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Territory of Lies

Territory of Lies

by Cathay

 

Rating: NC-17

(c) 2001

Disclaimer: I'm not clear who owns them, but not me.

Comments: Please.

Summary: A successful Special Ops mission goes terribly wrong as Face and Murdock grapple with truth, lies and secrets.

Warnings: m/m consensual sex, violence, deaths (but not of anyone you know). This is set during the war and bad things happen.

Author's Notes: The title is part of a quote from Graham Greene. "He entered the territory of lies without a passport of return." Some quotations may be out of context. Apologies.

As always, thanks to Glenda, Kristy, and Meryn for their constant encouragement and support. I wouldn't be writing without them.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 1   The Best Liar

 

The best liar is he who makes the smallest

amount of lying go the longest way.

-- Samuel Butler

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The Officer's Club at FSB Romeo was more crowded than

usual. That is to say the eleven chairs the place

boasted since Boyle's last fight were full, and a

couple of second lieutenants were perched on dusty

beer cases in the corner. The last few weeks had seen

a lot of movement through the firebase; things were

heating up over the fence, in Cambodia, and plenty of

teams were moving out along the border. Romeo was a

convenient jumping-off point for these missions.

 

Face stood in the doorway of the tent, letting his

eyes adjust to the darkness of the club interior

after the brightness of the tropical day. The smell

of stale tobacco, alcohol, and sweat hit him almost

as hard as the wall of darkness and he had to clear

his throat of it. He heard snatches of conversation,

but his ear focused on one voice. Rich and softly

drawling, telling some tall tale in an exaggerated

voice. He had found Murdock.

 

He never had trouble hearing that voice, whether it

was shouting over the blades of a chopper in a hot LZ

or whispering into his ear in bed. There hadn't been

any of that last lately.

 

The ghost images resolved as his eyes adjusted, and

Face saw Murdock through a haze of languid cigarette

smoke. Most the guys were gathered around the pilot's

table. The gangly captain was sprawled back in his

chair, fingering his shot glass and waxing poetic

about something that had the group howling.

 

Murdock's fine brown hair had just been cut and

seemed to be behaving for a change, but Face longed

to mess it. Longed to mess with all of Murdock. Get

him out of that open Hawaiian shirt that showed

glimpses of his chest. Get him out of his shorts.

God, all of Murdock looked so good to him.

 

Face watched as Murdock's eyes flicked over him,

checking out his shorts and t-shirt with silent,

discrete approval. Murdock met his gaze, and nodded.

A small smile appeared on the pilot's lips, the same

warm smile he used when he was indulging Face in some

small way. Murdock's glance darted to his right and

he went on with his story. Face's eyes went to the

person on Murdock's immediate right. Ah, a butter

bar. Time for Face to pull rank.

 

"Hey, Face!" Boyle, a regular army first lieutenant,

called from the table. He was waving a glass and

motioning Face over. Face didn't like the man and

avoided him when he could. Boyle was muscular and his

head shaven; seemed to think he was quite a soldier.

That missing chair was due to Boyle and his macho

temper. "Get over here! This friend of yours is

telling us bedtime stories."

 

The rest of the guys snickered. It wasn't hard to

figure out what kind of stories Murdock was telling

to get that reaction. Yeah, the stories involved

beds. The tamer ones did, anyway. Face reluctantly

walked toward the table. He wanted to spend time with

Murdock, but not this way. Not in this company.

 

"Ah, Facey don't want to hear those," Murdock

drawled, taking a sip of his drink, his eyes hooded.

 

"Why not, Murdock?" Boyle asked, voice heavy from

drinking. It was mid-afternoon and he was drunk. It

wasn't a good idea to ever be drunk on a forward

firebase. "Our pretty young lieutenant might learn

something."

 

Another round of snickers as Face walked over to

where Murdock sat. Face cringed inwardly at Boyle's

description. If Lt. Boyle even suspected where Face's

interests rested, both he and Murdock would be out of

the Army with dishonorable discharges within a week.

It would ruin them not only in 'Nam, but in the world

as well.

 

"Just lost your spot, FNG! Get up for your betters,"

Boyle went on, kicking at the chair in question.

 

The second lieutenant sitting next to Murdock gave up

his chair to Face with a smile, showing no hard

feelings towards Face. Face thanked him as Wally

settled on one of the beer cases to continue

listening to the table. Wally was new, but he was a

good guy; Hannibal might be able to use him

eventually if he lived beyond being an FNG and did a

second tour. This war was going to go on forever.

Murdock was still talking, waving his hand in front

of them, and Face secretly smiled. Murdock knew

cigarette smoke made Face cough.

 

Sergeant Brown came along with beer for everyone.

Face bought a round every time he came to the OC and

the bartender had come to anticipate his request. It

wasn't an expensive thing to do, and Face didn't have

anything better to do with the money anyway. No

family to send it to, and there wasn't much to spend

it on out here at the firebase. The good will it

brought was well worth the price of the beer.

 

Face took advantage of the excitement of the beer's

arrival to settle in next to Murdock. It was crowded

at the table and Face had every excuse to press close

to Murdock if he wanted to. And he wanted to very

much. But before he even had the chance, he felt

Murdock's hand on his bare knee. Just for a second,

but unmistakable intentional skin to skin contact.

The heat of it radiated up his leg.

 

Murdock finished up the story about leave in Bangkok

as Face took a couple sips of his beer. Some of the

details of the prostitutes had Face flushing in

embarrassment. Did women really do that kind of

thing? Face thought of the women he knew, nuns and

Catholic schoolgirls. The others were all laughing

though, joining in with some of their own stories.

Apparently, some women did do those things.

 

He hated hearing these stories from Murdock, even if

he did understand the motivation. Boyle's comments

struck too close to home at times. It wasn't enough

that they didn't get caught together; there had to be

a strong offense to keep them out of trouble. No hint

of suspicion that they were other than red-blooded

all-American boys.

 

How could being in love be considered trouble? Face

took another sip of his beer, savoring the coolness.

It was supposed to be a good feeling. Instead, in the

army, they had to hide what they were to each other.

Murdock had a career here. It was the only place

where he had a chance of flying just about everything

that had ever been built. He was good enough that he

could be a test pilot if he wanted and fly

experimental aircraft. Being out of the service would

put an end to that. They would both be dishonorably

discharged and Murdock probably wouldn't fly again.

 

They tried to stay away from each other as much as

possible; it was too easy for the touching to get out

of hand. But people knew they were friends so it

would look odd if they openly avoided each other, and

neither of them could do that anyway. They were like

magnets, each seeking the other out. They played

catch because it involved a safe distance between

them, but they also indulged in the occasional grab-

ass that was popular around the base at times. It

would have looked strange not to, and sometimes the

temptation to touch each other, however innocently,

was too much.

 

Like today. Nothing was going to happen in front of

the guys, but it felt good to be touching Murdock.

The club and this table were crowded enough that he

and Murdock were pressed together along their sides.

He could feel Murdock's warmth but, despite the heat

of the day, he didn't pull away. There was something

very sexy about his sweat-damp arm being stuck to

Murdock's, something that made his pulse quicken and

his breathing become shallower. He liked the feeling

of Murdock against him like this, loved it. They were

so close that Face could even smell the aftershave

Murdock sometimes used. The heat and Murdock were

making him light-headed.

 

"You got a girlfriend, Face?" Wally asked from the

beer cases, his voice curious. Face almost jumped as

he was drawn into the forgotten conversation that had

been so much white noise as he concentrated on

Murdock.

 

"I bet Lt. Peck has a whole string of 'em back in the

States," Boyle said, his voice slurred from the

drinking. "Pretty face like that."

 

"Yeah, I have a girlfriend." Face was feeling self-

conscious and hunted. They couldn't know where his

thoughts had been just now, but he decided to go with

a half-truth. Telling part of the truth always made

lies so much more believable. He took a gulp of his

beer, the taste helping to clear his throat of

Boyle's cigarette smoke.

 

Face felt Murdock stiffen next to him, and imagined

the hardness of his gaze. Well, if Murdock could talk

about Bangkok's prostitutes, Face had his own

defenses against warranted, career-destroying gossip.

 

"Do tell, youngster," Boyle winked, leering.

 

"Nothing to tell," Face flushed, taking another sip

of beer to cover his confusion. He had a feeling he

had missed an important part of the conversation.

Sweat trickled down his back.

 

"What's her name?" Wally asked kindly.

 

"Leslie," Face sneaked a look at Murdock. The pilot

was staring into the distance, distracted. Face had

seen him that way once before, and had never figured

out what was wrong. Right now, he seemed very far

away.

 

"Oh, that's a nice name," Wally said, swinging a leg

from his perch on the beer case. "I have a cousin

named Leslie, only he's a boy."

 

"Looker?" Boyle continued, pressing Face for more

details.

 

"I don't want to talk about her," Face countered, his

cheeks heating up.

 

"Why not? Mabbe you got some pictures, huh? Some of

those pictures? You know the ones." Boyle winked.

"How 'bout sharin'?" The lieutenant was leaning

across the table now and Face could smell the alcohol

and tobacco on his breath.

 

"He doesn't have to talk about her, Boyle," Murdock

said suddenly in his serious voice. The voice that

made you realize he could be dangerous, very

dangerous. It was punctuated by his beer bottle being

set down on the table with a thud.

 

Face was never personally afraid of Murdock like

this, but Murdock in this mood tended to clear the

room. He did this time. First the second lieutenants

excused themselves and ran for the door, and

gradually the rest of the table, including Boyle,

ambled away.

 

`~`~`~`~`~

 

Murdock had that calm feeling he got sometimes before

things went totally wrong, before everything

exploded. His mind would go completely still,

everything apparent to him.

 

Everything was wrong in his life. Everything. There

was an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach and he

felt dizzy. Murdock tried hard to get a grip on

himself; couldn't afford an episode here and now.

 

Face moved away, broke contact, when the others left.

Murdock heard Face's chair move away from his, felt

the absence of Face against him. He tried not to

think that Face moving away had anything to do with

the revelation about this girl, Leslie. It had to be

because there was room now and that it would look bad

to stay so close. Had to be. Murdock swallowed hard

and closed his eyes.

 

Face didn't say anything, and Murdock was afraid to

until he was more under control. They sat in silence

until Murdock felt his head clear and he relaxed a

little.

 

A deep sigh. "So. This Leslie. You make her up?"

 

"No." Face clipped, sounding angry.

 

"Your girlfriend?"

 

"Was my girlfriend." The emphasis was on the past

tense.

 

Murdock was starting to realize how little he knew

about his lover. And how much he cared. The silence

stretched uncomfortably between them, as Murdock

weighed what Face said and his own feelings about it.

He had never even thought about the pasts of his

previous lovers. If he was unhappy about something

they said or did, he just stopped seeing them. Now,

for some reason, he was suddenly jealous of any past

Face might have. Any girls he had been with. Any

guys. Man, Face knew how to kiss and you didn't learn

how to do that on your own. And if Face withheld some

information, he was certainly capable of not telling

the full truth about other things. But Murdock knew

that about Face already, didn't he?

 

Murdock steadied his breathing. He couldn't just let

this drop; Face was worth working this out in his own

mind. He had to keep asking the questions.

 

"So," Murdock said again. "You and she..." his voice

trailed off as he made a hand gesture that Face could

interpret in a number of ways.

 

"God, no!" Face exclaimed quietly, under his breath,

not looking at Murdock. "We went to a Catholic

school. We would have been expelled! I told you I

never had."

 

"You love her?"

 

Face sighed, running his neat fingers along the neck

of the bottle, wiping away all the moisture there. "I

thought I did. Would have married her too, if she

hadn't run out on me."

 

"She dumped you?" Murdock found that difficult to

believe. He studied Face for any clues of how he was

really feeling, of whether or not he was telling the

truth. God, Murdock hoped he was telling the truth.

 

Face seemed closed off from him sometimes. Quiet,

intense, holding things in. Separate. Face's

expression was so often blank, but other times

emotions ran across his features in quick secession

and it was hard for an observer to tell what he felt.

Like he was trying to see which expression felt right

before settling on one. Face could be difficult to

read, but Murdock didn't stop trying to. He had

promised himself and Face that he wouldn't.

 

"Yeah. Left school without saying where she was

going. Left me to be told by a friend. That's when I

joined the army."

 

Face joined the army to forget some girl? The pain in

Murdock's stomach intensified. He hurt; he wanted to

take Face into his arms and reassure himself that

everything was okay.

 

"You were gonna marry her?"

 

"Yeah, I would have married her," Face gazed out

toward the OC door, but Murdock could tell he was

further away, somewhere in his golden Southern

California past, attending private schools with

pretty young things. "We would've had a house in the

valley maybe, a dog, kids."

 

Murdock didn't know what to say. Here he was, jealous

of a girl Face hadn't seen in two years. Jealous

because Face had thought of marriage, something the

two of them could never do. And Murdock wanted to be

with Face forever.

 

"Thank God, Leslie left me," Face went on, smiling

that winsome half-smile at Murdock. Finally looking

at him, his blue eyes open and bright, seeming to

shake off his previous mood. "At the time it hurt,

but what a mess it would have been now if we had

gotten married, had children."

 

"Whatcha mean?" It was sounding to Murdock as if it

would've been the perfect life for Face. Face married

and in a life that was so normal. Face craved

stability as much as Murdock constantly wanted to try

new things. Murdock suddenly wondered where his

relationship with Face was headed. They were so

different from each other.

 

"What do I mean? I can imagine all the problems if I

were married right now." Face flashed him a bright

smile, all teeth, but reaching his eyes too. His eyes

were flirting with Murdock for just a moment. "Fancy

yourself a homewrecker, sweetheart?"

 

"What're you talkin' about?"

 

Face turned to look at him more fully, his brow

furrowing. He was serious now.

 

"You think I could stay away from you for long? Not

touch you? Not be with you? I don't." Face shook his

head, caressing that damn beer bottle. "I want you

every minute of the day. We'd be together and Leslie

would be heartbroken. And if we had children. . .

hate to hurt kids that way." Face's grin was gone and

his eyes clouded.

 

Murdock was satisfied for the moment, but he wondered

what else Face hadn't told him. There was a knot in

his stomach that wouldn't go away.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 2   The Cruellest Lies

 

The cruellest lies are often told

in silence.

-- Robert Louis Stevenson

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Face rapped sharply on the door of the SF command

post, more out of courtesy than anything else. He was

expected and Hannibal never dwelled on ceremony

except in front of company. All the same, Face had

changed into fatigues for this meeting; meeting his

CO in shorts and a t-shirt didn't seem right,

although there were guys who did it. He pulled the

door open at the call to enter.

 

The tent was wood-framed canvas, surrounded with so

many sandbags that all you could make out were the

roof and the wooden door. 'Sandbags' was a misnomer;

Face had been in charge of the detail that had filled

the burlap bags with local red soil and seen them

stagger-stacked to form a bunker. Reminded Face of

the adobe he had seen on school field trips to the

California missions.

 

This was the center of Special Forces activity on

Romeo. There were SF bases in the surrounding

countryside, but Lt. Colonel Hannibal Smith worked

outside the normal channels. Being on a regular army

base allowed Hannibal more latitude than if he were

under the direct scrutiny of the Special Forces

command structure. Hannibal had a reputation for

getting results with unusual methods, so his

superiors allowed him that freedom. The colonel was

an original thinker.

 

Hannibal was sitting, dressed much like Face, behind

a desk stacked with maps and paperwork. A strong

light was focused down on the papers in front of him.

Face smiled. Hannibal hated paperwork and usually

tried to get him or Ray to do most of it. It was a

game among the three of them because Hannibal could

order one of them to do it if he wanted to. But

Hannibal never seemed to be able to bring himself to

order Face or Ray to do something that he saw as his

own responsibility.

 

Ray must have gotten out of it today too. Although

Ray's excuses were at best questionable, Hannibal

usually let him slide. Face's own excuse had involved

having to pick up a supply of Hannibal's favorite

smokes. Cigars that had actually been in Face's

footlocker for the last week, waiting for just such

an occasion.

 

Thinking of that, Face pulled the box out from under

his arm and placed it on Hannibal's desk next to a

cup of cold-looking coffee.

 

"Thanks, kid," the colonel said, around the remains

of his current cigar. Glacial blue eyes sparkled up

at him from the desk.

 

"No problem, Colonel."

 

"I don't know how you do it," Hannibal tapped the

box.

 

"If you did, you wouldn't need me and I'd be out of

here," Face said, smiling slightly.

 

Face fidgeted as Hannibal studied him for an

uncomfortable minute. He hated when Hannibal looked

through him like this, like he knew all his thoughts.

Finally, the colonel eyes dropped; he sighed and

stacked some papers into a pile and shoved them into

a basket marked 'out'.

 

Face liked Hannibal; looked up to the man, but he

didn't understand him. Never had been able to figure

out why Hannibal had taken him under his wing. Sure,

Face was good at getting supplies. Not just the

cigars, but things that they really needed out here

too, like extra ammunition and better weapons. Fresh

food sometimes.

 

But Hannibal had to know that Face's file had been -

embellished. Hannibal had a brain and he actually did

a lot of his own research, and fieldwork, for that

matter. The colonel would know that the records

didn't look right, didn't really make sense. Face had

joined the army as soon as he could after his

disappointment with Leslie, but he hadn't been in the

army long enough to be in Special Forces until

recently. He had the time in now, so the deception

wasn't so bad. He could live with it. No one had ever

died because of his actions or lack of actions. He

had earned the rank of first lieutenant on his own.

 

So, why would Hannibal keep him around, except to get

supplies? Face was good; he made sure that he had

what the unit needed, even before they knew what they

needed themselves.

 

Face tread warily, afraid that Hannibal would reveal

the truth about his record, and he'd be sent

somewhere else. Most likely Long Binh Jail until he

was court-martialed. Face had heard stories about

LBJ. About SF officers held in deplorable conditions,

in Conex containers, even.

 

"Got a mission for you, Lieutenant." Hannibal put his

cigar down, balancing it on the edge of his desk. He

shifted papers, obviously looking for something.

 

"Sir?"

 

Hannibal's eyes were sharp again when they met

Face's. The colonel might know what you were thinking

before you thought it most of the time, but Face was

good at hiding. Sometimes he could even steer

Hannibal in another direction entirely. Had, when it

came to Murdock.

 

"It's one of those missions that I won't require you

to take, but I'd like you to consider it."

 

"What is it, Colonel?"

 

Hannibal shook out a map in response, smoothing it

over his desk and studying it for a minute.

 

"Some recon," Hannibal pointed to an area on the map

just over the border in Cambodia. "Insert, recon and

pics, back again by dinner. Interested?"

 

Face thought for a moment, studying the map. Hannibal

always asked about these missions, but the truth was

that you didn't get into Special Forces if you were

adverse to special, covert, operations. And if Face

wasn't useful to the unit, Hannibal would ask for his

transfer out. As much as he hated FSB Romeo, Face had

grown to like his unit, all of the guys. For the

first time in his life, he felt like he fit in with

something. They all worked together and Hannibal was

a great teacher. The orphanage had been a sign of his

failure in life, but the army was a success and he

liked it. More importantly, Face wanted to be

wherever Murdock was and Murdock was here at Romeo.

So Face took any missions Hannibal had to offer.

 

"Yeah, I'm interested," Face leaned over the map to

get a good look at the terrain. Jungle mostly, and

not too hilly, but that was relative around here.

 

"Good. You leave tomorrow, first thing." Hannibal

folded up the map and handed it over to Face. "The

coordinates are marked."

 

"So, what are we reconning?"

 

"Enemy base camp. They'll be releasing an anti-

personnel agent, some chemical, there in the early

morning hours. Should be cleared out by the time you

get there." Hannibal picked up the cigar he had set

down earlier and pointed it at Face. "Check for the

weapon's effectiveness and any property damage. Then

get the hell out of there."

 

"Don't worry about me, Hannibal. I don't plan on

staying for the hospitality."

 

Face thought of the consequences of being captured in

Cambodia. Just being in the country covertly was

against international law, no matter how necessary in

time of war. The VC set up camps just over the border

in Cambodia, where they felt safe. Where they were

safe, really, because war hadn't been declared on

Cambodia and no action could be taken on bases in

Cambodia. FSB Romeo was shot up nightly from these

hidden camps over the fence. But what Face would be

doing would be considered spying in Cambodia, a

neutral country, and spies were executed.

 

"Any preferences on who to take with you?" Hannibal

asked. "I thought maybe Yost and Carter. Shouldn't

need more than two."

 

Face thought for a moment. "How about Valdez? He

needs some experience, and this sounds like a

picnic."

 

"Good idea. Take Yost too, then. You two can keep

Valdez out of trouble."

 

`~`~`~`~`~

 

Murdock sat back with his cup of coffee, admiring the

view. Supper was done, and Wally and Rob were gone,

leaving Murdock across the table from Face. Pretty

Facey. There were things Murdock'd rather be doing

right now, but nothing he could do unless they got

private. Watching Face was becoming a hobby of his

lately because it was all he had.

 

Face was studying the table, but he was turning a

delicate shade of red, so Murdock must be doing the

looking right.

 

Face was a sight, even in army fatigues. God, maybe

there was something wrong with Murdock that he could

be so turned on by olive green. But Face's blonde-

tipped hair and clear blue eyes might have something

to do with it. His smile. All of him.

 

They were in the far corner of the officers' mess and

the place was deserted. It was dark and quiet, an

oasis of sorts at the moment. Funny how the dark made

it seem less hot in the tent, despite the stillness

of the air that held on to the homey scents of gravy

and coffee. Murdock stretched his legs a bit, bumping

into Face's under the table.

 

He didn't want to have this conversation, wasn't

ready for it, but there wasn't any time to postpone

it either. Who knew what tomorrow would bring? He

wanted things straightened out with Face now, while

there was time.

 

"Hey," Murdock said softly, running a finger along

Face's hand under the guise of reaching for sugar.

Still had to be careful. Had to be. Anyone could walk

in.

 

Face let out a shuddering breath, "What?"

Concentrating on the feel of Murdock's legs sliding

along his, he had been startled by this other touch.

How two touches could constitute an onslaught, he

didn't know. It had just been too long.

 

"You okay?"

 

"Yeah," Face looked up at him and smiled. He wanted

to sit across from Murdock like this for the rest of

his life. "I'm fine. Just thinking."

 

"We gotta talk more about this thing with Leslie,

Face."

 

Face frowned; he didn't know what Murdock wanted from

him. Leslie was in the past and there was nothing he

could do about her now. Sure, he had liked Leslie,

but he hadn't known about love until he had met

Murdock. Hadn't known that there really was another

human being that he could care this much about. All

he could do was make Murdock understand how important

he was. That Leslie could be here right now and Face

would still pick Murdock.

 

"I'm sorry about her, Murdock. I didn't know I'd meet

you."

 

"That's not what I mean, Face," Murdock waved it

away. "We both have pasts. I mean we have to be

honest with each other. I didn't like finding out

about her in front of everyone else."

 

"I'm sorry." He hated to make Murdock unhappy. They

had so little time together and it felt wrong to be

anything but happy during it. And he could see

Murdock's point; he wouldn't want to be surprised

like that by anything Murdock said either. "I haven't

ever had to think of anyone else."

 

Face closed his eyes for a moment. He never should

have said that last. No one knew he had grown up in

an orphanage, and he preferred it that way. He didn't

want Murdock to know that he had been rejected by his

parents and then never even adopted. Everyone said he

was such a cute kid, but they didn't want him.

Murdock was the only one who had ever really wanted

him. Maybe Murdock wouldn't want him if he knew no

one else did either.

 

"Face?" Murdock waited until he opened his eyes

again, caught them with his. "It's okay, but we have

to be honest. We can't be hiding things. I just want

the truth."

 

"I don't lie to you, Murdock." And he didn't. There

were some things that never came up, like the

orphanage, but it wasn't the same as lying. He

couldn't tell Murdock everything, could he? A man had

to have some things private, even from his lover.

 

"I know you don't think you do," Murdock shook his

head. It was impossible to get Face to understand

this. How could he not have learned about honesty?

"But when you don't tell me things, it's like lying.

Especially when they are important things. You do so

much scamming, I don't always know if you know what

the truth is, even."

 

"I can tell the difference, Murdock." Face sounded

hurt and Murdock didn't want that. But he had to make

this clear to Face. If they weren't honest with each

other, how could they trust each other? And Murdock

wanted to be able to trust Face. Wanted that more

than almost anything.

 

"Face, I'm not going to argue with you about this; we

don't have time for that and you know it." Murdock

sighed. Face didn't understand, so they'd just have

to work it out. "I guess we'll have to play it by

ear, as we go."

 

"Murdock, I can tell this is important to you, but I

do tell the truth to you. I know that sometimes I

stretch it a little, but not with you. Never with

you. I've told you the truth from the very first."

 

Murdock looked into those pleading blue eyes and had

to believe.

 

"Okay, Facey. I guess we'd better turn in." And that

was one more thing that Murdock had no control over.

They couldn't even discuss where tomorrow would take

them. How could Face understand honesty when there

were so many rules for when to tell and when not to?

 

"Yeah. We'd better," Face shifted unhappily.

 

Murdock stood up, looked around the tent for

witnesses, and found none. Gently he pressed a kiss

on Face's forehead, and ran his hand through the

blonde hair. And there was another thing to conceal.

Another lie.

 

"Night, baby."

 

"Night."

 

`~`~`~`~`~

 

"Who's flying them?" Hannibal asked, leaning back in

his desk chair. He still had the paperwork, the part

he couldn't assign to some hapless corporal, to do,

and he wasn't in the best of moods. Avery had come by

to check on some details for tomorrow's mission, but

Hannibal thought he might as well get some info out

of the CIA agent in return.

 

"Captain H.M. Murdock."

 

Hannibal snubbed his cigar out in the ashtray and

leaned forward. He was ticked off at the choice.

Sure, Murdock could fly - anything, anytime - but he

was a hotdog. If there was a safe way to do something

in the air and a dangerous way, Murdock chose the

latter. Hannibal had heard of other pilots, good

pilots, who refused to fly with the man. Matter of

fact, Murdock was flying a Light Observation

Helicopter, a loach, lately. No doubt because it

didn't rate a co-pilot.

 

Hannibal didn't want to send any officer of his over

the fence in the hands of a maniac. They'd probably

crash and burn, and Hannibal would lose one of the

best supply officers he'd ever had. And a kid he had

grown to like, too.

 

His distaste must have shown on his face because

Avery started talking fast. "He's one of our best

operatives, has worked for us for years. Doesn't do

the ground stuff anymore, but he has the clearances

and he can fly."

 

That was more than Hannibal had learned about Murdock

in the months he had been working with the pilot.

Hannibal took out another cigar and prepared it for

smoking. The information did put a different light on

things. If Murdock was a CIA operative, he had

training and could take care of himself. At least he

wouldn't be dragging Face and his men down if

something happened. And maybe, just maybe, he was

able to be professional enough to just fly them in

and pick them up. But Hannibal still thought that

Murdock was a little too crazy for anyone's good.

What kind of missions had the man gone on? There was

no way to tell - all the records would be classified.

 

"Just looking after my men, Avery," Hannibal said,

hoping the other man didn't hear his muttered,

"someone has to."

 

"Captain Murdock is a top-notch pilot, Colonel,"

Avery glared at Hannibal.

 

"I'm sure," Hannibal lit his cigar, drawing deep to

get it started. "What about this weapon, the gas?

What is it?"

 

"Nothing you need to know about, Colonel. It will be

cleared out by the time your men get there."

 

Hannibal was less than satisfied with that answer,

but didn't expect anything more. Time to get rid of

the spook. "Need anything else or are you offering to

help with the paperwork you've generated with this

mission?"

 

Avery beat a hasty retreat.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 3   Hard to Believe

 

It is hard to believe that a man is

telling the truth when you know that

you would lie if you were in his place.

--H. L. Mencken

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Murdock was out in the LZ early the next morning to

check over his bird. It was a Cayuse OH-6A, a scout

helicopter, but his orders said he was only setting

three grunts down so that wasn't really a problem.

The loach had fold-down seats for personnel

transport, and he should be able to sneak in low

wherever he was supposed to without any notice.

Murdock liked this little chopper.

 

Sometimes being part of a pink team with a gunship

suited his mood. It mixed up his brain; made him feel

alive. He would fly the loach low over the jungle

canopy, looking to draw enemy fire. Tracing the fire

back to its origin, the gunship would let loose its

.30 caliber machine guns. Teamwork at its best, but

dangerous. He should probably get out of it; he was

pushing his luck every time  he went out.

 

Murdock greeted Rob, his doorgunner, and grabbed the

clipboard from the cockpit. He patted his flightsuit

pockets for a pen and started making notes. Rob was

going over the M-60 and checking the emergency

supplies. He was a good guy and Murdock liked working

with him. He'd been in the Army for awhile, but not

in 'Nam all the time. People came and went in 'Nam;

the staggered tours and changes in units meant that

Murdock never seemed to work with anyone for long. He

wished that Rob would stick around, but he didn't

expect it.

 

They had both checked the equipment what seemed like

a million times, and still checked it again every

time they came in and every time they went out. Maybe

it was paranoia, but despite all precautions,

firebases were infiltrated and equipment sabotaged

every day. The two of them fell into their easy

routine of check and re-check in the half-light of

dawn.

 

Murdock was still reeling from Face's revelation of

yesterday. Okay, he knew somewhere in his head that

Face must've had intimate encounters of some kind in

the past. He might be new to actual sex, but Face had

kissing down to an art form. In Hawaii they had spent

hours just kissing between bouts of more strenuous

activity.

 

Murdock pulled his mind away from that image as he

checked some fastenings.

 

Murdock didn't like to lie. Especially not to Face.

He wanted everything to be open and honest between

them because sometimes Face didn't know where to draw

the line when it came to not telling the truth. Face

couldn't see the difference between the lies he told

someone to get something material that his team

needed, and the lies he told to get people to like

him. Couldn't even see that there was a difference.

Face couldn't see that he was lovable without the

lies, maybe especially without the lies. Murdock

didn't want dishonesty between them.

 

It was hard sorting his feelings out. He hadn't

wanted to hear about Leslie yesterday. The truth (and

hadn't he kept this from Face?) was that he didn't

want to know that Face had ever had anyone that

important to him in his life. Murdock wanted to be

the only one; he loved Face so desperately that he

didn't want even the past to intrude. He would do

anything for Face.

 

But his reaction had still surprised him. He wanted

the truth, didn't he? So he kept on saying, and he

did believe it. More than ever in the past, Murdock

found he wanted truth from this lover. His love,

really. Maybe that was the difference. Face mattered.

 

Murdock wanted it to be the way it was in Hawaii when

they had first gotten together. So close that each

was just another part of the other. No secrets from

yourself, not really. No reason to have those kinds

of secrets.

 

But the reality of being in-country, of being in this

fuckin' war, was that there were secrets. Everywhere.

Things that other lovers might share as a matter of

course, were things that the two of them couldn't

even hint at. Like where they would be tomorrow.

Unless volunteered, they didn't even ask each other

where the next mission was. Not wanting to tell the

lie. Not wanting to hear the lie, not even wanting to

hear the silence of the withholding of the truth when

asked for.

 

Murdock glanced over at the Huey sharing the LZ with

them, carefully shielding his eyes from the cloud of

hot red dust it was kicking up. Murdock waved at Joe,

the pilot who he shared his hooch with, as he took

off.

 

Murdock worked special ops. He hadn't exactly

volunteered, but he hadn't refused the offer either.

A couple of times he had gone on major missions,

ground missions, but that was years ago. Long before

Face. Nothing had mattered in those days; there

wasn't anything to keep him from taking the risk. No

one. The CIA would tell the army to send him on some

mission that was illegal even in wartime, usually

into a country the army didn't even belong in.

Classified. Assassination, surveillance, spying.

Whatever the CIA wanted. And no one was supposed to

know. Hell, he wasn't supposed to know. And didn't,

after the mission. He wasn't about to cross the

Company.

 

They were dangerous missions, even the ones he did

for them now. Murdock would fly an individual or a

team over the border that no one was supposed to be

crossing and set them down. Then he'd meet them (or

not) days later, miles away, for the extraction.

 

After every mission, Murdock thought about getting

away from the Company work. Now that he had Face, he

knew it was time. But here he was, the early morning

mist seeping from the jungle over the bare red dirt

of FSB Romeo, preparing for another covert operation.

 

He and Face had parted amicably enough last night

after eating supper together in the mess. Neither had

said what they were doing today, which meant they

were both going out. Their nightly leave-taking had

reflected that knowledge, but it was too public for

his taste. Always had to be careful about guys

walking in on them.

 

Murdock tried not to worry about Face being gone. He

knew Face had training, knew that his unit watched

after him, guarded him. Face would be all right.

Probably more all right than most out here. The

rational thoughts didn't always help keep his heart

from racing when Face was out on a mission.

 

`~`~`~`~`~

 

Face bounded out of the bunker and into the

relatively cool morning air. Well, it was cooler than

the afternoon air. The tents were green, dusted with

red, and slouched in the humidity already. Even the

sandbags were looking sad and Face thought he could

see some evidence of rodents. No matter how you

looked at it, Romeo was a hellhole. Murdock said so

all the time. But it was a little more peaceful in

the early morning light and calm.

 

C-Rats for breakfast, if he could bring himself to

eat them. The word rat was a little too predominate

in their title for Face to really like them. Too

early for the mess to be open for anything other than

coffee and maybe some leftover bread. Face hoped the

early start would mean that they could be back by

evening, but he didn't count on it. Didn't count on

anything here, except maybe Murdock. Last night's

dinner might be the last decent meal he'd have for

awhile, if stew made out of dried beef served over

bread could be considered decent. He had tried not to

think what the little specks of green might have

been, but they were lucky to have the cook they did.

He'd had worse. At least the dinner company had been

good.

 

Face combed his fingers through his hair and stuck

his helmet on. Murdock said he wanted honesty, was

always after Face to tell the truth. And, the first

time Face had been honest about something important,

other than loving Murdock, Murdock had gotten upset.

Not too encouraging, but Murdock seemed to listen to

all of it, to understand that he was so much more

important to Face than Leslie had ever been.

 

Face wouldn't be sharing anything else from his past

any time soon though. Murdock thought the truth was

always the best way to go. But it wasn't. Face knew

that from painful experience. It was better to tell

people what they wanted to hear. People didn't really

want to hear the truth; it was just a disappointment

most of the time. Murdock would be happier for it in

the long run.

 

Face adjusted webgear, shouldered his pack, and

stomped down on his jungle boots, making sure he

didn't make any noise. Any metal against metal could

make you a target out in the bush.

 

His thoughts drifted back to last night, back to

Murdock.

 

The company at dinner, but especially after, had, in

fact, been excellent. Murdock seemed to get over his

irritation of finding out about Leslie by the time

they went for chow, even if he didn't totally give up

the subject.

 

They had sat across from each other in a quiet corner

of the mess, able to touch knees under the narrow

table.

 

The way Murdock looked at him! No doubt what Murdock

had on his mind, no matter the words coming from his

mouth. Face closed his eyes for a moment before

forcing his thoughts on.

 

There had been time to talk a little too after Wally

and Rob had left for the night. Teasing a bit, and

serious talk that they didn't want others to

overhear. But at least he and Murdock hadn't ended

the evening at odds with one another. That was always

the important thing.

 

Face heard the distinct sound of a Huey powering up

and taking off, saw the cloud of red it stirred above

the command post as he made his way to the mess.

Might be Murdock starting out on his day of work; he

could fly most anything. Face hastily went through

his prayers, that both he and Murdock would be safe

this day. He never forgot his daily devotions here in

'Nam, but he tried to say an extra prayer or two for

their safety when he thought of it.

 

They never talked about what they were doing the

following day unless they'd be on base or their

orders were common knowledge. Sometimes, especially

in Special Forces, you got orders that commanded you

to do something questionable. Not illegal, really,

because the actions were necessary in time of war. He

couldn't tell Murdock about these missions and,

besides, he didn't want his lover to worry. And

Murdock would worry, terribly. Murdock was so

sensitive. He didn't seem to understand that Face

knew how to take care of himself. He didn't know that

Face had been taking care of himself since he was

five years old.

 

The flaps on the mess tent were up all the way around

to catch what cool air there was. Face could see

through the screening that the mess was empty this

morning except for Valdez and Yost, eating breakfast

together. Face dropped his pack by the door as he

went in.

 

The two sergeants were very different, although both

were up to the usual Special Forces' standards. Brad

Yost had been in the Rangers before his SF training,

earning a couple of medals there. He was hard and

professional, despite being only twenty-two. Valdez

was a little older, but he was a shake and bake who

had volunteered before he could be drafted and then

stayed because he had family to support and couldn't

think of another way. Most his service had been

behind a desk, and Face wondered why he wasn't still

behind that desk. He was combat green, but generally

a smart guy.

 

"Morning, men," Face said, grabbing a cup of coffee

and sitting down at the table with them.

 

Valdez was studying a snapshot. Did that a lot - his

wife and their baby born after Denny was in Vietnam.

Little Denny. Face knew the family didn't have much

money and Valdez hadn't even met his first-born yet.

Face wondered what it would be like to have the one

you loved so far away, to not even have the little he

had with Murdock out here.

 

Face took a swallow of coffee as Valdez hurriedly put

the picture away in the pocket of his fatigues. "You

guys ready?"

 

"Yeah, L.T." Valdez picked up all the C-Rat litter,

threw it in the trash, and stowed the rest of the

day's rations in his pack.

 

"What we supposed to be doing?" Yost had a way of

getting to the point that Face had to admire.

 

"We get dropped, make our way over to the

coordinates, and check things out."

 

Yost finished fastening up his pack, dropping it a

few times on the bench, no doubt to help things

settle and check for noise. He looked up. "What

things?"

 

"Bombing site, VC base camp," Face gulped the last of

the coffee, standing up. "Can't check it from the air

because it was anti-personnel and, besides, you know

what their camps are like. The jungle canopy covers

the whole base and it's almost impossible to see from

the air. Company wants to know how effective this new

weapon is. We go in, we look and take a few pics, we

meet up with our ride out. End of mission. The

colonel says we should be home by dinnertime."

 

Yost looked around the mess tent and groaned, "And

that's supposed to be a selling point, L.T.?"

 

Face grinned at the comment, "Saddle up, boys!" Face

grabbed his own pack and headed out the door.

 

The LZ was close-by and small, just room for three or

four choppers on a regular basis. If necessary,

gunships and slicks could be called in from another

firebase or even the base camp. Romeo was pretty far

into the boonies already.

 

The three of them headed for the flight line to wait

for the pilot to give the okay.

 

`~`~`~`~`~

 

"Everything look okay, Rob?" Murdock walked past the

open chopper sidedoor on his way from checking the

tail. Like most helicopters around here, the loach

had had its side doors removed; made insertions and

extractions easier.

 

"Fine, Murdock. Maybe tomorrow I'll rotate some of

the supplies." Rob took his sunglasses out of his

breast pocket and put them on.

 

"Then I guess we're waiting on our passengers.

Shouldn't be long; they wanted to get an early

start."

 

Murdock settled into the pilot's seat, making a few

scratches on his notepad. He glanced up to see the

three grunts making their way to the flight line.

 

Face.

 

God, if Murdock could find Face in a crowd

blindfolded, and he knew he could, he could certainly

pick out that lean form and that walk that barely

contained Face's usual nervous energy. Quiet,

contained, nervous energy: that was Face.

 

Murdock took a deep breath and let it out. Closed his

eyes for a bit. He had never dreamed that Face was

doing special ops. Wishful thinking on his part,

that. Blindness, maybe. CIA was so all over Special

Forces that Murdock expected they must need the

occasional smoke. As long as he didn't know for sure

that Face had Company connections, he had managed to

keep the possibility out of his mind. Ignorance was

bliss.

 

The knowledge of the risks Face took settled uneasily

into the pit of Murdock's stomach. He knew what those

missions were like. He extracted teams all the time

from somewhere they shouldn't be according to

international law. They'd do anything to get out and

sometimes their eyes would show that. The missions

could rob a man of his soul. Murdock himself had gone

on one too many for his own taste; he only flew them

now. Nice and easy, delivery and pick-up. And now he

had Face to worry about.

 

He unfolded himself from the seat and ambled over to

where Face was conducting a final inspection of his

men before they started out.

 

"Valdez, you remember the med kit?"

 

"Yeah, right here, L.T.," The man patted his pack.

Face used duct tape to quiet down something on the

pack and smiled at Valdez, making a joke.

 

Murdock always liked the way Face was with his men.

Firm, but respectful too. They had a job to do and

everyone had a part to play, and Face seemed to

appreciate that.

 

"May I speak to you, Lieutenant?" Murdock asked when

Face was done.

 

"Sure, Captain." Face turned back to Valdez and Yost.

"Get settled in for the ride, guys."

 

Murdock watched as they trotted over to the Cayuse

and heaved their packs through the door. Rob helped

them stow the gear; the loach was a tight fit for men

and equipment. Murdock turned back to Face.

 

"What you need, Murdock?" Face smiled at him,

shifting his pack slightly, causing a little ripple

of movement down his body that Murdock tried not to

pay attention to.

 

But he couldn't ignore the phrasing of the question,

whispering, "You know what I need, lover."

 

Face blushed right through that war paint he was

wearing, causing Murdock to smile. Wished he could

pursue this, could pursue Face. Right now. But the

pilot straightened up with a sigh, more serious. They

didn't have much time before the others would start

to wonder what was going on. And they had a mission

to go on.

 

"Face, I didn't know you did this kind of mission."

 

Guileless blue eyes met his, "I didn't know you did,

either."

 

Murdock squirmed under that truth, running a hand

through his hair. They both knew they couldn't talk

about special ops, were just dancing around the real

issues. "Yeah, well. . . I'm going to stop after

this."

 

"Yeah, me too," Face glanced over toward the loach.

"C'mon, we need to get going now."

 

"Face, we need to talk about this." Murdock frowned,

feeling that he didn't have Face's full attention.

That had never happened before. There was a look in

Face's eyes that Murdock couldn't even begin to put a

name to.

 

"Later, Murdock. We can talk later. We have a job to

do now."

 

Murdock's frown deepened. Face must have sensed it

because he met Murdock's eyes, and brought a hand up

to Murdock's shoulder. Gently caressed that place

where he had marked Murdock with mouth and teeth in

Hawaii. Made it look like one of those gestures guys

made when they were joking with each other.

 

"We'll talk. You know we'll talk." But Face's

attention was already back on his men.

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 4   A Leavening of Truth

 

Good lies need a leavening of truth

to make them palatable.

--William Mcilvanney

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Face swung into the observer's seat next to the

pilot's on the loach, trying to ignore how flimsy the

small observation helicopter seemed. He glanced over

to Murdock, who was harnessing himself in. Murdock

smiled back at him, but the smile didn't reach his

brown eyes; Murdock's eyes were deep but lacked their

usual sparkle.

 

Face sighed. He didn't mean to piss Murdock off, but

it seemed like that was all he had done the last day

or so. Whether he told the truth or not, Murdock was

unhappy with him. Face harnessed himself in as

Murdock put on his flight helmet. He frowned, looking

out the open helicopter door. He didn't want to keep

seeing the look in Murdock's eyes.

 

Face felt a gentle nudge on his arm and turned toward

Murdock, accepting the flight helmet he offered.

Switching helmets, he adjusted the mouthpiece.

 

Murdock's long fingers moved deftly over the

controls, tapping a gauge here, flipping a switch

there. The bird started to hum under his attentions.

 

"Okay, we're about ready," Murdock's voice came over

the flight helmet.

 

"Hey, Murdock?"

 

"Yeah?"

 

Face tapped his flight helmet by his ear, "This thing

private?"

 

"Sure is, baby," Murdock smiled, bringing the chopper

up to a hover and gently taking them up and away from

FSB Romeo. He let out a howl and Face smiled. Murdock

loved to be in the air. And Face loved seeing Murdock

do what he loved.

 

Face enjoyed the view on leaving Romeo, if only for

awhile. Big and bare and ugly, but the base looked so

much more innocent as it grew smaller and smaller

beneath them.

 

"So," Murdock said, once he had the bird in the air

and at a height to clear the nearby jungle. "Where we

headed?"

 

Face gave him the coordinates and Murdock whistled.

"Cambodia, huh?"

 

"Yeah," Face replied, unfolding a map. "I'll track

us."

 

"Good," Murdock was busy with the controls as Face

watched his smooth coordination, the map forgotten

for now. Face was always fascinated by how much

effort it took to fly a chopper, much more

complicated than the old cars the priests had. But

Murdock made it all look so easy and, well,

beautiful. Face didn't get many chances to look at

Murdock without someone else watching. Back at the

base, someone was always around and they had to be

cautious. Here in the chopper, no one could see

anything. Not much Face could do, though, other than

look.

 

"Okay," Murdock said, obviously satisfied with the

chopper for now. It was flying low over the canopy,

hugging the treetops. Everything below them was

green and shadows. "We talking now, or later, about

this?"

 

"Do we have to talk about it now, Murdock?" Face

didn't think he could stand having this discussion

about all the reasons he shouldn't have anything to

do with special ops right before a mission. He sighed

loudly. "Oh, you know I don't want to do anything to

upset you; I'll ask to be taken off these

assignments."

 

It was the truth. Mostly. Face didn't want Murdock

upset. Seeing Murdock upset gave him a sick feeling,

worried that Murdock would get fed up and tell Face

it was over. And Face was going to talk to Hannibal

about cooling it with the covert ops. But he already

knew the colonel would just laugh at him, not really

believing that he'd want to do anything to jeopardize

his standing with Special Forces. But Face had made

peace with lying long ago; as long as Murdock wasn't

upset, it was worth the lie.

 

Murdock looked at him for a moment, and Face wondered

how much Murdock really saw. "No, maybe we should

talk about this later."

 

For a while they were quiet as Murdock flew

and Face marked off terrain landmarks on the map. It

became automatic after the first few, keeping track

of the flight path. There was an obvious marker to

the north, a mountain, and Murdock seemed to know his

way around here anyway.

 

They crossed into Cambodia.

 

"Maybe we can talk about something more pleasant

now." Murdock was the first to break the silence.

"Like what I'm going to do the next time I get you

alone."

 

"What did you have in mind?" Face looked up from the

map and smiled.

 

"I was thinking of pressing all of my body along all

of yours, for a start." Murdock's voice was smooth

and sultry-sounding.

 

Face swallowed. Hard.

 

"Then. Mmm. . . " Murdock sighed, adjusting a

control. "Oh, I think I'd have to kiss you. I always

have to kiss you. Slip my tongue along yours; thread

my fingers through your hair. I'd have to keep doing

that until you made that little noise in the back of

your throat."

 

"I don't make noises!" Face protested, but he could

feel the heat in his cheeks. He was quiet while they

made love, and Murdock always teased him about it.

Always tried to get him to, well, to scream. Was

successful, sometimes.

 

"'Course ya don't, baby. But if ya did, then I think

we'd be getting horizontal. So you might wanna

reconsider," Murdock grinned. "I love that sound you

make."

 

Face was feeling distinctly warm; Murdock could

always do this to him with words. He tried to think

of something to say, something that would make

Murdock just as hot and bothered as he was.

 

They were interrupted by the sound of rifle fire,

coming from the jungle below. The sound stopped

almost as soon as it started and Face didn't feel

anything connecting. It was all right.

 

"Uh-oh," Murdock said, thumping gauges and sitting up

straighter. Face was alarmed as the chopper started

to list and sway, heading for the canopy only a few

feet below. Instinctively, he checked his harness and

held on.

 

"Shit!" Murdock shouted. "We're going down!"

 

Face braced himself against the frame as the tiny

helicopter plunged into the jungle, bouncing its way

through the vegetation. Pieces of leaves and wood

sprayed everywhere, cut to tiny shreds by the rotor

blades as the copter fell, like a giant upside down

lawnmower. Face could smell the fuel now, mixed with

the fresh green scent of cut jungle foliage. The

bumps were erratic as they hit a heavy branch, slid,

and then fell farther, the rotors still cutting their

way down to the jungle floor.

 

Something stung his side, but he barely felt it as he

frantically thought of what would have to be done

once they were on the ground. Dammit, they were in

Cambodia. If they were caught, they would be executed

as spies, which, of course, they were. The chopper

would have to be destroyed with all that was in it.

Couldn't let any of it fall into enemy hands. And

Face had to get everyone away from the wreckage as

quickly as possible; the VC who had got them would be

making his way through the jungle to look at his prize.

 

Just as suddenly as it had started, they came to a

bump of a stop and everything was silent except for

the falling of debris from the descent and the

slowing of the rotor blade.

 

`~`~`~`~`~

 

Murdock shut down everything as fast as he could and

started pulling the radio. They had to get out of

here. He glanced quickly over and was relieved to see

Face was unstrapping and sliding out of the copter,

apparently to see what had happened to the guys in

back.

 

Murdock was worried by the lack of noise back there.

No voices, no crying, nothing. He knew how vulnerable

they had been with the missing doors and the

closeness of the jungle debris. Even now, parts of

the canopy were still falling on the chopper, like

fallout from a bomb hitting the jungle.

 

Face seemed to be okay; at least he was moving.

Murdock closed his eyes against the sweat running

into them as he thought of what he would have done if

Face had been hurt. His relief was almost making him

dizzy.

 

The radio out, Murdock jammed it into the emergency

pack he kept under the seat and tried to unclip his

harness. It was stuck and he finally had to pull his

K-bar to cut the webbing. While he was struggling to

get loose, he heard a low moan and realized that

someone was alive in the back. He breathed a sigh of

relief and continued to concentrate on his release

until he had the webbing cut through.

 

Murdock glanced around the cockpit, grabbing anything

with writing on it and stuffing it into the pack.

They'd have to blow up the scout to keep it from

enemy hands, but they couldn't chance the enemy

finding anything of value or anything that identified

them as spies floating in the aftermath of the

explosion. Finally satisfied, Murdock slipped out

from under the remains of the harness and onto the

spongy ground. His boots squished in the

accumulation of dead leaves and jungle litter.

 

The smell of chopper fuel mixed with an overload of

cut green things was strong here, and he thought the

bird might catch fire before they'd get Rob and the

others out. For once, the wet of the jungle was in

their favor; any fire should be limited.

 

Murdock started stepping over vegetation and debris,

making his way toward the side door, but suddenly

Face rounded the tail section.

 

"Wait, Murdock!" There was concern in Face's eyes.

Murdock saw that Face had a light tarp in his hands

and it billowed out suddenly to cover something on

the ground.

 

Murdock's eyes darted to the shape on the ground and

then up to Face, questioning.

 

"Rob. I'm sorry, Murdock. He must have hit a tree

limb on the way down."

 

Murdock was numb. He'd seen enough dead bodies to

last a lifetime, but that's all they were to him now

usually. Bodies. He didn't know why the other pilots

didn't have too much to do with the grunts, but that

was Murdock's reason. Didn't want to turn those

potential bodies into people. Got enough of that with

the CIA ground missions. And Rob was a person. A good

person. And now he was gone. Dead.

 

"You okay?" Face asked, his eyes darting over

Murdock's frame, making sure for himself.

 

Murdock nodded, "Fine. I'm fine."

 

"Valdez is useless. Come on, Murdock, help me with

Yost," Face reached out and gave the pilot's shoulder

a steadying squeeze, and that's what got Murdock

started again. Face needed him; had to be strong

for Face.

 

"'Kay," Murdock said quietly. "What you need?"

 

"I need Yost over there against that tree so that I

can examine him. Away from the wreck."

 

Face didn't need to say that he was afraid of fire;

the scent of fuel was stronger now than when they had

first hit the ground.

 

Murdock looked at Yost, leaning against the chopper,

not far from the tarp that covered Rob. The SF

sergeant was gasping for breath. Murdock didn't see

any obvious wounds, but the metallic smell of blood

was in the air, battling the other odors from the

crash. Either Rob or Yost, Murdock didn't know which.

Maybe both. Gently, Murdock helped move Yost over to

the tree and propped him up there.

 

"L.T.," Yost gasped, as Face knelt down to examine

him. "You gotta get outta here."

 

The grunt's eyes were unfocused and Murdock wondered

how much he saw. Sweat rolled down Yost's face, and

dirt and dust were already clinging to it.

 

"Let me be in charge for once, eh, Yost?" Face joked,

getting a strained smile from the NCO. Face quickly

and skillfully went over Yost's body, checking for

injuries, taking vitals.

 

"Sure, L.T." Yost was panting, shallow breaths. His

entire body shook with each gasp.

 

"You hold on. I have to get the med kit."

 

Face turned away to the helicopter and Murdock saw

the look in his eyes. He'd do anything to take that

look out of his lover's eyes. Despair and anger.

Helplessness.

 

Murdock smoothed Yost's hair and got up to follow

Face.

 

"What's wrong with him?"

 

"I think he got hit by the sniper fire," Face

indicated the pool of blood that Murdock hadn't

noticed where Yost had been sitting next to the

helicopter and the tarp. "He doesn't have long,

Murdock. Even if we could call for help, I don't

think he would make it."

 

"Aw, baby. . . "

 

"Listen," Face's lips compressed as if he were

thinking. "You go try to get Valdez up and moving and

I'll see to Yost. He doesn't deserve to die alone.

He's a good soldier."

 

"What's wrong with Valdez?"

 

"Shock, I think. At least there didn't seem to be

anything physically wrong with him when I checked him

over."

 

Murdock moved cautiously around the helicopter

through the mess the bird had brought down with it,

looking for the missing sergeant. Finally found him,

sitting with his back against a log and staring into

space, his rifle in his hands.

 

"C'mon, Valdez; help me strip the chopper."

 

Valdez slowly stood up, and the glazed look left his

eyes as he set about checking the helicopter for

anything they didn't want to fall into the hands of

the VC.

 

Murdock worked steadily, but half his attention was

on Face. Face returned to Yost with the med kit and

Murdock could hear Face's soft monologue and Yost's

harsh breathing in the still-quiet jungle.

 

"Okay, Yost, I have something for the pain here.

We've radioed for help and it shouldn't be long now.

You'll be home soon."

 

The soothing talk went on as Murdock and Valdez

rigged the chopper with explosives. Yost's breathing

was continuing to get shallower and Face had put his

arms around the man, running a hand repeatedly

through Yost's hair. Murdock thought he heard Face

singing, but he couldn't be sure. Murdock was putting

charges on the few things they couldn't move, but

that they wanted destroyed, when Face finally stood

up and walked to the chopper.

 

"Murdock," Face said quietly, looking at Yost's blood

on the ground. Looking away again. "Let's move Yost

and Rob into the chopper to make it look like they

were the only crew. I got their dog tags." There was

a jingle in Face's pocket as he clanked them

together. "Then let's blow this and hope the VC don't

look too closely. We have to get out of here. And

take off that flightsuit; they're hard on pilots when

they catch them."

 

Murdock hated that they couldn't get the bodies back

to friendly hands, back to the arms of their grieving

families. But there wasn't any way that they'd be

able to carry Rob and Yost for miles in enemy

territory. Face's comment about his flightsuit drove

home how vulnerable they really were. They couldn't

radio for help, not from in Cambodia; they'd have to

go to the extraction LZ, wherever that was, and wait.

At least the bodies wouldn't be desecrated by the VC.

And Face had the dog tags so the families would have

proof of what had happened.

 

They moved the bodies and set off the explosives from

a safe distance. Face looked around, and shouldered

one of the packs that Murdock had made up for the

three of them. Murdock and Valdez picked up the other

two.

 

"Murdock?" There was a haunted look in Face's eyes.

"You don't think I lied when I told him he was going

home, do you? Father Maghill always said heaven was

our home."

 

Murdock didn't know how to answer him.

 

 

Next


Territory of Lies by Cathay
Territory of Lies 5-11 by Cathay

 

 


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