- Six: Heroes Are Made of This -

A hero cannot be a hero unless in a heroic world.

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hannibal could not for the life of him recall a time in which he had been more furious than he was now. His natural state was calm and collected but when it came to his team – when it came to the safety of his damn team …

"Explain to me, General, why I had to hear about my pilot's capture through goddamned scuttlebutt."

This was unacceptable. He stood over the General's desk, not even bothering to salute as he unleashed his fury.

The General looked him up and down for a moment, a distasteful look on his face, and then peered behind him at the two men who had followed him into his office without warning and breaking rank.

"You are aware of our position on these matters, Colonel, and I highly advise you to check your attitude before we continue discussing this delicate matter."

"One of my men is in the hands of Iraqi hostiles and he got there by your orders which were based on bad intelligence, sir. You will just have to excuse my attitude."

"Colonel, like I said, this is a very delicate matter. Captain Murdock's orders were and continue to be highly confident-"

Fuck confidentiality, thought Hannibal. Fuck it.

"I want to know everything, goddamnit!" Hannibal all but shouted across the man's desk, not caring about seniority or the fact that these walls were paper-thin.

He had every damn right to be livid. Murdock's capture hadn't been reported to him as it should have been; instead, he had heard it from one of the nameless grunts in the mess hall, talking about 'the Hawk' that went down in Tikrit that morning.

The remaining members of his A-Team had stiffened before sharing a look that could only be described as dread. Hannibal didn't need to say a word; they followed him at a run, charging into the commanding General's office without so much as a knock.

"Colonel," the man sighed, pinching the bridge of his noise as this was just one big fucking annoyance, a snafu, "Hannibal, we received intel that the Black Hawk commanded by Captain Murdock was shot down at 0800 and taken hostage by al-Qaeda terrorists –"

"You knew about this at 0800?" Face was red with anger as he stepped forward. He was speaking out of line but fuck it, he couldn't take this – they could have done something hours ago. "Why the fuck didn't we know about this at 0800, sir?"

"The confidential nature of the –" the room exploded in a cacophony of disagreeing voices, "This is some goddamn bullshit, sir." - "Lieutenant, Corporal, you both are dangerously close to a demotion." – "fuck the goddamn sensitive nature –" – "then demote me, sir –"

They were all shouting over each other, the room buzzing with energy as their voices grew, carrying through the walls and down the hallway.

Finally, Hannibal slammed his fists down on the General's desk, the small American flag mounted by the man's nameplate falling to the floor.

"You will not withhold information pertinent to my team, General. I am Captain Murdock's commanding officer and it is my right and responsibility to know of his safety and whereabouts, confidential or not."

The General – Croizier – his nameplate read, was beet red and looked to be an inch from giving the entire team a dressing down. Hannibal gladly stared the man down, daring him to disagree, to get between him and one of his men.

"Colonel, your man was operating a covert mission and is being held hostage with a ransom we cannot honor. Like I said, you know our position on these matters, we do not negotiate with terrorists. I am sorry, Hannibal, but the US Army has no choice but to consider this matter closed."

Hannibal had to take a moment to resist the urge to kill the man. It wouldn't help Murdock if they all went to prison for the murder of a US General.

"You goddamn bastard," Face lurched forward and was stopped only by Hannibal's hand on his chest – he would have climbed over that fucking oak desk and strangled the man otherwise, "That man is a US Ranger. He has fought for his country, shed blood for you, you cannot just fucking abandon him like this."

Hannibal could feel the man tensing underneath him, his frame shaking with rage as he pointed in the General's face. B.A. stood at his other side, his fists clenched tightly and his expression dangerous.

"The United States Army is grateful for Captain Murdock's dedication and service and he will be recognized for h-" Croizier didn't have a chance to finish whatever terrible, idiotic thing he was about the say.

"He's not dead yet, General," Hannibal growled, disgusted by the man's ability to so easily consider their pilot dead, "Give us his last known location and my team and I will go in and retrieve him."

The man shook his head and Hannibal had to put both hands out to keep B.A. and Face from making a move.

"You do not have clearance to engage in combat, Colonel. I cannot give you permission to enter Tikrit under orders of the US Army –"

"We're not asking for clearance, sir. I am taking my team into Tikrit with or without your or the military's permission." Hannibal's steely gaze bore into the General as he took a step forward, towering over the shorter man, "All I am asking for is information concerning Captain Murdock's whereabouts."

General Croizier sighed and reached into the file in front of him, plucking a single page for the thin folder. He stared at it, crumbling it slightly between his fingers as he placed it in front of Hannibal, and then standing and turning his back as he peered out the window behind his desk.

"If you undergo this mission, Colonel, you will not have the support of the US Army." That meant no pilot, no air cover, no intel …

Hannibal scowled as his eyes scanned the report.

15/04/2005 - 0852

FORWARD, REPORT RE: MISSION QADHA-F14

MH-60L BLACK HAWK TERMINATED 0801

CASUALITIES: 3

REPORTED HOSTAGE:

CAPTAIN HM MURDOCK

LAST KNOWN LOCATION:

LATITUDE: 34° 35' 48 N, LONGITUDE: 43° 40' 37 E

TIKRIT, SALAH AD DINH, IRAQ

He folded the paper and shoved it into his pocket. His team was the best and he'd be damned if he let the lack of support stop him; they had worked in worse situations before and he had no doubt they would be at their best this time. Murdock was depending on it.


Murdock coughed and gagged as the smoke from the ruined helicopter filled the cockpit. His hands shook as they tried to find the buckle to his harness, unable to hold still long enough to find the mechanism. Finally, he located the release mechanism and pulled.

He fell to the ground with a painful thud.

Huh. He hadn't even realized he wasn't right side up.

He tried to reorient himself as he pushed himself to his elbows, hissing as broken glass bit into his hands and arms, cutting easily through his clothing.

The control panel was sparking and static sounded over the radio. His hands fumbled over the dials and controls as he blindly searched for the radio. Finally, he found it and clicked the buttons on the side.

More static. Looking good here. He tossed the thing aside and blinked, trying to see through the smoke and the general blurriness of his vision. He couldn't see a damned thing; he had to get out of there.

Murdock moved forward in a slow crawl, doing his best to ignore the glass that had imbedded itself into his arms and legs. He crawled past his co-pilot, the man hanging like slaughtered meat from his seat, his body from the torso up a mess of blood and tissue, and made it into the open-faced cabin.

He pulled himself up using the netting on the cabin's sides and managed to get to his feet. The cabin was destroyed – the mounted gun was bent and twisted, hanging broken from its anchor. Some of the side seats had been dislodged and the wiring had been shredded from their fixtures, sparking and smoking.

He scanned the cabin and found it devoid of life. The sergeant that had been reeling down the towline for the extraction of the CIA operative they had been sent to collect was nowhere in sight.

His foot caught a rigging clip and he promptly stumbled out from the Hawk and onto the sandy ground, his body screaming in protest.

He took a minute to just breathe because hell, the crash hadn't been a gentle one. He had managed to dodge the first missile and the second one, even. But the third …

Third times the charm!

He coughed and laughed and something dribbled out of his mouth, warm and coppery.

With a grunt he pushed himself up against the downed bird, trying to manage at least one replenishing breath. Apparently that was too much to ask for because all he got for his efforts was pain, pain and yeah, more pain.

The Hawk was hot and he realized it would probably be a grand ole' idea to get the hell away from it; it was probably a time bomb at this point. He gave the black chopper an affectionate pat.

"That'll do, pig, that'll do."

He decided to try to stand, which, Murdock knew, was probably a really shitty idea, but hey, it wasn't his worst.

He surprised himself, making it to his feet and managing five full steps forward.

Then the pain returned, full force, and his knees buckled sending him face first into the sand.

It stuck to his face, mingling with blood and sweat and he briefly thought about the time he had buried Face to his neck in sand while he was napping in his freshly dug, sleeping hole. The resulting panic had been hilarious.

He was pretty sure he could hear the sound of laughter, giggling even and he smiled. He cracked an eye open – he didn't remember closing them – and found the source of the noise. A child, no more than four years old, was crouched over him, smiling and looking back, presumably at friends.

"Marhaba." It was a little slurred and hoarse but Murdock figured he had managed to say it right when the child giggled. Then came the sound of other voices, louder voices, angry sounding voices …

He opened his eyes again – seriously, when had he closed them? – and the child was gone.

"Hal bemkanek – kanek – " He tried to get the words out but his sluggish brain refused to supply him the complicated language. Stupid, unreliable brain.

The ping of bullets striking metal sent a jolt through his body. Was he under fire? Why was he under fire? Tikrit, his mind reminded him. You are so fucked.

He coughed again and tried to get off his back and onto his knees. He had to find cover. He managed to get onto his side but then there were hands, hands on his shoulders and legs pulling him upwards. He flailed, trying to break free from the strong grip.

"No – no, no –" He shouted, his voice sounding terribly rough as kicked out, panic setting in as his eyes blurred and he couldn't make out the faces above him, "Stop – k-kef, momkin alm-almusa-"

They laughed as he struggled in their hands, trying to free himself, to get his ground and just run.

One of the men growled something and his mind struggled to translate. They were speaking too fast, too thickly accented and hell; they were beating him as they went, trying to shut him up.

He kicked out again, his boot finding a target and they dropped his legs. He tried to yank himself away but there were too fucking many. He felt the butt of a gun strike the back of his head, sending him to the ground and an oozing warmth dripped down into the back of his BDU.

The last thing he saw was the burning wreck of his downed Black Hawk and the bottom of a boot as it came down on him.


General Croizier was a fool to think Hannibal wouldn't find a way to get into Tikrit. Hannibal and his team had saved a lot of lives and they had amassed plenty of favors they could call in. It was time to start collecting on those favors.

Within half an hour of his 'discussion' with the General he had managed to procure a willing pilot and an aircraft that would deliver them one mile from the city's border.

Fifteen minutes after that they – B.A. - had managed to 'coerce' – scare the shit out of - one of the local Smith boys to impart his knowledge concerning known Tikrit hostage strongholds.

Within the hour they were airborne and on their way to the coordinates Croizier had begrudgingly provided.

B.A. hadn't said a single word as he stepped into the MI-8; he merely took a seat and busied himself with the AK-47 in his lap and the bowie knife on his belt.

Face hadn't said a word since their departure. His expression was as serious as sin and Hannibal had found himself hard-pressed to recall a moment in which the man had looked more determined and more furious while simultaneously focused.

The pilot deposited them at the planned LZ before turning away, promising to return once they contacted him and Hannibal only needed to give him a look, one look, to make the pilot know that if he didn't come back he might as well consider his military career over.

Hannibal led his two-man team down the seemingly abandoned alley. Dusk was settling in, offering them an advantage and greater cover. Hannibal signaled them to stop, motioning to Face to check their position.

Face squatted against the wall and pulled out the GPS unit and pointed at the screen and then out at the road. He held up two fingers.

Two blocks. The chopper was two blocks from them.

B.A.'s hands tightened around his gun and he gave Hannibal a nod before taking the lead, turning around the buildings corner to get a view of the street.

He could see it. The smoking black shape at the end of the empty street, rotors digging deep into the parched earth in it's awkward upside down position. It must have rolled, B.A. thought as anger rose in waves.

The tail of the Hawk was missing, blown off by an RPG, if B.A. had to guess.

It looked bad. Very fucking bad.

"Fuck, man." B.A. muttered as he turned back to Hannibal and Face, their faces pale in the fading light. Face pushed ahead of the larger man and took a look for himself.

When he turned back around he looked downright murderous.

They took a minute to huddle over their map, searching out the stronghold Smith had given them before plugging the information to the handheld GPS, relaying the position to their pilot.

"Here," Hannibal said in a low voice, pointing at an area north of their position, "this is where they've been taking hostages, the ones they keep alive for ransom."

B.A. and Face didn't bother mentioning the fact that there had been three possible locations. They trusted Hannibal and if his gut said this was the one, this was the fucking one. This was where Murdock was.

They discussed their approach, how Face would take the roof across the main building, providing cover as the team's sharpshooter, and Hannibal and B.A. would come in from the North and South. The plan wasn't complicated, was based on general brutality over a slower infiltration tactics if anything. They just didn't know how much time Murdock had; they needed to act as fast as possible.

They stuffed their gear back into their small tactical packs and stood, huddled for a moment, heads nearly touching. Hannibal nodded, his expression serious and deadly as he tightened his grip on the shoulders of his Lieutenant and Corporal.

"Let's go get our pilot back."


They picked him up and dragged him down a hallway, his boots dragging against the floor.

Everything hurt, absolutely everything.

His BDU was covered in blood and sand and he found it vaguely amusing that he had never managed to use a pair more than once.

He was brought to a room and forced to sit in a chair. They questioned him and most the time he just laughed. Or sang. They didn't like the singing.

They asked about Mission Qadha, about General Croizier. They asked him about the CIA operative they had killed. They asked him about weapons and the Army's plans for Tikrit.

He never said a word, not relevant ones anyway.

He only answered one question and did so with a bloody grin.

"My team? All I can tell you about my team, compadre, is you're not gonna like 'em when they're angry."

From somewhere far away, a voice began to sing, rising to fill the room. The Call to Prayer.


B.A. rounded the building, his knife and pistol held out in front of him as he barreled down the alley. The AK-47 bounced against his back; if he could help it, he would only engage in hand-to-hand combat – they couldn't risk anyone hearing the shots. The fool's life depended on it.

The sight of the broken Black Hawk had been enough to make him sick with anger and he felt nothing but that damn, toxic anger as he ran. He couldn't feel the fear churning in his gut nor the burning of his legs.

He didn't feel anything when he snuck up behind the man watching the Northern corridor and pulled him into a chokehold. He didn't feel a damned thing when something whizzed by him and cut into his leg.

He couldn't feel anything else.

He pushed everything else away because Murdock needed him and what lay behind that fragile cover of anger was debilitating fear.

Fear they were in the wrong stronghold.

Fear that he was about to lose one of his greatest friends.

Fear that the last thing he had said to him hadn't been all so nice. His memory was being remarkably cruel: "They gonna let a crazy fool run point on a spec. ops. mission? They're as crazy as you, man …"

Fear that none of this even mattered because they were already too late.


Murdock bit back a groan as he was forced to his knees and a hand grabbed his hair, pulling his head back, exposing his neck.

He knew he was shaking but he couldn't help it. He was cold, injured and blindfolded. It might have been better had he been able to see what was going on, to see just what those sounds were – various beeps and clicks – and to be able to see the faces behind those voices.

He felt a sudden, strange warmth, something he associated with a space heater or some sort of spotlight …

Lights. Camera. Action.

The man holding his hair was shouting and had placed a knife to his throat. Murdock tried to calm himself as he began to hyperventilate because fuck, this was not how he wanted to go.

His heart began to race.

Smile for the camera.

He knew, somewhere his team was watching, knew they had come for him despite the odds, despite orders – knew that, by now, he was in their sights and that his team was going to see this.

No, there would be no 'this', there would be no tragic death scene, not today, because his team was watching and no man died on Hannibal's watch.

He smiled and coughed blood, didn't let the blade at his neck phase him.

Not on their watch.


Face was the first to spot Murdock, his breath catching in his chest as he watched as he was hauled into the room he had trained his rifle on.

"Alpha, I have eyes on Eagle, repeat, eyes on Eagle. Third floor, eastern wall, third room." He nearly shouted into his comm., his adrenaline so high he could barely contain himself.

"Copy that, ETA five minutes." came Hannibal's voice; Face's finger hovered over the trigger as he watched the men push Murdock to his knees, a man standing behind him, his hand pulling the man's head back by his hair. Face just caught the glint of the knife, "Wait for our entrance, Tango."

"Negative, Alpha. Negative. Eagle does not have five minutes."

"Tango, we don't know how many men are in that room –" Face couldn't see Murdock's face but could see him begin to struggle. He could see the knife. He could see that goddamned camera.

"They are going to fucking execute him, Hannibal." He shouted into the comm. He could hear B.A. saying something, then Hannibal but it didn't matter. Whatever was said was drowned out by the sound of the blood rushing through his veins, thrumming in his ears as he took the shot.


Hannibal ran down the alleyways, pushing past scrambling pedestrians who were fleeing from the sounds of gunfire.

Face had taken the shot and they weren't close enough, they weren't goddamned close enough.

"I'm going in, I'm going in!" The man's voice filled his ear as he tried to increase his speed. Whatever Face had seen had scared the hell out of him – he had abandoned standard radio code and was going in cold. Hannibal couldn't even bring himself to be angry; he would have done the same thing.

More gunshots sounded from ahead and Hannibal pushed himself forward. He wouldn't lose any men tonight, not on his watch.


B.A. wasn't going to make it – the round in the leg was slowing him down and making his vision a little blurrier than he would have liked.

He hobbled down the road, hugging the wall. He peered around the corner and grinned. The tarp-covered Frag 6 Humvee was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.


There were two 'pops' and the sound of glass shattering.

Blood splashed his face and the man behind him fell, releasing his hair and causing him to fall forward, just barely catching himself with his handcuffed hands, the pain nearly making him pass out.

Yippe-ki-yay. The Calvary was here.


Face darted across the street, zigzagging as the sound of a machine gun split the air. He kicked the door open with ease and continued forward up the stairs, moving completely on autopilot as he aimed his gun and shot a man who hadn't even the chance to lift the semi-automatic in his hands.


Before Murdock could allow himself to celebrate – he had already prepared a song and everything – someone grabbed him by the scruff, lifting him to his feet and holding him close, a gun to his head.

He stumbled and knew he was not long for the conscious world. He could hardly breathe, how was he expected to play the part of a good little human shield?

Suddenly their march was halted and the gun was pressed roughly against his temple. The man behind him was shouting, screaming, his breath hot against his cheek.

"La'tiq an-nar –" I'll shoot, Murdock's mind offered.

"Put the gun down! Put it down!" A familiar voice, frantic and stressed, but fuck his ears were ringing and the Arabic and English were mixing together into one miserable and senseless language.

"Listen to me, you listen to me, I swear I will blow your fucking head off –" He was pulled backwards as he tried to concentrate on that voice.

"Face."


Hannibal broke the backdoor down with practiced ease.

"B.A., front door, it's open." He didn't need to waste time explaining. He knew the man would understand.

He could hear the voices, shouting front the levels above and he wasted no time. He scaled the first staircase in three long strides – a man came at him from behind, trying to grab at his heels, a buck knife in one hand. He turned quickly and elbowed the man in the throat, bringing him to the floor and smashing his head against the hard ground.

Reinforcements were coming. Their window was closing.


"…front door, it's open." B.A. grinned and floored it.


Face advanced on the man, his gun pointed at the bastard's head. He couldn't take the shot, he would hit Murdock, nick him at the least and it didn't look like the pilot could handle another injury.

The pilot looked awful – he was covered in blood and dirt and sand and his knees buckled sporadically. His hands were handcuffed in front of them and blood was dripping from his fingertips in thick rivulets.

The man was shouting at him in frantic Arabic and fuck he couldn't understand a damn word. The man dug the gun into the pilot's temple eliciting a groan and he snapped, just fucking snapped.

"Listen to me, you listen to me, I swear I will blow your fucking head off –"

His arms were shaking and the grip on his gun so tight he couldn't even feel its weight anymore.

"Face." He just barely caught the hoarse words and his heart was pumping so hard. He was so close yet he could do nothing, not without potentially harming his friend.

"Murdock, bud, I'm here, man, I'm here – " He took a step forward, a damn mistake because everything exploded.

"Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!" – "NO! NO! Put it down!"


Hannibal pulled himself outside the window, scaling the wall and pulling himself into the third floor window. He couldn't come up behind Face, that wouldn't help his position, not with Murdock playing shield.

He crawled through the window. The room's door was open, giving him a perfect view of the hallway.

"Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!"

He lined up the shot and pulled the trigger.


There was the sound of a gunshot and his gut twisted as both Murdock and the man went down.

"Fuck, oh god, no, no, no, come on bud –" Face rushed forward, watching as a pool of blood gathered beneath them.

He kneeled down beside the injured pilot, pulling the blindfold from his face and rolling him onto his back, his hand moving to the man's bloody cheek.

He could have cried when a pair of green eyes squinted up at him.


"Face …. my hero?" Murdock managed – he couldn't really see Face, couldn't really see much of anything except those black and yellow spots, but he figured he deserved an A for effort.

There was a snort and the sound of someone sniffing.

"Damn straight, man. Now let's get you outta here." He felt two pairs of arms lift him up and he hissed against the pain.

"Knew you'd come." He mumbled, his head lolling to his chest. His feet touched the ground but they wouldn't hold; he mumbled an apology. He just couldn't get his stupid knees to work.

"It's okay, Captain. Let us do the work now." Hannibal. The Bossman was here. Good, that meant B.A. wasn't far behind and that he was free to pass out.

"Erm," He might as well warn them, "I thin' 'm gonna –"


"Let's move." Hannibal didn't waste anytime gathering the unconscious man between him and Face.

The building rocked and Face gave him a surprised look.

"What the hell was that?" They hurried down the first flight of stairs.

"Our ride."


B.A. pushed the door open, knocking over a table as he stepped out and into what he supposed was the foyer.

He pulled his pistol, ready to cover his teammates as they made their way to the first floor.

"Come on, come on," He muttered under his breath as the sounds of approaching hostiles echoed down the street.

Finally, his teammates appeared at the top of the landing and B.A. kept his pistol trained on the stairs and backdoor as Face and Hannibal manhandled their unconscious pilot into the back.

"Go, go, go!" Face shouted from the inside of the Humvee, the Captain's head in his lap.

B.A. didn't need to be told twice. He threw the vehicle into reverse and pulled out of the ruined building, the front wall collapsing completely as they made their way into the street.

B.A. powered down the street, dodging gunfire and hanging a tight right into an alley, barely missing an RPG. He drove for another five minutes before feeling safe enough to turn back and check on his team.

"How's he doing?" He shouted into the back as they hit a pothole. He managed a look back – fuck, he didn't even look like himself; grime and blood covered every inch of him and he looked so out of place in his BDU. His hair stuck to his forehead, matted with sweat and blood and his hands were covered in blood, whether from the cuffs or an injury he couldn't tell. Hannibal and Face were busying themselves trying to stem the bleeding from the worst of his wounds and mop up the blood that dribbled from his mouth with he cough and breath.

They were shaking him, trying to wake him and Face had begun to pat the man's cheek, his voice shaky as he urged the man to open his eyes.

Hannibal shouted something in his general direction before tossing the GPS into the front seat. The coordinates for the extraction point glowed like a beacon on the small screen.

B.A. wasted no time and pushed the pedal down as far as it would go.


…..

" – not dismissed, Captain. The team needs you, I need – "

….

…..

" –that it doesn't matter, man; the van, Mexico … just need my friend back – "

…..

" – along the line it – it changed. So, HM, I need you to wake up so I – so we – "

….

...

….

"I need you to wake up."


Six days later he opened his eyes.

His gaze drifted around the room, his body terribly sluggish from whatever drug cocktail they had him on. Despite the general haze his memory had remained somewhat intact. He could remember the Black Hawk, crashing said Hawk, getting kicked in the stomach after singing a rather pitchy version of Don't Stop Believin', Face's voice, a hideously bumpy car ride ….

"Good morning, Captain. It's about time." He slowly looked over to his left, his train of thought interrupted, and he found himself face to face with Hannibal Smith.

He opened his mouth to respond but could only cough. His throat felt ragged amd torn and he recognized the feeling – the aftereffects of being on a ventilator. Hannibal grabbed a small cup of water with a straw and helped him drink; it felt blissfully wonderful and like a stream of razors all at the same time.

He finished and cleared his throat, resting his head back against the pillow.

"Mornin', Colonel," he croaked, the corner of his lips quirking lazily, "s'rry, thou't I'd use thos' extra vac'tion days. How long?"

Hannibal grinned slightly as he reached over, placing his hand on the man's forehead, brushing back his unruly hair. Murdock closed his eyes, reveling in the cool touch.

"Six days. You scared the hell out of us, son." His voice sounded like gravel and the pilot felt guilty for a moment; they had probably driven themselves into the ground worrying about him.

"I know – I'll make it up t' y'all – promise." He didn't know how, not yet, but he was sure he could cook up something grand and beautiful, something majestic, maybe with unicorns or tigers or badgers. Yes, he thought, the majestic badger. They'd love that.

"Captain?" He must have zoned out for a moment - he'd have to come back to that later, much later. He managed an eloquent, "Hrmm?" and opened his eyes again.

"I'm going to go talk to your Doctor, let him know you're awake. See where we go from here. I'll be back soon." Murdock could only manage a sleepy nod as the man gave his shoulder an encouraging squeeze before quietly exiting the room.

He decided to take advantage of his moment of consciousness and resumed his survey of the room.

He grinned as he spotted B.A., his large frame squeezed painfully into a small hospital chair, his chin resting on his chest – Murdock smiled, blinking slowly as the man began to snore. Knowing him he had probably spent every possible minute by his side calling him all sorts of interesting names – crazy, fool, reckless moron, crazy reckless moronic fool just to name a few - and was probably a few pints low on that good 'ol hemoglobin. They were always so mad at him when he 'misplaced' his.

He figured he owed the man at least ten stunt-free flights and a month straight of home cooked meals. Oh well, he'd be happy to do it. Anything for the big guy.

Next he looked to his right, an overly arduous and exhausting process. He wasn't even slightly surprised to see Face sitting in the same position as B.A., a few days worth of stubble shadowing his features.

He cleared his throat, an unusually painful motion.

The sound had Face bolting up and Murdock would have chuckled if his throat wasn't on fire. He watched, amused as Face took a moment to blink, clearly trying to orient himself.

"Down 'ere, Faceman." The look on the Lieutenant's face was priceless.

Face didn't say anything. Instead he leaned over and hugged the pilot as best he could, mindful of the man's injuries.

"How-how're you feeling." Face grabbed his hand, careful to avoid the IV; his hands were cold, probably a result of the IV fluids, but still -

"Tired. Sore," Murdock gave him a half smile as Face peered down at him with the intensity reserved only for things such as brain surgery; he really shouldn't worry so much, "Hi-igh."

Face snorted and gave a knowing nod before his expression fell and Murdock was sure he could detect the slightest quivering of his chin.

"You scared the shit out of me, HM," He paused, not trusting his constricting throat and wavering voice, "we weren't sure –"

Murdock stopped him, knowing Face could get carried away, could upset himself more than he needed.

"'M sorry," He swallowed, his mouth incredibly dry – he was losing his battle with fatigue and whatever fabulous painkiller they had him on had him feeling like he had cotton in his mouth and lead in his limbs, "Didn' mean t'."

"No, I know it's just – it's so good to have you back." And it's great to be back, Temp he thought in his best sports announcer voice.

He sighed, feeling the haze begin to gather at the back of his mind.

"Tired?" Face asked from the bedside, his voice sympathetic and warm. Murdock nodded. "Don't fight it, HM. You need the rest."

Murdock was inclined to agree but he didn't want to, not yet. Things had been looking pretty bad and he was pretty sure that had he been just another regular enlisted or had been on another team he would've bit the dust that day, would have been nothing but a bad memory immortalized on video.

Had he not been a part of Hannibal's team …

But he was. For some amazing and still illusive reason, he was and he was grateful each day for it.

"Face … Temp?" His voice was hardly a whisper now.

"Yeah, bud?"

"Thanks fer comin' t' get me" Face's eyes were moist and he nodded, his lips wording a small 'yeah' but nothing came out.

He slurred, fighting his drooping eyelids.

He smiled as he felt Face's hand give his a squeeze, the action comforting and sending a wave of warmth through his exhausted body and he was sure he could feel the slightest brush of lips against his forehead before he lost his battle with sleep.


Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed – feel free to review. And a HUGE thank you to everyone you favorited and reviewed Falling With Style and Watch the Sky, it is most appreciated.

Tak Tak.