Brought on from role-playing. I stole a little from the War Stories comic book too, and other than that.. I don't know, I have no explanation. This was one of those things that came out onto the page and I looked at it and said wtf, how did that get there? Billy, obviously, is from the show, George came from me (frightening) and Murdock is himself. Please read and review :)
George smiled like that.
It scared him every time he did. Slapped his shoulder, grinned, and caused some trouble. George didn't even have a nice smile. It was crooked—his lips were too thin, his teeth looked out of place. He looked ready to consume flesh.
For days after, Murdock dreamed in images of sand. He closed his eyes and saw it on the inside of his eyelids, scratching at his eyes. From the hills; the muscles and skin of the desert that he continually looked down on from the chopper. It was always in his hair and his clothes and his boots, getting kicked up by the rotors. George stuck his head out of the side of the chopper and bared his teeth, letting the sand get stuck in them. With his hands on the stick, Murdock did the same thing. He liked the feel of the wind.
Whenever he had a little extra food, he'd feed it to the stray dogs around the base camp. Even dogs survived in the desert. They started out as ten. But eventually only two of them followed him around. He named them Brodie and Billy.
James, James, James, George said. What am I going to do with you, James. You're so scared! George smiled like that.
Laying on his bunk, Murdock put a hand on his chest, trying to keep his heart from beating too fast. He woke up like that, with the bunk shaking—under attack, flying away. It was just his heart. And the sand; the sand that was everywhere. Billy just licked his face.
"What are you doing, letting those mutts in here. They're going to give us fleas," his tent-mate said, rolling over.
"I don't like dogs," George said. "Maybe we oughta get rid of 'em."
"You ain't touchin' these dogs." Murdock leaned up on his elbows, scratching Billy's ears. "They ain't hurtin' you."
Sand. He had sand in his mouth. In his lungs. In his ears, his fingernails, his nose. He was going to cough it up forever. The doctor put a hand on his back. "Cough for me, son." It kept coming. More sand, more sand. It was going to bury him. The doctor smiled like George. "Good boy, sounds fine to me. You want a lollipop? It makes the whole experience a little better."
"Don't want a lollipop," Murdock said hoarsely, breathing out dust. "Tastes like sand."
"Why would you say a thing like that, there's no sand in here."
The horizon was sizzling.
You going to help me or not dickwad? George coughed. When his face was pale, it looked hollow. His eyes sunk in; they looked darker. I'm fucking bleeding here…
Choppers didn't beat in sand. He dragged a body through the desert, only to find that the smoke from a wreck attracted the wrong kind of crowd in this part of the world.
Murdock didn't like the silent faces. They needed voices, they needed to talk, not just stare at him endlessly from the corners. Rocks didn't have corners, they're round. But people sat in corners. They died there, bleeding out onto the floor. So he invented voices for them. Then he wasn't so lonely.
When he was in the air, birds listened to him. He could just tell them to go somewhere and they would. He'd feel the strain on the engine, how much the machine could take, and he'd push it to a point before he'd pull it back; caressing, working through the air. Murdock had dreams about floating, but the real thing beat it by far. Even if the thwump thwump thwump-ing woke him up, shaking his bunk, and beating in his heart in the middle of the night.
The time they gave him water, they gave him too much of it. He gasped at bubbles. They caught in his throat. George was smiling back at him, watching as he couldn't breathe and catching the bubbles to keep them away.
Little James, he used to sing all the time. He sang with his Momma when she was stuck in bed. He sang in school too. Little James sang to the desert rats. He and George went through three whole Journey albums when they were tied up back-to-back. We oughta pick something we can harmonize to, George said. Really give them something to listen to.
Murdock spoke Swahili. He spoke French, German, passable Russian. He picked up books to read on the road from one place to another. He learned Afrikaans. He knew Spanish. He knew Spanglish too. He spoke to the rocks, to the faces, and to George. George scratched rocks together, trying to make a spark to light a cigarette—he only spoke English. Murdock never managed to learn Farsi, but he listened to Arabic enough that he could tell the rocks things, and he thought he might be turning into a parrot from all of the copying.
Do you copy? I copy. Ten cents a copy. Copy man, right here.
Shut up, dickwad, you're not a copy boy. You're a nutcase.
Stop smiling, George, I'm going to rip that smile off of your fucking face.
When Billy found his way into the hospital, he looked different. Murdock never remembered the dog with blue eyes, but the wagging tail and the friendly kisses were enough. He needed better company than George.
"They're never goina let you keep that dog here," George said.
Murdock held the dog closer. "Hey Doc, can I keep my dog here? He ain't hurtin' nothing."
The doctor looked uneasy. He reached over Billy, shining a light into Murdock's eyes, testing his eye tracking with his finger. The man frowned, tapped his stethoscope against his lips. "I'm going to call another doctor for you, son. I need a second opinion about this."
George smiled like that.
They told him in boot camp and officer training, there'd always be someone there to carry him if he was too weak to walk. And it would be his job to carry someone else if they couldn't. He carried the bodies on his back like Atlas. George refused to carry anything. He dragged his feet and made lines in the sand as if his weight was heavier.
On his way back from the desert, he laid on the floor of the chopper, watching out the open side door. He watched the sky without clouds. He'd never seen one so blue. The medics could do what they wanted while they were in the air, but as soon as they landed, he bit the first one who touched him. Then they restrained him, shot him full of sedatives, and the lines between the cave, the desert and the base blurred away to nothing. He could trust Billy.
When George walked, he trailed blood behind him always. It made Murdock sick at the sight of it. George smelled like it too when he got close enough. His wounds just never stopped bleeding—it poured out of his side, and the hole in his head. But it was George who got them out—George who sharpened the rocks and stabbed the enemy in the throat. George who horded the guns and blasted his way into the hallway. When they shot him, the bullets drew more blood, but George never slowed down.
What are you doing, man, you're makin' me do all the dirty work here? George smiled like that. He enjoyed it too much. It would be okay when he was gone forever.
They told him he was being grounded. Somehow, he managed to hold it together until they left. He never cried, not at all, not through anything, but for then and not even all the sand could dry it up. They had taken it all away. Everyone crashed sometime. George said, I fucking told you. When George got closer, Billy bit him.
Murdock had been bored when they called him out for an assignment—he didn't mind taking it at all. Behind enemy lines and into the fire fight, not a problem. It's just like a video game. Cartoon bullets just don't hurt, they bounce right off. Either way, as long as he had his wings, he was invincible. He could save as many stranded, wounded soldiers as they wanted him to, and bring them all back in one piece.
The General gave him the orders himself. "Craziest son of a bitch I've ever met," he said.
"Makes me the best, sir," Murdock replied. Because he was; he always was.
He tried to run away in his pajamas. "You gotta let me out!" he screamed. "I wanna see the sky!" Two jar-headed field hospital workers held him against the wall with hands like rocks. He could feel the rocks fusing him against the wall and it was all turning to stone, and the hospital to the cave. The floor was sand, reaching up and clawing at his pajamas. They called for a nurse with a syringe. "I wanna see the sky! Just the sky!"
George looked over their shoulders at him and laughed. He reached around and broke one of the aid's noses. He hit the other in the throat, knocking the wind out of him. Murdock was left standing, shaking. The security that came put him in restraints. He went to the isolated wing. It had no windows.
Billy took a dislike to George. He started growling whenever the man came around. At night, he'd hear them arguing—George was yelling, calling him a mutt and nothing but a dog-meat sausage. Billy growled back and barked. Murdock pulled the pillow over his head to try to block it out because he had barely slept in days. That was when the rest of the faces started to talk at him too, and it was louder than a football game.
It would be a couple of undetermined years before he'd see the smile of Hannibal Smith and his plan in motion. And within that time, he could get rid of some of the sand, except he thought he'd always be tracking some of it in his boots. Billy came back to him one night, scruffy and licking some wounds. The dog must not have thought that his owner was awake because he still looked like a lion, and curled big paws around him protectively as he tried to sleep in the small hospital bed. They never saw George and his bloody smile again.
"Captain?" The new Army psychiatrist had a soothing voice, one of those from a self-help tape. Not that he'd known much about those to begin with. "Do you think you might be ready to talk now?"
Murdock opened his eyes and looked passed the doctor at the large window, and the pale sky. It was never blue enough from the ground. He pulled his feet up onto the chair, wrapping his arms around them and perching his chin on top of his knees. "What'd you say, Doc?"
"The rescue mission. Do you remember?" he asked calmly.
Pressing his mouth into a thoughtful frown, he started to shake his head. "Went sand-surfing with my friend George in the desert once, we pulled the wheels off a coupla skateboards, an' just cruised on down the dunes. Haven't seen my friend George for a long time, you know him, Doc? Usedta come 'round here, but I ain't seen him, not for a long time."
The doctor stared back at him and then looked down at the file on his desk. "You mean Sergeant George Derrick? He was killed. He's been dead for years, son."
Son. Son. They all called him son. None of them was his family. He ain't got a family here. "Oh."
"They pulled his body out of the wreckage of the chopper, you-… do you remember any of this?"
He licked his dry lips, staring absently at the edge of the desk. "Never liked George that much," he murmured. "He was kinda a jerk. I don't wanna see him no more. You'll tell him to go away if he comes back, won't you?"
"Yes, I'll tell him," the doctor said slowly. "What do you remember about the desert, James?"
"Flyin'. 'Cause I'm the best pilot there is, that's why they sent me," he said, giving the man a quick salute. Except they took away his wings.
"What about the rescue mission you were on, the one where you were shot down? Anything at all?"
"'sides cannibal hillbilly Arabs, that's 'bout it. I kicked his ass." Murdock grinned. "But really, if you're goina write a book 'bout my heroic exploits, it better be a pop-up one, 'cause they's the best."
The doctor took notes. They always took notes. He was fairly sure that they were really drawing pictures or something because it had to be boring to ask the same questions over and over. Especially when they received the same answers. "You know, Captain, I think I'm going to recommend some change in scenery for you. How about a nice place in Mexico, huh? Sound like a good vacation?"
He perked up a little more, dropping his legs to the floor and leaning forward. "Really! Can I bring my dog Billy with me?"
Raising both eyebrows a little, the doctor tapped his pencil against his chin. "Yes, I think you can bring the um, dog. That would be fine."
"Aw, thanks, Doc!" He jumped up and walked around the desk, surprising the stiff Army psychiatrist with a big hug. "I think we're makin' progress. Now don't forget 'bout your appointment next week." He patted the man's back. "We're goina get through this, Doc, I know we are."
As he pulled back, the doctor slowly started to smile back at him—it was tentative at first, so many of the new doctors were like that, but it changed, it warped. George smiled like that. "Yes, I'm sure we are, James. I'm sure we are."
Before his next therapy session, Murdock tried to escape by hiding in the linen laundry. He was too big for the washing machine.