I hadn't planned to ever revisit the theme of my previous fanfic, but I saw a screencap video on YouTube titled "Hawkeye's Nightmare" that just asked to have a story written. (If you see the video you'll also understand why this story has the title it does--and even a few of its scenes.)
Five seconds to think up, two months to write. Reviews are welcome; as before, the story itself is finished, but I'd like to see how it will be received before continuing to upload it.
It was always the heat he noticed first—burning, oppressive, choking the life from him. He could feel himself soaring over the Korean landscape, the world passing beneath him. Casting his gaze downward, he watched a jeep rumble down the dirt road. The glare from the blistering sun made it difficult to see very far.
He could see the vehicle's lone occupant shield his eyes from the sun, keeping the other hand on the steering wheel; as hard as he tried, he couldn't make out the man's face. A field kit sat in the seat next to the driver, its red cross standing out in sharp contrast against the dreary backdrop of green and beige.
The back of his neck prickled from the heat, and he observed the driver wipe the sweat from his brow. The blue sky and lazily drifting clouds created a tranquil picture; if it wasn't for the medical bag and the distracted, tense mannerisms of the man behind the wheel, it would have been almost serene.
All at once, the semi-peaceful scene was thrown into chaos as an explosion scattered the earth in front of the jeep, followed by several more. He watched as the driver steered wildly to avoid the incoming fire. The field kit slid out of the vehicle, spilling its contents onto the ground. Pulling the jeep to the side of the road the man jumped out, trying frantically to take cover.
The figure's previously hazy features came sharply into focus. He observed the frightened blue eyes darting around the area and instantly recognized the face of his friend. Horrified, he called out to the man from above, but his voice was lost among the sound of mortars pelting the area.
A heavy concussion rocked the ground under his friend's feet, throwing him across the road. The jeep burst into flames, sending shrapnel raining down on the area. Within seconds, the vehicle had been reduced to a smoking metal bonfire. The driver's body lay unmoving only feet away.
His feet hit the hard earth below, and he felt himself running towards his friend lying face-down in the dirt. Dropping to his knees, he felt for a pulse; his hand came back covered in blood. The fire blazing a few yards from him mingled with the scorching heat from the sun, solidifying his vision of Hell.
He turned the body over and paled at the sight: blood flowed freely down the man's face, covering it like a wet, crimson blanket. Shrapnel had embedded itself in his left shoulder and arm, tearing open numerous wounds along the way. His friend coughed and blood came up; he knew only too well what that meant. It wasn't anything he hadn't seen before, but this was different—in so many ways.
Suddenly the eyelids flickered, and light blue orbs peered up to meet his own. "Hawk..." the man began, but coughed harder as blood clogged his windpipe.
"Don't talk, Beej. Just hang on, you'll be okay," he heard himself say. Staring down at the broken body of his friend, he couldn't remember a time he felt so helpless. No, actually, that wasn't quite true; he remembered the same feeling when he watched his childhood friend die on the table, and again when Radar announced that Henry had been killed. But this time the outcome would be different...it had to be different...
He peeled back the man's shirt to check for more wounds, but B.J. grabbed his arm and shook his head. "Tell Peg and Erin..." he whispered, trying to catch his breath, "please...tell them..."
The words sent a chill through him, and he gripped his friend ferociously. "You can tell them yourself when you get back to Mill Valley," he snapped. "Just hold on, damn it!"
B.J. gazed up at him with a quiet expression that told him everything he didn't want to know. "Thanks...Hawk..." he breathed, his eyes already starting to glaze over. "For everything..."
"God—B.J.?" He searched for a pulse again with trembling fingers, this time finding none. "No. No, you can't just give up like that, God damn it, it isn't right! Don't leave me here! B.J.!"
Hawkeye Pierce heard himself murmuring his friend's name as he jerked awake—right before the floor came up to smack him. Wiping the sweat from his forehead he sat up and squinted through bleary eyes at his cot, which he'd fallen out of (again). How loud had he been this time?
He climbed back into bed and gazed at the oddly comforting surroundings of his tent, taking in a ragged breath and trying to calm his frayed nerves. After regaining his composure, he mustered the strength to glance at the bunk next to him.
Evidently he hadn't been as loud as he thought. B.J. Hunnicut was fast asleep, looking as serene and placid as he normally did when he was awake. There was no trace of the injuries Hawkeye had seen in his nightmare.
Breathing a silent sigh of relief, he stood shakily from his cot and settled into the chair next to it. After such a blood-chilling interruption, he knew it was useless to try and go back to sleep. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on the sound of B.J.'s steady, regular breathing. He rubbed his face and watched the other man's chest rise and fall, trying to chase away the horrific images lurking at the edges of his mind.
B.J. stirred slightly in his sleep. Goosebumps slowly crawled across his flesh as a feeling of uneasiness invaded his dreams; part of his subconscious mind had the distinct impression he was being watched. An eyelid started to open, then promptly shut again. He turned on his side and muttered something unintelligible, sleep reclaiming him.
After a few seconds his eyes snapped open, then narrowed. It wasn't his imagination: he was being watched.
Bolting upright in his cot, he turned to find Hawkeye sitting in the chair between their beds, gazing steadily at him. "Hawk?" He brushed a hand across his eyes, trying to clear the fog from his brain. In the darkness he couldn't make out much of the other man's features, but Pierce's eyes were living up to their owner's name—boring through him with a glassy, disturbed expression. It reminded him of a scene out of a horror film.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to wake you," Hawkeye responded softly, unable to tear his eyes away. He could still feel the fire from the jeep searing his skin.
"What time is it?" B.J. turned his lamp on, wincing as his pupils adjusted painfully to the light. He fumbled at the watch on his wrist, uncomfortably aware of Pierce's unblinking stare. Forcing his eyes to focus, he squinted at the hands on his watch. "Hawk, it's almost three-thirty," he complained, keeping his voice low so he wouldn't wake their other bunkmate. Glancing briefly at Charles' cot in the opposite side of the tent, he saw the major slumbering in blissful ignorance. "What's the matter?"
Hawkeye opened his mouth to respond, but didn't trust anything that might come out. Instead, he just shook his head and leaned back in the chair, glancing away for the first time.
B.J. regarded him silently for a long minute, noting his pallid skin and dazed expression. "Nightmare?" he asked, not needing an answer. Then, at Pierce's nod, "You wanna talk abou—"
"No," Hawkeye responded immediately, more sharply than he intended. He ran a hand through his already tangled hair, too busy trying to forget the haunting images to talk about them. Besides, what was there to say? What could he say that wouldn't worry his friend? He was frightened enough for them both as it was—there was no point in making B.J. a basket case too. "It's...complicated." They could both hear his exhaustion.
B.J. nodded; he knew better than to pry. "Okay. Just do me a favor, will you? Point those things away from me." He gestured to Pierce's eyes. "You pulled me away from a terrific dinner with Peg and Erin. My first real meal in months...so to speak. Porterhouse steak, baked potato—a lot better than what we'll both be facing in the morning."
Hawkeye started to apologize again, but stopped as words came flooding back to him in B.J.'s voice: "Tell Peg and Erin...please...tell them..." He cringed reflexively and stared hard at the floor, his breathing fast and shallow. Shutting his eyes tightly, he tried to force the whispered voice from his consciousness. Invisible fire made the side of his face tingle.
He glanced up again, and it was B.J.'s turn to stare at him. "You okay?"
No, he thought at the same time he replied, "Yeah, I'll be fine. Sorry." He stood from the chair and reached over to turn B.J.'s light off. "See you in a few hours, Beej."
"Uh-huh." B.J. watched Hawkeye listlessly make his way back and lie down, but knew from experience his friend wouldn't be falling asleep any time soon. As he settled back into his own cot, he couldn't get the image of those fear-stricken, troubled eyes out of his mind.
After several minutes of studying the back of his eyelids, he realized he wouldn't be getting back to sleep, either.