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This page last viewed: 2017-08-21 and has been viewed 318 times
Authors: Quentillian & Nora
Face stood at the waist high counter, his hands flat on the pea green Formica and let out a dry, disbelieving laugh. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Sir, you've overdrawn your account." Annabell, the teller, looked from the accounting ledger back to him with an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry but you're $425.76 in arrears, with $23.00 of overdraw fees." She added a sympathetic shrug to her smile. "There's also a $20.00 reinstatement fee for your account. I'm really very sorry."
No. That couldn't be right. He had money in his account. He'd come back to the states with over $5,000, it had all gone into his checking account. I mean sure he'd made some withdrawals, he'd needed to get set up and Los Angeles was not a cheap place to live, but all of it gone? "That can't be right."
"I'm sorry sir, but it is correct." She turned the ledger towards him so that he could see it. "You opened your account and deposited $5,322. Since then there haven't been any deposits and as you can see, lately your withdrawals have been increasing substantially."
Face glanced down at the ledger. Diz was outside, they were supposed to go see Bones after he'd gotten some cash. And now he was looking down the barrel of a very empty, dried up account that had a panicky need setting into his chest. He had to have some cash.
"I can make you a copy if you'd like."
"No." Face could barely hear his voice as he looked back up at her. "That won't be necessary." He muttered a thanks that she might have heard as he turned and left the counter to exit the bank. What the hell was he going to do?
Diz was waiting outside, leaning against the wall of the bank, eyes half closed, hands in his pockets watching women walk past like there was nothing wrong in the world. "Hey man, you good to rock and roll?"
"No." Pulling out a smoke, Face lit it up and inhaled the nicotine like it was going to help take the edge off of how bad he wanted a hit. It was like being told he had no cash and no next hit lined up made him want it all that much more. "I'm fucked man, account's overdrawn and I can't get anymore checks to write."
"So sell some shit." It was all easy for Diz he was high, the bastard.
"I don't have any shit to sell anymore." Face snapped. His list of worldly possessions hadn't been long to begin with. Now it was non-fucking-existent.
"Awe that's bad man."
"I know that."
"How bad you jonesing?" Diz was looking at him with more intensity than he usually could manage in a week.
"Bad." Face hated saying it, but his last hit had been last night. He'd done more than usual so he could sleep through the night, but it had also maxed him out. That was why he'd gotten up and headed straight to the bank. His next stop had been Bones' place, but no cash meant no Bones, no smack, and all sorts of twisted up bad.
To his surprise, Diz smiled a little and gave him a tap on the arm. "Come on, Bones knows a guy." Smiling and stoned Diz started walking towards Bones' place.
"Yeah?" He could feel that weight that had set in on him, lifting a bit. "He work on a line of credit?" Face was already moving, if Diz thought Bones could help, he was all for it. Either that or he was going to have to find some other way to make this happen.
"Like yeah man. I've seen him work out some deal with guys I know. Don't know the details but they all swear it's the best shit they've ever had."
Now that peaked his interest. Face could work deals in his sleep. He'd done one in 'Nam with Thai, the local drug kingpin, he could do it stateside with no language barrier or war zone, while standing on his head. It was perfect. Best heroin anyone had ever tried for a skill Face had mastered long ago. It couldn't have been any closer to impeccable if he'd planned it. No matter what the deal was, it was a damn sight better than the cold sweat, vomiting, skin shrinking, walls closing in, memories raging, withdrawal bullshit. Smiling at Diz Face nodded. "Cool." Yes, a deal was an angle Face could work, and it was a shit ton better than as bad as being sober could get.
Murdock never knew what to do when he was on a plane and not in the cockpit. It felt wrong, unnatural. Watching Japan disappear under the rapidly rising cargo plane, he was forced to accept the fact that he was nothing more than a passenger on this ride, without any control over what happened. It's the way it had to be, he wasn't safe anymore.
Less than twelve hours ago he'd been ankle deep in jungle mud, saying goodbye to the only family he had left so he could go find their prodigal son. Face had run, and once that happened he was fair game to the monsters. The same ones that had Murdock seeing a smiling little girl with beautiful black hair and a hole in her head that had blood and brain matter leaking out. The gaping head wound was the one thing that gave her away as not real. It separated her from the ranks of little Vietnamese kids with missing arms that had overrun the base. Murdock had been back for two days before he'd worked up the courage to ask BA about them. Mostly because Murdock wasn't sure if they were real or hallucinations. But when he saw BA talking to one, Murdock figured they were the real deal.
Feeling the engine of the big plane pulse under him, Murdock smiled when the straining engines mellowed down into a steady vibration. They were at cruising altitude. With nothing better to do and not wanting to sleep where others were, because really, waking up screaming in Vietnamese on a plane full of battle edged soldiers was just a bad idea, Murdock played over his goodbyes with his team.
It was supposed to be a party but no one was in a celebrating mood. Even Cruiser wasn't up for anything harder than some Coca Cola. In the heavy swirls of cigar and cigarette smoke they tried to joke and laugh and act normal, but they all knew it was just an act. After a few hours of old stories and lukewarm sodas they moved out to the ever muddy tarmac and the Freedom Bird. Funny how it didn't feel like freedom.
Just like that Murdock was standing there facing three of the guys that meant the most in the world to him, getting ready to say goodbye. He could see it on their face's; it wasn't the usual happy send off. They all knew it and could feel the unspoken sorrow and weariness. Cruiser stepped in, flicking his smoke to the ground and stepping on it. "You pull any of your crazy shit, you better have someone there to back you up first."
"Don't worry, I'll make sure my wing-man's all lined up before I go for the special fun." Except he was going into this without a wing-man and they all knew it. It was the only choice he had. He was crazy and getting crazier, but he knew, they all knew if he found Face then he had a chance, if not, Murdock was a dead man walking. Murdock offered a hand to Cruiser. When the medic took it Murdock pulled him in for a hug that Cruiser would hate and whispered low, just for the two of them. "Take care, your sister needs you to stay in one piece."
"You get your head back in the fucking clouds, got it Flyboy?" There was a hard hand smacking his back before Murdock finally let Cruiser out of the hug and he was stepping back, already pulling out another cigarette to light.
It was the deepest most heartfelt phrase he'd ever heard from Cruiser. Storing it away for the times in the future when he would need it, Murdock turned to BA. This time he didn't even bother with the handshake, he just grabbed the big guy and hugged him. "I think I'm gonna miss you most of all, scarecrow." BA was the big brother Murdock never had, and he was going to miss the voice of reason and fist of knock-it-off that BA brought to his life.
"Get off me you crazy fool!" BA barked, but he didn't shove Murdock off of him. "You act the fool in the states and I'm gonna find you and use your head for a basketball. Got it!"
"Aw BA, you say the sweetest things." From BA that was I love you, don't be stupid. Easier said then done. BA just growled, finally prying his hands between them and shoving Murdock off of him. And then there was Hannibal.
"Lieutenant." It was a genuine tone full of pride and respect that Hannibal reserved for special occasions. It had Murdock's throat feeling tight and his usual free flowing words hard to find. In all his life, Hannibal was the one person he wanted to be proud of him. His opinion, his respect, his trust meant more to Murdock than anything. That's why when the time had come, Murdock had clipped his own wings. He loved Hannibal too much to have to watch him live with doing it. Raw and half empty, Murdock didn't regret that part. He was the closest thing to a real Father that Murdock had ever had. Saving him some hurt was the least Murdock could do.
"I'll find him, sir. I promise."
"I know." Hands on either of Murdock's shoulders, Hannibal held his gaze, solid and looking right through him. "I've never been prouder to serve with anyone, son." With that, Hannibal was giving him a hug. "You get in trouble you find a way contact me." The team was due for stateside rotation. Hopefully Murdock would still be alive by then. Breaking the hug, Hannibal pulled himself up into a tight salute, one that Murdock returned with all the precision of the Marine he was. Never in his life had Murdock meant a salute as much as he did at the moment.
A sudden drop and bounce had Murdock back in the present. Turbulence had him blinking and looking around, wondering when it had gotten dark. He wanted a cigarette, he needed sleep, lighting up a smoke, he was ensuring he got one of those things. Letting the smoke fill his lungs, Murdock ignored the little Vietnamese girl with half a head who was sitting next to him and smiling. She wasn't real. But Face was, and Murdock needed to find him. He'd made a promise.
Bones' place was a short ten minute walk from the bank and it was exactly what Face had been hoping for. Full of the college, hippie, urban guerrilla crowd, and packed. Drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Face could smell the high the closer they'd gotten. Between the smoky haze and lack of light, you could get lost in the dark rooms full of too many people lucky enough to already be stoned out of their minds. Face hadn't made it halfway through the living room before a used up, raven haired woman was smiling and pressing her half naked body up against him. But he didn't have any product and her interest was quickly lost.
That was fine. Soon enough he'd strike this deal, be high and right with the wind, and then he could figure out if he was even interested in the likes of the women parading around. As he made his way to the back the nods from familiar faces with distant, satisfied stares were plentiful. He threw Bones a nod of his own, shoving his hands deep into his pockets, to keep the small tremors out of sight. "Hey, man."
Bones was high as hell. He always was. Drinking, smoking, and shooting up was all he did. Things like eating or washing his hair hadn't happened for years. He was a waste. Guys' parents were loaded. They bought him this place to keep him in school and out of trouble. All it did was give trouble some doors to happen behind. "Hey bro, what time is it?"
Face just shook his head, smiling all too casually. "You know how it is, just looking for some H. Town's pretty dry though."
"Yeah right man, but lucky for you the Rain Man is in town." Bones gave him a toothy smile. "Here," he handed his joint to the naked girl standing next to him. "Hold that, I gotta go show my friend here who's got the juice." Bones nodded to Face. "Come on bro, time to make some new friends." Bones lead him down a dank hallway and into a room in the back of the house. Even with the door closed Face could hear the hippie music and smell sweet hash. The door opened to a poorly lit room full of naked bodies. It was like every other whorehouse he'd been to, except in the middle of all of it sat a man in a suit. Dark haired, medium build, lean and hard with eyes that saw everything. He managed to stand out yet some how fit right in. Like a ringmaster surveying his show.
Everyone else in the room was too high or too occupied to bother noticing their entrance. Folding his hands in front of him, the guy just raised an eyebrow and gave a polite, if empty, smile to Bones.
"Is there something you need, Bones?" The cultured, bored voice was just one more surreal aspect to the room. Like the two girls giving a guy head not more than a foot away from another guy who was licking blow from a naked girls crotch. Or on the other side of the room, in the midst of a group of men, where two women were on their hands and knees, back to back working a dildo for show. More sex in more ways this side of Bangkok, and all of it was just as cool as if it was afternoon brunch.
"Nah, it's cool Marco. I just wanted you to meet my buddy. He's looking to end a dry spell." The man called Marco tilted his head a little and looked at Face. No, not looking, he was watching, seeing. Face knew the controlled power; the man was no lightweight. In a town full of wanna be's and hanger on'ers, this man was a for real bad ass boss. One that Face couldn't help but watch with more interest and curiosity than normal.
"Really?" Marco reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a cigarette case full of joints and offer one to Bones and then Face. "You seem like the type who's used to getting what they want."
Face didn't hesitate, drugs weren't free, but that's what he was in the market for. Pulling the lighter out of his pocket, Face let the guy wait while he lit up, pulling the smoke in deep to his lungs and holding it there until he couldn't help but cough. He couldn't control the smile, feeling that slow haze dim the bright reality that had started to encroach on his world. "That's some good shit." Face was taking a step closer, head full of cotton balls and everything finally starting to feel at arms length again. "I'm really looking for H though."
"Ah, well then I believe I can help you. Please have a seat." Marco nodded to the chair next to his, and like that it was empty. The woman who had been sitting there was now with another woman, committing a very vivid and distracting sin of the flesh. "Have a drink with me and we'll figure out a way to get what we need."
Very vivid indeed. Soft flesh against soft, all naked and sweaty and a very erotic way as the blond dropped to her knees. Face sat down, finally pulling his eyes away from the women just in time to have shot glass put in his hand. He raised the glass in a toast, "To business and quality product."
"I'm a firm believer in both." Marco raised his glass in return, just like that Face's drink was burning its way down his throat, combining with the haze of excellent weed. The drugs, the booze, the sex; all warm and buffering, keeping him distant and relaxed. Not too relaxed. The things the blonde and brunette were doing to each other had him shifting on the chair.
"What about you... ah?" Marco waved the bottle a little as he refilled Face's glass. He'd let the sentence hang.
"Templeton." Face took a moment to take another hit of weed. It was good but it wasn't the smack he so desperately wanted. One more hit, more distance, more of that edge taken off. "I've always been of the belief that your product is you." He smiled lazily, there wasn't a time in his life where he hadn't been dealing something. Legal or not. And business was always based on reputation.
"That is very true, Tem." Marco was was leaning back in the chair, watching again. "I have plenty of high quality product. What is it that you have?"
And there it was. The pay dirt of his problem. Face threw back the second shot, letting the burn give him some time to sort out his pitch. He made sure to give an appreciative nod at the liquor. "Depends on what you're looking for, maybe some product moved around, kind of line services I've worked with in the past. Maybe something you need. Diz mentioned that you work deals here and there, and I know how to make things happen."
Marco laughed a little, a low deep sound at odds with the grunts and groans from the others in the room. Leaning forward, almost into his personal space Marco smiled. "I'm willing to trade a sample of my finest China White, if you're willing to give me a sample of what I want."
Was his head too foggy to make that sentence make sense? "What?" Face shook his head a bit. "I'm hard up on cash, but I'm good for whatever."
"Excellent." Marco was closer now, his voice low and in Face's ear, like a whisper. "A taste of this." In his hand was a loaded needle. "For a taste of you."
Eyes on the needle, his mouth was watering. It was right there, close enough to reach out and touch. But there was a deal to be closed and it was all shades of foggy in his head. "For…" He wasn't that high and he couldn't follow this. Was the weed that good or was it just Marco? "What?"
"You need to feel the rush of heroin burning up your arm and making everything okay again. You've been using for a while, long enough have your skin feel too tight and your body revolting at the idea of waiting another second for the pain to fade." His voice was low, and he was looking Face in the eyes, long enough for Face to cut his glance away and find those girls again. He looked back when Marcos' hand came to rest on Face's knee. "I know I can make all of it go away. I can get you higher than you've ever been. You won't ever have to come down again. All you have to do is give me what I want." Face was very aware of the scene around him and the hand moving slowly up his thigh and the warm breath in his ear, and his heart pounding in his chest.
Face was looking at him, catching Marcos' eyes, trying to figure out what the hell the man wanted. "What's that?"
That…. Suddenly his mouth was dry. The guy was serious. The hand on his thigh, the close proximity, the reading stare. He wanted Face. What the hell did that even mean? He wanted what with him? Sex? "I'm not a fag, man." The words were slow and cottony coming from his mouth.
"That doesn't matter. It's just business. My product, for yours." So calm, so reasonable.
Marcos' hand was lining up a vein between Face's fingers. "Here's your sample, all you have to do is say the word."
Eyes on that needle, so close to biting into his vein and wiping it all away again, Face looked up at Marco. There wasn't a choice to be made. He wanted the smack, Marco had smack. There was no choice to be made. "Deal."
Leslie once again found herself looking at Templeton and offer up a silent prayer to God. For the past few weeks he'd been losing weight, his handsome profile changing to hard edges and steep valleys. The perfect California tan was gone, leaving him looking sallow and worn. But what worried her most, even more than how sick he looked, was how he seemed to stop caring. It was like he gone off looking for his watch and come back a ghost.
They had agreed to meet here, but when she'd arrived, her knocking woke him up. Glassy eyed and groggy Templeton had stumbled off to the bathroom, leaving her to her own devices. She sat on the edge of Templeton's bed, knees together, ankles crossed, just like the nuns at St. Stephens had taught her. There was something very wrong and all she was doing was working her thumb and forefinger over the gold cross necklace her mother had given her for her Confirmation. Finally, Templeton returned in different clothes, but the new ones were just as dirty as the old ones. Even his beautiful hair was greasy and barely combed. When was the last time he'd even showered?
She'd asked Father Matthew for guidance, he'd suggest a novena to St. Joseph. Father Matthew said St. Joseph would intercede for the sick and those in doubt. Templeton was both. He'd been raised by Nuns, but felt abandoned by God. It broke her heart to see the pain in his eyes, the pain he tried so very hard to hide.
Leslie loved him in a way that scared her. For the first time ever she wanted to know a man. She wanted to know everything about Templeton, to ease his pain and sooth his troubled soul. One smile from him was all it had taken for her to feel what all the other girls in high school had been giggling and dreaming about. In all of her fantasies she'd never imagined it would be this frightening.
"Templeton? Are you feeling alright?"
"Yeah." Rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands, he looked somehow both relaxed and uneasy at the same time. Dropping to his sides, he pulled at the tattered cuffs that hung too far over his hands. "I'm good. Just a long week." He dropped his eyes away from her, almost choking on the last of that sentence.
"Templeton, you're not okay." Leslie never spoke out of turn or contradicted people. Especially a man; she'd been raised proper. So why was she letting go of her cross and leaning forward, trying to get him to look at her, to get him to see that it was okay to need help and that she could help. "Please, go to the campus medical office, or even a doctor in town. Something, anything, before…" Leslie stopped before she could finish that. Death wasn't a topic young ladies should speak of. She could feel her hands clutching the worn bedspread while she silently and desperately prayed for Templeton ... most loving father, ward off from Templeton every contagion of error and corrupting influence; our most mighty protector, be propitious to him and from heaven assist him in his struggle with the power of darkness... The familiar words didn't bring the usual comfort and peace.
"Before what?" He snapped. But, he didn't snap, that was part of why she liked him so much, he was soft and quiet, but there was more in his eyes that she couldn't place and a hard edge. "I'm sorry." He stepped back, shaking his head, looking at anything but her. "I'm fine, I really am." Why did it look like he couldn't stand being near her anymore? All the places he had been so smooth had somehow been replaced with jumpy and strained.
It had to be her. He wouldn't talk to her, he couldn't even look at her. What ever was wrong, she was somehow making it worse. Knowing that had her stomach tightening and made it hard to breath. She couldn't bring herself to look at him, she didn't want to see the anger in his eyes when she wouldn't accept his lie.
"No, no you're not." It was so hard to say, she had to fight to get the words out and even then it was barely a whisper. "I'm so sorry Templeton, but you are not okay." Standing up Leslie made herself to look at him. He was a good man, he deserved that much. "I don't know what's wrong, but there is something wrong, and I seem to make it worse." She should have been able to do better or be better or at least offer him solace.
His eyes were closed. "You don't - " he shook his head, "No, no you don't, Leslie." He seemed to mean it, his voice almost urgent about it. "I'm just trying to figure some stuff out, alright? I promise I'm okay."
"What do you need to figure out?"
"Nothing Leslie. I just..." There was a sadness and urgency, almost a plea, but not quite... she couldn't quite place it as he talked. "I need to get my head straight, figure out some cash and get some sleep."
He was out of money? When her Dad had been audited all he did was stay up and pace and yell. Guilt rushed through her, what kind of woman was relieved that her boyfriend was having money problems? "Is there anything I can do to help?" Leslie knew better than to ask what had happened to the money. It wasn't a woman's place to be so forward.
His laugh was hollow and made her stomach ache. Nothing like what she had known a few short weeks ago. "Unless you can float me your check, I'm on my own with this."
"How much do you need?"
"Like a hundred bucks will probably get me through the end of the month. I should be able to get things sorted out by then."
She didn't have that kind of money. Leslie had enough for school and her summer jobs held left her with a small safety cushion, but she'd lent that money to Templeton two weeks ago. She should have known he was having money trouble! A sudden and sad thought hit her.
"Have you been selling your things to get by? Is that where your watch went and your other things?" How sad was that? Someone as brave and kind as him, forced to have sell things just to make it by. If she hadn't been so worried about her feelings maybe she would have seen it sooner.
Taking a deep breath, he didn't answer for a long moment. Hands pulled into his sleeves, he buried them into his pockets trying to figure out what to say to that. It made his too big tattered jeans pull down on his hips, showing the ribs and bones. "Yeah."
In an instant Leslie knew what to do. It was as if the Holy Spirit was guiding her hands, under her hair, at the back of her neck, undoing the clasp on her necklace. Holding the cross, still warm from her body in one hand, Leslie pulled at his wrist with the other, tugging his hand free from his pocket. Before he could do more than stare at her, she dropped the necklace into his hand and closed her fingers around his.
"Here, take this. My Mother said it's eighteen carat gold. It won't get you one hundred dollars but it should get you something."
His fingers tightened around it and his simple "thank you" told her just how bad off he was. "I'll get it back to you. I promise."
"I know you will."
LA was hot, but not the heavy, damp, Vietnam smothering hot. It was a warmth that caressed your skin with varying degrees of intensity based on how hard the ocean breeze was blowing. It was paradise, exactly the sort of place a hedonist like Face would love.
Murdock tried to shove his hands in his pockets as he walked down the street, only to be reminded that his arm was still pissed about being shot. Without the sling he tended to forget. Then again he was forgetting lots of things lately. The little girl next to him chatted along in Vietnamese. He couldn't see her today but he could hear her laughter. It was easy at the base to pick it out as wrong, but out in the real world with all the noises and voices it was harder to push away. Murdock could head back to the base, but there was no reason to. As of oh-nine-hundred he was on leave. Murdock only had one mission, one purpose, and it was very personal.
All Murdock had to go on was a PO Box at UCLA. That was more than enough. He would find Face. He was good at finding things. There was only one person he couldn't find, but that was a pain for later. Murdock could find his team in the dark in a hot LZ, finding Face in LA would be a piece of cake.
The campus was easy enough to get around, Murdock had no issues finding the P.O. boxes in the student union. He also didn't have any issues with the stares and comments from a few of the angrier hippy types. Compared to the ghost girls laughing, their taunts were harmless.
Looking around the hall full of shiny bright lives with promise and hope, Murdock saw just what he needed to find Face. The pretty little brunette working behind the counter at the information center smiled at him. Taking off his aviators, Murdock gave her his best Southern Gentleman smile.
"Pardon me Ma'am, I was wondering if you could help me?"
It took her a second to realize he was talking to her, but when she did, all the blood seemed to rush to her cheeks and cause her to smile and somehow try to look away. "I sure hope so."
"I'm sure you can darling." Murdock let the drawl go. She was cute and sweet and should feel special. The least he could do was make her feel beautiful. Just like Face would have done. "I'm lookin' for a friend of mine. A real handsome guy in a beach blanket bingo kinda way. Got a smile that runs about two million megawatts, his name's Templeton Peck."
"Hmm…" She contemplated that for a moment, cocking her head ever so slightly as she did. "You have a picture or something maybe?"
"Right here." He gave her his own epic smile and photo from his pocket. BA had taken it, a snap shot of Murdock with his arm around Face's shoulder, and Face with his shirt off, grinning and looking like he was ready for the beach. It was a perfect image of calm and friendship in the middle of hell. Funny that a man who could box a Wildebeest and win had such an artistic eye and pure soul.
"Oh, you mean Killer!" Her smile got even bigger at the sight of Face with his shirt off. "Yeah, he comes by every few days. He took me out for coffee after I helped him get set up with his mail box. Nice guy."
Killer? Murdock managed to not flinch. Face had ran as far as he could and reinvented himself. Some part of Murdock held on to the hope that Face had gone for bigger and better, even though he knew in his heart that Face would be in as bad of shape as Murdock was. The name Killer confirmed what he didn't want to think about.
"Now that sure sounds like my friend. Do you maybe know where I could find him?"
"Yeah, I've seen him hanging out at stupid Diz's dive of a place." The way she deflated with annoyance couldn't be good. "It's the third house off the South end of the campus. You can't miss it, it's the pigsty with the rusted out motorhome parked in front."
"Thank you kindly, Ma'am. You've been very helpful." Murdock tipped his hat to the girl. He could have asked for her name or number but what was the point. If things were as bad as he was afraid, he would fulfill the blood promise they'd made. After that neither Face nor Murdock would be alive to care.
He was pretty sure the laughter wasn't real.
A quick walk led him right to the place the girl described. The girl was right, it was a pigsty. No, not true, pigs didn't leave trash and shit all over the yard. It wasn't the unkempt, unwashed people milling in and out that got to Murdock. No, what got him was a the lost dead eyed look that reminded him of his sister and all she'd lost.
The closer he got to the house the louder the music and heavier the smell of pot became, not just pot, other things. God Dammit Face! Flicking his smoke to the ground, the smoke he'd never realized he had, Murdock headed up the termite infested steps and through the open front door.
The smell and sounds and black lights and lava lamps hit him all at once, making him want to lash out and crush all the noises crowding in his head. He didn't have time for that. He had to find Face. Grabbing the shoulder of the guy closest to him, Murdock yelled over the music. "Hey, where's Killer?" Assholes picking a name like that; like it was a joke to cut the life out of someone. The half alive kid nodded his head towards a back hall, without another word Murdock strode across the room and into the hall. The hairs on his neck stood on end when he saw the pile of filthy clothes and lank greasy hair. He knew what he didn't want to know and saw what he didn't want to accept: there leaning against the door, high out of his mind was what was left of Face, the best friend he'd ever had.
Eyes sliding close, Face let the back of his head lull against the wall of Diz's place, loving the welcome, warm pull of the heroin, right into its cottony fog. It hushed the noise from everyone else in the house and in his head until there was nothing but a muffled, entirely white hum. He wasn't hurting or thinking, or trying to get away from either. Just sinking into the wall behind him and letting the world roll on by like a powerful wave deep in the ocean. It felt so fucking good to not feel.
He needed this all the time. To forget it all. Sunshine, Hannibal, Murdock, Butch, Ivan, Marco… all of it, fading away to black and finding that peace that only a sting in his arm brought. It was as close to Father Maghill's promise of a state of grace as he'd ever find.
It was beautifully distant noise. All of it; the laughter and chatter in the room, the music, the bustling. The screaming and begging of the past locked away in his head, unable to get through the fog.
Hands were grabbing the front of him and pulling him upwards, making his head flop backwards, snapped him out of his sought after high. What? Instinct kicked into gear, forcing his eyes open and his hands to try and protest the assault as he scrambled to get his feet under him again. What the hell was going on? Muted thoughts making his limbs heavy and his words slurred "Get the fuck off me!" He tried to plant his feet on the ground, but his stupid legs were still enjoying the high. Whoever was on him was more efficient. Face couldn't fight his way free.
Without even managing to slow the guy down, Face was dragged by the back of his jacket, through the hall and towards the burning bright light from the front door. "Awe now don't be shy Killer." That voice grated, ringing bells he didn't want any part of. "Gotta take a little walk, can't talk when we're surrounded by shit. You should remember the value of securing your surroundings."
It was all garbled in layers of familiar and unwanted, wrapped in the need to get free and run. Adrenaline dumped into his veins, panic fighting the sedate lull of heroin. His efforts to break free had him bouncing off a wall and tripping over garbage strewn on the floor. "Fuck off, Murdock!" Murdock? Why'd his mouth know what was going on but he still couldn't put the pieces together?
"Nope." Murdock tossed him out the door and into the beer can littered yard. Losing his balance, his feet got tangled in debri. Desperation had him trying to right himself, but his attempts to push himself up only lead to faltering and finally falling down. By the time he managed to stop flailing and get to his back, he saw with his own burning, watering eyes what his brain already knew. Murdock was here. Fuck.
"Well looky looky, Sergeant Peck's gone and got himself a new name and a new life. How about that? Tell me Killer, do you like being a heroin using waste of space, boy?"
"I'm not your fucking Sergeant."
"No, you're my fucking friend, moron!" Murdock was on him, pinning him to the ground, eyes blazing with rage and something Face fucking got high to forget.
"I'm not shit to you anymore you stupid fuck." Face didn't have time for this bullshit. He'd been discharged, packaged up all nice and tidy without word one about it. They could all fuck off and stay in Vietnam where they belonged. Grabbing whatever he could get his hands on, Face clawed, trying to get out from under the taller man. When the hell had Murdock gotten stronger than him? Finally he managed to pull his head back and slam it forward, smashing his forehead into Murdock's nose.
Blood poured down down. It always did with them. From Murdock or him, he couldn't tell and it didn't fucking matter. He just needed the stupid fuck to get off him, or to let up or something, but no. Fucking Murdock never could just stop. Bleeding all over both of them, Murdock balled his fist up into Face's shirt and lifted him a few inches off the ground, slamming him back down, bouncing his head off the ground.
"Liar! I'm your fucking friend! We made a promise!"
Face's ears recognized the sickening, hollow laugh as his own. White flashes in his vision that punctuated Murdock's attack. "I can't even kill myself, you son of a bitch."
Letting go of his grip on Murdock's jacket, Face shoved his palm up against the pilot's jaw, trying to make some space to get away, but the blood was making things slippery and the heroin just wanted to sleep again. "Why couldn't you just stay the fuck in Vietnam!"
"What's wrong, Facey? Can't stand the fact someone actually loves your sorry ass enough to track you down and pull you out of your little rat hole?"
There was a fist to the jaw, snapping his head back and diming the edges of his vision. Face rolled as much as he could under Murdock. He wasn't getting away. He was done, bringing his arms up to cover his head, the hollow laugh was back, echoing out of him. Only one person loved his sorry ass and Face'd rather die than go there again. "Do it, Murdock. Fucking kill me."
"You wanna die, Facey? Fine! You tell me that when you are sober and ain't dying for a fix and I'll do it." Face could feel Murdock's hands shaking, and hear how his voice had dropped to a whisper. "I mean it. I ain't going to leave you like this."
"Do it, man." Face didn't even know if Murdock could hear him through the ringing in his ears and the safety of his arms. "I'm five minutes into my high, as stoned as I can get." When more fists didn't rain down on him, Face peered out at a man he'd once sworn his life to in blood that had spilled from neither of them. "You think being sober is going to change my mind, you don't have a fucking clue what you're talking about, I don't give a shit how much you think you know from watching Lanie chase that needle."
Murdock flinched and Face knew he'd hit home, just like he'd wanted. He needed to piss Murdock off, he needed him to end it. To put Face out of his fucking misery, to do what Face couldn't. He was so close to free.
Until Murdock put his head back and howled. Not anger, not pain, but fucking laughter. Dry and unhinged it echoed through the yard and off the two of them and out into the open and up to the cops who'd appeared with their guns drawn.
"The drugs sure wanna kill you, but I need to wait to talk to the real Face." The fucker was smiling when he said it. There was just a hint of emotion, the pain and hate and fear and misery in Murdock's eyes before the shouting of orders cut through. Hands were grabbing at him, pressing him to the ground, orders to freeze and handcuffs clicking, all before Face could piece it together.
They drug Face and Murdock to separate campus security cars. It didn't take long for the actual cops to arrive after that. Campus security was adamant they go to jail. They'd been having problems with that house, shocking as that was, and they wanted charges pressed on everyone. Fuck it. Face let his eyes slip closed. It didn't matter, it was more shit that could all fall on top of the pile of things that heroin made go away.
A/N: We did it! They're finally back together! A quick note; this last scene was one of the first written when exploring the basis of this book. It has taken us almost 5 years to see it published, and what a journey it has been.
Murdock was pacing. Back and forth, back and forth, quick turns and forcing himself to push through all his unwanted company; Trace and the girl and the Marine who'd drowned in his own blood a few months ago while they'd all watched helplessly. Right past the horrified Viet Cong who'd been carved up at the hands of an animal. They weren't real anymore. Neither was Face, not until he was sober and past the dope sick. Murdock needed out of the jail cell, he needed to not be listening to Face's fucked up breathing and twitching, and smelling the destitution. It was too close. He'd been down this damn road before, he wasn't going to lose anyone else on it.
He needed Hannibal.
Closing his eyes for a second he walked into the spot where the half headed girl was giggling up at him. Focus. Damn it, there was no time for voices and memories. He had to get out of here. Get help, get Hannibal. The police had separated him and Face for booking. Prints, pictures, all shit he'd done before. The only thing that was new was the way he'd flinched when they took his took his dog tags. It had been years since he'd had them off.
No dog tags, no uniforms, no ID. Gotta love CIA missions. People screaming at him and Hannibal in Chinese, Murdock knew what they were saying. They knew that. Grabbing him, yanking at Murdock's hair, yelling questions he could never answer. Punches, kicks, Bamboo canes; it all blended, it was white hot pain, too much to get away from, too big to hold on too. Hannibal yelling, trying to distract, draw their attention. He wanted to tell Hannibal it was okay. Murdock knew how to take beatings. It would stop and he would heal or he would die. You just rode it out, far away, looking down from the top corner of the room watching it all from a warm safe distance. ragging and hands and he was upright trying to hold his head up, one eye swollen shut, lips bleeding, he give a smile his best try. They would get nothing. It was so easy, he was a pro.
And then the world stopped.
He heard the words before he saw the needle. Heroin; get him to talk. Somewhere in the distant darkness an animal screamed in pain and attacked. Lashing out, trying to kill everything in its path, and then the scream was a wailing keening and everything lost focus. The needle had hit home He was going under, drowning in nothing, losing control . . .
No! No! He couldn't be there now. No! He was in a holding cell, not China. He was waiting to make his phone call and to be arraigned. He had to keep control. Face needed him, the real Face. He had to do right by their oath. Forcing himself to stand still and pry his hands off his throbbing skull, he looked at the mess that used to be the one person in the world who understood, who knew.
Yanking his hands down, he spun around, grabbing the bars, trying to focus on breathing. Deep breaths in and out. Panicking was stupid. Something he didn't do. He could bring a huey down on top of Charlie's little pea brain in the middle of a firefight, with bombs exploding and people dying and never break a sweat.
He could do this.
He had to do this.
He had made a promise.
One that was going to kill them both.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why the fuck did it have to be heroin? Face had avoided it like the plague, even when he was muling it in 'Nam. Why? He could have fought it, he could have done anything. Why that?
Murdock knew the answer, he knew just how far away you could go. Only difference was he didn't need heroin to get lost. Murdock spent most of his life lost, he needed something to tie him to the real world, to keep him from wandering too far off into those dark woods.
"God damn it, Face! You were supposed to be real!" Murdock's foot hit Face's shoulder with just enough force to shake his whole wasted, stinking, emaciated body.
That earned him a groan. Skeletal hands batting at Murdock's foot a few seconds too late. The one thing he'd never thought he'd see was Face looking like an abused stray in a county orange. "Fucking just let me sleep!"
"You ain't sleeping you stupid shit, you're passed out!" He managed not to hit Face again, even though Murdock's hands were twitching to slap the stupid out of Face.
Face's body rose with the first actual deep breath he'd managed to take the whole time they'd been there. A second later a frustrated hand was scratching at his face and pushing too long hair out of his eyes before shoving himself up to sit on the edge of the bed. "Who the fuck cares? It's as close to sleep as I ever get anyway."
"I do you stupid shit!" It was pointless, Murdock knew it, but he was still arguing with an addict. He was too mad not to.
"Yeah, well I don't."
"Too fucking bad. I don't give a damn what the damn drugs think. I don't care about the junkie. I only care about what Face says."
Trace snickered off to Murdock's side. Told you Peck was useless. Dead Trace was just as much of an asshole as the live one had been.
"Right." It was dismissive at best and lacked any real fight. Pushing himself up, Face was unsteady as he made his way to the other side of the cell to the toilet.
"Poor little junkie can't stand being loved." Murdock was smiling because he knew he was right. "It's a lot easier to be forgotten, hated even. Easier to handle." Murdock stepped closer, looking for any sign of life in Face's bloodshot eyes. "Run off to be someone new, no one knowing. It's so much easier to take a punch then to have to see someone care about you."
"Fuck off, Murdock." Hand on the wall in front him, holding himself steady, Face didn't even bother looking at Murdock. Finally frowning, like he was still processing what Murdock had said as he pulled the lever for the toilet. "What the hell are you even doing here?"
"Wow boy, you sure you ain't been shooting up stupidity? 'Cause I already told you why I'm here." He was close now. Face was a threat, not this guy. Murdock smiled wide. "I'm here cause I made a promise and sealed it while my hands were covered in that guy's intestines." Murdock nodded to the VC in the corner with arms covering the torn open guts, trying to hold what was left in. Murdock was still smiling, watching Face close enough to see the shove coming a mile away. It was so easy to step with it.
Laughter filled the cell, Murdock's mixing with the others. "Don't be mad, I'm just answering your question."
Face didn't follow up the shove like Murdock had expected, settling for the space instead. "You're a fucking douchebag. That's it."
"Oh yikes, you're wit it is so very sharp, better be careful, don't wanna get cut." Murdock stepped back to the cell door. Someone was coming, he could hear the footsteps. "Hey, Killer." Murdock tried to push his hands in his pockets and lean against the bars. He was half successful, the bullet hole in his arm stopped him a bit short. "Tell me, just how long do you think you have before your skin starts creeping up your back and you get all clammy, stomach twisting up, making you puke up food you ain't even eaten? Man I bet it's gotta suck to be strung out and locked up far away from getting the high on."
Face shot him a glare but that was all. Jaw clamping shut, Face flopped down on the bunk, eyes closing tight. His filthy, track marked hands went over his eyes. One more desperate attempt at a barrier to keep the world out. It would have been laughable if it wasn't so damn pitiful. "I came half a world away to find you, I'm not going away, pretending ain't gonna change that."
He stopped talking, the footsteps were too close. This was a private conversation, meant only for Face and him, not for the guard standing at the door. "Murdock, you're out." It was no surprise that a nice, fresh from the military boy was going to walk away from fighting with a drug addict. The guard opened the door. "You may wanna get that cut stitched up and stop hanging around with scum like Peck."
Murdock strolled out of the cell, smiling at the scum and then at the cop. "But Officer, I love him." He made sure to say it loud enough for Face to hear too. The core part of Murdock, the part that just loved to stir up trouble, grinned at the officers appalled expression. Served the bastard right for calling Face scum. Nobody but team had earned the right to judge him. Somewhere under the mess of drugs was a tiny spark of Face. Murdock had pushed 'till he'd found it. It was there, he saw it, he knew. Now he had to figure out how to get past all the drugs and jonesing and defense to ask the real Face the only question that mattered.
He needed to talk to Hannibal.
Three O'clock in the morning was not a time when anyone expected to be woken up. Let alone by some scrawny private that couldn't have been in country for more than a few days insisting that he get up and take a phone call from the states. Even in his half dead state of awareness Hannibal was up and moving at the mention of Murdock's name. A phone call was not good and Hannibal could feel the anticipation and dread as he made his way across the base, to the TOC, steeling himself for what was to come.
"This is Smith." He said into the over-sized receiver.
"I found Face, but he's not all Face anymore." Murdock's voice was loud, it had to be to fight it's way through static and eight thousand miles. Even with all the distance, Hannibal could feel the blunted, flat edges that were so very wrong coming from his overly animated Lieutenant.
He'd found Face. That was the only thing that made sense or gave any light to the situation. "What do you mean he's not Face any more?" Hannibal's eyes were narrowing at nothing. Willing the connection to hold strong and for Murdock to have hung on to the last bit of sanity he'd had left the last time Hannibal had seen him.
"He's using. Got himself all turned into a junkie and I can't find the real Face to ask him." It wasn't rambling but it was close.
"He's using?" Hannibal stood there for a second. Perhaps the connection was faulty. But no, there was no clarification coming from Murdock. "How bad and what?" There were a few things that Hannibal needed to know.
"Heroin." The drop at the end could have been the connection, but Hannibal knew better. It was Murdock having to force out the word. It was one answer for both questions. Hannibal's eyes slipped shut, his heart sinking into the pit of his stomach. It had to be heroin. What the hell was that kid thinking? He'd seen what that shit lead to. Hell, Hannibal had pulled him out of his entry level position on the other side of the business, and now he up and decides to start using?
No. That was just. Unacceptable. His team. His crew did not succumb to something as stupid and worthless as heroin. Hannibal Smith wouldn't have it. It was steel inside of him like it had been years ago with Murdock, and it was with Thai, and it was a fact that still remained true. A pop of static snapped him back to the fact that Murdock was still on the other end of the phone, calling from another world. "Where are you at?"
"Outside the LAPD. Face is still locked up."
"He's in jail?" That didn't matter. Actually, all things considered it may be better for both Face and Murdock if Face was in jail. Maybe Murdock too.
"Yeah, but keeping him there may be a problem." It always was.
"I need an address Murdock." Hannibal shuffled around, grabbing at containers on the desk trying to find a pen and paper. "Some place I can find you."
"Two blocks off the main campus of UCLA. Face got a room at a piece of shit party house owned by a idiot who goes by Diz. I'm going stake it out."
"No." That was worse than Custer's genius planning at Little Bighorn. "Murdock you're not staying there, that's asking for problems."
"You're breaking up." Murdock was a shitty liar.
His voice raised a notch, taking full command over the phone. "You want to help Face, you lay low. Find a motel somewhere near until I get there."
"Do you think it's me?"
"No." Somehow Hannibal's stomach sank even more. He knew what Murdock was asking, like a little kid, frail and alone who had been shunned one too many times and just wanted a hug. "No, Murdock, it's not you."
Eight thousand miles away he could hear Murdock let out a shaky breath. "We need help. We need you."
Didn't they all. "Hang in there Murdock, I'll be on the next flight out." He wasn't quite sure how he was going to swing that with Mifflin, but he'd find a way. The guy was itching to get them off this base anyway.
"Thank you. I need to... and I don't know ... I just… In case, you should and we..." Murdock was stumbling over the words. "In case we don't make it I want to say thank you for always treating me like a man and..." The rest of his words were lost to static.
"Murdock!" Hannibal's gut was twisting listening to last words. "Murdock!" There was nothing but static left that a hard thunk of the receiver against the desk did nothing to fix. Goddamn it! Those two were headed into hell at Mach One with nothing more than a lunatic's smile and the Devil's silver tongue, and there wasn't a damn thing Hannibal could do about it from this piece of foreign dirt.
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