A/N: Very old. This has undergone more edits than some of my other fics. I received several comments that I thought made excellent points about weaknesses in this story, and I've altered or removed some problem areas. It's still not perfect, but it's better.

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Oh, Danny's Boy

But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,

If I am dead, as dead I well may be,

Ye'll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Avè there for me.
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,

And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,

For you will bend and tell me that you love me,

And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!

--"Danny Boy"

He did nothing but eat the first week he was home. It was like he hadn't seen food in years, the way he examined it, picked it apart. Sniffed it. Then ate like they'd been starving him in Korea.

The next week, he asked to join my practice, and how could I refuse? He's certainly qualified. Over-qualified, but there aren't many doctors willing to work in a small-town office like mine, so the help is welcome. What I'm really not sure of is how long this help will stick around. It's only been a couple of weeks, but he's already antsy. After these past few years in Boston and then Korea, the only part of small-town life he's still used to is having the rest of the world in his business.

Which is another thing that changed. He hasn't shared this much with me since he was ten. After that first week, when everything started to settle down, it was like an explosion went off. He talks non-stop about everything, almost like there's too much privacy here. Medical school, old girlfriends, Peg and Erin Hunnicutt -- who seem to be a source of endless fascination to him though he's never met them. You name it. He'll talk about anything you could think to ask him about. Except the important things.

The way he sniffs his food aside, he hasn't done anything all that strange. Different, certainly, from the way I remember, but I expected that much. But when the army told me he'd had a breakdown, I had anticipated some introverted invalid in my boy's body. Instead I found a man -- an old man with graying hair who putters around the house talking to himself when no one else will listen. I was joking once, asked him if he was talking to Tuttle. He looked at me for a moment as if I had said something wrong and then announced to me, his expression entirely serious, that Tuttle had died. I wasn't sure how to respond to that.

Sometimes he talks to people, but outside of the office it's rarely to anyone the rest of us know. Klinger, Margaret, BJ, people who have never been to Crabapple Cove, and yet they seem permanently frozen in his mind -- living across the camp, across the road, across the tent ten feet away on a hard cot. He can't sleep on his bed anymore. He sleeps on the floor most nights. The softness of the mattress makes his back hurt.

More and more, though my heart still skips a beat when I hear him coming down the stairs or singing nonsense opera in the shower, I wonder if I will ever have my son back. I wonder if he will ever talk to me again because he has something to say and not because he needs to fill up the silence. I wonder ... I wonder if -- how -- a small town doctor who hasn't left home in thirty years can connect with a boy whose imaginary friend died in an undeclared war.

fin