Author's Notes: First of all, I have to thank the wonderful, glorious and utterly spiffy Leigh for beta-ing this! You helped me out _so_ much-- I'm in your debt! ^_^ Secondly, as always, thank you for taking the time to read this, I really do hope you enjoy!
I guess this is mostly a character piece for Hawkeye, though there is slash, especially at the end. With Raven's lovely Demons piece, I thought-- the more Hawkeye-centric, the merrier! So much for Katie's challenge of _not_ slashing him. @_@ It's kind of strange, but it insisted on being written. Plot bunnies these days, you know? Notes are also at the end for a few things.
As always, I would love and adore you if you'd send feedback my way.
DATE BEGUN: January 21st, 2003
DATE FINISHED: January 25th, 2003
Who's Face I Won't Even Remember 1/1
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
(This is a story, and this is also not a story...)
Maddoc Pierce flipped the slab of clay back onto its side, dipping her gray-caked hands briefly into her water bowl before moving her strength into the anonymous lump once more. Her hands warmed the clay, which was as chill as the floor and only a little better than the hiss of wind that came through the crack at the bottom of the only window in the room. Humming tunelessly, she bore down on the slab-- the weight of her body all on her palms. She was up to her elbows in her work and wearing a smock-- perhaps it would be this that, in later years, confused Hawkeye into thinking perhaps the memory had taken place in the kitchen. But no, it would come back into the focus, it was mother's pottery room, and he was sitting perched on a stool, Math Primer in his lap. Having brought the clay to a consistency of her liking, Maddoc laid it unceremoniously on the potter's wheel and began to peddle.
"Sponge, please, dear," she murmured distractedly, holding her hand out. Without looking, Hawkeye reached into a nearby bowl and lay the sopping wet sponge in his mothers hand. Wiping his hands on a nearby towel, he went back to wrestling arithmetic. "You're singing," said Maddoc, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. He hadn't even realized it until her voice had sounded-- now she hummed along with him, always a word behind.
"Oh, number," Hawkeye sing-songed, pressing his pencil hard against the paper, "Oh mister stupid number. Why won't you do what I say? Oh, number, oh silly, stupid number..." He trailed off, eventually, absorbed in making the figures cooperate. With a decisive slam, he shut the book, climbing down from his perch and setting the primer off where it wouldn't get dirty. Returning to his post, he watched the bleak-blue light of winter fall over his mother's face. The curve of her cheek was just a tint darker than his, but her hair was the same color of void black night. A strand had escaped her careful braid and fell over her face; occasionally, she blew past her upper lip in an attempt to displace it.
"Wire, please?" Obediently, Hawkeye handed her the tool, trading it for the now-dry sponge.
"You've been awfully quiet today, my darling Magpie," his mother commented. Though he could only see her looking at him through the corner of her eye, he knew she was watching with both. Sightless and sightful, her hands shaped the clay with blind elegance. "How was school?"
"Okay, I guess," Hawkeye leaned over, putting his chin in his hand, "I hate math. Crissy Wilkenson sits in front of me now-- I brought her an apple, but she wouldn't kiss me for it."
Maddoc 'hmm'ed in the back of her throat, "What color was it?"
"Green," Hawkeye admitted.
"Well," his mother laughed, "I wouldn't kiss you either, then."
"I missed a spelling word--"
The young boy made a face, "Frigid."
"You won't need that one," she pronounced, and the stray ebony lock danced as she shook her head. "Now, say it was 'pallor'-- you would need that, since you want to be a doctor. You'll have to say things like 'the patient's pallor is much improved', or 'I don't like the look of his pallor'." With a smile, she said, "Or 'do come and speak to me in the pallor'."
"That's parlor, Mama," Hawkeye corrected her, smirking.
"Oh, is it?" Maddoc shrugged elaborately, "This is why I am not a doctor." Expectantly, she licked her lips. "And...?"
"And," her son looked at his feet, and at the cold cement floor with the cracks like lines on a map, "I was picked last for baseball."
In the silence, he could hear the rhythmic motions of her hands on the clay-- ever since he'd found out where babies came from, he figured she must have made him just like that. With her hands. Quietly, Maddoc watched her son, eyes deep and not guarded, simply waiting for him to go on. For a moment, Hawkeye distracted himself with a finished piece sitting on the opposite shelf; a vase, with long tulips rising between Roman columns. Carefully, he sat it back in its place, knowing it was waiting patiently for the all county fair. He didn't like those pieces nearly as the few rare bits his mother made for herself. "Can I, Ma?" he asked, standing on the stool to reach a higher cubby.
"You," said his mother, holding the wooden end of the wire in her mouth to leave her hands free, "are going to break your neck. Yes, you may."
His hands were reverent and still a little touched with puppy fat as he removed the wide, shallow bowl and set it down in his lap. His hands traced over the carvings-- they were detailed but somehow stark, like the lines in a nightmare. Around the never-ending circle of his mother's pottery, the spider-queen gave birth to dozens of young, which in turn set about spinning the world into being.
(At one time or another, people are going to say how morbid she was. Did you see see those carvings she made? Like out of heathen times-- stuff you'd find in King Tutan.. ah, King Tut's tomb. Straight out of Egypt, and remember that was cursed. They're going to say that Dad was right to throw out all her things, because think of what she might have _told_ that child. God, it just gives me chills.)
Finally, he murmured, "They said they didn't want to play with me because my mother is a witch." With a little hurry, he replaced the bowl in its assigned spot and gathered his fists into tight balls. "Gage Thompson-- what an idiot. He ended up having to choose me anyway, so it serves him right." Somewhat exasperated, he went on, "I told him you're not-- a witch, I mean, and he started saying all these really dumb things that don't add up to crow--"
"Ben," said his mother gently.
(There she goes again-- he's heard other mothers scold his friends, and she mimics that just perfectly. And yet, there's something...)
"Sorry, Mom," Hawkeye huffed, "That don't add up to _anything_... he wouldn't listen."
Now all his words seemed to have soaked into Maddoc's dusty flesh, and she said, "Well, you should never argue with crazy people, Ben."
"Are you?" Hawkeye asked, peering at her as if he wanted to make her into something he had never seen before, but simply couldn't. Love and familiarity made the picture blur. "A witch? And are they crazy?"
"Maybe," she pressed her thumb deep into the clay, "its their belief that I'm a witch that gives me my power. If I am a witch, that is. What do you think about that?"
"You mean that," the boy frowned, "someone's not a witch unless people think they're a witch?"
"Yu-huh," Maddoc grinned over at him, and he smiled simply because the look in her eyes made it impossible not to. "And," she added, lifting her foot from the peddle decisively, "I should think that those boys are crazy. After all, if I am a witch, then they are messing with the blood of my blood. The only thing worse than arguing with a crazy person is angering a witch by hurting the ones she loves."
"Can I tell them that?" he asked hopefully.
She winked, "I'm sure you already told them they are fools."
"Yeah," said Hawkeye, scratching the back of his head, "I did. But," he persisted, "you _do_ know magic."
"Everyone knows magic, Ben. Give me a hand here, won't you?" His mother took the two wooden ends of the wire and pulled them through the fat bottom of the pot. On cue, Hawkeye picked up a slab and held it out for his mother. When the pot was settled dead center, he trotted towards the kiln and placed it inside, smiling at the single spot waiting to be filled. Even with the cold weaving between the fabric of his pants and comfortable brown shirt, he could imagine the heat the kiln and the way fire changed everything. With thoughtful expression, Maddoc added, "What your father does is magic."
"No, it's not," Hawkeye said with great authority, "that's science."
Gently, she tilted her lips, bending down to brush a finger still touched with wet clay against her son's cheek. "Nope. It's magic. Science is a word for magic things humans like to think they can control."
(Doctors, they say-- she, and he in time, ask who this 'they' is-- doctors, they say, think they're God. People ask them to be God, to make it better, make it go away and make it Not So. And if God doesn't know magic-- he's going to argue this with someone, someday... a college buddy, a girlfriend, who knows-- then who the hell does?)
Unwilling to argue with her, Hawkeye followed his mother to the sink, allowing her to wash off the dollop of clay drying on his face. As she cleared off the table, setting out her carving tools, he reached for the Math Primer and reluctantly lay it out.
"I didn't really finish," he admitted, watching her expression become catlike, "Hey! I was taking a coffee break."
"You don't drink coffee," Maddoc pointed out, pulling a half-finished pot to the space before her.
"I was having a 'whatever-I-drink' break," Hawkeye amended, handing his mother a tool just as she said she needed it.
"Thank you, Ben," his mother began inching delicately into the half-dried skin of clay, forming shapes as strange as the stars. "You know, letters used to stand for numbers as well, in the time before." Her voice was as far away as the years she spoke of-- that ether of the past.
"Of course," she nodded, and he saw that she was digging a familiar story into the tall pot. He saw the form of a girl taking shape inside an enclosure and knew it would be the niece buried in seven coffins-- three of diamond, one of glass, one of silver and two of gold.
(Her voice now. Her voice tells every story that ever was.
This is a story, and this is also not a story, about a young girl who was born cursed with beauty. Beauty makes women watchful and men lustful, she was young in the world and had no one to take care of her, to warn her of these things. One day in the orchard, she ate an apple and died-- her Uncle, who had never seen her before, came to the funeral and fell in love with her, spiriting her body away. He put her in a room, inside seven coffins, and his jealous wife stole every key in the house trying to get into the room where it was kept. When she opened the coffin, the apple dislodged and the girl became alive once more ...
--Death, in Mother's stories, is surprisingly temporary--
Anyway, the wife turned her out, and and and... well, he doesn't remember the rest of the story, at least not when he's leaning over the little Korean girl with doll's eyes, brain dead, lost in her own body. He won't remember the end of the story, which is something about the girl planning suicide and somehow being thwarted, he will only think about shaking the Korean child, and dislodging the apple.)
"In Roman characters, 'A' stood for one..." Maddoc looked up, watching as her son began writing a chart in the margins of his book with a busy pencil.
"So 'Benjamin' adds up to..." he trapped his tongue between his teeth, leaning against the table, "um... ah... sixty-eight."
"Right--" she nodded, stretching a little in her smock. Briefly, she reached back and loosened the strings tied behind her neck, tossing her braid in the process. Her brown eyes were as wise as the ocean, which had seen everything. "Although, that's in Roman letters. Benjamin is a traditionally Hebrew name, so if you really wanted to get it right, you'd have to add up the Hebrew characters."
"Hebrew has different letters?"
"Oh, yes. So do old Indian languages, though they're mostly gone now."
"Hey," he said, looking up from his tallying of 'Franklin', "is that why they say in church that the number of the beast is 666?"
"Indeed," Maddoc said neutrally, "I imagine the Antichrist's name would add up to the number of the beast, in Hebrew. Or maybe Greek."
"Huh," said Hawkeye, "see, why is the minister allowed to talk about stuff like that, but you're not supposed to? That's all pretty magical to me." His mother's answer was only a smile, "You know, I don't think you wrote your name in Satan's book with your blood, like Gage said."
(Yeah, they're going to say she was morbid. They're going to root through her things while Dad paces upstairs, not himself, unenchanted and lost. They'll pick up her pottery and say well will you look at this I just can't _imagine_ and poor little Ben used to come down here with her, you know I always thought she was _queer_ and dear, don't use that _word_!)
"Of course not," she snorted, "It's my blood. Why should I waste it on that silly goat?"
"Do you think I should count 'Hawkeye' when I add up all my names?" he asked, tapping his pencil thoughtfully.
"Yes," his mother nodded, "Any name you have is power. Maybe that one most off all, since you *chose* it instead of having it giving to you." Now, on the other side of the bowl, the dead girl's aunt was stealing keys.
"Tell me some other magic you know," he asked, putting on a pleading look. At first, Maddoc make a motion as if to lock her lips, then winked.
"If you hand me the shallow gouge," she said diplomatically.
"Alright," he placed the tool in her worn hands, "Will you hand *me* the snew?"
"What snew?" the words were out when she began to laugh.
"I dunno," Hawkeye sassed back, "What's new with you? Now-- tell me."
Maddoc raised an eyebrow, "Is the word 'please' in your ever-growing vocabulary?"
(Yes, he'll remember that, too, flickering along the edges of his mind just before sleep. Dad said Mama never went to school past the sixth grade. It seems impossible, almost silly, and he wishes might laugh but he knows. He can imagine, if her soul hadn't spilled from her body like a fickle butterfly, how she might have stayed up late with him and warm milk saying, all right, now where's the femur? yes, correct, and the sternum? He can imagine the hungry light in her eyes and wonders if that's just something he made up.)
"Please," he wheedled, doing his best to widen his blue eyes and look adorable.
"How about this?" Mother was carving the girl, apple piece in hand, breathing her first in a long while. "Say it's a full moon-- which is often needed for these things, you understand-- and you go outside. Any body of water will do, but it's best if it's still; if you go out with the moon at it's greatest and you take a mirror, standing with your back to the water, you'll see the person you'll most love." Biting her lip, she added, "You don't even really need water sometimes, but it helps to be outside. It all depends on where you are. In the city, people have walked around and disturbed the things you can't see."
"My name equals two-hundred eighty one!" Hawkeye cried triumphantly, circling the equation with a swift motion of his pencil. Grinning, he leaned across the table, getting a good look at the angry lines of the Aunt, chasing the coffin-girl away, "Who's face did you see, Mama?"
"You are," said Maddoc regally, "permitted to guess."
"I bet," the boy commented eagerly, "I bet you anything it was--"
"Your father is home," his mother said absently, listening to the wide, protesting swing of the front door.
"Yeah!" Hawkeye scrambled down from the stool, Math Primer forgotten. He was halfway to the door when he turned. "Mama, who did you--"
"Hurry!" Maddoc urged, "I just have to finish this last bit. Tell your father I'll be out to make dinner in a moment."
"Quickly, dear!" she teased, "It's cold, and the Wendigo might get you."
"Ma_ma_," he shivered, darting over to kiss her on the cheek. In the next moment, he disappeared between one of the old panels, through the passageways; down to greet his father who was, in his own way, as much a sorcerer as his mother.
(But they never called Dad a witch-- or a warlock, whatever. And they'll never call Hawkeye that, either. In Korea, he'll see a priestess in brightly dressed colors, who's feathers are bright and strange in the sun. Underneath the beast of Korea, gobbling lives, is yet another country-- there are dragons and spirits to please or displease. Magic , just like Mother's stories, and an Iowa farm boy who really takes the words right out of your mouth, and the feeling Hawkeye gets when _he_ touches him, passing in post-op....
No. Stop there. That comes later.
One day, he'll be watching Mulcahy's face as George-- who has his own strange ways-- says, 'Father, will you pray with me?' and he'll watch as the priest says 'Yes, my son. Of course.'
Of course, of course, and he'll think of Frank, and Gage and being picked last for baseball. Later, he will say to Francis Mulcahy-- I wish my mother could have met you once.
And he won't explain any further than that.)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Come on," Hawkeye grunted, pushing his back against the slab of stone, "dammit," and the curse word was sweet and unfamiliar on his tongue. Relaxing his muscles, he stood for a moment leaning against the side of the well with the hot July sun soaking into his ebony hair. August was quick and breathy on his heels and fast after that, September; he sensed the dwindling days were against him, and he'd sworn to himself he'd conquer this before summer's freedom faded into school. Stepping back, he stood with his hands on his hips, gazing at the obstacle as if his displeasure alone might move it. In Hawkeye's mind, the old well on the edge of Pierce/Morban property stood like the monoliths at Stonehenge, so old the years slipped through his fingers. Atop the crumbling stone circle was a slab of granite-- in the shadows it looked like an altar or a portal to the dead's world, just as in Mother's stories. It didn't matter to him why the well had been covered; he needed it and it was not being used. The logic of a child made it open for claim.
With a heavy sigh, Hawkeye circled the structure. Two weeks of work had moved the covering only marginally. Worse still, his own dark pupils had reflected the coming of the full moon once already. Kneeling in the mossy dirt, the young boy flicked out his pocket knife and began picking at the loose mortar between the stones-- perhaps, if he had more leverage...
It was the summer of his eleventh year, but also the first summer for a changing Hawkeye that seemed, in his mind, to be a stranger slowly putting on his skin like clothing. It frightened him that he no longer awoke wondering why he didn't hear Mother working downstairs; that the pieces of stories had become jumbled together, fading into an endless mass. There had been a time when each turn of the passages behind the walls had been as familiar as the lines on his hands-- the small space frightened him now
(The Witch Door works both ways; let the witch in, let the witch out. Each time panic grips his heart, he can only see his Mother laying still in the pine coffin-- he can only imagine how she jostled inside as the pallbearers carried her, and how no piece of apple was ever dislodged. Mother died one night and, despite the fact her stories and magic said other wise, death for her had been permanent.)
and fading was the memory of which way to go. Now he was truly barred from entering Her Kingdom; Dad had taken the key, and his mind had betrayed him, he would loose his way, become stranded in another country. He'd started laughing at breakfast again, started going fishing with Dad and stopped calling out whenever he saw a slim, dark-haired woman in blue. He'd stopped waiting for Mother to come home and started fearing that very same thing.
(Oh, yes, this is the nightmare he knows well. Bones moving, strung along by marionette's wires, bits of flesh and hair that fall away as sweet as rain. It's a dream that will grow with him, gripping against his shoulder blades and reaching under his ribs for his heart. Not just Her, but other faces, for every time he can't beat the bastard, can't look Death in the eye and command-- "Turn from my door.")
The sound of the stone falling from its lodging startled Hawkeye-- he watched as it rolled away, off into the tall grass somewhere. His hand had been doing work with the knife all along, with a rhythm new but familiar. Batting at his bangs to wipe away the sweat, the young boy rose and looked at the well with a critical eye. Flipping the knife closed and pocketing it-- how long he'd practiced to make that one smooth movement!-- he placed both hands under the gap made by the stone and bore upwards, shoulder against the well. It seemed as though the earth would rather move beneath him than the slab, but it rocked at last a slid, protesting, onto its side. The almost serene, satisfied smirk was all the celebration he allowed himself; instead, he approached the well with trembling hands and peered over the rim. Darkness and silence, silence and darkness--- below that, very faintly, water exposed to the sun.
He felt silly and was shaking, but he called down into the tunnel, "Mother?" because what are wells but openings in the world? The stones merely echoed back his words, warped and fearful. "That's right," Hawkeye spoke to Death, where ever he was on his throne, "You just stay down there, you coward!" Disdainful, the young boy almost spat into the well, before it occurred to him it might mess things up, and he shot his disgust into the grass instead.
Satisfied with his hard work, Hawkeye sat down on the slab and opened his mind to his child-thoughts; hitting a home run at the World Series, traveling around the world and maybe someday being called Doctor Pierce.
Really, all he had to do now was wait.
He kept a careful eye on the deep, yawning thatch of night sky over Maine-- he watched the moon grow until it was like a peach hanging from a low branch. He couldn't tell if the pale orb was all the way full or not; he watched until he no longer trusted that it might turn its birth back the way it came. All the way or not, it was full enough.
Removing the cushion on his window seat, Hawkeye loosened the top board with sure, tender hands-- the wood did not protest as he lifted it to reveal his hiding place. Stacks of baseball cards, arrowheads and the medal he'd won for science seemed to gaze back at him. Lifting them aside, he pulled forth a wide, carved bowl. In his hands, the spider-queen's children where spinning reality in and away; for a moment, he simply held the pot, imagining it under his mother's hands, listening to her always-fading memory-voice tell the story.
Scarcely a week after they placed Mother under the snow-hardened soil, her things begin to disappear. It's best for the boy, he heard them whisper to Dad, it's best for you. Put those things away... forget and go on. It'll be less painful, this way.
Painlessness was it's own agony.
(Lots of things are painless. Doesn't make it right.)
He would never know where her things went, what was kept or sold or stolen. Only the spider-goddess bowl remained when it occurred to him what was happening, that his mother was being systematically erased. In the emptying echo of his mother's old studio, he despaired of finding anything. Everywhere, his hands met only clay and dust.
(Ashes to ashes, dust to dust)
He somehow imagined the bowl had crawled like a night-animal onto that top shelf, where it was missed by all other hands save his own small ones. Now Mother's pictures were stored away, the dustless imprints of where her things had once laid were fading like footprints in the snow.
(How do you know she was real? No pictures, nothing to touch, only her mirrors and Dad, who will not even say her name save in the dreams where he cries. Was she real?
Look, here is her bowl. Yes.)
Gingerly, Hawkeye dipped his hand into the pot, holding between his fingers the broken shard of a mirror. Thus armed, with the looking-glass wrapped in his nightshirt, he slipped on bare feet down the hall. He hit the grass beyond the back porch running, the pebbles in his heels couldn't slow him, the night was dangerous and wild and everything, even what was dead, was alive. At the edge of the well, he came to a firm stop, leaning against the stones as his lungs fluttered their protest. The idea was as firm in his mind as it had been when he woke from his dream in June-- it had been all there, firm and solid, and he knew just what to do.
Perching on the side of the well, Hawkeye took a deep breath and looked over his shoulder in the mirror. The sliver of glass was truthful, the water was deep and silent and dark and mother was dead and he saw--
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The spider-goddess bowl sat on the mantle, patiently, under the wide oval mirror that reflected light and played the small living room back at Hawkeye. With some disinterest, he watched himself sitting at the small, round wood table with papers spread around in almost all directions. He saw Carlye in the mirror first, coming up behind him, with her shadowed-honey hair laying soft against her cheeks. She was wearing one of his shirts, and her breasts were pleasant shapes under the white fabric. Turning, he watching the real woman move towards him with a hint of cautiousness-- that carefulness was calculated, and it annoyed Hawkeye; he let it pass, accepting the plate of macaroni from his girlfriend with a briefly muttered 'thank you'. He set it amidst the papers where it became somewhat lost and began to cool. Finally, feeling her gaze firm on his back, Hawkeye pushed the chair away from the table and allowed Carlye to drape her lithe form over his lap.
Out away from their forest-green box, Carlye was merely pretty-- in the flat, she was beautiful, with every light and all the colors made just so to highlight that enchanting curve, her lips shaped like the downbeat of a bird's wings. Her vanity-- if it was that-- was unconscious and cruel; when they made love it was all sound and color, so that in later years a smell or a certain shade of pink might, for a moment, bring him back to the narrow kingdom held between her arms. Those smooth limbs were looped loosing around his neck now, she was smiling, lips full and turned up with no teeth showing.
"I know I'm not the greatest cook in the world," she murmured, her tone matching the color of her hair, "but you should eat, Hawkeye."
"I will," he said, running a hand through his hair, "I'm just frustrated with all this work." The jumbled typeset letters, commas and periods were dark against the white paper-- he caught glimpses of them as he looked over Carlye's shoulder, but he made no move to upset her from his lap. Between the two of them, they had one table and one chair, which they shared, and mostly this was all right-- if they didn't always finish their meals, well, it saved them food as well. "And I thought _applying_ for residency was bad. It's like," he went on, moving his hands, "they figure if you run *that* gauntlet, then you'll do anything to get your degree, so they dump all the grunt work on you. Of course," he held up a hand philosophically, "I _would_ do anything to get my degree. If the devil were here, I'd sell my soul-- not, mind you, that's it's worth a whole lot."
"Hawkeye," Carlye rolled her eyes, but did not frown. The expression seemed beyond her, sometimes, and the faint disapproval in her eyes was enough.
"What?" He made a wide motion with his arms, "It's not as if I'm using it or anything. Now, if I'd said I was gonna sell my body, then I could see you getting upset for all the obvious reasons but---"
"_Hawkeye_," she said again, more firmly, "Will you eat before I have to give you food through an IV? The paper work will be here in an hour. Take a break and sit with me."
"I just want to get this done and out of the way," he explained, "With all this nonsense, you'd think I applied to be a lawyer, not a doctor." Slipping away gracefully, Carlye stood with her hands on her hips, then finally sighed. Her footsteps retreated into the kitchen.
"Well," she said loudly, as if eager to win at least one battle, "you should be so flip about the Devil, at least. We're living in sin already, we don't need any more trouble. My mother always said the Devil's on the lookout for people asking for it."
"No such thing," Hawkeye muttered, waiting until she came around the corner before he took a spoonful of macaroni and shoved it into his mouth. Chewing with exaggeration, he asked, "Happy now?"
"Jumping with joy," Carlye took a seat on the rug, leaning against the wall with her own plate balanced on her knees. Finally, she sighed, tipping her head up, and the light played across the smooth column of her neck. "I wasn't trying to nag you, Hawkeye."
"I didn't say that," the young man replied, "I dunno. I just want this so badly, I can taste it. Have you ever wanted something so much, but the closer you get the harder those last few steps seem?"
"Not really," Carlye admitted, pushing the cheese-covered noodles around on her plate, "Maybe I get frustrated sometimes, too. You want to be a doctor so bad that I feel like you don't want me."
"I call before you exhibit A-- last night," Hawkeye winked, "If I don't want you, I'll be hanged."
"I didn't mean it like that," she snorted, and allowed the conversation to fall flat between them. Occasionally, he would catch a hint of her movement in the mirror, her shadow against the endless green walls. The only punctuations were the mantle and the set of framed watercolors from her sister. "What are you doing, anyway?"
"Dirty work," he sassed, "Actually, it's stuff for that professor of mine-- you know, psychology? He's saddled me into looking up all these arcane mental disorders for his next thesis."
(It's disjointed, this life with her-- it's held together with glitter and polish and the way she throws her head back, hissing through her teeth when he touches her to the edge. It's her waiting for him to ask a question he isn't ready to ask, and it's just that something that lays over the flat and makes it seem more crowded than it is.
There was that night when they finished making love, christening the place, when she turned her head and made a little startled noise because he'd put the spider-goddess bowl on the night stand-- which was were it had been in his old place. Her china-blue eyes said it frightened her, that it had followed her from what was his bed to what was now their bed.
The next day, he put it out on the mantle.
Context is all, Mother would say. Signs, symbols, and omens-- what does this mean?
In the flat, which is arranged so carefully like glass shards; against the green walls and in the gold light, Carlye is beautiful, the most beautiful.
Context is all. )
Hawkeye laughed a little, holding his hand to cover it-- he'd caught himself looking at the bowl on the mantle and thinking that if he ever needed to hide the ring before he popped the question, he'd put it there. Carlye would never find it.
"Something funny?" she asked, running her fork along the surface of her plate.
"Not unless demonic possession being seen as an actual medical diagnosis is considered funny," he quipped back, slamming the large text closed. "Geeze. You know what, maybe I'll do this reverse alphabetically-- he'll love that. Mess up his entire system." He ran his hand along the brown cloth spine, flipping to the back page, "At least it'll give me a break." Shaking her head, Carlye climbed to her feet and took his almost untouched plate from the table-- he could hear her scrapping the leftovers into the trash. Forcibly, he moved his gaze over the words on the page, scribbling notes when sentences jumped out at him.
"Hey!" he said, without really meaning to-- he looked up and his eyes were on the bowl, and the dim sunlight could have easily been spilling through the old window in his mother's studio.
Carlye's voice was a breathless laugh, "A passage of interest, doctor?"
"Yeah, actually," he couldn't keep the grin from his face, "I'm just surprised, is all."
"Well," she was standing behind him, her body leaning over his without touching, "are you going to share?"
"It's just this bit here--" he tapped one bony finger against the page, "The Wendigo."
"Wendigo?" she echoed dully.
"Yeah, yeah," he turned towards her now, smiling with that boyish shadow in his eyes. Drawing her down to sit on his knee, he glanced at the book, "You see, my Mom used to tell me this story about a monster called the Wendigo. The Indians around here believed that it was a creature taller than the sky that ate human beings, especially little kids."
"Kind of like the boogey man?" Carlye suggested.
"Sort of," Hawkeye cocked his head, "but not really, in that it's touch was supposed to turn people into Cannibals."
Carlye made a noise, throwing her hands to her mouth, "That's awful!"
"Well, that's why it's in this book," Hawkeye handed it to her, but quickly found it back in his own grasp. "Turns out Wendigo is also a real medical condition-- named after the myth. It happens in tribal communities living in the sub-arctic. They wake up and have a craving for human flesh. They're actually treating people for this up in Canada."
"No wonder you weren't eating earlier," her tone was almost forgiving. She closed the book, turning it over in her hands, "Is everything in here that disgusting?"
"Just old medical terms, some real, some not," he shrugged, and her hand bit into his shoulder so she could keep her balance in his lap, "Like I said, demon possession and the old hag-- that's when you wake up with sleep paralysis and think you see someone out of the corner of your eye."
"And your mother told you about the Wendigo?" Carlye's features were pinched, as close to a frown as possible, as she ran her finger over the lettering on the cover.
"Sure," he began moving the papers into semi-organized stacks, his hands impatient. "Now I am a little hungry."
"Well, don't look at me," she held up her hands. "It's funny...
"What, my being hungry?" Hawkeye grinned, "Just wait 'til I'm thirsty, it's a riot."
"No, you big silly," she said, pulling him towards the kitchen, "It's funny-- I was thinking-- because that's one of the first times you've ever mentioned your mother."
"She's dead," Hawkeye said with childish finality. He reached into refrigerator and the nearby drawer almost at the same time; he took the knife to the orange with a learned finesse. "And you don't talk about your dad all that much," the juice was thick on his lips, "so there."
"That's because my dad is a jerk," Carlye perched on the counter like a cat, "And I was only saying..."
"She made that bowl, on the mantle," he said suddenly, and took another bite to fill his mouth.
"Oh," she murmured, and he knew that she could see it, vaguely, through the narrow doorway. "No wonder you like it."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he ran his tongue over his fingers, pitching the orange-peel into the trash without even looking.
"Just that it's morbid, that's all," Carlye's eyes were too bright, too much like an empty sky.
"It's a story," he said, more defensively than he'd intended, "she had a ton of stories."
The sweet arch of a golden eyebrow, "Oh?"
"Yeah, like," his hands were on her, to take away the words. Under the chaste white fabric, hands against her hardening nipples, thinking about cherries on the branches in the spring. "Like if you look into the water with a mirror on a full moon, you'll see the person you're..." lips on her neck, against the vocal chords that make that honey-toned sound, "'posed to be with. I did it once."
Now her laugh was real and deep, "You're such a smooth talker."
"Oh?" Her arms were around his neck and his were cradling her-- he kicked the bedroom door open indiscriminately and deposited her on and amidst the cream covers, thinking how blue her eyes were because the rest of her was so sunshine-colored.
"I know," she muttered against his mouth, "what you're going to say next."
He made a questioning noise against the slope of her shoulder.
"You're going to say," her voice was very knowing, because she didn't know, "that you saw my face."
He stopped, but the gate of her legs was wide and her ankles were crossed behind his neck, drawing him down.
(You may drown.)
"Actually--" he began, shuddering against her because she was warm and he was suddenly so cold, "I..."
In her heat and honey, the words were lost.
Later, all the light was gone and she held his head against the heaving of her soft breasts. Their breathing was the only noise, almost overwhelming, echoing everywhere and he swallowed hard.
"Actually," he said, surprised he could find the thought again, "you know.."
"No," her gasps lessened, died, "I don't know."
"It's just that," and maybe she was already asleep, "I really don't remember whose face it was I saw."
(Of course, it's going to end-- but it doesn't really. With Carlye, it never really ends, it just picks up someplace different, when the light is at the right angle or the colors suit her best. In Korea, it will be strange, because her eyes will not be the only blue he sees.
It will occur to him-- when the flat is empty and resounding with the door as it slams behind her, when he's packing up his own things to move away from the memories-- that somewhere along the line, his mother's bowl got lost in the shuffle. It's broken pieces will lay in an empty cabinet, where he won't see them and the face of the spider-goddess will be broken in two.
He will have forgotten something She said once, though he will remember it later, which is this: all women know magic.
Carlye knows and understands, long before she leaves-- that very night after they make love, perhaps-- that in order to lessen a thing's power, you must break it.)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In Korea, the moon was different. Here it was not a benevolent sphere of silver light, not romantic or with a man's face hidden in its seemingly smooth surface. The moon cast light over the beast
of the war torn land, made shadows and the lines of the world more distinct. On moonlit nights, people did not gaze at one another or kiss-- they died, because you could see and, if you could see, you could _shoot_.
The moon, too, made shadows in the Swamp-- the form of Frank's bed, the glass-gray of the still-- and it seemed somehow more crowded even though Hawkeye was alone in it's walls. He ran the razor carefully along his jaw, thinking about clumsiness and what might happen if he slipped. Death was in the shadows, it lay over the compound and permeated the air he breathed. Casual; death was with him every day, no longer content below the world, coaxed out by a boy's foolishly brave words.
Dipping his fingers in the helmet full of water, he splashed it on his cheeks and watched the white cream wash away. With some indifference, he wiped the remains on the sleeve of his red robe, glancing at the hollow eyes reflected in the polished glass. On the other side, the compound lay opposite and strange, precisely reversed from the way it really was.
"Hey, Beej," he began, lifting the dirtied helmet from it's hook. His hands were surprisingly steady, though he jumped when the voice came from a different direction.
"Yeah?" the younger doctor slipped in the Swamp door, the lines of his body language were all worn and getting wearier.
(Sometimes you don't even need water.)
"Jesus, you scared me," Hawkeye's gaze narrowed, "weren't you just in here?"
"No," BJ smiled, emptying his friend's drink back into the gin pitcher, "I came from post-op. Why?"
(Depends on the power of the place.)
"I just," Hawkeye made a motion with his hands, but let it rest, taking a heavy seat on his bunk. BJ was warm and easy to sense as he came to sit beside the other man-- they did not touch, though on some other level their spaces seemed to blur and merge. "Never mind. It's this place, it's driving me crazy."
"Can't be," said BJ with just a faint tinge of fear, "You've been here longer than I have. If you can't hold out, I haven't got a prayer."
Out of pure reflex, "That's Father Mulcahy's department." And he ran his finger, without really thinking about it, over the blade of the razor. Quickly, he raised his hand to the light, watching the bloom of red with a distant, removed surprise.
(So he bleeds, too. There's been blood everywhere, he stands in it day after day, but it's also inside him. Strange.)
"Hey, careful!" the other Captain admonished, taking Hawkeye's hand in his own, "What are you doing?"
"Bleeding, I guess," Hawkeye said, watching the moon which was round and full and riding like a nest of spider's eggs in the sky. BJ took the edge of a blanket and pressed it against the cut, his other hand coming to rest on Hawkeye's shoulder. The older doctor turned with a suddenness that sprang from his bones-- BJ was beneath him, face cupped between the other surgeon's hands as Hawkeye pressed his lips, his fingers against that visage. The other man relaxed in the embrace, cradled by the familiar want, made real because Hawkeye could touch him.
BJ brought the injured hand up to his mouth, kissing slow and steady until there was blood on his lips.
(so maybe the wendigo is in all of us, not really eating, just people feeding off each other and, God, BJ, he's thinking, I need--)
Hawkeye kept his eyes open, watched the shadows and the light and the pleasure on BJ's face, and when he was held against the younger surgeon's chest and their hands were cooling with sweat, he found he couldn't remember just what it was he'd forgotten all that time ago.
(you'll see the person you'll most love, because this is a story...
but it is also not a story)
END NOTES: (arg, the end notes are upon us! ^_~)
-the Wendigo is both an actual disorder and an actual legend. Most of my information came from a book called "All the Beasts of the World", and the FAQ at ghosts.org.
-Maddoc's story about the girl and seven coffins is a middle European variant on the Snow White fairy tale.
-the spider-goddess comes from a Cherokee creation myth. Actually, Maddoc's people would be a little far north for that, I think. Forgive me. ^_^
-the story about the mirror is also a "true" tall tale. Try it-- I dare you. ^_~
-I tried to write Carlye... *sigh* Don't know if I succeeded. *eyes the nurse* Hmmm...
-thank you again for reading this, especially if you've but up with my blabber this far! ^_^
There once was a lady named Mere,
Who was madder than a March Hare,
She did love to write,
deep into the night,
and feedback made her so happy she walked upon air!