Disclaimer: I didn't have anything to do with the creation of MASH or its characters.
I've been writing fanfiction for years but I've always kept it all to myself. I allowed a friend of mine to read a few of them and she insisted that I post on this site so here I am!
I hope you enjoy, this is my first story released to the public. It was written in early March of 2005.
I began it in early 2003 but I was never able to finish it, simply because I couldn't bring myself to write certain parts. I attempted off and on several times to complete it and I was finally able to in March.
Opening the door to exit the mess tent was like opening the very gates of Hell. The sweltering heat seemed to permeate every inch and every space of the eating facility, even in such a short stretch of time. Hawkeye Pierce turned his clear blue eyes towards the sky, squinting slightly. The sun resembled the bright yellow center of the fried egg he had just consumed for breakfast. At least, he hoped it was a fried egg he had eaten. The doctor shuddered, turning his gaze away from the sky. It was not only to save his eyes from being burned from his head but also to save his stomach from turning at the memories of the previous meal.
Several people within the mess tent's somewhat cool confinements began shouting complaints about the heat so Hawkeye was forced to venture outside, allowing the door to swing shut with an impertinent slam behind him. He wasn't quite sure where to go. Sure, he could have easily remained inside the mess tent but the aroma of the garbage the army called food only made him feel ill. He didn't wish to go to his sleeping quarters as it was just as blazing in there as it was outdoors, if not worse.
Fortunately he was saved from having to decide between either of the two as he caught sight of his best friend and fellow surgeon, BJ Hunnicutt. BJ appeared to be taking an idle stroll through the camp so Hawkeye hurried to join the other man.
As he approached his friend, Hawkeye called out, "Hey, BJ!" His distinctive voice echoed across the barren, scorched campgrounds.
The other man stopped in his tracks in front of the small storage unit and turned. He didn't look to be remotely cheerful or even in the slightest of good spirits. "Hey," BJ acknowledged his friend gravely.
"What's the matter with you?" Hawkeye inquired. There was any number of terrible things that could have been plaguing his poor companion, of course. BJ could easily have been missing his wife and child, he could have lost a patient, or he could have merely been having a bad day.
BJ released doleful sigh from deep within his body. That single expulsion of air seemed to reveal each and every one of his deepest thoughts. "I have to visit the front," came his reply, after a while.
"The front?" Hawkeye uttered in disbelief. He despised the front. No, it was more than that. He loathed it. He supposed he hated it more than anything else in all of Korea. "Why can't Charles go?"
"It's not his turn, it's mine," BJ answered calmly. It was the truth.
For a moment, Hawkeye was silent. Not a sound escaped from between his tightly closed lips. Then, after a moment: "Come here." He grabbed the other man by the arm and dragged him into the storage unit. One quick scan of the small enclosure and they knew they were alone, save for a few spiders that made their homes in the dank corners.
Hawkeye pressed himself against BJ. Despite the extreme temperature outdoors, he reveled in the warmth of the other man's body. Their lips brushed in a light kiss before they pulled apart. Anyone from Klinger to Margaret could walk into the little building at any given moment so their time together had to be short.
Things had gone this way for ages, ever since one drunken night when something "accidentally" happened between the two men. After that night, it happened more and more often with the two of them being less and less drunk. Eventually they realized that they had developed some sort of strange feelings for one another, despite Hawkeye's love of nurses and BJ's adoration for his wife back home.
"Be careful out there, Beej," Hawkeye whispered. There were few things he feared more than losing a friend, let alone a lover, to the godforsaken war.
BJ allowed himself the slightest of despairing smiles. "Don't worry," he whispered back. "I'll be fine. I always am." They both knew that each time one of them ventured out into that blasted war, there was an incredibly high chance of being killed. Neither of them mentioned it.
Within moments they were tangled in each other's arms again, locked in a most passionate kiss. This was how it always went when one of them was sent to that cursed front. They behaved as though they were experiencing their very last moments together; for they very well could be.
Just as things were getting more passionate, more amorous, a voice echoed through the shack, "Choppers! Incoming wounded!" Sure enough, the telltale beating of the choppers' blades was heard overhead. Hawkeye could almost see them; like giant dragonflies they transported their unfortunate cargo.
The two men pulled apart for the second time, their breaths coming in heavy pants and gasps. With a silent understanding between one another that their love-filled venture was not quite over, the two of them left the small building to greet their new arrivals.
The time had come for BJ to leave camp and report to duty at the hospital situated in a dangerous juxtaposition to the war. He had calmly packed up his things and bid everyone a fond farewell. With no more than a wave goodbye and a secretive kiss for Hawkeye, he was gone.
Now there was nothing for Hawkeye to do but await BJ's return. How he prayed that his friend would return safely! He just couldn't express how truly terrified he was of BJ being killed out there.
The blistering temperatures had finally lowered to more of a slight stuffiness. The sun was beginning its lonely trek downwards, intent on dipping below the horizon and giving way to the moon. Hawkeye was lounging seemingly effortlessly in the Swamp, thumbing casually through a magazine. In truth, he was completely on edge. A steady clip clip clip was beginning to push him completely over said edge.
"Charles!" Hawkeye suddenly shouted across the tiny tent to the polished surgeon from Boston who shared the quarters with both Hawkeye and BJ. "Would you stop it already?" The magazine fluttered aside.
The balding man snapped his head around to glower in Hawkeye's direction. "Can't a man groom himself in peace?" The silver metal nail clippers glinted in his hand as he sat poised, ready to snip the nail of his left middle toe. "And to answer your question, no, I won't. I cannot simply waltz around the camp with seven neatly trimmed nails and three long ones."
Not quite possessing the energy needed to argue with Charles, Hawkeye instead climbed out of his tiny bed with a bitter sigh and left the Swamp. The sultry evening air seemed to smother him, seeping into his lungs and filling them up with its thickness.
It seemed his timing was perfect, for as he stood outside he saw buses used for transporting the wounded and dead arriving at the MASH unit. A sense of dread welled up inside him. It was the feeling he got each time he knew he was about to go into surgery to dig shrapnel out of those poor kids.
"The Koreans have really done it tonight, folks!" the voice on the PA system announced. "Get ready for wounded!"
The buses stopped and people poured from tens and buildings like ants rushing to swarm over a fallen lollipop. Pausing for just a moment, Hawkeye looked woefully at one of the two vehicles, studying it. The headlights stared back at him like anger-filled eyes, its malicious expression urging him to do his job.
Charles emerged from the tent from behind Hawkeye and brushed past him, saying, "Why are you just standing there, Pierce? Get going!" Hawkeye wondered briefly if all of Charles' nails were of equal length.
It was all he needed, though. With a jolt, he realized he was wasting precious time for the soldiers. He broke into a loping run, heading straight into the chaos. He kneeled beside one boy, studying his wounds carefully. The soldier was alert, awake, and appeared to be capable of waiting at least for a little while to be operated on.
As Hawkeye moved to the next potential patient, someone tapped his arm. He spun around to see whom it was and was greeted by Radar's round, glasses-clad visage.
"Uh, sir?" Radar inquired, hesitating for just a moment before he continued. "I think you'd better come over here, sir. It's Captain Hunnicut."
For a moment, Hawkeye was confused. Why was BJ back so soon? It certainly wasn't customary to be absent for only a day. Perhaps the multitude of wounded was just so great that he was forced to come back to help with the surgery. Though there didn't seem to be a particuarly large amount of wounded this time, it was possible. "Well, good," he said. "Tell him to get over here and help me."
"I don't think you understand, sir," Radar whispered, his small voice barely audible. "He's over there." Radar pointed and Hawkeye looked.
For a moment he saw nothing but nurses running back and forth. "Radar, I don't-" He began, but then came to an abrupt stop. The crowd had parted for just a moment and there had been BJ.
He hadn't been shouting things to nurses or even kneeling next to a patient. He had been the patient. Yes, BJ had been lying there, unmoving, on a dirty old stretcher. It was a joke; it had to be. Any minute he would jump up, laughing. Then all of the injured soldiers and nurses would follow suite. Afterwards, they'd go have a drink. But BJ wasn't laughing.
"Radar, why didn't you tell me?" Hawkeye demanded angrily.
Radar stared up at the man, unblinking. "I tried to, sir, but you wouldn't listen!"
Hawkeye just shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. He pushed through the crowed, feeling very much like one of Maine's pink salmon fighting its way upstream. Finally he was there, staring down at his very best friend. He kneeled but felt a growing terror deep within his bosom. He didn't want to look at BJ's wounds. It frightened him too much to imagine what the extent of the damage might be.
BJ's blood coated chest rose and fell with each labored breath. He opened his eyes and looked up at Hawkeye, but his blue orbs seemed distant and unfocused. There was blood everywhere, even his hair appeared to be matted to his head by a thick, congealing crimson paste.
"Fancy meeting you here," he teased weakly, his normally booming voice reduced to nothing more than a debilitated whisper.
"Yeah, what's a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this anyway?" Hawkeye joked back but his voice was strained. He could feel hot, crystalline tears threatening to spill from his eyes.
"Hawk," BJ rasped, "Don't just sit here with me like an idiot, they need you in surgery."
Hawkeye shook his head. "I have to help you." He slipped his hand over BJ's. "I have to."
A surprisingly harsh laugh escaped BJ's throat. "Hawkeye, don't waste your time on me. Go help those kids that need it." He drew in a slow breath, as through he was struggling to get any air at all.
" No!" Hawkeye asserted, sounding more forceful than he had intended. "You're going to be fine, if you'll just let me help you!" For the first time, he worked up the courage to peel back the red drenched clothing on BJ's body to examine his lover's injuries. What he saw sent waves of shock emanating through his body.
There was extensive damage through the chest region and, judging by BJ's breathing abnormalities, a collapsed lung. Hawkeye shouted for help, that he needed something to compress a wound, but no one came fast enough. Perhaps they didn't hear him in all the commotion. He removed his trademark blue Hawaiian shirt and pressed it to BJ's chest.
"Please don't patronize me, Hawkeye," BJ whispered. "You don't lie to any of your other patients so don't lie to me either. I'm a doctor too, remember. I know when something's so bad it can't be fixed."
Hawkeye couldn't bring himself to admit it but BJ was right. There were scores of patients waiting to be worked on with only Charles and Colonel Potter to do the work. BJ was what some would call a lost cause. There was so much shrapnel in his abdominal region and chest cavity that it would be impossible to get it all. Even if they did, his insides would resemble something like hamburger meat. It would be a miracle if an infection didn't set in. This all was, of course, if BJ managed to make it through pre-op and into OR.
Instinctively, Hawkeye reached down and gave BJ's hand a slight squeeze. The odds were against them, but Hawkeye was sure as hell going to try to save his friend. He wasn't about to lose another one to the war. Not after Henry.
A hand on his shoulder wrenched Hawkeye from his musings. "Excuse me, Captain Pierce," Radar voiced meekly, "They need you in surgery. Colonel Potter says you need to get in there now."
Hawkeye looked up at Radar, eyes full of tears and pointless annoyance. "I'll go if someone will get BJ in there to be worked on, now!" He couldn't really tell in the dusky light but he thought there were tears shining in Radar's eyes.
"Hawkeye," he said quietly. A chill danced down Hawkeye's spine. Radar's voice was disturbingly soft, not to mention it was always "Captain Pierce" and never "Hawkeye." Radar's stare appeared to be fixed on BJ. Hawkeye reluctantly turned his gaze back down to his injured companion.
BJ lay there on the ground, alarmingly still. Hawkeye waited, praying to feel that bloodied chest rise once more under his hands, just once. There was nothing. BJ Hunnicutt of Mill Valley, California was gone.
"I'm not letting him go that easily!" Hawkeye nearly shouted. "Radar, go tell Colonel Potter that I need someone out here to help me, now! I can bring him back!"
Margaret had no idea that BJ had arrived among the injured. A patient had told her that a doctor had been hurt but she had immediately assumed that either the person had been mistaken or it was simply another doctor.
When Hawkeye still didn't show up in surgery after sending Radar after him, she decided to take things into her own hands. Tearing off her surgical mask, Margaret stormed outside to see what was keeping the obnoxious doctor.
What she saw horrified her. Hawkeye was hovering over a body on the ground, Radar looking on helplessly. As Margaret grew closer, she saw that the person on the ground wasn't just any injured soldier; it was the 4077th's very own BJ Hunnicutt.
"Oh my God!" she breathed as she reached them. BJ was bloodied on the ground as Hawkeye frantically tried various means of resuscitation but apparently to no avail.
Hawkeye looked up at her upon hearing her voice. His eyes were red-rimmed and unshed tears threatened to spill out.
"Margaret, thank God!" he said. "Help me!"
Margaret looked down at their fallen doctor; anguish welling up inside her chest. "Pierce…Hawkeye, he's gone. There's nothing we can do." She could tell by looking at him that he was gone for good. The injuries he sustained to his chest were far too great.
"No! He's not gone, dammit!" Hawkeye roared, jumping to his feet. "He can't be gone! This isn't going to happen again! Not like Henry…" Trapper too, he added silently. Trapper wasn't dead but he was gone. He had left Hawkeye alone in the war.
Radar let out a heart-wrenching sob. A few tears ran down Margaret's pale cheeks. She was, for once, at a loss for words.
Hawkeye, defeated, dropped to his knees. He took BJ's body into his arms and held it, crying softly as Radar and Margaret looked on. After a moment, he realized that he had to regain his composure for he was needed in the operating room. He gently laid BJ back on the stretcher, then carefully leaned down and placed a kiss on the man's forehead. To Margaret and Radar, it was merely a simple gesture of affection from a man who had just lost a dear friend. To Hawkeye, it was far more. He had just lost someone that he cared for deeply in more ways than one. He doubted he would ever again find anyone he cared for like he cared for BJ. He wasn't sure if he wanted to.
Stiffly he rose to his feet, bloody shirt clenched in one hand. Casting one last sorrowful glance at BJ's body, Hawkeye turned and headed to surgery. Everything was mechanical. He scrubbed, changed clothes, and entered the OR, all without his mind being completely there. A fleeting question entered his head: Should I even be operating in this condition? He was a little distracted but he was needed and he was sure he could focus on the tasks at hand once he got beside the table.
"Ah, Pierce, so nice of you to join us," Charles quipped smartly as Hawkeye entered the room.
Hawkeye remained silent. He lacked the energy to say anything, even to tell them…though he was sure that at any moment Margaret or Radar would enter the little operating room and then everyone would know that BJ was dead.
The words sounded so strange in his head. He repeated them a few times as he cut into his first patient. How could BJ be dead? They had been there together just that morning, exchanging their usual banter. They had shared a kiss; the warmth of it still seemed to be lingering on Hawkeye's lips. He sutured the incision. Having removed all the shrapnel inside the boy's body, Hawkeye was ready for his next war victim.
As he waited, the grief-stricken man couldn't help but notice that, across the room, Margaret was informing Colonel Potter of something in a hushed voice. The old colonel's tired eyes drifted up from his work and landed directly on Hawkeye. There was a strange look in them.
"Pierce," he commanded gruffly, "I want you out of here, understand me?"
Hawkeye didn't truly want to leave. As long as he had his surgery, he didn't have to think about that little piece that had been torn from his soul. "Colonel," he began but he was not to finish.
"I don't want to hear anything about it! Need I remind you that I'm your commanding officer?" Potter exclaimed incisively. "Now get!"
Charles was clearly feeling quite irate at the colonel's commands, though he had no idea of the circumstances. He huffed loudly and continued to pick tiny pieces of metal confetti from his patient.
Hawkeye hurriedly changed clothes, washed up, and grabbed his Hawaiian shirt. Outside, he couldn't help but notice that BJ's body was already gone. The sun had finally dropped completely behind the mountains in the distant and the moon hung high overhead. The rounded heavenly body cast a pale melancholy glow over the entire camp with her sad smile.
Having nowhere else to go, Hawkeye treaded to the Swamp. After turning on a lamp and collapsing on his cot, the man studied the shirt in his hands. The dark blue and white flower pattern was now marred with dark crimson. Some areas were stained so badly the red almost looked black, as black as the velvety night sky. He wasn't sure whether to keep the shirt or throw it away. It would hold memories for him forever, but did he truly want them?
Hawkeye turned onto his side and stared across the small tent at BJ's possessions. The ridiculous hat he often adorned was lying forgotten on the floor, a dirty sock draped over it.
A realization was made. Hawkeye had truly been in love with BJ. He had never had any feelings for any men before, not in Maine nor in Korea. Trapper had just been a close friend and there were absolutely no sexual aspects in the relationship at all. With BJ, things were different. He felt so strongly for the other man that sometimes it was terribly confusing and even, at times, frustrating. They struggled to keep their relationship a secret, both terrified of what consequences they would face if discovered. BJ, though apparently devoted to Hawkeye, also possessed substantial feelings for his wife, Peg. Often times he would grow extremely depressed at the thought of his continued adultery but even so he was never able to abandon his relationship with Hawkeye.
Hawkeye sat up and moved across the short distance to BJ's cot. He sat on it and paused for a moment to straighten the pillow. A silly gesture, he thought. As an afterthought he reached out and touched the pillow, brushing his fingertips over the rough, craggy material. The army most certainly wasn't one for comfort. Slowly, he curled up on the small bed, placing his dark haired head on the pillow. With each breath, he could detect the faint, salty scent of sweat and the gentle minty aroma of shaving cream. It was nothing romantic like cologne, no, just sweat and shaving cream. He closed his eyes momentarily before pulling himself back into a sitting position.
For the first time since entering the Swamp, a photograph grasped at Hawkeye's attention. He really never paid any mind to it before but now as it sat on the small table adjacent to BJ's cot, the two pairs of eyes in the old photo seemed to bore holes into Hawkeye. He stretched his arm out and caressed the picture, tracing the faces within it. Peg and Erin Hunnicutt smiled back at him.
Hawkeye's despairing musings were interrupted when Radar entered the Swamp. "Colonel Potter told me to come see how you were doing. He told me to tell you not to worry about leaving surgery because they didn't have that many guys to work on anyways."
Hawkeye offered the boy a mute nod but nothing more.
"When Charles found out about what happened he felt real bad about what he said, too."
"We're doctors, Radar. We're not supposed to be the ones dying. We're the ones that keep the other people from dying." The older man paused, eyes still locked on the photograph of BJ's family. Suddenly he realized something. "Radar, I've got to call California. I need to tell Peg." Though the phone wasn't an extremely personal means of communication, Hawkeye knew that hearing it from him, her husband's best friend, would be better than simply receiving a telegram. He also knew that if he was ever killed he'd much rather have someone call his father up in Maine to tell him personally instead of just waiting for someone to send out a cold, emotionless telegram.
Radar didn't protest. He instead promptly turned and left the Swamp, Hawkeye following closely behind. Within a matter of moments, Radar was desperately trying to get a call through to Mill Valley.
Hawkeye waited with as much patience as he could muster, as Radar demanded that Sparky put him through. At long last the call was placed and the receiver was in Hawkeye's trembling hands.
As he raised the phone to his ear, Hawkeye heard a woman's voice say, "Hello?" A sickening jolt twisted in his stomach when he heard Peg speak. He didn't know how he was going to deliver the devastating news to her. Knowing that poor little Erin would grow up without her loving father was nearly too much.
"Hello?" the bewildered voice asked again.
No, he didn't know how he was going to deliver the news, nor did he want to. He would have much rather suddenly discovered that he was actually suffering from a particularly horrible nightmare. Unfortunately that wasn't going to happen. Hawkeye knew that somehow by saying the words out loud, by telling Peg Hunnicutt that her husband was gone forever, would finalize everything. It would make it seem all the more real.
"Hello, Peg? This is Hawkeye Pierce, from Korea. I...I have something I need to tell you…"