The Fourteenth Day
Dagny (dagny3213@hotmail.com)
Hawkeye/BJ, in the PG-13/R range (eventually)
Note: The scenes alternate between 'past' and 'present', 'past' being Korea and 'present' being three years later. Hope it isn't too confusing.
For more Mash Slash, visit the archive at mashslash.topcities.com/main.html or the yahoo group at groups.yahoo.com/group/mash-slash/

***

The Fourteenth Day

Part I

***

BJ walked slowly up a San Fransisco sidewalk to his house, wrapping a coat around himself to protect from the chill air off the bay. His knees were starting to pain him, but that wasn't necessarily a sign of age, not with these hills. It didn't matter - it wasn't the sting in the air or the cramp in his side that occupied his thoughts. He absentmindedly tugged his gloves up over his wrists.

For the first part of the past few years he'd spent climbing the steep street, he'd been remembering the way that pothole needed fixing or why those owners should get their bedroom window some blinds, readjusting to a life that had once been all he could concieve of, all he dreamed of as a surgeon in Korea. For the first part of the past few years he hadn't even noticed getting breathless on the way up, so busy was he congratulating the houses for having real tiled roofs and the people for not needing bomb shelters.

But now, this was when his mind wandered. Or, when it wandered farthest - it was liable to take little day trips at other times as well.

This was when his mind wandered to the fact that they might not need bomb shelters - yet - but they still needed the police. To the fact that they might not need to sell their daughters for food but they still needed to put her to bed before they fought in fierce, hushed voices across the hall.

War is hell. But that doesn't make peace heaven.

It had taken him a while to see that. He kept spending his time in shades of gray - or rather green. Green t-shirts and green boxer shorts and the coloring of his memories made them seem like dreams. Or surrealistic paintings. Something wild, daring, a once-in-a-lifetime experience of happiness mixed with guilt mixed with pain.

He wasn't wild. He wasn't daring. He played pranks. He had a motorcycle, yes, but he also had a wife and a daughter. When he got home Peg told him he had changed, but she was just referring to a couple of gray hairs and a lot of bad puns. She didn't see the other things.

Or maybe she did see. They had lost something more than time, they had lost the ability to really understand eachother. And he couldn't pinpoint why, although he knew it was his fault. Maybe it was the simple fact of his having gone away. But more likely - it was that he was a different person because of the people he had met. Before he had left, his entire life had been Peg and Erin and once a month a visit with his parents. Now it was Peg and Erin and his parents and phone calls to the Colonel and a letter from Klinger and a visit from Margaret. And Hawkeye.

It wasn't that he didn't love her. From the moment he got home he had wanted to dance with her and listen to her sing, to watch her play with Erin, and to make love to her at night, to come home from a day at the practice and eat the dinner she made, with her smiling next to him, so beautiful...

It was just something else that he had found overseas. Something that spat insults at enlistment officers and Presidents on television, because they were hypocrites, and agents of death. Something that would rather have sex on a scratchy hotel bedspread than on lace. Something that could never, ever skip the opportunity for a good joke.

He didn't laugh very much at home. He smiled a lot. But he didn't really laugh.

Twice was all he had seen Hawkeye. The first time he had flown out there by himself and spent a week. Then Hawk had flown to San Fransisco and spent a weekend. Thirteen days. After so long together, sleeping in the same room, finishing one another's sentences, discovering scars and hopes and desires and weaknesses, and forming new ones, the past three years they had seen each other a total of thirteen days.

Sometimes when Peg woke him up in the morning, before he opened his eyes, he would blurt out 'Hawkeye?'. To her it meant nothing. He had told her that was his tentmate's nickname. And BJ's habits were hard to break - he still approached food with caution and mail with joy. This was just another little remnant of the war, and a harmless one, at that. It wasn't like he called Hawkeye's name when they made love. At least, not out loud.

They had written a lot of letters, but as fun as it was to read them, they didn't really say much. They had never been very good at telling eachother things, not important things - they were always blurted, and often regretted. BJ had thrown out dozens of his own drafts, he was sure Hawkeye had done the same.

The only time he had ever known exactly what to say was when he had spelled out 'goodbye' with stones on the helicopter landing pad. But even then, he was gone before Hawkeye read it, speeding away on his motorcycle, down the hill without a path. He didn't know whether Hawkeye had laughed or cried. Probably both. BJ himself was lucky he hadn't run off the road for all the tears and the wind stinging his eyes.

As much as it hurt, he had done that for Hawkeye. Who needed the certainty. Who needed him to say, 'I love you enough to be honest with you - I love you enough to acknowledge the pain of leaving you - I love you enough not to pretend we can ever recapture what we had in this place'. Summed up in the simple word that no one ever really gave him, "Goodbye".

And so he had given it to him. In exchange for moments of sarcasm and hysteric laughter. In exchange for well-deserved pillows thrown in his face, less-deserved kisses on his forehead and mouth and cheek. In exchange for being held against his chest, against the worn softness of his military t-shirt, listening to his heartbeat. For being kept sane, kept alive, kept whole up until that point.

When, in exchange, he had said "Goodbye" and torn himself apart.

***

It had really all started with one conversation. Or, that was as close as BJ could get to a beginning. Before that it was random, reasonable touches, friendly affection, and what at the time he assumed was brotherly love.

Charles was on duty, Hawkeye was making a half-hearted attempt to get drunk.

"Sex is like surgery," Hawkeye said, taking another gulp from his glass. "Meatball, I mean. This kind of surgery. Hurried. Just for survival. And no attachments, there can't be any attachments. Just desire. Just trying to forget."

"Always?" BJ asked quietly. They didn't really talk about Hawkeye's women that much, perhaps his friend was trying to respect his status as Father and Loving Husband. BJ was uncertain of his ground. And he had no idea where this was going.

"Almost always. It's about the present. The now. It helps you put yesterday to sleep. And it numbs you to tomorow. Actually, it's more like anesthesia." He seemed to be in the mood for bad metaphor.

"No attachments because people leave?"

"Yes. And even if they don't, I think they will, which amounts to the same thing. I don't want any more pain from this place. I want relief."

BJ had known that about as long as he had known Hawkeye - still, it was a surprise to have him admit it. He prodded him, "It's a relief to you?"

"Well, I... is drinking a relief? I don't know. It's kind of like getting drunk."

"Really?"

"Really. Less of a hangover, though. I guess it isn't that way with you and Peg."

"No," he left it at that.

Hawkeye was silent for a time, then. Closed his eyes. He might have been asleep except he was still sort of sitting up, and his finger drummed on his bedsheet semi-conciously. When he did speak again, it startled BJ.

"It's not always that way, you know. It's not always black or white. And I've never knowingly led a person on. If I really care about them..."

His voice trailed off, so BJ supplied, "You what?"

"If I really care about them I try to be honest. Tell them that I'm not the type of person they want to be with."

BJ wasn't sure if Hawkeye realized he was using gender neutral words. Wasn't sure if he was supposed to notice that, either. "You seem to think you're a lot worse then you are."

"How do you think I am?" Hawkeye replied, jumping at the chance to ask a question instead of answering it.

"I think you expect too little out of love. This war, is hell. No matter how low you set the bar the war always manages to sneak beneath it. If you think about sex the same way - divorced from love - then that's what you're going to aim for. In fact, I think you're meeting your standards admirably. I just wish you had better standards."

Hawkeye opened his eyes to look at him, a little wary but considering. "So how is it with you and Peg?"

"What?"

"I thought we agreed that it was different with you two."

BJ considered for a moment how to reply. "She's so beautiful, I've always wanted her. But even if she wasn't pretty, I would still have that desire. Because I love her. There's a part of her soul I just respond to."

There was a long pause. A very awkward one. Hawkeye gave him an amused look.

"You asked."

"Yeah."

"You *asked*," BJ said again, half embarased, half annoyed.

"Yeah. I didn't know you were the type."

"What type?"

"The secret poet type."

"You're very immature." Pause. "I didn't even rhyme."

"You said 'soul'. It was very poetical."

"First, you asked. Secondly, I didn't rhyme. Thirdly, you want me to shut up? I will."

"No," Hawkeye said quickly, "I just like making fun of you. But this is - this is interesting. If a tad bit metaphysical. So, you desire what you love?"

"Yes."

"Maybe we should give it a try."

"What?" BJ nearly dropped his glass. He looked at it and it was unreassuringly still half full. It felt very hot in the tent.

"I said, maybe I should give it a try. Take your advice. Start something up with the intention of finishing it."

"No, you didn't."

"Didn't what?"

"Say that."

"What did I say, then?"

BJ looked away. "Never mind."

"BJ?"

"Never mind."

"Seriously, BJ, what's wrong? What did you think I said? I was joking before. You can speak in couplets if it makes you feel better."

"I'm fine," BJ said. But then he got up from the chair he was sitting on and went to lie down on his bed, wishing his friend hadn't noticed anything so he could take a walk instead. He flipped a blanket over his midsection, turned his face to the wall to where the slightly cooler air might leak through.

"Beej?"

"I'm fine," he reassured him. "Just tired. And I have the morning shift, you know. Can we continue this later?"

"We don't have to continue this at all," Hawkeye asked, although he sounded less worried, if still uncertain about the conversation's abrupt end. "If you don't want to."

"Whatever you like, Hawk," said BJ, keeping his voice neutral. "Right now, I want to go to sleep."

But he didn't sleep. He spent most of that night with his face pressed against the pillow, struggling with being practical and being honest, trying to figure out what that part of his response to the misunderstood comment had not entirely been shock.

***

He took Erin to the park in the morning, after breakfast, because it was a Saturday and Peg wanted to go shopping. He took her to one of the smaller ones, the residential ones, where parents often stay to watch their children play. It had been three years but he marvelled at her still, the same way he marvelled at the brightly colored foliage, the flowers and the trees, all this youth and life and beauty so absent from the war.

Best of all, BJ reflected, it was a temperate zone. He never wanted to live through another scorching Korean summer or bitter Korean winter again. Although, if it got too cold, there were cerain ways you could warm up, certain ways you could share body heat and... well.

At first she had insisted on going to the Peak, the highest point in San Fransisco where you could see the steep sloping rows of houses all the way to Fisherman's Wharf, and if you walked over to your right you could glimpse downtown. And of course you could look at golden gate bridge. Erin loved going up there, but BJ was always afraid she would be blown off. The wind even made *him* stagger. The few times he had taken her up there he had held her hand so tightly she said it hurt.

Some promises of candy later made her agree to a park, and now BJ was sitting on a bench watching her in the sandbox, relishing the prospect of when she would move onto the swings. He might be a bit overprotective, but that didn't extend to swingsets. He loved to push her on them. She clung so tightly, but yelled, "Daddy, higher!" with every back-and-forth.

BJ smiled.

Erin knew who he was this time, and if she had held back at the airport, now she rushed to greet him every evening when he came home. She wrapped herself around one leg, and he walked, or rather staggered, into the dining room. Giggled, and knelt to tug at his shoelaces.

'This is what I dreamed about,' BJ thought suddenly. 'This. In every detail.' The sun warming them despite the wind, Erin's sweet beckoning laughter, the light freedom and restfullness, and in his dreams he had never had to place Hawkeye beside him because in real life he was already there.

BJ frowned. Peg was what he had wished for, in Korea.

Peg was like Erin, beautiful and innocent. But that didn't help him when he lost a patient and every night for the next week his nightmares were of unceasing hours in the OR, no time to change out of blood-stained gloves before the next body arrived. Sometimes in his dreams they didn't use gloves, just bowls of water, and when he stuck his hands in he was too hurried to notice it was boiling, until his blistered skin began to flake.

She didn't understand that he needed Hawkeye's comfort as much as if they'd really been through a battle. And she'd wait in bed, saddened, disaproving, while he dialed Hawkeye's number on the phone downstairs. His voice, over the line, murmuring what he had learned from his father, from his own nightmares, murmuring and making up for the fact that he couldn't hold him when he told him it was all right. The distance tended to hide their emotions, but in his voice was manifest tenderness.

And then, when Erin asked him why he had been away, although in truth she was starting to forget his long absence, and he said, "The President needed me." Pause. "To do his dirty work."

Peg would say, "Darling, don't say that. It's unpatriotic."

There was a man named McCarthy in the senate. BJ couldn't tell whether his wife agreed with that Senator or was afraid of him even in their own home. Once his practice got started up again, he had bought her a television. It didn't appeal to him, but Erin was enraptured by the crackling black and white picture, and sometimes Peg left the 'telly' on and McCarthy's voice floated out during dinner, as arrogant and irrational as a cultured Frank Burns.

"Turn it off," he'd say viciously.

And then Peg's voice would soften, and she would say, "I understand, BJ, but we can't ignore the world."

"No, you don't. Understand," and his tone would still be sharp.

"Are you saying I didn't suffer?" she would ask, hurt. "All those years, missing you? Having to work, and making our mothers take care of Erin? And now? Listening to you moan in those horrid dreams?"

But it was just different. He wanted to say, 'You had our mothers. You had Erin. And you didn't have the war, or these nightmares.'

He didn't want to hurt her further. So he didn't say it. But he kept it inside himself, and thought about it while sitting on park benches and walking up streets.

"Daddy, come on, come on!" and suddenly Erin was standing before him, blinking through strands of blond hair. Her eyes were excited and alert, but still so young. He had time with her yet. He forced all the other thoughts from his mind, and stood up.

Gave her a hug and surreptitiously wiped the sand off the back of her dress.

Followed her to the swings.

***

By the next day, everything had been back to normal. While something lingered uncomfortably in the back of his mind, when Hawkeye joined him at lunch, he instinctually slid over to let him sit beside. After a few games of "smell this" he was too torn between laughing, groaning and vomitting to think of anything else.

"I don't want to know what you think this stuff is!" BJ protested, pushing away a forkful of off-white goo, "The mystery is bad enough for me without you spoiling it."

"You're mistaken. This food has already been spoiled," Hawkeye retorted. "For about a month, actually, and that was before a Korean farmer took it and - "

"Stop!" BJ nearly shouted, before Hawkeye could tell him what it had been used for. "You're only making it worse."

"I'd second that opinion," said a voice from next to them, "if I was a doctor instead of a priest."

They both turned to welcome Father Mulcahy, gesturing for him to join them, but he gave an amused but wary look at Hawkeye and shook his head. "I think I'll take a seat elsewhere..."

"No, Father. Wait. I'll be a good boy," Hawkeye tried to look repentant.

"If you are, you can have dessert," Father Mulcahy joked, sitting down.

"Don't tempt him," BJ said dryly.

But Hawkeye had stopped playing with the food and was bravely attempting to eat some of it. "So, changing subjects..."

Both BJ and Father Mulcahy breathed sighs of relief.

"You're in a good mood today," the latter said. He moved something pink and dry around on his plate.

"Got some sleep for once," Hawkeye said.

BJ hesitated, then explained. "No nurses last night."

"Glad to hear it," the priest replied. Hawkeye glanced at him briefly, then shrugged. Most of the time Francis Mulcahy was just a friend to joke around with, but he also held the same values as any man of the cloth.

"I think BJ's having a good influence on me. Tried to convince me out of my wanton ways."

"Really?"

BJ stayed silent; Hawkeye answered for him, "Yeah. Standards. Commitment. Sex is spiritual..." Thankfully, he didn't use the word 'soul'.

"That it is, that it is," Father Mulcahy nodded. "Well, certain types of," he coughed self-conciously, "sex."

"Certain types?"

"Well, not, let's see, beastiality," he blushed at the word, but continued manfully, "incest... and sodomy."

"Wait a minute," Hawkeye objected. "You forgot some. There's adultery."

"Yes, I suppose so."

"What about sex between an unmarried couple?" Hawkeye continued.

"It crossed my mind," Father Mulcahey replied, clearing his throat. "But it didn't seem altogether polite to bring it up."

"Or what about sex using birth control?"

"Well, yes, that, too," the Father said, looking at Hawkeye strangely and turning rather red.

"And what about - "

"If you'll excuse me," Father Mulcahy murmured, so obviously ill at ease it would have made BJ uncomfortable if he wasn't already, "I've got to attend to, erm, something."

"What was that all about, Hawk?" BJ asked once he had gone.

Hawkeye stuck his fork on his tray and pushed it across the table. He hunched his shoulders, tense in an undefined way. "I don't get it. Father Mulcahy is the least judgemental person I know. I guess I just forgot it comes with his business."

"I take it you disagree with him?" BJ asked cautiously.

"Heck, yes. Sex might not be the most meaningful thing in the world to me, but I don't think it's immoral. Or that there's anything wrong with some nurse trying to protect herself. And you know what, BJ? If there are two soldiers who are going to die for their country tomorow, who has any right to tell them what they can do tonight?"

Somewhere outside of the mess tent a basketball game was starting up. "Nobody," BJ said.

"I'd rather see them in sin than in body bags," Hawkeye muttered.

"I think Father Mulcahey would agree with you."

Hawkeye breathed in, very slowly, very deeply. "That's what I don't get."

***