He doesn’t like being away from her. That was one of the first things that Face had noticed about their newest teammate.
Hummingbirds, well birds in general, were usually free-spirited animals, and often willing to soar to the edges of their bond, but not Murdock’s. She stayed close.
The daemon was constantly buzzing around the Captain’s head and muttering quickly around his ears. Every now and then Murdock would stop and nod, responding to something only he could hear, adding to the craziness of it all.
But she never flew more than a few inches away from him. Which was what had led them to their current problem.
“Murdock,” Hannibal’s voice is calm, but his impatience is being shown in Minerva’s pacing. The lioness doesn’t make a sound, but her eyes are sharp as she weaves around the group. “We need to know what’s going on over the wall and Cielia is the only one that can fly.”
“I said no,” and Murdock’s tone is just a bit more serious now. More threatening.
“Send in Sangi, she’s the one who usually runs recon,” pipes up Cielia, circling anxiously.
“She can’t and you know that,” Minerva growls. “We need someone who can fly.”
There’s a huff from the fox at Face’s feet, but she doesn’t deny it. It’s rare that the duo can’t go and con themselves into an area, but well it happened.
“Then I say we just go in guns a blazing!” Murdock hoots excitedly, but Cielia is fluttering around him nervously. Somethings wrong. “Brothers in arms! Sisters in legs! Animals in teeth! It will be a noble beginning and a—”
“Bloody end, for everyone,” Hannibal bites out. “Bosco is going to die in there unless you man up and do your job.”
“We don’t even know if Bosco’s in there, maybe he found a nice van and went for a drive. You know how he and Petra are—"
“Do it now soldier! This is what you signed up for when you left Mexico and if you’d rather not do it, well I’m sure they still have a room available for you!”
Besides Hannibal Minerva roars. Loud, threatening, causing Cielia to zip into Murdock’s hands.
Face winces, watching as a whirlwind of emotions storm across Murdock’s face, before leaving a carefully blank expression in their wake. It feels like looking into the eye of a storm.
“Fine,” he grits out, shoulders tense and eyes narrow. “Fine.”
He brings his hands up close to their mouth and whispers.
“It’ll be fine little buddy. Just like before…well no not like before. It will be better. Easier. We’ve done this before, remember? You know what, on second thought, forget that, don’t remember. Think of this as a brand-new experiment. No never mind. How about experience? We can do it, we can do it, we can—”
“Come on Hannibal maybe—” Face tries, but a growl from Minerva silences him. Truly the man has lost his patience.
“Right-o Bossman!” And it almost sounds normal, but there’s something off in Murdock’s tone of voice. Something wrong with the tense way he’s holding himself.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Sangi pipes up, but it’s too late.
Murdock has tossed Cielia up into the air and she’s flying. Higher. Higher, but Face isn’t watching her. He’s watching Murdock.
Murdock who’s gone completely still. Murdock whose eyes have glazed over. Murdock who’s breathing is beginning to become just a bit too frantic.
Hannibal hasn’t noticed, hasn’t even looked, his eyes having never left Cielia, “Almost. Almost, just a couple more feet.”
Murdock’s shaking now, hands clawing at his jacket and Face glances up towards Cielia. She’s further away from Murdock than he’s ever seen her. A small little speck against the stone walls and blue sky.
He turns back to Murdock. Who’s clenching his hair with his hands and pulling.
“Murdock,” he says carefully, reaching out to stop his friend’s hands. “Are you—" Contact and Murdock screams.
“Let me go! Let me go!”
Face jumps back and beside him Sangi yelps in alarm.
Murdock’s trying to scale the wall now and he’s a good two feet off the ground, before Face grabs him around the waist and hauls him to the ground.
“Bring her back! Bring her back! I can’t! I can’t!”
The Captain is screaming and thrashing and sobbing and Face doesn’t know what to do.
“MURDOCK!” Face cries, as Hannibal curses.
“He needs to be quiet,” Hannibal hisses. “Captain, quiet!”
A wayward fist makes contact with Face’s namesake and he scowls as blood drips over his mouth and down his chin.
“You’re not helping!” He yells at Hannibal.
Cielia is making a her way towards them now. Dive bombing out of the air and into Sangi. There’s a soft prick of pain, but it mostly just leaves Face thankful that Cielia isn’t a much larger bird.
Sangi just bats the panicked bird away carefully, which does nothing for Murdock’s panic.
“I SAID TO LET ME GO!!”
And Face does. He’s prepared for an attack, for more kicking and fighting, but instead Murdock just makes a beeline for Cielia. Who burrows herself into Murdock’s chest. He clasps his hands around her and looks back at them wide eyed. And Face realizes that their Captain is 1,000 miles away from outside an enemy base.
Hannibal must’ve finally realized this, because all at once his voice has become incredibly soft.
“Murdock, HM, calm down.”
He takes a step forward and Murdock’s head makes a sickening crack as he propels himself backwards and slams it into the wall behind him.
“Don’t touch us!”
“Okay,” Hannibal says softly, stopping his advance. “Alright son. It’s okay.”
Beside him Minerva is laying on the ground, trying to appear non-threatening. Which is hard when you’re a carnivore that weighs over 100 pounds, but she’s doing her best.
“What do you want me to do?”
The question seems to take Murdock by surprise and for a moment he doesn’t say anything.
“I want you to leave us alone,” he says softly. “I want you to stop taking her away.”
Face’s stomach does flip-flops.
“What does he mean?” Sangi asks softly.
Face just shakes his head.
There’s so much about Murdock’s past that they don’t know about. It’s a shame they always seem to uncover it in the worst ways.
“Alright son, we won’t take her away, but we need your help.”
Murdock tenses and from inside his hands Cielia makes a distressing sound.
And there’s something about the way he says the word that causes Face’s spine to crawl.
“You can say no if you want to son, but we have a friend locked inside this base here and we’re going to need all hands-on deck to get him out. You see we’re going to need an escape plan and I’ve heard that you’re one heck of a pilot.”
Murdock straightens, “The best sir. I’m a Ranger baby!”
Hannibal nods and Sangi whispers something about fire and déjà vu. Face hushes her.
“Then I need you to come back son.”
Murdock is unwinding. Shoulder’s slouching. Legs unbending.
“Colonel?” The word is soft. Almost childlike.
“Please, don’t make us do that again.”
Murdock bites back something that could’ve been a laugh, but sounded more like a sob as Cielia zips out of his hands.
Face knelt down next to him, “You okay there buddy?”
“Yeah, yeah I’m fine.”
He doesn’t look fine, but he’s responsive. It’s enough for now.
Hannibal nods, “Right, let’s go get Bosco.”
In the end they do manage to go in guns a blazing, pull Bosco into a helicopter and away from the base, before everything goes up in flames.
The man is bruised and bleeding, but far from beaten.
The badger growling next to him.
“They put her in another room man!” It’s a true testament to how angry BA is, because he hasn’t mentioned the chopper once. “I should’ve killed them for that!”
“Calm down BA and let me finish stitching this shut.”
“I should’ve killed them,” BA continues to mutter.
Murdock’s strangely quiet the whole flight home.
Face woke up to Sangi’s nudging.
He blinked, brow furrowing. Who?
A loud gasp.
“Murdock are you okay?” He’s swinging his legs out of bed now, padding across the hotel room floor to his friend’s side.
“It hurts,” Murdock gasps. “It hurts and it won’t stop. They keep pulling her further and further away and I tell them to stop, but they WON’T!”
Face was confused. Had Murdock been injured during their rescue mission?
But then he notices the man’s eyes. Distant. Far away.
Not here. Elsewhere.
Cielia’s zipping back and forth restlessly.
“He won’t calm down,” she mutters, to Face or perhaps simply to herself he’s unsure. “He won’t calm down. He won’t calm down.”
“Ceilia,” Face orders. “Stop it. I need you to tell me what’s wrong.”
The bird hovers, “No, no. Don’t like to think about it. It was wrong. All of it was wrong. It’s much better to think about Billy and planes and flying.”
Sangi sighs, “She’s no help.”
“Oh hush,” Face mutters and sits down on the bed next to Murdock’s knees. He just mutters nonsense for a while. Things like you’re okay and I’m here. Things that don’t hold any weight in the real world, but for reasons Face can’t explain seem to ground Murdock incredibly well. Sometimes it’s okay to touch. Sometimes not but given earlier Face errors on the side of caution and keeps his hands to himself.
Eventually Cielia settles and Murdock stops sobbing and there’s a tense silence in the air.
“Hey buddy, you with me?” Face asks softly, placing his hand next to Murdock’s knee, not touching, but close. Grounding.
The pilot stares at it for a moment, “Yeah. Yeah I’m here.”
Face licks his lips nervously and shoots a glance down at Sangi. The fox looks exasperated. He ignores her.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Murdock looks away. Thumb stroking the top of Cielia’s head tenderly.
Face is just beginning to think that he won’t get an answer when Murdock speaks up.
“You know that gut wrenching feeling you get when you walk too far away from Sangi?” He asks softly. “Like when you’re pulling cons and she’s gotta be on the other side of the room for ‘dramatic effect.’” He throws up air quotes and Sangi scowls.
“A good con always has drama! It makes it believable!”
Face hushes her and responds, “Yeah. What about it?”
“Did you know that you can have your daemon be farther away than that?”
Face frowns, of course he knew that. There were people who trained to have their daemon be able to do just that. This wasn’t new news. “Yeah, of course.”
“Have you ever had someone force it?” The question is barely more than a whisper. “Have you ever had someone lock you up and walk away with your soul in their hands.”
Murdock’s hands are shaking slightly now and Face’s stomach drops. All at once he has a terrible feeling about where this is going.
He wants to ask. Wants to know. But he just can’t figure out how to phrase the question. In the end he doesn’t have to.
“It feels like you’re being torn apart,” Murdock says. “And all the while all those nurses and doctors are telling you that it’s okay Mr. Murdock. It’ll be fine Mr. Murdock. Just one more test Mr. Murdock.” Murdock’s voice is rising, becoming more high-pitched and frantic. “It’s going to help in the war effort Mr. Murdock. It’s going to teach us so much Mr. Murdock. We just need your help Mr. Murdock!” Faster words, faster breathing, panicking. Cielia is shaking. Murdock is shaking. His eyes glazing over, Face isn’t even sure the pilot realizes that he’s still talking.
Face finally can’t handle it anymore and in a desperate move to just make Murdock stop he grasps him by the shoulders. He feels a bit guilty when Murdock flinches at the touch, but he stops rambling, eyes focusing on Face’s.
“Sorry,” he whispers. “Sorry.”
And for some reason that singular word makes the steady pit of anger Face’s stomach exceed its capacity. Murdock has nothing to be sorry for.
“Who were they?” Face growls, next to him Sangi bears her teeth, eyes glinting in the darkness. Murdock’s eyes slide away, begin to glaze over, retreat. Face shakes him slightly, Sangi’s shackles stand on end. “Murdock who were they?”
“People, doctors,” Murdock mumbles. “I don’t know, they were just…they were just there.”
Face curses, his hands tightening on Murdock’s shoulders. Mexico. It was always Mexico. Whoever sent Murdock to Mexico deserved to rot away in that very desert. No something worse than that. They deserved to be humiliated, taken down, exposed, in ways that they would never recover from. Then they should be left in society to be judged and ostracized, until that rotted away at them and they knew what it felt like to be cast away like yesterday’s trash.
“Face…Temp,” Murdock’s voice breaks into his thoughts of revenge. They’re cautious, unsure. “You’re starting to scare me.”
Face shakes himself out of his stupor and releases Murdock’s shoulders, “Sorry.”
“Do you want me to go after them?” His voice is deadly, serious, letting Murdock know that all he has to do is say the words and Face will be all over those people in a heartbeat. Everyone has skeletons in their closets and he’ll gladly expose that whole hospital’s and watch it slowly destroy them one by one.
“No,” Murdock’s answer surprises him.
“I uh appreciate the offer, I really do, but…” the pilot pauses, then continues. “I don’t remember who they were…not really, it was very hush hush and I wasn’t exactly, didn’t exactly—it was bad, but it’s over now and I don’t want to go back.”
“We could just take down the whole hospital,” Face explains. “Transfer the patients, ruin the doctors, make sure it never happens again.” On the floor at his feet Sangi prowls across the carpet, antsy in a way Face doesn’t allow himself to be.
“But the whole hospital wasn’t bad,” Murdock whispers, like he’s sharing a secret. “Some people there were good, Ms. Carolina, Ms. Kelly, Dr. Phillips, they weren’t bad people, I don’t even think they knew what was going on. I don’t want to hurt them, because somebody else hurt me.”
For a moment all Face can do is stare, before he lets out an exasperated laugh, “You are a better man than I will ever be.”
Murdock shuffles uneasily, “Thanks?”
“But if you ever need someone to destroy them,” he trails off letting the offer, the threat, hang in the air, unfinished. Sangi growls at his feet. Murdock smiles.
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Anything else you need, before we finish off the night?”
Murdock eyes him for a second, opens his mouth, closes it.
“Could you,” Murdock doesn’t finish, just fidgets and Face sighs.
“Budge over, and no stealing the covers. You keep blaming Sangi, but I know it’s you.”
“It is Sangi!”
“….Murdock she’s my daemon, I’m pretty sure I’d know if she’s been lying to me.”
Face sighs and pulls the blanket up to his shoulder and nestles into the pillows.
“Whatever. Go to sleep.”
He feels Murdock slide down next to him, not quite touching, but close. Grounding.
The man is sleeping in minutes, how he does that Face will never know, but Cielia has perched on his head and he’s just glad they’re both safe.
Next to him Sangi curls up against his stomach and he buries his face into her fur. Eyes closing.
What happened to Murdock wasn’t okay, would never be okay, but Face thinks that the future is going to be okay. It's going to be safe.
After all they were the A-Team, what could possibly happen?