AUTHOR'S NOTES: As always, thanks for taking the time to read this! I hope it's worth your while. First, I have to thank Raven, who's an absolute doll. Her interest in the C*A*V*E episode spawned this fic.
This is a post-ep for C*A*V*E; I've seen a lot of fics revolving around Hawkeye and Margaret's interaction in the episode, but... *shrugs* You know me. So, of course, this is slash, Hawkeye/BJ. Nothing graphic. I hope this isn't out-of-whack; Hawkeye is so jittery in CAVE, but we're never told why he has claustrophobia, or even when he realized he had it. Considering how close he is with his dad, I thought it might also be interesting to explore what his relationship with his mother might have been like. (Especially considering his regular interactions with women-- they say you can judge the way a man treats women by the way he treats his mother. ^_~) Hopefully, I've captured a Hawkeye-like... I dunno, essence about this.
I'll shut up now. Read on, valiant one...
DATE BEGUN: January 4th, 2003
DATE FINISHED: January 5th, 2003
Just As Fatal 1/1
(a post-ep for "C*A*V*E")
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
Hawkeye sleeps and dreams-- knows that he is dreaming.
He dreams of small spaces, the narrow roads of Her kingdom, where he wanders at will and without fear. Round the corner, under the low-hanging loft, with the sunlight coming through the cracks in the wood like pure white snow. He is small, a child, moving through the dim, close corridors with ease; and up ahead her laughter is high like bird crying on the coldest day he can remember, or his own voice when Billy pushed him---
(No, no. Wait. That comes later.)
He ambles up the a steep, hidden cold wood stairs on all fours, peers through all the shadows that might veil her away from the world. The sun catches the dust, and there she is, laughing, holding her hands out. Mother-- eyes so brown and burnt that they are black. As dark as these passages are at night. Darker.
And now they are hiding together, pressed close. In this light-less world, he raises his hands to feel her smile with his small fingers, lays his head against her soft-dove breasts and listens to the beat of her heart, which is still thunder in his remembered baby-dreams.
(Also; also it is many years later and the cabin is small and the fire is dim. Carlye's deep breaths are the same as the wind outside, and he lays with his ear to her heart beat, with that warmth under him. It is small in the cabin, and she says she has to go.)
Mama's voice now; "Let me tell you a story, Ben. About the other-lands, about the places that are here, there and nowhere. This is a story, and this is also not a story..." She is perpetually young in his mind, frozen forever, smiling over her shoulder at him and father, wearing that light blue dress.
Which is her favorite.
Which is the one they buried her in.
Briefly, he wakes, aware of Margaret speaking from the other bed. Steady, strong, afraid-of-loud-noises Margaret. She is so like his mother with her willowy way of bending without breaking and her determination, but at the same time she is different because words do not come so easily for her. Mother's voice is like water, formless and everywhere.
(Billy says, "You're lucky I pulled you out. You could have died."
It was Billy who pushed him, Billy who filled his lungs and the world with cold unmerciful water. But Hawkeye says, "Thank you.")
He wants to wake up, he really wants to. Here, in this hell, he has always slept to escape, but now the world inside his mind is all too close, and he must escape what lays in his sleep. If he wakes up, he will be safe in Korea---
(Think of that! Ha. Ha. Safe, in Korea!)
-- he will be in the war, which is unvarnished and ugly, but is at least real. Solid.
"This is a story, and it is not a story..."
There is a flicker of reality in the dream, a flash in the pond. (Let's not think about that.) Someone lifts him, straining a little, but with tenderness. These arms are not his mother's, for she always seems spectre-like and ready to fade away around him. To disintegrate, become just another shaft of light through the sun catcher.
The strong arms take him up-- he smells faint dust and something else. A person's smell, closeness. Intimate. When he is laid back down, he does not want to let go; he holds on, touches, feeds back that tenderness. Movement, words. Someone traces along his jaw.
She's sitting in the passageway, his mother, smiling her girl-child smile. She holds her arms out, calls him 'Ben'. Somewhere, the children are saying that she is a witch. Helplessly, Hawkeye loves her-- but her Kingdom is (the passageway) dark and narrow and small.
And he is afraid.
"Hey," BJ smiled in greeting, offering a hand as Hawkeye attempted to peel himself off the cot, "You're alive after all. I was about to go ask Margaret if she actually killed you last night."
"No," Hawkeye returned, bleary-eyed, "I behaved myself. Had to-- did some research. Her species eats the male after all is said and done."
BJ took Hawkeye's hand, leading it to the stem of a martini glass, "How are you feeling?"
"I haven't slept so long in ages," the other doctor said appreciatively. The shadows were long and the light a faint orange, falling across the compound. "I take it you got everything moved back from that little deathtrap-- excuse me--" he smiled, "cave?"
"Good ol' U.S. army paid the rent," BJ leaned back against his bunk, "the North Koreans won't bother us for another month." Silence bled in, along with the shadows, as they watched each other. Familiar movements, body language. The taste of gin and no words. Finally, BJ swung his legs over the side of his cot, resting his elbows on his knees. "Hawk," he was leaning across the divide between their beds, "are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah," Hawkeye waved a dismissive hand, "As long as I'm not pretending to be sardine, I'm fine." He glanced up, just briefly, registering the flash of blue concern, before gazing down at the distortion of his hand through the glass. "I bet I really seemed like a nut, huh?"
BJ shrugged, "I wouldn't say..."
"Well, Pierce, awake at last, I see," Charles spoke even before he opened the door, stepping into the Swamp with an air of resigned disgust. "I trust you slept well? I dare say, you had more sleep today than I've had during my entire tour in this dust-bowl."
"What's the matter, Charles?" Hawkeye shot back, "Wake up on the wrong side of the bed?" He turned back to BJ without waiting for a response. He took a lazy drink of gin, "How'd I get here, anyway? Last thing I remember, I was in Post-Op."
"I carried you," BJ grinned, eyes twinkling. Hawkeye let his drink back into his glass as if it was a frog leaping from his mouth.
"Pardon?" he asked over Charles' laughter.
"Well," BJ scratched under his mustache, his movements etched with innocence, "We couldn't get you to wake up and we needed to move the patients back into post-op. So I carried you back here."
"Across the compound?" Hawkeye spread his hands, "Where everyone could *see*?"
"You're heavy," the younger man admitted, "But the nurses think you make a cute sleeping beauty."
"There, there, Pierce," Charles' patted the shoulder of his nemesis, watching him set his drink aside and bury his head in his hands, "All is not lost." Helplessly, the major chuckled again, "After all, I have rarely seen such an amusing sight as Hunnicut carrying you over the threshold." He turned away, giving Hawkeye the perfect opportunity to aim a dirty pair of boxer shorts towards his head.
"Great, great," Hawkeye muttered, only half-amused, "First I get to play Nervous Nelly in front of the entire staff, then I get to operate with the enemy breathing down my neck, and now married men are taking advantage of me."
"I couldn't help myself, Hawk," BJ said with sugar sweetness.
"I must say, Pierce," Charles considered distractedly, clearing his footlocker of debris, before reaching gently inside, "I never would have pegged you for a claustrophobic, but there it is." Triumphantly, the major held up a bottle of fine wine, smiling at his tent mates.
"I'm afraid I'm too tried to think of anything to say to that," Hawkeye admitted, pulling his red robe against his shoulders, "so I'll just fall back on the tried and true facts." He raised his voice, combing a hand through his short black locks, "At least I have hair!"
Charles' paused in the act of buttoning up a clean shirt, though he did not take his eyes off the bottle he was carefully guarding from his tent mates. "We-hell," he drawled, "a tad touchy about that, aren't we, Pierce?"
"Leave him alone, Chuck," BJ held a hand out, as if to put a barrier between the other two men. Nodding slowly, Charles made as if to put a friendly hand on Hawkeye's shoulder.
"I must admit," he began sympathetically, then let the masking tone fade, "it was rather amusing to see the great Captain Pierce reduced to a quivering mass of nerves. You looked very much like you wanted your Mummy. Perhaps we should get Radar to call her for you, hmm, Pierce?" Shaking his head, BJ grabbed the nearest wad of dust and clothing, hurling it in the major's direction.
Hawkeye gritted his teeth, shooting a long-suffering glance to his best friend, "Not unless you have a long-distance Ouija board, Chuckles."
For a moment, Charles breathed deeply, as if to take the words back inside himself. Finally, he closed his mouth and tried again;
BJ snorted irreverently, showing his wide, even teeth in something that was not a smile, "Once again, Charles, you have proved that even with your education and breeding, you still have all the tact of dysentery."
"I think I prefer the dysentery," Hawkeye said philosophically.
"At least," BJ offered, placing one hand on the other captain's shoulder and pouring a new drink with the other, "dysentery is curable."
"Gentlemen," Charles stressed, "Pierce, I do apologize--"
"It's all right," again, Hawkeye waved the concern away, "Don't worry about it."
"I see," the major said shortly, pausing with his lips pressed together, "Then I suppose I shall take my wine to the Officer's Club." He pulled the door open stiffly, "Better to wash down the taste of the foot in my mouth."
"Ta-ta!" BJ waved in a caricature of blitheness. As soon as the major disappeared behind the motor-pool, he turned quickly towards his friend. "Are you sure you're okay, Hawk?" His gaze was careful, as if he could sense the cracks in Hawkeye's careful armor. Pulling his robe up to his chin, as if he was a child with a blanket, the older man simply closed his eyes and breathed evenly.
"I just don't like small places," he said simply, "and I don't like that I don't like them. I mean-- it's just an irrational fear that is absolute fact in my twisted brain." He laughed a little, in such a way that was just the working of his vocal cords. The world was etched in a darker tone of half-hearted brown; there was a click, then light from BJ's end of the tent.
"I've just never seen you like that before," BJ commented, his voice giving away that even he didn't even know what he was saying, "I was worried."
Off the cuff, to hide something underneath-- "I'm touched."
Hawkeye lay very still, listening to BJ's movements on the other side of the tent, grateful that he was not in the least tired. The terrible, sharp landscape of his dreams seemed further away; and though Korea was endless and riddled with horrors, it was preferable. In Korea, at least, things in the dark remained as they had been in the light.
(You're always dirty and hip-deep in blood; no matter how far you walk or ride or run, you never seem to go anywhere, cause Korea is a whole lot of no-place.)
"BJ?" he asked at last, making as if to shield his eyes from the light, so he wouldn't have to look at the other man. "What's your mom like?"
"Is that what this is about?" BJ was cautious, "Your mother?"
Hawkeye shrugged elaborately, "It is, and it isn't." Slowly, he propped himself up on his elbow and held out his glass, "I'm gonna need to be a lot more drunk if I'm gonna talk about this."
"I'm sure that says a lot about you," BJ smiled reassuringly, "psychologically speaking."
"Ah-- Sidney Freedman isn't here, so you're filling in for him," Hawkeye teased, "Is that it?"
"Ha," BJ dismissed the notion, "Sidney isn't trained for this. All *he's* had is a bunch of classes in psychology. *I* have actual field experience in Hawkology." They snickered together, two children behind the teacher's back.
"That's different, is it?"
"Definitely," the younger man said with a fond glance.
A beat. "You never did answer my question."
"Your mother," Hawkeye elaborated, "I asked you about your mother."
"I thought this was about *your* mother."
The older man laughed, spreading his hands, "Wouldn't Freud just love this? Two grown men talking about their mothers." He grabbed a pencil off his make-shift shelving unit and held the eraser between his teeth, speaking in a nasal tone, "It is highly significant."
"You gotta help me, Doc," BJ bemoaned, squeezing the words in between laughs.
"Young man," Hawkeye pointed the pencil in his friend's direction, "I'm afraid you are quite beyond help."
"Aren't we all?" the other doctor asked, sobering. "Alright, alright," he sighed, "My mom. I dunno," a shrug, "I mean, we lived in the same house until I turned twenty, but... I don't really know her." He turned with ease so he was laying on his back, staring up at the tent ceiling. Now they were two boys at camp, sharing secrets, "She plays everything close to the vest," he mimed holding the cards, "I look at her, I mean I look her in the eyes, but it's hard to tell what's going *on* in there." Slowly, BJ turned his head to look at the picture he kept sitting beside his bed, lifting a finger to trace the shape of his wife's face. "She and Peg are close. Sometimes, Peg'll tell me something she said, and I'll say-- 'Did Mom really say that?' She doesn't tell me things like she tells Peg things." Taking hold on the picture, he stared hard at the image of Peg behind the pane, like come exotic creature at the zoo, and the vague shapes of the compound reflected in the glass.
(Sometimes, a lot of the time, she's not really real. Just a flat, two-dimensional angel, a dream. A nice story he tells himself before he goes to sleep. Sometimes, he says 'Peg', and then can't remember who he's talking about. She's just that far away.)
"No, I don't really know my Mom," BJ decided, gazing over at where Hawkeye lay on his cot. They watched each other, not with animal calculation, but with an ease that simply took comfort from the other's existence. "Which is funny, cause she's part of my name. Bea, you know."
Hawkeye nodded solemnly, "At least you still got a chance to know her, if she'll let you." A pause while they filled each other's drinks-- their hands touched, and they did not look at each other. "I told you my mom died when I was ten."
Softly, "You told me."
"My mom's name was Maddoc," Hawkeye offered, fumbling for a place to start. "Maddie, my dad called her."
"Maddoc?" BJ got a taste of the name.
"Kinda funny, I know," the older man breathed out audibly, "She was part Indian. Well, in New England, pretty much everybody's got Indian somewhere back in the line, but she was of purer stock, you know?" At BJ's silent nod, he continued, "Maddoc was a prince-- or something, in the legends. I don't know, she told me so many stories, they've all run together. The kids at school said she was a witch."
"Kids," BJ said dryly, "I saw the village boys throwing rocks at one of the mixed children the other day. You know--the usual, Korean mother, safely anonymous GI father. It amazes me that they can be so young and still be so cruel."
"We teach 'em early, Beej," Hawkeye said wisely, "other wise the wars would be outa business."
"Yeah," BJ said, eyes fixed on the black-and-white shape of his daughter, held in the arms of his photograph-wife. "They said your mom was a witch?"
"Yeah," for a moment, Hawkeye's face was expressionless, before he smiled and winked, "She made me in her cauldron, with snakes and snails and puppy-dog tails."
"And a steel liver," BJ added, pouring his friend another drink. His eyes spoke volumes, said for Hawkeye to continue.
"I mean," the other captain tried, "she cooked and cleaned, and went to church and yelled at me for not wiping my feet like every other mom, but... it was like a game to her. A joke-- she was just pretending. She knew all sorts of things; like how to mark stones so you could play a game with them. She taught me how to climb trees, how to make arrowheads, and... the stories. Boy," said Hawkeye appreciatively, "did she know some stories. Used to tell me about other-lands-- places you end up when you go down the right road and still don't get where you're going to." He looked up suddenly, and his eyes were hallow, but he gestured for BJ to keep his concern to himself. "Nah," the older man shook his head, "never mind. You wouldn't understand."
"Try me," BJ encouraged, "and you owe me. I answered your question-- now answer mine."
Hawkeye moved his hands, as if dropping his memories on the floor to sort them out, "They were just stories. Drowned ghosts always want to pull down a replacement; if a girl goes out on a full moon, stands with her back to water and uses a mirror to look over her shoulder, she'll see the person she's gonna marry. Seals can be men or women if they take off their skin. If you have to walk through a cemetery, say all the names on the gravestones and that'll keep you safe. That sort of thing. Just stories." He smiled weakly, and BJ could see the boy behind those mischievous blue eyes.
(And even, even when she's laying on her bed breathing death into her lungs like heavy incense, she still tells her little boy stories. Where as his father never tells him enough, she always seems to tell too much. In her world, things cast alien shadows that don't match their forms, rain can fall up and snow can be warm.
Later, he grows up, devours books on the clockwork that is the human body, and it stops making sense. Her world; his childhood land, the myth he tells himself as he grows up. Mostly, he tells himself that she was an innocent, that the shine in her eyes was the shine of a heaven only she could see.
A person doesn't just ask their father, "Was Mom crazy?"
But here in Korea, where the war is just as dark and terrible as any shifting mystery on the edges of Her Kingdom-- here, it is ugly, and all the beautiful things she loved but couldn't see just can't exist. He tries not to think about her.
Because you don't just go and ask your father-- who *loved* her, and you because you were hers-- you can't just ask him, "Was Mom crazy?")
"I think," BJ said, a little enviously, "you're a little like your mother. Sometimes it seems like this is all a joke to you. A game. Like you can get up and leave whenever you want-- you're not trapped here, like the rest of us."
"I am trapped, Beej," Hawkeye said blandly. "I'm just as stuck as you are."
After a moment, "Well?"
"There's something else," BJ spread his hands, shrugged knowingly, "It doesn't explain why you're afraid of small places."
"You really have been around Sidney too much," Hawkeye rolled over on his stomach, resting his head on his folded arms and looking at BJ with half-open eyes. "Alright. I told you my mom knew a lot of things-- she also knew about the passageways in our house. It's a really old house, you understand. There are back stairs and hidden ways behind the walls. You could get from the kitchen to the attic without ever going through any of the regular rooms. It was great when I was a kid," Hawkeye flashed a goofy grin, "One of the ways in was a panel behind the pantry. Mom called it a Witch's Door." For a moment, they looked at each other, trying to keep their lips from tilting up in a smile.
BJ, taking his cue, said, "What door?"
"The Witch door, you fool!" Hawkeye cried with a grin.
"That door?" BJ pointed to the tent flap, "Or this door?"
"I say Witch Door," the older doctor sang, "You say 'what door'-- let's call the whole thing off."
"No," Hawkeye shook his head, "I needed that." Briefly, he reached out and touched the other man's arm-- even though the soft pink shirt, it was like transferring electricity.
"So," they'd stopped drinking, their glasses were sitting close together on the still, "what's a Witch Door?"
"You know-- a Witch; cackles, boils small children, flies on a broom with her cat?"
"Makes crazy doctors out of snakes, snails and puppy dog tails?" BJ offered.
"And a healthy dose of gin," the other man reached for his glass again, then thought better of it. "They're built in old houses, to hide people who were accused during the witch trials. I did some reading on them in college," Hawkeye closed his eyes, casting back, "I think some of them were also used in the Underground railroad. Anyway, my mom had the key-- she wore it on a chain. We'd play hide-and seek, you know. The best way to get to the passages was through the Witch Door."
(This is Her Kingdom, where the light can come in only through the spaces between the wooden planks. He's running on his small, still-puppy-fat legs, turning the corner, ducking under cob webs.
She's calling, saying, 'Where could my little Ben be?'
He giggles, keeps running. He looses her in the maze.)
"But," said BJ with some understanding, "You don't like small places."
"Never bothered me then," Hawkeye sighed through his teeth, "and, of course, she died when I was ten. You know kids," he curled his fingers into his hands, held the fists against his chest, "they don't understand death. I took the key-- she always wore the key around her neck, but they didn't bury it with her. It was in her jewelry box, and I took it. I went in through the Witch Door. I dunno, maybe I thought she would be there." He closed his eyes, voice far away, "So, my dad was dealing with the people who came to visit and give sympathy-- the same people who said, behind our backs, that Mom was a witch-- and I went back in there. And, don't ask me how, but... the door got stuck."
(He pounds, he screams, but there's only the lonely echo of her world behind him, and the door that has closed off the sunlight before him. He shouts and cries and begs, and the walls seem to hover over him, watching. It's too small, too close-- it's like she's in there with him. She is dead, they put her in the ground, but he can almost feel her skeleton's embrace. )
"Oh, damn," said BJ with sympathy.
"Yeah?" Hawkeye mused, "Yeah. They found me eventually-- Dad pried the door open, took away the key. I still don't know what he did with it. And ever since then..."
"You don't like small places," his friend finished.
The older doctor smiled, "You really are giving Sidney a run for his money."
"Hey," BJ shifted to the edge of his cot, reached his hand across the gap to rest it on Hawkeye's shoulder.
(Can you transfer emotion through touch? Because you could swear he's feeding something into you, that lazy warmth. It's as though the hardness behind your heart is gone, you hate that he makes you melt. You're looking at him, you can't feel the expression on your face. So badly-- you have a gaze, a certain look, that makes the nurses swoon-- and you want so badly to look at him through it. There's a funny image, good, to make that warmth into simple humor-- BJ swooning. Ha ha.)
To break the moment, they both moved to pour new drinks, but the glasses sat abandoned and full, together. And they, two army doctors, sat on their cots watching each other across the endless two feet.
"Wanna go to the officer's club?" Either of them could have said it.
"No." Breath in, out, "Do you?"
"I'm surprised Charles hasn't come sulking back here," Hawkeye commented distractedly.
"He has post-op tonight," BJ's voice was forcefully calm, to avoid those dangerous possibilities hiding in the simple words. "That was a rotten thing for him to say, earlier."
"How was he suppose to know?" Hawkeye rolled his shoulder forgivingly, "Though I bet you, knowing Radar, he probably *could* get my mom on the radio."
"I'll never be able to figure him out," BJ said good-naturedly.
"Who-- Radar, or Charles?"
"Radar," the younger man clarified, "I don't *want* to understand Charles."
"Amen to that." Hawkeye rested his chin in his hand, eyeing his glass, "To drink, or not to drink, that is the question?" His smile was dry and only half there as he glanced at BJ, "Thanks, by the way. For... you know, worrying. And stuff."
"Not a problem," BJ's eyes were filled with strange shapes. Now the lamp over his cot was the only light-- the compound was settled over with Korea's own shade and texture of night. "You're my friend. My best friend." For a moment, his hands reached up to grip that faithful picture frame. He held on, and Hawkeye glanced away, giving the other man privacy. There was a click, and when he turned back, the picture was face down.
(It's like Mom said! Everything is a sign, the number of petals on a cherry blossom, on a dogwood tree. Seeing three ladybugs. The pattern of sticks fallen on the ground and how many seeds are left on a dandelion after you blow the first time. What does this mean?)
"Ever feel like you're going crazy?" BJ asked, downing his abandoned drink in one gulp.
Hawkeye snorted, "All the time. This place is crazy, war is crazy. Klinger is crazy."
"You're crazy," BJ pointed with his forefinger and thumb, "if you believe that last one." He closed his eyes, breathing steadily, as if drawing something in. "Hey, Hawk?"
Hesitantly, "Will you do something for me?"
"Do you even need to ask?" Hawkeye winked, "Sure, what it is?"
"Close your eyes." What soft command.
"You lost me, Beej."
"Close your eyes," the younger man repeated, "I'm gonna," he poured himself a new drink, swallowed and continued, "I'm gonna do somethin' and I want you to close your eyes. I might scare you."
"Beej," Hawekeye said patiently, "I suffer from claustrophobia, not paranoia."
"Just trust me, alright?"
"Alright," the other man drawled, making a great show of covering his eyes with his hands. "See? Blind as a bat."
"Batty as one too," BJ shot back, "No peeking."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
There was another click, and the faint pink Hawkeye saw through his eyelids became dark and black and unfathomable. He heard movement, vague, a little hesitant, then assured steps as BJ crossed over to the cot.
"Beej--" Hawkeye began, but the other man pressed a warm finger over the sound to quiet him. A creak (like opening the Witch Door) as BJ climbed into the cot behind Hawkeye, settling so that the older man was sitting in-between his legs. His arms came around Hawkeye, held on, and he rested his head on the other doctor's shoulder. With intensity, "*Beej*!"
A slight pulling away, "If you don't..."
"No," Hawkeye's voice ached, "you don't understand. I do *want*. Very badly."
"Good. 'Cause I do, too." BJ's grip tightened, pinning Hawkeye's arms to his sides. He felt the smile against his neck, "I was worried. You said you didn't like small places."
(He doesn't know his arms are wide-- he doesn't know that this isn't claustrophobia, but it's just as fatal. A sweet, small death.)
"I stand," he swallowed thickly, "or rather, sit corrected. But..." he couldn't say the name, couldn't wrap his tongue around the syllables.
"I think," said BJ carefully, "that your mother was right. About other-lands. Korea is one of them, I think, Hawk. Home isn't real, not here. All I have is a picture and a feeling that's not even mine. I love..." and he didn't say her name either, "but not like you. Never like you." His grip was firm, not painful, and Hawkeye leaned back into him. Their bodies seemed to fade into each other, mutual surrender. They touched, lost and reclaimed each other.
(And her Kingdom is dark and narrow, and BJ is right. Because, here in Korea--
Even here, in Korea, Hawkeye has learned, things really aren't the same in the light as they are in the dark.
And they never will be.)
[to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"]
"Please give me some feed-back,
that is what I desire,
I'll love you forever if only you'd say,
good or bad, yes or no, yay or nay.
Yes, I really really like feedback,
and I am not ashamed,
cause it's F-E-E-D and back,
yes, that's he name of the game."