Spoilers: Lyle is the guy from "Springtime". Other than that, just a lot of little details from here and there all over the canon. Permission to archive: Glass Onion, mash-slash, me, anyone else, just ask. Disclaimer: They're not mine. There's the odd original character who is, and the plot's mine, too. Warnings: Suicide attempt, threesome sex, and a little violence-- not glorified. Notes: Thanks are due to everyone who betaed for me, especially iolanthe and Britt Rose; and to Deena for helping with research.
I'll start at the beginning. That's the least I can do for you.
I may not be clever the way you have to be to be a doctor, the way BJ is; I may not even be as clever as I think I am, but I'm not stupid. Back when we were just friends, we'd stroll around town, part of the crowd, and see who caught our eyes; it was always easy to pick out what turned which heads (especially if the head turning for someone else was the one you happened to be in love with). BJ was as likely to be looking at a handsome man as a pretty girl, and I knew that. He'd never have admitted it, of course, and I wouldn't have dared to ask.
In those days, nobody asked. It wasn't that things didn't happen--people fell in love just the way they do now, the way they always have done. It was just that we were better at ignoring things society said shouldn't be there, and nobody asked unless they had a very good reason.
Anyway, when he came back from the war and started talking about Hawkeye Pierce, it didn't take a genius to see that he'd fallen in love. I'd guessed as much from his letters; and when I thought about the conditions out there, I found I couldn't blame him for needing to take comfort. I wasn't angry, and I surprised myself a bit when I found I wasn't jealous. When things are tough you need a way out, something to obsess you so that you can stop thinking for a while. Heaven knows I've taken the odd bit of solace when it came my way--if an old friend was in town for a week, or with a man I happened to meet.
BJ talked about Hawkeye almost all the time. He didn't mention being shot at, even though he dreamed about it and woke up weeping; he didn't talk about the operations he'd done out there, though he was clearly affected by them; instead, he told me--and you, though I doubt you remember--about Hawkeye until I felt I knew the man personally. I'd been starting to feel that way from his letters, but in a letter it's somehow easier to look back and make sure that what you're saying is balanced.
At home, though, all we heard about the war focused on Hawkeye, as if he was the lens through which all BJ's experiences out there had been filtered. We heard about Hawkeye's wit, as dry as the Martinis he drank; we heard about his still, in which the alcohol was lucky if it stayed around for half an hour; and I can repeat some of the stories about Hawkeye's battles with Frank or Charles in my sleep.
It fell into a pattern. BJ came home every evening, we ate supper in silence broken only by your excited chatter about what you'd done at school or how Waggle had been funny today; and then when you were in bed he'd start talking. We stood in the kitchen, washing up together like we always had--my hands in the soapy water, him drying the dishes--but now there was another presence. Hawkeye Pierce. How he dumped a load of garbage over a colonel. How Frank tried to have him hanged for mutiny.
For a long while, I bore it quietly, hoping that it would fade into the background as BJ got back into the rhythm of living life at home. No joy.
The final straw was the night BJ rolled over, put an arm around me, and muttered sleepily, "Love you, Hawkeye." When we were alone the next evening, I asked why you and I didn't get to meet the guy who obviously meant so much to him.
"You go on and on about him, BJ. Why don't you invite him over for a few days--the guest room's empty. You can tell each other stories about Frank Burns for a change."
"Um... look, Peggy, it's not that simple."
The washing up was finished, and we were sitting on the veranda, supposedly simply enjoying each other's company. BJ was starting to sound a little worked up, but I kept my voice low and calm. After all, I could guess what was really going on here. "What's not simple, BJ? He's your friend. You'd like to see him again, and I'd like to meet him."
BJ took a deep breath. "Aren't you jealous?" I wonder why he jumped to that idea so quickly? It suggested I was on the right lines.
"Should I be?" I kept it light, teasing, because I'd already guessed the answer. I should be, but I'm not, and that gives me control.
BJ looked at me in the twilight and frowned, but then quickly nodded as if he was afraid he'd lose the courage he had summoned if he didn't act soon. I was right. I internalised the grin of triumph that threatened at this, rejoicing in the power that was in my hands. "I'm not jealous yet. Going to tell me anything more about why I should be?"
And once again I was slightly surprised to realise that I really wasn't jealous. I loved BJ enough that I want him to be happy, even if it's not with me.
"Out in Korea, Peg. Things are different out there."
"Oh? How so?"
"People... do things they might regret later."
"They might, oh, fall in love with someone they shouldn't, perhaps." We were on the same track here, I sensed it, and we were reaching a conclusion. It was almost inevitable, however wooden and stilted the third person discussion might feel.
"Yes. They might fall for someone inappropriate."
"And after the war, those feelings might remain. They might be glad to know that their wife understands, and that if they need to see... old friends... that would be possible."
BJ nodded again, a rare smile creeping onto his face and up into that terrible moustache. "I'll see if I can phone him, then," he said, getting up. He must have been waiting for a chance for ages.
"You do that. I need to tidy the living room."
That phone call must have been the most sweetest one I ever made--just to hear Hawkeye's voice again was wonderful.
A few days later, you ran in from where you'd been playing in the garden. "Mommy, someone's here!"
"Who is it, darling? Do you know them?"
You thought for a minute, and then said with a smile, "I reckon it must be Hawkeye."
I peered out the kitchen door, and saw him. I'd never seen a photograph, but from what BJ had said, I knew you must be right: a tall man, with dark hair and sparkling blue eyes. There was (and is) something about him--in his smile, perhaps--that shows his sense of humour, too.
He walked along the back of the house with long, easy strides until he was standing in front of me. I straightened up and put on my best `visitor greeting' smile as he dropped his suitcase onto the dirt and asked, "Mrs Hunnicutt?"
"That's me," I said, and we shook hands. I could see even then why BJ was attracted to him, when I looked into the handsome face and shook his hands with their clever surgeon's fingers. There was an air of danger to him, too, as if some grenade left over at the end of war was still inside him, waiting to burst out, that made me wonder if I was doing the right thing in welcoming him to my home.
"Hawkeye Pierce--and this must be Erin," he said, looking down to where you were, but you had been overcome by shyness suddenly and run off, probably to watch from the next room. "BJ didn't tell me she was invisible."
"She's just a little shy. Come on in. I'm afraid BJ isn't here at the moment--something must have kept him late at the hospital."
"I know how that happens. Where's he working now?"
"Lady Alice Hospital--down south of here." I waved him through to the sitting room, and offered something to drink.
He accepted, and we sat in awkward silence for some minutes. Apparently the silver-tongued Hawkeye that BJ knows so well is reduced to the same dumbness everyone else suffers in the face of meeting his or her lover's wife. I found it kind of comforting to see how human he really is, because when BJ talks about him he starts to sound like a god.
It must be admitted that sometimes these days I start to sound like that, too.
You crept in to look at the stranger, and Hawkeye smiled at you--do you not remember? Well, I suppose you were too young. It was warm and genuine, so you smiled back.
"Hi," he said, nodding at you just the way he would nod to an old friend. There was a familiarity there at once.
"Hello," you replied, and--getting bolder--you went over to stand in front of him. "You're Daddy's friend, aren't you? The one who was always being funny and fighting with Major Burns?"
This summing up of his character seems to have hit close to the facts, because his friendly smile broadened into a wide grin. "So BJ's been talking about me, has he? Yeah, that's me. Did he tell you about the time Charles nearly..."
The utter lack of curiosity I felt in the advent of another story about Korea, even told from a different point of view, was lost when a key turned in the front door.
"Peg! I'm home!" BJ called. Hawkeye and I followed you into the hallway, him carefully moving behind me. "Hi, Erin, honey. Have a good day at school?"
"Yeah. Hawkeye's here," you told him, your childish bluntness getting over any difficult moment there could have been. He hugged me quickly, not really looking at me, and then moved on to the man next to me.
"Hawkeye? Is it really you?"
"The one and only." They started to shake hands, but then one of them decided that formality could go to hell and used the contact to pull his--friend? lover?--into a firm hug. The contact was perhaps too long, involved a little too much hip as well as shoulder, but it broke before I could really react to it.
"Good to see you again. What are you doing these days?"
"Nothing special--living in Maine, working in a hospital with actual wards, hiding the still under the sink. You?"
"Much the same. Barring being in Maine." They shared a grin, and then BJ caught my eye. "And no still. Really, Peggy."
I sighed heavily and pointedly, letting a little answering grin show through. BJ hadn't joked like he used to for ages, so it was good to see it again even if it took a stranger to bring it out. "Are you just going to just stand there, or do you want dinner?"
I said "yes", of course.
But do go on.
When I put my sewing away and headed up for bed that night, I realised I didn't know where BJ and Hawkeye were, though it seemed logical to assume they were together. I checked on you--fast asleep, thumb in your mouth--and then opened the door of the guest room. Sure, I should have knocked, but sometimes you take a risk to know the truth.
The two of them were sitting on the bed, BJ near the pillow with Hawkeye leaning back into his arms, and they were kissing. It seemed I'd opened the door real quietly, because they both had their eyes closed as they explored each other's mouths. Something about the scene--the looks of contentment on their faces, the slight curve of BJ's lips into a smile as he kissed Hawkeye, or the simple fact that these were two men, kissing--touched me. I'd say `deep inside', but it was a little less emotional than that; I was glad to see BJ happy, but the main thing I was aware of was being aroused by the sight. And not to anger, either: sexually aroused.
I stood and watched until one of them broke the kiss (I couldn't tell who), and then I knocked on the door. Two pairs of blue eyes opened rapidly. They moved apart with lightening speed, BJ looking decidedly sheepish. "Peggy- love- I'm..."
I smiled at him, reassuringly. "It's okay, BJ. Sleep well, both of you. I'm going to leave the radio on overnight."
He swallowed heavily, unsure of what to say until his--`partner in crime' seems appropriate, but `lover' is perhaps kinder--until Hawkeye rescued him. "Goodnight, Peggy. And thank you."
"You're welcome, Hawkeye. Goodnight, BJ."
"Goodnight, Peg," BJ finally managed to get out.
I slipped out of the room and went to the bedroom I'd become so used to sleeping alone in over the past few years. What did one more night of unfaithfulness matter, if it made BJ happy? I could live with that.
There are a lot of things that I might have expected to happen at that point. Top on that list would probably have been "she tries to kill me." The fact that Peggy was--what was she? Accepting? Permitting? Not actively trying to end things? I didn't know she was aroused by my humble self.
Don't look at me like that, Peg, you've just admitted that you were.
Anyway, she'd left BJ alone with me again, and I intended to take full advantage of the situation. Never let it be said that Hawkeye Pierce didn't take the opportunities life gave him.
I leant into him again, and ran my hand around the back of his neck, trying to bring his mouth down to meet mine. He resisted, frowning at the door his wife had just closed. "What's the matter, BJ?" I asked. Perhaps it wasn't my best line ever, but I was getting impatient.
"What's the matter?" he repeated, bitterly. "The matter? My wife walked in and found me kissing a man."
"And she seemed okay with that," I pointed out. "Are you going to kiss me again, or not?"
"I don't know, Hawk. I don't know."
Sighing, I sat up once more, shuffling along slightly to stay close to him. "Beej, she's basically given us permission. `I'll leave the radio on'--that's the closest we've ever got to being safe."
"Hawkeye, you don't understand. This isn't about what we could do. We're both clever; we've always been able to find ways to do what we wanted. This is about what we should do."
"What we should do is survive any way we can."
"We're not in Korea anymore, Hawkeye. There are no bombs to survive."
Something in his voice brings it all home to me. We're not in Korea anymore. He has a wife, a family. Stupid Hawkeye, to think that he might still really want you. A kiss for old times' sake, but nothing more: that's all you're getting. "That doesn't mean we're going to make it," I tell him, aware that more emotion than I'd like is showing in that phrase, and stand up, going to stand at the window and look out into the darkness.
Who knows? Maybe the darkness out there will somehow balance that darkness in here. That's how it works, isn't it? You're in a crazy war, so you go crazy to stay sane. You're in the darkness, so you look for more to cancel it out.
"Oh, I think we..." BJ began, and then clued in. "Hawkeye, I'm sorry."
"Why be sorry? You've got Peggy. You don't need me." I kept staring out of the window. His hands touched my shoulders, but I pulled away. Living over here again can be harder than it ever was in Korea. The wounds are mine, and I can't fix them; the bombs are only in my dreams, there's nowhere to go to escape them. When I came to see BJ again, I was looking for the safety I used to feel being with him, but all I could find was the brittleness of his doubt.
Perhaps, I thought, safety had gone for good.
The darkness was too much, I was nearly lost. And in the background, BJ was talking, as if that could fix it all. "Hawkeye, do you know why I asked you to come? It wasn't my idea. It was Peg's. The thing is, Hawk, I can't stop thinking about you. I can't stop talking about you. When I dream about Korea--and believe me, that's often--the fact that you were there as well is the only thing that keeps me sane. Hawkeye, listen to me. I need you."
That's BJ all over. Always ready to say what he means, to tell me what I need to hear. Oh, he'll joke: but sometimes those jokes aren't, they're just pitched so that I think he's joking, when really it's a truth that I won't face.
"I really do, you know. I tried to build my own still and it exploded. I think you've got some sort of magical touch with them."
"The trick is not to hold a match near the end result." He's got a magic touch, too, always able to bring me back from the edge. He put his hand on my shoulder again, and this time I let it stay.
"Come on, Hawkeye. Let's have what we both want and worry about how to keep it in the morning." His arms slid around me, and there it was: the familiar safety I had come here craving. The darkness outside suddenly seemed alien, so with a decisive gesture I pulled the curtains shut and turned to kiss him.
When he went to turn out the bedside light, I stopped him. "No, BJ. Let's not be in the dark anymore."
Eavesdropping is rude, my mother told me so, but I doubt she ever thought I'd be feeling guilty for quite this offence. "Your husband having sex with another man" (with or without your permission) was not on her list of things to be taken into consideration: though if it had featured there, I'm sure she would have disapproved of listening. However, my mother's advice was not uppermost in my mind that night, as I pressed my ear to the wall adjoining the guest room.
I heard the distinctive rattle of closing curtains, and the faint creak as the bed was sat on. A double rumble of male voices, speaking softly throughout: I couldn't hear what they said, just enough sound to know that they talked. Then squeaking, irregular at first, and I couldn't remain detached any longer. I tried to picture them together in the darkness: BJ, whom I know so well, and Hawkeye, the stranger.
They must have known each other's bodies in intimate detail, though. Briefly it occurred to me that it would be fun to swap notes with Hawkeye about how BJ reacts to things (like the fact that BJ's ticklish) but the embarrassment that I was sure would end any such conversation quickly sent me back to listening.
The creaks became more patterned, and developed a rhythm. Soft deep mutters became groans, mumbles of pleasure. Instinctively, I reached a hand down to my panties and began to touch myself, rubbing harder as the sounds from next door became louder.
All too soon for me, mutters turned to cries--one familiar, one new to me--and the sounds faded in stillness. They'd finished, and I pictured them collapsing into each other's arms as BJ and I did, hugging and kissing in an affirmation of love.
I went back to my bed, alone, wondering how BJ felt about this. I knew that I loved him, but did he still love me? His love for Hawkeye was clear.
The question bugged me as I tried to warm my feet, as I tried to fall asleep--it's funny how quickly I got used to being next to BJ again--and was still there in the morning, when the sun peeped in at my window.
Rolling over, I half expected to find him next to me; but the bed was cold there. He hadn't come back to me in the night.
I pulled on my dressing gown and went to find out: a girl takes risks when she needs to know.
He and Hawkeye were curled on the bed, huddled together in the centre as if the bed were only two feet wide. Maybe it's a memory of the army cots, with barely room to fit one person in, let alone two. Hawkeye's face was all but invisible, turned towards BJ's chest, but BJ was smiling, a grin of pure pleasure that I hadn't seen for years.
Either he'd been awake for a while, or I made some small sound, because his eyes opened, blue and as wide and happy as his smile. My heart felt full: with a sense of shared pleasure, but also with a nagging fear that I would lose him to this dark stranger who made him happy. I squashed the thought quickly, before it could affect me.
The door shut behind Peggy--God, I love your mother--and I went back to watching my lover sleep. I smiled to see him, but there were marks that worried me. He was deeply asleep, but it was a restless kind. His eyes moved under their thin lids, and his limbs shifted against me.
"Dreaming about the war, Hawkeye?" I asked, softly, knowing that he couldn't hear me, and pretty sure that he wouldn't answer if he could.
He stirred again, rolling over a little, so that his head rested partly on my shoulder and half on the pillow I was leaning on, the shock of black hair--streaked with white: grey wasn't in Hawkeye's repertoire--falling onto the white cotton pillowcase. I thought that I'd dispelled the tension somewhat the night before, but clearly not all of it had left him. Every movement, even in sleep, was laden with energy, his muscles wound so tight with the fear and worries of a war that now, a thousand miles and over a year away from it, they couldn't relax.
I wished there was something I could do (hell, I still do. It's rarer now, but I doubt it'll ever really end. Sorry, Hawk, but I feel I owe her the truth), but there wasn't, and there isn't. So I woke him, brought him back to a world I can help with, even if I'm the one who creates the problems it holds for him.
"Hawk, time for breakfast." And then, because he was still asleep and couldn't stop me saying it, "I love you."
"Umhph?" Ah, the first sign of intelligent life. "What?"
"Good morning, Hawkeye."
"Beej?" He frowned, a quick flash of emotion, there and then hidden again.
"Yes, me. And before you ask, I woke you up because you're lying half on top of me, and I want to go and have breakfast."
"I wasn't going to ask." A quick smirk, and the old Hawkeye was back in place, the mask returned.
"And also encourageable," he quipped, wriggling again, thighs rubbing on mine, a calculated move that often makes me give in and encourage him.
"Not now, Hawkeye," and to forestall the pout that was surely on its way, "Peggy and Erin are waiting for us downstairs." Too late. He pouted anyway--just a subtle change of expression, but the meaning was clear.
I had to take the plunge, as Peg did with me that night a week before, and try to be upfront and honest. "Look. This isn't Korea; pouting at me won't work. We're not soldiers any more. I love you--don't stop me saying it--I love you, but I also love Peg and Erin, and I don't want to lose any of you."
"What if that's not possible, BJ?" Suddenly, he was serious, alert to the importance of what I was saying. "What if you can't have both me and Peggy?"
"I don't know. I'm not sure I can make that decision."
"Then you might end up with neither of us." To lend weight to that, he turned away from me, rolling out of bed to stand in one smooth movement.
"Are you saying you'll leave me if I try to stay married?"
"Does it look like I will? I came here, didn't I?"
I stood as well, behind his unmoving frame, and noted that while he was always a little shorter than me, he stoops more these days, and looks at the ground. "Yes, you came." Double entendre, why not? "And so did I."
"Yes," and I could hear the smile in his voice with the memory, but then he was serious again. "Beej, I... We're safe here, right?"
"As safe as we'll ever be." Which, as we both knew, wasn't very safe, should anyone outside the family find out--and really, that meant outside myself, Hawkeye, and Peggy. The risk that you would mention it to a teacher or classmate was too high for us to let you know what was happening.
He turned back to face me. "BJ, are you sure?"
"Yes. Peggy would never tell anyone, and I think Erin's too young to notice, let alone understand, if we're a little careful." I reached out to touch him, and he nodded, but looked away from my face again, down at the floor. "Hawkeye, we really are safe."
"I know," he said, but he was plainly still unsure.
With nothing else to say, I pulled him into a hug, trying to reassure him that whatever it was he dreamed about (surely there was more on his mind than me) wasn't going to find him, whether it was bombs or disgrace.
When they came downstairs--together, no pretence that they were separate--BJ still looked happy, but his smile, like Hawkeye's, was tinged with worry or fear. There was nothing I could do or say to take that away, so I busied myself with the ordinary stuff of finding food, making sure you ate something reasonably balanced, getting tea and coffee and toast and more sausages when they were required.
The rest of the day, we all pretended it was a normal day, as best we could with `Uncle Hawkeye' there. I don't know why you insisted on calling him `uncle' that day; he didn't like it, and afterwards it was dropped, but to start with you wouldn't say `Hawkeye' to his face.
It was that evening, once you were in bed again, that we finally talked, all three of us. Sometimes all three of us at once, being the people we are. (But you're finding out about that, aren't you? Yes, BJ, that means keep quiet while I'm talking.)
To tell you the truth, we didn't only talk, but I'll get to that.
There was a lot of talking to start with, though.
That's true enough, Hawkeye, and I will tell that part. Let me get it in order.
We sat in the living room, and we had a few drinks. Not so much that any of us were drunk, and we all remembered what happened the next morning; but enough to get rid of the edginess, the awkwardness, that had affected us up until then.
No, I've skipped a bit. First, we put you to bed: you'd been wanting Hawkeye's attention all day--novelty value, I suppose (don't pull faces at me, Hawk!)--and it wasn't a surprise when you wanted him to read your bed-time story. While he was upstairs, BJ and I...
That's not how it was. You took Erin upstairs, and BJ and I finished the washing up.
Hawkeye, who's telling this? You or me?
Erin said she wanted to hear what really happened. I'm just trying to get to that. You took Erin upstairs; BJ and I finished the washing up--didn't we, Beej?
I'm not commenting. It's been nearly thirty years, and who did the washing up isn't really the interesting part of the story.
What happened, Erin, was this: you went to bed. The washing up had to be finished, and the table laid for the morning. These things were done, and then we went to sit in the living room for a quick end-of-the-day drink.
Also, nobody was quite sure who was sleeping in which bed.
We were waiting for you to decide, honey.
And without even meeting the guy, you'd taken a lesson from Colonel `Indecisive' Blake.
I knew what I wanted. It just took some planning to make sure I got it.
You mean you planned what happened next?
Yes, something like that. Planning's one of the things I'm good at. Anyway, are we going to tell Erin here what happened, or just bicker about whose brilliant idea it was?
I'm going to tell her.
When your father came into the living room, Peg and I were already drinking. I forgot why he was late. Over the course of that day, things had got a bit easier--I'd managed to get out of expecting Peggy to try and kill me...
And I'd got out of expecting Hawkeye to be either a threat to me (BJ made sure of that) or a real nuisance.
Yeah, now I look back on it, BJ worked hard all day to make us both feel happy.
At last they notice!
Well, don't expect too much of us.
When BJ came in, Peggy and I were drinking in silence: still a little uncomfortable with each other, but not so much so that we were trying to get out of the room. Peg sat in an armchair by the fire, and I had settled into the wing-back chair, within easy reach of the sideboard and the drinks.
Don't look so surprised, BJ. You do know me, don't you? Hawkeye Pierce, semi-professional alcoholic?
He sat on the sofa, between us and facing the fire. "Scotch, BJ?"
"Thanks, Hawkeye." We were silent for a minute, and then Peggy spoke.
"I think you owe me the truth, BJ."
"I'm sure I do, love."
"Truth about what, Peggy? The whole truth of the universe might take all night."
"Just the truth about you and him, actually, Hawkeye. I know what I saw last night, but that isn't so much."
"Okay, Peggy--and you too, Hawkeye. I owe it to you both. This is the way it is." He paused, swallowed the end of his drink, and then went on. "I love you both. Peggy, I've loved you since we first met, that night at the high school dance. I don't know when I fell in love with you, Hawkeye: I didn't let myself accept that I had for so long it doesn't matter.
"Out in Korea, you both have to understand, friendship, and the love that friends can give, was the only thing that stood between me and insanity. When you're that close, living that near to anyone else, the relationship that builds up is strong. And for some reason, in Korea--perhaps in all wars--everything is physical, to some extent. Hatred is expressed physically, in bullets or bombs, and love, friendship that at home would be no more than that, becomes physical too.
"You hate someone, and you want to kill them, strangle them with your bare hands. If you want to protect them, it has to be physical, because the threats they face are physical. And if you love someone, you have to express that physically."
"That's your excuse for having sex with Hawkeye?"
"I'm trying to explain why it happened the first time, Peggy." He was calm, staying reasonable and rational, but I don't think either Peg or I was managing as well as him. "Things change. Back here, I've got a choice. And so have you--both of you."
BJ didn't look at me, and I don't think he looked at Peggy--he just went on staring into the fire, not putting us under pressure.
"What sort of choice have we got, though? We can't both have you!" Even as I said that, I was rapidly becoming aware that maybe he had a point: another way was possible. Now, a lot of things went through my head in that moment, perhaps the most important of which was that I actually quite liked Peggy.
We'd spent the day together; we'd had fun. Between you and BJ, we had things in common, and being the person I am, I'd noticed that Peg is a beautiful woman. Before, I'd just been thinking of that in the `I can see why he married her' sense, but now it took on a whole new meaning.
I'd done that evaluation the day before, when we first met.
Well, my wonderful personality does shine through.
And I'd been hearing about you through BJ's rose-tinted spectacles for years. But go on with the story.
"What are you suggesting, BJ?" Peggy asked. He looked up, at her then across at me, and we saw the grin that the 4077th had both welcomed and feared because it said that a Hunnicutt plan had just been successful--and that could be good or bad, depending which side of the practical joke you were on.
"There's supposed to be room on this sofa for three, isn't there?"
I got a pair of strange looks for that one, I can tell you.
Who's telling this?
I'm taking over, Hawkeye. My plan, my story.
The idea was to stop having to glance back and forth between them like I was a spectator in a tennis match. However, it didn't quite work like that. It's surprising how often my plans have to be rearranged at the last minute. "Come and sit next to me," I said. "Both of you."
Neither of them moved. "Why?" Peggy asked.
"Because I'm fed up with being so stiff around both of you. When we're out, it's one thing not to be able to touch you, but at home--I want to kiss you."
"Yes, but which one of us?"
Now you see why I had to point out that the beginning that I'm outsmarted by these two. It took me a while to catch on.
About this point, I made a plan of my own--and this is where Beej's really started to fall down: or to succeed, depending how you look at it and who you ask.
"Mrs. Hunnicutt? Could I have a word with you in private, please?"
She frowned (like she's doing now--see?) and nodded. With a smile at BJ, I escorted her out of the room.
In the kitchen, she turned to face me and said, firmly, "I'm not giving him up without a fight, you know. One night is one thing, but I need my husband."
"I know. I'm not going to ask you to give him up, Peggy."
"Losing you again would break his heart."
I muttered something along the lines of "Mine too."
"So what do we do? Swap over a midnight?"
"I've got a better idea. You're a very beautiful woman, Peg."
"Thank you, but I don't see how that helps."
"Like this," I told her, took her in my arms, and kissed her.
Oh! I always wondered what you two said to each other out there!
It wasn't so much what we said that made the difference. As Hawkeye's just told you, he kissed me.
I'd find it very easy at this point to lie to you, for one reason or another. I could tell you that it was a wonderful kiss, the best I'd ever had; I could tell you that I knew then what I wanted. Sadly, life isn't that easy. It wasn't a perfect kiss. Really it was average, tending towards badly judged: the table dug into my back, we weren't at the best angle--it could have been better.
I think I've just been given a bad mark.
Don't be silly, Hawkeye--you're a good kisser, but it can't be the best one every time.
What the kiss did do was open up to me a possibility I hadn't considered before. They've hinted at it, but not explained: I wondered if it was physically possible to put three people into a bed.
How much actually went on out there? Did you stop at kissing, or not?
Do you really want to know that, Beej?
Okay, okay. There was just the one kiss, and then Peggy said, "I think I see where this is going. Let's go and talk to BJ again."
So we did--and the rest, as they say, is history.
I think we should record that we did get to the bedroom before anything very much happened, but that's all the detail you need.
Not about that night, Hawkeye. I would like to know, though: didn't you have to go home at some point?
Yes--but not for that long. By the end of that year, I was working in a hospital only eight blocks away from Beej's, and living with your parents `until I found a flat.' We never did get around to seriously looking for somewhere else for me to live.
I tried, once or twice, to get him to move out--for appearance's sake--but he can be as stubborn as a mule sometimes.
I remember some of the arguments.
Debates, Erin, debates. Doctors don't argue.
My mother's not a doctor.
And you don't always act like one, either.
Cheeky monkey! That's quite enough from you.
I'm sure it is. Well, thank you, and goodnight: mum, dad, uncle.
Right, that's enough.
Always have to have to last word, don't you?
No, he doesn't. Lovely daughter mine, hie thee to bed. Hawkeye, come here.
I'm going to kiss you. Peggy, I'll be with you in a moment.
Part Two: Exsanguinating
"Peggy, we have to do something about it."
They were in the kitchen, practically the central room in their lives, after dinner one evening. Her hands still in the soapy water, Peg turned to look at him. "Hawkeye, what are you talking about?"
"BJ. That moustache he insists on wearing. I don't like it, I know you don't like it--we have to get rid of it."
"Why? I'm getting used to you going off on crazy schemes..."
"In the past month, Hawkeye, you've hatched at least three schemes of varying craziness. And in one of those cases, I mean `hatched' literally. Do you know how much it worries me to think that one day I might find more baby geese in the bottom of my airing cupboard?"
"They were there for a reason!"
"Yes--a practical reason. A practical joke, in fact."
"You did laugh."
"That isn't really the point, is it?"
"I think it is."
"As I was saying, crazy schemes are nothing new around here, but why bother about BJ's moustache? It makes him happy."
"It makes him look silly."
"True, but I'd have thought that would make you happy."
Hawkeye put the dishcloth he'd been drying plates with down, and leaned on the counter so that he could look straight at Peggy. "What's making you so sharp with me?"
"Perhaps the fact that you expect me never to be sharp with you."
"Oh, come on, Peggy. That can't be all."
"So you admit to that charge?"
"Maybe I do--but you're side-tracking me. What did I do to upset you?"
Peg stared down at her hands, fiercely scrubbing a coffee stained mug. "Nothing much. Are you drying the dishes or not?"
"Okay, okay, I'm drying. When's Beej coming home?"
"Any time now, I hope."
Hawkeye nodded and stayed silent, thinking about BJ: BJ working at St. Mary's Hospital, BJ who was on duty until well into the night so often, BJ who was doing the job Hawkeye could do, but wasn't doing.
"Nearly there--this is the last dish," Peggy said, breaking into his half trance. "Why do you call him `Beej', anyway? Why not BJ?"
Shrugging, Hawkeye told her, "It made sense at the time."
She didn't understand how that could be so complete an answer, but for all her husband would talk about Korea until he was blue in the face, she knew she'd never fully comprehend it. Least of all, perhaps, from Hawkeye's point of view. He didn't talk about Korea, and when BJ started he'd taken to changing the subject or leaving the room.
"Well, whatever. Let's have a drink while we wait for him."
Sitting in the half-dark of the living room (if you had the lights on inside, when BJ walked up the path you couldn't see him--better to find your drinks and then turn the main light off while you waited), comfortably together on the sofa, Hawkeye and Peggy didn't talk any more. It was safer that way; to sit in the darkness and the silence, so that you didn't have to look at each other and couldn't argue. Then, when BJ finally got home, he wouldn't have to do the work of peace making, and things could move smoothly on.
So much for not being in the dark, Hawkeye thought. He'd come here, three months ago, to get out of the darkness that was all he could find in Crabapple Cove, only to be plunged into a new darkness. This one was a little warmer, and a little safer, and the brightness that was his love for BJ burned brighter, but it was still dark. Furthermore, he still felt like he was only two steps away from cracking up.
White lights suddenly blanched them both into near ghosts, and the hum of an engine filled the room. BJ's car, coming up the drive.
With an unspoken agreement born of habit and many nights of practice, they rose almost as one. Peggy opened the door--a habit imposed by the need to keep up appearances for the rest of the world--and was greeted with a quick kiss.
"Home at last! I'd have been quicker but we had an emergency in..."
"Come here," Hawkeye commanded, pulling BJ into a firm hug. Peggy only just managed to get the door shut before they were kissing.
"Did you miss me, then?" BJ asked when he got free of the insistent mouth.
In the light of the hall, Peggy, watching Hawkeye nod and pull BJ down for another kiss, noticed that her husband's lover seemed hungry, almost desperate. BJ was playing along with him, giving him what he wanted, but not initiating it. She made a mental note to try and talk to BJ about it later--if they ever got a moment for just the two of them again.
"Did you get dinner?"
"Yes, thanks, Peg. Is Erin asleep?"
"She was fifteen minutes ago."
"Damn. I guess I'll speak to her in the morning--Doctor Johnson's given me another of those key rings she collects. Oh, and Hawkeye? Doctor Rossi's still after to you to be his next assistant surgeon."
Hawkeye turned away, not wanting to let BJ or Peggy see his expression.
"Hawkeye? Hawk, what is it?"
"I thought I told him I wasn't looking for a job." Hawkeye's voice was thick, clogged with hidden emotion.
"He doesn't give up easily." BJ touched Hawkeye's shoulder, hoping to hold him, comfort whatever fear gripped him, but Hawkeye jerked away.
"Can't he leave me alone?"
"Hawkeye..." BJ moved towards him again, reaching out, but with a sour "goodnight" Hawkeye turned and ran up the stairs.
BJ glanced at Peggy, the hurt clear in his eyes, and she suddenly wanted to revoke her wish for some time alone with her husband. "He's been in an odd mood all evening," she said, answering the question before BJ even asked it.
"And you've got no idea why. I know that feeling." Hand in hand, they climbed the stairs, separating only when they reached the top--BJ turning left to peep in at his sleeping daughter, and Peg turning right to try the handle on the guest room that Hawkeye was using, at least officially. It was locked from the inside. BJ was about to knock, but Peggy pulled him into their bedroom.
"Go to bed, BJ. You've been working for who knows how many hours, and he can wait."
"I don't want him to have to. I should talk to him."
"You should get some sleep. I'll talk to him if it worried you that much."
"Peg, you don't know him as well as I do. If it takes more than ten minutes, you can come and help."
Sighing, Peggy allowed that and stood aside. BJ kissed her on his way past, as she began to brush her hair.
"Hawkeye? Can I talk to you?" he asked softly, outside the door, trying to strike a balance between Hawkeye hearing and Erin staying asleep.
No reply. "Hawkeye, I need to know you're alright."
He waited, listening, and finally there was a quiet answer. "Sorry."
"Open the door, Hawkeye. Let's talk."
"I'm sorry, Beej."
Something in the tone of his lover's voice suggested to BJ that now was time for more dramatic action. He resisted the impulse to kick down the door, on the grounds that it would wake Erin. "Peggy? Where's the spare key?"
Without a word, she pulled it from the side of her jewellery box, and took the two steps down the hall to hand it to him.
"Thanks." He fumbled with the lock of a moment before the door swung open. "Hawkeye?"
The once carefully decorated room was awash with blood, in a way that he hadn't seen since he left the 4077th. The rug, white when it was new, was now red; a scalpel lay on it, half hidden by the blood on both of them. A lot had been soaked up by the soft furnishings, but in places it still formed puddles on the polished wooden floorboards, and more was arriving all the time.
Hawkeye was lying on the bed, skin pale, slashed wrists out in front of him, staring at the blood as it poured out.
Later, BJ would realise that he hadn't really thought about what this was, or why, or what it meant--he'd reacted purely on medical instinct.
Ignoring the blood, he walked--"no time to rush"--across to Hawkeye, pulling his handkerchief out of his pocket as he went. The instructions--where did they come from?--were calm and clear in his mind. Twist it into a strip; tie it tightly above the cuts in one wrist (he's faint from loss of blood, but still conscious; he hasn't had time to lose all of it); look round for something else--shirt sleeve--and tie it around the other wrist.
Don't look at his face, or you'll scream. This is a patient, not Hawkeye.
Slip an arm behind his shoulders; lift him up (no time to be surprised by how little he weighs); carry him past Peggy's shocked stare and Erin's eyes, full of sleep and fear.
"I've got to get him to the hospital. I'll call you."
Bundle him into the car you only just left, and check the improvised bandages.
Thankfully, most of the bleeding had stopped, but Hawkeye had passed out completely. "Back to the hospital," BJ muttered, watching the speedometer tell him he was breaking the law, and not caring.
The emergency room was quiet--mid-week, that wasn't unusual--and as soon as BJ walked in, carrying Hawkeye, a nurse came over to see what was going on, only partly because she recognised BJ.
"He slashed his wrists. Get Dr Neider, and tell me where there's a free bed."
"Would a consulting room do?"
"Nine and twelve are free."
"Thanks. Get Dr Neider."
She went, his urgency communicated by his efficiency as much as his tone or bearing.
Dr Neider found them in consulting room nine, Hawkeye laid on the couch and BJ kneeling by his side. "Dr Hunnicutt?"
Without looking round, BJ started to explain, "He..."
"Slashed his wrists, yes, Nurse Edson told me. What she didn't say was who he is, or indeed anything else."
"His name's Hawkeye Pierce--he's an old army friend of mine. The cuts are quite deep, and long. They need stitching."
"I'm sure. May I look at them?"
"Of course." They looked at each other for a moment, BJ's worried blue eyes meeting Neider's calm brown ones, and then BJ realised that he was in the way. "Oh--sorry."
"Try the chair," Neider advised with a slight smile, moving to stand by the unconscious Hawkeye. "How much blood did he lose?"
"At least two pints, I guess. He was only alone for ten minutes or so--there... oh, God. There was blood everywhere." BJ noticed dampness on his cheeks, and wondered if he'd started to bleed--but when he wiped them, it was just water. Tears. "The scalpel he used was still on the rug..."
"Don't worry about it. I've got him now." Neider strode to the door. "Nurse! Whole blood--what type is he?"
He had to shake BJ before he got a response. "Err, B, I think."
"Whole blood, type B. Get the drip in at once."
BJ sat with Hawkeye for the next three hours, weeping sometimes, shaking a little, and always trying to work out what had happened.
I gave him the message from Dr. Rossi. He ran upstairs--Peggy and I talked--the door was locked--when I opened it, he was... he was... not dead. He's not dead, not yet.
Not on the outside.
"Dr Hunnicutt? Have you telephoned your wife? Does she know what's going on?"
"I... She was there when I found him."
"Then she'll want to know that he's going to be fine, won't she?"
"Yes. Yes, I should tell her. And I've got another call to make."
"You can use the telephone in my office--only just round the corner." BJ glanced across the room at where Hawkeye lay, his wrists bandaged and a tube disappearing into his arm. "You'll be back long before he wakes."
One final look at his lover, and BJ allowed himself to be led out of the room.
"Peggy? It's BJ. I hope I didn't wake you."
"No--Erin won't sleep. Oh, love, are you okay?"
"Pretty much. And Hawkeye's going to make it."
"Thank heaven! What happened to him?"
"Have you looked in his room?"
"Only briefly. I didn't want Erin to see."
"He slashed his wrists--probably with a scalpel. It was still on the floor when I went in there."
"He... but why, BJ? Why would he do that?"
"I don't know, Peg. In the morning I'm going to try and get in touch with Sidney."
"Sidney Freedman--a physiatrist we met in Korea. I think he's the only person I've ever seen Hawkeye open up to."
"Do you have any idea where he is now?"
"Do you know someone else who knows, then?"
"No. But I do know who will know who knows."
"BJ, I think you should get some sleep. You've stopped making sense."
"You mean I'm starting to sound like Hawkeye sometimes does."
A soft sound. "Maybe I do. Oh, BJ--I love you."
"I love you too, Peg, honey."
"I'd better go. Erin's crying again."
"Tell her I love her, too, and that Hawkeye's going to be okay. Then see if you two can get some sleep."
"Alright. If you don't come home by morning, I'll take Erin round to my parents' house and come to see you there."
"That's a good plan. I'll see you."
"Radar? I'm sorry to wake you."
"That's alright, Cap--BJ. Hawkeye's in trouble, right?"
"How did... oh, never mind. I need to contact Sidney Freedman."
"Do you know where he went, after the war?"
"I was hoping you might be able to find out."
"I can try. Father Mulcahy keeps track of most people--he might know."
"I let you know as soon as I hear anything, okay?"
"Yeah--best not to use this phone number. Call me at home, if it's more than three or four hours."
Across a whole continent, phones ring at unearthly hours. Mulcahy didn't know, but Potter might. Potter saw him a month or two before, but didn't know where he'd gone after that--try Klinger. Klinger thought he'd been visiting someone in the north--Hawkeye or Trapper?
Finally, Trapper gave Radar the clue he needed. "He was heading for San Francisco. Said something about having family on that coast. Did BJ say why Hawkeye needed him?"
"No--just asked me to find him as quickly as possible. I'll see if there's anyone in San Francisco called Freedman. Thanks, Trapper."
The girl on directory enquiry duty was someone Radar'd spoken to before, so they got along fairly quickly--three Freedman numbers in San Francisco. Of course, the one he wanted was the last one he tried. "Sidney? Yes, we have a Sidney Freedman here. Who is this, please?"
"Radar O'Reilly--I'm an army friend of his."
"I'll put him on."
"Sidney? It's Radar here. Hawkeye needs you."
"BJ didn't say. He just asked me to find you. If I give you his number, will you call him?"
"Mrs. Hunnicutt? This is Sidney Freedman."
"I gather I've been contacted faster than expected."
"Yes. He mentioned he was going to try and find you."
"Something about Hawkeye, I understand?"
"That's right. He... BJ said he slashed his wrists."
"I see. Where is he now?"
"They're both at the hospital--Lady Alice."
"I think I know it. I'm only about fifteen miles away--can you let BJ know I'm on my way?"
"Sure. How long will you be?"
"Less than half an hour, I hope."
"I'll tell him."
Almost exactly half an hour later, Sidney was knocking on the door of consulting room nine; and when that got no answer, he opened it and looked in.
BJ has pulled the chair up to Hawkeye's bedside and fallen asleep there, holding his hand; but Hawkeye had woken, not that long ago, and was watching BJ with eyes full of tears. He lifted one hand to his mouth, intending to ssh the newcomer--but the drip tube got tangled, preventing him.
"Sidney?" he whispered.
"Quiet! You'll wake him. If you're even real."
"I'm real, Hawkeye, trust me. But we don't have to talk now."
"Okay." Hawkeye lapsed back into his uncharacteristic silence, while Sidney went to find a chair.
Time passed. BJ woke, and left, greeting Sidney calmly and promising Hawkeye he'd be back soon with something to eat.
"Not," as Hawkeye observed once he was alone with Sidney, "that I really feel like eating."
"It's the middle of the night, for one thing."
"It's nearly dawn."
"Time flies when you're enjoying yourself, I guess. Don't you just hate losing time, though?"
"Do you feel that you've lost time?"
Hawkeye laughed, a dry, mirthless chuckle. "Stop trying to sneak analysis into the conversation, Sidney. I can see what you're doing."
"Can you see what you're doing?"
"Sure--I'm trying not to talk about me."
"And why's that?"
"Why do you think? I just tried to kill myself for reasons I have no intention of talking about."
"Fair enough. What sort of reasons are they?"
"Oh, the usual. Love, life, dirty laundry."
"May I hazard a few guesses?"
"You've fallen in love with someone. You're not working because blood reminds you of the war, but that's creating problems between you and the someone. How am I doing?"
"You're very entertaining."
"Can you do better?"
"I'm not so stupid that I'll fall for that, Sidney."
"Okay, we needn't talk about you. How's BJ doing?"
"He's fine. Good job, beautiful wife, pretty daughter. And the war didn't drive him crazy."
"How do you know?"
"He can talk about it. He doesn't have nightmares. He can still do his work."
"Why do you have trouble talking about Korea, Hawkeye?"
"Damn." A moment's silence, then: "I guess I'm afraid to remember."
"The memories are what causes the nightmares. If I couldn't remember, they wouldn't be able to take me back there."
"That's interesting logic."
"You mean it's crazy."
"There's no point trying for section eight now, Hawkeye."
"I'd never be able to match Klinger, anyway."
Sidney was about to reply, but the door swung open to admit BJ, followed by Dr. Neider.
"Sidney, Hawkeye, this is Doctor Terrance Neider, who's on duty tonight; Terry, you've seen Hawkeye before, and Sidney is another army friend--a psychiatrist by training."
"Good... it's morning now, isn't it? Good morning, both of you. Hawkeye, I'm mainly here to talk to you, but I'm happy to have other people here if that's what you want."
Hawkeye was about to reply, but a knock on the door prevented him. "Doctor Hunnicutt?" a female voice asked from outside.
"I'm here. Who is it?"
"Your wife's in the lobby. Shall I bring her through?"
BJ looked at Hawkeye, who nodded. "Yes, thank you."
"And bring a few more chairs, please, Nurse Edson," Neider requested.
"Will do, Doctor."
Lying back, Hawkeye watched them bustle around--fetching chairs, finding places to sit, getting comfortable, asking where Erin was, shuffling paper--and wondered why they were doing all this around him. Why did they bother? It wasn't like he was important.
When Peggy had been introduced to Drs Neider and Freedman, and everyone was seated, and BJ had been reassured that Peg's parents really did like looking after Erin, Terry Neider coughed, in his best `calling the meeting to order' way.
"Hawkeye, do you know what you did last night?"
"I've got some idea. I was there, after all."
"But do you know how close you came to dying?"
"Yes--I'm a surgeon, Dr Neider."
"I'm aware of that, Dr Pierce. Luckily for you, you stopped cutting fractions of an inch away from the major ligament, on both wrists, although the right side was a closer call than the left. If you hadn't, I'd be sitting here trying to break the news to you that you might never be able to work as a surgeon again, even if you regained use of your hands."
Peggy gasped, and BJ took her hand, equally startled. "God, Terry, I didn't even think of that."
"Will that be all, Dr Neider?" Hawkeye asked, almost supernaturally calm.
"I'd just like to check your blood pressure, and then I'll leave you alone."
Sidney observed that Hawkeye used stretching out his arm for Neider as an excuse to hold hands with BJ. Peggy wasn't the only one drawing strength from there.
"How is it?"
"Much better. I'll leave the drip in for half an hour or so, but then we'll move you into a proper ward."
"No, you won't."
"You can't stay here, Hawkeye."
"I'll be going home."
"I really don't think that..."
"Terry, just come back in half an hour," BJ said. "We'll talk then, okay?"
"Okay. I'll see you." Neider left, frowning but prepared to trust his colleague.
As the door swung shut, BJ took a deep breath. "Right." Hawkeye, guessing what was coming, let go of BJ's hand. "I've got some questions for you. I don't know if you're capable of answering on not, but I want to get the questions out in the open, and I'll trust Sidney to stop me if I'm going too far." He glanced at Sidney, who just nodded. "One: what on earth did you think you were doing? Do you have any idea what I went through, finding you like that? Never mind what it was like for Peggy or Erin!
"Two: why? Do I really treat you that badly? Are you really that afraid of Dr Rossi dragging you back into surgery? Did you really imagine that it was your only way out, or were you just overcome by the desire to make a good dramatic exit?"
"You're angry, BJ."
"Damn right, Sidney. Damn right I'm angry. I finally think that I might be managing to find a balance that makes the people I love happy, and he tries to end it!"
Hawkeye had closed his eyes against this tirade, and even next to stark whiteness of the hospital pillows he looked pale. "I'm sorry, Hawkeye," BJ went on, "but I just don't understand. I thought we were starting to make things work, and now this."
Throughout this, BJ had been gripping Peggy's hand, and in an effort to distract herself from the fact that her fingers were going numb, she tried to understand the three men in front of her. There were certain similarities--a few lines they were too young to carry, a fleeting look of fear or hatred as some memory stirred--that stood out between them, as if the war had left some invisible thread binding them together, but it was clearest in Hawkeye.
When I first met him, I thought he was still carrying a grenade inside, she reflected. Now it's showing itself. Korea was blood and fear and noise, and that's what he was trying to get rid of. BJ's using Korea: he shouts, he shakes sometimes, and he still operates. Like an actor using stage fright to improve their performance, he's overcome the fear by making it help him, but Hawkeye hasn't worked out how to do that yet. Instead, he was trying to get rid of the fear by draining all the blood out, but it doesn't work, anymore than not talking about the war makes the inside of his head quiet.
Hawkeye was turning away, rolling onto his side and hiding his face, his shoulders racked with sobs. She realised that BJ hadn't seem what she saw.
"BJ, don't shout, love." Hawkeye can't deal with the noise--it's just frightening him.
"I'm sorry, Peg."
"Hawkeye, can you cope with talking to BJ now?" Sidney asked. He got no reply. "I think you probably can't. BJ, may I have a word with you outside?"
"Um--okay." BJ stood up, but Peggy stayed where she was.
"I'll stay in here, BJ. You talk to Sidney."
"Okay." He dropped a kiss onto her forehead, let go of her hand, and followed Sidney out the door.
For a moment, she sat in silence, rubbing her hand, before moving across the small gap between her chair and the bed, to perch, sideways, by Hawkeye. "Hawkeye, I'm sorry I was so sharp with you earlier. Erin's teacher is worried about her behaviour at school, and I was thinking about that."
"I'm sorry about the goslings," he muttered.
"That's alright. I thought they were cute, actually." She rested a hand on his shoulder, noticing that he wasn't weeping any longer. "When you say `home', do you mean Maine or my house?"
He shrugged, an awkward gesture but eloquent. "At one time, I'd have meant Crabapple Cove. Now--I don't know."
"Well, for practical reasons I think the Hunnicutt household is a better bet today. We might just persuade Dr Neider that BJ and I can take care of you there, but I can't see him--or BJ or Sidney--letting you try driving back to Maine."
"I admire the way you think, Peggy."
"I hope that's not the only thing you admire about me."
"Far from it." Hawkeye shifted onto his back again so that he could see Peggy's face. "Look, Peggy, I hope I didn't upset you too much last night. I mean, I'm not totally clear why I did what I did--I should be able to say it, shouldn't I?--I don't know why I slashed my wrists, except that it seemed like it was the only thing I could do; but I can see that BJ's angry with me, and I can understand that, but it's not something I can deal with right now."
"Hawkeye, it's okay. I think I might be able to guess why, from what you've said, and heaven knows there was a time or two while BJ was in Korea that I thought I'd do the same thing myself."
"I'd thought about it before. I think I might have done it out there, once or twice, if it wasn't--well, if BJ hadn't been there. At first, when Trapper and Henry were there, it wasn't so bad, but later, when Henry was dead, there was only BJ."
"What happened to Trapper?"
"He--I don't want to talk about it. BJ and Sidney'll be back in a minute."
Peggy added `Trapper' to her mental list of things Hawkeye wouldn't talk about, after `the war', and `going back to work'. "Yeah. Look, if I side with you and try and convince them that you'll be better off at home, will you promise me that you'll make some appointments with Sidney, go see him and talk to him?"
Hawkeye thought for a moment, and then said, "Alright. If you insist."
"I do." She bent down and kissed him. "You know I care about you, don't you?"
Quietly, Hawkeye said, "Yeah. Thanks, Peggy."
Out in the corridor--Sidney had been hoping they'd make it to a private room, but no such luck--BJ asked snappily, "What is it, Sidney?"
"I know you're angry, BJ, and that's fine; but I don't think Hawkeye's ready to deal with your feelings yet. He's having enough trouble with his own."
"I know that, Sidney. But he needs to know--and damn it, if he knew how much I care about him, it might help!" BJ paused, and then went on more quietly, "Not that I got the `I care about you' message across very well, did I?"
"Perhaps you're not going to be able to for a while. Look, BJ, I get the feeling I don't have all the facts here--I thought Hawkeye's home was Maine? And you do know--you are aware--that he's fallen in love, aren't you?"
"Yes, I can figure that. It's as well for him I feel the same way."
Sidney did a visible double-take. "Err... could you just clarify that one a little?"
"It's a bit complicated. I... I fell in love with him in Korea--we were best friends out there, lovers even. It always seemed like a fine line between them: in the war where everything's physical, that has to include love. I thought I'd be able to leave him behind when I came back, make a clean break--but I couldn't. I couldn't let go of him. Eventually, Peggy figured out why I was so distracted, why I talked about him so much, and she--bless her--suggested he could come over."
"Shall we continue this conversation somewhere more private?"
"Sure." They slipped into the next consulting room along, thankfully empty at this hour.
"So--your wife suggested that you bring your lover to stay?"
"Yeah. There's a reason I love her, you know."
"You're still in love with her?"
"Okay. What happened?"
"Hawkeye came, we worked out a way to get three people into one double bed--it's a natural step up from getting two in a army cot--and there's been the odd argument, but for the most part I thought we were doing okay. Until last night, that is."
"How long has this been?"
"A few weeks--no, it must be a month and a half. Since early September, because Erin had just gone back to school when Hawkeye came."
"That's pretty amazing."
"Is that your professional opinion, or just general comment?"
"Just comment. Professionally, I think that you've got something pretty amazing going, something I've never heard of before--and I think that if anyone can make it work, you can. What Hawkeye did wasn't about you, or even about Peggy. It was about the war, and about how he's dealing (or not dealing) with it; and about his working as a surgeon again. In fact, I wonder if this might not have come to a head now precisely because this--what is it? A three-way relationship?"
"That's about it."
"This relationship is working so well. He can rely on you and Peggy to catch him when he falls--he wouldn't have done this in Maine, because he couldn't put his father through it--but it's something he needs to sort out, and you're offering a safe space in which he can do that."
"He's trying to deal with what the war has done to him when I'm around, because he knows that I can cope with that? Because I was there?"
Sidney nodded. "I think so."
"If you can't handle it..."
"No, no. I can handle it. If I know that's what he needs me to do, I can do it. I only wish I knew that before I went in there and shouted at him. That's only going to have made it worse."
"An apology may be in order."
"Yeah--and also? I should take him home, like he said. If you're right, and what he needs is a safe space to sort this out in, that's going to be at home, with me and Peg, and not here."
"What about Erin?"
"I think she needs a holiday. At least a week, possibly a fortnight. If I tell my parents that Peggy and I need some time alone, I bet they'll have Erin over a while. And it's not like I'll be lying to them, exactly."
"Sounds like a good plan to me," Sidney said. "Shall we go back and talk to Hawkeye and Peggy again?"
"Here they come. Look busy."
Peggy grinned, as much happiness at knowing that Hawkeye's sense of humour was on the mend as at the joke, and moved back into her chair.
When BJ opened the door, Peggy was staring out of the window, and Hawkeye had closed his eyes again. "Peggy, love, are you alright?"
"I'm fine, BJ." They exchanged a smile, and then BJ moved on to stand by Hawkeye. "Hawk? I'm sorry I shouted out you."
Hawkeye opened his eyes and looked up at BJ. "I'm sorry, too."
"Look, Hawkeye--I care about you, okay? More than that--I love you." Hawkeye didn't respond, just looked into the blue eyes above him. "Did you hear that, Hawkeye? I love you."
Finally, Hawkeye said, "I heard." He looked away from BJ then, his eyes filling with tears. "Now what are you going to do? Let your buddy Terry pack me off the psychiatry ward where Dr. Rossi can stop by and badger me in his lunch break?"
BJ was about to reply, but the door swung open again. Two minutes shy of the half hour he'd promised, Dr Neider had returned. "I know I'm early, but I'm going off duty in five minutes, and I'd really like to have Hawkeye moved somewhere slightly more sensible by then."
Peggy began, "How about..." and BJ said, "Don't worry, I'll..." They stopped, looked at each other, both trying to convey `back off', and went on; "taking him home?" Peggy said, and "take him home," finished BJ.
Neider looked from one to the other. "I don't think that's a good idea," he said. "Not at all."
"Look, Terry, I'll take care of him."
Peggy frankly stared at her husband, who shrugged. "He's right--rest at home is likely to do him a lot more good. I'm owed a week's leave anyway, and Erin can go to my parents' for a while. We've got some sorting out to do." The way he said the words `sorting out' made Terry realise that there was a lot of inter-personal dynamic he was missing here.
"Okay, whatever. Let me take the IV tube out and then you can do what you like with him."
Hawkeye grinned, and gave Peggy a surreptitious wink.
Saturday evening. Hawkeye is sleeping a lot; Sidney tells us that it's a classic symptom of depression. It's been, what--two days now?--yes, it was Thursday evening when he slashed his wrists. He dozed most of Friday, and then last night he had nightmares. I've seen him have bad dreams before; I've seen him restless, exhausted, drunk, but never as upset as he was then.
Perhaps the worst part was that he seemed unable to explain what he was dreaming about, though he clearly remembered. I guess it was the war, but how it could be worse now, in dreams, than it was when we were out there I don't know. My dreams are bad, but I tell Peg as best I can, and the telling makes them unreal.
I dreamed last night, when I finally slept, but not of the war: blood, but not in Korea, not even in surgery. In my own house, the blood of the man I love. We tried to clean the room yesterday--it's nearly an impossible task--and it invaded my dreams. I wonder if we'll ever make it fit to sleep in again. I don't see Hawkeye going in there ever, let alone as his bedroom.
Somehow, Peggy seems to understand what he's going through. I see that my presence calms him, but I don't know why, or how; I can't stay long, because I don't know what I can do to help. I suspect (when I can't sleep, because I'm lying next to him, in the light because he can't stand the dark, and the darkness takes me anyway) that it was I who sparked this off--that he did this because of the message I brought from Rossi, and that by working myself I made his life harder.
I need to know what I can do to help. I can't stand by and let him suffer, but I don't what to do to take away the pain.
"Can I have a word, Peggy?" They stood together in the corridor, embracing.
"Of course, BJ. Where's Sidney?"
"Asleep on the couch downstairs. He said to call if we needed him, but I'm hoping we'll be quieter tonight. How's Hawkeye been?"
"Dozing, mostly. I think he's asleep at the moment, but since when he wakes up he doesn't bother to open his eyes, it's hard to tell. I'm worried, BJ. I don't think we're out of the woods yet."
Peggy linked her hands behind BJ's head, twining them into his hair, and pulled him down for a kiss, as Hawkeye had done only two nights before. When she let him surface again, he frowned. "Why do I get the feeling that I'm letting you pull me around?"
"Because you are?" she suggested, smiling. "Look, BJ--how tired are you?"
"I've been tireder. Why?"
"Well, I'm thinking we need to do something to get Hawkeye out of this--this pit of depression or whatever it is he's fallen into. And I have an idea, but I need you to help me."
"Anything you need, honey. Especially if it'll help Hawkeye."
"Okay. Here's my plan of attack."
"Looks like a nail."
"Sorry, honey. I'm operating on a limited sense of humour."
"Well, you're the surgeon."
"Very good, Peggy."
"Here's the plan, then..."
Sunday morning. My wife is a genius. Okay, so I may be a little biased here, but who cares? Here's my evidence. All of us got some real sleep last night, even Hawkeye. There was just one nightmare, early this morning, but he calmed down fairly quickly, even though he still couldn't tell us what it was about. And can you guess how she achieved this?
For all that men are supposed to have single track minds, I hadn't even considered it. I'd barely thought about Peggy that way since before I came home on Thursday, and not about Hawkeye at all. Perhaps switching him to `patient' to deal with the crisis got in the way. I don't know. Anyway--the plan was simple. Sex. I don't know how she came up with it, and I'm not sure I need to. All she did was take me in there, kiss me until Hawkeye woke up, and then we included him in it.
At first, he refused. "Can't I go back to sleep, BJ?" but Hawkeye's not really the type to turn down an offer, and he soon gave in. It took all of us a while--we had to readjust somewhat, and make allowances for each other, and get over the tensions we all felt--but when we did? Oh, boy.
Nobody's going to read this, right? I need to write it, but it's not something I want the whole world to know about.
We took Hawkeye in a pincer movement--Peggy on one side, me on the other. In the past, we'd had a similar arrangement, but with me in the centre, and I was slightly surprised to discover how pleasurable it was being on the outside.
He'd woken--a slight quickening of breath, a different pattern of movement under his eyelids--and when Peggy nodded, I kissed him. Not too hard, just a firm kiss on his closed mouth. Peggy's hand touched mine as I ran it over his chest.
"Hawkeye?" I whispered, "Hawk, I think we should spend a little quality time."
There was no verbal reply, but ever muscle in his body tensed as if he was preparing to ward off an attack. "Relax. It's only me and Peg. You can trust us."
I kissed him again, gently. This time we both opened our eyes at the end. His were dark, even in the glare of the overhead light, and filled with tears--I suspect mine were, too.
Peggy rested one hand on my shoulder in mute encouragement. I pulled back about two inches, far enough to clearly look at him, and said, "Hawkeye--I love you. Is that okay?"
For a moment, there was a silence so loud I was sure it would wake Sidney, if not the whole town. The, slowly, Hawkeye nodded. He looked at me as if I was a miracle, before shutting his eyes again and taking a deep breath, combating sobs. So far, I thought, so good. Even the army has to take things by stages. I kissed him again, and this time his mouth opened under mine.
In two days, I'd forgotten how he tastes, how it feels to have him arch into me. The sweetest thing ever. I don't know how to describe it--it's not something I have words for, really. Oh, I can tell you the physical side, in detail (I am a doctor, after all), but that's not what I want to record, what I want to remember. What I want to remember is the feeling, as I press myself into him; the sensations--his hands on my back, hungry; his mouth, kissing, licking, nipping, whispering; his legs around my waist--and the sounds: Peggy panting with desire, just watching me touch him; his moans and mumbles, directing, encouraging, demanding.
The smell, too. And the way he tastes--sweet and salty, sweat and semen and saliva.
Even the memory of it is exciti...
"BJ? Where are you?"
"In here, love. Who was it on the telephone?"
"Still writing that letter? Um--that was your mother. Jay's not well, and she's bringing Erin back. I said that was fine."
"Yeah, that's fine. What's wrong with him, did she say?"
"No--just that he wasn't well enough to handle having Erin around."
"It's probably that chest infection he hasn't gotten rid of. I told her he should see a doctor."
"I think it was him who opposed that, rather than her. You might have to go over there and try and convince him."
"I'm not sure that'll be easy."
"Ask Sidney to go with you. Between you, you should be able to convince him."
"Yeah--Sidney's good at persuasion. Are you sure you can manage here, with Erin and Hawkeye?"
"It won't be that tough. Erin's fairly well behaved, and Hawkeye's sitting on the veranda reading. I don't think they'll be trouble."
"Okay, love. Thanks."
"Here's Bea and Erin now."
I've got to go. My father's ill with who knows what--why does it have to be now? Everything's just piling up on me!
"Hawkeye?" Erin had been back for an hour or so, when Peggy stepped out onto the veranda, where Hawkeye was still reading and Erin was playing some complex game with her dolls.
"Yes?" He looked up from his book--The Last of the Mohicans. Comfort reading, Peggy guessed.
"I need to walk round to the corner shop--I've run out of sugar and a couple of other things. Can you watch Erin for a few minutes?"
"Of course, Peggy."
"Thanks, Hawkeye. I won't be long."
Sunday evening: I spent most of today with Dad. When Sidney and I got there, only minutes behind Mom (oh, it was silly, her bringing Erin all the way across town and back, but she can't be shaken from her plans sometimes), he was having trouble breathing. We took him straight into the hospital--the second time I've had to take someone, in much too little time--and they've steadied his condition. Sidney's there, too. Mom's taken quite a shine to him!
Then, when I came home--lunchtime or thereabouts, I guess--I find a lot has been happening in my absence. As far as I can piece the story together, Peggy went round the corner for some stuff for lunch, leaving Hawkeye to watch Erin--I have to say, I do wonder what she was thinking, but anyway. They've all survived--who was playing in the garden, running up and down. On one sprint, she tripped and fell, skinning her hands on the gravel path, and began to cry. From the way Hawkeye described it, I think he nearly joined in--but like me, he found that it's quite possible to let medical instinct take over.
He carried her into the kitchen, sat her on the counter, cleaned her up, and tried to calm her down--without a lot of luck.
About this point, Peg and I came back. Driving home, I saw Peggy walking back from the shop, and gave her a lift the last few hundred yards. When I stopped the car in the drive, we heard Erin wailing. All sorts of visions flashed through my head, and we both ran for the house.
When we got to the kitchen, Erin screamed louder. Peggy rushed to her, so Hawkeye seemed to be my concern. Our eyes met, and then my arms were suddenly full of sobbing stoop-shouldered doctor. "It's okay, Hawkeye. It's over now," I said, with no clear idea of what had gone on.
It's only a little kitchen, and when Peggy tried to move round in order to find a dressing for Erin's hands, it was too small. "Come on, Hawk. Let's go into the other room." He didn't look up, or stop weeping, but he let me guide him through to the living room. Once we were there, I stopped moving and simply held him until the storm passed.
"Beej..." he began when he could speak.
"It's okay, Hawkeye." I ran my hand in circles over his back, trying to soothe and calm him.
"Thanks." He was silent for a moment more, leaning on me, then his hands balled into fists on my chest. "BJ, I need to tell you this."
"The dreams I've been having--they're not about the war. Well, some of them are, but that's not the important part. They're about Trapper, and Carlye, and sometimes my mother." At last we find out! I thought there was more misery than fear in them.
"I'm sorry, Beej." He started to pull away from me, but I didn't let him go.
"Hawkeye, why be sorry? You haven't done anything wrong. It's okay."
"Really. I love you, remember?"
"Yeah." He relaxed against me, and stood there for a while, before leaning back again--but only far enough to look me my face. "What happened with your father? Is he okay?"
And there was my Hawkeye back again--worrying about other people, caring and loving and smiling when I told him how well mom and Sidney got on. Whatever happens to dad, I feel better for knowing that I've got Hawkeye back.
Then Peggy called lunch, and we sat down to eat, a family. I looked round at them--Peggy's blonde head, only a shade darker than Erin's; Hawkeye's dark hair and smile, that actually reached his eyes; and Erin, chatting away in some language of her own devising in between stuffing her mouth with food. I'm worried about my father, I know Hawkeye still has things to deal with, and I don't want to think about that fact that I'm going to have to go back to work soon, but all the same, I'm happy here.
Part Three: Exasperating
Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear over the west coast of America, and lit four Hunnicutts, one Pierce, and one Freedman as they ate their breakfast, opened their mail and worried about the absent fifth Hunnicutt.
"He's in the best hospital there is, mom," BJ said, comfortingly, with just a touch of pride. Hawkeye nearly said something about Dr. Rossi, but managed to bite his tongue in time.
"Who was your mail from, Hawkeye?" Peggy asked, wanting to talk about something less stressful.
"One from my father, and one he was forwarding."
"From an army buddy?" Mrs Hunnicutt senior guessed.
"You could say that."
"So who is it?"
"No-one you met, Beej."
"Anyone I know?" enquired Sidney, but unfortunately his voice was drowned by the strident tones of Bea Hunnicutt, demanding, "Beej? /Beej/? What sort of a nickname is that?"
"It's just a nickname, mom. Do you want some more toast?"
"Look, son. We gave you a name, and you should be proud of it. And your friends should use it."
The inflection Bea put on the word `friends' was not lost on most of her listeners. Neither was the fact that it could be meant in more than one way. Hawkeye and Peggy exchanged glances, quickly curtailed to prevent giggles, Sidney grinned knowingly (luckily, into his toast), and BJ tried, without much success, to hide a look of discomfort.
"We should probably be going, Mrs Hunnicutt," Sidney said, stepping in to rescue BJ as soon as he could. "I'll drop you at the hospital, but then I want to be off. The folks in San Francisco will be wondering where I am."
"That's alright, BJ," Sidney told him, standing up and helping Bea with her chair, before opening the door for her.
"You'll telephone if you need a lift or anything, won't you, mom?"
"Of course, honeybun."
BJ blushed, and Hawkeye bit his tongue again, until he heard the front door shut behind them--then he let out a whoop worthy of one of the Indians his namesake lived with. "Honeybun! She complains about me calling you Beej, and then she calls you honeybun!"
"Peggy?" BJ asked, "Do you want me to start washing up?"
"Thank you, love. Erin, come on. We need to get you dressed."
Left alone at the table, Hawkeye sat silently for a moment, then shrugged and followed Peggy upstairs.
"I really upset BJ just now, didn't I?" he asked her, watching her attempt to pull some clothes onto Erin.
"He's worried about his father," she told him. "Pass me that hairbrush, would you? Erin, I don't know what you do to get your hair in this state."
"It looks like she ran through a hedge," Hawkeye observed.
"One that was coated with jam, possibly," Peggy agreed, brushing hard. "Are you planning on getting dressed at all today?"
"You're a bad example to Erin, for starters."
"Maybe you should dress me."
Peggy glared at him, not deigning to reply within Erin's hearing, and went on brushing.
Downstairs, BJ was just drying his hands when the phone rang. "Hello?"
"Hi--it's Radar here. Err, BJ..."
"What is it, Radar?"
"I just spoke to Trapper--you never met him-- and he wants to speak to Hawkeye. I didn't think I should just give him your number, but if I could, then he could ring you and speak to Hawkeye. If that makes any sense."
"Tell you what, Radar, why don't you give me Trapper's number, and then I can see if Hawkeye wants to ring him?"
"Let me get a pencil."
Once the number had been dictated, BJ was about to put the phone down, but Radar asked, "Do you suppose he will? Talk to Trapper, I mean?"
"I hope so, Radar. I think it would be better for both of them if he did."
When he'd put the telephone down, BJ went to talk to the rest of his family.
"Yes?" she answered, looking out from Erin's room. "There--you'll do, Erin. You can go and play now."
"Look, dad!" Erin said--"All neat!"
"Aren't you just? Very neat. Perhaps you'd better not go and play--that way you'll stay tidy," BJ teased.
"Nasty dad. I'm going to go play," she told him, firmly, and dived back into her room for her toy box.
"Is Hawkeye there?" BJ asked Peggy.
"Yes, I'm here," Hawkeye himself answered from the double bedroom.
"Can I talk to you?"
"Sure--why don't you come in here?"
Once they were all in the bedroom, and fairly sure that Erin was okay (not that she was quiet--no, building blocks turned out to be the order of the day, and they had to stand close to each other to be heard. Thought it can't be said that they complained about that), BJ told them about the call.
"It was Radar, saying that Trapper was trying to get in touch. I've taken his number, Hawkeye, so when you're ready, you can call him."
"I don't want to," Hawkeye said. "Not now, not ever."
"He was your best friend. I remember you telling me about him."
"You don't know anything." Hawkeye turned away, going to stand at the window again.
"What's your problem, Hawkeye? Why don't you want to talk to him?"
"He left without saying goodbye, for one thing."
"And for another?"
"He... you'll... trust me, I don't want to talk to him, and you don't want me to talk to him either."
"Hawkeye, that doesn't make any sense," Peggy said. "He was your friend. Why would we not want you to talk to him?"
"You don't understand!" Hawkeye said, trying not to shout and very much afraid that he'd failed. He pushed past BJ and walked out, storming down the stairs in search of somewhere he could be alone.
Peggy and BJ watched him go, then looked at one another. "What could all that have been about?" Peggy asked.
BJ frowned, thinking, and then it came to him. "I bet--I'll lay money on this, I really would--that Trapper was a bit more than a friend to Hawkeye. You know, the way he was my `friend'? It's friendship, but it's a bit more than that."
"And he's still in love with Trapper, at least a bit, and he's afraid we're going to be jealous. Just like you were."
"Yeah. That makes sense, doesn't it?"
"What can we do, though?"
"Get him to talk to Trapper?"
"And make sure he knows that we're okay with how he feels."
"We might want to decide at what point this little thing we have going stops expanding. Because while I love having you /and/ Hawkeye, and I'm fine with Hawkeye still having feelings for Trapper, there's no way I want to do for Trapper what you did for Hawkeye--three's company, fine, but four? Too many."
"I see what you mean. I don't think Hawkeye's going to think like that, though--if he sees a choice at all, it's between talking to Trapper and staying with us. He probably doesn't even realise that's what he thinks is the choice."
"Hawkeye isn't the most self-aware of people, sometimes. He still doesn't understand why Carlye didn't marry him, I think."
"A nurse he was in love with. She turned him down once; he'd just moved on--and if we're right about Trapper, moved on and effectively been dropped again--when she turns up at the 4077th to make his life a little bit less bearable. It was very, very hard for him."
"And why didn't she marry him?"
"Two reasons, really--and I'm certain of this, because we talked one night while she was waiting for Hawkeye to finish surgery." BJ paused, smiling. "It was just after she left that I had sex with him for the first time. She didn't marry him because he wasn't ready to commit, and also because it was obvious that even if they were married, he was still going to go looking for other company."
"I guess so. She didn't say that, but it would make a lot of sense."
"Yeah." Peggy thought for a moment, and then went on, "Look. We aren't going to make Hawkeye talk to Trapper by just saying `you really should', are we?"
"It sounds to me like you have a plan, love."
"Then you're listening right. If we..." From the next room came an enormous crash. "Erin!" Peggy shouted, running for the door.
They found Erin sitting happily in front of a jumble of bricks. "They all fell down!" she exclaimed, which was apparently what she'd intended.
"Yes, darling. Look, BJ, Erin should be in school. It was one thing to take her out for a day, but it doesn't make sense to keep her out today. Can you walk her round there? Just tell the teacher than her grandfather's ill, they'll take that."
"Not /exactly/ lying, huh? Okay, Peggy. When I come back, we'll finish our talk. Now, Erin, how'd you like to go to school today?"
While BJ and Peggy sorted themselves out, Hawkeye had tried to find something to do. He'd tried to go back to reading his book, but found that he couldn't concentrate; and that the same was true if he tried to read the letters he'd received. So he sat on the veranda, staring down the garden at the wooden fence, and tried not to weep.
He wanted to talk to Trapper. Trapper had even wanted to talk to him. But if BJ knew that Trapper had been more than just a friend, or if Trapper knew that BJ and Peggy were more than just friends, they wouldn't want him anymore. That was why Carlye left, because he still had feelings for other people.
Well, if he didn't talk to Trapper, he could stay here, and that was worth--more than he could imagine. Never mind all the tea in China, there couldn't be anything more precious in the world.
Having reached that conclusion, he took the letters out of his pocket again, hoping that news from Crabapple Cove would be comforting, even if it wasn't home any more.
The first one, forwarded from Maine but post marked in Texas, was from Lyle--and was short, rough, and sweet, if one knew which lines to read between.
You gave me your address so we could be penpals after the war: the war's over, so here I am, the guy you saved.
If you ever need a favour, or someplace to stay down south, let me know.
Hawkeye smiled--Lyle was a good guy, if not his type, and seeing Frank being twirled would always be one of the better moments of the war. And it was good to know that a man he'd saved in surgery really had made it for longer than a few hours back at the front--he did wonder what happened to them, and all too often he feared that what he'd done was just send them back to hell.
He moved on to the next letter--from Daniel.
I hope you're well, and that you're having a good time with your friend. I have exciting news for you--I don't have the telephone number, but I can't wait until you get home.
You remember Ella Ingram, the widow who lives across the street? You used to call her daughter, Katherine, your sister. Well, she's going to be your step-sister for real. Ella's agreed to marry me!
This has been coming for years--you're old enough now to look back and see that--we've been friends for years (we met soon after your mother died, because she moved here when you were about eleven), and it seems only sensible to spend our retirements together. Plus, she's a very good looking woman!
The wedding is to be in December, the 18th, we hope. We're too old to be waiting for spring to come. It's only four weeks away, but I'm sure you'll be home by then.
Come home--and bring a friend with you! Or someone who's a bit more than a friend, if you like--Katherine's been married for eight years now, and it's time I had some grandchildren too.
He didn't get as far as reading the signature--BJ was opening the back door and looking out, to say, "I'm just going to walk Erin round to school. We'll talk when I get back, okay?"
Hawkeye nodded, not trusting himself to speak. BJ disappeared again. Reading the last line again, "//it's time I had some grandchildren too,//" Hawkeye rapidly decided he needed a drink.
When Peggy had put her makeup on, she came down, to find Hawkeye introducing himself to the liquor cabinet and its contents.
"Hawkeye? What are you looking for?"
"Frogs. What does it look like?"
"If you're after alcohol, I have to say that I think it's a bad plan."
"It's a good plan," Hawkeye said, defensively, and took the top off a bottle of Scotch.
Peggy made a grab for the bottle and got it with one hand. They wrestled briefly, but between Hawkeye's stronger arms and Peggy's fears for the carpet, he quickly won.
"Okay, have a little," she said. She nearly added an ultimatum about not getting drunk in her house, before realising that if Hawkeye wanted to get drunk, he would, and it was probably going to be easier if he stayed in.
The last thing she wanted to do was give him the idea that she'd throw him out--that would just undo all the work she was putting in to trying to make him feel safe.
He took a mouthful, perhaps slightly less that he might have done because it was permitted, and regarded her seriously. "Peggy, can I tell you something?"
"Of course. May I sit down first?"
"Yeah." She moved to sit on the sofa, and Hawkeye opposite her, leaning his forehead on the cool glass of a display cabinet. He looked utterly miserable.
"Hawkeye, what is it?"
"The letter--from dad. He's getting married."
That clearly made complete sense to Hawkeye, but Peggy struggled for a moment to remember the details of his family situation. //His mom died, didn't she? I think BJ said something like that.// "Ah," she said, hoping that more details would be forthcoming.
"To Mrs Ingram across the road. She was widowed just before mom died, and moved to our road a couple of years after that. I've been teasing him about her for years--calling her `mom' and her daughter, Katherine, `sis'. I thought it was just a joke, but it turns out to be closer than I'd thought to the truth. Dad's getting married, and Kathy's been married for years, and he wants to know when I'm getting married. When he'll have grandchildren."
Clearly not one for the list of things Hawkeye wouldn't talk about, then. "I see."
"And BJ's married, and Trapper's married, and Carlye got married--and not to me--and even Klinger's married, for heaven's sake! What's wrong with me?"
"Nothing," BJ said from the doorway. They hadn't even heard him come in. "You're perfect, remember? How often do I have to tell you that?"
Hawkeye didn't say anything, just stared into the bottom of the bottle, blinking back tears. BJ went and sat next to him, resting an arm on his shoulders. "What's all this, then?" Hawkeye handed him the letter, silently, and took another mouthful of Scotch.
"That's happy news, really," BJ said when he finished the letter. "Your dad'll be better off with someone to look after him."
"But the end," Hawkeye said. "What he says at the end. However happy Ella makes him, he's going to hate me for not being the son he wants."
BJ handed the letter to Peggy (who'd moved to sit on the floor in front of Hawkeye, where she could look at them both comfortably) and put both arms around Hawkeye. "I don't think he's going to hate you, Hawkeye--whether you just say `I'm not ready yet', or whether we come too, and you tell him the truth."
"You'd do that?" Hawkeye asked.
"Yes," BJ said, and Peggy nodded her agreement.
Hawkeye looked back and forth between them for a moment, and then put the Scotch bottle down, very, very carefully.
Watching every movement, BJ held his breath, panicking, wondering if he'd said the wrong thing; and Peggy was close to breaking the silence, when Hawkeye spoke again.
"Thank you," he said, still very carefully, making every move very precise, as if he was afraid something would shatter, "but I don't think you understand."
BJ nearly screamed, but luckily Peggy got in with a much calmer, "Why don't you explain, Hawkeye?"
"Okay, I will," he said, and now the words weren't the torrent they'd been when he told Peggy about the letter. They became bricks, building a wall between him and his lovers. "It's easy for you, isn't it? You've got a home, and you're married, and you've got a daughter and a place in the world. You're a surgeon or a housewife and a parent, and you know what's going on.
"I don't have that. I don't have a home--I can't live here, and Crabapple Cove asks too many questions. All I've got is some left over feelings--surplus from the war--that mean I'm still in love with the friend I hate because he left, and with you, and I can't work because it all goes wrong and I can't even calm a six year old down; and a head that's so full of trying to hide that even I can't find me.
"I've got nothing. Nothing. I'm not anybody--in Korea I stayed somebody, even when I was crazy. Now... I'm barely even real."
Something in the words and the apathetic, detached tone that they were spoken in pushed BJ over the edge. "You're not real? You're not real? I assure you, Hawkeye Pierce, you're real. Come on, let me show you." He stood, pulling Hawkeye up with him. Gripping him firmly by the wrist, BJ pulled Hawkeye out of the chair, up the stairs, and into the blood-splattered room that had still not been cleaned.
"You're real, Hawkeye. You did this. This is your blood, your real blood, that nearly scared me to death. You are as real as they come. I love you, and you tried to kill yourself, and that only scares me more--but I know it's real. Korea was real, what we had out there was real, and what we have here is real. Remember the other night, in bed? That was real, too. We did that, because we love you.
"I don't know what's going on back at Crabapple Cove, but I do know this. I love you, Peggy loves you, and I'm pretty convinced that you love us. This is your room--I'm not letting you cover it with blood and then get out of cleaning it. This is your room, this is your house, this is your home. These are all real things, Hawkeye, and they're yours. Got that?"
Peggy took over, standing in the doorway next to her husband. "You did help Erin, you know. You were there and helped her up, took the gravel out of her cut. She wasn't as upset as I might have expected, given what happened. She tends to scream any time she's hurt, until you give her something to eat."
Hawkeye stood there, back to them, looking around the room. Finally he turned to look at them. "This /is/ real, isn't it? You're right. This is real. I love you--both of you--and you're really offering me a home."
"That's right," Peggy confirmed.
"What do I have to do to keep it?" Hawkeye asked, still a little bewildered that anyone would offer.
"Two things," Peggy said. "One: phone Trapper."
"And two," BJ added, "Kiss me."
"Do I get to choose what order?"
"No," Peggy told him, grinning. "I choose. Number two now."
Just to be difficult, Hawkeye kissed her first.
Two hours later, BJ handed Hawkeye the phone and a scrap of paper. "Here's the number. Phone Trapper. Peggy and I are in the kitchen."
Hawkeye stuck his tongue out at BJ's back, and then dialled with fingers that shook, just slightly.
In Boston, a telephone rang. Once... twice... if it rings ten times and nobody answers, Hawkeye thought, I'm off the hook, and then smiled at his own pun... three times... four...
"Hello?" Trapper's voice. He'd know it anywhere.
He took a deep breath. "Trapper?"
"Hawkeye? How are you? I've been trying to get in touch!"
"Not soon enough. You could have written."
"I'm sorry, Hawkeye."
"That isn't enough. Goodbye, Trap."
Hawkeye put the phone down before Trapper could say anything else. It was bad the first time Trap broke his heart, but now it seemed to be getting even worse. At least he'd said his goodbye, even if Trapper hadn't replied.
//You didn't give him a chance,// said a voice in the back of his mind. //You could be friends with him again, if you'd let him try and make things right//, but Hawkeye was practised at ignoring that voice. He countered by wondering whether he could sneak through to the living room and his Scotch bottle without Peg and Beej knowing what he was doing.
In the kitchen, BJ whispered, "Is that good enough for us?"
"He tried," Peggy replied. "It'll do for now."
"Then let's go back, before he heads for the Scotch again."
They walked back in just as Hawkeye stood up--and as the telephone rang. BJ went to answer it, but Peggy poked his back (grabbing his arm would have given the game away to Hawkeye), and BJ stopped moving. They looked at Hawkeye, and Hawkeye looked at them, and then at the telephone.
"Aren't you going to answer it?" he said, after a few rings. "It's your telephone."
"It's yours, too," Peggy said. "Your house, your home, your telephone to answer."
"What if it's Trapper?" Hawkeye asked, hoping she'd take pity on him.
"Then you talk to Trapper," she told him.
He considered arguing, but then decided that he was unlikely to win. "Hello?"
"Hawkeye? It's Radar here."
"Oh, hello, Radar. How are you?"
"I'm fine. Look, some of the guys are trying to get a reunion going, and they've got me to organize it."
"Who better? What do you need me for?"
"We want you and BJ to come. It's in Chicago. Place called Adam's Ribs? I think you know it."
"Indeed I do, Radar! You remembered!"
"I have my moments. It's on the tenth of December. Can you be there?"
"I'll find a way, Radar. For Adam's Ribs, I'll do anything."
"I thought you might say that, sir."
"None of that, now, Radar. I'll be there. Thank you."
"So," Peggy said, sitting in the armchair again, and wondering if she wanted a drink, too, "what you're really proposing is a road trip. You want us to come with you all the way across America, first to Chicago for the reunion, and then to Crabapple Cove for your father's wedding."
"I'd want to go to the reunion anyway, Peg," BJ pointed out. "We'd be considering it even if Hawkeye wasn't here."
"That's true. I'm willing to go; but there are two problems. One, your father; and two, Erin."
"In four weeks, then, I want to be in Chicago. Once we're there, it seems stupid to come home again, only for Hawkeye--and possibly one or both of us--to go back to Maine for the wedding."
"BJ, I'm not disputing that. I'm thinking about your father, and Erin."
"By the time we have to leave, dad will be over this latest bout of whatever."
Hawkeye, sitting in the corner, too far away from the drinks cabinet by far--because Peggy and BJ, by some subtle manoeuvring, had put themselves between him and his desired one--had his doubts about BJ's father recovering, given what he'd heard, but he refrained from mentioning that.
"Erin comes with us. We can stop by your parents on the way--she hasn't seen them for more than a year--and it'll be a good experience for her."
"So, we're taking our daughter out of school, bundling all four of us into a car, and driving across the country."
"And you know the most annoying thing? There are all kinds of reasons--there must be all kinds of reasons--why it's stupid, and impractical, and irresponsible, and a hundred other terrible things, but for the life of me I can't think what they are, let alone argue that they should stop us going."
"So we'll go?"
"I think we should have a drink to celebrate," Hawkeye commented from his corner.
"I think we should go out to lunch," BJ countered.
They glared at each other briefly, before Peggy said, "You two are out to lunch alright. I have a much better plan--while Erin's not here, let's take advantage of that."
Her meaning was fairly obvious from her smile. "You mean lunch in bed?" Hawkeye said, grinning.
She winked at him, and they both looked at BJ. "Now there's a fine plan," he answered, and then added, "We've still got some of that cream, haven't we?"
Part Four: Exploring
//December 5th, Sunday evening. We leave for Chicago in the morning; dad is at home as of last night, and my sister will let us know if he gets worse. Packing has been a nightmare--Peggy's good at it, so I just follow her lead, trying to help, but Erin and Hawkeye are mostly good at getting in the way. They're both excited (even over-excited) about this trip, and now Erin's warmed to Hawkeye a little it's as bad as having two children in the house.
Back in Korea, I used to daydream about being home, and one of the things my daydreams tended to include was Peggy and me having another kid. Now, I think we don't need one. We've got Hawkeye instead, which is at worst the same and at best a lot more fun.
He's in the next room now, reading a bedtime story to Erin, while I write and Peggy puts the finishing touches to the packing--checking her list one last time. You know, I never realised how thin these walls are. I can hear almost every word Hawkeye says.
There's a lesson there, about making sure that Erin doesn't hear what we get up to, I'm sure.
I wonder if Peggy listened, the first night Hawkeye and I were together here? She said she'd put the radio on, but I don't remember hearing it. Not that it means a lot--I wasn't exactly concentrating on listening out.
He's finished the story--something involving Tigger looking for his breakfast. "Goodnight, Hawkeye," Erin says. He'll come in here next. Time to stop writing. One last night in our bed at home--I don't want to waste the time!//
At first, travelling was soothing. Erin was excited, but with three adults in the car, it wasn't a stress to keep her playing silly games. I-Spy wore out after six or eight rounds, so they moved on to `The Vicar's Cat'.
"You go round, and each person says, "The Vicar's Cat is..." something beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. Ideally, an adjective," Hawkeye explained.
"Where on earth did you learn that?"
"Oh, we used to play a version at medical school, in the very boring shifts. Not quite like this, but the idea's the same." He tried not to think about the man he'd played with--in oh so many senses--back then. Thinking about Trapper wouldn't help at all.
Peggy could guess, and didn't enquire further. "Okay--so if I'm starting, I say, `The Vicar's Cat is active,' or something like that."
"That's right. The Vicar's Cat is blue."
"Erin, are you playing?"
"Yes! C? The Vicar's Cat is... is... catty."
Hawkeye laughed. "Yes. BJ?"
"The Vicar's Cat is dirty."
"Nah, it's only dirty if you..." Peggy turned round to glare at Hawkeye, who closed his mouth.
"The Vicar's Cat is edible."
"You can't eat cats!" Erin cried.
It occurred to both Hawkeye and BJ that they'd probably eaten cat at some point, out in Korea, but, independently, they decided not to mention it.
"It's only a game, Erin. The Vicar's Cat is frosty."
They played on--when one game was boring, too hard, too easy or just too long, they thought of another, or returned to an old one. Eventually, though, trouble had to strike.
"I feel sick," Erin said.
"Oh?" Hawkeye checked her forehead. "It's probably just movement sickness. Try looking out of the window."
She tried. "It doesn't help."
"Are you really going to be sick?" Peggy asked.
"I think she is," Hawkeye added. BJ stopped the car--just in time, as it turned out.
Erin scrambled out onto the scrubby ground at the side of the road, quickly followed by Hawkeye, and threw up. BJ and Peggy got out, but there wasn't anything they could do to help.
Holding Erin as she vomited, Hawkeye remembered the first time he'd done this for a Hunnicutt, the first day BJ spent in Korea, the first day after Trapper had left.
It didn't take that long; Erin was one of those children who could throw up and be ready to go again straight away. Soon enough, Peggy took her turn at the wheel, and they went on.
//Monday night. We're in a motel, watching the snowflakes drift down. I hope it's only the little snow storm the forecast promised, and not the full-blown thing we might expect. Otherwise, we could be stuck here for a day or two, if the weather isn't safe to drive in.
That, I am not looking forward to.
I am looking forward to the reunion, though; and more immediately, to spending the night with Peggy and Hawkeye--Erin's asleep already; poor girl, she had motion sickness this afternoon. Probably not helped by eating too much lunch.
Tuesday morning. The snow's melting quickly with the sun, so we're going on. Thank heaven for that!//
On Tuesday night, they couldn't find a place to stop, so they changed drivers--BJ's turn again--and kept going.
Driving through the night, they found, was an ideal time for talking. With the noise of the engine, Erin could sleep and they could talk, and while they kept it mild, it was still a very comfortable time, when there was room for deep thoughts, and time to express them.
Mostly, though, they hovered on the edge, meaningful but still playful, more about keeping each other company and the driver--BJ--awake than about debating life.
"Hawkeye?" BJ asked, when the conversation had flagged a little. Hawkeye shifted in the passenger seat.
"Yeah?" he said, trying to look at BJ and not out the window into the darkness. It wasn't light in the car, but there was a sense that the darkness inside was contained, and had Peggy and BJ in it. It wasn't dangerous, or trying to pull him in, the way the stuff outside was.
Outside was the darkness that hurt.
"Why /do/ you call me Beej?"
"It sounded right the first time I said it, and then it stuck."
"But why not stick to BJ?"
"You call me Hawk."
"I don't see what that has to do with anything."
"I don't see why you're worrying what /I/ call you. Your mother calls you `honeybun', for heaven's sake."
"Your father calls you `Hawkeye'. We're quits on the silly names front."
"It's a literary reference," said Hawkeye, defensively.
"And it could be worse," Peggy put in from the back seat. "There are other names in the book."
"There are," Hawkeye agreed.
"Did you have anything specific in mind?"
"He could be a Duncan or a David," she told her husband.
"Or," Hawkeye grinned, "I could be an Alice or a Cora."
"Or `La Longue Carabine'," Peggy said, and though they couldn't see it, they could tell she was smiling in that way that meant there was fun to be had.
Hawkeye, knowing what the nickname meant and seeing at once her meaning, took it as the compliment it was meant to be, but BJ was thoroughly confused. "What?"
"You've never read The Last of the Mohicans, have you, Beej?"
"No, I haven't."
"So much for pretending to be well read."
"Let me guess, that's where all these names are from."
Peggy leaned forward and whispered in BJ's ear, "`La Longue Carabine' means `The long rifle'. It's the book-Hawkeye's nickname, but I'm sure you see how else it could be applied."
Hawkeye only half-heard this comment, but when BJ laughed he could guess its content.
"Yes, dear," BJ said, "I see where you're going with that. I think maybe we should save this line of thinking for when we've got a little more time to explore it properly."
"If you say so, Chingachgook," Hawkeye said, smirking.
//Wednesday morning. We've driven all night, me and Peggy taking turns at the wheel, sleeping in the back seat in between times. This is just a quick rest stop, and then we'll press on again. //
"I'm nearly asleep here," BJ admitted about four o'clock that afternoon. "Peg, can you take over?"
"We're only ten minutes or so from a little town. It's time to stop."
Sitting in the passenger seat, Hawkeye wondered briefly why they didn't ask him to drive, but decided it wasn't important.
"Intersection coming up, Peggy."
"Left here, then the first right. Then there should be a motel on our left."
//Wednesday evening. I fear things aren't going well for Hawkeye, despite our best efforts. He'd been quiet, almost silent all day--which in itself was odd--and then, at dinner tonight... well, I should tell it in order.
Erin was being silly, as she so often is, playing with her food and demanding attention. "Look, Hawkeye, I'm a rabbit,"--holding up two fries to be long ears.
Normally, he'd either say, "Aren't you going to eat those?" (frankly, the better option, as far as Peggy and I are concerned--less trouble that way), or grin and do something even sillier (thus adding fuel to the `we practically have two children already' argument).
But not tonight. Instead, he said (nearly shouted, really), "Oh, for heaven's sake, Erin! Stop being stupid!"
Naturally enough, Erin was upset. She started to cry, and Hawkeye got up and walked out--trying to stop himself making it worse, I think. I hope. I started to look after Erin, but Peggy said, "I'll take her. Go and find out what's wrong with him."
He'd headed for the bedroom, and was lying, curled up, on the double bed. His hands were in front of his face--not pressed up against it, but just lying on the pillow, so that he was looking at the cuts on his wrist. I was glad to note they are healing, slowly.
"Hawkeye?" No answer. When Hawkeye won't talk, I've learned, it's time to worry.
I sat down beside him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Hawkeye, it's okay." He tried to pull away from me, huddling down into the mattress. "You can relax. It's okay--I love you, and we'll get through this. It's okay."
He shook his head, just a little, denying it, and started to move away again. I rested one hand on his back, and let the other make its way over his shoulder, up his neck, to smooth his dark hair and lie on his forehead a moment, effectively keeping him still.
"We will. I'm promising you, this will get better." When did I become so confident? I don't know. Some of it is just the things I'm trained to say, what I'd say to a patient or their family. `I'm confident'. `You'll make it.' Mostly, they trust you, and it's true. "Hawkeye, talk to me. Or if you can't do that, then let me stay here until you can."
"Go away," he said, his voice low.
"At least you're talking to me."
"I mean it. Go away."
"I don't think I want to. Those cuts you're looking at? They happened when I left you alone, didn't they?"
"They weren't your fault." Said sullenly, that didn't sound nearly as reassuring as it looks written down.
"No. But if it happens again, it will be. So I'm staying."
"I just explained. I don't want you to hurt yourself."
"Because, Hawkeye Pierce, I love you."
He didn't reply--time to change the subject. "You want to tell me why you're in such a foul mood today?"
"Then I'm going to guess. After the several hundred games of I-Spy I've played in the last few days, I'm getting quite good at a guessing. I think that you're tired, because we all are; I think you're nervous about the reunion, and about the wedding; I think you're worrying, and stressing over what's going to happen, and wondering what people are going to think of the fact that you aren't back at work yet, as well as what they'll say if they find out you slashed your wrists.
"I think you've worried so much in the last day or two that you've given yourself a headache--and knowing you, backache too--over it. Then you can convince yourself that it's only physical pain making you bad tempered, and not that you're anxious. I also know for a fact that you've hardly eaten today, which can't be helping."
He didn't answer, but he was starting to relax a little under my hands, so I kept talking, running one hand through his hair and the other in circles over his back.
"That's what I think; and furthermore, I think I'm right. So because I love you, and think you're worth keeping around, and don't like seeing you in pain, I'm not going to let this go on. I'm going to sit here, and keep talking, until you stop worrying about things you can't control, and let me help you. Okay? You can lie there and sulk as long as you like--I'm very patient." I think I went on like that for a good five minutes, maybe a bit longer, while he lay and stared at his wrists. As he unwound, he took deeper breaths, and his eyes filled with tears until he was weeping into the pillow.
It tore me up to see him like that, but there was not much I could do, expect keep talking and rubbing, letting him know I wouldn't leave as much as soothing him.
Peggy found us like that when she'd put Erin to bed. Eventually he calmed, and they're all asleep now--my family--Erin is sucking her thumb next door, and Hawkeye is resting his head on Peggy's arm. I should lie down soon, too, but it's nice to have this time. It lets me deal with... with what I've been through today.
Having Hawkeye back is good--fun, and wild, and unpredictable, and often draining, but worth it, just to see him in those (rare, these days, but becoming more common) moments when he smiles, and relaxes, and everything is right.
I meant it when I said I loved him. Peggy's good to me, and I love her--I won't manage this without her--but nothing's quite like having Hawkeye smile at you, when it reaches those blue eyes and you feel like you fell into the sky. Oh, Hawkeye, I'll do whatever it takes to see that smile.
Thursday evening. Okay, so when I said I'd do anything for Hawkeye? Apparently I should have added, "unless I think it will lead to the death of one or more people." Such as, for example, letting Hawkeye drive. Now, he's not the world's best driver anyway, and tired and had a drink? No way.
Not with me in the car. And especially not with my daughter in the car. Or, for that matter, my wife. Or Hawkeye.
Definitely, Hawkeye should not be allowed to drive while he's in the car. That's about the measure of it, really.
He's not the only one who's too tired.
I say this now because we've spent the better part of the afternoon arguing about it. We're doing well, travel-wise--we'll arrive midday tomorrow--but Hawkeye's in a filthy temper (although he's back in Erin's good books. Smuggling candy is silly and childish and the kind of the thing Hawkeye has a natural talent for. I think maybe Peggy and I should strip-search him more often), and he's feeling useless.
There's not a lot that can be done, really. He won't accept that keeping Erin amused is a job, and there's no way we're going to let him drive.
So, he's gone out, somewhere, alone. Peggy's asleep, Erin's pretending whenever I go to check on her and having some sort of doll's tea party the rest of the time--probably involving some of that smuggled candy, I can't be bothered to find out--and I'm sitting up, writing and waiting for Hawkeye to come back, probably both drunk and maudlin.
I am going to wait, because I love him. I keep telling myself that. It's true, but just now I need reminding.
I love him because he can make me laugh. Because he's a talented surgeon. Because he needs me. Because he stopped me falling apart when the shells were coming down. Because he came when I asked him to. Because he helped with so many practical jokes. Because even when he's bad tempered, or depressed, or drunk, I'm happier when he's around that when he's not.
Yeah, BJ. That's convincing.
I am not going to listen to the voice at the back of my head that says he's more trouble than he's worth, despite the fact that it seems to be able to take over my pen. I'm not going to give in, lock the door, and go to bed, because I love him and I don't want him to have to spend the night out there, alone.
You don't want to have to explain to Peggy why he did, you mean.
That's enough journal writing. I think I'd better go and find out what Erin's doing.
Friday morning, 3:34am. I was right. Hawkeye came in about fifteen minutes ago, sloshed and weeping. I guess it might be better this way, but given that I'm fairly sure we're all going to get smashed again tomorrow night--or rather, much, much later today--it's not that great a plan.
They say that most doctors drink themselves to death. I can see Hawkeye going that way, and in not so long, if he isn't careful.
There is one advantage, though. Well, maybe even more than one. He's got some of the misery he was storing up out of his system, because drunk, he could talk more easily (hopefully he didn't say anything stupid to someone who might track us down--that's a risk we'll have to take); and when he's quiet tomorrow, it'll be because he has a hangover. And I doubt he'll argue about who drives. Peggy.//
It took them a little longer than expected to reach Chicago, partly because they got lost on the way in, but they were in time. "Radar! Good to see you again!"
Radar accepted Hawkeye's hug and BJ's handshake calmly. "Good to see you again, sirs."
"Tut, tut, Radar, none of that. We're not sirs anymore."
"Doctors, then," Radar said, but he was smiling. "Mrs MacIntyre and a couple of others have volunteered to watch all the children, so if you want to come this way--Erin, isn't it?"
Peggy went to get Erin settled, and BJ and Hawkeye went on in. They were soon surrounded by people--the M*A*S*H 4077th had about two hundred members at any one time, and over the years nearly nine hundred had worked there. Only a fraction of them made it, but it was still a lot of people.
Looking around, they spotted people they knew: Klinger, in a red evening dress, "For old times' sake. And so that people recognise me!" (his lovely wife, Soon-Lee, was wearing a spare suit, lent by Radar. They made quite a pair); Charles, dressed up and pompous as only he could be; and seemingly speaking to everyone, mixing and introducing and chatting, there was Trapper John MacIntyre.
For a whole half hour, Hawkeye managed to avoid even looking at Trapper. It wasn't easy--Trapper was trying hard to talk to Hawkeye, and he'd been given his nickname for a reason.
In his effort to avoid Trapper, he even talked to Frank. "Aren't you back at work yet, Pierce? I've been promoted once already."
"What from, toilet cleaner to floor sweeper?" Frank sneered, about to move away, but Hawkeye wasn't going to let him go. "I've got an offer, actually. A guy called Rossi."
"Dr Jonathan Rossi? We were at med school together."
"Oh! So you're the little fink who told him all about how wonderful I am. That's interesting."
"Well, he's a good surgeon, Pierce. I thought you'd like him. He's not as good as I am, of course, but he's okay."
That finally drove Hawkeye to try and escape by leaving the room, and Trapper made his move. In the hallway outside, they were alone together for the first time in years.
"Hawkeye, what's wrong?"
"I don't want to talk about it." Hawkeye turned his back on Trapper, looking for a way out, but he'd been skilfully backed into a corner.
"It's too late, Trap. If you wanted me--and you could have had me, you know. I was yours, heart and soul--you should have tried earlier. I'd have forgiven your going home without me, without saying goodbye, if you'd written, or called, or /something/."
"Really? Then who sent the note, telling me to leave you alone?"
"Note? What note?"
"This one." Trapper pulled a scrap of paper out of his pocket, creased and the finger-marked but still legible, or as much as it had ever been. The handwriting was firm, if a little cramped, and Hawkeye knew it nearly as well as he knew his own--BJ's.
We've never met, but I think you should know this. You hurt Hawkeye badly, and if you try to get in touch you'll only make it worse. Don't. No letters, no calls, nothing.
A friend of Hawkeye's.//
"BJ? Oh, God."
"Hawkeye, I'm sorry. I should have... ignored it, or found out who was from, or something. But at the time..."
"It made sense. At the time, it made sense." The new voice came from behind Trapper, and he turned to see who the newcomer was. "I wrote it just after Carlye came back. I thought you couldn't cope with anything else, with another lover breaking your heart. I'm sorry, Hawkeye."
"BJ, how could you so that?" Hawkeye shouted. "How could you be so--so arrogant, to think you could make that sort of decision for me?"
"Arrogance is one of the things they teach surgeons, Hawkeye," BJ replied. "I'm sorry."
"That's not enough."
"Hawkeye? I don't know what's going on here, but I think maybe we should take it somewhere else."
"Take it somewhere else? Too late, Trapper. Too late, and not enough." Hawkeye threw the paper down, and, pushing past Trapper, ran out the front door.
Both Trapper and BJ moved to go after him, but Peggy got there first. "I'll go, gentlemen. You two have done enough damage already tonight."
"Peggy?" BJ asked, bewildered, but she'd gone.
In the glow of the streetlights, Peggy found Hawkeye sitting on the kerb, weeping. Without speaking, she sat beside him and offered a clean handkerchief, which he took. She rubbed his back, and waited.
After a while, he was calmer. "Thanks, Peggy."
"Did you see what happened?"
"I heard enough to understand the basics."
"Why would he do that?"
"He was trying to protect you. He gets like that with me, sometimes--a lot, when I was pregnant."
"I wish he didn't."
"Me too, often. But you have to admit, it's kinda nice. It's his way of showing he cares."
"You think I should forgive him."
"Yes. You don't have to, but I like having you around, and if you won't talk to him, that'll get difficult."
Hawkeye managed a faint smile at that. "You like having me around?"
"Same here. And it would never work out with Trapper, anyway. Between his wife and the other girls he wanted to chase, it wasn't exactly a happy relationship when we were together."
"But you loved him?"
"Yeah. I think I still do, sort of, but it's less real than it used to be. Trapper was a great place to hide, but I'm not sure I need that any more."
"When you're ready, we'll go back in, and talk to them."
"Trapper first. I want to make BJ wait a while."
"Okay." Peggy smiled. "Now?"
"If you'll come with me."
Holding hands, they snuck back in through a side door. The dancing had begun, and they could stand almost unobserved in a corner, while Hawkeye beckoned Trapper over, before pulling him outside.
"Hawkeye? I gather you know who wrote the note."
"Yeah. BJ Hunnicutt. The guy who came to take your place--the guy who took your place."
"What do you mean?"
"I fell in love with him. You remember Carlye?"
"The girl who broke your heart. I remember."
"She came to the camp--army nurse--and broke my heart again, more or less. BJ was there to pick up the pieces."
"And having seen what she did to you, he didn't want it to happen again. Fair enough--and who's this?" Trapper indicted Peggy.
"Peggy Hunnicutt, meet Trapper John MacIntyre. Trapper, this is Peggy, BJ's wife and my lover."
"Nice to meet you," Trapper said, confused but game. "So--you fell for this BJ, and his wife?"
"That's right," Peggy said. "My husband brought an extra lover home from the war, and I let him stay."
"Well, whatever works for you. Um... I guess that eases the next part."
"Well, Hawk, I was expecting to have to go through a painful-but-necessary `can we be friends but not lovers because my wife might find out' speech, but I guess it's not needed now. Friends, okay?"
Hawkeye looked at Trapper, smiling Trapper who expected him to be ready to give up years of love-hate and missing, and be `just friends', because he'd found somebody else. Hawkeye looked into Trapper's hazel eyes, and that wasn't going to work. He tried to run, but he was too tired, and he'd run enough already, and he found himself sliding down the wall, curling into a tiny ball of pure misery and darkness.
"I think that's a `no', Trapper," Peggy said, fairly kindly, considering the situation. "Get out."
He took one last glance at his one-time lover, weeping on the floor, and at the authoritative woman who had just ordered him to get out, and decided that she was right. He left, quickly and without a fuss.
Once more, Peggy sat beside Hawkeye and held him as he wept. "Hush, Hawkeye. We'll get through this."
//That's easy for you to say,// he thought, but he didn't have spare energy to say it. //I'm not so sure.
So Trapper's gone. Really gone. Back to his wife forever, and he doesn't want me--just as a friend. No, Trap, it's all or nothing. We'll say our goodbyes, and that'll be it.
And BJ. BJ loved me, even when I fell apart on him--and I've done that more than once, now, haven't I? He loved me before I knew I liked him, let alone knew I loved him. And he loved me a long time before he knew I loved him.//
While Hawkeye was thinking, wrapped in his ball of pain, BJ found them. He sat next to Hawkeye, the other side to Peggy, and put his arms around his lover.
"BJ?" Hawkeye said, when he'd got some spare breath.
Hawkeye lifted his head, blue eyes still dark with tears, and asked, "Did you really love me, even back then?"
"Yes," BJ said. "Maybe even from the first moment I met you."
"In the bar in Seoul?"
"When you had me help you test the new rank. Corporal-captain. Yes, then. And just after that, when we stopped to help those kids who's been caught in the cross-fire? Definitely then."
"So you wrote that note because you loved me?"
"Yes," BJ said, wondering what the response would be but knowing that lying wouldn't help.
Hawkeye thought for a moment, his head tilted as he considered BJ, and then he smiled. "BJ--and Peggy, you too--answer me one more question, please."
"Of course," Peggy said, and BJ added, "Any time."
"Where's my home?"
"California," they told him, in unison.
"Come on," he said suddenly, unfolding himself and pulling them up with him.
"Hawkeye, where are we going?" BJ asked.
"Where do you think? We're at a party, Beej, we should be getting drunk, and possibly dancing or saying embarrassing things, not sitting on the floor and worrying. Come on!"
The next morning, the sun insisted on dawning again. When Erin woke and tiptoed into the spare bedroom of the Blake house, it sounded to Hawkeye like a herd of elephants storming around. He groaned, tried to roll over one way, bumped into Peggy, rolled the other way, and fell out of bed.
"Hawkeye?" Erin said. "I'm hungry. I want breakfast."
"Sshh! Okay, okay. We'll go find breakfast. Let's not wake Mommy and Daddy, though." Erin grinned as he untangled himself from the bed clothes, and danced out of the room.
Hawkeye pulled on his old red robe and followed her. Downstairs, they found the dining room nearly empty--though breakfast was laid and ready--except for Father Mulcahy.
"Good morning, Hawkeye," he said, brightly. Hawkeye winced.
"Not so loud, please, Father. Erin, what do you want for breakfast?"
"Toast!" she said, too loudly for the comfort of Hawkeye's hangover.
"Here--I'm sorry, I don't know your name."
Erin hid her face, so Hawkeye answered. "Erin, Erin Hunnicutt. Also known as waker-of-the-dead."
"Here, Erin. I've got plenty of toast--do you want some?" She looked at him a little suspiciously, but she was hungry enough to try anything. She held out her hand for the slice, and proceeded to munch away, happily.
The only problem--as far as Hawkeye was concerned--was that because she was standing on the chair next to the one he was sitting on, leaning on him, she was chewing right by his ear. "Sit down, Erin, please."
With a child's grace, she complied. Hawkeye contemplated the foodstuffs on offer with the air of one who really didn't want any, but knew he ought to.
"Coffee?" Mulcahy asked, and poured Hawkeye a mug without waiting for an answer--it was easy to predict, when you'd done this before, even if that time and place was half a world away.
Hawkeye took it. "Thanks, Father."
"How's life treating you these days?"
"Happy to be back home?"
"I'm not really home yet. But I think I know where it is."
"It was a fine party, wasn't it? Very kind of Trapper and Mrs Blake to organise it for us."
Frowning, Hawkeye said, "I thought Radar organised it."
"Oh, he did a lot of work, it's true, but it was Trapper's idea. He's the one who convinced her that letting a mass of old soldiers spend the night in her house wasn't completely crazy."
"Trapper's idea? That there should be a reunion? At Adam's Ribs?" Father Mulcahy nodded, not sure why this information had such an effect on Hawkeye.
Hawkeye gulped the rest of his coffee and stood up. "Father, can you watch Erin for ten minutes, please?"
Father Mulcahy nodded again. "I expect so."
Outside the door, Hawkeye stopped. What was he actually planning to do? He had to talk to Trapper. That was important. It had been Trapper's idea--Trapper had made this happen--Trapper had wanted to see him again. He had to tell Trapper that it was okay--that it didn't matter any more--that he would be okay. That he needed Trapper to be a friend.
Could that be right? Could Trapper really have wanted to see him again?
Yeah, he decided, it could. Trapper didn't write only because BJ sent that note. He wanted to see me all along. But BJ loved me.
//I don't know why, I don't understand, but he did. BJ loved me, and Trapper wanted to see me again. Even Lyle wants me to go and stay with him. Peggy, too. She cares.
Even Frank tried to be nice to me.
What did I do to deserve that? Some very cruel practical joke?
Trying to kill myself?
Does it matter? I have to talk to Trapper. Not about me, or about him, just about--about something. So we're friends. Now--where is Trapper?//
Trapper turned out to be asleep on the couch in Mrs Blake's living room. When Hawkeye switched the light on, he woke, blinking painfully and none too happy about being pulled out of his slumbers.
"What is it?"
"Why did you organise this?"
"Why?" Hawkeye knelt by Trapper. "I need to know. Why?"
Trapper shrugged. "I guess... to see everyone again."
"Yeah. You, Radar, BJ... everyone."
Hawkeye nodded, standing up again. "Okay."
He started to leave, but Trapper got up and blocked his way. "Hawkeye, you're in a strange mood. What's going on?"
"Oh, nothing much."
"I don't believe that."
"You don't have to. Let me out, please, Trap."
"Suppose I don't want to."
"Suppose it's not really your choice."
Hawkeye took a step towards Trapper, who moved back until he was leaning on the closed door. "I think it is, actually, Hawkeye."
"I think I'm going to hit you."
Hawkeye made his hand into a fist, and then slowly drew his arm back. Trapper met his gaze, serious, not smiling or showing off, just absolutely sure that he would be alright.
"Bastard," Hawkeye said. Trapper smiled slightly, thinking he'd won, and Hawkeye swung. He hit Trapper's chin sideways, cracking his head back against the door. "I hate you, you know that? I loved you so fucking much, and then I hated you." Thud. Another hit, and another. Trapper just stood there, not looking at Hawkeye but refusing to move.
"I love you, you bastard. You never knew that, did you? You wouldn't let me say it, wouldn't let me show it expect when you chose, because it was too dangerous." The blows kept coming, but they were getting weaker. "Bastard."
"I'm sorry, Hawkeye," Trapper said, and caught a flailing arm. "I'm sorry."
At the touch and the warm tone in Trapper's voice, some old trace of love stirred in Hawkeye and his knees buckled. He fell against Trapper, still trying, ineffectively, to hit him. Trapper held him for a moment. "Hawkeye? Can we still be friends?"
Hawkeye thought for a moment and then pulled back just enough to look into Trapper's hazel eyes. "Do friends kiss goodbye?"
"We can," Trapper said. They leant closer together--but then Hawkeye moved away again.
"Not yet, Trap. Let's wait until it's really time to say goodbye."
"When I decide," Hawkeye said. "Not just yet." He pushed Trapper aside, slipping past him and out the door.
Trapper, already worried about when Hawkeye would choose to say goodbye--and who would be there to witness it--sat down heavily on the couch, and tried to reassure himself that Hawkeye wouldn't do anything too crazy.
//There are still a lot of holes here. Why did Hawkeye need Sidney? Why isn't Sidney here? Okay, so threesome: Hawkeye, this BJ guy, and BJ's wife, I can take that; but why would he need Sidney?
Somehow, John MacIntyre, I think you can't count on Hawkeye not doing something crazy. You can't get out of the deal, but you might lose everything in this.
And you're talking to yourself. Hawkeye's not the only crazy one around here.//
Peggy woke slowly, her head throbbing with a hangover she wasn't accustomed to, and realised that only BJ was with her.
//Well,// she thought, //that's not entirely a bad thing.//
//On the other hand, it isn't all good, either.//
She shook BJ's shoulder. "Love?" she said. "BJ, love, are you awake?"
"Not now, Hawkeye," he told the pillow, but when she didn't stop he reluctantly opened one eye. "Not now, Peggy." "Wrong answer."
"I have a headache."
"So do I. Hawkeye's not here."
"Not here not in bed, or not here left the building?"
"I don't know. Not in bed. And it's gone eight o'clock, I'd expected Erin to wake us at least an hour ago."
"No Hawkeye, no Erin. They've probably gone to find breakfast. May I go back to sleep?"
He looked so pleading that Peggy kissed him gently on the nose and said, "Okay. But I'm going to go look for them. And maybe some coffee."
BJ nodded, and closed his eyes.
Hawkeye, when she found him, was in the dining room, alone. Head resting on his arms, he didn't look up when she came in, and for a moment she thought he was asleep. Then, still without looking up, he said, "Coffee's in the pot."
"Thanks, Hawkeye," Peggy said, pouring herself a mug. "Have you seen Erin this morning?"
"Yeah-- she's had breakfast, and Lorraine and Louise and Father Mulcahy have taken her and the other kids out."
"Park or somewhere. I don't know. They were all very organised."
Peggy sat down beside Hawkeye, who still hadn't raised his head. "Hawkeye, are you alright?"
"I've got a hangover."
"Is that all?"
"I hit Trapper."
"About forty-five minutes ago."
"This morning? Why? What happened?"
"It's a long story."
"Tell me. Or the table, whichever you prefer."
Without taking his head off his folded arms, Hawkeye turned his blue eyes on her. "Trapper organized all this. The reunion. He didn't write for however many years, and then he suddenly takes it into his head he wants to see me again, so he gets all this together."
"You hit him because he organized this?"
"I hit him because it was a cheap ploy to get me to come and see him. And because it worked."
"You hit him because you came to the reunion?"
"He cared. He cared enough to do all this, but not enough to break the rules. Not enough to say goodbye. Not enough to come and see me." Hawkeye looked down at the tablecloth again, and Peggy laid a hand on his shoulder.
"He did what he could, Hawkeye. Is he okay?"
"He's fine. Arrogant bastard."
"Hawkeye, what--and you don't have to answer this--what's the situation between you and Trapper? Current and historical?"
"Historically, we were lovers in med school, until Carlye and Louise can along, we went back to being lovers in Korea, and when he left the war he left me. Currently, well, you heard. He doesn't want me as a lover, I'm not sure I can stand seeing him as just a friend, and I hate that he can hurt me so much."
Peggy rubbed her hand in steady patterns over his back and neck, wishing that she could do more. "Is there anything that you can think of that might resolve it? Let you move on?"
He laughed, a hollow sound, even when muffled by his posture. "Oh, I know what to do. I'm just not sure if I can."
"What can I do to make it easier?"
"Okay, but I'm ready if you need me. Just ask, yeah?"
They sat in silence, Hawkeye slumped over the table and Peggy keeping him company, until the children came back, nearly two hours later.
The next twenty-four hours passed in a whirl of children, tidying up, and reminiscing.
Andrew Blake played Ravel's Bolero about ten times, driving everyone nearly crazy (not that, with Hawkeye in the house, it was exactly a long drive). Becky MacIntyre made paper hats for everyone, and three for Klinger, two of which had flowers on them. Erin Hunnicutt discovered the fine art of `only asking for something from the kitchen when the cook has sat down'--between her, the others who were old enough to play it, and her father, who also found it funny, Lorraine Blake was soon threatening to throw her knife at anyone who tried it.
Hawkeye even relaxed enough around Trapper to crack the customary jokes, make the normal puns, and generally behave as if nothing was wrong.
But then, Sunday afternoon rolled around, and it was time to say goodbye.
The party was breaking up anyway: Father Mulcahy had departed the night before, trying to get back to Philadelphia as soon as possible. Klinger and Soon-Lee had left on Sunday morning, to get their plane back to Korea on Monday.
By Sunday afternoon, Louise was itching to go, Trapper was getting more and more nervous about what Hawkeye would do, and Peggy and BJ were starting to wonder what on earth was going on.
Lorraine was only wondering how long it would take her to actually get the house in order again.
Reluctantly, Hawkeye helped to pack. He dragged his heels, sometimes literally, over ever last thing, until Peggy sent him to sit in the living room and keep out of the way.
That done, the packing was achieved in half the time. Erin was put in the car. Louise sat at the wheel, waiting for her husband. Trapper stood around, nervous. Peggy told BJ to sit in the car with Erin, and went to fetch Hawkeye.
"I can't do it, Peggy. I don't want to say goodbye to him. Tell them to go."
"No, Hawkeye. I'm not going to let you sit in here and refuse to resolve this. You're coming outside, and you'll say goodbye to him."
"You can't make me."
"I'm stronger than you are."
"Physically, yes. In other ways? No."
"How do you mean?" Peggy smiled and didn't reply. "You wouldn't!" She met his gaze and held it, still smiling. "You probably would, too. And make BJ... okay, okay. I'm going."
He got up and walked out of the room, slowly but determined. Peggy grinned to herself, and followed him.
Trapper leaned against the car, glancing round at the other people present and trying not to actually meet their eyes. Hawkeye was going to wait until the very last minute--and then kiss him.
Out here. In front of his daughters, his wife, everyone.
He flicked his gaze to the doorway, dark in the afternoon sunshine, and saw a familiar figure there. Hawkeye.
God, he'd loved Hawkeye once.
Maybe he even still did, a little--but that wasn't a thought he let himself have.
"Trapper?" Hawkeye called. "Come here for a minute, please."
Trapper looked at Louise, at her shoulder so he didn't have to meet her eyes, and murmured, as much for his sake as hers, "I won't be long."
Then, drawn by those blue eyes that he knew so well, so close, he went to the doorway. "Hawkeye?"
Hawkeye took him by the arm and drew him inside, round the corner a little so that they were out of sight of all save Peggy. "Goodbye, Trapper John," he said, and pulled him into a kiss.
Peggy was pleased to note that it was Hawkeye who started the kiss, and Hawkeye who ended it. He moved away from Trapper, said, "I loved you," then ducked out of the doorway into the winter sun.
Part Five: Exhibiting
//Monday evening. God, I'm tired. I've been driving all day, and it's as hard as doing surgery when there are four in the car and you don't know the route. Erin was mucking about, to the point where even Hawkeye got fed up with her--not, on a normal day like today, an easy thing to do. Oh, and the car broke down. Thankfully, the guy at the gas station was helpful, or we might not be here at all. It was funny, through, wath watching Hawkeye trie to fix it and only macking in worse. I should sop--I'm clerly in need of sleep.
Tuesday night. The journey went fine--Peg's a better driver than I am--but she opened a real can of worms, talking to Hawkeye. She got him talking about his parents, and I think I need to write it all down, because masses of it is new to me.
"So, Hawkeye," she began, once we were on a clear, dull stretch of road, "Tell us about Crabapple Cove. What do we have to look out for?"
He thought for a moment, and from the back seat I watched him assume `storytelling mode': set the shoulders, tilt the head, focus on Peggy, since he can't see the rest of his audience.
"Crabapple Cove has many fine features, as much history as anywhere in America, and an excellent cast of recurring characters. For example, the lobsters. Some of them have been crawling out of buckets since the Indians invented fishing."
Erin giggled. "Are the people as interesting?" Peggy asked.
"They're much the same, actually. They're born, grow up, crawl out of buckets, get married, do the jobs their fathers did, have children, teach their children to crawl out of buckets, and so on and so forth." He paused, and then went on, "Even the lobsters know all names, and the widowers marry the widows, to `be comfortable in their old age'. Like Dad and Ella Ingram. Everyone's been teasing them about being ready to share a bucket for years--even me. I was clearly wrong when I decided it was only a joke."
"Does everyone really take over the family business?"
"Yeah--that's what Dad wants me to do, take over his practice. Get married, have kids, crawl out of the bucket just the same as all the others."
"I bet most of them aren't called `Hawkeye'."
"One of the lobsters is called Old Toenabber."
"That's Byron, right?" I asked.
"But why call you Hawkeye, if he wanted you to be just the same as all the others?"
Hawkeye shrugged. "I don't know. Some of it's just because he loved the book. In the early days, I think it was a joke that happened to stick, given that when I was afraid of the dark--before I read the book, thankfully--he used to call me Montcalm. Mom accepted it because she could weave the her old Irish stories around it."
"Your mother was Irish?"
"Yeah--second generation American. Her mother was a great one for telling old stories, and mom carried that on. I think that's part of what dad liked about her, or came to like. He nearly married an Indian girl, but his parents wouldn't allow it--granddad was very sure that interracial marriages wouldn't work. Like Cora and Uncas. He married Doreen--my mother--because she was pretty, and granddad approved her. Then, ten years later..."
"It's alright, Hawkeye, you don't have to tell us."
"I think you should know. She died just two weeks before their eleventh wedding anniversary. I was ten and a half, almost to the day." Hawkeye thought for a moment, and then added, "I never looked at it like this before, but I guess he might have married her because she was pregnant."
"That would have forced his father into giving permission," Peggy observed.
"I doubt it was deliberate, though."
"I don't get the impression they wanted to get married, really. I mean, they were lovers, obviously, but they didn't want it to be a long-standing thing. Dad loved mom, and when she died he was devastated, because he'd built his life around her, but when they first met, it was going to be a quick fling. One night stand, almost. He told me, once. I'm not sure he'd remember, but he did."
At that point, Erin get bored with all this grown-up chatter that didn't include her, and decided she felt car-sick. Since the first day, she hasn't actually vomited, but we've had several bouts of `I feel sick'--some real, some not.
I am far from convinced by the ones that are miraculously cured by candy, for example, however much she rubs her stomach and pouts. She's yet to learn that Hawkeye, when he puts his mind to it, can pout much more effectively than she can, and that I long ago developed an immunity to it.
Anyway, we didn't manage to continue the conversation until we'd stopped for the night, had dinner, and put Erin to bed. We sat around the table, then, sipping (or in Hawkeye's case, gulping) wine.
"What were you going to say, earlier, about your father?"
"About him not wanting to marry mom? Or about them not being happy together?"
"You told us that he didn't want to get married," I reminded him.
"Yeah. About them not being happy, then. There's not that much to tell: he didn't want to be tied down the way granddad was, but mom insisted, so they got married. Dad loved her, and once he realised he had no choice, he built a way of coping with the boredom around her--argue, make up, argue--but she didn't like it, and it didn't exactly make him happy, either, but he coped. Until she wasn't there anymore, then he had to find something new."
"What did he do?" I ask, and wonder why Hawkeye doesn't seem upset by this.
"Oh, he used to get drunk every night. I'd hide in my room, if I couldn't stay over with Katherine."
"Hawkeye, I'm sorry."
"Why? After a couple of years, he pulled himself together, made me go to school, all that kind of stuff." Hawkeye drained his glass, looked at the empty wine bottle, and went on, "It's either time for another bottle, or bed."
He and Peggy are asleep now, curled up together. I tried to sleep, but there's just too much to think about. I keep picturing eleven year old Hawkeye, hiding in his room and listening to his dad come home drunk.
Two things are clear to me: one, that Hawkeye could easily follow that pattern, even if he manages to break out of the other conventions; and two, if I'm going to let Hawkeye be a third parent to my daughter--which is a part of the whole `letting him into my home' thing--I'd better make damn sure it doesn't get that bad.
Perhaps giving him a home and my love and a family will be enough that he stops needing the drink--because even if he doesn't see it yet, he's still drinking to survive. If it turns out not to be, then I'll have to... have to...whatever it takes.
I'll repeat that, just for the sake of it: I'll do whatever it takes to give Hawkeye the happiness he deserves.
I can see them from here: my blonde Peggy and my black-haired Hawkeye (though, truth be told, the white strands are increasing; in the summer, when he came to California, there were two or three--now, there are ten or twenty). He's dreaming again, tossing and turning.
I'd better go. It's easier if I'm there when he wakes, whether it's Carlye or Korea that haunts him.
Wednesday, mid-morning. We've decided to take a half day off from driving--a chance to get some rest and a break from being in the car. There's a playground just across the road, and Peggy's taken Erin across there now.
Last night was pretty terrible, as nights go. Hawkeye dozed, and dreamt, and woke up shaking, so often that I was nearly ready to scream. He did manage to tell us what they were about, mostly, but there seemed to be nothing we could do to break the cycle. It's on the `time to call Sidney' borderline, though I suspect that all Sidney will be able to suggest is `be patient, stay with him'.
It's not easy--he's asleep now, and in under half an hour I expect I'll be over there again, trying to make it okay. The dreams are muddled, nothing clear. I think even he can't pick out which memories are which: he's hiding in the Swamp, waiting for his father; he's in surgery, operating on Carlye; he's being shelled, and his mother is there.
Little bits of the childhood we stirred up talking yesterday, the childhood I think he'd repressed fairly thoroughly, of Korea, that he hasn't had time to process, and things left over from Carlye's time in his life are all mixing themselves up and compounding each other.
There's a little light at the end of the tunnel, though. He isn't dreaming about Trapper any more... but he is dreaming--I can hear him starting to thrash about. I'd better stop writing.//
BJ had discovered in the early days of their relationship that the best way to calm Hawkeye as he woke from a nightmare was to hold him as close as possible, and to stay there until it was actually impossible not to move. It worked, it was simple, and it was easy.
It had disadvantages, but they weren't that bad. Sometimes, they could be turned into advantages: the whole `pressed full length against your lover' thing could work either way.
At first, the nightmare was violent, and BJ's efforts to hold Hawkeye were mostly rewarded with elbows in uncomfortable places. Gradually, Hawkeye quieted, though he didn't wake, and BJ was able to lie there, arms wrapped around him. He talked in his sleep: nothing major, just a few words now and then, and BJ wondered what the dream was about.
"No," he muttered. "That's not right," and then, "Where are you? Don't leave."
"I'm here, Hawkeye," BJ said, hoping the tone, if not the words, would get through. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Stay," Hawkeye pleaded, twisting in BJ's grasp. "Please. Stay."
"I'm not going anywhere," BJ repeated, and tightened his grip. Hawkeye struggled for a moment, his eyes opening.
"I'm here. It's alright, Hawkeye. You were dreaming."
He relaxed, almost melting into BJ's body.
BJ hugged him again. "Can you tell me what it was about?"
Hawkeye took a deep breath, and answered, "Carlye. We were in Korea, being shelled. And then she... she turned into mom, and left."
"It was a dream--it's over now."
"I know." Hawkeye returned BJ's squeeze, before adding, also under his breath, "You won't go, will you?"
"I don't plan on leaving," BJ replied.
When Peggy came back because Erin needed her lunch, she had to wake them.
//Thursday evening. Another long day of driving. Hawkeye is a little better (we all actually slept last night, and he's asleep again now, peacefully enough).//
"We'll be arriving tomorrow afternoon, BJ," Peggy said. "I hope Hawkeye's going to cope okay."
"I think he will. We've done everything we can--he's not ready, as such, but he's as prepared as he'll ever be."
"I just wish it wasn't quite so soon after everything else."
"Peg, remember it's a choice, of sorts. If he can't cope with telling his father, he won't."
"And if Hawkeye tells him and he can't cope?"
"Then we give him our `official' version--that Hawkeye's been offered a job in California (which Rossi has) and would be better to go back to work, and then we'll get our Hawkeye out of there as fast as possible."
Peggy grinned. "You're good at this sort of thing, love."
"Blame the army," BJ told her, returning the grin.
It was raining on Friday afternoon as they arrived in Crabapple Cove.
"There it is!" Hawkeye pointed at a small house, half way up the hill. "If you can see it in this weather. That's Dad's house, and the one opposite is the Mrs Ingram's. I wonder which one they'll live in?"
BJ stopped the car in the drive. "So, here we are. Ready?"
"Yes!" Erin shouted, and started trying to undo the door.
More slowly, Hawkeye replied, "I guess so. Let's see, shall we?"
He dashed for the front door, and knocked.
There was no response.
"Dad?" he shouted. "Dad, are you there?"
Still no reply.
"I bet they're at Ella's," he said to Peggy and BJ as he passed the car. "Let's try across the road."
This time, the knock was answered. Katherine opened the door almost at once.
For a moment, she just stood there, her face a picture of wide-eyed surprise, and then she cried, "Hawkeye!"
"That's me," he grinned.
"Hawkeye! You're back!"
She hugged him, then--catching sight of Peggy and BJ over his shoulder--said, "And friends as well! I'll call the others."
"Dad and Ella?"
"Joe--Joe Gold of Reindeer Sledge fame?"
"That's the one." She giggled. "I married him, while you were in Korea. Didn't your dad tell you?"
"I knew you'd married, but not who. Joe! Well, your choice."
"You were in Boston when we got back from visiting his family--they're in Iowa--or you've have heard then. And he's nice to me."
"He'd better be."
"Just come in, Hawkeye. And your friends, too." She led the way into the house, calling, "Mom! Daniel! Joe!"
In a couple of minutes, everyone was gathered in the living room. Peggy studied the people as Hawkeye introduced them: Katherine and Ella were clearly family, with the same dark curls and brown eyes, and Katherine's younger daughter, Susan, about the same age as Erin, also had her mother's hair, but her father's cheerful (if, to Peggy's mind, none too intelligent) green eyes. The older girl, Jessica, was quiet, reading in the corner and mostly pretending to ignore what was going on.
Daniel was a surprise: she'd been expecting, somehow, an older version of Hawkeye, and the short man, with thin red hair and pale blue eyes, didn't seem to fit. Later, in looking around in Daniel's house, she'd stumble across a picture of Doreen, and realise that Hawkeye had, almost entirely, his mother's looks--which would explain, in part, Daniel's mixed look of happiness and grief at seeing his son again.
She also noted that Hawkeye didn't try to explain why she and BJ were there, just gave their names and a few simple facts about them, mostly based around `BJ was with me in Korea'.
"Well, it's good to meet you at last. I've read plenty about you--especially BJ," Daniel said. "I don't know where you're going to sleep, though."
"Don't be silly, Daniel," Ella admonished, with a slight smile. "We've got two perfectly good houses, there's masses of room. You're all welcome to dinner here tonight, and then you can sleep here or over the road. Although I think we might want Erin and Susan to be in separate houses--they look set to cause trouble."
"Thank you, Mrs Ingram, and yes, they do. They're getting on nearly too well." Peggy said, since the remark about Erin seemed to be addressed to her.
"You're welcome, Mrs Hunnicutt. Katherine, we'd better go on, if we're to give all our guests a proper meal."
"I'll help," Peggy offered.
"Don't be silly, you're a guest."
"I don't want to be sitting around. Really, I'd like to."
"If you insist, then. Daniel, you can take some blankets out of the airing cupboard to make up your spare beds. I'll be in the kitchen if you need me."
Daniel nodded. "Yes, dear." She kissed his forehead on the way out.
"Hawkeye, I could use an extra pair of hands. If Joe and BJ don't mind being left with the kids, we'll go and see about taking blankets across the road."
"Sure," Hawkeye said.
"We won't be long," Daniel told BJ and Joe, and they left.
"Can you scrub potatoes, Peggy?" Ella requested. "Kathy, I need some onions chopped."
"Sure," the other women replied.
Once they'd started, they worked in silence for a few minutes, and then Katherine asked, "So, Peggy, what do you make of Hawkeye?"
Peggy squashed the urge to reply `a sandwich with BJ', and said, "I like him. He's gone through a lot, but he's a good man."
"Yeah," Ella agreed, "He always was--well, mostly. There were one or two times when I wondered."
"Childhood pranks?" Peggy enquired, hoping for more idea of what he might be teaching Erin in the future.
"He went in for practical jokes for a while," Katherine told her. "I still use the salt-in-the-sugar bowl one when I want to confuse Joe and convince him I don't need him in the kitchen."
"No wonder Hawkeye gets on so well with BJ, then," Peggy said. "He's a lot like that."
"Daniel can be, too. If you're done with onions, Kathy, we need a little garlic chopped, too, and maybe some mint."
"So that's where Hawkeye gets it from."
"Could well be, Peggy. I'm glad to hear he's still mischievous--when I last saw him, when he was just back from the war, that all seemed to have left him."
//So it was happening even when he was here,// Peggy thought. //He wasn't happy. Sidney was right when he said that Hawkeye's wrist-slashing attempt wasn't about us.// Aloud, she said, "I think he's recovered some of it, spending time with BJ."
"We'd better watch out tomorrow, then," Ella said, trying to sound glum. "Hawkeye and Daniel and BJ, all in high spirits, sounds like a bad combination."
"Especially if there are alcoholic spirits involved," Katherine put in. "I have a feeling that the whole wedding might descend into chaos."
"We'll try and prevent that," Ella told her daughter. "But if it does, then it does. I shall just stand back and enjoy the sight."
"I'm sure it'll be okay," Peggy said. "BJ does have some respect for the wedding service--at least, he was so nervous at ours we didn't have anything silly going on--so with luck, Daniel's nerves and BJ's respect will keep them a little in line."
"We can hope," Katherine nodded. "Mom, shall I chop carrots as well?"
In the house across the road, Hawkeye and his father started making the beds. "Throw me that sheet, will you?" Daniel asked.
Hawkeye did so, and his sleeve slid a little up his arm. "What happened to your wrist, son? Are those scars?"
"Err..." Hawkeye said, suddenly scared. The moment to tell had arrived, and he nearly panicked.
Daniel moved around the bed, and grasped Hawkeye's left hand. "Three scalpel cuts, neatly stitched? What on earth?" He took his son's other hand. "And three more here. Hawkeye, what happened to you?"
"Dad..." Hawkeye tried to begin, but there was just so much to explain.
"Sit down," Daniel said, guiding Hawkeye onto the bed and sitting beside him. "Tell me--what happened?"
"Me," Hawkeye managed.
"You? What do you mean?"
"Me. My scalpel. I cut myself."
"Six cuts? That deep? You tried to kill yourself?"
Hawkeye nodded, silent and staring at the floor.
"I couldn't do it. I can't do it, dad. Can't stay here. Can't have children. It's--I don't want to be what you want me to be."
"Now, when did I ever try and tell you what to be? I want you to be happy, that's all."
"And what do you mean by that?" Hawkeye asked, bitterly, pulling his hands away and standing up. " `Happy' is married! `Happy' is children, and your practice, and staying here!"
"Well, yes," Daniel replied, puzzled. "Isn't that what will make you happy?"
"No, actually, it isn't!" Hawkeye yelled. "It isn't at all! And you know why? Because nobody here ever tries to improve things! They settle for what they've got! When someone dies, they say, `Well, it was bound to happen sometime.' They don't marry the person they fall in love with--they find someone their parents would approve of! Nobody from Crabapple Cove ever invented anything!"
"Calm down, please, Hawkeye."
"Calm down! That's what you used to say to mom, whenever she tried to change anything! You accepted what your dad said, and married her, and you hated it, but you couldn't change it, so you didn't want her to be any happier either!"
"Hawkeye, don't talk like that!" Daniel said, standing. "It's not true and you know it. I don't know what's wrong with you, but you're clearly not well. Now, calm down, please."
"No, dad. I'll stop shouting if you like, but I won't `calm down'. I found a place I can call home, and it isn't here. I don't want to get married, and you can give up on the idea of grandchildren. I've got no desire to contribute to the next generation of draftees."
Daniel took a deep breath. "Hawkeye, is that going to make you happy? Rebelling for the sake of it? I know you've always been a rebel, but if you want to stop and settle down, that's fine with me."
"Is that what you think this is? Rebelling for rebelling's sake? Dad, I've fallen in love! I've found a home!"
"Hawkeye, please sit down again, and try to make sense." Hawkeye sat. "Okay, let me try to follow this. You've fallen in love but you don't want to get married? Who is she?"
Hawkeye looked into his father's brown eyes and tried to reply, `He's married already', but couldn't do it. "I can't tell you," he said after a pause.
"Why not? Look, Hawkeye, if she's married to someone else, you'd better stay here. I don't want you in trouble. If she's... oh, God. Not your friend's wife--err, Peggy?"
Trapped, Hawkeye couldn't reply. If he said yes, that would be true, but not all the truth; if he said no, it would be a lie.
"If it is, you're in deep trouble. These things always come out, you know."
"Dad?" Hawkeye asked, quietly, and looked down at the carpet.
"Yes? What is it?"
"Do you still love me?"
"Of course. You're my son, Hawkeye, I'd love you even if you were black or homosexual."
Hawkeye had started to relax, reassured, but he froze stiff when he heard the final word. Daniel, watching him carefully, saw the change and drew a conclusion.
He gasped. "Hawkeye? You're not trying to tell me you..."
Hawkeye nodded, and suddenly the words came tumbling out. "BJ. It's alright, Peggy knows, she's okay with it. I want to go and live in California with them. That's why I was so miserable when I was here--I hated being away from him."
"And you slashed your wrists because..."
"I had to know what would happen."
"Hawkeye, that's insane. You slashed your wrists as an experiment!"
"Sort of. I wanted to get rid of the war inside me."
"You don't understand. You can't. You've never been out there, being fired on. BJ nearly gets it, I think. He found me and made it okay."
"Hawkeye," Daniel said slowly, "I don't know what to make of this."
"Just don't hate me."
"I think I'll manage that. Especially if you help me finish making this bed."
Hawkeye smiled, and they went on with the work.
In the next room, Daniel said, "How many people know?"
"Some army friends--Trapper, Sidney, Radar might have guessed. That's about all."
"You said Peggy, earlier."
"Yeah, but--she, she's a special case," Hawkeye said, uncomfortably.
"What do you mean?"
"She--BJ still loves her, too. And I..."
"Two doctors can work out how to fit three people in a bed?"
Daniel laughed, long and low. "Well, who'd've thought it. Look, Hawkeye, I don't want Ella to have to deal with this. I'll keep quiet and so will you and the others, right?"
Hawkeye nodded. "What about Katherine?"
"Better not to tell her. She'd most likely tell Ella."
"Are you sure? I want her to know I'm okay."
"She needn't know there was ever anything wrong. Have you got any other reasons for moving to California?"
"Not really. Unless you mention Rossi."
"A surgeon. I've never seen him work, but I suspect he's not a good surgeon. He's heard of my reputation from Korea and he keeps offering me a job."
"That'll do. You're moving because you've been offered a job out there. That's all anyone needs to know."
"Okay," Hawkeye said, sadly, wishing that he could shout it from the rooftops like every other Tom, Dick and Harry who fell in love with an ordinary girl.
After dinner that evening, Hawkeye said, "The rain's stopped. I'm going for a walk."
"I'll come with you," BJ offered. "You can show me some of these places you're always talking about."
Ella grinned. "And Peggy. She's been asking about things all afternoon."
"I can wait," Peggy said. "I'll help with the washing up."
"No, you go out. You've done enough to help," Katherine told her.
"Okay. Where's Erin?"
"She's upstairs with Susan," Daniel said. "I think they're playing dolls together. You go on out."
BJ grinned. "You're outnumbered, Peggy. Come with us."
"Alright, alright," Peggy held up her hands. "I'll come."
They walked along the damp street in the cold evening air. The sun was just going down, gilding the houses as it went.
In such a public place, it wasn't safe for all three to touch, so for Hawkeye's sake they walked without holding hands. He led them down the road to a small wooden gate. "The back way into the churchyard," he explained, without saying why he was taking them there.
Through the gate, they found themselves in a small wooded area, hidden from the surrounding houses by evergreen trees, and dotted about with gravestones. Hawkeye seemed to have forgotten that he wasn't alone.
BJ started to walk faster, trying to keep up, but Peggy caught his arm. "Give him some space. We'll follow," she said, softly.
She was right--Hawkeye strode several hundreds yards, and then stopped in front of a small headstone, carved out of the local rock.
"Mom," he said, softly. Peggy and BJ caught up, and she was about to read the inscription: `Doreen Pierce, loving wife and mother. Died 17th March, 1936. Rest in peace.'
"Mom," Hawkeye repeated. Both and BJ saw the tear start to roll down his cheek. They stepped closer to him, one on each side. BJ put his arm across Hawkeye's shoulders. Peggy checked that no one could see them, and then slid her arm around his waist.
They stood like that for a long time, while Hawkeye wept and the sun disappeared.
//Friday night. We're here; we've met the family. Hawkeye's sister-in-law-to-be, Katherine, has two daughters, one of whom has taken Erin firmly in hand; more trouble, I fear, but I'm sure we'll find a way to cope.
Hawkeye took us down to his mother's grave this evening. It's a lovely spot, quiet and peaceful, and it seems to have helped him. Either he's told his father what's going on, or he's done some very subtle manoeuvring: Peggy and I are in the room next to his. Erin's is just after that, and Daniel is across the hallway, but if Hawkeye had a nightmare we'd hear him.
That's lucky--I was afraid I might end up lying in bed listening to him thrash about and be unable to go to him.
Anyway, it seems Hawkeye was right. Like the lobsters he compared them to, these people don't look for things that shouldn't be there, and they wouldn't see him in love with me and Peggy unless it was pointed out to them. I don't think being here is making him happy, so we'll probably leave as soon after the wedding as we can without being rude, but it's clearly better to have come than not.//
Crabapple Cove Courier, 19th December 1954.
Dr Daniel Pierce married Mrs Ella Ingram (widowed) in St. Michael's Church this Saturday. The bride wore a stunning dress of white satin, and the congregation was large and in fine voice. Moments of chaos did occur when it was discovered that water pistols had been hidden in the flower arrangements (made by Ella's daughter, Katherine Gold), but all was quickly calmed. Readers may be interested to know that our town doctor returns from his honeymoon in two weeks' time.
Part Six: Extrapolating
"Wake up, Hawkeye. It's time to go to work."
Hawkeye groaned, but didn't move.
"I know you can hear me. It's time--past time, in fact--to get up."
"Gotta headache," Hawkeye mumbled into the pillow.
BJ perched on the edge of the bed and asked, "Is it a real headache, or a hangover, or an `I don't want to get out of bed' headache?"
"What does it matter?"
"It matters because, as you well know, the treatment of a symptom depends on its cause."
"Can't you stop being clever, just for a while?"
"Sadly not. Why don't you want to go to work?"
"I don't want to be convicted of murder."
"So this is an `I don't want to get up' headache, then."
"I never said that."
"But I deduced it."
"Well done, Sherlock. Now can I go back to sleep?"
"No, Hawkeye. Now you can get up and go to work."
"BJ, why does this bother you so much? You're the one who didn't want me to take this job."
"I wanted you to take a post that wouldn't involve daily contact with Rossi. But you insisted, and now I want you to go and do the work you chose."
"I don't want to."
"Whose fault is that? There are three hospitals within a reasonable travelling distance of here. You didn't have to work with Rossi. You didn't have to take a post in the same building, let alone the same department."
Hawkeye pouted. "But you're in the same hospital as Rossi."
"Where I am isn't... you decided to put up with Rossi so that you could be near me?"
A nod, and then a muttered, "Yeah."
"So you don't want to go to work because I have meetings all day and I won't see you."
"And Rossi wants me to help him do this `standard practice evaluation' thing today."
"Ah. Tell you what, Hawkeye--you get up now and go to work, and I'll tell Terry that I've got an urgent appointment and can't make it to lunch with him."
"An `urgent appointment' with me?"
"That's right." BJ grinned.
Hawkeye shifted and sat up, leaning his head on BJ's shoulder.
"Come and have breakfast, yeah?"
"Ugh," Hawkeye said. BJ ran his hand through Hawkeye's hair, and Hawkeye explained, "Hangover. Just a little one."
"You should go easy on the drinking."
"I know, I know. Come here."
There wasn't a lot of space for BJ to move closer in, but he twisted his head round enough for Hawkeye to kiss him.
"BJ? Hawkeye?" Peggy called from downstairs. "It's my understanding that you're both supposed to leave the house at some point!"
"Just a moment, love," BJ replied, and then in a quieter voice, "The coffee shop round the corner, then?"
"Sounds like a good plan to me. Thanks, Beej."
"You're welcome. If you don't want to walk to work, you'll be ready to go in ten minutes." He kissed Hawkeye again, before untangling himself from Hawkeye's embrace and heading downstairs.
The coffee shop was tucked into an alleyway, and one corner was just dark enough that they could make the occasional physical contact without anyone getting suspicious. They were regular enough that that owner, Paul, saved it for them on most weekday lunchtimes.
"Same as usual, Paul," BJ said, "Hawkeye, you too?"
Hawkeye just nodded. BJ put a hand on his arm and led him to `their' corner, noting with a pang of worry that he was wound up, tense like a spring that's been tightened until it's ready to break.
Once they were seated, BJ asked, "Bad morning?"
Again, Hawkeye nodded, shutting his eyes. "Rossi is driving me crazy. It's not that he's a bad doctor--either Frank's improved dramatically or he's delusional--but his attitude is terrible."
"Yeah. How wonderful it must be to die for your country and all that. I've tried to say that I've seen people die for their country and it isn't wonderful, but he just ignores me."
"I'm afraid you're just going to have to ignore him, Hawkeye. There's no point getting upset over it."
"I'm sorry, Beej," Hawkeye said, "It's not fair of me to spend all my time complaining to you."
"Don't worry about it. I might not remember where I was if you didn't complain about Rossi at least once during the meal," BJ grinned.
"Well, then, here's a reminder. Today he started on a long rant about how much love it showed for your country to serve in the army. Love! Huh. All serving in the army did to me was make me hate America."
"Careful where you say that, Hawkeye. Mind you, I'm not that big on loving my country. Especially," BJ leant closer and dropped his voice to a whisper, "since I love you way more."
Hawkeye smiled, and BJ watched his eyes change colour, from the dark blue that spoke of misery and disgust to the lighter shade that held a lifetimes' worth of love. "You do?"
"Beej..." Hawkeye said. Their hands touched under the table, just briefly, and it was enough. They both knew.
A couple of seconds later, they moved apart quickly as their food arrived. "Happy eating, doctors," Paul said, with a grin.
"You'll be okay," BJ said, once Paul was out of hearing distance. "It's Friday, and you've got the whole weekend off. It'll be over in a matter of hours."
"No, it won't," Hawkeye replied, gloomily. "Haven't you heard? Dr. Rankin's called a staff meeting, all surgeons, for just the time I'm meant to be going home."
BJ groaned. "Oh, Hawkeye."
"I only found out in the middle of one of Rossi's daft tirades." Hawkeye mimicked the other surgeon's nasal voice. "I wish I'd been able to go and serve our noble country. We've got a staff meeting at seven and wouldn't it be glorious to kill people for America. Such an expression of love!"
Laughing, BJ said, "He sounds a lot like Frank."
"He is a lot like Frank. Except he can, actually, operate."
"So do you think they'll give us the new ward, or just make us leave the patients in the corridors?" Terry was asking as he and BJ came into the conference room.
Anxiously scanning the room for Hawkeye, BJ didn't reply.
"Perhaps they'll let us build a golf course instead," Terry went on, watching his friend for signs that he was listening.
"Maybe," BJ said, sensing that something was required but still concentrating on searching for Hawkeye.
Wondering how far he could push this, Terry asked, "Do you think it'll be a full eighteen holes?"
BJ realised that he wasn't understanding what Terry had said, and replayed the last few exchanges in his head. His look of embarrassment was so exquisite that Terry decided to make it easy for him.
"Sorry, BJ. Are you worried about Hawkeye?"
"Yeah. At lunch..." BJ tailed off, suddenly recalling that Terry was the one he'd lied to in order to go and have lunch with Hawkeye.
"You went to lunch with Hawkeye instead of me? Well, I guess he needs more looking after than I do."
"I'm sorry, Terry," BJ stammered. "It's just..." but he couldn't really explain what it was just, at all.
"He's just come in, BJ. Over there." They both looked across the room to where Hawkeye was standing, still having his ear bent by Rossi. "Let me guess," Terry went on, "He can't stand Rossi."
"That's a large part of it," BJ admitted, catching Hawkeye's glance and smiling at him, before adding in a quiet voice, "Shall we see if we can split them up?"
"Okay," Terry agreed.
The room was filling up--the hospital had over twenty surgeons, most of whom were present. Terry and BJ wound their way through the gathering masses, milling around and starting to find seats.
"Hawkeye!" BJ called, as soon as he was close enough.
Rossi didn't look around or stop talking, just waved his hand at the seats as if to say `ignore them; let's sit down'. Over his shoulder, Hawkeye made a face that was part desperation, part exhaustion.
"Excuse me, Dr Rossi," BJ said, stepping between him and Hawkeye. "Hawkeye, can you come and sit with me and Terry? We have something to discuss."
Unperturbed, Rossi cut in before Hawkeye could reply, "I'll come with you. This isn't going to be a long meeting."
BJ was about to argue, but Dr Rankin entered, and started trying to call the meeting to order. "If I could have your attention?"
"Thanks for trying, love," Hawkeye muttered in BJ's ear. "I'm not sure if I'm going to make it through this."
The tone of acceptance and dejection in Hawkeye's voice made BJ want to comfort him, but there was nothing to be done at that moment. They took seats at the long table, as close to each other as possible though Rossi barged in between them, and turned to face Dr Rankin.
Unable to concentrate, Hawkeye tuned Rankin's voice out and stared at the back of BJ's head, trying to also ignore the fact that Rossi was sitting between them.
//Oh, BJ. Do you know what it does to me to see you every day? To see you happy, relaxed, doing the job you love with colleagues who are friends? I only wish I wasn't ruining that for you. You'd never speak to Rossi if it wasn't for me. You wouldn't have a problem. You wouldn't be leaving your friend alone to sneak off to lunch with me. You wouldn't be...//
Hawkeye suddenly realised that the subject (whatever it was: he couldn't remember) had been opened for discussion, and that BJ and Rossi were arguing. //You wouldn't be taking my side in the argument.//
"We need more wards," BJ was saying. "And furthermore, I think we've now got enough surgeons to cover having another OR as well."
"I and Dr Pierce manage to share perfectly well," Rossi said, pompously.
In turning to speak to Rossi, BJ could also see Hawkeye, who didn't speak but shook his head.
//We really don't. I'm too tired, I can't argue. But we don't.//
"I don't think you do, actually," BJ said.
"Dr Hunnicutt," Rossi said, standing up, "may I remind you that I am the senior surgeon?"
"I don't care." BJ shoved his chair back and took a step towards Rossi. "I'm fed up with your attitude."
Rossi took a step back from BJ's looming advance, forcing Hawkeye to stand simply to get out of the way. "Dr Hunnicutt..."
"I'm fed up with you, Dr Rossi."
"Now you're just being unreasonable," Rossi said, still trying to back away.
BJ looked at the cowering Rossi, looked over at Hawkeye, who was still shaking his head and seemed to be close to tears, and a snap decision. His fists were already conveniently balled, so he swung one of them at Rossi's face.
Hawkeye watched BJ hit Rossi with something approaching triamph in his heart, for a second. Then, the very fact of what had happened washed over him. //BJ hit Rossi. And it's my fault.//
The terror that accompanied this thought lent him energy, and he ran: past BJ, out the door, down the stairs, past the startled faces in reception, and along the street.
In the conference room, BJ tried to follow, but the gaggle of people forming around the injured Rossi also prevented him from getting away. "Hawk!" he shouted, but was cut off by Dr Rankin's hand on his shoulder, pulling him out of the crowd.
"Look, BJ, I don't know what's really going on here, but I have to make some show of investigating. Stick around and make my job easier, please?"
Trapped, BJ nodded.
At nine, when Hawkeye and BJ were two hours late and she hadn't heard anything, Peggy phoned the hospital.
"Can I help?"
"I hope so. This is Mrs Hunnicutt, I'm trying to find my husband, Dr BJ Hunnicutt. Is he still there?"
"I'll see if I can find him for you. If you'll hold the line..."
Patiently, Peggy waited.
After ten minutes, the nurse who had originally answered the phone returned. "Mrs Hunnicutt?"
"I'm still here."
"Your husband's in a meeting with Dr Rankin, and everyone's under strict instructions not to disturb them. Sorry."
"Thank you," Peggy said, and put the phone down. So they were still at work.
She went to bed.
"Peggy?" BJ said, urgently. "Peggy, wake up."
She blinked hard, waking slowly. "BJ?"
"Hawkeye. Where is he? I thought he'd come home."
"I haven't seen him--the girl on the desk said you were in a meeting, so I assumed he was with you."
"He wasn't... Peggy, I..."
"What is it, BJ?"
BJ perched on the edge of the bed and sighed. "Oh, God. What have I done?"
"I don't know unless you tell me, BJ," Peggy said, patiently, sitting up. "What happened?"
"We had a meeting, at seven. Rossi was being stupid--the way he always is--and Hawkeye was, well, I thought he was upset, and I lost my temper."
"What did you do?"
"I gave Rossi a black eye, and Hawkeye bolted, just ran out of the room. Dr Rankin was understanding, and he's basically letting me off, but..."
"I can't find him. The staff on reception said he'd left the building, so I assumed he'd come back here."
"Why didn't you phone?"
"I didn't have time!"
Peggy shrugged. "We've got to find him."
"How? He could be anywhere!"
"Well, we'll just have to try."
"We can't, Peggy. There's nothing we can do."
"We have to try. Come on."
"I can't. I'm too tired--I'll crash the car."
"Suppose he doesn't want to be found?"
"I doubt that, BJ," Peggy said, throwing the blanket off and getting out of bed.
"I don't. He ran out, didn't he?"
"If you really think that, you can stay here," Peggy told him, pulling on underwear and a housedress.
"I will," BJ responded, "I need some sleep."
Peggy didn't slam the door on the way out because she didn't want to wake Erin unless is was absolutely necessary, but BJ heard the latch click. He lay awake in the darkness until the dawn came, and then he lay awake some more.
Time can pass quickly when you're in the pits.
Peggy came home about six hours later. She told Erin that Hawkeye had gone a holiday, on the bus, but she didn't speak to BJ.
BJ lay on the bed, and didn't sleep. He wept for a little while, but then he just lay there, and wished he was somewhere else.
Hawkeye sat on the bus, staring into the darkness that he was once again a part of.
Peggy took Erin to see BJ's aunts, Shirley and Selma, leaving BJ behind. When Selma asked, she told her that BJ was working.
When daylight came, Hawkeye could doze a little, but the night came too soon, sending his mind back into the dizzying downward spiral of dreams and darkness and thoughts of the home he no longer felt he had.
BJ didn't speak to Peggy, but he went to see Sidney on Sunday afternoon and came back much calmer. He told Erin her bedtime story with just two pauses to push the sound of Hawkeye's voice reading from the same book to the back of his mind.
Outside the door, Peggy found she couldn't do the same, and let the tears that came roll down her cheeks.
In short, time passed, but the pain of separation--physical or mental--only increased.
In the night, Hawkeye wept, and the woman seated next to him lent him her handkerchief.
"Thanks," he said, when he could speak.
"You're welcome. I felt like that when my fianc left me."
"Your girl leave you, then?"
"I left her, actually," Hawkeye said, thinking of Peggy and hoping BJ was trying to make it easier for her. "But she's got another guy."
The woman nodded, knowingly. "Is he why you left her?"
"You could say that."
"Break-ups are always hard," she said, sounding pleased with her detective work, and delving into her bag. "Here. Want a candy?"
"No, thanks," Hawkeye said, trying to turn away, but she wasn't ready to give up.
"No, thank you," he repeated without looking round.
"You really should. We've been on this bus at least forty hours now, and I haven't seen you eat once. Just that bottle of whiskey at the gas station before last."
Wondering whether he should be feeling more paranoid, Hawkeye said, "I know what I'm doing. Leave me alone, okay?"
"Okay," she muttered, but she kept watching him and making the occasional conversational gambit, until she got off at New York.
Hawkeye had never thought that New York would ever be the single good thing in his life.
//Thursday 12th March. It's difficult to write when you're putting a lot of energy into not making your thoughts verbal. Still, I think I have to try, if only to get rid of those thoughts I can't block.
Six months ago, it was just Peggy and Erin and me and longing for Hawkeye. I spent every day talking about the war and every night thinking about him. Since then, I've had him and nearly lost him and had him and now it looks like I've lost him again. Hawkeye's gone, it's my fault, and I can't seem to find the courage to talk about it.
Where's detachment when I need it?//
Finally, after five nights apart, Peggy could bear it no longer. Seeing that BJ would never get around to making the first move, she decided to take unconventional to another of its advantages and set the ball rolling herself.
BJ had come in from work late, sullen and apathetic, and gone straight to bed. He peered around the door at Erin, but she was already asleep. Peggy went through her normal bedtime ritual (clean teeth, change into nightdress, brush hair, wash face, check Erin, put nightlight on) and then climbed in next to him.
As before, he ignored her, keeping his eyes shut tight. She listened for a second, and his rapid breathing told her he wasn't really sleeping. Time to go ahead with the plan, then.
"BJ," she said, putting her hand forward to touch him but not actually doing so. "BJ."
He took a deep breath, almost a gasp, but didn't reply.
Her hand reached his upper arm and rested there lightly. "BJ, I know you feel bad. This is hard for me, too, but at the moment you're only making it worse. We have to work together if we're going to get Hawkeye back."
Softly, he said, "I'm sorry, Peg."
"Apology accepted, love." Peggy shifted, lying beside him so that their bodies were pressed together and she could drop a gentle kiss onto his neck.
"I hadn't realised how much we need Hawkeye," BJ said, a tone of awe in his voice. He opened his eyes and stared into the darkness, recalling an October night when Hawkeye had done the same. "I need you," he squeezed the hand that Peggy had draped across his stomach, "but I need him, too. I wish I knew how to bring him back." He paused and swallowed hard before adding, "I wish I knew why he went."
Peggy kissed his ear, and then said, "Well, I guess he mostly went because he couldn't deal with you hitting Rossi. He probably didn't approve."
"No," BJ said, and would have shaken his head if space had allowed. "It wasn't that he didn't approve as such, Peg. It's more complicated than that. At lunchtime, we talked about patriotism and love of country--about loving enough to be violent. He always hated people who claimed to be killing because they loved America so much, and I wonder if that isn't part of this."
"You think he didn't like the idea that you love him so much you'd be violent for him? That does make sense," Peggy agreed. "Add that to the way he sometimes seems to be afraid of love altogether, or at least of admitting that it's there--not calling this home, changing the subject if you start to say you love him, not letting us call him nicknames..."
"He feels he's got enough names already," BJ grinned. "But I know what you mean."
"Seems like he got scared of the depth of love we feel, maybe even of what he feels."
"Yeah. Especially since Carlye and Trapper hurt him so badly. He's scared, and running away, and I wish I could even guess at where."
"Me too. I've tried a few things to find out, but Radar couldn't help and the bus company's useless. We might have to just wait for news."
BJ groaned. "I'm not sure I'm good at that."
"I know, love. But we'll make it."
"If you say so."
"I do. We will work together, and we will make it. Right?"
"Right. I love you."
"You too." BJ twisted round to kiss Peggy, and then closed his eyes again, this time in genuine sleep.
"John, I'm going to bed," Louise called down the stairs. "Can you--is that someone at the door?"
"I'll find out," Trapper replied. "And I'll be up soon."
He opened the door expecting to find a neighbour wanting to gossip or borrow something, but it was not to be.
Trapper's first irrational thought was that he was meeting a ghost. Partly because he wasn't expecting to see Hawkeye at all; and partly because Hawkeye looked only two steps away from being death warmed up.
His first rational thought was that if he wasn't both a doctor and well acquainted with Hawkeye Pierce, he would have been inclined to stay irrational.
While he thought this, he simply stared at Hawkeye, who gazed at the doorstep and started to collapse. The imminent prospect of Hawkeye actually falling over prompted Trapper to step forward and catch his friend before he hit the ground.
He half-carried Hawkeye to the nearest chair and made a quick examination. "What on earth happened to you?" he asked, though close contact with Hawkeye made it obvious that mostly he was drunk. "It's been three months--I thought you went back to California to work."
"Trapper, it's all gone wrong," Hawkeye started to reply, but was interrupted by voices from upstairs.
"Just a minute, Becky," Trapper called, pulling a blanket from one of the piles of laundry waiting to be sorted.
"Who is it?" Louise asked.
"It's Hawkeye. I'll be up soon." To Hawkeye, Trapper said, "You can sleep here tonight, on the couch, okay? We'll talk in the morning. I've got to go and read Becky her story, and look after Louise."
"Trapper," Hawkeye began again, but Trapper was gone. He finished under his breath anyway, "Won't you sit with me for a while? No, clearly not. Stupid of me, to think I might be worth caring about."
All night, Hawkeye lay awake with only the way the room spun for company; though when Trapper crept down just after midnight on the pretext of checking the front door, he feigned sleep.
"Okay, Hawkeye," Trapper said the next morning. "I've got half an hour--what happened to you?"
"I ran away," Hawkeye told him, then paused for dramatic effect. Sadly, Trapper didn't have time for that.
"From Peggy and BJ? You idiot!"
"You've got to go back, you know."
"How much do you need for the bus fare?"
"It's not about money, Trap."
"Then, what is it about?"
Hawkeye looked into Trapper's hazel eyes--eyes he used to love--and decided that no explanation, no matter how good, was going to produce understanding. "Porridge," he said. "Trapper, can I stay here for a couple of days? I need some space to think."
"Yeah. It's fascinating stuff."
Trapper shrugged. "I expect so. I'll speak to Louise, but she didn't seem to mind you at breakfast this morning."
"You're welcome--but Hawkeye, listen. From what I saw of the reunion, you've got something good going in California. You've got to go back, or at least talk to them."
"I told you, I can't."
"And when I asked why, you said `porridge'."
Hawkeye couldn't contest the truth of that. "Right."
"Do they know where you are?"
"I hope not."
In the next room, a childish voice repeated some question or other and Louise replied, exasperated, "Oh, ask your father!"
"I'd better go and help Louise," Trapper said. "You can stay as long as you like, but I think you should tell them where you are."
With that, Trapper left. Hawkeye remained sitting on the couch, listening to the sounds of family life around him and wishing it was a different family.
Louise shouting at one of the girls. Trapper's voice, low and calm. Someone knocking at the door--school friends calling to walk with Becky and Kathy.
Goodbyes and `have a nice day at school', and then Louise telling Trapper that he should be getting off to work.
"I've got a phone call to make first. It won't take me long."
"Okay, honey. I'm going to lie down again. Have a good day."
Footsteps climbing the stairs. Creaking floorboards, cars passing, a bird singing--Hawkeye was amazed at how much he heard when he tuned out the other noises--the radio, Trapper on the telephone.
He listened for a long minute before something in the noises he was trying not to hear caught his attention.
"Hawkeye's here," Trapper was saying.
//He's telling them where I am!//
By the time he got to the next room, Trapper was putting the telephone down.
"How dare you?" Hawkeye practically snarled at him.
"It wouldn't have been fair..." Trapper started, but Hawkeye wasn't interested in excuses. He didn't want to be found, and once you start running, it's easy to keep going.
He slammed the front door behind him for good measure.
"John?" Louise shouted, worried.
Trapper took a deep breath, tried to be thankful that he wasn't the one who had to deal with Hawkeye every day, and climbed the stairs to reassure her.
"Who was it?" BJ asked when Peggy got back upstairs after answering the phone.
"Trapper. Hawkeye's with him, in Boston."
"Oh, thank heaven! Look, the telephone woke Erin--let's have breakfast and think about how to go about fetching him home."
"Okay." Peggy decided that it probably wasn't the moment to ask questions of the `if he wants to come home, why isn't he the one doing the phoning?' sort.
"Okay, BJ," chirped the cheerful voice on the other end of the line. "I'd be delighted to look after Erin for a couple of days."
"Thanks, Aunt Shirley. We'll drop her and some clothes round in about twenty minutes."
"You're welcome, even if you are being all mysterious about where you're going."
"Well, you know I always liked surprises," BJ said, and rang off before she could ask any more difficult questions.
"Is that all set up, then?" Peggy asked.
"Yeah. Your Great-Aunt Shirley is going to be saddled with you, Erin, and me and your mom are going to see if we can bring Hawkeye home."
Realising that her parents were in a mood to be lenient with misbehaviour, Erin grinned and threw a forkful of scrambled egg at Waggle.
//On the bus again. Heading south now, south for I don't know who or what. If I stopped here and headed west, I'd get back to California, but if I keep going I won't have to deal with everything.
Everything's north for some reason. Trapper and Maine and Charles and dad and Klinger and even Frank are north these days. Radar's north and Henry would be north if he could be anyplace, but I'm headed south where I don't know anyone.
I think I must be crazy. This isn't rational, it's stupid, but I can't do anything else.
There must be someone I can go to. I don't want to be staying in motels--if I try and sleep in another dreary room that's exactly the same as a thousand others I might try and liven it up with a little splash of Korea, and there's no BJ here to find me.
I wish--I wish I could not think about him.
Someone must be south. Who do I know? Trapper, Charles--even Carlye's north, last time she wrote. Who else? Klinger, Radar--I know! Lyle!
`My Marine' that Trapper teased me about for months. My marine who wrote me just before the reunion, and I never wrote back. He won't tell anyone where I am if I ask him not to, but he'll find me someplace to stay.
On past performance, I think he'd literally throw someone out of bed to find me somewhere to sleep. Yeah, Lyle it is.
I guess I'd better eat something. It must be about lunch time.//
In Iowa, a telephone rang. Radar--now the family's accepted telephone answerer--ran to pick it up.
"It's me. Look, Radar, I think Hawkeye needs your help. He was here, but he's gone again, and I can't get hold of the Hunnicutts, and I don't think he'll go back there on his own..."
"Mrs Hunnicutt said they had an argument of some sort. She rang me to ask if I'd heard anything."
"Ah--well, they know he was here, but after I put the phone down he got mad and left again. I haven't had much time since, but when I tried ten minutes ago they weren't answering their phone."
"Have you tried to find him? Hawkeye, I mean?"
"No, I haven't. I simply don't have the time--between this job and Louise being pregnant, I don't have time."
"Yeah. Look, I'm in a hurry."
"Congratulations, and I'll try and let the Hunnicutts know what's happened."
Radar did the minimum of work on the farm that day and his utmost to help Hawkeye. BJ and Peggy had got on a plane, but Radar finally got hold of them in New York.
Dozing on the bus as it headed south, Hawkeye remained unfound.
In their hotel room, BJ had nightmares about Korea for the first time in months. Peggy barely slept at all.
In blissful ignorance of all this, Lyle got comfortably drunk with his brother-in-law and spent most of the night with his head on the kitchen table.
"Hawkeye? Doc, is it really you?" Lyle asked, squinting into the evening light.
"It's me, Lyle," Hawkeye managed before he was swept into a firm and manly hug that almost crushed him.
Lyle didn't release him until he'd had time to wonder if he would ever breath again. "Come in, Hawkeye," Lyle grinned, not relinquishing a final grasp on his arm. "Come in and have something to eat--we've just sat down to dinner."
The tone brooked no argument, and Hawkeye followed him along the passage. "My sister and her husband are here," Lyle explained, "Dad left the place to me but I need all the extra help I can get at this time of year."
Hawkeye was rapidly introduced to Lyle's sister, Laura, her silent but red-nosed husband Jessop, and some truly well-made grits.
When dinner was over, Laura and Jessop disappeared, and Lyle dragged Hawkeye out to the veranda. "So, doc. How have you been? Did you get my letter?"
"I did, yes. I meant to answer, but life's been kind of complicated," Hawkeye replied, sitting on the step and cradling his glass of rye.
"Oh? How's that?"
"I found what I was looking for, but it scared me so much I ran away."
Remembering that the best way to deal with Hawkeye trying to be cryptic was to play along, Lyle asked, "Why did you get scared?"
Hawkeye stared down the garden for a moment, to the field where a couple of cows were grazing. "I need to be drunker before I answer that."
Lyle passed him the bottle, and they sat together in silence for a while.
Eventually, Lyle said. "You're still drinking well."
"Darling ethanol," Hawkeye began, relaxing into his speech-making posture. "I don't know how I'd manage without her."
"Right," Lyle said, liking the sight of Hawkeye drunk and speechifying.
"She hasn't abandoned me, even now. I ran away from BJ, but she's come right along with me. She never threatened anyone, either, and she doesn't love me so she won't leave me."
"Is that why you ran away? Because you were in love?"
"Must be. The people I love always leave."
"BJ didn't," Lyle said, bluffing.
"No," Hawkeye agreed, "He didn't. He tried to protect me, and I left."
"What did he do?"
"He punched another doctor. Gave him at least a black eye, and maybe a lot more. I didn't hang around to find out."
"He punched a guy? He does love you." It took a time for the fact that the person Hawkeye was in love with was male to filter through the alcohol to Lyle's understanding, but when it did, his heart leaped.
"I guess he does. He says he does, but I almost wish he didn't. I don't like Rossi, but I don't want him hurt."
This concept was alien to Lyle, and engaged him enough that he stopped thinking about Hawkeye liking men. "Why not? If you don't like him, don't you want him dead?"
"Oh, Lyle. I've seen too many dead guys out there," they both knew he meant Korea, "to want another one."
Lyle thought about that. //Must be a doctor thing, trying to keep people you don't like alive.// "Right."
"What I want is BJ and Peggy," Hawkeye continued morosely. "Both of them and no fighting."
"Why don't you go back and say so?"
Hawkeye just shook his head, not yet ready to even think about that.
"Well, whatever you like. Pass the bottle."
The sun went down and the flies came out, so they moved indoors and went on drinking. About eleven o'clock, Lyle started to go to bed, because Hawkeye seemed to be asleep on the couch.
"Goodnight, doc," he said, standing up as best he could and wishing the floor would stop rolling about.
"Hey--where are you going?" Hawkeye asked, opening one eye.
"Won't you s... stay here?" Hawkeye slurred.
"You want me to?"
"Yeah. You won't let them hurt me."
"Okay, then," Lyle said, grateful for an excuse to sit down again and not bothered to enquire who `they' were. "I'll stay."
As it happened, Hawkeye slept and had no nightmares that night, though whether this was due to the quality of the alcohol or Lyle's solid presence is for you, dear reader, to decide.
"We've been here three days, Peggy. It's time to go home."
Peggy opened her mouth to keep arguing as she had been for the last sixty-two hours or so, that they had to stay until they had news, but she realised BJ was right. They weren't gaining anything and it was time to go back, even if it felt like giving up. "Okay."
"You agree? Really?" BJ asked, startled.
"Yeah. We'll go home."
BJ kissed her. "Will you do the packing?"
"If you'll let Radar know what we're doing, and then see about plane tickets."
"I love you."
"I know. Same here."
BJ smiled, a smile tinged with worry and regret but still genuine, and headed out to use the telephone.
The next day, once he'd recovered a little from his hangover, Hawkeye helped Lyle wherever he could, and stood and watched when he couldn't. He also talked. Having found a sympathetic audience, he found it difficult to stop.
Some lucky chickens got to hear the full story of his time with Rossi while they ate their morning corn, from the first time Hawkeye met him at one of Dr Rankin's fund raising cocktail parties to the--often speculative--details of Frank's involvement, through to his encounter with BJ's fist. Even the old rooster was a little disturbed by Lyle's roars of laughter.
"I'd offer to twirl him for you, but it sounds like your BJ dealt with him. Besides, he's right really. You're the best, doc."
"Oh, don't, Lyle," Hawkeye said with a wave of his hand, and went on talking about Rossi.
The fields of young corn heard the fascinating story about Erin, the goslings, and BJ's moustache; the broken down tractor was treated to a recitation of Hawkeye's opinions on such diverse subjects as biscuits and psychology.
Lyle went about his work, happy beyond measure to hear Hawkeye's voice, and content to let him ramble until he was ready to discuss the important parts.
They ate lunch around the kitchen table, and Hawkeye persuaded Jessop to break his habitual silence by mentioning moonshine and the making thereof. An animated debate about the best way to build a still followed, only ended by Laura's suggestion that they continue it over the washing up.
Finally, the rat traps in the granary were privileged to hear Hawkeye say, "I miss them, you know. I wish I could go back."
"Why can't you?" Lyle asked, and then swore as the rat trap caught his thumb.
Hawkeye thought for a moment, doing a quick visual examination to make sure that his friend hadn't been seriously hurt by the trap. "I wouldn't be happy," he said, slowly, and then went on, "If I went back now, without knowing that--without changing the rules somehow, I'd always be on edge, waiting for something worse to happen and it all to fall apart."
"Perhaps if you talked to BJ?"
"No, it's got to come from him. I need to know that he's not just saying it."
"Well, he can't do anything while he doesn't know where you are."
"True. But how can I tell him where I am without talking to him?"
Lyle sat back on his heels and regarded Hawkeye shrewdly. "What about that guy--the one who's so good with radio stuff. Radar. Could be pass a message along?"
"Radar! Of course! Lyle, you're a genius." Hawkeye leapt to his feet, and he could have sworn that Lyle blushed. Rather liking the effect, he planted a kiss on Lyle's cheek and said, "I mean it. A genius. I'll go and phone him now."
"Why didn't Hawkeye want to come back?" Erin asked as the got back to the empty house. "Great Aunt Shirley said he was daft, to go to Boston and not stay here."
"Well, she was probably right," BJ said, wondering if he'd ever be able to answer that question to his own satisfaction, let alone Erin's.
Peggy was just unlocking the door when the telephone rang. "Get that, BJ," she called over Waggle's excited barking.
BJ dashed indoors, hoping that it might be news of Hawkeye, while she fetched the suitcases from the car and started finding a meal of sorts. By straining her ears, she heard some of the conversation.
"Radar, you heard from Hawkeye? That's wonderful! Where is he?" A pause. "Oh. Well, I'll take that number."
"I'm hungry," Erin whined, and Peggy had to stop listening.
After dinner, Erin was put to bed (with accompanying painful moments--"I want Hawkeye to read my story!"); and then they found time to work out what was going on.
"He wants to talk," BJ explained. "Radar said he sounded quite calm, and he was okay, but he wanted to talk. Either on the telephone or at an arranged meeting place."
"Did he say what about?"
"I guess he didn't want to tell Radar that."
"Let's try and meet, then. I'll call that number and see if we can set something up."
"Okay, love." BJ handed her the paper with a number noted on it. "Thanks."
In the end, Lyle drove Hawkeye the ten hours along the freeway to the motel Peggy had chosen. Hawkeye tried to say that he was perfectly capable of hiring a car and driving himself, but Lyle had seen Hawkeye driving army jeeps and said no.
It only took him a couple of hours to persuade Hawkeye.
"You're lucky your daughter is so charming to have around," Shirley said when she was asked to look after Erin again.
"Yes, I really am," BJ agreed.
"Otherwise I might be asking you--or Selma, or your mother--questions like `where are you going?' and `why?' and `who is this Hawkeye fellow anyway?'" She gave him a pointed look, at which BJ grinned apologetically but didn't answer.
Driving back alone--Hawkeye had decided to act as if it would all turn out well--Lyle stopped on the roadside more than once, and not just to eat and sleep and such.
He'd never admit it, but he was glad he had a handkerchief with him. //Oh, Hawkeye. I hope it goes well for you. It won't be worth this if it doesn't.//
The motel room was, as Hawkeye had known it would be, exactly the same as every other. He sat on the bed, curled up against the headboard, wishing that it could all be over. It took all his energy to stay there and not start running again; not leaving. //Weird how it can be harder not to do things,// he thought. //Perhaps that's why BJ hit Rossi. It would have been harder not to.//
Outside the door, Peggy pulled BJ into a quick hug and whispered, "Let me go first."
"Okay," BJ said, and Peggy knocked.
"It's open," Hawkeye called, standing up in an attempt to hide how little control he has over the situation.
Peggy went in, followed by BJ, and for a moment there was a silence full of assessments. Then she moved forward.
"It's good to see you again, Hawkeye." He glanced quickly at BJ, but Peggy's hand on his shoulder made him decide to concentrate on her for the time being. They hugged and kissed with an intensity that made BJ wonder if the stressful-moments eagerness he saw was the hunger that Peggy had commented on once or twice.
"Good to see you, too, Peggy," Hawkeye said. He let Peggy go, but she kept one arm around his waist. "And BJ."
"Hawkeye." Their eyes met, Hawkeye's dark blue and BJ's paler, but both filled with pain, current or remembered. Something like a spark went between them in that instant, an understanding that words could only confirm.
"How's Rossi?" Hawkeye asked, striving to keep the tone conversational.
"He got a black eye. I'm sorry about it."
"Is being sorry enough?"
"What more can I do? I regret it, and it won't happen again."
Hawkeye nearly replied, `you said that after Carrie Donovan', but remembered tearing up a letter and decided that some secrets were best left that way. Instead, he nodded and looked at down at Peggy, conscious of her green eyes on him.
"Will you come home with us?" she asked. "Erin keeps asking about you."
"She does?" Hawkeye grinned.
"Yes. Will you come?"
"That depends, doesn't it?" A smirk he could use as a trademark, and Peggy sighed.
"Double entendre. It's everywhere."
"Well," said BJ, moving to take Peggy's free hand, "I think that both kinds of coming are possible."
"The bed's not very nice," Hawkeye commented.
"The floor's perfectly good," BJ said, teasingly.
"You said that about Korea, but it was full of stones."
"We're not in Korea any longer."
"It's still here, though, isn't it? Inside." Hawkeye tapped himself on the chest. "Blood and stones and mud and noise."
"I know, Hawkeye," BJ said quietly, and then added, "Doesn't mean I don't want to sleep near you."
"If you don't mind sleeping with me."
"I've missed you, Beej."
"Want to come here?" BJ asked, putting his hand out towards Hawkeye.
"Yeah," Hawkeye said, closing the gap between them. "I trust that's a double entendre."
"Of course it is," Peggy said, pulling BJ closer and slipping her arm around his waist. "When you two are around, the most innocuous phrase sounds dirty."
"She's got a point," Hawkeye said to BJ.
"She's clever, really," BJ replied, taking Hawkeye's hand and moving closer to him.
"Do you think we should do what she suggests?"
Now leaning on each other, they turned to regard Peggy seriously. "Yes, I think so," BJ said.
Peggy smiled indulgently, pleased to see them being playful, and then glanced over her shoulder to check that the door was shut and the curtains drawn. Satisfied that they were safe, she asked, "Then what are we doing wearing all these clothes?"
Expertly, they set about putting that right. "Why do you always wear blouses with buttons on, Peggy?" Hawkeye complained. "They're much slower."
"You wear shirts," she retorted, undoing them as fast as she could given that she was distracted by BJ running his hands down her sides and his lips down the back of her neck. "Besides, I'd look pretty silly wearing a blouse with no buttons."
"I don't think so," Hawkeye said, and BJ smiled at the predictability of it. "In fact, I think the world would be a better place if we abolished buttons altogether."
"You'd abolish clothes if you could," BJ said, shifting one hand from Peggy's side to the inside of Hawkeye's now-unbuttoned shirt. Hawkeye leaned over and kissed him, squashing Peggy into a far from unpleasant sandwich. When she needed to breathe, she tapped Hawkeye's shoulder, grateful for several weeks in February spent working out sophisticated etiquettes for this sort of thing.
He leant backwards, tipping them all off balance so that they tumbled onto the bed. BJ landed on top, but quickly rolled off into the middle of the bed. Peggy shifted over to lie on top of him and catch her breath.
Feeling a little ignored, Hawkeye said, "The world would be a better place if we all knew each other's ticklish spots."
"Oh, would it?" Peggy enquired, then lay beside BJ and mimed patting the pockets she wasn't wearing. "Bother, I left the feather duster at home."
BJ giggled. In the spirit of scientific investigation (`how long can I tickle him before it turns into petting?'), Hawkeye started running his fingers lightly over BJ's known ticklish spots: just below his jaw, along the collarbone, down his flank, over the point of his hip.
Giggling and gasping under the talented fingers, BJ bucked up into the touch in an attempt to turn it into something less teasing. Soon enough, a flailing arm managed to catch Hawkeye's shoulder and pull him in for another long kiss.
When they broke the kiss, Hawkeye could see in BJ's face that they were getting deeper, but he made one last attempt to stop it being serious. "I haven't seen you in ages. You said you came here often."
"Well, I do my best. I haven't see you in a while," BJ said, aware of what was happening and playing along. //We've got to do this, or neither of us will be sure that things are back--not quite to the way they were, but to something we understand.//
"Road trip. I had to find out if the porridge in Boston was still as bad as it used to be."
"And is it?"
"Yes," Hawkeye grinned. "And I'm still..." he broke off, realising that BJ had cunningly let him take silliness right round to the serious side again.
"You're still what, Hawkeye?" BJ asked quietly. Peggy could almost see the air crackle with the intensity between them, and with her hand on Hawkeye's back she could feel him tense in the silence.
"Well, I think I am," he said eventually.
"Think you are what?"
Hawkeye tried to look away, only to meet Peggy's eyes. "Loved," he said then. "Loved. In love."
"Listen to me, Hawkeye," Peggy said. "We still love you. That isn't going to change."
He watched her face for a moment, registering the honesty there, and then looked back at BJ, his eyes filling with tears, "Yeah?"
"Yeah," BJ confirmed. "We love you."
"Love you too," Hawkeye said, blinking hard. Peggy kissed him.
Kissing quickly gave way to petting, and petting to rubbing, and rubbing to arching into hands and bodies. The duvet hit the floor fairly early on, so that they had room to move in the warm air of the spring evening.
By some silent agreement, Peggy and BJ worked together to make Hawkeye the first to orgasm: knowing that he was rather inclined to cry out, Peggy kept his mouth busy while BJ applied himself lower down. Between them, they did manage to prevent him alerting the whole motel to what was going on as he came in BJ's mouth, though if anyone was next door and listening they could have had a good guess.
"God, I love you," he gasped when Peggy let him speak, "Both of you. Yous."
"Trust you to need a new word," BJ grinned, enjoying the sight of his lover lying spent on the thin mattress, dark hair in disarray and eyes bright with pleasure.
"It's how the language gets richer," Hawkeye told him. "Come here, Beej."
Willingly, BJ went, and came soon after.
Part Seven: Explained
Telling stories, you may have noticed, comes fairly naturally to me. So far, I've been trying to simply report what happened, in direct transcript of conversation or by welding together what I've been told over the past year (complete with their phrasing whenever I could preserve it). Now, however, I feel that we've reached a part of the story I can tell on my own behalf.
I was there, and by this time, I was six, nearly seven, which is old enough to remember.
After Hawkeye's little road trip, things settled down a lot--at least as far as I was concerned. There were a few little changes that affected my parents (and for the time being, let's include Hawkeye in that: as far as I was concerned, that's what he was) quite a lot.
//"A few little changes!" my father says, reading over my shoulder. "They were far from little."
"I think my readers are intelligent enough to know understatement when they see it, dad."
"Well, maybe. And maybe you're heading for trouble, taking that tone with me."//
My father's still not convinced that my writing a whole book about my parents is a good idea. Anyway, I think I should get on with the story.
//"I'm trying to write, here. Please, Hawkeye, take him somewhere else. Especially if you're going to do that sort of thing."//
Peace and quiet, at last.
Firstly, there was changing employers; secondly, there was moving grades; and thirdly, there was moving house.
In our household, we do things together. Everyone speaks at once, everyone wants the television at the same time, and crises come in fours. They may even come in fives; I've never found time to ask Waggle if he was having problems when the rest of the family was in chaos.
If you're looking at my list of three crises above, and wondering how that's four: "changing employers" is two. First Hawkeye, and then Peggy--but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The trouble began one summer afternoon, when my Aunt Mary came to visit. To hear my father tell it, you'd think she came to threaten murder, but as far as I can reconstruct it, this is what happened.
"BJ, dear brother, I think we ought to have a little talk," Mary-Lou said, standing on the veranda with her arms folded.
"If you say so, Mary-Lou. Shall we sit down?"
Mary-Lou accepted the chair he pulled out for her, and continued, "I worry about you, you know."
"Anything specific, or just general worrying?"
"Don't be silly, BJ. I'm serious," she said, with an air of righteous offence. "Look--your relationship with that Doctor Pierce isn't quite proper, is it?"
"It's perfectly proper. We're friends and colleagues, Mary-Lou."
"And friends and colleagues routinely sleep in the same bed, do they?"
BJ chose not to answer that one.
"If you want to ruin you life in this world and spend the next one in Hell, that's your choice, but I'm not going to let you ruin the family. You can't let--that man--stay in your house any longer. There's bound to be a public scandal sooner or later, and if our father finds out the shock and the shame will kill him. I'm not letting that happen."
"You're not going to let Dad die? You're that good a doctor?" BJ asked, smiling as serenely as he could. "Mary-Lou, I'm capable of sorting out my own affairs."
"Your affairs with other men? I find that unlikely. You're an immoral perverted degenerate. I wish you weren't my brother--then I could merely report you without being forced to try and pull you out of the gutter you've chosen. If Pierce isn't out of this house, or better still this town, within a week, I'm going to tell that nice Doctor Rossi that he's employing a homosexual!"
Mary-Lou stood, thumped the table dramatically, swirled her skirts, and flounced out. BJ's initial reaction was to laugh at her display--which hadn't changed since she was about four--but he soon took on board the worrying nature of the ultimatum she'd just delivered.
/That's just what we need,/ BJ thought. /I finally think we've got Hawkeye home and happy--he's dealing with Rossi, he's not drinking as much as he used to, even if it's still more than he should, and he's not had nightmares for nearly a month--and she starts poking her nose in./
/It's probably very wrong of me to wish I'd strangled her with that lasso, but damn it, it's hard not to./
He chose not to say anything about it to the rest of them; partly because he didn't want to worry them, and partly because he couldn't find a space to mention it. I suspect that they spent a lot of time discussing me at this point.
School was just getting to the interesting part. I'd learned to write (more or less; there are at least eight spellings of `Hawkeye' in the writings I produced, and my mother hoarded, from that time), and I'd also learned, courtesy of my father and Hawkeye, that playing practical jokes was fun.
And that the duck-and-cover drills we did in school were basically a load of rubbish.
Armed with that knowledge and bored with colouring in paper leaves for the parent-teacher evening, I decided one day to liven up the proceedings a little. When we were all under our desks, heads down, I shuffled across a little and asked the boy in the next desk--I don't remember his name--if I could borrow a chicken.
I knew his older brother was a member of 4-H, and that he had chicks. It wasn't an unreasonable question, really; but Miss Clarke wasn't pleased. We were supposed to keep quiet during the drills.
That afternoon, when mom came to pick me up from school, Miss Clarke had a long talk with her. She mentioned the talking, and she may have gone on to discuss the trying-to-make-other-pupils talk that had happened afterwards. Peggy says she made it sound like I tried to start a riot.
//"Not a bad plan," Hawkeye says, leaning on the back of my chair.
"Starting riots. I've done it once or twice. Lots of fun."
"I thought I asked you to take dad outside."
"I did. Your mother snatched him away from me for something or other, and I thought I'd come and help you."
"You aren't helping."
"So let me," he grins.//
I'm not sure which is worse, Hawkeye on my side or Hawkeye arguing against me.
//"When did I ever argue against you?"
"When Miss Clarke suggested I should be pushed up a grade. I wanted to move up, because I thought that Mr Walters was not so strict, and mom thought I should be given harder work, but you and dad said I should stay where I was."
"But you agreed with me in the end."
"No, I didn't. Dad managed to persuade mom to agree with him, and that was that." He looks like I stung him with that. "I guess I agree now--my reason wasn't very good, and I had good friends in my class--but at the time I was real annoyed."
"Like I was when I found out about Mary-Lou's threat."
"Yeah--and tell me about that, actually. How did you find out? Not from dad, I guess."
"No. I found out from Mary-Lou herself, actually. Rossi and I..."//
They'd just finished a complex operation--Hawkeye had to hand it to Rossi, he wasn't a bad surgeon--and, having assured the woman's family that things had gone well and she would recover, were standing around in the corridor, talking and generally getting in the way.
That's how Nurse Abram put it, anyway. "Get out of the way, doctors," she said, "I have enough trouble around here without you standing around and saying who knows what to my nurses."
"Come, Doctor Pierce," Rossi said, spotting Mary-Lou walking along the corridor. "We shall entertain this charming young lady in the privacy of my office." Nurse Abram didn't look too pleased, but it was out of her jurisdiction.
"Doctor Rossi," Mary-Lou greeted him, without sparing a glance for Hawkeye, "It's a pleasure to see you again. I wonder, do you happen to know my brother's whereabouts?"
"I'm afraid I don't," Rossi replied. Hawkeye knew, but he decided that BJ could probably use the peace and quiet. "But come--is it that urgent? I've got some splendid Scotch, if you'd care to come this way. Do you mind if Doctor Pierce joins us?"
"No at all," she said, "In fact, I've got a message for him."
"Ah," Rossi opened the door and waved her in. "Keep the lady happy, with you?" he said to Hawkeye. "I won't be a moment."
//"And she told me then. Straight out, no hesitation, no playing around."//
"If you don't get out of my brother's house and life in the next twenty-four hours, I'm going to get you sacked from here."
//"I just stood and stared at her for a moment."//
"I've already told BJ about this," she went on, "He'll understand if you just leave town without a word."
"I'm not leaving town," he told her, and then an idea struck. "And tell Rossi what you like--I'm handing in my resignation today."
//"How you made a decision like that so quickly, I'll never know."
"Well, I always did like to keep things impulsive."
"You always were inclined to make stupid, spur-of-the-moment decisions that had other people panicking, you mean."
"Dad, Hawkeye, are you two telling the story or bickering? I can accept that you are an old married couple, but please--I've got a book to write."
"Okay, okay, Erin. In revenge for my not telling him about the ultimatum Mary-Lou had delivered, he didn't tell me that he'd handed in his resignation."
"I did tell Peggy, though. Both parts of it."
"That's true. Though how she kept quiet, I don't know."
"I expect I couldn't get a word in edgeways, given that when you're hiding something, you tend to talk more about other things. Both of you."
"Could you please take these two away? I know what to write, I just have to get some peace and quiet to write in."
"I've got some potatoes that need scrubbing."
"Beej, we're being ganged up on by the women in our lives."
"It could be worse, Hawkeye."
"How do you mean?"
"I could side with them. Come on; potatoes ahoy."//
Hawkeye--and he'd object to this, but it's true--has a vindictive streak, not often seen, but there, and he decided not to tell BJ about his resignation. He did, however, take the precaution of telling Peggy the whole story.
"You what!?!" she--well, she would have shouted, if BJ hadn't been only two rooms away.
"Shhh! It's all right, Peg. I've got another job."
"You have?" Her eyebrow arches in disbelief.
"Yeah. I'm going to be a milkman." Hawkeye realises just in time that he's only two minutes away from being slapped. "The free clinic on the other side of town is looking for a general surgeon, mostly for the emergency cases. More like what I was doing out in Korea than the long intricate things I've been doing with Rossi."
"Is that what you want?"
"It's what I've got."
"That isn't what I asked you, Hawkeye."
"No need to get snappy with me, Peg. Yes, it is what I want. It's what I'm good at, what all my training's been for."
"I guess I'm in no position to argue with that." She pulled him close for a quick kiss. "Congratulations on your new job, Doctor Pierce."
"Thanks, Peggy," Hawkeye smiled, and then asked, "What did you mean about `being in no position to argue'? Is there something I'm missing here?"
It was her turn to grin mischievously. "You are, actually. You know I've been working for John Bulstrode, who owns the diner round the corner, doing his accounts?"
"Yeah, I know."
"Well, it seems he feels he's getting a bit old to be doing all the managing, all the recruiting and the ordering and things. He's asked me to take a post as his assistant manager."
"Oh, has he? And what would that entail?"
"Slightly longer hours, some evenings, more responsibilities. A lot better pay, and the possibility that I take over the whole place when he retires."
"Have you told BJ yet?"
She shook her head. "He only asked me this afternoon. I said `yes, probably', and I was going to talk it over with you and BJ, but since there's no real hurry--for the next week or so, anyway--I think I'll keep quiet."
"Then let me be the first to congratulate you on your promotion, Peggy."
"You think I should take it?"
"What do you think BJ'll say?"
Hawkeye shrugged. "We'll find out. In a few days time."
//"They were very nasty to me over that, you know."
"So you've told me, dad. Several times."
"I saw Mary in the hospital that day, and I came home absolutely panicking. I didn't know how much she'd said to who, I didn't know anything... and they just..."//
"Hey, Beej. You're late."
"You're early, Hawkeye. Does it matter?"
"Only if you want dinner. I ate all your share."
"Evening, BJ. Don't mind Hawkeye; I think he over-heated his brain in surgery today."
"Well, I guess it can't be helped, Peggy." She grinned, but didn't reply, getting his food out of the oven where it had been keeping hot. "Did you do something very complicated, Hawkeye?"
"Just the usual--Rossi was in a good mood, so I spent most of the day biting my tongue. It's hard work not to be rude to him."
"So why bother? Change jobs," BJ said, trying to sound casual.
Hawkeye and Peggy exchanged glances. "It's not so bad," Hawkeye said. "Have you seen your sister around recently?"
BJ shook his head, his mouth full.
"I just wondered, because Rossi was talking about her. It sounded rather like he wants to marry her." BJ's face was a picture of surprise, and Hawkeye grinned. "Really. I don't know if he's told her yet, but it seems that he's quite taken with her."
"Are you sure about that, Hawkeye?" Peggy asked, sitting beside him.
"It's what he said. Not even idle gossip." Hawkeye tilted his head to one side and pitched his voice slightly higher in a good imitation of Rossi. " `You know Miss Mary-Lou Hunnicutt, don't you, Doctor Pierce? She's a, err, well-built woman, you know. Very fine pair of... legs. Very fine.' He went on like that for ages!"
"But... but..." BJ spluttered. "Mary-Lou--and Rossi? I guess it would explain..." He fell silent, aware he was stumbling close to telling all, and nearly panicking that knowing would drive Hawkeye away again, and even quicker than the scandal itself would. "It seems unlikely," he finished, hoping that it would cover his slip.
Peggy made a conscious effort not to look at Hawkeye--exchanging too many significant glances would give the game away.
//"There was a lot a of game-playing went on, back then."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, the next day I got the upper hand again. For the most part."//
Terry had insisted they have lunch in the cafeteria, and Hawkeye was busy, so BJ gave in willingly enough and sat with his friend.
"Tell me something, BJ," Terry said, as he picked at the food. BJ just ate it; after the army, it didn't seem as bad as it once had. "Are you leaving, too?"
"What do mean?"
"Well, the gossip is that Hawkeye's going; and I know how close you two are."
/You have no idea,/ BJ thought, remembering their love-making the night before, but then the first part caught his attention again. "The gossip says Hawkeye's going?"
"That's right. Rossi's anaesthetist was talking about it this morning, and my friend Johnson--who works at the charity hospital on the other side of town--confirms that their accident and emergency department has a new surgeon coming, name of Pierce. Pretty convincing, to my ears."
"Yeah," BJ said. "You have an impressive network of contacts."
"BJ--you did know Hawkeye was going, didn't you? Oh. You didn't, did you?" Terry was silent for a moment, watching BJ's face. "Look--I think I know more than you might guess about how close you two are. And if I can be so bold, I think maybe you should go and talk to him about this."
"I'll talk to him this evening," BJ replied, starting to grin. "Thanks, Terry."
"I take it you're not going with him, at the moment, anyway?"
"No... no, I don't think I'll be going with him. It's been good, working in the same place; but we're still in the same town, we'll be able to meet if we want to, and it'll give us both a bit more room."
"Well, first we had an argument. Then... never mind that. We argued--I think Peggy started it, because she wasn't happy keeping secrets."//
"Oh, for heaven's sake. We need to talk. All of us--and that means including you, Hawkeye Pierce," Peggy said, pulling him back into the room. "Sit down."
"If this is still about Erin changing grades," BJ said, "I'm still against it."
"It isn't--well, that's part of it. I still think Erin should move up a grade. She's happy enough where she is, but Miss Clarke isn't."
"Who cares what Miss Clarke thinks? It's not that long until the end of the school year, and Erin'll have another teacher in any case. I say, leave her with her friends."
"She needs to be given some things to do, BJ. She's just getting bored in the class she's in."
"Best thing that ever happened to me, boredom."
"We're not going to get anywhere like this, are we?"
"I doubt it. Which means that I win, since we'll never agree to take action."
"Now that is just--that's unfair."
Hawkeye was leaning on the back of a chair, staring out of the window into the night. Faced with a deadlock on the changing-grades issue, BJ looked for a change of subject. "Hawkeye? You're quiet tonight--bad day?"
"Not especially," Hawkeye said, but he didn't turn round.
"Then why so quiet? We're having an argument here--I'd expect you to be in the thick of it."
Hawkeye didn't reply. "Hawkeye?" Peggy asked, reaching across to put a hand on his shoulder, since she was the closer one. "Is something the matter?"
"It's not like it involves me, is it?" Hawkeye snapped, standing up and moving away from the touch. "She's not my daughter, why should I care which grade she's in?"
Peggy glanced at BJ, who returned the look and then focused on Hawkeye. "Because you're a loving, caring human being?" he suggested. "Because she is my daughter, and you care about her well-being?"
"You're talking nonsense, BJ," Hawkeye said. "She's your daughter. Your problem. I'm not a part of the family, I don't get a say."
BJ stood up, getting between Hawkeye and the door. Peggy moved to his side. "Listen to me, Hawkeye. One: we love you. Two: you're part of the family now. Three: that means you get a say."
"Four," Peggy added, "it means you get chores, just like the rest of us."
"And making decisions about Erin's schooling, like just about everything else, is a chore. We need your input, okay?"
Hawkeye nodded, slowly, and didn't move away when Peggy ran her hand up his back. "Okay." He paused a minute, swallowing, and BJ wondered if he was making up his mind or holding back tears. "Alright, then. I think Erin should stay where she is. It's not like that will do her any harm, and if the girl learns to start riots early, she might get somewhere in life."
Peggy grinned. "It looks like I'm outnumbered. I guess we can reconsider if she gets a really awful teacher next year."
BJ kissed her, and then Hawkeye. "Was there something else you wanted to talk about?" he asked, grin turning slightly sly. "Either of you?"
"Um..." Peggy said.
"Well..." Hawkeye added. They looked at each other, and then back at BJ. "Kind of, I suppose," Hawkeye said.
"I thought there might be. Shall we sit down?"
They sat down, all squeezed onto the sofa instead of on separate chairs. Hawkeye decided to go for the attack line first. "Is there something you haven't been telling us, Beej?"
"There might be. Is there something you haven't been telling us yourself, Hawkeye?"
Peggy started to giggle. "Oh dear boys. What a tangled web we weave, ay!"
"You got a secret as well, Peggy?"
"Yes--but not for long. Mr Bulstrode's given me a raise. Longer hours, more work, lots more money."
"Oh. Well, good, I guess, Peggy. If that's what you want." BJ was frowning.
"It's what I want," Peggy assured him quickly. "I like the work, and more money never goes amiss around here. We'll be able to get started on the house even sooner."
"Err--what?" Hawkeye asked, confused. "House?"
"Yeah--the one we're going to build. You remember out in Korea, when I had to borrow that money off Charles?"
"To buy the plot of land," Hawkeye said, remembering. "Yes--you went on about how wonderful that plot was for days."
"Well, when I got back we found we didn't really have enough money to do what we wanted, not and keep this place in reasonable repair. So we've been saving up, ever since I got back."
"I was saving up before then," Peggy put in.
"I know. Anyway, that's the plan."
"You're incredibly organized, you know."
"The plan's been around longer than Erin has; it's not that big a deal," BJ said, waving his hand dismissively. "We've..."
"Isn't it?" Hawkeye asked, quietly at first, but then getting louder as he got more upset: "I think it is. You two, having a plan that been around longer than I've known BJ, let alone Peggy; that you didn't tell me about, because it's taken for granted, and it doesn't include me!"
He started to stand up, but BJ made a grab for his arms and managed to keep him on the sofa. "Hawkeye, calm down. If we start shouting, we'll wake Erin."
"I'm sorry we didn't talk about this before," Peggy said, "we should have done so. Look, the plan does include you, or it can. No reason why it shouldn't--and I, for one, want it to."
"So do I," BJ said. "You can have as much of a part in it as you like."
"Are you sure?" Hawkeye asked, though he didn't really need to.
"Yes," Peggy said. "We like having you around, we want to keep you around, and if we move, that means you move with us."
BJ started to laugh, thinking /Well, that'll get him out of this house, the way Mary-Lou wanted./ "That'll..." he said, then stopped short, though he couldn't quite stop laughing.
"What is it, Beej?"
BJ shook his head, refusing to answer. "It's nothing."
"I don't think it is, BJ," Peggy said, catching Hawkeye's glance with a slight grin. "Tell us."
"It's all right to tell us, Beej," Hawkeye said, somehow persuading his face to get rid of the smirk. "I'm not about to let Mary-Lou drive me out."
"Wh... what?" BJ gasped, staring.
"I'm not going to let Mary-Lou drive me out," Hawkeye repeated. "Telling Rossi can't touch me any more, and I doubt she really would have, anyway."
"What do you mean?" BJ asked, still wide eyed. "And how did you..."
"She came into see him, and I happened to be there. They're courting all over the hospital, like silly mindless love-birds."
"And how come..."
"When she threaten me with getting out of your life or losing my job, I suddenly discovered I wanted to go and work in the free clinic on the other side of town."
"You... what happened to wanting to work in the same place as me?"
Hawkeye let the smirk return. "I decided it was more fun to be with you at night than in the day time."
"Oh, Hawkeye. I love you."
"So you keep saying," Hawkeye replied, grinning.
"And I mean it." BJ looked from Hawkeye to Peggy. "You both know about this?"
"Hawkeye told me when he knew," Peggy said. "We figured we'd wait for a good moment to talk about it with you--why it didn't come up earlier, like when you were going to tell us, I don't know."
"You weren't planning to tell us, were you?" Peggy rested her hand on BJ's leg, wanting him to know that while this had to come out, she did understand.
"No, I guess I wasn't," BJ admitted. "I thought if I brought it up, I couldn't stop it sounding like I wanted Hawkeye to leave. Sorry--I should have told you."
"Don't worry," Hawkeye said. "I'm sort of pleased you understood when I told you to burn that letter."
For a moment, BJ didn't understand--then he remembered. Carrie. Writing home about it, and Hawkeye burning his letter to Peg... who was right there, frowning, wondering what was going on. "Oh. Um, yes."
"Ooops," Hawkeye said. "Another opportunity to practise my size-10ectomy."
"What?" Peggy said, finally. "Something that happened in Korea, right?"
"Right," BJ confirmed, and then decided to take the plunge. "Look, love," he said, taking one of Peggy's hands in his. "You know in Korea, I and Hawkeye..."
"Had an affair? Yes, I did figure that out, BJ. What was the letter about, him?"
"No--this was before he and I were, you know, involved. I..."
"He slept with a pretty nurse called Carrie Donovan, just the one night," Hawkeye said, and shrugged. "At the time, telling you didn't seem at all helpful."
"It might have made me feel better later on," Peggy said, musingly.
"Well--err, BJ, this is long over. It's part of why I was so accepting about Hawkeye, too. You remember Leo Bardonaro?"
"We... it was just a one night stand, nothing major."
"You and Leo..." BJ repeated, then simply leaned forward and kissed her. "Water under the bridge, right?"
//"And then we..."
"Okay, Hawkeye, I think I've got the picture."
"Don't you want to know what happened next?"
"I have a boyfriend, Hawkeye, I've got a reasonable idea. You three are my parents, for heaven's sake, I don't want the details."
"Alright, then. Be boring. I was looking forward to telling that part, though."
"You can tell it later, Hawkeye. When it's just you and me and Peggy. I bet we all remember."
"Okay, okay. After that, things started to settle down into the new routine. Sort of."
"Building the house wasn't exactly routine. I may have been only seven, but I remember all the upheaval. "
"And there were some little ends to patch up. I talked to Trapper."
"I'd forgotten that."
"I was still pretty upset about the way he hadn't seemed to care when I went there looking for somewhere to stay. He'd said we were friends, but..."//
"I've got a wife and family, Hawkeye. I care about you, I really do, but I wasn't expecting you and I had rather a lot of other things on my mind."
"Oh, yeah. The job you had to run out to."
"And Louise being pregnant."
"You didn't tell me that."
"There wasn't exactly a chance to! It had only be confirmed a few days before, and Louise didn't want everyone to know straight away, in case she lost it again!"
"Trapper--what do you mean, again?"
"I mean that she's had two miscarriages since I got home. At the moment, it looks like this one's staying, we're nearly five months in, but we didn't want to get everyone's hopes up."
"You didn't tell me any of that."
"No, I didn't. I don't know, maybe I should have. Then again, maybe you were so wrapped up in running away from your own problems, you wouldn't have time for mine."
"You are a self-involved bastard, sometimes. Not, thankfully, most of the time. But then--you were acting strangely. You didn't want me to help you, and you certainly weren't about to try and help me. I did what I could, Hawkeye."
"Did you ever really love me?"
"You were my best friend."
"That isn't what I meant."
"I know. I... the nurses were allowed, right? It was understood. Louise understands, she wants me to be a father to her kids, not a perfect husband. But you wanted... you need more than that. She can deal with my staying late to `talk' to my head nurse or secretary, but other than that... I'm tied here, Hawkeye. I knew that all along."
"I should have. I did, really. I didn't want to believe it, though."
"Let's not dwell in the past, Trap. I've got BJ and Peggy, and a job here, and apparently I get shares in Erin, too. You've got Louise, and your comfortable little understanding, so we don't really need anything from each other, do we?"
"That doesn't mean we don't want anything."
"Friendship, you mean?"
"Yeah. We both know that if we try and write to each other, it'll never happen, so how about we phone?"
"Once a week?"
//"You're still doing that, aren't you?"
"Every week. There's been the odd break--we had an argument in 1969, and didn't speak for six months, but besides that, we've kept going."
"While I was off being a hippie child?
"Yeah, about then. That would be why you don't remember."
"Let's change the subject. What about Lyle? Does he still write, too?"
"Yes--and I've been out there to visit a couple of times. He's living on the farm, with his sister and her husband, and another guy--officially, the hired help, but I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't lovers."
"So he got over you, then?"
"So, dad, what happened with Aunt Mary?"
"She married Rossi, as you know. She didn't tell him." "Not straight away, anyhow. Round about '78, he figured it out for himself, but I think he represses it pretty thoroughly."
"Did you go to the wedding?"
"Would we miss a chance?"
"I'm guessing you went."
"Yes, and so did you, though you might not remember. That's understandable--as weddings go, it was boring. That's your father's fault."
"It is not!"
"It is! You're the one who stopped me hiding a water pistol in that flower arrangement."
"Hawkeye, it was my sister's wedding. I didn't want it spoiled."
"No, you wanted it boring."
"If the thing had turned into a water fight, mom would never have forgiven me."
"You're just dull. Dull as ditchwater."
"He's not as dull as potato peeling, Hawkeye. Come here."
"See that look your mother's got, Erin? I've learnt to be suspicious of that look."
"And with good reason. Come here--you too, BJ--and we'll leave Erin alone to get on. Try phoning Sidney Freedman, dear."//
"Hello--it's Erin Hunnicutt here."
"Erin! It's been too long. How are you?"
"I'm fine--I'm actually going ahead with the book."
"Well done. Are your parents okay with it?"
"Yes. They're helping. Sometimes. Mom's refused to tell more than a little bit of story, but when Hawkeye starts embroidering it too much, she's pretty quick to set the record straight. And dad takes over, sometimes."
"That must be a fun set of conversations to have."
"It has been. There's just one final one, though--with you. You've known them since practically the beginning."
"I doubt there's much I can tell you that they haven't already, by the sound of things."
"Just one--where I need an outsider's perspective, and more about Korea than my parents. The way Hawkeye and BJ tell it, especially when Hawkeye mentions Trapper as well, it seems like everyone out there was falling in love, like it was the only natural thing to do in the circumstances. That's not really how it was, was it?"
"Hawkeye, and your dad, and Trapper, were lucky ones. They found each other, at the right time, and they had two very understanding C.O.s, or at least one understanding one, and one who let Radar understand, so he didn't have to. A lot of good men were disgraced, or worse, for doing what they did--feeling love."
"They don't see it that way, or at least, they don't tell it that way."
"Maybe they don't know how lucky they are--or maybe they want to shield you from the worst parts of it."
"Maybe. One other thing, Sidney--is that story about Lyle twirling Major Burns true? It sounds too funny to be for real."
"As far as I know, it happened the way they tell it. I wasn't there, but for an episode in The Exploits of Hawkeye and Trapper, all the accounts match up quite well."
"Thanks, Sidney. I think that's all the explanations I need."
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