Hush

Sugar and spice and everything nice…

B.J. stood next to Erin's bed and stared down at his sleeping daughter. Her angelic face looked so peaceful. Her tiny hand was balled into a fist under her chin. Her chest rose and fell with her steady, reassuring breaths.

That's what little girls are made of…

Suddenly he was so overwhelmed that he cast his gaze up to the ceiling and blinked back tears.

Sugar and spice…

Had it been a girl? Or a boy? B.J. hadn't known… hadn't wanted to know. The less they all knew, the better. Many witnessed it, but through some sort of unspoken pact, they never delved into the details… never knew the woman's name or what happened to her afterward. B.J. guessed that, like him, his colleagues tried to blur the too-sharp images in their minds… used whatever defense mechanisms they had at their disposal to dull the pain of that shared experience.

What kind of parent could do something like that? He shuddered to think of it, and not for the first time.

It was impossible not to relive it, over and over… he didn't want to, but it wasn't like he had a choice in the matter. He couldn't force the memory away, it was still too fresh… hell, for all he knew it would always be right at the front of his brain, haunting his dreams, poisoning his reality.

There was a tiny part of him that hated Hawkeye for that.

No, not "hated," that wasn't the right word. He couldn't hate Hawkeye. There was a split second on the bus, in the black moment immediately after it happened, that B.J. felt pure, violent anger, and he had to admit that anger was primarily directed at Hawkeye. But the moment passed, the anger faded, turned into ache… an ache that still lived in his bones, sometimes acute, sometimes dull. But whatever he felt, he couldn't even imagine what Hawkeye must feel.

In the utter silence that'd followed the baby's death, it had been B.J. who moved first. He had stood and placed gentle hands on Hawkeye's arms, steered the man's rigid body to an empty seat, settled down next to him. And stared into his face, seeing… nothing. A blank, lifeless expression.

They were still waiting for the enemy patrol to pass on by outside, so time spun out in screaming silence. B.J. had felt like he was falling into some bottomless pit, had felt like he needed to reach out and grab hold of something… something steady and strong and buoyant… his lifejacket in Korea, Hawkeye Pierce.

The same Hawkeye Pierce who had turned into a statue next to him, frozen in shock, pale and unblinking, subconsciously emitting a low moan deep in his throat, like some kind of cornered animal.

Even once the danger passed and the bus once again roared to life, continuing on down the road and toward camp, there was no talking. Not from anyone, and certainly not from Hawkeye.

B.J. wasn't sure, but he thought he himself might've fallen into a kind of fugue state for a while on that bus. He didn't remember anything until the bus pulled into the 4077th, beneath the banner that said Best Care Anywhere. It shuddered to a stop and the door opened with what sounded like a sigh… a painful, last-gasp kind of sigh. Like the walking dead, they all shuffled off the bus, and B.J. remembered taking hold of Hawkeye's arm and leading him to the Swamp.

Then… nothing. They must've gone to sleep, pure exhaustion pulling them down into unconsciousness. The next morning brought wounded, bright and early, and it was during that OR session that he heard Hawkeye utter his first word since the incident, and that word was "Scalpel."

It'd seemed almost normal at first. But the normalcy didn't last long. When the anesthetist had tried to put one of Hawkeye's patients under, Hawk had come unglued. "No! Stop! You're smothering him!" Sheer panic in his voice. Followed by the completely nonsensical suggestion, "No anesthesia—I'll operate without it."

And so it had begun. On some level, B.J. wasn't surprised. He supposed he'd been waiting for it. That evening, when Hawkeye got into a jeep and casually drove it through the wall of the O Club, it was clear they needed Sidney.

No, it was clear they needed to send Hawkeye to Sidney. He was a danger to himself and his patients.

B.J. had gone along when Klinger drove Hawk to the psychiatric hospital. He didn't remember much about that trip either… except the uncharacteristic tremor in Hawkeye's voice as he asked, "Can't you help me?"

B.J. had said, "We are helping you."

"No," Hawkeye clarified. "You. Can't you help me? Why do I have to go away?"

"Sidney's the best person for you right now, Hawk. You'll see," B.J. insisted, because even though he was Hawkeye's best friend and staunchest supporter, what did he know about taming that turbulent mind?

Besides, I'm not strong enough for this, he had thought but did not say. You're the strong one… the one who goes toe-to-toe with any adversary, intent on making things right. I'm the one who stands idly by, cursing the unfairness of it all.

Now, as B.J. reached down and stroked his daughter's soft hair, he remembered the long nights in the Swamp while Hawkeye was away at the institution. He remembered not being able to sleep, even though it was certainly quieter without the garrulous surgeon around to spout his long, rambling monologues about everything and nothing. He remembered looking up at the canvas ceiling and wondering, What if Hawkeye never gets better and never comes back? What then?

But mercifully, the therapy sessions worked. Sidney helped Hawkeye talk through his repressed memories, and eventually they had their breakthrough, and some time after that, Hawkeye came back. Of course, when he did, B.J. had already taken a powder of his own… taking advantage of an Army snafu to scoot out the back door and try to get home before anyone realized the error. He acknowledged now, as he watched Erin sleeping, that he'd been grateful for the chance to leave before Hawkeye returned to camp. He'd been running away from the horror, just like Hawkeye had in his mind.

Erin stirred a little in her sleep and let out a quiet little "coo" sound. It broke B.J.'s heart. Once again he felt tears fill his eyes. He leaned over his daughter and dropped a light kiss on her forehead. "Sleep well, my sweet girl," he whispered, then turned to leave the room, taking one last look back.

Sugar and spice and everything nice…

His study was two doors down the hall. He went in and shut the door, took a seat at his desk. He hesitated only briefly, then picked up the phone. He knew the number by heart, and only after he dialed did he think to check the clock on the wall and calculate if it might be too late to call…

But apparently not, because the phone was answered after only one ring. "Hello?" the crisp, alert voice said from 3000 miles away.

"Hi, Dr. Pierce," he said, "it's B.J. How are you today?"

"Oh, I'm doing all right, B.J. Holding up, I guess. How are you doing, son?"

B.J. felt his mouth curve into a half-smile. He liked being called "son" by this man. "Same as you… holding up." He paused, then steeled himself to ask the question. "And how was he doing today? Has he spoken yet?"

The answer was the same as it was every night: "No. Not a word."

B.J. felt his heart dip a little at the news. Or the non-news, to be more accurate. Every night he got his hopes up that there would be a change; every night he ended up disappointed to learn that there was none. It was a painful cycle, but he couldn't imagine not going through the ritual anyway.

Hawkeye had regressed nearly a month ago. Sure, the sessions in Korea had worked. He'd gone back to the 4077th, finished out the war, bade everyone farewell, went home. And then one day… well, who knows exactly how the human mind operates. Something happened… some trigger, maybe, that took Hawkeye back to that dark night on the bus. Whatever the reason, the result was that he was back at square one. Back in an institution, where he sat in his red bathrobe day after day, not doing much of anything, and most disturbingly, not speaking to anyone.

Not saying a single word.

"Well," B.J. said to Hawkeye's dad, trying to put some hope into his voice… hope that was getting harder to come by as the days wore on. "Maybe tomorrow, huh?"

Daniel Pierce knew how to play the game, too. "Sure," he replied, "maybe tomorrow."

They spoke for a few more minutes, then B.J. politely made an excuse and Daniel smoothly eased them into their goodbyes, and that was that. Another night, another call. It wasn't duty, necessarily, but it was starting to feel like it more and more.

After putting the receiver in its cradle, B.J. picked up the framed photo that sat on his desk… a photo of him and Hawkeye standing outside the Swamp, next to the signpost. He stared at it long and hard, barely breathing as he did.

"It wasn't your fault, Hawk," he told the picture as his thumb ran over the red-robed man with the beaming grin and the shining eyes. "It really wasn't."

But his 2-year-old daughter was asleep down the hall, and somewhere in Korea there was a mother who no longer had a child to tuck into bed at night, and B.J. honestly had no idea where to lay the blame for that.

He sighed and set the picture back down. No one to blame, no foe to fight. All he could do was stand idly by, cursing the unfairness of it all.