BJ crept down the stairs, careful not to make enough noise to wake his wife or daughter. This was the third time this week he'd woken up in the middle of the night, aching. His whole body hurt: his head pounded, his stomach was tight, and his arms and legs felt heavy. He quietly filled a glass on the sideboard and collapsed into a chair at the dining room table. The gin burned clean all the way to his stomach, but it didn't seem to ease the knot there. The clock in the living room chimed quietly and BJ sighed. It was a quarter after one. He had to be at the hospital at seven. His head buzzed slightly from gin and exhaustion.
Without thinking, BJ reached for the phone, dialing the number he knew by heart.
"Hello?" The groggy voice, thick with New England accent, shattered the remaining fragments of BJ's control. He almost hung up the phone right then and there.
"H-Hawk? I'm sorry, I shouldn't have called. I didn't mean to wake you."
"Beej?" The voice sounded clearer, and laced with something. Worry? Happiness? "What's wrong? What time is it?"
"It's a quarter after one, Hawk. I guess that means it's a quarter after four there. I'm sorry. I-I just-I just needed to hear your voice. That's stupid. Look, go back to sleep. I'm fine." BJ's cheeks burned with embarrassment. What was he thinking? Who in their right mind made long-distance, cross-country phone calls to old army buddies at this time of night?
"No, Beej, you're not fine. Just-just give me a minute to wake up. It's good...it's good to hear your voice." Hawkeye's voice was a little more alert and definitely concerned. What was going on in Mill Valley? BJ would never call in the middle of the night if everything was fine.
As Hawkeye spoke, BJ could picture him standing there in blue flannel pants and a white t-shirt. He was probably wearing that stupid red robe and his steel-gray hair was probably flopping down over his eyes. BJ's heartrate picked up just a bit at the thought. Groaning, he stretched the phone cord over to the sideboard and refilled his glass. The clink of the gin bottle seemed to rouse Hawkeye completely.
"Are you drunk, BJ?" Hawkeye's voice was gentle, far more gentle than BJ felt he deserved.
"Uh, no, Hawk...at least not yet." With that, BJ downed another glass of clear fire. Somehow, it didn't taste right, not after all the turpentine they'd drunk together in the Swamp. He coughed. "Sorry, Hawk, I don't know what's the matter with me. I just couldn't sleep, and I hurt all over. It's been like this all week."
Hawkeye grimaced. He knew exactly what was bugging his best friend, or at least he hoped he did. He just didn't think BJ would be able to understand. A flush warmed him from head to toe as he envisioned the tall, sandy-haired doctor standing there, barefoot, wearing respectable gray pajamas and that blinding white smile.
"Look, Beej, where's Peg?" Just saying the name punched all the breath from Hawkeye's lungs.
"Huh? Oh, she...um, she's upstairs, asleep." BJ's tone was one of complete disinterest. The four months since he came back from Korea had been hard ones in his house. He and Peg hadn't been able to get reacquainted like he'd expected. He didn't want to admit to Hawkeye that he'd been sleeping in the guest room for the past month. Christmas had been torture, even with Erin to share it.
"Look, Beej, every time you call, you sound exhausted. Miserable, in fact. I'm worried about you. Why don't you take some time off and come to Crabapple Cove? We'll go fishing! I can introduce you to Dad!" Hawkeye's voice was becoming more excited by the minute. How many nights had he lain awake, wishing for the sound of BJ's breathing to cut the silence of his house? Wishing he'd just appear, so Hawkeye wouldn't have to ask him to come.
Hawkeye chattered on, excited as a child at Christmas at his newest scheme. BJ's heart soared for the first time since...well, since Korea. Visiting Crabapple Cove sounded perfect.