"Tell me, Colonel Smith," Dr. Richter asked. "Is Murdock really faking?"
Hannibal didn't reply, letting the silence draw out while he gnawed on his cigar. He wasn't sure he felt like answering. The truth behind Murdock's state of mind, such as it was, was a team thing. "Did you serve in-country, Doc?" he finally asked in return.
"No. I treated soldiers returning to the States."
Hannibal nodded, eyes distant. "I imagine you understand better than most, then," he conceded. "What it was like over there. What we saw. What we did." That particular 'we' expanded beyond his team. Vietnam had branded Hannibal with an enduring camaraderie toward his fellow soldiers.
At those times when he let the laughing fighter fall away, Hannibal radiated a profound stillness. He pulled his cigar from his mouth and turned from the scenery to face Richter. "I don't think he's faking, exactly. I think he's chosen not to be sane."
Richter wasn't surprised. He'd come to a similar conclusion. "But he has to come back eventually," he pointed out gently.
"Why?" Hannibal's lips quirked up a little at Richter's stare. "Tell me, Doc. What is reality?" His smile grew. "If a man can handle everything he needs to, has his team's back, and can pilot a chopper like the Devil himself, what does it matter if his world contains three times more kittens, rainbows and hope than ours?"
His cigar stub went sailing over the railing at a flick of his hand. "I tell you what, Doc. A lot of men came back from 'Nam with broken souls. Murdock may be the only one who came back innocent. No, it's not normal, but do you want to label that insanity, or a miracle?"