Title: Runaway Train
Characters: Hawk, B.J. friendship
Warning: Discussion of rape. Angst.
Summary: When worse gets to worst, and who's left standing with those who remain. AU for "Comrades in Arms."
Many thanks to my infallible beta reader Tania.
a/n: This story is a stand-alone.
Why I wrote this: The topic of rape doesn't have a good track record on M*A*S*H. We're familiar with the bad jokes and the casual rape-as-plot-device eps. However, it's wartime, brutality is par for the course, and it's clear from Trapper's snotty "Rape a doctor?" to Margaret's sobering "Does the enemy rape female prisoners?" that sexual violence is an issue in the Korean War as depicted in M*A*S*H.
So, as a longtime fan, I've always felt that there should be a serious discussion, at some point, about who it could happen to and what would happen next. And especially the issue of male versus female victims, in the 50s, in the Army. That's what I explore in this story.
Hawkeye was in his bunk when B.J. came back from Potter's office. Frank had cleared out, hopefully for the night, thank God for whatever solace he could be to Margaret. So B.J. was left with the other one.
"How are you?" B.J. asked.
Hawkeye shifted under the blanket. "Hurts. My arm, mostly. Not too much . . . down there."
B.J. sat in the makeshift armchair between the still and Hawkeye's bunk. "Does it bother you if I sit here?"
Hawkeye shook his head. His docility was worrisome.
"Potter put in a call for Sydney."
"Bully for him."
B.J. picked up a pair of martini glasses, and then set one back down. "Margaret's okay, physically. Potter . . . looked her over. Kellye stayed with her, I think she appreciated that. That mark on her face looks worse than it is. She didn't have any internal . . . well, nothing serious." B.J. felt irrationally scared of silence. He couldn't stop talking. "Frank's being oddly decent, I think she'll put up with being doted over for a day or two before she decks him." B.J. smiled. Hawkeye didn't. B.J. fiddled with the still taps. "Sorry."
"You can say it, you know."
"What happened." Hawkeye's eyes followed his hands on the still.
"I thought I was. But if you prefer -"
"I prefer less pussyfooting around - oh, for a different choice of words." Hawkeye's glare was unrelenting.
"Why won't you say it? Margaret and I went on a magic carpet ride of North Korean torture and his and hers gang rape. A good time was had by all."
B.J. looked at his hands. Where he came from, 'rape' was a four letter word. He'd never known a man it had happened to, even in his residency or the brief time he'd spent in practice. Doctors said 'got into trouble', policemen who came to take statements said 'she went with the wrong guy.' When he came to Korea, he worried about bullets, bombs, fear, calisthenics at dawn, disease - but not this. Not as a doctor.
Hawkeye's babble was inexorable. "We've both had instruments and swabs follow said rapists into regions hardly spelunked by saints nor man, and are now waiting to find out what virii and bacteria we can expect to grow on our personal persons in the next few weeks, or perhaps forever, in the case of at least one creepy crawly. And, may I add, that our normally unflappable head nurse has been heard to avow that she'll find the local Korean witch doctor and abortionist if a certain test comes up positive."
"She said that?" B.J. snapped his head in the direction of Margaret's tent, as if he could intuit her decision to obtaining an illegal abortion from yellow glow in her tent window. It was dangerous for a female officer to even speak the 'A' word aloud.
Hawkeye nodded, but didn't deign to elaborate.
B.J. sipped his martini. He needed that bitter burn tonight. On one thing, he was clear: If came to it, he'd help Margaret out himself. He and Peggy had had a long, eye-opening conversation one night about a cousin of hers who kept having babies, and, well. A woman like Margaret was too good to be brought down by a forced pregnancy.
"My only question," Hawkeye got up on his good elbow, "is why has the Army returned us to warm bosom of the freezing, sinking 4077th, instead of a nice, clean evac? Or better yet, sent home?"
B.J. shook his head. "C'mon, Hawk, lay back down here. Don't get yourself worked up."
The meeting in Potter's office had been tense - Potter businesslike to the point of running roughshod over Burns, who was shouting racial epithets; Radar the picture of clerky usefulness and invisibility; Mulcahy oddly wizened and opinionated. Potter was trying to get them sent to Tokyo, but Sydney on the phone was arguing to treat them as close to their unit as possible. Margaret didn't want to leave, but maybe she'd change her mind in the morning; she was oddly resistant to being sent to her husband. Even Hawkeye appeared relieved to be 'home,' as if the 4077th was the safest place in Asia. B.J., still shaken from a bitterly victimized Hawkeye, was enraged by the whole process, and demanded to be let back to his tent.
Hawkeye didn't take well to being Handled, but B.J. had dealt with fussiness before. He tucked Hawkeye in despite his protests, and soothed his anger with gentle shushes. B.J. smoothed his sweaty, dark hair down and if he didn't kiss him goodnight, he did pat him on the cheek.
"I'm so tired," Hawkeye said.
"I know." B.J. had shot him up good with enough barbiturates to make his cot feel like a cloud. Margaret and Hawk both were off duty until Sydney came, but moving, showering, and the other stuff of life was going to be much harder tomorrow.
"They came out of nowhere," Hawkeye said again.
"I know, Hawk."
"I should have told Margaret to run. If they had one of us, I dunno, maybe . . ." Hawkeye shifted uncomfortably.
"You know you can't play 'what if.'" B.J. leaned over him to adjust the covers over his bad arm.
"I know." Hawkeye grabbed B.J.'s arm. "Just. Don't go away, okay?"
"Where would I go?"
Hawkeye shoved the heel of his hand into his eye. "Do you know what the word for 'queer' is in Korean?"
B.J. looked away. "I'd rather not."
Hawkeye sighed as he leaned back on his pillow. "'Byun tae'. 'Context clues,' my English teacher used to say. You can figure out the meaning of all sorts of words if you guess the context. I got the sense he saw me as great invader to his nice, orderly universe. Of course, he could have been calling me anything: Sissy. Whore. American."
"One out of three isn't bad. Isn't good, either."
Hawkeye turned carefully on the bunk. Winced. "There was one . . . he seemed sort of. . . . I don't know. Is this disturbing you?"
B.J. shrugged. "Not at all."
Hawkeye smiled. "You're a good friend, Beej, but a bad liar."
B.J. pulled the chair around so he was facing Hawkeye directly. "Hawk . . . I'd be lying if I said this didn't disturb me. Of course it does, you went through something horrible. But you're my friend and I can tell your whirligig brain is spinning something around and it's going to pop the top off if you don't let it out. You always try to get people to 'get it off their chest.' So, doctor, try a little of your own medicine."
B.J. waited patiently while Hawkeye looked far away. Dark had fallen outside, cool autumn air was blowing through the mosquito netting. They'd have to lower the tent flaps for good in a few weeks, but B.J. was loathe to close up the khaki box. When he first got sent to Korea, he missed his privacy. Now he hated the winter when they had to shut out the rest of the camp and suffer themselves for company.
"I don't -"Hawkeye said. "No, I do know, I just-" He slugged his pillow and flipped it over. He winced as he laid back down. "I know. I don't want to know I know or know you know or know you know I know."
"Once more, with less merry-go-round?"
"I just can't get that one guy out of my head."
"A North Korean?"
"No, a Martian who held me down at gunpoint and raped me while Margaret screamed in my ear as his buddy did the same to her."
Chills went down B.J.'s spine, but he hid his reaction behind his martini glass. Somehow, being blunt and shocking was cathartic for Hawkeye.
"I thought . . . I kept thinking, this is the worst thing that can happen, and if anything worse happens, I'll just die. But then something worse did happen, and the world didn't go black. I mean, I was still there."
"Like a movie camera," B.J. reflected.
Hawkeye's hand rolled in the air as he searched for the words. "And even when I thought, this is it, they've broken me, I thought of Margaret. I thought, if I die, she'll be alone. And that scared me because if she died, I didn't want to be alone."
B.J. suddenly understood new and deeper tones on the theme of "survivor's guilt."
"You know they didn't even ask us any questions?" Hawkeye said. "Maybe they weren't taking prisoners - they were just out for some light afternoon brutality."
Hawkeye was eerily accurate. According to I-Corps, there wasn't a lot of prisoner-taking in the area lately; most GIs separated from their units were simply killed. What piece of work had Hawk and Margaret found out on the road that day? B.J. believed in God and he believed in an afterlife and tonight, he fiercely believed in a hell for the truly deserving.
Hawkeye tetched in his bunk again.
"A lot of pain?" B.J. said.
Hawkeye nodded. "My arm. I thought they pulled it out of the socket."
B.J. moved to the edge of Hawkeye's bunk so he could get another look. He was bruised all along one side, had a puffy jaw, and little bruises all over the size and spacing of fingerprints that made B.J. sick to look at. Despite the nasty colors his whole upper right side was turning, the X-ray came out clear, which meant soft tissue tearing. The arm had been pulled behind him and shoved up high, then held there for an extended time.
"Try to lie still; you'll feel better soon," B.J. said.
"Feel better faster if you give me some of that." Hawkeye reached for B.J.'s glass.
B.J. moved it away. "I'd rather not practice my chest compression technique tonight, thanks." He crossed Hawkeye's arm over his chest. "You should hold it like this. We can strap it down."
"No, I'll just sleep on my back."
Hawkeye didn't want to be restrained. B.J. didn't press the therapeutic point.
It had been B.J. who had walked Hawkeye into OR and treated him, while Potter and Kellye worked on Margaret on the other side of the screen. They had gotten out the stirrups over on that side, but Hawkeye had flatly refused.
"Beej?" Hawkeye stared at the spot on the ceiling where he and Trapper had made a peanut butter Frank Burns portrait.
B.J. sat on the bunk. This was it, this would be the thing. "Hmm?"
"You think guys who do that to other guys are, like, that way?"
B.J. had to think about what, to be completely precise, they were talking about. Because he had a feeling this was one of those big moments in Hawkeye's life and he didn't want to screw it up. He looked down at Hawkeye and weighed his words carefully.
"I think," he said carefully, "that rape is an act of aggression, not sex."
But that didn't satisfy whatever errant thread Hawkeye was worrying in his brain, as sure as his fingers were worrying the hem of his blanket. "That guy . . . I think he was one."
B.J. rested his chin in his hand. This conversation was wandering far, far from where he had expected it and down dark, labyrinthine sinews. "Hawkeye, I've never known you to be circumspect."
B.J. nodded, noncommittal. "What makes you think that?"
"I don't know. I don't want to talk about this anymore." An elbow flipped over his eyes.
B.J. sat back and twirled the empty glass by the stem.
"He couldn't be," Hawkeye said. "They wouldn't allow a guy like that with the other nice soldier boys. It's . . . it's disgusting."
"Some guys," Hawkeye said. "Some guys would say it changes a guy. If that happens to him."
"Is that what you're afraid of?"
Hawkeye uncovered his eyes. "No. Of course not, that's ridiculous. That's not my point."
B.J. considered that the painkillers were taking effect. He couldn't raise his eyes from the glass as he asked, "Hawkeye, what are you afraid of?"
"Nothing. What if he went after me because he saw . . . something?"
B.J. set the glass on the table, looking away so Hawkeye wouldn't see his reaction. Hawkeye wouldn't have said it unless there was something to tell. B.J. wasn't surprised, not entirely, but he was worried. This was a dangerous confession, something that could ruin Hawkeye's life if he had been pursuing that kind of lifestyle. On the other hand, in the here and now, B.J. was sitting beside a very scared, confused, guilt-ridden man who'd just been traumatized, and no part of B.J. could add to that guilt.
Furthermore, B.J. worked in a public hospital in San Francisco. This wasn't the first patient confession he'd heard. Ever since the Army had abandoned all their blue discharges at Eureka Valley, a tide had changed in the city. The first time, he'd stammered and made a mess of what should have been a secure environment for the poor patient; now, he'd learned to have a script prepared.
"Hawkeye, it's okay. You're my friend, whatever it is, I won't tell anyone. You don't even have to tell me."
"There was another boy," Hawkeye said. "He was older than me."
"It's okay," B.J. said, because you can't not respond when someone admits something that huge.
Hawkeye sighed, eyes closed. The pills were surely taking effect. "He was my cousin's friend. For a whole summer, we went fishing together and didn't catch a single fish. Do you think that's wrong?"
"Maybe you were using the wrong bait." B.J.'s mind was racing. What did he think? Objectively, was it wrong? Objectively, it was none of his business. "How much older?"
"Fourteen and seventeen."
Wow. Young. And Hawkeye said he first had sex when he wasn't much older. Must be all those cold nights back east.
B.J. said, "I don't know, Hawk. 'Right' and 'wrong' about your own sex life. . . . That's really up to you and the person you were with at the time."
Perhaps that answered Hawkeye's question, or maybe he just didn't want to pursue it. Moisture glittered at the corners of his closed eyes.
"You're still my friend," B.J. said. "For what that's worth."
"It is," Hawkeye said. "It's worth a lot."
B.J.'s hand hovered in the air. Normally, he'd give a pat on the back. This is normal, he thought. They were still friends, weren't they? His friend still needed him.
He touched Hawkeye's back like he was a sick kid. "I think . . . I think it doesn't matter. I don't think the North Korean who - who attacked you . . . it couldn't possibly be about you, or who you've been with. He was a disturbed, violent criminal. Do you think Margaret is wondering if the other guy went after her because she sleeps with men? Does it really matter?"
Hawkeye made an indistinguishable noise.
"You didn't strike me as being 'like that' when I met you," B.J. said, "if that's what you're wondering."
"It wasn't just . . . that one time," Hawkeye said. "I mean, it wasn't just youthful experimentation."
B.J. smiled as a penny dropped about a certain missing tentmate. He made a decision right then. "I know you, Hawk. It's not a bad thing and it's not a 'thing' at all, it's just who you are. You love people, men and women; you connect with them. It's what makes people love and trust you. You wouldn't be you if you cut off that part of your charm."
"It was so stupid," Hawkeye said. "If we'd gotten caught . . ." His eyes were fluttering.
B.J. wasn't sure when his hand on Hawkeye's back had started the rubbing, but he was disinclined to stop. Hawkeye looked so miserable. "You didn't bring this on yourself, Hawk. Put the blame where it belongs."
Hawkeye was taking slow, deep breaths. B.J. clicked the light off and sat there a while longer, sipping another martini, watching Hawkeye sleep and feeling his heartbeat clear through to his throat. He had been scared, too, when Hawk and Margaret choppered in as patients instead of staff. They were bruised, bleeding, Hawkeye fretting after Margaret even as he did everything one-handed and ignored the long stripe of blood from his head down his shoulder. When someone from your unit comes back like that, and you know they've met the enemy, that worst always comes up in everyone's mind. There's a conference of looks, clinical euphemisms. And then the truth comes out.
Margaret spilled the beans easily enough, unashamed, demanding paperwork from a terrified Radar. Women have words for these things. But with men, it's supposed to happen in prisons or gangs, to the occasional little boy brought to the ER after a run in with a bad neighbor; not a whole, grown-up, intelligent doctor.
B.J. was afraid for himself, too. If it happened to Hawkeye, who would he be patching up next? What could happen to him, and how would he tell Peggy? Would she see him as different, as less of a husband or less of a man?
Peggy had told him about an uncle who was just a few years older than her. When she was ten, they were walking alone in a field in Oklahoma and he suddenly tried to make her play 'show me yours and I'll show you mine.' She screamed, but he forced her hand onto his erect penis. She kicked him and ran away but she was too scared to tell anyone until she told B.J., over ten years later. She said this matter-of-factly while B.J. was sick with horror. Peg said she got off light, it wasn't so big a deal.
'Peggy,' B.J. had responded, 'you were screaming and crying. It sounds like it was a big deal at the time.'
Peg shrugged her slim shoulders in her pink sweater.
B.J. asked, 'Don't you think that had something to do with why you moved to California?'
Peg laughed. 'I'm over it, honey.'
B.J. didn't understand rape. He didn't understand why men did it and he didn't understand what Hawkeye was feeling. His heart was pounding, his stomach was churning, and he was dreading the morning.
He rinsed his glass in the wash water in the helmet on the center post, trying not to think. Margaret's light was out. The camp was silent except for the crunch of the night guard's boots - Klinger, in fatigues. Their eyes met across the compound. Klinger tilted his head. B.J. spread his hands. Klinger shook his head and walked on.
Stop the war, B.J. thought. I want to get off.