AN/ So sorry this has taken so long to get up – life kind of borrowed me full time for a while, but I'm back now, fingers crossed =] Here is the concluding part. I'm not personally 100% happy, so if you have any constructive criticism please don't hesitate to get in touch.


"Out of all the hours thinking, somehow
I've lost my mind"
Unwell, Matchbox 20


Murdock doesn't believe Richter. Wont believe him. Doesn't take in the lies, shakes his head at them when they are spoken or simply blocks them out, because he knows that's what they are. Lies. Falsities.

He can't bring himself to even contemplate what it means if he's right.

He saw Lynch outside his room. Recognised every detail. Agent Vance Burress, formerly of the CIA Special Division. Murdock thought he'd been locked up since it was revealed he was behind their set up. He must have been sprung from incarceration, either by himself or by a sympathetic operative. Which meant most likely that this was unofficial, not masterminded by the CIA or FBI. Lynch could be working to get back into the agency's good-books, or he could have decided that he could get more rewards delivering the three remaining members of the A-Team to the criminal group whose bounty for the men was highest.

Murdock had no rights if this was unofficial. They could keep him in here as long as they liked, could do what they wanted with him. This whole building had been made to look exactly like a VA, even down to the nurses and pills, so how far could they go trying to make Murdock talk?

Somehow they had captured him on his own. His mind's been fuzzy since he came back here, and his thoughts are difficult to keep hold of, rising up away from his grasping fingers like ribbons on the wind; they're making him take pills again, little violet coloured ones with numbers printed onto them to show the batch they've come from, the longer two-tone ones, half yellow and half orange. He can hold them all in one hand, counting the different colours of pink and white and yellow before he has to down them like Smarties under the watchful eye of the ward nurse. They're meant to be combating all the problems they've misdiagnosed him with again, but Murdock doesn't think they're working. The first time they get him back on the Risperidone he's physically sick, vomiting up what little he'd eaten, and sometimes the nausea caused by the dopamine and serotonin is so bad his head spins, his mind working on its own crazy out-of-control axis, and he has to sit down before he falls.

But because of the memory problems he's been having, he can't remember how he got here. He thinks he knows what was happened before he awoke to his white walled prison again – he was on a mission, staking out the home of their next mark - a rich millionaire involved in prostitution rings. It was a large mansion with fancy column's and a swimming pool outside for entertaining some of his many female friends, but when Murdock was checking it out, the pool was empty and rippled with dark as he lay on his stomach under cover of nightfall, looking out off a raised area of land with binoculars focused on what was happening inside the house through open and uncovered French windows.

Murdock never heard anyone creep up behind him. No rustle of clothing chafing against skin, no snapping of twigs underfoot. But he thinks he remembers a shot to the back of his neck, a sudden pain which made his hand fly to his neck immediately. Barely having time to feel out the shape of a dart protruding from his skin, the needle jutting out awkwardly and already having spilled its somniferous cargo into Murdock's veins, before everything swayed into a blur before finally going black.

Murdock believes that's what happened, but in truth he can barely remember. He might have constructed it in his own head for all he knows, a safety defence mechanism to help make sense of the senseless.

The web of lies Richter is spinning is very effective, and it is like watching a man in some circus show, swinging arm-length poi ropes with the material aflame, confusing Murdock with the dragging trials of red fiery light like the colour's been shot in long exposure, without being burned at the same time. He seems to be able to explain away every part of Murdocks delusions, take in the information that Murdock pulls out to discredit his lies, and quicker than blinking is able to compensate. Destroying walls of Murdock's defence with cold analysis, spoken so calmly and rationally it stabs and shocks at the pilot's convictions.

They've even got Billy, his handler bringing him in on a Tuesday for his Animal Assisted Therapy session's with some of the depressive patients, down to a tee. He appears quite like Murdock's Billy, almost identical; a brown and black German shepherd, big eyes, a way of cocking his head and whimpering when he wants something, with one ear that naturally is folded at the tip and crooked. But he knows that that can't be Billy. Billy exists only inside his own head, he's come to realise that. Hannibal never saw him, Face never saw him. Only ever Murdock. And however close they've tried to replicate his imaginings into a solid flesh-and-blood animal, they fall down and cave in at the inevitability that you can't recreate what doesn't already exist.

This dog doesn't bound towards Murdock with the same excitable panting, doesn't have quite the same shade of brown eyes, like a bar of Hershey chocolate. He's not the same dog. But Murdock cuddles him close regardless, scrunching his fingers through the fine downy coat, twisting curls into the strands, and burying his head in the dogs fur. The sight of a grown man on his knees clutching a dog to him like it's the only thing to anchor him is probably demeaning him in some way, but he's never had much dignity anyway. The animal whimpers, sensing some part of the well of sadness Murdock is storing up and sharing for a moment in the misery. Murdock feels like crying.

Not-Billy is the only friendly presence he's seen in his place. It reminds him of home – of trying to convince Face to play catch with an invisible dog, his joy when the man acquiesced, of blaming Billy when BA's milk got spilt, and the big guy not believing a word of his 'fool story'.

Those thoughts hurt as much as they comfort him.


A week into his sentence, and he is assured that this is a hoax. It's his first meeting with Richter, the man sitting back on his chair armed as usual with a clipboard and a pen in his pocket, Murdock approaching it with a sullen folded-arms attitude usually seen in teenaged boys, and the only topic the doctor tries to discuss is that of his team. That of course is to be expected, they are part of his so-called 'delusion' after all, but it's the questions he broaches around them. Richter asks about them, what they've been doing – the jobs they've been on, the places they've been – , even where they are at the moment. All in a purely conversational manner, and when Murdock brusquely enquires as to why, he says in an offhand manner like it doesn't really matter that it's because he wants a clear picture of Murdock's imaginings, so he can begin to de-construct them. He moves onto another topic after that, probably so Murdock doesn't cotton on to his subtle information gathering, but the pilot has already seen through the flimsy thin excuse that has been made.

Richter wants to know where they are so those who are ultimately behind this, shadowy figures with no names working with Lynch can get them, using Murdock to lead them to his team.

They're still out there, he realises with a fierce joy burning bright, only the barest of flickers in the otherwise strong flame; they're still free and still alive out there somewhere, and damn it, but that's the best news Murdock could have hoped for. A heaviness is lifted from him, his own doubts and fears melting away to puddle into a shrinking nothingness on the ground. Murdock has to keep fighting this, has to keep his head above the shit they're spoon-feeding him, the drugs that are administered in the momentary prick of needles and the pills that they secrete in his food, he's got to hold on because some day soon they'll come back and get him out of here.

Hannibal promised he'd never leave him. Never. And Murdock holds onto that with the tenacity of a drowning man.


"Murdock?" Richter questions "Murdock, are you listening? I was talking about getting you out of here, you know, just for a day trip. We're not far from the zoo you know, the one in Julia Davis Park? I hear they've got lots of animals there. Think you might like that? Getting yourself out for a day, give you some time in the sun, hm?"

Richter's faux-enthusiasm does nothing to excite Murdock out of his sullenness, and he shrugs slightly, fidgeting him his chair, kicking his feet in front of him just like he's been doing for the past fifteen minutes he's been in this session. His mind is trying to distract him with other things so as not to listen to the doctor; nice things like making pancakes, and Spiderman and watching movies. So far it's nearly working, and he's succeeding in mostly blocking the man out.

"Come on, Murdock?" Richter sighs wearily with a deep long-suffering breath "Work with me,hm? I'm trying to help you" At Murdock's silence he sighs again and taps his fingers on his clipboard thoughtfully as though he's wondering how to continue. Murdock just stares down at the floor, following the cracks between the lino slabs with his eyes, imagining that it is some form of primitive road system used by any bugs crawling across the floor.

"We'll talk about a trip later" Richter says finally, stopping his tapping to continue talking, fixing his gaze back on Murdock with a renewed determination "First though, lets try something else to get you to open up."

He digs a hand into his pocket, his fingers enclosing around something, and as Murdock sees what he brings out, his heart stops dead in his chest as he sights the cold flash of metal, and he doesn't think, doesn't even formulate much thought, as he reacts with honed responses from his army days. It's instinct, flight or fight and he snatches the knife from Richter's grasp, throwing it down to the ground where he hears it clatter and clink against the floor. The doctor looks shocked, frightened almost but reigning the emotions in, and Murdock knows what he must seem like – the pilot's hair unkempt, eyes wide in panic and fear – before his hands are pushing Richter away, reducing the chance of the man charging at him again if he has sort of backup weapon on hand to attack Murdock with. He plants both hands on the doctor's shoulders and forcing him back, the chair legs lifted up from four to two before balance is lost, and the chair with its occupant crashes against the floor.

Then suddenly orderlies are making their way speedily into the room, alert to any danger, any insubordination by patients. Richter appears unharmed as he sits up dazedly, and Murdock can still see the knife lying now harmlessly on the floor where it was cast.

"He had a knife" he tells the orderlies honestly, pointing at Richter with an outstretched finger "He had a knife"

But none of them believe him, as they grab hold of his arms. One looks right down at the ground, right at where the blade is lying serenely, silver mirror reflecting the room around him, and doesn't say anything at all. Doesn't even comment on it, just makes a 'pff' sound like this is just another minor deal in his long shift that he would much rather spend just holing himself up in an office watching monitors and playing minesweeper at the same time.

"It's alright," Richter is explaining to one of the orderlies, and Murdock can hear him fabricating quick lies than none the less sound convincing enough "It was just a reaction to a perceived threat that's all, I should have been more careful pulling out my pen. I think we'll have to have this session conclude at a later date"

And Murdock is being taken away from Richter and his session room with the walls plastered with motivational posters and maps of the cranium, back to his lonely white room, still protesting his own innocence – He saw the knife! He saw it with his own eyes! – as two of the orderlies hold his arm in a tight clamp as they steer him in the right direction, almost frogmarching him back. Murdock keeps repeating the truth aloud, and he swears he hears one of the orderlies mumble 'oh for God's sake'; but of course, they're working with Lynch aren't they? Even if they did see the knife they wouldn't admit to it.

The door closes on him and is locked with a swiftly turned key as soon as he is deposited back in his cell, and Murdock pounds on it feebly, shouting to the silence that is listening.

"You've got to listen to me. He had a knife, he tried to kill me!"

Murdock knows he had a knife. Saw the glint of silver, polished handle, the intent to hurt Murdock in Richter's eyes in a flash of emotion before it was gone again, fading into a falsified innocence.

He saw it. Didn't he?


Two months in and he begins withdrawing into himself. Protecting himself the only way he knows how to by pushing certain realities away, holding them at arms length so he doesn't have to deal with them. He doesn't engage with any of the other inmates here, doesn't talk to them when he sees them, doesn't follow up on invites for games or even his beloved movies. He just stays in his room, and there is a space under the bed he can hide by lying flat on his back and staring up at metal slats underneath his mattress.

Unblinking he focuses on how the shadows blend into each other, and if he concentrates hard enough he starts to see shapes, motions and sounds that entice him along with them. He can spend whole hours daydreaming, and the shadows change colour till it is not the dark underbelly of his bed, but the sky outside, eternally cloudless and blue, and the sounds of 'copters whirr around him. He gets into them sometimes, in his head, and just sits at the controls, knowing this all isn't real but taking advantage of it anyway; feet placed on the pedals, hands fingering the throttle awkwardly like he's a frightened newbie again before he clicks the starter button, firing up the engines, pulling upwards the collective lever to be able to hear the rotor blades whine and begin to spin. Sometimes he hears Hannibal speaking next to him as he eases the old girl off the ground, and Face is behind his seat making sure BA is still out of it, but Murdock never turns round at that point, because he tells himself that as soon as he does that, the whole dream is broken and dies. He directs all his attention to his 'copter, the feeling in the pit of his stomach he always gets when he flies, the thrill of seeing the open blue sky.

And then he'll forget, turn his head to laugh at one of Face's jokes, and there wont be anything there at all, and he'll be lying on his back under his bed with the skin around his eyes wet and something that he tells himself isn't tears blurring his vision.

Social contact dwindles down from the limited number that it was to just his nurses – there are only two and he doesn't even know them by their real names, only the 'Nurse Simmons' and 'Nurse Nelson' that are printed in neat capital letters to oblong badges that are then clipped to their uniforms. Whatever their full names are, they're nice enough, probably not even aware that they're working for the enemy and lately they seem to be trying to cheer him up, as one day he finds they've put up posters of planes on the walls in his room for him when he gets back. On the posters there is a Tornado fighter jets shooting streamlined against a background of clear sky pervaded by only the barest wisps of cloud, one larger poster over his cot of a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor that reminds him of a model he flew on one of his missions for the CIA. Flew like a dream, he recalls nostalgically, controls fine-tuned and immediately responsive to his actions in the cockpit, the feeling of the earth falling away from him wonderful and glorious when he got bored after dropping off the cargo and making his way back to base, pulling it into a 360° spin and grinning like a maniac every second of it.

He touches the pictures with trembling fingertips, feeling so much more than paper under his hand, seeing so much more than just printed images. The pictures are a little piece of his past, and despite everything he manages a small smile for them when they next check up on them. He's not sure whether they caught the throaty 'thank you' he whispered, but he hopes they did.

He is made to visit Richter also, and his responses to his questions whenever he is expected to reply are reduced to distanced monosyllabic mutterings, eye contact impossible when he's staring at his shoes. The doctor often expresses a degree of disappointment that Murdock isn't progressing as hoped. Isn't casting off the shackles of his illusionary life. Accepting it as falsity. Murdock doesn't care.

The doctor says in a voice dripping with concern that Murdock's becoming depressed. Introverted, detaching himself from his surroundings to bury himself in thoughts, what Murdock calls memory and the shrink calls imaginings. He's suggesting that Murdock sign himself up for some ECT to help with the dark thoughts he's been having. He doesn't want to, but Richter keeps pushing it and pushing it. Saying it'll be good for him, saying it'll help. Murdock wonders whether this is another layer of the game he's trapped in, or whether it's revenge for the foiling of the man's attempt to attack him. It hadn't been mentioned again after an initial acknowledgement from Richter, assuring Murdock he knew he hadn't meant it, apologising for what had happened. But obviously just trying to convince the pilot that his surrounds aren't real hadn't worked, so now they were trying to introduce an extra level of stimuli, incentive for Murdock to talk. All under the guise of trying to help him.

Bolts of electricity through his brain are definitely going to help things.

Murdock's scared it'll hurt. Doesn't know if they'll give him an anaesthetic to make it look to the attending nurses like they're doing it humanely the first time, or if they'll just forgo it to get the answers they want. But he's mostly scared he'll give in, succumb to the pain and tell them what they want to know, accept this reality as the real one.

He's scared they'll win.

Lynch, he sometimes sees outside his room through the glass window. The man stares at him, smirking sometimes to sight the misery in Murdock's eyes and no matter how often Richter tells him Lynch is only a figment of his imagination, a construct upon which he has heaped all his feelings of persecution upon, Murdock knows the truth. Lynch is laughing at him silently, and Murdock's knuckles are bruised and painful from when he punched the glass in his locked door, aiming for the smarmy bastard's face but not even succeeding in breaking the glass. Anger boiling up and steaming over as he remembers when he tried to screw him and his team over, took their ranks away, locked them up then got them in a position where the CIA tried to do it again.

He hates them all, not just Lynch but the whole damn lot of them, hates them for taking him and locking him away in a little white room where he cannot see the sky, for taking away his friends from him, for trying to force him to doubt even his own mind; the only thing that is truly his in this place. He knows that sooner or later his team will come and get him, that they wont leave him to rot and slowly lose his mind. But waiting is just so hard.


It's hard to recall things these days, his whole world pervaded by the here-and-now, so much so that it is difficult to even recall what used to be the clearest memories – his time with the Team in those eight perfect years – but he clings onto the memories that endure regardless of everything. The smell of Hannibal's cigars, the time they tried to convince him to quit and he managed all of one day with patches of nicotine dotting up his arm before they caught him hiding behind the mess tent taking a relieved drag from a smuggled cigar. Little things like Facey's smile when he was turning on the charm for a mark, when he made out with a women while they were visiting a bar, and the three of them didn't tell him till he took a break due to lack of air that the women's name used to be Gary; things like BA and the way they used to banter, Murdock recalling that one time in Kuwait when the pilot had accidentally started a shoot-out with the hostiles and used the big guy's beloved van to take the bullets for him, and the frantic panicked operation between him and Face to get the thing fixed before Bosco came back from R&R.

And remembering all these makes Murdock wonder how long his patience will hold out.


Murdock doesn't sleep that night, tossing and turning fitfully well into the earlier hours of the morning so after he finally does drop off into a restless and disturbed sleep he ends up awakening late. The clock on his bedside table proclaims it as twelve twenty three, so he's already missed breakfast, doesn't feel up to any lunch. So he lies on his bed, staring at the ceiling for a long while, taking in every facet of the poster there, not really thinking about anything at all, just vaguely considering thoughts that float in and out of his mind without really connecting to any of them.

He thinks he hears voices that follow along with the footsteps coming his way. Without really meaning to, he finds himself listening into the conversation that appears to be going on between the parties.

"He's not going to give in is he?" The first voice speaks evenly, a male timbre to the sound, and with a jolt, Murdock realises that it's Lynch. He'd almost forgotten what the man sounded like, but after the whole show-down at the docks – where they all almost got their asses handed to them if not for several improvisations to the plan, and the Kevlar in Hannibal's chest protection, and when Murdock distinctly remembers getting shot in the head and having a constant headache after that for about a week – he'd know that voice anywhere. Suddenly, he's wide awake, and quietly as he can he tiptoes out of bed and steals over to the door, putting his ear against the cold wood of the door, listening hard to what they're saying.

"I'm afraid not." Richter? Sounds like him; the same sort of quiet nasally voice that makes Murdock have to strain to hear him "I believed we might be making some progress, but he still believes they're out there alive, and he isn't going to tell us where they are. He's sighted you Vance, it's only made him more convinced"

"You tried the electro treatment? I would have thought the pain would convince him to spill"

"Not yet. We were going to go through with it under the pretence of it being ETC, but..." There is a pause and for a moment Murdock thinks they might have stopped before the words continue "Given his past record, the higher ups didn't think it would be effective. Remember the Gulf? The guy managed weeks in a camp being pushed for military secrets, didn't say anything. With his convictions, he's not going to tell us, not if he thinks he's protecting his team"

"Not much use keeping him any longer is there then? He knows too much about us. The project's failed, and considering there's been no sound from Hannibal and his lot since we lifted their pet psycho, I say they aren't going to take the bait."

"You think we should take him out. This been sanctioned?"

"None of this whole thing is official, doctor. I got given powers to find the other three, and I've been using them, but so long as there's no paper trial leading back, we can pretty much do anything"

"Not kill him. Too easily tracked back. So how?"

"He's a psych patient, Their conditions, I'm told worsen all the time. Sometimes till there's nothing left of them at all"

"When then?"

"Today?"

"That soon?"

"Well, why wait? You've been with him doctor. He's burnt out. You said yourself his mental issues have been getting worse due to the separation from his team. Best to just put him out of his misery. Give him a nothingness. It'll be peaceful"

"I'll take him away from here. Sigh him up for a bit of limbic leutocotomy."

"English please, doctor"

Neurosurgical treatment. It's a pretty standard procedure for schizos, those with obsessional neurosis and depressives, etc. It might fix him if there really was anything desperately wrong, but I'll just do a bit of altering to the paperwork, pull a few strings in the departments at Massachusetts General to requestion a surgery room, no-one will question it. Then I'll make it look like an accident. Procedure gone wrong due to complications..." A short cough "He'll ask questions, you know. He's not stupid"

"His kind always is in one form or another. Just feed him some bullshit. And if he figures out some thing's up, well hell, no-one's going to believe him are they?"

There is a knock at the door, polite-sounding, before there is the scratching sound of a key turning in a lock, and Richter walks in. Appearing for all the world like he just hasn't planned Murdock's murder right outside. He's fiddling with his clipboard, slotting a pen underneath the space on the clipboard where the metal clips onto the backboard holding papers in position, but when he looks up at Murdock, his distracted demeanour melts away, and he smiles in a friendly manner, as though whatever he is about to impart has cheered him somewhat.

There is no Lynch. He must be outside. Hiding in the shadows, so Murdock wont sight him and know something is amiss.

"I thought you would be up by now" Richter grins at the pilot, tucking the clipboard under his arm "It's the trip to Boise today remember?"

Murdock glares daggers at him "You mean Massachusetts, don't you? " he growls, shoulders tensed , all his senses shouting that Richter's going to do something, any minute he's going to make a move, and Murdock backs away from the middle of the room, over to the left, leading back to the wall that marks the edges of his room "You're gonna murder me, make it look like an accident."

"Don't be silly Mr Murdock" Richter says, expression frowning, but his voice as calm as ever – he must know Murdock heard him, is trying to pass it off as nothing, but Murdock knows what he's going to do – and his tone would be comforting if he didn't know the truth, if he hadn't heard that same voice agreeing to killing his captive "We talked about this your last few sessions. We were going to try out and take you out of here. The zoo, remember? You agreed to this"

"I didn't" Murdock squirms back further, the motions towards him Richter is taking making him back up closer and closer against a wall, getting him in a position where if there's a fight Murdock wont be able to win. Maybe he'll be able to take Richter down, but this whole place is filled with them, those who are working for Lynch and he can't take on them all and win. "I didn't say anything about you... you shoving things into my brain... about you... you lobotomising me!"

"Murdock, what are you on about? Where've you got this idea from, hm?"

"No" Murdock shakes his head wildly, panicking. Richter is looking at him in that way, with that expression, trying to sway him "No, don't you dare try and convince me I'm crazy, doc. I heard what you were sayin' outside, you an' your pal Lynch"

"Lynch? Lynch doesn't exist, can't you see that?"

"Stop doing that! Stop lying to me!"

Richter moves back slightly, and Murdock feels like now might be his chance to try and escape – the door is unlocked, if he moves fast enough... – but the doctor is pushing a small little pink button which neighbours with the light-switch; twisting it around clockwise and depressing it. It's the alarm button that they've got in every room when one of the patients is getting too distressed for one doctor to handle.

The backup arrives suspiciously quickly – this is part of Richter's plan, Murdock realises with a sinking panic, he must have known Murdock was listening, he doesn't know how he could have but he must have known – and the door opens again on ominously silent hinges to welcome two orderlies, dressed all in white, like fearful spectres, omens of death or other such superstitious garble – like black cats and broken mirrors – that Murdock always had a vague affection for, their faces covered in masks as though they're surgeons so that only their eyes peek out, peering at him with such intensity he cannot hold their gaze for long.

They've come to get him, he thinks, and he can feel his hands shaking as they hang helplessly by his side. They're after him, they're going to take him away, going to make him hurt.

"Let's calm down now, Murdock," Richter is saying "Nothing is going to hurt you"

"You're lying..." He whines as Richter continues looking for all the world like he's telling the truth, like Murdock's the one who is overreacting. But he can't be because he couldn't have, he heard what they were saying outside.

"...It's just a little visit out of the VA. Not far, you'll enjoy it, honestly..."

"I am not doing this!" Murdock feels like a child having a tantrum, but he can see what is buried beneath the caring exterior. "You're going to kill me! I know you are!"

"Now, come now, Mr Murdock. There is no need to over-react. I know you might be a little worried, you haven't been out of here for a while, but everything is perfectly safe. You'll be protected, no one will harm you"

"Stop it!" Murdock clamps his hands over his ears, blocking out the sound of his own shouting, which is becoming more and more hysterical the more frightened he becomes; Richter with his beseeching traitorous eyes, the surgeons with their ominous unspeaking presence.

Richter gives the orderlies a small nod, and they move over to the man now backed up fully against the wall, half cowering, half tensed in a defensive posture. They attach their hands to his arms, grasp him steady.

"You're just having an attack, James..."

"Don't you dare call me that!" Murdock snarls. He can't use that name, it's not his right... "Don't you dare..."

"You're having a panic attack. You need to calm down"

"Get off me..." Murdock struggles in the grip that is holding him, and his breathes are coming fast and hard like he's been running, fighting their way up through his windpipe, not feeling enough to compensate for the adrenaline spinning, coursing through his bloodstream; increasing his heartbeat tenfold, making him light-headed. He tries to pull his arms free from the sudden hard grasp holding him, bucks and kicks out wildly when that ultimately fails "LET ME GO!"

"Hysteria is getting you no-where Murdock. Just calm down. Breathe."

Facey used to say that to him, murmured it to him when the world was a buzz of sound and motion and Murdock just couldn't cope, made the pilot look at him straight in the eyes and follow the way he was breathing – Facey always looked after him, made sure he was ok – but Face's not here any more and Murdock is so frightened and alone, and he can't defeat them all alone, can't do this any more because he's so tired of pretending that everything is ok, that they aren't breaking him when slowly, ever so slowly they are.

However much effort it is, his last vestiges of energy are forced out of him, giving him the push he needs to fight harder as he watches Richter sigh and bring something forth from his pocket – a syringe filled with the usual medicinal Diazepam tranquilliser, his fingers popping the protective rubber cap off the top. Administered so he'll come quietly.

"You need to snap out of this Murdock." Richter is speaking slowly as he advances "We don't want you regressing back to your delusions. Just remember that this is real, ok? This is real"

"Don't touch me with that thing!" Murdock's not listening, cries out as the man gets closer, and there are tears of helplessness, tears of panic and fear streaming down his face as he bucks uselessly in the grip of the two surgeons which seems to be tightening. He should be able to fight this, should be able to win, but in here, he's not a ranger, isn't a member of the A-Team; in here, he's alone with no-one going to come and rescue him, no one who'll see a real person. In here, he's just a madman locked in a white room "No – please..." The needle is pushed hard into his arm, metal sliding through flesh and muscle, the plunger pushed down. Richter almost looks sorry as the needle is pulled back out, the vial of liquid emptied out, but the damage is done, and the drug that was in there has already started its soporific effect.

"No" Murdock moans, sensing the tiredness rush over him, trying to steel himself against it. He can't let them win, can't let them take him. "Please. Hannibal! Hannibal, please, make them stop"

But Hannibal isn't here, and neither is Facey or BA. He wants to call out of them, but even though he opens his mouth he can't shout the words out. They've won, they finally won and Murdock is just letting them, unable to do anything else. And as darkness comes as cruelly and surely as though death, Murdock glances up into the grey eyes of one of the orderlies holding him with tight fingers pressing white against his flesh, and imagines he sees his Colonel one last time as the world and reality fades away again.


"Captain?" There is sound surrounding him, blanketing him, his subconscious filtering through the clattering of heavy footsteps, melancholy whispering that he can't quite make out as he surfaces into wakefulness, not moving at first, coming to terms with the rough waves of his thoughts "Captain wake up"

Someone calls his name in a low voice. He experiences the compulsion to reply, but for the moment chooses to wallow in the comforting hold of burgeoning alertness.

"Tha' stuff should be outta tha' fool by now"

"I know Sergeant. He should be coming round any minute now. And if I know our pilot, I'd say he's awake already"

Murdock coughs then whimpers as recent memories surge forth, turning away from the noises and curling up in a foetal position so as to protect himself. Richter must have given his head some going over. Maybe even got too zealous with where he messed up in Murdock's mind. He wonders what is broken, wonders whether he'll miss it.

Maybe he's even dead, and this is some form of weird abstract afterlife where he's forced to endure the voices in his head until the arrival of judgement day.

But it doesn't feel like that, because there is definitely voices with owners nearby, the shuffling of someone moving around, a quiet curse and a clang as someone drops something, and a hand that places itself gently on his shoulder, shaking him slightly as if to wake him can't be just his imagination. It's too heavy, too tangible. Can't be just another one of his 'hallucinations'.

"Murdock?"

It's Face. He is real and there and Murdock opens his eyes wide to see exactly what he hoped. What he's been hoping for for a long while.

A thin face, tired but smiling completely with those big blue eyes of his.

He sits up, turning his body round to gaze properly at the people surrounding the makeshift cot he seems to be occupying "Facey?" They're all there; Hannibal, BA, and Face, all there. They didn't leave him... He leans back for a split second, mistrustful of what he's seeing "Are you really here?" A horrible thought wells up in his head, black and noxious; a doubt he hasn't allowed himself to even consider weeding its way insidiously into his mind, using its thorny tentacles to grab hold of him. What if he has been imagining all this? What if Richter's been right all along, and that he's just relapsed, gone back into himself and his own delusions?

But the look Face is giving him, the gentle smile – which reminds him of all those impromptu barbecues at HQ, the spontaneous games of hide and seek, their basketball games with some of the regular army when they were off-duty – is real enough. He smells the rich heady smoke in the air that comes from the Colonel's usual El Rico Habano cigars, catches the glint of a gold medallion in a circular shape hung around BA's neck. There is the abandoned disguise of white orderly clothing draped over the back of the chair to his right and he realises that that was Hannibal he saw for a split second, hidden behind that cover, Hannibal and most likely Face in the other surgeons outfit. They came and rescued him from that place. Like he knew they would, like he'd prayed they would.

This is genuine. The only reality he'll ever want. With his friends, his team. Lynch and Richter and all those involved in trying to trick him couldn't convince him otherwise.

"HM" Tight arms wrap around his neck, hugging him, holding him close "Jesus, I thought I'd never see you again. We only just got to you in time before that Richter was going to take you away. God it was horrible pretending. When they were gonna take you away and we had to stand there and hold you still... We've been monitoring Lynch for weeks, only just traced the right signals back to find out where they were holding you." The arms squeeze tighter, tinged with some form of latent fear "Damn it, Murdock, next time don't get yourself caught, huh?"

"Good to have you back, Captain" Hannibal smiles around his cigar, enhancing the crows feet around his eyes, an unheard laugh evident in the expression on his face, and Murdock even senses BA reach out a meaty hand and tussle his hair in a rare display of rough affection.

"Don't do tha' to us again fool, you hear?"

Murdock grins mirthfully, names of his team repeated aloud and triumphantly on his tongue, as though naming them will make them stay longer, will make them stay forever. They aren't going anywhere, he promises himself, he wont lose them again, they can't be taken away from him.

And he encircles his arms around Face all the tighter.

He's home.


~~ A friend of mine looked at this, and informed me that there is actually three ways of reading the ending. So, I'll let you guys decide for yourselves =] Hope you've liked this anyway.