Murphy ran a hand through his hair and sighed faintly, staring out at the sparse countryside rolling past. His companion heard it and took his eyes off the road to look over at him, more concerned than he was willing to admit, although at the same time a bit amused at the way Murphy had acted during the past few days.
"Are you sure you're alright, Murphy? I'd swear you haven't accused me of anything sordid for at least four or five hours now."
Murphy looked up at the Irish con-man, startled out of his reverie, then quickly back the other way. "How bad was I, anyway?"
"Hmm. You've acted better. I really wouldn't have expected someone as level-headed as you to catch any sort of gold fever."
Murphy groaned to himself. Harry - that was really how he still thought of himself, even after months as Remington Steele - risked another look at him. Poor Murphy, he'd had no idea how to handle close proximity to riches. Well, he didn't have the same experience as Harry, after all. Laura hadn't gone loony, though. Well, that's predictable, anyway. Nothing fazes that woman, except perhaps the idea that there is more to life than work. He studied Murphy's profile, still staring at nothing in particular, and decided maybe he'd been a bit harsh on him. After the group had scrambled over the ridge to the shopping mall, they'd left more quietly, perhaps each thinking of all the craziness they'd been through for a treasure that really wasn't worth it. Laura had gone in the other truck with the two women, Arnold Dobbs and his newfound son taking another with the culprit tied up in the back, suggesting that when they returned to civilization they could call someone to pick up the helicopter from the ghost town. That left Harry to take care of a deflated and fatigued Murphy. They'd taken a different course than the others, who wanted to go the longer way home so they could stop at night in some small towns. Both Laura and Harry had felt that getting Murphy home as soon as possible was a priority. Now, Harry'd been driving for about five hours, with Murphy silent in the passenger seat. The sun was starting to fade out, and looking at Murphy's bedraggled and sweaty state, he remembered a small creek he'd seen a few miles off their course.
"Well, it's getting a bit late, old boy, what say we take a small detour in the interest of bathing, drinking and eating?"
Murphy shrugged. Harry turned off and started towards the water.
"They understood, you know. We all knew that the sun and heat had taken its toll on you, and that you weren't quite in your right mind. It could've been anyone, really."
Murphy looked up at him from the other side of the small fire Harry had just built. It was just getting dark, and the comment from whoever-the-hell-he-was had sprung out of nowhere. "I guess I know that, a little. I don't like it though. I'm not supposed to be the unstable one!" His voice rose more than he meant it to on the last sentence, revealing his state of exhausted anxiety. Harry noticed it too.
"Shh, there now, don't get upset about it. Look, I've already got the water I need to cook. Why don't you go bathe?"
"In the stream?"
"Come now, you need to get cleaned up or you'll make yourself sick. Just go round that rock, there." Murphy started to protest, but weakly. "Just go, Murphy."
Too worn-out to really argue, he went around the side as directed. He carelessly pulled his clothes off and piled them on top of the rock. The water was still warm from the heat of the nearly-gone sun, but cooling fast, and he was glad that he was bathing before it got too chilly. I still can't believe how I've been acting these last few days. You know, it's funny. . .before we got out here, I was the one telling Laura how *he* was going to go nuts over the. . . gold. And now look at us. He kept his head the whole time, and I turned into a raving maniac, going after anyone who so much as mentioned the word. I wonder what Laura thinks now? I must look terrible next to him. It's bad enough that he's learning in a matter of months the skills I learned in two years at Havenhurst, and that he's got a hold on her affections, but now. . .he's actually been pretty decent on this trip, though not in the beginning of the case. I suppose I do owe him some sort of thanks or driving the whole time, and making it so I didn't have to face Laura on the way home. I think that's what happened, anyway. I did overhear him say something to the effect that I probably would want to recover a bit before apologizing to her, when Dobbs asked about the arrangements. . . His thoughts were interrupted as he smelled something good from the direction of the campfire. Realizing that it was now completely dark, except for the star, moon, and firelight, he used one of the two shirts he'd worn to dry off and started to put on his other one. He saw Steele came up to the other side before he'd gotten it buttoned yet.
Seeing his state of undress, he quickly pulled back. "Sorry mate, I thought you were still getting clean and I was putting out a fresh shirt from my bag so you didn't have to wear the old one. . ." he explained hesitantly.
"Oh," replied Murphy, taking the proffered shirt. "Um, listen, I guess I owe you thanks and an apology. . ."
"What's the thanks for?"
"Well, you know. . .driving me back so that I don't have to face Laura...lending me a shirt. . .apparently cooking something to eat. . ." he trailed off, not sure if a person he'd not exactly been too friendly towards would accept his thanks Harry waved it aside. "Don't worry about it, Murphy. I mean, I realize we haven't exactly hit it off in the past, but that's no reason not to treat each other humanely. Now, if you'd like to come eat, I've used some of the canned food and vegetables we brought to make mashed potatoes with corn and a sort of gravy. . ."
Murphy grinned, the first time since they'd started on the road. "Sounds delicious. So don't tell me I don't owe you something for all this; what's it gonna cost me?"
Harry returned his grin devilishly. "Only a few gold doubloons. . ."
Murphy scooped up a handful of water and threw it at him as they headed back towards the fire, laughing.