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Terms of Surrender
(c) August 2001
Summary: 1975. Murdock is sliding deeper into the darkness of his mind, and the team is left with only one option. This is a stand-alone sequel to my story Coming to Terms.
Disclaimer: Don't own them, Stephen J. Cannell and Universal do. This story was written for my own amusement and I have made no money from it.
Warnings: Language, mental anguish
The asphalt ahead shimmered with heat in the bright sunlight as the van made its way through the lunch hour traffic. Hannibal rubbed his eyes, and let his hand drop heavily into his lap; rain would have suited his mood much better.
Was he doing the right thing? He wasn't at all sure at this point. It seemed like the thing to do, but then again, so had taking Murdock out of the hospital in the first place. And where had that left them?
It had left them with one pilot traversing the deep blackness beyond the borders of reality, one lieutenant not very far behind him, one sergeant consumed from inside by anger and helplessness, and one CO who had failed miserably at keeping his men safe.
Snafu, in other words. Situation normal, all fucked up. Truly fucked up this time.
Hannibal shifted in his seat, trying to suppress the energy that buzzed in his head, flowed through every part of his body. It wasn't a good surge, like the one accompanying the plans that walked the fine line between utter brilliance and utter failure. It was the kind of energy that built slowly over time, the kind that was impossible to bleed off, because there was nothing you could do about what was ultimately causing it. Not a single thing.
* * *
No motor running, nobody talking. Just as good. I'm tired, so tired it’s like I'm not even here.
All that comes out when I try to talk are these... sounds. Not really words. Like my tongue decided to go on vacation, and I wasn’t invited to tag along. Hate it. Want my words back.
Hey, there, Hannibal. You finally decided to grace me with your eyes. Thank you ever so much for your kindness, sir. Sorry. Sorry, Hannibal. I'm not mad at you. Just don’t like the way you look at me; I know it’s stupid, but it makes me feel like I should be worrying about something.
I wish I could talk to you like before, but I can't; you hear me, but it's like you don't listen any more.
Face, you still here? Still sitting next to me? Too damn tired to look. Hope you're still here. I feel lonely. Lately in my dreams, you fade when I reach for you. Not just in my dreams, I think. I miss you. I miss all of you guys.
I miss me.
* * *
The van was quiet, an eerie, artificial quiet. Even Murdock, after six hours of animated non-stop monologue, had gone silent half an hour ago.
Hannibal sighed and closed his aching eyes. Tossing and turning restlessly between the short stints of disturbed sleep he'd managed to get last night hadn't done anything to refresh him, and the pressure that had settled over his temples earlier had developed into a full-blown headache. He felt old far beyond his years.
Hannibal caught B.A.'s sideway glance at the edge of his field of vision, the sergeant's normally grim appearance made even more sinister by the hard edge in his eyes. Hannibal turned slightly in the seat and met B.A.'s eyes steadily, trying to keep the defensiveness out of his face, his eyes, his posture.
He couldn't really blame B.A. for being angry; they (he) had gambled with another man's life and well-being, and lost. Big time.
* * *
My fingers feel funny, all tickly. Like millions of ants are crawling all over them. I don't like ants. They bite. Don't like 'em at all. But they don't mean to be bad; they bite when they're attacked. So if I just keep still I won't hurt 'em and they won't bite. I'll keep still.
Don't move, don't look, don't listen, and they'll let you be. Eventually. Seems I'm not that entertaining when I don't give them what they want. Fear, cries, tears. But it doesn't always work. Sometimes, you just can't tune out all the way, and you suddenly realize you're listening to your own screams. But it doesn't matter, it's like it's not really me. Not really.
One. Two. Thr--- No, I gotta keep still! Three. Four…
* * *
Murdock's whimper floated through the van, and Hannibal's conscience hissed sharply at him as he ignored it and burrowed down deeper in his seat. Face was sitting next to Murdock; he would make sure Murdock was okay.
Murdock quieted down, and soon the only sound that was heard over the growling of the engine was the sound of Face's keys jingling merrily as he twirled them slowly between his fingers. He was sitting in his usual spot, unseeing eyes staring straight ahead. Too tired, too pale, too quiet.
I know what you're doing, Face. But if you want to blame someone, blame me; I'm the one responsible for this whole mess. I should have said no from the start. No, we're not taking Murdock with us. Absolutely not, and end of discussion. But I didn't.
Hannibal leaned against the side window, closed his eyes and let the rays of the sun warm his skin. Over the last few days, he'd watched Face retreat into himself, as if trying to shut himself off to what was coming. But Face had still insisted on being the one who took Murdock back.
He opened his eyes, and braced himself mentally before turning to the back. "Face, are you ready? We're almost there." Hannibal's voice was calm and strong, but his insides ached as he said the words.
Face didn't move, fingers still turning the keys over and over.
The jingling didn’t stop.
Face jumped, startled, and the keys dropped from his fingers. They made a last, brittle sound as they hit the floor.
Face's haunted eyes came back in the present, and took in their location in an instant. A second later, a mop of blonde hair was all that Hannibal could see as the lieutenant reached down and groped blindly after his keys in the darkness of the floor. Hurt had turned into resentment as Face's head came up.
If it will get you through this, by all means, Lieutenant, hate me. Just get up and do what you're supposed to do.
* * *
Sixty-seven. Sixty-eight. Sixty-nine…
See, I knew it would work; they're gone. Sure hope B.A. don't spot 'em. He wouldn't appreciate an ant colony in his precious van.
Little tiny ants, running around, building a tiny home, with tiny furniture, and tiny pets, and tiny toothbrushes. Exploring, checking out the neighborhood, seeing the sights. Getting acquainted, getting comfortable, getting into your clothes, into your eyes, into your wounds. Biting until you bleed.
I can feel them all over. Get them off of me. Please, help me, somebody. Hannibal? B.A.? Face? Anyone? They’re all over. Get ‘em off get ‘em off get ‘em off!
* * *
"Get his hands, Face!"
Face was pressed flat against the opposite wall of the van, not moving an inch to pacify his frantic teammate. He shook his head desperately.
"Damn it, Face!"
The smell of rubber filled the van as B.A. slammed on the brakes. Hannibal was outside in no time and pulled the door to the back seat open. He wrapped himself around the distraught captain, and brought him forcefully down to the floor. Pinning the panicking hands above Murdock's head, Hannibal used his whole weight to hold him down.
"C'mon, Murdock. Relax, you're here with us; you're safe." The pilot's breath came in frightened, ragged gasps under him. "Stop fighting, just relax, it'll be okay." Hannibal kept talking slowly, softly, repeating the same phrases until he felt Murdock stop struggling.
"Good, just breathe slowly. Good. Open your eyes, Murdock. Come on, wakey, wakey." Hannibal shook him gently. "Open your eyes."
* * *
Darkness. Must have zoned out a bit there. Again. Can’t find the strength to open my eyes.
Ouch! Would you stop whatever you’re doing!
Words. Familiar words. I just can't make no sense of them.
The floor back here feels kinda comfy, might take a nap. You don't mind, do you, Facey? Well, apparently you do. You never did know how to take a hint, did you? If I could just figure out what you want, maybe I could get back to my snoozing here.
ALL RIGHT! All right, I'll open my eyes. Gee, Face, where are your manners?
Blue eyes. Worried eyes. But not your eyes. Where are you, Facey? You fading again?
* * *
"How are you feeling, Captain?" Hannibal tried to smile, but the smile seemed to get lost on its way to his lips.
Murdock's tired gaze flickered briefly over him, and he got the feeling that Murdock, even as their eyes met, seemed to look *at* his eyes, not into them.
He held Murdock's wrists another couple of seconds before pushing himself up to his knees. His fingers wandered lightly along Murdock's hairline. The frenzied clawing had drawn blood. Nothing much, only a couple of shallow scratches.
Yet another time that he'd failed to protect one of his men. From a physical enemy, or from themselves, what was the difference? Maybe that you actually stood a fighting chance once in a while with the former. He pushed the damp hair back and quietly wiped the blood off Murdock's forehead.
"I just couldn't do it, Hannibal."
The voice was low. Face drew a hand through his hair, and it dropped heavily to his side as he lifted his eyes from the man at his feet, and met Hannibal's gaze. Guilt and anger in an inseparable mix. Lately it seemed those were the only emotions left in Face.
Hannibal nodded, and Face seemed to relax, ever so slightly. He motioned Face out of the van, and after folding a blanket and placing it under Murdock's head, he followed.
Face was leaning against the van, next to the open door, shielding the flame of the lighter against the breeze that tugged playfully at his open jacket.
Hannibal silently watched him close his eyes and angle his tired face towards the warm rays of the sun. The increasing wind caught the blonde hair, longer now than it usually was, and Face pushed it out of his eyes mechanically, revealing the worn elbow of the army surplus jacket. Two sizes too large, long sleeves rolled up. Damn, the kid looked so young sometimes.
Three weeks ago, Hannibal hadn't even begun to suspect how badly affected, how close to the edge his second had come. They were all trained to handle the stress of combat, to operate flawlessly under pressure. But the missions only lasted a couple of days, in extreme cases maybe a week. Not 17 months.
17 months of being hunted like mad dogs, of seeing your face on wanted posters everywhere you turned. Never trusting anyone, never staying at one place more than a couple of days, stretching every precious dollar to last for food and other necessities.
Add to that sleep deprivation and being forced to watch one of your best friends self-destruct, and you have the potential for some pretty serious problems on your hands.
They'd gotten Murdock out of the psychiatric ward four months ago. He seemed better, seemed to be able to cope all right. But they had been there all along; the little telltale signs of what was coming. After two months on the road with them, the carefully constructed facade had started to crack, and Murdock's return into darkness had become obvious. But even then none of them had wanted to accept what it meant.
Not until the night two weeks ago, when Hannibal had broken into a local pharmacy to get his hands on sedatives for the increasingly delusional Murdock. His heart had stopped, an icy lump in his chest, as he'd returned to that hotel room. B.A. semiconscious on the floor, and Face's hands closing around Murdock's throat.
The intention to beat the lieutenant senseless had drained right out of him when he'd met the confusion in Face's eyes. Confusion that had changed into devastation as Face finally seemed to realize what he'd done. He'd refused to touch Murdock ever since, fearing he'd lose control again.
Sometimes Hannibal felt Murdock wasn't the only one he'd lost.
* * *
Footsteps. Funny how that would make sense, but not words spoken in a language I've known all my life. At least I assume you're speaking English, Hannibal, and not Hindi or anything.
You okay, Hannibal? You look a little shaken. A little worn. A little like an angel with the sun behind you like that.
Who you talking to? Where are we?
* * *
"Can't let Faceman waltz in there without checkin' fo' MP's, man." B.A.'s dark eyes were challenging Hannibal to disagree.
"You're right; we can't risk anything." Hannibal turned to get a look at Murdock, barely visible on the floor of the van through the open door. "I'll do a sweep of the area, you guys stay---"
Face dropped the cigarette on the dusty ground and crushed it under his boot.
"I'll take care of it. Gimme some change." He held out his hand at Hannibal. "Don't always have to stick you head in the lion's mouth to get what you need, you know." Face's voice was hard.
Hannibal pinned his lieutenant down with his eyes, and after several long, tense seconds, Face finally backed down and averted his eyes. Hannibal forced himself to relax, to unclench his hands. He couldn't afford to lose it. Not here. Not now.
He searched his pockets. A lighter, keys to the weapons locker in the back, a pack of cards, two one-dollar bills, an extra clip to his gun, and the discarded wrapping to a cigar. But no coins. Hannibal reached for Murdock's jacket through the still-open door. The leather jacket was ripped from his hands.
"Don't you fucking touch his money!" Anger flared in Face's eyes. He tucked the jacket protectively under his arm.
"Shut up!" B.A. climbed down from the driver's seat, and slammed the door shut. He glared warningly at the blonde as he rounded the front of the van and slapped a couple of coins in Face's open palm.
Hannibal and B.A. watched Face walked up to the pay phone on the other side of the road. Face cradled the receiver between his cheek and his shoulder and dialed the number on the crumpled piece of paper he'd kept in the inner pocket of the jacket.
Hannibal saw Face physically straighten up as somebody answered on the other end.
"Hello, nurse? This is Captain Harrison of the military police." Face's voice, strong and authoritative, carried across the narrow street. "Would you give Lieutenant Helt a message, please, ma'am. We seem to have a problem with the radio traffic today. It is imperative that I get in--- What? He's not there?"
"Try Captain Sanchez then." Pause. "What do you mean, he's not there either? Give me anyone on that damned surveillance team."
"What?" His outraged voice held no trace of the brief, self-satisfied grin that passed over his face. " 9 weeks ago?! I'm sorry to have bothered you, ma'am. Seems the radio communication isn't the only thing that doesn't work on this side. Thank you."
* * *
" ... problem with the radio traffic ..."
What's wrong? Did the RTO take a hit?
"... what do you mean, he's not there ..."
Somebody's sure messed up, I can tell. Glad it's not me. At least I think it's not me. Got pretty good at staying out of trouble. Tired. Gonna close my eyes again; sleep a while. I'll feel better in a while.
* * *
As Face finally hung up, he leaned heavily against the pay phone booth, fingers gingerly massaging the temples. Hannibal knew he wasn't the only one who'd had headaches lately.
"Come on, Face; we gotta do this now." Hannibal forced himself to get up and climb into the passenger seat.
"What's the rush?" Face slowly walked up to the van. "You that eager to get rid of him?"
"Shuddup, or I'll shut yo nasty little mouth for ya!" B.A. grabbed Face, pulling him forward by the front of his jacket.
"Bite me." Face's voice was flat, almost indifferent.
The words were hardly out of his mouth before his body slammed into the side of the van with a dull thud. Hannibal managed to wedge in between the two just as Face, suddenly alive with fury, charged his teammate.
"What the hell is the matter with you two?" Hannibal shouted at the two men who were locked in a silent stare-down across the barrier that his body presented. "We don't have time for this!"
He glared at them, waiting for a reaction, but the two showed no sign of standing down.
"Fuck it." He released his grip of B.A.'s jacket, and shoved the two apart. "You wanna have a go at each other?" He lifted his hands in angry resignation as he turned away. "Fine! Go right ahead! I am so fed up with this!"
He aimed a vicious kick at the overfilled trash can on the curb and watched it spill its guts over the asphalt. As his heart slowed down, and the beer cans, candy wrappers, and other assorted items started to bore him, he noticed the silence behind him.
B.A. and Face stood exactly where he'd left them, silently watching him. Face sniffled, and drew his sleeve over his bloodied nose.
Hannibal sighed heavily, and walked back to the van.
"Let's just do this, okay?"
* * *
Damn! I barely close my eyes, and he's there proddin' me, shakin' me like I'm some damned maracas. And they say I'm annoying.
Okay, alright, up we go. Feel a little wobbly on my feet, here. Don't you let go of my arm now, Hannibal. Hmm... Tongue still on vacation, it seems.
Where are we? Great big lawns, must take forever to mow. I think I know this place. I've been here before. One of Face's places? Nah. Too big. Damn, I can't think straight. I can't place it. I know I've been here before. I don't think I like it here.
We going home soon, Hannibal?
* * *
B.A. reached in and picked up the cap from the floor of the van. He dusted it off by smacking it twice against his thigh, and placed it securely on Murdock's head.
"Can't have this laying around in mah van."
Murdock didn't acknowledge B.A.; his eyes were roaming the VA grounds behind the sergeant.
B.A. forced a smile, and patted Murdock gently on the shoulder. "You take care, y'hear."
Hannibal didn't miss the shine in B.A.'s eyes as the sergeant brushed past him and climbed into the driver's seat.
Face was standing by the open side door, arms tightly crossed in front of him. He took one step forward, stopped, and retreated back to the side of the van again.
"I just... I'm sorry, Hannibal. I can't do it." His voice almost broke. "I just can't."
Hannibal nodded heavily. "I'll take him. You stay with B.A."
Face picked the jacket from the ground where he'd dropped it while trying to get his hands on B.A., and shook it before helping Murdock put it on. He pulled the zipper all the way up.
"Just so you don't lose it." He smiled crookedly and ran his hands down Murdock's long arms, and took a short, jerky step back. "You be good now, you hear. Don't give the nurses any trouble; that's my gig." He was trying for humor, but what came through was only emptiness.
After one last, unnecessary, straightening of Murdock's jacket, Face turned around and walked quickly to the van. He closed the door behind him without looking back.
Hannibal gently guided Murdock towards the road that lead up to the main building. The pilot was suddenly frowning, looking back over his shoulder after the van that pulled out from the curb. Confused brown eyes turned on Hannibal.
Please, don't look at me like that.
* * *
Face? Why you lookin' like that, pal? Hey, where you going? Hannibal, they're leaving. Where are they going?
It'll be all right? What do you mean? Of course it'll be all right. It always turns out okay, one way or the other. You're charmed, Colonel. No denying that.
Why won't you look at me?
* * *
Hannibal stepped into the reception area with Murdock in lackluster tow.
The gray-haired duty nurse didn't look up, only lifted her finger at Hannibal in a 'I'll be with you in a minute' gesture, scribbling quickly in a journal in front of her, while cradling the receiver between her flushed cheek and her shoulder. Hannibal resisted the urge to tap impatiently on the desk.
She finally put the receiver down and picked up the journal in front of her and started fanning herself.
"Sorry about the heat in here." She pushed the large glasses up from the tip of her nose. "Been trying to get someone to take a look at the A/C for the past 2 days now, but ..."
The magazine stopped in mid-air as her eyes landed on Murdock.
In a few short steps she was next to him.
"Oh, dear." The nurse repeated shocked, and drew a soft hand over Murdock's pale, stubble-covered cheek. "Where have you been?" The question was spoken softly, sadly.
Murdock's attention lingered momentarily on the woman in front of him, then his eyes resumed their roaming. Professionalism suddenly seemed to return, and she cleared her throat as she lead the apathetic man towards the chairs in the waiting area next to the reception desk.
"Thanks for bringing him in, sir." The tone had changed as she returned to Hannibal; it was guarded and formal. "We'll take it from here."
Hannibal found a smile and nodded, not trusting his voice enough to answer. He knew he should be leaving right now, the way the nurse was looking at him was a sure sign that trouble was close. More than likely the military had distributed pictures of the three of them to the hospital staff, and they were probably under orders to alert the military should Murdock show up, or should they spot the team.
* * *
Lots of people here. Coming and going. In and out. And lots and lots of windows. Don't like windows. Treacherous. Sometimes you see straight through them, not even a reflection to remind you of the glass. And sometimes they're all shiny and glossy and there's no way you'll ever be able to see beyond the surface. And then sometimes they’re just black holes. Waiting to swallow you. Kinda like people.
Too many windows here, and too many people, just like at the hospi...
Don't look at me. I'm not here; I shouldn't be here. Where's the door, gotta get out, gotta get out of here now.
* * *
Hannibal and the nurse turned their head as one as the noise of the chair toppling over echoed through the reception area. It took all of his self-control not to avert his eyes from the pilot who stared at him, frozen in mid-motion.
Murdock's attention suddenly shifted to something behind Hannibal, and his eyes widened in desperate panic. Murdock was in motion before the nurse could move, moving towards the doors. Hannibal easily grabbed a handful of the leather jacket as Murdock tried to squeeze past him. The slight shift of weight was enough to bring the dazed man off balance and Murdock landed in a tangled heap on the linoleum floor next to Hannibal's feet.
The orderlies moved past Hannibal with the gurney and the restraints, pushing him out of the way.
* * *
You wouldn’t leave me here. Would you? Let go, please, Hannibal. Get out of the way. Gotta get out of here, can’t stay here. No no no no, this isn't happening. Please Hannibal, don't do this to me.
Oh, Jesus, you are! You *are* leaving me here! Don't leave me; I'll be good, I promise. I'll get better!
Uh-uh, no way, don't you even try to get near me with those restraints! I don't need it. You hear me?! I don't want it! Hannibal, tell them I don't need it!
Fuck you, Hannibal! Why don't you say anything?!
Let me go, get off! I don't want it, don't need it. Lemme go!
Can’t move. Can’t breath. Damn you for doing this to me, Hannibal! Why didn't you stop them? How can you do this; I thought we were a team? I thought we were *the* team!
Stay with the unit, that's what we do; we stay. Please, don't do this, Colonel. I won't make any more trouble, I'll be---
No! Don't turn away. Don't walk away. Hannibal! Please. Don't leave me all alone here. Don't leave, I wanna go with you. They stuff you so full of all kinds of shit, you don't even know your name. I don't wanna forget who I am. I get all weird here. Please! I know I can get better, I promise. I know I can. I'll...
* * *
The glittering sunlight greeted Hannibal as he stumbled out through the heavy doors, and he all but collapsed on the top step of the warm stone stairs.
Tired. Body, mind, and soul. It was like every ounce of energy had been spent trying to keep himself from beating the hell out of the two orderlies as they wrestled Murdock down.
This sucks, Murdock. Royally, I know. The palms of his hands were cool against his face. I'm sorry for taking you here, but I don't know what else to do for you. I've run out of plans.
Hannibal lifted his head and let his eyes wander aimlessly over the sun-drenched, well-kept lawns; he couldn't find the will to get up and leave the hospital grounds just yet.
Murdock had cried. Cried for God's sake. Wordlessly begging his CO not to leave him as Hannibal had forced himself to turn around and walk away.
A light hand touched Hannibal's shoulder, he was already moving for the holster as he recognized the sneakers next to him on the steps.
"C'mon, man, time to go." B.A. was kneeling next to him. Hannibal saw the fatigue he felt mirrored in the dark face.
Hannibal got to his feet slowly, stiffly. "Yeah, I suppose."
He knew B.A. was right; they couldn't stick around. He still had responsibilities. And to those belonged trying to keep the rest of his team out of the clutches of the military. But before Hannibal would attempt to tackle those responsibilities, he was going to find a place that was reasonably safe, then he was going to find a bottle of whiskey. Three hours would be the target. Three hours from here and now till oblivion.
He climbed in and shut the door. The engine roared to life again. Not the healthiest way of dealing with the little pleasantries life threw at you, but certainly one of the most fast-acting cures for reality.
And reality was that he'd just left one of his men behind.
"Didn't leave nobody behind, man."
Hannibal blinked at the sound of B.A.'s rumbling voice. He hadn't realized he'd spoken it out loud. Hannibal pulled his jacket closer around himself; despite a temperature well into the 80's, he felt cold. As the van gained speed, Hannibal glanced back at Face. The lieutenant had settled into the seat where Murdock had been sitting, his fingers were slowly rubbing the gold cross around his neck.
Say a prayer for him, kid. And while you're at it, throw one in for me too.
~ The End ~
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