Summary: Between being convicted and breaking out, there was a whole six months between. And in that six months, Face makes a promise to Murdock that someday soon, they'll get out and be a team again. And it's a promise he intends to keep.
The phone rings after he's keyed in the number, three times, and Face hopes that they'll pick up as he listens to the dialling noise . His fingers drum the console of the wall he's standing against impatiently, rapping out a half remembered tune and he wonders for a split second whether he's keyed in the right digits on the slip of paper he has before him, the number written down neatly in the sloping hand of the guard who slipped him it. Half way through the fourth ring however , a woman picks up, and halfway through her hello, Face has already picked up her accent- Southern belt, most likely Texas, which should be strange as the number is for a place in Germany, but he doesn't question it- and with a little bit of the ol' Faceman charm , he'd probably be able to charm a telephone number out of her. She sounds pretty enough, probably blonde and unsatisfied with her job from the unspoken sigh that came with her picking up the phone, the sigh that says how much she doesn't want to be working because her shift is too long, or she's been out late the night before, or a million other reasons why she might be unhappy.
On any other day, he'd sympathise, comment on it in a friendly way that makes it sound like he knows exactly what she's going through, because girls like her just like to be understood by guys like him. The attitude usually gets him off on the right foot, but he's on another mission today, one more important than getting one girl's number. It's not that it'd do much good anyway. It's not as though he'd be able to get anywhere with her, not with being in prison and all. He's pretty sure that if they got to that stage of the conversation, she'd think twice about going out with him for a meal or a drink- although, he might be wrong, maybe a girl like her likes the idea of bad men, he couldn't comment.
Regardless, maximum security doesn't really give time-off for him to go on dates, despite the perks and benefits he's already been able to wheedle out of the system the five months he's been there. It's mostly to stop himself getting bored, and hell, since he's gonna be there ten years, he might as well get comfortable, but it's also enabled him to get some more important things, notably the privilege of being able to make sneaky telephone calls on an untapped mobile when he asks Milt- his guard- nicely, and slips him a bottle or two of that wine the wife had mentioned wanting to try for their anniversary, the bottles that probably would have cost Milt half his months wages if Face hadn't been able to...secure them by other means. He tells Milt that he wont use the phone often, that it's only to ring his sick mother and that when he's finished Milt can keep the phone so that the guard doesn't get in trouble- yet both of them know Face doesn't have a sick mother, but Milt just chooses to ignore it because it means the wife isn't going to be unhappy like she was last anniversary when Milt worked overtime and forgot about the special dinner she had made for them, and even the fact it was their anniversary at all. The overall importance of Milt and his marital issues meant that Face had a phone that he could use to contact just about anyone. He doesn't need it to scam anybody- he's been managing so far by word of mouth and swapping favours- and for the second time in two weeks he has found himself dialling a number Milt managed to find out for him, a number he doesn't really need now he's memorised it, but it's a call he wants to get right, because it's important for him. There's a voice he just wants to hear at the other end of the phone.
The woman who answers is not that voice, but Face responds regardless. "Hello, ma'am," he puts on his politest voice, giving just the right amount of a professional tone that just accentuates the faint Australian accent he's disguised his own American with. He doesn't want to waste a chance for a little flare, not while he has it. "Who would I be speaking to?"
He hears an embarrassed giggle at the end of the phone at the attention he's giving her. He's playing it right; the accent's subtle enough not to be annoying, and Face always finds woman have a thing about Aussie accents- the tone inciting connotations of sand and sea and half clothed men that is a reality far away from the life of most working woman. Put it together with the politeness he's giving her and the attention to her personal details- which is probably more than she gets from most callers-, the woman is already putty in Face's sculpting hands. "Mary-Anne, sir. Mary-Anne Hobbs." The tone of her voice tells him that she'd like it a lot more if they were on first name terms, and he shrugs off the appeal of taking the conversation up a more personal level before he remembers there are enough female guards in his prison to keep him occupied without adding a Texan woman in Germany to the mix.
"Well, Mary-Anne Hobbs, this is Doctor Pepper. I rang last week?" Of course she'll remember. He didn't ask her name last time, but they talked briefly before his call got passed to three different nurses before they went to the person he actually wanted to speak too, and it's not arrogant to assume they had all talked about that nice Aussie doctor when they went on a break in the staffroom, cups of tea in hand as they sat around giggling about what they'd all do if they had a nice Aussie doctor like Dr. Pepper working with them, the giggling getting louder , having to be stifled behind the palms of hands the more personal the conversation got.
She doesn't let on that she remembers him right away, as though he's just one of the many professional callers they et over the course of her shift- although Face knows she does because he's been conning enough to know when something doesn't quite ring true- and it takes a few seconds before a tone of faux-recognition comes into her voice. "Oh, yes, Doctor Pepper. I recall." she tries to sound professional, but there is a more personal hint to her voice that betrays to Face the knowledge that if he really was a 'nice Aussie doctor' working in a hospital in Massachusetts, she would love to get to know him more. This must be evident in her voice to her as well because she coughs and the working-girl veneer covers over her attractions for the moment " You're the psychiatrist looking into Mr. Murdock's case?"
"That would be me, ma'am" Face smiles to himself at the other end. He's surprised how relatively easy it was to convince this place that he was a certified doctor, without even having to provide any actual paperwork to prove his identity. According to this ward, from the information Face had given them and the number for his department's office they had called for confirmation – which actually just called back to the same mobile, the man who had picked up and verified Dr Pepper's credentials simply Face with his own voice- Dr Pepper was a fully qualified M.D level psychiatrist, with a Ph.D. in both psychology and medical ethics, who was doing research into real and imagined psychological issues in war veterans and who had heard about Murdock's case, taking a special interest. Personally, Face was quite proud of pulling it off, and he hadn't even had to fake any credentials as he usually did. "If I could perhaps speak to Mr Murdock? I've got some more questions with him"
He's quite glad that this time he doesn't have to explain why he can't come and meet Murdock in Germany instead of just talking over the phone- although he's sure one of the reasons he was asked was that the staff nurses wanted to see whether he looked as cute as he sounded-, but his excuse was being tied up with other 'official work'. He had tried not to smile at the tone of disappointment in the woman's voice.
He can almost hear the ward sister nodding to herself as she checks whether Murdock is booked in with any discussion sessions or Rorschach re-attempts (Murdock having started singing the Batman theme tune at the top of his voice during the last one, having associated one of the images with not looking just like ink as he usually did, but with resembling the Bat-signal) "I'm sure that would be ok, Dr Pepper. I'll just go and patch your call through to his rooms and check he's available" her voice lowers a notch, as though the information is confidential "He might be a little drowsy when you talk, we had to tranq him earlier on"
A flash of fury rises in Face's chest , bold and sudden- so sudden he sits down on the bed in his cell in an effort to marshal his thoughts-, and suddenly he is angry that they've done that, that they've that power over Murdock. He's known Murdock for eight years just about, knows him better than any of these people will know him in ten- oh, they'll use terms like bi-polar and PTSD and a bunch of other terms that try and go some way to explaining why Murdock is Murdock, but Face is sure half the time he'll be jerking them around with fake symptoms and issues while all the time he hides away what his problems really are- and he knows how much he hates anything being pumped into his system, any drugs or sleep-inducing agents. It was hard enough getting him to take a paracetamol when he had a headache, but any needle comes near him, and the pilot starts trying to move away, telling the person trying that 'you ain't putting no goddamn fairy-dust into my system'. If that doesn't work, Face has seen Murdock get defensive with any army doctor's who've been trying to put him under for surgery or pain relief, and only the intervention of Hannibal's calming orders to the younger pilot or Face's promise that he wont let anything bad happen to Murdock while he's out , stops Murdock from lashing out. The pilot, when threatened, can be a violent bugger when he wants to be, and even without weapons, Face has seen Murdock throw hard punches and sneaky underhand cuts, even resorting to biting when some person's arm has conveniently smothered his mouth. I hope you gave them hell, Murdock, he thinks to himself, imagining with a small smile Murdock showing them all exactly why no-one should ever underestimate a Ranger, even a dubiously mad one and wondering how many doctors and orderlies it took to get Murdock out , while he schools his voice into a tone of professional curiosity, as though the comment has piqued his interest "Can I enquire as to why?"
The woman's voice sounds irritated momentarily , as though the mere subject of Murdock is a personal affront to her. Face can see possibly why that is. Dealing with the pilot is a job hard enough when you aren't used to his quirks- Face has had eight years and he still doesn't understand the man- but having to also cope with a man who most likely has twice your IQ , can swear at you or sing in at least five languages, and who can twist your argument around so it's staring back at you with gloating "you-can't-win-this" eyes, is something that Face imagines the doctor's find harder to deal with. Face has always assumed Murdock was a man who leaped the boundary between genius and madness one day, and decided he liked it on the other side of the field. " He received a motorised aeroplane in the post the other day, an anonymous donor apparently and he became ...quite agitated when we tried to take it away."
"Why did you take it off him?" Face asks , again trying hard not to sound angry. He thought he'd calmed slightly in the months he's been imprisoned, but it seems that if someone dares mention any upset to his friends- Murdock in particular, Face's closest friend and the man probably the least able to stick up for himself out of the four of them, considering whatever his argument it would be Murdock against the entire system of the United States VA- the old temper comes back with a vengeance. He knows how much Murdock cares for flying- it's what he loves doing most, one of the things that hurt him most at the trail ( because that trial took everything away from Murdock, as it did from them all; their rank, their jobs, and even their family, the four of them counting each other as such) - and being out of the air for a prolonged period of five months would have been hard on him. It's what calmed him down when he sometimes became too manic after too many hours awake or too few hours in the air, working on his planes, fixing any engine issues by 'borrowing' components from BA's vehicles, even painting his call-sign: 'Howlin' Mad' in careful letters on the side of his cockpit. Hannibal is probably still planning in his confinement- cigars might have been scarce but Face is sure Hannibal is managing-, Face certainly hasn't stopped scamming things to make prison life more comfortable,and BA, Face assumes, is probably still acting as tough and macho as ever. But for Murdock, a man who lives most when he's among the clouds, following the thermals like a natural creature of the sky, he can't do what he wants, what he's best at. One of the things Murdock once told him, with his crazy-ass expression that he got when he was about some aerial acrobatics to chase off attacking planes, or when he'd just dosed up BA's milk to knock him out for the next flight, was that "if it had wings", Murdock could fly it. It's what makes him happiest, happier than watching cartoons, or singing or even cooking up some of his 'special' foods.
Which was why Face had sent him that plane in an unsigned package through the post, making sure it had no elements that could make it seem a threat to Murdock's confinement (even though Murdock seems the safest out of the four of them in a VA, Face knows the Army is not a fool to let packages in unexamined) . It wasn't a big something, but Face had known Murdock would appreciate it, and although it would never be as good as the real thing, it might go some way to making Murdock feel better about it.
The woman seems to catch a hint of the accusing tone in his voice, because she replies somewhat coolly to his question. It's not really her fault, Face's more logical side thinks, she's just doing her job, but the rest of Face tells it to shut the hell up while he's busy being silently pissed off. "Mr Murdock tried to escape again, Dr Pepper. We made it perfectly clear that escaping warranted as bad behaviour, and according to the guidelines that we laid out for him, he knows that bad behaviour ends up with some luxury items being prohibited, until that behaviour improves. "
"I'm not accusing you of anything , Miss Hobbs," Face says in a placating tone, sounding like his professional persona again even though inside he wants to call her bad names and curse something that would definitely be unprofessional. They make Murdock sound like some sort of god-damn dog, his mind thinks viciously. Bad boy Murdock, sit Murdock, come on, jump through the hoop and we'll give you a treat. He breathes out, trying to calm, but he achieves some sort of piece of mind by knowing that Murdock isn't jumping through any of their hoops, no matter what doggie-treats they try to coax him with. Murdock's always been a man with a definite mind of his own- Face says 'mind' but the pilot seems to encompass several at once, each with a distinct personality- and the pilot follows orders out of loyalty and respect. He respected Hannibal, so followed his orders, and Face knows that respect in Murdock's opinion is something that is earned, not something that comes with a title. Murdock doesn't bow to anyone's rules; not even his own at times.
The ward sister- when she speaks next- sounds like she's been calmed enough, as her polite tone returns and informs him that she's patching his call through to Murdock's quarters. He hears the line go off, giving a buzzing sound before cutting into silence and waits the couple of minutes it'll take her to walk down to Murdock's room a floor down and unlock the pass code protected door, drumming his fingers on the steel framework of his bed until he hears her voice again on the other end. He doesn't seem to hear Murdock at all.
"I'll try and rouse him for for you now, Doctor" she says to him, and then her voice moves further away as she moves away from the telephone "Mr Murdock, there's a doctor on the phone to speak with you" He hears some improvised snoring on the other end, loud and in his opinion- quite obviously fake, but then he's been able to tell when Murdock's faking it for a while; the pilot had a certain childish penchant for reading comics under the covers after light out with a torch and whenever someone came in to check everyone was asleep, Murdock put on the same fake snoring Face can hear in the background now. As it was Face he was usually room-sharing with, the con-man knows what it sounds like when Murdock's actually asleep- quiet deep breaths punctuated by some words of gibberish when the pilot was overtired. He grins however as he recognises one of Murdock's attempts to be left alone. If he was Murdock, he wouldn't want to speak to no quack either, and in Murdock's case, today he has the handy escape-clause of post-tranquillizer drowsiness to get him out of any unwanted conversations.
He is momentarily disappointed when he hears Mary-Anne come back on the phone, instead of the voice he really wants to hear.
"I think he's still asleep, Doctor." she says, and the way she says it makes it sound like she's talking about some sleeping five year old who missed his nap time earlier on and who's catching up now, not some fully grown man with a degree in aeronautical engineering who'd been serving in the army for at least ten years ( admittedly, some of that spent in an army hospital in Mexico trying to escape) "I'd ring back another time..."
"Tell him it's Doctor Pepper" Face says with a smile, knowing Murdock'll be awake enough to recognise the persona. He might be mad, but he isn't stupid. "See if he'll respond to that"
The woman is probably confused at his request, and it'll probably be awkward for Face if Murdock still doesn't reply, but none the less he hears her voice away from the phone say loudly, as though she still believes the man to be dosed out on tranqs ( but then Murdock has always been a very good actor when he wants to be) ; "It's Doctor Pepper for you, Mr Mur..."
She doesn't get the chance to finish her sentence, as he hears the sound of someone moving very quickly off a bed, the springs protesting, and the phone being snatched away, changing hands quickly. He hears a southern drawl on the other end, familiar as Hannibal's' cigars or Bosco's Mohawk and for a moment he can almost see the pilot in front of him, his mind filling in the details of the usual red cap and bomber jacket, fitted together with the unkempt sandy hair and cheery green eyed grin, alight with another Murdock-and-Face joke , that usually calls for BA or some of the Green Berets to be their unfortunate victims. The two achieved some sort of name for themselves around camp as being the local pranksters; and Murdock once likened the two of them to Hawkeye and Trapper from that old army comedy they both watched ( Face liked hospital based dramas and Murdock liked comedies, so M*A*S*H* seemed to be a programme they could both enjoy)
"It's ok, I'm awake now, fresh as a daisy, that's me... although I don't know why other flowers don't get considered fresh. It's pretty cruel to exclude them like that without even a fair judgement. Personally I think tulips are fresh, well fresh as in colourful and smelling nice, or even lavender although they aren't really flowers , they just grown in big bunches and get put into shampoos and relaxing bath salts. But I'm awake now, so you can go now so I can talk to the doctor like you want, off you go then , bye bye" He hears the sound of a door slamming shut, and he assumes from the one-sided exchange he has just heard that Mary-Anne Hobbs has been unceremoniously ushered out of the pilots room.
There is a pause, before a small uncertain voice speaks quietly into the other end of the phone "Face?"
Face didn't think hearing the pilots voice again could have such an effect on him, but all of a sudden it feels like the world is righted. It doesn't matter that he's talking to Murdock on a scammed phone in a prison cell or that Murdock is replying to in the similarly dubious position of having to talk to him inside the walls of a VA asylum. It doesn't matter that out of his three other team mates, Murdock is the only one he's been able to con some contact out of- he isn't going to be able to talk to Hannibal or BA on the ground of being a fake doctor; their incarcerations are being much more heavily guarded and checked for any underhanded movements than Murdock's-, and it doesn't matter that even though Face wants to hear a serious voice in the form of Hannibal's calming brogue or BA's no-nonsense sensibility, it's the insane pilot he actually finds himself wanting to hear the most. For a second it's as though the last five months haven't happened- no set-up by Pike, no trial, no being locked away with the key thrown out into the garbage- and it's just him and Murdock after a mission, talking like they always used to , with the pilot about to make him some kerosene burgers with some of those special ingredients like anti-freeze that he always adds, with Face tanning or shuffling cards or telling an uninterested Murdock about his latest conquest- it occurred quickly to Face that Murdock just wasn't interested in the idea of dating or even particularly in beautiful woman. To him, a well treated B-52 Bomber, was as much of a lady as he would ever need, and when Face had questioned him on it, he got the idea that Murdock believed that one day he'd just find someone who accepted him (Face could see Murdock as a true romantic with his own twist; giving his girl origami flowers, or trying to dance with her along to show-tunes from Rodgers and Hammerstein), and if he didn't, he would be perfectly content with just the team by his side.
"Sure is, baby" he jokes, and Murdock's tone is suddenly lightened, as though his mind has suddenly been put at ease. He can almost hear the grin at the other end, and it makes him smile too in spite of it all.
"Aw hell, Facey," God he missed that voice. "it was sure nice of you to call. You gonna be joining us for supper tonight? We got chilli tonight, which is better than last night because we just got soup with those funny little vegetable bits in and you know how much I hate those little bits. "
"Yeah, I know, H.M" Face says "I'm sure you could do better with your own stuff"
He can almost hear Murdock nodding in agreement "I told them that, but apparently I'm a "patient", so I don't get to cook. They just don't want me in the kitchen, messing up their stuff"
In some ways Face can see their point. Murdock is an amazing cook, and can scrub up a decent meal with just about anything, but give him a fully stocked kitchen and other people to work with, and he'd be engaging in flour-fights and egg-juggling, activities which in Face's experience, never end well. "So how you bin doin?" he says, just glad to hear someone at the other end. It's all well and good Face getting to know his guards ( in the cases of woman, some better than others), but it is an act of self-defence and preservation, and Face sometimes gets tired of living in his own scam, wanting to hear someone from the old life talking.
"'M ok, I guess" Murdock's voice suddenly becomes irritated, as though he's just remembered something that's been bothering him "They took your plane away, Facey!" he says indignantly "Just cause I did one...teeny tiny bad thing, they took it off me an' they said they weren't goin' to give it back unless I..." he puts on a feminine accent that has a hint of Texan that had Face wanting to giggle as he recognises the voice of Mary-Anne Hobbs "...'improve my behavioural standards to the level we require of patients'. I think that was very mean of them and I've asked for it back but they said I had to follow the rules, and I ain't following no quacks rules, Faceman!"
"It's alright, Murdock. You just stand your ground" Face calms the pilot down from his irritation wishing he wasn't just talking to a voice on the other end of the phone. It's good to hear Murdock's voice, certainly, but even the vivid mental image he has of the pilot isn't good enough to match up to the reality. Expressive as Murdock's voice is, Face can normally tell how the pilot is feeling just by looking at his face, in his eyes. They say eyes are the windows to the soul, and in the case of H.M. Murdock, they have never been more correct. Those big green eyes of Murdock tell Face everything the pilot is feeling, and over the years he's been attuned to Murdock's emotional state more and more, so that like family relations or close brothers, he just knows when something is upsetting Murdock. But his attuning has gone funny in the five months they've been apart, and Face wants to actually see Murdock so he can know for sure how he is. Voice is all well and good, but a voice can't tell him if Murdock's eating right, whether they're treating him good, whether he's upset or resentful or angry and trying very hard to hide it. Murdock can be very good at hiding things if the need arises. Face knows he's beginning to sound like Murdock's mother in his own head; but Face has never had any family, and neither to an extent has Murdock, and somehow, though fate or kismet or whatever you call it, the two found each other and found the A-Team. And that makes Murdock closer than any family he could have.
"I'll send you another plane, 'kay?" he offers the pilot
"The Huey plane?" Murdock says tentatively, as though he's not sure whether he sound ask, but there's an undercurrent of excitement in his voice, the loss of the old plane forgotten in the hope of getting another. For an adult man, Murdock has retained some child-like qualities, and when they camped long term at a US base, with no missions for a couple of months, the pilot would hang up his collection of small planes from the roof of his tent with long pieces of string, and Face would often come into the tent to find Murdock flying imaginary dogfights with two of his planes engaged in some spectacular non-violent war.
Face grins, that memory coming back to him and lightening his mood. "Yeah, H.M, the Huey plane"
"Gee, Faceman," Murdock's accent turns Texan "You keep getting' me presents, an' it ain't even Christmas yet!"
Face laughs, then says, his curiosity aroused somewhat " I heard you tried to escape yesterday; What'd you use this time?" It wasn't the first time Murdock had tried to escape from the VA - it was something the man seemed to have a natural talent for- and from the grapevine Face had heard about over three attempts of escape , all involving various disguises, distractions and various uses of easy-to-come-by items. Of course, the plots hadn't worked, but they had all had varying degrees of success, and Murdock didn't seem to know the meaning of giving-up. It wasn't present in his personal dictionary of things to live by, and Face was sure that after Hannibal, Murdock would be the one most likely to slip his guards key's and break out, the theme tune of the Great Escape no doubt being hummed as he did so.
"Trash bags" Murdock says, and there is a hint of pride in his voice. "I filled them with helium an' tied them to a chair. Tried to float out."
Face is impressed, and for once he doesn't mind it showing in his voice. The plan was a mad one, but from a man trying to escape from an asylum he'd couldn't have expected much less. It may have been crazy, but it was a plan worthy of Hannibal. One day, Face told himself, he'd recount this to his Colonel, and in his minds eye he could see the grin on Hannibal's' face and the stench of cigar smoke that came with it "How far'd you get?" he can't help asking.
"Nearly over the wall," Murdock suddenly sounds dejected and Face rejects mentioning it. Murdock invested himself in everything he did, and if it failed he took it to heart. It seemed this was little different. There is a pause "I don't want to be here Facey." Murdock whispers quietly "I don't like it here "
"I know Murdock," Face replies, trying not to think how dejected Murdock sounds, how alone. He's tried to tell Murdock, but he doesn't think he can understand- Face barely can himself- how their own side has imprisoned them, and ten years is a time span Face can barely even consider, never mind Murdock. "I don't like it any more than you do, but we'll get out one day and we'll clear our names and get the bastards who set us up. The mission's not over yet, that's what Hannibal said" If only Face could believe him. That's not true exactly- Face has every hope that Hannibal will have some plan up his sleeve- indeed, he wouldn't believe it if the Colonel hadn't been thinking about a plan of escape all the time they've been in prison-, it's just that as every day goes by and Face is still trapped in his prison, the likelihood of getting out seems less and less.
"It'll be six months tomorrow," Murdock says in an expression that leaves Face in no doubt that Murdock's been counting every single one of those days. Murdock suddenly sounds angry, as though the magnitude of the time-scale has suddenly hit him, and all the emotions he's been keeping inside are just tumbling out of the Pandora's box. He's not angry at Face, he's just angry at everything, and whereas Face, Hannibal and BA all expressed their anger very loudly and vocally after the trial, Murdock just sat there, storing it all up, only now it seemed to much to hold in. "Six months, Facey! Six god-damn months! Of 'Watch yourself, Mr Murdock, you might hurt yourself with that' and 'Come on Mr Murdock, why don't you calm down a bit and take some of these tablets' or 'Your mother died when you were five, did she? How did that make you feel, Mr Murdock?'. And all the time they're writing everything down, and watching everything you do and I just want it all to just stop! You should come round here, you know, Faceman. They've got all sorts of lotions and potions and poisons to fix everything. Why don't you sign this paper for us, Mr Murdock? It'll allow us to do some ECT on you, it's voluntary you see. It'll help you Mr Murdock honestly,we wouldn't lie. You don't want to sign it? We'll just have to find a legal loophole that allows it then, wont we Mr Murdock...?"
"Murdock, calm down, it's ok..." Face says, trying to stop the pilot, but Murdock's in full swing now, pouring out everything he's been keeping in for six months, with Face having to listen with pain in his heart because he can't do anything, because he's stuck here while Murdock- his friend- who needs him there, is all the way over in Germany on the other end of a telephone line.
'….Take this Mr Murdock..." Murdock goes on as though he didn't hear Face, and Face almost doesn't want to listen to what Murdock's saying. He doesn't want to know what's been happening to Murdock, because if he does it'll just make the guilt worse- the guilt that Murdock is there when Face promised they couldn't be imprisoned for something they didn't commit,-, and then there'll be the anger, the anger at the VA, and the Army and Black Forest and even at General Morrison for making them do that god-damn mission in the first place . Murdock doesn't overreact at bad things, isn't generally angry or upset- and it's always been a state of mind Face has never been able to understand-but he'd angry now, he's upset now , and it's hurting Face physically to hear it, like someone's punching him hard in the gut as he listens to Murdock " ….it's a new mixture, it'll make you calmer and as drowsy as near-comatose sloth, but watch out, it's got some side-effects. They shouldn't be that bad, Mr Murdock, they'll just make you see things that aren't there, and give you nightmares when you don't even know what you're screaming for. That mixture no good? Don't worry Mr Murdock, we'll tweak it a bit and sooner or later you'll be able to become a "Productive Member of Society". We'll just fix our potion for you..." He gives a small witch-like cackle , "...Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog..."
Face flinches, because this anger isn't Murdock. Murdock doesn't get angry, Murdock doesn't get scared, but underneath Murdock's painful admissions, Face can hear the pilot reaching out for some one to tell him everything's ok, that everything can be fixed with one wave of a magic pantomime fairy wand even though it can't be. Life isn't like Murdock's movies or TV shows; life isn't divided into the neat lines drawn so clearly in the reality Murdock wants to hide in. There isn't just good/evil, Jedi/Sith, Time Lords/Daleks. All these references in pop culture that Murdock can relate to because they make real life seem so much easier, but sometimes there are bad guys on the good team who don't mean to be but are in context of Murdock's understanding, or Face's. The judge at their trial wasn't a bad person, didn't deliberately set out to ruin them all, but he did it anyway. And Charisa Sosa...Face frowns. Where did she fit on the flawed lines of the universe?
And then suddenly, in a moment of small realisation, the uncertain lines blur and move until there is only one clear pattern for Face to follow. There is no good or bad, no right and wrong. It's just them; the A-Team, and on the other side is everyone else, everyone innocent and everyone guilty, because they all contributed in some way to getting them imprisoned. They need to stick together, no matter what, and Face needs to be there for Murdock, whether it's in person or on the other end of a telephone line, because Murdock's his friend, his brother and if they don't have each other to cling onto in this storm then they've got nobody.
"Murdock, listen to me," Face says, cutting in to the angered rambles of the pilot , knowing that talking about this is just distressing his friend,needing to calm him down because he knows that if he gets distressed, they'll just come in and tranq him again. He doesn't want them to hurt Murdock again- they wont know how much he hates needles, how much they scare in because he's had a whole life being poked and prodded in and out of mental institutions- and Face will know it's his comments that got him started off "Murdock, listen!" The pilot quiets down, he always listens to Face and Face feels bad for using that to his advantage.
The con-man breathes out slowly, before speaking, keeping his voice sincere "Hannibal's gonna get us out of here Murdock, if we don't get out ourselves first. He can come up with a plan in a minute, you know that, and if he's had six months, his plan's going to be damn near unbeatable" He pauses, his own fears about Hannibal surfacing slightly "And if he doesn't come and get you Murdock, I will ok?"
He hears Murdock considering this at the other end, his anger dissipating with the speed at which it arrived. He doesn't know how Murdock manages the emotional downs and ups as he jumps between the emotions, and obviously it;s just another thing about the pilot that is never going be explainable. H.M. Murdock is a walking conundrum, and probably always will be. Face doesn't mind, it's just who he is, but he always finds a smile when he finds another one of the quirks Murdock embodies, because although for some that would mean another piece of the Murdock jigsaw puzzle added, Face just knows it means that he's found one small bit, with most of the pieces lost or hidden out of sight. He doesn't have to understand Murdock, he just has to know him, and he knows him well enough by now to know that the promise he's just spoken is a promise Murdock will hold onto like a child with a kite-string against the buffeting winds of the unfair world.
"You promise we'll get out , Facey?" The voice at the other end barely sounds like Murdock for a second. It's small and childlike- unsure, tentative-, like a kid who wants so much to believe in Santa even when he's getting to the age where he knows he's not real. Murdock's always been the most child-like of them all, even though he's only a couple of years younger than BA and Face, but that aspect of his personality has always been overrun by his more zanier side. Between Murdock and Face pulling pranks together and engaging in mad activities like sock-puppets and fake lightsaber fights with sticks lying around- activities that seem to be as much Face's territory as Murdock's and sometimes Face wonders whether it's Murdock bringing out a more childish side in him that's always been there, an innocence (not that Face has ever been innocent) that's masked by his lying, his gambling and his woman- they make an interesting pair, and Face has heard Hannibal frequently call them "the kids" when the mood for play strikes them. In Murdock's world, it's easier for Face to get lost in the strange non-logic of it all, so much so that he forgets that Murdock's childishness can come with a childish belief in miracles, miracles like the one Face is holding onto.
For a second, all Face wants is to be there with Murdock, to be there for Murdock like he always was, inseparable friends in their family of four and he wants suddenly to see the pilot so badly, to see him smile manically, to hear him sing at ungodly hours and inopportune moments and do all the other hundred and one things that used to irritate the hell out of Face sometimes, but now are the things he wants to witness again most in the world.
He swallows, hoping that what he just told Murdock wasn't lying- because Murdock believes him, believes him with a grasping hope that Face can hear in his quiet voice-, even though Face barely believes what he's saying himself "I promise, Murdock" He puts on a confident air, using a bit of the Faceman swagger he always uses in scams, even though there's no need, there's no-one to scam into believing but him, because Murdock's already open and hoping for a miracle that in all fairness might never happen "Besides would I lie to you?"
You have lied to him though, his mind says viciously, and Face can't shut it out You told him in that prison cell when you were about to face trial that there was no way you could be convicted, not with the evidence of what Pike and his Black Forest lot did. You promised you wouldn't leave him,because he was so scared standing in front of all those people all looking at him like he was a bad man. You held his hand for a moment and promised you'd make sure nothing bad would happen, but they took him away with grabbing hands to the VA and you couldn't get to him, no matter how much you threatened and pleaded and cursed them all outside that courtroom. What sort of a friend are you if you can help yourself in prison with all your scams and cons, but you can't help him?
"I trust you, Temp." The voice is serious now, and the bad thoughts he is thinking are shocked away by just how sane Murdock sounds for a moment. It's times like this that Face wonders just how mad Murdock actually is, because talking to him now he sounds the stablest human being Face could ever know. Murdock hardly ever uses his first name- indeed, no one does. With Hannibal and BA it's different, and Face can recall calling BA Bosco on many occasions and even referring to Hannibal as John (usually when he thinks a plan is too crazy, even for the supposedly sane Hannibal), but with Templeton Peck, it's just always been 'Face' or 'Faceman'-, just like no-one ever calls Murdock 'James' ( hell, Face doesn't even know what the H.M. in Murdock's name stands for)
"If we get out," Face jokes, "I get one of your burgers, deal? The one with the antifreeze marinade"
"Baby, I'll make you the finest burgers you ever got" Murdock sounds like he's smiling on the other end of the phone. There is another pause. "Faceman?"
"Are you gonna call again? Only it's nice to hear someone sensible on the end of the phone instead of some quack doctor"
"You're in the VA, Murdock" Face smiles faintly, wondering as he does it why he's smiling . It's just habit he supposes, to block out the fears he has with a charming grin directed at anything with skirt, but now he's smiling to reassure both Murdock and himself, even though Murdock can't actually see him. "You wont find anyone sensible within half a mile"
"I'm sensible" Face can almost hear a pout on the end of the phone line.
"You think tying BA's shoelaces is fun for recreational purposes"
"He thought it was"
"He tried to strangle you with them"
"He had to untie them first though"
There is a pause, another one of many, like neither can think of anything to say, and Face thinks about ending the call about now. He thought it'd be better, talking to someone from the old life, and in some ways it is- in many ways it is, and Face doesn't regret dialling Murdock's number because he needed the sort of mad conversation only H.M. can provide-, but hearing Murdock on the other end just reminds him how bad a deal Murdock got from his own side- an army who was happy enough letting a near-sanctioned pilot fly its air planes because he was so damn good at it, but as soon as there was the hint of trouble, he gets carted off to the VA with no word of apology or offer of reprieve. It's not fair on Murdock, as it's not fair on any of them, and Face doesn't want to think about that now,it doesn't matter because he doesn't want to return to the wallowing spiral of self-pity, anger and doubt that were the first couple of weeks in prison. As long as Face can distract himself, he's fine, but thinking of Murdock is making him remember the old days ,the sorts of memories he only dredges up at night to chase away the bad thoughts that come creeping round his head.
"Stay and talk?" Murdock asks quietly, and there's that tone of voice again, the one that makes him sound like a scared little kid who's lost. Murdock, the A-team's little lost howlin' mad sheep, in a flock that's been separated by so-called 'justice' "Just for a while"
"Sure Murdock" Face smiles, feeling a wave of brotherly affection for the pilot on the other end of the telephone. Face would do anything for Murdock, and if talking is all the man needs right now then Face is happy to oblige. And again, for a moment the world is righted, and it doesn't matter that he's been stripped of rank, or that he's imprisoned wrongly for the next ten years, or even that he doesn't actually know whether Hannibal will be able to get them out of this one. All that he focuses on is the voice of Murdock on the other end, reverting again to his usual insane comments that he seems to just pluck out of thin air- like Murdock's discussions on the civil rights of golf balls, or his promise in an Ultralight once that he would find civilisation Muchacho for Hannibal, or his belief that revolutions actually smelt like Hush-puppies-, telling him about one of the nurses- who he calls Frankie, as a shortening of the Mary Shelley monster-, who has a moustache and growling voice like she smokes more cigars than Hannibal, Face interjecting with a grin to compare one of his wardens with Murdock's. And the unfocused rambling talk between two friends on two sides of the world on a smuggled telephone call, is enough to block out all the bad stuff for now.
When one of the doctors calls out post for him from Hannibal Smith, shaking the box with a glaring eye as he hopes there isn't another plane in it (Murdock stole the last one back three times before they made sure to hide it some place hard, but even now he's sure he knows where the newest hiding spot is), Murdock rushes to go collect it, hoping this isn't another one of his delusions , jumping over the chairs and sofa's in his rush- nearly tripping over Dwight, whose lying on the floor, playing scrabble with one of his hallucinations .George- an elder man with schizophrenia gets the package from the doctor- pouring out the contents onto a nearby table. But instead of the plane Murdock thought it would be, it turns out to be a box filled with 3-D glasses- the kind of cheap ones with blue and red lenses- and an old action movie- the sort of films Face and Murdock used to watch together when they had an hour spare and Murdock hadn't flicked over to watch cartoons. The sort of film Face would try and watch while Murdock threw popcorn at him, and for a moment Murdock frowns with sadness as he remembers those times and wishes he had more.
Looking at the package though, his brow furrows in confusion, but then- as he pulls open the DVD case to check whether the DVD is in the slot (because when he shook it it sounded awfully loose, and he knows that that'd damage the disk if he didn't put it back) - he sees a piece of paper tucked into the side, like one of those send-off questionnaires that asks him his age and how many films he buys in a year, only that this one appears blank. Moving further away from the rest of the group- some of the other patients were getting curious about the new package in their midst- and even Dwight had looked up from an opportunity for a triple-word score-, he picks up the paper with gentle fingers, turning over the card and reading the writing on the other side.
Think I have a promise to keep, don't you? :-) And you owe me one burger with some of your special sauce.
And Murdock's grin is just about enough to light up the whole room.
Author Note: Movie-canon but some small TV references here, but not big ones. The inclusions of the 'Huey' helicopter is a nod to the sort of air-vehicles the original series Murdock would have flown in Vietnam, and the comment about 'Trash-bags' and also the name of 'Dr Pepper' is a reference to an escape plan used in Series 1, Episode 3 (Pro's and Con's) as well as it just being a chance to comment on what the original Murdock is often quoted as saying. :-) The 'Howlin' Mad' painted words on the side of his plane is a reference to 'The Taxicab Wars' (Season 2, Episode 7)