“Wake up, Hawkeye. It’s time to go to work.”

Hawkeye groaned, but didn’t move.

“I know you can hear me. It’s time—past time, in fact—to get up.”

“Gotta headache,” Hawkeye mumbled into the pillow.

BJ perched on the edge of the bed and asked, “Is it a real headache, or a hangover, or an ‘I don’t want to get out of bed’ headache?”

“What does it matter?”

“It matters because, as you well know, the treatment of a symptom depends on its cause.”

“Can’t you stop being clever, just for a while?”

“Sadly not. Why don’t you want to go to work?”

“I don’t want to be convicted of murder.”



“So this is an ‘I don’t want to get up’ headache, then.”

“I never said that.”

“But I deduced it.”

“Well done, Sherlock. Now can I go back to sleep?”

“No, Hawkeye. Now you can get up and go to work.”

“BJ, why does this bother you so much? You’re the one who didn’t want me to take this job.”

“I wanted you to take a post that wouldn’t involve daily contact with Rossi. But you insisted, and now I want you to go and do the work you chose.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Whose fault is that? There are three hospitals within a reasonable travelling distance of here. You didn’t have to work with Rossi. You didn’t have to take a post in the same building, let alone the same department.”

Hawkeye pouted. “But you’re in the same hospital as Rossi.”

“Where I am isn’t… you decided to put up with Rossi so that you could be near me?”

A nod, and then a muttered, “Yeah.”

“So you don’t want to go to work because I have meetings all day and I won’t see you.”

“And Rossi wants me to help him do this ‘standard practice evaluation’ thing today.”

“Ah. Tell you what, Hawkeye—you get up now and go to work, and I’ll tell Terry that I’ve got an urgent appointment and can’t make it to lunch with him.”

“An ‘urgent appointment’ with me?”

“That’s right.” BJ grinned.

Hawkeye shifted and sat up, leaning his head on BJ’s shoulder.

“Come and have breakfast, yeah?”

“Ugh,” Hawkeye said. BJ ran his hand through Hawkeye’s hair, and Hawkeye explained, “Hangover. Just a little one.”

“You should go easy on the drinking.”

“I know, I know. Come here.”

There wasn’t a lot of space for BJ to move closer in, but he twisted his head round enough for Hawkeye to kiss him.

“BJ? Hawkeye?” Peggy called from downstairs. “It’s my understanding that you’re both supposed to leave the house at some point!”

“Just a moment, love,” BJ replied, and then in a quieter voice, “The coffee shop round the corner, then?”

“Sounds like a good plan to me. Thanks, Beej.”

“You’re welcome. If you don’t want to walk to work, you’ll be ready to go in ten minutes.” He kissed Hawkeye again, before untangling himself from Hawkeye’s embrace and heading downstairs.

* * *

The coffee shop was tucked into an alleyway, and one corner was just dark enough that they could make the occasional physical contact without anyone getting suspicious. They were regular enough that that owner, Paul, saved it for them on most weekday lunchtimes.

“Same as usual, Paul,” BJ said, “Hawkeye, you too?”

Hawkeye just nodded. BJ put a hand on his arm and led him to ‘their’ corner, noting with a pang of worry that he was wound up, tense like a spring that’s been tightened until it’s ready to break.

Once they were seated, BJ asked, “Bad morning?”

Again, Hawkeye nodded, shutting his eyes. “Rossi is driving me crazy. It’s not that he’s a bad doctor—either Frank’s improved dramatically or he’s delusional—but his attitude is terrible.”

“Patriotism again?”

“Yeah. How wonderful it must be to die for your country and all that. I’ve tried to say that I’ve seen people die for their country and it isn’t wonderful, but he just ignores me.”

“I’m afraid you’re just going to have to ignore him, Hawkeye. There’s no point getting upset over it.”

“I’m sorry, Beej,” Hawkeye said, “It’s not fair of me to spend all my time complaining to you.”

“Don’t worry about it. I might not remember where I was if you didn’t complain about Rossi at least once during the meal,” BJ grinned.

“Well, then, here’s a reminder. Today he started on a long rant about how much love it showed for your country to serve in the army. Love! Huh. All serving in the army did to me was make me hate America.”

“Careful where you say that, Hawkeye. Mind you, I’m not that big on loving my country. Especially,” BJ leant closer and dropped his voice to a whisper, “since I love you way more.”

Hawkeye smiled, and BJ watched his eyes change colour, from the dark blue that spoke of misery and disgust to the lighter shade that held a lifetimes’ worth of love. “You do?”


“Beej…” Hawkeye said. Their hands touched under the table, just briefly, and it was enough. They both knew.

A couple of seconds later, they moved apart quickly as their food arrived. “Happy eating, doctors,” Paul said, with a grin.

“You’ll be okay,” BJ said, once Paul was out of hearing distance. “It’s Friday, and you’ve got the whole weekend off. It’ll be over in a matter of hours.”

“No, it won’t,” Hawkeye replied, gloomily. “Haven’t you heard? Dr. Rankin’s called a staff meeting, all surgeons, for just the time I’m meant to be going home.”

BJ groaned. “Oh, Hawkeye.”

“I only found out in the middle of one of Rossi’s daft tirades.” Hawkeye mimicked the other surgeon’s nasal voice. “I wish I’d been able to go and serve our noble country. We’ve got a staff meeting at seven and wouldn’t it be *glorious* to kill people for America. Such an expression of love!”

Laughing, BJ said, “He sounds a lot like Frank.”

“He is a lot like Frank. Except he can, actually, operate.”

* * *

“So do you think they’ll give us the new ward, or just make us leave the patients in the corridors?” Terry was asking as he and BJ came into the conference room.

Anxiously scanning the room for Hawkeye, BJ didn’t reply.

“Perhaps they’ll let us build a golf course instead,” Terry went on, watching his friend for signs that he was listening.

“Maybe,” BJ said, sensing that something was required but still concentrating on searching for Hawkeye.

Wondering how far he could push this, Terry asked, “Do you think it’ll be a full eighteen holes?”

BJ realised that he wasn’t understanding what Terry had said, and replayed the last few exchanges in his head. His look of embarrassment was so exquisite that Terry decided to make it easy for him.

“Sorry, BJ. Are you worried about Hawkeye?”

“Yeah. At lunch…” BJ tailed off, suddenly recalling that Terry was the one he’d lied to in order to go and have lunch with Hawkeye.

“You went to lunch with Hawkeye instead of me? Well, I guess he needs more looking after than I do.”

“I’m sorry, Terry,” BJ stammered. “It’s just…” but he couldn’t really explain what it was just, at all.

“He’s just come in, BJ. Over there.” They both looked across the room to where Hawkeye was standing, still having his ear bent by Rossi. “Let me guess,” Terry went on, “He can’t stand Rossi.”

“That’s a large part of it,” BJ admitted, catching Hawkeye’s glance and smiling at him, before adding in a quiet voice, “Shall we see if we can split them up?”

“Okay,” Terry agreed.

The room was filling up—the hospital had over twenty surgeons, most of whom were present. Terry and BJ wound their way through the gathering masses, milling around and starting to find seats.

“Hawkeye!” BJ called, as soon as he was close enough.

Rossi didn’t look around or stop talking, just waved his hand at the seats as if to say ‘ignore them; let’s sit down’. Over his shoulder, Hawkeye made a face that was part desperation, part exhaustion.

“Excuse me, Dr Rossi,” BJ said, stepping between him and Hawkeye. “Hawkeye, can you come and sit with me and Terry? We have something to discuss.”

Unperturbed, Rossi cut in before Hawkeye could reply, “I’ll come with you. This isn’t going to be a long meeting.”

BJ was about to argue, but Dr Rankin entered, and started trying to call the meeting to order. “If I could have your attention?”

“Thanks for trying, love,” Hawkeye muttered in BJ’s ear. “I’m not sure if I’m going to make it through this.”

The tone of acceptance and dejection in Hawkeye’s voice made BJ want to comfort him, but there was nothing to be done at that moment. They took seats at the long table, as close to each other as possible though Rossi barged in between them, and turned to face Dr Rankin.

Unable to concentrate, Hawkeye tuned Rankin’s voice out and stared at the back of BJ’s head, trying to also ignore the fact that Rossi was sitting between them.

//Oh, BJ. Do you know what it does to me to see you every day? To see you happy, relaxed, doing the job you love with colleagues who are friends? I only wish I wasn’t ruining that for you. You’d never speak to Rossi if it wasn’t for me. You wouldn’t have a problem. You wouldn’t be leaving your friend alone to sneak off to lunch with me. You wouldn’t be…//

Hawkeye suddenly realised that the subject (whatever it was: he couldn’t remember) had been opened for discussion, and that BJ and Rossi were arguing. //You wouldn’t be taking my side in the argument.//

“We need more wards,” BJ was saying. “And furthermore, I think we’ve now got enough surgeons to cover having another OR as well.”

“I and Dr Pierce manage to share perfectly well,” Rossi said, pompously.

In turning to speak to Rossi, BJ could also see Hawkeye, who didn’t speak but shook his head.

//We really don’t. I’m too tired, I can’t argue. But we don’t.//

“I don’t think you do, actually,” BJ said.

“Dr Hunnicutt,” Rossi said, standing up, “may I remind you that *I* am the senior surgeon?”

“I don’t care.” BJ shoved his chair back and took a step towards Rossi. “I’m fed up with your attitude.”

Rossi took a step back from BJ’s looming advance, forcing Hawkeye to stand simply to get out of the way. “Dr Hunnicutt…”

“I’m fed up with *you*, Dr Rossi.”

“Now you’re just being unreasonable,” Rossi said, still trying to back away.

BJ looked at the cowering Rossi, looked over at Hawkeye, who was still shaking his head and seemed to be close to tears, and a snap decision. His fists were already conveniently balled, so he swung one of them at Rossi’s face.

Hawkeye watched BJ hit Rossi with something approaching triamph in his heart, for a second. Then, the very fact of what had happened washed over him. //BJ hit Rossi. And it’s my fault.//

The terror that accompanied this thought lent him energy, and he ran: past BJ, out the door, down the stairs, past the startled faces in reception, and along the street.

In the conference room, BJ tried to follow, but the gaggle of people forming around the injured Rossi also prevented him from getting away. “Hawk!” he shouted, but was cut off by Dr Rankin’s hand on his shoulder, pulling him out of the crowd.

“Look, BJ, I don’t know what’s really going on here, but I have to make some show of investigating. Stick around and make my job easier, please?”

Trapped, BJ nodded.

* * *

At nine, when Hawkeye and BJ were two hours late and she hadn’t heard anything, Peggy phoned the hospital.

“Can I help?”

“I hope so. This is Mrs Hunnicutt, I’m trying to find my husband, Dr BJ Hunnicutt. Is he still there?”

“I’ll see if I can find him for you. If you’ll hold the line…”


Patiently, Peggy waited.

And waited.

After ten minutes, the nurse who had originally answered the phone returned. “Mrs Hunnicutt?”

“I’m still here.”

“Your husband’s in a meeting with Dr Rankin, and everyone’s under strict instructions not to disturb them. Sorry.”

“Thank you,” Peggy said, and put the phone down. So they were still at work.

She went to bed.

* * *

“Peggy?” BJ said, urgently. “Peggy, wake up.”

She blinked hard, waking slowly. “BJ?”

“Where’s Hawkeye?”


“Hawkeye. Where is he? I thought he’d come home.”

“I haven’t seen him—the girl on the desk said you were in a meeting, so I assumed he was with you.”

“He wasn’t… Peggy, I…”

“What is it, BJ?”

BJ perched on the edge of the bed and sighed. “Oh, God. What have I done?”

“I don’t know unless you tell me, BJ,” Peggy said, patiently, sitting up. “What happened?”

“We had a meeting, at seven. Rossi was being stupid—the way he always is—and Hawkeye was, well, I thought he was upset, and I lost my temper.”

“What did you do?”

“I gave Rossi a black eye, and Hawkeye bolted, just ran out of the room. Dr Rankin was understanding, and he’s basically letting me off, but…”

“Hawkeye’s gone?”

“I can’t find him. The staff on reception said he’d left the building, so I assumed he’d come back here.”

“Why didn’t you phone?”

“I didn’t have time!”

Peggy shrugged. “We’ve got to find him.”

“How? He could be anywhere!”

“Well, we’ll just have to try.”

“We can’t, Peggy. There’s nothing we can do.”

“We have to try. Come on.”

“I can’t. I’m too tired—I’ll crash the car.”

“I’ll drive.”

“Suppose he doesn’t want to be found?”

“I doubt that, BJ,” Peggy said, throwing the blanket off and getting out of bed.

“I don’t. He ran out, didn’t he?”

“If you really think that, you can stay here,” Peggy told him, pulling on underwear and a housedress.

“I will,” BJ responded, “I need some sleep.”

Peggy didn’t slam the door on the way out because she didn’t want to wake Erin unless is was absolutely necessary, but BJ heard the latch click. He lay awake in the darkness until the dawn came, and then he lay awake some more.

* * *

Time can pass quickly when you’re in the pits.

Peggy came home about six hours later. She told Erin that Hawkeye had gone a holiday, on the bus, but she didn’t speak to BJ.

BJ lay on the bed, and didn’t sleep. He wept for a little while, but then he just lay there, and wished he was somewhere else.

Hawkeye sat on the bus, staring into the darkness that he was once again a part of.

* * *

Peggy took Erin to see BJ’s aunts, Shirley and Selma, leaving BJ behind. When Selma asked, she told her that BJ was working.

* * *

When daylight came, Hawkeye could doze a little, but the night came too soon, sending his mind back into the dizzying downward spiral of dreams and darkness and thoughts of the home he no longer felt he had.

* * *

BJ didn’t speak to Peggy, but he went to see Sidney on Sunday afternoon and came back much calmer. He told Erin her bedtime story with just two pauses to push the sound of Hawkeye’s voice reading from the same book to the back of his mind.

Outside the door, Peggy found she couldn’t do the same, and let the tears that came roll down her cheeks.

* * *

In short, time passed, but the pain of separation—physical or mental—only increased.

* * *

In the night, Hawkeye wept, and the woman seated next to him lent him her handkerchief.

“Thanks,” he said, when he could speak.

“You’re welcome. I felt like that when my fiancé left me.”


“Your girl leave you, then?”

“I left her, actually,” Hawkeye said, thinking of Peggy and hoping BJ was trying to make it easier for her. “But she’s got another guy.”

The woman nodded, knowingly. “Is he why you left her?”

“You could say that.”

“Break-ups are always hard,” she said, sounding pleased with her detective work, and delving into her bag. “Here. Want a candy?”

“No, thanks,” Hawkeye said, trying to turn away, but she wasn’t ready to give up.

“Fruit? Sandwich?”

“No, thank you,” he repeated without looking round.

“You really should. We’ve been on this bus at least forty hours now, and I haven’t seen you eat once. Just that bottle of whiskey at the gas station before last.”

Wondering whether he should be feeling more paranoid, Hawkeye said, “I know what I’m doing. Leave me alone, okay?”

“Okay,” she muttered, but she kept watching him and making the occasional conversational gambit, until she got off at New York.

Hawkeye had never thought that New York would ever be the single good thing in his life.

* * *

//Thursday 12th March. It’s difficult to write when you’re putting a lot of energy into not making your thoughts verbal. Still, I think I have to try, if only to get rid of those thoughts I can’t block.

Six months ago, it was just Peggy and Erin and me and longing for Hawkeye. I spent every day talking about the war and every night thinking about him. Since then, I’ve had him and nearly lost him and had him and now it looks like I’ve lost him again. Hawkeye’s gone, it’s my fault, and I can’t seem to find the courage to talk about it.

Where’s detachment when I need it?//

* * *

Finally, after five nights apart, Peggy could bear it no longer. Seeing that BJ would never get around to making the first move, she decided to take unconventional to another of its advantages and set the ball rolling herself.

BJ had come in from work late, sullen and apathetic, and gone straight to bed. He peered around the door at Erin, but she was already asleep. Peggy went through her normal bedtime ritual (clean teeth, change into nightdress, brush hair, wash face, check Erin, put nightlight on) and then climbed in next to him.

As before, he ignored her, keeping his eyes shut tight. She listened for a second, and his rapid breathing told her he wasn’t really sleeping. Time to go ahead with the plan, then.

“BJ,” she said, putting her hand forward to touch him but not actually doing so. “BJ.”

He took a deep breath, almost a gasp, but didn’t reply.

Her hand reached his upper arm and rested there lightly. “BJ, I know you feel bad. This is hard for me, too, but at the moment you’re only making it worse. We have to work together if we’re going to get Hawkeye back.”

Softly, he said, “I’m sorry, Peg.”

“Apology accepted, love.” Peggy shifted, lying beside him so that their bodies were pressed together and she could drop a gentle kiss onto his neck.

“I hadn’t realised how much we need Hawkeye,” BJ said, a tone of awe in his voice. He opened his eyes and stared into the darkness, recalling an October night when Hawkeye had done the same. “I need you,” he squeezed the hand that Peggy had draped across his stomach, “but I need him, too. I wish I knew how to bring him back.” He paused and swallowed hard before adding, “I wish I knew why he went.”

Peggy kissed his ear, and then said, “Well, I guess he mostly went because he couldn’t deal with you hitting Rossi. He probably didn’t approve.”

“No,” BJ said, and would have shaken his head if space had allowed. “It wasn’t that he didn’t approve as such, Peg. It’s more complicated than that. At lunchtime, we talked about patriotism and love of country—about loving enough to be violent. He always hated people who claimed to be killing because they loved America so much, and I wonder if that isn’t part of this.”

“You think he didn’t like the idea that you love him so much you’d be violent for him? That does make sense,” Peggy agreed. “Add that to the way he sometimes seems to be afraid of love altogether, or at least of admitting that it’s there—not calling this home, changing the subject if you start to say you love him, not letting us call him nicknames…”

“He feels he’s got enough names already,” BJ grinned. “But I know what you mean.”

“Seems like he got scared of the depth of love we feel, maybe even of what he feels.”

“Yeah. Especially since Carlye and Trapper hurt him so badly. He’s scared,  and running away, and I wish I could even guess at where.”

“Me too. I’ve tried a few things to find out, but Radar couldn’t help and the bus company’s useless. We might have to just wait for news.”

BJ groaned. “I’m not sure I’m good at that.”

“I know, love. But we’ll make it.”

“If you say so.”

“I do. We will work together, and we will make it. Right?”

“Right. I love you.”

“You too.” BJ twisted round to kiss Peggy, and then closed his eyes again, this time in genuine sleep.

* * *

“John, I’m going to bed,” Louise called down the stairs. “Can you—is that someone at the door?”

“I’ll find out,” Trapper replied. “And I’ll be up soon.”

He opened the door expecting to find a neighbour wanting to gossip or borrow something, but it was not to be.

Trapper’s first irrational thought was that he was meeting a ghost. Partly because he wasn’t expecting to see Hawkeye at all; and partly because Hawkeye looked only two steps away from being death warmed up.

His first rational thought was that if he wasn’t both a doctor and well acquainted with Hawkeye Pierce, he would have been inclined to stay irrational.

While he thought this, he simply stared at Hawkeye, who gazed at the doorstep and started to collapse. The imminent prospect of Hawkeye actually falling over prompted Trapper to step forward and catch his friend before he hit the ground.

He half-carried Hawkeye to the nearest chair and made a quick examination. “What on earth happened to you?” he asked, though close contact with Hawkeye made it obvious that mostly he was drunk. “It’s been three months—I thought you went back to California to work.”

“Trapper, it’s all gone wrong,” Hawkeye started to reply, but was interrupted by voices from upstairs.


“Just a minute, Becky,” Trapper called, pulling a blanket from one of the piles of laundry waiting to be sorted.

“Who is it?” Louise asked.

“It’s Hawkeye. I’ll be up soon.” To Hawkeye, Trapper said, “You can sleep here tonight, on the couch, okay? We’ll talk in the morning. I’ve got to go and read Becky her story, and look after Louise.”

“Trapper,” Hawkeye began again, but Trapper was gone. He finished under his breath anyway, “Won’t you sit with me for a while? No, clearly not. Stupid of me, to think I might be worth caring about.”

All night, Hawkeye lay awake with only the way the room spun for company; though when Trapper crept down just after midnight on the pretext of checking the front door, he feigned sleep.

* * *

“Okay, Hawkeye,” Trapper said the next morning. “I’ve got half an hour—what happened to you?”

“I ran away,” Hawkeye told him, then paused for dramatic effect. Sadly, Trapper didn’t have time for that.

“From Peggy and BJ? You idiot!”

“It was…”

“You’ve got to go back, you know.”

“I can’t.”

“How much do you need for the bus fare?”

“It’s not about money, Trap.”

“Then, what is it about?”

Hawkeye looked into Trapper’s hazel eyes—eyes he used to love—and decided that no explanation, no matter how good, was going to produce understanding. “Porridge,” he said. “Trapper, can I stay here for a couple of days? I need some space to think.”

“About porridge?”

“Yeah.  It’s fascinating stuff.”

Trapper shrugged. “I expect so. I’ll speak to Louise, but she didn’t seem to mind you at breakfast this morning.”

“Thanks, Trap.”

“You’re welcome—but Hawkeye, listen. From what I saw of the reunion, you’ve got something good going in California. You’ve got to go back, or at least talk to them.”

“I told you, I can’t.”

“And when I asked why, you said ‘porridge’.”

Hawkeye couldn’t contest the truth of that. “Right.”

“Do they know where you are?”

“I hope not.”

In the next room, a childish voice repeated some question or other and Louise replied, exasperated, “Oh, ask your father!”

“I’d better go and help Louise,” Trapper said. “You can stay as long as you like, but I think you should tell them where you are.”

With that, Trapper left. Hawkeye remained sitting on the couch, listening to the sounds of family life around him and wishing it was a different family.

Louise shouting at one of the girls. Trapper’s voice, low and calm. Someone knocking at the door—school friends calling to walk with Becky and Kathy.

Goodbyes and ‘have a nice day at school’, and then Louise telling Trapper that he should be getting off to work.

“I’ve got a phone call to make first. It won’t take me long.”

“Okay, honey. I’m going to lie down again. Have a good day.”

Footsteps climbing the stairs. Creaking floorboards, cars passing, a bird singing—Hawkeye was amazed at how much he heard when he tuned out the other noises—the radio, Trapper on the telephone.

He listened for a long minute before something in the noises he was trying not to hear caught his attention.

“Hawkeye’s here,” Trapper was saying.

//He’s telling them where I am!//

By the time he got to the next room, Trapper was putting the telephone down.

“How dare you?” Hawkeye practically snarled at him.

“It wouldn’t have been fair…” Trapper started, but Hawkeye wasn’t interested in excuses. He didn’t want to be found, and once you start running, it’s easy to keep going.

He slammed the front door behind him for good measure.

“John?” Louise shouted, worried.

Trapper took a deep breath, tried to be thankful that he wasn’t the one who had to deal with Hawkeye every day, and climbed the stairs to reassure her.

* * *

“Who was it?” BJ asked when Peggy got back upstairs after answering the phone.

“Trapper. Hawkeye’s with him, in Boston.”

“Oh, thank heaven! Look, the telephone woke Erin—let’s have breakfast and think about how to go about fetching him home.”

“Okay.” Peggy decided that it probably wasn’t the moment to ask questions of the ‘if he wants to come home, why isn’t he the one doing the phoning?’ sort.

* * *

“Okay, BJ,” chirped the cheerful voice on the other end of the line. “I’d be delighted to look after Erin for a couple of days.”

“Thanks, Aunt Shirley. We’ll drop her and some clothes round in about twenty minutes.”

“You’re welcome, even if you are being all mysterious about where you’re going.”

“Well, you know I always liked surprises,” BJ said, and rang off before she could ask any more difficult questions.

“Is that all set up, then?” Peggy asked.

“Yeah. Your Great-Aunt Shirley is going to be saddled with you, Erin, and me and your mom are going to see if we can bring Hawkeye home.”

Realising that her parents were in a mood to be lenient with misbehaviour, Erin grinned and threw a forkful of scrambled egg at Waggle.

* * *

//On the bus again. Heading south now, south for I don’t know who or what. If I stopped here and headed west, I’d get back to California, but if I keep going I won’t have to deal with everything.

Everything’s north for some reason. Trapper and Maine and Charles and dad and Klinger and even Frank are north these days. Radar’s north and Henry would be north if he could be anyplace, but I’m headed south where I don’t know anyone.

I think I must be crazy. This isn’t rational, it’s stupid, but I can’t do anything else.

There must be someone I can go to. I don’t want to be staying in motels—if I try and sleep in another dreary room that’s exactly the same as a thousand others I might try and liven it up with a little splash of Korea, and there’s no BJ here to find me.

I wish—I wish I could not think about him.

Someone must be south. Who do I know? Trapper, Charles—even Carlye’s north, last time she wrote. Who else? Klinger, Radar—I know! Lyle!

‘My Marine’ that Trapper teased me about for months. My marine who wrote me just before the reunion, and I never wrote back. He won’t tell anyone where I am if I ask him not to, but he’ll find me someplace to stay.

On past performance, I think he’d literally throw someone out of bed to find me somewhere to sleep. Yeah, Lyle it is.

I guess I’d better eat something. It must be about lunch time.//

* * *

In Iowa, a telephone rang. Radar—now the family’s accepted telephone answerer—ran to pick it up.



“It’s me. Look, Radar, I think Hawkeye needs your help. He was here, but he’s gone again, and I can’t get hold of the Hunnicutts, and I don’t think he’ll go back there on his own…”

“Mrs Hunnicutt said they had an argument of some sort. She rang me to ask if I’d heard anything.”

“Ah—well, they know he was here, but after I put the phone down he got mad and left again. I haven’t had much time since, but when I tried ten minutes ago they weren’t answering their phone.”

“Have you tried to find him? Hawkeye, I mean?”

“No, I haven’t. I simply don’t have the time—between this job and Louise being pregnant, I don’t have time.”

“Louise is…”

“Yeah. Look, I’m in a hurry.”

“Congratulations, and I’ll try and let the Hunnicutts know what’s happened.”

“Thanks, Radar.”

* * *

Radar did the minimum of work on the farm that day and his utmost to help Hawkeye. BJ and Peggy had got on a plane, but Radar finally got hold of them in New York.

Dozing on the bus as it headed south, Hawkeye remained unfound.

In their hotel room, BJ had nightmares about Korea for the first time in months. Peggy barely slept at all.

In blissful ignorance of all this, Lyle got comfortably drunk with his brother-in-law and spent most of the night with his head on the kitchen table.

* * *

“Hawkeye? Doc, is it really you?” Lyle asked, squinting into the evening light.

“It’s me, Lyle,” Hawkeye managed before he was swept into a firm and manly hug that almost crushed him.

Lyle didn’t release him until he’d had time to wonder if he would ever breath again. “Come in, Hawkeye,” Lyle grinned, not relinquishing a final grasp on his arm. “Come in and have something to eat—we’ve just sat down to dinner.”

The tone brooked no argument, and Hawkeye followed him along the passage. “My sister and her husband are here,” Lyle explained, “Dad left the place to me but I need all the extra help I can get at this time of year.”

Hawkeye was rapidly introduced to Lyle’s sister, Laura, her silent but red-nosed husband Jessop, and some truly well-made grits.

* * *

When dinner was over, Laura and Jessop disappeared, and Lyle dragged Hawkeye out to the veranda. “So, doc. How have you been? Did you get my letter?”

“I did, yes. I meant to answer, but life’s been kind of complicated,” Hawkeye replied, sitting on the step and cradling his glass of rye.

“Oh? How’s that?”

“I found what I was looking for, but it scared me so much I ran away.”

Remembering that the best way to deal with Hawkeye trying to be cryptic was to play along, Lyle asked, “Why did you get scared?”

Hawkeye stared down the garden for a moment, to the field where a couple of cows were grazing. “I need to be drunker before I answer that.”

Lyle passed him the bottle, and they sat together in silence for a while.

Eventually, Lyle said. “You’re still drinking well.”

“Darling ethanol,” Hawkeye began, relaxing into his speech-making posture. “I don’t know how I’d manage without her.”

“Right,” Lyle said, liking the sight of Hawkeye drunk and speechifying.

“She hasn’t abandoned me, even now. I ran away from BJ, but she’s come right along with me. She never threatened anyone, either, and she doesn’t love me so she won’t leave me.”

“Is that why you ran away? Because you were in love?”

“Must be. The people I love always leave.”

“BJ didn’t,” Lyle said, bluffing.

“No,” Hawkeye agreed, “He didn’t. He tried to protect me, and I left.”

“What did he do?”

“He punched another doctor. Gave him at least a black eye, and maybe a lot more. I didn’t hang around to find out.”

“He punched a guy? He does love you.” It took a time for the fact that the person Hawkeye was in love with was male to filter through the alcohol to Lyle’s understanding, but when it did, his heart leaped.

“I guess he does. He says he does, but I almost wish he didn’t. I don’t like Rossi, but I don’t want him hurt.”

This concept was alien to Lyle, and engaged him enough that he stopped thinking about Hawkeye liking men. “Why not? If you don’t like him, don’t you want him dead?”

“Oh, Lyle. I’ve seen too many dead guys out there,” they both knew he meant Korea, “to want another one.”

Lyle thought about that. //Must be a doctor thing, trying to keep people you don’t like alive.// “Right.”

“What I want is BJ and Peggy,” Hawkeye continued morosely. “Both of them and no fighting.”

“Why don’t you go back and say so?”

Hawkeye just shook his head, not yet ready to even think about that.

“Well, whatever you like. Pass the bottle.”

The sun went down and the flies came out, so they moved indoors and went on drinking. About eleven o’clock, Lyle started to go to bed, because Hawkeye seemed to be asleep on the couch.

“Goodnight, doc,” he said, standing up as best he could and wishing the floor would stop rolling about.

“Hey—where are you going?” Hawkeye asked, opening one eye.


“Won’t you s… stay here?” Hawkeye slurred.

“You want me to?”

“Yeah. You won’t let them hurt me.”

“Okay, then,” Lyle said, grateful for an excuse to sit down again and not bothered to enquire who ‘they’ were. “I’ll stay.”

As it happened, Hawkeye slept and had no nightmares that night, though whether this was due to the quality of the alcohol or Lyle’s solid presence is for you, dear reader, to decide.

* * *

“We’ve been here three days, Peggy. It’s time to go home.”

Peggy opened her mouth to keep arguing as she had been for the last sixty-two hours or so, that they had to stay until they had news, but she realised BJ was right. They weren’t gaining anything and it was time to go back, even if it felt like giving up. “Okay.”

“You agree? Really?” BJ asked, startled.

“Yeah. We’ll go home.”

BJ kissed her. “Will you do the packing?”

“If you’ll let Radar know what we’re doing, and then see about plane tickets.”

“I love you.”

“I know. Same here.”

BJ smiled, a smile tinged with worry and regret but still genuine, and headed out to use the telephone.

* * *

The next day, once he’d recovered a little from his hangover, Hawkeye helped Lyle wherever he could, and stood and watched when he couldn’t. He also talked. Having found a sympathetic audience, he found it difficult to stop.

Some lucky chickens got to hear the full story of his time with Rossi while they ate their morning corn, from the first time Hawkeye met him at one of Dr Rankin’s fund raising cocktail parties to the—often speculative—details of Frank’s involvement, through to his encounter with BJ’s fist. Even the old rooster was a little disturbed by Lyle’s roars of laughter.

“I’d offer to twirl him for you, but it sounds like your BJ dealt with him. Besides, he’s right really. You’re the best, doc.”

“Oh, don’t, Lyle,” Hawkeye said with a wave of his hand, and went on talking about Rossi.

The fields of young corn heard the fascinating story about Erin, the goslings, and BJ’s moustache; the broken down tractor was treated to a recitation of Hawkeye’s opinions on such diverse subjects as biscuits and psychology.

Lyle went about his work, happy beyond measure to hear Hawkeye’s voice, and content to let him ramble until he was ready to discuss the important parts.

They ate lunch around the kitchen table, and Hawkeye persuaded Jessop to break his habitual silence by mentioning moonshine and the making thereof. An animated debate about the best way to build a still followed, only ended by Laura’s suggestion that they continue it over the washing up.

Finally, the rat traps in the granary were privileged to hear Hawkeye say, “I miss them, you know. I wish I could go back.”

“Why can’t you?” Lyle asked, and then swore as the rat trap caught his thumb.

Hawkeye thought for a moment, doing a quick visual examination to make sure that his friend hadn’t been seriously hurt by the trap. “I wouldn’t be happy,” he said, slowly, and then went on, “If I went back now, without knowing that—without changing the rules somehow, I’d always be on edge, waiting for something worse to happen and it all to fall apart.”

“Perhaps if you talked to BJ?”

“No, it’s got to come from him. I need to know that he’s not just saying it.”

“Well, he can’t do anything while he doesn’t know where you are.”

“True. But how can I tell him where I am without talking to him?”

Lyle sat back on his heels and regarded Hawkeye shrewdly. “What about that guy—the one who’s so good with radio stuff. Radar. Could be pass a message along?”

“Radar! Of course! Lyle, you’re a genius.” Hawkeye leapt to his feet, and he could have sworn that Lyle blushed. Rather liking the effect, he planted a kiss on Lyle’s cheek and said, “I mean it. A genius. I’ll go and phone him now.”

* * *

“Why didn’t Hawkeye want to come back?” Erin asked as the got back to the empty house. “Great Aunt Shirley said he was daft, to go to Boston and not stay here.”

“Well, she was probably right,” BJ said, wondering if he’d ever be able to answer that question to his own satisfaction, let alone Erin’s.

Peggy was just unlocking the door when the telephone rang. “Get that, BJ,” she called over Waggle’s excited barking.

BJ dashed indoors, hoping that it might be news of Hawkeye, while she fetched the suitcases from the car and started finding a meal of sorts. By straining her ears, she heard some of the conversation.

“Radar, you heard from Hawkeye? That’s wonderful! Where is he?” A pause. “Oh. Well, I’ll take that number.”

“I’m hungry,” Erin whined, and Peggy had to stop listening.

After dinner, Erin was put to bed (with accompanying painful moments—“I want Hawkeye to read my story!”); and then they found time to work out what was going on.

“He wants to talk,” BJ explained. “Radar said he sounded quite calm, and he was okay, but he wanted to talk. Either on the telephone or at an arranged meeting place.”

“Did he say what about?”

“I guess he didn’t want to tell Radar that.”

“Let’s try and meet, then. I’ll call that number and see if we can set something up.”

“Okay, love.” BJ handed her the paper with a number noted on it. “Thanks.”

* * *

In the end, Lyle drove Hawkeye the ten hours along the freeway to the motel Peggy had chosen. Hawkeye tried to say that he was perfectly capable of hiring a car and driving himself, but Lyle had seen Hawkeye driving army jeeps and said no.

It only took him a couple of hours to persuade Hawkeye.

* * *

“You’re lucky your daughter is so charming to have around,” Shirley said when she was asked to look after Erin again.

“Yes, I really am,” BJ agreed.

“Otherwise I might be asking you—or Selma, or your mother—questions like ‘where are you going?’ and ‘why?’ and ‘who is this Hawkeye fellow anyway?’” She gave him a pointed look, at which BJ grinned apologetically but didn’t answer.

* * *

Driving back alone—Hawkeye had decided to act as if it would all turn out well—Lyle stopped on the roadside more than once, and not just to eat and sleep and such.

He’d never admit it, but he was glad he had a handkerchief with him. //Oh, Hawkeye. I hope it goes well for you. It won’t be worth this if it doesn’t.//

* * *

The motel room was, as Hawkeye had known it would be, exactly the same as every other. He sat on the bed, curled up against the headboard, wishing that it could all be over. It took all his energy to stay there and not start running again; not leaving. //Weird how it can be harder not to do things,// he thought. //Perhaps that’s why BJ hit Rossi. It would have been harder not to.//

Outside the door, Peggy pulled BJ into a quick hug and whispered, “Let me go first.”

“Okay,” BJ said, and Peggy knocked.

“It’s open,” Hawkeye called, standing up in an attempt to hide how little control he has over the situation.

Peggy went in, followed by BJ, and for a moment there was a silence full of assessments. Then she moved forward.

“It’s good to see you again, Hawkeye.” He glanced quickly at BJ, but Peggy’s hand on his shoulder made him decide to concentrate on her for the time being. They hugged and kissed with an intensity that made BJ wonder if the stressful-moments eagerness he saw was the hunger that Peggy had commented on once or twice.

“Good to see you, too, Peggy,” Hawkeye said. He let Peggy go, but she kept one arm around his waist. “And BJ.”

“Hawkeye.” Their eyes met, Hawkeye’s dark blue and BJ’s paler, but both filled with pain, current or remembered. Something like a spark went between them in that instant, an understanding that words could only confirm.

“How’s Rossi?” Hawkeye asked, striving to keep the tone conversational.

“He got a black eye. I’m sorry about it.”

“Is being sorry enough?”

“What more can I do? I regret it, and it won’t happen again.”

Hawkeye nearly replied, ‘you said that after Carrie Donovan’, but remembered tearing up a letter and decided that some secrets were best left that way. Instead, he nodded and looked at down at Peggy, conscious of her green eyes on him.

“Will you come home with us?” she asked. “Erin keeps asking about you.”

“She does?” Hawkeye grinned.

“Yes. Will you come?”

“That depends, doesn’t it?” A smirk he could use as a trademark, and Peggy sighed.

“Double entendre. It’s everywhere.”

“Well,” said BJ, moving to take Peggy’s free hand, “I think that both kinds of coming are possible.”

“The bed’s not very nice,” Hawkeye commented.

“The floor’s perfectly good,” BJ said, teasingly.

“You said that about Korea, but it was full of stones.”

“We’re not in Korea any longer.”

“It’s still here, though, isn’t it? Inside.” Hawkeye tapped himself on the chest. “Blood and stones and mud and noise.”

“I know, Hawkeye,” BJ said quietly, and then added, “Doesn’t mean I don’t want to sleep near you.”

“You do?”

“If you don’t mind sleeping with me.”

“I’ve missed you, Beej.”

“Want to come here?” BJ asked, putting his hand out towards Hawkeye.

“Yeah,” Hawkeye said, closing the gap between them. “I trust that’s a double entendre.”

“Of course it is,” Peggy said, pulling BJ closer and slipping her arm around his waist. “When you two are around, the most innocuous phrase sounds dirty.”

“She’s got a point,” Hawkeye said to BJ.

“She’s clever, really,” BJ replied, taking Hawkeye’s hand and moving closer to him.

“Do you think we should do what she suggests?”

Now leaning on each other, they turned to regard Peggy seriously. “Yes, I think so,” BJ said.

Peggy smiled indulgently, pleased to see them being playful, and then glanced over her shoulder to check that the door was shut and the curtains drawn. Satisfied that they were safe, she asked, “Then what are we doing wearing all these clothes?”

Expertly, they set about putting that right. “Why do you always wear blouses with buttons on, Peggy?” Hawkeye complained. “They’re much slower.”

“You wear shirts,” she retorted, undoing them as fast as she could given that she was distracted by BJ running his hands down her sides and his lips down the back of her neck. “Besides, I’d look pretty silly wearing a blouse with no buttons.”

“I don’t think so,” Hawkeye said, and BJ smiled at the predictability of it. “In fact, I think the world would be a better place if we abolished buttons altogether.”

“You’d abolish clothes if you could,” BJ said, shifting one hand from Peggy’s side to the inside of Hawkeye’s now-unbuttoned shirt. Hawkeye leaned over and kissed him, squashing Peggy into a far from unpleasant sandwich. When she needed to breathe, she tapped Hawkeye’s shoulder, grateful for several weeks in February spent working out sophisticated etiquettes for this sort of thing.

He leant backwards, tipping them all off balance so that they tumbled onto the bed. BJ landed on top, but quickly rolled off into the middle of the bed. Peggy shifted over to lie on top of him and catch her breath.

Feeling a little ignored, Hawkeye said, “The world would be a better place if we all knew each other’s ticklish spots.”

“Oh, would it?” Peggy enquired, then lay beside BJ and mimed patting the pockets she wasn’t wearing. “Bother, I left the feather duster at home.”

BJ giggled. In the spirit of scientific investigation (‘how long can I tickle him before it turns into petting?’), Hawkeye started running his fingers lightly over BJ’s known ticklish spots: just below his jaw, along the collarbone, down his flank, over the point of his hip.

Giggling and gasping under the talented fingers, BJ bucked up into the touch in an attempt to turn it into something less teasing. Soon enough, a flailing arm managed to catch Hawkeye’s shoulder and pull him in for another long kiss.

When they broke the kiss, Hawkeye could see in BJ’s face that they were getting deeper, but he made one last attempt to stop it being serious. “I haven’t seen you in ages. You said you came here often.”

“Well, I do my best. I haven’t see you in a while,” BJ said, aware of what was happening and playing along. //We’ve got to do this, or neither of us will be sure that things are back—not quite to the way they were, but to something we understand.//

“Road trip. I had to find out if the porridge in Boston was still as bad as it used to be.”

“And is it?”

“Yes,” Hawkeye grinned. “And I’m still…” he broke off, realising that BJ had cunningly let him take silliness right round to the serious side again.

“You’re still what, Hawkeye?” BJ asked quietly. Peggy could almost see the air crackle with the intensity between them, and with her hand on Hawkeye’s back she could feel him tense in the silence.

“Well, I think I am,” he said eventually.

“Think you are what?”

Hawkeye tried to look away, only to meet Peggy’s eyes. “Loved,” he said then. “Loved. In love.”

“Listen to me, Hawkeye,” Peggy said. “We still love you. That isn’t going to change.”

He watched her face for a moment, registering the honesty there, and then looked back at BJ, his eyes filling with tears, “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” BJ confirmed. “We love you.”

“Love you too,” Hawkeye said, blinking hard. Peggy kissed him.

Kissing quickly gave way to petting, and petting to rubbing, and rubbing to arching into hands and bodies. The duvet hit the floor fairly early on, so that they had room to move in the warm air of the spring evening.

By some silent agreement, Peggy and BJ worked together to make Hawkeye the first to orgasm: knowing that he was rather inclined to cry out, Peggy kept his mouth busy while BJ applied himself lower down. Between them, they did manage to prevent him alerting the whole motel to what was going on as he came in BJ’s mouth, though if anyone was next door and listening they could have had a good guess.

“God, I love you,” he gasped when Peggy let him speak, “Both of you. Yous.”

“Trust you to need a new word,” BJ grinned, enjoying the sight of his lover lying spent on the thin mattress, dark hair in disarray and eyes bright with pleasure.

“It’s how the language gets richer,” Hawkeye told him. “Come here, Beej.”

Willingly, BJ went, and came soon after.


Explaining Series Stories