Sorry that it took so long to convert this fic
from German to English, but RL was rough...
Spoiler: "Last Laugh"
Pairing: Hawkeye/B.J....more or less
Archive: at mash-slash and in my private little
My usual thanks go to Birgitt for the initial beta (on the German version) and subsequent phone-aid (regarding the English one). More grenades of gratitude in Leigh's direction for all the OV-dialogue and the final going-over.
Disclaimer: The show belongs to FOX, all eleven seasons, the characters and cockroaches and associated equipment down to the last scalpel. And I'm not making *any* money off my efforts.
It was a nightmare turned reality, another April Fool's Day in Korean mid-summer. And they had to endure it, had to plan their counterattack carefully and not give in to impulse. Not an easy accomplishment, Lord, no, not even for the Lord's representative on the secular plane of existence who was now bidding a reluctant farewell to one of the 4077th's own.
Some people were even more reluctant than others.
The MP at the wheel stepped on the gas and headed off to Seoul. Disbelief was carved into the concerned faces of the trio gazing after the jeep. This couldn't be happening. Not for real. And before the vehicle was out of range, Potter raised his voice one last time, "We'll be about an hour behind you."
A promise the passenger in the backseat couldn't possibly have heard. But *he* had, and it was just as important to him. Very comforting…in an 'Absolutely Not' kinda way! This morning their problems had not extended beyond the OR, and now *this*….
For the first time in months, the future was uncertain once again, and although he wasn't alone with his concerns, he certainly felt like it. Alone and abandoned. For who did he have to confide in? In the past he might – and that was a highly might-y *might*! – have had a word with Henry Blake….but Henry was dead, buried in the wreckage of a plane at the bottom of the Sea of Japan. Something of a simpleton, a man of basic tastes who lived by the motto 'Don't know, won't fuss', Henry Blake had had them wondering more than once how he'd managed to become an officer and their CO, for Henry could hardly command himself. But he'd always been good for a surprise, a flash of insight, handing out advice his people didn't even know they needed.
Dear Henry had believed in the emotional component of his work, being the personification of a laissez-faire style of command, 99.9 percent doctor and human being...not much left for the U.S. Army.
Sherman Potter was different. When the Colonel – with only 18 months to go till retirement – arrived at the camp, everybody had expected the worst. Potter was career military, after all. But the man had turned out to be a fair commander and decent physician who tolerated the idiosyncrasies of his subordinates…as long as they didn't exceed a certain limit. With three wars on his dance-card and his rather resolute manner, he commanded respect even from majors Burns and Houlihan, something poor Henry had never had the pleasure of experiencing. Henry would have backed down on the first day and let Charles Winchester go back to Tokyo. Oh well…Henry…
For Hawkeye, it had been the worst transition ever. The most important people in his life disappeared, died, were replaced, and all he'd been able to do was watch.
Sometimes not even that, as he hadn't been there when it happened.
He'd often wondered what he would have done if he had been in the camp instead away on leave in Tokyo. If he would have screamed, cried and thrown a fit...or simply stood by and let it happen. If he'd allowed them to cut out his beating heart with only a novocaine local.
Back then, during the ride from Kimpo to Ouijongbu, when the confused man in the backseat had still been struggling with this new reality called Korea, this place where he was greeted with grenades (and hostility mixed with sympathetic regret – it would take months to establish a balanced ratio) and brusque replies from the driver, i.e., yours truly, Hawk had vowed that such a thing would never happen to him again. That he wouldn't allow it to happen *ever* again.
Now he was witnessing the departure of that very same man – once again in the backseat of a jeep – and had to swallow several times when remembering that vow. Here he stood and watched helplessly as they took away something he needed for survival.
If he flipped, there'd be one surgeon less in Korea, and if not him, who else to let the occasional bit of air out of Winchester's ego-balloon? In its own best interest, the Army, or rather Major-General Fox, should drop the charges against B.J. But what if the evidence didn't hold up? Then B.J. would face a swift trial and sentence. As for the latter, he had no idea what it would be, but knowing the Army and its chronic lack of reason, surely nothing under a year in the stockade.
At that point his mouth had once again been moving faster than his brain. "I'll be along on a conjugal visit", he called after him, more for himself than for B.J. There was little else he could do. Words, no matter how clever, were useless here.
A scowling Potter admonished his Chief Surgeon with his grandfatherly bark, "Cut out that malarkey, Pierce. We've got work to do, and I'll need you as a witness."
"Anything I can do?" Father Mulcahy asked eagerly.
"Pray", Potter replied concisely.
Slightly insulted, the priest turned away. "Oh. That's all I ever get to do", he muttered and left for the mess-tent.
Hawkeye didn't envy him. Too often, Mulcahy was assigned the passive role, something the priest would complain about and then grudgingly accept, and the same was true for doctors. And doctors liked it even less because they were used to being active, it was their profession.
Instead of being able to solve the problem with a scalpel, 4-0 silk and some morphine, he had to admit with reluctance that, in this case, the army had the greater leverage. Draftee doctors, who had been anything but enthusiastic about Uncle Sam calling them to service, didn't have much say in the Army's great machinery.
His surgical skills had about as much effect as words – none.
Fortunately, Colonel Potter was taking this case seriously and urged for haste. Quite an advantage to have a commander who was regular army, a doctor, father *and* a grandfather, and who habitually treated the people under his command like children. And as such worried about them.
Hawkeye would thank him at the next suitable opportunity…if he didn't break apart long before that, disintegrating into chunks like the dried mud he was chipping off his boots every day.
Even the force of nature called Margaret Houlihan, stubbornly trying to get leave in Tokyo, had no chance of making the colonel listen to her problem for more than five seconds. And it wasn't really her problem, anyway, but her husband's.
The way Potter told her off almost made Hawkeye feel sorry for her.
"Pierce, there might be some duty-logs in post-op."
With Potter, it was difficult to have the last word. "Margaret, I have a prescription for your problem. A tall, dark surgeon with hands like Paganini and eyes like George Red."
"I am a married person", Margaret spat and glowered at him. He didn't care. Did she think that her marital status exempted her from his advances? Not for as long as his tongue was in working order and Margaret stayed in his hunting ground. Today, though, he settled for light ammunition, a smile that barely hid what was really going on inside of him.
"Get goin', Pierce", Potter urged, "shave and put on your class-A uniform."
What was wrong with his usual apparel, the dusty boots and rumpled khaki stained with brownish red that was either ketchup or blood? After all, that was the true face of the Army, and to him, "dress uniform" meant slipping an additional mask over the mask on top of the mask behind which – somewhere – his true self was hiding. Hiding from the Army, from the war, and even – if not especially – himself. From the Hawkeye in the ratty red bathrobe, the man who, with each step, kicked up the dust of a foreign land and rarely bothered to discard the veil of dark stubble covering his face.
From the man whose name was etched into the two small metal rectangles dangling from the chain around his neck.
Why did appearances matter this much, these few layers of cloth that varied at a whim? Uniforms could be put on and taken off, the same went for medals and insignia and boots…only the dog tags remained. They were the real uniform, at least the only one of relevance, garment as well as identity. It was the dog tags that made the uniform uniform and really uni in its form. Two pieces of metal…he could imagine more tasteful jewelry, but even someone like Harry Truman had to keep an eye on the budget, especially now when it looked like he wouldn't be up for reelection again. The gold version of the tags – with matching cufflinks – was probably reserved for three-star generals and higher. Two pieces of metal forged all of them into one group-identity, whether they wanted to or not. Farewell, individuality, everybody was part of the same big family, carried the same name, 'Army'. The second first name, U.S., was free of charge.
Maybe the enormous sum spent on Christmas cards to his Army relatives had been one of the reasons for Douglas MacArthur being relieved of his supreme command over the U.N. forces last April.
Probably not, he decided three steps later, the annual barbecues of '50 and '51 must have cost enough already, and if Uncle Sam continued to take the family out for breakfast, lunch *and* dinner – along with so many international guests – he'd soon be so low on petty cash that sending a postcard would rate a luxury.
Thus, no more Christmas cards for B.F.U.S. Army, B.J.U.S., M.Q.U.S. Army (desperately applying for a permanent forwarding address in the States), J.F.P.U.S. Army (not even through a union with God could the name be changed!) and hundreds of thousands of their brothers and sisters. No cards even for self-appointed VIPs like Charles, who had kept his name thanks to a court ruling that had permitted him a double-name, C.E.U.S. Winchester-Army III.
Hawkeye could hardly remember what it had been like to be an only child. He was sick to death of his relatives, particularly on days like these; unfortunately, the only sibling he hadn't minded, the one brother he would have loved to keep, J.F.X.U.S. Army, the family had shunned.
Another admin-corpse at the Pentagon, which – and he clung to that hope – had been reborn as John Francis Xavier McIntyre to the sound of children's laughter.
Better an administrative corpse than a real one…but here there were too many factors relieving them of that decision and shifting the odds towards alternative #2.
It was up to the doctors to do something about that. For that reason alone this had to end well. The Army was too big a family and each of the few, overworked family doctors only had two hands.
Back in the Swamp he dug into his footlocker, pulled out his dress uniform and draped it over the still to let it air for a few minutes at least. The Potter had spoken, howgh, and Hawkeye, foster-son of the last of the Mohicans, would follow!
The paperwork was next…
That had been half an hour ago. Despite Nurse Bigelow's help, his search for the relevant documents had taken more time than expected, and he'd need the same amount to improve his appearance. More than that even, if he wanted to follow Potter's instructions to the letter.
The order had been 'full uniform and impeccable looks'…almost too much to ask of him. Frankly, he hadn't planned on cleaning up so thoroughly again unless the occasion was his own funeral, and then he wouldn't have to do the work himself. His shirt wound up as a ball on his pillow, followed by the T-shirt seconds later. He'd never think about putting it on a hanger – after all, he had a reputation to maintain! The only clothes he paid to have cleaned and pressed were his uniform and his Hawaiian shirt, and that only underlined his opinion of the Army: which was that he didn't have any…or rather would have preferred to have none.
He deliberately avoided sitting down. Sitting down would encourage thinking, and he didn't want that.
With mechanical motions he prepared for the shave. Cream on the brush, water into the steel-helmet that served as a sink. Where was his comb? Well, he could borrow B.J.'s if he had to. B.J. wouldn't mind.
As he unfolded the straight razor, he forced himself to calm down, but his body wouldn't obey. Already he touched the blade to his skin next to his left ear, wanted to do the first centimeter…his hand was shaking too badly, though, so he let it drop and put the razor down. Angrily, he stared at the disobedient extremity, held it in front of his face as if it belonged to somebody else. Every single finger rebelled against his wishes, and he gritted his teeth as hard as he could. _No…_ Any harder and you would have heard the grating sound in Pusan. Of course he knew that everything would end well – with all the evidence they had, every General, and may he be thick as a brick, would have to acknowledge B.J.'s innocence – but, he reminded himself, stranger things had happened…no matter how improbable, the mere 'possibility' had his heart rising in his throat.
He swallowed, tried to force it back down before it suffocated him.
His own heart was far more difficult to handle than the hearts of others. Just a muscle…he'd often seen it, touched it, repaired it, he had felt the pulsating warmth between his fingers. It should be routine. What was so different about his heart that he couldn't control it? Just to make sure, he put a hand to his chest and felt it beat. Good…he wasn't very skilled at self-heart-massage.
Too much rode on the ruling of some tinsel-decorated general in Seoul, more than Potter could imagine.
Even B.J. wasn't aware of his true importance in Benjamin Franklin Pierce's life.
And he probably wouldn't understand, anyway, if he were to try and explain it to him.
No, some things B.J. truly didn't understand, he reasoned, and Charles' mirror reflected his ironic smile at this minor revelation.
He would leave him his ignorance. Better still that one life – his own, who else's? – was torn to shreds by the dogs of war than having three more people become collateral damage.
It took a great deal of courage to make the decision to open one's eyes and face reality (_Face and see all that is *too* real, and not go insane at that sight!_), and come what may, he wouldn't force B.J. to make that decision. B.J. didn't deserve such a punishment…and Peg and Erin even less so.
Trapper and he had made the decision together. _And what was the end of that story? I lose my sanity a few months later, who cares?_ The general opinion was that changes were good. Something to be considered positive. But the true meaning of 'change' was that the one thing he least wanted to happen did indeed happen. Korea had been such a change.
As had Trapper. Doubly so, even.
There were times when he wasn't sure that he was actually here. Like in the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus he escaped from captivity with the wings he'd built, rising into the sky like a bird.
Icarus's father had conceived the idea of the wings of feathers and wax whereas Daniel Pierce had named his son after a bird, thus giving him a similar means of escape.
The native Americans indigenous to the coastal area around a place that would be named Crabapple Cove by the white settlers believed that the bearer of a name possessed the abilities and characteristics connected to it. No name was assigned by chance.
He was Hawkeye, bird of prey, famous in song and story for his keen sight and speedy flight.
High in the sky above Korea he maintained his position, flying on the spot as only a hawk could, and watched out. What for? He didn't know. Maybe for himself. But as hard as he tried, his search remained fruitless. All the things he laid his too-keen eyes on were the things he didn't want to see, so he rose higher still just to feel the illusion of freedom a little more intensely.
Any higher and he would suffer the same fate as Icarus.
After a couple of deep breaths, his anxiety had passed and the rhythm of the moment was dictated only by the controlled in and out of air. Hawkeye triumphed. This at least he *could* control….and his heart eventually, *finally* slowed its rapid beat.
You had to be grateful for small victories.
The razor was easier to handle now; he held it like a scalpel, with a firm grip and loose in the wrist, applying the necessary pressure with his index finger. Like in surgery, he had control over each millimeter…but the faint scratch-scratch was still drowned by the unnaturally loud pounding from inside his chest. One centimeter, two, three…the blade moved across the skin, not inside it. If he increased the pressure just a little, and in the wrong spot…would they buy the accident story? He stopped in mid-motion. But maybe, if he was lucky, they would discover him when it was already too late…probably the reason why he shaved so rarely.
Now *this* was a curious train of thought! Sid Freedman would find it very interesting, no doubt. He dipped the blade into the water and watched with odd fascination how the foam left the steel in white tendrils…only a few inches of sharpened metal. Strange indeed how many exits to life there were if you bothered to think about it in detail. For some the end came with a bullet, a shell-fragment or a grenade, for others with a razor —
A loud cry from outside shattered the hypnotic moment and he blinked a few times, staring at the glinting steel as if it was a totally alien object. What had he been thinking? He couldn't recall. Couldn't have been important, then.
He quickly finished the left cheek and started on his upper lip. The chin was next and the more of his face became visible again, the less he recognized the man in the mirror. _Hello, stranger. What are you doing here? There are far more pleasant resorts with far less grenades, better food and fewer stains on the white OR-tablecloths where they serve nothing but steak tartar…without onions and buns._
Out of reflex, he turned his eyes away; he didn't know when it had started, this aversion to his own reflection. Maybe that was the reason why he couldn't be bothered to shave more than once a week…or were there others? Probably, but he couldn't think of any. Before starting on the right half of his face, he gazed around the tent to take yet another mental picture, one of thousands by now. Precious moments in time, they were suspended in his memory and dearer to him than gold. Changes were duly recorded, pictures compared. Before and after. With every come and go, little things changed…and he wondered if he was the only one who noticed them to such frightful detail.
Served him right. After all, what kind of a place had he picked for his flight-attempts? Not for the first time did he ask himself what things would have been like if he hadn't regained his eyesight after that incident with the stove. If the hawk's eyes had gone blind for good.
Many things would have been different.
Many things he wouldn't have had to see.
But things had turned out the way they had.
Hawkeye's sight was keen as ever, he saw more than others and more than enough. Certainly more than was good for him. For all of them. It was a blessing as well as a curse, and he couldn't look away, not even when he wanted to. For the moment, he would settle for not losing sight of himself.
Using both hands, he cleaned off the last traces of foam and folded the razor…and paused. It fit unnervingly well into his hand, it was light and sharp. It would be easy. Too easy, actually.
The lukewarm water on his face was yet again replaced by the warmth of the Korean sun (Korea, Land of the Morning Calm), the sun that softened the wax of his wings.
He quickly put aside the razor and reached for the comb.
If Potter only knew how much he had *not* been joking with his 'conjugal visit' comment to B.J.! He would be lost without that man. Granted, their 'marriage' was anything but ideal, yet it had been the only solution. An alliance out of need, the hasty union of two soul-halves – for nobody remained intact in this place, here they could only complement each other – in the deceptive security of the supply tent…or on a rickety army-cot when Charles graced them with his absence. A union against all odds and better knowledge. And not all of these odds happened to be five-and-a-half-thousand miles away, reachable only by phone and mail. No, night after night most of them slept on that cot behind the still….and sometimes in his arms.
_I won't get more than that._
In this place, several lives away from home (his life plus Trapper's life plus Tommy's plus Henry's plus all the lives that had ended under his palms), what little he had was already more than he had hoped for.
The beige fabric of his dress uniform felt like the shed skin of a snake, something dead and dry that neither fit nor suited him, the brown jacket was even worse and he refused to think about the pants. The Army collection was truly timeless in its lack of modernity.
Reluctantly, he dressed anyway, ascribing the faint scent of mildew to his imagination. Wouldn't be surprising, though. In this climate, you could grow mushrooms on your socks and creases were as transient as footprints on the beach. Until the next wave erased them.
Until the next catastrophe washed over him and brought him to the edge of drowning.
His hands might as well have been somebody else's as he slowly buttoned the shirt. Button by button by button…belt, cravat…he felt as if a noose were being slipped around his neck.
It was for a good cause, he told himself, it was worth the trouble. Saving B.J., getting him out of the predicament Bardonaro had created. The memory of the self-proclaimed king of practical jokers had him clench his right fist in anger. By what right did this…this…*idiot* intrude on their life here? Couldn't he have gone back to the States all quietly, without a farewell performance at the 4077th? Weren't they already facing enough day-by-day adversity, North Koreans, Chinese, fleas and grenades, without that *joker* elbowing his way into the intermission?
What had begun with a prank phone-call, the threat of "an MP investigation of the fake Dr. Hunnicutt", which they had still been able to laugh about, had turned into a deadly serious affair within a few hours.
Nobody laughed anymore, least of all Hawkeye Pierce. The already late Dr. Pierce. With the briefcase under his arm, he was barely out of the door when he heard Radar yelling his name.
A serious charge like the one that General had brought against B.J. wasn't as easily forgotten as a gag cigar. It couldn't be dismissed as casually as an encounter with Bardonaro's joy-buzzer.
Leo Bardonaro, B.J.'s buddy since Stanford times, his best man even. Damn nice gesture of a 'best man' to get the groom into prison.
B.J. probably looked good in a tuxedo…everything was better than fatigues.
"Sorry I'm late, but my zipper was mildewed", he excused himself before Potter could say anything.
Why was he back on the uniform issue? Shaking his head, he tossed his hat into the back of the jeep and climbed in.
Every time he thought about the dreaded, scratchy fatigues, he remembered the letter he and Trapper had once written to General MacArthur, suggesting a few minor changes to lighten up the khaki routine. They'd never received a reply, to their great dismay. What was wrong with making "Greensleeves" the official hymn of the U.S. Army?
"'Alas, my love, you do me wrong to cast me off discourteously, and I have loved you oh so long, delighting in your company'."
His lips moved silently to the words as he brought down his palm on the horn to warn the two privates leaving Rosie's Bar.
He would have preferred turning the wheel over to Potter, for although he knew the way and was painfully sober, he doubted his ability to drive today. But Army protocol stipulated that he had to be the chauffeur for the senior officer. With any luck, they would get to Seoul without him driving the jeep into a ditch or tree first.
"Afraid your brains could get sucked outta your ears if ya went any faster, Pierce?"
"Ah, no, I was thinking more about you, Colonel. And certain parts of your anatomy which you still might need in the future."
"My body parts are my concern. So zip it, son, and step on it."
Thirty-four miles to Seoul, due south on the 33rd. Normally, the drive took about an hour, give or take five minutes. Today a single mile stretched into a full-distance marathon.
Only a minimum of Hawkeye's attention was directed at the road and he heard maybe one tenth of what Potter was saying. His thoughts were miles ahead of everything.
When this was over, B.J. wouldn't waste a minute before writing Peg all about it, or calling her, and together they'd laugh about good ol' Leo. Peg would get the digest, edited for comfort, whereas he, Hawkeye Pierce, had to live through it in real-time. (Painfully real reality, really.) Especially since the end was still open.
B.J. loved to share his experiences with those who had absolutely no right to them, loved to involve them retrospectively. Sometimes, just every once in a while, he'd really like to be granted the exclusive rights to these experiences and not get the feeling as if Peg had been there with them. And he wasn't even thinking of the occasions when B.J. deliberately 'forgot' about Peg, but trite, everyday matters. The little things you did together when the war took a break and stopped sending wounded your way.
In those moments of silence the doctors treated their own wounds. Sometimes they were allowed a day, sometimes a week, but in most cases the respite lasted only a few hours.
The wounds were always the same and never healed, and he didn't know if he felt too much or too little. If his entire body had gone numb and he needed some confirmation that he was still alive. Total emotional paralysis through the pain of others. The opposite extreme was to shiver with cold, exhaustion and/or blind rage and/or suppressed tears, a tremor that started deep inside, threatening to shatter him from within.
And the cure remained the same as well, a brief conversation carried out in whispers, then the dim glow of the lamp died and a cot creaked beneath the weight of a second body.
Alone in their togetherness, and yet never truly alone. No matter how close he got to B.J., every single minute in his arms emphasized the distance between them.
The jeep hit a pothole, jarring him out of his waking nightmare with the resounding 'clack' of his teeth. He hung on to the wheel for dear life, knuckles white with the effort to keep the vehicle on the road.
"Watch out, Hawkeye, these old bones ain't made of steel!"
"My apologies, Sir, I shall attempt to miss the really deep ones."
In spite of all the kisses Peg would never know about (unless B.J. decided to confess to her in an attempt to soothe his guilty conscience, by all means a distinct possibility) and their desperate attempts to find oblivion in each other, it was *she* B.J. had committed to. He was loyal to *her*, and he renewed that pledge with every letter he wrote. Every time he spoke her name. Not a day went by without such a proof of fidelity, no matter how small. Almost as if he wanted to anesthetize the memories he'd rather not have. As if he wanted to ask Peg's forgiveness.
_You have another life you can return to, Beej, I don't. I don't. The present is my life, the things I have here. Or haven't. In my fantasies, my protective wall against blood and suffering is impenetrable, nothing could bring it down…_
In reality, though, one word was enough.
_And week after week I have to rebuild myself, have to use you – abuse you even, maybe – to reestablish the façade of the invulnerable Hawkeye Pierce. A glass of gin and a soft kiss take care of plaster and paint. Until it happens again..._
She was the sun on Icarus's wings. His wings just weren't Peg-proof. Maybe Icarus should simply forget about flying and accept his incarceration; that way he'd be safe from Peg and could spare himself the pain of crashing, as he certainly would, sooner or later.
Hawkeye gritted his teeth. He would learn, yeah. By the time this was over, he would have learned to cope. Unless he lost all his feathers before and crashed into the sea. Maybe Henry would welcome the company.
Until recently he had retained some hope that there would be an 'ever after'… Trapper had killed that illusion. He'd left. Left him.
Icarus had been flying alone ever since.
Why hadn't they managed to finish this the same way they had started it – together?
Wind and dust made his eyes water...or was there another reason?
_I'm sorry, Beej, sorry that my imperfect, broken heart constitutes such a problem for you. The two of you are so different, so incredibly different...and yet you have one thing in common. Me._
Maybe he was too indiscriminate with his affections, too liberal and quick in giving them away…but he had nothing else to give. Not anymore. This place had taken care of that. His emotions were all he had left, gift and survival tactic in equal parts. He was afraid of destroying or losing them if he kept them to himself, so he gave them into someone else's keeping. B.J. was everything Trapper had not been, and this contrast fascinated him as much as it bothered him.
Sometimes he didn't know what kind of a man this bias turned him into, or if he still had any right whatsoever to blame Trapper for his leaving. After all, *he* hadn't wasted any time attaching himself to another man, regardless of what he might be doing to him, or whether 'the new guy' even cared for the attention.
He'd been like a climber whose cam had failed and whose only hope of survival was to drive his pick-ax into the next crack rushing past and thus breaking his rapid fall down the cliff. Like he couldn't stand being alone, being himself…like he couldn't remember what that was like, or rather who the individual Benjamin Franklin Pierce really was.
Icarus, his flight unsteady all of a sudden, was seeking the updraft that would save him.
Unlike the hawk, he couldn't break his fall, wouldn't survive.
_If you only could show me the same kind of loyalty...or at least pretend. But you can't, not even for me. She'll always be more important to you. Always. You don't miss an opportunity to remind everyone. Me, in particular. I should feel insulted...you're letting me know that no matter what I do, no matter how much I vie for your attention, your hopes ride on her and her alone. She's far more real than I'll ever be._
Yes, he should be disgusted by his dependence on B.J. and his 'concessions', and sometimes – more often, recently – he thought about drawing the line and trying to fly solo. Out of sheer pride and principle, if not basic common sense.
Hawkeye, master complicator.
With each 'Peg' , another feather detached from the melting wax of Icarus's wings.
_Trapper was my mirror image, more 'me' than I could ever be, so much 'me' that it frightened me…and you're a shadow, no part of me, but still I can't shake you.
Trapper was acting on his own volition, always on par with me…to you, however, I am the inspiration, you're swimming in my wake in order not to be dragged under, for this is no longer the shallow end of the pool, Beej, this is the open sea and you're running the risk of drowning._
But he wouldn't manage by himself. He was already too dependent on the company, on having someone by his side.
Dependence, yes, that was it. Dependence, not love. Why hadn't he realized that sooner?
Like an impartial observer who had no connection whatsoever to this body, he watched his fingers seize the stick and shift into a higher gear. If he couldn't fly any higher, then at least he could drive faster.
Truth be told, there was nothing B.J. offered him, no, nothing at all. The role of the giver was his to play, and he gave and gave some more, and despite some initial reluctance, B.J. had never rejected him. Silently, B.J. Hunnicutt, loving husband and father, had surrendered to Hawkeye Pierce, taking what he was being offered, every touch, every whispered word. And in return he'd offered…nothing.
Maybe he tried but didn't know how. Always the listener, the level-headed, patient observer, B.J., like Father Mulcahy, always had a smile at the ready. Yes, Beej was a good listener, and in that regard he differed from Trapper who was more impulsive and quick to speak his mind when something irked him.
B.J. smiled his oh-so-understanding smile, painfully different from Trapper's insolent grin, and in the dark, when brushing sweat-soaked hair from his partner's forehead, his fingers would comb through fine, silken strands instead of the thick curls that used to fill his hands. The difference in color was swallowed by the shadows that never left the Swamp, not even in daytime. In the light of day, they merely took on different shapes or hid within the intoxicating transparency of a martini.
And then there was this *serenity*…this quiet strength in B.J. It was something…alien, something that just didn't belong here. An unnatural calm that Trapper had never possessed. Seeing it in B.J. frightened him and had him doubt his sanity even more, feel the loneliness more acutely…and need B.J. more than ever.
This relationship could hardly be more one-sided.
How foolish of him to continue this….relationship. B.J. didn't need him, never had, but still he took from him…took and took… _You're something better, Beej, something better than this. Than me. I know that. Nevertheless, on some deeper level you're finally realizing that you've become dependent on what I have to offer. And you don't know what to make of it, what to think of yourself…a self you no longer recognize._ Oh, he had been at that stage, asked himself the same questions (how could it possible to need someone this much?), but during his quest for answers, he had been met halfway.
A man equally enraged and disturbed by the horrors they hardly had any bearing on. It was like wandering through thick fog that obliterated both contours and sense of direction.
They'd met each other halfway, each acting as a safety-net for the other.
B.J. couldn't possibly understand that.
Sure, he was trying, and Hawkeye knew that part of B.J. was grateful for having found someone who allowed him to survive here – but did that compensate for the other part that denied him whenever Radar delivered letters and packages mailed in Mill Valley, Marin County, California? No, not in the least.
If he hadn't been so extremely vulnerable that first day, shocked by Trapper's departure, an emotional wreck….B.J. Hunnicutt would have encountered an entirely different person, wouldn't have gotten to him so easily. He was certain of it.
_There are always these characters from your past, all these acquaintances. There are so many people who know you and with whom you share memories and experiences.
What am I supposed to tell you? I can't tell you anything. I have nothing but memories of Dad, of happiness, and the peace in a secluded village of 3,000 souls in Maine.
The exact opposite of here.
I know practically everybody 'there', but I don't *know* many people. Of course, there's the usual acquaintances – next-door neighbors, friends of my father's, childhood friends, former fellow students – but I took none of them with me to Korea.
Which is why I'm not on the phone to them every other day but stick to the occasional letter. With each letter, I'm sending a bit of myself back home, so that they may keep it safe for me till my return._
They were 'there', he was 'here'. The line was drawn.
It had been the same with Trapper.
B.J., however, had one leg in each of his worlds, and though it would tear him apart eventually, he bridged the divide between Korea and Mill Valley with phone-calls and letters and these fits of 'mentionitis' that were so painful for him. As if they brought Peg and Erin any closer to him. And Peg also did her share in reinforcing her hold on B.J.. She answered his letters in triple length and supplied him with cake and cookies.
Hawkeye always choked on these 'care-packages'.
She held on to B.J., held him upright as well as she could given the distance, simply wouldn't let go…and Hawkeye, was he responsible for the fine touches, the cosmetic work? *Close for me, please, Doctor, I'm done here, and I'd prefer a small scar. My wife's not supposed to notice*? Sometimes he felt like the tangible (and incidentally male) overseas double for Peg.
Trapper…he had needed Hawk as badly as Hawk had needed him. They hadn't known where Hawkeye Pierce ended and Trapper McIntyre began.
And B.J. Hunnicutt now was the continuation of a thing that couldn't go well. For Hawkeye he even was, in some way, another step in the wrong direction on the road to Disaster City. In spite of all post-Trapper resolutions and lack of common ground.
In B.J. there was nothing of the restlessness, the despair that had united him and Trapper. Instead, B.J. had his thoughts of *her* to calm himself down…and sometimes Hawkeye was sorely tempted to scream his resentment into B.J.'s face – why should *she* do the things B.J. now had him for? Why? Why was she doing it, again and again, and why, *why* did B.J. allow it?
Wasn't Hawkeye Pierce good enough for him?
Or was it because he was still afraid?
Probably the latter. Afraid of flying, afraid of heights, which was why he kept the hawk firmly grounded in reality.
And the hawk couldn't let go, at least not on its own volition, still trying to gain altitude. But the prey in its talons was too heavy.
The memory of Trapper was a shell fragment the operating surgeon had overlooked, and someday the tissue hopefully would scar. Then he could be human again. That is, if he still remembered what being human was like. Because unless the situation on the ground didn't change, Icarus would continue to test his wings. As long as he was forced to rinse blood off his boots every night and hate himself for being so jaded already that upon tossing a used pair of gloves into the trash (a human life clinging to them) he didn't feel anything anymore, he would fight for every inch of altitude.
God, he hated this place and this war, and how much more would he, on some later day, hate the memories of it. The most difficult thing in this world was to live in it…you didn't have to see particularly well to arrive at that conclusion. And regarding B.J.…
Dear Peg, there was a B.J. *you* will never meet! The B.J. version of Mr. Hyde, made in Korea, Hawkeye opus facit. And he didn't doubt that B.J. would leave this personality behind the moment he boarded the plane home. Hm. How many negations could you possibly fit into one sentence?
"You all right, Pierce? Lookin' a little green around the gills…"
Trust Sherman Potter to intervene whenever his thoughts got dangerously close to taking a wrong turn and becoming too dark.
He flashed a weak smile at the colonel. "My lunch is submitting a request for immediate discharge. In triplicate."
"Request denied. For the time bein', your stomach's a high-security ward. Make that clear to your lunch. Just last weekend, Radar, Klinger and Zale cleaned the motor-pool inside out, jeeps, ambulances, everything with four wheels."
Potter nodded curtly, eyes up front, and lapsed back into silence. Only to break it after a few seconds for a final statement. "Pierce, everything will be okay, I'm sure of it."
Not everything…but what was the point in continuing the What-if-scenarios? Things were as they were. Trapper John McIntyre, the trigger for his ambition to fly and his erstwhile navigator between heaven and earth, was gone and instead there was B.J. Hunnicutt, so stable, so sensible, who dragged him downwards like gravity personified.
Dreams and cold facts. Neither category was truly bad, if taken for itself, but if you had to choose between the two…
Hawkeye didn't react to Potter's soothing words, he only tightened his grip on the wheel, tongue failing to moisten his chafed lips. The dust had parched the insides of his mouth, he couldn't even swallow. A drink, a drink, his Swampdom for a drink…
_Colonel, I don't know if it would make much sense to you if I told you, well, if I described the panorama inside of me. Inside, I'm chest-wound, abdominal wound, broken limbs and head trauma, all rolled into one, and no chance of getting the Purple Heart for it. All we surgeons ever get is a Broken Heart._
How odd that in a place where he was saving so many other lives he should manage to ruin his own so very thoroughly and continue to do so. And it was too late to change directions. B.J. simply allowed him to live (fly) so that he might die (crash) another day….
Right now, the checkpoint a hundred yards ahead was more important. MP presence became more and more pronounced the closer they got to Seoul, but thanks to Colonel Potter they always were cleared for passage within a minute. According to the sign on the side of the road they had ten more miles to go.
And if the road got any worse, it would become real difficult to keep the pieces together. He'd better number them. Too many had gone missing already…Icarus and the hawk had already lost too many feathers.
Feather after feather spiraled to the ground, but he still could fly. He was losing altitude, though. The beating of his wings got more frantic as he saw the ground approaching; he had to prevent his sinking any lower.
Slowly, he climbed again, gradually regained what he had lost, and ignored the growing exhaustion of his aching muscles. Ten more miles before he could land. Manageable. Difficult, but manageable.
He determinedly floored the accelerator and heard his own voice say to Potter that he'd better hold on to his seat – and to the briefcase as well, please.
No matter how loud B.J. laughed, Hawkeye's stony expression wouldn't crack, and it wasn't because he was too intoxicated and thus had to concentrate too hard on following the conversation or standing up straight.
He took another sip of the stuff that was only good for two things: cleaning Potter's brushes and killing brain-cells.
B.J. seemed far more amused by Bardonaro's prank than his disgruntled tent-mate could pretend to be, and willingly forgave him. Everything had ended well, after all, Bardonaro was on his way to Kimpo – avec discharge papers and also a full tank this time – and consequently he treated the incident as yet another chapter in a continuing story. An unremarkable skirmish.
Normally, that might be all right, as long as there wasn't a suffering third party present – and Hawkeye considered himself as such.
The tent was still spinning, but now he had something to hold on to.
"Have I ever told you that you're the perfect size? I can –" Hiccup. Potter's scotch sure had a lot of kick in it, almost as good as their homemade stuff. "I can put my head right *here* Or hide my face when I don't wanna look at myself anymore. Perfect fit, Beej", he whispered against the rhythmic beat of the carotid. "Just what the doctor ordered."
The arms holding him tightened and he felt a kiss high on his forehead. "That you are indeed. Odd, isn't it? But why else do I only get involved with people who are smaller than me? My reasons are entirely selfish. However, size-wise, you're still considerably taller than –"
Before the name could become sound, Hawkeye pushed a hand into B.J.'s sun-bleached hair and silenced him with a deep kiss. _Taller than Peg and her 5'1'' for sure. She'd better stay where she is, she has no place here._ And this time she kept her distance, repelled by an invisible barrier, unable to snatch B.J. away from him. Only for a few seconds, yes, but they were *his* seconds, his alone. The soft lips tasted of sweat and dust and everything he hoped never to taste again after Korea. "Seems like we survived this one, hm?"
"Compared with the cell they'd booked for me in Seoul, the Swamp is a five-star hotel", B.J. admitted with an aborted laugh. "Ah, Hawk, Dorothy was right, there's no place like home."
Did B.J. understand? No, like already stated, that would be too cruel. "We should hit the sack, Beej." They both were on duty in post-op tonight, the one before midnight, the other after, so they should spend the remaining time trying to get the blood-to-alcohol ratio in their systems back to normal. Without any resistance, B.J. let himself be dragged to his cot, his knees failing him the second he reached it. Hawkeye carefully lowered him onto the wobbly construction, registering the low moan as he went horizontal. "You say anything?"
"Nah…I was jus' wonderin'…maybe I should've gotten a wid…uh, wrin—written statement from Leo." The pillow muffled B.J.'s words to the same extent as the alcohol slurred them. "That he'll pay the hotel the full extent of the d'mages."
"And not change US-dollar into pesos. Or Turkish lira. Happens more often than you think."
"Presh-ioush-ly. After all, they want more sh-shan, ah, sorry, more *than* a month's pay. What would I tell Peggy if we had t'use our savings t'pay the rent?"
Ah, and the feather went flying. He'd anticipated it, but it still had come unexpectedly. Rather late, too… Hawkeye briefly closed his eyes, breathing through the sudden pain. "We'll take care of that tomorrow", he promised genially, even managing to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "I'll go tell Radar to wake you at eight."
B.J. snorted faintly. "Duty by the alphabet today? No rest for the almost-condemned? Oh well, doesn't matter", he sighed, surrendering to his fate. "Help me out of my boots before you leave? My fingers are already asleep."
The small things in life. Boots, feet up, blanket…
"Sleep well, Hawkeye."
"Sleep well –" _Peg and Erin and Waggle and…_ "—Beej."
For the time being, his wings beating relentlessly, Icarus was riding an updraft, resuming his ascent. For the time being.