Rewrite of my original story from 2000. Based on the episode 'Waiting for Insane Wayne'.
Murdock felt agitated while on watch. It wasn't the fact that they had been too late to arrive and help the kid, Bobby Sherman, before his father had been killed. Nor was it the sad look etched on Hannibal's face as he had seen the medal on the man's grave. Murdock had sighed deeeply when he had made the connection. Hannibal had felt a unity with the man who had died to protect what remained of his family. His only son.
Bobby had been left to rest peacefully in his fathers trailer. As soon as Murdock had left him, Bobby had switched on the television and started to think too. Regis Philbin was hosting the show 'Who Wants To Win A Thousand Bucks' with his typical bitchy style. Bobby laughed at Regis and then watched the team disappear to stand guard in the woods outside the window. He had faith that these men really were the A-Team and felt gratitude they were willing to help him against Kincaid.
Murdock had seemed slightly upset before leaving the trailer, although Bobby dismissed this by assuming it was just a wearing day.
Even soldiers as competent as The A-Team needed rest too.
Murdock looked at Face who smiled at him from where he had sat with an M16 slung over his shoulder. He was having a five minute break from guard duty. Face was so carefree, almost wild. It seemed as if the ageing years had yet to leave a mark on the handsome man. Even with with all the horrors Face had seen, he had never lost that twinkling smile.
Face looked puzzled and slightly worried. He walked over to where Murdock was standing.
"What's wrong? You have face a mile long. Tell me, what's up?" Face's voice had that tender yearning, that desire to be a huge part of his friend's life. In Vietnam, Murdock had never questioned Face's constant need for answers, and now he found himself remembering all the times they had really truly talked. Men like them didn't talk that often. Emotions were best left hidden deeply inside as if they emerged they would be raw and overwhelming.
"Why do you want to know?" Murdock asked eventually, his eyes betraying his true emotions. Face knew Murdock far too well to be put off by his abrupt and seemingly uncaring manner. Face was a Master of Deception and he instinctively knew that Murdock was hiding something that was troubling him. Something painful.
"It isn't that difficult to talk to me, is it Murdock? You've always found a way to talk to me before. Is it the ink blot tests? Is that big guy, Milligan, from the VA giving you more hassle than you're letting on?" Face gestured for Murdock to be seated beside him, and Murdock sat a little heavily for such a graceful body.
Murdock had decided to keep quiet about the big insane guy back at the VA. He decided it was best not to tell the others about the numerous times the guy had hit him over the last few months. He had tried to remain strong and endure the violence without letting on how deeply it was affecting him. His face reddened with shame. The whole thing was embarrasing. He was a soldier. He'd been through so much worse than this.
However, this whole situation had him fearful. To top it all off, his side was beginning to throb from where the man had laid into his ribs. Murdock groaned.
Face looked anxiously at Murdock. "Are you in pain, Murdock? What's with your side?"
Murdock saw Face make a move to assist him, and shook his head, indicating for Face to stay still.
"Just gotta get past the tests, and then I'll be transferred away from that guy." Murdock muttered, hating the fact he was running from this man and not standing up for himself, as he had stood up for many other people over the years. But then again, when he had stood up for the rights of others BA, Hannibal and Face had always been there to back him up. It worked only with the four of them, not Murdock battling on his own.
"What happens if you fail the tests?" Face suggested, looking carefully at Murdock's reaction. His sudden fear confirmed Face's own instincts had been right, even though after a moment he returned to the sullen, unhappy person Face had never seen before. Face looked into Murdock's eyes and tried to force a smile from the Captain. Murdock looked away and gripped his side as another wave of pain hit.
"What's wrong with your side, Murdock?" Face asked again.
"Nothin'" Murdock confirmed, trying to smile, which under the circumstances were very difficult. Face had a way of seeing right through him, and right now - he hated that. He just wanted to be left alone.
"Murdock, if you don't let me take a look, I'll wrestle you down and get to see anyway." Face smiled, slapping Murdock's leg. Murdock turned away completely. He looked into the woods and sighed a heavy, tortured sigh.
"Oh, come on, Murdock? What's wrong? I've never seen you like this before." Face began to worry. He knew Murdock like he knew himself. Murdock was obviously ashamed for some reason, he was sure of it. He was blocking Face's attempt to help him and it was frustrating.
Murdock turned towards Face. He saw simple understanding on the handsome features and felt unsure suddenly. "We'd better get on with the watch, Face. Hannibal will kill us if we let some of Kincaid's men through, or Wayne himself."
Face grabbed hold of Murdock's collar and pulled him down beside him. Face grinned as he forced the Captain to sit still. "I warned you. Quit fighting. Do you want me to go get BA?"
In the struggle, Face ripped open Murdock's shirt to examine his body. He backed off instantly when he saw the bruised torso. Murdock's ribs were a dark blue angry colour. Face felt bile rise and forced himself to calm down. "Oh my God!"
Murdock pulled his shirt back on and glared angrily at his friend. "Leave me alone Face, I can handle it."
"Handle it? This guy looks like he's ripping you apart! Whatever happened to working as a team?" Face pulled Murdock close as Murdock tried to bat away the Lieutenant unsuccessfully. He gripped the Captain's face and watched as tears trickled down his friend's face. "What the hell's this guy done to you? Why are you so scared?"
"Something wrong with Murdock, Lieutenant." Hannibal's authoritive voice made Face turn instantly. He moved away from Murdock with a faint blush of anger tinting his perfect countenance.
"He's being beaten up by that lunatic at the VA!" Face explained. Murdock turned angrily from his team mates. He folded his arms in defiance and didn't dare look either man in the eyes. He felt completely ashamed and to his horror he felt fresh tears erupt. He got to his feet, determined to walk away before he disgraced himself any further. This was his problem. He'd deal with it. Alone.
As he turned to leave he felt Hannibal's arm on his shoulder. The Colonel turned Murdock around so they were facing each other. "Is that right, Captain?"
The cool and calm authority of Hannibal's voice and manner calmed Murdock instantly. Rooted by his superior officer's hand he stayed exactly where he was. His whole mind was shouting at him to make a run for it. He looked at Hannibal, directly into his eyes, and felt the shame flood his cheeks red. It was respect that kept him from bolting. Respect that kept him from taking off and leaving them both standing.
Hannibal was chewing on a cigar deep in thought. He watched Murdock without judgement, carefully assessing the situation. "Where are you injured, Murdock?"
Murdock felt the command overpower his objections and he opened his shirt to reveal the bruising. Hannibal looked at Murdock sharply and the Captain turned away. He was utterly humiliated. Hannibal's eyes travelled downward to the bruised and swollen torso before him. He kept his calm, although inside he was raging with anger.
"I can understand the rush to learn the ink blots now." Hannibal's voice was deliberately even as he ran his gloved hand along Murdock's bruised side. He noted the damage and the swollen flesh. He looked up. Murdock was grimacing with pain as Hannibal touched the wound lightly. He had guts to make it this far without them finding out.
Hannibal knew the situation very well. A bully tried to intimidate his victim. Keep him silent. Murdock was terrified but trying desperately not to show it.
Face was beside himself with rage. "We need to tell BA all this. That guy won't even look at Murdock funny after BA has finished with him!"
Hannibal silenced Face with a single gesture and then signalled Murdock to close his shirt. His voice had taken a sad soft turn. "You know, Captain. I was so sure that the team could rely on each other."
Hannibal turned away from the Captain. His thoughts were racing. On one hand he should punish Murdock for trying to conceal a dangerous truth. On the other hand he didn't want Murdock to suffer anymore. His thoughts became darker as he started to plan out how he was going to make Milligan pay for his actions. He felt betrayed by Murdock's secrecy. Did Murdock think he would judge him as weak or inferior for having a problem?
"We do rely on each other" Murdock objected quickly. "I felt ... as if I couldn't tell anyone."
"Why?" Hannibal asked. His voice had a dangerous edge to it. He was battling with a darker feeling. Unlike The Jazz, this was the darker side of Hannibal that didn't surface too often.
"He said he'd hurt anyone I told about all this. He said he'd kill everyone I cared about." The floodgates opened and Murdock felt his grip on dingity slipping away. "He knows all about the team. He was the brother of one of the guys we helped put away a few years ago. He told me he'd put a hit on you if you ever found out what he was doing."
Hannibal's face softened. Murdock had been frightened for the team. "You should have told us straight away. Most of the time empty threats don't happen. He probably doesn't even have access to the outside. We could have had it sorted it by now. Hell, Face could have scammed his way into the VA and got the guy transferred. That way you needn't have even left your room." Face nodded at the suggestion.
Hannibal's voice was raised, but only slightly. He felt more sorrow than anger. Murdock couldn't be allowed to keep these kinds of secrets from them. The team needed to know when he was in trouble.
Murdock scoffed. "Yeah right. Nurses all recognise him now."
"Then I would have done it." Hannibal said. Murdock didn't doubt this for a moment and he looked at his commanding officer with admiration. The situation didn't seem so bleak now that his team knew the score. Murdock felt lighter than he had in weeks. He had a sudden Murdock suddenly had an epiphany. He did need the team in this. He'd known it all along, but couldn't admit it to himself because of pride.
Murdock shook his head and looked at Hannibal. The look of empathy tore his heart. "I'm sorry, Hannibal. I guess, I did need you all in this one. Just couldn't say it. He kept me quiet for a reason."
Hannibal lit a cigar and accepted this explanation with a small nod of the head. "That's what abusers do, Murdock. They make you stay silent so they can continue to hurt you. Murdock, you must tell us if anything like this ever happens again. We don't want to find you at the bottom of a lake because you can't tell us when things get tough. Its what we're all here for, don't forget it."
Face was still angry. "So this guy at the VA gets away with it? I say, when we get back, we give him a taste of his own medicine!"
Hannibal watched Murdock's startled reaction closely, and shook his head. "No, wouldn't be the best idea, Face. Best to let Murdock handle it."
Murdock's face dropped visibly at the suggestion, but he nodded his head bravely and walked off to continue with his watch. His shoulders slumped as he tried to figure out some way of stopping Milligan.
Face looked at Hannibal in a way that suggested his fist would make contact with his jaw shortly. Hannibal put an arm around Face's shoulders, noting the look of dismay in the Lieutenant's eyes. "Come on, Kid. Lets go check on Bobby."
Hannibal started to walk off and Face pointed disbelievingly in the direction where Murdock had walked off.
"Oh, come on." Hannibal said, a slight smile forming on his face. "Think I would really let him handle this himself? When we get back, I want you to transfer that guy before Murdock has a chance to realise what's happened. I'm not having him moving from his room becuase of that sleazeball. Besides, he sucks at ink blot cards".
Face looked at Hannibal. He smiled a little and shook his head. "Milligan? What about that guy? He's not going to get away with this!"
Hannibal grinned at the younger man. "Oh, I wouldn't worry about Milligan. What do you think BA is going to do when he find's out about all this?"
Face returned Hannibal's grin. "Just knew you had to have a plan, Colonel."
Hannibal shrugged. "But Murdock is gonna learn a lesson from this one ... for the moment, anyway."
Face smiled wickedly, and walked away wtih Hannibal.
Murdock was left to his own devices wondering how he was going to handle Milligan by himself, feeling extremely alone and wishing he had told the guys before he almost had a matching set of broken ribs.
One thing was for sure. He would never keep a secret again.