DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but Michelle, Nadia and Benjamin!

A HUGE thank you to my beta, Mlle Buckles. She is seriously amazing and I could not have done this without her!

This is my first fanfic, so let me know what you think! Enjoy! :)

Michelle Bijou was nervous to say the least; her brown eyes were shut as she tried to contemplate her options as a million thoughts ran through her head. She could feel a pair of eyes staring at her; she did her best to ignore them as she felt her hands shake. She did not work well under pressure and her best friend, Nadia Kendrick, was trying to guilt her to do something that she did not want to.

"Come on, please?" wheedled Nadia, "You know I'd do the same for you!" Michelle sighed. Yes, it was true that Nadia would do anything for her, but going to a crazy hospital to see a brother so shell-shocked he could no longer talk seemed to Michelle the type of thing you'd do on your own. Nadia's brother Benjamin had returned from the Iraq War a changed man. He was so affected by the horrors he saw, he was driven to insanity.

Michelle looked into Nadia's bright blue eyes. They were big as they normally were, but this time they were much more hopeful. Michelle frowned slightly. As she looked upon Nadia, she couldn't help but notice Nadia's figure. Nadia always had a fuller figure than most, but recently it seemed she had gotten a little bigger. Michelle hoped more than anything that Nadia hadn't noticed. She knew that Nadia ate when she was upset, and realizing she was bigger on top on everything would not help in the slightest. Nadia was a gorgeous blonde, but not many people seemed to seen beyond her size, which was unfortunate. Michelle clenched her jaw. She knew what she had to do.

"Ok, fine. But only if you promise not to stay long," Michelle relented. Even as she spoke, she cringed. She really did not want to go to

"Thanks so much Shelly!" Nadia squealed happily, tightly hugging Michelle whilst Michelle grimaced at the dreaded childhood nickname.

The reason that Michelle had such a tough time saying no to Nadia was not due to weakness on Michelle's part. Michelle was repeatedly told by close friends and family that she was a remarkably strong young woman. The problem was that Nadia was very sensitive about many things. In fact, the way the two became friends was in kindergarten after Michelle pushed Timmy Roberts into the mud after he made Nadia cry for calling her a "piggy". Nadia was a tad big for her age, but she was nice and Michelle didn't like people crying. After that, Michelle sort of took it upon herself to protect Nadia. The sort of ironic part was that Nadia herself was protective over Michelle. Nadia actually told Molly Cassidy,in the 4th grade,that she was a "wicked girl with no heart," because she stole Michelle's boyfriend. Michelle wasn't outwardly upset, which was why it touched her twice as much. Nadia and Michelle just understood each other, which was why they remained best friends to this day.

Michelle sighed again. A 23 year old girl should not have to deal with things like this, but Michelle had learned from an early age that things were not always fair. She grew up with only her mother to support her. Whenever she asked about her father, her mother wouldn't even tell her his name. All she ever told Michelle about her father was that he was a "no-good patriot that cared more for his country than his family." She knew that her mother didn't want her looking for him because she did not want her daughter to be hurt, but there were some days that she just craved a father figure in her life and after her dad, Michelle's mother swore off men. Ms. Bijou frequently told her daughter that her father left before he even knew she was pregnant and he never bothered to find out.

The ride to the Veterans Administration Psychiatric Hospital was quiet. Michelle really didn't know what to say to make Nadia feel any better. She knew that Nadia and Benjamin were really close and this was the first time that Nadia would have seen him since he got back.

However, when they finally got there, Nadia swooped to her brother and just started talking at him. Michelle felt that Nadia was doing it mostly for her own benefit rather than thinking anything she was saying was getting through to Benjamin. While Nadia was pouring her heart out to her brother, Michelle was trying hard not to eavesdrop. Instead she observed the hospital around her, but she was unsure which made her feel worse. Looking around, all she could see was people that seemed to have given up. It was incredibly depressing. On the other hand, there was one man that stood out to her. He was wearing an old pilot's hat and eating Hershey kisses. Michelle smiled to herself. The things that could entertain some people. She looked away from the man and shifted her attention once again to Nadia and Benjamin. Upon closer inspection, she noticed that Nadia looked distraught. It was obvious to Michelle that Nadia thought Benjamin would make some progress if she just talked at him for a while. And it wasn't working. Michelle couldn't bear to see Nadia like that. She slowly walked over to Nadia. Under her breath she muttered to Nadia, "It's not working. Let's come back tomorrow."

Holding back as many of her tears as she could. Nadia nodded and followed Michelle to the exit of the VA. Looking sideways at her companion, Michelle realized that it was going to be a long couple of months, if not longer.

A few weeks later, Michelle's premonition seemed to be correct. The pair of them went to the VA as much as three times a week and Benjamin's condition was not getting any better. Michelle went with Nadia whenever she went to the VA because she realized that Nadia would not be able to hold it together surrounded crazies. Nadia was too sensitive to the people around her, so Michelle took it upon herself to be Nadia's rock.

Today's particular undertaking was getting Nadia's mind off of the fact that Benjamin's condition was not improving even with all of the visits. This worried the nurses, which in turn freaked Nadia out. Plus, Nadia's birthday was approaching in a few months. Michelle used this to her advantage by planning a party. It was a plan within a plan and Michelle thought it was working swimmingly

"Alright so how many people do you think you want to invite?" asked Michelle as they walked into the VA. They had already decided that it would be at the park they loved going to as kids all the time. They both felt that this was a time that they needed to be reminded of the "good old days". They also had settled upon a costume party since Halloween was their favorite holiday, even though Nadia's birthday was in August. "Well I think I want to have a huge shindig, so let's just make an event on Facebook!" Nadia chattered on excitedly. Then she paused and looked at Michelle as they were walking past the nurse's desk. (They went there so often, the nurses automatically signed them in.) "Wow I actually feel better," continued Nadia," Getting my mind off of this whole thing really helps." Michelle grinned smugly and replied, "I love it when a plan comes together."

The man that was eating the kisses their first day at the VA turned his head sharply to the girls as soon as the words exited Michelle's lips. Michelle hadn't even noticed him since the first day, so it was strange to her that those words should have any effect. "What?" asked Michelle, unsure if the man was going to go bonkers on them. So far, Michelle had been lucky enough not to see a single breakdown in the numerous times she was in the V.A. And she wanted to keep it that way.

"What's your name?" the man asked.

"Excuse me?" asked Michelle, now not so scared, just very bewildered. The man had an aura of calmness around him, making Michelle wonder why she was afraid to come here in the first place.

"What's your name?" the man repeated, "My name is H.M. Murdock."

"What does the H.M. stand for?" asked Michelle warily.

"Well I asked you first," stated Murdock matter-of-factly.

"Oh, that's true," murmured Michelle, stalling. Closing her eyes and shaking her head, as if trying to convince herself no harm could harm from revealing her name, said "Well my name is Michelle Bijou."

"Hmmm," muttered Murdock, "Was your daddy in the war?"

At this, Michelle fell silent. Her father was always a sore spot. She looked up at her inquisitor. His green eyes were so big and expectant; for some she felt that she could not let this man down. She looked to the floor and said silently, "Probably."

Murdock looked confused. He opened his mouth, most likely to ask why, when Nadia spoke. "She never knew her dad. He left her mom before he knew she existed."

Michelle jumped. She had forgotten that Nadia was even there, but she was glad she was. She smiled at Nadia. She didn't know how, but Nadia always managed to be there for Michelle and she was glad of it. She turned back to Murdock. "The only thing she ever told me of him was that he was 'a no-good patriot that cared more for his country than his family.'" Michelle fell silent again. She had not told anyone that, except, of course, Nadia. She felt Nadia's hand on her shoulder. "We should go," whispered Nadia quietly. Michelle nodded and slowly turned around as Murdock said "Oh," disappointedly. As the two friends neared the exit of the V.A., Michelle remembered something.

"Wait!" she exclaimed and turned around so fast she almost slipped. Her hair was flying all over the place but she didn't care. She sprinted back towards Murdock and tapped him on the shoulder. "You never told me what the H.M. stands for," she panted as he turned around.

Murdock grinned. "Howlin' Mad," he replied with a wink, "Come back and visit real soon, ya hear?" He then turned around and walked away; leaving Michelle to wonder what she had just gotten herself into.