"Why?" you manage to say between deliriously frantic kisses. "Why now?" He has never tried to contact you before; you don't understand why you should run into him now.
"Fate," he murmurs, and you find it too whimsical an answer for your taste but are loath to make fun of it. You wonder if he believes in such things. You don't know if you ever did, but if you did, Korea would have destroyed all of that. There was no such thing as fate. Just bad choices.
His hands are roaming over your body and you remember other times when he touched you this way. That long ago time when the two of you were alone in the hut was the first occasion but you don't like to think about it because it still hurts that you mistook comfort for love. So you shy away from that memory, and let yourself remember the other times he snuck into your tent, or you asked him to stay with you, the way it became second nature to find comfort in each other's bodies. Second nature to not read too much into it. Second nature to love him without falling in love. You know that last bit's a lie, but it's a lie you've held to for this many years, and you aren't going to stop now.
He's pulling your top off and you think maybe you should tell him to stop. You wonder if he wants to talk to you at all or if he just wants comfort for a while. You are about to stop him when his hand goes lower and you throw your head back against his shoulder. You decide talk can wait until you can think again.
He has always been good at touching you, good at knowing what you like. It surprises you that he would be so much better than the others, but maybe when he spent so much time in the early years together learning how to get your goat, he also picked up a few tips that would apply in less antagonistic circumstances. Like these.
You don't try to be quiet; he likes it when you're loud. And as you slump against him, you feel his lips on your cheek and his voice is unusually tender as he says your name. You turn to look at him and he is smiling, and it is a sad smile. He seems uncomfortable under your gaze, and kisses you in a long, sweet kiss. You want to ask him what's wrong but you know he won't tell you. So you turn your attention to his body, and find him ready for you. You try to maneuver but he holds you in place and you are suddenly confused. This is the easy part of relating to him. Why is he stopping you?
He kisses you again, and then he buries his face in your chest, his lips still nipping at you as he says, "I'm lost, Margaret."
You don't move, can't breathe.
"I can't get away from it." He pulls away, staring at you.
You nod, unsure what he wants you to say. Then you realize he doesn't want you to say anything. He's waiting to hear what you want to say. You relax muscles you didn't realize you'd been holding tight, reach for his face, rubbing your thumbs gently along his cheekbones.
"I can't either," you say--the first time you've said it to anyone who would really believe you. "I had to see a psychiatrist..." You can't finish, feel embarrassed.
He nods. "Work sent you?" His smile shows you he's been in the same boat. "What we need, Margaret, is a shrink who's been to Korea."
He nods. "I looked him up last year. Thought he could help me like he did so many times in Korea."
"And he couldn't?"
Hawkeye looks away and you understand.
"How?" He's not the first. Henry Blake was the first. Killed before he even made it back home. And you heard that Donald was shot dead by Darlene, his mistress back when you were stupid enough to be married to him. His mistress, then his wife--a wife angry enough to kill when she found out he cheated on her too. That cracked you up for some reason--it was after about five margaritas, that could have been the reason. But you thought that the rest of the people you knew in Korea were still alive out there, somewhere you could find them.
"Cancer," Hawkeye says and you close your eyes.
You see a lot of that in internal medicine. Cancer. Such a simple word, kind of pretty actually. But it's not pretty. People come in complaining to the doctor of a pain here, a weird tightness there. They leave with a death sentence. The treatments are horrible, and they never seem to make any difference. You sometimes want to tell the people not to bother, just go home. Die with dignity. But then you see a patient actually improve, actually live, and you think that maybe you should just keep your advice to yourself.
Besides it's better to just stay out of other people's lives. Better to just leave them alone when you're as screwed up as you know yourself to be. "There should be a number you can call."
"There is. It's called the VA."
You roll your eyes. "I'd rather be crazy."
He nods. "Me too."
He buries his face in your neck, breathing deeply. You don't wear the same perfume anymore, wonder if he likes what he smells. His arms are wrapped around you in a tight embrace and you relax against him, let him sniff you and hold you and kiss your neck where it meets your collarbone.
"I've missed you," you whisper. Again such honesty.
"I look for you at every conference," he replies.
"Look for me at my home address, Hawkeye. It would be easier." Your voice is harsh, and you don't care. He knew where you were; Klinger sent out everyone's addresses. He could have looked.
His arms tighten around you, as if acknowledging you are right. "I thought..."
He laughs, the sound is so bitter it makes the hairs on the back of your neck rise. It is the perfect imitation of your own laugh.
"I thought," he says so softly you have to strain to hear him, "that if you were okay and I showed up like this, I'd just pull you down with me."
"How could you think I'd be okay?"
"You were tougher than I was." He pulls away, touches your cheek so softly, painting the lines of your chin with his fingers.
"I wanted to believe you were. I wanted to believe that when things got too bad, you would be there to save me." He reaches for his drink. "This has been the only thing I've asked for salvation lately." He holds it up to your lips and you drink deeply.
"I know. Me too." You look away. "It's a problem." Easier to say than that you have a problem with it.
"I know." He drains the glass. "I don't care."
You know it's true because you haven't cared about it either for so long. You shift, feel him push you up. Once you're standing, he takes the rest of your clothes off, then follows you up, pulling off his own clothes.
You suddenly wonder if the cost of one night with him will be worth how much it will hurt to walk away again. He frowns at your expression, lets go of you and goes to sit on the edge of the bed. He stares at you, as if trying to assess your mood, as if you are not both naked and about to have sex. Suddenly tired of the scrutiny, you hurry to him, push him backwards and wait till he is in the middle of the bed, safely anchored by hard mattress and worn sheets, before climbing onto him and finishing what he started.
He holds you when it's over, holds you and kisses you and then he begins to shake. You would comfort him, would tell him not to cry if you weren't crying too.
"I nearly killed myself last month," you whisper to him.
"Pills." There were lots of pills in internal medicine. Although the hospital is getting stricter. Too many nurses are addicted these days.
You planned to take the whole bottle. Drank half a bottle of vodka to make it easier to take the pills. But the booze and the meds mixed wrong. You spent half the night throwing up into the toilet, the other half lying in a ball on the bathroom floor as you faded in and out of consciousness. You woke up at noon the next day. Called in and made up some story about the flu.
You think they believed you. If not, they probably just thought you were drunk or hung over.
"Don't do that."
You look at him.
"Don't kill yourself. I need you." He kisses you, and this time there is something utterly tragic in the caress. "I need you, Margaret."
"Have you tried to do it?"
He laughs and it is the bitter sound again. "Oh, not directly. I do stupid things though. I go out on the water in our boat when I've had too much to drink. I drink in the boat and midnight fish and hope that I'll fall overboard as I haul one in. Or I walk through the woods during hunting season wearing white-tailed deer brown." He smiles. "I live a charmed life. I don't fall in the water and no one ever shoots me."
"I'm glad," you say.
"Why?" His hands are moving over you again. You realize you have never known another person's body better than his. Or wanted to know anyone's as well as you know his. Even Frank was more a mystery to you than Pierce, even if you were with Frank more frequently. Even if Frank loved you in his own twisted way.
But for you, Frank was an infatuation. Hawkeye was...
You would rather not think what he was.
"Why are you glad I'm not dead, Margaret?" He kisses you again, his lips pressing at yours in a way that is insistent and territorial.
You don't answer.
"Just say it, dammit. For once, just say it." He sounds frantic, the manic irritation that Korea used to bring out in him.
You don't want to say it. "Why do I have to be the one to say it?"
"Because I have to know."
You try to pull away from him. "Why? So you can reject me? So you can walk away from me again?" You wrench yourself away, roll to the edge of the bed. The floor is inches away, you could be up and dressed and gone in moments if you wanted to.
He touches your back, and you sigh.
You don't want to leave him.
"Say it. Please?"
"I love you."
The words hang in the air. You wish you could take them back. Wish you could make them into a joke or a lie. But you can't.
You love him.
You have loved him for too long. And you have never told him.