B.A. stopped the van in front of the hospice center. Murdock looked up at the building, more of a house than a clinic, and mouthed the words from the sign in front as he read them.
"Face is waiting for us, Murdock. You ready?"
His hand inched towards his mouth again, but suddenly Murdock stopped the movement and nodded sharply.
"Yes. I'm ready."
B.A. led the way in. That same vomitous hospital smell assaulted his nostrils again. The nurse's assistant greeted him as he came in the door, and he quietly introduced Murdock to her.
She smiled at Murdock, and told him that Face—Temp—had been asking for him.
Murdock had a hard time meeting her eyes, but nodded.
They went back the hallway to Face's room.
It was horribly prophetic, B.A. thought to himself, that Murdock had christened him Famine.
Face had lost so much weight he couldn't stand any longer. The deep tan he'd cultivated for most of his adult life had faded to pale, lightly freckled skin. His frame was mostly angles and sharp points, but his eyes were still as azure as an open sky straight overhead and remarkably, he hadn't lost much hair. God's joke, apparently.
"Murdock!" he cried gladly as the pilot shuffled in.
Murdock glanced at B.A. for some type of encouragement; B.A. nodded and whispered,
"Faceman. Not Famine."
Murdock gave him a look like he was an idiot—which made B.A. happier than he'd ever admit—and hurried to the bedside.
Face held out a hand and Murdock watched it warily.
"It's okay, man," B.A. told him, reading Murdock's racing mind that he was still vexed about touching. "You took my hand in the car, didn't ya? I'm still here."
With the assurance, Murdock took Face's hand in both of his, and they both started talking at the same time.
B.A. stepped out of the room to allow them some privacy.
He followed the hallway through the house and out into the back yard. They had a garden there, with benches, and he found one to rest on. His throat, like so often now, ached. There were trees and birds and flowers all around him, but everything was hazy, as if he looked at the place from behind a sheer curtain. He didn't know what to do with his hands.
He didn't keep track of how long he'd sat on the cold concrete bench. When he made his way back inside, he found that Murdock had pushed passed his phobia of touching any of them and was lying on the bed, pressed up against Face.
Face was asleep. Murdock rhythmically brushed his fingers through his friend's hair. B.A. didn't know the last time he'd seen Face look so at ease.
Or Murdock either, he realized.
Although visiting hours here were relaxed, B.A. knew that soon the nurses would be coming through with pain medications and Face would be truly out for the night. He told Murdock that in a hushed voice, and suggested they should probably go.
He received a nod, and Murdock eased himself off the bed. Face murmured a bit and Murdock pressed a kiss to his forehead. Face settled, and they left quietly.
Back in the van Murdock sat dully. Before he started the vehicle, B.A. asked,
He didn't get much of a response at first.
"Life isn't very nice," Murdock finally muttered.
No, B.A. agreed silently.
"Bossman's gone. Face'll be gone soon."
B.A. cleared his throat. "It's not your fault."
Murdock shook his head; he hadn't needed reassurance. "I know. I just don't know what to do."
"Not much to do, unfortunately."
"You'll stay, won't you Bosco?" he asked suddenly, desperately. "You won't . . . forget, or anything? I know I have problems, and sometimes I can't remember, but you can, right? You'll always remember Hannibal and Face and me, and help me remember?"
The constant ache in his throat tightened into a choke hold. "'Course I will, fool."
Murdock let out a sob of relief. The sound punctured through B.A., and he left the driver's seat to rush to the passenger door, opening it and pulling Murdock into an iron-armed hug as both men wept.
Thanks to all who stuck through this dystopian little piece. WriterMonkey0626, silverwolfneko-chan, rawriloveyou, QueenOfAwesomeness, danang1970 ... you all rock, and make my world go round.