A/N: This style is strange and I'm not sure if it works. Anyway, I tried. The story involves slash, specifically Hawkeye/Trapper (and Hawkeye/B.J.? We'll see). It's a one-shot so no sequels. It ends like this on purpose. I should also state for non-sueing purposes that I don't own any of these characers, not that anyone is likely to assume otherwise.
The curtain opens on a scene of mixed emotions, changing atmospheres, confused hearts and minds. In this place, at this time, awkwardness gives way to mirth in an instant, with embarrassment or attraction or hope or fear following on its heels in a long, self-conscious dance to inaudible music. A band is playing on the other side of the room, but it is not to its music that the players waltz. They move to a thousand songs, a dozen symphonies, while in the background five years of homemaking, of child rearing, of careers and patients and every day life is drowned out by imagined chopper blades and screams and rain.
The first act is a simple one. Old friends are reunited, old relationships, long warn thin, are tested, adapted, and renewed. Hawkeye, our main player, shakes hands with Frank, who, back in Korea, was the main antagonist. This act has no need for such tension or hostility, and a cheer rises as they stand beneath the 'Five Year Reunion' banner, and smile and shake.
"No hard feelings, eh, old pal?"
"No hard feelings Frank," says Hawkeye, as, unseen to all on stage, he slips a laxative into Frank's drink.
The late arrival of a woman brings some strain upon the scene. Hotlips Houlihan is accompanied by a tall, handsome man, and a huge engagement ring is flaunted. Frank's swift departure from this scene may or may not be the fault of Hawkeye, but we can assume his machinations will not go undiscovered.
The next scene sees some rivalry between best friends for the attention of our protagonist. As Hawkeye spouts witticisms and flippancies, Trapper John and B.J. Hunnicut, who until now have never met, find themselves played one against the other in a battle for Hawkeye's attention. Neither gains nor loses ground as they race to provide the necessary sounding board for Hawkeye's ancient gags. As each takes a turn to visit the bar, the other states his opinions to Hawkeye. The two could get along fine, he discovers, if it were not for him. Neither can take a backseat to the other, yet both are too gentle in nature to turn the awkward shambling dance, with Hawkeye at its centre, into a confrontation.
Leaving them to get acquainted on their own terms, Hawkeye chats to Sherman Potter, and the two laugh and joke like the old comrades they are, but this act draws to a close with Hawkeye's final aside. A weighty admission is shared with the shocked audience, and Hawkeye's heart, split in two, realises it must chose one above the other if he has any hope of being with either.
Act two is one of contrasting scenes. It opens on Maxwell Klinger, who was seen in suit and tie in act one, now modelling a stunning red evening gown, to the delight of everyone present. The trio of doctors, caught in a moment of awkward silence as the curtain opens, break into whoops and applause as Klinger approaches the stunned barman and orders from the cocktail list. Taking the opportunity to slip away from the twin source of his heartache, Hawkeye plays the gallant gentleman to Klinger's femme fatale, and an act within the play itself begins. Hawkeye's motives are twofold. Not only is this routine as ancient as any played out in this room full of half-friends, half-strangers, but Trapper and B.J.'s reactions must be tested. His unrehearsed dalliance with the bearded lady is a subtle confession without actual declaration, and is as close as Hawkeye will come to admitting aloud his unbiased attraction to either sex. It is a bold move, and not unnoticed by his friends.
The next scene sees Hawkeye alone with Trapper, and a web of lies is spun as Trapper seeks more information than is being offered this early in the play.
"What's going on?"
"You're attracted to me."
"Of course not."
"You had the guts to say it once. Say it again. You love me still."
"Don't be ridiculous…"
And in contrast to his obscure admissions in the previous scene, Hawkeye shoots down every accusation, entering a world of painful denial. But as soon as Trapper exits, Hawkeye soliloquises, and we hear his close of act one speech again, only this time more specific, more heartfelt, more tragic. We are reminded of Trapper's departure from Korea, the subtle message left in the reluctant care of Radar, and we learn of years of letters with no replies, from Trapper to a torn Hawkeye whose heart moved instantly on to another with the arrival in camp of Trapper's replacement. To have loved someone so briefly, forgotten them so quickly, is there any chance of reconciliation? And is it what Hawkeye wants?
Leaving Hawkeye alone briefly, our attention is drawn to the far side of the room, where a group of ladies have been getting acquainted. For the most part, these are the wives of servicemen and the surgeons, with the occasional daughter or sister of a nurse who served alongside them. In the centre of the group, Peg Hunnicut and Louise McIntyre, unaware of any connection or lack thereof between their husbands, have become instant friends. They contrast as sharply as their spouses do, and find they interest and compliment each other perfectly. Peg is sweet, innocent, Mrs America, while Louise demonstrates a wicked side as, to the delight of other ladies present, she points out men in the room she would sleep with. As B.J. approaches the group, Peg places herself between him and Louise, protective and possessive, a stance Louise has seen many times before and takes no offence at. B.J. remains oblivious.
"He went outside for some air."
We follow B.J. on his search, and the audience must feel a sense of sympathy for the man who replaced Trapper in Hawkeye's heart but never knew the extent of the anguish he caused. He, too, is oblivious of Hawkeye's love for him, knowing only of Hawkeye's grief at the departure of Trapper all those years ago, and as we enter the next scene, an opposite confrontation takes place. B.J. wants to know if he has come between Hawkeye and Trapper. Should he leave them alone?
"I don't mind."
"You don't mind?"
Hawkeye is distraught. Choosing between B.J. and Trapper would be difficult and painful but always, every time, it would come down to B.J., this dear, kind man who 'doesn't mind'.
And so our protagonist reaches an impasse, with Trapper who wants him and B.J. who doesn't, and his own heart split unevenly between them both. His thoughts never once consider the wives and the children, for this is Hawkeye Pierce and his feelings prevail above his logic, at least for now. Should B.J. be pursued or forgotten? Is cheating, womanising Trapper worth the effort? And so act two draws to a close with the biggest conundrum of Hawkeye's civilian life hanging like a Gordian Knot before him.
As the penultimate act begins, the main cast are gathered around a piano, which is played by a young priest. Father Mulcahy takes requests, and people sing and dance to the songs which bring back memories both fond and thought forgotten. Hawkeye dances with Klinger, while Trapper and B.J. lean on either side of the piano. This isn't – could never have been – a normal reunion. There's too much emotion, too much suffering shared by these people for anyone to leave here unchanged, and already tears are being shed by bit-players. Small groups of nurses dance together, reminiscing, and a few ex-soldiers stare into space, lost in their own personal memories. Finally, Mulcahy stops playing so Potter can call for everyone's attention. A short silence is held for those who lost their lives in the Korean conflict, and special mention is made of personal friends or relatives of those present. Hawkeye declares a toast for Colonel Blake, and heads are bowed in grief.
Trapper steals the opportunity to put an arm around Hawkeye's shoulder. Nobody pays any attention to the display of comfort and camaraderie, which, after all, is not inappropriate at this moment. Nurse Kelley is being comforted by Klinger, and Radar, almost distraught, is surprised by a hug from B.J.
No one is sure how to break the moment of awkward silence. Mulcahy begins a light, appropriate tune on the piano, and one or two people drift off to the bar. Hawkeye and Trapper exchange a glance, and without a word passing between them they head for the seclusion of a balcony.
The scene outside is set against a backdrop of stars and a jungle of lush potted plants. Usually the one in control of any scene, Hawkeye is now meek, nervous, doubtful. Trapper attempts to corner him, but the rules have not changed with Hawkeye's sudden loss of confidence. The entire play is acted on his terms, and will end on them, and this scene is no exception. After a brief quarrel, Hawkeye pushes Trapper against the edge of the balcony, surrounding them both in thick green leaves and vivid night flowers.
"You do want me," says Trapper.
Hawkeye says nothing, has nothing to say. Of course he does. Always has, always will. Is it possible to want two people, love two people at once? Hawkeye doesn't need to think about it. Of course it's possible. His mind is on B.J. but Trapper is here, now, and waiting for him.
They kiss. It is uncomfortable, full of passion but lacking grace, just as Trapper remembers. Funny, he tells the audience, how after all these years Hawkeye kisses the same. He kisses Hawkeye again, but finds himself pushed back as a reluctant Hawk escapes his embrace. Angered by this sudden change of heart, Trapper storms off, and Hawkeye is left, once again, alone.
It is terrible, he tells us, to be in one man's arms thinking of another. It can be done, but not by him, and so, heavy-hearted, he heads back to the bar for the final act and his own reluctant swan song.
The atmosphere has lifted slightly as we follow Hawkeye through the crowded room. He and we and you, dear reader, discover a ring of the prominent players in this tragedy gathered around one Charles Emmerson Winchester, who is recanting in a loud voice some anecdote which has his audience in stitches. Hawkeye leans against the bar and listens, but he doesn't recall the event. As Winchester and the others fade into the background, we learn in one last soliloquy how Hawkeye's memories of Korea are erratic, unreliable, consisting mostly of conquered nurses, one conquered surgeon, and one utterly and tragically unconquered friend. His patients, the locals, the soldiers … all take on one green blur in his mind, with occasional splashes of blood staining his memory forever. He recants the tale of B.J.'s eventful arrival in Korea, how they crawled in the mud and blood and vomit and whatever else they had to crawl through to find the occasional island of sanity where they could do something, mend someone rather than holding them until they stopped hurting the hard way.
The audience have been aware for some time of B.J. leaning not far away, listening.
"Ah," he says. "A metaphor for our entire Korean experience."
"No. Metaphors are lies."
"I saw you leave with Trapper."
And there it is, out in the open, and Hawkeye doesn't know if he can take this chance, grope desperately for this one opportunity to win the man he has ached for, would die or kill or both for. Peg is directly in his line of vision, and for the first time in the entire play he looks at her, over B.J.'s shoulder. He weighs up the stakes. Nothing to lose; not his pride because Korea ground that away, not his dignity because he never had a use for that. He could lose B.J.'s friendship but he doubts it. For certain he'll lose Trapper, but he never really had him anyway.
"C'mon. I know what's going on."
As he lied to Trapper previously, Hawkeye begins to lie again. There's nothing going on, Beej. I'm not like that. Despite everything he tells himself, Hawkeye is scared. Sometimes, the not knowing is the best bit, because once you know you can't go back. As long as you don't pose the question, don't get the reply, there's always a possibility the answer will be yes.
There's a slight stir in the background as one or two groups of players exit. People are staring to leave. The event draws to a close. Trapper and Louise both spare Hawkeye a too-long glance as they leave, but neither approaches him. There isn't much time left, and to emphasise this Peg yawns on the other side of the stage. Once tonight is over, he may never see B.J. again. There'll be letters, Christmas cards, maybe even phone calls, but what excuses could he make up to go to California?
"No, you're right."
"Trapper and I are … well, were…"
Hawkeye tells the truth, how he and Trapper were lovers and more than lovers, how fast it fell apart, how it could never work here in America. And B.J. listens and understands and doesn't mind. There are so many types of human beings, he suggests, that in the end you find it's easier not to count them but just to live with them and get along with all of them. And Hawkeye wants to know which type B.J. is.
"I've never thought about it that much."
More people are leaving, and soon only our main players and a few dallying extras remain on stage, talking, laughing, some still drinking. The audience knows that if anything is to happen, it must happen now, or Hawkeye will watch B.J. walk away and that will be the end. It is too late for balcony chats, too late for surreptitious hints and suggestions and flirtations, and besides, this is Hawkeye Pierce, whose cowardliness is outdone only by his sense of drama. Walk away now, or give his ex comrades a farewell they'll never forget?
He turns away from B.J., leaves him standing at the bar as he approaches centre stage and, without trying, becomes the focus of everyone's attention.
"Ladies and germs, I've had a wonderful day, but my plane won't wait much longer. I'd like to say goodbye to every one of you individually, but I'll have to reserve that honour for just a few."
He approaches Klinger first, grinning, and kisses his hand as if the corporal was a real lady. There's a hug for Radar, a handshake for a relieved Margaret, who is ready to fight off any unwelcome intimacy, and an overzealous and certainly painful hug for a reluctant Frank.
Hawkeye is relishing the attention. He plays to both his audiences – onstage and off – and they are expected to respond to him. Laughs and applause are enough from those in the stalls, while the cast are rather more involved. Charles finds himself forced into admitting he has missed Hawkeye and certainly won't forget him, while Potter receives a salute, then a handshake, then a hug.
Mulcahy, the almost forgotten player in this scene, is suddenly ushered to the front, where Hawkeye forces him into a brief duet. Before the spattered applause is over, Hawkeye's face is sombre again. All goodbyes have been said except for one, which will either be the hardest or the swiftest. B.J. has been watching him the whole time, eyes never straying to Peg, from who he has spent nearly the entire play on the opposite side of the stage, and the audience are starting to wonder. In dialogue, B.J. has been described as wholesome, dependable, family-focused, but in his own words he is liberal approaching radical, and his eyes speak of even more. Would he leave Peg for Hawkeye? Would he settle for an affair, given the chance? Has he even considered such unbiblical, unlawful actions? He has been portrayed as Trapper's opposite, and while we know what's in Trapper's heart – for he wears it on his sleeve – B.J. is still a mystery to us.
"Father," says Hawkeye, voice trembling slightly as he catches Peg's eye for a fleeting second. "Father, I have a … small confession to make before I depart."
This is Hawkeye Pierce. He walks slowly across the stage, bringing the focus onto B.J. This is Hawkeye, and he knows, and they know, and we know that he could do this no other way.
He speaks to Mulcahy as he stops, inches away from B.J.
"I've always had a saying, father, ever since I made it up six seconds ago. Never let it be said I'd do behind closed doors what I wouldn't do in public."
"Fine words," says B.J.
"This is my confession, Father, and you can absolve me or curse me, and you know what? I don't think I care."
Hawkeye kisses B.J. It is different to his kiss with Trapper outside. This is soft and meaningful and intense and beautiful, yet there are no flowers, no stars, and no balcony. Some kisses do not need them. The audience may to be captivated by the passion of the scene to glance behind at the rest of the cast, and so it should be, for no emotion is given away, no reaction is implied by Peg or Mulcahy or Potter. This moment is not about any of them.
It is Hawkeye who breaks the kiss, B.J.'s face unreadable, disclosing nothing as Hawkeye continues to hold him close.
"Come home with me," says Hawkeye.
And the curtain falls.