(or, The Gift of the Now. I think. It’s a loose translation.)
by brooklinegirl (witchbaby)
Response to the 2nd Missing Scene Challenge over at the A-Slash. It’s Christmas 1973, the Team’s first after their escape from jail. Face is missing Murdock, who he hasn’t seen since their last mission in Nam.
~You should know better~
It wouldn’t work, it wouldn’t be the same, it wouldn’t be anything. This wasn’t going to work.
~You should know better~
Why tumble back in? Why take that chance? Why risk it all, risk everything, everything there was to risk? Everything had changed and what if this wasn’t worth it? He should know better.
But he still went.
He crept soundlessly across the dark grounds of the VA hospital, pausing to cloak himself in the shadows of the copse of trees near the building.
This was insanity. ~Appropriate~ he thought dryly. Yeah. This was an excellent time for jokes. ~Concentrate, you fool. You get caught and Hannibal will have kittens~ If he got caught—no, don’t think like that.
He made his slow, careful way, creeping stealthily towards the building, pausing frequently to listen. Yeah, he’d be screwed if he got caught. Hell, the whole Team would be screwed. If the MPs didn’t kill him, Hannibal would take care of that for them.
But Hannibal didn’t understand. He tried, but he thought like a commander, and he didn’t know the whole story. Face knew that usually, yeah, Hannibal was the best. Even when he was on the jazz, he was the best. And even though he argued, (and, okay, sometimes even whined) Face usually listened to him.
But. For some reason—some stupid, stupid reason—this was something Face had to do.
He was so wrapped up in his thoughts, so distracted by his own blatant swan dive into stupidity, that he stumbled over a tree root. Rather than risk more noise by trying to catch himself, he ducked his shoulder and allowed himself to drop into a roll, ending up in a crouch, just next to the wall of the VA. A tree root. He was a goddamn Green Beret, fresh from Vietnam, and he falls over a tree root. Nice, Face.
~Stupidstupidstupid~ he berated himself. He stayed frozen in the crouch for a full minute, all senses open and straining for sounds or clues that he had attracted attention through that dim-witted maneuver.
Christmas Eve at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital was apparently the best time to try to break in while utterly distracted by blatant stupidity and a fast-beating heart.
He had to do it. He hadn’t meant to, hadn’t planned to—that’s where the absurdity came in: no fucking plan—but here he was, crouched in darkness, 11:45 on Christmas Eve, a desperado on the run from the US Government, trying to break in to one of their holding facilities.
Face tried to slow his breathing as he made his way around the perimeter of the building, counting windows. His heart was beating way too fast.
~Get it together, Face, or you’re going to screw this whole thing up.~
He was just trying to get through the process. Just get through the security system, just get in, deal with the rest of it then. He wouldn’t let himself think too much of the consequences, just took one step at a time.
He was smart that way. Yeah, right, seriously fucking smart. Why else would you be here?
Eleven, twelve, thirteen….there it was. Fourteen. No lights. Not even the blue flicker of a TV. He hoped his information was correct. Hate to break in on the wrong lunatic.
He’d already managed to bypass the alarm system in this wing, somehow. Sheer luck and a bit of training from BA. Sometimes he had the devil’s own luck. Couldn’t come from God, no way, but goddamn if the devil wasn’t sometimes on his side.
The window was only slightly higher than his head. He hoisted himself up onto the sill easily and balanced there on hands and hips, muscles bunching in his shoulders. He had leaned in, trying to study the lock mechanism inside, when it opened, suddenly and silently, apparently of its own accord. Startled, he overbalanced and fell in, scraping his thighs on the sill, but ducking into another roll, instinct alone keeping him from crying out.
He landed less gracefully this time, sprawled on his back, slightly dazed, blood racing. A sudden weight was thrown across him in the pitch-black room and a hand was clamped over his mouth. He struggled silently for just moment before he recognized the scent of the person on him, sensed the danger, and froze. Footsteps wandered by in the corridor outside the room, the aimless wander of a hapless orderly stuck on duty late Christmas Eve.
He lay, eyes adjusting to the darkness, looking up at Murdock who was still pinning him down and staring intently towards the hallway door, waiting for the steps to pass.
Face couldn’t breathe and it was nothing to do with the weight on his chest. He hadn’t seen Murdock for a year, a fucking year, and here he was, six inches from his face.
All he could hear was the beating of his own heart, all he could feel was the weight of Murdock’s body against his own.
Silence fell in the hall and Murdock slowly turned his head towards Face, relaxing his hold, freeing his mouth.
Face couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t speak. Could only look up into those steady (steady?) brown eyes.
Murdock was less than startled by this late night visitor. His eyes were calm, focused. It was hard to startle Murdock. Face was glad that hadn’t changed.
Even when the war (“police action”) had kicked him down, hurt him, broke him, he hadn’t been surprised. Just kind of lost.
Murdock looked—the same. A little thin, maybe, but in Nam, at least, Murdock had always been lean to the point of gaunt. He looked healthier, though, and steady, steadier than Face had allowed himself to hope. Face let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. He knew what the doctors had said, but doctors sometimes lied.
Murdock didn’t take his eyes off of Face. “Face—you came.” It was a statement, not a question. His face was very serious, tone grave.
Face nodded, feeling trembly, light-headed, undone by the closeness. Murdock got up abruptly, and swiftly pulled Face to his feet. Face was unprepared, all reflexes failed him, and he stumbled, almost fell, would have fallen, if Murdock hadn’t been there to catch him.
Wasn’t he supposed to be there to catch Murdock when he fell? But Murdock had fallen a year ago, fallen all alone, and there had been nothing Face could do, then, nothing at all.
Murdock’s strong arms (still so strong) steadied Face. Face gathered himself as they stood there in the shadowed room, close to each other, so close, too close.
“It’s—I’m—it’s Christmas. Almost.” Where was the smooth-talk when he needed it? “They said you were—okay. They say a lot of things. I needed to see for myself. I needed to see you.”
Murdock’s eyes were serious and he nodded slowly, intently. He paused for a moment, then said, “Does Hannibal even know you’re here?”
Face felt himself on the verge of hysterical giggles and forced them down. His grin was wild as he said, “Um, well, probably. I—there wasn’t ever any doubt. I couldn’t—I couldn’t not come.” The words were tumbling out now, softly, rapidly, and he couldn’t stop if he tried. “How screwed up is this, Murdock? What the hell happened? I’ve been—I’ve been trying to get to you, to see you, forever, it seems.” He was somehow grasping Murdock’s arms, loath to let him go, afraid he would disappear now that he was finally here in front of him.
Murdock’s face stayed closed, serious, and Face felt a flicker of fear race through him. Then the slightest of smiles broke through, a shadow of that same cocky grin he remembered, and Murdock said, “Hannibal’s gonna kill you. You know that, right?”
“Yeah. I know it.” Murdock’s smile widened as he saw the glimmer of apprehension that flashed through Face’s features. Hannibal really was going to kill him. The kid never had learned when to leave well enough alone.
Another sound in the hallway caught Murdock’s attention. He grabbed Face’s arm and pulled him to the floor by the side of the bed away from the door. They sat close together, hidden in the shadow of the bed, and Face asked “Aren’t they going to wonder why you aren’t in bed if they look in?”
“Nah.” There was a flicker of--something across Murdock’s features. “I’ve kinda felt more comfortable on the floor since they cut back on my meds. Bed just don’t feel right. And I don’t like sleeping alone no more. Floor’s better, it’s different, you don’t notice the alone so much. It’s where I usually end up, they’re used to it.”
“Mmm-hmm.” Face couldn’t seem to gain control of his heart. This wasn’t stupid. This was why he’d had to come. Fuck Lynch, fuck them all. Murdock needed him. This was worth it. This was so damn worth it. He was here, Murdock was here, yeah, they were in an insane asylum, but he was happy. Happy. When had he last been happy? He couldn’t even remember. He just sat, gazing at Murdock, sprawled on the floor next to him. Murdock appeared lazily relaxed, belied by the air of tension around him. “Face.” The brown eyes were serious again. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to--I needed to--it’s Christmas.” He gestured helplessly. “I just--it’s Christmas. No one should be alone at Christmas. I thought I could--bring you a present.” His heart was beating wildly, faster than it should.
“Face…I haven’t seen you in a year.” Murdock’s voice was quiet. “There’s a reason for that, right? You…you guys are running, all the time running. You’re taking a chance, coming here.”
“I can afford to take the chance.”
Murdock’s features softened into an almost-smile. “Statements like that’ll put you in the stockade. Again.”
Face dismissed that with a wave. “Worth it. Listen, I check on you.”
“You check on me?”
“I keep an eye on your file. I get updates from your doctors.”
“They give you an update on my status?”
“Well, they give “Dr. Whittemore” an update on your status.” Face gave Murdock a winning smile. “Dr. Whittemore is a damn good doctor, keeps tabs on a lot of special patients, you know.”
“Ri-ight, Facey.” Murdock drawled, smiling for real, now.
Face’s heart beat faster at the nickname. He’d never allow anyone but Murdock to call him that. And that sarcastic drawl, it just about broke his heart. Forget this careful dance. This was ridiculous. Swiftly, he got up and pulled Murdock up, too. “Face.” Murdock whispered. “Get back down here.”
“No, come on, I didn’t come all this way to sit here in the dark.” He drew Murdock after him towards the open window then turned and pushed him towards it.
“Face, I don’t know about this.”
“What, you don’t trust me?”
“No, I don’t trust you! I’m crazy, but I’m not that crazy.” But Murdock’s face was glowing as he turned towards the window and the soft moonlight outside. All arguments to the contrary, he trusted in Face when he trusted in nothing else.
“Just go, will you?” Face hissed.
Still muttering to himself, Murdock lowered himself out and crouched down in the shadows. Face jumped and landed without a sound beside him. They paused, listening, sensed and heard nothing. Face gestured, took point and silently padded off into the darkness, Murdock following swiftly, the two of them falling naturally into the commando pattern so familiar to them. It was quick, this fall, and Murdock tried not to let himself think about where and how and why this pattern had become so ingrained--stop. Stop it. He concentrated on breathing and following Face’s back in the darkness, didn’t let himself think any further.
Follow, follow, out to the edge of the VA grounds. Within a grove of trees, they were quietly protected from view, both from the building and from the street. All there was to be seen were trees all around, and stars—what seemed to be a billion stars—crowding the sky above them. Visible even through the smog.
Murdock’s face was serene. He breathed the crisp night air, pulled his jacket closer around him. “They don’t let us out at night. I haven’t been outside at night since…since...for a long time. A long time.”
Why, of all people, why did Murdock have to be the one to be hurt so damn bad? “I know. I wanted you to see the stars. From here. Not much of a scam, I know, but it’s the best I could come up with.” ~Least I could do is offer you the night.~
Murdock was standing there, staring up at the stars. He slowly brought his gaze down to Face. “Face.” he said slowly. “Why are you here? Really? It’s a hell of a risk.”
(Worth it for me? Worth it at all?)
“Because I know what it’s like to be alone on Christmas. To have no family. Murdock—I can’t forget you. I never could forget you. A year is long enough.” (Too damn long). “I thought you might need to know that.”
Murdock looked at him silently for a moment, then turned away, back towards the stars.
Hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched. Face knew that posture. Just as he had known the scent. Things he could never forget.
Face wasn’t sure of anything. He knew Murdock was in the VA for a reason, for being crazy, but hell, the man had always been crazy, and if it took Vietnam to drive him even further, that just meant he was smart. He saw things. He knew. But Face’s heart ached and he couldn’t do this anymore, couldn’t do the “right thing”. What the hell was the right thing to do here, anyway? Just this.
“Murdock. Look at me. Please.” He placed a hand on Murdock’s shoulder and Murdock made a move as though to push it off, but then just reached up and grabbed at it hard, as though it were his last remaining hope in this world. Just reached up and held it. Face swallowed, slowly turned the pilot around, flinched from the tears he saw running down Murdock’s cheeks. Murdock was crying, eyes scrunched closed, quiet still, but breath coming in short sobs.
“Murdock, don’t. Shh, don’t, please don’t, I’m here.”
“I know.” Murdock steadied a bit, took a breath, though tears still fell. “I know, I knew you were coming, I knew you weren’t gone, I know. It’s just hard, sometimes, to get what you’ve been wanting. You know? When you get yourself all set with nothing, anything at all can be too much.”
Face understood. Face always understood. “Should I not have come? Should I leave, for now?” Leave now, leave it alone, leave it unsaid, was it ever real, ever real at all?
“No.” It came out almost as a gasp. “I need to see you, oh, do I need to see you, Face. I knew you were out there, knew you would come.” A shaky sigh. “But it’s easy, too easy to fall back into things, Face, too easy to fall, and I don’t know if I should fall, tell me, god, please, tell me if I should fall?” The words were coming out in a quick cadence, full of quiet desperation, and Murdock’s eyes were artless and clear, looking at Face, standing close, still clutching his hand. Face was trying to catch his breath, couldn’t speak.
Murdock took a shuddery breath. “Old habits die real hard, you know. I was never much good at leaving stuff behind, leaving stuff undone. I knew it, before you fell through my window, knew you were gonna come for me, knew I was gonna fall for you again, fall hard. Tell me, you gotta tell me right now, because I gotta be ready if you ain’t gonna be there.”
Face wasn’t going to play this one off. He knew what Murdock was asking for, and his heart felt a million miles high. He could give this, this was easy, here, now, easy to give this to Murdock, only to Murdock, impossible for Mr. Templeton Peck to give anything to anybody but lies and broken promises, but easy, so easy, to give his heart to Murdock, to promise him the stars and mean it, be able to deliver that pledge in full. Easy, so easy, to see how real the falling was, but he couldn’t promise to catch him. Wouldn’t make promises he couldn’t keep. Not to him. Not to Murdock.
“I can’t catch you if you’re falling, baby, you’ve got to catch yourself. But I’ll be right there with you, every step of the way. I never left before, not really, you know that, right? And I’m not leaving now.” He paused, trying to breathe, as the world spun unseen around them. “God, Murdock, how can I catch you when I’m falling so hard myself?”
The tears had stopped, though his face was still damp, and Murdock reached out a sure and somewhat steady hand towards his love. Face caught it in his own and pulled Murdock towards him till they were pressed close together. He felt like they had to be glowing in the moonlight, that the light in his soul, the light in his life, needed some outlet to stop him from consuming himself with happiness.
“We can do this.” Face murmured against Murdock’s lips, blue eyes locked to brown ones.
Murdock, lost in Face’s eyes, only nodded.
Face studied Murdock from this close range. “Are you okay? Do you want this? Because I can wait. For you, I can wait.” He pressed Murdock’s hand. “Are you ready for this?”
Murdock nodded swiftly, surely. “More than ready, Face. I’m tired of waiting. We made promises, before, to each other, and I’m ready to hold you to them.” He took a breath, rubbing his nose against Face’s. “I still gotta live here. Good docs here are helping me out.”
“Yeah, I know.” Face pulled Murdock ever closer, tried to melt into the other man.
“Do we need to tell Hannibal?”
“Probably.” Face was distracted, by the heat of Murdock’s breath on his lips. Arms were firm around him. Strong. Steady. He liked their steadiness. Lips almost touching, he murmured, “Easy enough to get you out, anytime. We’re going to need a pilot.” He tightened his grip on Murdock, anticipating the reaction. “We’re going to need you to fly. Think you could fly for us?” Teasing, now, waiting.
Murdock pulled back in his arms, shocked. “You…you’d fly with me?”
“Your good doc says you’d be ready, soon, if you had a license. You don’t need a license for us.”
“But…I’m crazy.” Murdock’s eyes searched his.
“Yeah, well, we’re all a little crazy. Love warps the mind a little. Somehow, your kind of crazy doesn’t bother me. You’re my kind of crazy.”
“I get to fly.” Murdock’s eyes were glowing, his face was flushed, looked all happy and open. “I get to fly.”
“Merry Christmas. Good present?”
Murdock nodded, still glowing. Face pulled him back in and Murdock melted into the embrace. “One condition.”
“What’s that?” Murdock, smiling happily, looked down at Face. He looked good. So very good.
“Shut up and kiss me, flyboy.”
Their lips met, making up for a year’s worth of lost kisses, and they melted into each other in the glow of the Christmas moon, observed by the stars alone.
Doux present du present
"Un orange sur la table
Ta robe sur le tapis
Et toi dans moi lit
Fraicheur de la nuit
Chaleur de ma vie."
Doux present du present
- Jacques Prevert, Alicante
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