It was a year to the date after the sad passing of Colonel Potter, and once again the members of the 4077 gathered in Crabapple Cove to mark the sad anniversary. They had never forgotten the memories they'd shared and formed during their first reunion, and in their own grieving way, were happy to gather again to share their memories of their time during Korea.
BJ had arrived first, the night before the gathering, to help Hawkeye prepare his place for the huge gathering that was sure to come. It was only the third time in eleven years that they'd seen each other, and yet it seemed as if no time had passed. First came the embrace to end all embraces, then the "hey's" then the laughter picked up at the awkward silence that had formed between them. There was so much to say, and yet so little time to say it. Finally BJ broke the silence.
"Have you ever wondered what Korea would have been like? You know, if Sherman hadn't been there?"
Hawkeye paused to think about it. "Sometimes I have. It would have been like if you hadn't shown up, or if Trapper hadn't been there. It's not something I like to think about, but it still is something I do."
"I don't think I would have survived if it weren't for you guys. You know, after all we've been through...you saw me at my best and my worst, and still you were there for me. I never have been able to put into words how much you meant to me. I wanted to tell you that last time, but I just didn't have the time...or even the words."
"Aw, Beej, you sentimental fool. You always were the mushy type. Except for the end of the war. When I wanted to know if you would remember me, you refused to answer. What was up with that anyways?"
BJ shook his head. "Come on, Hawk. There'll be time enough for mush tomorrow. What say we make the most of our time together?"
"I'm serious. Losing Sherman was hard, but losing you was the most difficult thing I've ever been through."
BJ looked at him, wanting to ask if it was more difficult than his friend's breakdown, but just couldn't bring himself to do it.
As if he could once again read his best friend's mind, Hawkeye nodded. "Yes, it was even more difficult than that."
"I'm sorry, Hawk. I didn't want to bring that up..."
"No, no, it's all right. My mind's as sharp as ever... if it ever was."
"You were the sharpest guy I knew! That's why it was so hard to see you like that."
Hawkeye frowned. "But you did, and you didn't back away. I'll never be able to thank you for being there for me when I needed someone the most. You, I knew I could always count on, even when I couldn't count on my old noggin. You're all right, Hunicutt. You know that?"
BJ smiled. "That's what they say! Except for Peg, when I forget to take out the trash."
They both laughed. "I'm serious, BJ. I didn't have the words to thank you for being there for me when I needed you the most. I didn't trust myself, but I knew that I could trust you. Do you know how frustrating it is to not to be able to trust your own mind?"
"There were a few moments for me like that in Korea," BJ acknowledged. "Remember when I took out the still?"
"And my nose in the process."
Again they laughed, although at the time it wasn't funny.
"You know, after losing Sherman, I've been doing a lot of thinking. About what I could do differently if I could," Hawkeye mused.
"And did you come to any conclusions?".
"I wouldn't have let you go back to Mill Valley."
"Come on, Hawk. You knew the war wouldn't last forever. I had a family to go back to."
"But what about me? Wasn't I family?"
"You were more than family," BJ replied seriously. "You were my blood brother. I would have literally given my life for you."
"But you didn't, so all's well that ends well, right?" Hawkeye grinned nervously.
"What do you want me to say? You know I'm not very good at emotions. That's what Peg and I fight about when we do fight. She wants me to open up about the war, about my experiences, about you. But I can't. How can I put into words the gratitude I have for someone who gave me my life back just when I thought I'd lost it?"
"Aw, Beej, I never knew you felt that way about me."
"All you guys...even Ferret Face in his own way gave me a reason to live, a reason to go on. Just when I thought I couldn't take any more, he would do something stupid in his own rotten way and get me to laugh again just when I thought the laughter had run out. And you...".
"Yeah, I know," Hawkeye interrupted. "I feel the same way about you."
"Do you know the worst part of the war for me?"
"Missing out on Erin's childhood?"
"Yeah, of course. But the worst part was when I thought I was leaving and didn't have time to say goodbye to you. You don't know but it about killed me to get on that helicopter."
"Yeah, it didn't do wonders for my morale either."
"But you know what? We got to say our goodbyes. That's something some of us didn't get to do," BJ said, recalling Trapper, Henry and Sherman. "We survived, and for that I'd say we're the lucky ones."
"I'll drink to that," Hawkeye poured himself and BJ a drink, and they downed it in appropriately gluttonously fashion.
"You know, Beej, there was part of me that stayed in Korea. I could never shake it, not until after learning about Sherman. I wanted to thank him, tell him so many things, but I never found the words. Imagine that, me at a loss for words?"
BJ smiled, knowing exactly what his friend meant. "You know, tomorrow will be a busy day, and I doubt we'll have this much time together..."
Hawkeye didn't say anything. It dawned on him that BJ was right, this was probably the last time they would ever see each other. How could you put into words how grateful you were for someone who saved your life and your soul?
He couldn't, he decided. So they drank on, content to live with their memories, and the knowledge that all they had was that moment. And for that, they would treasure that day forever.