(A/N): Well, I must warn you, this fic is depressing. A few little curse words here and there.
Disclaimer: I do not own the A-Team.
It was late, about 1 in the morning, Face stumbled clumsily into his "borrowed" apartment half drunk and merry. He fumbled about, kicking his shoes off and pulling off his tie, finally collapsing onto the couch in the lounge. He closed his eyes tiredly and dozed for around half an hour, dreaming of the woman he had wined and dined that evening. Lilly? His heavy eyelids opened to slits and he sang her number scrawled quickly onto a crumpled slip of paper he found in his pocket, then he shoved it back into its hiding place as a lazy grin slid like a snake onto his cheeks. Then he went back to dozing.
After an hour of sound sleep, Face awoke to the screech of the telephone bell burrowing into his wine-soaked brain viciously. He clutched his pounding head in his hands, feeling invisible nails drilling through his skull, and felt around for the phone on the coffee table next to him. Rubbing his weary eyes, he lifted the phone off the cradle and held it to his ear.
"Hello?" He said.
He called again, maybe three or four times, and was about to hang up when he heard a choked sob come from the other line, and his stomach turned.
"Who's there? Who is this?"
Still, there was no voice but he heard the faint, throaty sound of a stuggled whine; whoever was on the end of the telephone was trying to keep their composure, but failing miserably.
"Murdock!? What's the matter, buddy?"
The voice dropped to a whisper, a scared whisper, and Face's concern intensified.
"They... they... I want my momma, Face."
The conman recognised the tone Murdock was speaking in. When they were in the POW camp, around a decade ago it must have been, the VC liked to pick on the Pilot a lot more then they did with the rest of the prisoners. He remembered one night he couldn't sleep...
The quiet breathing of B.A drifted into his ears from the corner he sat in and Face turned onto his side to stare at the bars of the bamboo cage with longing. He saw Murdock's dainty hands entwined in the bars almost like he was trying to pry them open with what little strength he had left. Peck knew it was no use, they were trapped in here, but some deluded part of Murdock's brain whispered hopeful nothings to him and no one else could hear them. Hannibal, much like himself, couldn't succumb to sleep either. He was in his respective corner, next to the shit bucket, surveying, watching, always watching.
B.A was probably the luckiest of them all. He had only been taken to interrogation twice, and both times the VC wouldn't come near him without their guns. Every night he would sleep soundly, every night he would be left alone in his corner and no one talked to him and no one bothered him and he would just sit there silently.
Hannibal wasn't as lucky. Because he was the highest rank he was also picked on, but his cocky demeanor intimidated the soldiers, so they knew they wouldn't get anything out of him, and every time he came back with a black eye and that stupid ballsy smirk on his bloodied lips. He just watched everything that went on, occasionally spitting a sarcastic remark at passing soldiers but did nothing else.
Face was in between. He had been interrogated more than B.A but less than Hannibal. He kept quiet, but offered a shoulder to cry on. He was the American POW mascot; tall, tanned, blonde, blue-eyed with a dazzling pearly white smile that shone like the moon in the sky above their little pit, greasy haired and gaunt, unhealthily thin and beaten. He was the average one. He was the morale, he was the one that dolled out the pick-me-ups.
Murdock was the black cat of the unit. Face couldn't understand it, because Hannibal had the highest rank; he was a Colonel, and Murdock was a Captain, but yet he stuck out like a sore thumb. Maybe it was the way he used to smile at danger, laugh in its ugly face whenever it reared its head. Maybe it was because Murdock had always looked a little vulnerable, his slim physique and glassy eyes gave him away.
Face couldn't put his finger on it.
But Murdock was strong, he was the strongest of them all, mentally of course, and it hurt Face to see him so broken.
He was taken every week, and sometimes he wouldn't return for a few days, and it scared the Lieutenant half to death because he thought maybe one of the days he wouldn't come back... at all.
He found it kind of funny. They were one of the best God dammed units in the whole military, and yet they couldn't escape a bamboo cage? He didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so he usually did both.
Murdock would sit opposite the bars with his back to them, those bony claws of his wrapped around them, tugging weakly. The squeaking sound it gave off drove them all mad but they didn't say a word, they just let him carry on his delusion. Maybe in his cracked mind he thought he was close, maybe he was flying a chopper with them all inside back to base. Maybe they were happy again.
But sometimes he would cry out when the delusion crumbled down like an old wall in his head, he would cry and cry until Face crawled over and pulled him away and rocked him till he was silent. Where did it all go? He was so close, he was right there!
But he would always try again the next day, and Face would always wait for him to break.
Face was confused again though, for another reason. He didn't understand why the VC interrogated Murdock. The Pilot was stuck down the rabbit hole, well and truly, he was a child, he was gone. There was no Murdock anymore. He would just sit in the hut and mumble and cry and sing to his momma and when daddy came back from the bar he would cry some more.
I'll be good. Please don't hit me again, daddy, please.
And they didn't understand, of course, no one would.
So when he started to cry and weep like he did every night, Face dragged his weakly struggling limbs over to him and let Murdock lie against his chest while he stroked his matted hair calmly, hearing the frenzied voice quieten and drop down to the same incomprehensible murmur it was whenever he did this. And he heard the captain mumble something he hadn't heard in a while. It made sense, it was logical, to anyone else it would have been a blessing; there was just that little string of sanity hanging loosely by a thread somewhere deep in that broken mind of his, but to Face it was nightmarish, awful, horrifying:
"I can't make it, I can't get us back."
And then he sighed, and Peck watched a lone tear run down his cheek and cut through the grime that caked his pained face. He closed his vacant, brown eyes and curled into the Lieutenant's chest like a baby. After a few minutes Murdock sounded like he had finally fallen asleep in Face's arms.
A few more minutes after that Face awoke to the sound of boots crunching down on the dirt. He looked over to B.A, still asleep, and then to Hannibal, still awake, and then to Murdock, who was still in the same position laying on Face's chest but this time his eyes were wide and fearful, yet he didn't make a sound. Three soldiers stood outside their cage watching them ominously. They each had a rifle slung over their shoulders and they stood together, in some sort of formation, like they were planning something, and Face didn't like it.
He watched as one of them opened the door to the cage and step forward, his looming shadow casting over Murdock's trembling form. He pointed straight at the pilot with menace burning in his black crescent eyes.
Murdock shook his head and his mouth gaped open in terror. He scooted back into Face and drew his bruised legs up to his chest.
"Please! I beg you, please!" He whispered.
"Lên. Bây giờ." (Up. Now.)
Face began gently squeezing Murdock's twitching arms in comfort and began shushing him when he began to whimper.
"Can't you take me instead, he's had enough torture!" Yelled the Lieutenant.
The VC snarled viciously. "Chúng tôi muốn các thuyền trưởng." (We want the Captain.) Then he and the two other soldiers squeezed through, grabbing the pilot by his feet and dragging him away from Face.
"No!" Murdock shouted, "I'll do anything, please! NO!" He was clutching to the thin, ripped material of Face's shirt in mad desperation. Face reached out and grasped the Pilot's thin hand, Hannibal pulled him back.
The look on Murdock's face was one he would never forget.
The dark, wild, watery eyes rested on Hannibal's tensed form hauling the Lieutenant back and he watched as Face struggled against their leader in a desperate attempt to pull him back, but to no avail. He was being towed to the interrogation shack, and he all but screamed.
"Momma! Please! I want my momma!"
Face stared in disbelief at the Colonel, and Hannibal stared right back, angry eyes meeting with stern ones. They could still hear Murdock's bloodcurdling cries from where they were sitting. There was yelling, then grunting, and then the screaming stopped abruptly.
"We can't have two men dying on this team because of one's foolish actions." Hannibal said lowly.
Face pulled the roots of his hair in frustration. "He can't take anymore beatings, Hannibal, or he's going to die. And do you want that, huh!? For fuck sake!"
"If we're going to get out of here alive, we need to be able to walk, and if I'd have let you carry on that futile act of desperation, they would have broken your legs for sure, maybe they would have shot you."
"We can carry Murdock. He's light, he won't be able to do too much anyway."
"He has a point, Face, as much as I hate to admit it." Face heard B.A's throaty voice grumble somewhere from the corner. He looked sad. They all did.
The Lieutenant leaned back into the bamboo bars, deflated, and stared up at the moon woefully. Maybe Hannibal was right, but that didn't stop the guilt from welling up inside of him like a balloon. He just closed his eyes and tried to channel Murdock's hopeful thoughts into his, so he could think he was indeed somewhere else, and for a moment he actually thought he was, but then he opened his eyes and looked down at his bruised hands. He cried.
About three days later they heard shuffling footsteps getting closer and low mumbling voices, then the soldiers walked into view, pushing Murdock out in front of them. They opened the door to the cage and shoved him inside, laughing.
Murdock stumbled and fell onto the dirt limply. His back was covered in deep lacerations, which gave Face the idea that he had been whipped. The backs of his legs had been scolded with what looked like the markings of a hot poker and were dripping with puss, his wrists were red raw from where they had bound him, and he had scars littered all over his body. Face winced.
As the Lieutenant went to reach out to Murdock his friend moved away and dragged himself to the corner closest to the door, with his back facing away from the rest of the unit. He made himself look as small as possible by resting his forehead on his knees and wrapping his arms over his head.
Face looked at Hannibal and Hannibal looked away.
And later that night Murdock never shook the bars like he always did, he didn't cry, he didn't weep, he just sat there silently, as still as a stone, that tiny, string of sanity that hung on for dear life snapping and fading away. And he was never the same again.
Face wiped a tear from his eye.
He realised he must have left Murdock hanging on the phone for quite some time, he fumbled with it and put to his ear again.
"Yes, buddy. I'm here, don't worry." He said in a husky whisper.
"I... I can't get..."
"M... myself. I can't get... myself back..."
Face's heart sunk.
"Oh, Murdock." His voice wobbled. "You can, we'll help you. You can make it back."
"I... I..." The pilot sobbed on the end of the line, and even though Face couldn't see him, he knew how vulnerable and small and broken he looked, just like all those years ago.
"Want me to pick you up?" Peck asked, running a shaking hand through his hair.
"All right, buddy. I'm coming."
He hung up the phone. He sighed, then he put on his shoes and went out to the Vette. And all those moments he thought he'd buried came flooding back in a sea of horrid memoirs.
He started to drive to the hospital.
Face found it kind of funny, and he found it kind of sad. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so he did both.
And when he got to the VA, when he shut off the power and slid the window open he found Murdock in the corner by the door, with his back facing away from the light flooding in, looking as small and as meek as he possibly could, with his forehead resting on his knees and his arms wrapped over his head.
And Face knew he wasn't the same.