M*A*S*H Slash Awards 2004, Third place:
...still crying with one eye after watching "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" for the third time in a row (can you call that 'enjoying' or does it already count as masochism?). God, I wasn't nearly as depressed when Deep Space Nine ended...or I'm just repressing that traumatic experience.
Everybody's got a chicken in the closet... For ten pages I didn't know where to take this. For want of a flower, I was plucking the aforementioned chicken, murmuring 'Slash...no slash...slash...no slash...', until the poor thing was naked (clucking in shame and panic) and I could hold up the last feather and proclaim: *No* slash! None whatsoever!
Somebody get a doctor! Please…
Archive: at mash-slash and also at T'Len's & Lady Charena's wonderful place
Spoiler: Mainly "GFA", but also references to other eps. Direct quotes from "Welcome to
Korea", "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" and "GFA".
B.J.s POV...I needed to do some serious anti-'Missing San Francisco Blues' work here. Ten
days last June/July, and I've been going through withdrawal pains ever since! Miss it, miss it, miss
It's difficult to get into that man's head (*really* get into it), much more difficult than I'd
This is the English version of my German original; not entirely identical, but close enough. I had to
make a few changes to suit the language.
Dedication: To misquote R.E.M., "This one goes out to the ones I love..." There are a couple of
those…and most of them don't even know it. Extra credit to Meredith B. Mallory – have fun in
Japan, dear! Carpe diem (well, 'et noctem', *g*) And a special note of thanks and appreciation
to Leigh – who fed me all the OV lines! (Feeeeeeed me, Seymour!) Thanks for all the work
For animal activists: No chickens, dogs, cockroaches or squirrels were harmed in the writing-
Disclaimer: Nothing's mine, it's a shame, I know, but it's all the property of 20th Century Fox. I
don't own a single cot, not one scalpel, surely not the still nor the characters, *sigh*, don't I wish.
The passages of the Frank Sinatra songs were borrowed without permission but also without any
evil intent of making a profit!
Basically, it was little more than an assortment of barracks and shacks located five miles east of
Seoul. For some people, it was Alpha and Omega in one. Here it had started, and here he was
now coming full circle after two long years.
With a pained sigh, he put down the bag and lifted the right hand to shield his eyes against the
sun, blinking. No need to have a look around to give a description of his surroundings. All the
details had been tattooed on his memory. Did the people passing him in a hurry wonder about the
man standing in the middle of the road? The man in size 13-sneakers and washed-out army-garb
without any insignia whatsoever who was risking his life for a moment of retrospection? And did
they wonder who he might be and why he was looking so...lost?
One last look around and he bid a silent fare-thee-forever-well to Korea.
Two years in which dusty, mud-splattered khaki had become so normal to him that other colors
were painfully irritating.
Two years in which he'd adopted the habit of swallowing his food so rapidly that he wouldn't
have to taste it.
Two years in which the sound of rotor blades had become more familiar than the clinging of the
cable-cars back home.
Two years in which he'd almost forgotten how to cry.
A nightmare of two years was finally coming to an end.
As much as he had prayed for this moment to arrive – at least once a day, sometimes even more
often than that – it had arrived more suddenly than he'd believed possible.
On that morning in the mess-tent, joy had been something tangible, it had made him forget
everything else. In retrospect it seemed as if someone else had been doing the happy dance,
waving around his discharge papers like a message from God himself.
Fantasies of everything he'd do when he got home dominated his thoughts, he wouldn't even think
of the persons Potter was referring to...those he accused him (indirectly) of abandoning.
Especially those temporarily absent.
***"They wouldn't send one of my surgeons home and not tell me. This has to be a
Sure, everything had been a mistake from the very start. The war. Korea. Every sheet of paper
requesting and requiring an innocent young man to serve time in purgatory. Every night that he
hadn't been able to sleep because of fear, heat, or cold, had been one giant error. But he'd made
it through, and he sure as hell wouldn't look this particular gift-horse in the mouth, that is, get
confirmation from I-Corps. Erin would get her Daddy for her birthday.
***"Look, son, nobody likes a good snafu better than I do, but this doesn't seem fair to
everyone else. A lot of these folks have been here longer than you have!"***
And many of them had broken, now that the end was almost within reach.
In his imagination, he was welcoming happy families with lively children to his practice, and
pleasant old ladies served him tea and cookies on uneventful house-calls. He could choose his
hours freely, he had all the time in the world and nobody told him how he was supposed to spend
it. Nobody rushed him, nobody asked him to treat patients according to the severity of their
illness and decide who could be saved and who couldn't.
He was strolling through Old Mill Park with Peg at his side, and they were watching as Erin and
the dog chased squirrels across the lawn, the girl going as fast as her little feet would carry her.
Peals of high-pitched laughter filled the air…she called out to her daddy to join her, and daddy
didn't have to be asked twice.
Or he was in the car, driving up to Mount Tam, just him and Peg on a summer's day. They'd have
a picnic basket in the backseat and spend a wonderful day outdoors, celebrating their
togetherness. The view was terrific any time of year…San Fran in the distance, Marin below, and
a little towards the west, the coast and Stinson Beach where they would soon build their house.
And they'd sit together in total peace and watch the sun setting over the Pacific.
No, better yet: the house had already been built, he could see it quite clearly. Erin was playing in
the garden, teaching Waggle how to fetch – with the patience only a child could muster – while he
and Peggy were taking long walks on the beach.
For all time to come, the Pacific would mark the edge of his world, he'd never again think of what
lay beyond the water.
Beautiful, perfect world.
***"I can't run a hospital without surgeons! Who's supposed to replace you?"***
He'd find a replacement, sure he would! Like so much, like everything in this war, he was
replaceable. No doubt about that. Didn't matter if it was a surgeon or a battery for a jeep, the
difference was solely in the requisition form. Captain B.J. Hunnicutt would relinquish the honor of
the final round to someone else and go home, and no one would miss him.
The small voice in the back of his head had remained unheard. (And what about Hawkeye?)
Instead, he'd shown around baby pictures of Erin, had deliberately chosen to delight in the
congratulations he received on his impending departure for the States. (And what are you going
to tell Hawkeye? Hawkeye, who's locked up in Tokyo because he saw the end of one life too
many…) He'd ignored his conscience, wanting to hear the good wishes only, mainly to prove
Potter wrong and demonstrate that nobody objected to his going home. After all, he'd f***ing
well *earned* it!
The next minute, the happiness about being able to see Erin blow out the candles on her birthday
cake had been doused, but never quite extinguished, by artillery fire. He would celebrate his little
girl's second birthday as if it was his own, and only when he'd hold her in his arms and looked
into her beaming face, all of this would finally be over for him. Only then the healing process
would begin. He estimated his own chances for a complete recovery to be rather good, but as for
some of his comrades…
In Father Mulcahy's case, he had to diagnose a considerable loss of hearing (with tendency
towards complete deafness) and many of the refugees who had been flocking to the camp over
the past few weeks were in pretty bad shape. It had been hours before he'd been allowed the
next personal thought.
A thought concerning yet another wounded man.
It had been his second 4th of July in Korea, the memory of it as clear as if it had been
yesterday…and at the same time as vague as a feverish dream. A day on the beach, some
volleyball, shell-seeking, hotdogs and careless frolicking in the surf, and the war had been miles
away. No holiday fireworks for them, thank you, the 364 other days of the year were full enough
of those. They simply had enjoyed themselves, almost forgetting that it wasn't the Pacific lapping
at their feet and leaving its salt on their skin but the Yellow Sea.
If he'd been home, he wouldn't have spent the day any other way.
With the exception of the return trip, of course.
Like all the others on the bus, he'd been afraid for his life, had believed that at his next breath, the
Chinese would discover them, and everything would be over. Two dozen pounding hearts…if the
enemy patrols didn't hear that, then most certainly the baby.
The screams and wails…just like Erin during the first weeks at home…. God, he remembered
them so very well, those sleepless nights, the wandering through the house, up and down, up and
down, singing lullabies until she calmed down. At some point, there had been silence again, and
the weary parents could at last settle down to sleep.
It had been the same silence into which the passengers of the bus had breathed their relief soon
thereafter. All very well. It was just that…Erin's loud cries had never stopped as abruptly as the
baby's had…that night.
Hearing Hawkeye's voice asking hoarsely and with barely subdued panic, "What have you
done?", he hadn't realized at first that the baby had stopped crying.
Everyone had needed a moment to perceive the sudden silence as such.
Or maybe he'd already been too drunk…they'd been passing the bottle around rather liberally.
But when he'd turned and looked at Hawkeye's face, there had been no need to rise and turn to
know what had happened.
Only Hawkeye didn't know anymore.
How desperate did a mother have to be to do something like that…or a father? And where might
B.J. Hunnicutt's limit be? Some things you didn't want to know about yourself.
He'd flown to Tokyo because of Hawkeye…because he'd wanted to see him one more time and
say goodbye. Terrific plan. He just hadn't been able to act it out, and that hadn't been one of the
cases of 'It's the thought that counts'.
No, he'd failed. Failed. Nothing more, nothing less.
From a loudspeaker somewhere he heard a painfully familiar tune, distorted and tinny, as if the
song was as weary of the war as everybody and everything else. Frank Sinatra was singing 'Just
One of Those Things'.
Exactly. War in Korea…just another one of 'those things'.
Saying goodbye (the inability to say goodbye)…just one of 'those things'.
Dear Lord, there were so many songs he never wanted to hear again when he got home. Too
many tunes he'd once loved to dance to, a girl in his arms, later then with Peg, without having a
care in the world.
Sinatra would always transport him onto the streets of Tokyo, back to saké-blurred nights full of
bright neon-light...just like the soft lull of 'Sentimental Journey' would return him to the O.R…and
he'd automatically look down at his hands, but there would be no blood-smeared latex gloves
His hands would be clean, of course, the only eye-catcher a shimmer of gold on his left.
In his coat-pockets he balled his hands into fists and swallowed tears.
No more 'My Blue Heaven' for him, no slow dancing with Peg to the 'Tennessee Waltz'. The oh-
so-popular 'Chattanooga Choo-Choo' caused the same reaction as nails on a blackboard. And
even classical music would forever carry the stigma "Korea", for Mozart and Rachmaninoff
would make everything, water and fine wine, taste like moonshine gin out of dusty glasses.
'So goodbye, dear, goodbye and amen
Here's hopin' we'll meet now and then.
It was great fun, but it was just one
Of those things...'
If only he'd had the courage to tell Hawkeye the truth. To be direct instead of hiding facts (*I'm
going home*) behind wishes (*I'll be glad to give up the drop-in business to go home*). We'll all
get home someday, a rhetorical mask for a truth he didn't want to burden his friend with.
Hawk...who'd looked so lost in the cell-like room with barred windows, a synonym for the real
prison he couldn't escape: his self.
That very self had exploded into his face without warning.
Had it been his words that had triggered this…this rage in Hawkeye? This frightening, incoherent
rant without pause or punctuation. He'd only been talking about Erin and usually Hawkeye
tolerated it when he talked about his little girl. Admittedly, there always was this strange
expression that crept into those blue eyes, like the shadow of an ancient pain looking for a way
back into the present, but Hawkeye had always been happy for him. Sharing his joy about Erin's
first steps, her first words…
Sometimes he had been wondering if that happiness was genuine, or if Hawk was merely smiling
in the face of adversity.
In case of the latter, he, B.J. Hunnicutt, husband and proud father, should have stopped pestering
the man with a life outside of Korea the likes of which he would never have.
For – and that he'd realized with brutal clarity when seeing Hawkeye sitting on the bunk in the
Tokyo clinic – Hawkeye Pierce would never leave Korea, no matter where he went after the
He'd been standing in the door, frozen and speechless like never before.
No, that wasn't quite true.
'It seemed we stood and talked like this before
We looked at each other in the same way then
But I can't remember where or when.'
Despite the oppressive heat he felt a shiver chasing down his spine. Sinatra was wrong. He knew
precisely where and when. How could he forget?
Two years ago, in this very same place. The standing and talking had been done here, Kimpo
airfield, official U.S. Army designation K-14, the place where he'd set foot on Korean soil for the
very first time and met a short corporal who he took a liking to immediately, dirty glasses and all.
It was here that he'd first gazed into blue eyes that should become the epitome of this conflict for
him. Back then he had yet to understand what it was that he was seeing, but it had rendered him
That had been the first time.
The second time, white bandages had covered those eyes, and despite his hopes for a good
ending to this tale of terror, he had caught himself wishing, deep down, that Hawkeye might
remain blinded forever. It would have been the best for him, never having to see the contrast of
red blood on white gowns again…or the pain in the wide eyes of young men who didn't know
what they'd done to deserve such misery.
Back then, Hawk's endurance in light of his injuries had been nothing but amazing. Much like
today. No matter what the damage, whether it was the eyes or his mind, Hawkeye carried on.
He kept going, continued on his path – without guarantees as to direction or destination, though.
From where did the man draw the strength for himself and all those others who leaned on his
'Dancing in the dark
Until the tune ends we're
Dancing in the dark
And it soon ends...'
Blue eyes hadn't gone blind, had continued to watch the horror in its entirety.
With a sigh, he kicked aside a stone, forgetting about the action immediately. He didn't even hear
it strike the corrugated iron wall of the officer's club. Here they'd had their first drink
together…two years ago… here Hawkeye had given him the unofficial welcome speech.
***"Pierce, I'm just a little confused –"
"Hawkeye. And don't let a little confusion throw you, Captain."
"One of the first thing you learn over here, B.J., is that insanity is no worse than the
For the duration of that first, bumpy jeep-ride he'd still feared that mercurial Hawkeye, with his
sarcasm and brazen nonconformity, had the cure for this 'cold', and the thought of becoming just
like that had scared the hell out of him, the newcomer.
At least until he'd realized that Hawkeye was as confused as the rest of them…but that he'd
simply accepted his confusion a lot better.
The moment that he'd become aware of how much this man meant to him, words had been
***Slowly, Hawkeye lowered himself onto the bed in post-op, unable to see the people
whose hands he felt on his shoulder. Recognition was by voice only as they left one by one
for their respective duties, left him alone. Doctor or no doctor, until further notice he was
just another patient.
"Visit me a couple of hundred times, will ya?"
"At least." And he'd left the room before the idea of making a reservation for the last free
bed could cross his mind. The prospect of living in the Swamp with only Frank Burns for
company till Friday held little appeal, but he wouldn't dream of telling Hawk.***
Same thing when he'd realized that maybe he'd never see him again.
That it was indeed highly probable that he'd never see Hawkeye again.
He would board his plane now, and within the next twelve hours, Jacobson would be arriving
from Tokyo. Yessir, B.J. Hunnicutt had declined the dubious honor to be at the 4077th
M*A*S*H when the tents were taken down and packed up for the next war. Soon he'd be rid
of both khaki and dog tags and exchange the 'Captain' in front of his name for a permanent 'MD'
Maybe the proper words of goodbye would come to him later when he was no longer running
towards a future that had been put on hold for two years, but was finally living it. An ocean away
One thing he knew for certain: he'd never again be able to hear Erin cry without his heart missing
Oh, Hawkeye…at first it had seemed as if he could stomach the experience, but it had soon
become obvious that the critical loose thread had been pulled, and that the protective shield of
sanity he had knitted for himself in the long hours of boredom between panic, inebriation and
exhaustion was now unraveling. Inexorably.
The day Hawkeye lost it in the O.R. he had been stuck for words but was allotted no time for
farewells before the MP dragged the heavily sedated surgeon away, leaving him to do the work
of two men. Returning to the Swamp, he'd found Hawkeye gone, flown to Tokyo under guard.
He hadn't been able to sleep that night, regardless of his overwhelming exhaustion. Something
had been missing.
The following night had been sleepless as well, as had nights three and four.
The first time they'd talked again had been on the phone.
At that time he'd still been clinging to the illusion that he might contribute to Hawkeye's
convalescence if only he could talk to him, as a friend. But such an opportunity had never
presented itself, there'd been nothing except a few phone-calls.
As per Sidney's request, contact remained minimal so that his work with Hawkeye could
proceed without distractions from the outside. Such instructions left aside…Potter would never
have approved of such a visit, and he'd been smart enough not to ask. The colonel had enough
on his mind without one of his surgeons – of which he had too few to begin with – adding to his
worries by wanting to go off to Tokyo for a day.
Thus, he had been quite surprised when after comparing their respective 'Things To Do When At
Home'-lists over a couple of beers, Potter had suggested that he fly to Tokyo the next day.
Leave in the morning, be back at noon, for half a day he and Charles could hold the fort.
***"We've made progress, but we're not done yet."
"So, do you think I should tell him that I'm going home soon? Would that throw him?"
"Good question." Sighing, Sidney turned towards the door and raised a hand to knock.
"Why don't you just play it by ear?"***
The welcome had been…reserved, to say the least. Just like the first time Hawkeye had been
less than enthusiastic about seeing him, and more than ever had he wished to be able to read
minds. There always had been an area in Hawkeye he couldn't figure out, not for the life of him.
Hawkeye shielded it, guarded it with a dozen infuriating idiosyncrasies and habits, and it probably
was that piece of 'terra incognita' that kept them from truly relating.
But even greater than his desire to know what Hawkeye was thinking was to know what
Hawkeye was thinking about him. The truth. Not that what ultimately became words, but what
could be read in his eyes.
Understand each other…no, they had never done that, not really. Their best achievement had
been mutual acceptance, a truce under an imaginary white flag, and that had been difficult enough.
They'd paid for it with pain and tears.
Standing before Hawkeye, barely noticing Sidney retreat under the pretense of paperwork, he'd
sensed once more the true extent of the rift between them. Not even a handshake. The man in
pajamas and blue bathrobe (_Wrong color_, his subconscious had protested) had practically
been a stranger.
Someone – a philosopher, poet, politician or maybe just a pragmatist like Sidney Freedman –
had once said that what betrayed a man most easily was his fear.
And this one word effectively summed up his current emotional state.
Never before had he felt such fear because of a single word. He'd always managed to say it
before. Somehow. The 'be seeing you' at the end of a visit with good friends, the 'bye-bye' after
dinner at a good restaurant, him moving out of his parents' home, the parting words to his friends
at university after getting his degree.
Even with Peg he'd never felt this…paralysis. Not when saying 'I love you', or 'I do', or
Saying goodbye now would mean that everything was over. Really over. Not just officially, on
paper and signed by a bunch of generals and diplomats, but *inside* of him as well. The true end
came with a word he refused to, //couldn't// say aloud.
Just what was worse, the pain of his imminent departure (and his inability to actually *leave*, no
matter how much he wanted to), or the realization that after two years of constantly hoping for an
end to this journey in the valley of the shadow of death he didn't *want* it to be over?
Had he gone insane?
It should be easy enough to leave Korea behind with a brief 'Bye'. Two years should be sufficient
motivation to bury all the memories that had been forced upon them and which he'd never be able
to forget completely.
'Hello' had been easy.
"You bring your wife with you?"
"I thought I'd come ahead, check it out. You married?"
That typical Hawkeye half-smile, the way he averted his eyes and shrugged...shaking off
the question like a dog would water. "Someone's gonna have to get me pregnant…"
And so the lines had been drawn, they'd known where they were standing.***
It was the 'goodbye' that had got stuck in his throat...and there it was lodged still.
What to say at such a moment when all decisions had been made and nothing in human language
could lessen the pain left by cruel reality? He was allowed to go home, and Hawkeye…Hawkeye
was far away in Tokyo, confined to a small room and surrounded by people who believed to be
President Truman or General MacArthur, or the Queen of England for that matter. For two
weeks, he'd been cooped up there while people whom he could have helped were dying. The
fact that he needed help more than anybody was ignored in typical Hawkeye-fashion.
Why had he never been able to tell him that he'd be lost without him and that he was sorry for
going now? For leaving him…*abandoning* him.
Of course he still could do something about that if he wanted to, make a stopover in Tokyo and
see Hawkeye…say his farewells… But he was traveling via Okinawa and Honolulu, he wouldn't
even come near the main Japanese island.
All signals said go, all mistakes were made, there was no going back. Just regrets.
***"What makes you think you're going home?"***
Had he really believed that he could lie to Hawkeye? In their two years of living together, he'd
never been able to fool Hawk, the man could always read him like an open book.
***"You know it's Erin's second birthday coming up? When I saw her last, she was so
small her hand wouldn't fit around my finger."***
Fingers had never been necessary, words had always been enough to calm each other down. The
right words stimulated a heart to beat, the wrong ones seized and crushed it.
And as he was still saying the words, he'd registered (registered, not seen!) the infinitesimal
reaction in Hawk's face that signaled acceptance. Permission.
Knowledge of the truth, recognition of the lie, and his surrender to it.
***"She'd wear these little baby booties you could fit into a shot glass."
A shadow came over the tired, mask-like face. "You know, I wear the same boots I got
when I came here."
One word too many. Usually out of his mouth, not Hawk's. Hawk would rather be silent
than say too much and hurt someone with an inconsiderate remark. A doctor through and
through, loyal to his oath.
"Yeah. Well, anyway, I really miss her", he tried to defuse the tense moment – it was just
as impossible, though, as taking back the blow of his fist or his hateful words about
Trapper John – and continued with a shrug, "even though just about the only thing I really
remember is her big toothless grin."
And like champagne gushing from a well-shaken bottle that was uncorked without
warning, the words burst out of Hawkeye.***
Definitely too much. He should have packed his things, abandoned his plans for goodbye and left.
This way, he'd only made it worse. Done the very thing a physician shouldn't do...*ever*.
***"Yeah, well, that's the thing, see? Toothless grin, fingers, boots, shot glasses...there's a
common thread running through all of this. I mean, you could have said a ball of twine,
toothbrushes, chewing gum under the seat at the theater. I found chewing gum under the
seat at the Rialto in Kennebunkport..."***
And so on and so forth. A typical Hawkeye-aria, words and sentences strung together as
randomly as the thoughts they were made of. Hawkeye talked as he thought, combining the most
unlikely of topics in the most unorthodox ways. By no means to be funny or demonstrate
eloquence, no, Hawkeye was dead serious about each and every word. These speeches were
the moments when Hawkeye wasn't joking at all, not in the least…however, not everybody could
look past the words and acknowledge the sentiment behind them.
B.J. had learned to, though, and therefore had watched in stunned silence as Hawkeye paced
back and forth like a caged animal, his voice getting louder and louder. Accusing…assigning
blame… What should he have done? A wounded animal was most dangerous when trapped, and
he doubted that it was any different with a trapped and wounded hawk…
The last thing he'd seen in Hawkeye's eyes was rage, and the memory brought back the tears.
Truly a beautiful last sight…
At a loss for ideas and words he'd gotten up and called for Sidney who'd been waiting outside,
obviously having anticipated this development.
Did Sidney, by any chance, understand their complex relationship better than they did
Whatever the case, Dr. Hunnicutt had had his five minutes and failed.
But shouldn't a friend do everything in his power to ensure the other's well-being, regardless of
cost and risk? If not for Hawkeye, everything would have been different. *He* would have been
He had never told him that and now there'd be no more opportunities, but Hawkeye had given
him so much and asked for nothing…and what had he given him in return? Had there been
anything at all? There had to be…
Watching Hawkeye break apart in front of his eyes made him believe that he'd failed him…as a
friend, as a doctor, and as a human being, and he felt responsible.
Could a man feel any worse?
***"Go, what're you waiting for?"
Was that a 'Get lost' or an 'I'm telling you to go, but if you're really my friend you'll stay
anyway and won't let me drive you away'?
A 'Go, please, I can't bear you seeing me like this' or a simple 'Hold me…just this once be
the one holding me instead of me having to hold you'?
Hesitantly, he backed away with small steps until he stood in the open door. The knob was
too solid for his shaking hand, his fingers constantly slipped on it. "I don't know." He cast
a beseeching look at Sidney, but all in vain. This, he had to do alone…or not. "I…I just
thought there might be something we wanted to say to each other before I left."***
Things like 'goodbye'. Once again, the unspeakable word was only hinted at.
***"So tell me the next time you see me. I'm not gonna be here forever, I can guarantee
Either his knees would fail him first or his voice. Everybody would want to run from
Hawkeye's accusing stare.
"Yeah", he muttered and nodded. "Well…I'll see you."***
_I'll see you…_ With those three-and-a-half words, he'd closed the door. Without 'goodbye'.
Without 'the end'.
On his way down the corridor his steps had quickened. Once outside, he'd bumped into several
white-coats in his haste, breaking into a half-run before he'd even cleared the hospital grounds.
Never seeing where he put his feet, blinded by tears, he'd gotten lost. Everything had looked the
same, streets, signs and people…he hadn't recognized a thing. Or hadn't wanted to. Only by
rickshaw had he at last found his way back to the airport where to board a plane to Korea…for
the last time.
Away…away from it all.
The past hour had passed in rapid motion. Klinger arranging for his transportation, Potter saying
goodbye telegraph-style, several brief embraces as he ran for the Swamp. A hug for Father
Mulcahy and Margaret Houlihan. Suddenly, nothing but five minutes had been left of almost two
years (twenty-two months, two weeks and three days), suddenly his lifetime (this other life, this
schizophrenic existence he'd hated and loved with equal intensity) had been compressed into five
During his attempt to simultaneously dress and scribble down a few lines for Hawkeye, the
chopper-pilot had been gathering his scattered belongings for him. Clothes, photographs,
trinkets... No particular care required if only the majority of items found their way into his bags,
and even if they didn't he wouldn't mind, for the less souvenirs of this insanity, the better.
'Hawkeye…' He hadn't gotten any further. The sheet of paper had remained blank.
And suddenly there had been Charles taking a break from rejoicing about his future position as
Head of Thoracic Surgery at Boston Mercy to complain as to how he *dared* leaving without
saying goodbye. After all, they'd spent a long time living together and – the words had left
Winchester's mouth with visible reluctance – under such conditions people were known to
develop ties. Not that this actually applied to his eminence CEW III, but simply out of courtesy
he *might* have…
But the colleague addressed had closed his ears and blocked off everything he hadn't wanted to
hear/feel/think, dismissing the protesting surgeon to tend to a perforated intestine in intensive care.
The ties that bind.
Of all people it had been Charles taking on the role of his conscience. Charles! He could very
well have lived without his patronizing. But strangely enough he didn't mind him doing so as he
would have had it been anyone else, say, Potter or Margaret.
Margaret, whom he'd asked to talk to Hawkeye, a substitution he was almost ashamed of. As if
she could say only half of what was weighing down his soul, searching for a way out! All the
things that had rendered him mute when standing in the door to Hawk's room —
_I'll see you..._
—and closing it.
A plane would take him to Okinawa, and from there he'd continue by ship to Honolulu via Guam.
Then, only a three-hour flight separated him from the two people he loved most. In a week, he'd
be with them. Nonetheless, Charles' words still echoed through his head.
Was this goodbye, or an escape?
Wiping dust from his eyes, he took a deep breath and picked up his luggage again. Time to weigh
anchor, sever the last ties. Ties to Korea, to the fear…and to Hawkeye Pierce who united all
these things within himself.
Nobody could sever them for him, make this decision in his stead.
The song had changed. New lyrics, old emotions. They'd often played it in the O.R., also
countless similar songs to calm the patients and alleviate their fears a little.
'I've got you under my skin
I've got you deep in the heart of me
So deep in my heart that you're really a part of me.
I've got you under my skin.'
Peace was almost a reality now, all the treaties ready to be signed, and then Hawkeye would be
sent from Tokyo directly to Crabapple Cove. Go straight home, don't pass Korea, don't collect
another month's pay and don't have another look at wounded children.
Or dead babies, killed by their own parents.
He wished him that much luck, at least a slice of it.
The building next to the officers' club had to be Administrations. Well, he'd better check in there
if he wanted to catch his flight; Klinger had put his name down, but the possibility remained that
unless he wasn't there in time to claim it, his seat would pass to someone else.
'...in spite of a warning voice that comes in the night
And repeats and repeats in my ear:
Don't you know, you fool, you never can win,
Use you mentality, wake up to reality...'
The fear of reality, the life he'd be returning to, was no less intense than his fear of letting go.
He had allowed Hawkeye to pull him along, but had never lost his cool, a cool that, as he knew,
sometimes irritated Hawkeye to the extreme. Nothing he could change about that, it simply was
As was his closeness to his family. That wasn't something he could have just switched off, not for
anybody, not even for Hawkeye. Korea might have added a few shades of gray to his
personality, but apart from that he was the same man who had landed here two years ago.
He had managed to stay himself and not become someone else out of sheer necessity.
Like Hawkeye had done, Hawkeye, who had adapted to the situation like a
chameleon…merging with the background to such a degree that at some point he no longer could
distinguish the contours of himself.
But, he had to ask, was he supposed to apologize for being as he was? And for wanting to stay
that way, for the fact that Korea made him suffer, all right, but that he'd never let it into his soul?
No, there was no reason to do that.
He'd maintained his equilibrium.
Hawkeye envied him that tranquility. Which was why, after a while, he'd tried not to mention Peg
too often. Without success, of course, for she had been ever-present.
In the mornings as well as in the evenings, his first and last thought had been of her…and when
the exhaustion in the O.R. threatened to overwhelm him, he'd believed to feel her hand on his
shoulder, the touch giving him the strength to last another hour…save another life.
It must have been after six months or so that there'd come a time when she'd been far away from
him in thought as well. The new surroundings had required certain adjustments, but when entire
days passed without him so much as thinking of his family, he'd pulled the emergency brake.
More adjustments would have exceeded his abilities.
If asked, he wouldn't be able to say what had kept him from treading the same path as Benjamin
Franklin Pierce in this country, this hell for doctors and healers who were tormented not by
purgatory but by excessive confrontation with destruction. Had it been the knowledge that there
was a paradise for him to return to? Granted, it was 5428 miles away, but it existed.
Or had it been the company of a man who had nothing even close to that, a circumstance that
had allowed him to congratulate himself despite the pain of separation? Because he was still faring
rather well by comparison? No, certainly not.
He violently rejected such a train of thought, nobody could be that insidious, least of all him.
Nonetheless it had been him losing control back then, him directing his pain at Hawkeye and the
still. One letter, and his composure had gone straight to hell, dissolving in shards of glass and a
A lot had been different after that.
What hadn't changed had been his wish that someday Hawkeye might find something similar to
what Peg and Erin meant for him. The support and love of a family, everything a friend couldn't
A faint smile tugged at his lips, invisible beneath the mustache, to be gone the next second. Whom
was he kidding? Some people had lost their lives here in the Land of the Morning Freshness, in
the shadow of the 38th parallel, others their arms and legs or sanity, and some lucky ones merely
Hawkeye had lost a lot more. For him, who needed (*craved*) close human contact more than
anything (*the only cure for insanity at the four-oh-double natural, the only reliable reality-check
there was*), that particular loss was far crueler an irony than the loss of his own life: he'd lost the
ability to form lasting relationships and allow real closeness, not to mention commitment.
Korea had made that impossible. Forever.
Hopefully, Sidney would be able to help Hawkeye. The oncoming peace (*Ceasefire*, but who
had the time to squabble about semantics?) wouldn't last long and sure wasn't global – there'd
always be wars, Korea wouldn't be mankind's final battlefield – but maybe it would be
permanent for the one man who needed it most.
'You get all, buy a piece of the peace,
Big or small, buy a piece of the peace,
Seven times before you bought the bonds we sold,
Victory isn't free, so trade it in for your gold.
This is it, buy a piece of the peace,
Do your bit, buy a piece of the peace...'
He'd done what he could, and it hadn't been enough for peace. Sometimes friendship simply
The tears rolling down his face as the plane rolled towards the runway were tears of the past. It
had taken them two years to reach the surface.
Annyonghi kyeseyo. Komawoyo.
Goodbye. Thank you.
Slowly, the EVAC-copter descended, touching down a couple of yards away from the lake.
So this was the new address of the 4077th. If he'd understood correctly, the reason for the bug-
out had been a bushfire in the hills, courtesy of U.S. incendiary bombs.
Fine, now he could help with the unpacking; from what he could see, only half the camp was
already up and operational, and the people were far too busy to notice his arrival.
The helicopter was just another helicopter bringing in wounded.
And the new-old surgeon.
The picture, as a whole, was still the same, though. Nothing had changed, not even the small lake
and the ducks were much of an improvement – it still was Korea, the front still was but a few
miles away, and in the tent with the big, red cross on the roof wounded people were still dying.
Suffering people, the reason for the oddly vacant expression that *still* was pasted on all the
faces he could see. Identical copies of the same mask.
He knew it to be on his own face as well.
How he managed to swing his legs out of the cockpit, he didn't know, nor how he could stand
upright on his own. As a final gesture of resignation, he threw his bag into the dust and took a
Colonel Potter welcomed him, his narrow face pale with fatigue and regret. No words were
needed to convey his apology for I-Corps stopping him at a third of the way home and sending
him back to the 4077th for the grand finale.
And he was equally sympathetic towards the older man. This was the third war for Sherman
Potter, who'd started his military career in the cavalry more than three decades ago, but one thing
nobody ever got used to was the strain of waiting for the end.
Like Dr. Hunnicutt (fresh out of residency, looking forward to an uneventful but peaceful future in
a private practice and never dreaming of having to wage bloody scalpel-wars in Korea), Potter
had not expected to be sent to Korea and once more give a hundred-and-fifty percent for the 18
months until retirement. A definite change of pace after two years behind a desk in Tokyo.
Nonetheless they were here, still, both of them. And where he simply felt exhausted, the colonel
was burned out. Only decades of routine and military discipline seemed to keep him on his feet.
"I got as far as Guam", he let his once-again commanding officer know, handing his luggage to a
waiting Private, "and all flights were cancelled, nothing going in or out." He couldn't possibly keep
the bitterness out of his voice. "I'm sitting there in that crummy officers' club, and this guy comes
up to me and says, 'You Hunnicutt, the doctor?' Now, I didn't like the sound of that, so I replied,
'No, not me, pal, I'm Hunnicutt, the chaplain.' He says, 'Well, Chaplain, you better start praying
for miracles for you're going back to Korea to do surgery.'" He'd done nothing, absolutely
*nothing* to deserve this! Maybe he should have tried to make a run for it…stowed away on a
plane or shanghaied a rowboat. Somehow he would have made his way back to San Francisco.
Why had he been called back? He didn't blame the colonel for his misfortune; besides, now that
he was here, all protests were in vain. Crying was of no use.
Obviously Potter thought it necessary to apologize anyway, and his smile was rather forced,
maybe because he was grateful that the complaint was wrapped in a trace of humor.
During the colonel's little speech he registered movement to his right, almost at a dead angle,
barely detectable, and something in his throat contracted. Why *him*? Why not Jacobson? It
should be Jacobson…
Moving at his customary slouch, the familiar, slightly stooping, form approached, slowly, and
hanging his head like a dog that had been kicked out into the pouring rain. The hands were buried
deep in his pockets, completing the picture.
He reluctantly turned his head. Why, just *why* wasn't it Jacobson?
The next step brought Hawkeye to his side. Out of the frying pan into the fire...
Gone was the blue bathrobe, only the eyes were the same. Unhealed wounds, from which the
pain was pouring, unrestricted, and nobody could apply pressure and the bandages needed to
staunch the flow. This kind of wound had to bleed until the pain coagulated.
"Well, hey", he greeted him lamely. "You're looking a lot better than last time I saw you. How
you feeling?" The question had hardly left his mouth when he already regretted it.
Without the slightest indication of emotion Hawkeye replied, "In the pink." Meaning the exact
opposite. He was waiting for something. Or not. No, it didn't look as if he was truly expecting
At that moment he would have preferred it if Hawkeye had yelled at him, insulted him, or even hit
him…if only he had lost his temper. As it had once been the reverse case. Why wasn't it possible
for this man to be, just once, a little less…'Hawkeye'…and show another, more human reaction
than this stoic, unnatural calm?
He knew calm, but this was another kind of calm. As if Benjamin Franklin Pierce was beyond
pain already and nothing could hurt him anymore, not bullets and least of all words. For he'd
already felt and heard everything – what else should there be?
Holding his breath, he was searching for a suitable apology, wanted to try and do the right thing.
But who did ever do the right thing? His guilty conscience reared its ugly head before he knew it,
had to say it before Hawkeye could address the issue. "Uh, I wanted to leave you a note before I
left. I just didn't have the time."
No bullet could have hurt more than the nonchalance of Hawkeye's reply.
Blue eyes (_My Blue Heaven,_ he heard Sinatra sing) swept over him, lingered only briefly, then
the Pierce-ing gaze released him. "I didn't even know you were gone. I thought you were in the
On that note, Hawk turned away and walked alongside them, like it was the most natural thing in
the world…like nothing had happened.
And of course he didn't find the words.
Three times was the charm...