by brooklinegirl (witchbaby)
From one of the Missing Scene Challenges over at the A-Slash. From Beast from the Belly of a Boeing: Murdock’s on edge, and getting blinded helps not at all...
(Thanks to Leonidas the First for letting me use this explanation of the tunnel system).
Damn damn damn.
Why here, why now, why the *fuck*. Forget it, forget it. Just - stop. Breathe. Focus. Jesus Christ.
Somebody had to.
There were in trouble here. Very serious trouble. Fuck. Just get it done.
He hoisted himself (yet again) up into the duct. He was too tall for this. Too tall for such small spaces. Small, real small, and lucky thing he wasn't claustrophobic. Lucky thing he had a tendency to *like* small spaces.
Lucky thing he was crazy.
This wasn't fair. How’d he end up being the one in charge? He was the crazy one, he knew it. He was crazy, he was *good* at crazy, he could handle crazy. Usually. Sometimes it got dark. Sometimes it got real dark, and sometimes crazy wasn't as much fun.
But there'd been light at the end of some very long tunnels. Lately. . .well, lately there'd been nothing *but* light.
He wanted to smile at that, *would* have smiled, had it not been for the fear constricting his chest. Fuck. Guess there was a reason for that "no fraternization" rule.
He kept crawling, slow and quiet and goddamn but this sucked, as he fought off the tunnels at Cu Chi, invading his head. He was too tall to be a tunnel rat, but now, like then, there was no one else to do it. There was a sudden shift inside his head, and he was *there*, he was back in Vietnam, he was crawling in after that missing soldier. Stop it. Not tunnels. Ducts. Ducts on a plane. And he was okay with planes, knew planes real well, and this particular plane had Face up above him somewhere, along with Hannibal, so just fucking *focus*, will you?
Sure, Doc, I'm sane. Right. Whatever you say, you big quack.
He crawled through the darkness of the duct, he crawled through the VC tunnels of Cu Chi, he crawled through the muddy darkness of his mind. Crazy, not crazy, crazy, not crazy, FUCK, if that was the question, then should he really be in charge of a rescue mission?
Forget it. Just keep moving. It's all you can ever do.
Keep moving, and pray that the bad guys would let Face go pee.
It wasn't smooth *or* easy to get to the back of the plane, get to the rendezvous point, get to Face. Took a while. Murdock’s mind kept drifting as he crawled, elbows and knees getting raw, eyes aching as they tried to pierce the dark. Look out for booby traps. . .wait. No VC here, man, stay together, stay together, get to Face.
Okay. Face. He stopped for a second and breathed and thought of Face. He was okay. He was okay, but scared for Face up there with the guys with the guns. Should heroes get scared? John Wayne didn't ever get scared. But he was going to get them out of this, get them all out of this. Save the day. Great therapy, for sure.
This was tough. As tough as they'd thought it would be. Hadn't been an easy gig from the start; mixing business with pleasure, falling in love and staying focused. They were smart guys. Knew it would be tough, but thought they could balance it. Thinking and doing are two different things entirely. Doing was a lot harder. But they were tough, too. They could handle it. And it was worth it.
Needed to keep crawling. Had to keep going, but the tunn…ducts were scary. He tried to drift in a good direction in his head. Think back just a little ways, like back to last week. Not too far back, not Cu Chi far back. Just. . .last week. That was a good direction. Him and Face, together. That was good, that was why this was worth it.
For any chance together, it was worth it.
So he let himself drift, in order to stay together.
Heart pounding, Murdock lowered himself gently against Face, not wanting to squish him. Head against Face’s chest like that, he could feel Face’s heart beating, beating hard against his cheek. He liked that, quite a bit. Satisfying, in a very primal way. Nice.
He tilted his head so he could get a look at Face. The conman was lying, sprawled, head tilted back, still catching his breath. His thick blonde hair, sweaty, was a mess, tousled and tangled (Murdock's fingers had found purchase there, gentle purchase, irresistibly drawn to it). His face was flushed, and his eyes--oh, sweetness. His eyes were glassy and satisfied, and not yet quite focusing, even as he lowered them to look at Murdock lying across him. All pupil and pretty damn innocent and pure. Not likely, baby, not after what I just did to you. What you just begged me to do to you. What we just did to each other.
Uh-uh. . .innocent was so not the word.
Face's arm was flung over Murdock's shoulders (sweaty, still) and the other hand was buried in the pillows.
Watching Murdock watching him, Face grinned, still unfocused, and tightened his hold on him. Pulled him closer, then leaned in for another sweet, sweet kiss.
Oh, yeah. This was what Murdock was here for. How had he ever lived without this? No way could he go back. You know how in the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and Toto finally get to the Land of Oz, and it all turns to color, and it's such a mindfuck it's beyond words?
Yeah. Something like that.
Something like. . .
Face's voice. Above. "Damn!" Murdock hissed. Crawling always took a long time, and the bathroom was way at the back of the plane. Was Face there ahead of him? Murdock saw the trapdoor up ahead, quickly peeked out, gun at the ready. Saw no one yet, dove out and (quick quick quick) into the bathroom, closing the door just moments before he heard Face and one of the goons coming down the hall.
Hide hide hide. Could he be seen if he was behind the door? Maybe not. But through the crack? Maybe. People didn't usually look down, though, did they? He crouched just as the door opened. Squished him. Ow. Face, squeezing in. Face. Relief flooded him. The door closed and he was rising up in front of Face, couldn't help the grin. Close quarters, m'darlin', the better to be near you.
They had only moments in here, had to come up with a plan to take out the bad guys. . .oh, forget it, just for a second. He pulled Face close and kissed him, fiercely, on the lips. A don't DO that to me kiss. A don't SCARE me like that. Don't you ever, EVER fucking leave without me, hear? Don't ever leave me behind to live without you, 'cause it won't be living, baby, it won't be me.
That kind of a kiss. Quick, though. You could say a lot, quickly, with a kiss. So Murdock was saving time, really, if you thought about it. But Hannibal probably wouldn't agree.
So he released Face. Face, who had kissed him back, hard, was now looking at him, eyes all open and focused, and Murdock knew that it scared him too. Not sorry about the scare, that wouldn't work, that wasn't at all what this was about. But. . .I *know*. Yeah, baby, I know. Didn't make it okay, but made it. . .better.
Time to play.
They were good at what they did. Good at it, and all of them were at least a little bit crazy. That helped.
But even the A-Team didn't always win. Sometimes, even the most careful planning, even all of their hard work, even the Jazz, helped absolutely not at all.
And this mission was a clusterfuck if there ever was one.
The fight started off bad and got worse. Face had just landed a good punch on one of the goons when he heard a gunshot, then Murdock's agonized yell. None of them ever reacted much to pain in these fights. Always playing manly man: stand tall, talk tough, and nothin' hurts you.
So it was understandable that Face's heart was in his throat as he spun to see what one of those bastards had done to Murdock.
Murdock, looking and sounding seriously on the very edge of hysteria. Face was at his side in an instant. He could see the pulse leaping in Murdock’s throat, and everything else faded to background noise as he focused on Murdock. He found that he couldn't breathe right. Which was ridiculous. But the fear seemed to have taken up residence in his throat, and not only was his breath coming fast and harsh, he couldn't quite swallow.
"Murdock. . .it's okay, you're gonna be okay." His voice came out less frantic than he'd thought it would. He watched, thinking he'd never lose that picture of Murdock trying to back right into the wall. A pilot, losing his sight; the scariest damn thing on God's green earth, it must be.
"Oh, I know, I know, Faceman, it's just my eyes, my *eyes*, Face," and Murdock’s voice was pitching higher, and it was shaky (oh, hell, *shocky*?) and not in control. "It's just that I can't see, and oh, fuck, Face, my *eyes*. . ."
"Powder burn, man, powder burn, easy, easy, you need to breathe," *I* need to breathe. Christ. "Okay, okay, it's okay, real easy, easy to fix, you'll be okay, you need to trust me, it'll be okay."
"No, no, it is so *not* okay, my eyes." Still with that barely restrained hysteria. Shocky, yes, calm him the hell down.
"Murdock, you have to trust me." Face’s voice had steadied a lot, took on that quality he had. The quality that made a conman out of him, made people believe, really and truly believe, that he had this bridge in Brooklyn that he wanted to sell them. Even these guys, even Murdock who knew him better than he knew himself, was caught by that voice. Needing a line on reality, needed a steadying focus, Murdock latched onto that voice.
Face had just pulled Murdock (shaking, yeah, Murdock was still shaking real bad) into his arms when all hell broke loose.
Thank god they were already wedged in the corner, and as far from the emergency exit as possible.
Face, not lost in his worry; they’d trained well, instincts forever honed and not dulled by love. It was one of the promises they’d made to Hannibal, one of the promises they’d made to each other. Staying on top of all of this, not letting it change anything, really, in how they reacted during missions. This they could do, and do, if not easily, then instinctually. It was how they’d done it in Nam, with emotion being forever sublimated. So really, it was just more of the same. Keep focused, keep reacting, and don’t let this (don’t let love) mess you up.
Easy? Nope. But you do it. You just do it.
So, peripherally and always, Face was aware of everything going on around him, and glanced up an instant before the guy slammed through the emergency exit. In that instant, he threw himself over Murdock in the corner, both of them clutching the seat in front of them. The suction pulled them hard against the seat, pinned them there. But they were safe, relatively, and that was all they could worry about at the moment.
“Okay.” BA came striding back to Hannibal. “Guess that should hold us, keep the pressure steady.” He seemed to have overcome his fear of flying, at least
temporarily. . .or, more likely, he was in complete denial of the fact that they were currently in the air. Like love, fear could be shoved aside when necessary.
Now he eyed the back of the plane uneasily, back where Face and Murdock sat on the floor, Murdock’s head tilted back to rest against Face’s shoulder. To tell the honest truth, Face looked worse than Murdock, kind of strung-out. Hurting, or wishing to, if he could only take some of Murdock’s pain into himself. His tone was the picture of calm, though: smooth and steady. Face’s hand, too, was remarkably steady as he ran it lightly over Murdock's shoulder. Face looked up, laughing at some rejoinder Murdock had given to his gentle ribbing. He caught BA’s gaze, and his laugh wavered a bit. He gave a half-shrug, a “I’m not sure, but I’m dancing as fast as I can” kind of shrug. Man, but Face spoke volumes with his body.
Murdock’s hand crept up to Face’s arm. Unlike Face, Murdock was still pretty shaky. He wouldn’t let anyone look too much at his eyes, and his hand trembled just a bit as he grabbed hold of Face. Face’s attention was immediately drawn back to Murdock. He bent close and murmured in Murdock’s ear, something that made a smile spread across the pilot’s face.
They were close, so close it was amazing. That Face could instill that sort of calm in the crazy man. . .that was something. BA didn’t quite get what went on between them, but could accept it as something real, something they both needed.
Murdock breathed slightly easier now. Face was holding onto him, doing that laying-on-of-hands that he found soothing at the best of times, and desperately needed now, the tactile sensation a must.
Face had pulled Murdock up to the bulkhead, holding him close. Murdock made a concerted effort to keep breathing steadily. His face was still ashen, and every muscle tense, trying so hard to play it off, wanting to play it off, and not being able to get to that place, the plateau where he could think past it all.
He could handle a lot, but. . . his EYES. Christ.
Scared him senseless (no pun intended). His lips curved up in a harsh smile and his laugh came out as almost a sob.
From the inner, blinding darkness (lost, lost, so damn lost. Never find your way out. Lost in the darkness, the never-ending tunnels. Must have tripped something there, for the walls to have come down like this), he heard Face’s voice, smooth and penetrating; reaching through to get to him deep in there, in that darkness.
And Face was holding Murdock’s hand. With a shuddering breath, Murdock, knowing instinctively where Face was (even in this ever-darkness, they still couldn’t take that away from him), exhaustedly rested his head back against the softness of Face’s shoulder. Face’s hand came up to stroke his forehead, steady, steady.
Breathe. Finally heard past the cadence to what Face was actually saying.
“No problem, it’s okay. I know this girl, great girl, let me tell you, and she’s hell with eyes, smart lady doctor, all right, we’ll get you to her real real quick.”
“You always know a girl, don’t you, Facey?” Murdock’s voice came out more tired than shaky this time.
He felt Face’s head move slightly, knew he was looking down at him. Heard both amusement and relief in Face’s voice as he responded, “Well, yeah. I do, at that.” Then Murdock felt his lips moving against his temple as he murmured, “Know you pretty damn good, too, though, don’t I, baby?”
“Let me take a look at your eyes, okay?” Soft. Steady, trying not to spook, Murdock could tell.
Murdock’s voice was low. “’kay.”
Murdock hated this. He fucking hated this.
He let Face move him a bit. Murdock turned to face him, he thought. Let Face tilt his head left and right, checking out the skin damage first. Face kept up a constant dialogue as he did so. “We are never getting BA on a plane ever again, you know that, right? He didn’t trust us before, can you just imagine what it’s going to be like now?” Gentle fingers touched Murdock’s face lightly, turned him further left, tilted his head up. “Doesn’t look too bad. A few scorch marks. Open them, okay?”
Murdock breathed in and out, in and out, before opening his eyes to the same scary blackness. The same nothing. The only difference was that they burned a whole lot more, and immediately filled with tears. He tried to jerk his head away, but Face gently held him still and softly wiped the tears away. “Okay, baby. Okay.”
Murdock’s eyes had already closed of their own volition. It was real hard to keep them open at all. And it wasn’t like closing them made much difference at this point. Couldn’t see with them open. Couldn’t see with them shut. Couldn’t see, uh-uh, not at all. Not at all. Damn! He slammed a fist to the floor, and felt Face jump, then grab hold of him, pull him close again. He resisted, then folded. It didn’t matter; he didn’t have to be strong just now, right? How could he be strong? Couldn’t see, couldn’t fly, oh fuck, couldn’t fly.
Shaking again, and Face just held him tighter. That voice, that smooth in his ear, providing comfort, reassurance of something he couldn’t possibly know was true. This time Murdock forced himself to stop, to listen, to find a grounding in that voice, get him back on track. Back on track, important here. No one flying the plane just now, not a good thing. Blind, yes, but pilot still. Just focus (okay, did *everything* he thought about have to lead back to vision? Jeez. . .), focus, and think about getting the team on the ground again.
He could do this. He could do this.
Took some air into his lungs and disengaged himself from Face. Face let him go and Murdock leaned against the wall next to him. Rested his head back against the wall for a second, just breathing. Could feel Face’s eyes on him, which was an interesting sensation, since he couldn’t actually check to see if that was indeed the case. Breathed some more. It was okay. All about instinct, and he had instinct to spare, kept him alive more times than he was able to count.
Okay, quit breathin’ so focusedly, sooner or later, you’re gonna have to do it on your own, as well as get other things accomplished. The ol’ respiratory system should be able to take care of itself, unsupervised.
Turned his head to look at. . .towards where he knew Facey was sitting. Said, trying for a conversational tone, “Hey, Facey. Gettin’ down from here sure is gonna be interesting, isn’t it?” He didn’t sound quite right, even to himself. Still kind of edgy and lost. Focus.
Face wasn’t buying it, either. “We’ll manage. We always do.”
Murdock felt a hand on his arm. Wanted to pull away. Wanted to stand alone on this. Wanted to be okay about this. Held himself real still.
“Murdock? It’s going to be okay.” Face’s tone was gentle.
“Well, no, it’s not. Not if I can’t get it together here.” Murdock pressed his hands against his eyes. They were still burning. He left his hands there, and his voice came out muffled. “I’m the pilot. We’re flying. I need to get us down. Need to land this thing, somehow.”
He sighed, and dropped his hands. Breathed, one two three. Opened his eyes to the blackness, cautiously, blinking repeatedly till he’d cleared the tears away. His eyes hurt. Burned.
He wasn’t okay, wasn’t as together as he’d like. Couldn’t pull that off. Couldn’t find that place in himself that helped him deal. But a pretense of steadiness was better than nothing at all. Throw a few switches inside, block a few things out. Don’t get lost in that calling darkness. He knew a few things here. Knew planes inside and out, knew them with his eyes closed. With his eyes broken. Knew Face so well, too well, could see every expression on his face, even when he couldn’t use his eyes to do so.
Didn’t always need eyes to see.
Seemed he could breathe a bit now, without quite so much attention being focused on the process. Face’s voice gave him a grounding amidst all the darkness. If he could just focus on that, focus on what he knew, and ignore all the rest. . .just ignore it. It would have to do. He was okay, and they were going to land this damn plane, get it back on the ground, and then they were going to get very, very drunk. Just take it by baby steps. No time, no room for anything else. Not for craziness, not for anything.
He turned towards where Face was. “We’d better get someone flyin’ this plane, pretty damn soon.” He felt Face’s hand on his cheek, leaned into the caress. A pause, then Face’s voice, gentle. “Okay, then.”
Time to get to work. Because it was what they did. Who they were. Being in love wasn’t going to change that.
But maybe it gave them just a little something extra to fight for.
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