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‘Tis The Season For Family

'Tis The Season For Family
by Adalia, December 2001

Rating: G
Warnings: Some sap. Well, alright. A lot of sap.
Summary: Murdock plays Santa and everyone except Stockwell gets for Christmas what he really wants most. This is in the middle of the fifth season somewhere, and let's all just forget about A.J. Bancroft for a bit, okay? :-)
Comments: Always welcome.
Author's Note: I wrote this while possibly under the influence of a 101 degree fever the other night, and no one's looked over it since, so it might be a little strange in places. :-)


***Two Days Until Christmas***

Murdock was in a bad mood. He wasn't the only one, either, and he figured that to be the problem in the first place. No one was in a good mood. It was especially depressing because it was only two days until Christmas.

Now that he thought about it, things had been working up, or down, depending on how you looked at it, towards this overall depression for nearly three months. Frankie had been slowly going crazy between not being able to see his father and never measuring up to the Team's, or anyone's, standards. BA had been more surly, he rarely did more than growl and had even
stopped working fanatically on his van. Face had moped around the house at Langley looking increasingly disheveled, not once making a serious attempt, let alone a successful one, at picking up a girl in over two whole months. And Hannibal . . .

Ever since their second trial, and their 'capture' by Stockwell, Murdock had seen Hannibal as a bit of a caged lion . . . unwilling to remain in captivity but unable to escape. He could see it in his eyes, the defiance every time that Stockwell sent them on a mission or told them to, "do it my way."

Working for the general didn't sit at all well for any of them, and apparently it was finally starting to really get to all of them. And Murdock didn't like it. He had just spent an afternoon attempting to console an inconsolable Frankie Santana, who had just committed a stupid, though not fatal nor wholly inexcusable, mistake on their last mission. Being more irate than usual, Hannibal had taken out his frustrations on the young man, bawling him out for his mistake. The Colonel had never ascribed to the system by which officers put the fear of God into their troops by yelling at them and scaring them out of their minds whenever they made a mistake. He believed in somewhat, though not much, gentler methods by which the soldier might actually learn from his mistake...  and Murdock wasn't happy with the recent changes in his post-mission attitudes. He knew Hannibal would apologize and fix the situation, but Murdock felt that the Colonel never should have been pushed so far that he would snap like that in the first place. And he blamed it solely upon Stockwell.

Hannibal hadn't even made a boastful comment about plans coming together, that last time, and that was when Murdock began to think about what was going wrong with all of them.

When he watched the thoroughly depressed Frankie leave his apartment with a promise that he would go straight home, no matter how much he dreaded facing Hannibal again, Murdock decided it was time to do something.

He checked his calendar to be sure that he still had a couple of days, then grabbed his leather jacket and baseball cap and left the apartment.

***Two Days Later - The Morning of Christmas Eve***

Sitting around silently in the living room, no one felt quite like Christmas. Murdock had disappeared two days ago with a short note saying he'd be back for Christmas dinner. Everyone else had continued to feel the depression that had been plaguing them recently. Even Stockwell seemed more sour than usual. Though that might have been the result of a particular conversation that transpired between him and Hannibal in a private office. It had ended with shouting, a punch, a smash heard by the rest of the team two rooms away, a bruise on Hannibal's arm, a black eye sitting happily on Stockwell's face, and a week of 'Christmas vacation' for the team. The small victory had lifted everyone's spirits for a while, but it hadn't lasted.

***That Night - Christmas Eve***

It was snowing, and Murdock hadn't made it back for dinner.

Everyone was sitting in the living room again. Other than the sporadic grabs for the bowl of popcorn sitting in between Face and Frankie, the only motion was the impatient tapping of Hannibal's foot and an occasional sneeze from Face, who kept muttering about being allergic to cold in general.

Suddenly the door swung open and three heavily coated figures walking in amidst a swirl of snow. The door closed and the three began to unbutton their coats. The first recognizable figure to emerge was that of Stockwell.

In one fluid motion BA stepped forward, pushed Hannibal back into his seat with both hands on the older man's shoulders, and moved across the room to 'stand guard' near the door. Hannibal seethed quietly in his chair, Frankie watched the proceedings with
mild interest, and Face sneezed.

They recognized Carla next, and then Murdock. "Hey, guys!" Murdock called happily. "You won't believe what I got all of you for Christmas . . ."

They all nodded, waved, or mumbled a greeting in reply.

"Wow, what a bunch of grinches. You're gonna love this, though!" With that, Murdock gave Stockwell a hearty slap on the back.

Stockwell took a step forward under the force of the slap, reaching back with a glare at Murdock and taking four manila envelopes from Carla. Then he walked into the room.

As he passed BA, handing him one of the envelopes, the big man stared for a moment and then started, amazingly, to giggle. Back in the doorway, Murdock, and even Carla, were starting to laugh.

Stockwell went to each of the seated men in turn, handing each of them an envelope. "No, they're not pardons. I only know what's in his," he said, pointing back at BA. Then he turned without further comment and started to walk out. When Hannibal, Face, and Frankie got a good look at his back, they, too, began to laugh.

When Murdock slapped him, he had pasted a note onto his jacket. It read, "Kiss me, I'm a Christmas Elf!"

There was silence as Stockwell and Carla put their coats back on. When they turned to leave, Face could have sworn that Carla had winked at him.

The four men looked at the envelopes they each held, then questioningly up at Murdock. That worthy was grinning happily from ear to ear.

"I want each of you to take a turn, so I can see everyone's expression perfectly when they open theirs. I got you guys the *best* gifts in the world!" he said excitedly, bouncing over in front of Frankie. Pointing at the younger man he said, "You first."

Frankie shrugged and tore open the envelope. He pulled out a single sheet of paper. He read it over quickly, then again more slowly with a disbelieving look on his face. Then he jumped up, tears in his eyes, and wrapped Murdock up with a bear hug, saying, "Thank you, Murdock, that really *is* the best gift in the world!"

Murdock laughed and explained to the others, "It's an appointment with a very busy doctor who happens to be the world's leading specialist in cases like Frankie's father. Don't worry," he added, looking at Frankie, "the bill is covered."

With that and a smile he moved over to BA. "You next, big guy."

BA opened his envelope and also pulled out a single sheet of paper. He read it over and then said out loud, "Signed permission from Stockwell to take a month off and visit Mama! And you can all come if you want!"

"I had to twist his arm a bit, but he finally agreed!" Murdock laughed.

The rest of the team was now in shock, Murdock seemed to be pulling off the impossible and giving each of them *exactly* what they wanted most. Murdock laughed happily at the incredulous look on BA's face and practically pounced on the larger man with a hug. BA growled, but Murdock could swear he saw a tear forming and heard whispered in his ear, "Thanks, fool."

Face and Hannibal had both figured out the pattern. Murdock was giving them their *families.* Hannibal looked agitated and Face looked almost as if he were barely daring to let himself be hopeful, and the Captain was loving every minute of it.

Murdock went to Face next. "Okay, your turn."

Face looked up at Murdock for a second, then down at the envelope.

"Go on," Murdock coaxed.

Face opened the envelope and took out a letter and three photos. Looking at the photos first, he gasped. "Who . . . ?" he asked Murdock.

Murdock pointed at the photo of a very small child. "Well, that's you . . . this one's your mama's first grade school picture . . . and this one's the woman who was happy to give me this to give to you. She's a cousin of your mother's, making her a cousin of yours. They grew up together . . . the letter's from her. She wants to meet you at the very least, though I got the impression from her that she'd rather marry Hannibal and adopt the rest of us . . . "

By this point Face was crying, and he jumped up to give Murdock his third hug of the evening. "Murdock, how can I ever . . . "

Murdock held him for a moment, patting his back and shushing him, before letting him back down into his seat.

Turning in preparation of the unveiling of the fourth gift, Murdock was mildly surprised to see tears brimming in Hannibal's eyes as well.

Their gazes met and Murdock said, "I see you already know what's in yours. I guess it was too much to expect to leave you 'til last and still have it be a surprise, hmm?" He grinned.

Hannibal shook his head and said, "Murdock, how?"

"Well," Murdock replied, "I still have some friends in the Company, and it's been a good two decades since I last asked for a favor. I have a friend who has a contact in the good doctor's office," he said, motioning towards Frankie. "I have a friend to whom Stockwell just happened to owe a small favor," he said, motioning to BA. "And I also have a friend who dabbles in genealogy and was only too happy to hook me up with possible relatives using his own contacts in the Company to smooth things out a bit," he added, motioning to Face. "I just couldn't get over the feeling that there was no way he could be the only son of two only children, both of who's parents were only children, and thus the only member of his family the Company could find anywhere in the country before Christmas," he finished with a grin.

Hannibal shook his head again, and Murdock got the point. "But I didn't really answer the question you asked, did I?" he said thoughtfully. He leaned closer to Hannibal and whispered, "Just because every copy you knew about of something was destroyed in a fire, doesn't mean that there isn't another one somewhere, just waiting for the right moment to be found. Open the envelope."

Hannibal opened the envelope. He slipped out a single photograph, in black and white, of a woman and a child. As his finger slowly traced the curve of the woman's cheek he closed his eyes and seemed lost in memory for a moment.

When he looked up at Murdock again, he was beginning to smile. "Thanks, Murdock," he said simply.

"My pleasure," the Captain replied, adding, "I can't tell you how wonderfully refreshing it is to see you smile again."

The three others knew that, somehow, the picture was of Hannibal's family. They also knew that they would hear the story when Hannibal was ready to tell it.

"Hey, Murdock," Face said, "You just gave each of us our *families* for Christmas, and I don't think one of us got a single thing for you . . . "

"Don't worry about it," Murdock said. "I got what I wanted most, I got *my* family back. You guys were getting so depressing, I had to do *something* to cheer you up . . . "

Murdock was immediately pelted with popcorn from the general direction of Face and Frankie.

Murdock danced happily back to the center of the room, catching some of the popcorn and tossing it into his mouth. He looked at his smiling friends' faces with unrestrained glee. "And at the risk of sending you all into shock," he grinned, "there's one last envelope here."

He pulled a fifth envelope out of his back pocket, where it had been rolled up and stuffed so that it was hidden. He tossed it to Hannibal.

"I thought it would be funny to have Stockwell deliver the envelopes, but I didn't want his slippery fingers anywhere near this one," he said with a laugh. "Well, go on, open it . . . "

Hannibal tore open the envelope and pulled out a stack of papers, looking at a few of them quickly. Then he burst out laughing. "This appears to be a list of the criminal activities of our favorite General!"

"Blackmail material!" Frankie exulted as he and the others gave a short ovation for Murdock, who bowed theatrically.

"Merry Christmas, guys!" Murdock shouted above the din. "Man, do I love it when a plan comes together!"



Tis The Season For Family by Adalia



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