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Five Times The A-Team Saved Murdock From The Crazy, And One Time The Crazy Saved Them

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[1]

 

The secret sauce had been BA’s idea. After the third time they spent a sleepless night on the hard plastic chairs outside the field hospital, listening to Murdock inside talking to himself and vomiting up blood, they all agreed something had to be done.

Hannibal had been warned, when he signed the release papers, about Murdock’s penchant for ingesting any and all toxic substances he got his hands on. He just hadn’t been prepared for how damn hard it was to keep his pilot away from toxic substances on an army base.

Shaving foam he at least seemed to be basically immune to now. And Face’s creative threats seemed to be enough to stop him eating any of the other man’s numerous beauty products.

They’d given up entirely trying to keep him away from the rubbing alcohol. He drank the stuff like it was water.

They solved the bleach problem by avoiding cleaning anything, which Face objected to, but even he conceded that it was better than Murdock vomiting blood everywhere.

Battery acid was an ongoing problem.

“He’s not going to stop,” Face said. (Hannibal explaining why Murdock had to stop had got him wide eyed agreement, which lasted right up until Murdock found an abandoned first-aid kit).

“And this can’t continue,” Hannibal agreed.

They sat in silence, until BA eventually voiced the idea that was slowly forming in his mind. “Dilute it.”

“What?”

“He’s gonna eat the stuff. But if we diluted it in some way, it wouldn’t be so bad.”

A slow smile spread across Hannibal’s face. “BA, you are a genius!”

It took a few false starts, which included all of the team spending a weekend in the field hospital after Murdock forgot to warn them that he’d marinated the chops in secret sauce, but eventually Murdock learnt to ask, and the team learnt to avoid, and almost no one got Murdock and poison related injuries (not even Murdock).

 

[2]

 

For the most part, the team like Billy. He’s no trouble, so long as they remember to check where he is. Murdock gets real upset if they tread on him. But he keeps Murdock calm, and gives the pilot something to do on the quiet days, and honestly it’s only BA who even remembers that Billy isn’t real most of the time.

Billy also acts as a barometer of Murdock’s emotions. If Billy’s sick, then Murdock’s unhappy, something big that he won’t talk about. Anything which gives them an in into Murdock’s mind is a plus so far as they’re concerned.

The problem comes when Billy joins them in the field.

For whatever reason, Murdock refuses to imagine that Billy is trained. So there’s always a risk, even when Murdock seems otherwise completely focused, that Billy will run off, and Murdock will chase after him.

Usually he times it so it doesn’t actually upset the mission, but he does have a tendency to chase Billy right into traffic. So far he’s been run over twice, Face three times and BA once. Billy has escaped unharmed every time.

Eventually they decide enough is enough.

“Murdock, we need to talk to you about Billy,” Hannibal says, keeping his voice kind. “He’s becoming a liability on missions.”

Murdock’s eyes go very wide, and he clutches an armful of air to himself. “You’re not gonna send him away are you?” he asks fearfully.

“Fool, we oughta,” BA replies crossly. Of all of them he has the lowest patience for Murdock’s eccentricities, and he doesn’t like dogs anyway, to Billy’s a loser either way. “But Hannibal says you can keep him.”

“He’ll be good,” Murdock says quickly. “Promise, colonel, he’ll be real good.”

“I know he will Captain,” Hannibal says kindly. “’Cos we’ve got a little surprise for him. Face?”

Face throws back the tent flap dramatically, to reveal a smart red kennel.

“We thought metal would be better than wood,” Face explains. “Bullet proof. Just in case. We’ll put it in the shade so he doesn’t get too hot. And we got a nice blanket for it too,” he adds, holding up the piece of fleece bedding he’d got from one of the sniffer dog handlers. “He’ll be real cozy.”

“We thought,” Hannibal says, “that he’d be much safer if he stayed behind when we went on missions, and now he has somewhere nice to stay. What d’you say Murdock? Does he like it?”

Murdock crouches down, carefully setting the dog only he see on the ground and watching him intently. After a long minute he looks up, and there are tears in his eyes. “He loves it! You guys are the best!”

 

[3]

 

“Captain, I don’t think you’re taking this entirely seriously,” the general growls, glaring at Murdock.

“Mon Capitan, ah azsure you, ah em treating zis wiv ze seriousness eet deserves,” Murdock replies, and his team can see that he means it, but the general doesn’t know him so well.

The voices and characters Murdock adopts can be annoying as hell, but they’re also his primary defense mechanism. When Murdock can’t deal with something, he either makes it laughable with the addition of silly voices, or he removes himself from the situation entirely by becoming someone else. It can be very useful, keeps Murdock going when a lesser man would have collapsed, but there are times when it’s decidedly unhelpful. Like when the whole unit has been called in front of the General to be chewed out for the destruction caused by Hannibal’s latest hare-brained scheme.

“Captain, this is very fucking serious, so I suggest you start treating it as such pronto, or I’m gonna have to consider this insubordination.”

“Oui, monsieur, veery serious, ah understand zis. Ah am not being insubordinate.”

The general’s eyebrows bristles with irritation.

“Murdock,” Face whispers, elbowing his friend. “Murdock, Hoot, Black Hawk Down.”

Murdock and the general both stare at him for a long minute, then Murdock nods, and stands to attention.

His Eric Bana impression isn’t great, and the general doesn’t let him finish his speech about how his unit are his brothers, but they get out of there without anyone being court-marshaled, which is generally the best they can hope for when one of their missions goes wrong. (Not that they didn’t complete the objective, they always do, they just had to improvise and ended up accidentally blowing up a school, fortunately empty.)

Hannibal claps face on the shoulder as soon as they’re out of sight. “Good work lieutenant,” he tells them warmly. “We’ll have to remember that one.”

They can’t make Murdock sane. But they can make him, temporarily at least, hallucinate that he’s someone who is.

 

[4]

 

As it turns out, soldiers really really don’t like having their socks stolen, and nor do MP, Doctors, Private Security guys or the occasional journalist that passes through the various camps and bases they’re stationed at.

People are also surprisingly possessive about their packs of cards.

The thing is, no one, not even the other members of the team, have ever seen him take the things. He disappears for a few minutes, and when he comes back he’s got some new toy to play with, a sock puppet, or a pack of cards that he swears blind lets him see the future. Once even a squeaky dog toy.

But clever as he is as at taking the things, everyone on the base knows it’s him that takes them, and at least half the time the owners of the stolen items come looking for them, and they tend to get angry when they see what Murdock’s done to them (he is a firm believer that everything looks better with added glitter, and can’t understand why no one else seems to agree).

After Murdock’s second black eye in a week (he borrowed someone’s dirty magazine and drew moustaches on every girl, and used glue and bits of cut up socks to make them all clothes) the team decide that something absolutely has to be done.

Face uses all his skills, as well as the Pashtu he’s been studying, so start putting together what the team refer to, out of their friend’s hearing at least, as Murdock’s toy box.

The optimum rate, they discover, is one new object every three days. More than that and he’s not interested, less than that and he starts helping himself again. Leave it six months and you can start recycling them.

Once they figured out that it meant their socks and dirty magazines were safe, the other soldiers on the base began contributing. It became a game, a group hobby, finding the most weird and wonderful things to give him. (So far Private Churches was in the lead, with a tobacco tin in the shape of a rabbit). Alpha Team’s socks still disappeared periodically, and returned with faces stitched on, but all in all they reckoned that was a fair trade for having a pilot who could actually see out of both eyes.

 

[5]

 

People often forget, or even don’t believe, when they see Murdock playing with sock puppets, or convinced he’s in a cartoon, that he really is crazy. You don’t get sectioned for being a bit eccentric. But the truth is, fun as he can be most of the time, Murdock really is crazy, and crazy isn’t funny, or nice, or quirky.

Most of the time, the crazy is little things. Murdock forgets things, get confused about where he is, needs to be reminded about basic things, things like eating, washing. Needs someone to sit with him while he falls asleep, ‘cos otherwise the nightmares will keep him up for days at a time, until he’s white and shaking with exhaustion.

But sometimes things get a little more serious.

No matter how careful they are, no matter how well they plan things, there’s always a risk that someone will get hurt, a civilian caught in the crossfire, a hostage they weren’t quite quick enough to save. It gets to all of them, but Murdock worst of all. He doesn’t have any of the mental shields that let other people deal with trauma.

Murdock’s bad days are officially Face’s responsibility, and he likes it that way. Looking after his friend gives him something to do, gives him a way of keeping his mind off his own nightmares.

Murdock’s staring straight past him, seeing something inside his own head that scares the bejesus out of him. He whimpers, hands scrabbling at his own wrists, tearing up strips of skin before Face manages to grab his hands.

There’s bruising already starting to form around his ears from where he’d tried to pull them off, desperate to make the voices in his head stop their yelling.

There’s a needle full of tranquilizer, locked up safe under Face’s bed, but he doesn’t want to use it, not unless he absolutely has to. Instead he wraps his arms around Murdock, holding him tight and keeping him from hurting himself, while he whispered soothing nonsense, stroking a gentle hand through Murdock’s hair, telling him over and over that it’s okay, that they’re back, that they’re safe.

Eventually, when Face’s legs are starting to cramp, and his throat is dry, Murdock stirs, looks up at Face and actually sees him.

“You back, buddy?” Face asks softly, loosening his hold on Murdock, but not letting go.

“Did I go somewhere?” Murdock asks fuzzily.

“Only inside your own head,” Face explains. “You gonna let me bandage you up now?”

Murdock nods his head slowly, his movements languid, as though he’s half asleep.

“I’m real sorry, Face,” Murdock mutters, wriggling until he can get his wrists free, inspect the damage. “I don’t mean to be like this, Face, truly I don’t.”

“I know Murdock,” Face assures him. “Just let me grab the first aid kit, yeah? We’ll get you all fixed up.”

“I didn’t hurt you?” Murdock asks, like he always does. He doesn’t usually get violent, but sometimes he lashes out without really meaning to, fighting back when Face tries to restrain him.

“Nah, you didn’t hurt anyone except yourself.”

Face tips peroxide onto a piece of cotton wool, begins dabbing at the wounds, gentle as he knows how to be. Murdock hisses with pain, but holds still and lets Face wrap his wrists. Good as he’s being now, Face knows he’ll be hell for the next few weeks, tugging at the bandages and scratching the wounds open again every time they start to heal.

All the time he’s working, Murdock keeps repeating, over and over until the words begin to lose their meaning, “I’m sorry Face, I’ll do better, next time I’ll do better, I promise Face, I’m real sorry…”

Face hushes him. It doesn’t matter what Murdock says, he knows this will happen again and again. And Face will be ready.

 

[+1]

 

The team was entirely silent, staring down at the prone form of the drugs lord who had been menacing them seconds before. The man’s belly shook faintly with the force of his snores.

“Murdock,” Hannibal said at last, turning to the pilot, who was doing his best innocent expression. “What did you do?”

“He looked like he could do with calming down,” Murdock says, all wide-eyed sincerity. “Getting stressed like that is bad for his blood pressure. And he couldn’t testify if he had a heart attack.”

Face bursts out laughing.

“Your tranquilizers? You just defeated one of the most powerful drug lords in Kandahar with your anti-psychotic meds?”

“Well it seemed appropriate,” Murdock said with a shrug. “The man clearly needed them a whole lot more than I do. I mean, getting one of his prisoners to get him a drink? That was just plain crazy!”

Hannibal slings an arm over Murdock’s shoulders. “Whole lot crazier than you, kid.”