(Author's Note: This story was written for running-still85, who requested a Hawk/Beej fic that used the George and Ira Gershwin song "They Can't Take That Away from Me" as inspiration. Thanks for the challenge, running-still85, I hope you like the result!
Pretty clearly, I do not own the lyrics of this song.)
The lone candle cast their shadows on the supply-room wall as Hawkeye stood before B.J., his hands held out. "Shall we dance?" he asked, the very title of the album he had just put on the phonograph. It was the soundtrack to the 1937 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film—one they had watched together in the mess tent three or four months ago, long before this madness began, back when things were still sweet and wonderful and about as close to bliss as you could get in the middle of a war zone. It'd been the first time B.J. saw that particular movie, and he'd loved it, and when the two of them went to Tokyo a few weeks later, Hawkeye had picked up the soundtrack album at a little shop on the Ginza so they could enjoy the songs whenever they wanted.
That album was playing now, here in the dimly lit supply room, and Hawkeye was standing there looking so sullen, inviting B.J. into his arms, wanting to dance. The song was "They Can't Take That Away from Me," and a chill ran through B.J. as the lyrics penetrated his brain and sank in.
Our romance won't end on a sorrowful note,
Though by tomorrow you're gone,
The song is ended, but as the songwriter wrote,
The melody lingers on.
They may take you from me, I'll miss your fond caress.
But though they take you from me, I'll still possess…
The way you wear your hat
The way you sip your tea
The memory of all that
No, no, they can't take that away from me.
Feeling a bit numb, B.J. stepped forward, putting his hands into Hawk's awaiting ones and his body gently against the other man's. He took a deep breath, willing himself to stay in control and not completely break down here in Hawkeye's arms. They began to sway, B.J.'s head resting against Hawk's, their bodies pressed together… more of a clinging embrace than an actual dance.
"Hawk, I just… I can't believe…" B.J. said softly against his ear, but Hawkeye stopped him.
"Don't, Beej. Let's just… let's just dance for now, OK?"
And B.J. nodded, understanding. What was there to say, anyway? It seemed like there ought to be a lot to say, but B.J. didn't have any idea where to start or where to end up, or anything in between. His mind was spinning… the last few days were a blur and a shock, almost dreamlike. But it was real and it was happening, and tonight was his last night with Hawkeye Pierce.
The way your smile just beams
The way you sing off-key
The way you haunt my dreams
No, no, they can't take that away from me.
First thing tomorrow morning, Hawkeye would be leaving for the States, the recipient of a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Army.
Dishonorable. That was such bullshit; B.J. had never known a more honorable man in his life. Especially in light of what he'd just done on B.J.'s behalf.
B.J. shut his eyes tight against the tears that threatened. This whole thing was a nightmare, to be sure, but Hawkeye—even in the midst of his own personal hell—had seen to it that B.J. would be protected from the worst-case scenario.
The two of them had simply gotten careless over time. When their relationship had begun, they'd been very careful to ensure that no one would catch them together. Every liaison was a new adventure in discretion and vigilance. But eventually they let their guards down, becoming less concerned about being discovered simply because it hadn't happened yet.
Until it did. And the person who caught them together—who caught them in flagrante delicto—was the worst one possible. Frank Burns. Narrow-minded, homophobic, uncompromising, unreasonable Frank Burns. While the man had certainly never been a friend, as a foe he'd been nonthreatening and even occasionally amusing. But not this time.
This time he played hardball, going to Col. Potter with his discovery and insisting the commander take action. Very serious action. Burns cited chapter and verse of the regs that stated homosexual activity was cause for a dishonorable discharge, and as far as he was concerned, both captains needed to be sent packing out of his camp—and the country—ASAP.
Potter tried, he really did, to reason with the major, but if there was one infraction Burns was not going to allow to be swept under the rug, it was two men having sex. When it became clear that Col. Potter's fitness for command was going to be questioned if he didn't follow through with the Section 8 discharges, Hawkeye gave in.
"Discharge me, Colonel," he'd said. "You have to, and I understand that. But can we please leave B.J.'s record clean? Can you at least talk Frank into that? I'll be gone… that's what he wants the most."
It took some doing, but Burns eventually did agree that B.J. could stay at the 4077th and that his record would not reflect any impropriety. The official story would be that Hawkeye had been caught having sex with an unnamed male patient. B.J. would be unaffected after all was said and done… except for the small matter of a broken heart and a shattered life.
"They Can't Take That Away from Me" came to an end, and B.J. pulled back a little, looking Hawk in the eyes. Still at a loss for words, he kissed Hawkeye lightly on the mouth, then a little more insistently, and then finally with abandon.
This was their last night together, and they were going to make every second count.
As the soundtrack album played on, they knelt facing each other in the candlelight and began to undress one another. B.J. watched his own fingers unbuttoning Hawkeye's shirt and thought… I'll never do this again, I'll never feel this man's flesh again, hear his breath in my ear, see those bright blue eyes…
He had to stop that train of thought or he'd burst into tears. Tonight was about sharing love for the last time, not wallowing in their pain.
The filthy mattress on the floor of the supply room was lumpy and stained and pretty damn disgusting, but B.J. laid down on it willingly and looked up at Hawkeye hovering over him. He looked so beautiful. B.J. reached up and ran a hand over Hawkeye's bare chest, then settled it on his heart, feeling the thump-thump beneath his palm. "I love you," was all he could think to say, and maybe it was enough.
A wan smile came to Hawkeye's face. "I love you too. Always." He leaned in for a kiss. "Promise me you'll be OK here, promise me you'll take care of yourself."
B.J. swallowed. "I promise."
Hawkeye nodded, satisfied. Then, as the album continued to play the giddy soundtrack of a romantic comedy in stark contrast to their situation, Hawkeye rested his body on B.J.'s and they both shut their eyes, rocking gently against each other, letting feelings and instinct take over. B.J.'s world grew smaller and smaller until it consisted of only him and his lover, their sighs and moans, their movements and rhythm.
Hours later, passion finally gave way to exhaustion, and they fell asleep curled together for the last time.
Pounding on a door… Bam bam bam! B.J. blinked awake and instantly knew they'd overslept. Somebody—maybe Klinger, maybe Potter—was banging on the supply-room door, knowing full well they were in here.
Hawkeye turned over, calling out in the general direction of the door, "Be out in a second!"
They groggily dressed in silence. B.J. packed up the phonograph and put the album back in its sleeve. He kept himself busy so he wouldn't have to look at Hawkeye's face and see the melancholy there, the defeat.
They walked together back to the Swamp, where Klinger was waiting in a running jeep that had Hawkeye's packed bags in the back. It didn't seem possible that the moment had arrived. In the snap of a finger, Hawkeye Pierce would be driven away, put on a plane, sent Stateside, where he would have to explain to his father—maybe even to his patients—why he'd been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army. B.J. couldn't even begin to make sense of it.
In his mind's eye, he grabbed hold of Hawkeye and whisked him off to someplace far away, Australia maybe, where they'd hide out under aliases and make a home together, living happily ever after. It would be a perfect plan, B.J. thought, except he wouldn't be able to survive without his baby daughter.
He was struggling to figure out what to say when the P.A. system interrupted his jumbled, frantic thoughts. "Attention, attention… incoming wounded! Lots of 'em! All medical personnel report to the OR on the double."
The sound of choppers suddenly filled the air, and B.J. looked skyward to see them approaching over the mountains. When he turned to look back at Hawkeye, he was already sitting in the jeep next to Klinger, obviously working hard to keep his composure.
"Bye, Beej." Hawkeye's attempt at a smile failed miserably.
But Hawkeye held up a hand, stopping him. "Don't. I already know. Everything you could possibly want to say, I already know."
B.J. went to him and kissed him. They were long past caring who saw them, and all Klinger did was bow his head, letting them have their moment.
When B.J. finally let go of Hawkeye, he turned and walked briskly to the OR, not allowing himself to look back. He heard the jeep drive off, and he whimpered involuntarily as he forgot for a second how to breathe. He realized his heart felt both utterly empty and entirely too heavy.
Eleven hours later, after the last of the wounded was stitched up and gingerly transported to post-op, B.J. shuffled back to the Swamp still wearing his whites, almost unable to walk in his fatigue and sorrow. The first thing he saw when he stepped into the tent was the "Shall We Dance" soundtrack album on Hawkeye's cot, and for some reason, that destroyed him. He went to his knees, his hands covering his eyes as the tears finally came, bitter and hot. Like a record with a skip, he kept hearing the same line over and over in his head.
The way you changed my life…
The way you changed my life…
The way you changed my life…
No, they can't take that away from me.