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Reassurance

Reassurance

by MerynM

 

Rating: PG

Warnings: None I can think of except maybe some language

Disclaimer: The A-Team characters belong to Stephen J. Cannell.

Summary: Face contemplates one of his worst fears and how he deals with it.

Feedback: Always appreciated

 

 

*******************

 

Without warning the van comes to a screeching, jolting stop on the

line of the intersection.

 

I let go of Hannibal's seat in front of me and can't help saying

pleasantly, "B.A., couldn't you have stopped a little sooner? I

still have some stomach left."

 

Predictably, dark brown eyes glare at me in the rearview

mirror. "Fine. I don't have ta stop fo' no more lights!"

 

"Now B.A.," Hannibal says it calmly, "following the traffic laws is

in our best interest at the moment."

 

I smirk back at B.A.'s reflection, as if the Colonel's just

vindicated me. I must have a death wish sometimes, because I know

full well the big guy'll remember this.

 

My eyes leave the rearview and gaze across the intersection, drawn to

where a man is chattering away to some object in his hand. The

resemblance to Murdock strikes me; not in appearance, but in the way

he's all animated and obviously caught up in his "conversation." But

the guy is dirty and in ragged clothes, another one of the disturbed

transients out there in the city. The people walking by give him a

wide berth and look past him, pretending he's not there. That

bothers me, how they seem to do it so easily even though I know I'd

probably do the same. It's one of the sights you encounter in L.A.,

I'm sure just like in every other American city.

 

That's when it hits me, like it always does. That same old fear; it

turns the knife handle just enough to aggravate the wound that

Murdock's breakdown ripped deep down inside me. You'd never know it

now, from the way we all act around one another. The way we treat

the fact that he's a resident in a psychiatric hospital. It's gotten

to be natural to us. It wasn't always an easy thing to talk about or

accept, you know. Oh, he's doing much better, but he'll never be the

same person he was when I first met him. That was before the war had

really taken its toll on him; on all of us. The years have made it

easier for us to live with the fact that Murdock is certifiably

insane. We even make a joke of it. Every one of us loves when

clients gives Murdock that uncertain look, like they don't know

whether to laugh along or be alarmed. It really throws 'em off, and

we want that. It makes for a good distraction from anyone noticing

too many details about us.

 

I notice B.A. shaking his head at the scene across the intersection,

feather earrings dusting over his big dark shoulders. I wonder if he

thinks the same as me. If he sees that it could be Murdock out there

all alone and not here with us in the van, safe and sound (relatively

speaking, considering our profession and fugitive status). Because

we may well not always be here together. And what then? What

happens to Murdock? He can't stay at the VA forever.

 

Seeing that guy out there on the street brings other images to my

mind. The homeless people I saw as I drove through town the other

day, for instance. Does it surprise you I'd notice them? That's

okay. I know how people see me -- shallow, preoccupied with material

wealth. Concerned about myself and my own comfort, first and

foremost. But every time I see people out there, on the streets,

it's not me I'm thinking about. I always wonder where they came

from, what happened that they've ended up where they are now.

 

Maybe they're perfectly down-to-earth sane, just down on their luck.

But I've seen the statistics that tell the story. How mental illness

factors in to the lives of so many homeless on the streets of

America. And I notice their behavior, some of them, and my first

reaction is "that guy's a real nut case."

 

One of my biggest fears is that Murdock could wind up like that.

Homeless, living on the street, eating out of the dumpsters to

survive÷ I can't stand imagining him like that, like them. Thrown

away by a society that doesn't understand or have time for his

fixations, his delusions and mental games. They wouldn't see the

real him, that he's a genius and one of the most sensitive human

beings who ever walked this earth.

 

And no matter what I've done to protect him, it's not enough. Not

when I see one of those ads on t.v. that solicit for homeless

shelters, or when I drive through L.A. at any given time.

 

~~~

 

We're on the way to complete a small job, shouldn't take more than a

couple hours. The client is a bakery owner in one of the older

neighborhoods, the kind of mom-and-pop place that we often seem to

take on as a customer. All we've got to do is finish scaring off the

competition, a bakery chain that's been trying to strong-arm their

way in to the neighborhood and want to shut the small guy down.

Typical scenario: impersonal conglomerate mindset where one guy at

the top gets rich by using what amounts to slave labor. Scare

tactics, the whole nine yards.

 

We did most of the work yesterday. Now we just need to be in place

when their muscle comes crashing in, thinking they're gonna either

take over or level the place. Piece of cake for us (bad pun, but it

is a bakery, after all÷). We've done this kind of thing a hundred

times if we've done it once. Still, Hannibal gives the usual

precaution about being on our toes.

 

"With all the nice things we did for these guys yesterday, I don't

think it'll take much to finish up their operation," the Colonel

says. "Let's stop 'em in their tracks and wrap 'em up for the cops.

We've got enough evidence on their illegal practices to shut them

down."

 

"Mr. Muffin," Murdock addresses the cupcake he's carried around for

two days now, "do you have any advice for us, before we go into

battle for your fellow bread-brothers?"

 

"Hannibal, if he don't stop with the jibber jabber, I swear 'm gonna

stop this van!" B.A. practically sears the rearview with his

glare. "An' none 'a you want me doin' that!"

 

I look over at Murdock and shake my head. He's pushing B.A. to his

limits again, has been since we took this job. The man knows no

fear, obviously. If I were to try it B.A. would knock me flat, but

he seems to restrain himself just in time where Murdock's concerned.

Usually.

 

"Come on, guys, we've got a job to do." But Hannibal doesn't sound

at all concerned about things.

 

"Faceman, tell Mr. Muffin how we're gonna liberate his kind from the

clutches of the bakery tyrants."

 

Why do I even acknowledge him? But I turn to look at the chocolate

cupcake and can see the frosting eyes and mouth have smeared on one

side. I smile widely. "Right. Liberations-are-us."

 

B.A. growls something about crumbs in his van, but Murdock chatters

away happily at the stupid cupcake.

 

~~~

 

Do you ever have a moment when you're reminded of something you'd

rather not be thinking about -- and then you can't get it out of your

head, no matter what? Those moments slip up when you least expect

them. 'Cause let me tell you, barreling through downtown L.A. with

the guys, B.A. grousing and Hannibal on the jazz and planning away

and Murdock fixating÷ That's not typically when I find myself

reminded of some of my worst fears.

 

It's usually long afterwards, once the team business is over with for

the day. Once I'm alone. That's always been the worst time for me.

I mean, who can you con? Yourself? On second thought, don't answer

that. I guess my own mind is my worst enemy, huh. Maybe that's one

reason I'll spend the night with anyone, rather than face being on my

own. But that's not the point here. Murdock is, and my worries

about him.

 

With Murdock back at the VA, Hannibal busy with his movie career,

B.A. working at the Daycare Center÷ The fear settles in, and I can't

breathe sometimes, it's that bad. Talk about your major panic

attacks. See, it's not about me. That would be easy to deal with;

I've been unsure about my own future since forever. I don't expect

that to ever change. But I also never expected to get all worked up

over anyone else's future, either.

 

And then these guys happened. All three of them, they took me into

their unit and somehow got inside of me. That's the easiest way I

know to explain it. Inside is where people care about other people;

outside is where you just make it look like you care. I can make the

outside appear however I need it to, where most people are

concerned. But it's never worked with them. They wouldn't ever

settle for that, not from the start. Took 'em long enough, but they

never gave up on me and damned if they all three didn't work their

way through the barrier between Outside and In.

 

If I sound a little awestruck here, well, I still am whenever I let

myself think about it, this gift I had no hope for ever attaining in

my lifetime. Now I'm sounding melodramatic. I'm just trying to get

across how profound it is, this fear for Murdock's well-being, how

much it affects me and drives me. It's not the only one I have. Oh,

no, I have a nice collection of fears that would keep somebody like

Doc Richter in Brooks Brothers suits for a life time. If I were ever

inclined to seek therapy for my dysfunctions, which so far I'm not.

Another perk of being self-dependent most of my life. I can be

doctor, shrink, counselor, whatever my needs are. It's worked just

fine so far.

 

Wait a minute. This wasn't supposed to be about me.

 

I was talking about the guys. I don't worry about B.A. or the

Colonel in the same way as I do Murdock. Sure, there are times I get

worried about them both. But they'll be okay in the long run; either

one of them on his own would do just fine.

 

This all sounds like I see my best friend as incompetent or

something. Nothing could be further from the truth. He can be the

most capable individual on this planet.

 

The only problem is, well sometimes he's not quite on this planet.

I'm not always sure just what world he's on, when he rants and

impersonates and fixates. Like today, he's been going a mile a

minute since I broke him out of the VA, rattling on about pastry

brigades and the plight of baked goods.

 

~~~

 

We get there and Murdock has from somewhere conjured up one of those

big puffy white chef's hats and an apron. As we quickly set up in

the bakery's back room, Murdock keeps the cupcake dialogue going.

B.A. comes back in the door and snarls at the cupcake that Murdock

thrusts into his face. "He's trying to tell you, B.A.! You've got

to listen to the little people! The baby muffins!"

 

"I tol' you 'bout this craziness, fool! Cupcakes cain't talk. It's

jus' your crazy mind makin' it up."

 

"Come on, B.A., he's only kidding. I think÷" I cast an uncertain

eye Murdock's way, while Hannibal just grins on his way through the

back room.

 

He can't leave well enough alone. Murdock holds up the cupcake

again, uses his fingertip to push down the edges of the cupcake

mouth. "Now you've made him sad--"

 

I can see what's coming, and I step back quickly to get out of the

line of fire.

 

B.A. reaches out and one arm goes around Murdock's slender waist,

lifts him up off the ground 'til his sneakers dangle above the

floor. B.A.'s other hand closes around the hapless cupcake, squeezes

until brown crumbles rain down. "There! Mr. Muffin bites the

dust!" He drops Murdock unceremoniously and stalks out.

 

Murdock looks dazed for a second there, nearly losing his balance. I

reach out to steady him. "You all right?"

 

He turns to me and straightens the chef's hat. "We got our work cut

out for us, Facey!"

 

"Yeah, right." I'm not sure if he means the job or muffin

liberation, and I don't really want to know. "Let's get moving on

this stuff before Hannibal comes back through."

 

The cupcake and all the energy he'd put into it is forgotten. We go

about putting Hannibal's plan into action and it works -- sort of.

With a lot of ad-libbing along the way, but that's to be expected.

Looks like I was right; one hour and 45 minutes later, we're sweeping

up both bread and pastry casualties and the fallen bad guys before

the cops get there. But when do these things really go that smoothly

for us? Hm?

 

~~~

 

I remember Amy asking me one time the question I've mostly avoided

over the years. "Is Murdock really insane?"

 

Ah. The question of the decade, for those of us lucky enough to be a

part of his zany world. It wasn't too long after Amy had started

joining us on missions that she asked me that.

 

"Oh well, who are we to judge sanity÷ Unless you're the U.S.

Government veterans health care, in which case you can certify him as

insane. But then the government has been known to be wrong before÷"

 

Yep, you got it. I gave one of my patented bullshit answers, all

smiles and smooth talk. You know, the kind that deliver nothing but

that do sound awfully good coming from me, if I do say so myself. It

was so easy as the Faceman to smile and give a glib response that

neither confirmed nor denied Amy Allen's question. It left her

holding nothing, a reporter with no cold hard facts.

 

But when I'm faced with those t.v. ads, and drive past the people

sleeping on the sidewalks of Hollywood and Vine, well I'm suddenly

not so successful at evading the issue with myself. All the easy

answers run right out of my head, and Templeton Peck is just plain

worried sick about his best friend's future.

 

Not that I'm fixated on this or anything. Er, that would be

Murdock's area for one thing.

 

But like with all the other fears deep inside me, certain things

trigger them no matter how deeply I think I've buried them.

 

~~~

 

Well, like I said, the Colonel's plan is almost successful. We

achieve the objective, but we don't count on the bad guys having two

more goons than they did yesterday. We're all set to call the cops

to come pick up the human debris when their backup makes an

appearance. I guess they got lost on the way or something, but

they're here now and the element of surprise is on their side.

Sometimes you just can't get out of the way of a speeding bullet fast

enough.

 

Luckily it wasn't an actual bullet, it was one of those heavy,

institutional sized cans of fruit the bakery owner keeps stored near

the door. The first guy in the back door makes a grab for it and

sends it our way. I yell a warning to Hannibal and Murdock, they're

in the most direct line of fire, and they move but Murdock still

takes a glancing blow to the head and goes down.

 

B.A. and Hannibal make short order of the two goons as I race over to

Murdock. I mean, that guy got him good with that thing, a sickening

thud that I can't get out of my thoughts, followed by the view of

Murdock collapsing like a rag doll. All these emotions race through

me in the second or two it takes to get to his side. Disbelief,

fear. To come this far and have something so stupid happen÷

 

He's out cold but it lasts only a few minutes. Murdock comes round

to see the panic I know is reflected in my eyes. I breathe a huge

sigh of relief and help him sit up. He lets me check him out; he's

got a good knot on his head where the can hit, but there's no blood.

His eyes are still struggling to focus.

 

"You weren't supposed to let it hit," I tease, because I don't know

what else to say without coming across as the biggest sap you could

imagine.

 

"Yeah? Why didn't you tell me that before the guy launched it?" He

fingers the spot carefully and winces. I guess he sees something in

my reaction, because he says, "'s just a bump, Face. A pretty big

bump, but that's all÷" He's woozy as hell but still trying to assure

me, even tries for a lopsided smile.

 

"Yeah, but taking it is supposed to be my job. Usually works out

that way." I'm already better under control but I can hear the

tremor in my voice.

 

"Face," he clutches at my shirt front and I bend down closer,

thinking he's trying to tell me something urgent. "I'm all right.

Really all right. Don't worry 'bout me." He winks before letting

his head fall back; I cushion it in my open hand as Hannibal joins us

to check him over.

 

The whole drive back, I can't help snatching glances over at him.

He's sitting in his usual seat behind B.A., being awfully still for

him. Eyes closed, head leaning back. I keep making sure he really

is there, and all right. That's how badly it shook me up to see him

go down like that.

 

~~~

 

Some days I just can't dodge the fears, and it's always worse when

Murdock's concerned. Sure, I can do what I can to keep him safe

while I'm right there. Like today. Those close calls are bad

enough. It's thinking about when I might not be there that really

scares me. Wondering where he'll end up.

 

So I deal with it, just as I've dealt with everything throughout my

life. By myself, in the best way I know how. What's that? Well,

you want to know everything, don't you. That's okay. When I let

myself hold discussions with my various faces (gotta love that pun),

I can be amazingly candid and forthcoming with the information.

Sometimes.

 

It's quite simple really. I get hold of my investment broker next

chance I get, and up the amounts in Murdock's trust fund. Most

likely (I almost always do, each time), I'll fine tune the legal

smoke screen I've put in place that'll enable him to draw on that

money, when he needs it. Ensure it gets to him should something

happen to me. As foolproof a plan as the Faceman can conceive,

continually fine-tuned. A labyrinth of steps and twists and turns so

no one could possibly trace the money. Why, Hannibal would be proud

of me for such a plan.

 

I think of it as my therapy. A very constructive therapy, at that.

I've done the same for Hannibal and B.A. They all have pretty hefty

trusts right now they don't yet know about. Sometimes, I indulge

myself a little and imagine what B.A. and his mama will do with their

money. I'm sure he'll buy her a fine home, and probably enlarge the

Day Care Center. And I picture Hannibal and Maggie traveling, maybe,

discovering new places as they discover things about each other that

a life on the run hasn't allowed them. There'll certainly be enough

interest accrued by then they shouldn't ever have to touch the

principle; it's nearly there now.

 

B.A. and Hannibal, they'll be fine, regardless. It's just÷ good,

satisfying to know I'll be adding to their lives a little bit. God

knows there's really nothing else I can give them or do for them.

But as I said, I'm a little more driven to ensure Murdock's nest egg

is there for him, just in case Hannibal and B.A. aren't around,

either, one day. The people Murdock encounters throughout the rest

of his life, outside of the team, well they may not indulge him the

way I think he needs to be. Deserves to be. If I'm not around to

make up for that, to set that right for him, then at least I can do

this -- set him up for financial independence. For all the

indulgences money can buy. And save him from a life possibly spent

on the streets, scrounging for the daily basics.

 

So who said Hannibal was the only one who could formulate elaborate

plans? His come from riding high on the jazz; this one of mine comes

of my fears. He chases after something, while I run from something.

Still, I think I've been a good student of his when it comes to

planning, whatever the motive.

 

I look over at Murdock again and watch for the rise and fall of his

chest, beneath the "Life is Something that Just Happens" tee-shirt.

He senses my scrutiny and opens his eyes, smiles and winks at me and

I know he's trying to reassure me. That knowledge makes me feel warm

and necessary, like I count. I give back a smile that's genuine -- I

do that, occasionally -- because I am reassured.

 

END

 

 


Reassurance by MerynM

 

 


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