Hawkeye was dragging a comb through his ebony hair with purpose, making sure each and every strand fell exactly as he wished. B.J. assumed that he had a date that evening, for he seemed to be dressing the part. The blond doctor was lounging in his army greens and watching his bunkmate with amused interest. He had been in Korea less than a week, and his fellow captain, aside from being a top-notch surgeon and grade-A practical joker, was still a bizarre puzzle to the Californian.
"Are you ready to go?" Hawkeye asked, surprising B.J. by addressing him.
B.J. blinked up at him. "Go where?"
Hawkeye laughed and shook his head. "Right, you don't know," he said to himself. Then he launched into his explanation, words tumbling out of his mouth a mile a minute. "Thursday night is lady's night at the Officer's Club. By now all the nurses have spent the rest of their army script on booze, since payday is tomorrow—oh, we'll have to ask Colonel Potter if you get paid tomorrow, too, since you haven't been here a full week yet. Anyway, the nurses will be out of script, and if we hurry, they usually let us buy them drinks so they don't have to spend any real money, and it's a great—what?" Hawkeye only stopped his rambling when he noticed the stricken look on B.J.'s face.
"I—I'm a married man!" B.J. stammered. "I have a wife, and a daughter, back in Mill Valley!" B.J. stood up and looked Hawkeye straight in the eye. They hadn't known each other very long (not that that was an excuse) and this was one fact of B.J.'s life that he was going to make perfectly clear to his fellow captain and bunkmate. "I'm not going to go, go and buy drunk nurses another round so that I—so that can—"
"Hey, it's ok," Hawkeye quickly and awkwardly assured, cutting him off. He backed up a few paces. "I'm, ah, I'm sorry." Pace. "I didn't mean…" Pace-pace. "Well, I—" Pace. "I should…" Pace. "Good—" Pace-pace-pace. "Goodnight!" And with that Hawkeye turned and fled the swamp.
B.J. sat back down again, his hands shaking, dumbstruck by what just happened. It was clearly a misunderstanding. Hawkeye couldn't have meant anything by it. Just a simple misunderstanding that had now been cleared up… though he would have to apologize to Hawk for the way he reacted. After all, he had just wanted to be clear. He loved Peg and that was that. Yes, sir, this was one G.I. who was going to remain faithful to his wife. You could stake your life on it!
His musings were interrupted by quiet laughter from across the tent.
"Don't mind him."
That was Frank, his other bunkmate, the major. B.J. had a sinking suspicion that he wasn't going to like Major Burns very much, and that wasn't just because of everything Hawkeye had told him.
"He just forgot you weren't McIntyre is all."
B.J. nodded absently. Frank meant Trapper. B.J. knew he was Trapper's replacement. Hawkeye and Trapper must have gone every Thursday like clockwork. Old habits die hard, B.J. mused.
"McIntyre went with him?"
"Uh huh," Frank said smugly as he wiped his face from the remains of his shaving lotion. "Every time."
B.J. nodded, his suspicions confirmed. It wasn't easy being someone's replacement. For him or for Hawkeye.
"Either that or he forgot you were married," Frank interrupted B.J. thoughts again.
"I don't want to lose my ring over here," B.J. admitted, holding up his bare ring finger.
"I don't blame you," Frank said blandly, non-committed, as he began combing his hair. "McIntyre didn't bother to take his off," he continued after a moment. "I think he even wore it during surgery, not that I could prove it."
That last statement almost seemed regretful to B.J.'s ears, but the tone wasn't the important part.Trapper was married.
So, his forerunner went with Hawkeye every Thursday to pick up nurses, cheating on his wife all the while. B.J. suddenly, desperately wanted to know why Hawkeye had assumed that he was accompanying him… and was also very afraid of the answer.
"I don't think Colonel Blake would have done anything though." Frank continued his train of thought.
"Your last C.O. was married?" B.J. asked, suddenly hopeful.
"Yep," Frank replied as he made sure his appearance was spotless. "Wore his ring everywhere, too. Even when…"
"When what?" B.J. asked, confused by the look on Frank's face. It seemed both uncomfortable and delighted at the same time.
"Well, you know me," he said with a sly grin, "I don't like to speak ill of the dead, but one time Captain Pierce had to… retrieve... the Colonel's wedding ring, from one of the nurses."
B.J. blinked. "Retrieve?"
Frank's grin widened, and his eyes danced, and B.J. suddenly understood, his cheeks flushing as Frank's meaning struck.
"The Colonel was at a conference in Soul and was scared to death he'd lost it in the Bath," Frank elaborated, laughing at the memory.
"I see," said B.J, embarrassed, looking at the floor and suddenly feeling impossibly alone.
"Why are you so upset?" Frank asked, sounding oddly curious. "It's not like they're sleeping with your wife or anything?"
B.J. looked up sharply, but those beady eyes didn't hold the malice of the question. Frank seemed genuinely confused. Perhaps there was truth to what Hawkeye said of the man possessing only a simple mind. Yet still, right now it was heartening.
"I guess I miss Peg," B.J. admitted with a shrug, allowing a smile to form at the fond though of his wife.
Frank nodded in understanding. In hindsight, B.J. would see no traces of empathy.
"Is she pretty?" Frank asked suddenly.
B.J. smiled. He grabbed her picture from his makeshift nightstand and showed it to him. Frank smiled at the petite blond smiling up at him from the photograph before handing it back to the captain. Then with a spring in his step, and a whistle, Frank walked back over to his side of the tent, removed his wedding ring, placed it on top of his foot locker, and headed for the door.
"Where are you off to?" B.J. asked, pretending like he hadn't seen what Frank had just done.
"None of your bee's wax!" Frank snapped before storming out the door. The tent walls were rolled up, and B.J.'s eyes followed the major across the compound. He saw him knock three times on the head nurse's tent door before being ushered inside.
B.J., still holding the picture of his beloved Peg, clutched the frame tightly to his chest as he lay down on his cot, and now alone in his empty bunk, wept openly.