MAY 04
I'm Okay, We're Okay
Holiday: Respect for Chickens Day

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. - Jane Howard

"So, why, Murdock?"

He sighed. They had been having such a nice and happy conversation, catching up on each other's lives since they'd last seen each other, nearly four years ago. He knew eventually she would bring the conversation to this point; it didn't mean he liked it.

"I guess we all realized Hannibal was right." He shrugged, nonchalant. "We gave it a shot, all of us, and it just wasn't what we wanted."

Amy gave him that look that clearly said she didn't believe him.

"Really. Hannibal went back to Hollywood, but he got tired of playing monsters. Different suits, same dialogue. He felt stifled, y'know? Stands to reason. No matter how much fun he had with it, it wasn't the Jazz."

"And BA? All these years he's wanted to go back to Chicago, live near his mother?"

"Well, he lasted longer than I expected, really. Went into business with his cousin, little auto repair shop. But," Murdock chuckled, "he wasn't that great with customer relations. And all the paperwork. Lotta paperwork in running a business."

"Face? He, of all of you..."

"Yeah, he did all right. But he got bored, basically. Running 'legitimate scams', as he called them, just wasn't his cup of tea. He's like Hannibal in that. Not enough excitement. He'd get one thing off the ground, get bored, move on to something else. Ended up with a lot of rich ex-partners."

"So why you, Murdock? I thought you were settled down with that lady from the restaurant?"

"Well, not really settled down with. She was nice..." Murdock held back the sigh this time. Erica had been a lot more than nice. They had plans to start up their own little business. Plans for a lot of things. But you stick with your unit. Even when..."Yeah, she was real nice, but...well, after all that time stuck in the VA, I wasn't as ready to settle down as I thought. So, back to the important stuff - like that ring on your finger..."

Hours later, after Amy had dropped Murdock off at his new apartment and headed off to meet her fiancÚ, Murdock was standing at the sink, staring at the dirty dishes. He wondered if Amy had really been gone that long, that she didn't know he was...well, not lying, exactly. But not telling her the whole truth. It bothered him that he hadn't, but some things he just wasn't prepared to talk about. Not even to Amy, who was the one person who would have understood, if anyone could.

Like Hannibal and his acting career. It was true, that he'd gotten tired of playing monsters. Murdock hadn't said that he'd been offered other roles, real acting jobs. He'd actually accepted the first two or three. But something always happened; he tripped and sprained his wrist a week into shooting the first one. Four days into the second one he'd developed some kind of rash from the makeup. The third one...the third one he'd gotten ill before they even started shooting.

He hadn't accepted any other roles after that.

BA wasn't good with customers, and he did hate the paperwork. But the big problem seemed to come after work. He spent a lot of time with his mother, but she had her own life. Years spent alone, she'd developed friends and activities to keep her occupied. BA didn't want her to drop everything just to sit at home with him. Left a lot of time on his hands. So he started going places around the neighborhood. Found out there were a lot of new people there. People that didn't know about him - or his attitude.

BA spent a lot of time talking to the cops.

Then there was Face. Murdock shook his head. That had been an out and out lie to Amy. Face wouldn't know legitimate if it bit him in the ass. Not that he hadn't tried. He'd really, really tried. But Face was used to cutting corners, doing what was expedient, ignoring the rules. Hell, he'd been doing things that way all his life. Going legit meant following the rules, filing the papers, knowing the regulations. Rich ex-partners? Well, if selling himself out of debt could be called that, sure. Then he just quit. Everything. When Murdock caught up with him, he was selling insurance during the day, sitting home watching TV every night.

That was it.

Murdock ran hot water into the sink, poured lots of detergent in with it. Picked up the first dirty plate.

They hadn't kept in touch. Clean break. Fresh start. Except Murdock. Maybe it was all those years at the VA, but he knew...so he kept track of each of them. Wrote each week. If they didn't respond, he'd call. And he'd keep calling until he either caught them at home or they called him. And after a few months, he knew what he had to do. So he'd gone to Chicago first, and then out to LA. Hadn't taken long to find Hannibal; Face had been another matter. But once he had the three of them together, it hadn't taken a lot of persuasion.

Well, some.

How do you convince three proud and wounded men that their failures in the normal world weren't their fault? That after almost twenty years living on the outside of society, twenty years as a team, they just weren't meant to lead normal lives.

They'd all taken hits. Bad hits. The people they thought they were - well, they just didn't exist in the normal world. They couldn't. Murdock knew that. He'd tried to tell them. But Stockwell...well, Stockwell had made it sound like a challenge.

Bastard.

So yeah, he'd had to persuade them. Remind them of what Hannibal had said. Remind them of who they were, what they could do, what they were really good at - together.

And that what they'd felt, out there on their own, was okay.

Because when you're on your own, it is okay to be scared...

FINI