“Peggy, we have to do something about it.”
They were in the kitchen, practically the central room in their lives, after dinner one evening. Her hands still in the soapy water, Peg turned to look at him. “Hawkeye, what are you talking about?”
“BJ. That moustache he insists on wearing. I don’t like it, I know you don’t like it—we have to get rid of it.”
“Why? I’m getting used to you going off on crazy schemes…”
“In the past month, Hawkeye, you’ve hatched at least three schemes of varying craziness. And in one of those cases, I mean ‘hatched’ literally. Do you know how much it worries me to think that one day I might find *more* baby geese in the bottom of my airing cupboard?”
“They were there for a reason!”
“Yes—a practical reason. A practical joke, in fact.”
“You did laugh.”
“That isn’t really the point, is it?”
“I think it is.”
“As I was saying, crazy schemes are nothing new around here, but why bother about BJ’s moustache? It makes him happy.”
“It makes him look silly.”
“True, but I’d have thought that would make you happy.”
Hawkeye put the dishcloth he’d been drying plates with down, and leaned on the counter so that he could look straight at Peggy. “What’s making you so sharp with me?”
“Perhaps the fact that you expect me never to be sharp with you.”
“Oh, come on, Peggy. That can’t be all.”
“So you admit to that charge?”
“Maybe I do—but you’re side-tracking me. What did I do to upset you?”
Peg stared down at her hands, fiercely scrubbing a coffee stained mug. “Nothing much. Are you drying the dishes or not?”
“Okay, okay, I’m drying. When’s Beej coming home?”
“Any time now, I hope.”
Hawkeye nodded and stayed silent, thinking about BJ: BJ working at St. Mary’s Hospital, BJ who was on duty until well into the night so often, BJ who was doing the job Hawkeye could do, but wasn’t doing.
“Nearly there—this is the last dish,” Peggy said, breaking into his half trance. “Why do you call him ‘Beej’, anyway? Why not BJ?”
Shrugging, Hawkeye told her, “It made sense at the time.”
She didn’t understand how that could be so complete an answer, but for all her husband would talk about Korea until he was blue in the face, she knew she’d never fully comprehend it. Least of all, perhaps, from Hawkeye’s point of view. He didn’t talk about Korea, and when BJ started he’d taken to changing the subject or leaving the room.
“Well, whatever. Let’s have a drink while we wait for him.”
* * *
Sitting in the half-dark of the living room (if you had the lights on inside, when BJ walked up the path you couldn’t see him—better to find your drinks and then turn the main light off while you waited), comfortably together on the sofa, Hawkeye and Peggy didn’t talk any more. It was safer that way; to sit in the darkness and the silence, so that you didn’t have to look at each other and couldn’t argue. Then, when BJ finally got home, he wouldn’t have to do the work of peace making, and things could move smoothly on.
So much for not being in the dark, Hawkeye thought. He’d come here, three months ago, to get out of the darkness that was all he could find in Crabapple Cove, only to be plunged into a new darkness. This one was a little warmer, and a little safer, and the brightness that was his love for BJ burned brighter, but it was still dark. Furthermore, he still felt like he was only two steps away from cracking up.
White lights suddenly blanched them both into near ghosts, and the hum of an engine filled the room. BJ’s car, coming up the drive.
With an unspoken agreement born of habit and many nights of practice, they rose almost as one. Peggy opened the door—a habit imposed by the need to keep up appearances for the rest of the world—and was greeted with a quick kiss.
“Home at last! I’d have been quicker but we had an emergency in…”
“Come here,” Hawkeye commanded, pulling BJ into a firm hug. Peggy only just managed to get the door shut before they were kissing.
“Did you miss me, then?” BJ asked when he got free of the insistent mouth.
In the light of the hall, Peggy, watching Hawkeye nod and pull BJ down for another kiss, noticed that her husband’s lover seemed hungry, almost desperate. BJ was playing along with him, giving him what he wanted, but not initiating it. She made a mental note to try and talk to BJ about it later—if they ever got a moment for just the two of them again.
“Did you get dinner?”
“Yes, thanks, Peg. Is Erin asleep?”
“She was fifteen minutes ago.”
“Damn. I guess I’ll speak to her in the morning—Doctor Johnson’s given me another of those key rings she collects. Oh, and Hawkeye? Doctor Rossi’s still after to you to be his next assistant surgeon.”
Hawkeye turned away, not wanting to let BJ or Peggy see his expression.
“Hawkeye? Hawk, what is it?”
“I thought I told him I wasn’t looking for a job.” Hawkeye’s voice was thick, clogged with hidden emotion.
“He doesn’t give up easily.” BJ touched Hawkeye’s shoulder, hoping to hold him, comfort whatever fear gripped him, but Hawkeye jerked away.
“Can’t he leave me alone?”
“Hawkeye…” BJ moved towards him again, reaching out, but with a sour “goodnight” Hawkeye turned and ran up the stairs.
BJ glanced at Peggy, the hurt clear in his eyes, and she suddenly wanted to revoke her wish for some time alone with her husband. “He’s been in an odd mood all evening,” she said, answering the question before BJ even asked it.
“And you’ve got no idea why. I know that feeling.” Hand in hand, they climbed the stairs, separating only when they reached the top—BJ turning left to peep in at his sleeping daughter, and Peg turning right to try the handle on the guest room that Hawkeye was using, at least officially. It was locked from the inside. BJ was about to knock, but Peggy pulled him into their bedroom.
“Go to bed, BJ. You’ve been working for who knows how many hours, and he can wait.”
“I don’t want him to have to. I should talk to him.”
“You should get some sleep. I’ll talk to him if it worried you that much.”
“Peg, you don’t know him as well as I do. If it takes more than ten minutes, you can come and help.”
Sighing, Peggy allowed that and stood aside. BJ kissed her on his way past, as she began to brush her hair.
* * *
“Hawkeye? Can I talk to you?” he asked softly, outside the door, trying to strike a balance between Hawkeye hearing and Erin staying asleep.
No reply. “Hawkeye, I need to know you’re alright.”
He waited, listening, and finally there was a quiet answer. “Sorry.”
“Open the door, Hawkeye. Let’s talk.”
“I’m sorry, Beej.”
Something in the tone of his lover’s voice suggested to BJ that now was time for more dramatic action. He resisted the impulse to kick down the door, on the grounds that it would wake Erin. “Peggy? Where’s the spare key?”
Without a word, she pulled it from the side of her jewellery box, and took the two steps down the hall to hand it to him.
“Thanks.” He fumbled with the lock of a moment before the door swung open. “Hawkeye?”
The once carefully decorated room was awash with blood, in a way that he hadn’t seen since he left the 4077th. The rug, white when it was new, was now red; a scalpel lay on it, half hidden by the blood on both of them. A lot had been soaked up by the soft furnishings, but in places it still formed puddles on the polished wooden floorboards, and more was arriving all the time.
Hawkeye was lying on the bed, skin pale, slashed wrists out in front of him, staring at the blood as it poured out.
Later, BJ would realise that he hadn’t really thought about what this was, or why, or what it meant—he’d reacted purely on medical instinct.
Ignoring the blood, he walked—“no time to rush”—across to Hawkeye, pulling his handkerchief out of his pocket as he went. The instructions—where did they come from?—were calm and clear in his mind. Twist it into a strip; tie it tightly above the cuts in one wrist (he’s faint from loss of blood, but still conscious; he hasn’t had time to lose all of it); look round for something else—shirt sleeve—and tie it around the other wrist.
Don’t look at his face, or you’ll scream. This is a patient, not Hawkeye.
Slip an arm behind his shoulders; lift him up (no time to be surprised by how little he weighs); carry him past Peggy’s shocked stare and Erin’s eyes, full of sleep and fear.
“I’ve got to get him to the hospital. I’ll call you.”
Bundle him into the car you only just left, and check the improvised bandages.
Thankfully, most of the bleeding had stopped, but Hawkeye had passed out completely. “Back to the hospital,” BJ muttered, watching the speedometer tell him he was breaking the law, and not caring.
The emergency room was quiet—mid-week, that wasn’t unusual—and as soon as BJ walked in, carrying Hawkeye, a nurse came over to see what was going on, only partly because she recognised BJ.
“He slashed his wrists. Get Dr Neider, and tell me where there’s a free bed.”
“Would a consulting room do?”
“Nine and twelve are free.”
“Thanks. Get Dr Neider.”
She went, his urgency communicated by his efficiency as much as his tone or bearing.
* * *
Dr Neider found them in consulting room nine, Hawkeye laid on the couch and BJ kneeling by his side. “Dr Hunnicutt?”
Without looking round, BJ started to explain, “He…”
“Slashed his wrists, yes, Nurse Edson told me. What she didn’t say was who he is, or indeed anything else.”
“His name’s Hawkeye Pierce—he’s an old army friend of mine. The cuts are quite deep, and long. They need stitching.”
“I’m sure. May I look at them?”
“Of course.” They looked at each other for a moment, BJ’s worried blue eyes meeting Neider’s calm brown ones, and then BJ realised that he was in the way. “Oh—sorry.”
“Try the chair,” Neider advised with a slight smile, moving to stand by the unconscious Hawkeye. “How much blood did he lose?”
“At least four pints, I guess. He was only alone for ten minutes or so—there… oh, God. There was blood everywhere.” BJ noticed dampness on his cheeks, and wondered if he’d started to bleed—but when he wiped them, it was just water. Tears. “The scalpel he used was still on the rug…”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got him now.” Neider strode to the door. “Nurse! Whole blood—what type is he?”
He had to shake BJ before he got a response. “Err, B, I think.”
“Whole blood, type B. Get the drip in at once.”
BJ sat with Hawkeye for the next three hours, weeping sometimes, shaking a little, and always trying to work out what had happened.
I gave him the message from Dr. Rossi. He ran upstairs—Peggy and I talked—the door was locked—when I opened it, he was… he was… not dead. He’s not dead, not yet.
Not on the outside.
“Dr Hunnicutt? Have you telephoned your wife? Does she know what’s going on?”
“I… She was there when I found him.”
“Then she’ll want to know that he’s going to be fine, won’t she?”
“Yes. Yes, I should tell her. And I’ve got another call to make.”
“You can use the telephone in my office—only just round the corner.” BJ glanced across the room at where Hawkeye lay, his wrists bandaged and a tube disappearing into his arm. “You’ll be back long before he wakes.”
One final look at his lover, and BJ allowed himself to be led out of the room.
* * *
“Peggy? It’s BJ. I hope I didn’t wake you.”
“No—Erin won’t sleep. Oh, love, are you okay?”
“Pretty much. And Hawkeye’s going to make it.”
“Thank heaven! What happened to him?”
“Have you looked in his room?”
“Only briefly. I didn’t want Erin to see.”
“He slashed his wrists—probably with a scalpel. It was still on the floor when I went in there.”
“He… but why, BJ? Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know, Peg. In the morning I’m going to try and get in touch with Sidney.”
“Sidney Freedman—a physciatrist we met in Korea. I think he’s the only person I’ve ever seen Hawkeye open up to.”
“Do you have any idea where he is now?”
“Do you know someone else who knows, then?”
“No. But I do know who will know who knows.”
“BJ, I think you should get some sleep. You’ve stopped making sense.”
“You mean I’m starting to sound like Hawkeye sometimes does.”
A soft sound. “Maybe I do. Oh, BJ—I love you.”
“I love you too, Peg, honey.”
“I’d better go. Erin’s crying again.”
“Tell her I love her, too, and that Hawkeye’s going to be okay. Then see if you two can get some sleep.”
“Alright. If you don’t come home by morning, I’ll take Erin round to my parents’ house and come to see you there.”
“That’s a good plan. I’ll see you.”
* * *
“Radar? I’m sorry to wake you.”
“That’s alright, Cap—BJ. Hawkeye’s in trouble, right?”
“How did… oh, never mind. I need to contact Sidney Freedman.”
“Do you know where he went, after the war?”
“I was hoping you might be able to find out.”
“I can try. Father Mulcahy keeps track of most people—he might know.”
“I let you know as soon as I hear anything, okay?”
“Yeah—best not to use this phone number. Call me at home, if it’s more than three or four hours.”
* * *
Across a whole continent, phones ring at unearthly hours. Mulcahy didn’t know, but Potter might. Potter saw him a month or two before, but didn’t know where he’d gone after that—try Klinger. Klinger thought he’d been visiting someone in the north—Hawkeye or Trapper?
Finally, Trapper gave Radar the clue he needed. “He was heading for San Francisco. Said something about having family on that coast. Did BJ say why Hawkeye needed him?”
“No—just asked me to find him as quickly as possible. I’ll see if there’s anyone in San Francisco called Freedman. Thanks, Trapper.”
The girl on directory enquiry duty was someone Radar’d spoken to before, so they got along fairly quickly—three Freedman numbers in San Francisco. Of course, the one he wanted was the last one he tried. “Sidney? Yes, we have a Sidney Freedman here. Who is this, please?”
“Radar O’Reilly—I’m an army friend of his.”
“I’ll put him on.”
“Sidney? It’s Radar here. Hawkeye needs you.”
“BJ didn’t say. He just asked me to find you. If I give you his number, will you call him?”
* * *
“Mrs. Hunnicutt? This is Sidney Freedman.”
“I gather I’ve been contacted faster than expected.”
“Yes. He mentioned he was going to try and find you.”
“Something about Hawkeye, I understand?”
“That’s right. He… BJ said he slashed his wrists.”
“I see. Where is he now?”
“They’re both at the hospital—St. Mary's.”
“I think I know it. I’m only about fifteen miles away—can you let BJ know I’m on my way?”
“Sure. How long will you be?”
“Less than half an hour, I hope.”
“I’ll tell him.”
* * *
Almost exactly half an hour later, Sidney was knocking on the door of consulting room nine; and when that got no answer, he opened it and looked in.
BJ has pulled the chair up to Hawkeye’s bedside and fallen asleep there, holding his hand; but Hawkeye had woken, not that long ago, and was watching BJ with eyes full of tears. He lifted one hand to his mouth, intending to ssh the newcomer—but the drip tube got tangled, preventing him.
“Sidney?” he whispered.
“Quiet! You’ll wake him. If you’re even real.”
“I’m real, Hawkeye, trust me. But we don’t have to talk now.”
“Okay.” Hawkeye lapsed back into his uncharacteristic silence, while Sidney went to find a chair.
* * *
Time passed. BJ woke, and left, greeting Sidney calmly and promising Hawkeye he’d be back soon with something to eat.
“Not,” as Hawkeye observed once he was alone with Sidney, “that I really feel like eating.”
“It’s the middle of the night, for one thing.”
“It’s nearly dawn.”
“Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, I guess. Don’t you just hate losing time, though?”
“Do you feel that you’ve lost time?”
Hawkeye laughed, a dry, mirthless chuckle. “Stop trying to sneak analysis into the conversation, Sidney. I can see what you’re doing.”
“Can you see what you’re doing?”
“Sure—I’m trying not to talk about me.”
“And why’s that?”
“Why do you think? I just tried to kill myself for reasons I have no intention of talking about.”
“Fair enough. What sort of reasons are they?”
“Oh, the usual. Love, life, dirty laundry.”
“May I hazard a few guesses?”
“You’ve fallen in love with someone. You’re not working because blood reminds you of the war, but that’s creating problems between you and the someone. How am I doing?”
“You’re very entertaining.”
“Can you do better?”
“I’m not so stupid that I’ll fall for that, Sidney.”
“Okay, we needn’t talk about you. How’s BJ doing?”
“He’s fine. Good job, beautiful wife, pretty daughter. And the war didn’t drive him crazy.”
“How do you know?”
“He can talk about it. He doesn’t have nightmares. He can still do his work.”
“Why do you have trouble talking about Korea, Hawkeye?”
“Damn.” A moment’s silence, then: “I guess I’m afraid to remember.”
“The memories are what causes the nightmares. If I couldn’t remember, they wouldn’t be able to take me back there.”
“That’s interesting logic.”
“You mean it’s crazy.”
“There’s no point trying for section eight now, Hawkeye.”
“I’d never be able to match Klinger, anyway.”
Sidney was about to reply, but the door swung open to admit BJ, followed by Dr. Neider.
“Sidney, Hawkeye, this is Doctor Terrance Neider, who’s on duty tonight; Terry, you’ve seen Hawkeye before, and Sidney is another army friend—a psychiatrist by training.”
“Good… it’s morning now, isn’t it? Good morning, both of you. Hawkeye, I’m mainly here to talk to you, but I’m happy to have other people here if that’s what you want.”
Hawkeye was about to reply, but a knock on the door prevented him. “Doctor Hunnicutt?” a female voice asked from outside.
“I’m here. Who is it?”
“Your wife’s in the lobby. Shall I bring her through?”
BJ looked at Hawkeye, who nodded. “Yes, thank you.”
“And bring a few more chairs, please, Nurse Edson,” Neider requested.
“Will do, Doctor.”
Lying back, Hawkeye watched them bustle around—fetching chairs, finding places to sit, getting comfortable, asking where Erin was, shuffling paper—and wondered why they were doing all this around him. Why did they bother? It wasn’t like he was important.
When Peggy had been introduced to Drs Neider and Freedman, and everyone was seated, and BJ had been reassured that Peg’s parents really did like looking after Erin, Terry Neider coughed, in his best ‘calling the meeting to order’ way.
“Hawkeye, do you know what you did last night?”
“I’ve got some idea. I was there, after all.”
“But do you know how close you came to dying?”
“Yes—I’m a surgeon, Dr Neider.”
“I’m aware of that, Dr Pierce. Luckily for you, you stopped cutting fractions of an inch away from the major ligament, on both wrists, although the right side was a closer call than the left. If you hadn’t, I’d be sitting here trying to break the news to you that you might never be able to work as a surgeon again, even if you regained use of your hands.”
Peggy gasped, and BJ took her hand, equally startled.
“God, Terry, I didn’t even think of that.”
“Will that be all, Dr Neider?” Hawkeye asked, almost supernaturally calm.
“I’d just like to check your blood pressure, and then I’ll leave you alone.”
Sidney observed that Hawkeye used stretching out his arm for Neider as an excuse to hold hands with BJ. Peggy wasn’t the only one drawing strength from there.
“How is it?”
“Much better. I’ll leave the drip in for half an hour or so, but then we’ll move you into a proper ward.”
“No, you won’t.”
“You can’t stay here, Hawkeye.”
“I’ll be going home.”
“I really don’t think that…”
“Terry, just come back in half an hour,” BJ said. “We’ll talk then, okay?”
“Okay. I’ll see you.” Neider left, frowning but prepared to trust his colleague.
* * *
As the door swung shut, BJ took a deep breath. “Right.” Hawkeye, guessing what was coming, let go of BJ’s hand. “I’ve got some questions for you. I don’t know if you’re capable of answering on not, but I want to get the questions out in the open, and I’ll trust Sidney to stop me if I’m going too far.” He glanced at Sidney, who just nodded. “One: what on earth did you think you were doing? Do you have any idea what I went through, finding you like that? Never mind what it was like for Peggy or Erin!
“Two: why? Do I really treat you that badly? Are you really that afraid of Dr Rossi dragging you back into surgery? Did you really imagine that it was your only way out, or were you just overcome by the desire to make a good dramatic exit?”
“You’re angry, BJ.”
“Damn right, Sidney. Damn right I’m angry. I finally think that I might be managing to find a balance that makes the people I love happy, and he tries to end it!”
Hawkeye had closed his eyes against this tirade, and even next to stark whiteness of the hospital pillows he looked pale. “I’m sorry, Hawkeye,” BJ went on, “but I just don’t understand. I thought we were starting to make things work, and now this.”
Throughout this, BJ had been gripping Peggy’s hand, and
in an effort to distract herself from the fact that her fingers were going numb,
she tried to understand the three men in front of her. There were certain
similarities—a few lines they were too young to carry, a fleeting look of fear
or hatred as some memory stirred—that stood out between them, as if the war
had left some invisible thread binding them together, but it was clearest in
When I first met him,
I thought he was still carrying a grenade inside, she reflected. Now
it’s showing itself. Korea was blood and fear and noise, and that’s what he
was trying to get rid of. BJ’s using Korea: he shouts, he shakes sometimes,
and he still operates. Like an actor using stage fright to improve their
performance, he’s overcome the fear by making it help him, but Hawkeye
hasn’t worked out how to do that yet. Instead, he was trying to get rid of the
fear by draining all the blood out, but it doesn’t work, anymore than not
talking about the war makes the inside of his head quiet.
Hawkeye was turning away, rolling onto his side and hiding his face, his shoulders racked with sobs. She realised that BJ hadn’t seem what she saw.
“BJ, don’t shout, love.” Hawkeye can’t deal with the noise—it’s just frightening him.
“I’m sorry, Peg.”
“Hawkeye, can you cope with talking to BJ now?” Sidney asked. He got no reply. “I think you probably can’t. BJ, may I have a word with you outside?”
“Um—okay.” BJ stood up, but Peggy stayed where she was.
“I’ll stay in here, BJ. You talk to Sidney.”
“Okay.” He dropped a kiss onto her forehead, let go of her hand, and followed Sidney out the door.
For a moment, she sat in silence, rubbing her hand, before moving across the small gap between her chair and the bed, to perch, sideways, by Hawkeye. “Hawkeye, I’m sorry I was so sharp with you earlier. Erin’s teacher is worried about her behaviour at school, and I was thinking about that.”
“I’m sorry about the goslings,” he muttered.
“That’s alright. I thought they were cute, actually.” She rested a hand on his shoulder, noticing that he wasn’t weeping any longer. “When you say ‘home’, do you mean Maine or my house?”
He shrugged, an awkward gesture but eloquent. “At one time, I’d have meant Crabapple Cove. Now—I don’t know.”
“Well, for practical reasons I think the Hunnicutt household is a better bet today. We might just persuade Dr Neider that BJ and I can take care of you there, but I can’t see him—or BJ or Sidney—letting you try driving back to Maine.”
“I admire the way you think, Peggy.”
“I hope that’s not the only thing you admire about me.”
“Far from it.” Hawkeye shifted onto his back again so that he could see Peggy’s face. “Look, Peggy, I hope I didn’t upset you too much last night. I mean, I’m not totally clear why I did what I did—I should be able to say it, shouldn’t I?—I don’t know why I slashed my wrists, except that it seemed like it was the only thing I could do; but I can see that BJ’s angry with me, and I can understand that, but it’s not something I can deal with right now.”
“Hawkeye, it’s okay. I think I might be able to guess why, from what you’ve said, and heaven knows there was a time or two while BJ was in Korea that I thought I’d do the same thing myself.”
“I’d thought about it before. I think I might have done it out there, once or twice, if it wasn’t—well, if BJ hadn’t been there. At first, when Trapper and Henry were there, it wasn’t so bad, but later, when Henry was dead, there was only BJ.”
“What happened to Trapper?”
“He—I don’t want to talk about it. BJ and Sidney’ll be back in a minute.”
Peggy added ‘Trapper’ to her mental list of things Hawkeye wouldn’t talk about, after ‘the war’, and ‘going back to work’. “Yeah. Look, if I side with you and try and convince them that you’ll be better off at home, will you promise me that you’ll make some appointments with Sidney, go see him and talk to him?”
Hawkeye thought for a moment, and then said, “Alright. If you insist.”
“I do.” She bent down and kissed him. “You know I care about you, don’t you?”
Quietly, Hawkeye said, “Yeah. Thanks, Peggy.”
* * *
Out in the corridor—Sidney had been hoping they’d make it to a private room, but no such luck—BJ asked snappily, “What is it, Sidney?”
“I know you’re angry, BJ, and that’s fine; but I don’t think Hawkeye’s ready to deal with your feelings yet. He’s having enough trouble with his own.”
“I know that, Sidney. But he needs to know—and damn it, if he knew how much I care about him, it might help!” BJ paused, and then went on more quietly, “Not that I got the ‘I care about you’ message across very well, did I?”
“Perhaps you’re not going to be able to for a while. Look, BJ, I get the feeling I don’t have all the facts here—I thought Hawkeye’s home was Maine? And you do know—you are aware—that he’s fallen in love, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I can figure that. It’s as well for him I feel the same way.”
Sidney did a visible double-take. “Err… could you just clarify that one a little?”
“It’s a bit complicated. I… I fell in love with him in Korea—we were best friends out there, lovers even. It always seemed like a fine line between them: in the war where everything’s physical, that has to include love. I thought I’d be able to leave him behind when I came back, make a clean break—but I couldn’t. I couldn’t let go of him. Eventually, Peggy figured out why I was so distracted, why I talked about him so much, and she—bless her—suggested he could come over.”
“Shall we continue this conversation somewhere more private?”
“Sure.” They slipped into the next consulting room along, thankfully empty at this hour.
“So—your wife suggested that you bring your lover to stay?”
“Yeah. There’s a reason I love her, you know.”
“You’re still in love with her?”
“Okay. What happened?”
“Hawkeye came, we worked out a way to get three people into one double bed—it’s a natural step up from getting two in a army cot—and there’s been the odd argument, but for the most part I thought we were doing okay. Until last night, that is.”
“How long has this been?”
“A few weeks—no, it must be a month and a half. Since early September, because Erin had just gone back to school when Hawkeye came.”
“That’s pretty amazing.”
“Is that your professional opinion, or just general comment?”
“Just comment. Professionally, I think that you’ve got something pretty amazing going, something I’ve never heard of before—and I think that if anyone can make it work, you can. What Hawkeye did wasn’t about you, or even about Peggy. It was about the war, and about how he’s dealing (or not dealing) with it; and about his working as a surgeon again. In fact, I wonder if this might not have come to a head now precisely because this—what is it? A three-way relationship?”
“That’s about it.”
“This relationship is working so well. He can rely on you and Peggy to catch him when he falls—he wouldn’t have done this in Maine, because he couldn’t put his father through it—but it’s something he needs to sort out, and you’re offering a safe space in which he can do that.”
“He’s trying to deal with what the war has done to him when I’m around, because he knows that I can cope with that? Because I was there?”
Sidney nodded. “I think so.”
“If you can’t handle it…”
“No, no. I can handle it. If I know that’s what he needs me to do, I can do it. I only wish I knew that before I went in there and shouted at him. That’s only going to have made it worse.”
“An apology may be in order.”
“Yeah—and also? I should take him home, like he said. If you’re right, and what he needs is a safe space to sort this out in, that’s going to be at home, with me and Peg, and not here.”
“What about Erin?”
“I think she needs a holiday. At least a week, possibly a fortnight. If I tell my parents that Peggy and I need some time alone, I bet they’ll have Erin over a while. And it’s not like I’ll be lying to them, exactly.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Sidney said. “Shall we go back and talk to Hawkeye and Peggy again?”
* * *
“Here they come. Look busy.”
Peggy grinned, as much happiness at knowing that Hawkeye’s sense of humour was on the mend as at the joke, and moved back into her chair.
When BJ opened the door, Peggy was staring out of the window, and Hawkeye had closed his eyes again. “Peggy, love, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, BJ.” They exchanged a smile, and then BJ moved on to stand by Hawkeye. “Hawk? I’m sorry I shouted at you.”
Hawkeye opened his eyes and looked up at BJ. “I’m sorry, too.”
“Look, Hawkeye—I care about you, okay? More than that—I love you.” Hawkeye didn’t respond, just looked into the blue eyes above him. “Did you hear that, Hawkeye? I love you.”
Finally, Hawkeye said, “I heard.” He looked away from BJ then, his eyes filling with tears. “Now what are you going to do? Let your buddy Terry pack me off the psychiatry ward where Dr. Rossi can stop by and badger me in his lunch break?”
BJ was about to reply, but the door swung open again. Two minutes shy of the half hour he’d promised, Dr Neider had returned. “I know I’m early, but I’m going off duty in five minutes, and I’d really like to have Hawkeye moved somewhere slightly more sensible by then.”
Peggy began, “How about…” and BJ said, “Don’t worry, I’ll…” They stopped, looked at each other, both trying to convey ‘back off’, and went on; “taking him home?” Peggy said, and “take him home,” finished BJ.
Neider looked from one to the other. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said. “Not at all.”
“Look, Terry, I’ll take care of him.”
Peggy frankly stared at her husband, who shrugged. “He’s right—rest at home is likely to do him a lot more good. I’m owed a week’s leave anyway, and Erin can go to my parents' for a while. We’ve got some sorting out to do.” The way he said the words ‘sorting out’ made Terry realise that there was a lot of inter-personal dynamic he was missing here.
“Okay, whatever. Let me take the IV tube out and then you can do what you like with him.”
Hawkeye grinned, and gave Peggy a surreptitious wink.
* * *
Saturday evening. Hawkeye is sleeping a lot; Sidney tells us that it’s a classic symptom of depression. It’s been, what—two days now?—yes, it was Thursday evening when he slashed his wrists. He dozed most of Friday, and then last night he had nightmares. I’ve seen him have bad dreams before; I’ve seen him restless, exhausted, drunk, but never as upset as he was then.
Perhaps the worst part was that he seemed unable to explain what he was dreaming about, though he clearly remembered. I guess it was the war, but how it could be worse now, in dreams, than it was when we were out there I don’t know. My dreams are bad, but I tell Peg as best I can, and the telling makes them unreal.
I dreamed last night, when I finally slept, but not of the war: blood, but not in Korea, not even in surgery. In my own house, the blood of the man I love. We tried to clean the room yesterday—it’s nearly an impossible task—and it invaded my dreams. I wonder if we’ll ever make it fit to sleep in again. I don’t see Hawkeye going in there ever, let alone as his bedroom.
Somehow, Peggy seems to understand what he’s going through. I see that my presence calms him, but I don’t know why, or how; I can’t stay long, because I don’t know what I can do to help. I suspect (when I can’t sleep, because I’m lying next to him, in the light because he can’t stand the dark, and the darkness takes me anyway) that it was I who sparked this off—that he did this because of the message I brought from Rossi, and that by working myself I made his life harder.
I need to know what I can do to help. I can’t stand by and let him suffer, but I don’t what to do to take away the pain.
* * *
“Of course, BJ.
“Asleep on the couch
downstairs. He said to call if we needed him, but I’m hoping we’ll be
quieter tonight. How’s Hawkeye been?”
“Dozing, mostly. I
think he’s asleep at the moment, but since when he wakes up he doesn’t
bother to open his eyes, it’s hard to tell. I’m worried, BJ. I don’t think
we’re out of the woods yet.”
Peggy linked her hands
behind BJ’s head, twining them into his hair, and pulled him down for a kiss,
as Hawkeye had done only two nights before. When she let him surface again, he
frowned. “Why do I get the feeling that I’m letting you pull me around?”
“Because you are?”
she suggested, smiling. “Look, BJ—how tired are you?”
“I’ve been tireder.
“Well, I’m thinking
we need to do something to get Hawkeye out of this—this pit of depression or
whatever it is he’s fallen into. And I have an idea, but I need you to help
“Anything you need,
honey. Especially if it’ll help Hawkeye.”
“Okay. Here’s my plan
“Looks like a nail.”
“Sorry, honey. I’m
operating on a limited sense of humour.”
“Well, you’re the
“Very good, Peggy.”
“Here’s the plan,
* * *
Sunday morning. My wife is a genius. Okay, so I may be a little biased here, but who cares? Here’s my evidence. All of us got some real sleep last night, even Hawkeye. There was just one nightmare, early this morning, but he calmed down fairly quickly, even though he still couldn’t tell us what it was about. And can you guess how she achieved this?
For all that men are supposed to have single track minds, I hadn’t even considered it. I’d barely thought about Peggy that way since before I came home on Thursday, and not about Hawkeye at all. Perhaps switching him to ‘patient’ to deal with the crisis got in the way. I don’t know. Anyway—the plan was simple. Sex. I don’t know how she came up with it, and I’m not sure I need to. All she did was take me in there, kiss me until Hawkeye woke up, and then we included him in it.
At first, he refused. “Can’t I go back to sleep, BJ?” but Hawkeye’s not really the type to turn down an offer, and he soon gave in. It took all of us a while—we had to readjust somewhat, and make allowances for each other, and get over the tensions we all felt—but when we did? Oh, boy.
Nobody’s going to read this, right? I need to write it, but it’s not something I want the whole world to know about.
We took Hawkeye in a pincer movement—Peggy on one side, me on the other. In the past, we’d had a similar arrangement, but with me in the centre, and I was slightly surprised to discover how pleasurable it was being on the outside.
He’d woken—a slight quickening of breath, a different pattern of movement under his eyelids—and when Peggy nodded, I kissed him. Not too hard, just a firm kiss on his closed mouth. Peggy’s hand touched mine as I ran it over his chest.
“Hawkeye?” I whispered, “Hawk, I think we should spend a little quality time.”
There was no verbal reply, but ever muscle in his body tensed as if he was preparing to ward off an attack. “Relax. It’s only me and Peg. You can trust us.”
I kissed him again, gently. This time we both opened our eyes at the end. His were dark, even in the glare of the overhead light, and filled with tears—I suspect mine were, too.
Peggy rested one hand on my shoulder in mute encouragement. I pulled back about two inches, far enough to clearly look at him, and said, “Hawkeye—I love you. Is that okay?”
For a moment, there was a silence so loud I was sure it would wake Sidney, if not the whole town. The, slowly, Hawkeye nodded. He looked at me as if I was a miracle, before shutting his eyes again and taking a deep breath, combating sobs. So far, I thought, so good. Even the army has to take things by stages. I kissed him again, and this time his mouth opened under mine.
In two days, I’d forgotten how he tastes, how it feels to have him arch into me. The sweetest thing ever. I don’t know how to describe it—it’s not something I have words for, really. Oh, I can tell you the physical side, in detail (I am a doctor, after all), but that’s not what I want to record, what I want to remember. What I want to remember is the feeling, as I press myself into him; the sensations—his hands on my back, hungry; his mouth, kissing, licking, nipping, whispering; his legs around my waist—and the sounds: Peggy panting with desire, just watching me touch him; his moans and mumbles, directing, encouraging, demanding.
The smell, too. And the way he tastes—sweet and salty, sweat and semen and saliva.
Even the memory of it is exciti…
* * *
“BJ? Where are you?”
“In here, love. Who was
it on the telephone?”
“Still writing that
letter? Um—that was your mother. Jay’s not well, and she’s bringing Erin
back. I said that was fine.”
“Yeah, that’s fine.
What’s wrong with him, did she say?”
“No—just that he
wasn’t well enough to handle having Erin around.”
“It’s probably that
chest infection he hasn’t gotten rid of. I told her he should see a doctor.”
“I think it was him who
opposed that, rather than her. You might have to go over there and try and
“I’m not sure
that’ll be easy.”
“Ask Sidney to go with
you. Between you, you should be able to convince him.”
at persuasion. Are you sure you can manage here, with Erin and Hawkeye?”
“It won’t be that
tough. Erin’s fairly well behaved, and Hawkeye’s sitting on the veranda
reading. I don’t think they’ll be trouble.”
“Okay, love. Thanks.”
“Here’s Bea and Erin
* * *
I’ve got to go. My father’s ill with who knows what—why does it have to be now? Everything’s just piling up on me!
* * *
“Hawkeye?” Erin had
been back for an hour or so, when Peggy stepped out onto the veranda, where
Hawkeye was still reading and Erin was playing some complex game with her dolls.
“Yes?” He looked up
from his book—The Last of the Mohicans. Comfort
reading, Peggy guessed.
“I need to walk round
to the corner shop—I’ve run out of sugar and a couple of other things. Can
you watch Erin for a few minutes?”
“Of course, Peggy.”
“Thanks, Hawkeye. I
won’t be long.”
* * *
Sunday evening: I spent most of today with Dad. When Sidney and I got there, only minutes behind Mom (oh, it was silly, her bringing Erin all the way across town and back, but she can’t be shaken from her plans sometimes), he was having trouble breathing. We took him straight into the hospital—the second time I’ve had to take someone, in much too little time—and they’ve steadied his condition. Sidney’s there, too. Mom’s taken quite a shine to him!
Then, when I came home—lunchtime or thereabouts, I guess—I find a lot has been happening in my absence. As far as I can piece the story together, Peggy went round the corner for some stuff for lunch, leaving Hawkeye to watch Erin—I have to say, I do wonder what she was thinking, but anyway. They’ve all survived—who was playing in the garden, running up and down. On one sprint, she tripped and fell, skinning her hands on the gravel path, and began to cry. From the way Hawkeye described it, I think he nearly joined in—but like me, he found that it’s quite possible to let medical instinct take over.
He carried her into the kitchen, sat her on the counter, cleaned her up, and tried to calm her down—without a lot of luck.
About this point, Peg and I came back. Driving home, I saw Peggy walking back from the shop, and gave her a lift the last few hundred yards. When I stopped the car in the drive, we heard Erin wailing. All sorts of visions flashed through my head, and we both ran for the house.
When we got to the kitchen, Erin screamed louder. Peggy rushed to her, so Hawkeye seemed to be my concern. Our eyes met, and then my arms were suddenly full of sobbing stoop-shouldered doctor. “It’s okay, Hawkeye. It’s over now,” I said, with no clear idea of what had gone on.
It’s only a little kitchen, and when Peggy tried to move round in order to find a dressing for Erin’s hands, it was too small. “Come on, Hawk. Let’s go into the other room.” He didn’t look up, or stop weeping, but he let me guide him through to the living room. Once we were there, I stopped moving and simply held him until the storm passed.
“Beej…” he began when he could speak.
“It’s okay, Hawkeye.” I ran my hand in circles over his back, trying to soothe and calm him.
“Thanks.” He was silent for a moment more, leaning on me, then his hands balled into fists on my chest. “BJ, I need to tell you this.”
“The dreams I’ve been having—they’re not about the war. Well, some of them are, but that’s not the important part. They’re about Trapper, and Carlye, and sometimes my mother.” At last we find out! I thought there was more misery than fear in them.
“I’m sorry, Beej.” He started to pull away from me, but I didn’t let him go.
“Hawkeye, why be sorry? You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s okay.”
“Really. I love you, remember?”
“Yeah.” He relaxed against me, and stood there for a while, before leaning back again—but only far enough to look me my face. “What happened with your father? Is he okay?”
And there was my Hawkeye back again—worrying about other people, caring and loving and smiling when I told him how well mom and Sidney got on. Whatever happens to dad, I feel better for knowing that I’ve got Hawkeye back.
Then Peggy called lunch, and we sat down to eat, a family. I looked round at them—Peggy’s blonde head, only a shade darker than Erin’s; Hawkeye’s dark hair and smile, that actually reached his eyes; and Erin, chatting away in some language of her own devising in between stuffing her mouth with food. I’m worried about my father, I know Hawkeye still has things to deal with, and I don’t want to think about that fact that I’m going to have to go back to work soon, but all the same, I’m happy here.
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