AUTHOR'S NOTES:As always, my first thing has to be to thank you for taking the time to look at the piece. I hope you enjoy it!
This is the first MASH piece I've written since August, when Leigh and I finished 'Everyone's a Stranger'. Parts of this were originally from another, scrapped attempt at a story I started right after 'Offer Up Your Last Defense'. While cleaning out my hard drive, I came upon the story-- which was awful-- but new that some of it could be saved. That snip, coupled with the thoughts that had been rolling around in my head since my first viewing of 'Welcome to Korea' (finally!) grew into this piece. I'm really, _really_ hesitant to post this. But... nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? *nods to herself* Right! It's BJ/Hawkeye, of course. There's also another pairing in here-- tell me what it is, and I'll give you a mash-character cookie. It's probably glaringly obvious.
The verse used is from 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic'. I must also credit Alan Harman's "Arsenal" (Revolutionary Girl Utena) for helping to inspire this.
And now I'll shut up.
From The Department Of Letters Best Not Sent 1/1
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
Dear Peg. Dearest Peg-- I just can't hold on, because everytime I touch something it turns to dust and falls away, like some double-damned King Midas. The King's gold around here is red, everything is red, and some day I'm afraid I'll wake up and I will forget to notice that it's _wrong_.
(He's dreaming, so he sees the words scrawl, first on the page-- but no! There's not enough room, and the crimson ink flows onto the bunk, onto the dust floor and out into the compound; his own tight handwriting, careful 'r's and loops reigned in with care. Dear Peg, he writes and never ever says what he really means. The words are rushing out towards the Korean dawn, to cover the sky like some vengeful horde.)
Dear Peg. You know that nice little house with the picket fence and the rose garden and the apples hanging heavy and ripe from the tree in the side lawn? Forget all about that-- it's a lie.
//Don't you talk blasphemy, BJ Hunnicut.//
But it _is_, it's just a safe little illusion, for my eyes have seen the
(glory of the coming of the lord)
fear of death on children's faces...
(he is trampling out the vintage)
the smear of other's blood on the hands of 'our brave boys'...
(where the grapes of wrath are stored)
-- And -FLASH!- because this is a dream, it doesn't have to make any sense at all.
"Kind of like life around here. Kind of like the war," jokes Hawkeye, at ease in his own skin, graceful in a way that's utterly haphazard and clumsy. The stage is set-- the swamp-- with their two beds and just one light. Hawkeye, furious, wonderful Hawkeye is like a star magician before a packed Friday night. "You know those grapes of wrath?" he winks, and it's delicious, somehow, "Well, hand 'em over to me. We could use the wine!" Groucho Marx couldn't leer any better, "Speaking of which, I need a drink." He takes BJ's hand, which is the first time the younger doctor is even aware of his body in the dream, and leads him away. It's like one of those new modern plays, where everything takes place on the same set. A bus stop, a kitchen table, whatever. The mundane aura of life, curling into a strangle hold.
Or maybe that's not it, BJ's thinking. Maybe it's about always coming back to the same place because you can't get away, and maybe you don't even want to because you might find yourself floating with nothing to hold you down. The swamp, their two beds, reaching across to hand drinks or play cards or just _be_.
(I can't blow away then, like some Korean demon's shade, out into the village and the hills, that swallow up men without so much as a burp. Do excuse me.)
"It's all right," Hawkeye murmurs-- and BJ knows he must be drunk, because such an illusion could only hold when fortified with gin. Slowly, they sink down beside one another, and Hawkeye's arm snakes around the thin plane of BJ's waist.
It's just a touch. Just skin on skin-- Hawk's finger's against the younger man's hand, two solid forms nestled up against each other like boys hiding from a lightening storm. Turning, with a sense of horror because he can't stop, BJ touches a rough cheek, the worn crease of caring near those too-bright blue eyes and...
And it's funny, because a man does the holding and a girl does the shaking-a-little and being-held. That's the way it is, the way it's _supposed to be_.
But within the circle of Hawkeye's embrace, they're both trembling, trembling so to shake the whole damn world down around them. It's only when he feels the touch of the other doctor's lips that BJ really _thinks_ about it.
And because the logic of a dream can only waver and crack in the face of a head-on gaze-- he wakes up.
* * * * * *
"Well, you certainly sounded like you were having fun over there," Hawkeye commented with a wide, playful grin. The world was diffuse with gray morning light and the smell of shell-power. In the distance, faint explosions were echoing off the hills. Hawkeye tilted his head slightly, listening, then rolled his eyes. "And it sounds like we'll have company soon. The wounded have got to stop coming so early, I don't care if they prefer matinee prices."
BJ paused in the act of pulling on dirty pair of socks. "Having fun?" he echoed.
"Beej," Hawkeye winked, "don't play coy with me. Just give my regards to Peg. Oh, and I expect you to be in a better mood today for having ended the drought."
"Ah, the dream," BJ couldn't seem to register the expression on his own face-- he felt only the thorough hollowness in and around his heart.
"Ye-hes," Charles drew out, "the dream. The shell fire is probably your fault, Hunnicut. You woke the North Koreans. Really, that was vulgar."
Absently, Hawkeye tossed a wad of clothing in Charles' direction, "Leave BJ alone, Chuckles. He's a grown man. Besides," he winked, looking unrepentant, "I'm jealous. I haven't had a nice dream since Radar woke me up from a little checkup I was having with that blond nurse. Stacked like a brick hospital." Briefly, the doctor closed his eyes, as if savoring a fine candy under his tongue. BJ watched the look of fabricated rapture on his friend's face, almost fascinated.
"Disgusting," Charles continued to button up his shirt, shaking his foot to try and dislodge the wad of dirty clothing from where it had landed. "It's unsavory types like you who give all men such ill repute. Don't you have anything to focus on save carnal pleasures?" He punctuated this by reaching firmly for the offending clothing and rattling the articles loose. "_What_," he asked, sounding even more disgusted, "is this?"
Hawkeye was still amused with the first comment, snickering to himself, "Oh, carnal pleasures. You know, Chuck, I have no fondness for carnivals. Damn clowns give me the willies."
"That-- is a dust bunny," BJ offered, pointing to the mass of dust, dirt, hair and skin particles resting in Charles' palm. He felt the immediacy of dream slip away from him and fall to the ground. "Hawk and I decided just to wait until they evolve and can hop out on their own. Saves us the time cleaning."
(Mundane, isn't it? Can't live in a tent with two other people without knowing more than you normally would, more than you should. Every cough, every ache or pain-- yours, mine and arms. Can't even dream privately, damn you.
Charles snores and Hawkeye may start out stretched lazily on the bed, but he's always curled in on himself by dawn. The good Dr. Winchester has a sister who stutters-- if he's really tired and upset, he does too. That's an image, Charles as a boy ("with hair!" Hawkeye laughs), stammering out an explanation to a father as stern as the man he would become. And Hawkeye... here, have a glass of gin, keep laughing, keep smiling; the clown in the opera who can't miss a joke or a beat because if he _doesn't_ _hold_ _on_....
And BJ? Eh, BJ's a married man, entitled to dream longingly of home and certainly not of blue eyes and pianist's (surgeon's) hands, because his wife is a hazel-eyed brunette who only ever lifted the flute in High School band. )
"Oh, Charles," Hawkeye drawled with a Cheshire grin, "You're a man of good breeding, aren't you?"
"Don't be absurd, Pierce," the Boston man said, "Of course I am-- and not in the vile way you are undoubtedly thinking."
"So, I suppose those murmurs of 'Oh, Max' you make in your sleep sometimes are just... flukes, huh? Misheard by the uneducated ears of BJ and myself?" Charles' face turned an unearthly shade of pink, but he could do nothing except sputter in reply.
"'Oh, Max--,'" BJ mimicked, then laughed, enjoying the other man's discomfort. Shivering inside, he turned the mirror over-- longing not to look at himself. Guilty.
"Must be short for Maxine," Hawkeye said, "BJ, I think we should find this woman and tell her just how much Charles... admires her."
(School boy humor-- the viciousness of children growing into men, watching each other, afraid to step out of line and be _seen_. Pranks and teasing and all the trappings of adolescence for a war that is, indeed, being fought by children. Take up your toy shot-gun, and suddenly it's the real thing. Bang-bang! No one gets up this time. No one will ever get up again.)
"Well, that would be a fruitless endeavor indeed, Pierce," the balding man managed to draw himself up indignantly, "seeing as.. ah, she isn't here." Then, more firmly, he repeated, "She isn't here." His eyes narrowed for a moment, his lips moving without making a sound, "She happens to be a woman I met, ah, in Tokyo."
"Must of been memorable," BJ gasped through giggles that seemed to help dispel the sense of glass walls around him.
"Fine, fine!" Charles huffed, "I'll... 'shut up', as you say, if you two will give me some peace in turn. Honestly," he muttered.
BJ exchanged a triumphant grin with Hawkeye before pulling his pink shirt over his head.
For just a moment, BJ remained still, closing his eyes and listening to the other men getting ready. He wanted the dream to seem far away, but it refused to dissipate. Because he was there, too-- vivid, right behind BJ's eyelids, raising an eyebrow and smiling in a playful way that was unique to Hawkeye and trickster gods carved laughing into wood.
(Haunts your dreams, that one does. A flash in the pan, a bright penny-- too beautiful, too _feeling_ to last. As unforgettable a character as you'll ever find. And what is there of BJ, clean-cut, straight-laced, all-American boy-- bland and small town-- to inspire such devotion in return?
And yet, there was always touch, hips brushing. Here, let me help you with your scrubs, with the splinter in your finger. Oh, you can't walk home that drunk. Here, lean on me.)
His hand was on BJ's shoulder, long fingers resting there with ease, and...
A gentle shove-- "BJ?" It was Hawkeye's hand, the real Hawkeye; BJ wondered why he wasn't relieved. "MASH four-oh-double-seven to AWOL army surgeon BJ Hunnicut, please come in."
"Sorry," he made a pretense of stretching and rubbing his eyes, "I guess I'm just tired."
"Doesn't surprise me," Hawkeye winked, "Now, come on-- if we hurry, we can have a bit of tepid slop before the North Koreans start morning rush-hour."
"Yay," the other man replied without enthusiasm, "We shouldn't bother shelling the enemy. Just send the food." Then, they were outside the tent and it was morning in Korea.
(Dear Peg.... and the words tumble onwards, scribbled over the dawn.)
Here, in the early chill.... everything-- even what was known, loved and familiar-- had become bright and unreal.
(Dear Peg, Dear Jane, John, Mom, Dad...
And, in Hawkeye's gentle alto:
Would greatly appreciate hearing from you.