AUTHOR: Nikki Harrington
PAIRING: Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce/BJ Hunnicutt
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: The Korean war over, Hawkeye and BJ have to say goodbye. Hawkeye will return home to his Crabapple Cove and his dad; BJ to Peg and Erin - but is it really the end of their relationship?
WORD COUNT: 2,830.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for birggitt): R - Return (14/41)
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Hawkeye lay in BJ's arms desperately trying not to think what the next day would bring.
The war was over; it really was finally over; they'd all be leaving Korea and the hell they'd suffered behind them and return home. They would return to all that was good; to proper bathrooms; long, hot showers; comfortable beds; actual houses rather than tents; to operating in real, sanitized, operating theaters; to knowing you'd have enough blood, plasma, clean instruments, surgeons, nurses; to not operating under enemy fire; to good meals; to proper seasons; to friends and relations; to everything that was good and nothing that was bad. It was what he'd dreamed off every night and often during the day ever since he'd arrived in Korea.
So why wasn't he happy? Why wasn't he celebrating and kissing nurses and packing and talking about al the things he'd do once he'd got home? The answer to that was easy: the man in whose arms he now lay. Because there was something bad, something very bad, something very bad indeed about returning home: he'd no longer have BJ in his life, in his arms, in his bed.
He'd known it, of course he had, from the moment they'd first kissed, first touched, tentatively at first and then - And then . . . He'd known it from the moment BJ had mentioned Peg and Erin and how much he loved and missed them. He'd known it from the first letter BJ had received and the look on his face when he'd read it. He'd known it even before he'd known it - which sounded crazy, but it was true.
Of course he'd known it; he'd known the day would come when BJ would hold him tightly for one final time, kiss him in the way he'd never been kissed before, in the way he knew he'd never be kissed again and walk away from him. Walk away from him and return to his wife and daughter. Of course he'd known that - even though as the months went on and he and BJ grew closer and closer and he knew he'd fallen in love with his best friend, he'd tried not to think about it.
He'd tried so hard not to think about it; he made sure he was out of the tent when BJ read his letters from Peg and he tried not to walk away and find something else to do when BJ raved about how clever Erin was or was sad because she'd done something and he hadn't been there. Through it all he'd tried to be supportive; tried to imagine what it was like for BJ being torn away from the woman he loved. It had been bad enough for Hawkeye being sent away from his dad, so what it must be like for those people who were married he really couldn't imagine no matter how hard he tried; he just knew how he felt so knew they must feel so much worse.
So, yeah, he'd tried to be supportive and to be a best friend to BJ; he had listened and comforted BJ at times, which made not thinking about what would happen when the war ended so much harder. Tomorrow BJ was going to return to the woman and little girl he loved; Hawkeye would return to the dad he loved; the dad who would take one look at his son and know something was wrong.
Would he tell his dad? He didn't know; was it the kind of thing you told your dad? Maybe not, but it wouldn't be the first time he'd told his dad something that wasn't really the kind of thing you told your dad. His dad wouldn't ask, wouldn't push, Hawkeye knew that, he'd just wait and watch, wait and watch for the day Hawkeye told him. And finally when they day came and he did tell him, he wouldn't judge, he wouldn't throw Hawkeye out of the house, he wouldn't be disgusted, he wouldn't tell Hawkeye he no longer had a son. He'd just be supportive and sympathetic and love Hawkeye as much as he always had.
"Hawk?" BJ's quiet voice interrupted Hawkeye's thoughts.
He lifted his head. "Yeah, Beej?"
BJ stared at him for a moment or two before lightly kissing Hawkeye. "You know I have to go back to Peg and Erin, don't you?"
Hawkeye swallowed and forced a smile onto his lips. "Of course I do, Beej," he said trying hard to make his tone reassuring. And then because for a fleeting moment he felt guilty for kissing BJ in the first place, for hugging and touching him beyond the friendly hugs and touches they'd always shared, for being complicit in BJ cheating on Peg, for not laughing it off when they woke up in one another's arms, the clear evidence of what had happened on them, after a night of drinking too much gin, for not blaming it on the gin and vowing 'never again', he decided a little pain was what he needed. "And you want to, don't you?"
BJ stared at him, his eyes wide, a troubled look on his face. "Hawk," he said, touching Hawkeye's face. "You know I -"
But suddenly Hawkeye realized he didn't want the pain after all. He shook his head. "Don't," he said and put his mouth on BJ's and kissed him hard and went on kissing him and kissing him until there was no chance this would stop at a hug and a kiss.
TWO HOURS LATER
Hawkeye lay in BJ's arms desperately trying not to think what the next day would bring.
Part of him wished what they'd just done, how tenderly, how frenetically, how desperately, how devastatingly, how beautifully, how finally they had kissed, held one another, touched, made love, hadn't happened. Part of him wished it hadn't gone beyond just lying in one another's arms and maybe the odd kiss or two. Part of him wanted to forget the last two hours; part of him knew he'd never forget it. Part of him knew it was the best it had ever been between them; part of him knew it was the worst it had ever been between them.
Part of him wanted to stay wrapped in BJ's arms, in his secure embrace, for the rest of the night; part of him wanted to get up and run away. Part of him wanted to go to sleep; part of him wanted to stay awake all night so not as to miss a single second of BJ. Part of him knew he had to let BJ go, had to wish him well, had to tell him to be happy, had to watch him return to Peg and Erin; part of him wanted to demand BJ stay with him, beg him to stay, ask him, plead with him not to give him up totally, suggest they found ways to meet up from time to time. Part of him knew he loved BJ just enough to let him go; part of him didn't know if he did love BJ just enough to let him go.
Part of him wished they'd wake up to the news that the war was back on; part of him hoped he'd never hear the word 'war' again, let alone have to face it. Part of him wished he'd never kissed BJ in the first place; part of him was glad that he had. Part of him wanted to tell BJ how much he loved him, wanted to hurt BJ in the way he'd be hurt; part of him knew he loved BJ too much to hurt him like that.
Part of him honestly didn't know how he'd go back to life in Crabapple Cove, back to the practice he shared with his dad, back to doing normal doctoring; part of him couldn't wait to be back. Part of him didn't know how he'd be able to go on without BJ; part of him knew he had to because of his dad.
He shifted slightly and BJ's arms tightened around him. "Where are you going?"
Hawkeye hesitated for a moment, then sighed softly and said, "Nowhere, I'm just getting more comfortable."
"Good," BJ said, and then their lips found one another's again, hands began to roam over bodies and the beauty and devastation, the pleasure and the pain, the tenderness and the almost brutality began all over again.
THE NEXT DAY
Hugs and kisses and promises to keep in touch and even meet up had been exchanged all around the camp and Hawkeye had joined in; hugging, kissing, promising, smiling, agreeing how great it was to be going home, agreeing they'd miss one another, but they were returning to civilization, they were going home, so it was all good - right? - until he knew there was hardly any time left and the one person he hadn't said goodbye to privately or publicly was BJ.
Somehow they grabbed a few seconds, maybe a minute, away from everyone else and it was BJ who pulled Hawkeye into his arms, pulled him against him so tightly that Hawkeye gasped. "I'll miss you, Hawk."
"I'll miss you too, Beej."
"Say hello to you dad for me."
Hawkeye swallowed. "I will."
"And you know if you're ever in . . . Well you know."
"Sure, BJ. Sure. I know." Hawkeye tried to make his voice sound upbeat, positive even, but it was so hard.
Suddenly BJ pushed him away from him just far enough so he could put his mouth on Hawkeye's and kiss him intensely for several seconds. Then he lifted his head and stared at Hawkeye. "Just answer me one thing, Hawk."
Hawkeye shrugged. "Anything," he said quietly.
BJ's stare became as intense as the kiss had been. "Why are you letting me go so easily?"
Hawkeye swallowed hard and forced the tears back. "Because I love you," he said softly.
For several seconds they just stood there in a loose embrace staring at one another in silence. There were so many things Hawkeye wanted to say - but he knew he'd never say any of them. From the look on BJ's face and in his now pain-filled eyes Hawkeye thought there were things BJ wanted to say - he hoped he wouldn't.
Finally Hawkeye said softly but firmly, "Let's go, Beej. Time we said goodbye in public."
But Hawkeye shook his head. "Don't, BJ. You take care now." And with those words he reached up slightly and kissed BJ quickly for what he knew would be the last time.
TEN YEARS LATER
Hawkeye sat at his desk, one hand in his hair, his black tie half undone, staring at the pile of mail that had accumulated over the last few days. He hadn't opened any of it; he'd just grabbed the mail each day and thrown it onto his desk; he didn't need to open the letters and cards; he knew what they'd say.
So for a week he'd just let it all pile up until the funeral over; the house empty - well apart from all the pies and casseroles and meat-loaves and cakes and other food that everyone had brought for him 'just so you don't have to worry about cooking, Benjamin' - and quiet; a large whiskey inside him and another one in the glass on his desk he knew he couldn't put off opening them any longer.
And it wasn't just that he had to open them, read the words of condolences; read about what a great guy his dad had been, which he knew, he knew far better than those writing to him; read about how proud his dad had been of him; read the 'much better than he didn't suffer for long', which of course it had been; read the offers of coming to stay and all the other things people said after a death, he had to reply to them too.
For a moment he glanced at the fireplace and wondered what would happen if he just threw everything onto the fire and forgot about it? And then in his head he heard his dad's disapproval, heard him telling him how all those people who had written letters or just cards had done so because they cared and how they'd taken the time to write, so the least Hawkeye could do was to read what they'd written.
"Okay, Dad," Hawkeye said, wiping the tears he hadn't realized had started to fall, from his cheeks. "You win."
And so he began to open the envelopes; read the words of condolence; the words about how great his dad had been; the words about how proud his dad had been of him; the words about how it was a blessing that he hadn't suffered for long; the offers of coming to stay; read all the other things people say after a death; read all the letters and cards he knew he had to reply to.
He was just reaching for the whiskey bottle to pour himself another drink when his eyes fell on one final letter. It had somehow got separated from the main pile and now lay face down to one side. Even as he reached for it Hawkeye sighed; he really didn't know if he could face reading another letter of condolence. But again an image of his dad appeared and he sighed, topped his glass up and turned the letter over.
He heard the faint thud of the whiskey bottle falling onto the desk, but he ignored it as he stared at the envelope; the envelope that had come from Mill Valley. He drained the glass and still stared down at the envelope.
Finally he made himself open it; made himself pull out the single sheet of paper; made himself unfold it and finally after just sitting staring at the whiskey bottle, he made himself read it. It was short but more meaningful and honest than all the other letters Hawkeye had read. How BJ had even known he didn't know, because he hadn't written to him; they'd made a silent agreement not to write - what happened in Korea stayed in Korea. Yet somehow BJ had found out and had written.
Hawkeye just stared at the letter before he closed his eyes for a moment and reached for the whiskey bottle and poured another glass which he drank straight down and went back to staring at the letter he could no longer see clearly as it was getting dark and he hadn't put a light on.
He should get up, put the light on, build the fire up, get changed, or at least remove his tie and jacket and go into the kitchen and have something to eat. That's what he should do; he didn't; he just went on sitting at his desk until the only light in the room was the faint embers of the dying fire.
He'd tried; he'd tried so hard to forget; he'd tried so hard to forget Korea, the war, the hell he'd lived in for so long, the dying kids he couldn't save, the blood, the stench, the futility of it all. But most of all he'd tried so hard to forget BJ. He'd tried and he'd failed. Not a day had gone by when he hadn't thought of BJ; thought of him and missed him; thought of him and wondered 'what if?'; thought of him and wished -
He sound of the doorbell broke the silence. For a moment he thought about ignoring the door, of just continuing to sit in the dark room. But again his dad (for how long was he going to go on appearing as his conscience?) made his presence felt and Hawkeye found his hand reaching to turn the lamp that stood on his desk on. Once his eyes had adjusted to the light he pushed himself to his feet and unswayingly (all the awful booze they'd drunk in Korea had been worth something) made his way out into the hallway and to the front door.
He turned the outside and inside lights on and opened the door. As he stared up at the man he hadn't seen for ten years, the man who fundamentally hadn't changed a bit, well except he had lost the awful moustache, he realized he wasn't in the least bit surprised to see him. "Hello, BJ," he said quietly.
They stood for a moment then Hawkeye said, "Why are you here, Beej?"
BJ swallowed hard, took a step towards Hawkeye and then another and another until Hawkeye found he'd been backed far enough into his house to allow BJ to enter and close the door behind him. "Because I love you, Hawk," he said quietly and in a single, smooth move that Hawkeye remembered from ten years ago, he pulled Hawkeye into his arms and held him tightly.