FAREWELL Murdock sat beside the dying Colonel's bed and looked wearily at the reposing figure. He shifted uneasily in the chair, and finally stood and started checking the I.V. tubes and Foley bag automatically. After nursing the Colonel for the last six months, he felt he could pass the exam for a Registered Nurse; well, maybe not a Registered Nurse, but at least a Licensed Practical Nurse. He straightened the sheets, and noticed the small grimaces of pain visible on Hannibal's gaunt face, despite the heavy doses of pain medication. The end was coming soon. Murdock felt his hands start to tremble. It was unthinkable. How would he, Murdock, ever survive this man's death? He sat back down and started rocking himself back and forth, trying to calm the inner hysteria that was building. He concentrated on breathing evenly and not crying. The others were on their way. It would be hard for them. He would have to be strong for them. Hannibal had insisted that no one be told about his illness. If anyone had asked why Murdock had moved in, they were told it was just a case of two good friends living together and sharing expenses. Murdock hoped that they would understand that he had no choice; he had to honor Hannibal's wishes. Now, with very, very little time left, Face, B.A., Frankie and Maggie were finding out for the first time, not only was Hannibal sick, he was dying. Inside Murdock's mind, loud voices started screaming "No! No! He can't die!" while visions of Hannibal from the past flashed through his mind. Hannibal, chomping down on a cigar, blue eyes sparkling, and that devil-may-care grin. Murdock squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the visions. His trembling hands reached up to cover his ears, and he rocked back and forth faster and faster. He closed his eyes tighter and begged God to silence the voices, tears running down his face. Vaguely, Murdock could hear Billy whimpering in the background. Slowly the voices quieted, but the tremor in his hands never left. The captain sighed again and reached down absently and patted Billy's head, letting him know it was all right, he was in control again. Billy nuzzled his trembling hand and looked up at Murdock with blind devotion. Slowly, Murdock relaxed. He looked down at Billy fondly, as the idea formed in his mind. A sad smile glanced across his face. It was the answer to a problem Murdock had been working on for months. The captain knew what he would do now, if only the colonel would agree. He waited patiently for Hannibal to awaken. He closed his eyes and thought back to the last time he had seen the other guys. It had been less than a year ago, when Stockwell had suddenly provided them with their pardons. They had all agreed to meet in L.A. in one year to celebrate their first anniversary of freedom together. Face had returned to L.A. immediately. He would be arriving in an hour or so. The Captain reached up and started massaging his neck, dreading the upcoming encounter with Face. Murdock leaned back in the comfortable chair and closed his eyes momentarily. He knew Face had never really gotten over his pique that Hannibal and chosen to stay in the DC area along with Murdock, instead of moving back to L.A. The captain glanced over at Hannibal and shook his head from side to side in wonder. Hannibal had predicted everything. Hannibal had also warned Murdock to be careful of Face when he first returned, as his reactions would be volatile. Murdock smirked. Nothing Face could do to him could begin to compare to the hurt he felt whenever he thought of what was about to happen. If Face wanted to slug him because his feelings wre hurt,because Murdock had not let on how ill Hannibal was, let him. It just wasn't important. Hannibal was showing signs of stirring. Murdock swallowed nervously and reached down to pick up Billy. He held him close, and whispered into his ear, "I love you, boy. You know that, but now you have a job to do, so be a good boy, and be a brave soldier. I'll explain it all to you later. Just always remember how much I love you." Billy licked his face, teasing a half -hearted smile from Murdock, then the captain let him down. Billy kept butting his head for petting, and Murdock obliged. That's what Hannibal saw when he awoke; Murdock casually stroking the head of an invisible dog. Billy had been back for about six weeks. Hannibal sighed, wishing there was a way he could ease his friends pain, but not knowing any. He mentally cursed the cancerous condition he suffered, knowing it wasn't content with one victim, it was destroying Murdock's mind as well. "Colonel?" Murdock asked. "Captain. What time is it?" Hannibal asked in a weak voice. "It's about thirteen hundred, sir. We expect Face in about an hour. Everyone should be here before eighteen hours. Murdock looked down at Hannibal nervously. He wasn't quite sure how to approach the subject. He also wanted to be sure the Colonel was really awake, and as clear headed as possible. After adjusting his position in the bed, and giving him a sip of water, Murdock decided to tackle the subject. "Uh, Colonel, er, Colonel, uh I have to talk to you." he started nervously. It's important. I've thought about this, and I've thought about this and I'm sure Colonel, I am really sure." Hannibal looked up at Murdock uneasily." Sure about what Captain?" he asked, also uneasy with the way they were slipping into Military decorum, afraid to show their real emotions to each other now that time was running out. "Colonel, I worry about you." "You don't have to worry, Captain." 'Damn, I did it again,' Hannibal thought, using rank instead of name. "I can't help it Colonel. This trip you have to make, you shouldn't have to make it alone." "Murdock, we've discussed this before. I have to make it alone." "I know Colonel, I know, but, I, uh, but I, I, I want you to take," Murdock's voice wavered, he took a deep breath and with a rush, continued "I want you to take Billy" he got out, his voice cracking . "Billy!" Hannibal exclaimed weakly, and then turned his head away. "Colonel, I don't know what exactly lies ahead for you, but if I know that you have Billy, I know you'll be safe. Maybe you won't need him, but if you do, he'll be there. He's no trouble, he's a good dog, and a good friend. You'll never be alone if you take Billy. Please, Colonel, Please - Hannibal, you just got to let him come with you!" Murdock's voice grew desperate as he took the Colonel's silence for a negative reaction. "If I thought I could be with you, you know I'd come, but we don't know!" "Belay that, Captain." Hannibal turned to face Murdock, tears running down his face, his voice breaking with emotion, "I would be honored to have Billy accompany me. I can't imagine a greater honor." and he reached out a frail hand to grab his troubled friend, who buried his head in Hannibal's chest, and finally started to sob in relief. After a few minutes he lifted his head, unashamed of his tears, and patted the bed softly, watching Billy jump up. Murdock spoke softly in the dog's ear and finally looked at Hannibal, and said, "He promises it will be okay. He'll take good care of you." Murdock stood up and announced, "I'm going to go check on the others." "Murdock" Hannibal called. "Murdock, I have one last request." Murdock came back and picked up one of Hannibal's hands, and looked him in the eye "ANYTHING, Colonel" "I know Billy will be here, but when I die, uh, I , uh, well., could you make sure I'm not alone? I don't want to be alone... Silly, I know, huh? But even if I'm comatose, Murdock, I don't want to die alone. Stay with me?" Murdock squeezed Hannibal's hand tight, and clutched it to his chest. He knelt beside the bed, and looking into Hannibal's eyes he swore "As if you had to ask, don't worry. I promise you, I'll be by your side. I'll never leave you till it's over." The Colonel nodded his appreciation, and then closed his eyes and lost consciousness again. The time came when Hannibal's soul started out on the last journey. Murdock was there, holding his hand, and feeling the warmth of life slip away, and the coldness of death enter.
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