SUMMARY: None of them - least of all Face - ever thought they'd be thrown in jail for a mission they actually had orders for.
WARNINGS: Wartime violence and soldierly violence, some discussion of drugs and sex. This one's pretty mild, folks.
December 19, 1971
The screaming in his head never stopped. Men, women, and children; Vietnamese and American. They lined up for execution, bled, and died in horrific agony. The drugs made him numb and he eventually quit shaking as the faces became obscured by their haze. He liked the drugs; he didn't feel fear when they were working, or pain, or anything really, as he watched another set of eyes come and go.
Bang! And then the man was dead. Bang! And there went another one.
Voices echoed in the distance of his mind - voices without context or meaning, only one-liners from a world away and a past he'd all but forgotten. "If we were still men, we'd weep..."
He'd wept. Hell, he'd cried until his eyes were dry. Hours, days... he didn't know how long. It hadn't made him feel any better. Numb and cold, he stared at the wall, watching the colors swirl. "Captain Murdock?"
More of those damn voices assaulted his thoughts. Closing his eyes tight, he wished them out of existence. "Die," he pleaded weakly. "Dying already go!"
"But you need me alive..."
"Captain, you have visitors." A hand on his shoulder made him jump, startled. The voices had a person - a hand, a mouth, a face - that went with them. He opened his eyes and forced them to focus. Twenty-twenty vision, but he couldn't see straight. Eyes burning, head throbbing, he blinked in confusion. Visitors. Doctors. His head swirled with drugged confusion. Why couldn't they all just die?
"Murdock?" The familiar voice belonged to a ghost, another auditory hallucination of a long dead victim of his insanity.
"I'll be right outside if you need me,"his captor said reassuringly.
"We'll be fine," answered a second impossible voice. All dead… They were all long dead. "Thanks."
Instinct would have pulled a scream from Murdock's lungs if he'd only had the strength. Don't leave me here with these ghosts! he screamed but no words formed. Looking weakly toward the door, feeling every fraction of the turn as if spinning in vertigo, he felt even more exhausted than normal - almost enough to overcome the panic. They'd given him something, he vaguely realized - something to prepare him for visitors.
Familiar people stood in the room. Although sure he should've known who they were, his mind was blank and numb. He trusted them; of that much, he was certain. He didn't remember their names, but even through the haze of traumatized confusion, just seeing them standing there made him feel something way down deep inside, where the drugs and the voices and the guns and the bloody blur couldn't go. He felt safe.
Who were they?
Three figures had filtered through the door and into the white-walled room. "Jesus, Murdock, what happened to you?"
Murdock closed his eyes and thought hard, but his mind was as blank as the walls around him. A hand on his shoulder made him flinch. He didn't dare open his eyes to see which of the ghosts had touched him.
"I don't need to remind you what Top Secret means, do I, Lieutenant?"
"Murdock, do you know who we are?"The voices all blurred together - past and present, real and imagined.
"We've all lost people in this goddamn bloody war."
"Nurse?" So much talking. But thankfully, now, they were talking to someone other than him. "Is there anyone we can speak to about his condition?"
"I'll see if I can find his doctor," a female voice interjected into the pool of blurry identities. "He was here just a little bit ago. I think he's still around."
"When will they send him back to the States?"
The words, or maybe the voice itself, elicited memories he was sure had to be real. He just wasn't sure if they were his own or something he'd read in a comic book once. Protests and shame mingled with nervous stares and candid, disapproving glances to paint a surreal image of a man running away from himself.
"I'm not willing to lose the best goddamn pilot in Vietnam to a cesspool of liquor and self-pity. At least not without a fight."
"We're trying to arrange it right now." That woman's voice did not belong in the context of the others. He didn't know who she was, but she needed to leave. "He's on the list, but... his injuries aren't life threatening."
Eyes shut hard, Murdock began to rock slowly, singing under his breath. It wasn't a song - just words. Just words that came to mind in the hazy fog that he lived in. It made time blur and faces unrecognizable. Hours, minutes, days in a room full of strangers...
"Hi. I'm Dr. Johnson."
"Colonel Hannibal Smith," answered the authoritative but still only vaguely familiar voice. It grew more distant and foreign by the minute. "This is Lieutenant Templeton Peck, Sergeant BA Baracus. We're friends of Murdock's."
Somehow, those names were familiar. Did he know them? Had he invented them, in the dark pit of nothingness? Blood and water and death and tears had created so many identities, so many people in his mind. Rocking... Rocking... Back and forth to keep sane, to keep focused on anything soft and warm and comforting. "Rock-a-bye baby, on the tree top..."
"It's still too early for me to be able to tell you much," Dr. What's-His-Name rambled. "He's... definitely delusional. Given what you told us, the condition you found him in..."
"Is he gonna live?"
Murdock opened his eyes again, still rocking, and stared at the blurred face of the well-built black man with the gruff voice.
"He'll live," the doctor said reassuringly, as if he actually cared. "His physical injuries are surprisingly minimal. Malnutrition and dehydration. Superficial wounds. There is some risk of infection but the bigger threat, I think, is psychological. It's difficult to say, at this early stage, how well his mind will recover. It's just going to take time."
"Is there anything you can do for him?" The voice echoed in the tone and timbre of ancient words in his head. "Self-destruction is easy. I didn't need Vietnam to teach me how to do that."
"He's not in any pain, if that's what you're worried about." Murdock would have glared at the creepy-looking lab rat mutilator if he'd had the strength. If this was painless, dying would be a breeze! "We've given him some sedatives to calm him down and they're helping. But he hasn't said anything coherent since he got here."
"Does he even hear us?"
"Well, physically, yes."
Murdock reached for his ears, physically trying to rip them off. He didn't want to hear, to know what they were saying abouthim. But his wrists were chained to the wheelchair, and he didn't have the strength to struggle. Weakened hands fell helplessly back into his lap.
"His hearing isn't damaged. But it's not clear how much he understands right now."
The voices mixed and mingled and swirled. His head hurt. Too much listening, too much talking; he couldn't make sense of it and he didn't want to. Voices talking to him, talking about him, and the screaming went on and on. He rubbed his hands together - they could just reach - one over the other, trying desperately to wash the blood off. He needed water to wash off the blood.
"No, don't do that." He stared blankly at the face of a woman. "Remember, if this comes out of your hand, I have to put it back in." She pointed to the tube that ran into the back of his hand. "And the doctor said if you pulled it out again, we were going to have to tie your arms tighter."
"How many times has he pulled it?"
"Just once, and I don't think he did it on purpose," the pretty nurse monster cooed. "But he's so dehydrated, it was hard to get it restarted."
Voices. Too many voices made him want to scream. He curled up into a ball and wished to die, eyes open and staring as - bang! - another one died. "I had a dog and his name was Blue..."
"Wonder if he even remembers. If he remembers anything."
"Maybe it's better if he doesn't."
"Bet you five dollars he's a good dog too..."
He rocked, hugging himself tightly. "Sing!"
He opened his eyes and stared at the wall, still rocking as the words whispered through his lips. So many voices, so many songs... "Sing louder!"
"Sing because you're free!"
"Because it's almost over..."
"Old Blue died and he died so hard..."
"What is it, Face?"
"Shook the ground in my backyard..."
Murdock looked up and met the eyes of the man standing next to him, the man who was singing with him. He knew this song? Murdock didn't even know how he knew this song. Maybe it was a nursery rhyme that his mother had sung to him once, when he was little. Maybe.
"Dug his grave with a silver spade..."
"Lowered him down with links of chain..." Murdock's eyes drifted to the other two men, who were slowly coming closer, both singing under their breaths. "Every link, I did call his name..."
The three men exchanged glances and paused, as if waiting for him to start. He didn't know the right words, but he sang them anyways. Like a game he hadn't played since childhood, but still remembered the rules to, the names rolled off of his tongue without thought.
"Davis and Thomas, Garcia too... Hill, Nelson, Turner, Cazinski too..." They joined him after only two lines, and their voices echoed in the empty room. When the long list of names had ended, Murdock could swear he saw tears in all of their eyes, but he wasn't sure why.
"Hey, Blue, you're a good dog you... Hey Blue, I'm a-coming there too."
The silence that settled in the room was deafening. Even the whispers quieted. In the moment of clarity, he studied the face of the young blond who stood closest to him. "Face...?" he asked, unsure.
"Colonel Smith?"The voice in the doorway abruptly cut off any attempt at a reply, and Murdock instantly recoiled, back into the safety of the hazy darkness.
"Who are you?" the man just behind the blond asked.
Murdock watched blankly, until he saw the uniforms. Instantly, the screaming returned, and he put his head down, trying desperately to cover his ears. When the intruders spoke again, he barely even heard them. "Are you Colonel Hannibal Smith?"
"Yeah, that's me."
"Then that means you're Lieutenant Peck and Sergeant Baracus?"
"Yeah, man. What's it to you?"
"You all are under arrest."
Murdock's head snapped up. Inexplicably, he felt a tidal wave of fear building on the horizon, threatening to destroy him.
"Arrest? What the hell for?"
"In violation of article 122, robbery, and article 108," the man paused for dramatic effect, "treason."
Murdock's chest was tight. He couldn't breathe. As he watched the cuffs close over the men's wrists, he struggled to pull himself to his feet, falling over as the ties around his wrists held him in place. Nurses rushed to his aid, and the doctor-person. "Wait," he managed between short gasps for breath, trying to duck out of the way of the hands that tried to steady him. He hit the floor in a graceless crash with the wheelchair on top of him. "Wait!"
They didn't wait. As the uniforms led them away, Murdock ripped the tube out of his hand and clawed at the tile floor as hands around his legs pinned him into the overturned chair and tried to turn him upright again. "Wait!" he screamed.
The oldest of the four men looked back, over his shoulder, just as the nurses began tying his wrists tighter to the chair. "It's okay, Murdock," he reassured. "Don't worry about us. We'll be fine."
He couldn't breathe, couldn't get air. His hands were shaking as the monsters strapped them down, muttering in some foreign language about more drugs and sedation. As the men were led away, so too went all of the safety and comfort their presence had brought. He tried to follow them, tried to put one foot in front of the other But his feet didn't work. They were held down, then strapped, and he lacked the strength to fight. With a panicked, bloodcurdling scream, he joined the voices in his head, gasping for air and fighting as violently as he could against the needle in his arm. Then, finally, his body fell uselessly limp and he slid into deep, silent blackness.