I'd like to thank everyone who made it all the way through this, and for all the reviews. A big thanks to "LoveNorbertTheDragon", whose video "Hawkeye's Nightmare" on YouTube inspired the story you just read. I have an idea for another fanfic in the future, but it may be some time before I can write it. I hope you've enjoyed this one; please let me know.
The next eight weeks were filled with uncertainty as phone calls, telegrams and reports were tossed back and forth like a volleyball about B.J.'s future. At any given time, the official order was "send Captain Hunnicut to the 121st immediately", "Hunnicut is not to leave the 4077th", "who's Hunnicut?" and "the general wants to know what happened to his shipment of beef wellington". Colonel Potter threw his hands up more than once, telling Radar to wake him when the Army started making sense again.
During that time Hawkeye stayed close to B.J., neither one mentioning his earlier speech. When post-op became less crowded he literally moved in next to his friend's cot, prompting everyone in camp to dub the ward the "new Swamp". Every moment Hawkeye didn't spend operating on patients (or nurses) he used for the sole purpose of making the man's recuperation more bearable. Soon chess pieces, cards and clothing were just as common a sight as IVs and plasma. By the time B.J. was well enough to move back to his own tent, Pierce had more belongings to pack than he did.
When B.J. was able to demonstrate his injuries didn't permanently affect his arm or hand, the decision arrived via telegram that the Army couldn't afford to lose a surgeon who could still "operate effectively" (to which Hawkeye promptly snorted and commented, "Leave it to the Army to drain the humanity out of a word like 'surgeon'.") He was ordered to stay at the 4077th for the remainder of his recovery, until such time that he could be put back on the duty roster. The news disappointed him; he could already feel the warm glow of tiny, sticky toddler hands wrapping themselves around his neck when he was informed of the decision. The promise of a purple heart did nothing to improve his mood, and he found himself sinking into melancholy every time he looked at the picture of his family.
Hawkeye sensed the man's depression and did his best to cheer him up. He asked B.J. to read his wife's letters out loud a few more times than usual—not nearly as interested in the letters themselves as he was in seeing the pain leave his friend's eyes, even temporarily. Every time it seemed discouragement was descending again, he found something—anything—to chase it away, no matter how crazy it seemed. Potter let the pair get away with more than he normally did (stopping them only when he heard they had rigged one side of the nurses' shower to fall at just the right moment), seeing the analeptic effect it was having on the injured doctor.
Hawkeye was genuinely sorry for B.J., and resented the Army for drafting family men who were so obviously devoted to non-military pursuits. Inside, however, he couldn't entirely smother a tiny ember of relief that B.J.'s cot wouldn't yet again change hands. That would have been two times it was vacated, while he was still stranded in a country he had only planned to see on a dusty globe. If B.J. knew of this secret solace, he never let on.
Following through on Pierce's request a package from Mill Valley arrived, filled with homemade pecan shortbread cookies and a letter from Peg thanking him for saving her husband's life. "I think I could get used to this," he said around a mouthful of shortbread. "A beautiful woman sending me gifts and letters...not to mention pecans and shortbread are heaven's recipe for a good time."
"I thought her chocolate chip were your favorite," B.J. remarked with a smile as he sat gingerly on his cot, watching Hawkeye devour another cookie.
"Well, her cookies are much better than her dutch apple crumb pie, I'll tell you that. And far better than any of those questionable delectables they call 'dessert' here. Besides, I'm allowed to have more than one favorite—I happen to be very complicated."
"Can't argue there. Being you for three seconds was more than I ever wanted to experience," B.J. said thoughtfully, recalling the demons he had witnessed—however briefly—trapped in his friend's mind. He noticed Hawkeye's baffled glance, but didn't think he had the energy (or words) to explain. The incident had changed him in a way, and he discovered he was more attuned to the shadows that would sometimes cross the man's face—having a deeper understanding of what lay behind them. As a result, he was much quicker to ask Pierce if he was okay and less inclined to brush such expressions off as a passing mood.
"With cookies like this, it's no wonder you married her." Their eyes met in mid-munch, surprising them both. Hawkeye swallowed hard, realizing now was as good a time as any to ask the question that had been plaguing him. "Beej...can I ask you something?"
"As long as you don't talk with your mouth full."
"When I...you—on the table..." he stopped, clearly struggling; B.J. waited patiently. Hawkeye inhaled sharply, and the sentence came rushing out: "I was pumping your heart for so long I thought you'd given up. Not that I'm complaining, but...what made you come back?"
B.J. watched him for a long minute, debating how he should answer. His family meant the world to him, but as he had drawn closer to death they seemed so far away, so safe from any danger. He knew they would be all right. It was the sheer panic, the fear in his friend's eyes—the fear he had felt—that had shaken him back into reality. The haunting images and confused thoughts he experienced that day had never left him, and many times he found them invading his own dreams. He could only imagine what they did to Hawkeye.
"I don't know," he lied, prompting a suspicious squint from his friend. "Maybe it was the thought of missing martinis that can strip paint. Maybe it was your irresistible charm. How am I supposed to know?"
"Uh-huh," Pierce responded, not believing a word. B.J. smiled at his reaction, then grew solemn. "Thanks, Hawk."
"You've said that already."
"I mean it."
"I know." They stared at each other, exchanging silent words.
Finally, Hawkeye picked up another cookie and inspected it. "As long as your wife bakes like this, maybe I can keep you alive into the twenty-third century."
B.J. laughed. "I'll let her know you liked them. Maybe next month she can send chocolate chip." Pierce grinned rakishly in response and launched a cookie in his direction.
Several nights later, Hawkeye awoke suddenly, his heart pounding. He sat up shakily, trying to scrub blood-soaked images from his eyes and memory. He'd been working for over ten hours in the O.R. and discovered the bodies wouldn't stop coming, even in his sleep. Although the heat wave had finally broken, he found himself covered in sweat.
The creaking cot roused B.J., who turned automatically towards the sound. Their eyes locked, and he could see immediately what had happened.
Hawkeye stared at B.J. silently, his breathing still erratic. Suddenly their earlier conversation came back to him: " I see Charles asleep in his bed, you in yours...and I realize that, at least for the moment, everything's okay." His eyes flicked over to Charles' cot—sure enough, the major was fast asleep. Glancing back at his friend, he knew they could both tell what he was thinking. B.J. smiled understandingly, and Hawkeye relaxed. His breathing evened and he lay down again, drifting off.
At least for the moment, everything was okay.