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Summary: Murdock asks Hannibal a question at the VA
Disclaimer: I'm pretty confused about who owns the A-Team, but I'm clear that it isn't me. I don't make any money from this anyway.
Dedication: To the memory of my father, who served in WWII and never felt comfortable talking about his experience with anyone who hadn't been there.
I don't think I ever understood how important those men were to him.
Hannibal watched as Murdock walked slowly across the VA grounds to join him on a bench for their weekly meeting. It was one of those rare fine days that smog-choked L.A. saw all too infrequently. The sun was out and shining in a deep blue sky. The air was still a little chilly, but it was fresh smelling, washed clean by rain and growing things. A perfect day to spend out-of-doors.
Murdock had specific days and times he'd check for Hannibal on his daily walk, neither of them wanting the meetings to be so regular as to establish a pattern that the MPs could track.
Murdock had been pretty insistent that they talk today, though.
Murdock tormented B.A., and played with Face, but he saved all his difficult, life-shaping conversations for Hannibal and always had. Hannibal lit a cigar. He'd need all his thinking ability to cope with another meeting with Murdock.
"Hey, Hannibal!" Murdock called, hands in his khakis, kicking at fallen spring blossoms with the toes of his hightops.
"Murdock. How you doing?" Hannibal thought his friend looked well today, and was glad for that. In the past when Murdock had insisted on a meeting it was because he was wrestling with some problem.
"Fine, fine," Murdock dismissed with a shake of his head. "I talked to Face yesterday. How's B.A.?"
"Not exactly looking forward to the next time he has to see you."
"Ah, he loves me. I know he does. Colonel?" Murdock grinned at him, draping himself over the bench. If Murdock had something on his mind, it usually came out of his mouth in these visits. The pilot was nothing if not direct. Hannibal could tell he had another one of *those*questions and tried to put
himself in that Murdock place in his own mind.
"Do you think I'm crazy?"
Great, Murdock always said he was crazy, and now he was asking for a second opinion.
Hannibal paused, not exactly at a loss, but thinking of all the different answers he had for that particular question.
It wasn't as if Hannibal didn't ask himself the same question week after week. It was one of the reasons for these visits. He wanted to make sure that Murdock was still enough in the real world to function on a case. Hannibal would never forgive himself if any of them - B.A., Face, or Murdock - were harmed by a decision he had made. Hannibal had too much on his conscience as it was.
Hannibal looked at Murdock, those trusting brown eyes. So many answers to what should be an easy question. He sighed, took a puff, and looked into the distance, thinking.
The VA thought Murdock was insane, but Hannibal generally considered him to be solid. Having a job, whether flying or being part of the team, seemed to channel his energy. And what did leak out was harmless enough, and frequently even helped the team be the team it was. Face might complain too much, but helping Murdock gave him someone else to focus on. Sometimes Hannibal didn't think B.A. would ever talk if not for Murdock's goading. And Hannibal himself was endlessly amused by Murdock's fantasies.
"C'mon, let's walk!" Murdock sprung up and waited for Hannibal to join him.
At least Murdock gave a man time to think when he posed these questions. Hannibal stood up.
They walked over the grounds in companionable silence, Murdock with his hand in his pockets, Hannibal puffing away at his cigar. Quite a few of the residents, both mental and medical, were out and about among the trees and un-mowed grounds. Hannibal always liked this part of the VA; it reminded him of being a child and playing in parks just like this, vegetation not quite wild, but not quite tamed either.
"Excuse me, Colonel," Murdock said as he quickly walked toward an elderly man in a wheelchair sitting under a tree just off a walkway. Hannibal could see that a plaid blanket had fallen on the ground around the old man's feet, and went to join Murdock.
"Hey, Miller, how ya doin' today?" Murdock greeted the man warmly, smiling.
Miller was in his seventies, small and wizened, looking frail in a wheelchair. Hannibal wondered for a moment where he would be at that age, and if he'd still be on the run. Who would look after him?
"I'm fine, Murdock." The voice was a little hoarse, as if it weren't used much.
"Enjoying the sunshine, huh? First nice day for a while." Murdock picked up the blanket and put it over the man's knees. "That okay? It's a little chilly out here even if the sun is out. Billy wouldn't want you gettin' sick."
"Yes, thank you, son." Miller patted the blanket in place on his thin knees. "How is Billy?"
"All right an' tight. Ya know nothin' gets Billy down."
The man laughed and Hannibal could see a glimmer of the man he used to be in those hazel eyes.
"Miller, let me introduce you to my friend, Hannibal. Hannibal, this is Sergeant Terence Miller. He served in WWII and Korea."
"Pleased to meet you, Sergeant," he shook hands with the older man. "I was in Korea myself."
"Always nice to meet another vet," the old man responded pleasantly.
"Were you two in Korea at the same time?" Hannibal wasn't fooled by Murdock's innocent tone; the pilot was up to something. Despite this feeling, Hannibal started to talk to the old man about Korea.
Hannibal and Miller soon realized that they hadn't known any of the same men during the war, although they had been in many of the same places. They still exchanged stories about the land and people, and about soldiers that had become legendary in Korea.
Hannibal was surprised when Murdock offered him a chair. He hadn't noticed the pilot leaving for the chairs. They both settled in near to the sergeant.
"I was in tank destroyers. . ." Miller began.
"That was in Europe, Hannibal!" Murdock interrupted, like an excited child at his grandfather's knee.
The old man smiled fondly at Murdock. "Well, it was there or Africa," he chided. "I'm sure he knows that, boy."
Hannibal did, but he smiled at the interchange between the two. It was good to see Murdock with someone else, knowing that he had friends when his other friends couldn't be with him.
Murdock eyes were glued on the two of them, but he didn't interrupt the conversation of the two men again. They talked about arms used in both WWII and Korea, about how Europe had changed after WWII, about military service and life in general.
Before Hannibal knew it, the sun was low on the horizon and the air had taken on an added chill. He spotted a nurse making her way to them, and indicated her to Murdock. It was growing late, and she was obviously coming to take Sergeant Miller in for the day. Hannibal wanted to avoid being seen at close range by any of the hospital personnel.
"Well, we gotta go, Miller. You have a happy birthday and make sure to give them nurses a run for their money," Murdock smiled and winked at the sergeant, patting him on a thin shoulder. The old man laughed.
"I really enjoyed our talk, Sergeant," Hannibal shook hands with the man again.
"Me, too. Maybe Murdock can bring you by again sometime."
Murdock and Hannibal began strolling back to the bench where they had met earlier.
"His birthday, huh?" Hannibal questioned, re-lighting his cigar.
"Yeah. He's seventy-six today. Doesn't get much of a chance to talk to anyone who's served in either of *his* wars. Most the mental patients don't want to talk. Most the medical ones are too sick."
Murdock grinned at Hannibal, brown eyes warm.
"You were his birthday present, Colonel. Hope you don't mind."
"Mind?" Hannibal laughed and smiled. "This has been one of the most enjoyable days I've had in a long time."
Hannibal hadn't thought much about it before, but he didn't have anyone to talk to about Korea. The team was too young, and contacting any of his old friends would put them in danger. He had to hide any connection he had to the military from most people he met. Talking to people who hadn't been in
Korea did not seem right, somehow. They couldn't understand if they hadn't been there. It had been a pleasure, being able to compare experiences, sharing them with someone who could truly understand *his* war. And that he could provide that same service for someone else was an added bonus. It amazed Hannibal that Murdock had thought this up for both of them. Maybe his old age wouldn't be so bad after all with friends like Murdock.
Was Murdock crazy? He'd have to answer Murdock before he went. Hannibal always had an answer to these questions before the end of the visit. The question of Murdock's sanity was one Hannibal wrestled with every time he came to visit. Needing to protect them all from the world, each other,
themselves. Murdock and B.A. and Face.
Hannibal thought back over their afternoon visit.
"Captain? You know that question you asked earlier?"
Murdock looked up, met Hannibal's eyes, and nodded once.
"I think you're sane in all the ways that count, Murdock."
Copyright: Catherine C. Plummer 2000
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