A/N: Just a little friendship fic between Hannibal and Murdock, and a bit of a gap fill between the Mexico mission and how the team became a team.
Disclaimer: I do not own the A-Team. Sad, but true.
It is 2 a.m. and the light on in the living room is beginning to bother him.
He's not normally awake this late. In fact, he wouldn't be awake right now if he hadn't had that particular dream that always woke him up and left his shoulder hurting. But he did, and he had, and now his collar bone was aching as if taunting him with the fact that he'll never forget. There isn't much to be done for it now except wait it out or get up and take something for it.
John had been trying the first option, but the damn light wasn't leaving and, seeing that it had been over ten minutes ago since he had woken up, it looked like he would need that bottle in the kitchen after all.
So with a sigh and a soft slip of the covers, shivering in the cold air as he pulled on a shirt, Hannibal turned the door knob and blinked against the light. The sound is what hits him first.
"Camarón que se duerme..."
Soft muted Spanish from a certain pilot mixes with soft, muted, untuned guitar. What is Murdock doing up this late (or early)?
"Se lo lleva la...la..."
Hannibal's eyes adjust to the light and he steps out into the carpeted hallway. He stops at the entrance to the hall to case the living room. There, on the borrowed couch in this borrowed house, Murdock with a beat up borrowed guitar. The pilot is hunched over the instrument as if it were a lifeline and currently frowning as he remembers a word.
"Corriente! So lo lleva la corriente..."
It's not that Hannibal minds Murdock's voice. In fact, the pilot has a very nice one, particularly when it comes to old British war songs and operatic pieces. Even when those songs are being sung while hurtling to your possible demise in a chopper that has just flipped 360 degrees.
But it has been a long day, filled with narrow escapes, a near flambé Lieutenant, and forests of legal tape to cut that have kept Hannibal busy all afternoon and evening. Not exactly the ideal time for a musical revival of...whatever it was the pilot was singing.
So he clears his throat and announces his presence.
Murdock jumps almost a mile, the guitar hitting his chin and twanging cruelly in startled hands. The upset makes Hannibal feel bad and he steps further in to ready an apology. The Captain stands quickly, however, and snaps into a shaky salute.
He's amused that the Captain continues to adhere to protocol at 2:14 a.m., but he salutes back all the same. "Having trouble sleeping?"
Murdock's hand lowers and even from a distance Hannibal can see the way those eyes are wide open in forced lucidity. "A bit, sir. I didn't mean to wake you up, though. Was counting sheep for awhile, but they ended up getting lost and since Bo Beep ain't returning my calls, I figured I might as well try to lull them back with some music."
The pilot strums the guitar to show what he means then halts the strings with a brief slap as if realizing that the noise may have been what woke up the Colonel. "But I can stop and switch to the air guitar for a bit. Won't even make a peep!"
Even as the pilot talks Hannibal can see how those eyes are blood shot and how bags are beginning to hint at appearing. What concerns him more, however, is the look of disguised panic in those hazel eyes, the look that has been there since they landed at Luke.
It's a haunted look, one he has been trying to rid Murdock of since they landed. But John is an officer, and not only does he have superiors to answer to but paperwork that has to be done to let him keep the burly Corporal and clinically insane Captain that he has grown attached to in the few hours he's known them. He just hasn't had time for team bonding.
"You didn't wake me." He rolls a shoulder as if to emphasize it is pain, not the Captain, which keeps him up. "Though perhaps we can both look for those sheep; after all, two sets of eyes are better than one."
If the younger man objects he doesn't say, just watches as Hannibal crosses into the kitchen and to the cabinet where the pain killers and medical suppliers they have are kept. He'll have to thank the kid later for restocking it. Then again, Face always seems to know when his commanding officer would be needing aspirin.
As he shakes out a few pills Hannibal can hear the guitar strum again and the pilot starts back up, quieter this time.
"Soy el camarón...usted es el río..."
Rio is river, he knows that. But why Murdock is singing about rivers is beyond him, much like the rest of the Captain's actions.
Oh sure, he's heard the stories about the pilot, seen the man's folder, overflowing with reports of brilliance and intelligence smashed in between hair-raising accounts of stunts that had gotten the man grounded with a section nine. He's also read the written statements, those first hand accounts in illegible, looping hand writing that couldn't stay any more still than the wandering words.
No rhyme, no reason, no sense at all in those accounts. Not until you read it twice and realized that the "Don Quixote" reference and song lyrics from "Fly Me to the Moon" actually were alluding to that fool hardy corporal and what exactly happened to those enemy bases the squadron took out.
And they fit.
But not if you didn't take in everything as a whole, and definitely not if you skimmed the accounts, as he was sure the Generals and psych evaluators had done.
A shame, caging genius within white walls just because you couldn't understand it.
The pills go down easily and he knows he has twenty minutes before they can even start to work. Twenty minutes to go in and spend time with the man who had saved their lives. He just wishes he could have spent more time earlier, when things aren't shrouded in the ominous stillness of night.
Back in the living room, the pilot has stopped singing and is thoughtfully picking at strings, attempting to tune the guitar. It's not going well, however, and it doesn't help that Murdock is distracted.
He takes the lazy boy by the couch, rocking back with a sigh and causing the pilot to tense up again. "What were you singing?"
Hazel eyes stare at him and all those years of service and achievements disappear under what he can only label as fear. It causes his chest to ache at the fact that he hasn't taken care of this earlier.
Teeth chew at a well worn bottom lip as the pilot looks back to the strings and gives a self conscious shrug. "Just somethin' that came to mind. Not really a song so much as muttering musically, sir."
He nods and watches nervous hands pick at the strings again. A discordant note causes him to wince and Murdock notices, a frown coming over his face. "I tried tuning it. There wasn't a tuning fork or anything though so I just sang louder. Always seemed to work for those kids in drama class during that musical they put on every spring."
"I see," Hannibal says, imagining the pilot attempting to sing every part in effort to help out the class. He holds out a hand as he smiles at the image. "Mind if I try?"
He can see the pilot is surprised but Murdock dutifully hands it over, asking as he does. "Why isn't there a tuning spoon, or a tuning knife, Bossman? Seems like the others would get jealous at being misrepresented."
The minute John takes the instrument he has it under his arm and he's already tuning the first E. It's been awhile, and he can feel the strings biting into his finger tips where the calluses used to be. But Hannibal never forgets a plan, and the guitar is no exception.
He chuckles at the pilot's question. "I don't know, Murdock. Perhaps they elected for the fork to represent them all."
He is hoping indulging in the idea will help ease the pilot, and he isn't disappointed. A smile twitches onto Murdock's face. "With a whole election and everything? Yeah, probably. The fork won because it had a three point plan."
"Three points can be pretty convincing," John concedes, moving on from A to D. "Though I don't think I've used a tuning fork for years."
Murdock glances at him and he doesn't need to see the pilot's face to know he is curious. The younger man's shoulders untense a bit and the Colonel files away that. Yes, going with the flow does give results.
"You always tune by ear? You must have perfect pitch, Boss. You coulda been a concert pianist or a violin virtuoso! Anyone ever tell ya you should go into the music business, Colonel?"
It's not meant unkindly, but the statement hits close to home. Hannibal knows his reputation: a strong leader, a powerful man, but not one who you'd find picking out Pachelbel's Canon. That type of reputation used to come with associations. Most would be surprised to know that John's room has two bookshelves, all full.
He decides to just give the pilot a small smile. "Most don't think to ask if I play."
There's no fear in those hazel eyes anymore, just unrestrained curiosity and a little bit of indignation at Hannibal's words. "Why, just because you're a Ranger they don't expect you can do anything but shoot a gun? You do that pretty well, Boss, but that's just bullshit. They don't know what they're missin', and I bet they have untuned guitars all over the place."
And to his surprise the Captain leans over and pats the guitar body fondly. "Ain't right to judge anythin' by the outside."
It's a quiet confession and Hannibal knows that the pilot has seen the results of closed-mindedness enough to fill a book. So he lets the pilot ruminate on old memories for a moment as he turns the pegs and hums briefly to himself to tune the last and thinnest string.
Noticing the improved sound, Murdock's face softens. "That sounds real good, Colonel. Like velvet."
"It's not perfect, but it'll do." He finishes and offers the guitar back. "There. Now you can serenade in style, Captain."
Murdock takes the guitar and strums the strings hesitantly, producing a much nicer sound than before. The man gives a crooked smile and strums more surely. "Sweet as syrup on pancakes."
And John has to smile at that, because the younger man is no longer sitting ramrod straight on the edge of the couch. "So what's on the playlist tonight?"
"Some of this, some of that." Murdock shrugs as he strums and picks at strings. "I know to pick the strings and listen to them sing, but I can't conduct much."
That would explain why the same three chords are filling the air over and over again. "Well, maybe I can find something easy for a first lesson."
Murdock glances over in obvious surprise. "You'd teach me?"
"Of course." And why wouldn't he? But while he's happy to teach the pilot, he still wants to know why the man's eyes are becoming increasingly blood shot. "Though 2 a.m. is a bit of an unorthodox time for a lesson."
The switch in topic causes the pilot to lower his head over the guitar, away from Hannibal. "You don't need to stay up if you don't want to, Colonel. I appreciate it an' all, but I'll be all right on my own."
This causes him to frown. Why would Murdock take this route? "Why wouldn't I want to sit up with you, Murdock?"
The pilot looks out from under his bangs at him, body tense, and in that moment Hannibal can see that the pilot had expected him to leave. This expectation causes his chest to twitch and Hannibal wonders what part of his brief talk earlier about being a team wasn't clear.
"It's late, long mission, had to sit in debriefings all day, not to say anythin' about the mountain of paperwork I've seen you doin'. Half of it probably to convince some head honcho somewhere that I ain't completely bat shit insane, not today at least" The list is automatic, fired off as if it had been thought through.
There was something not being said.
"A good night's sleep doesn't matter if someone on my team is uneasy," he says slowly. "The team only works when everyone is in line with everyone else, and themselves."
A few notes plink out of the guitar as Murdock bites his lower lip, so Hannibal continues, gently. "What's bothering you, son? What's keeping you up?"
"Always been a bit of a night owl, hoo, hoo." Murdock is mumbling, shoulders hunching lower. But it isn't enough of an explanation and Murdock knows it. "Just been a bit, pre-occupied, sir. Got some stones rollin' around and I'm tryin' to polish them down till they aren't quite so loud."
At least it is a confession that there is something on the man's mind. "Any big ones in particular?"
The pilot shifts uncomfortable and the strings jangle as they are hit unevenly. "One or two…"
Gentle, probing, he keeps his voice low and soothing. "Like what?"
The question hangs in the air and Hannibal isn't sure the pilot will take it. The Texan is still hunched over the guitar, one leg creeping up onto the couch as the pilot's upper body begins to twine around the guitar body. He's slightly impressed at how flexible the pilot is.
"How do you know when you're dreaming, sir?"
The question catches Hannibal off guard, as he had been expecting something more confessional. But like the reports, there had to be a reason to the tangent, so Hannibal sits forward and thinks for a moment. "Well, I usually don't. Not until I wake up."
Murdock nods, expecting this train of thought. "Right, right, exactly right, Bossman. Can't tell the difference between when I'm dreamin' and when I ain't. Except if I'm flying without a plane, because then it's kinda obvious that you're dreaming, you know?"
He has to chuckle. "Of course."
The pilot shifts and picks at the A string. "You ever have a dream where you know you're dreaming but it doesn't stop?"
He has to think about it and he finds he can't say yes. Hannibal doesn't usually remember his dreams, and what he does are like old black and white film– grainy and color less. "Not that I can remember, no."
"I have," says Murdock. "And usually it's all fine and nice. They call it lucid dreaming, which is a fancy term for sayin' you get to control what's going on. That you get to interact even though you know you're not there, not in that world, not talkin' to those people, not actually there at all."
That lanky body squirms and the other foot begins to creep onto the sofa as the pilot finds a familiar note. The pilot's eyes unfocus slightly as he sings. "He's a real nowhere man…sitting in his nowhere land…"
A thought is nibbling at John, telling him to think back to the shifting moods the pilot has been showing all day. The way Murdock watches them all with that panic, touching their shoulders at random intervals and smiling in relief, even when Bosco is yelling. And in between the oscillating moments of outgoing playfulness and withdrawn tentativeness, those lanky hands always busy: ringing his baseball cap, worrying a thumb nail, playing the guitar…
"Making all his nowhere plans…for nobody."
Those movements keeping himself anchored, like he's afraid of disappearing.
"Murdock, you're not dreaming."
The words cause Murdock's hands to stop picking at the guitar and to cut off the song and John knows he's hit the problem.
"You're not dreaming." He repeats the assertion, moving to put a hand on the pilot's knee. "Why would you think you're dreaming?"
Murdock's eyes come back into focus and the pilot looks at the hand on his knee then up at him. Hannibal can see how the pilot's chest is still and can feel the muscle in that leg tense. But he can also see words struggling to the surface, so he waits, keeping his hand where it is, firm and gentle.
"Cause I got out." The admission comes in a rush of agitated air. "I got outta that hospital and have stayed out, and that ain't happened since that one time at Walter Reed, and that was only for seven hours or so because the damn bus was late and I forgot to change outta my pajamas. Only other time I've ever gotten out and stayed out was when I was staring at the inside of my eyelids."
Now that it's in the air, it keeps coming, the pilot resting a tired head on his arm that rests over the guitar. "I usually have these dreams that seem real and I wake up and still think they are, and sometimes I get into these places where I can talk to things I shouldn't be able to talk to and it's usually after they give me somethin' or after…"
Murdock trails off and Hannibal finds himself frowning at the possibilities of the unsaid. He knows he needs to be careful here, that the pilot might jump if he moves or speaks to fast. So he settles for gently, very gently, squeezing the pilot's knee. "Son, you are not dreaming. You aren't in a dream, you won't wake up out of a dream, and we are all very real and very much here."
There's a shiver under Hannibal's hand and the pilot looks at him from his sideways perspective. "No offense, Colonel, but there's just as much pointin' to me dreaming as there is to this bein' real."
He tries not to let the pain show in his voice. "Like what, son?"
Murdock squirms a bit under the pained look. "Like the fact I'm out and no one's looking for me. The fact they're lettin' me back into the army. The fact that you want me on your team. The fact that I'm allowed to fly again."
It's like watching a freed bird shrink back into its cage, and John's heart breaks. He doesn't know where the pilot came up with this, but it explains the sleepless night. "Those could all happen, and are happening, in reality, Murdock."
But the hazel eyes just smile sadly at him again, lucid but unbelieving. "Colonel, whole reason I got transferred to Mexico is 'cause they thought that ECT waves that they send off through your brains would turn me right round. Say nothin' of the side effects: sick stomach, Technicolor yawns, pain here and there, muscles tryin' to act like one of those Alien broods, and don't forget about memory loss, waking up confused for hours on end, and, oh yeah, the gonzo of a headache like you're Mario with a coin block that won't open."
Now the guitar is almost covered by both knees. "And the dreams, sir. They never said nothin' about dreams, but I finally figured it out. Those dreams that make you really think you have a shot with Scarlett Johansson or that you really are there on that beach in Cuba talking old times sake stories with Walter Cronkite? Always after happy hour shock time."
The hands are back at the guitar, fiddling with the strings as if that is suddenly the most important thing to do on Earth. As if it were the last thing the pilot would do in the free world.
And Murdock didn't need to say it, but Hannibal, once again, was certain he knew. He just needed to confirm it. "Murdock."
The eyes snap back again to meet grey ones and a flicker of recognition passes through. "Yes, sir?"
He wishes the pilot would drop the protocol. "Did you have dreams about getting out? After…after those sessions?"
Silence, then a soft, "Yeah."
But before Hannibal can say anything the fire seems to come back into those eyes and the pilot straightens, planting his feet on the floor with a wink at Hannibal. "But! Might as well enjoy the time I got, eh, Colonel? Maybe I'll even remember how to play the guitar when I wake up. Can charm a few of the nurses with some of my Spanish lullabies. It always gets me extra Jello or pudding, you know."
And again, the bird is retreating and covering up the pain that was there a moment ago. John is dismayed at the speed with which the pilot scurries away from the painful memories, and he knows he can't fix all of the damage done over the years in a single night. But this can't be healthy and he needs to convey that this type of reaction doesn't need to be the fall back.
Murdock has them now.
He has a team that cares, will care even more over time, and Hannibal saw what this man can do, what he's capable of. He doesn't want to lose Murdock now to the one person he can't fight: Murdock himself. The man's too good to tear himself down. Not when everyone else seems intent on doing just that for him.
He watches the pilot, how both feet are creeping back up to the sofa again, like a spring recoiling, and how Murdock's shoulders are rearranging and slumping forward again. Soft sounds emerge from the guitar and the Spanish is not far behind.
"Camarón que se duerme..."
Seeing one of his men (because the pilot is already one of his in his mind) like this isn't acceptable. So he moves over to the couch, sitting by the pilot and puts a gentle hand on the Captain's cheek, rubbing a thumb over the cheek bone. And he puts on that voice that he usually saves for orders and commands and last minute changes to the mission.
"Look at me, Captain."
He's not sure he'll ever understand why those eyes will always focus for him, or why they'll always look to him when ordered. But they do, and Murdock blinks slowly at Hannibal.
"You. Are. Not. Dreaming." Hannibal doesn't give the pilot a chance to argue it, instead asking the pilot a pointed question to make him focus. "What can I do, son, to make you see that?"
It works, because the hazel eyes stay locked on his. Murdock licks his lips and squirms slightly against Hannibal's hand. But he doesn't remove it and the pilot doesn't pull away.
"I-I don't know, Boss." And quieter. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what, son?"
"Sorry for dragging this out. I'll just go to sleep soon anyway, and wake up, but it's just nice to be away from there for awhile. A siesta of sorts."
He isn't sure what else to do, what else to say to those hazel eyes that are watching him with trepidation – afraid that Hannibal will disappear right now. Or what to say to that apologetic smile, telling John that the pilot is sorry he's drawn the grey haired man into this. The spooked look was almost easier to deal with over this resigned expression.
John sighs and pulls the pilot into a hug, guitar and all. The strings cut into his stomach but he ignores it and runs a hand along the pilot's back in soothing strokes. "The only thing you've done wrong is lose hope, son."
Murdock is surprised at the hug and he stops breathing for a moment. A few half-formed words stick in the pilot's throat, translating as short, sharp noises, before the Texan drawl comes out. "Sir…?"
"I don't know how to make you see that you're here, son," said Hannibal, pulling back to rub both of the pilot's arms with his hands. "But you are, and I'm glad you are. I'd be sorely disappointed if all that work to get you in Mexico went to waste."
Already confused, all Murdock can do blink. "Get me? I…I thought you were there to stop Tuco. Find Faceman."
Hannibal smiles because the pilot doesn't know, hasn't been around enough to realize, that every plan is never quite what it seems. "That was part of the plan, yes. But I'm not one who likes to get only one thing done on a trip, son."
Murdock just blinks again, eyes trained on Hannibal's face. "You knew I was there?"
He nods, because yes, he did. He can still remember the conversation he had with a certain General over a double whiskey at the bar and how, afterward, he had talked and manipulated his way to the pilot's records in a time that rivaled Face's record for getting into any new medical staff nurse's panties. The minute he had those records, saw the familiar gleam of the jazz in that photo, he knew he had to get to Mexico. And then Morrison had come to him with new marching orders, and it had been as if the universe was smiling down on the mission.
"I did," Hannibal repeats, squeezing Murdock's shoulders and giving the pilot another soft smile. "And when I got the mission for Tuco, I knew I finally had a chance to come."
He draws Murdock into another hug, sensing that the pilot needs a moment to process the fact that he was not an accident. That his dream, perhaps, has more depth than just another adventure outside white walls. The pilot's shoulders are untensing as the thoughts slow down and Murdock's head bumps into Hannibal's collarbone and settles there.
He doesn't want to over step boundaries, to make the pilot uncomfortable, so he sticks with rubbing the younger man's back, pressing him in slightly to his chest. "Now tell me, do I seem like a dream person now?"
Murdock makes a noncommittal noise, but he presses his forehead into Hannibal. It's not much, but there aren't arguments anymore. After a quiet moment that lets the pilot accept the Colonel's soothing presence, John rests his chin on the younger man's head and stays there, letting silence wash over them both.
This is his team member, his pilot, his son, though less than twenty-four hours old. It hurts to think that the promises in that hot, desert air were seen as promises from a dream, but perhaps soon the lanky body in his arms will realize that this is no dream. To realize that these warm arms around him are not figments but realities that hold, help and, given time, heal.
He finally pulls away when he feels Murdock stir underneath him. Letting go he waits a few moments for the pilot to resettle himself over the guitar and to look up at Hannibal. "Not really…"
It takes a moment for John to figure out what the pilot is answering. "All right then." He puts a hand on Murdock's shoulder, to make sure he has the younger man's attention. "I want you to come find me every time you think you're in a dream or part of a dream, all right? We'll work through this and we'll figure out if you're in a dream or not."
Murdock watches him, tilting his head slightly as if to examine the words from another direction. The pilot slowly nods, however, and a small smile peeks out in appreciation. "All right, Colonel."
Hannibal gives a full smile in return. "Even if it's late."
A larger smile from the pilot begins to sneak through. "Yes, sir."
"And even if I've been doing paper work all day." He squeezes his hand on that bony shoulder. "You come get me, son."
There might be water in the pilot's eyes, but if there is Hannibal says nothing. He's not one to notice things like that when they are trying to be sniffed back. Even when the pilot surges forward for another hug, and tiny drops of water drip onto his shirt, Hannibal blames it on lingering night sweats.
He rubs Murdock's shoulders once more. "Now, do you still want that guitar lesson?"
There isn't anything he can say to quell the demons permanently in the younger man, not in one night. But Hannibal likes to think that he helped, a little, tonight. And as he scoots in closer to the pilot and begins to place Murdock's fingers on the neck for a chord that isn't A, C, or B minor, Hannibal can't help but think that staying up late and playing the guitar isn't so bad.
Just like that shining look of relief in those downturned, lidded hazel eyes isn't so bad either.