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Disclaimer: I'm not clear who owns them, but not me.
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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,
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
A deep sigh. "So. This Leslie. You make her up?"
"No." Face clipped, sounding angry.
"Was my girlfriend." The emphasis was on the past
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
"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.
The cruellest lies are often told
-- 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
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
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
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
"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
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
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.
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
"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
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
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.
"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 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
"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
"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
"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.
"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
Avery beat a hasty retreat.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
They had sat across from each other in a quiet corner
of the mess, able to touch knees under the narrow
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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.
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
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
"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,
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
"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
"Later, Murdock. We can talk later. We have a job to
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.
Good lies need a leavening of truth
to make them palatable.
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
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.
Face tapped his flight helmet by his ear, "This thing
"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
"So," Murdock said, once he had the bird in the air
and at a height to clear the nearby jungle. "Where we
Face gave him the coordinates and Murdock whistled.
"Yeah," Face replied, unfolding a map. "I'll track
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"'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
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
"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
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
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
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
"'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.
Murdock smoothed Yost's hair and got up to follow
"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
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
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
"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
Murdock didn't know how to answer him.
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