A plume of dust rising in the distance suggested that a vehicle of some sort was coming down the road. A few minutes later the faint strains of singing could be heard; two male voices, sometimes mixing in harmony but more often than not clashing horribly as they hit all the wrong notes. Judging by the bursts of laughter that accompanied – or frequently interrupted – the song, the men were not entirely sober and didn't much care what they sounded like.
A jeep rounded the bend, revealing a man with honey-coloured hair and a cheesy moustache behind the wheel, gesturing animatedly with one hand while he steered with the other. Beside him was a man with mostly black hair that was interspersed with a few errant strands of grey that hadn't been there when he first arrived in this country two years ago. Looking at him now, so jovial and seemingly carefree, it would be hard to imagine how many horrors those blue eyes had seen. His companion didn't have to imagine, though; he had seen much of the same.
For these two surgeons of the 4077th M*A*S*H unit, drink and humour were their best defence against the nightmare that was the Korean War. So they laughed, and sang, and pretended that they were driving along a peaceful country road in America rather than a dirt track, riddled with mortar-inflicted potholes and potentially watched by snipers, on their way back to their rat-infested home away from home.
The sound of gunfire up ahead sobered them faster than a cold shower and bitter coffee ever could.
"Trouble?" B.J. asked, knuckles whitening as his grip tightened on the steering wheel.
"Nah," Hawkeye said, even as he reached for his 'soldier hat' and pulled it onto his head. "It's just a really loud drive-in movie theatre."
"Complete with popcorn, you think?"
"Of course – can't you hear them popping?"
"I'm trying not to," B.J. muttered.
They drove around the next corner cautiously, almost at a crawl – when they saw what was there to greet them, B.J. slammed his foot on the brake and they both flung their arms into the air. Ten guns were pointed their way, and they didn't look to spray water.
"State your business!" one man yelled. They were American soldiers, Hawkeye was relieved to notice, but that young lieutenant looked greener than the grassy fields of Maine in spring. He decided it would be safer not to make a joke right then, quelling the 'business'-related quips that came to mind.
"Captains Pierce and Hunnicutt," he gestured in turn. "Surgeons with the 4077th M*A*S*H. We're on our way back to camp from a medical conference in Seoul."
The lieutenant snapped his fingers and one of his men approached the jeep to check their dog tags; Hawkeye held up his First Aid kit for him to look at, too, for good measure. The soldier nodded.
The lieutenant visibly relaxed, and the barrel of his gun dipped to a safer angle. "Sorry, sirs, we had to make sure."
"That's fine, Lieutenant," Hawkeye said. "So can we pass?"
The younger man shook his head. "Better not, sirs. This road isn't secure. Our platoon came up against a whole company-worth of commies an hour ago, and we haven't managed to clear them out yet."
"So we're stuck here?" B.J. asked, exchanging a worried glance with his fellow doctor. If the fighting spread back in this direction they didn't want to get caught in the middle of it. Besides, now that the war had apparently started up again in earnest, they needed to get back to the 4077th; casualties would start pouring in soon, and the unit was down by two surgeons.
The lieutenant scratched his head. "Where 'bouts is your base?"
"Couple of miles out of Uijeongbu," B.J. replied.
He contemplated this for a moment, then nodded. "There's another route you can take," he told them. "It's less direct, but it'll get you there. Drive back the way you came for about half a mile and take the right fork – looks like a stock trail, but it widens out…" The directions continued for a minute or so, and B.J. focused carefully to make sure he would remember them all.
"Yep," B.J. confirmed. "Thanks, Lieutenant."
"Good luck," Hawkeye added, ruthlessly pushing away the thought that wondered whether any of these young men would ever make it home to see their families again. He would probably never know, unless they ended up as wounded at the 4077th, and he wouldn't wish either fate on any of them.
B.J. turned the jeep around and they trundled back up the road to find the side trail. With the distant sound of artillery and shelling in the background, the two doctors no longer felt particularly inclined to sing.
"There it is," Hawkeye said, pointing.
B.J steered towards it. "Seems quieter down this way."
The calm before the storm? whispered that traitorous part of his mind. "Let's hope so," he said out loud.
"…Beej… hey, B.J… c'mon, you with me here?... Beej, wake up, you're missing a hell of a party…"
He groaned, trying to retreat back into the depths of unconsciousness where the excruciating pain couldn't reach him.
"…that's my boy… c'mon, now, open those gorgeous baby blues for me…"
He tried to lift a hand to bat the owner of the voice away, but the appendage wouldn't move no matter how many neural impulses he aimed in its direction. Each one seemed to get slapped with a 'return to sender' label that came with a bonus announcement that the abused nerve endings of his arm were on strike.
"Forget I asked," he mumbled.
"…its forgotten, Superman… your kiss seems to have wiped the whole thing from my memory, almost like you never asked something in the first place… next you'll be flying round the world backwards… turn back time… think you can stop this war from ever starting?... or at least make sure we stay put next time until the road is cleared of enemy soldiers rather than taking the alternate route suggested to us by that stupid lieutenant…"
His brow wrinkled as he tried to muddle through the words. He didn't understand what was happening. All he knew was that he hurt all over, he could barely move, and a cotton farmer would make one hell of a harvest from pulling all this extra stuffing out of his brain.
"…that's right, wakey, wakey, rise and shine… the sun has got its hat on, hip hip hip hip hooray – and if we don't get out of here soon, Beej, we'll be doing our part to help the flowers grow…"
That made even less sense, but he caught the undertone of urgency. He struggled to open his eyes.
The sight that greeted him should have been familiar – and was, in a way, because he recognised the face of his friend Hawkeye – but those features he knew so well were distorted. Tracks of sweat through grime and blood, a tightness around the mouth that belied the conjured smile, an echo of some undefined emotion in those eyes that made B.J's gut tighten – and caused him to cry out in pain.
A flash of distress, quickly covered. "C'mon, now, I'm not that ugly to look at, am I?"
B.J tried to respond with something witty, but all he managed was a cough that would have sent him curling in on himself in agony if his body wasn't so dead-set on disobeying him.
"No, don't try to move; you're pinned under the jeep. Don't worry, I'll get you out of there…"
Grunts of effort, edged, a sharp inhale that was almost a gasp, and an exclamation that was choked off. A huge weight was lifted from him, which was at once immeasurably better and much worse. He could breathe again and move somewhat but all new sensations came rushing in on him at the sudden release of pressure, and none of them were good.
The voice returned, strained almost to the point of inaudibility. "I know you miss Peg, B.J, but you really should have picked a better dancing partner…" B.J felt himself being moved across the ground, and opened his eyes – when had he closed them? – to see his friend leaning over him and shifting him as gently as possibly with his hands, a strange contraption weighing heavily on his back."…getting under a nurse usually won't leave you with a broken arm, broken leg, fractured ribs and severe bruising, or a concussion for that matter… unless you're into that kind of thing. But still, Beej, I just don't think this jeep here is the one for you…"
His eyes wouldn't stay open. It was all he could do to keep from screaming with every movement, but he knew that Hawkeye wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't important.
There was a loud crash, which snapped his eyelids open quick smart. From the new vantage point he saw the jeep – or what was left of it – on its side a few feet away, and Hawkeye approaching him with a slightly Neanderthal gait.
"I'm sorry, young man, you'll have to save your questions for the next lesson – my teaching time is strictly 9 to 3."
Those hands were on him again – surgeon's hands; strong yet gentle, lithe yet graceful. They moved in a pattern well-known to B.J (though he had learned the procedure from the doctor's perspective and it was strange to be on the receiving end), probing carefully to check the number and extent of his injuries. He felt his shirt being lifted.
"…first date…?" he wheezed.
"I'm being a perfect gentleman," Hawkeye said defensively, even as he pulled his own shirt over his head and began to rip it into bandage strips. "I'll have you home before ten and everything."
Silence for a moment. "Well, your dad can't blame me for the car breaking down. I'll do my best to get us there before he gets it into his head to shoot me on sight."
"…something tells me… he's not the one… we need to worry about… shooting at us."
"Well, let's just say we shouldn't stick around too long, or else people may start to get the idea that we're tempting clay targets in the South Korean shooting range."
"…what…we waiting for, then?" B.J struggled to sit up.
"Oh no, no, no, no." He was pushed firmly back down again. "You just lie there and take your medicine. If you're a good boy there might even be a lollipop in it for you afterwards."
B.J tried to be good, but he couldn't prevent the occasional whimper from escaping his lips as his right arm and leg were both set in makeshift splints and his ribs were tightly wrapped.
"Sorry, Beej," Hawkeye said quietly, tying off the last strip before cupping his cheek gently and rubbing away the tears with his thumb. "I would give you morphine but the medical bag got tossed when the jeep was hit, and everything in bottles or syringes was smashed."
"'S'not… so bad…"
"You're a terrible liar, Beej… so how is it you managed to best me at poker last night?"
B.J gave a sly smile, which turned out looking more like a grimace.
Hawkeye harrumphed. "Just you wait, mister. I'll win my money back off you as soon as we get back to camp."
"…like… see you… try."
Hawkeye was denied the chance to reply by the sound of a gunshot ricocheting off the jeep. They both flinched.
"That's our cue," Hawkeye said. "Sorry, Beej, but this is probably going to hurt." Without further ado, the older doctor slid one arm beneath his shoulders and the other under his knees, and then hoisted him into the air. B.J heard a roar of pain and realised it must have come from himself; he clamped his teeth down on a lip to try to keep silent.
For a few moments he was acutely aware of the rough jostling that was setting his whole body ablaze as Hawkeye ran for nearby trees at a low crouch. And then he lost consciousness.
Waking up was not a pleasant experience. He wasn't even sure he was awake, because opening his eyes revealed darkness as complete as when they were closed. He didn't think a dream should be able to hurt this much, though.
He felt a startled movement behind him, and wondered if he'd accidently woken up Peg. He hadn't meant to – she got little enough sleep as it was, having to take care of Erin.
Funny, that didn't sound like her, but it was definitely coming from the warm body pressed up against his back.
"You awake? Are you in pain?"
"Right, stupid question, of course you are. Sorry, Beej. I wanted to get us back to the 4077th before it got dark, but I… I just couldn't do it. I- you needed some rest."
4077th. A M*A*S*H unit. Korea. Miles away from Peg and Erin. The thought was nearly enough to make him cry. God, he missed them.
"Are you warm enough, at least? It's a damn cold night."
He could feel the chill of the air on his face, but aside from frozen nostrils he was actually alright. He and Hawkeye were sharing body heat, he realised.
"…fine… just don't get frisky..."
A low chuckle, followed by a hacking cough that jolted B.J's body. His ribs screeched in protest.
"Hawk?" he gasped.
No reply, except for a strangely strangled sound and the movement of rapid breathing behind him.
"S-sorry. Sorry, Beej. Didn't mean to…"
B.J felt a niggling feeling in the back of his mind, trying to tell him something important, but his headache felt ten times worse when he strained to think, so he let it go.
"…tell me a story?" he breathed tiredly, letting his eyelids flutter shut.
"Sure, Beej. Um, let me think…. Okay, once upon a time, there were three little pigs…sent out to seek their fortune… first one… built a house of straw… along came a wolf… 'Little pig, little pig, let me come in'… 'Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin'… 'Then I'll huff…"
Soothed by the rumbling baritone of his friend's voice, and thinking absently that Erin would love his story-telling, B.J drifted back to sleep.
When he next opened his eyes it was to see a man kneeling in some shrubbery a few feet away, bare back to him. What should have been an expanse of unblemished skin was instead covered in dirt and a red substance that awoke every doctor's instinct within him.
B.J tried to move forward. "Soldier… soldier, you okay?"
The figure turned, and he was surprised to recognise Hawkeye.
"Soldier? You trying to insult me, fella? I may wear the tags, but I'm a misplaced civilian just like you."
His brow creased. "Blood."
"On your back. Injured."
The corner of Hawkeye's lip curled into a half-smile. "Nah. Remember the bottle of finest red we picked up in Seoul for Charles? Well, it ended up broken when that shell interrupted our otherwise pleasant drive, and the contents spilled all over me. I'm fine, though I'm sure Charles will be mourning the waste of good liquor."
Oh. He could have sworn it looked like blood. His head must be fuzzier than he'd realised.
"Well, now that you're awake, Sleeping Beauty, how about some breakfast?"
His stomach rumbled its appreciation of that plan.
"What… d'we have?"
"Oh, for you, good sir, the very finest. French toast and sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes, bacon, hashbrowns…"
It sounded great, but B.J had a sneaking suspicion that Hawkeye was lying through his teeth. After all, from what he could see, the forest they were in was a far cry from a kitchen or fancy restaurant.
Sure enough, B.J found himself choking down some crackers, with crumbs so fine they ended up in the back of his nose, and hard travel cheese that was greasy enough to be used to quiet the squeak of his old rocking chair back home.
"Delectable," he said dryly.
"Just wait til you try my world famous water. Tastes just like a rotting swamp."
The canteen was raised to his lips, and despite the fact that it tasted exactly as described, B.J drank greedily until it was pulled away.
"Easy, Beej. This has got to last us until we reach camp, unless we are willing to risk the sewage masquerading as rivers and creeks around here. Besides, if you drink too much too fast you'll make yourself sick."
B.J watched as the lid was replaced and the canteen put back in a tattered bag that was covered in red stains. He wondered why Hawkeye hadn't drunk any. Maybe he wasn't thirsty.
"I found a few berries for dessert," Hawkeye told him, feeding them to him one by one. They were refreshingly sweet and juicy, managing to delight his tastebuds for a change, even with what few of the berries there were.
"Sorry, Beej, that's all there is for now. We need to get going."
"…late to… the Prom?"
"Yeah, that's it. You'd hate to disappoint that pretty blonde waiting for you."
A smile flitted across his face at the mental image of Peg wearing her best dress, standing in the middle of the ballroom with their favourite song playing, waiting for him to join her so they could dance.
"Dunno… if I'll be… dancing tonight, though…" he sighed, as shifting his weight had caused shooting pain to lance up from his leg.
"Don't worry, we'll have you fixed up and doing the tango in no time."
"Gotta… get back… to camp first…"
A beat of hesitation, almost as though he were steeling himself for something. "Yeah. C'mon, then." He moved to scoop him up again.
B.J shook his head. "I'll walk." Hawkeye just looked at him. "'kay… hop, then. You can't carry me… look exhausted."
"I'm the closest thing to a pack horse we have," Hawkeye pointed out. "Though don't you dare say I look like one. My fragile ego can only take so much."
Fragile ego. B.J nearly snorted with amusement; Frank Burns had had a fragile ego, Hawkeye Pierce far from it.
"Your limo has arrived, sir." Hawkeye slid his arms under him as gently as he could and picked him up, somehow managing to get to his feet though the task couldn't have been an easy one; B.J was the larger man of the two, and he was no lightweight.
B.J tucked his head under Hawkeye's chin and mumbled, "Nice."
"We aim to please."
They set off, Hawkeye keeping up a steady stream of jokes and commentary while B.J drifted in and out of awareness.
"…thank God… nearly there, B.J… just… over… that… hill…"
Hawkeye sounded terrible. His breathing was ragged, unsteady, and his voice was wavering. B.J's smooth ride was becoming less so, a distinct see-saw developing to the steps that bore him closer to home.
"We're… gonna be… okay, Beej… we're gonna… make it." A wheezing gasp. Just fatigue. Too much physical exercise; Hawkeye's body wasn't used to it. That's all it was. "…gonna make…it…"
B.J fought to get his eyes open, saw that light was dimming again, saw familiar territory, saw deep lines of exhaustion and something else etched into the face of his friend. Against his will, the lids closed again, weighed down by the effort of trying to keep the pain at bay.
"…Captains!" A new voice. Loud. Someone he knew, but he couldn't pinpoint a name. "You're back! Someone get Colonel Potter, Hawkeye and B.J are – oh my god, they're wounded! Get a medical team here stat! Captains? Captain Pierce, are you – Hawkeye, can you hear me? Hawkeye, here, let me take him-" He felt hands pulling at him, but Hawkeye wouldn't let go.
"What's going – Captain Pierce? What happened - why isn't someone helping him?" A female voice, loud and bossy and filled to the brim with concern.
"…won't let us, Major. He won't let go."
"We've got to get them to O.R now!"
"I think that's where he's headed."
"Captain Pierce. Hawkeye? Captain Hunnicutt, you still with us?"
B.J mumbled something incoherent.
"Where are they?" Colonel Potter's voice. "Someone told me they're back – Great Caesar's Ghost!"
It's not as bad as it looks, Colonel, B.J wanted to say, but he couldn't find the energy, and he wasn't sure how it looked anyway.
"Corporal, tell Winchester to get his butt over to O.R and scrub up immediately! I'll be there in a moment. Hawkeye, son, hand B.J over to us. We'll take good care of him, I promise."
B.J could feel that Hawkeye kept walking, though it was beginning to feel like one of those rides at the fair designed to make you lose your cookies.
"We're gonna make it, Beej," Hawkeye whispered, and then his leg crumpled, dropping him heavily to a knee.
B.J would have hit the ground if half a dozen hands hadn't been there to catch him.
"Get him into O.R, on the double!" B.J was moving again, the voices behind getting more distant, terror welling up inside him. "…and I need three units of whole blood for Hawkeye here right now – shrapnel in his leg must have moved and nicked the femoral artery – have to get the bleeding stopped – Major, get me a torquin- yes, that's it, thankyou… Where's that gurney? Good, on three – one, two, three! Alright, move him inside…"
B.J fought against the mask that was being lowered over his face with his good arm. "Hawkeye – Hawk-" He was nearly choking with fear, desperate to reach his friend.
"Captain, please, we need to operate-"
"Hunnicutt…" Charles' voice. "Pierce has given everything to get you here, to get you to help. Don't waste that sacrifice now. Do this for him."
He could feel tears streaming down his face. "Promise me you'll save him."
"I'll do my best, Hunnicutt. I would hate for him to be a blemish on my impeccable record."
"Hawkeye is in good hands, son," Colonel Potter said. "Now let me look after you. You're no help to him in this condition."
B.J nodded, weakly, and let the mask settle over his nose and mouth, breathing in the anaesthesia and floating away.
Well, that was a change. He must have received a shot of morphine finally; he was all warm and comfortable.
Was he lying on a real bed? Well, as real as they got in Korea. Better than his cot in the swamp, so that only really left the beds in Post Up. Except those beds were supposed to be for patients, not doctors. Was he a patient, then? Of course he was, dummy, that's why he had been given morphine, and why it felt strange not to be in pain. There had been a lot of pain, for a seeming eternity. The med supplies had been damaged in the crash at the same time as he was.
Crash? Not quite… a shell had hit them.
"I think we're safe, Hawk. You could hear a pin drop in this silence."
Hawkeye didn't look comforted. He kept glancing around nervously, one hand holding his soldier hat tight to his head. B.J might have made a quip about Hawkeye still being afraid that he would deck him again, but he hated to be reminded of how he had hit his friend like that, for no good reason.
"Hawkeye, what are you worried about? Everything is quiet; the fighting is far away from here."
"Quiet isn't a good thing," Hawkeye replied tersely. He looked pale. "It's too quiet. No birds, no nothing. Call me a pessimist, but the only reason I can think of for it being this quiet is-"
There was the faintest of popping sounds from somewhere behind and to the left of them. Hawkeye stood up in the jeep and twisted around to look back-
And the world imploded.
The shell hit the radiator – Hawkeye screamed in pain as hot shards of metal flew in all directions – B.J swerved, trying to keep control of the jeep – he saw Hawkeye thrown from the vehicle and tumble down a gully – he maintained his grip on the wheel, too panicked to let go – felt the jeep lose balance, tottering on two tyres – he knew it was going to crash over on its side but by the time he let go it was too late to throw himself clear –
A mountain landed on him, complete with the sound of cracking tree trunks, and then he blissfully lost consciousness.
Quiet isn't a good thing.
It was quiet now. Too quiet, even for Post Op.
B.J battled the meds to bring himself more fully awake. "Hawkeye?"
"Morning, son. You gave us quite a scare, you know."
B.J blinked blearily a few times, waiting for the world to come into focus. When it did, he saw that Colonel Potter was sitting beside his bed.
"Sorry, Colonel. Next Halloween I'll dress up as a bunny rabbit instead."
Not even a slight smile. B.J knew it was a poor approximation of a joke, but the Colonel usually humoured him anyway (pardon the pun).
Dread settled as a tight knot in the pit of his stomach.
"Hawkeye?" he asked again, slower this time, not entirely sure he wanted an answer. He could read the sorrow in Potter's eyes.
"Son… you mustn't blame yourself."
B.J blanched. "Is he-"
"He's still alive, but we don't know…" His voice broke, and he cleared it to start again. "We don't know if he will stay that way. Hawkeye lost a lot of blood before we could get him into O.R – he went into hypovolemic shock. Winchester was in surgery for five hours. He had to perform an arterial transplant on Hawkeye's leg to repair the nicked femoral artery, and then take the shrapnel out of his thigh, shoulder and back – some of it had dug in deep. Then he had to sew him back together…"
B.J squeezed his eyes shut, too easily able to picture the operation. He had seen many young men die from injuries like those, even as he tried so hard to save them.
Hawkeye had saved him, and it seemed unfathomable. "How the hell did he do it...?"
Potter frowned slightly. "The soldier on guard duty told me that Hawkeye carried you in. How far-?"
"The whole way," B.J admitted, ashamed by his weakness. "Almost two full days, carrying me in his arms. He never even told me he was hurt. Dammit, I should have realised…"
"It wasn't your fault, son."
"Yes it was. I should have listened to him, I should have kept control of the jeep, I should have checked him over, I should have… I… should have…" Wracking sobs cut off his words.
A warm hand squeezed his shoulder. "I know it's hard, B.J. But we're doing everything we can for him. He's a tough kid; I think he'll make it through. We just have to give him some time to get his strength back."
B.J sniffed, trying mightily to hold back further tears, and nodded. "Where – where is he?"
The colonel pointed.
B.J turned his head slowly, mindful that he still had a concussion even if the meds he was on meant he couldn't feel it at the moment.
Hawkeye was lying on the bed next to him.
B.J had watched the man sleep on many occasions. It was soothing, when the sandman refused to visit him, to just watch the slow rise and fall of Hawkeye's chest as he gently dreamed, knowing that in the moment there was at least some peace in the world.
The sight before him now was anything but soothing.
Hawkeye's face was pale, drawn, almost lifeless. He was hooked up to both a unit of blood and intravenous fluid. One of his legs was heavily bandaged and elevated slightly. He was breathing on his own, but the natural procedure appeared forced and painful.
Shrapnel to the shoulder and back. B.J had seen the blood, but Hawkeye had dismissed it as wine so he wouldn't worry. There had been stains on the supply bag. Hawkeye had lifted the jeep off him, and held it up by bracing his injured back against it as he moved B.J out of harm's way. He had to have been in a lot of pain, but he didn't let it show, focusing on B.J as his patient, keeping B.J's morale up, using his shirt to bind B.J's wounds , keeping B.J warm, making sure B.J had food and water to sustain him, carrying B.J home.
"Thanks, Hawkeye," he whispered, reaching over with his good arm to take his saviour's hand in his own. "You brought me home. And I'm not leaving your side until you make it home, too."
The whole camp was quiet, subdued. Colonel Potter was their much loved commander, but Hawkeye Pierce was the heart and soul of this M*A*S*H unit. Every single member felt keenly the absence of his jokes, his laughter, his spirit. They all took turns to drop in on him at Post Op, leaving so many cards and flowers and small gifts by his bedside that a medicine trolley was converted to act as a stand for all the well-wishes.
B.J was healing nicely, and he had been asked a few times whether he would like to move back into the Swamp. He wouldn't go without Hawkeye, though, and eventually they let him be.
Hawkeye slept for a long time, and had all the medical staff worried that he had slipped into a coma. No one tried to wake him, though, and a few gentle tests showed that he was capable of responding to his environment – B.J squeezed his hand and felt Hawkeye squeeze back, Margaret tickled the base of the foot on his uninjured leg and Hawkeye pulled away slightly from the stimulation – so he wasn't too deeply unconscious.
B.J figured he was just tired. Two days of solid walking with injuries and a heavy burden, with what could have only been a short sleep in between as Hawkeye would have surely felt the need to keep watch for enemy soldiers. And his body was probably using a lot of energy right now to help him heal. Hawkeye would wake when he was good and ready, and B.J would be here.
Once he was sure that his best friend was out of the woods, B.J took the liberty of writing to his father.
Dear Doctor Daniel Pierce,
My name is B.J Hunnicutt, close friend of your son, Hawkeye. He may have written to you about me… I've certainly heard plenty about you from him, to the point that I almost feel I know you, even though we have never met. I know that you are the most important person in Hawkeye's life, and he loves you dearly. I know you must love him, too, as do I.
I am writing you this letter to tell you that your son is a hero. He was badly hurt a few weeks ago, but he put aside the pain to help me – also injured – to get back to our unit. He saved my life. It cost him a lot, and we nearly lost him. But I am very glad to tell you that he made it past the worst of it and is getting steadily better. Our commander, Colonel Potter, has put him in for a commendation, which he greatly deserves. I will be eternally grateful to him for what he did for me. I know you probably are already, but you should be very proud of your son. I know I am.
I will keep you posted on his condition until he is well enough to write to you himself. Please don't worry about him too much, because I know he will be mad at me if I let you. Rest assured, we are giving him the best care possible. He is very important to all of us, and we are all looking forward to the day that he is up and about, joking and flirting again.
All my prayers with you and your son,
B.J was picking unenthusiastically at the food on his plate. He didn't even know what half of it was, and he didn't want to know because he was sure that he would never be able to eat it if he did.
He stabbed his fork through something as hard as a thin piece of wood, lifting it cautiously to his lips and hesitantly taking a bite.
"I know what… that smells like…"
The voice was hoarse from disuse, but there was no mistaking it.
A beam split B.J's face. "Hawkeye!" He dropped the utensil and turned quickly to face his friend. Those blue eyes were open, a little bit bleary but looking at him, and there was a twisted smile on those lips.
"It smells like week old fish… wrapped in dirty socks… and stored under the latrine."
Most days, Hawkeye's habit of describing the dreadful smell of food from the mess tent would irritate B.J to no end. Not today. B.J just grinned at him, discarded the tray and swept up Hawkeye's hand to kiss it.
"Prince Charming… isn't supposed to have a moustache."
"This one does," B.J said, his heart dancing at seeing his friend awake, talking, joking, smiling, insulting his moustache. The Korean War was hell on earth, but with Hawkeye here beside him, B.J could pretend that all was right with the world. "Welcome back, Hawkeye."
At that moment, the doors to the Post Op burst open, and what seemed like the whole camp flooded inside.
"Good ol' Hawkeye!"
"We missed you!"
"It hasn't been the same around here without you!"
"Thank God you're alright. My prayers have been answered!"
"Well, Pierce, it seems my handiwork has once again brought about a miracle. I'm glad. It would have been most… dismal to have lost your scintillating conversation and unique style of entertainment."
"You had us worried, son, but I knew you'd make it."
"You were quite the hero, Captain. It's good to have you back – O.R was far too quiet without you, and I think my nurses missed their most – persistent – admirer."
"Welcome back, Hawkeye!"
Hawkeye looked around at all of them crowded around his bed, and his eyes lighted on the well-wishes trolley as well.
A large, genuine smile lit up his face. "Lucy, I'm hoommee!"