by Karen (Nightcrawler) Manetta-Nighthawk Commando


   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
   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
   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
   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

   "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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