Glad With All My Heart
Reply to the 5-min-challenge of August 22nd 2003.
Found the perfect inspiration in a Michael Drayton sonnet.
"Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part –
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea glad with my heart
That thus so cleanly I myself can free."
(Sonnet 61, The Parting)
Archive: mash-slash and my own Swamp at http://tostwins.slashcity.net/jimaine.htm
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to FOX, I don't own a single tongue-depressor and don't make any money with the use of MASH and its characters.
Set during GFA, the night after the final gathering in the mess-tent
"Don't forget to say goodbye." It's not an order, merely a request from one friend to another, but the words come out too harshly. The tone is too low, the enunciation of every syllable too precise – it underlines their significance. "Please. I'm not asking much, but I've got to ask this of you. One word…"
"Come on, Hawk, don't start again –"
"Dammit, I just want you to *say* it, okay?" The strained voice is close to breaking. "I *need* to hear you say it…"
It's all about closure, of course. Something they all need more than anything. A couple of signatures on a few sheets of paper may end the hostilities, the shooting, but they don't end the war. The real war, the one that comes after the fighting's done and generates an equal, if not even higher number of casualties, is yet to begin.
Officially, it's all over. After almost three years of missing home, they'll leave this place of sorrow and death only to (yeah, the feeling is there, so why not spell it out?) miss *this*. Not the blood, the tears, or the deprivation, but the rare moments of joy that have made it all bearable.
The people, the bonds and friendships forged…especially the people.
Tonight seems like the last night on Earth.
This Earth, anyway.
The farewell gathering (incidentally also Klinger's bachelor party) in the mess-tent lasted forever. Nobody wanted to be the first to get up and leave the company of those who have become more than family or friends, but all things, the good and the bad, have to come to an end eventually.
As do they.
They're alone now, just the two of them, two survivors, men at their zero sum in faith and feelings. Hopefully, those things will return once they get home.
Such an abstract concept…
Their bags are packed, six hours of darkness being the last thing separating them from tomorrow. They should spend them sleeping, but…after all this time, there's too much that still needs to be said and too little time to say it.
Impossible to sum it all up in one simple 'goodbye'.
One word hangs over their heads, a verbal sword of Damocles, which is why their every attempt at something resembling a final conversation ends in another stretch of companionable silence.
Signaling defeat, he raises a hand. "All right already. I'll say it. It isn't fair that..." He pauses for a moment, searching for the right words and wondering if he's drunk half as much as his friend has. Drunk he is, most definitely, yes, this has to be his fifth glass to Hawkeye's eighth. Or is it his sixth to Hawk's tenth…? Good thing he's stopped counting. The alcohol takes the edge off his fears…of which there are still too many.
No amount of moonshine gin can free them of the excess luggage they'll be taking home with them.
To think that they have to drain the still before dismantling it… "It isn't fair", he tries the sentence again, "that I wasn't strong enough to save you.
Tired, red-rimmed eyes blink in gin-induced slow-motion, once…twice…then Hawkeye, after draining his glass, shakes his head with a chuckle and says, "Ah, you needn't save me...I just want that one, clean and honest 'goodbye' out of your mouth. That's all."
"Yeah. And if there's anything else you want to do, just do it, Beej."
"All right." Then, "And what would that be?"
Hawk smiles weakly. "Something you've never done before. You want it."
"What…what makes you so sure?"
"Nothing, really." Is it an offer or a challenge? The look in Hawk's eyes can be interpreted as both…and neither. "Of course I could take that decision out of your hands –"
_Don't, Hawkeye, oh God, please don't! I couldn't bear it!_ Closing his eyes in anticipation, he holds his breath.
"— but I won't do that to you."
Surprise and relief and…well, disappointment cut through the haze of inebriation to bring back a notion of reality. "You won't…?"
"Well, and I *can't*."
"Oh yes, you can", Hawk contradicts him quietly, knowing him better than that. They continue to drift towards each other, two pieces of driftwood caught in the current.
B.J. contemplates the shadows on the canvas wall and nods, albeit hesitantly. "Yeah. Right. I can. Just more proof that I'm not even strong enough to save myself…"
"We're all past saving, Beej. Way past. Besides", he argues, "in a place like this, strength is overrated. Or rather was. It's perfectly natural to reach out to someone. To need someone." Upon noticing the tightening of B.J.'s jaw, he specifies after a brief pause, "Preferably someone tangible. But I suppose I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know."
Shall he answer or stay silent? "No, you aren't. Sometimes I was wondering what it would be like….to be that someone. But", he manages a fleeting smile, "I suppose that's something *you* already know."
"Maybe I don't want 'someone' – I've reached my quota on 'someones'", he confesses, every word chafing his tongue like gravel. The last thing he wants is B.J. pitying him. "What I want is...is… What I want is love, Beej...not crisis-management."
B.J. chuckles humorlessly. "With you, that's more or less the same." He lifts a hand to touch Hawk's hair. "And don't tell me that I'm wrong 'cos I know I'm right." They lean against each other, two trees in a storm, bent but not yet broken. And he makes his decision. "Hawk…"
"What? I didn't say that you weren't right, did I? You're right. Quite right. And no counter-argument from me. It's an established fact, I'm a crisis on two legs. So don't tell me –" The finger touching his lips abruptly silences him. "Beej?" It sounds downright fearful.
"I'm going to do it now, Hawk", B.J. tells him softly.
"I know." Hawkeye makes no attempt to withdraw from the trembling hand cupping the side of his face, thumb gently erasing the tear that has started down his cheek. He's been hoping (praying, actually) that they could part without this happening. Just one more hope that remains unfulfilled, one more cross for him to bear. "I take it that you're really sure of this."
"Would I be doing this if I wasn't?" With a gentle shake of his head he bridges the remaining distance, that last crucial inch, and his lips meet Hawkeye's. He presses against the softness of that other mouth until the lips part and allow his tongue access. When he pulls back, Hawk's eyes are wide with an emotion he cannot (dares not!) define, and so he ignores it and resorts to kissing him again, much longer this time, more thoroughly. Eventually, he stops to whisper, "This…this feels…"
"Kinda all right?" The amusement in Hawkeye's voice belies the anguish in his eyes.
A swallow of hesitation and an insecure nod. "Yeah. Kind of. And I hope they leave Charles where he's collapsed and don't carry him back here."
"Afraid for me, or afraid of me?" Hawkeye's lips ever so tenderly caress the side of his neck, straying up to his ear. As if he needed any further encouragement. He wants this, too.
"With you, ain't that the same?" B.J. paraphrases his earlier statement. "I'm afraid of not being able to stop it when the time comes to…well, stop. Tomorrow, that is." He is vague to the point where he doesn't have a clue and now the denial of two years starts to feel like a crime. This denial of 'them', a unity with its own rhythm and rhyme, will probably be a cause for regret in the months and years to come. "I'm afraid of missing you too much. After this…there'll be nothing. This is all we'll get."
Together, they rise from the cot, the sudden craving for physical contact only vaguely disturbing.
"Which is why I'm asking you again: will you remember?" Hawk holds tight as he hears B.J.'s jagged intake of breath; the arms don't falter. Strong arms, arms which, come next week, will be full of Peg again. His lips are only inches from B.J.'s. "Will you?" B.J.'s hands roam his back and shoulders, working their way upward to grip his head and angle it the way he wants it to, thus deepening the kiss even more. Only barely, but with gentle aggression still. He leaves it to Hawkeye to free them from the first layer of clothing.
"Yes." It's hardly more than a faint groan of assent. "I'll remember. Goodbye. I won't forget. I won't." He doesn't know why he hates that word so much, only that he does hate it.
And yet, for these last few hours in a place he's come to hate even more than 'goodbye', he finds that it's all he can say.
In fact, he cannot stop saying it. He's whispering it (screaming it) over and over again, not with his voice but with his mouth and hands and body, and finally there's pleasure drowning out the despair.
It has to suffice.
Mainly because it is easier to say than 'I love you'.