. Face looked up. It was Murdock.

He took his hat off as he entered, ran one hand through his hair. He looked uncertain and lost, as he always did in public without the team around him, his dark eyes wide as he surveyed the room. His customary leather jacket had been left at home for some reason; instead, he wore one of Face's old army-issue sweaters and black pants. The trademark shoes were still there, along with the cap he now twisted in his hands. Face stared, wondering how he'd found this place. He never said anything about the lone drinks he indulged in here.

Murdock sauntered farther into the room, tucked his cap in a back pocket.

The woman was looking at Face curiously.

"Do you know him or something?"

Face said nothing, mesmerized by his lover.It was so strange to observe him without his knowledge. Face was caught up by little things - the way he walked. How his hands talked for him, each gesture an expression. The way his eyes scanned the

room for details, exits and escape routes, habit of ten years and more. The way he greeted complete strangers, and left them staring after him, shaking their heads and smiling from the heart. Murdock paused, turned to the bar.

Their eyes met.

"Yes. You could say we know each other."

Murdock walked slowly towards him. Leaned his tall frame against the bar next to him, opposite the woman. Looked him up and down.

"Howdy, stranger. Can I buy you a drink?"

Face smirked. "Sure. I'm having Dewar's."

Murdock raised an eyebrow. "Whew. You like it top-quality, eh? Well, I'm feelin' indulgent." When the bartender approached him, Murdock whispered in her ear. She gave him a look and a giggle, and went off to pour their drinks. Behind Face, the woman cleared her throat. Face had forgotten her.

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't even catch your name."


"Ah. Viviana. I'm Templeton Peck.  This is H.M. Murdock."

Murdock ducked his head. "You two hittin' it off, eh?" Face looked back at him intently, but he had already turned away to pay the bartender. When he handed Face the glass, their fingers touched. Face drew in a sharp breath as desire electrified him. He looked up, finally caught Murdock's eye. There was a dangerous glint there. Murdock broke contact, turned to


"So, what have you guys been talking about?"

"Oh, this and that. He tells me there's someone waiting at home for him tonight."

"Yes, there is." Murdock set his drink down, put his hands on Face's shoulders.Face could feel him trembling."Me."

"Oh. Oh, I see. You must think I'm - "Viviana looked acutely embarrassed.

"No, don't think that way. I know Temp catches the eye and keeps it."Face couldn't see Murdock's expression, but the long fingers on his shoulders were gentler now. Face felt frozen to the barstool, his own hands clutching the sides as though to keep himself from falling off. Viviana looked at him and shrugged.

"Ah well, I should have known.

They were silent for a while, letting the ambient sounds fill the spaces between unsaid words.

Face tried, "I, uh, was just having a drink before coming back to the apartment. You know, long day at work and all."

Murdock nodded. Face squirmed.

"I just needed to unwind, that's all."

Another nod. Face hated feeling guilty, always covered it with an indignant remark.

"C'mon, Murdock, I've just been feeling, you know, trap- I mean, uh - "

The hurt in Murdock's eyes stabbed him.He stood stiffly.

"It's alright, Facey. I know I can be a handful. Finish your drink. Take your time, okay muchacho?"

Face grabbed his arm as he went past."Don't. Murdock, wait -" Those poetic eyes flashed from hurt to anger, and Murdock yanked his arm away. Leaned down close, whispered.

"All you had to do was tell me, Face.It's still me, even after everything that's happened. I thought you understood that."

That terrible hurt was back. Murdock pinned him with it and walked away.

After a minute Face came to his senses, bolted out the door. The street was teeming, the late-night crowd starting to fill the sidewalks. Murdock was nowhere to be seen. Face cursed viciously and ran back towards his office, not knowing where else to go.

He was hunched in the entrance, arms crossed tightly across his chest, his cap jammed down over his eyes. Face came up close, trapping him in the corner. He could smell peppermint. Bubblegum and aftershave. Distinctly Murdock. Face raised the cap, made Murdock look at him. Slid his arms around him. Murdock didn't move, arms like a wall between them still.

"I'm sorry, baby." They were nose to nose, but Murdock was so far away. . .

"I know you are."

"I should have told you how I was feeling."

Murdock closed his eyes. "Do you wish we - that we'd never gotten together?Do you miss having a different woman on your arm all the time? Tell me now, Face, cuz I've gotta prepare myself."

"No, no, please don't say that."

Those eyes. They always sucked him in, and he was lost in depths only hinted at.Murdock moved his arms, brought them around finally to embrace Face. Face had to tip his head back to look at him.

"When I think back on my life, I have no regrets.And when I look at you - I realize how lucky I am. I know I'm not worthy of you yet."

"Oh, stop it!"

"No, let me say this. I'm the one who started all this, and now - now I have to learn how to finish it. I'm no good at that part. Just those first encounters.So, you'll have to teach me.You've taught me what love is.Now teach me to live that love and keep it."

Murdock was silent for a long time.

"Okay muchacho. You've got a deal." He put a finger to Face's chin, tipped it up higher, brought his head down to kiss him.

This time, they were lost together.

Murdock breathed in his ear. "Please don't leave me."

"I won't. I promise."

"I'll pack my things tonight. You can have your apartment back."

"No. That's not the way to do it." Face looked at him again. "We'll do this the right way."

They stepped out onto the street, walking down towards the parking garage where Face's car waited. Murdock grinned suddenly.

"I wanna drive."

"No way, Murdock. Last time you drove I had to get my clutch replaced."

"I'm better this time, I promise.C'mon Facey, I never get to drive!Just because I'm a mental patient, they seem to think

I'm not competent enough to operate a vehicle. . ."

They argued the whole way to the car.Face smiled inwardly, his heart full.

They were going home.


Who I Once Was by Stompy Sara



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