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This page last viewed: 2017-08-17 and has been viewed 2020 times
Rating: R-17 for mature adults
Beta: The wonderful Kerensa
Warning: adult situations, deals with rape, bad language, mentions torture
Summary: Hannibal and B.A. find out about Murdock and Face. They're not
Feedback Level: 2
Disclaimers: I owe nothing but bills. You can have those if you really want
Notes: All words between ** are suppose to be in italics (just in case it doesn't come though in the e-mail)
Hannibal threw down his newest scrip in disgust. He'd been staring at the
same page for the past two days and still had no idea what the first scene
was about. He hadn't been able to concentrate worth a damn on anything since
he'd found out about his men and about what had really happened to Murdock
back in the P.O.W camps. The guilt just kept eating away at him and it
was about to drive him crazy.
Deciding that he just needed some fresh air to clear his mind, Hannibal
grabbed his jacket and the keys to his latest ride, a four-door beat-up
brown sedan that had been a prop on his last movie. It looked like utter
shit, but thanks to B.A.'s genius tinkering, it drove like a dream. A friend
on the movie lot had lent it to him for a few months and even said that he
didn't even mind if a few more dents and scratches showed up on it. It was
going to be demolished anyway, a vehicular casualty in an upcoming action
movie, so Hannibal might as well enjoy it until then.
Getting in, Hannibal cranked the car up and searched the radio stations,
hoping to find something that would fit his current mood. He by-passed the
rock stations, frowned at the one still stubborn disco station, winced at
the screaming punk 'music' and grimaced at the opera and classical stations.
He lingered a bit on the talk shows only long enough to find out the topic
of discussions and discovered the one country music station that was playing
an oldies montage. Hannibal sat and listened for a few moments as the sounds
of Hank, Loretta, Earnest and others filled the car with their soothing,
Putting the car into drive, Hannibal pulled into traffic. He wandered the
streets aimlessly, one part of his mind on the road and potential M.P.'s and
the other on the music. His mind began to empty and he felt a huge weight
lift off his shoulders. This was just what he needed, a mindless activity to
Hannibal drove for hours, uncaring of his destination and undisturbed with
any traffic jams he came across. He had no set place to be within any time
frame, no missions, no duties or responsibilities that day. For the time
being, Hannibal was truly free from everyone and everything.
Just before noon, he glanced at the level of gas in the tank and was
surprised to find that it was almost on empty. It was time to fill up.
Perhaps he would just keep going after that and drive away from all the
problems that plagued him. It was a tempting thought, but he dismissed that
idea. Hannibal knew that he would become bored after a few weeks. He needed
the jazz to feel alive.
Sighing in regret over the loss of the fantasy of freedom from
responsibilities, he finally looked at his surroundings in order to find a
gas station and was startled to find that he was across from the Westwood
V.A. hospital. He hadn't meant to end up there, in fact, until that very
moment, Hannibal hadn't cared where he was. While he thought that he had
been aimlessly wondering the city, his sub-consciousness had taken him where
he really needed to be.
Hannibal knew that he really had to talk about this situation to someone.
B.A. was still against this, whatever *this* was, and Face refused to speak
to him unless it was about a job. Speaking of which, Face had been a bit
high-handed when he ordered Hannibal and B.A. not to contact Murdock.
The more he thought about it, the more Hannibal became ticked off about it.
He was the leader of the A-Team, not some teenage boy stiffening around the
parson's virginal daughter. If he wanted to talk to one of his men, he didn't
need *permission* to do so. To hell with Face, he decided. He needed to talk
to Murdock alone and get his side of the story.
'The lieutenant talks a good game, let's just see how Murdock *really* feels
about all of this', he thought. Hannibal wanted to know if this relationship
was on equal footing or if Murdock felt obligated to continue it because he
didn't know how to end it on his own. The pilot had a big heart and he
really had to know if Murdock was truly in love with the blond conman or was
only continuing this simply because he didn't want to hurt Face's feelings.
Wishing that he thought to bring a disguise, the Colonel was a bit surprised
to find the visitors parking lot full. It seemed that he wasn't the only one
with the idea of visiting that particular Saturday and, going by the
wind-carried laughter, many had brought their children along.
Hannibal wouldn't need a disguise after all; he would just melt into the
clusters of families visiting the patients. No one would give him a second
glance. The only flaw would be if Murdock had been confined to his room or
had chosen to stay indoors today.
But, Hannibal dismissed that last thought as he found the last spot open and
parked. Murdock spent as much free time outside as possible, especially on
Saturdays when visitors were more likely to show up. He'd once said that he
liked to watch the families and pretend that his own was going to show up
That last statement always made Hannibal feel sad. He and the others might
not be able to visit the few close friends and family they had as much as
they wanted to, being on the run like they were; but Murdock wasn't in
hiding and what few blood relatives he had left knew how to keep in contact
with him. They just didn't want anything to do with him.
The thoughts of a cold, abusive and judgmental father and the remembrances
of the horror of the P.O.W. camp brought Hannibal's mood down further at the
thought of all that Murdock had endured. He grimly searched the crowds of
family knots, nurses and orderlies looking for Murdock and finally spotted
his quarry sitting under an enormous oak tree. Hannibal dodged laughing
children playing tag as he made his solemn way to the small, still figure.
Murdock sat with his back against his favorite tree that he'd named Herbert
a long time ago. Herbert's huge arms and bushy fingers provided great shade
and a good hiding spot when he wanted to go as unnoticed as possible. Like
today for instance. Unlike his usual sprawl, he sat hunched over, arms tight
around his legs and his head propped up on his knees.
He hadn't wanted to come out today and watch all the happy people milling
around. He had wanted to stay in his darken room, living in the shadows and
hiding away from all the prying eyes. But the staff had prodded, cajoled,
and finally threatened him into going outside.
Murdock knew that Dr. Richter and the others were worried about him but he
was at a loss as to how to reassure them. How could he tell them that he was
going to lose his soul mate after Face finally caved in under the pressure
from the rest of the team? How could he tell them that when that day
ultimately came, he was going to eagerly lose himself to the madness for the
Without his Face, the world no longer appealed to him. He would gladly throw
himself off the abyss of sanity without a backwards glance. Face *was* his
sanity. Without the blond in his life, well, why stick around at all?
So, he stayed in his room more the usual, curled up under his bed instead of playing
his video games and staring at the shadows instead of watching t.v. or reading his
extensive collection of comics.
He had hoped that if he stayed as still and as quiet as possible, he would
simply fade away, taking the pressure off of his precious Face and saving
Hannibal and B.A. the trouble of putting up with his disgusting self out of
a misguided sense of duty. Once he was finally and truly gone, the team
could rest easy knowing that they could become whole once again.
Sure, Face might grieve for a while, but he would eventually heal. And then
he would be free to find someone else, anyone else. Hannibal and B.A. would
approve of Face's next companion, even if it was a guy. The mysterious
unknown replacement would be handsome, smart, and most certainly, and
importantly, be *sane*. He would also be pure, unsoiled in his
mind, body and soul. In other words, the complete opposite of a crazy-ass
After all who would pick a half-eaten hamburger when they could have filet
mignon? Who would pick a warm, flat Coke over chilled champagne? Who would
have a few cold, greasy French fries when they could have a steaming-hot
loaded baked potato?
The thought of himself as a discarded Happy Meal brought Murdock's mood down
further. Usually, the thought of takeout made him hungry, but not anymore.
In fact, his appetite had fallen off the deep end and he knew that it made
Dr. Richter even more concerned. The man kept shoving pills down the pilot's
throat, hoping that the drugs would stimulate his hunger.
It would only be a short matter of time before the staff resorted to a
feeding tube, but Murdock didn't care. He was in the process of losing
everything that was important, so why did it matter if he couldn't summon up
the energy or desire to poke at the Jell-O?
Murdock glanced up at the sky in order to judge the sun's position. He
wanted to keep to the shadows as much as possible and he needed to know when
he would actually have to shift to stay hidden. Satisfied that he wouldn't
have to move for a few more hours, he let his eyes drift down and spotted
Hannibal heading his way.
Murdock froze as his whole body seemed to turn to ice. He actually felt his
heart stop, sputter and then began to pound in fear. Hannibal almost never
visited without a reason and if it was for a job, he always wore a disguise.
There was no funny wig or hat and certainly no fake nose or beard today. And
if it *was* for a job and Face couldn't make it to scam or break him out,
the blond always called ahead to let him know of the switch. There had been
no such call this morning.
A sudden realization rushed though him like a red hot flash of heat, melting
the ice in his veins and burning his heart to a cinder. He knew why Hannibal
had come to see him. This was *it*.
The big good-bye.
The brush off.
The ol' heave-ho.
The adios amigos.
The see ya' later alligator.
The don't let the door hit ya' where the good Lord split ya'.
The see ya' sucker.
The big finish.
The so long and don't take any wooden nickels.
The don't call us, we'll call you.
*Get on outta here*!
In short, Murdock was being thrown away like the used, broken goods that he
The lanky pilot would've choked on his own spit if it hadn't already dried
up at the sight of his now soon- to-be-former commander. He had hoped, no
*prayed* to whoever it was up there that listened to people like him, that
he might still have a few more months with Face. Instead, he had only had a
few precious weeks before the end finally came for him.
Murdock only hoped that Hannibal would make it a quick and clean break, like
severing a moldering, putrid limb that was no longer useful. But his mind
conjured up images of a long farewell, like a wasting, lingering disease
that would just drag on and on with no real end in sight.
His always fertile imagination had already supplied him with the upcoming
conversation. First, Hannibal would ask Murdock how he was doing and after
politely nodding at his reply without really listening, he would then tell
the pilot about their newest mission. But the job would be in L.A. so they
didn't need to fly anywhere. In fact, it was only a three man task so
Murdock could just sit back and relax at the V.A. because there wouldn't be
any need to break him out. And Murdock would look happy and relieved in the
face of this devastating news.
After Hannibal left, he would most certainly get a call from Face, telling
him that even if the pilot wasn't with them, he was certainly in the blond
man's thoughts and dreams. There might even be a vague promise of a romantic
dinner for the two of them after the job was wrapped up. After Face had a
bit of time to rest up, that is.
Face might even have every intention of keeping that date, but another
mission would soon follow on the heels of the last one. Also in town, also a
three man job and there really wouldn't be any reason to disturb the crazy
man in the nut house. It would just be better all-around to let him get the
rest and quiet that his chaotic mind needed.
After that there might even be mission out of town, but still a three man
job; or they might actually call with an excuse of renewed military security
and Face would very regrettably say that the area was too hot to attempt a
And while they were out on their jobs, Murdock's only contact with them
would be through sporadic phone calls. Which, after a while, would trickle
down to silence.
Face would then be free to find someone worthy of his love and Hannibal and
B.A. would simply be relieved to not have to deal with a mistake on the
team. And as for him? Well, he would just fade into the shadows where he
belonged anyway; away from normal people, away from any source of light and
goodness, forgotten until he simply ceased to exist.
The little imaginary conversation soon turned in to a babble of confusing
voices buzzing in his ears. One voice told him to stand up and take the news
like a real man. He might be a faggot, but he was still - biologically - a
Another voice shrilly screamed at him to *run*, run as fast and as far as he
could. They couldn't throw him off the team if they couldn't catch him.
A reasonable sounding voice told him that maybe he should be the one to end
it. After all, *he* was the one that was poisonous to the team, he should be
the one to break it off in order to take the pressure off the innocent team
A low sinister, spine-chilling voice that sounded suspiciously like his
father whispered that he should knock Hannibal unconscious, take his
concealed weapon and *really* end it for good. Surely they would be relieved
if Murdock *did* kill himself. After all, they shouldn't feel guilt from
having to watch him slowly die inside. It wasn't *their* fault that he
should've been drowned at birth if this was how he turned out. He really
*should* die. He deserved to because he was unnatural, a by-blow of
Satan himself for having carnal urges towards other men like he did. He was
going to roast in Hell for all of eternity, so he just might as well jump
into the flames as soon as possible because there was no sense in delaying
Murdock's mind might have been busy with confusing and conflicting thoughts,
but his body had decided to do its imitation of a park statue. As his brain
screamed at him to do 'something', his muscles decided to take a vacation
from the stress and left his body frozen in place. Murdock couldn't have
moved if his feet were on fire. He did manage to glance up, saw the grim
look on his soon-to-be-former C.O.'s face and dropped his glaze, suddenly
finding the grass and roots under him very fascinating.
Hannibal's concern about Murdock's well-being deepen the closer he got to
his friend. Murdock was thinner, much thinner than the last time he'd seen
him only a few weeks ago. It was true that the pilot was naturally skinny
with his hyper-metabolism, but this was entirely different. The bones in his
hands looked fragile and bird-like as they kept a white- knuckled grip
around knobby looking knees. He had briefly seen the Captain's face before
he looked down. Murdock's face had a haunted, fearful look with sharp cheek
bones emphasizing the deep circles under his eyes.
Not only had the younger man stopped eating, apparently he had stopped
sleeping as well. Hannibal felt a flair of anger at the staff of the
Westwood V.A. hospital. Why was Murdock outside when it was obvious to
anyone with half a brain that he was ill? The pilot should be inside, tucked
into a warm bed and being feed soup and ice cream and watching B movies with
bad acting, tacky costumes, lousy special effects and even worse plots.
But no, they had allowed him to sit outside where he could easily catch a
chill or fever in his weakened physical condition. Never mind that it was a
sunny eighty-five degrees and Murdock was wearing his leather jacket, the
man could still become sick from any one of the visitors floating around.
The man's immune system could be compromised and it was very possible that
he could catch someone's minor summer cold and have it turn into double
pneumonia before anyone could blink.
Once he had his talk with Murdock, he would insist that the other man return
to his room to rest. He would then find a way to alert the staff to Murdock's
possible illness and hopefully with the right meds, nutritious food and
enough sleep, the boy would be back to his old bouncing-off-the-walls self.
Hannibal stopped near the huddled form of one of his most vulnerable
friends. Except for that brief glance up, Murdock hadn't moved from his
position. In fact, he huddled into himself even further, the bill of his
baseball cap resting on his knobby knees.
But before Hannibal could open his mouth, an orderly appeared out of
Wayne had seen the older man stop in front of Murdock and decided to
intervene on the Captain's behalf. With the way Murdock had been acting
lately, it was no telling how a stranger might set him off.
He had been working at the V.A. for almost as long as Murdock had been a
patient and knew the man almost never had any visitors unless they were the
M.P.'s, visiting psychiatrists looking to have a crack at him, or that same
mysterious blond man who came to check out the former pilot for everything
between experimental drug treatments, rare and contagious illnesses, organ
transplants or rumors of possible C.I.A. leaks.
After a minute or two, Wayne dismissed the older man as an M.P. While the
man had a military-like baring, he wasn't in uniform and besides, they
always traveled in groups. He really couldn't see an off-duty M.P. visiting
Murdock just for shits and giggles.
And, although he was as old as many of the doctors at the V.A. he had
neither the employee badge or the smirk all the new docs wore as they
imagined that *they* would be the one to cure Westwood's most famous psych
patient. A smirk that didn't last more than an hour after meeting Murdock
and having their illusions of fame and fortune shatter and then swirl down
And after listening to the different nurses swooning descriptions of the
same man who always seemed to turn up to check Murdock out, Wayne knew that
this guy was too old. Besides, how many more organs did Murdock have left to
The orderly knew by his personal file that Murdock had family, and he had
heard the nurses discussing how some of the families didn't visit psych
patients simply because they were disgraced to have someone crazy in their
Which was a damn shame in Wayne's opinion. Didn't those people realize that
no matter how far gone some of these guys were, having family around that
cared went a long way in part of their recovery? And Wayne knew that money
couldn't always be an excuse when the family lived out of town or out of
state. Sure, some of the poorer families couldn't visit as much as they
wanted, but they did show up on important holiday months, wearing their best
clothes, some a little more patched and threadbare then others; but they
*did* show up. And when they couldn't, there was at least a call or a letter
every week or so.
But for many of them, like Murdock, they were simply forgotten vets. They
had risked their lives and lost their sanity for a society who had all but
ignored their men and for families who had abandoned them.
Wayne knew that part, if not the majority of these guys, would never leave
the grounds of Westwood. They would live and die behind these walls and it
was up to the staff to see them as well cared for as possible and protected
them as best as they could from the cruelty of outsiders.
Besides, despite Murdock's rather alarming consistency of escapes, the rare
occasional angry outbursts and the mind boggling personality changes, the
Captain was well liked by the staff. He never went out of his way to
deliberately and maliciously cause trouble and was often seen chatting away
at the catatonic patients, pausing in his speech as if the other men had
actually responded to him. It was way beyond a bit particular but Wayne
always hoped to be around when one of the catatonic guys actually woke up
and spoke back to the outrageous things Murdock talked about.
So this latest down turn of Murdock's was alarming, to say the least and
Wayne only hoped that it wouldn't turn into a suicide watch. Those watches
meant that the patient had given up all hope and it was usually a long, hard
road back to recovery. He should know, he had worked some of Murdock's
earlier episodes in his stay and he hated to think that the usually
easy-going guy sliding back to that dark place inside of him.
"Can I help you find someone, sir?"
Hannibal looked at the large young man suddenly blocking his way. He pasted
a smile on his face, thrust out a hand and said in his best Southern voice,
"Why, Ah'm visiting family, my good sir. My name is B.J. Murdock. Ah'm a
cousin to H. M. here."
Wayne ignored the hand and skeptically raised an eyebrow, "If you're his
relative, then where have you been for the past twelve years?"
Hannibal didn't miss the distrust radiating from the orderly's voice and he
approved of it, even if it *was* directed at him. It seemed that Murdock did
have someone looking out for him at the hospital. Maybe after he and Murdock
talked, he could enlist Wayne's help to convince the pilot to go inside and
back to bed where he belonged.
So, it wasn't that hard to inject shame into his voice as he answered the
suspicious orderly. "Why, Ah've been in the Congo these past fifteen
years, setting up a clinic for orphaned orangutans and gorillas. It's right
terrible what those scoundrel hunters do to those poor baby critters down
there. Ah do a lil' huntin' myself, but Ah hunt for food, not for trophies.
Ah met Miss Jane Goodall at a charity function years ago and she jus'
charmed the boots right offa' me. So, Ah said to myself, 'B.J. you ol' dog,
ya ain't done a thing in your life but make more money than ya' can shake a
stick at and this lil' gal here's trying to save poor lil' baby monkeys.'
"Ah'll tell ya' Ah felt so ashamed of myself that Ah jus' up and sold
everythin' and moved down to the jungles to open up a clinic for that lil'
monkey lady. And that's right where Ah was an' 'fore Ah knew it, fifteen
years went by and Ah started hankerin' for some good ol' grits and greens,
ya' know, they don't have good ol' Southern food down in them jungles. It's
mostly 'nanas and coconuts. That's how come those people down yonder looks
so scrawny and puny looking. Ain't got no good groceries to stick to their
"So, anyway, once Ah got back home and filled up on some of my mama's
biscuits and gravy and fried chicken, poor ol' dear can hardly get around,
bless her heart, but she sure can still fill a table up with good food. And,
once Ah got settled in good and proper, Ah wanted to get reacquainted with
my family, seeing that it has been so long since Ah seen everybody or read a
letter from down home. Mail is kind of slow in the jungle ya' know. Anyway,
imagine my surprise to hear about my dearest cousin being in a hospital way
down here in California.
"So, Ah hopped on 'nother plane and came all this way to see H.M. here. You
fellas sure do have a right pretty place here."
Wayne could only blink in the face of Murdock's cousin's speech. There might
not be any *family* resemblance, but the old guy sure had the same rambling
speech that the pilot often displayed. But, family or not, he wouldn't leave
Murdock alone with a virtual stranger unless the captain approved it.
For the first time in days, Murdock spoke to someone other than Face. "He's
ok, Ollie. He's . . . family."
If either man had noticed the pause and the little hitch in Murdock's voice
on the word 'family' neither of them mentioned it.
Hannibal just stared at the orderly's name tag which clearly said 'Wayne'
and raised an eyebrow.
Pride prevented Wayne from explaining that Murdock called all of the
orderlies 'Ollie". No one knew why and Murdock never bothered to explain
that some days he couldn't remember other people's names, much less that he'd
forgotten - occasionally - how to read. Ollie the orderly and Nancy the
nurse was easy to remember on days like that. Anyway, it was a lot nicer
then what some of the other patients called them.
Besides, Wayne figured that this so-called cousin should get used to Murdock's
little eccentricities now instead of later when the pilot really got going.
He only hoped that it wouldn't drive Murdock deeper into himself if B.J.
Murdock decided that he couldn't handle it and bailed out on him. The man
had enough problems without getting his hopes up about finally having family
in contact, only to have those same hopes dashed when he realized that his
long-lost cousin never wanted anything left to do with him after one visit.
"Well, I'll leave you two alone, but I'll be in calling distance if you need
Wayne waited until Murdock gave a small nod and he walked away, still
casting suspicious glances over his shoulder.
Hannibal chuckled over the bewildered look that he'd gotten after his little
explanation. It seem that hanging around Murdock all of these years had
finally paid off. Murdock used to give the same rambling type of reply to
the brass when they asked a simple yes or no question.
"That was close, huh Murdock?"
Hannibal looked down at Murdock. The captain's voice had sounded flat,
formal and emotionless, as if Hannibal was some stranger instead of his
friend and commanding officer. Murdock was staring at his knees as if they
were the most amazing things in the world.
"Are you feeling alright, Murdock?" asked Hannibal, his voice full of
"Yes, sir. Fine, sir. Thank you for asking, sir."
What the hell was this all about? Murdock had always called him Hannibal,
Colonel, or whatever cover the older man had donned for a job. And when
Murdock did address him as 'sir', it was usually with a light, teasing tone
in a off-the-wall accent, not this remote formalness. Hannibal's senses went
on full alert and a cold shiver went up his spine.
Once Hannibal had made up his mind to talk to Murdock, he had been prepared
for the pilot's scorn. After all, he and B.A. had reacted rather badly back
at the beach house. He'd even expected Murdock's well deserved rage and
anger over Hannibal's failure to keep him safe when they'd been in the V.C.'s
A new wave of self-pity washed over Hannibal. Maybe if he'd been a better,
stronger, *smarter* leader, he could've come up with an escape plan sooner
then he had. Maybe less men would've died and Murdock wouldn't have been
Not for the first time did Hannibal wonder what had finally landed the
colorful captain in a psych ward. Had it been the war in general, the rapes
in specific, or his own failure as a leader? He was afraid to ask because he
didn't want to know that it *had* been his fault.
A feeling of self-loathing washed away his pity. This *wasn't* about him and
his short- comings. This was about Murdock, *his* wants and *his* needs. And
if he wanted and needed Face, well, Hannibal wasn't going to try to stand in
B.A., however, might be a different matter altogether.
Tired of standing and staring, he asked, "Mind of I join you?"
Hannibal was beginning to hate the sound of that simple, three letter word.
A feeling of unease settled in his stomach. Except for that very brief look
up earlier, Murdock hadn't looked at him; hadn't actually looked at anyone
He settled himself close to the pilot, but was careful not to actually touch
him. He didn't want to crowd the younger man, not knowing what would set off
a panic attack in this state of mind that Murdock seemed to be in.
Murdock used to do that quite a bit right after the camp. A simple touch on
the shoulder or an accidental nudge with a foot sent the skinny pilot
howling into a corner of their hooch where he would shake until he started
to hyperventilate from fear. Then it took all four of them to hold him down;
him and Ray holding down a thrashing arm and leg apiece, B.A. across the
bucking, panicking body with Face forcing Murdock to breathe into a paper
bag until he passed out. Hannibal had always assumed that those episodes
were the result from Koa's extensive torture sessions. Now he knew better
and he felt even more guilt washing over him.
Murdock completely misunderstood the intentions. 'Of course,' he thought. 'He
doesn't want to come near me. He now knows how dirty I am. I'm garbage. A
sewer's cleaner than me. I'm lucky that he still wants to be in the same
*state* that I'm in.'
An awkward silence fell between the two men. One man not knowing how to
start and the other not wanting to hear what he knew for sure was to be
Cursing himself, Hannibal realized that there was no possible way to begin
this conversation with small talk. How do you explain your new understanding
of a friend's past behavior without letting on that you know about said
friend's rapes by a sadistic monster? You couldn't. So, as much as he didn't
want to, it was time to come clean about the revelations at the warehouse.
Wishing that he had Face's silver tongue, Hannibal nervously cleared his
throat before beginning one of the most difficult conversations he'd ever
had in his life.
"I guess that you're wondering why I'm here."
While Hannibal had been struggling to figure out what he wanted to say,
Murdock had done some thinking on his own. He was tired, depressed and he
didn't feel like having his heart slowly ripped apart. He didn't want to
listen to any of Hannibal's lies or excuses. He knew that he was being
dumped by the team; might as well do it quick, like ripping a band-aid off a
particularly bad scab. And that's exactly what Murdock felt like right now;
a pus-filled scaly scab on the elbow of humanity. Well, he was getting fed
up with being the boo-boo of the cosmos.
"No, sir. I know why you're here, sir."
Hannibal should've felt surprised but he didn't. Murdock often just *knew*
things before anyone else did back in 'Nam. Which secure LZ would turn into
a hornets nest before Intel reports came though. Which supplies would be
delayed because of the V.C. activity in the area long before they were due
to arrive. Which fellow pilot wouldn't make it back from a simple pick-up.
The fact that Murdock used to just show up out of nowhere to pick up the
team from an aborted mission just in time, long before they called in about
the scrubbed plans.
Hannibal knew that a lot of guys developed some sort of ESP out in the bush,
himself included. It kept a lot of squads from running into booby traps or
right into a patrol of V.C. troops. That ability kept you and your buddies
alive and safe. It was useful In-country, but back in the World it was down
Most guys dropped it like a bad smoking habit once they were home for good.
For some reason, Murdock hadn't and sometimes Hannibal found it a bit
unsettling to wake up in his newest hide-out just to find Murdock standing
outside the front door, a wide grin on his face while holding a bag full of
breakfast in his hands. It wasn't the fact that Murdock had found out where
he lived at all; it was the fact that he showed up the morning *after* he'd
moved in the middle of the night and *before* he let the others know that he'd
left his recent hideout. Hell, most of the time he didn't even know where he
would end up himself after picking a random direction and motel. B.A. said
it creeped him out when it happened to him and Hannibal had to agree.
Despite himself, Hannibal was intrigued. "You do, huh? Then why don't you
tell me why you think that I'm here."
Murdock took a deep breath and gave himself a little pep talk. He could do
this, he really could. His life and dreams might be coming to an end, but no
one could ever accuse him of running scared once a fight broke out. And this
was a fight that he was going to lose.
Murdock finally raised his head up, staring sightlessly out into the milling
crowd of families, patients and staff. He was finished with hiding and
through with running from what he was. He would make Face proud of him one
last time. He would protect Face as best he could by taking all the blame
on himself, where it naturally belonged.
"I knew that this day would come. I knew that one day you and B.A. would
find out the truth about me. About us. I just didn't figure that it would be
this soon. But I want you to know that it's o.k., it really is. And. . . and
you can assure Face that I understand and I didn't kick up a fuss about it,
"You understand and you didn't kick up a fuss?" Hannibal struggled to
understand where this was going. He was used to Murdock's weird tangents,
but this was a whole new twist that nobody could follow.
"Yes, sir. Don't worry, I'm used to it and I don't blame you one little bit,
"You don't blame me?" Hannibal was beginning to feel a bit like a parrot,
helpless to utter anything on his own.
"No, sir. After all, the team comes first and this is what's best for the
team. It might be a bit rocky at first, but it'll smooth out in a while. Just
wait and see, won't take no time at all. It'll be just fine once everything
settles down and everybody gets used to how things ought to be."
Hannibal began to get a sick feeling in his stomach. The feeling intensified
the longer Murdock talked without looking him in the eyes.
"The only problem that I can think of is Face. He might not understand it at
first. He might even get mad, but that'll go way in time, you'll see. If you
and B.A. are just a little bit patient with him, why he'll settle right on
down. Ya' know that he can't hold a grudge against y'all for long.
Eventually he'll see that it was the right thing to do, the *only* thing to
do. Everything will return to normal and it'll be one less thing to worry
about. Everything will be A-o.k. You'll see, sir."
Murdock's little speech was calm, sane and reassuring. The sick feeling in
Hannibal's stomach intensified as he realized where he'd heard that tone
A few months after they had busted Murdock out of that first hell-hole of a
V.A. hospital and taken him on the run with them, the pilot had given a
similar talk. The words had been different, but the tone was the same then
as it was now. Hannibal's gazed settled on Murdock's left wrist as the past
rushed back to him.
Murdock's behavior had been erratic, much more unstable then it ever been
back in 'Nam. The captain had been bouncing off the walls, babbling
incoherently and he had been going for days without any sleep and very
little food. It had been an exhausting time for them all and Hannibal could
see the worry etched deep in his lieutenant's face as more time passed
without any improvements.
Then suddenly one morning at breakfast, Murdock had simply stopped. Stopped
the frantic movements. Stopped the high-speed garbled speech. Stopped the
huddled rocking in the corners and stopped the paranoid behavior around meal
Murdock had apologized for his behavior and told the rest of the team that
he was feeling much better and everything would be fine from now on. He
laughed and talked and smiled at them all. His speech was calm and rational,
his body was completely relaxed.
It was as if a switch had been abruptly thrown inside the captain's mind.
Turned on, he was Mr. Hyde, a manic, salivating beast lashing out at
everything and everybody without the slightest provocation or warning.
Turned off, he was Mr. Jekyll - reserved, rational, calm, kind to small
children and animals.
Far from being alarmed at this sudden turn of events, the team was relieved.
Trying to keep up with Murdock had been exhausting to them all, especially
Face since he had been the main one dealing with the delusional man. Not
because he refused any help out of any sense of duty to his best friend, but
because for the most part, Face was the only one to whom Murdock would
listen to when he was even half-way rational. To suddenly have a sane and
calm pilot was a load off of everyone's shoulders.
So, no one was surprised when, after a uneventful day and three stress-free
meals, where the captain even asked for seconds, that Murdock announced soon
after dinner that he wanted to take a long soaking hot bath and go to sleep.
Ten minutes after the water shut off, Face had gotten a bad feeling, the
same feeling he often had when Murdock had been dragged out of their cage
for another fun game of 'torture the pilot'. It was the feeling that this
might be the last time he ever saw Murdock alive.
Face franticly pounded on the locked bathroom door, shouting Murdock's name.
After receiving no answer, he had the now alarmed B.A. to break the door
down, just in time to see Murdock make the first vertical cut on his left
wrist with a razor blade.
The pilot had been so focused on his task that he didn't realized that he
wasn't alone until B.A.'s hand wrapped tightly around his right wrist,
forcing him to drop the razor.
He stared blankly at the horror-stricken faces of his
friends as they wrapped his left wrist up in towels and lifted him out of
the light pink-tinged bath water. Murdock sat mutely as he was dried and
hastily dressed while Face kept a firm pressure on the not-so-shallow sliced
Murdock still made no protest or sound as B.A. bodily picked him up again
and carried him out to the Toyota hatchback that they were currently
driving. He was settled into the backseat with Face, who had never let up on
the lifesaving pressure on the self-inflected wound.
B.A. drove them around the small dark town, desperately seeking an open
clinic or a hospital. It was a risk, but one that they had to take. The
alternative was just too horrific to think about.
The whole damn town had shut down for the night by six o'clock and there it
was nine-thirty in the evening and not a light was left burning on Main
street. Even the streetlights were off and the tension mounted in the car.
Hannibal knew that they needed to find help soon, no amount of pressure
would stop the bleeding completely and the longer it took for them to find
help the more of a risk Murdock had of losing more blood then he could
afford before shock set in.
Just before they gave up and was about to try and make it to the next town
before Murdock bled out, they spotted a small, bright glow in the inky
darkness. Like a biblical miracle, they followed that small square of light
down a side street, hoping for salvation in the form of a hospital; or in
the very least some sort of health center that the townspeople used.
Instead of a hospital though, they found an all-night animal clinic.
Desperate and feeling as if they waited any longer they would be risking the
pilot's life, he and the rest of his men was prepared to bribe or force the
vet on duty to help Murdock.
That's when they experienced their second miracle of the night. The doc not
only stitched up Murdock without so much as a blink, a murmur of payment or
blackmail, but he and Hannibal had a private discussion that involved a
bottle of Wild Turkey, a tragic story and more than a few bitter words on
The vet had urged Hannibal to get Murdock some help before it was too late
and the colonel basically told him to go to Hell. They had rescued Murdock
from a cesspit of a V.A. hospital, they weren't about to abandoned him to
the not-so-tender mercies of a corrupt system, incompetent staff and
indifferent doctors who didn't care if the patients lived or died as long as
they got a check from the government.
Still not willing to give up, the vet then handed Hannibal his third unknown
miracle of the night in the form of a small, well-worn card for the Westwood
V.A. hospital in Los Angeles, California. It was a good place, the doc
assured him, a safe place with an understanding and caring staff.
Hannibal took the card just to shut the man up and silently vowed to himself
that it wouldn't be needed. Murdock would be just *fine*, he would make damn
sure of it. The colonel had gotten the team though some insanely dangerous
missions in 'Nam, freed them from a death camp in those same hostile
jungles, busted the three of them out of an inescapable prison, found and
rescued Murdock and made sure that they were at least two steps ahead of the
law and the M.P.'s. He would continue to keep everyone safe, he didn't need
anyone else's misguided sense of help.
He'd been arrogant, self-confident, and incredibly stubborn back then. He'd
dismissed the doc's concern because after all, he was the legendary Lt. Col.
John 'Hannibal' Smith. There wasn't anything he couldn't do, nothing too big
that he couldn't pull off, no plan that ever failed him even with a little
improvising. He had kept his men alive in 'Nam, he would keep them safe on
Hannibal soon discovered that he was also the biggest fool alive.
They had kept a closer eye on Murdock after that, who'd withdrawn from all
of them into a silent world where no one and nothing existed excepted
himself. He ate and drank if something was put in front of him, moved when
he was prodded into a direction and generally ignored the fact that he had
company in the bathroom when he bathed or attended to his personal business.
Hannibal would've gladly welcomed an angry and violent outburst from the
pilot; something, anything except this silent shade drifting through life as
if he had no tether to the mortal world.
Even though Hannibal was confident in his own abilities, the vet's words
echoed in his mind every night as he tried futilely to sleep after a long,
exhausting day of trying to reach an unreachable man.
Desperate to exorcize at least one ghost, and to hedge his bets just in
case, Hannibal contacted their old team mate, Ray Brenner, through a tight
underground network of vets who'd either believed that they were innocent or
who were convinced that they owed their very lives to the team, specifically
More than one guy had a Murdock story to tell, either from personal
experiences or about some buddy they had whose life was saved due to Murdock's
skill as a pilot. They were willing to share everything they had - food,
shelter, medical supplies, weapons, transportation, money, their very lives
if Murdock needed or asked for it.
After several tense days of sending coded messages back and forth though
various contacts, Hannibal was able to personally speak to Ray. He wanted
Ray to go Westwood to check the place out, just so he would be able to call
the vet up later and tell him 'I told you so' when the report came back
negative. And if the report was positive, well, Hannibal was still very sure
that Murdock just needed a bit more time to straighten himself out. He wasn't
throwing in the towel just yet.
Ray did him even one better. He and his fiancÚ, Trisha, temporarily moved to
L.A. and went undercover at Westwood; he as a patient and she as part of the
After four nerve-racking agonizing weeks, Hannibal received the dreaded
news. The Westwood V.A. hospital was everything the vet had said and more.
Rather than a high turnover of staff that most V.A. hospitals experienced
because of dissatisfied doctors and overworked nurses, most of the
caregivers there had been employed there for ten years or more.
Rather then hiring thugs and bullies for orderlies, each employee was carefully screened
to weed out the ones who were not suited to work with shell-shocked or disabled vets.
And, if any did happen to manage to slip though, all it took was one complaint, one whisper
of fear, one uncalled for bruise or suspicious mark and that worker was put under a careful surveillance.
If caught abusing a patient, that person was not only fired and had criminal
charges brought against them, but they were blacklisted from every V.A.
hospital in the country. The board of directors, all vets themselves, saw to
that personally. Westwood was not the kind of place that played fast and
loose with its patient's health and well-being; not if they really wanted to
help the men in their care.
Still, Hannibal had been reluctant to act on the information. He told
himself that Murdock just needed a little more time to get his head
together. He wasn't going to give up on his captain just yet.
Three weeks after he talked with Ray, time ran out in the form of a
desperate and determined Murdock with a loaded pistol.
Hannibal came out of the past with a shiver. They had no choice after that,
even Face had to agree that Murdock needed more help that they could
"Murdock," interrupted Hannibal, "Are you thinking of doing something . . .
*unwise*?" His mind had automatically rejected the words 'stupid', 'crazy'
and 'foolish' because he wasn't sure what would set the pilot off in this
"Unwise, sir? I don't know what you mean, sir."
Gritting his teeth together in frustration, Hannibal reached over and
grabbed Murdock's left wrist. He felt a perverse sense of satisfaction at
Murdock's flinch and brief look of fear.
Good. Fear was good. *Anything* was better than the remote robotic-sounding
voice and blank face of the normally animated man beside him.
Hannibal felt the fast flutter of Murdock's pulse in the thin, cold wrist
but he didn't let that stop him from tightening his hand. Not hard enough to
hurt, but he needed Murdock to understand that he wasn't going to get away
with whatever it was that he was planning. Hannibal would sound the alarm
himself if he thought the pilot was going to try to take his life again.
"Unwise. Crazy. *Stupid*." Hannibal grounded out between clinched teeth.
Murdock let his face go utterly blank again and his voice just as impersonal
as he said, "Of course not, sir. I'm sure that I don't know what you mean,
sir. I've already promised not to cause a scene and I'll no longer cause any
trouble to you or to anyone else, sir. You can rest assure that any future
difficulties will not happen, not from me, not anymore, sir. You have my
word as an officer."
Hannibal's feeling of fear had intensified and a cold knot of nameless
terror formed in the pit of his stomach. He wasn't sure what was going on in
his captain's mind, but it was way past time to find out.
"I want you to tell me, right now, why you think that I'm here."
Hannibal let go of Murdock's wrist and the pilot refocused his gaze on the
milling crowd. He didn't want to see Hannibal wipe his hand in disgust after
touching garbage. And that was when he realized like a bolt of lightening from
above the *true* reason why Hannibal had come to see him.
It was so clear now and it was really laughable that he hadn't caught on
much sooner than this. Murdock blamed his earlier bout of self-pity for the
reason that he hadn't been thinking clearly when he'd first spotted his
soon-to-be former commander.
It was so obvious now why Hannibal was here. Murdock wasn't going to be
kicked off the team. It was much, much worse than that.
Hannibal was here to take out the garbage; him so to speak. Permanently.
Murdock didn't blame him. After all, he was the one that was poison to the
team, a liability, a *mistake*. And like all mistakes, it was high time to
fix it or get rid of it.
He briefly wondered how it was going to happen. A knife in the ribs? A
silencer on the gun? Garroting?
If Murdock had a choice, he would pick garroting. It was less messy and the
last thing he wanted was to make more of a mess then he already had just by
living. No contaminated blood. No noise.
And it wasn't as if the pilot would fight him. On the contrary, Murdock was
glad that it was going to be Hannibal who took the garbage out for the last
time. Face, with his misplaced sense of loyalty, would balk at what needed
to be done. Besides, Murdock knew that his beloved would feel guilt over it,
even if it was the right thing, the *only* thing to do. He never wanted to
cause Face any more pain then he already had.
B.A. was equally out of the picture. Not that the big guy couldn't do it
himself, but once he started and discovered that Murdock wasn't going fight
back, that he would just let the big guy do what had to be done, then he
just might stop before the mistake was corrected.
B.A.'s rage would go away and Murdock would be left alive - in tremendous
pain, sure - but still alive. The job would be left half done and that would
And everyone knows that you shouldn't do a job like that halfway.
You don't take the garbage from the kitchen just to toss it out on the front
lawn for your neighbors to see and gossip about. No one wants that.
And you certainly can't let the trash lay out there, festering and molding
on a hot summer day, only to have stray dogs tear into the bag. What sane
person wants to see slimy, rancid, maggoty trash covering the sidewalk? It
wouldn't be right or healthy for the rest of the neighborhood.
You had to take the full bag to the can beside the curb for the garbage man
to load it up and take it to the landfill. Garbage has to be taken to the
all the way to the end of the line for the job to be considered completely
and properly done.
And it was now way past time for the garbage on the team to be taken out. It
was a comforting thought, in a way. Murdock was the garbage, Hannibal was
the garbage man, and the grounds of the V.A. was going to be the landfill.
Murdock briefly wondered where it would happen. Not here, out in the open.
He didn't want to alarm the other patients. He knew that they had had their
fill of death and destruction; the pilot wouldn't want them to have any more
nightmares then they already had. Murdock had to protect the other men from
himself. After all, he was the poison, he was the one who was truly
dangerous, not them.
And what did you do with poison? Why you hid it from people who could be
hurt from it, naturally. So, it would have to be the bushes on the north
side of the grounds then. It was isolated and quiet there. It was out of the
way of normal traffic and it would be a perfect place to dump the trash.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Murdock vaguely wondered how long it would take for the staff to miss him.
He had escaped before - repeatedly - and he was sometimes gone for weeks at
a time, so it might be quiet a long while before anyone would really notice
that he'd never came back.
Hell, the way he'd been acting lately, they might even be relieve to see the
end of him. One less nut to worry about.
He might not even be found by the gardeners for months. The north side
bushes were wildly out of control, hidden between old growth trees with
large roots, difficult to get to and wasn't a real priority for the
It would be the perfect place for his final resting grounds.
The fitting place for his rotting corpse.
Murdock briefly wondered how his body would be found. Would they find it by
smell or by a line of ants devouring his body? Ants were clever and devious
and they always managed to find him wherever he went. It was somewhat
fitting that they would be the first ones to find his cold, lifeless corpse.
The thought of being ant food was vaguely comforting. At least *they* would
find a use for him.
Again, he wondered how his body would be found. And in what condition. A
rotting, putrid, bloated corpse, covered in ants? Or polished bones, the
tattered remains of his clothes the only clue that this had once been a man,
a walking, talking human being?
He hoped that the staff wouldn't be put out about having to disposed of his
remains. Maybe Hannibal would let him write a letter, explaining that he
didn't deserve a proper burial. He was garbage, just put him in a black
plastic bag and toss him in a landfill with the rest of the rubbish that was
no longer useful to anyone.
He was so focused inward that the sound of Hannibal's voice startled him.
"Captain Murdock! I want an answer. *Now*, not hours from now. You can take
that as a direct order."
Snapping out of his morbid thoughts, Murdock blinked in bewilderment at the
older man. He had been so lost in his mind that he had completely forgotten
what the original question had been. "What was that, sir?"
If Hannibal hadn't seen the genuine puzzlement in Murdock's eyes he would've
thought the pilot was trying to avoid the subject or was yanking his chain.
However, he had seen that look before in the camps and just after he was
busted out of the first V.A. hospital. Murdock would be carrying on a normal
conversation one minute and then the next thing they knew, the pilot's mind
had wandered off and he had no idea what subject they were talking about.
Face said that it was some sort of freaky type of amnesia, a hiccup in
Murdock's brain that suddenly caused black holes in his memory. You never
knew when it would happen but when it did, it sometimes helped to repeat
what was said and sometimes it didn't. Hannibal hoped that this was one of
those times that it would help.
Keeping the frustration out of his face and voice, Hannibal repeated
himself, "Why do you think that I'm here?"
Like a snap of the fingers, the younger man remembered where the
conversation had been going and what he had realized what was going on.
Murdock couldn't believe that Hannibal wanted him to spell out everything to
him. It wasn't like the colonel was going to forget what he had to do. Did
Murdock really have to outline it step by step for him?
"I'm waiting, Captain."
Apparently he would have too.
Murdock returned to staring out at the crowd. He couldn't stand it if he had
to watch the self-satisfied smirk on the older man's face as he was made to
narrate his own demise.
"Well, sir. At first I thought that you were here to kick me off the team.
And that's all right, believe me, I understand. The team comes first. It
always had. Getting rid of me is the right thing to do, the *just* thing.
And then I figured out that tossing me off the team wouldn't be enough. Face
might continue to come around to visit me, putting himself and you guys in
danger. So, the best thing all around would to be to get rid of me for good,
like, forever ya' know. And I just want you to know that I understand the
course you have to take and I won't fight ya'. I even know where we can go.
There is some bushes on the north side where almost nobody ever goes to. I
can take ya' to 'em and it'll be private. No one will see anything. You'll
all be free from me very soon."
There was a brief pause, the only sounds were of laughing children and
chattering adults. When Hannibal finally spoke, his voice was strained with
an emotion that the pilot couldn't readily identify. Was it disbelief that
Murdock guessed about what had to happen, indifference that the pilot
suggested a better disposal site, or anger that his 'surprise' was now spoiled?
"You . . you thought that I really came here to kill . . . "
"No!" Murdock hastily interrupted. "No sir. You're not killing anything.
Believe me on that. You're just taking out the garbage for the last time.
You can't kill something that isn't even alive. It's better this way,
believe me, I know and I understand. I won't even fight you. You can make it
as quick or as slow as you want. I told you that I even know the perfect
place. The quicker we get on with this, the quicker you and the guys can get
on with your lives."
"Look at me Murdock," demanded Hannibal. He couldn't believe where this
conversation was going. He was stunned beyond belief that Murdock was
sitting there calmly telling him that he was there to kill him. And the
worst part was that he actually believed that he deserved to die. That he
Murdock reluctantly turned and faced Hannibal. He kept his eyes on Hannibal's
chin because he didn't want to see the obvious disgust in his former
commander's eyes. Was Hannibal now angry at him for guessing the true reason
for why he was there? Had he hoped to surprise Murdock by catching him off
guard and making the job easier?
Well, it didn't matter. Not anymore. Murdock accepted his fate. He always
knew that he had to die sometime and he was only glad that Face wouldn't be
around to see it. It would just upset the blond, something he always sought
to avoid. This way, the deed would be done, Hannibal and B.A. would be
relieved that further contamination would be no longer be a problem and Face
would be free to find someone more worthy of himself.
"*Look* at me, Captain."
Very reluctantly, Murdock raised his eyes until he was eye to eye with
Hannibal. Instead of disgust, which was what he was sure that he would see,
he only saw hurt. Hurt and confusion and a little bit of anger. The anger
was a given but the anger was not directed at him, Murdock's instincts was
certain of that.
This wasn't supposed to happen. Hannibal was supposed to be happy that
Murdock had figured everything out, happy that he wouldn't have to lie to
the captain. Happy that he was finally going to be rid of the trash on the team.
But Hannibal didn't look happy. He didn't look relieved. He looked upset and
Murdock didn't know how to proceed with this new information. It was totally
out of left field and left the pilot feeling flat-footed and awkward.
"I want you to look at me and know that I'm telling you the truth, Captain.
Can you understand what I'm saying?"
Murdock nodded, knowing that for now his tongue was tied in to knots. He
would listen to what Hannibal had to say, he would understand it - how could
he not? - and then once Hannibal delivered his verdict, he would abide by it
with no questions.
"I came here today to find out what you wanted. *Really* wanted. I came here
today to make sure that Face was who you really wanted to be with, who you
*needed* to be with. I came here today to make sure that you were happy with
your choice. I didn't come here to kick you off the team and sure as hell
not to kill you. You're a valuable person, a person that I consider a
friend. You. Are. Not. *Garbage*. Do you understand me? I don't know who
told you that, but they were wrong. *Very* wrong. I want you to stop that
kind of thinking right now."
Instead of arguing, Murdock reluctantly turned his attention back to the
knots of families.
"Why did you really come here, Hannibal? If you're not here to get rid of me
one way or the other, why are you here?"
Hannibal felt a swell of pride that Murdock finally said his name and stop
acting as if he was some kind of stranger.
"I told you, Murdock. I came here to see if you wanted this relationship
with Face or if you were just too afraid to break it off. I know that Face
talks a good game and I don't want to see you hurt. I care about you, about
*all* of you. I came here to find out what you really wanted."
"Of course I want Face. I love him and he loves me. What more do two people
"Murdock, I hate to bring this up, but you know Face is a con man. You know
that he's very good at what he does. How do you know that he isn't just
lying to you, telling what you want to hear just to get what *he* wants?"
Murdock took a few minutes to gather his thoughts, trying to think of the
words that could help Hannibal understand.
"Because he sees me and he's not afraid."
Hannibal swallowed a sigh of frustration. Murdock was talking in riddles
again and again, only the captain knew the right answers.
"I don't understand you Murdock. Of course he sees you, we *all* see you. At
least, B.A. and I saw a bit more of you then we ever expected to back at
the beach house."
"Do you really *see* me, Hannibal?"
"Murdock, you're talking in circles. I admit that sometimes I have a bit of
difficulty in following your train of thought and now's a prime example.
Sometimes you just need to spit things out. What do you mean by 'seeing'
Instead of answering, Murdock jerked his chin towards the knots of
families. "You ever wonder how some of these guys ended up here? Well, I'll
tell ya', we ain't here because we littered or jaywalked, Hannibal. Every
one of us is here because we scared somebody else. Scared them so bad that
the only option was to lock us up behind these walls. Some of us still don't
know why. Whatever it was that we did, it seemed normal to us at the time,
but not to the rest of society. We made people afraid of us. And you know
what, some of them are still afraid of us. You can see in their faces, see
in the way they stand back, afraid to even give a simple hug. They try to
hide it behind their smiles, but you can still see the fear in their eyes."
Hannibal turned to look at the crowd and got the gist of what Murdock was
saying. Some of the families surrounding the patients were acting like it
was Old Home Week and some were standing apart from the patients and acting
like they had just showed up for a group root canal without the anesthetic.
Even from where he sat, he could see the stiffness and unease in their
stances. These people were clearly not enjoying their visit on either side
of the fence.
Hannibal wondered why they bothered to show up at all if this was how they
felt. Why not just stay the hell away? But then he realized how much worse
that might be. After all, Murdock doesn't have anyone to show up to visit
unless it was them or the military. He wanted to promise Murdock that he
would visit more often, but knew he couldn't take the chance that the staff
would remember him as a regular visitor and describe him to the M.P.'s if
they asked. And that would put Murdock under a microscope of suspicion and
he would be practically surrounded by Decker and his men 24/7. Hannibal
would never put Murdock in that kind of danger.
Hannibal felt a ball of dread in his stomach as he asked, "Murdock, have I
ever looked at you like that? You know, afraid?"
The dread intensified as Murdock took a long pause before answering. "Not .
. . not anymore. Sometimes in the beginning, when I was really out of my
head, sometimes you and B.A. would look afraid. But, not *of* me, I think
but *for* me. Does that make sense?"
"Somewhat. But what about Face? Did he ever look at you like that?"
"Never. I've never seen the first bit of fear, not even when I was at my
"Murdock, I want you to tell me the truth. You've come a long way since you've
been admitted here, what's really keeping you tied to Westwood? It's not
just to keep the M.P.'s off our tails, is it?"
Murdock took a while to gather his thoughts together. It was difficult to
explain, but even more difficult to understand sometimes.
"Sometimes, just sometimes mind you, I'll wake up in the morning and look in
the mirror and not know who was staring back at me. I mean, *literally* did
not know who that person in the mirror was. I wouldn't know my name or
anything about myself. I wouldn't even know where I was.
"I'd find a wallet sitting there and look at the I.D. and the picture in it
was the same guy looking at me from the mirror. But, I still wouldn't know
who that guy was, ya' know? Jus' a name an' a picture, no sense of self.
Then someone would come along and unlock the door and let me out of my room
and call me by the name in the wallet.
"And then someone else would take me down to the cafeteria and I'd get a
plate with some food on it, but I couldn't eat because I didn't even know if
I liked what was on my plate or not. So I'd sit there not eating and staring
at my plate until it was time to go. I wouldn't even say a word, too scared
to ask where I was and how I got there
"And then other people, patients, orderlies, nurses and the doctors would
talk to me and smile, acting as if they knew me. But I could tell, deep down
inside of me, that they didn't *know* me. They knew a name, but they didn't
know anything about *me*, ya' know? And if they didn't know me, how was I
suppose to know me?
"And then some blond guy, a good looking guy who dressed nice and smelled
nice, would come up to me and smile and say something. And I feel this . . . this
connection . . . this bond deep inside of me and I realize that this guy *knows* me.
The *real* me. And so I listen and go along with him because I don't want to be
lost and scared and alone anymore. And then I meet two other guys who look at
me and call me by that same name that everybody else has, but I don't feel the same
connection that I do with the first guy, but I go with 'em anyway, 'cause I feel a tug
of feelings for the blond man.
"But I don't want these guys to know that *I* don't know 'em, so I pretend
to be someone else, anyone else so that they'll take me with 'em. They're
strangers, but I go with them anyway because if the blond man knows me,
maybe he can help me know who I was. So as I listen to him talk to me, the
more I begin to remember who I *really* am. Then suddenly I know that these
strangers are my friends, my team-mates. And then I don't feel so alone
anymore. I'm not a stranger to myself
"Murdock, that's all in the past. You're much more stable now than ever you
were all those years ago."
"This was last month, Hannibal."
There was a shocked silence and Murdock waited for the bomb to go off. If he
wasn't going to get kicked off the team for being gay, he just might be for
being completely nuts. He went back to staring at his knees, not wanting
Hannibal to see the shame in his eyes at his little confession.
Hannibal forced himself to not react negatively. It was one thing to think
that Murdock was faking it all to hide in plain sight. After all, he was
their secret weapon, the ace in the hole, the unknown team member. But it
was an altogether different thing to find out that he really *was* cuckoo.
"Last month. Last month you woke up one morning and didn't know who you were
but you went with some stranger because he smiled at you," Hannibal softly
said. The tone of voice wasn't fooling Murdock. Hannibal was angry and
"Face has a very nice smile." Murdock said a bit defensively.
"I don't care if his smile could cure cancer and make the lame walk! He was
still a stranger to you at the time. You admitted to me that you didn't know
him. He could've been a serial killer for all you knew! Why would you just
go off with some stranger because he has a nice smile?"
"You don't know what it's like, Hannibal. To be surrounded by people and
still be all alone," Murdock said. "I told you, I felt a connection when he
talked to me, a calling deep inside my soul. It gave me hope that he was the
one person in the entire world who knew who I was. So, yeah, I went with a
stranger because it sure as hell beats sitting in a strange room and
wondering if what kind of monster I am. 'Cause only monsters or
animals get locked up away from the rest of the world. That hope gave me
faith, the courage to go with a stranger who seemed to know the real me. I
told myself that if *this* man knew me, wasn't afraid of me, then maybe,
just maybe I wasn't the freak I imagined myself to be. I think the worst
feeling in the world is to be terrified of yourself, Hannibal. This smiling
stranger gave me hope and faith; and without hope and faith, you just might
as well curl up somewhere and die."
Hannibal gritted his teeth in frustration before he continued. He needed
more facts to know how to proceed any further. "How often and how long do
these . . . lapses. . . of yours happen. As your C.O. I have a right to know
when or *if* I can count on my men. I won't put you, the rest of the team or
an innocent person in danger because you can't remember which end of the gun
to point and shoot in the middle of a firefight. I won't have any of my own
men putting us in any unnecessary danger."
"It's not too often, maybe once or twice a year if that. Sometimes it's
years before my mind goes blank. It almost always starts to go away once
Face starts talking to me."
"I'm gonna assume that Face knows about this."
"Well, ya' see, it never came up. And . . . I didn't wanna bother him over
somethin' like this. It would've just been one more thing to worry about,
and he's . . . he's got enough on his plate, ya' know?"
Murdock avoided Hannibal's eyes and the older man knew the pilot was still
keeping something from him.
"How long does it take to get your memory back after talking to Face? And I
want the full truth," Hannibal continued to push the issue.
"The shortest it's been has been a few hours. Just a couple of hours talking
to Face brings everything back. Honest."
"And the longest?" Hannibal bit out. Murdock took so long in answering him
that Hannibal was afraid that he would scream in frustration. Just as he was
about to order Murdock to talk again, a shameful whisper came out of the
"A day and a half."
There was a shocked silence surrounding the pair. The only noise came from
the milling patients and visitors. Hannibal caught Wayne staring at them for
a few minutes before turning his attention back to the crowd.
As the thoughts of what could've happened to Murdock or the rest of the team
during the pilot's day and a half memory lapse the shock turned to anger.
Hannibal turned to the pilot and found Murdock huddled into himself,
cringing as he expected Hannibal to start beating him at any time.
And Hannibal's anger intensified. He had never, *ever* abused any man under
his command. Even if he felt like taking a slug at a certain smart-mouthed
kid who deserved a pop on the jaw, Hannibal had always controlled his
temper. Men happily followed orders - even if they were bat-shit crazy - if
they respected or liked their leader, not because they feared him. He had
heard stories about hard-nosed and abusive C.O.'s who'd 'accidentally' died
from 'friendly fire'. And knowing the deceased men, Hannibal didn't blame
the soldiers one little bit. Leading by fear wasn't his thing then or now.
Knowing that he needed some distance between the two of them before he said
something that he would later regret, he spotted the cafeteria workers
bringing out collapsible tables and warming pans; a group of orderlies
followed with coolers full of ice and drinks. Apparently there was enough
people around that the staff decided to provide a picnic to the patients and
their visitors. Just then, Hannibal's stomach rumbled, reminding him that he
hadn't eaten breakfast that morning.
Turning back to stare at the gathering people instead of the cringing man
beside him, Hannibal asked, "You hungry, Murdock? I'm starved. I'll get us
something to eat. Be right back."
He left without checking to see if Murdock nodded yes or no. He kept his
eyes on the crowd, refusing to look back at the pilot.
As he waited patiently for his turn, Hannibal felt his anger began to ebb
and flow. Murdock had no reason to be afraid of him. He had never laid a
hand on any of his men in anger, no matter what the situation was. And when
he remembered Face's revelation of the elder Murdock's abuse to his son, the
Hannibal was sure that that wasn't the first time daddy Murdock had
violently laid his hands on his son, but at least he knew it was the last.
His own father had disciplined his children, but he always waited until his
temper cooled before the punishment commenced. He had taught a young John to
never hit out in anger, the damage was always worse. Apparently, the elder
Murdock had never learned that lesson or chose to ignore it.
As he moved up in the line, he realized that his anger was directed more at
the situation, then the man sitting under the tree. Murdock hadn't wanted to
'bother' Face about his little memory lapse and he had a strong suspicion
that Face would be more then 'bothered' about it. Anything that could
compromise the team's safety was a concern for all of them. Face was liable
to hit the roof over this one. Especially if Hannibal was the one to inform
the conman about it.
Hannibal's temper cooled down further as he reached the head of the line.
Picking up a disposable cardboard tray he noticed the staff had decided to
serve hotdogs. Murdock loved hotdogs.
Placing two on the tray, he thought of Murdock's near-emancipated state and
grabbed a third. Apparently there was a limit of two to a customer because
the lady behind the table gave him a dirty look and just as he opened his
mouth to defend himself, Wayne appeared and muttered in the woman's ear.
"He's here to visit Murdock."
The death glare softened and, still staring at Hannibal, the lady grabbed
three more hotdogs and put them on his tray. After a second of hesitation,
she placed one more, making it a total of seven dogs. Apparently, the
kitchen staff was also concerned with Murdock's thinness. Hannibal couldn't
help the grin as he thanked her in that thick Southern drawl that he used
"Why, thank ya' ma'am, thank ya' kindly. If it's one thing that me and
cousin H.M. have in common is the love of a good ol'-fashioned American
hotdog. It's the one food Ah sorely missed when Ah was livin' in the deep
and dark jungles of the Congo. Jus' about the only food that tastes good
whether it's cooked or not. Yep, love me a good wiener, yes Ah do. Don't
even need a bun, no ma'am, tastes just as good cold on slice of white bread
then it does hot and onna fancy bun. If given the choice between some
high-class snooty French cuisine or a good ol' dog inna bun, why Ah'll
choose the hotdog every time, Ah guarantee it."
He would've gone on about how her kindness reminded him of his fictional
long departed, but much beloved Great-Aunt Bertha May-June, if there hadn't
been a discreet cough behind him, letting him know that he was holding up
the line. Still grinning, he followed the line down the table, loading up on
condiment packs, plastic spoons, tiny containers of onions, pickle relish
and even sauerkraut. No chili sauce, but he reasoned that they couldn't have
thought of everything.
Looking over the drink choices, Hannibal grimaced at the offering. Nothing
but diet or caffeine-free drinks. Murdock usually had only one chief
complaint and that was the fact that the psych patients were only served
decaf coffee and tea. 'Don't want us nuts to get hopped up on caffeine' he
once said. Hell, even the vending machines were devoid of chocolate.
Grabbing two grape sodas, two bags of potato chips and a large handful of
napkins, he made his way back to Murdock under the tree.
He was somewhat relieved to find that Murdock was out of his hunched and
cringing position and was sitting a little more relaxed with his legs
crossed in front of him Indian style instead of crammed up under his chin.
His head was still hanging down though, but hopefully getting some food into
him will help with his posture.
Hannibal carefully set the tray between them, and when it looked like
Murdock had no interest in reaching for anything, he decided to fix one of
the dogs the way the pilot liked them. One line of ketchup down one side,
one line of mustard down the other and, with a little bit of struggle, he
managed to get exactly one strand of sauerkraut down the middle with a piece
of onion balanced on both ends of the strand, and a small dab of relish
exactly in the middle.
When Murdock still showed no interest, Hannibal reached over and gently
placed the food in the pilot's lax hands. Once he was sure that the food was
going to stay and not slip to the ground, he opened a bag of chips and one
of the drinks, placing them close to the pilot's knee.
Hannibal fixed his own food and took a healthy bite, cutting his eyes over
to check out Murdock. The man just sat there, slouched over and still
cradling the hot dog. He glanced over and spotted Wayne giving the thin man
a concerned look and Hannibal knew he might have to order Murdock to eat.
Whether or not he followed the order, the older man didn't know.
Hoping that a bit of cajoling would work, he gently urged Murdock, "You need
to at least eat one hotdog, Captain. I don't want to disappoint that nice
lady who made sure we had enough. You don't really think that I can eat all
seven dogs by myself, do you?"
Murdock opened his mouth and was about to say how Aggie needed to mind her
own dang business, but what popped out instead was, "I know about the
meeting in the warehouse, Hannibal."
The whole world froze as Murdock mentally cursed his big mouth. Why couldn't
he, just for once, leave things alone? Things were going along pretty good
and he had to go and ruin everything again.
Suddenly, the hotdog that tasted so wonderful just a minute ago, tasted like
ashes in Hannibal's mouth. He concentrated on slowly chewing his food and
washed the ashes down with a sip of grape soda. He forced himself not to
"I'm not surprised, Murdock," Hannibal carefully said. "It wasn't a secret
meeting, you were supposed to be there but Face said that you had a therapy
session to get to. How did that go, by the way?"
Murdock shrugged one shoulder. It was better than saying how truly lousy it
actually went. Usually when he spent a few days with Face, he came back
pretty relaxed and happy. This time however, he'd been too tense and
withdrawn to do much then sit on the couch, hunched over and miserable.
Murdock couldn't even summon up a 'What's up doc?' crack if his life had
depended on it. He'd spent the entire session completely silent, alarming
the doc more than if he'd screamed out in rage.
"Murdock, I . . . "
"Face told me that he accidentally told you and B.A. about what happened to
me in the camps." Murdock interrupted him. It seemed that his mouth was
bound and determined to get everything out into the open. Stupid mouth. "You
know, about Koa and . . . and what happened. He wanted me to know just in
case something was said in the heat of the moment . . . ya' know, later on.
He didn't want me blindsided."
Hannibal could just imagine how black a picture Face had painted of them,
and briefly wondered if that 'in the heat of the moment' crack alluded to
what B.A. had said. And if it didn't, he certainly wasn't going to bring it
"Why didn't you say anything to me about what was happening to you and the
other pilots, Murdock?"
Murdock finally looked at Hannibal and the older man saw the anguish in the
big brown eyes. "Do ya' think I would've risked your life like that? Or
Face, or B.A. or Ray's life for that matter? Koa meant what he said about
killing one of you guys if I talked. He wasn't shy about how little he
valued American lives, especially us pilots. He demonstrated that quite well
when he pulled Rusty May out and slit his throat for no reason, just to
prove that he had no problem in doing what he promised. And he delivered on
that promise with Johnny Linds. He *gloated* about it afterwards, telling us
that he just couldn't wait to see who would be next. I couldn't have lived
with myself if I had caused the death of one of my friends. And if I *had*
talked and it was Face who'd paid the price? Let's just say that you wouldn't
have worried about putting me in some hospital. I would've followed Face to
"But what about after? You could've said something after we'd escaped and
Koa was no longer a threat to you or us."
Murdock gave a humorless chuckle. "By the time we escaped, I didn't even
know my own name, Hannibal. Besides, I'd buried what happened deep inside
me. Completely blocked it out. Most of the time when it was happening, it
was like I was watching it happen to someone else, like in a movie or t.v.
show. It was happening to the other feller, not me. Docs call it 'disassociation',
a way of denying something when bad things happens to you. Seems like most
of the guys here are still doing that. Can't say I blame 'em. 'Sides, I don't
think I coulda stood seeing pity or, God above, disgust in your eyes if you
"I wouldn't have. . ."
"Stop it, Hannibal. I heard you laughing at some of the faggot 'jokes' being
passed around in the DOOM club. Heard a few of the ones you told, too. I
wasn't gonna take a chance back then that you would've had me immediately
discharged or transferred. I wouldn't have survived long without Face. And
like I said, I buried it deep down, forgotten in the dark until Face dragged
it into the light. I hated him for that for a while. Took a long time to
forgive him, but I did."
"That's how you got over it? Face making you remember it? Reliving it in
For the first time ever, Murdock felt anger towards Hannibal and he let it
show in his voice. "Is that what you think? That I just 'got over it'? You
don't 'get over' rape, Hannibal. Not if it only happened once with one guy
or multiple times with multiple assholes. Not if it happened yesterday or
years ago. Sure, you might go days or even months without thinking about it
at all. Or you can think about it every second of every minute. It's like a
. . . a scar on your soul that only you can see, only you can only feel. It's
always there in the back of your mind. You feel tainted by it; as if you
were chin deep in sewer water and you imagine that *everybody* can see how
dirty, how disgusting you are on the inside. Even a simple handshake makes
your skin crawl, much less a hug that might send you screaming into a
corner, reliving every second of what marked you. You don't 'get over' that,
Hannibal. *EVER*. And if you think that, then . . . then *FUCK YOU AND
FUCK THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON*!!"
The last was said in a shout, Murdock's hands convulsed, strangling and
mangling the poor hotdog in his hands. Wayne heard and started over,
ignoring Hannibal's 'everything's ok' gesture. He shot Hannibal a
steely-eyed look as he softly asked, "Is everything alright, Captain? Do you
need me to escort your cousin off the grounds?"
Murdock felt his anger drain away as he shook his head. "It's ok, Ollie. I
just got a lil' riled up 'cause my cousin wants the secret to my possum pie
an' I ain't gonna give that up. I don't even care that he's threatened to
tell Aunt Ulla-Ann that it was me that put 'er best milkin' cow up on the
roof of 'er barn."
"P. . . possum pie?" Wayne turned a bit pale. He had heard that Southerners
will eat just about anything, but something that looks like a mutant rat on
Hannibal grinned and decided to have a little fun himself. "Yep, cousin H.M.
here makes the best possum pie Ah ever ate. Ain't no such thing as leftover
Murdock shot him an 'You're an idiot' look as he stated, "Course there's no
such thing as leftover possum pie! Ya' know the cooked meat gets greasy once
it gets cold. Tastes like week-old bacon grease after that. And ya' gotta
make dang sure ya' skin that critter good. If ya' think havin' a popcorn
husk stuck between your teeth is bad, try gettin' possum fur outta your back
Hannibal watched Wayne shudder as Murdock pushed the bit a little further.
"The real trick is the tail. Ya' gotta marinate that sucker good for at
least two days in one part dill pickle juice and two parts pickled beets
juice. Gives it a nice red color and it really helps if you like the taste
of pickles. *That* ya' can eat hot or cold. And don't get me started on the
difficulties of cookin' armadillo. Not only are they hard to kill and a
bitch to clean but you can marinate the meat from here to Doomsday and it'll
never soften up."
Hannibal couldn't hold in the chuckle as a now green-faced Wayne clutched
his stomach and wandered off. He doubted that they would be bothered by the
orderly anytime soon.
"I think you outdid yourself that time, Captain. And the best thing was how
serious you sounded. I don't know how you kept a straight face though that.
I almost busted a gut trying to keep it in."
Hannibal turned his head, expecting to see a wide grin splitting Murdock's
face and a devilish light in his brown eyes. Instead he was confronted by a
completely serious look on the captain's face as he matter-of-factly said,
"Ya' don't get a cast-iron stomach like mine from eatin' milk toast,
As Hannibal's eyes widened, Murdock patiently explained, "When you're ten
and winter's comin' an' there ain't much food in the house, ya' learn to
cook what ya' can shoot. Possum pie was my best recipe. And ya' better be a
sure shot if ya' want skunk casserole; there ain't no such thing as a second
chance with those lil' stinkers."
Hannibal couldn't think of anything to say to that as Murdock turned to look
at the crowd once again.
Staring at Murdock's sharp profile, Hannibal finally said, "Eat your lunch,
Murdock. You're too thin as it is."
Murdock looked down to his lap and stated, "I killed my hotdog, Hannibal."
Looking at the mangled mess still clutched in skinny fingers, Hannibal said,
"Then it's a good thing we have all these extra ones, isn't it?"
He reached over and gently pried the remains out of Murdock's hands and
handed him some of the napkins. As Murdock slowly wiped his food covered
hands clean, Hannibal fixed another hotdog to the pilot's specific tastes
and handed it over.
Looking down at his full hands, Murdock softly said, "You don't get over
something like that, Hannibal. You learn to cope. That's all. You learn to
cope with it day after day. Sometimes it's easy, most of the time it isn't."
"And Face helps you cope during the difficult times, doesn't he?"
"Yeah. Sometimes, he knows when I'll have a bad night even before I do. That's
when he makes sure that I room with B.A. He knows that if I actually do
manage to fall asleep and have a nightmare, B.A.'s first instinct is to try
to talk or sing me through it. He tries to wake me up without touching me and
if he can't do it, he knows to get Face to reach me. And with you guys in
the room, he won't touch me, not because I disgust him, but because he knows
that sometimes if he touches me, it just makes it worse. And now can we just
drop the subject? Please?"
"Sure, consider it dropped. Now I want to see you at least eat half of your
food. You can't afford to lose any more weight."
As he watched Murdock take a listless bite of food and slowly chew, Hannibal
couldn't help but remember all those nights of being awaken by B.A. pounding
on a bedroom door, demanding that Face come and talk the 'crazy fool' awake.
The sight was usually the same, Murdock huddled under the bed or in a
corner, fighting off invisible people and mumbling inaudibly to himself. And
then a rumbled blonde appears, crouching just out of arm's length and
quietly soothing the distraught man with nonsense words until the tensed
body slowly relaxed. Most of the time, Face was able to coax a half-asleep
Murdock back to bed and return to the room he shared with Hannibal, but
sometimes he would wave him and B.A. out of the room and take up a watchful
post over whatever hidey-hole Murdock had stuffed himself in.
Hannibal finished his food and watched as Murdock ate exactly half his
hotdog, half the chips and washed it down with, he was positive, half the
grape soda. At least Murdock would follow orders when it suited him.
Murdock sneaked a peek at Hannibal as he asked, "What's gonna happen now,
The Colonel took a long moment to think about it before he came to a
decision. "Well that's sort of up to you, Murdock. I can't accept any jobs
until the whole team is healthy. You need to gain more weight and at least
try getting some sleep. I need everyone in tip-top condition."
"So . . . so I'm still on the team?"
Hannibal turned to the astonished pilot with a frown on his face. "Of course
you're still on the team! That hasn't changed, no matter what you do in your
private life. And speaking of which, from here on out, no more secrets. Not
like the one you and Face kept from us. Everyone deserves their privacy, but
something that affects the team? It won't be tolerated. And speaking of
which, you need to tell Face about your little memory problem."
At Murdock's stricken look, Hannibal cut off any protests he might launch.
"Believe me, Captain, it'll sound a hell of a lot better coming from you
then it ever would from me."
Murdock reluctantly nodded. "He's been calling me almost every night. I'll
tell him the next time I talk to him. I promise."
"See that you do. Don't force me to be the one to tell him. From here on
out, the past is the past and it stays there. We all need a clean start. No
more throwing things up that happened back in the past. I'm not the same
person who told those jokes back in 'Nam. We've all grown up. We've all
changed. And we all need time to adjust to this relationship."
Murdock slowly nodded and turned back to his food. As he slowly lifted the
rest of the hotdog to his mouth, Hannibal saw Wayne in the distance. The
orderly had a relieved grin on his face at the sight of the pilot finally
eating. Hannibal grinned back and settled a bit more comfortable against the
tree. It was finally a nice day and he intended to enjoy it while he could
until it was time to leave. And, if he was lucky, he just might be able to
get Murdock to eat another hotdog.
Author's note: No wildlife was baked into a pie or casserole while writing this.
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