EPILOGUE

"I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." -- Laura Ingalls Wilder


The sun was shining brightly through the bushes as it crept over the horizon. He listened to the mutterings and pings and bangs emanating from the yard, and smiled.

BA need never worry about Murdock taking over as mechanic.

He rose, and softly stepped over to the window, where he could watch Murdock without disturbing him. He shook his head, watching the former pilot struggling with the ancient pickup truck. Ed had tried to warn him that it was a piece of junk, but nothing can deter a man who's fallen in love, whether it be with a woman or a vehicle.

He sobered when he remembered why Murdock was fussing with the truck. It was Tuesday. Tuesday was Breakfast with Charlie Day. That was okay. But it was also errand day. The day they got their mail and groceries, and had lunch at the little coffee shop.

Tuesday was the day he had to face all the villagers.

Not that they caused him any problems. No one stared, or gasped, or laughed. The children didn't even run from him. Quite the contrary. Everyone wanted to stop and chat.

But he kept waiting for it to happen.

Nonsense. They all love you. Just like we do. Well, almost. No one loves you like we do...

"Ed?"

He turned, embarrassed. He knew Murdock accepted his friends, although he didn't always agree with the things they said. But he still felt funny when Murdock caught them talking.

"It's okay, Ed." Murdock smiled, reassuring. "You want to get dressed sometime today?"

"You got it running?"

"Sure! Always do."

Ed sighed. This was always the hard part. Getting out the door, into the truck.

"C'mon, Ed. Charlie's waiting. It'll be okay. It always is."

"I know." He nodded at Murdock and headed into the shower. He still wasn't sure he liked the new trailer. It seemed huge and cumbersome compared to his old place. But the old one wasn't big enough for two people.

He was still trying to get used to that, too. And there was no way he would let Murdock talk him into getting a place in the village itself.

No way.

Once in a while, Murdock would put a little too much pressure on Ed to do things. But they were working things out. Murdock went into the village a lot. He had a lot of friends there, people he could "jibber jabber" to and they didn't mind one bit. And that allowed Ed plenty of time to roam the desert with Petey, and find his treasures.

He stepped out of the shower, dressed and headed for the door. He stopped, looking at the truck. Felt that old familiar shiver along his spine.

"C'mon, Ed. I'll be right there with you. Just like always." Murdock was beside him, smiling. He nodded, and got into the truck.

They would drive to Charlie's and have breakfast. That was okay. That was good. Charlie's place wasn't really in the village. And he didn't get out of the truck while Murdock ran their errands. People would stop and talk to him, always staying a foot or so from the window. They didn't seem to mind if he didn't say much. But he did talk to them. It got easier, every week.

And then they would go to the coffee shop, where they had their own table, set back in the corner. People pretty much left them alone there, just nodded at them instead of stopping to talk.

Still, he was glad to get back to their trailer.

Now and then, Murdock went in and talked to Dr. Feist. A couple times, Ed had had to call him to come out. But Murdock seemed to be doing pretty good, for the most part. He didn't have to do anything he really didn't feel like doing, except let Ed know if the purple wobblies came around.

All in all, Ed thought they were doing pretty well.

The truck pulled into the yard in front of Charlie's place, and Ed's heart beat a little faster. The van was there. He wondered if Hannibal had come along this time. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't. It all depended on if he had an acting job or not. If he and BA had a new client, they would come out together and get Nick. Sometimes Murdock went along, too, but not very often.

Ed never did.

They were walking toward the cabin now, and BA and Hannibal stepped out, big smiles on their faces, Charlie right behind them. Petey jumped out of the truck and ran pell mell toward Hannibal. Ed wanted to laugh. He knew Petey chose Hannibal because Hannibal still hated him.

"Hey, Ed, how are you?"

Ed smiled, relaxing.

"I'm fine, Hannibal. I'm just fine..."

FINI