AUTHOR'S NOTES:Thanks for sticking with this, guys. ^_^ Nine reviews-- I'm so lucky! *passes out chocolate Hawkeyes and BJs* I'm a little uncertain about BJ's voice in this part, but he seems a pretty earnest guy I tried. We're halfway through-- I hope no one is disappointed.
And now onward!
Offer Up Your Last Defense 3/4
By Meredith Bronwen Mallory
"When I was in Korea, I fell in love," said BJ, when he was ready to go on. "Hawkeye Pierce, the craziest, most dedicated surgeon to ever walk the face of the planet. Don't ever let anyone tell you war is glory or honor or anything aside from a wasteful, senseless slaughter." Erin heard that part before, but he had to say it again; no one could ever say it enough. "Korea will always be a gulf in my life; there's the BJ before Korea, and the BJ after. Sometimes I feel so... different that BJ-before could almost be a guy I might bump into on the street.
"I was stationed at the 4077th, in the wake of their commanding officer dying and one of their cutters taking a hop, skip and a jump back to the states. The other guy-- the guy who's meals I ate, who's bed I slept in, who's patients I worked on, who's... well, that's for later on. I'll be honest with you, Erin; his name was Trapper McIntyre and to this day I almost hate him. He left without saying goodbye to Hawkeye, just-- poof! Sorry, I have my ticket home and I'm going. I've never been so instantly jealous of anyone in my life. For weeks all I heard was Trapper-this and Trapper-that, and not from Hawkeye, either. He didn't talk about Trapper at all; it was the nurses, who gave me the once over and pouted about my 'actually married' status, as opposed to being just technically married. I heard it from them how close Trapper and Hawkeye had been, how they shadowed each other, chased nurses and trouble together. The enlisted men, too, would casually mention in my presence just how... empty Hawkeye seemed without his 'partner'. Even now, I don't know what exactly their relationship was; I never asked Hawk. Actually, I don't think I want to know-- it would hurt me to think Trapper had something more with Hawkeye than I did, even if it is my own fault for not taking it.
"Hawkeye was a maniac-- Groucho Marx in scrubs, sorta. But he gave a damn, Erin-- which is a lot more than I can say for the brass that ordered the boys out into those killing fields, or even some of the doctors I worked with. Like Frank Burns, for instance. Hawkeye and I... well, no, that comes later, too. Hawkeye just had this charisma about him, an easy grace and quick wit. What the hell his draft board was thinking, sending him over to Korea, I don't know. They ruined him for life, you know. All he wanted to do was help people live, to beat "the bastard"-- as he referred to death. And they sent him over to a place where he'd have to heal people and then send them right back into the fire. You never get used to it, sweetie, never. His blood is on their hands, not that they'll notice. They're hip-deep in it anyway.
"Nurses fell for Hawkeye like crazy, and I fell too, though I didn't know it. But I was glad when it was *me* swilling gin with him in our tent, when *we* were getting drunk together at Rosie's, when *I* was helping him with a patient, or he was helping me. I know our relationship was not like the one he had with Trapper, yes, I know at least that much. Hawkeye was my best friend, we kept each other from loosing it. It surprised me sometimes, cause he could make me feel a little happy, and I was already used to being miserable in Korea.
I... " BJ paused, blinking his eyes as if he had only just returned to the bright living room and was surprised to find his daughter all grown up instead of standing on wobbly legs at age two. He asked Erin, "Do you know *when* it was you fell in love with Abigail?"
Erin captured her lower lip between her slightly-uneven teeth, "I don't know. Maybe it was when we first went riding together, or..." she shook her head, blushing, "No, I really don't know when. I know when I realized it, but not when it happened."
"That's how it was for me, too," her father confirmed, "And boy, isn't that little realization a doozy."
"It *is*!" Erin made a sound half-way between a laugh and a sigh, "You think the world is fine, you're walking on a nice plateau, and then..."
"Boom," said BJ with grim humor. "Like stepping on a land mine. So, like I said, I don't know just when it was I fell in love with Hawkeye, but as to when I realized... He went to fix the stove in the nurses tent-- *after* he'd teased them, of course, and offered them himself as a replacement heater." At Erin's semi-scandalized glance, he laughed, "He was a notorious woman chaser. Notorious, I later found out, to cover some other things, stuff maybe even he didn't want to see." He leaned forward, hands resting in his chin.
"I was kind of half way above sleep. I mean, I could *hear* Frank-- ah, he was our other tent mate-- muttering and being annoying as usual, but I was just about ready to drop off into real sleep when I heard Hawkeye screaming. I still don't know what happened, I jumped up so fast. I was halfway across the compound by the time my mind caught up with the rest of me. It was a flash-burn-- the stove apparently wasn't susceptible to Hawkeye's charms and decided to disagree with him. He was bent over, holding his hands over his eyes. There were a lot of times in Korea that I was scared for someone else's life or scared for my own, but that's really one of the only times I was scared for my *sanity*. Without Hawkeye...." he trailed off, casting a glance at his daughter, "You know how it is, don't you?"
"I do, a little," Erin smiled tightly, "Abigail insists on-- oh, what do they call it? I don't remember, but it's breaking in a horse to be ridden for the first time. She gets thrown, and she gets right back on, the goof-ball," her tone was affectionate, "God, I know what my heart tastes like, its in my throat so often."
"I got a taste of mine, too, that day," BJ confirmed, "To see him, eyes covered, asking who was touching him..." he ran his fingers through his thinning hair, "geeze."
BJ closed his eyes, as if considering adding something else, but just shook his head. Some things were his alone, to take out when he woke in that endless time between midnight and three a.m, when his life stretched out and he would have given anything to hear Hawkeye breathing near by.
((( He's laying there, with his arms crossed over his chest like he's ready to die, and he's breathing like he's considering it, too, slowing down the intake of his lungs and stopping the flow in his veins. The bandages over his eyes seem like a crime-- the blue is hidden way, and it's scary for the other man to think of that color dulled and sightless. BJ moves without meaning to, towards the narrow hospital cot, then pulls back. Hawkeye sits up, only half way, before collapsing in the decision that it's not worth the effort.
"Who's there ?"
For some reason, BJ says, "No one. Just no one."
Disbelief, a little hurt. "Right."
Hawkeye's breathing is shallow, the only sound in the room. There's a sea of empty beds stretching in either direction, interrupted only by the other man who can't see. The Straw boy. Tom, BJ thinks, Hawkeye says his name is Tom. That's on the surface, but BJ is also thinking-- don't ask, don't tell; can't see, can't tell.
He takes Hawkeye's hand.
Somebody, it could be either of them, says, "I'm scared."
(Wait for it!)
And he's leaning over the cot, with his hand over Hawkeye's wrist, feeling the blood pound.
A kiss, a light one. No one can see it, not even the recipient.
Hawkeye raises his hand, traces long surgeon's fingers over BJ's face, lips, settles his palm on the back of the other doctor's neck.
He says, "Whoever this is," (but he knows! he KNOWS!) "I love you.")))
"Did he... did he have feelings for you, too?" Erin asked, eyes wide, blue orbs of sympathy BJ felt he didn't deserve.
"God help him, he did," BJ choked, "The craziest thing, the worst damn thing, was how I was always going on and on about your Mother. I did love her, Erin honey," the endearment and her name were almost one word on his lips, "but not like Hawkeye."
"Not like that," Erin said, echoing her childhood. She wondered if her father knew she remembered that far back.
Nodding slowly, the doctor spread his hands, "I was disloyal to your mom just once in Korea, and I beat myself up like hell for it. But... it wasn't with Hawkeye, and maybe that was part of why I felt so guilty."
"Who then?" she inquired, setting a hand on his shoulder as if to say 'it is not for me to judge you'.
"A nurse. Donovan, was her name. Nice enough, and her husband wrote her a 'Dear Jane' letter. I just felt badly for her, but then... it just sort of happened. But I made that decision. Maybe, I think, because Donovan wasn't Hawkeye-- she was a woman, and I was really having trouble with... well, I don't need to explain that to you."
"No," Erin said, and it seemed to hover there in the bright living room. Outside, the summer night was dark with trees a void against the midnight sky.
"Hawkeye was jealous, and maybe that was what I wanted. He knew I hadn't come back to the swamp," BJ shrugged sheepishly, "-- um, our tent," as if that explained everything. "He gave me trouble in the morning. If I had been... unfaithful... with Hawkeye, maybe the fact I was in love with him would have somehow 'fixed' it. I didn't love Donovan."
"Did you ever really... come out--" Erin stifled a laugh, "pardon the pun-- about it with it to each other? Your feelings?
"Sort of yes, and sort of no," he replied, "We, I mean..."
A stir from the other bunk, "Yes, Hawk?"
"You okay?" just a shadow, a beloved outline in the dark.
"Yeah. Had a talk with Donovan." The words are hard to say. "It's alright."
The shift of blankets, and BJ can feel the gaze of his friend's eyes, can imagine their intent blue, even if he can not see them.
Hands reach out across the gulf between the beds, touch, hold on, and let go just as quickly.
They can't say anything, even if they needed to.)))
"... I mean, we only ever kissed three times total, I think. We just *were*-- we were best friends, and we loved each other. It wasn't really enough, but it worked for a while." Such a thing to say to your daughter, BJ thought absently. But that was part of the story, and part of the truth. Silence condensed hard and heavy around them, they could almost hold it in their hands.
Finally, finally; "Papa, what happened?"
"I came home," how simple, how deadly, "I came home, and I held my baby girl. In Korea, I had something and longed after another; here in the states, I got what was longing for and lost the thing I had. I was trying to be BJ-before-the-war again, and it wasn't working." Then-- there came a look in her father's eyes, so unsheltered, that she felt the extent of his gain and his loss. "Hawkeye and I wrote each other, still talked, but we were... heck, we'd edited things in our own heads, like a movie." BJ made a cutting motion with his fingers, "Snip, snip. Then, after about a year of us play acting, I get a call from Hawkeye, and he sounds so strange over the wire. He talks to me, being the Hawkeye, the real Hawkeye I knew in Korea. I hadn't known how much I'd missed it." Taking a deep breath, BJ leaned back against the back of the couch, closing his eyes so he could just be a voice, "At the end of the call, Hawkeye told me... he said, 'I love you'. Your mother was in the room, cleaning or something, and-- damn it!--" there was real anger in BJ's voice, so strange for Erin to hear, "I only said, 'Same here'. Two days later, Radar calls me and says..."
"Hawkeye is dead," Erin felt caught, but the words were right there. Her father looked at her, long and hard, and she started to think maybe he knew all along.
"Suicide," her father murmured, as though reading off a prescription, "He might as well have swallowed a small pharmacy. Dear God in heaven. My fault."
As much as Erin wanted to say, 'Papa, it's not your fault', she knew she couldn't condescend to him that way. No one would ever be able to take this from him. "Oh, Papa..."
"Do me a favor," it was said roughly, "go into my study. You know the cabinets under my book-case? Third one over-- there's a box in there. Bring it to me, will you?" He reached over to ruffle her hair, "I don't mean to order you around, honey, but I can't seem to get up at the moment."
Concerned, she checked his forehead with one cool, slim hand, but could divine nothing. Nodding, knowing this was what she had been looking for earlier, she turned and half-skipped-run towards her father's sanctuary. It was right where he said it would be-- still crumbling, still held together with tape yellowing at the edges. As reverently as she ever held the collection plate in church, Erin carried it in and sat it on the coffee table in front of her father. BJ's head was tipped back, he seemed light and heavy at the same time with the release of his burden. She thought he was emotionally exhausted-- later, things would make sense.
Wordlessly, BJ lifted the lid and set a stack of papers aside; they were yellow with blue-green, pink-orange lines just as Erin remembered. A slim paper rectangle found its way into her hand, and she found herself staring into eyes that, despite the black and white-- she knew would be blue. The smile was the same, you could tell he had lazy grace, and maybe, Erin thought, I'm loosing my mind. That little, quicksilver memory-fish was caught between her hands; she knew where she'd seen that face before. She thought perhaps she should gasp, but there was only a dull, knowing seed in her stomach.
("Funny thing, the human mind-- we only use twenty percent of it and still have enough to carry our own little hell around."
"What's your last name?"
"Does it matter?")
"B.F. Pierce," Erin repeated carefully, searching her father' face, "B.F. standing for..."
("Just call me Doc, I'm used to it."
"You have your papa's eyes, you know." )
"Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin Pierce." BJ elaborated, "His dad called him Hawkeye, from 'Last of the Mohicans. It was the only book his dad ever read."
Unable to help herself, Erin lifted a few more papers to reveal another image, this time in color. A painting, oil, done with sure and careful brush strokes made by slightly unsteady hands. Hawkeye Pierce leaned back with a glass of gin in hand, winking, smiling, his posture saying 'the devil may care'.
"Finest kind," BJ sighed heavily, "Potter, our commanding officer, gave me that after the funeral. Maybe he knew all along." Stretching, he lifted his feet up onto the couch, and Erin moved to accommodate him. "I'm being an awful parent now, falling asleep after all this. I'm just so tired."
"You're not awful," Erin pressed a kiss to his forehead, remembering seeing her mother doing the same. "You need your rest, you work too hard. Besides, I need to call Abby and tell her the good news."
"You do that," BJ laughed, "Invite her over for dinner-- I'll have my shot gun ready if she doesn't pass inspection."
"Very cute, Papa," she smirked anyway, "I love you."
"And I love you, Erin."
Then she moved into the kitchen so her fidgeting would not disturb him.
It was too dark outside, and too bright inside. Erin turned off the kitchen light and sat in the little shaft of illumination coming through the window from the streetlight. A shadow passed, light on its feet, while Erin allowed herself the luxury of a complete and exhausting cry. The time that passed was immaterial, maybe it didn't even pass at all. It mattered only that it was dark with the trees and the stars and moon, and it was the kind of hour when the things that shouldn't, aren't supposed to happen, just kind of DO. She saw, just briefly, the glint of blue eyes in the streetlight.
The doorbell rang.
[to the tune of "Hickory Dickory Dock"]
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