Saints and Sinners
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, and am making no profit from their use.
It began, as these things often do, with one drink too many. It continued with the second, third and forth drinks too many, and concluded with Hawkeye and B.J. alone in the officer's club, all inclination to obey the laws of common sense long since departed and therefore both sprawled at awkward angles, Hawkeye face-first across a table and B.J. semi-comatose on the floor beside him. They had not been alone all night. Up until a little after midnight, Charles and Potter and Klinger had been with them, and a little before that the place had been packed. The two captains had paced themselves and easily out-drank the entire rest of the camp, even remaining upright for almost an hour after they were alone. Igor, who had been barman that night, had given up and left them to help themselves, telling them to lockup behind them if they ever fancied leaving.
It had been a long day. A long week, in fact. It would be pushing the bounds of cliché, but not the bounds of reality to suggest it had been a long month and a long year, but such measures of time had long since become meaningless to the doctors posted in Korea. Shifts were as long as the queues of boys waiting for their helping of meatball surgery, and sleep was taken as and when it was available. The rest of the time – the infinite boring hours between post-op duty and the next ambulance full of wounded – could be filled with drinking, and nurse-bothering, and waiting. There was simply nothing else to do.
Today's session had been nine hours long. Not nearly the longest stint B.J. had spent in the O.R. since arriving, but one of the hardest. He had lost a patient early on and been in a foul mood ever since, picking arguments with Charles at every opportunity and even snapping at Hawkeye. He was usually content to let Hawkeye and Charles squabble over who was suited to treating the worst cases that came through, but this time none of them had a choice; every soldier was as maimed as the next, many needing amputations, and the rest spilling more blood all over the place than B.J. thought he would ever see in his entire career. There had been some military explanation for the extent of the carnage, but to the surgeons that wasn't what mattered. As Potter repeated the long-winded report from I-corps, they were already assessing the damage.
B.J. and Hawkeye were, predictably, the first to the officer's club after the session was over. Hawkeye had told his friend many times why he drank so much, and B.J. had to agree they made sense. When he was drunk, the most important things he had to concentrate on were walking straight, getting people's names right, and remembering who he was. When he was sober, the world and the war swam back into focus, and he was forced to face the reality of their squalid living conditions and the horror of the work they had to do.
It was also because, sober he had to drag himself to bed alone, defeated mentally by whichever nurse currently held his attention, unable to comprehend why every female in the camp had developed Hawkeye-fatigue recently. Drunk, all he had to do was fall over somewhere and sleep came like fluffy blue death.
What B.J. hadn't worked out yet was why he, himself, also drank so heavily. Sure, he had a lot to blot out too, but he had the comfort of knowing every night that, back home, Peg went to bed thinking of him, just as she was always his last thought before sleep took him. It was more comfort than anyone close to him at the 4077 could claim, and he was thankful for it. But still he accompanied Hawkeye in his nightly binges, fighting desperately to forget something he couldn't quite remember.
The day was already shaping up to be rather memorable, but, as they lay in the now silent officer's club, it wasn't over yet.
B.J. accepted an almost empty scotch bottle and propped himself up off the floor to give himself a better chance of drinking it without drowning himself in it. He felt like his brain had been entirely eroded away except for the bits of it that registered the presence of more alcohol. Hawkeye was grinning at him through what seemed to be a haze of steam, but was probably just pure ethanol slopping about in his eye sockets for lack of anywhere else to store it.
"I dunno about you, Beej, but I think I'll be rolling on back to the Swamp now," Hawkeye murmured. "An' I mean rolling in the most litererer … litrel … literal of senses."
B.J. grinned. "You're slurring. You're completely drunk," he added, stretching the vowels of 'completely' and finishing with a smug smile.
It was one of those things Hawkeye's mouth said without his larynx consulting his brain first. "I must be, 'cause you look beautiful."
"What?" B.J. frowned slightly as his drink-addled brain tried to figure out if this was a compliment or an insult.
"I said you look beautiful."
"Even though I'm inebriated and you haven't even noticed you're lying on the floor with your feet on a barstool and think you're sitting up straight. Even though you've still got blood spatters on your face. Even though your hair is doing that thing it does when you've run out of shampoo and you wash it with soap and it looks awful. Even though this table and Korea and the world are spinning out of time with each other and I think I'm going to throw up in a little under fifteen minutes, and you haven't slept in weeks and even nurse Bigalow looked utterly horrible when we staggered out of O.R. tonight … You look stunning, Beej."
B.J.'s brain couldn't cope with this, so it didn't. He's hitting on you, it hinted, and now's the time to remember that thing you'd forgotten, remember? That thing you drink to forget even though you can't remember what it is when you're sober. That thing is your attraction to Hawkeye, and now would be a good time to act on it, because if you don't you'll still remember in the morning and you'll always wonder what would have happened if you leaned a little closer and gave him what he's asking for.
And there it could have ended if B.J. had turned away, accepted the compliment but let it slide, and in the morning Hawkeye would have totally forgotten his advances towards his friend. But B.J. had been alone for too many nights, had repressed his desires for too long. He pushed himself up as Hawkeye leaned down, and they kissed drunkenly until Hawkeye staggered off the table, clutching his stomach.
"Huh?" asked B.J., unable to form anything more coherent.
"Remember what I said about throwing up?" muttered Hawkeye, and threw himself towards the door.
To be continued...