Disclaimer: I do not own The A-Team, their property (yes, I mean the van), their friends or their enemies. If you recognise something, it's probably not mine.
Excerpt from Timber! S3, Ep4:
Face: How long has this man been talking like this?
Nurse: I, I don't know. We never listen to what Murdock says, he's been jibbering for as long as I can remember
Face: Then why did I get the call only just this morning?
Nurse: I didn't know somebody called you. Look, look, to be perfectly honest, we just don't pay any attention to what Murdock says.
The forest is peaceful now. The sun is setting over the horizon and the wildlife is bedding down. Hannibal and BA are collecting the gear, readying themselves to move on to the next job. BA will no doubt be imparting some final words of advice to Billy before he's ready to leave and Hannibal will make sure John knows how to keep them all safe. Even though the immediate threat has been dealt with, there's always a possibility of a new 'union' forming.
Samantha is in the kitchen, preparing a picnic hamper for the team to take with them when they leave. Face thinks about helping her but something is bothering him. Even with all the activity around him, it's remarkably quiet. There's an element of their harmony missing.
Murdock is nowhere to be seen. He's not overly concerned, McEwan's gang are well and truly dealt with. Maybe he's still searching for Big Foot. It would make sense in Murdock's world.
Face knows Hannibal will want to leave as soon as they're ready and he won't appreciate having to hunt for their wayward pilot. He turns his back on the cabin and its promise of domesticity, and scans the mountainside. There's a clearing that affords a good view of the area, the perfect Big Foot spotting vantage point. He reckons that's where Murdock will be.
He tells Hannibal where he's going and the colonel looks mildly surprised, almost as if he hadn't even noticed Murdock isn't there.
It takes him about twenty minutes through the trees to reach the clearing. He's not rushing but taking advantage of the relative peace to soak in the beauty of the natural world. When he gets to the treeline he stops. It's as he thought, Murdock is sitting on the ground, elbows resting on drawn up knees, chin in his hands.
For a moment, Face doesn't want to disturb his friend but time is pressing on and they have places to be. He steps into the clearing, making far more noise than necessary in order to alert Murdock to his presence.
Murdock doesn't move, doesn't give any indication of having heard him. Face frowns. That's not like Murdock. He's a ball of nervous energy most of the time and with the culmination of this mission having been a resounding success he should be happy.
"Murdock?" he calls, puzzled when he's ignored completely. He moves forward until he's standing next to the captain. "Murdock?" he tries again, softly this time.
Murdock finally turns his head to Face and the lieutenant is shocked by the pain and sadness he sees.
"You okay, buddy?" he asks, lowering himself to sit beside Murdock. "You need anything?"
Murdock just turns his head away again, back to the landscape and the setting sun.
Face says nothing, just studies his friend. Murdock's face, normally so expressive, is completely blank. It's like he's closed himself off. Face worries when he does this, often it's a sign of an impending flashback. Sometimes it manifests itself in bizarre, childlike characters, other times he becomes withdrawn and sullen. And sometimes, just sometimes, it ends in an explosion of violent activity. Face doesn't know which way this is going yet.
"How are your legs?" he asks, going for distraction.
Murdock absently runs his hands over his thighs, as if checking for himself they're still there.
"Sore," he admits after a long, long pause.
It's only one word but Face'll take it.
"Yeah, well, having a tree on top of you will do that," Face smiles, watching Murdock carefully for any reaction.
There isn't one.
"You know," he says, "Hannibal's going to want to leave soon. We should head back down. You could check your Big Foot traps if you like."
"There's no Big Foot," Murdock replies, tonelessly and Face wonders what's happened to cause this turn around.
"Sure there is." He scans the area, pretending to hunt for the elusive beast. "We've just not found him yet."
"Stop, Face," Murdock mutters. "Just stop. I know what you're doing and I just ain't feelin' it."
Face leans back and sighs. "Come on, Murdock," he says. "Talk to me. Something's bothering you."
Murdock drops his head down on top of his knees and mutters something so quietly Face can't hear him. So he reaches out a hand and rests it on the pilot's back.
"Murdock?" he questions.
"I don't wanna go back."
Face isn't wholly surprised by the answer, it's not the first time this has happened but usually after an injury to one of the team or a messy mission. He rubs slow, small circles on the man's back.
"You don't have go just yet," he soothes.
Murdock shakes his head, "No," he says. "You don't understand. I don't want to go back. Ever."
That's a new one. Face knows Murdock complains about the place but they all know it's where the captain ultimately feels safest. He gets the help he needs there, he's got friends there and he's comfortable there. So not wanting to go back ever isn't something Face has heard before.
Murdock finally looks up at Face and the lieutenant meets his gaze with a steady one of his own.
"I'm nobody there, Facey. No one would even notice if I don't go back."
"That's not true. Dr Richter would miss you. And all those pretty nurses, they'd miss you…"
"No!" Murdock interrupts Face with a vehemence that takes him by surprise. "They don't care if I'm there or not. Didn't you hear what she said?"
Face is confused now. He doesn't know who he's talking about or what she said.
"That nurse," Murdock continues. "She said they stopped listening to me a long time ago. They probably don't see me either. I may as well not exist." He stops and blinks rapidly several times. "Do you see me, Face? Do I exist?"
Face feels his heart break just a little for his friend.
"Of course you exist! Don't pay attention to what that nurse says," and inwardly he wonders how long it will take him to get her transferred to another facility. "You exist more than any of us, Murdock."
"Then why don't they listen to me?" Murdock asks. "It's obvious it'd be easier for everyone if I wasn't there. I thought they cared…" and his voice cracks on the last word just a little.
"They do care, Murdock," Face tries to reassure him. "It's impossible to not care where you're concerned."
Murdock shakes his head. "You're just saying that, Face. You probably feel the same way. I just jibber jabber all day and folks get sick of it and just stop listening to me. Not like I have anything important to say. Even Billy disappears for days on end." He suddenly looks sadder than Face has ever seen him. "Maybe I should disappear," he whispers. "Would make it easier for everyone."
"Not for me." Face longs to give Murdock a hug, to convince the man of his importance in the world, but he's not sure how that would go down right now. Murdock doesn't even seem to be aware he's still there.
"If I weren't here," the pilot continues, "BA'd never have to get in a plane or a chopper again, Face'd never have to come and break me out again, Hannibal wouldn't have to…" he trails off into silence.
Face watches him carefully as the captain seems to wrestle with some internal struggle, before he stands up in one swift, elegant move.
"No," Murdock says, mostly to himself Face thinks. "No. It's easier if I just go where nobody has to listen my jibbering ever again. I'll go find Billy and we'll take care of each other. If he'll have me."
Face rises to his feet and takes hold of Murdock's arm. The pilot twists out of his grip effortlessly enough but Face isn't letting him go this easily. He grasps the ever present jacket and yanks Murdock towards him. He has the element of surprise and Murdock stumbles a couple of steps before regaining his equilibrium.
He looks at Face, confusion apparent in his eyes. "You still here?" he asks. "Why?"
And this time Face does pull him in for a hug, holding him tight despite the lack of response from the man he considers his best friend.
"I'm always going to be here, Murdock." He pulls away slightly and holds Murdock at arms' length, meeting his confused look with one of his own. "How can you possibly say it's easier for everyone if you just go? Do you have any idea how lost we'd be without you? You've saved us more times than I can count. Without you, we'd all be dead or rotting in some jail cell. Murdock," he moves his hands up to Murdock's face, swiping away the single tear that's rolling down the pilot's face. "I'm not going to let you go anywhere."
"It's real nice of you to say that," Murdock mumbles, "but it ain't going to change the fact you'll do better without me."
"Listen," Face tries a new tack, "you don't have to go back to the VA. We'll find somewhere to live, get you a new doctor, you can do what you like but please, please, don't leave. Things won't be better without you – they'll be worse."
He sees Murdock wavering and decides to push on.
"And think of BA – who's he going to have to insult and chase around? Hannibal won't take that from him and I can't take that from him. We're still going to have to fly places and no matter what you think, you're the only pilot he trusts to get him there."
"What about when I crash?" Murdock asks in a small voice.
"You're the best crasher I know."
Face knows he's won when Murdock nods his head ever so slightly then looks to one side.
"C'mon Billy," he calls and holds a hand out. It would appear that Billy also thinks a world without Murdock isn't worth being in.
They're half way back to the cabin when Murdock comes to an abrupt halt. For a moment Face wonders if he's having second thoughts but then the pilot shuffles awkwardly and looks skyward.
"Face?" he says. "I think I'd like to go back after all."
"If that's what you want, buddy," he smiles, vowing to make sure that from now on every word Murdock utters at the VA is heard.