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these are the days of miracle and wonder

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The radio is a quiet presence under everything, under the unseasonal stillness fizzing with crickets. A trumpet in New York, blaring softly into the quiet.

Stock tickers are running late all over the country. Hawkeye is sitting on the edge of a bench, staring at the broken pieces of glass, a glassy sheen of milk lingering on the cobbles, soaking into the earth between.

"No use crying over it," Daniel tells him, but gets nothing but large eyes in response, wonderment at the sharp edges of things.

More distant trumpets. If there were a prouder presidential or judicial appointee than this tiny milk monitor, Daniel has yet to meet the man. He allows himself a tiny soap-bubble of a dream: Senator Pierce of Maine, eyes bright with wonderment at the taking of the oath. The image is ruined by the milk-bottle gripped tightly in hand.

"They called me Ben," he says suddenly, speaking to the puddle, leaning dangerously far over the edge of the bench. "It's not my name. My name is Hawkeye."

"Hawkeye," Daniel says, agreeing, and then there are no more trumpets.

Somehow Hawkeye is in his arms; somehow he's holding him up against the buoyant blue sky, against the yellow leaves curled like flame. "Hawkeye," Daniel says, "Hawkeye" – and the voice on the radio has a break and a crackle in it.

"What is it?" Hawkeye asks, and Daniel puts him down and turns around in this strange warmth of autumn and says, knowing he won't understand: "A crash."

"A crash," Hawkeye says, and from his eyes he's thinking about milk.

*

It's a crisp day in Boston, all bright light and bare branches. Relatives and nurses are bringing patients out to take in the fresh air, the sunshine glittering through drip bottles. The boy with the curls and the canvas shoes has been lurking outside the main doors for a half-hour. He's not a relative, and he's not waiting for a cab – four have gone by – so Charles goes out to tell him to move along.

"Young man, can we help you?" he says, stiffly as he can; it helps to make people listen to him.

Close-to, the boy looks familiar. "Less of the 'young man', fella, you're not far out of residency yourself."

Surprising himself, Charles laughs. "What are you doing here?" he asks, patiently, and suddenly there's a guilty sharpness to the boy's movements.

"I heard something was happening," he says, but he's talking to the sidewalk and Charles makes a decision.

"How old are you?" he snaps.

"Eighteen."

"Pre-med?" Charles guesses, and is rewarded with a smile. "Right. Come on."

"What?" The boy backs off. "Where are we going?"

Charles inclines his head. "You came for the show, didn't you? It turns out I'm your guardian angel."

It only takes a few stolen scrubs to make the boy look the part. He, Charles, the nurses, the interns, they're each as unnoticed as the next as they press against the glass, watching the men at work within. The patient is unconscious, in the last stages of sepsis with bloodless white lips, unaware of the circus around her.

"Is that it?" the boy hisses, sotto voce, and Charles, wonderingly, nods. The powder is a rust-brown colour, dissolved in saline and administered intravenously. Nothing happens immediately – Charles wonders if the general expectant hush is because they all expect the patient to get out of bed immediately and walk – but even he thinks he sees the patient move a little, eyelids flickering, and breathe easier.

"That's it?" the boy says again, a little later, sitting on the steps up to the hospital entrance.

"Penicillin," Charles says, tasting the word. "First time in Boston. It's the start of what's next." He glances at the boy. "Pre-med, yes? You'll be back in time for what's next."

"Thanks," the boy says after a while, and holds his hand out to shake. "John McIntyre. I play quarterback."

"For Dartmouth," Charles supplies, realising why he looks familiar. "Come back when you want a real job, McIntyre."

"I will." He grins, eyes bright under the curls, and sets off down the sidewalk in those scuffed shoes. Charles is smiling as he watches him go.

*

When they got here first, it was autumn, crisp and cool in a way Henry associates with the start of the school year. Now the air is heavy with the coming of winter, an air of permanence falling on the camp with the snow. They're requisitioning woollens; Klinger's given up on chiffon.

"Ladies!" Hawkeye calls, standing on a bunk in the Swamp, tapping on a glass. "Ladies and gentlemen. And Frank. It's my honour and dubious pleasure to welcome you all to this, ah, halfway house, as it were. Not now, Dish, we can discuss it later."

"Get on with it, Pierce," Henry says, sitting down on Trapper's cot and blowing soot from the stove out of his face.

"Tonight, as we ring in the new year, on a cacophony of panpipes and bedpans – ah, thank you, Father – I'm pleased to remind you that we're halfway there."

"Pierce," Frank's saying, but Henry gets in first.

"This war will not be over by Christmas," he says, very emphatically. "Fool me once, shame on you."

"If you don’t let me finish," Hawkeye says, "I warn you I've half a mind to go off half-cocked. Under the light of half a moon. At least until Corporal O'Reilly stops requisitioning pants legs one at a time. Where was I?"

Trapper waves his hat. "Only half there."

Hawkeye blows him a kiss. "Halfway through the century. The century of the atom, ladies and gentlemen. December thirty-first, 1950. We're halfway there."

"Oh," Henry says. The gin that flows out of the still makes him stop mid-sentence when he doesn't mean to. And then the kid, Radar – his name isn't Radar, Henry dimly recalls, but they've been calling him that all the ten weeks they've been this side of the hill – runs in, glasses half-falling off, and says, "Choppers."

They're all on their feet, natural as breathing. As he's sprinting to the edge of the camp, running up towards the pad, Henry watches Hawkeye and Trapper throw back their martini glasses, scattering gin and broken glass into the snow. Helicopters can fly in moonlight as long as the moon is waxing gibbous, and Henry can still remember the last day in the autumn, with the ground fresh from new digging, that he didn't know that.

*

"Hawkeye," Potter's saying, "Hawkeye, son, you're all right, you hear me?"

It's easier to tell a man he's fine than ask him. After a moment Hawkeye's voice comes through the swing door, slow and careful: "Colonel Potter, is that you?"

"It's me, boy. Who's in there with you?" He's not asking because he doesn’t know the answer.

"Radar was here delivering a message," Hawkeye says. "He seems like he's okay, he squeezed my hand. Margaret, she's okay too."

"Anyone else?"

"Well," Hawkeye says, soft and patient, "there's the guy on the table."

Potter nods, although there's no one to see him. Three of them in the operating room with the last wounded man of the night, and then a shell six feet from the window.

"Colonel Potter," Hawkeye says, and Potter is struck again by how young he sounds, how stripped clean of insouciance or wisecracks: as though asking permission or forgiveness. "Colonel, the lights have blown. There's contamination. You can't come in."

"We'd make it worse," Potter says, and pictures the darkened OR, the three of them close together on the ground beneath the table, and thinks: permission to be scared, sir. "Hawkeye, you just sit tight, okay? You, Major Houlihan, Radar, all three of you just stay right where you are and you won't make the contamination any worse. We'll get the lights up in two shakes of a horse's tail. That all right?"

"All right."

"And I'll be here," Potter promises. Klinger and BJ are in the generator room, hitting things. Nothing to do but wait.

"All right," Hawkeye says again, and this time there are murmurings that sound like Radar and Margaret, and Potter lets out a breath.

"Radar asks," Hawkeye says after a moment, "if you could tell us a story. While we wait."

Potter chuckles. "I'll tell you about my first girl."

"You did that one already," Hawkeye says, with half a laugh. "The love affair that ended when the bandages came off."

Margaret asks: "Why did you become a doctor?"

He's been thinking about that one recently. "My first war I had a mare, Lily. I rubbed her down, I kept her spruce and dandy, I saved carrots for her. I loved that horse. I got to figuring maybe the kids on the other side felt the same way about theirs, and then going into battle lost all the charms it might have had for me previously."

"My first war," Hawkeye repeats, drowsily. "Baby's first war. Khaki green diapers."

"Hawkeye," Potter says sharply, thinking about concussion, "Hawkeye" – and then the sudden clatter of dropped instruments, a distant whirring sound.

"Up and at 'em, troops," Potter says.

"You heard the man," Hawkeye says, and he's standing up. "Saline, Margaret! Radar, mask, please."

Through the swing door, Potter watches them do what he tells them.

*

"You told me once that I was the sanest person you'd ever known," Hawkeye tells him, inspecting his own hands. "Is that still true?"

Sidney says nothing, looks down at the water. Two nights ago Hawkeye came down this hill, feet sludging through the semi-soft sand and rain, the coat and hat the same khaki green he wore in Korea, and looked out at the deep, still, black water, and stood still, and stood still, on the edge of the Atlantic, the abyssal water, kept himself on that edge, standing still. He's twenty-nine years old.

Sidney keeps moving. "I've read that the Soviets are launching an artificial satellite into space. Something about the size of a football, I'm told. Imagine it, out there in the dark among the stars – something of ourselves."

"You didn't answer my question, Sidney." Hawkeye isn't looking at him; his head is thrown back, eyes on something above. There's very little artificial light here, the Milky Way smeared across the sky, and for a fanciful moment Sidney imagines Hawkeye catching stars in his hood, so they fall across his face when he pulls it down against the rain.

"No," Sidney says, at last. "No, I didn't."

"Well," Hawkeye says. "Well."

"Yes," Sidney says, and thinks: you called me. "Yes, Hawkeye."

They keep on going on, through the bracken and mud. Sidney will remember this night, later, when the Soviets launch Sputnik I, a tiny sphere that bleeps I'm here, I'm here, I'm still here, for all its one thousand, four hundred and forty circuits of the Earth: he will remember this night when the sky felt close, the ground pulling down on his feet, walking with Hawkeye through the world getting unknowably larger around them.

*

This has been a hot summer even for Philadelphia. Now, in early August, there are yellow flowers creeping up the front gate, curled around wooden beams that are beginning to bleach from the glare. The asphalt on the sidewalk burns the feet, the newspaper shrieks of riots. Father Elliott upstairs has started hanging wet sheets at the window.

Inside it's cool and dim, cobwebs vanishing into shadows far above the polished floor. The boy against the wall is breathing hard, concentrating, sweat standing out on his forehead. His eyes are dark and thoughtful. "That's it, my son," Mulcahy says, from his place alongside. "Breathe. And again."

The boy goes for it, keeping his head up, his elbows tucked in, right hook, left hook. The others are quiet, waiting their turn.

"Right, left, right," Mulcahy murmurs, not sure whether the boy can hear him. "That's right."

The punch-bag is getting solid punishment. Mulcahy can feel the impacts of feet and fists through the floor. Each reverberation has its own flavour, some clean and hard, others discordant. This is one of the good boys, who puts his brain into it: Mulcahy senses each blow as a focused explosion of strength out of control.

"That's it, my son," Mulcahy says again. "That's it."

Without thinking, he's signing as he speaks. The boy looks at him with interest and no derision; some of them come to learn a little themselves, store up dirty jokes to tell each other and dare him to laugh.

"Father Mulcahy," says someone at the door, and the bubble of syllables is familiar enough to be understandable.

"Forgive me, boys," Mulcahy murmurs, and walks over to see what Elliott wants.

"Riots are coming," Elliott hisses. He's signing; he must have gone to the public library to find the words, Mulcahy thinks. "Riots are coming and you're teaching them how to fight."

"No," Mulcahy says. He never knows how loudly he's speaking; this is one of those times it doesn't matter. "No. I'm teaching them how not to."

He turns away; the sun from the open door is warm on his back. He breathes in and says to his boys: "Again."

*

"Radar," Henry said once, "are you having one of your funny feelings about this" – just before being dragged off his feet and some distance downstream by an energetic carp, and Radar ran down after him and almost lost his cap and he got Henry pulled back but without the fish and they held a wake later. For The One That Almost Didn't Almost Get Away, Hawkeye said and drank deeply, gin out of a bucket, holding a candle lit from the stove in the Swamp.

The funny feeling is like that, like cool water and a calm night and then that sudden lurch, a sucking down. They call him Walter here and the funny feelings come less often, but still sometimes, sometimes in the dark Radar feels it like a tilt of the earth and then there's only the waiting. Choppers, or burnt hands, or far away in another country, other wars.

It's just that one time, when he's walking out through the fields after the sun has set holding the transistor radio loosely in one hand, that it feels like something else, not so much a lurching downwards as a somersault up through space, like there are balloons attached to his feet and fireworks going off behind his ears. The world comes back to him slowly and there's a quiet joy to it, like he doesn't have to listen for anything. He's flat on his back without remembering how he got there, the stalks bent beneath him and the stars laid out above in patterns like scattered corn.

Somewhere under his left arm, somewhere beneath the crush of grain, the radio is saying, "Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed."

*

Some kid comes up to her, after the night shift, looks at her with that shiner and says, "Nurse Houlihan, I heard one time you got divorced."

"Come with me," she says.

She waits for the girl to get out of scrubs, toss everything in the laundry, sluice everything clean. They pull out what Margaret still thinks of as civvies out of lockers, head out into the morning. The first of the sun is warming up the flagstones, the lights of the city are fading into day. The girl is new at the work and she's washed out with fatigue. Margaret waits for her to catch up. They get a cab across town and it's still quiet, the morning rush of traffic still maybe a half-hour off.

"Nurse Leventhal, isn't it?" Margaret barely feels tired any more. "Well?"

"Yeah." The girl looks at her shyly, visibly trying not to yawn. "Andrea."

"Nurse Leventhal," Margaret says. "First, you fill out some forms. You need a lawyer. Do you have children?"

"No, ma'am."

"Then it'll be easier."

Leventhal's blinking. "You don't think I should give it another try?"

"That's up to you. Out." Margaret pays the cab driver and they emerge, blinking, into the sun. There are women everywhere on the Mall, camped out and lined up and standing holding their signs: Women Need Constitutional Equality Now; Say Yes to the ERA. Hawkeye's stuffing ballot boxes for it up in Maine now. When they first started organising he sent her a cheque with an obscene message on the back; Margaret cashed it for the VA and sent him a note, put that damn mouth where your money is, Pierce. She misses him.

They start walking, slowly, past the crowds, through the sunshine burning off the fog. "Leventhal," Margaret says. "Smarten up. Tie up that hair. Don't slouch. You have trouble, you call me, do you understand?"

"Yes, ma'am." The girl is standing straight at least, looking around her in wonder. "What is this?"

Margaret smiles. "You'll see."

 

*

Silence wakes BJ at three-thirty a.m., the sound of distant crickets reasserting itself over the absence of the air-conditioning hum. He was dreaming of skin coming away from bone. He rolls over and Peg murmurs something about sleep and cold, so he puts the blankets over her, lets her bask in the last of the chilled air, and gets up. The box cooler is shot; they'll need to replace it. He stands on the back porch in the still, hot night, scented with lemons from the backyard tree.

He finds the phone and rolls out the wire, holds it protectively on his knees, and dials.

"Deliveries round back," Hawkeye says, into a pillow, a perfectly clear line bringing that soft detail across the continent, and then: "You're not having a baby, you rat fink."

BJ's smiling already. "Did I wake you?"

"Five more minutes."

BJ can picture it, the sun rising over the east coast in livid bruise shades. It's nearly seven in Crabapple Cove. "Sorry."

"What's on your mind?" Hawkeye's wide awake suddenly, voice sharp.

"Nothing." BJ sits down on the back step and breathes in lemons. "Something. Nothing. Can't sleep."

"Yeah." Hawkeye's listening, his breathing steady on the line. "Yeah. I remember that kind of nothing."

"Hawk." BJ exhales. "You ever in your life treat a kid for Kaposi's sarcoma?"

"I don't even know what that is." Hawkeye pauses. "No. That's not right."

BJ waits. Hawkeye's a raw country doctor only by his own account; he scatters the New England Journal across his study, and thinks, and underlines. If he could only have known, his younger self would have worried for his libido. "No," Hawkeye says, his tone different now. "No. Not yet."

BJ nods, forgetting Hawkeye can't see him, always forgetting that enormous distance.

"Time to get up," he says.

"I can stay a while," Hawkeye says, all soft-voiced like he's standing in a doorway somewhere in BJ's memory holding a martini glass, and BJ breathes in, and says, "Please."

*

The wind off the bay is cool, flicking up the tips of the kid's hair, bringing a blush to her cheeks. It's never really warm in San Francisco, always with shadows and shades of breeze.

On the narrow strip of sand between the wharf and the Pacific, Klinger throws off his sandals and says, "She tells me this, now."

"I knew you'd be like this," Kim tells the water, the tiny waves breaking around her toes. "God, Dad."

Sitting there, Klinger thinks for the thousandth time how grateful he is that she takes after Soon-Li. Kim has her eyes, the delicacy of her features. Barely any nose to speak of, which might have caused trouble the day she was born if Max Klinger hadn't declared to the world that even if she wasn't his, he was keeping her. Soon-Li punched him in the jaw. He treasures the scar.

"She tells me this," he announces. "She tells me she knew I'd be like this, even."

"Dad," Kim says. "If you're gonna yell, I'm going back to the dorms."

"If I'm gonna yell," Klinger repeats, helplessly. His baby girl's looking scared of him, which is crazy; wearing dresses isn't in the top ten or hundred of things that are. "Kid, I came to all your swim meets dressed like Eva Perón. And what did you say?"

"At least you came to all my swim meets," they say together, a sequence of chords. It's an old family joke.

"But you did," Kim says, seriously. "You did. Other kids, their dads could give less than a shit. You always came. I could see the fruit on your hat from the pool."

Klinger raises his eyebrows. "You don't wanna go see your girl kick all the other girls' asses, you don't deserve to have her."

Kim laughs, and Klinger takes a deep breath. "Kim," he says, seriously, "you thought I'd be angry? You really did?"

She's shrugging; she looks unsure. "I don't know, Dad. Maybe? I don't know what to expect out of anything."

"Tell me about her," Klinger says, gently, stretching his feet into the water. "Your girlfriend. Is she pretty? Have you known her for long?" A little hopefully: "Is she Lebanese?"

"Yes, yes, and no, Dad," Kim says, and when she smiles, he thinks, dippily, it's like the sun's coming out.

*

The plan is to doze while the ball drops on the radio. Hawkeye wakes up because the susurrus of distant crowds has become the real susurrus of the sea. Someone is shouting, "Dr. Pierce, Dr. Pierce, come quick!" and everything is black.

"Welcome to Crabapple Cove," he tells the person at the door, "where we have our Y2K bug a year late."

There is no power out here either, the streetlamps buzzing and dark. "You gotta come," says the kid, "it's our neighbour, it's Ruthie Gillis, she's having her baby, there's no light on the freeway, we can't drive her…"

Hawkeye gets his bag and a flashlight. They walk in almost-silence, dodging tree branches, keeping away from the edge of the sidewalk. It's half a mile, maybe less, no sound of traffic, no voices, only the ocean. "Gillis," Hawkeye says, half to himself, "I knew a guy from round here once, name of Tommy Gillis. Put worms down my neck and always owed me money. He was my best friend."

"What happened to him?" asks the kid.

"He died in the war."

And the question is forming on the kid's lips, he's almost as far as saying which, so Hawkeye bangs on the door with his fists and there's no answer. They step inside.

"It's next week," she's saying, standing up in the kitchen. "It was gonna be next week."

"It's okay, honey, you'll be okay," he says, gently, and he helps her to a chair and sends the kid to boil water and write an email to the dad. "He's got leave from next week," Ruthie's still saying, "it was gonna…"

"It's okay, honey," Hawkeye says, again, and takes her hand.

The baby's a boy. Long after the sunlight starts staining the sky, bringing up shades of red over the ocean, the electric lights come back on. The new mom is asleep on the couch. Hawkeye walks around the house, hitting switches, carrying the baby. "Lots of books in this house, kiddo," he murmurs, "they'll pick a good name."

More switches. "Hell of a New Year's. Gonna be all ones on your passport."

Kitchen lights, lamps. The last switch, then the door. Hawkeye throws it wide open, steps out into the dawn. "Here it all is and you're welcome to it," he says softly. "Welcome, welcome."