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Between the Lines

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It takes Face sixteen hours and two blowjobs to convince the guards to let him visit Murdock in his cell.

It would have been sooner but it’s been years since Face had to barter that particular talent and he’s a bit rusty when it comes to picking up on cues. Should have guessed that having Hannibal Smith’s team under lock and key would have the MPs creaming their fatigues. Should have guessed that some of those starfuckers would be looking to make the experience especially memorable.

It means nothing to Face. Never has done.

The four of them were split up as soon as they were pulled from the back of that truck. Taken to separate cells in an ugly stone building that had clearly once been a school – chalk dust and boredom lingers heavy around the edges. Face hasn’t seen any of the guys since then.

No one will tell Face when they’re going to be formally charged or transported back to the U.S. or anything else for that matter. The guards just smirk when he smiles pretty through his aching jaw and asks about Murdock. No one’s telling him anything.

In the back of the truck, BA had been angry and Hannibal had been stoic and Face’s ears had been ringing too hard for him to be much of anything at all. He’d just leaned against the solid bulk of BA and watched Murdock look off to the side and chew a hole in his lip.

Murdock had looked up at Face just before the back of the truck opened and his eyes had been somewhere else entirely. Somewhere Face knew all too well.

That had been enough for Face. He hadn’t needed the nudge and significant look Hannibal gave him to know what he had to do. Murdock is Face’s responsibility when he gets like this – Face has never needed anyone to tell him that.

No one’s telling him anything. That just means Face is going to have to find out for himself.

It’s dark when the guard takes him along a corridor and down some steps into a lower level that Face hadn’t known existed. They pass doors and then the guard stops in front of one and takes out his keys.

There are keys enough for this entire building and probably the Humvee outside. Face could have this mouth-breathing prick unconscious in less time than it takes to say the word. Take the keys, find the others and just get the Hell out of Dodge. Tell the Army to go fuck itself.

It’s tempting. It’s really fucking tempting.

But he just watches the guard fit the key in the lock and lets the moment pass. He isn’t done with the Army yet and he figures Hannibal isn’t either. There’s going to be a plan, Face just needs to hold tight until then. Just hold tight.

Of course, he may change his mind when he sees what kind of shape Murdock’s in.

The guard swings the door open and shoves Face hard in the centre of his back. “You’ve got thirty minutes,” the guard says. “Keep it quiet, girls.”

Face doesn’t turn to watch the door being locked behind him. It’s darker in the cell than it was in the corridor: one small window at the top of the far wall that lets in a little moonlight through its smeared glass. There’s a faint dank smell that reminds Face of waiting in that sewer, counting down the seconds.

For a moment Face thinks it must be the wrong cell, tenses himself for an attack, because he can’t hear or see Murdock and Murdock is never quiet or still. There’s a faint scraping sound coming from the far corner though and as Face’s eyes begin to adjust he can make out Murdock.

“Hey,” Face breathes in sheer relief, even as something tenses in him at the way Murdock has tucked himself down into that corner. It stirs up memories of another cell, another time that none of them ever talk about. “Murdock?”

Murdock doesn’t respond, but that’s not unfamiliar. Eight years of hallucinations and nightmares and flashbacks and trauma that the doctors don’t even have a name for. Face knows what he’s meant to do here.

He moves slow. Keeps his hands out at his sides. Tries to give the appearance of being relaxed while keeping himself ready to react to any sudden movements. When he’s feeling cornered, the first thing Murdock does is lash out and he’s caught Face a few good ones over the years.

The scraping sound gets louder as he approaches, but Face can’t tell what it is. Not until he gets close enough to see what Murdock is doing.

The wall is rough stone in that corner, plaster rotten and fallen away. Slowly, mindlessly, Murdock is dragging his wrist back and forth against that unforgiving surface. Blood everywhere as he scrapes himself raw.

God knows how long he’s been doing it. Face can see bone.

“Jesus, Murdock!” Face acts without thinking, grabbing forward to get Murdock’s wrist away from there, stop him from damaging himself, but Murdock twists under his arm and grabs Face’s shirt, jerking him forward so that Face overbalances and hits his head against the wall and Murdock is suddenly on his feet and behind Face.

Face has his back to the wall and his legs under him again long before his head has cleared enough to think about it. No need to think about it. You don’t turn your back on something dangerous.

Murdock isn’t following up his attack though. He’s standing in the centre of the room, shifting back and forth on the balls of his feet and silently watching Face. His eyes are shadowed and blood runs in a steady trail over his knuckles to puddle on the floor.

“Okay ow,” Face gripes, one hand going up to the part of his head that’s screaming the loudest. No blood but it hurts like a motherfucker. “That how we’re going to do this? You want to play, Murdock? You want to go?”

Murdock laughs, a hoarse high-pitched thing that curls Face’s fingers into fists and makes the corners of the room draw in a little tighter. Face edges away from the wall, eyes on Murdock, keeping his movements slow but very deliberate. He needs to get out of this corner, needs room to move fast if it comes to that.

Murdock’s head cocks, following the movement like some predatory bird. He smiles and it almost looks kind until you see the blood trickling down his chin. Until you see his eyes.

It would be easy to say that this isn’t Murdock. That he’s not himself right now.

It would also be a lie.

Not many people get to see this side of Murdock. Not even Hannibal and BA see this – not really. They start backing away and averting their eyes as soon as they see that shadow spread its wings over Murdock, see it narrow his eyes and sink claws into the stark planes of his body. Easier to leave that to Face. Easier for everyone.

This particular shadow doesn’t descend over Murdock often, just when he’s feeling helpless. When things are spiralling out of control and he can’t see a way out. Something about that triggers his fight reflex and makes him turn on the nearest person. Makes him turn on himself if there’s no one else around. Like he’s been doing with his wrist. Like he’s doing now as he chews his lip to a pulp.

Murdock is crazy. Sometimes that goes a little deeper than accents and sock puppets.

Face had seen it in the back of the truck and it hadn’t really been a surprise. People laying hands on him, restraining him, taking him where he didn’t want to go – no surprise that this set him off. No surprise that he’s ready to fight.

“You want to play, Murdock?” Face asks again, trying to get a read on how serious this is. Trying to see exactly what it is Murdock needs from him. “Talk to me, man.”

Light glints off of Murdock’s teeth as he shifts his weight, moving in and out of the shadows, and for the first time Face can see that there are bruises on his face, mottling the skin at his throat. “What happened to you?” Face asks, blood running cold.

Murdock laughs again and cracks his neck. “Everything happens to me,” he says, voice hushed and sibilant like it’s a secret. “I make it all happen just by thinking about it. You’d better hope I don’t start thinking about you too, sweetheart. Who knows what could happen?”

He might have been banging his head against the walls – it wouldn’t be the first time Face has seen him do that. Or he could have been fighting with the guards. Maybe both. Face hasn’t seen any guards with skinned knuckles or black eyes so he’s leaning more towards the first option. The guards had better fucking pray that Face never learns any different.

Murdock twitches his shoulders out and bares his teeth. He’s actually shaking and clearly about five seconds from launching himself at Face, all fury and tension and violence that has been left to fester for sixteen hours and needs an outlet. Needs to be drawn out of him like poison from a wound.

If Murdock comes at Face now Face is going to have to put him down hard. Hurt him worse than he’s already hurt himself. This room is too cramped, too crowded, too full of blood and insanity and Murdock will tear Face apart if he can.

There’s no way either of them are getting out of this without some serious damage, probably broken bones. Not unless…

Face makes himself relax and lean back against the wall behind him. He tilts his head to a certain angle and pushes his hips forward in as blatant an invitation as you can get while he smirks and gives Murdock his best look. The one that quickens blood, shortens breath, and never fails to get Face exactly what he wants.

It pulls Murdock up short for a second and then he smirks back, something shadowed and greedy in his eyes as he licks blood off his teeth. It’s not the first time they’ve done this, not even the first time they’ve done this instead of a fight, but it seems to take Murdock by surprise every time.

“That how you want it, Faceman?” Murdock laughs darkly and makes a sinuous movement of shoulder and hip. Like a dancer. Like a cobra about to strike. “That how you want to play?”

“You’re the one who’s been climbing the walls down here, baby,” Face purrs back, trailing fingertips across his belly, making his tee shirt ride up a little, “you tell me. Got an itch you need to scratch?”

That gets a grin from Murdock: bloody and sharp-edged and crazy as a shithouse rat. The violence is still there, the anger, but it’s focussed now, channelled down to a single point. Easier to deal with. Face would rather fuck than fight any day of the week.

And this is the part of it that Face doesn’t tell Hannibal and BA. They leave him to deal with Murdock when he’s wired and furious and needing and they don’t think about the reality of that. Don’t think about what Face has to give.

Don’t think about what it is people always want from Face.

“You wanna dance, Faceman?” Murdock sing-songs, up on his toes. “Think I’ma let you lead? Think you can make me let you lead? Come on then. Show me what you got.”

And then he spits. Face feels blood splash against his cheek.

And that’s it. It’s on. No going back now.

Face lunges forward and Murdock dodges around him with an elbow to the ribs. Hard to tell whether they’re fighting or dancing, but whatever it is they both know the steps by now.

Face is taller and stronger so he tries to crowd Murdock, tries to get him in close where Face can use his size and strength, where Face can use his weight. Face is stronger but Murdock is fucking fast and slippery – when you grab him and try to reel him in he’ll bite you. He’s vicious, possibly venomous, and impossible to predict.

There’s something irresistible about Murdock like this. Something that only Face gets to see.

This time it’s Murdock who gets the upper hand. Murdock who twines himself around Face like a snake and bears him down beneath his weight, teeth sharp against Face’s throat and hands hard. Face digs his fingers into the gash on Murdock’s wrist and Murdock just laughs and bites deeper, deep enough that Face swears and thrashes for leverage to buck Murdock off.

He only manages to twist his hips beneath Murdock though and then Murdock makes an appreciative noise and is suddenly licking at the damage he’s done to Face’s neck and that’s a whole lot better. That rides the line between pain and pleasure just this side of too much, makes Face feel too open and blind with sensation. Makes him moan when Murdock pushes his torn wrist against Face’s mouth.

Copper and salt and maybe if Face tries hard enough he can taste the medication that twists through Murdock’s veins, can taste the madness that it reins in but can never tame, never master. Can never make Murdock something you can turn your back on, can never make him safe.

Murdock pulls at Face’s pants, gets them open, gets one of his hands inside and Face chokes, thrusting upwards, seeking friction. And then Murdock’s wrist is gone as he holds Face down with a flat palm to the solar plexus and strokes him too hard and too fast and with a cruel twist at the head that sets sparks off behind Face’s eyes and wrenches a whine from his throat.

Above him, Murdock seems impossibly far away and practically sitting on top of Face at the same time, light catching off the whites of his eyes and his bared teeth. He licks at the corner of his mouth and moves his head, moves to go lower, and it’s pure instinct that has Face thrashing free, rolling Murdock underneath him and holding him down as he spits furiously.

He’s already got Face’s blood on his teeth. There’s no way his mouth is going anywhere near Face’s cock. Fuck that.

Murdock snarls beneath him but it turns into a groan as Face moves his hips down, grinding against the hard line of Murdock’s cock that he can feel through Murdock’s pants and his own shorts. He gets one hand down between them and pulls at clothing until he can wrap his hand around them both, squeeze them together, trap them there as he begins to thrust.

It doesn’t take long - never does when their blood is up like this.

Murdock hot and hard, writhing beneath him and digging his blunt nails into Face’s back, digging in like he still wants to tear Face apart and making furious guttural noises like it’s definitely a fight now.

Murdock tries to turn them, tries to get on top, but Face rides it out and keeps him pinned, feeling a delicious thrill shudder down his spine at having Murdock struggling helplessly beneath him.

And Face can feel himself expanding, his whole body growing very large and rising up to cover Murdock entirely, hiding him from the world – not to keep Murdock safe but so Face can keep him all to himself, can have this whenever he wants. It’s a dark thought, a hungry consuming thought, and all it takes is Murdock letting out a desperate whine and Face is coming, biting deep into Murdock’s shoulder to keep his shout inside, thrusting against that hot slickness until Murdock is cursing and convulsing beneath him too.

Eventually, Face rolls off of Murdock and onto his back, staring up at the ceiling. He feels bruised and aching and boneless. Feels like he could just slip between the cracks on the floor and melt away into nothingness. Feels dirty in ways that go beyond the grit under his nails and the sticky mess rapidly cooling on his belly.

Beside him, Murdock makes a low sound and Face turns his head warily.

Murdock’s eyes are heavy-lidded and there’s blood all around his mouth as he considers Face. He looks like a cannibal sated after a heavy meal – the violence that had risen to the surface and crackled in his eyes, his teeth, beneath his skin has been well-fed and settled back down into the heart of him where it can’t do any more harm.

It’s not gone it’s just… dormant. Satisfied for now.

Murdock curls onto his side and reaches out. Face does his best not to flinch as Murdock’s fingers stroke across his lips and then trail a line over his chin and down his throat.

“Some kind of finger painting we got going on here,” Murdock says quietly. “All we got between us is red – that seem right to you?”

“I don’t know,” Face watches his eyes. Winces when Murdock’s fingers brush against the spot he’d bitten earlier. “What do you think?”

“I think you’re risking a lot on the theory that crazy ain’t contagious,” Murdock pulls his fingers back and holds them up for Face to see. “I wouldn’t be so sure. Can’t even tell which is mine and which is yours anymore, can you? All just looks red, don’t it? That’s how it starts.”

Face turns his head to look up at the ceiling again. Anywhere but at Murdock.

Murdock sidles closer and curls his body against Face’s as if they are lying on soft sheets instead of the hard floor of a cell. His breath strokes cold along Face’s wet throat.

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Murdock says again, sounding like he’s talking to himself now. “I wasn’t crazy once. Had to come from somewhere. Maybe it’s had enough of me and is looking to move on, looking to crawl up inside your skin and wear you for a while. You just watch yourself, Faceman. You watch yourself real close.”

Face gets an arm around Murdock and doesn't say anything. He keeps his eyes fixed on the ceiling and waits for their time to run out.