Status Report of a Soul
Feedback: here or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Code: PG / post-slash
Summary: Hell within you
Archive: sure thing, here, at T'Len's or LC's place – all others please ask.
Babelfish's Note: This is the English version of a German original and my native language is the latter, so don't bother the author with rotten tomatoes or Igor's liver entrée. Throw 'em right at Imm5000@t-online.de
Disclaimer: MASH belongs to FOX and I didn't intend to violate any rights. No money was made off the use of the characters, it's "just" fanfiction.
Thanks to Birgitt for her beta-services – she corrected my punctuation and brought a few weak spots to my attention.
At some point in the aftermath of B.J.'s binge, Hawkeye had managed to maneuver his friend back into bed, and the man had been gone the moment his head made contact with pillow-softness. Now he was standing next to the cot, swaying, and he didn't even notice. Pain and loneliness surrounded the haggard, slightly stooping figure like a shroud, a permanent aura. Suddenly, though, something creaked, shaking Hawkeye out of his trance. He gingerly touched the swollen left side of his face. Why was he standing here? What was this about? He definitely needed to get some sleep or he would be off his rocker for good. At last…long overdue, but now at last… Well. Like a man twice his age he took two steps towards his cot and lay down with a faint groan. 'Close your eyes and sleep', he re-issued the standing order to his subconscious, but the images that flashed behind closed eyelids wouldn't stop. His eyes would snap open seconds after he'd closed them. There seemed to be no rest to be found tonight, he kept tossing and turning on his cot, and it was when he felt silent tears streaming down his cheeks that he decided to get up and write a letter. A special one because, although his father was the addressee, Dr. Daniel Pierce would never read it.
With a sigh, he sat up and switched on his small lamp, then reached for pencil and paper and started to write.
* * *
please forgive me, my handwriting's worse than usual, but…well, I'm rather fatigued and pretty much exhausted in every possible regard. I was just lying on my cot, crying, when I realized that it was high time to talk to someone who knows me…who loves and understands me…always.
Papa, I can hardly breathe and my heart's aching like it's going to shatter the next moment. I'm so raw on the inside that I doubt it'll ever heal. The reason that – it's 'who', rather – brought me down to this new, critical low is B.J. He's one of my best friends, we trade insults all the time. All in fun. Comments that are meant to sting, but, hey, if you haven't got a thick hide, you're in the wrong place. However, today he didn't just hurt me physically but struck a deep wound to my soul as well. He'd received a letter from his wife, Peg, telling him of Radar's visit and that Erin (that's B.J.'s little daughter) ran up to our re-naturalized company clerk and called him Daddy. Peg thought it was funny. Needless to say that B.J. didn't. He was lamenting for hours on end, even in the O.R., and when we got back to the Swamp, I tried to comfort him. Told him that I knew exactly how he was feeling, because I was also missing my family.
The attempt had him yelling at me, he said the two cases were nothing alike. He said that you had just aged two more years, but Erin had learned to walk while he'd been here…and now she'd called a total stranger 'Daddy'. 'Daddy' for the first time, but he never heard it. So I couldn't possibly understand his pain.
What I really don't understand about this, Dad, is why my pain, my desire to be back home with you, should matter less than B.J.'s. I think the pain of missing the ones you love is universal and has nothing to do with their age or position in the family tree. He didn't even see how much that not-understanding remark hurt me.
All he wanted was to get drunk, even when I explained to him – from bitter experience, as you well know – that all he'd get out of it was a grandfather of a hangover which would only make it worse. B.J. really lost it then and destroyed the still, the only memory of Trapper I had left. Everything else fell victim to one of Charles' clean-ups.
He said he'd go now, go home, and that he'd make it somehow. Naturally, I tried to keep him from making that mistake, as I did with Trapper months ago. This time it wasn't an army-bag that floored me but B.J.'s fist. As I went down on the other side of my cot, B.J. took off into the night. Left me to be treated by Charles who returned moments later. Avec appropriate acerbic comments, of course.
I already told you that I'm not particularly fond of Charles because he's so superior that he'd need an oxygen-mask if he got any higher, and that although he's a fine surgeon I wouldn't let him operate on me. The first thing on his mind is maintaining the shine of his own halo, not helping the patient. But there's one thing about him I value: he doesn't hurt me. That's probably because we're not friends…well, the question of the why left aside, he gives me the breathers I need, little time-outs, allows me to retrieve some pieces of serenity for the next tour de force with my…friends.
This sounds terrible, I know, very bitter, and as I'm writing this, tears keep falling on the paper. I can't seem to stop crying and I hate myself for these bouts of self-pity that occur more and more frequently now. When they do, I work up such a black rage…like distilled misery…and it's frightening, but I can't do anything about it except hope that by the time my next shift starts, I'll have regained control of myself so that the others won't notice.
Trapper…I couldn't have fooled him. He knew what the wasteland inside of me looked like, knew it far better than I did. And he would always find a way to pull me out of the dumps, often providing a lifeline before I even noticed that I needed one.
I miss him, Dad, you can't imagine how badly I miss him. But he, too, hurt me. Very much so. And I don't know if I'll ever get over his leaving me without a single word of goodbye. It's physically painful that I can't even talk about him, and when others mention his name or tell of the heroics of Trapper John, I want to run and hide. Just so that I wouldn't have to listen and remember. As I once told him, he let me lean on him…and having him near instilled a feeling of security in me that I hadn't had since I was a little boy.
I lost it after Mama's death.
Dad, why didn't you tell me sooner how sick she was? At least then I could have said goodbye to her, maybe – somehow – prepare myself for her leaving us. But she simply wasn't there anymore, and from that day on I was horribly afraid that sooner or later you would do the same thing. Leave me just like that.
Only when I was close to you, I would feel all right, like when we were lying on the couch and you were reading stories to me. I could see and hear you and everything would be fine. You couldn't simply disappear.
I've never lost this particular fear and I've never told you about it because I knew how much Mama's death was still hurting you.
Trapper's strength almost made me forget this fear. Since he's been gone, things have taken a turn for the worse again.
B.J. can't be the crutch I so desperately need. For him, I have to be the crutch, have to let him lean on me each and every one of those times that mail-call brings a letter from home and he starts worrying about something breaking around the house and how darling Peg might be dealing with it.
Or I have to listen to his stories of Erin, again and again. Sometimes I'd just like to scream, "Shut the hell up, you're hurting me. What are *you* complaining about? *You* have everything a man could want!"
All of which I don't do. I stick to playing the part of funny, nurse-chasing Hawkeye, immovable Hawkeye whom nothing can shake too badly. The friend with the shoulder they are all invited to cry on, whatever the hour or the subject may be. But all of that's for show, especially the nurses. Taking into account that my come-on routines are rattier than my bathrobe, I'm always surprised when one of them actually falls for one. Perhaps they think they might catch and marry this none-too-bad-looking doctor.
If only they knew.
I'd rather they rejected me, but on the other hand this quick, casual sex takes my mind off things…at least for a few minutes. How much longer it will work, I wonder… I don't know. All I know is that that it's becoming more and more difficult for me as my heart isn't in it. How could it be?
I can't let them see how weak I've become…they wouldn't understand. Just like when that thing happened with Radar.
The kid finally wanted to get it on with a girl, but since there wasn't one in the camp who would have shown any interest in him, I suggested that he ask Potter for a few days leave. Take a jeep and be off to Seoul. He sure would find the company of a willing female there. And Radar did just that. But on his way to potential bliss he came across a group of our boys, and while they were chatting they all were ambushed. The wounded were sent our way. I was horrified to see Radar on one of the gurneys, yet somehow I managed to hold it together and operate on him. All went well and I did as I should, but don't ask me how I pulled it off, I really don't know.
After that procedure I drowned my guilt in all the booze I could get my hands on, I must have come real close to alcohol poisoning that day. And as soon as I returned to my bunk, the call came through – more wounded on their way. Needless to say that I was in no shape to perform surgery, but I tried anyway. And failed miserably. Overcome by nausea, I had to relinquish my patient to Charles – with due style – and proceeded to decorate the Korean landscape with the contents of my stomach.
Yes, Pa, I know it was irresponsible and flat-out wrong, and the greatest blame comes from myself. It sure won't happen again, ever. After Colonel Potter dressed me down within three inches of my ankles, he sent me to Post-Op to see Radar. Until then, I'd avoided the kid and went on guilt-tripping instead…you understand?
The first few minutes were dandy, but then Radar got around to the incident in the OR. So he'd heard about it. He told me what an idol I was for everyone and that slip-ups such as mine would destroy their faith in the possibility of humanity and decency surviving in a place like this. That *maybe* this bloodshed would be worth…something…
I should have kept my mouth shut, but I felt like I'd been run over by a tank and saying nothing would have killed me. The words just came gushing out. I blew a lid, practically attacked Radar, throwing my words like the grenades that put him into that bed. Told him that he couldn't say something like that to me, as I didn't have any halo for other people to bask in (too bad he couldn't see it till I rubbed his face in it!). I wouldn't let him do that to me, Dad, he simply didn't have any damned right. Or so I thought.
Then I left.
Of course, thanks to the 4077 bush-drum, the dirty details of the 'incident' spread like wildfire through the compound, and I had barely reached the Swamp when the verbal crossfire started. On all fronts, mind you. The basic theme was how I – *I* of all people – could be so heartless and treat that sick, poor boy in such a fashion, that dear and vulnerable boy who, after all, was known to worship the ground I walk on. Radar O'Reilly, everybody's darling. They accused me of losing my mind, indulging in illusions of God-hood, et cetera.
Even Father Mulcahy yelled at me. Nobody, not one of them, was interested in the reasons for my reaction, impulsive as it was, or how I felt, how much *I* was hurting.
Who's ever asked me as to *my* vulnerability? I can't carry this burden they try to force me to shoulder, I just can't do it!
My head hurts, Dad, and I feel somewhat sick. Tired, too, but I haven't slept in weeks. At least not properly. Just two hours at a time, three tops, then I'm wide awake again, listening to the roller-coaster in my head. Back to tonight, though.
Charles was just treating me when Colonel Potter and Hotlips Houlihan came in, looking for Klinger, likewise absent. After the inevitable jokes about my eye, Potter suggested that we join them in their search for the two rogues, but when we were about to go, I got called back to a patient. So it was Charles, Potter and Margaret who set out after our missing twins of misery while I was in surgery. For three hours, I think. And then, just when I was peeling off my scrubs, Margaret told me to come to Potter's office. They had found B.J. and Klinger there.
Potter would take care of Klinger and I…well, would I please look after B.J.?
Which I did, of course. I was glad to see that Beej hadn't done anything foolish like going AWOL for real. It was a surprising sight. B.J., dead-drunk on the floor of Potter's office, still clutching the bottle…and apologizing as only B.J. can apologize. When I sat down, he started to cry, and I just put an arm around his shoulder, a rather feeble attempt to comfort him. Between sobs, he admitted that one of his reasons for destroying the still was that I had built it together with Trapper. And that he was so jealous of him and everything we had experienced together.
Here I had to cry as well, just a little, for B.J. was more important right now
Can you imagine that, Dad? B.J., who's got everything, is jealous of the relationship I had with Trapper.
He thinks we were just friends…he's totally clueless.
Dad, even if you should read these lines someday, I know that I can't shock you with what I'm about to tell you, for it is obvious from your letters that you have known the truth about Trapper and me for quite a while now. You wouldn't say anything specific, but you wrote again and again that you'd love me come what may, and that my happiness was your sole concern.
Oh yes, I was happy with Trapper, he was my friend and the love of my life, and he still is.
As for the vice versa…probably not.
For even though he would tell me many times that he loved me, he still left me without a single word – why? I just don't understand that and the pain is tearing me apart. Before…us, before we got together, I never knew how happy a human being could be. And that's over now, probably forever. We had made it clear between us that he would return to his family when this international insanity was over, and I always knew how much his daughters mean to him. He wasn't too happy with his wife, the stories about life at home revealed that much, but he adored the girls. And it was easier for him, keeping things separate like that (a safe distance between Boston and Korea), as a homosexual relationship such as ours would not be tolerated. Not in this time…not in this place, not in any place, I suppose.
I was fully aware of the fact that the only happiness for me would be in the time spent together here, and only if we weren't caught. But why didn't I merit one single word of goodbye? I sure would like to ask him that.
For many months following Trapper's departure, all my hopes rode on Radar's daily visit to the Swamp during mail-call, and I would anxiously look for an envelope bearing Trapper's telltale handwriting among my letters.
Even these days, when I get called to the phone – rare as such occasions are – my heart's beating in my throat, fueled by the idea that it *might* be him…
Well. Truth be told, I no longer expect him to tell me that he loves me. I really don't, Dad, haven't done so for a long while now. Only that there would be a 'goodbye' in some way or another, a small acknowledgment of our time together, so that I'd have something to cling to…something to let me know that I was loved once…
And that's what Beej is jealous of.
B.J., who has a wife he loves and a daughter he adores, B.J., who has everything that I will never have.
Outside dawn is breaking, Papa. I'll finish now, for I have to get some sleep. Who knows what surprises this day will bring, and I'll also have to try and build up my energy-reserves for the daily game of camouflage-and-seek.
If everything goes well and I return to Crabapple Cove someday, you'll never get to see this letter, but then you know that, of course. I would never tell you how miserable I am because you'd only worry about me, and you do more than enough of that already.
Take good care of yourself and don't work too hard. You're not 25 anymore. Besides, I still need you. On the days when things are especially bad, you are the single reason I have for not giving up and escaping to wherever Mama is now.
All the best
Your loving son
Hawkeye with the broken wings
* * *
Carefully, Hawkeye slipped the letter into the addressed envelope, sealed it, and then buried it at the bottom of his field-chest. Just like the other letters.
In case something happened to him, and then and only then, his father would get them and understand (he trusted him on that, he truly did) why it was better that his son hadn't come home.
However, should he survive this insanity, his father would never lay eyes on any of the letters.
If everything worked out for him. For them all.
With eyes that were reddened from crying, Hawkeye slumped back onto his cot and allowed his swollen eyelids to drift shut, hoping that sleep would claim him. That hope remained unfulfilled.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he turned to memory as a last resort. A good sleeping-aid, memory was, when all others failed, and there was one memory in particular in which he might find the rest he needed but which, as a bitter side-effect, would also renew the pain.
He tossed and turned until the blanket covered him all the way up to his ears. If someone had pulled it off, they'd have seen him wrapping his arms around himself, one hand caressing the hair at the back of his neck. Like he was desperately trying to hold himself together when neither sutures nor surgical clamps would do the job. But that wasn't all. In his mind, the arms holding him were Trapper's. It was Trapper whose body was pressed tightly against his back, Trapper whose blond curls tickled his neck and Trapper who kept him safe in the circle of his arms. This was his space. A space removed from blood and madness.
Gradually, Hawkeye's features softened as the memory took hold and pulled him in, and shortly thereafter, his regular breathing confirmed that he had finally, finally fallen asleep.