Author: A. V. Meren

Title: Making Love to Smoke

Feedback: Yes!

Email: avmeren@yahoo.com

Archive: Yes, email me about link if you want.

Series: Sorry, no. Maybe later. ;-) I've got this vision of the afterlife...depends on whether anyone wants to see it. And *nope*, this is *not* Patriots, sorry.

Warnings: Death!fic. Radar's reaction to Colonel Blake's death. This has probably been done and over-done, but I thought I'd try my hand at it. Because, *sniff* I miss him! *wails* I like Henry! And I don't care what canon says, I'm in denial and he's still alive. Only, you know, not in this fic.

Author's Notes: Radar's sneaky, did you know that? It's like he's got this thing where he's there, and you know it, but when he speaks you don't jump, but you listen, hypnotized...





Making Love to Smoke

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred Tennyson, 'In Memoriam:21', 1850.

I didn't cry.

When I knew, when I felt my soul drop down clear through the bottom of my shoes, I didn't cry. I was quiet and still like a mouse when she just sits; not afraid, but just she just can't move. It isn't time for me to move yet, things are still wrong. It's something else, not peace, I haven't known that for a long, long time.

Well, sometimes...usually with him.

But that's over now, isn't it?

I've always had a good sense of things, and just plain good sense. My uncle Ed, he said it wasn't any of that magic mumbo-jumbo like you'd see at the fairs that came every once in a while. Nothing fancy: maybe some dancing, maybe some games and stuff. I always did real good at ring-toss, and I liked going to the fortune-teller, only she wasn't real.

Not like I am.

It was the same fair every two years, and the same fortune-teller: old and silver-haired, like she'd been that way forever, wrinkles like my grandma had, and dull, dim eyes that never really saw anything. I didn't like her; she used to hit animals with her cane and hit my pet cat once and broke her leg. It never healed just right. I've gotten better since, at setting breaks, but Missy's leg wouldn't be crooked if that fake hadn't hit her.

I always knew stuff. I knew when it'd rain, maybe, or when the fence needed fixing, not just regular farm repair. I knew when Bell's calf was gonna be breech, even when Doc Thomas didn't. And he's a real vet!

I just always knew, that's all. And nobody ever said anything about it. They'd just smile and say "that's Walter. He's a fine boy, takes after his mother." It's like that here, only I'm Radar, not Walter. But lots of people think that because I know things, I can do things, and I can't. I can't make somebody win lots of money at poker, and I can't make good-luck charms, and I can't make anybody better any more than I could fix my cat Missy's leg the way it should have been fixed.

I can't bring Colonel Blake back.

***

Hawkeye's a lot like my uncle Ed, only not really. They don't look like each other, and they don't talk like each other, and they don't think like each other and they don't act like each other, but they sure do *believe* like each other.

My uncle told me that I'm not a miracle-worker like the saints were, just a miracle. I'm not Jesus, so I'm not meant to be God. I'm made to be a man like other men, he said, so I should act like it and do what I can. That's all a man can do. I know that. I *know* that.

But sometimes, it's just so *hard*. Why does it have to be so hard?

When I first got here, it was rough for me. It still is, and it's like that for everybody. And some people say that since I grew up on a farm and killed my own dinner, it shouldn't be so hard for me. And I guess I can see that...but it's different. It is. And people should see that.

Hawkeye did.

Major Burns just kind of officialed it away and Major Houlihan used to do the same thing. She still does, but not so--cold. She's a nicer kind of mean, now.

Father Mulcahy is a priest, so God must help him a lot, but I don't think He helps as much as everybody in the 4077th does. We all sort of help each other, even Major Burns.

Hawkeye helps the most. He doesn't make it better, but he makes it...easier, I guess. Makes it not as...I don't know. I was going to say 'not as real,' but it's still real. It's like that sermon Father Mulcahy gave once, about burdens and how God doesn't give us what we can't bear. We get a real heavy load here, all of us, and Hawkeye kind of spreads it out, doesn't make it and us as heavy. I like Hawkeye a lot; he's a good man.

He doesn't mind my knowing things, and when I told him about what Uncle Ed said, he just nodded and said that that sounded smart. He doesn't talk down to me because I'm from a farm, and he isn't afraid of me because I've got a better sense of my surroundings than most people. And he doesn't get mad because that's all I have.

Trapper's a lot like him; people joke that they're one person in two bodies, but that isn't right. Trapper's himself, and Hawkeye's himself, and they're different, just not completely. There's this little bit of something that doesn't fit, this little piece that makes them Hawkeye and Trapper, not Hawkeyetrapper.

That little bit of something's why I like Hawkeye best; Trapper's nice and fun and I like him, but Hawkeye's my favorite. He always listens and isn't surprised, and never was. And he doesn't need things explained, even if he does. He's just Hawkeye.

That's why he's staying awake tonight, and that's why he knows that I'm doing the same thing.

That's why he'll make sure that everyone leaves me alone.

***

I never had a father, and I never needed one. My father died a long time ago, and my Uncle Ed was just always my Uncle Ed. My mom's my mom. Hawkeye is Hawkeye. Colonel Blake is...was...Colonel Blake.

Except when he's Henry.

Was. I mean was, because I have to start saying was. It's just...he'll always be alive to me, looking nervous and excited and sad at the same time, kissing Hot Lips, smiling at Klinger, hugging Hawkeye. Saying goodbye.

At least we got that much. His other family didn't, and that's not fair.

Not much about this is.

'This'...

That's not a good way of putting it. I never was any good at words, not like Hawkeye and Trapper are. They make words dance the same way that the carnies who ran that long-ago fair did: fast, bright chatter, jumping here and there, as fun to listen to as the games were to play.

Or they can convince people to do things by using words that seem like nothing, but really aren't. Or they can use words that I don't know, or that sound pretty and mean complicated things, and sometimes words that are all of that.

But I can't do that. Not like they can. I usually just look at people say something, and if I want them to, they believe me. And I'm pretty good at being confusing too. My mom always said that I was good at looking too cute to yell at. Hawkeye says the same thing. I think that's why he used to get me to help him get around Colonel Blake and the Majors. Not that Colonel Blake needed much getting around; he usually knew everything that happened in the 4077th, but liked to act as if he didn't. That way, he could ignore or act dumb when one of the Major Pains came yelling.

But I'm not supposed to call them that anymore. It slipped out once and everybody was all surprised and quiet except for Hawkeye and Trapper, who fell over on each other making really weird sounds like our bull used to make when he was in heat. Both Majors Burns and Houlihan wanted me to be demoted or something, but Colonel Blake just rubbed his head like he does when he has a headache and told everybody to go away, and I went to get him a drink. He always likes scotch when he has a headache...

I guess he still does, wherever he is now. I don't know where that could be, though. If there is a Hell, he's not there, but I don't think he'd like Heaven; it sounds kind of boring. Maybe it's that place that Hawkeye told me about, once.

Hawkeye hates losing patients, and I hate it too. We remember all of them. Maybe we don't remember names so good, even me-there's just too many names. But we remember all their faces, and that one was bad. It was really scary for everybody, because when he came in, the nurse dropped something and when everybody looked at her, said that he looked just like Hawkeye. He did, too. He had blue eyes, and black hair, and he *really* looked like Hawkeye. Hawkeye went real pale when he saw him, and said that it was like looking at his own fetch.

(I asked him later what that was, and he told me, and that wasn't a nice thing to hear. Having your ghost turn up before you're dead to tell you that you're going to die? I guess I would turn pale too.)

But Hawkeye, after that first look, took it better than everybody else. Even the Majors looked weird; they kept asking about Lt. Patterns (that was his name) and was he going to be ok. It was pretty obvious that he wasn't. Both legs were full of shrapnel, and so was the rest of him, with Hawkeye bending over him trying to pick it all out before he bled out. It was spooky, like watching Hawkeye operate on himself. Everybody else got theirs done in record time and came crowding around that table, a bunch of staring eyes that had to make Hawkeye uncomfortable, but if they did, he didn't show it. He was as cool as he always is, cutting and stitching and everybody looking more and more like they were going to fall over. I felt like *I* was, anyway.

And then there was a lot of shouting at one end of the table, and a bunch of people trying to be quiet at the other. We all kept jerking, like we were going to go over to help, but stopping ourselves before we moved and got in the way. We didn't look at each other, looking at Hawkeye's fingers moving fast, fast, fast, but too slow...and a too-pale Hawkeye lying on the table.

Everybody was strange for a while after that. They'd look at Hawkeye, then look away real quick. Or they'd go up and hug him for no reason. Or they were too nice to him, even if Major Burns did it in a really strange way by trying to get him one of those ladies who work at Rosie's. I think there was more to that than I know, though. The way Hawkeye went all scary-mad at Trapper like that...and how guilty both Trapper and Major Burns looked...I just never thought that Major *Burns* could look guilty except for when Major Houlihan was mad and...

But Hawkeye always (except for going scary like that, like I've never seen him before or since) seemed like he didn't care any more than usual, like it wasn't a copy of him that had died. But it wasn't, really. It was just someone who looked like him, and everyone knew it, but it still shook us. But not him.

At least, that's what everyone else thought, even if they didn't say it out loud. But I knew better. That night that Lt. Patterns died, I found Hawkeye in the supply tent with a full bottle of gin. He wasn't drinking it. That was bad, and I knew it. So I went over, and I poured the gin in some glasses that I'd brought, and we just sat for a while before he began to talk, more like he was talking to Lt. Pattern's ghost than to me or even himself. Or maybe to Someone else.

Hawkeye doesn't like to talk, *really* talk, so he doesn't do it often. And when he does, it seems like he isn't, unless you know how to listen. He didn't talk about Lt. Patterns at all, but he did talk about Fiddler's Green.

It was a myth or something, I think. Anyway it was something that he'd found somewhere that he'd liked. He said that he didn't think that he deserved Hell or Heaven, making a joke out of being too good for both that sounded like he halfway meant it. Maybe he did. God knows that we all have pretty good reason to be mad at Him. Father Mulcahy's probably heard that a lot too.

Instead, Hawkeye said, there was a place that was a lot like what we have here now, alive, only there's nothing bad there. No bad people, no too-good people that are really bad people, just...people. People like Hawkeye, like maybe Lt. Patterns, although we never even really met him to be able to say.

People like Colonel Blake. Like Henry.

Someday, maybe, people like me.

***

I guess what I had was a kind of crush. I didn't think that I was in love, and it wasn't hero-worship, and I never thought that he was my father. I think (know) that I'll like the new C.O. eventually, once he gets used to the way we do things here, for whoever's the C.O., the Swamp is always Headquarters. (Colonel Blake told me that; he also said that he pretty much figured that Hawkeye and Trapper got all the fun parts of being C.O., while he was stuck with the paperwork. I didn't remind him about the golf.)

I'll like the new C.O....but he won't be Colonel Blake. He'll be him, and if he...goes away...it'll be different. Just like it'll be different if it's someone else. Not better or worse, just different. That's cause there was only one Henry.

He thought of me as too young. Too young for war, too young for being away from home, too young for...everything, really. I think that's why he let me spend all that time with Hawkeye, because he was letting me be young, and Hawkeye...somehow, I can't imagine him old. (But I can, all too easily--wrinkles and silver hair and young eyes that laugh, or old, old eyes--fortune-teller eyes--in a too-young face.

Too young to be in love with him, or even to love him. (Not that I realized that I loved him, was in love with him, not at first. Later, one day when I just knew. I always...just know.)

(And I turn red at the memory of Hawkeye corralling me one night and explaining the difference, love and in love and every other difference that I'd ever wondered about besides, but always wondered about because everyone that knew me thought that I knew everything. Well, everyone *else*. Even me.)

Just too young. And it would have been wrong to make him see that I wasn't, because he'd just never feel right about it. It would feel wrong to him, and dirty, and dozens of other things that it wasn't, but that he wouldn't be able to help feel. So I let him go, and I loved him like a friend. Like...a friend, and a brother, and somebody that I never got to be *in* love with. And that was nice. Maybe even better than what I wanted to have and pushed deep into my mind, in a place where I could always find him, following the smell of scotch and cigars.

That's how I knew, I think. That's why I'm still so quiet inside, why I can't move inside, because I know, but I can't know. *Won't* know.

***

I don't think about the knowing, usually. It's just something I do. Sometimes I like having it because it makes things easier, like whenever somebody wanted something. But sometimes I don't like it, and sometimes it's because there's times when I don't know. I just don't know.

That last night, I didn't know. The night before he left, we had a great party. And we all said goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, piling cigars and scotch on him, jokes and laughter and Hawkeye and Trapper at their finest. And he hugged me as me and Trapper helped him and Hawkeye to their bunks, smelling of scotch and smoke and Henry.

I was in O.R. when I felt it. And I froze. I went still as a mouse, as my pet mouse when it sees something that strikes a chill of terror into it. I stayed still even as I went to answer the phone, dropped the phone, watched my feet walk over to the O.R., heard my voice (what am I saying? No...) say things that I had hoped wouldn't...why did this have to happen? Why does God love irony? Korea isn't safe, but home and going-home *is*, should be. All that, gone up in fire and smoke, which I guess fits, at least.

The office still smells like him. Scotch and smoke, and there're cigars in the middle left drawer, where he liked to keep them. It's like he's still here, staying on for awhile, watching and helping. Maybe he is. Maybe he's in Fiddler's Green, now, and he comes down for visits.

I let him go, and he died, and he's in Fiddler's Green, now, forever a memory that I'll always love. And maybe he'll be as dim as my memories of my father are, but I don't think so. And even if that does happen, I still miss my father, every day, even though I never really knew him like I would have liked to. I think it'll be like that for Henry too.

But it won't be too bad. After tonight, I'll be the same old Radar, who's sad that Colonel Henry Blake died, but is getting over it. Hawkeye will know, but he won't say anything. Things will be different, with the Colonel gone, but something tells me that this new Colonel will be interesting.

Nothing lasts forever, and at least I had Henry for awhile. And I knew him. He wouldn't want me to mourn for the rest of my life, sad for something that I never really had, for something that I had, lost, and will find again.

Someday, someday.

So for now I'll keep being the same old Radar, and after the war, one of my wild, farm-bred kids will be named Henry, and another will be named Benjamin. I think that whoever I marry will understand why, and approve. I don't think I'd marry her otherwise.

And if I smell smoke sometimes, so strongly that I can taste it...well, that must mean something. I think that it does.

I know that it does.

*End*