Hawkeye helped Margaret with a cupboard, pulling it away from the wall and then lying it on it's front. They got the other remaining cupboard, both cringing when a loud squeal suddenly rang out with their dragging it, then also laid that on its front, on top of the first cupboard.
Hawkeye stood back a moment and shook his head. "You know," he eventually muttered, "you'd think we'd have better for Beej. All those wounded got the best from us... the best we could offer, but Beej here, that deserves the best, he gets a rusty penknife and a cupboard to lie on." He looked up and away at that point, turning away from Margaret.
Margaret took a step towards him with her hand out and placed it on his back. "Hawkeye?" she whispered, "It's the best we can offer him now. And even if it weren't BJ, it would be the best we could offer anyone." She looked down at the inert body of her friend and added, "Let's just get it over with and get him back to someplace that he does deserve."
Hawkeye turned and faced her. He smiled but his concern for BJ quickly wiped it from his face. He silently nodded, then looked down at his friend. Eventually he said, "I'll take his body, you get his legs."
Margaret nodded and stood at BJ's feet. She waited for Hawkeye's nod and then lifted BJ's legs. She winced when he moaned and quickly shifted her weight when he moved. She shuffled twice backwards and gently laid BJ's legs on top of the top cupboard. She immediately went to BJ's head and started to wipe away the sweat from his forehead, dipping the pad she was using in a small dish she had found and washing his face the best she could. Here and there she would whisper a consolation to him, hoping to ease his suffering.
Hawkeye stood back a moment and watched her. All the times when his dislike of her had overridden everything else about the Major, he had missed this. Her gentleness and concern for the patient. He waited a moment before he took a step forward and said, "I'm sorry Margaret."
"For missing this."
"Your kindness, your concern...Your worry."
Margaret smiled at him and then laughed when she said, "I didn't exactly give you cause to look too hard, Hawkeye, besides..." she sighed, "it's the past."
"Past or not, I am sorry..."
Again Margaret smiled, "All right, Hawkeye, if it makes you feel better, I accept your apology..."
Hawkeye's eyes twinkled.
"But..." Margaret added, "only if you accept mine..."
Hawkeye chuckled, "Y'know, poor Beej here's not gonna get what he needs if we spend all day apologising to one another. I'm sorry, you're sorry, fine..." He looked at BJ before softly adding, "let's get on with it."
Hawkeye looked to the head of the makeshift bed and watched Margaret place a pad saturated with chloroform over the mouth and nose of his friend. He watched her as she stroked the back of their friend's head and listened to her whispered words of comfort. Then he got the nod from her. He leant a little forward and started to cut into his friend's leg. Almost at once the memories of the horror all three of them had had to endure over two and a half years came to mind.
Two and a half years... that was all. He felt as if Korea had been a lifetime for him. Too many long hours, too many young bodies maimed almost beyond recognition, too many deaths... and to end his stint here was to find himself having to operate on his friend with a penknife.
He hated it. He hated war with a passion. He would never see the sense in it. He would never understand the why's of such a thing. He would never understand where the glory could come from such a thing. He'd spent two and a half years in a place that had held no glory at all for him, only a strong sense of futility and sadness. Such a waste of life that in the future would only be known as numbers. Not the fact that they had died, that they had never returned to their families and that those families had never see their son, father or brother again. No depth to the losses, only a number that signified just how many losses *had* occurred.
He gritted his teeth. He'd meant it when he'd said, "There are people dying over here" but even then he could see that they could not fully comprehend the relevance of such a thing. The arrogant "Well that's war, kid" that immediately followed. Yes, it was war but why war was wanted or ever needed in the first place he would never understand. He thumped the makeshift table with a clenched fist of anger and turned away.
He turned back and faced Margaret, then looked down at BJ and then at the wound. He silently shook his head and finished the incision. He leant forward and looked into the wound, prodding it with the tip of the knife until he felt something other than the softness of tissue within the wound. He took the knife out and looked closer. He stuck a couple of fingers in where the penknife had been and felt for the foreign object. He was tempted to cut the bullet out, but didn't want to unless he couldn't get it out with his fingers.
He managed to get his middle and forefinger under the bullet. He gently waggled them from side to side whilst pulling upwards. He managed to get the bullet closer to the outer skin but not all the way out. He took the penknife and cut into the wound, around where the bullet was now lodged, grasped the bullet with his other middle and forefinger and then pulled it all the way out, whilst the penknife pushed the edge of the wound further open.
Hawkeye blinked hard at the small object that had caused so much damage. It was hard to believe that something so small could snuff out a life quicker than a candle flame. He threw the bullet across the room with disgust and hit the table again with his fist.
"Hawkeye, what's wrong?"
Again Hawkeye shook his head, "I can't Margaret," he muttered through gritted teeth of pain, "I can't tell you." He started to wrap the leg wound with more bandages that were made up of his shirt.
Margaret stood, leant close to BJ's ear and whispered, "I'll be right back BJ." Set then stood, walked over to Hawkeye and asked, "Can't tell me what, Hawkeye?"
"Any of it... None of it..." Hawkeye growled at her, tied the pad of shirt to BJ's leg, then turned away and thumped the makeshift table again.
Margaret quickly glanced at BJ, to see if the jolting of the makeshift table had disturbed him, but seeing that he still remained unconscious, she placed a hand on Hawkeye's elbow and led him away. When they reached the other side of the room, she gently tugged at his elbow and silently indicated with her head that they should sit.
"I can't Margaret," Hawkeye weakly protested, "What about Beej?"
"He's fine, Hawkeye," Margaret softly reassured him, "He's not going anywhere for a while... so sit."
Hawkeye shrugged, glanced over at his unconscious friend, then sat with a sigh.
Margaret followed him down and once she sat next to him, she asked, "Can't tell me what, Hawkeye?"
Hawkeye closed his eyes to stop the tears of helplessness well up in them, but his chin still wobbled with the in-expression of them. He'd already told most of it to Sidney Freedman earlier, but some he'd kept to himself. He was positive that if he had told Sidney Freedman what he was about to tell Margaret, he would be going home in a straightjacket, and not to Crab Apple Cove, but to an institute for the mentally insane.
He gritted his teeth, opened his eyes and looked at Margaret, not caring if a couple of his unshed tears actually escaped. He looked down at his arm where Margaret had suddenly grasped him, not painfully, but comfortingly. He smiled and softly started to explain, "You... you'd think I'd have had enough, huh?"
Margaret frowned, but remained silent.
"Enough of this," Hawkeye angrily spat out at her and threw an arm in the air, signifying their surrounding area, "but, oh no, not Dr Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce. Oh no, Dr Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce can't seem to get enough of it."
"I don't understand, Hawkeye," Margaret softly whispered.
Hawkeye laughed, not his cackle of fun that usually escaped his lips when he was amused, but a laugh that was gravely, full of a hatred of himself. "My greatest fear, Margaret," he eventually muttered.
Again Margaret frowned.
"My greatest fear..." Hawkeye explained, "Going home..."
"Yep, going home..." Hawkeye re-iterated with a nod. "What I mean is... I'm... I'm not sure I can, Margaret..." he quietly admitted.
Margaret turned to face Hawkeye, unable to keep the look of surprise from showing. "Yes you *can*, Hawkeye," she said with certainty, "The war's over."
Hawkeye shook his head and stated, "No. You see I remember what I was like before... before I came to this hellhole. Dad's gonna wonder who the stranger is that's standing before him claiming to be his son." Hawkeye then turned to Margaret and said, "I've changed so much, Margaret, that even *I* can't tell who I am anymore."
Margaret nodded and shrugged. She had noticed the change from the first time she'd met the free, fun-loving surgeon called "Hawkeye" Pierce to the "Hawkeye" Pierce that now sat with her after operating on his friend... but she had expected it. Hell, she'd even changed herself. She couldn't name anyone that hadn't. Even Frank Burns had been affected by what he had seen and done in Korea. She had understood why it was that he had always been a stickler for rules and regulations and the army way. It somehow separated him from feeling anything at all.
Just following orders...
She sighed, before gently whispering, "Hawkeye, you are Dr Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce that had to go in the midst of a war to patch up kids that should have been going to a prom, instead of going to war. You are Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce that cares so much that he got affected by all the things that he'd seen and what he'd been forced to do." Margaret rubbed Hawkeye's arm in comfort, before she added, "Don't sell your father short, Hawkeye. He knows what to expect and yes, for a while, you *will* be a stranger to him, much like BJ will be a stranger to his little girl, Erin, but in time your father'll get to know the *new* Benjamin Franklin Pierce... his son. And he will love his son, the new son, as much as he loved the old one. You've just got to give yourself, and your father, the time and the chance."
Hawkeye looked at Margaret with a depth of feeling he had never experienced before. He'd always respected her, well, the job that she had done, but his respect for her as a person had just skyrocketed. "So," he eventually said, the twinkle of mischief back in his eye, "so, Nurse, Major Margaret Houlihan, you don't think that I should be getting my ticket back to civilisation, right along with a straightjacket?"
Margaret chuckled and shook her head, "No," she admitted, "not unless they got a spare for me, that is."
A groan from their patient had them both looking across the room at BJ.
"Peg?" BJ moaned.
Margaret was on her feet and at BJ's head before Hawkeye had even thought about rising. She leant close to BJ and started to run a hand through his hair, whispering words of comfort to him.
"Peg?" BJ moaned again, his voice muffled by the makeshift table.
"It's Margaret, BJ..."
"Margaret?" BJ frowned, "What are you doing here?"
"Long story, but I'm here," she whispered with a smile, which quickly turned to a look of concern when she saw BJ frown. "How do you feel?" she asked.
BJ swallowed hard before answering. "This is one heck of a hangover, Margaret. I... I think I'm gonna be sick," he admitted and then promptly emptied the contents of his stomach onto the floor.
Margaret moved her hand from his head to his back and began a circular pattern of comfort there, all the while emphasising her comfort with softly whispered words into his ear.
Hawkeye wrinkled his nose. "Didn't you like the stench in here, Beej?" he stated.
"Hawk?" BJ softly asked after he could catch his breath, "Hawk, you should-a gone home. Who's gonna look after Peg and Erin?"
Hawkeye laughed out loud, which surprised Margaret. "Hawkeye?"
"It's... It's okay, Margaret, this is where I came in," he explained between each chuckle. As the last of the laughter left him, Hawkeye took a step forward and placed a hand of friendship on BJ's back. Eventually he said, "I had to take care of *you* first, Beej."
BJ nodded and muttered, "Uh-huh."
"So, Beej," Hawkeye said, "now that you've given this room a whole new stench of it's own, how do you feel now?"
For a moment BJ frowned in contemplation, "In... in pain," he eventually answered, "My leg hurts and so does my shoulder." He tried to turn over, but only accomplished that when both Margaret and Hawkeye helped him. Once on his back he looked up at Hawkeye and said, "What the hell was in that mix you call a Martini?" he accused.
"Oh, a bit of this and a bit of that," Hawkeye shrugged. He again looked down at his friend and with a smile he asked, "You up for some travelling, Beej?"
Hawkeye's smile lengthened as he asked, "You ready to go home, Beej?"
BJ blinked up at his friend as tears filled his eyes with the thought. 'Home', he was going home... "More than ready, Hawk," he eventually admitted to his friend, his voice catching with emotion. "More than ready..."