Back To Your Heart
Back to Your Heart: Murdock's Story
To say we'd both agreed to put things on hold would be a lie; the biggest lie either one of us ever told to be honest with ya. Things had been going downhill for awhile, but never had I thought they'd gotten bad enough to call it quits. Every relationship has its ups and downs though, right? I mean, even my grandparents would have blowouts that would end in a door getting slammed so hard it shook the house. I guess these fights were different though; these weren't just disagreements on how a child should be raised or if he should have to go to bed hungry for mouthin' off just once. Actually, come to think about it, half of our fights I don't even remember. I just remember the anger that would fill the air; the tension that'd become so thick it had to be cut with a chainsaw as soon as we were in the same room together.
It'd been Temp's idea to put things on hold. I knew it was coming though, there's something about the silence that can sometimes tell more than any spoken words. None of us had been the same when the Colonel died.
I'd been the only one to know Hannibal was even sick, lung cancer from all those years of puffin' away at cigars; I'd been the only one to know all the Colonel's old secrets and how he'd felt about all of us. Hannibal had sworn me not to tell the others, not that he was sick and not that in all his life we were the only three people in the world he truly felt were family, or that no matter what he'd said or done in the past, he was so truly proud of us all. He wasn't just our CO and fearless leader, he'd become so much more than that. Hell, he was the closest thing to a father the three of us bastard boys had. Face had always been so close to the Colonel though, especially over in Nam, so I can understand why he'd be so upset with me for not telling but, I mean, He might have been my partner, but Hannibal still outranked him.
So when that silence filled the living room after our last big fight, both of us standing there staring at each other like strangers, I knew it was done. All of our jokes, our laughter and smiles, the adventures and fights, the nights of heated passion, the tender caresses, all of it was being thrown out the window. We'd been through so much, so very much: `Nam, POW camps, VA Psych escapes, running from the MPs, near deaths. Despite it all though, we always knew that the other was there to lean on and comfort.
I'd tried to stop him, to tell him things weren't as bad as he was trying to make them seem and surely all our good times together should be enough to outweigh the bad, but it didn't work. Instead, I got asked to leave. Which was fair enough I mean, it was Temp's apartment, so he had every right to ask me to leave, but the fact that he knew I had nowhere else to stay told me that the guy I'd fallen hopelessly in love with all those years ago was gone.
The days, weeks, months that passed without him were the hardest of my life. I'd lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering what he was doing; who he was with, if he was actually happier and better off without me. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that he'd found someone else already, probably some young beautiful blond with no brains but all body. He never could say no to a ditzy blond wanting to hop into bed with him. I knew he'd do it, he didn't have to hide it; I knew he'd go out and find a girl to sleep with from time to time but in the end, he'd always come home to me.
I ran into him nearly a year after I got politely kicked out. He'd changed, probably for the better but that didn't mean I liked it. He was back to wearing his fancy suits and shoes, hair never out of place for even a second. I even got to meet his beautiful fianc, who was not only beautiful but incredibly smart, insanely rich and worst of all very, very pregnant. He'd finally gotten everything he'd ever wanted; money, security, a family to call his own, all the things he'd tried to get when he was with me but I'd go and mess up every time. He was right about me; I was too much of a child, hiding my true emotions behind a cloak of insanity and childish games.
Stephanie was nice enough and if she could make him smile again, then I was happy for them...even if my entire world was crumbling down around me. So much for just "taking a break from each other." He had everything, I had memories. They did at least invite me to the wedding, and ask me to be the baby's Godfather. Steph even offered me a job at her dad's business alongside Temp. He'd be my supervisor but I didn't care. It was a job, a steady source of income and that was all I was after. I hardly ever even saw him. I was, once again, the blue collar grunt while he was the sophisticated one, the cameraman to his reporter--just like old times.
I was there when they got married, not as Best man or even a Groomsmen, but in the pew watching on, the last little shard of my heart breaking painfully. Of course it was a perfect little wedding, nothing even hinting at going wrong, but then, Temp wouldn't have allowed anything to go wrong. I wasn't exactly the first to know when Abigail Louise Montgomery-Peck was born, but I was the first "non-family member" to get to hold her. Even his daughter came out looking perfect, not a fuzzy little tuff of hair out of place.
The chances of getting him back were so slim they weren't even visible. Why would he take me back? I barely had money to rent my little apartment, buy food, or get all the fancy things he was used to. Besides, what could I possibly have to offer him that was greater than what he'd gotten used to having?
Call me a home wrecker or selfish bastard, but I tried anyways. Tried talking to him, bought him little gifts that used to bring a schoolboy grin to his face, left notes that wouldn't mean anything to anyone else but him, anything I could think of that could make him remember how great we used to be together. For a bit there I'd thought maybe it had worked. He'd cornered me one night after work, that glimmer in his gorgeous blues that would always appear just before he'd playfully jump me. I stood there waiting for it, my heart beating a mile a second, feet feeling like they were ready to lift off the floor. Instead of being tackled though and showered in hot, needy kisses, he once again "kindly" asked me to stay away and stop leaving things for him.
All I wanted was to be with him. He was all I ever needed or wanted in life. For years, he'd been the only reason I'd even bother getting out of bed. All my hopes that I'd one day get over my PTSD, that the night terrors would end, had all been because of Temp. A year and a half after the incident in the living room, I still can't get over him. I don't want to get over him cuz if I do then that means things really are over and I'll never get him back. So long as I hold onto a tiny shred of hope, the last shred of hope I've got left, then maybe there's still a chance I can work my way back into his heart...
Part Two. I Don't Wanna Fight: Face's Story
Do I miss him? Of course I miss him. I miss him every minute of every day. Everything about him, I miss. Well, almost everything. The things I don't miss are what led me to hating him. Some people would say that there's a love so strong and so deep that it could make a person want to just beat the snot out of the one they love, but to me, that's not love in the very least. And what I had started to feel towards Murdock was more frustration, aggravation and disgust than anything else.
It was those little quirks that used to be so cute, so uniquely Murdock that made him absolutely irresistible that began to be his downfall. The fact he had a difficult time dealing with reality was fine when he was still in the VA, it was ok and acceptable for him to have imaginary pets and random personality switches. Those things just aren't generally smiled on in the real world, ya know? Oh sure he could be serious from time to time, but there was more to it than just that. No matter how hard he tried, he never could keep a job once he got released from the hospital. Dog catcher, sewer worker, waiter, turkey tender, Bison Scouts leader, cook, boxer shorts inspector, fortune cookie writer, tour guide...the list went on and on. And there was always an excuse for the change in "career"; and to him each excuse was a valid and reasonable one. To me, they were just plain and simple excuses.
The only thing he'd ever had as a stable career was the Army--flying--that alone had gotten him through college and had supported him for the first few years of early adulthood. He couldn't fly anymore though; FAA has rules and regulations on that sort of thing. Psyche evaluations, background checks, all kind of things a former resident of the Veteran's Administration Psychiatric Hospital couldn't pass. I knew it had broken his heart when he kept getting rejected on his application to have his pilot's license reinstated, and I'd been there to help him get through it. Then through all those dead end jobs; one right after the other.
It was when we got our names cleared that things started getting a little bit tense. Oh don't get me wrong, we had our great times together--plenty of them actually--but the good doesn't always outweigh the bad. When Hannibal got sick though, and Murdock was the only one to know about it and chose not to tell me or BA, that's when things got worse. Our arguments became full-on yelling matches over some of the stupidest things: phone messages never received, sneakers left in the living room, half-finished glasses of water just left sitting on the counter, falling asleep on the couch with the television still on.
Was it my idea that we take a break from each other for awhile? Yes. But then again, I was always the "villain" of our relationship, so of course it wasn't going to be Murdock's idea. Forever the wide-eyed innocent, he always wanted to try and work things out, keep the fire burning when there was nothing left to burn. He was the type of guy who always saw the gray cloud and knew there was rainbow on the other side; I saw the gray cloud and knew that any minute a flood or tornado could destroy everything. Pessimistic? I wouldn't say that. More of a realist, and it drove him up the wall. So yes, I was the one who threw in the towel before things got any worse and I hurt him anymore than I already had.
It was low of me to kick him out when he didn't have any where else to stay and I admit that, but at the time I didn't care. I just wanted him out before I'd look into those deep, pain-filled brown eyes and changed my mind again. That was one of the things I'd grown to hate; those damn brown eyes that could suck you right in and filled with such powerful emotions it was impossible to look away. So, I kicked him out and didn't look back; couldn't look back.
The nights were the hardest to get through without him. The way he'd snuggle into the blankets, slightly curled up on his side, one arm stuffed under the pillow, nose nuzzling against my shoulder ever so slightly in his sleep. Or the nights where he'd cling to me, trembling and scared because the nightmares had returned to haunt him again. He'd even held me on a few occasions when my own dreams became too much to bear. Still, I learned to get by without him, just like he'd have to learn to get by without me.
I hadn't meant for him to ever meet Stephanie and truth be told, I'd never really meant to ever even stay with her. A few dates, a couple of good times and then that was going to be that. When she told me she was pregnant though, and that her father would disown her if he found out her deadbeat, ex-con, ex-boyfriend was the father, I had to help her out. So, I said the baby was mine. We both knew that I wasn't interested in anything permanent, but still we both soon found ourselves planning a wedding just to keep her father happy. And with her father happy, it meant Stephanie wouldn't get written out of his very well-to-do will, and I'd get to keep my cushy job. Of course, it also meant I had to continue to pretend to be happy and insanely in love; even when Murdock got hired on and started leaving things for me to find.
Before I knew it, I was standing at the altar saying vows I didn't believe, while those brown eyes looked on in heartache. A relationship and marriage built on lies, lies that just kept growing and growing. Steph knew I batted for both teams, and more importantly she knew my heart really only belonged to one person and it wasn't her. She was ok with it, if you can believe that. But still, we continued our fantasy world. Abby was born and she was absolutely gorgeous, but she looked nothing like me. Dark hair and eyes, like her mother, but her skin was a nice, dark natural tan color like her father. My tan skin was anything but naturally that color. There wasn't anything to hint that she was my daughter and yet, Murdock still believed it.
It hurt me when Murdock started leaving things for me to find--trinkets, Happy Meal toys and little notes. It proved that he did still love me and wanted to have me back. I was in too deep though with Steph. If I suddenly just went running back to his arms and kissed the daylights out of him like I'd wanted to do, people would get suspicious. Instead, I put on my best conman face and cornered him after work. The way he'd back up against that wall, the hope and want shining bright in those eyes made me want to tackle him and blow his mind with the most passionate kiss ever, but I knew I couldn't. So what'd I do? I told him to leave me alone. To stay away from me and just stop trying to get me back because it wasn't going to work. I was spoken for, married even, with a baby and a home and proper bills that needed paying every month.
My heart shattered into a thousand little pieces when I saw how my words cut into him, slicing away at what little hope he'd managed to hold onto. If I could take him back, I would in a heartbeat--a nanosecond even. I can't though. If I do, the fights are just going to start up again. No, not right away, mind you, but they will start and then we'll be right where we left off again. Still, I find myself longing for his touch at night, to have him sneak into the shower with me in the morning while I'm getting ready for work. If I could have the good times without the bad, I'd take them. But, that's not possible. Do I want to hold him? Kiss him? Make love with him? Absolutely. What I really don't want, is to fight anymore...
Part Three. Together Again: Epilogue
A year. Had it really been a whole year since the last time Face had cornered him and all but demanded he be left alone? It was hard to believe that it was true, but there he stood, a year to the day, staring up at the office window where Templeton Peck was sitting pretty and enjoying his life of luxury. Enjoying a life that he, HM Murdock, wished so badly he could be a part of. He wasn't even sure any more if he was still Abby's Godfather or not.
Murdock had been working so hard to make it through his meaningless life without Temp. His apartment looked as though any responsible adult lived in it; a place for everything and everything in its place. Sure he had the occasional model airplane sitting around, but they were displays only and set up on handmade exhibit platforms. No more magazines scattered around the place, the dishes always done and put away, there was suddenly a decent mix of plain and graphic T-shirts along with a few Polo's and his own dress shirts, he even folded his own laundry and put them in their proper places. He'd done everything Temp had always wanted him to do when they were together but never bothered with.
He'd even found a better paying job. All that was left to do was go up there and hand in his letter of resignation, give his two weeks' notice and walk away. He was an adult now after all, wasn't that what Face was always fighting with him about? He was an adult and needed to start acting like one?
Thirty-seven stairs separated him from the office above. No, he'd never climbed them before, but he'd counted them each time he saw Face emerge from his solitude and start down them. Each stair, each spring to that step that was so innately Templeton Peck.
Taking a deep breath and gathering his courage, his feet started up that path. One, two, three... his mind counted as he watched the cold metal steps, reinforced grates in his opinion, moved under him. It was going to be hard going back to a life where he never saw Face again, but after two and a half years, he knew in his heart he'd never be getting the former conman back. It really was time to move on. Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one...
Murdock could feel the tears forming in his eyes. If he could just get one more chance with Temp, one more chance to prove he could be an adult and that he'd changed--changed for him--then maybe it would convince the man that this time things would be different. He needed the old Lieutenant, sometimes he thought he needed him too much. The support, the love, the gentle caresses that let him know everything was going to be alright. All the nights of laughter and love, the hours spent exploring each other, not just physically but mentally--emotionally. Knowing each other inside and out like no other person ever did or ever would. The secrets shared and painful childhood scars reopened and mended with love and understanding. How could those times just be tossed aside like last months' Batman comic?
Thirty-five, thirty-six... His foot paused above that last step. Heart pounding in his ears, he could feel his palms begin to sweat. There was a falter in his courage. It'd been months since the last time he'd even caught a glimpse of the blonde. Part of him told him to turn around and start back down those stairs, leave the letter under his door once he'd gone home for the day. He couldn't do that though, not if he was a responsible adult now. Thirty-seven...
Stepping up to the door, he paused as he reached for the doorknob. Checking his reflection in the glass, he sighed. No more blue ballcap, his thinning brown hair washed and combed nicely forward, his bangs mimicking the coif Face's hair had been known for. The worn leather flight jacket long ago hung reverently in the closet for safe-keeping, replaced instead with a fresh white button up shirt--tucked expertly into the pair of blue jeans that had taken the place of his khakis. It was sad how he hardly even recognized his own reflection, this is what Temp always wanted though...
Knocking a couple of time, he slowly turned the knob. What should he even call him? Mr. Peck? Temp? Templeton? Faceman was probably out of the question, who would call their boss by an old nickname? The door was opening before he could think about it any further and his feet were moving into the room almost as if they had a mind of their own. It was now or never.
"Look, George, I told you I'd have those numbers ready for you to look over in about an hour. It's been barely twenty minutes." A familiar voice called from a side room.
Murdock gulped hard as he looked around the room; a room that couldn't possibly belong to the OCD impaired former Lieutenant. Magazines littered the floor, stacks of papers covered every available flat spot, and clothes--clothes--were draped over the chairs and back of the couch. To look at it, it'd look like the man had been living out of his office for months. This couldn't be the office of Templeton Peck; it looked more like Murdock's apartment used to than anything.
Stepping further into the room, the Texan's eyes scanned the area carefully. A suitcase was tucked under a table across the room, hiding the blanket and pillow also stuffed under there. He'd always known Face could be a workaholic when he set his mind to something, but this was all just a bit too much.
"F-Facey?" The word was out before he had a chance to stop it. Murdock cringed as he heard the gentle clank from the side room, as if a plastic razor were falling into a sink. Silence filled the room, the awkward kind of silence, the white elephant in the room. He could kick himself for being the one to cause that awkwardness again. Even through the change he couldn't help being the one who made things uneasy between them.
"Uh...I...I mean Temp. I, I just..."
He hadn't even seen Face emerge from the side room, dobs of shaving cream still clinging to his chin. The old Murdock wouldn't have been able to resist making a joke about how Face suddenly looked like a lawn gnome, all he needed was the little pointy hat and ears and they'd be able to set him out on the front yard to greet visitors. He didn't though. Hell, he'd hardly even noticed the shaving cream. All he saw were those shining blue eyes staring back at him, the confusion there mixed with the sadness and longing. Of course, those last two might just have been the Captain's imagination. After all, why would Face be sad or look at him longingly?
The silence stretched out between them for what seemed like forever, two beings time locked where they stood, staring at each other like a couple of long lost lovers. Face hadn't changed in the least. Still just as gorgeous as he'd always been with dark blue-grey eyes still shining bright, body just as muscular and taken care of as Murdock remembered. Only the dark blonde locks had changed. Void of any product and having lost its coif, it hung down in his eyes like he were a shaggy surfer bum. His fingers itched to reach up and brush those bangs from his eyes, to feel the silky softness run over his skin just one more time.
Murdock's eyes were first to break the spell, quickly darting to a point on the floor that had quite suddenly become the most interesting spot in the whole world. Was that actually an aviation magazine he saw partially buried under last months' edition of People? Face hated it when he left his airplane magazines just lying around like that.
"Uhm...sorry about the mess, I..." Face paused to clear his throat as he quickly moved to pull on a slightly wrinkled blue shirt, not even bothering to tuck it in much less finish buttoning it all the way.
"You look really...uh..."
Murdock gulped, his heart racing faster than he ever thought possible. For once it was Face who had a lack of words problem. It was Face who was flustered and trying to scramble about to clean things up a little and make the office/bedroom look a bit more presentable. Face, the man who was cool even under the toughest pressure, was flustered and awkward.
"It's alright with me, Temp. You know I don't mind the mess. Just, kind of surprisin' seein' your office for the first time and it lookin' like this. I didn't know you had my clone livin' in here." A joke, an honest to goodness, Old Murdockian joke. A joke that even received a small chuckle and smile from the other man. God how he missed that smile and the sound of that laugh.
"Yeah well, they say everyone has a twin somewhere. Guess yours has been coming in and messing up the place when I haven't been looking."
"You should set up motion detectors then. Infrared cameras at night, ya know? Catch him in the act. Powder sugar in the doorway."
"I thought it was flour?"
"That's for catching ghosts. To catch a Murdock you gotta use powder sugar. C'mon Face, you know we Murdocks are attracted to sweets."
Another laugh, a real laugh followed by a real smile. They only lasted for a moment, but Murdock saw them, and for a just a little bit, things were back the way they used to be. There was no tension in the air between them. They were Face and Murdock, two best friends turned lovers, standing around and talking absolute nonsense together.
All too soon though, the laughter and smile and lightness was gone. The tension slowly settling back in around them.
"Yeah...yeah I guess I...I must have forgotten,"
Silence. That old familiar silence that fell between them as Face continued to pick up magazines off the floor and struggled to straighten the papers on the desk. Murdock watched as the man moved about the room, doing everything in his power to keep from looking at the once-upon-a-time pilot. God but he still looked gorgeous, still moved with a grace only known to a man who spent most of his life ducking and covering.
"Oh, uh, here. There's a really great article in there about a World War II bomber some divers found off the coast of Spain. Gonna bring it back to surface and put it in a museum in London." Face finally said, breaking the silence as he handed a worn out magazine Murdock's way. The cover was dog-eared, as were a few pages inside, and there were a couple of tears in the binding but to Murdock, it was like gold. Face had been reading aviation magazines, even finding articles he thought the Texan would enjoy.
"Thanks, Fa-Temp." Carefully, he rolled the magazine and tucked it into his back pocket. Brown eyes once again scanning the room, Murdock soon found himself moving to stand closer to Face's desk, his mouth opening to ask questions he had no place to be asking.
"Temp? What happened? It looks like you've been living outta a suitcase for months. Is everything ok?"
Face paused, his hand hovering over a picture frame he had every intention of lying flat so his former lover couldn't see. Instead, those blue eyes looked down to the picture, stared at the loving brown eyes smiling back at him and felt his guard beginning to fall. Layer by layer.
"I have been." He answered softly. "I've been staying here for the past eight months. Just temporary. Steph's father isn't doing well and, well, we're playing nice just until after he goes. She uh...she's promised to pay me a percentage of what he leaves her. Ya know, as payment for playing house the past couple of years. Once he's gone, we can get things taken care of and I'll be back out on my own."
Turning, Face saw the look of confusion in Murdock's eyes and had to quickly look away. Those sad, confused brown eyes would pull him in and there'd be no turning back.
"It's alright though. I've got a very comfortable couch, there's a TV in the break room, I can have my meals delivered at night, plenty of quarters for the laundry mat down the street. It's nice. Makes me feel like I'm back in college again."
"What about the apartment?"
"Subletting it. It's still mine, my stuff's still there and taken care of. The guy living there now knows that he has to keep on the lookout for a more permanent place for when I want it back."
Letter of resignation and two weeks' notice forgotten, Murdock moved closer to the desk. His hand reached for Face's shoulder, wanting to touch him, to hold him and bring him back home where he belonged. It faltered though just short of making contact, hovered in the air over the man's shoulder like an invisible force field was keeping it away. His brown eyes gazed at the man's face for a long moment before trailing down his neck, the neck he used to nuzzle and nip at playfully to get attention; down those shoulders and arms, arms that used to wrap so protectively around him and hold him close to chase away the monsters; down to the hand still hovering over the picture frame.
There, staring back at him, was a pair of smiling faces. So happy, so in love. Hair tussled in the ocean breeze, eyes bright and sparkling in the sunlight, heads touching ever so slightly. Their bodies leaning into the other to make sure they both got into the frame. That obnoxious purple Hawaiian shirt, with the red birds and blue-green leaves perfectly clashing against the fancy blue sports coat of the man next to him. The silly Polaroid snapshot taken on the beach in Miami so many years ago. A picture stolen in a quiet moment between the two of them as they sat hiding in the shade of the lifeguard tower.
"Why...why didn't you say anything? You...I mean...I've got my own place, you coulda crashed at my place. Couch ain't that comfy but...the bed sure is. And awfully big for just little ol' me. I--"
"Murdock, stop. We can't...this can't happen." Face's voice trembled even as the words left his mouth. He didn't believe them any more than Murdock did. If he truly did believe them, then he wouldn't have reminders of the pilot everywhere. The mess, the magazines, the picture Murdock had long since forgotten all about.
"Why not? Facey...I...I've changed. I mean, look at me. Have you ever known me to be without my hat? Or my jacket? Hell, I don't even own a pair of Converse anymore. Not since my last pair wore out. I cook, I clean...I...I even housebroke Billy! I've held this job longer than a couple of weeks. I...I've...I grew up. Just like you wanted me to. I grew up cause of you. `Cause I wanted to be the kind of person you always wanted me to be so that maybe...maybe you'd see that I'm not just a goof anymore and...and you'd come back to me." His voice was frantic, pleading and begging. How could be prove to Face that things would be different?
He could see Face's shoulders tremble at the tone in his voice. A tremble that marked the struggle to hide his true emotions, to bring up that conman front that could smile his way out of anything even when he was breaking inside.
"Murdock...people don't just change like that--"
"Yes they do, Face! They do! I mean, look at you! This place looks like a tornado went through it, back up and went through it again. Your hair looks like it hasn't had product in it for months and...and look at your shirt! Old Faceman would be pitchin' a fit over the fact his shirt got all wrinkled like that. And you didn't even bother to tuck it in or...or wipe away that little gnome beard you've got goin' on with shaving cream."
Ducking his head, Face brought his sleeve up, quickly wiping away the remaining white soap. An act that brought a triumphant laugh from Murdock.
"See? Old Face wouldn't dream of wiping that gunk off on his pretty blue shirt. You've changed, Faceman. And if you can change than so can I. And I have. I swear to you I have. Please just...just give me another chance? You'll see."
"No...Face. I can't make it without you. I've been trying but...but I just can't." Tears threatened to fall from his desperate brown eyes as he moved to stand in front of the man. He had to see those eyes. To have Face look him in the eyes and see the truth there.
"Temp'ton, I look at myself in the mirror and I hate what I see `cause I know it was me that made you go away. I was the reason you were always mad and we always fought. I was wrong. I know I was. But...don't you think people deserve a second chance? God I wish you'd give me one because at this point I don't think I could make it too much longer without you in my life."
Face dared not look into those eyes. Even though he wanted nothing more than to pull the man into his arms and kiss away those unshed tears, to laugh and tell him how silly he looks in those blue jeans and dress shirt, to take him home and slip him into something far more comfortable...like a set of sheets. He just couldn't. His foolish pride just wouldn't let him do it.
"Murdock, we can't. Because if we do we'll just slip back into our old ways and we'll be back to fighting in no time."
"You don't know that though! And besides...even if we did...Oscar and Felix made it work!"
A moment of confusion flashed through Face's blue eyes.
"Oscar and Felix?"
"The Odd Couple. One was a slob the other a neat freak? But they made it work! So could we if you'd just please, please give me another chance. It's obvious you still have feelings for me or you wouldn't have that picture sitting on your desk where you can see it every day. Face...Templeton...please."
It was rare, oh so very rare, for Murdock to call Face by his full first name. That Southern drawl always seemed to get in the way of the "le" in the middle, so the Texan had started just leaving it out all together. Shortening it to the pet name "Temp'ton" instead, leaving the most difficult part for when he was truly desperate.
Face could feel his chest tightening, his eyes slowly rising to meet with the other mans. Those dark brown eyes shining with tears made tears of his own form. Hadn't he hurt the pilot enough? Why did he have to continue hurting him? Maybe things could be different. Maybe they'd stay the same as they'd always been. In the end though, wasn't the risk worth it? Wasn't it worth it to be held in those arms again and to have that soft, gentle voice murmur his name into his ear during those moments of passion? To be together again?
"We...we can't just go back to living together again, HM. Too much time has passed. We'd have to take things slow. Have our own places."
Light and life suddenly sprang to Murdock's eyes. The words he'd been longing to hear for so long were finally spoken. It was almost impossible to believe. Face was giving the green light for them to try again. And this time he wasn't going to mess things up. There was no way he was going to let history repeat itself.
"That...that's fine. I understand. So...wait, does that mean I'd get to be dating you? Like honest to goodness, romantic dinners, strolls on the beach in the moonlight dating you? Sit in the back of a movie theater making out like teenagers dating?"
Another laugh! A smile that could light up the darkest nights! He'd made his Lieutenant laugh and smile again and this time there was no sudden silence or tension to ruin the moment. He'd done it!
"Why don't we just start off with a nice dinner somewhere and go from there, ok buddy?"
"Dinner! Dinner's great! I like dinner! Oh, and I know about this really great French place in Malibu. Supposed to have the greatest calamari around." A wide grin was plastered to his face, the excitement and joy returning to his voice.
Chuckling and shaking his head, Face moved about the office, flipping off lights and picking his things up from the chairs and couch. "I told you about that place and you hate calamari. Why don't we just go to Master Yung's across town? I could really go for some Chinese food tonight."
"Chinese is good. I like Chinese. You driving?"
"I can. Hey, what'd you come up here for anyways?" Face paused as he reached for the doorknob and turned back to look into those eyes again. Those eyes that were the same bright, joyful eyes as the ones forever captured in the photograph on his desk.
Murdock froze for a moment, caught off guard by the question and honestly forgetting why he'd come up. Until he felt the letter still folded nicely and tucked away in his other back pocket. Reaching behind him to feel for it, he stopped. A soft lopsided grin rolled across his face as he looked back up and shook his head.
"Nothin'. No reason. Hey, did you know that the Chinese actually invented pasta and pizza? Marco Polo stole it and took it back to Italy. Do you think he's who they named the sport of Polo after? Probably the shirts anyways. I hear he was one snazzy dresser. Kinda like you!"
That old familiar laugh and eye roll signaled the end of questioning. Maybe someday Murdock would tell him what he'd really been doing coming up to see him. Just not right away. As for that better paying job? Well, they'd just have to find someone else to teach their flight ground school. He had more important matters to tend to before he could even consider leaving his job and Face again.
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