Disclaimer: Hannibal, Face, Murdock, BA, Richter and the A Team are all property of Stephen J Cannell. No infringement is intended. This is strictly an amateur work meant for the enjoyment of the fans and no money has been made. Kim Tailor, Caron Williams, Emily and Isabelle are my own characters, however, and are copyright me.
Warnings: There's no graphic sex/violence but contains some swearing, some blood, a bit of sex and references to it.
Summery: Face and Murdock repair their broken friendship after the death of the woman they both loved.
We are Family
Dawn had just broken over the cemetery, the faint sunlight warming Face as he stood beside the headstone of a very dear friend. He'd known death all his life, had faced it in battle, had escaped its clutches many times…. had dealt it out to many faceless enemies.
None of that compared to losing Kim.
Not now and certainly not before…when…
He swallowed hard, remembering that however much he missed her…loved her…there were two others who's hurt made his own seem slight. The flowers they'd left, only yesterday as he'd watched at a distance, smelled sweet in the breeze. As sweet as the smile she'd greeted him with the day they'd met. It must have been over two years ago now, maybe a little more…but it seemed like yesterday.
It was the summer of 1989, not long after their pardon and life had returned to normal. But they'd all discovered quite quickly, normal was boring. So they returned to doing jobs for the government on occasion but this time they could pick and chose.
At least, that was the idea but once Hannibal is on the Jazz…
Well, they hadn't turned one down yet.
He'd scammed a beautiful beach house, posing as the nephew and sole heir of the owner. The neighbours had been fighting over this eligible, and very rich, bachelor and he'd had no end of dinner invitations. He enjoyed the moment, knowing all to well that Hannibal could be waiting around the next corner and a life-threatening situation around the one after that.
He'd seen her walking through the surf one morning, the wind whipping at her long blonde hair. She wore only a pair of tatty looking pair of daisy dukes and a blue bikini top. Her sandals hung from one hand while the other constantly pushed her hair from her eyes, fighting a losing battle against the wind.
Aphrodite herself had risen from the sea and was coming his way.
He swept his eyes over her, taking in her long legs, the kind those shorts had been made for, the curve of her waist and breasts. 34-26-34, he thought, his favourite combination.
Then his vision of absolute beauty had crashed sideways into the tide as a strong wave swept her feet out from under her.
He was at her side, helping her up in an instant. "Are you alright?"
The girl stood up, soaked and gathered her hair into a ponytail to wring it out like a dishcloth. "Yeah. God, don't you hate the sea! Full a water and sharks and…eww" she pulled a piece of seaweed out of her cleavage. "Slimey things!"
Face struggled to concentrate after his attention had been drawn to her chest. "Actually, I love it."
"I'm sorry," she said, remembering her manners. "Thank you. For, you know." And then she smiled, one of the biggest and most gorgeous he'd ever seen. "I'm Kim. Kimberly Tailor."
She held out a hand and he took it, "Templeton Peck. Would you like to come back to the house and get dried off?"
The girl smoothed her hair out with her fingers. "That's ok, I'll dry off. It's a hot day."
"I haven't seen you around before."
"From where…if you don't mind my asking?"
"Practically everywhere… well, thanks again." And she went to leave.
"If you like, I could show you around."
"I don't know…"
"I know this great little restaurant. They do the best sir loin-"
"I'm a vegetarian."
"Even better, they do the best vegetarian food for miles…" he gave her his best smile, "you'll never find it on your own."
She laughed at that and he knew he'd won.
The sun was fully up by now and he realised he'd been standing there far longer than he'd meant to. Murdock would be here soon and neither of them could deal with seeing each other right now. Some things took a long time and mending their tattered friendship was one of them.
Face walked quickly through the cemetery, engrossed in his thoughts of the past. The first time he'd seen Murdock, all those years ago in 'Nam and the last time, just after Kim's funeral. It'd been so awkward, so wrong.
And that day in September…
He shook himself at the memory and then gasped in shock. When he passed through the cemetery gates he came face to face with Murdock.
Murdock stared at his old friend, unable to speak. The guilt he carried rose up whenever he saw Face, as fresh as the day it began, but this time it was dulled by grief. Nothing he would ever feel again would be strong enough to wash away the pain.
The silence was broken by Issie, kicking in her sling, oblivious to the awkwardness.
Murdock tenderly brushed the little blonde head of his daughter with a slight smile. "She's 8 months now…started crawlin' last week."
Face nodded, "that's good."
Isabelle squirmed again, making an annoyed sound, anxious to get moving. Murdock shushed her absently, trying to find something to say to Face. Just as he had at the funeral and many times before that. Something that would make it ok between them again.
But mere words couldn't undo the past.
"Looks more like her mommy every day." Face murmured.
Murdock smiled slightly, that was definitely true. The only thing she'd inherited from him was her big chocolate eyes and a quick intelligence. That and the fact she was taller than most of her peers.
Another silence fell and Murdock wanted just to grab Face and hug him, apologise one more time in the hope they could get past this. But he couldn't.
"I…er, I really should be going."
Face paused, hesitated a moment then kissed the baby's cheek lightly. "Bye, honey."
He remembered the day he'd kissed Kim for the first time, about two weeks after their meeting on the beach. Two weeks, normally by that time the lady would be a pleasant memory.
But it was worth the wait, kissing back hungrily until she'd laughed, blue eyes twinkling. And then she ran off, blonde hair waving behind her.
He caught her easily and went to finish what they began. She pulled back. "Face…" she sighed, "I'm sorry. I'm only here for a few months."
"Then we'll enjoy it while we can."
"I know it's a cliché, but I'm not that kind of girl. I mean, who's into temporary."
He appreciated her honesty and normally he would have left it there.
But he didn't. Instead, he did something stupid.
He suggested they be friends. Not wanting to give up on such a goddess. Or maybe he'd fallen hopelessly in love with her even then.
But then he did that really, really stupid thing.
He introduced her to Murdock.
The bar was crowded, full of people, smoke, noise. Face scanned the place, searching for that ever-present jacket and baseball cap. Murdock saw him first and waved him over to the bar where he stood sipping a beer. "How's it hanging, Faceman?"
"Great, Murdock," he ordered a martini for himself before continuing. "I met this girl a couple of weeks ago on the beach, she's gorgeous!"
"Which scam ya using, the commercial or the movie?" He wanted to get his story straight since they had arranged for their dates to meet them here later in the evening.
"I…I'm not scamming her." Even to his own ears it sounded odd.
"What, are you losin' your touch or somethin'?"
"No, I just didn't, that's all."
The pilot shook his head slowly like a father disappointed in his son. "Face, ya losin' your touch." He told him seriously.
"I am not losing my touch!"
"Age has succeeded where so many have failed." He draped a sad arm around his friend. "The Face is no more."
"I have not lost my -"
"Then you-your not?" He screwed his eyes up. "Uh-oh, the Faceman's been bitten by the bug!" He slapped his friend on the back. "Even you couldn't outrun Cupid's arrow."
"Don't be ridiculous, Murdock, I'm not…I couldn't be…" he trailed off. Face trusted Murdock, knowing the formally insane pilot saw the world differently and he was giving him a smug look.
Murdock crossed his arms, looking even more smug and nodded.
Face jumped in surprise then immediately broke into his most dashing smile, "Kim! You look absolutely wonderful."
That was certainly true. She wore a strappy sky blue dress, which flattered her lightly tanned skin, and she had plied her hair up onto her head with a few wisps framing her beautiful face. "This is Murdock."
Murdock shook her hand warmly. "H M Murdock."
"What's the H M for?"
Her mouth had creased into a grin. "And are you?"
Murdock's smile matched hers. "I was."
The scene would play itself over and over to Face a million times. Every moment, every nuance. This is how it began. How they met. Why hadn't he seen it then?
They'd got on so well that when Face took her out, Murdock would often join them with a date. Kim had a passion for flying but she'd never taken any lessons. Murdock had offered to teach her and she'd been over the moon. Face didn't know how she learnt anything, though since she and Murdock were like a couple of kids, always squabbling and laughing.
"Hey, look at that!" Kim dashed forward, her blonde hair flying. "Its enormous!"
Face stared at the entrance to the kids adventure trail she had stopped in front of. He shared a 'look' with Murdock's date, Emily. She's not serious?
Murdock joined her. "Even been on it?"
She shook her head. "Have you?"
He just grinned. Kim laughed. "I'm game if you are."
"You two aren't seriously…"
But they'd already disappeared into the trail.
Their shouts came back. Face sighed and Emily looked down at her heals, they both shook their heads.
"We'll meet you two…kids at the end," Face said as they ducked down into the tunnel. He held his arm out to Emily, "shall we?"
Kim's giggles were contagious and Murdock's sides were beginning to hurt. She was carefully stepping across the rope work, refusing to crawl as he had. With the tiny skirt she was wearing he wasn't surprised.
"It isn't funny!" She wobbled precariously, her own laughter making her even more unstable. Not that falling would injure her. The ropes were only four feet above the ground, which was covered in safety flooring.
He stepped lightly over to her side, maintaining near perfect balance. He debated whether to offer her his hand. Before he could decide, her arms pin-wheeled and she toppled forward. He went to catch her and they both tumbled onto the ropes. Kim landing on his chest.
"You OK?" He asked immediately. Her laughter confirmed she was. She pushed up onto her hands; her legs still entangled with his.
"You put me off, you oaf!" She tried to sound angry but her giggles spoiled it.
"Yeah, you did!" And she began slapping his chest, both of them laughing even harder than before. Finally he caught her round the waist and twisted them around so she was pinned beneath him. She wriggled under him and continued to batter him with her hands until he grabbed her wrists and forced them down. The movement brought his face next to hers. Their eyes met and they both froze, the laughter stopped. The only sound was the quick beat of their hearts and their breathing. Slowly, very slowly, Murdock brought his mouth down onto hers. She parted her lips, welcoming his tongue. They kissed deeply. He released her wrists and slipped his hands up into hers, twinning their fingers.
Kim curled her body around him bringing her hips against his. The touch made him moan softly. Then he pulled back suddenly as if doused in cold water.
Kim smiled. "Took you long enough, Flyboy."
"This is…I-I…" His breathe came heavy from their passion. "I'm sorry."
She kissed him again.
Anger flashed briefly in his eyes. "Face is my best friend!"
She didn't understand. How could she? "He loves you."
She shook her head. "We're just friends."
Murdock got up, pulling her with him. "This never happened." He said as he guided her over to the other side.
"You know it did! I wanted it to happen." But he'd already slipped down the slide.
She followed. When she reached the bottom, she grabbed his arm. "So did you."
He touched her cheek. "Yes." He whispered, "but Face…"
"I don't love Face!"
"I do. I owe him my life, everythin.' He's never…he doesn't…he doesn't love easily. But he loves you." He smiled, "even if he don't know it yet."
"I'm sorry, but I don't love Face. Not like that anyway."
"Please…. If…if you care about me."
"That's not fair. You can't ask people that."
"Have you two finished acting like your five?" Face's voice called. They turned to see Face and Emily in the distance, walking towards them.
When they reached them, Face noticed the tension. "Your not squabbling again, are you?"
Kim shook her head. "Just a headache. Came on kinda sudden."
"That's what happens when you let Murdock drag you onto these things."
"Yeah…I'm sorry, Temp, could you take me home?"
They were still standing there, bathed in the early morning light and the terrible silence between them.
Isabelle began to fret, sensing her father's despair. Murdock watched as Face walked away, then he cast a glance over at Kim's grave. She would have been so angry with them.
"Face, would you…" He called at his friend's vanishing back, the words coming out before he realised he was saying them.
Face turned. "What do you want, Murdock?"
If there was any anger in his voice, Murdock didn't hear it. "D'you wanna go for a coffee?"
Face stared at Murdock for a long moment. The smell of blood rose up and Kim's hand was back in his, her voice just a whisper. "Make it up with Murdock…please, if you love me?"
And then he nodded. "Sure."
Kim sat on the porch of Face's beach house, shivering in the cold night air. She rarely cried but she couldn't stop the tears from slipping quietly down her cheeks. She missed Murdock; she hadn't turned up for her flying lessons for the past two weeks, unable to face him again.
She had left her hotel room, intending to go to Murdock's flat, wanting things to be OK again. But somehow, she'd ended up here.
"Kim?" Face came up the steps, surprised to see her waiting for him to return.
He saw her tears and immediately gathered her into his arms. "Oh my God, what happened?"
She didn't answer, just clung to him, needing the comfort he offered.
She sobbed quietly for a long time and he simply held her, whispering softly.
"Are you alright?" He asked, when she'd fallen silent.
"Yeah, it's nothing. Really."
"It doesn't look like nothing."
She smiled. "It is. Thank you for…you know."
He smiled back and kissed her brow.
And then her lips.
She pulled back.
"Kim, I…I…" He couldn't say it. And she realised he was right. Murdock was right.
She brushed his hair back and he kissed her again. And this time, she didn't stop him.
Sometime later, Kim returned to the porch and to shivering in the cold, wishing she could take the last couple of hours back. She had used him.
It made her sick to think of it.
"Kim?" Face came out of the house. He saw the sadness in her eyes. "What is it?"
She gave no answer.
"Is it me? Was it OK?" He'd sensed something when they'd made love and for the first time in his life, it mattered what a woman felt with him. "Did I hurt you?" She still didn't answer. "I'm sorry if I did. I should have waited but…" he brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "I've never felt like this about anyone before."
"You didn't hurt me." She murmured, I hurt you.
"Then what is it? Tell me, tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it."
"You don't have to do anything for me."
"Yes I do, because….because I love you. And that's what you do when you love someone."
"Is it?" Murdock's words come back to her.
"What is it? Tell me, I can help, we all can. That's our job. Me, Hannibal, BA, Murdock."
She lifted her head at the name.
Face saw it and frowned; "it's Murdock? Have you two been fighting?"
"You turn up here crying and that's nothing!"
"I have to go."
"No, tell me what's wrong!" There was anger in his voice now.
"Just leave me alone!"
She grabbed her coat and ran into the night. He caught up with her easily.
"What is it?"
"This was a mistake, OK?" She snapped, "I shouldn't have let it happen!"
"I-I'm sorry, I thought..."
The stricken look on his face and the moisture starting to form in his eyes scared her.
"No, don't be sorry. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Temp. I don't want to lose your friendship over this, you mean so much to me."
"Shh, it's-it's OK."
"It's OK," he repeated.
They stood there in silence for a while, the sound of the waves crashing on the sand surrounding them.
"I really do have to go," she said eventually.
He nodded, "let me walk you to your car."
Face had been to the house many times, the last being for the wake. Everyone had been full of condolences for Murdock's loss, had spoken quiet regrets that Issie would grow up without her mother. He'd smiled sadly in agreement and hid his own pain.
Murdock settled Isabelle on the floor with some toys and disappeared into the kitchen. Face sat down on the sofa and watched Kim's little girl playing.
Murdock returned with two coffees, gave one to Face and sat down himself. They made small talk, just as they had almost every other time they met up in the last eighteen months or so. There was no anger now. Just an emptiness where there had been a deep and intense friendship.
Memories crowded in.
Several weeks passed, Face saw Kim almost every day. It hurt so much that there could be nothing between them but as much as he wanted too, he couldn't stop seeing her. He knew there was something wrong but she avoided any questions as to what it was. She seemed so sad sometimes.
She loved Face for the comfort he gave her without ever asking for anything in return and hated herself more every day. She avoided Murdock until she thought the pain of that would make her scream.
Unable to take it any longer she found herself at his door one evening. One way or another, she had to finish this.
Murdock sat watching the Thundercats. The kids had released a monster from a crypt. He switched it off when the doorbell rang and he went to answer it.
It was Kim.
Sighing he invited her in. She sat down on his sofa. "I've missed you."
"You were the one who stopped comin' to lessons."
"Temp keeps asking me why."
"You didn't tell him?" He asked sharply.
She shook her head. A long silence rose up between them and finally Murdock filled it by offering her a Coke. She accepted and followed him into the kitchen. She watched as he took two cans out to the fridge, unable to keep her eyes from staring at his body. She found him so attractive. Handsome not in the classic way but handsome.
They sat down at the kitchen table and continued with the awkward silence.
"Murdock, about what happened…"
"I can't." She ran a slim finger around the edge of the can, "can you?"
"Yes." It wasn't convincing; the truth was he'd thought of little else. The feel of her body next to his, the taste of her tongue, the wave of intense desire that filled him when she was near. She would probably never know how hard it was to see her and not be able to give in to the need to pull her into his arms.
She looked up at him. He sipped his drink; unable to break the eye contact she'd started. She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever met. And she was as big a kid as he was.
"It would have been wild." She reached over and took his hand. "You and me."
She stood up and moved lightly to face him, never letting go of his hand. He could smell the scent of her hair, mixed with perfume.
"I love you." She whispered, "wanted you since you first smiled at me."
She shivered with delight as his mouth covered hers.
Early morning sunshine lit the room as Kim opened her eyes. She felt warmth and skin beside her and smiled as sweet memories of last night came back to her. Murdock slept soundly beside her and she grinned wickedly when she thought of how tired last nights activities had probably left him.
She ran a finger along his arm. He stirred at the touch but didn't waken. The movement brought his back into clearer view. She'd seen the scars last night and he'd flinched, either at the memory or with embarrassment, or maybe a mixture of both, when he'd seen her looking but she didn't find them ugly or off-putting. They were part of him, a part of who he had become, a testimony to the life he'd had before her. A life that made him appreciate having her all the more.
Temp had a similar set on his back.
A wave of guilt hit her. It was wrong, so wrong. For a second, tears threatened but anger beat them to it and she threw her pillow at the wall.
Murdock awoke with a jump. "Kim?"
She got out of bed and retrieved the pillow.
"What's up, muchacio?"
"Could've fooled me…an' the pillow."
"I just wish something on this God damn planet would be easy for a change. Or, I don't know, I might not actually screw things up for once." She was shouting now, letting the anger come out. "Is that too much to ask? I just want…"
He waited for her to finish but when she didn't he prompted her, "want what?"
"I love you, that's the only thing I know. And I want that to be all, nothing else…but Temp…"
She could see by his eyes the nausea that grew in his stomach.
"You know, he probably loves and trusts us more than anybody else…and here we are." She sat down on the bed, "how are we gonna tell him?"
"We'll tell him, soon as possible."
"He'll never forgive us."
"We'll make it right, I promise."
Face smiled as he saw Kim's VW Beetle outside her house. He'd decided not to go to the Club after all but instead surprise Kim with lunch. Kim had something important to tell him and she'd said she'd be dropping by the beach house that evening to discuss it. He knew what it was. She was moving on. Always the wanderlust, always on the move. She'd warned him when they met, but somehow he hadn't thought it would really happen.
He walked up the path of the little house she rented. It was small and cramped inside, built by settlers over two hundred years ago. He passed the window and something caught his eye. There were people on the rug by the fireplace.
It was Kim.
A naked Kim sitting astride someone, her hips rocking slowly over his. Long fingered male hands tangled in her beautiful hair and cupped her bare buttocks. He couldn't see the man's face and he didn't want to.
Face felt sick. He was about to turn and run when the man Kim was fucking in front of him, grabbed her waist and rolled her beneath him. She cried out in ecstasy, masking Face's own cry of horror.
Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.
It was Murdock.
Kim flipped down the car sunshade and stared at herself in the little vanity mirror. She hated who she'd become. Someone who'd sleep with one man because she was in love with his best friend and he'd rejected her. And then have to tell that man she and his best friend were getting it on. She always laughed at the women on the TV and in problem pages for getting themselves into this sort of trouble. She hadn't realised just how easy it was.
She loved Face. He was so gorgeous and confident and happy with his role in life and yet strangely vulnerable.
She looked across at the man driving. His handsome face tight and drawn.
And then there was Murdock, who laughed at the world and cared about the people and animals in it. And yet seemed like a frightened child sometimes, horrified by the cruelties of humanity he himself had experienced.
He pulled up the car and they sat in silence for a moment.
"You OK?" She asked him again. As with the other times she'd asked him that, he just shrugged. This was harder on him. He loved Face too, had been his friend for so many years, they'd fought together, laughed together, faced death at the others side. And now he was about to tell him he had stolen one of the few women he'd brought himself to love.
"Are you sure you want to come too?"
They got out the car and began walking slowly to Face's door. When they climbed the steps to the porch, they saw Face.
He was sitting on one of the chairs, obviously drunk and surrounded by empty beer bottles. He stared up at their shocked faces.
Kim recovered first. "Oh my God, Temp, what is it?"
"Face," Murdock knelt next to him, concern in his eyes. The same concern he had when Face lay dying from a gunshot wound in that restaurant a few years back.
"Tell me one thin'," he asked, his voice slurring drunkenly. "Were you laughin' at me?"
"When you s'ducin' her, didya laugh b'hind my back?" He saw the horror on their faces, watched it turn to guilt. "Fort you fool' me, didn' you? Well I saw ya, screwin'"
"It wasn't like that!" Kim cried.
"An' wha' was it like? Was it good?"
"I said stop it! Please!"
"Didn' look like ya said stoppit ta me." Face grabbed her arm. In a flash, Murdock pulled him away from her. They stared at each other.
"It's me you should be angry at!" Murdock said, "You wanna hit someone, hit me."
"You'd like 'at wouldn' ya…make you feel better?" He pushed Murdock away. "You were ma frien'!"
"I still am."
"Ma frien'!" he burst out into bitter laughter. "Ma frien'! 'As a joke!"
"Ged out! I don' wan' a see either o' you again!"
"I said go 'way!" He swung his fist at Murdock, the blow knocking him backwards. Face was on top of him in an instant, his anger putting power behind his fists. Murdock concentrated on defending himself. He didn't want to hurt Face…not any more than he already had.
"Temp! Stop it!" Kim screamed, "for God's sake, you'll kill him!"
She grabbed the drunken man and hauled him off. One of the blows meant for Murdock caught her on the side of the head and she stumbled. The sight instantly sobered him. "Kim!"
She got up. "You don't own me!"
"We were gonna tell ya." Murdock said, wiping blood from his lip. "That's why we're here."
"Yeah, tough call."
"It's the truth!" She cried, "I'm sorry, sorry you found out this way but we haven't done anything wrong!"
"What…you haven' done anythin' wrong?"
Kim nodded, "What happened between you and me…" she glanced at Murdock apologetically, he hadn't known about that night and this wasn't the way she wanted to tell him, "I told you it was a mistake. You accepted that! For God's sake, it was a one-night stand; you must've had plenty of those! We weren't together, you have no right to be like this!"
"No right! I loved you….an' you!" Face rounded on Murdock; "you knew that and you still…"
"Ged out! You make me sick!"
"Fuck you!" He slammed the door behind him, disappearing into the safe haven of the house. Murdock went to follow but Kim grabbed his hand. She shook her head slowly, "leave him, he'll cool off."
Murdock ran his fingers through his hair and kicked a chair across the porch. "Shit!"
"Feel better?" She asked.
She wrapped her arms around him and he buried his face in her blonde hair, breathing in its sweet scent.
"I love you." He told her.
She took his hand and led him back across the beach to the car. When they got to the little Beetle she smiled, "first time you've said that."
He kissed her, "won't be the last."
Face was gone the next day, the beach house empty as if he'd never been there. Hannibal phoned that night and told them Face was in Bad Rock with him and Maggie. His tone was sad, belying the anger he felt. This was his unit. He should have been there to prevent this from happening. Divided we fall, the old saying went and that was what the Team had become since the pardon. Divided.
Now more than ever.
Their coffees were cold and the silence seemed unending. A knock on the door ended the awkwardness.
Murdock got up, secretly relieved at the interruption.
"Captain Murdock?" The woman at the door flashed her ID. "My name is Caron Williams, I'm with the Child Welfare Department. I'm here to talk about your daughter," she checked her files, "Isabelle Alisha Murdock."
Fear flashed through him. "W-what about?"
"If I could come in, Mr Murdock…"
He led her through to the lounge and introduced Face. He watched her look around the room critically
"Maybe I should-" Face began, but Murdock's eyes pleaded with him to stay.
"Perhaps we should talk alone," the woman said.
"Anythin' you wanna say can be said in front of Fa-Templeton."
Caron sat down and clapped her hands at Isabelle. The baby grinned and clapped back. "She's a lovely girl. What's her height centile?"
"Oh! What a big girl!" She crowed, "and her weight's fine is it?"
"Yeah, keepin' on the 50th."
"That's good. Any allergies or illnesses?"
"Are her inoculations up to date?"
"Did she have any problems with them?"
"Slight fever, coupla sleepless nights."
"And how are you feeling?" The dance was over.
"What's this about?" Face interrupted, he'd had no idea what they'd been talking about but suddenly the reason for the woman's visit was clear.
"We really should talk privately, Mr Murdock."
Face looked from one to the other. "I'll take Issie out in the garden."
Murdock nodded and picked the baby up and handed her to Face. Their eyes met. The emptiness filled. They were there for each other again.
"I understand that this must be a very difficult time, Mr Murdock." The woman said when Face had gone, "but my department is only interested in the welfare of you and your daughter."
"You've just lost your partner, and being a single parent is hard work." She paused, "we want to give you as much help as we can."
"I have good friends."
"Such as Dr…" she checked her notes, "Richter. He was your psychiatrist."
His anger flared up. "I've been outta his care for years!"
"But you are still suffering Post traumatic stress?" Her voice was cold.
"Mr Murdock, I'm sure you love your daughter and want the best for her. So do we." She wasn't unpleasant, just matter of fact. "Perhaps you should consider counselling and we have a guidance group…a chance to meet other parents."
"No. I can take care of Issie just fine."
"Even though you were…" she sort the right words, "in need of support after your tours in Vietnam?"
"That was a long time ago."
Face watched Issie crawling across the grass. He kept glancing back at the house, worrying about Murdock. Kim's will had left Murdock everything, including custody of their child. But his past mental state would count against him. Anyone would have to be blind and stupid not to see how much Murdock loved and cared for his daughter. But the Welfare Department were nothing if not callous.
The Welfare Department. He'd grown up under their tender mercies and had learned to despise anyone who worked for those people. Hated the way they made casual decisions about another person's life…including his.
When he was six, he'd been fostered out to a middle-aged woman. She'd been the closest thing he'd ever had to a mother. He'd lived with her for over a year when, with no warning, they'd sent him back to the orphanage.
It wasn't until a long time afterward, he'd learned she had wanted to adopt him.
But some soulless pencil pusher had decided she was too old, too single. They're wonderful solution was to put him back in the orphanage where nice young couples would go to adopt him.
And no one ever had.
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when his thoughts would keep him awake, he would wonder about the life he'd never had.
No, he wouldn't allow Kim's child to grow up haunted by thoughts of her real family.
He scooped Issie up and went into the kitchen where he could overhear everything that was said, praying at the same time, Issie was a quiet baby.
"Mr Murdock, you might not believe this, but we are on your side." She sighed, "we only want to see that Isabelle's needs are met and that she's being raised in a happy and positive environment. That's hard enough for anyone to achieve, let alone a single parent, or someone whose lost a loved one or for someone, like yourself, who has had emotional problems in the past."
Murdock slumped down on the sofa, unable to yell, to order this woman from his house or to say something, anything to convince her he was a good parent. All he could do was sit, elbows on knees, hands pressed against his mouth. Could feel no anger, just the gut ripping fear he was going to lose the one thing that gave him reason to get up in the morning, to go to bed at night and to smile through the hell his life had become since Kim had left it.
Images of Issie ran through his mind. Newborn, wet and bloodied, wrapped in the nearest thing to hand to keep her warm, his battered old jacket. Sucking at her mother's breast. Her first smile. First laugh.
The way she had cried and cried just after Kim died. Calling for a mother that would never come.
"I'm not…"he began, "it's been a long time since I…"
"Mr Murdock, this is just a preliminary visit. There will be others and they will better determine how we can best help both you and Isabelle."
She paused, "it might be in the best interests of your child if you considered a short term fostering."
"Of course that would be the last resort, but it can be extremely helpful in some cases. You'd have visitation rights and time to sort yourself out. And, when the time is right, Isabelle will be returned to you"
Face heard most of the conversation and could only imagine how scared Murdock was at that moment. He came out of the kitchen when he heard the door closing behind the woman. Murdock immediately took the baby from him. Face watched his friend with concern as he sat down on the sofa and hugged her close, his body shaking ever so slightly.
Just as he had when he'd learned Kim was gone.
Face loosened his tie, walking faster to his 'Vette and its blissful air-conditioned interior. He pulled his keys from his pocket and was about to open the door when he heard someone calling his name across the street.
He recognised the voice but still felt shock jolt through him when he saw who it was.
"Kim." His own voice cracked.
She was smiling as she crossed the road, dodging a four-wheeler to reach him. "I can't believe it, how long have you been in back in LA?"
"Not long." He lied. He'd returned at New Year's, but had only seen BA in that time. He knew Murdock occasionally helped out at the Centre where BA worked, giving the kids rides in his Cessna. Face had assumed BA had mentioned his return to Murdock but obviously not. The glue that had held the Team together had been lost these last few years.
"I-I heard about the baby. Little girl, wasn't it?"
"Isabelle." She opened her purse and pulled out a photograph of a smiling blonde baby. "Born in the back of BA's van, poor thing. Gonna be hard to live that one down."
Face took the picture and smiled. "She looks like you."
"Yeah, everyone says that. You should come and see her. I know Murdock wants to see you." She touched his arm. "He misses you. We both do."
"What? We've said it all before!" He took a deep breath. "Look, I'm not angry anymore. Its ancient history, but I'm not going to pretend everything's OK between us."
"I can't stand seeing him with you."
"I know but-"
"I loved you!"
Tears filled her eyes. "You know I love you too."
"But not that way." He finished. He noticed the people around them turning to watch and frowned. He sighed. "I have to go."
"No, please….Temp, I haven't seen you in forever. There's a coffee shop across the street, let me buy you a drink."
He wanted to say no, but he could never refuse her anything. She probably knew that. "OK."
They talked mostly about Hannibal and Maggie, a bit about Isabelle and finally Murdock.
"I wish you'd change your mind, he misses you."
Face tried to smile. His life had been so empty without the pilot. They'd been such close friends for so long that it was like losing a part of himself and sometimes he wanted that back so badly. But for months after that day he hadn't been able to close his eyes at night without seeing Murdock making love to Kim. You just didn't forget that. Or forgive it easily.
"You said it was over!"
"It is…but I…I still love you. And it hurts so fucking much that you don't feel the same!"
"You told me once that all I had to do was to tell you what I wanted you to do and you'd do it."
"That was different and you know it."
"So that's it? Your gonna turn your back on everything because of that? What if Hannibal needs the Team again? You just gonna ignore Murdock?"
"Theirs is no Team anymore! Hannibal hasn't taken a job in nearly two years, since you came along in fact. You know, you and Yoko Ono have a lot in common!"
He regretted it the moment he said it, but by then it was too late. Tears formed in her eyes.
"I'm sorry. That's not true."
"It is. The Team is finished. Hannibal and BA…they tried not to take sides but I know Hannibal was disappointed in Murdock. And BA…" she smiled, "well, he loves Issie but…but you know how he feels about Murdock…I guess he kinda blames me for everything."
Face sighed, his desire to leave had been so great, his pain so deep, he hadn't thought what it was like for those he left behind. "I'm sorry, I was angry. I guess they heard me say a lot of things that weren't fair."
"Ancient history, like you said." She touched his hand. "Talk to Murdock. Don't turn your back on your friendship. It was so special, it's why I love you both."
Face stayed silent.
Never could refuse her anything.
They left the coffee shop, laughing over old times. After Face had agreed to talk to Murdock and meet his 'niece', the tension between them melted away. They'd had good times together before that September day and the trip they took down memory lane was a long one. Finally Kim decided she had to get home, Face offered to walk her to the corner. When they got there, he kissed her cheek lightly and waved as she walked away.
She turned round to call back, "does this mean I get to call you Face now?" as she stepped out into the road. A BMW rounded the corner and Face almost screamed in panic.
The driver slammed on his brakes as the woman walked out in front of him. The tyres screeched in protest and then-
The dull thud rang out and time slowed. Face stood watching in horror as Kim's body was propelled up into the sky, rolling along the car roof and falling to the tarmac beside the pavement. She lay still.
Time restarted and he ran to her side, hearing someone begging for an ambulance, realised dimly that it was his own voice.
Blood was pooling around her head, turning her blonde hair red. He took off his jacket and covered her with it trying not to look at her torn shoulder and right arm, which bent at an unnatural angle.
"Kim! I-I-I…oh God."
"Temp…" She whispered.
"Lie-lie still. You're gonna be OK."
"Yes you are. And I thought you were gonna call me Face from now on?"
"Old habits…" she smiled.
Die hard,he thought. "Where's that fucking ambulance!"
"Temp…Face…" she reached for him with a bloody hand and he immediately took it in his, "Make it up with Murdock…" she let out a cry of pain, "please….if you love me."
"I do, you know I do." He whispered.
He hung his head and wept.
"Promise me!" She demanded.
He looked up, meeting her eyes, blue gazing into blue, and he nodded. She smiled, her lips made the words thank you but no sound came out. He brushed the hair off her forehead and kissed it gently.
She stiffened in his arms, arching her back against the pain. "Hurts…" she sobbed.
"I know, I know. Just a little while longer."
"No, no don't you dare leave me!"
"Tell M-Murdock…. I love him."
"No, you tell him yourself!"
"Wanted so much…see Issie…grow up…" Her body tensed in sudden pain then relaxed. The light went from her eyes, leaving only a glassy stare.
"No, no, no, no, no," Face murmured over and over. Then he began to sob.
Murdock sighed, as the doorbell rang not two minutes after Issie had finally fallen asleep. He held his breath, hoping the little six-month-old hadn't heard the noise. An almighty bawling from the nursery told him she had. He called through the door that he'd be a minute and raced up the stairs. Issie stopped crying the moment she saw him. He scooped her up and hurried to the door, flung it open expecting to see BA, who dropped by every day on his way home from the Kids Centre to play with Issie. That ugly mudsucka was just putty in her tiny hands.
"Hey, Big G-"
He froze. It was Face.
Face looked drawn and pale. He had probably come to see Kim and wasn't expecting to see the pilot. "Face."
He hadn't seen him since before Issie was born, at Hannibal and Maggie's engagement. That had been awkward, but at least then he'd been prepared.
It was then that he noticed the police car in the driveway and the officers behind Face. A feeling of dread ran down his spine.
"Mr Murdock?" One of the officers stepped around Face, "I'm Sergeant Reid, LAPD," he flashed his badge, "may we come in?"
He nodded and led them all into the lounge. He turned to ask the officers why they were there and as he did so he saw the taller of the two, Reid, holding something. A handbag. Kim's handbag, the one he'd bought for her when they'd been out shopping for a pram. She set her heart on it but it was way too expensive, especially with a baby on the way. He'd bought it for her anyway when she wasn't looking and had put it on her pillow that night. He claimed the fairies had left it. Prepayment, Chiquita, for all those teeth our kids gonna leave out.
Face saw him staring at the bag. For the first time in almost 18 months, he looked his friend in the eye. And this time he didn't see the mental image of Kim and Murdock together, just the slow realisation of a man who was about to be told his lover was never coming home.
"Do you recognise this?" The officer asked,
Murdock nodded, "it-it's Kim's. Where is she?"
"Murdock, she…" Face touched his arm, he'd insisted he came with the police to inform Murdock. Had refused to go in the ambulance to be treated for shock. Now he realised just how painful this task would be. "She's dead."
"No…" Murdock whispered. He sat back down on the sofa, clutching Issie to his chest as if he'd never let her go, rocking her to ease the tears. "How?"
"She was crossing the street and a car hit her." The officer said quietly. "She was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital. I'm sorry, I know this is difficult but as her next-of-kin we have to ask you to formally identify the body."
"Can't that wait!" Face objected, wanting to comfort his friend and not knowing how. Not with all the water that had passed under the bridge.
"NO!" Murdock stood up; "I wanna see her."
The hospital smelled familiar, the scent that had once signalled home. Something that made him feel safe. Today it offered no comfort, somewhere down here in the basement Kim lay cold and still. Murdock couldn't feel or think anything. He hadn't yet wondered why Face was here, a man he hadn't seen in almost 9 months.
"It's through here. I should warn you that there was a fair amount of damage to her cranium." The doctor said gently, "I'm afraid she won't look the way you remembered."
"Served in 'Nam," he murmured, "ain't nothin' I ain't seen before."
"One of the nurses can take her for a while." He pointed to Issie, snoozing in her father's arms. A nurse smiled and held out her arms.
Murdock tightened his grip; unable to give up the only thing he had left.
"Murdock, let me..?" Face offered. Murdock's eyes filled with tears and a long moment passed then he carefully placed his daughter in the arms of his closest friend. But he couldn't meet his eyes.
Then he followed the doctor into the morgue.
Face gazed down at the tiny bundle in his arms. This was Kim's child. Who would never know what a beautiful and vibrant woman her mother was.
Just a few hours ago he had cradle Kim in his arms as her life slipped away. And now he cradled her child. The tears came hot and fast, falling onto the baby's wispy blonde hair.
She lay on the silks, her blonde hair stained with her blood. The staff had tried to clean her up and cover the gaping wound on her scalp. If he ignored the dark bruising on one side of her face and the odd way her arms lay he could almost believe she was just sleeping. Like a princess in a fairy tale who could be woken with the kiss of her true love.
Murdock confirmed it was Kim and then asked to be left alone with her.
"Take as long as you need." The orderly replied as he closed the door behind him.
Murdock took her hand in his own. Her fingers cold and slightly stiff. He stroked her hair gently.
"I love you."
There was nothing else to say.
Caron Williams stood before him, clutching Isabelle in her arms. Her eyes cold and bitter. The baby kicking and screaming, her little face turning red. Murdock reached out to his daughter, tears streaming down his cheeks as the baby held out her own arms to be picked up. His fingers just touched her before the Welfare Officer turned and walked quickly away.
He tried to run after them, begging the woman to give back his child but his legs refused to work. He felt like he was wading through deep water. Issie's screams called to him but he couldn't reach her.
Blood began pouring from the child's head, a flowing river of red. Murdock screamed as he tried to force his legs to work. Blood coated everything, hot sticky blood.
Murdock shot forward in the bed, gasping for breath. A dream, just a dream. All except the baby's cries. He quickly got up and hurried over to the crib. Isabelle quietened at his voice as he shushed her, tucking her into his arms.
"S'OK, s'OK," he whispered to Issie. "Daddy ain't gonna let 'em take you away."
The bedroom door flew open.
"Murdock, what-I heard shouting."
Murdock looked up at Face, shocked to see him there and was about to ask him when he remembered. After that woman had left, Face had given him a drink and they'd talked about what happened. It had felt so good talking to Face again. And they talked long after he'd put Issie to bed, the conversation turning to old times on the run with the Team. It had been so late that Murdock had offered Face the guestroom.
"It's OK, just dreamin'," he said.
He shook his head, "not for years. Welfare Department."
"We'll pull this one off, Murdock, we always do, right?"
And he hoped that was the truth.
Face straightened his tie as the door opened. The maid, a plumpish woman with tiny, shrew-like eyes, stared at him with distaste. Obviously working for a psychiatrist had soured her opinion of strangers. You never knew if one would turn out to be nuts.
"Please wait here." She said as she ushered him into a reception room. He looked at the paintings on the wall while he waited. He almost told Murdock he was coming but if this didn't work out…It was better if he didn't get his hopes up. A few minutes later the man Peck had come to see walked in.
Dr Richter wasn't a young man, but his face was warm and comforting. He looked like a man you could trust and like. Face had met him on numerous occasions and had come to realise that for once appearance didn't deceive. Richter could be trusted, but more than that, Face liked the man.
And so did Murdock.
"Templeton Peck." Richter said, "or do you prefer Face?"
"Whatever, look, doc, you know why I'm here."
"He's out of my care. More than that a whole board of doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists certified him sane and capable of making a contribution to society." A hint of professional pride slipped into his voice.
"Yeah, well you should tell the Welfare Department that! They're threatening to take his kid away!"
"They sent a woman to his house, she said it might be for the best that Issie goes into care."
Richter frowned, "have they given any reason for this, illness, failure to thrive, bruises?"
"Of course there aren't any bruises! You know Murdock wouldn't hurt anyone, especially not his own kid!"
"I never said, or believed, that he would. But accidents can happen even when the most careful of parents are watching. Sometimes that can lead to misunderstandings."
"Yeah, well there aren't any misunderstandings here. They just wanna take her 'cos Murdock was a mental patient."
"How is he coping?" the doctor asked
"Ok, I guess, I…he…we, we haven't really been that close these past coupla years, you know."
Richter nodded. "He told me." That seemed all his confidentially allowed him to reveal. Face had hoped for more.
"That little girl's all he's got, doc…"
Richter frowned. "I'm afraid there's not much I can do."
"You can tell those people that Murdock's OK!"
"I will. And I'll make all the non-confidential files available to the Department. If Murdock signs a consent form I can make sure they get to read them all." He sighed, "the nature of his committal and recovery should help support his case for custody."
He turned to leave. "Murdock doesn't know you came, does he?"
Face shook his head. "No."
"He has good friends."
"He needs more than friends right now, doc."
"Maybe, but I think he'd disagree with you."
Murdock closed the door behind the Welfare officer who'd come to inspect the house. He and Face had cleaned it from top to bottom and it was spotless. No one could say was dirty or unsafe.
"Gonna take her 'way, gonna take her 'way," he muttered.
His breathing quickened and he couldn't stop trembling. Face grabbed his shoulders and pulled him into his arms, soothing him as he had in the VC camps after 'interrogation', the kind reserved for the younger, boyish prisoners.
"We're not gonna let that happen, Murdock, OK? I'M not gonna let that happen!"
"How? I'm crazy! Gonna make her crazy."
"Everyone knows it, Faceman. I'm a fool and loser and I'm startin' ta think they should take Issie away. She'd be better off."
"If you think that then your are crazy!"
"An' just how the hell am I gonna convince them ta let me keep her?"
"By fighting, Murdock, it's what we do best!"
"Can't fight this."
"You can, you have to!"
"Why? What's the point when ya gonna lose?"
"Oh so your just gonna give up on her." Face grabbed his collar and pushed his face into his friends. "She's your daughter." He yelled, "Kim's daughter!" He let go of his friend and said more evenly, "It's not like you to give up!"
"Newsflash, Face, done a lotta things that ain't like me just recently."
Face looked down. "That's past, Murdock." He said quietly.
"Yeah it is." He clapped a hand on Murdock's shoulder. Then he smiled. "And, you know, the past might just be the answer."
Murdock raised his head, his cheeks wet with tears. At that moment Face realised just how important his forgiveness was to his friend. "Past?"
Face handed the number he'd got off of Hannibal to Murdock. It felt dirty and nasty just asking Stockwell for the time of day. They hated manipulators, the very people they had fought against on the run. But they'd ended up working for one. They'd bought their freedom by necessity, by being manipulated themselves.
At least the Team had. Murdock had always been free and had chosen to stick by his unit. All Stockwell had given him for his part was the return of his pilot's license. Hardly payment for the dept.
A dept he aimed to collect on.
Murdock dialled the number and waited. This was Stockwell's private line. He heard the click of someone picking up the phone and then the distinctive smoothness of Stockwell's voice. "Yes?"
"Just callin' in a dept, Stockwell."
There was a short pause. "Capt. Murdock, I presume?"
"Don't have that many people in ya dept, ay, Stockwell? I'm surprised."
"You are not in my dept, captain. If you were, you'd be watching your back not talking to me over the telephone."
"You gotta lotta help from me past few years, I think that's worth somethin'"
"You think, I don't."
"He's got that right," muttered Face. Murdock smiled.
"I ain't after money, just get some people offa my back."
There was silence from the phone and then…"Go on."
Closing his eyes in relief, Murdock quickly told him everything. When he'd finished there was more silence. "I see…Good day, Captain… tell Smith I won't forget that he gave you this number." He hung up.
Murdock shook his head and sank into the sofa. He buried his face in his hands. All he could do now was wait…and hope. Face lay a hand on his shoulder and opened his mouth to say something but the sound of an engine interrupted him. Face went to the window and looked out, it was BA's van. "Looks like you got company."
Murdock looked up sharply. Company.
Face noticed the faraway look in Murdock's eyes. "I said you got company, looks like BA."
"Yeah…" he snapped back from wherever he had been, "yeah, comes to see Issie." He stood up and opened the door for the big guy.
"Hey, Murdock, where's ma princess…" he trailed off when he saw Face there.
Isabelle squealed in delight and crawled over to BA. He recovered from the shock and scooped her up.
Murdock grabbed his jacket. "Gotta go….um…buy some diapers."
Neither man really paid attention to his leaving. BA was staring at Face, waiting for an explanation.
"It's a long story BA…"
Murdock ran to the phone on the corner. Stockwell wasn't the only man who owed him. His time in the CIA had left a couple of people in his dept and admittedly even more he owed.
He picked up the receiver and his finger paused over the buttons. 555-what? Long time ago. Too fucking long.
He hit the phone in frustration earning him a few cautious looks from passers-by. He made a face at them back and slammed the phone back down.
He picked it up a second later as the number fell into place in his mind. He dialled, his finger shaking ever so slightly. He might have changed numbers. Made sense too, working for who he did.
Please be there. Please be there.
"Hi, Andy…" he felt relief wash over him, "its…its Tim…need a favour…"
"We're fully satisfied by our findings, Mr Murdock. In our belief, nothing would be gained from separating Isabelle from the family home or from any supervision or group therapy." Caron Williams stood, "This will be our last visit."
Face sighed in relief. "I'll show you out."
He led her to the door and watched her drive away. If Kim were here in spirit, she'd be making some kind of childish finger gesture. He smiled at the thought.
He went back into the lounge, expecting to see a jubilant Murdock. It shocked him to see what was there instead. Murdock sat on the sofa watching his daughter playing with her bricks. Tears ran down his cheeks. Face immediately went to him and at his touch, the pilot began sobbing. All the tension and worry and fear of the last week came pouring out. He didn't know if it was Richter he owed for this or Stockwell or that bastard from the Company…hell, maybe it was all him, but it was over.
And yet it wasn't.
"I can't do this anymore, Faceman," he wept, "just can't."
"You can. You gotta."
Face stared at his friend and wondered if he'd ever cried like this since Kim died. The kind of tears that made you feel like shit, that felt like they'd never end but when they did you felt cleaner, easier. Like the sun would come out eventually, you just had to wait until it did.
"Murdock, you have too." He hugged his friends shoulders, a smile touched his lips, "no one says you gotta do it alone."
Murdock looked up, wiping the back of his hand across his eyes. "Whadya mean?"
"Well, there's the spare room right? And I'll have to get outta my apartment soon seeing as the real owner'll be back soon so…maybe I could move my stuff in here and help you with Issie for a while."
"You don't know nothin' 'bout babies?"
"Neither did you. I'll learn."
"It's hard work."
"No change there then."
"You'd have ta give up the late nights."
"Getting to old for that anyway."
"And the women."
A long pause. "Celibacy's not too bad I suppose. I was in the army, right?"
"This is crazy."
"No that's you." Face looked him in the eye, "c'mon, it makes sense, what d'you say?"
Murdock walked over to Issie and picked her up. "I say..." He began as he dumped the baby in Face's arms. "Yer on, Faceman and she smells bad, it's your turn."
"Turn?" He asked, then realisation dawned as the odour hit him, "Murdock, you don't mean...?"
A small blonde child giggled as she ran through the graveyard to the small tombstone she knew so well. They came here almost every day after all. She didn't know that this morning was different to the others. But she did sense the sadness that her daddy and uncle felt when they brought her here was worse today.
She stopped at the grave and a moment later, her daddy and uncle joined her. Daddy laid the flowers he always left here. She expected them to leave then, as they usually did and head for the swings a short distance away. Instead they settled down on the grass near the grave. She pouted, still a half year from the tantrums of the terrible twos. Then she noticed the daisies growing nearby and began picking them to give to Mommy, who Daddy said sort of lived under that stone he sat by and sort of in the sky. She preferred to think of her mother up there in the clouds rather than under the ground. Daddy could fly planes, maybe one day he'd take her up there to see mommy.
Face took the bottle of champagne he carried and popped the cork. He poured out two plastic cupfuls and put the bottle down. He held out a cup to Murdock who took it.
A moment of silence passed.
"Year since we lost her." Murdock murmured.
"Yeah," Face said, smiling slightly when he heard the 'we.'
Murdock held up his cup in a toast. "To Kim."
They touched cups.
Issie held up her arms to Face and he scooped her up. "To family." Face added, meaning Isabelle.
Murdock smiled at the sight. "Guess that's us, all a us." He pondered the thought a moment. He hadn't really considered it before. Yes, they made a strange family, but they were a family. Kim would have approved. "To us." He said eventually.
Face touched his cup to Murdock's and smiled.
© T S "NorthernStar" Fenn