Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear over the west coast of America, and lit four Hunnicutts, one Pierce, and one Freedman as they ate their breakfast, opened their mail and worried about the absent fifth Hunnicutt.
“He’s in the best hospital there is, mom,” BJ said, comfortingly, with just a touch of pride. Hawkeye nearly said something about Dr. Rossi, but managed to bite his tongue in time.
“Who was your mail from, Hawkeye?” Peggy asked, wanting to talk about something less stressful.
“One from my father, and one he was forwarding.”
“From an army buddy?” Mrs Hunnicutt senior guessed.
“You could say that.”
"So who is it?”
“Anyone I know?” enquired Sidney, but unfortunately his voice was drowned by the strident tones of Bea Hunnicutt, demanding, “Beej? /Beej/? What sort of a nickname is that?”
“It’s just a nickname, mom. Do you want some more toast?”
“Look, son. We gave you a name, and you should be proud of it. And your *friends* should use it.”
The inflection Bea put on the word ‘friends’ was not lost on most of her listeners. Neither was the fact that it could be meant in more than one way. Hawkeye and Peggy exchanged glances, quickly curtailed to prevent giggles, Sidney grinned knowingly (luckily, into his toast), and BJ tried, without much success, to hide a look of discomfort.
“We should probably be going, Mrs Hunnicutt,” Sidney said, stepping in to rescue BJ as soon as he could. “I’ll drop you at the hospital, but then I want to be off. The folks in San Francisco will be wondering where I am.”
“That’s alright, BJ,” Sidney told him, standing up and helping Bea with her chair, before opening the door for her.
“You’ll telephone if you need a lift or anything, won’t you, mom?”
“Of course, honeybun.”
BJ blushed, and Hawkeye bit his tongue again, until he heard the front door shut behind them—then he let out a whoop worthy of one of the Indians his namesake lived with. “Honeybun! She complains about me calling you Beej, and then she calls you honeybun!”
“Peggy?” BJ asked, “Do you want me to start washing up?”
“Thank you, love. Erin, come on. We need to get you dressed.”
Left alone at the table, Hawkeye sat silently for a moment, then shrugged and followed Peggy upstairs.
“I really upset BJ just now, didn’t I?” he asked her, watching her attempt to pull some clothes onto Erin.
“He’s worried about his father,” she told him. “Pass me that hairbrush, would you? Erin, I don’t know what you do to get your hair in this state.”
“It looks like she ran through a hedge,” Hawkeye observed.
“One that was coated with jam, possibly,” Peggy agreed, brushing hard. “Are you planning on getting dressed at all today?”
“You’re a bad example to Erin, for starters.”
“Maybe you should dress me.”
Peggy glared at him, not deigning to reply within Erin’s hearing, and went on brushing.
* * *
Downstairs, BJ was just drying his hands when the phone rang. “Hello?”
“Hi—it’s Radar here. Err, BJ…”
“What is it, Radar?”
“I just spoke to Trapper—you never met him— and he wants to speak to Hawkeye. I didn’t think I should just give him your number, but if I could, then he could ring you and speak to Hawkeye. If that makes any sense.”
“Tell you what, Radar, why don’t you give me Trapper’s number, and then I can see if Hawkeye wants to ring him?”
“Let me get a pencil.”
Once the number had been dictated, BJ was about to put the phone down, but Radar asked, “Do you suppose he will? Talk to Trapper, I mean?”
“I hope so, Radar. I think it would be better for both of them if he did.”
* * *
When he’d put the telephone down, BJ went to talk to the rest of his family.
“Yes?” she answered, looking out from Erin’s room. “There—you’ll do, Erin. You can go and play now.”
“Look, dad!” Erin said—“All neat!”
“Aren’t you just? Very neat. Perhaps you’d better not go and play—that way you’ll stay tidy,” BJ teased.
“Nasty dad. I’m going to go play,” she told him, firmly, and dived back into her room for her toy box.
“Is Hawkeye there?” BJ asked Peggy.
“Yes, I’m here,” Hawkeye himself answered from the double bedroom.
“Can I talk to you?”
“Sure—why don’t you come in here?”
Once they were all in the bedroom, and fairly sure that Erin was okay (not that she was quiet—no, building blocks turned out to be the order of the day, and they had to stand close to each other to be heard, though it can’t be said that they complained about that), BJ told them about the call.
“It was Radar, saying that Trapper was trying to get in touch. I’ve taken his number, Hawkeye, so when you’re ready, you can call him.”
“I don’t want to,” Hawkeye said. “Not now, not ever.”
“He was your best friend. I remember you telling me about him.”
“You don’t know anything.” Hawkeye turned away, going to stand at the window again.
“What’s your problem, Hawkeye? Why don’t you want to talk to him?”
“He left without saying goodbye, for one thing.”
“And for another?”
“He… you’ll… trust me, I don’t want to talk to him, and you don’t want me to talk to him either.”
“Hawkeye, that doesn’t make any sense,” Peggy said. “He was your friend. Why would we not want you to talk to him?”
“You don’t understand!” Hawkeye said, trying not to shout and very much afraid that he’d failed. He pushed past BJ and walked out, storming down the stairs in search of somewhere he could be alone.
Peggy and BJ watched him go, then looked at one another. “What could all that have been about?” Peggy asked.
BJ frowned, thinking, and then it came to him. “I bet—I’ll lay money on this, I really would—that Trapper was a bit more than a friend to Hawkeye. You know, the way he was my ‘friend’? It’s friendship, but it’s a bit more than that.”
“And he’s still in love with Trapper, at least a bit, and he’s afraid we’re going to be jealous. Just like you were.”
“Yeah. That makes sense, doesn’t it?”
“What can we do, though?”
“Get him to talk to Trapper?”
“And make sure he knows that we’re okay with how he feels.”
“We might want to decide at what point this little thing we have going stops expanding. Because while I love having you /and/ Hawkeye, and I’m fine with Hawkeye still having feelings for Trapper, there’s no way I want to do for Trapper what you did for Hawkeye—three’s company, fine, but four? Too many.”
“I see what you mean. I don’t think Hawkeye’s going to think like that, though—if he sees a choice at all, it’s between talking to Trapper and staying with us. He probably doesn’t even realise that’s what he thinks is the choice.”
“Hawkeye isn’t the most self-aware of people, sometimes. He still doesn’t understand why Carlye didn’t marry him, I think.”
“A nurse he was in love with. She turned him down once; he’d just moved on—and if we’re right about Trapper, moved on and effectively been dropped again—when she turns up at the 4077th to make his life a little bit less bearable. It was very, very hard for him.”
“And why didn’t she marry him?”
“Two reasons, really—and I’m certain of this, because we talked one night while she was waiting for Hawkeye to finish surgery.” BJ paused, smiling. “It was just after she left that I had sex with him for the first time. She didn’t marry him because he wasn’t ready to commit, and also because it was obvious that even if they were married, he was still going to go looking for other company.”
“I guess so. She didn’t say that, but it would make a lot of sense.”
“Yeah.” Peggy thought for a moment, and then went on, “Look. We aren’t going to make Hawkeye talk to Trapper by just saying ‘you really should’, are we?”
“It sounds to me like you have a plan, love.”
“Then you’re listening right. If we…” From the next room came an enormous crash. “Erin!” Peggy shouted, running for the door.
They found Erin sitting happily in front of a jumble of bricks. “They all fell down!” she exclaimed, which was apparently what she’d intended.
“Yes, darling. Look, BJ, Erin should be in school. It was one thing to take her out for a day, but it doesn’t make sense to keep her out today. Can you walk her round there? Just tell the teacher than her grandfather’s ill, they’ll take that.”
“Not /exactly/ lying, huh? Okay, Peggy. When I come back, we’ll finish our talk. Now, Erin, how’d you like to go to school today?”
* * *
While BJ and Peggy sorted themselves out, Hawkeye had tried to find something to do. He’d tried to go back to reading his book, but found that he couldn’t concentrate; and that the same was true if he tried to read the letters he’d received. So he sat on the veranda, staring down the garden at the wooden fence, and tried not to weep.
He wanted to talk to Trapper. Trapper had even wanted to talk to him. But if BJ knew that Trapper had been more than just a friend, or if Trapper knew that BJ and Peggy were more than just friends, they wouldn’t want him anymore. That was why Carlye left, because he still had feelings for other people.
Well, if he didn’t talk to Trapper, he could stay here, and that was worth—more than he could imagine. Never mind all the tea in China, there couldn’t be anything more precious in the world.
Having reached that conclusion, he took the letters out of his pocket again, hoping that news from Crabapple Cove would be comforting, even if it wasn’t home any more.
The first one, forwarded from Maine but post marked in Texas, was from Lyle—and was short, rough, and sweet, if one knew which lines to read between.
You gave me your address so we could be penpals after
the war: the war’s over, so here I am, the guy you saved.
If you ever need a favor, or someplace to stay down
south, let me know.
Hawkeye smiled—Lyle was a good guy, if not his type, and seeing Frank being twirled would always be one of the better moments of the war. And it was good to know that a man he’d saved in surgery really had made it for longer than a few hours back at the front—he did wonder what happened to them, and all too often he feared that what he’d done was just send them back to hell.
He moved on to the next letter—from Daniel.
I hope you’re well, and that you’re having a good
time with your friend. I have exciting news for you—I don’t have the
telephone number, but I can’t wait until you get home.
You remember Ella Ingram, the widow who lives across the
street? You used to call her daughter, Katherine, your sister. Well, she’s
going to be your step-sister for real. Ella’s agreed to marry me!
This has been coming for years—you’re old enough now
to look back and see that—we’ve been friends for years (we met soon after
your mother died, because she moved here when you were about eleven), and it
seems only sensible to spend our retirements together. Plus, she’s a very good
The wedding is to be in December, the 18th, we hope.
We’re too old to be waiting for spring to come. It’s only four weeks away,
but I’m sure you’ll be home by then.
Come home—and bring a friend with you! Or someone
who’s a bit more than a friend, if you like—Katherine’s been married for
eight years now, and it’s time I had some grandchildren too.
He didn’t get as far as reading the signature—BJ was opening the back door and looking out, to say, “I’m just going to walk Erin round to school. We’ll talk when I get back, okay?”
Hawkeye nodded, not trusting himself to speak. BJ disappeared again. Reading the last line again, “//it’s time I had some grandchildren too,//” Hawkeye rapidly decided he needed a drink.
* * *
When Peggy had put her makeup on, she came down, to find Hawkeye introducing himself to the liquor cabinet and its contents.
“Hawkeye? What are you looking for?”
“Frogs. What does it look like?”
“If you’re after alcohol, I have to say that I think it’s a bad plan.”
“It’s a good plan,” Hawkeye said, defensively, and took the top off a bottle of Scotch.
Peggy made a grab for the bottle and got it with one hand. They wrestled briefly, but between Hawkeye’s stronger arms and Peggy’s fears for the carpet, he quickly won.
“Okay, have a little,” she said. She nearly added an ultimatum about not getting drunk in her house, before realising that if Hawkeye wanted to get drunk, he would, and it was probably going to be easier if he stayed in.
The last thing she wanted to do was give him the idea that she’d throw him out—that would just undo all the work she was putting in to trying to make him feel safe.
He took a mouthful, perhaps slightly less that he might have done because it was permitted, and regarded her seriously. “Peggy, can I tell you something?”
“Of course. May I sit down first?”
“Yeah.” She moved to sit on the sofa, and Hawkeye opposite her, leaning his forehead on the cool glass of a display cabinet. He looked utterly miserable.
“Hawkeye, what is it?”
“The letter—from dad. He’s getting married.”
That clearly made complete sense to Hawkeye, but Peggy struggled for a moment to remember the details of his family situation. //His mom died, didn’t she? I think BJ said something like that.// “Ah,” she said, hoping that more details would be forthcoming.
“To Mrs Ingram across the road. She was widowed just before mom died, and moved to our road a couple of years after that. I’ve been teasing him about her for years—calling her ‘mom’ and her daughter, Katherine, ‘sis’. I thought it was just a joke, but it turns out to be closer than I’d thought to the truth. Dad’s getting married, and Kathy’s been married for years, and he wants to know when I’m getting married. When he’ll have grandchildren.”
Clearly not one for the list of things Hawkeye *wouldn’t* talk about, then. “I see.”
“And BJ’s married, and Trapper’s married, and Carlye got married—and not to me—and even Klinger’s married, for heaven’s sake! What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing,” BJ said from the doorway. They hadn’t even heard him come in. “You’re perfect, remember? How often do I have to tell you that?”
Hawkeye didn’t say anything, just stared into the bottom of the bottle, blinking back tears. BJ went and sat next to him, resting an arm on his shoulders. “What’s all this, then?” Hawkeye handed him the letter, silently, and took another mouthful of Scotch.
“That’s happy news, really,” BJ said when he finished the letter. “Your dad’ll be better off with someone to look after him.”
“But the end,” Hawkeye said. “What he says at the end. However happy Ella makes him, he’s going to hate me for not being the son he wants.”
BJ handed the letter to Peggy (who’d moved to sit on the floor in front of Hawkeye, where she could look at them both comfortably) and put both arms around Hawkeye. “I don’t think he’s going to hate you, Hawkeye—whether you just say ‘I’m not ready yet’, or whether we come too, and you tell him the truth.”
“You’d do that?” Hawkeye asked.
“Yes,” BJ said, and Peggy nodded her agreement.
Hawkeye looked back and forth between them for a moment, and then put the Scotch bottle down, very, very carefully.
Watching every movement, BJ held his breath, panicking, wondering if he’d said the wrong thing; and Peggy was close to breaking the silence, when Hawkeye spoke again.
“Thank you,” he said, still very carefully, making every move very precise, as if he was afraid something would shatter, “but I don’t think you understand.”
BJ nearly screamed, but luckily Peggy got in with a much calmer, “Why don’t you explain, Hawkeye?”
“Okay, I will,” he said, and now the words weren’t the torrent they’d been when he told Peggy about the letter. They became bricks, building a wall between him and his lovers. “It’s easy for you, isn’t it? You’ve got a home, and you’re married, and you’ve got a daughter and a place in the world. You’re a surgeon or a housewife and a parent, and you know what’s going on.
“I don’t have that. I don’t have a home—I can’t live here, and Crabapple Cove asks too many questions. All I’ve got is some left over feelings—surplus from the war—that mean I’m still in love with the friend I hate because he left, and with you, and I can’t work because it all goes wrong and I can’t even calm a six year old down; and a head that’s so full of trying to hide that even I can’t find me.
“I’ve got nothing. Nothing. I’m not anybody—in Korea I stayed somebody, even when I was crazy. Now… I’m barely even real.”
Something in the words and the apathetic, detached tone that they were spoken in pushed BJ over the edge. “You’re not real? You’re not real? I assure you, Hawkeye Pierce, you’re real. Come on, let me show you.” He stood, pulling Hawkeye up with him. Gripping him firmly by the wrist, BJ pulled Hawkeye out of the chair, up the stairs, and into the blood-splattered room that had still not been cleaned.
“You’re real, Hawkeye. You did this. This is your blood, your real blood, that nearly scared me to death. You are as real as they come. I love you, and you tried to kill yourself, and that only scares me more—but I know it’s real. Korea was real, what we had out there was real, and what we have here is real. Remember the other night, in bed? That was real, too. We did that, because we love you.
“I don’t know what’s going on back at Crabapple Cove, but I do know this. I love you, Peggy loves you, and I’m pretty convinced that you love us. This is your room—I’m not letting you cover it with blood and then get out of cleaning it. This is your room, this is your house, this is your home. These are all real things, Hawkeye, and they’re yours. Got that?”
Peggy took over, standing in the doorway next to her husband. “You did help Erin, you know. You were there and helped her up, took the gravel out of her cut. She wasn’t as upset as I might have expected, given what happened. She tends to scream any time she’s hurt, until you give her something to eat.”
Hawkeye stood there, back to them, looking around the room. Finally he turned to look at them. “This /is/ real, isn’t it? You’re right. This is real. I love you—both of you—and you’re really offering me a home.”
“That’s right,” Peggy confirmed.
“What do I have to do to keep it?” Hawkeye asked, still a little bewildered that anyone would offer.
“Two things,” Peggy said. “One: phone Trapper.”
“And two,” BJ added, “Kiss me.”
“Do I get to choose what order?”
“No,” Peggy told him, grinning. “I choose. Number two now.”
Just to be difficult, Hawkeye kissed her first.
* * *
Two hours later, BJ handed Hawkeye the phone and a scrap of paper. “Here’s the number. Phone Trapper. Peggy and I are in the kitchen.”
Hawkeye stuck his tongue out at BJ’s back, and then dialled with fingers that shook, just slightly.
In Boston, a telephone rang. Once… twice… if it rings ten times and nobody answers, Hawkeye thought, I’m off the hook, and then smiled at his own pun… three times… four…
“Hello?” Trapper’s voice. He’d know it anywhere.
He took a deep breath. “Trapper?”
“Hawkeye? How are you? I’ve been trying to get in touch!”
“Not soon enough. You could have written.”
“I’m sorry, Hawkeye.”
“That isn’t enough. Goodbye, Trap.”
Hawkeye put the phone down before Trapper could say anything else. It was bad the first time Trap broke his heart, but now it seemed to be getting even worse. At least he’d said his goodbye, even if Trapper hadn’t replied.
//You didn’t give him a chance,// said a voice in
the back of his mind. //You could be friends with him again, if you’d let
him try and make things right//, but Hawkeye was practised at ignoring that
voice. He countered by wondering whether he could sneak through to the living
room and his Scotch bottle without Peg and Beej knowing what he was doing.
In the kitchen, BJ whispered, “Is that good enough for us?”
“He tried,” Peggy replied. “It’ll do for now.”
“Then let’s go back, before he heads for the Scotch again.”
They walked back in just as Hawkeye stood up—and as the telephone rang. BJ went to answer it, but Peggy poked his back (grabbing his arm would have given the game away to Hawkeye), and BJ stopped moving. They looked at Hawkeye, and Hawkeye looked at them, and then at the telephone.
“Aren’t you going to answer it?” he said, after a few rings. “It’s your telephone.”
“It’s yours, too,” Peggy said. “Your house, your home, your telephone to answer.”
“What if it’s Trapper?” Hawkeye asked, hoping she’d take pity on him.
“Then you talk to Trapper,” she told him.
He considered arguing, but then decided that he was unlikely to win. “Hello?”
“Hawkeye? It’s Radar here.”
“Oh, hello, Radar. How are you?”
“I’m fine. Look, some of the guys are trying to get a reunion going, and they’ve got me to organize it.”
“Who better? What do you need me for?”
“We want you and BJ to come. It’s in Chicago. Place called Adam’s Ribs? I think you know it.”
“Indeed I do, Radar! You remembered!”
“I have my moments. It’s on the tenth of December. Can you be there?”
“I’ll find a way, Radar. For Adam’s Ribs, I’ll do anything.”
“I thought you might say that, sir.”
“None of that, now, Radar. I’ll be there. Thank you.”
* * *
“So,” Peggy said, sitting in the armchair again, and wondering if she wanted a drink, too, “what you’re really proposing is a road trip. You want us to come with you all the way across America, first to Chicago for the reunion, and then to Crabapple Cove for your father’s wedding.”
“I’d want to go to the reunion anyway, Peg,” BJ pointed out. “We’d be considering it even if Hawkeye wasn’t here.”
“That’s true. I’m willing to go; but there are two problems. One, your father; and two, Erin.”
“In four weeks, then, I want to be in Chicago. Once we’re there, it seems stupid to come home again, only for Hawkeye—and possibly one or both of us—to go back to Maine for the wedding.”
“BJ, I’m not disputing that. I’m thinking about your father, and Erin.”
“By the time we have to leave, dad will be over this latest bout of whatever.”
Hawkeye, sitting in the corner, too far away from the drinks cabinet by far—because Peggy and BJ, by some subtle manoeuvring, had put themselves between him and his desired one—had his doubts about BJ’s father recovering, given what he’d heard, but he refrained from mentioning that.
“Erin comes with us. We can stop by your parents on the way—she hasn’t seen them for more than a year—and it’ll be a good experience for her.”
“So, we’re taking our daughter out of school, bundling all four of us into a car, and driving across the country.”
“And you know the most annoying thing? There are all kinds of reasons—there must be all kinds of reasons—why it’s stupid, and impractical, and irresponsible, and a hundred other terrible things, but for the life of me I can’t think what they are, let alone argue that they should stop us going.”
“So we’ll go?”
“I think we should have a drink to celebrate,” Hawkeye commented from his corner.
“I think we should go out to lunch,” BJ countered.
They glared at each other briefly, before Peggy said, “You two are out to lunch alright. I have a much better plan—while Erin’s not here, let’s take advantage of that.”
Her meaning was fairly obvious from her smile. “You mean lunch in bed?” Hawkeye said, grinning.
She winked at him, and they both looked at BJ. “Now there’s a fine plan,” he answered, and then added, “We’ve still got some of that cream, haven’t we?”
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