March 18 --- The Question

Holiday: Awkward Moments Day

You know everything about reality, Murdock. Everything. But you choose to live in a fantasy world. And you build this fantasy world for everybody to see, including me. - Dr Richter

BA was walking the grounds. He knew it made the Ables nervous and he got some enjoyment out of that. They'd all made the rounds the first couple of days they were here, of course, making their own assessments of the security so they could compare notes later. Not that they intended to take off - at least, not immediately. Hannibal was willing to give that general the benefit of the doubt, but they needed to know how things stood if he continued to be as manipulative as he'd been so far.

But BA wasn't checking out the security that evening, or worrying about Stockwell. He was thinking, and he needed to be away from Frankie's jabbering to do that. Man just couldn't shut up, almost as bad as Murdock. And it was Murdock BA was thinking about.

He'd been happy enough to see him, of course. He liked Murdock, in general, but never figured he was all there. Even in Nam, where a lot of guys acted weird. But Murdock was, well - grown men just didn't act like that. Bouncing between acting like a damn kid and then ready to fall apart. Only time he acted normal was in a fight, and then he still couldn't control himself all the time. Frankie was right - no way in hell he could suddenly be okay after ten years in the VA.

Then again, Richter was no dummy and neither was Hannibal. There had to be a reason Murdock hadn't gotten out before. Had to be a reason he was out now. Richter and Hannibal had to know. They just weren't talking. Well, dammit, he was going to find out before Hannibal got Murdock in too deep. And maybe took the rest of the team down with them.


Their first mission was pretty easy. Stockwell called it a 'test run'. BA spotted the Ables first. Had to admit they were doing a pretty good job of being inconspicuous. No interference, staying back, observing only. Hannibal shrugged it off, saying he figured Stockwell would want to protect his 'investment'. The team ignored them - if they got in the way, it would be Stockwell's problem.

At the moment, they were cooling their heels, waiting for their contact to finish gathering the last of the intel they'd need. It would be a couple hours yet, and BA decided this was the first and best opportunity he'd have. If he didn't get an answer now, Murdock would never give him another chance.

The bungalow they were in had no TV, no books, and only a couple old fashion magazines. Face had sworn the place was ready for demolition. And since Murdock had not gotten over his need to move around when bored, it didn't take long for BA's opportunity to present itself.

He followed him out to the back yard, which consisted of overgrown grass and a view of an algae-covered pond. BA shook his head, thankful it was still too cool for mosquitoes. Murdock was standing toward the back, rocking on his feet as he looked over the water. He turned, grinning, as BA came up.

"Can you imagine what this would look like if it was cleaned up? A nice little dock, a canoe gliding over the water at sunset, and Bigfoot howling off in the distance..."

"Shut up, Murdock. You and me gotta talk."

Murdock frowned but nodded.

"So you tell me how you got released. And none of your crazy bull. I want the truth."

"BA, I told you guys already! The board reviewed - "

"I said, none of your bull! How come you got released now? Why not six months ago? Or a year ago? Or five years ago? Why now?"

"What does it matter, BA? I got released and now I'm here. With you guys."

"It matters if you're still crazy and got people thinking you ain't. You go off on one of your fairy tales and somebody gets killed 'cause they ain't expecting it. That's what matters! You got me?"

Murdock paled, and for a moment, BA thought he had pushed too hard. Then Murdock swallowed and looked him right in the eye.

"Okay, BA. Fair enough." He turned and looked back at the pond. "You remember when we had to go rescue the doc? Well, he and I finally came to an understanding. Kinda had to, y'know.

"So anyway, um, you know I was committed, back then. After the robbery. I couldn't leave unless the docs said I was okay. And... and I wasn't, for a long time. A long time. But, uh, then I started meeting up with you guys, and I started getting better. I really did. But, there were times when I... I just needed to move out of reality. Some of the stuff we did just... brought things back I didn't want to remember."

"Hey, man, I know that. I just - "

"No, no, that's okay, BA. 'Cause when you'd get mad at me, it made me feel... normal. Like, I must be okay, at least a little, if he's yelling at me. If I was really nuts, like, out-of-control nuts, he'd be nice to me. Like the nurses and orderlies at the VA. But you getting mad, well, you wouldn't do that if you felt sorry for me. So that, that was okay.

"But after we got Richter back, and I didn't have to hide you guys from him anymore, I realized that all the stuff I'd been able to do, I couldn't have done before. I was too sick to function. Richter agreed. And then he said he didn't think I needed to be under involuntary commitment anymore. But neither of us thought I was quite ready for 'real life'. Not yet. He suggested a half-way house, but I didn't like that. And it wouldn't have worked, not if I wanted to be with you guys, too. So, I committed myself. I could leave whenever I wanted. Whenever I was thought I was ready.

"But I didn't want to be treated differently, not by the staff, not by you guys. I still needed that... safety net. So I told him not to say anything, 'cept to the admins, of course. And it was kinda fun, breaking out, y'know?" Murdock chuckled softly.

BA just shook his head, smiling despite himself.

"So, anyway, things got even better after that. Knowing that I was in charge, so to speak. I kinda felt bad, not telling you guys, but I didn't want to jinx it. And I still had... moments. But you know what really settled things for me? Going back to Nam, with Fulbright. Afterwards, I asked Hannibal about it, and he said he remembered the war, but he didn't think about it. And that's when I knew. I knew if I could get to the point where I could do that, I'd be okay. Well, relatively speaking." He smiled ruefully. "But I also knew I couldn't stay that way without you guys.

"That's why I got released now, BA. I gotta have you guys. You're still my safety net. You guys know me, good times and bad, and you never walked out on me. It was my choice to leave the VA and come out here - but I really didn't have a choice. I didn't want to be anywhere you guys weren't. I couldn't be."

BA didn't know how long they stood there, watching the sunset approaching over the pond. But neither said anything more until Frankie called them back to the bungalow.