Dawn is coming, and I wish he’d let me sleep now. Except, I don’t. I need to sleep since this last mission was tiring, but I want to spend this time with him. After a mission, we keep Murdock out of the VA for a while, until he starts to get wonky. Technical term, that. I keep up with all his meds, even when we’re in the middle of a case, and play along with his delusions. Trying to force him back to reality is B.A.’s gig. For so long, I’ve been so scared of losing what’s left of Murdock that I have play along. Sometimes, I really do see Billy, but telling B.A. that would risk my life in a way I’m not ready for. I’m not really ready for much except a fight or a con.
I’ve messed up so much, I can’t mess up again. When he was whole, or as whole as Murdock’s ever been, I didn’t realize what I had. He was a war buddy, who became a fuck buddy and I thought that was all. When our personal hand basket to hell arrived and Murdock was separated from us, hell just got more hellish. Found our way out of hell and back together, but with the threat of losing our freedom forever. In my bid to enjoy my freedom, I went after every skirt I saw. I had fun, sampled delicacies around the world and indulged my appreciation of blondes. One thing I didn’t see, was right there in front of me the whole time. Well, not the whole time. Whenever Murdock was in the VA, it wasn’t in front of me, because he wasn’t in front of me. That’s actually when it was the most obvious, but I didn’t want to see it.
Like I don’t want to see the way he uses my body to make me make him happy. The nutjob has a way of sleeping with his head on my stomach, so the slightest movement or noise wakes him. Most people would change positions and go back to sleep. Murdock wakes up and teases me into arousal, only waking me when I’m ready to beg for attention. Even if it was stress release or his only sexual outlet, what kind of person lays seduction traps for their partner? The answer I’ve only recently become aware of is not flattering to me. You have to trap partners who are blind to the rare gift they’ve been offered. And I’ve been blinder than a bat in sunglasses!
Right after we started this mercenary gig, the rush, the excitement after our first case threw us back into each other’s arms. Damn jazz! It gets into your blood until you’re acting on instinct, training and the fight or flight response. Those damn emotions you don’t let yourself feel, or at least I didn’t let myself feel. I chose the scenic causeway of the river denial! Decided the jazz just made us both horny, and took Murdock whenever there wasn’t a woman willing. We had some times then, whenever my partner of last resort gave into me. I think he got crazier just so I didn’t have to see the hurt and confusion in his eyes when I took a woman someplace private. Insane and thoughtful, so I can’t help but sigh at fool I’ve been. That changes my breathing pattern, and I fake sleep as Murdock is roused.
My walk of shame wasn’t her place to mine in last night’s clothes; it was up to the mirror that morning after. I’d brush my hair and convince myself that Murdock knew the score. Should’ve been a clue, that after a night with a woman I was thinking about him. He didn’t exactly get much time to date, so he took the stress relief I offered and missed it when I didn’t offer, or so I told my reflection. I don’t know how I made myself not notice, but when he didn’t get that stress relief he went wonky quicker than when he did get it! He’d ask to be taken home before the three day pass was up or pick a fight with B.A. When the nightmares started or he got that fifty yard stare, I passed more pills his way. Or maybe a pity fuck if I felt up to it. He feels up to it right now, as I fake sleep and enjoy his soft caresses. He’s also starting to remove my clothes, which is far more erotic than it should be.
It’s been a year since he was shot and I was terrified of losing him. Would I have walked into the Army’s temporary outpost in that ranger station for anybody else? Well, yes for one of the team, but for him I went with a smile on my face and a desperate need in my soul. After that I tried to go back to my women, the beauties of the world. I did love them when I was with them, but it was real easy to love another when I was with her. Even when I wasn’t with that paint eating fool, I still loved him. Another, not so subtle clue that Templeton Peck was in love, but just subtle enough that I missed it. A bit of teeth get a nipple and I hiss even as I hope he missed it. He didn’t, I can tell by the strangely quiet laugh.
“I can always tell when you’re awake, Faceman! So stop playing games with me and play with me!”
“How can you tell?” I look at his naked except for the ball cap self, outlined by the green tent around us, and grin without an agenda. Another clue, making the conman show what he really feels, but also another clue missed.
“You smile bigger when you’re asleep.” His words come with a smile and kiss, but I want to slap myself! Murdock saw the clue, just didn’t know how important it was that a conman always knew exactly what emotion he was projecting to the mark!
“If you smiled any bigger, you’d split your beautiful face in half.” It’s the truth I whisper to him as I kiss my way to that spot behind his ear. Nibbling and sucking on that spot makes him squirm in the most delightful way.
“You’ve the face we need to protect, so I can smile that big if only you make me. You know how.” His voice is husky with lust and I shiver at the sound and recrimination that he’d never even think of. Even in this most primal action, he’s still Murdock, the guy concerned with the feelings of mounted lobsters. His seduction traps could have ended anyway he wanted, instead he let me take control. Some strange apology for taking what he needed, I suppose. Unless I was awake enough to give consent, he’d never ask or try to enter me, just let me take him! Now I slide my pillow under my hips and spread my legs, giving him permission. I get to see him smile almost big enough to crack his face before he begins to lube his fingers.
“Even with your face split in half, you’re still beautiful to me.” The insertion of a cold slimy finger usually signals the end of the talking and thinking, but the words make his smile even larger somehow.
“Gracious, amigo.” The wiggling finger pushes a particular spot and I moan my appreciation of the nerve that got me into this situation. Really a tiny spot to aim for during such a vigorous activity, but it was in charge of erecting the front bit so I had to keep it. The second finger of Murdock’s hand is long enough that once it’s in, every move hits that spot. A clue that maybe he was made to turn me into a quivering jello from a naughty mold? I arch and moan as that second finger does what it’s supposed to, even as he scissors me open.
We’re camping in the woods in between jobs, so I can make noise, manly screams as he slides in a third finger. But no, the ‘learn to do this silently or you’ll get beaten and shot’ training of Vietnam is hard to ignore. Shot by enemy, beaten by allies. Part of me is afraid Hannibal and B.A. are among those allies. Another tiny moan is all I can manage when he pulls away, leaving me empty and alone. Even though I know he’s coming back with more than fingers, I still feel this every time! Maybe that’s why I don’t let him have this often enough, this feeling of aloneness.
H.M. comes back, as he always does, more reliable than anyone else in my life! Slides in slowly, whispering senseless endearments that would make me laugh in any other situation. I think he just said I was the turkey to his thermometer, but as his tempo is increasing I can’t care about words. He takes his time to work up to a fast rhythm, until he can’t speak. When he’s silent, he’s too far gone to worry about hurting me. Tiny gasps for air between us, until his last ‘rational for Murdock’ thought is to grab my cock and pull me into completion with him.
He’ll lay on me and gasp until he remembers who we are. He’ll know that I don’t like the fluid sticking us together, and he’ll roll off before he wants to, just to make me happy. More concerned with my happiness than his, was that the clue bus that just drove by? A soft sigh tells me the time is near, he’s getting ready to move, so I wrap my arms and legs around him to hold him in place. He looks surprised, and it takes a lot to surprise him, but it fades into a grin. I’m just starting to worry about that grin when he rolls us so we’re on our sides. I laugh, and he kisses my forehead.
“I can hear you thinking. Want to talk or take a hike?”
“It’s dark out, Murdock.”
“Dawn in a few, we can go look for birds and worms! Have to look for evidence that the old expression is true, the early worm gets the free flight.” I could tell him how the cliché actually goes, or what it means. Instead I kiss his forehead.
“Bundle up, baby. It’s cold outside.” Dressing without getting fluid everywhere is a trick and a half, but we’ve learned it. When I put on my coat, I feel the contents of the pocket to make sure everything’s as it should be. I want that item to be a surprise, so I keep it near the gun. Easier to blame lumps on a gun than talk somebody out of wondering what’s in your pocket. It’s cold and the water jug hanging by our designated latrine is almost frozen through. It’s a chilly way to wash up, but it wakes me up and Murdock keeps me warm. He picks the direction and I follow, listening as he talks about and to the birds. The sex was satisfying, but this was satisfaction on a deeper level, this feeling of walking through the woods with a lover.
Didn’t want to admit it to anyone, not even myself, but over time I found less satisfaction with my beauties. Suddenly found six of my eight girlfriends had wispy brown hair and willowy frames. Number seven had a mop of curly platinum blonde hair, while number eight could have been B.A.’s Mom thirty years ago. I’m not even going to try and figure that out, I have enough on my mind right now! I still flirt with everything, keeps my skills sharp and helps us out of jams, but I’ve finally figured something out. Six months after he was shot, I no longer had a bevy of beauties at my beck and call. I had occasional ‘coming down off the jazz sex’ with Murdock, or at least that’s what I let him believe it was. Couldn’t tell him I was getting monogamous in my old age!
Rina broke my heart but went back to her high fashion world and son. Turned to Murdock to help me get over her, expecting pity sex from him for a change. Later, as I spooned against Murdock, I realized what I wanted from Rina. The normalcy, the readymade family that came bundled with her modeling money. My idea of perfection since before I knew the word, but my damn heart belonged to the crazy man! While I was in Hollywood, planning my movie, him and B.A. got arrested. It was in Hollywood that I ran across the object currently weighing down my pocket. I stared in the shop window for an hour before I worked up the courage to go in. Started as a way to apologize for my treatment over the last eternity. Explain that it had taken me this eternity to figure out what was so obvious. As obvious as the sun rising around these woods, making the birds sing so much Murdock’s dancing to it!
For all my skill with words, the best explanation I could come up with was stupid mush in my head. The only non-mushy things I could think of were worse. ‘H.M., my bed has seen more activity than the urinal at a state fair, but my heart has only ever belonged to you.’ True, but hardly guaranteed to get the desired results. ‘The women in my life were sparks of passion and desire. You, and all your insanity, have been the steady flame that has kept me sane.’ Which is unfortunate, because if I was crazy we could room together at the VA. Wonder how long it’d take the nurses to decide to separate us? You know they’d wonder why we slept all day and disabled the security cameras at night. Nightly, for years. God, why couldn’t I realized how perfect that was years ago?
Bored with the birdsong, or jealous of their ability to fly without planes, or maybe just to keep the birds company, Murdock has started singing. I don’t recognize the song, but Murdock’s always been more eclectic than I. In music and everything else.
In the pit of the night I hear you laughing so loud
I know you’re laughing at me, oh ain’t it funny and sad
The way I fell for your lies and the way I fell into love
And then begged to be free
He’s dancing and singing a happy tune, oblivious to the words. I know him, and I know he couldn’t be this cruel. Now that I know me, I know I can be cruel and it’s my guilt and self disgust that’s making me take this to heart. Murdock just likes the sound, the joyful rock beat.
How do you abuse me – let me count the ways
How many hours in how many days
How does it amuse you – let me count the pain
How many rules breaking how many games
I should be kneeling before this man and begging his forgiveness, show him my desire to be better for him. I never meant to be cruel, but that just makes it worse, doesn’t it? But if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, where does a lack of intentions get you? In the woods, begging the love of your life to not give up on you, apparently.
You got your ass out of gear and your soul out of whack
Go on and take all your stuff – don’t even bother to pack
In every way I want you out of my life
But I’ll kill you if you don’t come back
I’ll kill you if you don’t come back!
Just like that, he’s kneeling before me, the end of his song dangling from his lips. The end of his song, which I accept as his way of saying he’ll forgive me before I ask for it. It’s backwards, it’s crazy and just like that, it’s perfect! I pull the thing out of my pocket and pop open the case. Two simple golden bands, etched with overlapping circles around them. Each had a matching woman’s wedding band, but the Hollywood jeweler hadn’t even blinked when I bought two male rings. It wouldn’t be official and we could never have a ceremony or the Priest’s blessing I craved, hell, we couldn’t even live together! But maybe the symbolism would help him, no, help us heal. Show that we’ll have a future, whatever happens in it. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t for him to go nuts! Relatively. He jumps up, grabs my wrist behind the hand holding the ring box and drags me back to the campsite. The tents are in sight when he starts yelling.
“Get out here, now!” Hannibal emerges from the woods with his gun in his hand. B.A.’s rolling out of their tent, overalls only halfway fastened to his hips, gun in each hand. My hand is numb but I’m still holding onto the plea for forgiveness held in those two bands. Hannibal and B.A. see the lack of MP’s and other authority figures and frown at Murdock for an explanation. He was serious sounding even as he yelled, so it had to be important to him. “Hannibal, you’re the captain of my destiny, so I recognize you as authorized to marry us. B.A. you’re both our best men, there’s enough of you!”
“He proposed?” Hannibal’s laughing, but not in the tolerant, joking way he normally does at Murdock’s insanity. He’s laughing like he’s serious, but there’s no reason that should make my stomach turn. Even if Hannibal says the words, they’re not legally binding. I’ve only recently become aware that my heart’s bound; I’m still not ready to commit my body! I don’t even know if I’m capable of true monogamy yet.
“About time you two worked it out, fool!” B.A.’s comment sends me reeling! When did they know? If I can’t admit this to myself, how can they know all about it already? Murdock drags me some more, until we face Hannibal, side by side. Why is he on my left? The mostly risen sun is behind Hannibal, giving him an ethereal aspect. He doesn’t have a Bible, but his hands are in front of him. B.A. is standing beside us, suddenly holding the ring box as Murdock links our arms. The guns have disappeared from sight and I want to giggle at the idea of B.A. as our ring bearer. I imagine him in a tux with the sleeves and leg ripped off, but Hannibal drives the giggle from me.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered in the presence of God, to witness the proclamation of two souls admitting they are bound by more than man’s law.” I think my jaw just found out what my chest feels like. Hannibal just grins at me, before going on with the rest of his script. If he knew the torment I’ve put us all through for the last however long it’s been, why didn’t the blasted man say something? I’d punch him in the nose, but he’s haloed in the sunlight. Like he said, man’s law is against us, but in this light I feel God isn’t. My Catholic upbringing might disagree, but that will change in God’s holy light of knowledge. Something just broke inside me, but in a good way, a freeing way.
The brush of a hand across my left cheek removes a tear and has me turning to face Murdock. He’s speaking words, the vows, before sliding the ring on my hand but it’s his eyes that are speaking to me. Unbound joy, with no hint of past mistakes diming that light! And there, in the presence of God and my family, I feel it too. I speak my vows, feeling true joy for the first time in my life. My hand is steady as it slides the ring onto his finger. Hannibal can’t help but add his two cents into the ceremony.
“By the power invested in me by you guys, I give you permission to kiss, for the rest of your lives.”
All the hiding is over, at least the hiding from my family, so I lean in and kiss Murdock in front of the two scariest witnesses on the planet. What shape would B.A. pound me into if I hurt Murdock after this? Hannibal would just stick a verbal dart right in the center of my guilt and make it a hundred times worse. B.A. grunts and pops the ring box closed before speaking.
“Get a tent, fools!” Hannibal laughs and claps B.A. on the shoulder.
“Come on, B.A. I’ll buy you breakfast while they start on their honeymoon.” By the time the need to breathe forces me away from Murdock, B.A.’s got the fire going and Hannibal’s measuring water. I lean in to whisper into Murdock’s ear.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to get here. I can’t promise I won’t flirt, but I want you to know you’ll always be the only one I love.”
“I’ve known that forever, just been waiting on you to figure it out. Now, get in the tent and get naked, I want B.A. and Hannibal to hear your appreciation of me.”
“Right away, Sir!” I salute him, execute a neat turn and march to our tent. I sit and pull off my coat just as he comes flying into the tent, landing on me. In an effort to get air back in my lungs before starting the vigorous wedded life I have planned, I blurt out. “I know what H.M. stands for!”
“Do tell, Templeton.” He says this in a joking voice, but I see the blush on his cheeks. The only thing in this universe that can embarrass this man is his name. Crazy, and I just took that for better or worse. Taking a deep breath, I give him my best seductive smile.
“H.M. stands for Husband Mine.” He laughs briefly, more out of relief that I don’t know what H.M. means than the remark being particularly clever. Pulling off his shirts, he gives me a playful look.
“Technically, not until we consummate this thing.” He’s done talking, his skilled hands removing our remaining clothes.
“God forbid we should do anything against the rules.” He laughs, a moment of lucidity telling him just how many rules we broke to get here. When he stops enough to let me kiss him, I hear Hannibal from outside the tent.
“Face, you’re doing it wrong!” I blush, and wish he was still playing ignorant.
“Hannibal, if they need instructions after this long, they can’t be helped.”
“True enough B.A., but they’ll still be hungry. Double the oatmeal or make biscuits?” Murdock responds to Hannibal’s question before anybody else can.
“Biscuits, please! We’ll make our own oatmeal.” His hand is on my penis, so I know exactly where he plans on getting white fluid out of. I blush like a virgin on her wedding night and have to laugh.
“If I had only known you were this crude!” I try for the put upon southern maiden, so Murdock doesn’t take it seriously.
“What, you wouldn’t have married me?” He gives me a lecherous look that doesn’t look right on his friendly, happy face. I match him with a lecherous look that suits me perfectly.
“No, I’d have done it sooner.” It’s hard to kiss and laugh at the same time, but we manage to find a way. We always do, and I pray I never forget that again.
I’ll Kill You if You Don’t Come Back, Meat Loaf and Steinman, Dead Ringer album, 1981