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Killing Time

Killing Time

By The Jipster

 

Rated:  R

 

 

vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

 

Part 3

 

Thomas walked along the street, passing people with smiles on their faces and all the joys of life in their expression. He moved uncomfortably in his clothes, he had grown accustomed to the uniform Nam had provided him, it felt odd to be able to wear what he wanted again.

He had been back for almost a week and found himself in Washington, nothing seemed the same anymore. He found it hard to talk about the war with people who couldn't begin to imagine what it was like. He found himself not wanting people to know he had been out there, the abuse he'd received from some for even going to Nam was enough to make his blood boil.

It appeared that America was just getting on with life, not wanting to know about the horrors of Vietnam. People were rallying to end the war, a good thing he thought but the soldiers seemed to be hated as much as the government.

This new era of peace and love didn't fit right with him, after everything he'd seen he didn't believe there was such a thing.

Looking at his watch Thomas walked towards a park bench and seated himself, making sure the copy of the local paper was there for all to see. He looked around and waited, he was meeting the originator of the letter Smith had received about the rookie pilot.

"Mr Thomas?"

"Who's asking?"

"Red man four, I hear your interesting in acquiring a lost soul?"

"Cut the crap, just tell me what I have to do," Thomas snapped, just wanting to get on with business.

The man seated himself, his young face expressionless as he looked around him.

"So come on then, Smith's had me playing cat and mouse with you, talk," Thomas demanded growing impatient.

"I have some bad news," the man spoke.

"I've wasted my time?"

"We had a report in today that claims that the man in question is dead, killed on duty in a crash," the man looked away.

"A crash?"

"He was assigned to a mission, no men survived including your friend."

"Right," Thomas spoke with shock. "There's no chance he survived?"

"Early reports suggest there was no way he could have, most of the men have been recovered scattered over a one mile radius. The chopper was burned out on impact, we don't know what went wrong."

"So who are you then?" Thomas asked, seeing no need to speak in riddles any more.

"I'm Dr Richards, I looked after Murdock when he first came back."

"From Nam?"

"No, from a personal hell before Nam," Richards emphasized.

"I thought the kid had problems," Thomas shrugged as he remembered the attitude Murdock carried with him to begin with.

"The CIA made a mistake, then to cover up the mistake they sent him to Nam. Hoping the horror of war would erase their mistake," Richards suggested.

Thomas looked around and stared at the young doctor.

"You telling me, Murdock was only in Nam to be erased?"

"They figured he'd be less of a problem for them and easier to eliminate," Richards frowned. "They didn't count on him actually being of use out there, when he left us he was pretty mixed up."

"He made a lot of trouble for himself out there, until Smith got hold of him."

"He was just a kid when the CIA targeted him, they saw his potential. A quick study, he was the best prospect the air force and the US probably had for a long time. Only, the CIA wanted more than a great pilot, they wanted him to become something more," Richards carefully explained. "They sent him on what they led him to believe would be a routine mission, delivering some form of newsletter. They were planning to test him, see how he was progressing but didn't realize that one of there own had earmarked Murdock for his own organization."

"I don't understand," Thomas admitted.

"The plan was for Murdock to be ambushed and they would then see how he'd react, telling him at the end that it was a mock up. Only the guy who led the operation had no intention on letting Murdock think it was a game, he took his chance to take the CIA's prodigy for his own fight for power."

"The CIA had a wannabe power monger in its ranks?" Thomas smiled.

"Now you can probably see why finding Murdock, and finding him alive was not what the CIA thought to be in their best interests," Richards frowned.

"But, he didn't speak a word of this to anyone, I didn't know till he'd gone that he even worked for the CIA," Thomas defended.

"I believe he never did work out the truth, I wanted to tell him but how would I begin?" Richards explained. "He had to pay the price for being a mistake," he added sadly.

"Well they made another mistake by sending him to the same base as Colonel Smith, he's famous for making soldiers out of misfits," Thomas grinned.

"Doesn't mean anything now though, the CIA got him killed in the end," Richards sighed and stood up.

Thomas watched the young man leave, he knew he would have to report back to Smith somehow and stood up to follow thinking he should get more information whilst he could.

Thomas had almost caught the doctor up when a man in a dark coat brushed past Richards, Thomas watched as Richards fell to the ground. Darting forward, Thomas went to Richards's side and saw the dark coated man continue on as if nothing had happened.

Breathing heavily, Richards looked up at Thomas with a joyous expression.

"You'll be alright," Thomas assured him as he looked once again at the dark coated man, he had stopped by the bench and was looking around.

"He must be alive!" Richards managed between breaths.

"What?"

"Murdock must be alive, you must get out of here before they realize I was speaking to you!"

"I can't leave you like this!"

"I'm already dead, trust me I worked the injection that man just gave me as he brushed past!"

Thomas looked up and made eye contact with the dark coated man, realizing he had just worked it out as he headed towards him.

"If Murdock is still alive, we'll find him, promise," Thomas patted the doctor and lay him down.

"Don't let the umbrella tip touch you," Richards warned in a whisper Thomas could only just make out.

Thomas quickly stood up and briskly started to walk away from the doctor and the pursuing dark coated man. A car suddenly started up and Thomas knew he'd been targeted. Changing his pace to a jog and then a sprint he rushed towards the trees, losing the men who had just murdered Richards for the information he now had.

 

***********

 

The white room had an air of familiarity about it as the worn out looking man rocked back and forth on the only chair provided. The room was empty and the door was locked.

Captain Murdock took a deep breath and tried to remain relaxed but his anger was growing, he thought they would be please to see he had made it back safely. No one had brought him any food that his stomach moaned for, there was no drink his dry throat needed badly. No one had come to dress his injuries or even offered him a chance to shower.

Standing up he finally decided what energy he had would now go into acting like the prisoner he felt.

"Listen up! I'm still in here; I want to see the manager! When I booked into this hotel I at least expected a bed!" he yelled although his voice didn't express the mocking tones the words suggested.

After five minutes of continuous ranting, just as Murdock was about to collapse, the door unlocked.

"Captain Murdock, sorry to keep you waiting," a neatly dressed man walked in and smiled. "My name is Dr Fisher."

Murdock looked up at the new face and caught his breath.

"What's happened to Richards, I want to see my own doctor!"

"I am now your doctor."

"Bull shit I want to see Richards, you can't treat me like this!"

"Dr Richards is dead, a tragic accident," Fisher informed Murdock.

Murdock stared blankly at the new doctor, the shock evident on his face.

"He was attacked in the local park, there were no witnesses," the doctor continued.

"I need to freshen up, I need food and drink. I've been here for over four hours and so far all I've received is bad news!" Murdock voice was edged with his growing anger, he didn't need to hear of the doctor's death in the manner he had done.

"We are short staffed, what with the tragic loss," Fisher offered as way of apology.

Murdock clung his arms around himself and suddenly his anger turned to despair as the need for food and the anguish of learning about the death of what he considered his only friend took hold.

"Please," Murdock begged as his face succumbed to the tears of pain he felt. "I just need to eat, godammit, I've been trekking on foot for five days without any kind of nourishment until you found me and I'm beginning to wish you hadn't!" Murdock let his anguish out into floods of tears as he crawled onto the floor and rolled himself up into a ball.

"I'll see what I can arrange."

Murdock looked up sharply at the doctor, his voice so uncaring and cold that Murdock's anger rose immediately to the surface. Standing up shakily, Murdock picked up the only chair and hurled it as far as he could; his weakened state enabled the doctor to easily dodge it.

The doctor continued to smile and Murdock lunged forward, grabbing him by the throat. In an instant the room was full of security and Murdock was easily contained, the doctor's expression suddenly showed a more evil edge.

"This man is no longer human, I will suggest without question he be locked up in a place where his behavior is more acceptable!"

Murdock's mind was a haze of fury, pain and hunger. He didn't realize that Doctor Fisher had just effectively got him institutionalized.

 

****************

 

Colonel Smith stepped off the plane and onto US soil once again; he took a deep breath and savored the feeling. Morrison had let Smith take his place in a strategy meeting with government officials, he was home even though it was only for a couple of days.

Once he had sorted out his hotel room and phoned his young nephew, Hannibal left the hotel and walked briskly to a local bar. Checking all the time that no one was following him he headed inside, finding the table as instructed he sat down.

"You alone?"

Hannibal looked up and saw Thomas stood besides him.

"I'm alone, I hope there's a reason for this paranoia," Hannibal remarked as Thomas set a drink down for him.

"Our contact within the CIA, he's dead because he spoke to me."

Hannibal hadn't realized the seriousness of the situation, glad that he had taken Thomas's coded advice to stay alert.

"So what's going on?"

Thomas handed Hannibal an envelope; Hannibal quickly hid it away out of sight.

"Its all in there, I want nothing more to do with this, understand?"

"Thank you for everything," Hannibal stood up knowing when to leave.

"Just do what's right, I hope you find him," Thomas smiled knowing he'd probably never see Smith again.

Hannibal walked out of the building and headed back to the hotel, he was looking forward to his bedtime reading.

 

**************

 

The constant murmur of voices and cutlery distracted Murdock as he looked around the room he now sat in, fully refreshed and fed after his ordeal. He hadn't realized he was no longer in Washington until he had come to this room and the confusion set in.

All around him he saw people who spoke to themselves or gently rocked whilst humming a tune of some description, he saw broken men. He looked down at his own situation, his arms encased in a straitjacket. Not knowing what he had done to warrant this and at the same time trying not to react to it.

"Captain Murdock."

Murdock sighed, restraining himself against letting his anger rule his head. Not knowing how to respond without violence, Murdock simply smiled.

"Good day to you," he teased.

"My name is Doctor Willis," he announced and sat opposite Murdock.

Murdock stared at him and waited for the questions to start.

"So, captain. Can you remember what happened to you?"

"In what sense?" Murdock asked.

"You were missing for six days, can you tell me what happened?"

"The chopper crashed," Murdock started.

"How did that make you feel?"

Murdock smirked wondering what the guy expected him to say, it would hardly make him happy.

He shrugged. "Made me feel like a goner," he smiled.

"Did you think you would die?"

"Sure, all kinds of crazy thoughts enter your mind," Murdock stated

"What happened to the rest of the men?"

Murdock did find the question tough to answer as he put his chin to his chest, remembering the rocket that seemingly hit the chopper and the men losing their footing.

"We got hit real bad," Murdock remembered out loud. "They had no chance," he added.

"How do you feel about their deaths?"

"The same I feel about any loss of life, its pointless and unnecessary," Murdock spoke wisely.

"Do you wonder why you survived?"

"No, I don't look at things like that, I'm just thankful I did."

"That's good, very positive."

"Doc, why am I here? In the loony bin?" Murdock asked.

"You're aware that you need help?" The doctor asked.

"I just needed some rest, food and a shower. Not a shrink, I had a shrink but he was killed."

The doctor looked at Murdock, he was perfectly satisfied with the man's answers and so far had failed to find even a hint that he needed help.

"Why do you think you are here?"

Murdock thought over the question, he wanted to make sure he got his point across.

"About a year ago, I had problems. I was taken by some army and-" Murdock hesitated but willed himself on. "-And kept prisoner, tortured and everything else."

"How long did it take you to come to terms with that?"

"I guess I faced it about a month ago, Dr Richards, my doctor before; he made me face it and I kind of do now," Murdock admitted.

"It takes courage to face something like that," Willis gestured around the room. "These guys are still here because they can't do what you have apparently done."

Murdock shook his head as he looked around the room, for so long he had thought he was the only one. How wrong he had been, he was just one of many. He remembered Richards with fondness, knowing just how much the man had helped him when he needed it.

"Why am I here?" Murdock repeated.

"To be honest, I have no idea."

"So you believe I'm sane?"

"Yes, I do Murdock."

"So can I leave?"

"It's not that simple, you were referred here by a greater power than me. If you want to leave you have to satisfy the hospital board."

"But there's nothing wrong with me!" Murdock yelled standing up abruptly.

"Outbursts will not help your cause," Willis advised and watched Murdock quickly reseat himself. "Listen, just sit tight and I'm sure over time it will become obvious you do not need to be here."

Murdock looked at Willis with a element of trust.

"I need to go back to Nam," Murdock announced but saw immediately the doctor's expression. "No, hear me out. I can be of use out there, they need me!"

The doctor saw the conviction within Murdock's eyes and gently nodded his head.

"I read in your records that you were in Nam for a short time, from what I can see you caused nothing but trouble which is why you were sent home and presumably here."

"Doc, don't think everything in black and white is the truth, there's more going on here and all I ask is that you judge me how you see me here, sat before you."

"You're a very convincing person, Murdock. Off the record, why don't you forget Nam and have a peaceful life here, I'm sure with these records you could just as easily convince us your crazy."

Murdock looked at the doctor, somewhat disbelieving his words. He knew that a load of soldiers already in Nam would love to be able to come here and never see the light of day again, if they could.

"I'll remember your advice, doc. But now isn't the time, I need to go back."

Murdock stood up to leave the room, two orderlies escorted him back to his room. Doctor Willis frowned, he knew the government were not going to let Murdock leave as easily as he imagined.

 

***********

 

The door of the bar opened and Colonel Smith entered, he had just returned to Nam and it felt like he'd never been away. He saw his men seated at the back and headed over, they spotted him and the teasing abuse flowed.

"Calm it down, guys, I was only gone a couple of days."

"We missed you Hannibal, we missed the wake up calls, the jungle jaunts. I'm so glad your back," Peck teased.

"Good job I'm back then isn't it kid, maybe next time I go I won't give you guys some free time."

"Now don't go making any rash decisions on my part," Peck smiled knowing BA was growling in his direction.

Hannibal waited until only Peck and Baracus were sat at the table, he motioned for them to come in close.

"I take it you found Thomas?" Peck realised.

"And he's found a whole heap of trouble," Hannibal responded.

"How is he?" BA asked.

"Scared, with every right as well," Hannibal frowned.

"What's happened?" Peck asked sensing the trouble.

"That guy who sent the letter about Murdock, he met with Thomas and then two minutes after they finished talking, he was dead."

BA and Face looked at each other, their expressions the same.

"Murdock is one hell of a subject matter," Hannibal announced as he drank some more of his drink.

"So what is the story?" Peck asked.

"Murdock is a thorn in the CIA's side, he just refuses to co-operate with what they want," Hannibal grinned.

"And that is?" BA asked.

Hannibal's smiled faded; knowing the full story had made him even more determined to help Murdock.

"They want him out of the way," Hannibal admitted.

"As in the out of the way not breathing kind of way," Peck responded.

"You got it kid."

"Why, what that fool do?" BA asked, shocked by the revelation.

"Technically he did nothing, but potentially, he could do a lot," Hannibal spoke; his voice was low so that no one could overhear him.

"So where is he now?" Peck asked.

"From what I can tell, Thomas worked out that up until a few days ago the CIA were satisfied that they had succeeded. Only with our source being killed it could only mean Murdock is somewhere, but he's not dead."

"We have'ta find the fool, if he ain't done nothing he don't deserve to die, man!" BA insisted.

"I'm glad to have your support, BA."

"Count me in too, colonel. I still owe him for that jungle firefight we had," Face frowned.

"I've asked Morrison to make some discreet inquiries, my guess is the CIA thought Murdock was dead so if he's turned up he must be in some kind of care."

"Here we are fighting a war against another country, whose methods our government have taken objection to. You have to wonder sometimes, right colonel?" Face surmised.

"Face, Murdock's situation is not the same as here in Nam," Hannibal insisted with conviction. "But it needs to be addressed just the same," he added as an afterthought.

Peck nodded his head and listened as Hannibal explained to him and BA the whole situation about Murdock.

 

***********

 

Murdock lay on his bunk, his thoughts miles away in the jungles of Nam. He'd already learnt the art of pretending to take his pills and he was observing with newfound interest the art of crazy. The doctor had been right to suggest he could find acting crazy one day a useful skill, one he chose to start learning.

He looked out of the barred window, wondering if there was anyone out there who even knew he was laid there in total boredom. It was hard to believe that now he felt able to confront the world, it was cut off from him by the bars. He thought back to the day when he felt the powerful release, when Dr Richards had broken him down and forced him to speak. Ending up on the floor a mental wreak, but suddenly able to confront his fears.

From there he had found the intense CIA training a challenge, fuelled by the hope that one day his new skills would be used to help his unit, the A-Team. He had started to go on missions, not the safe kind either. He had loved the buzz, or was it the jazz? His actions were starting to attract attention and like before, attention always got him locked up.

Was he never going to be able to progress? Every time he did he would end up locked away. Thoughts and paranoia started to escalate as the realization began to dawn, every time he started to alert people to his skills something would come along to lock him up.

The first time, was that a coincidence? He'd naturally assumed that he had just been unlucky but now he wasn't so sure. Images entered his mind, long forgotten and he heard the voice of his captor for the first time within his thoughts. The voice was familiar; he remembered trusting that voice when he was first captured and then the pain. The pain denied him the thoughts that he might know the man who inflicted it, but now it was allowing him to remember.

He was still convinced he'd been sent to Nam to die, to not be a burden to the CIA. He still firmly believed it was his involvement with the A-team that got him sent home, but had he seriously believed that him returning home meant end of story?

Why had he gone along with the CIA training? They wanted him dead or should it be wants him dead? Murdock stood up, his thoughts almost scaring him as he began to take in what his mind was suggesting. He wanted to rejoin the A-Team in Nam; its what drove him to be so blind to the obvious. The treatment he received on returning from his downed bird, they didn't seem to know what to do so they institutionalized him. They did the thing they wanted to do all along, if his suspicions were true, who'd believe a crazy man? Murdock stopped pacing his room; a final thought emerged, Richards was the only man on his side who would have helped him. Was his death such an accident?

Murdock stared absently into space and began to think that maybe he was crazy. How else could he describe his situation? He moved over to the sink and washed some water over his sweating brow, the stings from the various cuts he had healing from the crash proved he was still in reality. He stared at his own reflection in the mirror and sighed.

"Betcha the teacher's never saw this coming, I should have listened to them," he tried to smile but fear wouldn't let him.

Suddenly feeling very alone without any hope of salvation, Murdock grabbed his pillow and huddled up under the sink. He didn't know why but he found it comforting, if he was found like this a least it would lead to a conversation with human life. Being normal in this place only led to being ignored, he figured.

 

***********

 

Hannibal slammed down the file in frustration, he looked directly at Morrison.

"Committed?" Hannibal checked.

"VA hospital in LA, says he's a long term patient. Apparently broken with violent tendencies," Morrison confirmed.

"That's bull! Murdock is as tough as they come!"

"You know what he's been through, I can believe it," Morrison admitted.

"You don't know what he's up against, what he's experienced is a serious lack of support!" Hannibal yelled.

"Which is what he's getting now!"

"He doesn't need a shrink, he needs to be constructive, a part of a team. You saw how he responded and he's exactly what we need, I can not tolerate that pilot you found us for much longer!"

"Smith, just drop it. The guys been lost there's no way on Earth I'll be able to justify having a certified crazy coming out here to fly our best men!" Morrison returned in anger.

"He ain't crazy!" Hannibal insisted. "Read this," Hannibal threw the file Thomas had given him.

Morrison took the file and looked at the intensity in Smith's eyes. He quietly read through the shocking report, wondering about the source.

"Where's the proof?" Morrison asked as he pushed the file away, realizing where Smith's passion had come from.

"He's sitting in the VA hospital," Smith replied.

"I can't go throwing my weight around with these allegations."

"Just say to them if they allow Murdock to come out here, then we will not make any allegations," Smith suggested.

"You have this all planned out, right?"

"When I find a man I know can fit in my team, it's a rare occurrence. I admit I've never had so much problems obtaining my men, they are usually out with the rubbish. Murdock has always been the next A-Team pilot and I'm not going to let anything stand in his way," Hannibal stated.

"Smith, one day you'll take what your given, understand. This is the last one I'm going to fight for you for," Morrison smiled.

"I run an A-Team, Colonel. You want the best you have to shop around, with Murdock, Peck and Baracus I will have a good central core of men, you'll see."

"Ten men, Smith. Ten men make up an A-team," Morrison reminded Smith.

"But stability and inner strength make them a force, ten men are fine but if we get split up then you need an inner core to rely on and no ordinary Joe can do that," Hannibal responded before leaving the office.

Morrison picked up the phone, wondering if he'll ever regret letting Smith get him into this.

"This is Colonel Morrison, I need to speak to Gerrard, yes at the CIA," Morrison announced and questioned what he was about to do.

Hannibal stopped, realizing he must have already covered the parameter of the base ten times already, his thoughts raging over what he should or could do. Was he right to go to so much effort over one man? One man, who in all likelihood is better off away from the horrors that Nam presented.

Who was he doing this for? Himself or for Murdock? Was it simply a case of him not wanting to lie down defeated, having already stated that Murdock would be the next A-Team pilot? The thoughts continued to pile up and the confusion set in, why was this man bothering him so much that he was willing to rage a war against the CIA.

He looked across and found himself close to where his team were being drilled, Sergeant Baracus was setting the pace and the commitment was there for everyone to see. He noticed Baracus picking out a single man, a man who was lagging and not pulling his weight. Hannibal started to walk over, already knowing that the man was singled out because he didn't make the grade. That man was their new pilot, Hannibal smiled as the confusion and questions settled and his belief was restored. He was after Murdock for one simple reason; it was for the good of the team.

He remembered the short time they had spent with Murdock, training him hard but he never once complained or lagged behind. If anything he showed a unique kind of enthusiasm that is rarely seen, Hannibal had no doubts that if he could find Murdock, Murdock would want to be here.

"Colonel," BA saluted as he approached.

"Nice work, sergeant," Hannibal commended as he watched his team continuing to go through the paces.

He remembered when everyone warned him to stay clear of Sergeant Baracus, no one could understand why he wanted such an undisciplined man and no one was prepared to let him train for special forces. Hannibal knew he could gain his respect, and he did so within days of him joining the team.

Looking over to Peck, Hannibal felt the same. Ever since he took command of this A-Team he had searched for a core group within the team, he had found Peck and Baracus but always knew he needed a pilot he could trust. Thomas had come close, but he refused to do the ground work preferring to stay in the air. The rest of the unit was simply made up of men who had wanted to become special forces, not men Hannibal had encouraged and that was the difference.

Thinking back to Murdock, Hannibal now knew why he was making the effort. He was so close to having a core A-Team, he wasn't going to let that go.

"Colonel!"

Colonel Smith turned around and faced a young soldier, one of many that occupied the base.

"I have orders from Colonel Morrison that Lieutenant Peck, Sergeant Baracus and yourself are to report to his office immediately."

Smith looked back to his team.

"Peck, get over here now!" Hannibal yelled and motioned for BA to follow him.

Peck caught them up and got into step.

"What's going on?"

"We've been summoned to Morrison's office."

"I haven't done anything," Peck protested.

"Kid, no ones saying you have," Hannibal smiled.

"So what's this about?" BA asked.

"I have a feeling we'll find that out when we get there," Hannibal teased, silently hoping there had been some encouraging developments on the Murdock situation.

 

***********

 

Colonel Morrison acknowledged the salutes he received from the three men standing in his office.

"Colonel Smith, Lieutenant Peck, Sergeant Baracus," he spoke with the air of authority often associated with men of his rank. "Smith, your team are being temporarily assigned to other units."

Smith didn't flinch as Peck and Baracus glanced across at each other, uneasily.

"You three have orders to fly to Los Angeles, I want you to attend a talk being given by Lord Marchford at the university."

Hannibal couldn't help but smirk; knowing this was a very strange order.

"You will be asked to draw up a report on this man's findings, he's been studying the effects of the Vietnam war being shown on television news. We'll all be interested in your findings," Morrison smiled.

"How long will we be in LA, sir?" Hannibal asked, sensing the confusion from his two men.

"Three days, the talk takes place on the second day there. I would suggest, whilst you're there that you take in a few of the sights, Hollywood and Long Beach would do you good. Maybe even take a few historic buildings in for good measure," Morrison hinted.

"Any suggestions?" Hannibal played along.

"I hear the hospitals in the area are very picturesque, if you do visit the VA do make a point of seeing a Dr Willis. He's the man to ask about the place," Morrison sat down and looked through his papers.

Peck and Baracus finally cottoned on to what was being said in riddles, they were going to LA to get themselves an old friend.

"I trust we will be welcomed at these places of interest, that we won't be turned away," Hannibal asked.

"If you're discreet and quick, you shouldn't have any problems."

Hannibal took an envelope from Morrison with all the details in, he looked at Peck and Baracus and gestured to them to wait outside. Once they had gone he turned back to Morrison.

"Thanks," he said simply.

"It was an easy enough thing to arrange, the CIA want shot of him," Morrison shrugged.

"How did you work it that he could come out here, I thought the tough part would be getting a committed man out here," Hannibal asked.

"He may be residing at the VA but the doctor looking after him, Doctor Wilson, has so far refused to label him insane. So, technically he's just there as if it was a hotel."

"I take it that's why we have to be discreet and quick," Hannibal realized.

"I get the feeling the CIA are not happy with our persistence in this man, I've given them assurances that once in our care he won't talk but I'm not sure they are fully convinced. They might change their minds, so good luck."

Hannibal saluted once more and left the office, ordering his men to pack quickly to be ready to leave that same afternoon.

Morrison watched him leave and sat back, sighing sadly. He didn't want to tell Smith the whole story that Murdock was only 'free' for as long as the team survived. His freedom counted on the team staying together, if anything was to happen to Smith, then Murdock would be back at the VA before he knew it. The same applied to when the war was over, he had his orders to send Murdock back to the VA whatever the outcome. He had to agree to their terms, it was the only way Smith would get his man. In some ways, Smith now controlled Murdock's future until the war in Nam was over.

 

***********

 

He could sense the concern, the growing anxiety around him. It didn't bother him that he was attracting the concerned attention. He was happy to just remained within himself and with his thoughts.

Captain Murdock held tightly to his pillow, sometimes he'd talk to it just for some conversation. He found it quite reassuring in some ways, although in other ways he knew it wasn't healthy. The past few days had opened his mind to the world of wonder, seeing how people fussed over you the more you wanted them to leave you alone.

He had started to enjoy seeing the confused looks on peoples face's as his imagination ran riot, talking to his taps and then telling them off for being hot and cold. He didn't feel crazy; he just found it a nice distraction to pass the time. With no hope of leaving this place he had begun to settle into the routine, he had to admit he liked it here even though he knew he didn't belong in this place. The place had taught him how to relax, to be calm and to stop hating everything so much. Sure, he had wanted to go back to Nam but what was the point in letting the anger that he couldn't go back control him.

Wondering how to waste another couple of hours, Murdock began to pull the covers off his bed. An idea about making a tent had festered within his mind and seeing as he had nothing better to do, he thought why not. Voices outside his door were ignored as he piled the sheets together, the door opened.

"Captain Murdock."

Murdock froze in his tracks; his back to the door but the voice was instantly recognizable. Slowly turning around he came face to face with the blue eyes he never thought he'd see again.

"C-Colonel Smith?" Murdock said in confusion.

"We're still looking for that pilot," Hannibal grinned, unable to hide the joy Murdock's confusion gave him.

"S-sure, erm, what do I have to do?" Murdock asked, his voice trembling with confusion but also with happiness.

"Just follow me," Hannibal ordered and watched as Murdock hurried out of the room, not concerned with taking any possessions he might have had.

Peck and Baracus shook Murdock's hand, happy that Hannibal had finally found the pilot he wanted.

"Lead the way Peck," Hannibal ordered as they walked out of the hospital.

Doctor Willis looked on as the three men took Murdock away, quietly smiling to himself. The receptionist moved over to him.

"Isn't that your patient?"

"Who?" Willis asked dumbly.

"That guy who just left?"

"I never saw anyone, you saying I'd let my patients just walk out of the building?"

The receptionist just stared at him blankly as he walked behind the desk. Passing the heavy-duty shredder, he calmly lost all trace of Murdock having ever been in the building as the file disintegrated. Picking up the phone he proceeded to confirmed the same to the men in suits.

 

***********

 

The lively chat of the bar and the soft music filled the air as four men made themselves comfortable, BA got the drinks in.

"You know something Hannibal, if we didn't want to go back this place would be the best to hide out in," Peck suggested.

Hannibal glanced over to him, knowingly.

"Peck, we're going back first thing tomorrow so my suggestion is, just enjoy this whilst you can."

"All I'm saying Hannibal is if you ever need to live anywhere and not be found, LA is the perfect place."

"I'll keep that in mind if the situation ever arises," Hannibal smiled.

"I can't wait to go back," Murdock enthused.

"That won't last long," Peck teased.

Hannibal grinned as BA placed the drinks on the table; he sat down next to Murdock.

"You wouldn't think there was a war on, man," BA grumbled as people around him laughed and joked.

"BA, there's enough gloom and doom out there we don't want it back here as well," Hannibal stated.

Murdock took a sip of his drink and looked at the three men sat with him, he couldn't believe they had come back for him. It was the last thing he had expected to happen, he had simply thought they'd have just got on with things.

"So, how you feeling captain?" Hannibal asked.

"Not sure, give me a day to think about that," Murdock smiled.

Peck looked at the man, already seeing the change in him to what he remembered. The scowl on his face had been replaced with a boyish charm, he smiled more and looked genuinely relaxed.

"You looking well," Peck had to remark.

Murdock nodded his head, allowing another smile to form.

"I took the colonel's advice and got the old head looked at, I feel a lot better now."

"Life's a lot easier once you drop the excess baggage," Hannibal agreed.

"You still look like a crazy man to me," BA remarked with a smile.

"That's good, cos I've been practicing," Murdock chirped up.

The three men stared at him, they hadn't seen this side of the man before and were unsure of it. BA simply growled at being teased, Murdock continued to smile as he felt the uncertainty and placed his hand as if holding a microphone to his mouth.

"This is Captain HM Murdock reporting, after their intrepid rescue of yours truly, the team were decidedly undecided about what exactly they picked up," Murdock reported mockingly.

"Is this for real?" Peck asked bewildered.

"The man is real crazy, we should have kept him locked up," BA stated.

"Welcome back, Howlin Mad," Hannibal held his glass up and Murdock happily clinked his against it.

Hannibal could somehow tell Murdock was only teasing, having learnt a new way to control his emotions. It suited him and he was only glad he had stopped letting his anger control his head. He watched as Murdock showed no fear to BA's continued threats, he knew BA was not going to carry out the threats but it was refreshing to see someone actually standing up to the sergeant.

The night wore on into the early hours and the four men used the time to talk and bond, it may be the last chance they get before finding themselves amongst the hell again.

 

***********

 

The silence of the jungle surrounded the men as they quietly moved forward, out of sight. The beads of sweat on their faces and the grime of the four days they had already spent out here showed.

A whispered order was relayed between the men and packs were removed, the orders were to rest. Peck moved silently over to a wide space and motioned to BA to put the stretcher down.

He looked down at the injured soldier, remembering how they had come to this point.

"We're clear captain, let's go!"

The chopper rose above the trees and proceeded to reach a quick pace away from the gunfire. Murdock was flying his third mission for his new unit and enjoying the challenges it brought him, he glanced back to see he had sucessfully picked up Peck, Baracus, Armstrong and Smith. To add to the others he had picked up less than an hour ago.

"The rest of the unit made it safely to base, sir," Murdock called out. "They will have our drinks on ice and dinner on the table when we return," he added with a smile.

"Nice work, captain," Hannibal wearily responded, glad the mission was near an end.

A sudden explosion hit the back of the bird and Murdock turned back, remembering the last time this had happened to him and men had lost their footing. He was relieved to see all four men had managed to hold on, although he was doubtful the chopper could take a hit like that and survive.

"Hold on, Muchachos," Murdock yelled knowing he had lost part of the tail section.

"Can you pull us out of this?" Hannibal yelled as the bird spun around wildly.

"Give me a moment," Murdock called back and managed to stop the momentum of the spinning.

They were losing altitude and Murdock called on his previous experience to make sure the landing was a safe one, only before he was the only man on board.

"Guys, hold on to something back there, secure yourself, we're going down!" Murdock ordered.

Murdock glanced back to check they were suitably secure and saw a sudden fear in BA's face.

"Have faith, big guy. I'll try and make it a happy landing," Murdock smiled.

"Shut up fool! Concentrate!" BA lashed back.

Murdock scouted around for the best place to crash and found a clearing free from trees, only the bird suddenly adjusted of its own free will and headed straight for a dense part of the jungle.

Murdock narrowed his eyes as he struggled to bring the bird up in a last ditch attempted to make the clearing, not giving up until first contact was made with the tree tops. Branches crashed into the glass around him and instinctively he brought his hands to his face. Feeling the tears in the arms of his clothes and the sharp biting sensation of the branches making contact with his skin he braced himself for impact.

 

***********

 

"How is he?"

Peck looked up and found Hannibal heading over, they both looked at the man on the stretcher and sighed.

"Not good but Armstrong is tough," Peck tried a smile. "How's Murdock?"

"Still in shock but at least he can walk now," Hannibal advised him. "He's back there annoying BA again," he added with a genuine smile.

"That's a good sign," Face smiled back.

"How's the head?" Hannibal asked, seeing the nasty gash on the side of Peck's head.

"Not bothering me," Peck shrugged unconcerned by it.

"Well make sure you rest," Hannibal ordered and watched him sit down.

Hannibal looked at Armstrong once more, he had come off the worst in the crash and things didn't look good for him. BA and Murdock approached and sat near to where Peck was resting, they were both niggling each other over something.

"Guys can you cool it, this place could still contain some of those NVA soldiers and it wouldn't take long to find us the way you two are acting," Hannibal ordered.

Murdock and BA immediately stopped and looked at Armstrong. Murdock felt a pang of guilt as he saw the man, effectively dying before them.

"Hey, captain. Drink this," Hannibal advised on seeing the distant look in Murdock's face.

He knew Murdock did all he could to keep them in the air, he couldn't have asked for more and he hoped Murdock didn't think he messed up.

"I figure we have another fifteen clicks before we are in safe territory, so stay alert," Hannibal stated.

Murdock rubbed his arm, it had taken most of the impact in the crash and he suspected it was fractured. He had been lucky, he knew it when he looked at Armstrong. Just before impact the bird had flipped onto its side, up until then it was the cockpit that was going to take the full impact and he would have been the one on the stretcher. He hadn't known about this, having lost consciousness as the bird fell through the trees, exposed to the branches, Murdock had been on the receiving end of one exceptionally tough branch that had knocked him out cold.

He felt water being applied to his head and saw Peck had come over to him, washing the wound he had as a result. He guessed it must look bad, it felt as if the whole right side of his face had been hit. His right eye had only just started to open again and he had only resumed walking unaided that morning, having used BA as a crutch for the past three days.

"Hannibal, I think it's infected," Peck stated.

Murdock looked at the concern in Peck's eyes, he had been feeling light headed but had put it down to the circumstances.

Hannibal walked over, followed by BA and they all examined Murdock's face. He took the water container off Peck and washed the wound a bit more. He motioned for Murdock to lie down in the recovery position as they applied a new dressing, Murdock sensed the concern but didn't know how to respond. He felt strong, he felt fine, he thought. He'd felt a lot more pain than this but was this the time to argue with them?

They rested for another hour; Murdock remained lying down after being yelled at for attempting to sit up. He wondered how they would have reacted to seeing him when he was first rescued so long ago, when the pain was a hundred times worse. He found himself smiling, this wasn't pain or suffering, he thought. This was child's play in comparison. A new strength grew within him as he used his past to bring him new determination. He sat up and this time ignored the response for him to remain lying down, he simply smiled.

"You're one crazy fool, man," BA remarked, almost admiring the strength he saw in his sick friend's expression.

"If being crazy means I feel no pain, I'd recommend you try it," Murdock replied.

"I'm not the one who's injured, and I don't appreciate you crashing us! I'm never getting in a chopper with you again!" BA protested.

Hannibal glanced over concerned, he wasn't sure how Murdock would respond to such a direct confrontation and he felt like telling BA exactly how he felt about his use of words.

"Ahhh, so the great big ugly mudsucka is now afraid to fly! Don't worry on the next trip you can borrow my cuddly bear for comfort," Murdock teased, apparently oblivious to BA's words accusing him of crashing in purpose.

Hannibal fears were still for Murdock but now they were for his safety against an angry BA, no one had ever got away with calling him names before.

"I ain't afraid to fly!" BA raged. "Just don't like crazy fools being at the controls!" he added as he grabbed Murdock's neck in retaliation.

Murdock fell back as BA lunged forward, with a manic look in his eyes as finally he had managed to wind BA up enough to attack him. He didn't know why he had wanted this but somehow he knew he had to get a reaction from BA, to get him to his old self. The look he had seen on BA's face before the crash had almost scared him and he figured the big guy needed to let off some steam, amongst friends that can be a hard thing to do, especially when trapped in a jungle away from civilization.

Murdock felt the air leaving him as the pressure around his neck remained, finally BA let go with both Peck and Smith holding onto his arms. Murdock remained lying down, smiling as he rubbed his neck.

"Feel better, big guy?" Murdock croaked.

BA looked confused and realized he did, he had wanted to hit out at something for the situation they were in. Hannibal saw BA's expression and realized why Murdock had been pestering him; it was a crazy way of getting BA to express himself but effective.

"You OK Murdock?" Hannibal checked as he helped him up.

"Yeah," Murdock's grin assured all around him that he was fine.

"Hannibal."

BA, Murdock and Hannibal turned around at the sullen sounding Face who crouched near to Armstrong.

"What is it, kid?" Hannibal asked but the look in Face's eyes already told the story.

"We've lost him," he said quietly, gently stroking Armstrong's face.

Hannibal moved closer and saw the lifeless form for himself, he had suspected the journey through the jungle would prove too much for the injured man.

"Let's let him finally rest in peace," Hannibal motioned as he removed the dog tags from around the dead man's neck.

BA removed some simple tools from his pack and began to dig, Face moved over and helped. They wouldn't have to dig far down, within days the jungle would take Armstrong as its own.

Hannibal looked over to Murdock who sat with his head in his hands, clearly distressed by the death. He realized Murdock was still relatively new to the tragic loss of war, he feared what this first major set back would do to the man who still carried the questionable mental health.

"Be strong, captain."

Murdock looked up, the dampness around his eyes evidence that he had been crying. Murdock quickly wiped his eyes as Hannibal sat besides him.

"It happens, you have to learn to accept it and learn that lesson fast. It's the most important one," Hannibal continued.

"I know," Murdock said as he took a deep breath. "But it don't make it any easier."

"Come on, lets help the others," Hannibal encouraged and was pleased to see Murdock stand up.

The ceremony was fast, simple and over in a minute. They were still in enemy territory and couldn't afford to hang around; Hannibal kept an eye on all his men knowing this set back could be just the beginning.

 

***********

 

The lingering heat and humid air began to show it's draining effects on the four men as they continued to walk, Face and Murdock took the lead with Hannibal and BA dropping back. Murdock narrowed his eyes; an uneasy feeling washed over him and he suddenly had the feeling they were not alone. Face began to sense Murdock's feelings and motioned for them to stop, they went to ground and scouted the area. Looking back they searched for Hannibal and BA, there was nothing there.

"They we're right there, behind us, I checked less than a minute ago," Murdock hissed.

"I know, but they're not there now, we have to be alert," Face hissed, his expression showed concerned.

They continued forward, crawling through the jungle. Hoping to hear the reassuring orders of the colonel, knowing they may already be under surveillance.

Face held his hand out motioning to Murdock who immediately stopped. They heard voices around them, NVA personnel.

They both exchanged looks, looks that spoke a thousand words. Keep quiet, merge with the jungle, hold tight. Minutes seemed to turn into hours as the NVA continued to search the area, Face and Murdock not moving a muscle. They knew the longer the enemy stayed the less chance they had of avoiding capture.

The thought remained that these guys may have already got Hannibal and BA, may already know they have two more men to find. If that were the case, they would not give up until they were found. But the slim chance that Hannibal's and BA's disappearance and the NVA's appearance were coincidental, it was the hope Murdock and Face clung on to.

A force suddenly grabbed the back of Murdock's neck, the whole of the surroundings became a blur as the sound of twenty or more guns were levelled on him. Almost immediately Face received the same treatment, they both looked around at the many NVA soldiers that surrounded them.

Yelling instructions in a language Murdock only vaguely understood, they found their hands bound behind their backs. Face started to smile in the faces of his captors and Murdock could sense that Face had been in this situation a few times before. He also remained defiant; knowing he was probably about to return to a place he never wanted to visit again. Different country, different reasons but captive just the same as before. He started to march on with Peck by his side, wondering what had happened to Hannibal and BA who still remained absent.

Quite away from the action, Hannibal leaned further back out of sight holding back BA. The rage was obvious on BA's face and Hannibal was doing all he could to hold him back.

"We're better off to them on the outside, sergeant!"

BA finally stopped struggling as he saw Murdock and Peck being led away, surrounded by a small army of NVA soldiers.

"Faceman can't be captured again, Hannibal!" BA stressed. "And that crazy fool, he ain't strong enough!"

"BA we must double our efforts now, we have to get back, regroup and get those two out of this," Hannibal ordered remaining calm but deep down his anger was also raging.

They had both been delayed and had fallen behind, some loose mud had covered an old hole of some kind and BA had had to pull Hannibal out after he fell part of the way in. Not wanting to shout to the others for fear of alerting someone to their position they instead had intended to catch up with Face and Murdock, only when they did they had found it was already too late. It all had happened so quickly, they had only been a few yards behind at most.

Hannibal made sure they were not spotted, instinct told him to charge on over with guns firing. Experience told him to hold back, he knew the group had at least a five-day trek ahead of them. If he could get back within the next thirty hours, gather his team and then get a chopper to drop them off for an ambush then everything would be OK. He guessed the guy's first stop would be the infamous Hanoi Hilton, he was almost banking on it.

 

***********

 

Murdock had lost all sense of direction, an uneasy feeling for someone who usually could tell you where you were in the dark with his eyes closed. The heat and dehydration played on his senses; the pain and the aches tortured his body.

Peck seemed remarkably strong, Murdock noticed. Taking each stride as if it was his first, Murdock somehow sensed it was his way of teasing the captors. Murdock felt anger at his own physical being, he felt he was letting the side down with his weakened appearance.

Murdock was aware that the NVA guard in charge had yelled something, his own preoccupations distracting him until a guard roughly stopped him walking. A container was brought to his lips and for a few seconds precious water seeped in, enough to tease before it was pulled away again. Murdock lost all control as he struggled in binds, desperate for more liquid to quench his sore, dry throat. A short jab to his ribs stopped him and he couldn't stop himself falling to the ground as he doubled up in pain, coughing as he caught his breath.

Looking up intending to release more anger he saw Peck was now being teased with the water, he realised this was all a game to them and this was just the beginning. If he let his anger control him now, he knew he wouldn't last long. Peck already knew this, he seemed to enjoy letting the NVA soldiers tease him as he smiled in their faces. He didn't get the jab to the ribs; he simply got them off his case. Letting them know he was strong, he was someone Murdock knew he needed to learn from.

Murdock felt himself being hauled up to his feet, he could have done without the pain he now felt in his rib cage. They had enjoyed being able to punish him, he wouldn't let it be so easy next time. Peck simply stared a sympathetic stare, but Murdock felt ashamed of his actions and looked away as the group moved on.

It had been at least two days now that they had been walking, the jungle seemed to never end. Murdock had to control his fits of despair, knowing any moment they could both be struck down. No one would know, no one would find them this deep in enemy territory.

The soldiers had stopped every attempt Peck and Murdock took to talk to each other, only a handful of words had been said and none of any worth. Eye contact was their communication; he was beginning to find comfort in Peck's face and was slowly working out his every expression. He knew the story behind Face's nickname, but to him it now took on a new meaning. Face's face was already his saving grace, a strength he never had before when he was held against his will. He hoped he was giving the same strength to Peck, a simple glance between them could not be stopped by the brutality of their captors; it was all they had left apart from hope.

 

***********

 

Colonel Morrison stood up abruptly, he stared intently at Colonel Smith. His eyes showed authority and his expression was full of anger.

"I will not risk the A-Team, not this time!"

"Two of my men are down and we have an opportunity to save them!" Smith yelled back.

"Not this time, Lieutenant Colonel Smith!" Morrison used his full rank to emphasise that he made the decision.

Smith looked away momentarily, unable to comprehend the situation.

"It's an easy enough exercise as they're heading to Hanoi, it's a simple enough route to map," Hannibal explained.

"Two men, Smith. You realise how many men we believe are being held as POWs?"

"We have a chance today of lessening that number by two," Hannibal insisted.

"Your team already have orders, you are to carry them out. You fly to Da Nang in three hours, ready for briefing," Morrison calmly announced.

"What if it had been Peck and Baracus?" Hannibal suddenly asked.

Morrison looked up sharply at the question.

"I hope your not suggesting what I think you are suggesting," Morrison warned.

"There must have been a catch, I've been thinking we got Murdock pretty easy back there. This all kinda works nicely doesn't it, for the CIA?"

"GET OUT, SMITH!" Morrison yelled, angered by the insinuation but refusing to back down.

"Well I hope you sleep well tonight, because I know two guys who won't for quite a few nights," Hannibal said bitterly before heading for the door.

Morrison didn't want Smith to think he's actions were ones of guilt, he stepped forward.

"Actually, your right about the catch with Murdock," Morrison announced. "But your wrong with everything else, if I could spare you and your men-" Morrison began.

"Save it for Peck and Murdock, if you ever get the chance to speak to them again," Hannibal sneered and left the office.

Morrison re-seated himself and sat back, he had feared this happening. Murdock being such a delicate issue, he knew Smith would throw this in his face if he ever went against the man in a decision. He cursed the whole affair, wishing he could pull back the A-Team on their latest orders, but then there was every likelihood instead of two men missing there'd be a whole team.

Morrison took Murdock's file, with sadness and a touch of guilt for bringing him back he stamped it with the initials 'MIA'.

 

***********

 

They had reached the destination, after however many days lost to the jungle they were now at some kind of building. Murdock glanced over to Peck, he seemed to know the routine although even he had a new nervousness to his features. He was giving the impression of familiarity but at the same time he seemed unsure of the surroundings.

They were both left in a room, free for the first time of the ties that bound their hands. Murdock eagerly stretched his arms and rubbed his wrists, he looked at Peck who did likewise.

"What is it?" Murdock asked, knowing all of Peck's expressions made it easy to tell Face was unsettled.

Peck looked nervously over and frowned.

"Welcome to the Hanoi Hilton, Murdock," Face said with a sigh. "This is a place I only heard of in horror stories, we've upset them really bad this time."

Murdock didn't like the sound of Peck's voice, the atmosphere was tense as they waited alone in the room.

"Listen Murdock, just you keep thinking of me and I'll keep thinking of you and we'll both get through this, understand?" Peck said, sounding much more like the older brother than his young years should.

Murdock nodded his head absently, the look in Peck's eyes once again giving him inner strength. Unable to stop himself he reached out and they both gave each other a manful embrace.

"I won't forget you, bud," Murdock managed a smile.

"I hear the room service is something else," Peck teased and they both found themselves chuckling.

Murdock's expression quickly dropped, Peck had been talking like they'd never see each other again.

"What's gonna happen?" Murdock asked suddenly, a need to know as his fear started to rise.

"You'll be accused of crimes against the Vietnamese, none of it will seem real," Face's own expression faded to one of pain. "You just have to remove yourself, take yourself someplace else for a while," he added with conviction.

"It's gonna be like before," Murdock stated more to himself but loud enough for Face to pick up.

Peck was confused, he stepped towards Murdock and put his hand on his shoulder for added comfort.

"Before?"

"Endless questions, endless pain and darkness," Murdock continued as if in a daze.

"You've been in one of these places before?" Peck asked a little surprised, he had known Murdock had been a hostage but there was never any mention of him being mistreated, it explained a lot if he had.

"Full circle," Murdock muttered as the door opened and five guards walked in.

Face was immediately struck down for holding Murdock, it snapped him back to the reality of the situation. Long pyjamas type garments were thrown to them and indications that they were to change into them issued. Murdock took Peck's lead and removed the uniform he still wore, slowly they changed.

A guard walked up to Murdock, eyeing him closely he looked at his dogtags. The guard suddenly pulled on them sharply, wrenching Murdock's neck forward until the chain snapped leaving a deep burn mark visible to the naked eye. Peck had the same done to him and both tags were thrown to one side.

"No more a part of US army, now you a part of the NVA," the guard sneered in broken English.

A quick glance from Peck was enough for Murdock to not react to the comment, both men standing tall. The order was given for them both to be removed, their hands were tied once more and each had two soldiers as escorts. Walking down a narrow passageway, Murdock looked on as Face was taken off through an adjoining corridor. Unable to look for long as his friend disappeared out of sight, the sudden realisation that things were getting worse hit him.

 

***********

 

Some time has passed...

The room was bare with no windows, a simple bucket and a chair the only furnishings. It had been days, possibly weeks or months since Murdock had done anything but sit in this chair. His routine broken only by visits to the bucket and maybe, in some ways as a welcome distraction, the arrival of one of the interrogators to beat what energy and spirit he had left out of him.

At first he found it relatively easy to simply sit and think, so much had happened it was nice to be able to reflect. He played out the many possibilities about what had happened to BA and Hannibal. He had planned over a hundred ways he would escape, find Face and run to freedom. He had already written his story including the screenplay just in case. He'd imagined meeting the woman of his dreams, named his children and watched them grow up and have children of their own. He'd even imagined owning a dog, taking it for walks and feeding it but it had died not long ago. Now he found he was struggling, he was replaying images of his escapes and remembering his dog with fondness. He now housed a whole host of imaginary lifetimes and memories, he had begun to forget which were real and which were fake.

Still he sat, sometimes untied and sometimes with his hands tied to his ankles. The guard was always present; sometimes the guard would provide his own entertainment, beating Murdock up for no reason other than amusement. They knew they had a limit, take it to the point just before death, a dead POW was not good for business Murdock had worked out. The heat was unbearable, the long pyjama garments were unsuitable for the humid air and it almost suffocated him at times.

When the interrogator had visited, to give him a painful reminder that he was a POW, he had also tried to get him to accept his crimes. The only crime Murdock could work out he'd committed was being American, he had no intention of selling himself or his country. They had once asked him to appear on television, stating he was treated well and that he had committed crimes against the Vietnamese. He'd rather remain seated and take the beatings like a man.

The door opened once more and the small interrogator entered the room, the guard wore a knowing smile. Murdock had by now managed to close himself off to the real world, hiding within his own body unawares of the outside world. A sharp pain to his lower back, the stick he knew so well nearly drew him out. Being pushed to the ground, Murdock no longer felt he lived within his own body. Almost watching as the small man yelled indecipherable sentences to him, he could no longer tell whether he yelled in English or Vietnamese. It didn't bother him any more, nothing the small man had to say was important to him.

As the beating progressed he fell more and more back into reality as pain snatched at his conscious, alerting him to every hit and the pain it enforced.

The blood flowed once again and the darkness loomed, no part of his body escaped the stick. He couldn't hide, the minute he rolled up the guard would ensure he laid out straight again.

Finally the darkness arrived to guide him away but his sub-conscious knew the beatings continued for a lot longer.

Murdock was unsure of when the change occurred, when he didn't wake up tied to the stool. Now things had progressed, he knew he had angered them with his persistence. He woke up face down with his hands tied to a pole that run across his back, his elbows draped over the top of the bar. When the guards wanted to be entertained now, they tightened the rope, cutting all circulation.

After one particularly bad beating, Murdock woke up finally, his arms aching for any form of blood supply. The position was proving uncomfortable and unbearable, no longer being able to concentrate through the pain, it felt like he'd been born into the position he now sat in.

The room was pitch black, the guard stood outside exchanging stories with some others. A piece of bread was stuffed in Murdock's mouth, not much different to the old rag they used during the beatings. Food was scarce and usually off but it was something to help him survive, he would accept it willingly. This time however, more bread was put in his mouth, more water was offered.

"You're being moved," a quiet voice said, "This is to get your strength up for the journey, eat it and rest," the voice continued and Murdock felt the ties around his wrist being loosened.

His arms flopped down by his side, barely able to lift his head to eat the food he was grateful for the first act of compassion he had received as the quiet man lifted his head to give him more bread and water. The pain he now felt in his arms was immense as slowly the feeling returned as the blood fought its way around the newly freed veins.

His hands were still useless and numb as he was helped into a sitting up position; the quiet man escorted him to a wall and helped him to sit down. The man left with Murdock wishing he had the strength to say 'thanks'.

He had sat there, relieved to be out of the restraining position. Unable to shake the feeling of vulnerability he had felt, remembering how he'd been in similar position when he was abused. The thought struck him that not once had he been abused like before, even though the torture was mentally as bad it was more calculated than the direct abuse of rape. What he had experienced here was more painfully simple, being forced to keep the same position, to keep yourself amused within your own thoughts. It was evil, purposely self destructive and very effective form of torture. In some ways, you were torturing yourself and in essence doing their work for them.

Murdock became aware he was being moved, he was now standing and light was in the room. Focusing, a hard thing to do once you have lived in darkness, Murdock squinted and barely made out four guards in the room with him as the light hurt his eyes. Darkness returned as his eyes were covered with a blindfold, he felt his clothes being removed and fear overcome him as instinct alerted him to his past.

His fears were eased as new garments covered his sore, painfully thin and weakened body. His hands were tied in front of him and he was led outside to breath fresh air for the first time in a long while, his steps unsure he found himself quickly getting into step as he received a beating for every stumble.

The journey seemed short as Murdock enjoyed the rare outing; he paid attention to the sounds of life around him in the jungle. He guessed there were at least ten other men in the group as he was told to stop; suddenly he was marched forward again. Reaching what felt like a door, Murdock was pushed inside and heard it close behind him. Another cell he thought, this time blindfolded and hands still tied. He gathered his energy; his hands still hurt from lack of circulation for so long.

Suddenly he was aware of movement, panic filled him as his thoughts and paranoia of being vulnerable kicked in. He instinctively moved back and struggled to free his hands.

"Don't struggle, my god, Murdock?"

Murdock froze as a familiar voice was heard.

"F-Face?" Murdock managed; he had forgotten the last time he'd spoken.

"Don't speak, just relax, I'm here," Face assured him and was already untying his hands.

Finally he removed the blindfold. Murdock tried to focus, squinting but he saw nothing.

"I-I can't-" Murdock struggled with words and felt Face's hand on his shoulder.

"It's OK, you've been in the dark for a long while. Your sight will return, it just needs to adjust."

Face crawled up to Murdock and held him, brushing his hand against Murdock's forehead.

"Just sleep, nothing will happen to you, I promise," Face whispered and Murdock felt himself relax.

Within minutes he was asleep, still unsure of where he was or what had happened. Face kept hold of him, for his own comfort as well as Murdock's. He been in the cell for a few days, a nameless soldier had held him for those first few hours and it helped him through. His thoughts wondered to the nameless soldier, only with him for what seemed a short time. He had been dragged out of the cell roughly a day before, Face wondered if he was next.

He looked down at Murdock and sighed, he too had had the solitary torture. He inwardly thanked the lord that Murdock had been strong enough to get this far, he had had his doubts. Holding Murdock tighter he let himself fall asleep, to dream of better times.

 

***********

 

The time passed but never registered, what seemed like a day may have been an hour. Guesses were the only things that judged the passing of time, as the colder weather drew in. They were no longer wearing the long warm pyjamas, so good at keeping in the heat. Now the climate was colder they had to wear shorts, suffocating heat was no longer the problem it had been.

Murdock curled up tight in the corner of the room; unable to get warm his fingers were numb. The cold air and brisk breeze cut through him, there was little protection. He looked over to where Face usually huddled, he was still absent after being taken some hours ago.

Murdock had been grateful that he had got to room with Face, the only friend he had in the hell he now lived in. Pain and suffering was second nature to him now, his dreams the only escape. Murdock closed his eyes, he knew the situation was wearing him down and he was finding it hard to keep up the momentum of survival. The images he saw were becoming too real, if he imagined owning a dog he'd be able to see it within moments of picking the breed. Reality and the imagination were joining forces and he couldn't stop it, especially when Face was not there to kick him out of it.

The door suddenly opened and a limp form was thrown in like a rag, it took Murdock a while to realised the figure was Face. Blinking his eyes he attempted to rejoin reality, it took longer than it should have.

Murdock hurried over and scooped Face up in his arms, glad to see the blue eyes flutter.

"Face?" Murdock said with concern.

"H-Hold me," Face managed through gritted teeth.

Murdock noted the bruises and blood about Peck's body, his shorts were splattered with red blotches.

"What happened?" Murdock asked.

Face simply shook his head unwilling to answer. His eyes opened and Murdock froze; the stare was cold and pain filled.

"Tell me," Murdock insisted.

Peck's eyes creased up as tears formed and Murdock held Peck closer, taking in the full anguish the young lieutenant was feeling. Peck pulled away slightly and looked up at Murdock.

"T-They wanted me to be in some propaganda, I refused-" Peck spoke between sniffs. "I think they took offence," he added and even managed a smile through the pain.

Murdock shook his head, unable to comprehend the strength of will Peck seemed to have. He laid Peck down and reached for the small water supply they were given each morning, he began to sparingly sooth some of the cuts and grazes about Face's person.

"M-Murdock," Peck spoke quietly. "Do you understand why they do this?"

Murdock put the water down and looked into Peck's curious eyes.

"Not really," Murdock admitted. "Times we live in I guess," he shrugged.

"When those guys, you know back at base-" Face hesitated before proceeding. "Those guys who attacked you, the ones we stopped. Why did they do that?"

Murdock took a deep breath; the distant painful memory had been locked away. He remembered himself asking why he had been attacked, he remembered the release he went through to accept why it happened without knowing why in fact it happened.

"They just did, Faceyman," Murdock said lightly, feeling able to just dismiss it now.

Face seemed more distant now and Murdock took hold of his upper body, intending to hold him like he had done for him on numerous occasions recently.

"I find it hard to just accept it because it happened," Peck announced.

"Moving on is the easier thing to do," Murdock advised, he had never considered that Peck may have been troubled by what he saw that day.

"It happened to me," Peck stated without warning.

Murdock held him closer, feeling his inner pain and knowing what he must be feeling.

"I was beginning to wonder," Murdock admitted to him, the thoughts had started to cross his mind. "It never gets any less painful," he added sadly.

"How many times has it happened?" Peck wondered out loud, surprised by the confession.

"That was the second time, the first had been when I was captured once before," Murdock spoke slowly to stop his own emotions seeping through.

"I-I never realised," Face stated clearly saddened.

"That's why I was one hell of a son-of-bitch when I first arrived here," Murdock teased softly.

Peck nodded his head as the memories came back to him, of when he first met Murdock having just been in a bar fight.

"Hannibal never let me show my anger like that, he expected me to just pull myself together," Peck almost smiled. "Only now, I sometimes think I will it to happen, it always seems to now," he added quietly.

Murdock shot a look at Peck, his eyes were closing.

"Face, were you-" Murdock struggled to find the words. "Just now?"

Tears welled up in Face's eyes and Murdock brought him close again unable to accept it, fear rose inside him as he imagined the young lieutenants state of mind compared to his.

"It's not you, Face. Please believe that, its this place not you," Murdock repeated many times as he rocked Peck gently, trying to control his own feelings.

As Face fell asleep in his arms Murdock took a moment to think, here he was trying to comfort a man who had faced the same things he had. Only, he wasn't convinced even he had faced them completely yet. It seemed strange being so close to a subject that nearly destroyed him but being told by someone else as there own experience, he only imagined the horror had happened to him.

The door opened and two guards instantly separated the two men, grabbing Murdock and tying up his wrists. Murdock looked back at Face who dozily looked on; Murdock tried to reassure him with a glance before being led out of the cell. It was now his turn.

 

***********

 

The rain felt like daggers as Murdock hung by his wrists to a tree, fully exposed in just a pair of shorts to the elements. His shoulder's ached and he passed the time trying to figure out how long he'd been out there. He'd seen two dawns but had also been unconscious for long periods. He looked down at his sorry excuse for a body, skeleton's at med school looked healthier he thought.

His weakening state was made worse by the many whiplash cuts around his torso that seeped his life-blood. He flung his head back, subconsciously wishing for permanent darkness but knowing that would be the easy option.

The torturer returned, a man who appeared to enjoy his work it seemed by the huge smile he had. To Murdock's surprise the rope was given some slack and then released completely, leaving Murdock to crash to the ground in a heap. His senses, although not as sharp as they once were, could tell he was surrounded and he fought the inner battle with his fear.

He was almost relieved to find they intended to beat him senseless, at least then the darkness would come a lot quicker and his conscious would be spared any ugly details. The kicks to his body and punches to his face struck him hard, he was easily taken to the darkness. He was aware the beating and torture continued but where he now was had no room to feel the pain, that would come later after the event.

Murdock felt the pain almost before consciousness arrived, he fought to stay where he was but he could hear Peck talking. The words were even and unlike the words he normally heard, as he became more aware he recognised the words as those of the lord's book.

"F-Face," Murdock managed through the extreme pain, somehow he knew this time he'd been lucky.

Face never responded, instead he held Murdock close almost like a soft toy. Murdock's whole body stung and pain was never ending, his limbs felt on fire. He realised he could hardly move, he was lying flat on his back and Peck was lying next to him, holding his head.

"F-Face?" Murdock croaked softly, his throat felt like sandpaper.

Face seemed to snap out of his trance and appeared amazed that Murdock was calling his name, he reached for the water and eagerly poured some on Murdock's lips.

"Murdock? Your still with us?" he couldn't hide his joy.

Murdock didn't need detective skills to see the scared look Face carried with his joy, he had obviously scared the kid this time. He found some strength, biting his tongue as he sat up ignoring the pain. He knew he had to remain strong, Peck seemed to be counting on it.

"I'm still here, just needed more time that time," Murdock grinned.

"Don't ever do that to me again!" Face protested. "You were out cold for at least two days, I'm sure," he added.

Murdock saw fresh bruises on Peck's face, he figured he had taken the fancy of one of the guards. He didn't think he'd been touched in that way, but by Face's stare it was clear he'd been attacked again. The coldness of his look was evidence enough for Murdock, he sighed and took some more water.

"We will survive this, we will get through it," Murdock insisted.

Peck nodded his head and seated himself on the other side of the cell, they both allowed warm thoughts to entertain them.

"We still have each other, we're still fighting," Peck agreed finally. "Hannibal will be proud of us," he added after a moment's pause.

Murdock looked down at the mention of Hannibal's name, they still were not sure what had happened to Hannibal and BA back in a time that seemed a lifetime ago.

"I think I came real close with that last beating," Murdock found himself admitting with an uneasy calm.

Peck stared at him knowingly, death was not a sign of weakness here it was a sign of freedom and hope.

"If you do get there before me anytime soon, put in a good word right?" Peck jested.

Murdock smirked and passed the water over to Peck, he had never met anyone like him before and knew he had met a friend for life. They both had strengthened their friendship through circumstances, he could tell just by a look what Peck was thinking. They could sense each others pain with just a look and words didn't always need to be said, he knew Peck was thinking the same thing.

"We'll get through this," Murdock stated speaking out loud what they were both thinking.

 

***********

 

Murdock watched over Peck as he slept and his concerns were growing. Both Peck and himself had not left the cells in what seemed like days, what had been a daily occurrence now was just a memory. It had given him time to recover fully from the hideous beating he had received and it had allowed Peck some thinking time. Murdock couldn't help but fear what was next, had they realised they'd pushed them too far? Or were they now at the next phase?

As if answering his question the door finally opened and three guards walked in, one of the guards threw clothing at Murdock. Murdock took the laundered items and immediately recognised them to be his A-Team uniform, a strange sensation was felt within him as he looked across at the waking Templeton Peck.

"Get dressed, you are to be released at noon," the lead guard yelled.

Murdock and Peck looked at each other, their jaws dropping but everything fell into place. Why they had not been touched for a while, why they had started getting more water and food. Not enough to remove the skeleton look they both carried but enough to ease it a bit and wounds to die down.

Neither could talk as they rapidly changed into their uniforms, the feeling of complete clothing being like a luxury. Not until they were both fully dressed did they dare start to believe they may have survived, but the doubts were there.

"This could be a sick joke," Peck warned.

"I'm willing to play along just for the hope it may be true," Murdock reasoned.

The wait for the guards to reappear was torture itself and when they did they couldn't get out of their cell quick enough, within minutes they found themselves being embraced by their fellow countrymen. Unsure of what was happening, Murdock and Peck allowed themselves to be led away. Not until they were seated in the chopper did they believe it was over, the unknown friendly faces around them fast becoming their heroes.

During the journey they learned they had been released as a good will gesture, not so much a public thing but more of an understanding. The NVA guessed Murdock and Peck would share the horrors of their camps, intending word to spread amongst the enemy and let the fear run wild.

Murdock and Peck however had decided long ago never to share the true horror, deciding they would always be there for one another if they needed to talk.

 

***********

 

Colonel Smith and Sergeant Baracus walked into the infirmary and immediately saw the two men who had been missing for over eight months. They looked gaunt and weak, all bones and the scars of torture were obvious. Walking slowly to the two beds, they watched the two sleeping figures and the pain of their suffering cut deep.

Hannibal moved to Peck's side and saw a shadow of the man he had last seen, he felt the same when he glanced over to Murdock. Sitting down he couldn't say anything; words offered no comfort and couldn't change what had happened. BA looked from one man to the other, struggling to control his rage at the sight he saw.
Neither man noticed Murdock open his eyes, he saw the reflective manner of Hannibal and BA.

"Did you get my postcard?" Murdock croaked, the relief he felt on seeing the two men exploded into a wild smile.

"Murdock," Hannibal looked around.

"Don't be giving us no crazy talk, sucker," BA smiled.

Murdock sat up and sprung out of bed, embracing the big guy.

"I missed ya too, BA," Murdock teased, he had seen their worried expressions and intended to dispell them.

"Sit down, fool, ya sick!" BA protested as he pushed Murdock gently away.

Hannibal couldn't help but smile, remembering what Murdock used to be like he was pleased to see him joking around. Silently he hoped it wasn't a mask, Murdock still carried demons and he knew being a POW can't have helped.

"You rest, captain. We need your services in the team again as soon as your ready," Smith ordered.

"You mean I'm staying?" Murdock's smile seemed to get bigger, he had been wondering whether he might be sent home and was planning to appeal.

"Your unit needs you," Hannibal encouraged.

"What about me?" another voice croaked.

"Face!" BA exclaimed on seeing the lieutenant getting his bearings.

"Well, if you feel up to it," Hannibal mocked, finally relaxing about the fact his men were ok.

"I could get used to this though," Face smiled as he got comfortable in the sheets of his bed.

Hannibal and BA laughed; Murdock took a moment to thank the lord as Face turned over to get more sleep.

 

***********

 

Over the next eighteen months the team's reputation grew, they soon went from being the best to being unbelievable. The core of the unit, Smith, Baracus, Peck and Murdock were a formidable force and no one messed with them. Murdock grew in confidence in his new-found stature, his past nothing more than a very distant memory. It seemed soldiers confidence grew the minute they noticed it was him dropping them off or picking them up.

But with each passing day it was also obvious with the confidence came the paranoia, his experience as a POW had taught him to let his imagination run wild and since his return he'd been unable to curb it. On the surface his flights of fantasy were a welcome distraction, comic amusement in the jungles of hell. To the trained eye, they were a worrying sign that not everything was right.

Peck knew exactly what the flights of fancy were; they were a self defense mechanism. He knew Murdock was letting them stay to be able to protect himself against what really happened to him, he too to some extent still let his imagination take control but never for very long. Peck used his imagination to pull off his wilder scams, but he knew what was real and what was fake. He wasn't so sure about Murdock; he seemed to become totally convinced by his own delusions.

Murdock's continued decline, albeit a slow one did nothing for BA's new fear of flying. It now seemed that BA found it impossible to fly if Murdock was at the controls; it never helped if Murdock's current delusion was also on board.

It was at night that the true extent of Murdock's problem came to light, the core of the team now slept in a separate tent to the rest of the unit for fear of the truth being misreported. The nightmares had begun less than a week after they returned, Peck also suffered but Murdock found it harder because his nightmare was still there in his waking state.

At first Peck had tried to get Murdock to snap out of it, to see what was real and what was his imagination but it didn't get through. Now he simply played along, Murdock wasn't lost he was still there but there was a part of him, a small part that didn't let go and it was something Peck realized might never leave him. To talk to the man, was like talking to any other. Murdock still performed his duties, saved the day if needed. He just needed someone close by who understood him; Peck was now self-appointed to the role.

The air of optimism was rife and like a disease it spread to every soldier, the end of this war was in sight. Murdock took a deep breath, intending to soak up all the optimism he felt. He walked to the tent with a big grin on his face, the end of the tunnel was almost in sight he felt.

"Hey, fool. Take that dumb look off ya face!" BA moaned as he tried to shave.

"Good morning to you, ugly mudsucker, you."

Hannibal walked over to Murdock; he motioned for him to come to the back of the tent where a map was laid out.

"You know I don't know how you get away with talking to BA like that," Hannibal grinned.

"It takes years of practice," Murdock responded in all seriousness.

"Right, today's mission," Hannibal began, leaning over the map. "It's one of those top secret ones so you just need to drop off myself, Peck and Baracus."

"You sure I'm not needed?" Murdock checked. "I could bring some sandwiches or something."

"You have orders to report back here after you've dropped us off, you have to get C company to Da Nang before you come back to pick us up," Hannibal replied.

"Roger, roger," Murdock responded, making a mental note to collect his itinary for that day.

"You will fly this route to our drop off point, we can not afford to be spotted even accidently," Hannibal followed the route with his finger.

Murdock checked the route and nodded his head.

"But if I went this way," Murdock announced marking his own route, which took them everywhere but the destination. "You'd get a lot more Nam for your pennies," he smiled as if he was mapping out a tour.

"Murdock," Hannibal stated, his tone indicating this wasn't a time for jokes.

Murdock lost his grin and looked more closely at the map to memorize the route, he already knew but wanted Smith to see he was clear.

"We meet at 0900 hours," Hannibal announced and watched Murdock leave the tent.

"That fool never changes," BA muttered as he washed his face.

Hannibal smiled knowing BA had a weak spot for the captain but would never admit to it out loud.

Murdock glanced around the trees; he was flying low to avoid detection. He glanced back and saw BA with his eyes closed, it amused him that such a tough guy was now afraid to fly.

"Colonel, get ready to move out, the drop off point is fast approaching," Murdock ordered.

Murdock heard the noise of the three men preparing to leave, it pained him to not be a part of this mission but he knew he had to get back.

"Colonel, I'll be back here as Morrison orders, remember to retain your ticket for the return journey," Murdock teased.

He brought the chopper down to a clear parting in the trees and didn't hang around once the three men had departed. He let off a howl as he rose again and saluted the three soldiers, not knowing what was ahead of him when he returned.

Murdock flew much the same route back; he knew when he was on his own, as always, he was most vulnerable. The smoke however, distracted him from his concentration and he squinted to try and get a better look. The smoke was definitely coming from the base, it was a huge black cloud and the fear began to rise within him.

The smoke was blowing in his direction, blinding his vision and he had to rise above it making detection much easier. His panic was momentary as he got his bearings and forced himself to focus; however his imagination started to play its games as he approached the base. He never heard the gunfire hitting his bird, it took a moment for him to realize he was being attacked but he didn't know where from.

A series of bullets hit the tank and a small explosion ripped through the back of the bird sending the chopper into a series of spirals. Murdock regained control but by this time the engine was coughing for more fuel, he was over the base and his attention snapped to the fires erupting from it. The engine finally cut out and Murdock held on as the chopper went into a wild freefall, not wanting to be with the bird on impact Murdock timed his jump and landed heavily in some foliage on one side of the base.

Getting to his feet and ignoring the pain he felt to his arm and head he staggered to the main building, now a mass of fire and wreckage. He looked around and found some soldiers tending to the injured, he walked over dazed.

"W-What happened?" Murdock asked.

"Where did you come from, we thought we had everyone out!" the soldier explained.

"No, I was up there but my bird came down here and I jumped," Murdock explained thinking he had made perfect sense.

"Sit down, you need treatment urgently," the soldier fussed, concerned by Murdock's injuries and state of mind.

"I need to see Colonel Morrison, I have to get my next orders," Murdock tried to stand up but the soldier stopped him.

"There will be no more missions, this base is history," the soldier stated. "Besides, Morrison got the full impact of that explosion, he's dead."

Murdock turned his fuzzy attention to the building, knowing the soldier had turned away he gingerly stood up and walked towards the building. Looking around he saw properly the devastation and ruins he now stood in. Men were being laid out and covered before his eyes, moans and groans of pain were constant.

This base had been his sanctuary, his home in hell. He had great affection for this place, now he saw it destroyed and burning, he suddenly sensed a great loss. Something grew within him slowly, it was almost telling him that things could never be the same again. He crouched down to touch the dirt, one last contact with the place before things changed altogether.

"Captain Murdock?"

Murdock looked up and saw one of the unit, Stevens looking back.

"What happened?" Murdock asked, sounding as if he was about to cry.

"The place just blew, we had no warning."

Murdock stood up and walked with Stevens, his bewilderment clear.

"Are you alright, sir?" Stevens asked seeing Murdock clutching his arm.

"The chopper fell out of the sky again," Murdock shrugged.

"You must have flown back in the midst of it all," Stevens stated.

"How are the others?" Murdock asked, wondering where the rest of the team were.

"There are no others, until Smith, Peck and Baracus return we are the A-Team," Stevens suddenly broke down in tears and Murdock put his good arm around the man's shoulders.

"They all died?" Murdock asked knowing the answer.

"I wanted to read, they all went to the bar," Stevens said between the sobs of pain he cried.

Murdock wanted to remark but couldn't; the full impact of the loss was too great.

"Lets go back, see if we can help," Murdock murmured, his own pain now subdued in comparison.

The two men slowly walked back and worked through the day to try and retrieve what they could.

Murdock stayed close to Stevens, he knew the man was carrying the guilt of at least five men's deaths. No matter what he said, it made no difference. Stevens regretted not being there with the unit to die in the mortar attack, moving him to a group of soldiers still cleaning up he looked at his watch.

"Kid, I have to go collect the other's. With Morrison dead I'm not sure what time was allocated for pick up so I'm just gonna go along and wait, hopefully they'll already be there wondering where I am," Murdock grinned, he'd been trying to get away for the past hour.

Stevens gave him a nod that let him go, he raced over to where the choppers stood. His own bird was already a write off but he hoped another would be ready to go, time had already been wasted and he didn't like not knowing where the rest of the team were.

Murdock's face fell, as he approached the field where the choppers stood, not one had survived. He raced up to the crumpled remains, it seemed a mortar had hit the target and blown everything in range.

"Murdock!"

Murdock spun around and saw Stevens heading towards him, his face a mess of emotions and Murdock feared the worst. Stevens almost fell into Murdock's arms, struggling to breathe as he caught his breath.

"You have to come back!"

"What?" Murdock asked bemused.

Stevens took some more deep breaths.

"We've just heard, the team," Stevens announced before taking more breaths.

"What's happened?" Murdock demanded as he shook the man.

"Arrested, the team," Stevens announced. "They've been arrested!"

Murdock looked on confused, not understanding what was going on.

"What? Where?" Murdock asked.

"When they arrived back in Da Nang, the MPs arrested them for robbing the bank of Hanoi!" Stevens stated.

Murdock decided to go back, he grabbed Steven and headed back to where everyone else had gathered. His mind ran over all the possibilities, why would the team rob the bank of Hanoi? He had thought it odd that a pick up time wasn't decided before he dropped them off but a lot of things were being done differently, what with so much optimism that the war was nearing an end. How did the team end up in Da Nang? Murdock shook his head, unable to answer any of his own questions.

"Murdock!"

Murdock looked over to a group of soldiers, guys he'd only ever seen around the base or in the bars before today. Now, a strange camaraderie had developed in a few hours since the base was destroyed.

"Murdock, have you heard?"

Murdock headed over, realizing they knew more than he did.

"What's going on?"

"A unit just arrived back from Da Nang, they told us Smith, Baracus and Peck had been arrested accused of crimes against their country," one of the soldiers informed him.

"That's bullshit, they'd never do that!" Murdock yelled.

Murdock didn't know what to do, with no commander on hand there was no way to confirm anything. With no base it was difficult to do anything other than believe the rumors. Murdock moved away and seemed in a daze, he walked away from the group.

Murdock saw a truck arriving, he made out a group of officers and began to run over to them. As he ran he felt jolts of pain in his arm, reminding him of his pains. As he got closer he was spotted by two of the men, they seemed to wait for him to reach them as they got off the truck.

"Murdock, I'm glad we've found you," the man smiled.

"What's going on!" Murdock yelled, using his good arm to get hold of the man.

Murdock felt like he was speaking another language when the answers were not forthcoming, he was growing more angry as the frustration set in.

"Calm down, captain," the officer advised him. "Smith, Baracus and Peck have been arrested by the military police on suspicion of robbing the bank of Hanoi," he continued.

Murdock took some breaths and focused on the man, his confusion clear. The devastation around him and the news he was hearing, it was all becoming too much.

"They were following orders, I dropped them off," Murdock stressed.

"I don't think they were somehow ordered to rob a bank, captain. We need you to come with us now, to answer some questions," The man shook Murdock's grip on him off and led Murdock to the truck.

Murdock let the man guide him to the truck, once he was seated Murdock held his head in his hands. The feeling he had that things were never going to be the same grew stronger as the truck made its way to Da Nang.

 

***********

 

Interrogation again, although this time without the pain. Murdock sat in a sparsely decorated office and let the questions and accusations fly around him. No matter how many times he told them the team were following orders they never listened.

He was now refusing to answer any questions, an arrogance that clearly annoyed the men who questioned him. He knew it was odd that the orders were only given on a need-to-know basis, but then it wasn't beyond belief that a Special Forces team might have to deal with a mission on that setting sometimes. He silently cursed the death of Morrison, if the base hadn't been hit then this mess could have easily been avoided. Maybe Morrison had stitched up his unit, maybe Smith had changed the plan but whatever the reason he wasn't going to play any further part.

He'd stick by Smith no matter what, just as Smith had stuck by him. He owed the man the life he had and Peck and Baracus were like brothers to him. Deep down he knew the guys hadn't betrayed their country, he knew they were innocent.

Murdock's attention were alerted to two suited men who had just walked into the room, they were in a heated discussion with the guys who were questioning him.

"Look now, the man isn't even in this room with us. He doesn't hear your questions!"

Murdock narrowed his eyes realising he had just been miles away, oblivious to what was going on right in front of him.

"He knows what Smith was planning!" one of the questioners stated.

"That's of no concern, that man doesn't even know what planet he's on. I have papers here that makes him my concern and he needs help, this man isn't going to see anything other than the inside of a rubber cell," the suit smiled as the other suit walked over to Murdock.

Murdock looked quizzically at the suits, he saw the strait-jacket and he let the man put him into it. He was in a no win situation with the guys questioning him, they were already convinced he was in on it. He remembered how acting crazy could be a good defence, and in some way he did feel as if he was going mad.

The team was at that moment being transported back to America for the trial, he was stuck here until told otherwise but suddenly he had a ticket home. He smiled wildly and began to put the madness he had seen at the VA into use.

"You see, you won't get no answers from a loony toons," the suit smiled as he led Murdock out of the room.

Once outside the suit put a radio to his mouth, he glanced at Murdock with suspicion.

"We have the item, be ready with the transport we're coming down," he stated.

Murdock looked back at the suit and it clicked, these guys were the CIA he had no doubts about that. They had probably got scared he'd talk now Smith wasn't there to look after him, he was back in their hands.

Murdock made the decision to continue back home, the VA wasn't exactly security aware and it had a bed to sleep on and food. Maybe for a few months it would provide a good base, then he'd check out his options. His first priority was to the team; his own welfare would always be on a back burner.

The numbness and anger continued to cloud his every move, he felt alone and useless. Strapped up in a strait jacket in a room with walls he could bounce off, but he wasn't in the mood. He was so confused and angry that it hadn't taken the hospital long to find him, at the courthouse where the team were standing trial.

His friends and his unit, the sound of the hammer coming down still sent a shudder through him. Closing his eyes, Murdock couldn't even begin to think of anything beyond the next second. Hannibal, Face and BA had been sentenced for a crime he knew they didn't commit.

Unaware of anyone else in the room, Murdock continued to look within himself for an explanation. He had found a reason to live, a purpose to his life after everything that had happened to him. Now he sat restrained and unable to do anything apart from begin the journey to hatred once again.

"Captain Murdock?"

Murdock was suddenly aware of another person with him, but too caught up in his own misery to acknowledge him.

"My name is Doctor Richter, I've been told you're a little shy."

Murdock still refused to respond; instead he remained sitting down with his eyes closed. The doctor edged forward and slowly began to undo the jacket, causing Murdock to open his eyes sharply.

"I don't think I have to fear you," Richter said on seeing Murdock's expression.

Murdock narrowed his eyes, he was in no mood for talking but appreciated being free from the jacket.

"You were found at the courthouse, I understand you were interested in the A-Team case. They were your unit, right?" Richter asked hoping to get a reaction.

Murdock simply sniffed and held his knees close to him.

"It must be hard to know they betrayed their country," Richter prompted.

Murdock sprang up in sudden anger and lunged at Richter, taking hold of his coat jacket. Richter simply stood his ground; Murdock's energy was in his emotions rather than his actions.

"They didn't!" Murdock began to sob, not realising why he couldn't find the strength to fight the man who had suggested otherwise.

"Let it go, let the inner battle out," Richter encouraged.

"Shut up!" Murdock raged pushing himself away from Richter.

"I can help you, Murdock, but you have to let them go," Richter frowned.

Murdock curled up in the corner and shook his head.

"You have to start again, get it into your head that the past is over," Richter continued.

Murdock couldn't forget, how could he forget? The CIA had destroyed him, Nam had nearly killed him but he had survived. He survived because Smith had given him the reason to fight back, now Smith needed help and he couldn't provide it.

Richter looked thoughtfully at the man before him, so wrapped up in guilt and anger. He wasn't sure how professional his next act was going to be, but he was willing to give it a go. He could see instantly how important the A-team were to this man, he knew he had a right to know.

"Murdock, I want to gain your trust and by telling you something, I hope it will," Richter was pleased when Murdock looked over. "This morning, the A-team escaped from Fort Bragg."

Murdock's eyes went wide and a sparkle could be faintly seen, he crawled closer to Richter and used him to stand up.

"You're not jesting with me?" Murdock checked.

"No, Murdock. They escaped and have not been seen since," Richter said with all seriousness.

Murdock turned away as if deep in thought, he paced the room with a new found energy.

"Now, will you talk to me and co-operate?"

Murdock glanced over to the doctor who was waiting for an answer.

"Do I get a couch?" Murdock asked like a child.

"You get a whole office, I get a desk and chair," Richter enthused.

Murdock nodded his head, pleased to be leaving the padded cell he followed Dr Richter to the office. As they passed the floor's reception a woman called out after Richter.

"Doctor Richter, do we have a patient by the name of HM Murdock?"

Richter looked around to Murdock and smiled.

"Well yes, he's right here," Richter motioned as they approached the desk.

"This came for him," the receptionist struggled with a big teddy bear.

Murdock took the bear and saw a card attached and with curiosity he read it, suddenly smiling brightly.

"Murdock?" Richter asked confused as to why someone had sent him a big cuddly toy.

"It will help me to sleep at night," Murdock said without the hint of jest.

Richter frowned and walked on down the hall with Murdock following behind. Murdock took the card one more time and read its contents.

'Stay on the jazz'

 

 

the end or the beginning?

September 1999

 

 


Killing Time by Jipster
Killing Time 2 by Jipster
Killing Time 3 by Jipster

 

 


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