"A Love Unlike Love"
who's still at the Eliot and not done yet…*sigh* But this is shameless fluff. Yeah, I can do that,
too. Like Tolstoy with his "War and Peace", I'm flexible.*g*
c. May 2003
post-"Comrades in Arms" fic which I started a while ago. Incidentally, it begins with the correct
word to fit the mash-slash list challenge of May 9th. It's a stupid title, but I couldn't come up with
Archive: at mash-slash as well as at T'Len's & Lady Charena's place
Disclaimer: None of it is mine, it all belongs to 20th Century Fox, I'm just having a little fun here –
in spite of the infernal heat. And I'm not making any money of this, though I damn well ought to;
that way I could afford an ice-machine!
'Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future,/ And time future
contained in time past.'
— T.S. Eliot (Burnt Norton)
Unfortunately, for him – _For us_, the treacherous voice of his heart whispers with wicked
delight – the return to the 4077th is a two-edged scalpel. He can't breathe now that he's back.
The truth is a noose around his neck, and someone's tightening it.
There'd been B.J.'s arm around his shoulders on slowly wandering back to the Swamp after the
impromptu welcoming party. B.J...trusting, unquestioning, accepting. B.J...winning him had cost
so much, and now he's about to lose everything he's gained.
Hesitantly, he opens the door and slips inside. "Hey, Beej."
"Hey." Like every night, B.J. busies himself with putting the fixings into the still, thus ensuring the
uninterrupted production of their potent elixir of life. "Margaret doing okay?"
Margaret? She's got nothing to do with – "Yeah. She's fine now." And she's got *everything* to
do with this, with the hurt that's going to come. Margaret and Darleen and Donald Penobscott
and the North Koreans... He meets B.J.'s inquisitive gaze and gives a lopsided smile.
B.J. smiles back. "And are you, too? Hawk?"
The past 72 hours seem like such a blur. A fateful road-trip in the company of Major Margaret
Houlihan had led to a fateful night, bits and pieces of which still elude him.
If he's fine, he sure as hell can't tell. This entire situation has become so twisted, no less thanks to
him...he wishes he had a map for the path he's chosen to travel.
Love, pain...to think that he could need this in his life...again. He's never been able to keep things
"I guess I am."
Some things never change, there's always pain, always battles to be fought.
During the day the horrors can be kept at bay with scalpels, needles and gauze, the night's terrors
find you weaponless. No chance to fight back. At night, you have to find shelter and hide from
shells and bullets and nightmares till the dawn brings back the colors (green, ocher and red,
mostly red) and returns your weapons of preference to you.
That is exactly what he's done. Unfortunately. Sought shelter. Nothing wrong with that. To err is
human, as is the need for comfort, and should face and body – the person – really matter that
much as long as that need is fulfilled to mutual satisfaction?
Whatever the pros and cons, they obviously do. Matter. Always.
Not even Benjamin Franklin Pierce can deny that.
People tend to give plenty of advice on how to deal with loss, but nobody has anything to say
about un-loss. Un-losing someone.
Getting someone back unexpectedly, returning to that someone after facing the possibility of
death mere 24 hours ago. Having survived that hellish night still seems like a miracle to him.
They had taken a jeep to the 8063rd only to find an empty camp. The other MASH-unit had
bugged out, leaving them stranded behind enemy lines. His brain subsequently followed. Instinct,
he has to admit ruefully, is far too high-priced a commodity in a crisis. Causes more trouble than
Hot lips indeed.
Sighing, he shifts position on the edge of his cot, accepts the drink B.J. hands him. Their fingers
brush unnoticeably and he shivers. Just once. Now he has to deal with the consequences, now or
'Oh we went looking for ya
Because we both adore ya
But don't you ever do it
Don't you put us through it
The memory conjures up the faintest of smiles. B.J. cannot carry a tune to save his life.
Aylesworth's joining in didn't make it better. The sentiment had been touching, though.
Yeah, touching...in the same way that 'cracking his chest open and seizing his heart till it stops
beating' would have been touching.
He's never asked to be loved again – not after having found, given away and lost his soul once
The master-plan had been to steer clear of all entanglements and complications. Great plan. Lots
of good intentions, he just has difficulties with the follow-through. What is it about this war...? The
olive in his glass doesn't reply to the silent question.
Twice he has already stumbled. The first time, the fall took him into love...will the second time be
the end of love? He doesn't want it to be. But if his life follows the established pattern, then that,
as they say, is that. The remains will be hatred and more silence.
He doesn't blame Margaret, no, only this godforsaken understaffed and over-frequented surgical
pit-stop at the Korea-500. It's not the war he hates. He hates what he's become because of it.
Korea is the consciousness through which everything is filtered, and right now the result dripping
through the mesh is raw, undiluted guilt. "Christ", he chokes. "Wha-what issis...?" That gets him
another smile, half-obscured by the drooping mustache. With each passing day it reminds him
more and more of a dead, fuzzy caterpillar. But even that mental image isn't enough to raise his
spirits right now.
B.J. salutes him with the beaker. "Something to put the 'surge' back into the 'surgeon'. Hope you
don't mind me experimenting."
"Nah...it's nice. Give me another." Here they are, their dreams, afloat in a pitcher of moonshine.
Moonshine, better than wine...distilled starlight of sleepless nights in a thin-stemmed glass
reflecting painful non-reality. Every shimmer is a searchlight, brings light to shadow, and sweet,
sweet nothing's said.
Sometimes it feels like they have already foresuffered all of this, done exactly the same things in a
previous life or dream, their silence tells of thoughts acted on and acted out a hundred times. And
words strain and break under the burden of this other silence as they simultaneously rise to their
feet...mouths meet...lips merge...
The alcohol dulls the pain of the ordeal that lies behind him...if only it could dull the pain of what's
ahead as well. He can't remember any of the answers, excuses and explanations he has prepared
for this moment. The fatigue of two nights in the open plus the arterial transplant demonstration at
the 8063rd don't mix too well with the fresh apprehension choking him. It's something of a
counterpoint to the other, warmer feeling starting now in his belly, an emotion triggered by the gin
and enhanced by the agile tongue twining with his. Quite a dangerous combination.
Hopefully not a fatal one.
Heavens, what hell has he gotten himself into?
He slips a whisper in with the kisses. "And how do *you* feel?"
"Like an echo", B.J. answers truthfully. His hands slide beneath the cotton of the Hawaiian shirt,
palms flattening against smooth skin before beginning to rub it in slow, tender circles. "But it's
getting stronger now that you're here. On with the questions: How's your leg?"
Gently, Hawkeye cradles those skillful hands in his and lifts them to his mouth, kisses each finger
in turn. B.J.'s fingers taste of soap and the olives now soaking in too-young gin. For this, for the
taste of this, he has surrendered a year of yesterdays... "Hurts. Just a little." Not nearly as much
as his heart aches under the weight of what he knows he must tell. "I'm afraid I don't qualify for
the Purple Heart. I missed this", he admits. "I think this is what I'll miss most when I'm back in the
States." Not the exploding shells, not Margaret clinging to him and calling him 'darling', but this.
Had he tried to discourage her? No. Had he resisted? No. He'd allowed his brain to change into
'carpe horam' gear and hadn't declined the tempting offer.
All the while B.J. was sick with worry. He feels worse than an idiot, guiltier than an adulterer.
In a moment of weakness, he's thrown away everything he had to hold on to in this life.
Should he kiss and tell, or keep quiet about this?
The decision might be easier if doctor and nurse had found their way back on their own, instead
of holding out until that search-party found them. Now guilt and shame keep multiplying with
every little detail he learns. The tantrums, the rage, the frustration. The calls to Army Intelligence
and the 8063rd, the hours spent by the phone in Potter's office, willing it to ring – Radar insists
that if B.J. had kept up the pacing, he sure would have gotten through the floorboards and worn a
trench into the ground deep enough to set up a new latrine.
Doesn't help at all with the guilt.
And then the helicopter...
Ever since the beginning of their relationship, he's kept things exclusive between them. Sure, he
keeps up the lewd jokes around the nurses and the flirting, but that's because it is expected of him
and any deviation from that routine would raise suspicions. Hawkeye going steady? No way.
"Dance with me?"
"Only if you lead...I've done too much leading these past two days." _Led and got led places I'd
rather not have followed..._
"All right." B.J. wraps his arms around Hawkeye and begins the slow sway to the tune filtering in
from outside. Mangled Gershwin...why should the music fare any better than the people in this
war? It is late, the canvas walls are all rolled down, no one can see them. Not that they care if
anyone did. They are far too obvious in their closeness for people to jump to the right
conclusions. "I'm glad you're back. And in one piece...you can't imagine how glad I am..."
"Me too." The mustache tickles his neck as it receives a thorough nuzzling. The sensation fails to
obliterate the persistent memory of blond hair and perfume.
"Guess I have to thank Margaret for taking care of you out there."
The lump in his throat cannot be washed down, not with all the booze in Korea. He prays that
he's either going to be struck by lightning in the next five seconds, or have a heart-attack, lest he
break down in tears. "What makes you think I can't take care of myself?"
"You, my dear, are a wimp. A charming and attractive one, granted, but still a wimp."
"Thanks a lot."
"You're welcome. If there were more like you in this war, we'd have been out of here by the end
of 1950. But I know Margaret. That woman's tough. She could hold her own against a dozen
North Koreans...without a gun even." Mindful of his partner's injury, B.J. dips him over
backwards, holds him for one entire chorus.
The moment lasts forever, hanging between past and future. And he feels equally suspended, in
body as well as in mind. He's not afraid of falling, knowing the hold will not break. Meeting that
warm, slate-blue gaze, he fumbles for something to say only to discover that he can't. He doesn't
want to hurt the man he loves but knows that he eventually will. "Yeah...right..." In his thoughts,
he is lining up the pieces of his heart on the dirty floor, and if there's one thing he doesn't want to
see, it's B.J.'s heart joining it there. It's all the same. People really do some strange things
sometimes. Some, like him, even entertain a faint hope of redemption. B.J.'s embrace certainly
strengthens that belief and if those arms tighten any more, he'll suffocate. And yet...nothing has
ever felt so good. "Beej..."
"I don't know what I'd have done if I'd lost you...lost y—...oh God, Hawk", B.J. almost sobs the
name into his hair, a monosyllabic prayer of relief.
A sound that slices through his heart like the wooden splinter Margaret pulled from his thigh after
the shelling. And it hurts twice as much. "Radar told me you commandeered a chopper to come
looking for me...that's quite a stunt to pull. All for insignificant, fallible me."
"Not so insignificant to me. And certainly not to the kids whose lives you save. And as for the
Always the worrier, the caregiver, such behavior is normal for B.J. It is who he is. The perfect
healer, the perfect father and husband. Too good for anybody. Certainly too good for Benjamin
And that's why he has to tell him. "Beej, I think...I think I gotta tell ya something."
"Ssh...don't, please." Never stopping in his motions, he lays a gentle finger to Hawkeye's lips.
"But I have to."
"No, you don't."
"I think so. It's important. Something...happened."
B.J. shakes his head and repeats, insistently, "Doesn't matter to me. Not to me. Not to us."
"Yes, it does."
"No. And that's my final word on that. I don't wanna hear it."
"I need to say it."
"I...well, back there...me and Margaret…"
The fingers of the hand resting on his lower back curl inwards and dig into flesh with just a
suggestion of pain. Possession. Mine. "I thought", B.J. states, not quite managing to banish the
irritation from his voice, "that we'd already covered that."
_'Give her a little. You got plenty of it.'_ "There's more. You don't know all of it."
"But I do, Hawk. Do you really think", his voice turns serious, then loses all inflection, "that I'm
that naïve? Get real, Dorothy, this is Korea." There is an audible shake to his indrawn breath.
"Taught me that lesson yourself if you care to remember."
"When the jeep broke down...and we hid from a North Korean patrol...well, we found that
uninhabited cabin. In the middle of the night, things took a turn for the worse. They got really
scary and...I must admit, a little out of hand, too."
B.J. swallows heavily. "How much out of hand?"
"I see." It doesn't sound very surprised. The dance continues. As does B.J.'s silence.
Through several layers of clothes, Hawkeye feels the warmth of the other body as acutely as he
has felt another just two nights ago. And also the tension belying the words. "What have I done to
deserve you?" He doesn't want to be let off easy, doesn't want B.J. to ignore this. But neither
does he know how to force him. "Why?" he asks the simplified question.
"You are you." He makes it sound so simple, a clinical observation. "And that 'you', as I've
learned, doesn't do 'alone' very well."
No. Indeed it doesn't. What in childhood days used to be simple self-sufficiency and his greatest
strength was now his greatest weakness. He hates being alone, all by himself. And BJ forgiving
him like this, shrugging it off as a 'Hawkeye-ish weakness' he simply has to tolerate, hurts more
than a slap in the face or an enraged tirade about simple trust would have had. This is a
punishment exceeding the crime. "That...that's all you have to say about this?"
"Beej, are you *listening*?"
"What else do you want me to say, Hawk?"
"*Anything*." Does he sound as desperate as he is? All these questions, all these doubts...never
an issue with Trapper, never. Trapper...married like B.J. Together and apart from each other,
they'd done a lot of 'nursing', but in the end it still had been *them*. Them, together, against the
rest of the world. No hard feelings, no regrets, no blame, no shame.
And here he is, with this man (very much, fortunately, deliciously and painfully non-Trapper) in his
arms, and there's no end to the guilt-trip in sight. Why does he feel so different about B.J....so
obligated, *liable*, like he has to ask absolution for an action that he knows Trapper John would
have laughed about? Even would have envied him for! Why does B.J. have to be such a mystery,
Maybe B.J. knows what he's thinking and wants to get ahead of the explanations and awkward
excuses they haven't needed until now. "If it's blame you're looking for, you've just missed the
grand sale. I'm fresh out. If you want me to ask 'why oh why', I can tell you that I won't.
Whatever the reason, I'm sure it seemed like a perfectly good one at that moment."
"You're far too forgiving, Beej." Sometimes the mystery makes Hawkeye cry. "I don't know why
it happened." The admission is honest and so soft that for a moment he's afraid that it hasn't been
heard despite the overwhelming physical closeness.
But then B.J. alleviates his fears, replies with a counter-question. "Why did *we* happen?"
"Good point. What's your take on it?"
"Simple. You just have this absurd determination to live, darling." B.J.'s hands resume their
ministrations. "And who am I to judge you? Father Mulcahy would tell me to consider the beam
that is in my own eye. Make 'exclusivity' another casualty of war."
Sure. Casualties. Sobriety, sanity, fidelity, faith and health aren't enough, the list keeps growing.
Casualties is far too casual a term sometimes.
The music has stopped, but still they're moving until they come to a stop to a soundless signal and
stand in silence for...he can't tell for how long. Finally, he finds his voice again, asks, "Is this
where it ends?"
"No", B.J. whispers, brushing his lips gently along the edge of the smaller man's ear as the dark
head comes to rest against his shoulder. "This is where it begins."