AUTHOR'S NOTES: Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, first of all. Just your opening this makes me happy as a turtle in its plastic bowl... ah, er... really happy, I mean. (I'm not sure I'd like that plastic bowl ^_~)
Yeah, obviously it's a little too late for me to be up. ^_^ This is something of a Radar fic, set in the later fourth season. It's really interesting how the dynamics of the 4077th changed with the new additions and exits. I wanted to deal with Radar's feelings towards Hawkeye as well as how BJ is much less in Hawkeye's shadow than Trapper. Hmmm... not much else to say, save to credit Leigh for, well, being Leigh. And she used the comic book parallel first-- hopefully I've taken it in a different direction.
Also, big thanks to my Slash-Angels; you ladies are about as wonderful and talented as they come!
Thanks again for reading,
DATE BEGUN: January 27th, 2003
DATE FINISHED: January 29th, 2003
Make Room For Me 1/1
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
In the stories and the comics, the ending was always the same. The hero (just a regular Joe, right? But not really) would swoop down, all thick lines and jagged bubbles reading "pow!" and "wham!", unafraid to face his nemesis-- and sure, maybe for a moment or two, it would look a little dicey, but the hero always stood tall against the sky or the American flag when the dust cleared. He won because he had something special-- a talent, a power-- that the villain could only poorly reproduce, but he also won because there was no way he couldn't, because he was the _good guy_. And, in the end, he always got the girl.
Sometimes, after the glory and glitter had faded and he'd set the latest issue of 'Marvel' aside, Radar would wonder who wrote and drew and thought up those stories. Laser-vision, flying, swinging between tall sky scrapers, yeah, you're something special, kid; an alien from another planet, a genetic mutation? Doesn't matter. You got it, that spark. With the war roaring out past the edges of camp and right into his mind, Radar would imagine that the people who wrote those stories were also the people in charge of the world, secretly. All those powers were there, locked inside their skin, and any day now, they'd realize they'd left someone behind.
(What makes you think you're so special, huh? There's a difference between being a superman and a freak, ya know.)
Those heroes didn't know how good they had it-- they had something to fall back on, they were Special and could bargain with The Powers That Be. Different didn't always add up to Special, at least outside the boxes and cheap color ink.
(You want something? You gotta take it in your hands.)
Standing in the Swamp's large, irregular shadow, Radar held his palms out into the light. Farmer's hands-- rough and squat, curtailed like wild horses into typing and taking dictation. For a moment, there was so much inside him, so much noise, that it blurred out everything else, even the sharp blue essence curtained away inside the tent. Gone then, the rabble inside him-- it hurt too much to keep it up for long, and he felt that familiar presence like a thousand needles in his gut.
Maybe he had something a little extra, something most other people didn't have, but standing outside the wide circle of light thrown by the flood lamps, it didn't seem to add up to anything. The films flashed through his mind, just as he had seen them, a little crooked and projected onto a white sheet. America, the Good Guy, the hero and the eagle and the stars and the stripes. You're a soldier, you're a hero now.
(That supposed to mean something, huh? You wanna explain to me why there are boys dying in post-op, on the operating tables, in fox holes like dirty animals? They're heroes, yeah, okay, then why aren't they winning? They're the _good guys_.
The good guys always win.)
And at the same time, almost super-imposed on those scratchy training films, was a voice he'd recorded in the cells of his mind, one that he could take out and listen to, one that wasn't his.
--"Look at these boys. They're babies. Not a hair on their chins between them."
--"Can you believe this? Lookit this; he's got enough scrapnel to make a Ford and why the _hell_ is he over here under my scalpel when he should be out at the malt shop with Amy Lou?"
--"Police Action, hell. Hell, this is hell. War is hell."
Also, his own words-- he could see himself saying them but the sounds refused to register because it just couldn't be and they'd all thought at least someone was gonna get away and it turned out you couldn't do it alive...
(They always get the girl.)
He felt his difference like a skin under his skin, something that wiggled in discomfort when the Korean working girls winked or giggled, leaning on him, offering things, holding out their hands with their nails so blaringly red, when the nurses giggled and asked him why he was so shy. It was there, too, when he was tired and curled up in his cot, and he _wanted_ so badly arms to hold him and a voice to soothe him and it terrified him to full wakefulness because the want was so specific and so right and so wrong.
(Take it in your hands, boy. In your _hands_. Cowards get a whole lot of nothin'. Don't need to tell you that. You know it well yourself.)
Almost to punish himself, Radar brought the walls in his mind down with a shattering force. So much of it got mixed together, American and Korean, North and South. No one _sounded_ like a good or bad guy-- nothing was that clear. Then, with some effort and as if he'd put on his glasses-- the swirl became more distinct. Here was the bland, thin and firm presence of Major Burns, and hiding high over that the muted crimson-and-gold glint of Houlihan; Radar sensed the ripples between them the tuned it out, like closing a door quickly or covering his eyes. Reach a little further; the itching, rambling earth tones of enlisted men, Klinger's bright flash of peacock feathers and Potter's calm, easy smell of the barn.
(No, not that other presence-- _He_ used to have a feel like those mornings when you wake up and being alive feels good. Just an echo now, crawling up his spine when he heard it, and fading with that smell of straw and horses.
It's not Potter's fault he's Potter and not someone else.)
The nurses, too, varied like the fabrics his mother touched over with a clinical eye at the market-- all colors, all shapes. There were ripples there, too, though more like a chime singing with vibration, and Radar put almost every barrier back in its place. It was like the pictures he sensed from cats, everything in green-gray night shadows, looking; he found BJ's fresh clean blue-yellow with a little more effort, for the new doctor was harder to read. In post-op, it must be, near the pain. Below that, a faint echo, a hum and a buzz. As if putting his ear to the ground, Radar listened, but as with every other time the connection was too young and diffuse to identify-- if he pushed it it, it panicked and changed colors like a salamander hiding in the grass. Radar let it be and stepped out under the floodlights with his hands gripping each other. He was thinking about privacy, and how he wished he could apologize to anyone and everyone in camp because really there are things only a single _person_ should know, deep down in those dark spots under their lungs. And yet...
(What's the use of havin' ears if you aren't gonna listen? Eyes if you ain't gonna see and legs if you won't walk dammit you coward you little piece of...)
It was there in his mind, firm and shining like Salvation Father Mulcahy spoke of on Sunday. Run, it said, go down to Rosie's, pick a girl any girl, put your hands in those places they always talk about, maybe you just aren't trying hard enough. But that single, bright blue column of light was still there; it would be there if he paid for a night and actually touched the girl's _those_-- he'd hear it no matter where he crammed himself to try and get away.
(Ain't got no excuse now, do you, boy?)
The feel of the Swamp door against his knuckles was surprising-- Radar hadn't realized he'd even taken a step, and sometimes all the other-things were so vibrant that things like regular touch and taste and smell just stopped functioning. The door rattled, no turning back.
"Come in as long as you aren't Frank," Hawkeye called, and despite the fact his feet just wanted to run, Radar opened the door.
"Evening, Hawkeye, sir," and his hands were in his pockets. He was smiling because he couldn't do anything else.
"Oh, good," Hawkeye looked up from the blue lines of notepad, "you're not Frank."
"I hope not, sir!" the young corporal replied with some measure of genuine horror. Hawkeye made a small snicker between his teeth and set paper and pen aside, pouring a drink with practiced motions that didn't even require him to look.
"What brings you to my humble abode this evenin', young Master O'Reilly?" the Captain drawled, briefly using an envelope as a Southern lady's fan.
"Uh-- Hawkeye," Radar pushed the words out and, though he didn't look at the other man, he could picture that Atlantic twinkle all the same. "I was wondering if I could talk to you."
"Sure, sure," Hawkeye gestured towards BJ's empty bunk, "Take a seat. I hope you don't mind, but my couch is in the shop."
He bit down on the noise, but it still came out. "Sir--"
"Alright," the doctor spread his hands peaceably. They breathed in the smell of living and dirt and gin for a moment, before Radar looked away again. "Radar," Hawkeye's hand was patient on the corporal's shoulder, "You _can_ sit down, you know. It doesn't cost any extra. At least not for you-- I'm thinking of charging Frank for taking up space. I'm thinking of charging him with malpractice, too, but that's beside the point."
With his whole body stiff on the edge of the other cot, the young man let his hands fall limp in his lap, his back straightening with a chill. In the village, he sometimes heard stories of the Monkey King, the trickster god who did as he pleased and could fake his way through anything-- somehow wild and sophisticated all at once, improbable, impossible. He thought he could sometimes see a face like that, amidst the shifting brilliance housed in Hawkeye's flesh. He was sitting outside the light again, his foot just touching the edge of the circle made by Hawkeye's lamp; the rest of the Swamp was all dirty shadow and crude shapes.
"So," Hawkeye propped himself up on one arm, the rest of his body stretched out in lazy exhibition, "what's wrong, kid?"
Radar made a motion with his foot, as if to kick that last word, and said, "It's just... I thought I could use your advice, you know, since you know a lot about this sorta thing."
"Oh?" the Captain raised an eyebrow, "Let's see, then our subject must then be either surgery, drinking, nudey magazines or sex. Ah-hah," he shook a slender finger towards the young man, "Radar, you little devil, you finally..."
"Oh, no, sir!" Radar put his hands palm up, "I didn't, I haven't, I mean... _no_. But it is about that, sort of."
A shift, a shadow in doctor's eyes, "Radar, I'm not the best person to ask about this. If you go by my word, it might not turn out so good."
"Sir," the fear was on either side of Radar's throat-- sweet, sour and so _thick_, "Please, Hawkeye. I don't got anyone else to ask."
"What about BJ?" the other man made a motion with his hand, as if to toss the idea, "After all, he is our resident expert on 'til death do us part' and all that. "
(What's that? Sounds like ground water, very deep, running deep and cool and hasn't seen the light-a-day. Whatcha suppose that is?)
"I assume," Hawkeye winked and continued, "that's what you're looking for, and not just a roll in the hay."
"Oh no, sir," it was out before Radar thought about it, "my Ma always told me not to mess around in the barn. You just don't know _where_ the cat has gone and..." The corporal ducked his head, stopping the flow of his voice as heat rushed to his cheeks, "I see what you mean."
"See, so you should wait around for our resident Happily Married poster child," Hawkeye tugged absently on his red robe, "I mean, if you want to."
"If it's all the same, sir--"
"Stop sir-ing me," the doctor teased, "I'm all sir-ed out."
"-- I mean, I really want to ask you about this."
"Alright," Hawkeye's smile was small but fond, "Go on, Radar."
"Well, I, that is, ah..."
(Be still and steady, soldier! Be _still_.)
He nearly shoveled the words out with his tongue, "You've liked people before, right?"
"Sure," Hawkeye shrugged eloquently, "I like my Dad, I like Potter, I like BJ, and John Wayne, and Igor even though he feeds us slop I wouldn't give to ravenous wolf. I like Sofie and Rosie and that little tyke that comes around here asking to shine our shoes and--"
"Hawkeye," the corporal said plaintively.
"Hold on, Radar," he waved a hand, "I'm getting around to you, I'm not going in any particular order."
"_Sir_,"the young man felt the heat on his cheeks like hands and was sure the color was there too. "I don't mean that-- I mean, you know, _like_. As in, _like_ like. As in, lo-." He shut his mouth firmly, wondering why it was such a hard word to say, even abstractly. He thought suddenly of the Korean girls in the village, learning English words and caroling them in high voices-- "ki-su" and "sweet heart", "darling" and "love". He thought of the nurses and his mom and some of the girls from his home town and tucked away the idea that, perhaps, it was just a hard word for guys to say.
(Trapper, he never said it, not to... to the person he _shoulda_.)
"I know," Hawkeye sighed, his smile making his eyes look hooded, "I see what you're saying. I keep telling you, I'm not exactly great on relationship advice."
"Can you _try_?" The corporal looked at his palms, seeing ink and dirt there along his skin.
"Okay, okay. Who is she?" Hawkeye's hands came together, pointing their prayer-shape at Radar.
"Wh-h-ho?" he tripped over it and closed his eyes behind his glasses, his nails digging into his palms.
"You know, your sweetheart, the one you're smitten with, the lucky person in question," the doctor elaborated.
"The person-- ah," with everything shut away behind his eyelids, Radar could only sense the vague thunder of war and that single, bright shape. Into the darkness, he said, "I'm scared'ta tell you, sir."
"Scared?" when he opened his eyes, Hawkeye was making a face and reaching out a hand to pat his knee, "Come on, Radar. You can trust me. It's not like I'm going to go trumpeting it to the whole camp." That dangerous, so-sky-colored glint, "I'll use a saxophone."
"I just..." miserably, he almost laid down to let everything fall away from him.
(If you want something, if you really want something, you gotta go after it. Ain't no body just gonna give it to you, you got to take it in your hands. In your hands, boy!)
"I just don' want you to hate me," he admitted, forcing his back up straight.
"Hate you?" a real and true tone of confusion, "Radar, you are one of the most unhatable people I know." For a moment, the doctor paused, before sitting up and loosening the red tie on his robe, "Is it Nurse Tallman? Is that it? Look, I know I've been around with her lately, but that doesn't mean she's spoken for or..."
Thick, it was too thick in his throat, so Radar just shook his head.
"Not it, huh?" A swift glance, and Hawkeye rested his chin in his hand. "If you don't want to tell me, Radar, I--"
"You promise you won't get mad?"
"Cross my heart," the Captain swore, "and hope everyone on my draft board gets pimples in unseemly places."
"Right," Radar pulled a breath into his lungs, "Okay. Um."
(He wishes he was a surgeon, cause maybe if he was, he'd know right where this feeling was hiding and he could take it out with a knife. It's so heavy and burns and it feeds on itself because that's the whole meaning of unrequited, or something.)
"Uh-huh," the corporal said again, watching that strange shade were the light hit Hawkeye's void-colored hair, "I..."
(If you want it, take it!
He was across the space in two steps, sitting on the bed and leaning over Hawkeye as if to whisper a secret but then he cupped the doctor's face
(In your hands)
and pressed his lips against those other, much more witty ones. He was standing on his knees, and, though he could feel where his hands touched Hawkeye, everything else had fallen away because that sky-shade was blazing the world away in his mind.
(Got the whole world in his hands)
"Borrowing" that penny-novel from Major Houlinhan had seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was filled with vague flowery phrases and rambling comparisons to things that didn't have anything to do with really kissing someone-- and besides, those kisses were between men and women so it was kind of off and Hawkeye certainly wasn't a girl, but then Radar would almost laugh thinking of himself in a dress. Shifting just a little, he seemed to find the right spot where he had room for Hawkeye and Hawkeye had room for him.
There was something in Radar that almost wanted to be rough and he couldn't understand it because that wouldn't be _nice_-- but at the same time his hands also wanted under that soft red robe and if he could just somehow crawl _inside_ Captain Pierce...
All that was in a flick of the watch-hand, a second, maybe five or six, and then Hawkeye was very gently-- perhaps a little cautiously-- removing himself from the embrace. Radar blushed suddenly as he was plopped back down on the bunk-- he realized he must have crawled into the doctor's lap.
"Radar," Hawkeye said when his breaths were no longer audible. The corporal didn't listen-- he instead turned his senses to the things behind the words. No flare of anger, no razor-sharp lance of hate; he almost went boneless in his initial relief. "Radar, what was that for?"
The enlisted man snorted, "You know _that_." And turned his face away.
A breathless half-laugh, "I mean, why--"
"Because," Radar reached out to grip the Captain's hands, "because I... aw, don't make me say it, not when you're sitting there thinking how pathetic I am." He said ti without even bothering to check if it was true.
"I do not," Hawkeye patted the younger man's shoulder, "think you're pathetic, Radar. I'm just rather... ah, surprised." He nodded to himself, "Yeah, surprised is a good word. Radar, you took a big chance-- I mean, if you'd tried that with someone else you might be dead now, or at least on your way to a Blue Discharge. No offense, but that was a little stupid, kid."
"Nu-uh," he shook his head violently, "I knew... that you and-- ah--"
"Oh," said Hawkeye shoulders slumping, "I see."
"You see," and the words were tumbling out over themselves, "my Ma always said if a girl's jilted then you gotta give her some time before you... ah.." he looked up, and the heat was burning in his throat, "aw, you know what I mean. So I waited a little while."
Unconsciously, Hawkeye licked his lips clean, "I take it that's what you came here for?"
"Hawkeye, I--" Miserable, miserable _stupid_ word that wouldn't come out. "And I want--"
"Radar," the smile on Hawkeye's face was one he'd seen only rarely, so strange and touched and hopeless, "Radar, I'm sorry, but-- no."
"Why not?" he dug his fists in to his thighs, "I mean, I'll be quiet, it's not like I'd tell anybody and..."
Patiently, "That's not it, Radar."
He looked up at the doctor over the rim of his glasses, "Am I that bad of a kisser?"
"No," Hawkeye laughed, leaning back, "Heck no. Trust me, what you lack in experience, you make up for in enthusiasm."
"I'm just not," Hawkeye's hands groped for the right phrasing, "I don't--"
"He's _gone_" Radar said with a sudden, savage childishness, "He's gone and he ain't never coming back." He took a slender, talented hand between his own two, pleading.
"Thank you for that illuminating bit of information," Hawkeye's grip was just a little, just a _little_, too tight, "I am well aware that Trapper John McIntyre is safely back in the states with his wife and children and the receptionist he meets twice a week at the pines hotel." There was too much in Hawkeye to get a clear sense of, all Radar had was what was spoken, raw and disinfected.
"I'm sorry," the corporal nudged towards the doctor's side, a little surprised when Hawkeye put a friendly arm around him.
"_I'm sorry_, Radar," Hawkeye smoothed the hair under the young man's cap, "I'm-- I'm honored that you say you l--"
(You're not the only one who can't say it)
"but, you're like my kid brother," that gaze, those eyes were affectionate but some how cut away, "honest."
"Well," Radar considered, chewing on his tongue and his heart. He wasn't even really sure he wanted the small, growing gleam in his mind, but it was there-- "you've been with nurses you weren't, you know, like _that_ about. Why can't you...?"
(Are the dead ever angered if you fall into the emotion-- even if it's different-- for someone else?
And boy, you little farm boy, what makes you think even anyone dead-- especially that person dead-- is gonna care about you?)
Now it was his face between those slender surgeon's hands, "Radar." A breath, and Hawkeye shut himself away for a moment, "Look, you deserve a whole lot better than that, especially for your first time. A whole lot better-- and don't you ever let anyone tell you different. For you, it's going to _mean_ something."
Quiet, quiet, "It never means anything to you?"
"It does, on occasion," the older man admitted, "but... they always leave, Radar. I'm starting to think I should stick to sleeping with people I'm not in love with, because once I do with someone I care about..." Hawkeye wrinkled his nose, "Yuck-- Frank Burns. Now there is a bad mental image. But you see what I'm saying."
Limply, Radar allowed the other man's arm to support him, "I just don't see why you can't _try_. I mean, if you haven't thought of me like that before, how're you to know you don't... care like that."
"First," Hawkeye held up a finger, "as I said, you're like my brother-- second, think of poor Potter if something happened and he found out? Third-- you're young--"
"So that's it!" the corporal tried to come to his feet, but Hawkeye pulled him gently back down, "I ain't a kid, honest! I'm eighteen, I haveta shave and everything!"
"I'm not a baby..." But there were tears, falling down behind the safe wall of glass and they were like fire on his cheeks. When he opened his mouth, they came in and burned there too and the more he tried to stop the more he couldn't.
The Captain knelt at eye level, "Aw, common, kid, don't cry--"
"I _said_ stop calling me a kid!"
(Be still, be still, solider! But there is no stillness anymore, there is only that brilliant blue cold fire and the heat of the salty water pouring into your mouth.
Out of the din, the gray back drop--)
Radar's head came up suddenly, nearly knocking his forehead against Hawkeye's as his eyes widened and his tears refused to dissipate.
Steps, a door opening and, "Hawk, would you believe it? This--"
Freeze frame, forever in Radar's mind. Himself on the cot and Hawkeye kneeling by his side, hand on his shoulder. BJ, entering stage left, looking tired and surprised and worried-- just BJ, all Sunday morning's blue sky and yellow leaves.
Beyond that, a little deeper; he looked between the two Captains and _saw_. Saw that calm expanse of forever in BJ, that growing thin cord that was still so blithely oblivious-- and in Hawkeye, a want and a need and a... a _that word_ that burned away everything and left even the great Doctor Pierce trembling and miserable in its wake.
"YOU!" Radar was on his feet and the voice he heard frightened him-- it was his own, he never knew anyone could say something that way. "I hate you!"
"What?" Something drawing back in those not-Hawk-blue-eyes, "Radar, what's-"
"I said I hate you!" he sobbed holding his fists against his chest, "Just 'cause you're too stupid to see he-- and I bet you wouldn't neither anyway, cause you-- oh! It's not fair!"
"_Radar_," that voice and those hands. Hawkeye fear was in his hold on the young corporal, "I know you're upset, but please, _please_ don't do this to me. Think how you would feel, and please don't."
"He doesn't deserve..." Radar gestured vaguely with his hand, pulling away. He stood like a cornered deer in the middle of the swamp and spoke softly, "Why can't it be me?"
Both of them, their voices blending, said, "Radar--" And he turned to run away from that hum, from the ground water and what was growing and the knowledge that even if they started calling to each other constantly
(They will. Just you wait, boy, 'cause it's gonna be hell. Ain't no such thing as privacy, 'specially for _you_.)
they would never say anything, because because because.
And then, below that, even worse and hurting, was the knowledge that BJ had what he himself wanted, that heat-cold-shimmer blue
(In his hands. Took it in his hands.)
and the fool doctor with his pretty wife and little kid and nice house didn't even know it. In the night, Radar ran between the pools of light.
(Night, light, fight, fight, sight, height, too tight, not enough might)
They were standing in the quiet, waiting for it to burst back into sound.
"Shouldn't you go after him?" BJ asked, his eyes sweeping the room as if to divine what had happened in his absence.
"I will," Hawkeye sat down on his bed, head in his hands, "in a minute. He's got to calm down a little, first."
BJ nodded soundlessly, and Hawkeye heard it all the same, "What happened?"
"Nothing," the other doctor made as if to wave the event away. He shrugged and grinned, so paper-thin and transparent, "A lover's spat, you know how it is. Who knew the kid had such bad taste as to fall in love with me?"
"No, really," BJ reached out hand waiting to rest on that now-familiar shoulder. Hawkeye moved away, "what happened?"
"On second thought," Hawkeye stood, giving his friend a forgiving smile, "I think I will go after him. The pound might pick him up and I forgot to get him new tags."
"At least he has all his shots," BJ joked weakly, watching the older doctor pull on his boots, "I've just never seen him like that before."
"And hopefully never will again," Hawkeye sighed, turning away. His hand was on the door, pushing-- pushing away, but it only took that soft voice to make him pause.
"Hawk---" BJ closed his eyes, as if searching for something lost in the ocean of his mind, "What is it I don't deserve?"
"Nothing, Beej," Such a strange smile from Hawkeye, affection in those hooded blue eyes, "There's nothing you don't deserve." And stepping out after that sound, to the night and Korea and the half-hidden moon.
"I'm going to wait up!" BJ called, feeling empty and full, as though he'd been given something precious and suddenly found it dissolving between his hands. Sitting on his bunk, he studied the other, rumbled cot opposite himself; Hawkeye was usually there, laying languorously, like a cat, smirking cheshire and his eyes offering...
BJ pressed his lips against the glass between himself and the image of his wife, holding the photo as he fell asleep, so he wouldn't reach out for anything else.
[to the tune of "I'm Singing in the Rain"]
"I'm singing for feedback,
Just singing for feedback,
It makes so happy,
Makes me giggle and laugh.
Get a smile on face,
When feedback shows at my place,
Yes, I'm singing, singing for feedback."