AUTHOR'S NOTES: This fic is dedicated to Jimaine, because she has such a marvelous command of the English language, and to Leigh because someday I'll have an autographed copy of her first official novel.
I hope this isn't too bad-- I can't thank you enough for bothering to read this. It seems a bit jumpy to me, but I can't possibly revise this anymore.. it's started biting me. ^_~
I tried to write fluff-- I was in a fluffy mood.
But this is what happens when I try to write fluff. X_X It's still mushy, but, ah... Yeah. Anyway, this is a post-ep for Operation Friendship, in which BJ's hand is wounded and he refuses to let Hawkeye take care of him. It's great for Klinger/Charles interaction, but you know me. ^^;
As always, feedback makes me do some things that are nearly physically impossible, like walking on the ceiling and jumping on water. *puppy dog eyes* Please....?
DATE BEGUN: Friday, January 31st, 2003
DATE FINSIHED: Sunday, February 2nd, 2003
"What ever you love,
Whatever you give,
Whatever you you think you need to live.
Whatever you want,
Whatever you hide,
Whatever you carry deep inside,
There's something more than this."
-"Something More Than This," by The October Project
And Your Body Shall Haunt Mine 1/1
(a post-ep for "Operation Friendship")
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
BJ slept with his injured hand help limply against his chest-- a long, sleek and strange animal on the end of his arm, nestling. He slept and dreamed he was sleeping, the kind of double negative escape of the mind that can not go forward and can not go back. Korea was the eternal present, the moment he held in his hands as it burned him to shuddering ashes, but at the same time he couldn't let go. Maybe didn't want to.
A touch, in the darkness, with only the moon to give vague shapes and a strange sense of depth. Under the surface of the water, with the sun so far above it was only a diffuse shimmer; BJ lifted through those waves and into another ocean, he could rise and rise and it would only ever be a maze. Korea was a dream, a nightmare and everything in between. Gently, his hand was lifted and held very gently between two skilled palms, fingers trailing over the abused flesh like the opposite of phantom pain. With the night heavy over them both, Hawkeye was a blurred shadow, leaning over, keeping watch and watching.
In his mind, the moment was simultaneous and laid over with another-- who knew which happened first? Hawkeye, with treacherous Lune casting on his face the shadows of emotions that couldn't _possibly_be_; but at the same time, Peg, with her head against the pillow and her not-golden-not-brown hair like a halo around her face, watching him in the silent breathing stillness of three a.m. Both of these would happen and had happened already-- were always happening, yes, because BJ had been swallowed by that one clear moment between heartbeats.
"Is something wrong, Hawk?" he managed, but all his awareness was really in the hand being held, being cradled.
(See, see, this is too much! Yes, doctors can care, offer comfort but is he, is Hawkeye even capable of the word _cradle_, or of the words _hold_, _embrace_, and that word that always comes out wrong, _love_? If he is, if that's what he's doing, then why does it make you afraid and what have you been calling it all this time?
Passion is easy, rolls off the tongue, lingering over the 's'es. Desire, with a French flair and 'need'-- well that's an earthen, naked and true sound you don't even want to think about.)
Hawkeye's fingers stilled against BJ's palm, touching without pressure-- the younger doctor saw the slump of his friend's shoulders and his mind supplied the sigh he knew was there anyway.
"No," Hawkeye said a little defensively, and then more firmly, "No. I just wanted to check on your hand."
"It's fine." He commanded the muscles in his arm to move, to pull away, but his hand lay were it was, "I'm fine. Go back to sleep."
"Can't," said the other Captain in that inward-drawn voice of an ancient child, "Haven't slept at all, actually. I've been thinking."
"I'll alert the media," BJ said, and the words cut him as they fell flat. There was no flip, quirky comeback in return-- just that low level of sound that passes as silence.
(Never true silence, you can always hear something.)
"Why wouldn't you let me take care of you?" Hawkeye asked suddenly, his shadow moving forward a little. BJ couldn't see the expression on his face.
"I didn't need you to, I was..." well, no, he hadn't been fine, "everything was taken care of."
"But," the other man returned with a tone petulant and somehow almost, but not quite, sad, "you wouldn't let me help you." There-- in-between those surgeon's hands that seemed at the moment to hold all BJ's awareness-- yes, there were other things, which Hawkeye couldn't wouldn't shouldn't say.
(You would let Peg take care of you, fuss over you.
And, ah, is this the voice of reason?
Or is there, can there be, any sense at all in this crazy war which is also love and love in the middle of a war?)
"You know," Hawkeye continued, "I've been thinking about that. About you, and me, and this Goddamn war-- always got to think about the war-- see what I'm saying? Maybe I don't have a right to take care of you."
Too close, even in this heavy shade, "Hawk--"
"No," a finger was touched to BJ's lips, as if to take the sounds away, "I mean, I was thinking, you wouldn't risk all those things waiting for you back home just for a good lay. You're just not like that, it wouldn't be worth it to you, so-- if that's out-- I have to wonder why--"
(Yes, BJ, why? Why do you touch him, tilt his chin up and taste the gin sweet as any wine under his tongue? Why do you close your eyes and let him distill you down to that quiver in your ribs when he touches you? For what reason do your fingers explore those long limbs, warm flesh and for what purpose do you reach out and why, tell me why do you scream slightly and hold on as he shudders in you or above or under or beside you. Why is it only then that you hold onto him as tightly as you want to all the time?)
"Why what?" BJ's voice was a hiss, alien even in his own ears, "Go to bed, Hawkeye. It's late." Defense; parry.
"Uh-uh," there again, was that young storm-skies boy, encased and buried close to the surface in Hawkeye's bones. There was a small creak which was loud in the stillness and then a firm, pleasant weight. Hawkeye beside him in the cot, close to him, nearly straddling him. "I gotta..." the older doctor seemed drunk-- maybe that was only an excuse, "I gotta figure this out."
"Hawkeye," BJ said with equal amounts of surprise and fear, "you're going to wake Charles!"
"He's overslept anyway," Hawkeye sassed, "he already missed the Boston tea party." The sound was easily folded away-- no laughter, no echo, just a flimsy joke; a single note, with the damper peddle down on the piano. They met each others eyes in the darkness, or thought they did, anyway. With an almost trance-like earnestly, the older doctor went on, "So, I was thinking of you and then I started thinking about me, you know, and the old why-fors--"
(Stop, stop. Wrong direction)
"I started thinking," Hawkeye corrected himself, "about me and my reasons, you know, for... _things_." He seemed to bite down on his voice, and when he spoke again it was with a casual sense of confession. "What would you say if I told you I'd been in the supply tent this week with Nurse Baker, and then Nurse Welles?"
"I'd say," BJ had to swallow past something in his throat, "I'd say you need another score card-- you probably filled up the old one." Again, falling flat, lying there limp, sorry sir, the joke's just dead.
(Shoot, I forgot where I left my snappy comments.)
Why, he wanted to rage-- maybe at Hawkeye, more maybe at himself or the scenery-- why are all those smooth, easy things to say laying on the floor?
(Because, here's the real irony of it, here's that punch-line that'll roll you right off your chair.
You can't expect him to be faithful when you sure as _hell_ aren't.
And then, of course, you have ask yourself why it's so important to have him all to yourself and you just don't want to go there. Lock and bolt the door, see it through the iron bars, out of the corner of your eye, but don't, damn you, don't look at this head-on.
Erin once asked what a question was. Good thing she doesn't know, 'cause when you do find out, they never, ever go away.)
"You know," the other Captain's blue eyes seemed to show briefly, but it was probably just the light, "I don't even remember... I mean, I know we-- the nurses and I, I mean, and not at the same time, mind you-- _did_ but it was just there." Without meaning to, BJ reached upwards, his bandaged hand coming to rest on Hawkeye's shoulder, with the other coming to cup the older doctor's cheek. And there, he could feel it, that fear that was so much more, that nameless thing that slunk, and slithered and crawled about in a darkness that was somehow brighter than light. Not a child's fear and not a man's fear either; terror, simple and clean, stark and real.
Under the younger man's touch, Hawkeye said, "You could have lost the use of that hand, Beej. If you'd let it go long enough, you could have _died_."
Suddenly, unexpectedly, BJ felt the sweet thread of Hawkeye's pulse under his fingers and found he'd moved his injured hand to touch against where the blood pounded beneath the other man's neck. That was Hawkeye in there, essential and alive and BJ could feel that terror shattering in his stomach as surely as it was his own, and it _was_.
"I'm--" Sorry, he wanted to say, sorry for being so stubborn and for pushing you away, for punishing you because you care. But BJ was an honest person and he couldn't lie to Hawkeye just like he couldn't lie to Peg. He kept starting those letters, 'my darling', 'dear peg' (jane) and burning them with his fingers dangerously close to that lick of fire.
"This is crazy," Hawkeye said in a completely sane and sober voice, "Look at this place! It's awful, and yet here _you_..."
They couldn't seem to finish their sentences. There's an amusing image; boys at the dinner table, finish your peas, your commas and periods. Himself and Hawkeye, young together as they had never been, late high school or early college and it was Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce he was making love
(there's that word again)
to under the shadows of the branches outside his dorm room window. He didn't know who was really with him in that memory. Time, there was never enough time, and why did he want more anyway?
(Why is an awful question, an awful letter, too. Stupid Romans, one long diagonal line and a short one perpendicular to that. Tr_y_ and m_y_ and a 'y' in GOODBYE.
And there will come a day for that, too.)
"Look," BJ said at last, his voice even and his touches lingering, "I wasn't trying to insult your medical degree. Hell, you're a better doctor than that old stiff when you're half dead, which is often. I didn't mean it like that." And suddenly, talking about something else, "I never meant--"
"Yeah," said Hawkeye in a tone of regret he usually reserved for things larger than himself. Never meant to do this, for life to go this way, to end up here and now. "I know."
(Never meant for war to mar the perfect coat of paint over all those things you didn't want to see. Never meant to see young men die and yes, never meant to meet Hawkeye. But _boom_ there he is, his own type of bombshell, and the minute you see those bright blue eyes you're thinking things you don't have anyway of expressing. You learn what it means not to be able to keep away and when it finally *happens* you say 'yes', and almost always even when you sometimes say 'no' you want to scream 'yes, yes!' and God it makes you feel so weak but at the same time you've never been, never will be, this strong again.
At that is a stupid way of saying what you're feeling, even in your own mind you're screwing it up, so of course you can't say it aloud.)
"BJ," and Hawkeye was atop him fully, cloth against cloth in such a way that it might as well have been flesh because they could feel it like that. "I want... I want you to promise me something." Labored breathing, not ion the heat of desire but in the chill of having nothing to cover yourself with. "Promise me, okay?"
"I don't," said BJ, feeling at that moment a bizarre, disgusting kinship with Frank Burns, "make promises I can't keep." And there, it was gone, because the old ferret probably had laid beside Margaret (she really was a good kid, who'da thought?) and said all those things that no one ever meant.
"I was thinking about what you said," Hawkeye's voice made it clear; BJ's mind conjured up that image-- 'shoulda died right there on the operating table'-- the older Captain laughing except the reality of it had all gone out of his face, and BJ could see something hurting back there behind the blue. "Promise me you aren't gonna die, Beej."
(That's as close as he'll ever come to saying it, probably, at least where you can hear it. But maybe he's right, that those risks aren't all for nothing and the very fact it's happening is a testament to... to... yeah.)
"Are you crazy?" BJ said, a strangled cry. As Charles stirred and rolled over far off where he was safe and alone, the younger doctor closed his lips over the rest of what he was tempted to say. 'This is a war here, either of us could die any day. We'll all die, eventually. You of all people ought to know.'
"Yeah," Hawkeye replied smoothly, saying that he _was_ crazy. There's that old crack-- 'I'm crazy over you.' Earnestly, Hawkeye pulled both BJ's hands (gentle, with care) into his own, "Just promise me, alright?"
"Hawk, I can't--" the other man protested, feeling the warmth of his lover against him leaving the rest of the world seen through a veil of fire so hot it was cold. "Who _knows_.--"
Quietly, perhaps dangerously-- no, not the right way to describe it, "Promise me, Beej." That terror, shattered and shattering; it's twin was in BJ, that awful sometimes nightmare image of Hawkeye prone with arms and legs akimbo, odd angles and blood.
(They say every man's afraid of death, but that's not so true. Not really. You're a doctor, so is he, you know the numbers stretching outward, the dozens of ways in which the human body is as fragile as freshly blown glass. A body, you can kill, but there's that something else in there, that thing you can't see or smell or touch but the thing that all the same commands you, makes you want, cry, need and love. There's that horror, as terrible in the light as it is when nothing is visible-- if you can kill that thing, the so-called soul, just so you don't have _feel_ anymore, well what are you then?)
And he said, because he _wanted_ to, "Yes. Alright, okay. I promise." There was a mutual movement; he drew Hawkeye down as the other man fell smoothly to him. Silken black (he knew the color by touch) and going gray hair against BJ's chest, the warmth of a not-smooth cheek and breaths in and out. If it had been Peg...
(Your wife is a blond and your lover is dark-haired, wavy locks verses straight, sane verses crazy, brown eyes to blue, and your wife is a woman and your lover is a man.
At least you won't get them mixed up.
If it had been Peg, BJ knew he would have heard further words, an explanation in the dark that would help him understand and yet further mystify. There was no such thing from Hawkeye, just weight and the feel of a smile and-- well, this was silly, BJ thought he felt a little drop of water but, no. Couldn't be.
(Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
--Old cliches, can't get enough of 'em--
You never wanted that sort of power, but it's the same he's got over you. Less, more, who knows.)
Slowly, BJ began tracing a pattern on Hawkeye's back, as if there was some incomprehensible symbol he could see in his mind, something that would explain and be truthful about everything but he couldn't quite remember how to write it. He touched gently over shoulder-blades (stems of wings) and ran his fingers over each knob of the spine. His left hand was clumsy, too, but still tingling against the older man's flesh. When BJ's hand stilled, Hawkeye lay just for one moment more and moved off, his form merging and flickering in the darkness depending on how the shadows fell.
(That's it, you're thinking, 'cause he's just gonna walk back over there in the morning he'll crack jokes and kiss you when nobody's looking. He's the one that came over here, so how come you're the one who feels stranded and floating?
He's held out longer than you, remember. He'll keep holding out.
And you don't even know what you're talking about now.)
It was out and honest before BJ had even thought of it, "Stay here until I fall asleep, will you?" It sounded raw and child-like, but at the same time all too flip. He heard the rustle of feet in the dirt, felt Hawkeye take kind hold of his injured hand once more and settled on the end of the cot.
Hawkeye said, and there, there was that smile BJ could sense and drown in, "Sure thing."
Night in Korea and shadows in the compound. Don't you want, don't you need, you better find-- the song would go one day-- somebody to love.
Some body makes it sound like just a body but it isn't 'cause bone is just bone and you may love the softness of hair and the sweet dip of the back of the knee but only because it belongs to that important person.
So. Some day, some when, some where, BJ would wonder why he never extracted a similar promise from Hawkeye.
Without that thing that makes you feel....
A body is just a body.
And that's when you call it a corpse.