Title: "Fabric of Our Lives"
Genre: Light, drama, romance, humor, war, postwar
Characters: Hawkeye/BJ, Erin
Summary: Hawkeye hates it when someone steals his clothing (unless the thief is B.J. . . . sometimes).
Part of the Gentleman Doctors series
A/n: This is a little one-shot I had sitting on my hard drive. I thought it was time to post it.
Fabric of Our Lives
A night at Rosie's had turned maudlin. Hawkeye bore B.J. home half on his back, the taller man's arm loped over his chest, a sort of upright choreographed fireman's haul.
"It's Erin's birthday next month," B.J. slurred into Hawkeye's ear.
Hawkeye turned his face away from the cesspool leaking from his friend's mouth. "I know, buddy."
It wasn't the first time they operated on kids; it wasn't the first time they lost a kid. It was the first time B.J. lost a kid. You don't work over a tiny body and not think of the one back home in her little yellow dress and sunbonnet, sending you pressed cornflowers she picked with her own two chubby hands. You don't worry and watch over a kid in Post-Op with mounting terror and think how easily your own little one could slip away from you without you being there to catch her.
They made it to the Swamp. Charles was asleep. Hawkeye deposited B.J. onto his bunk and set to work putting him to bed. B.J. wasn't having it.
"Off'a mah boots," B.J. slurred. "I ate ded yet."
Hawkeye landed next to B.J. on the bunk, all akilter and akimbo. It was late, Hunnicutt's depression was catching, Hawkeye had pulled something in his back when he'd pulled the taller man across the compound like a stubborn field ox, and sympathy was down for the count against the numbness he'd sucked out of Rosie's wonderful bottles. He felt for B.J., he really did. He had felt for him all evening. It was three a.m. Time to put the war to bed.
"That kid wouldn't'a died in Tok'yo," B.J. said.
"I know," Hawkeye said. "He was too hurt to be moved."
B.J. leaned his forehead on Hawkeye's shoulder. "Didn't do him any good to stay here."
Hawkeye could take offense to that, as chief surgeon. He was too tired to bother. "We made the right call. We made the best call we could," he overrode the expected argument.
"I should have sent him when his B.P. fell below forty!" B.J. snapped, for the fifth time.
"Will you just stop?" Hawkeye shoved B.J. of his shoulder. "When you're six sheets past three to the wind and you still have that kid's chart memorized, it's time to admit you're obsessing, Doctor."
The bunk across the room squeaked. Uh oh. Dad's awake.
"Will you two kindly shut up!" Charles said. "Some of us do not see fit to pickle our innards at disreputable times of the night and day and then regale the camp with our inebriated ranting!"
"Go back to sleep, Charles," Hawkeye snapped. He covered the back of B.J.'s head with one gentle hand.
Charles flipped his red satin pillow over his head.
"I'm sorry, Hawk. This is new to me."
Hawkeye wrapped his arms around B.J. and let him rest his head on his shoulder for a moment. Their cock-eyed posture on the bed had landed their legs tangled up together, feet on the blankets, dust leaving prints. His boots were redder than B.J.'s; that's how they could tell their stuff apart, by degree of abuse. Taking advantage of the quiet moment, Hawkeye reached to unlace the nearest boot to hand.
"It's not fair," B.J. whispered, forehead propped on Hawkeye's shoulder.
Hawkeye tugged off the boot and dropped it on the floor with a loud clop. Charles passive-aggressively tossed on his bunk. As Hawkeye leaned for another boot -- his, which was crossed over B.J.'s leg -- something tickled at his stomach. B.J.'s two fingers were rolling the hem of his t-shirt between them. Hawkeye wasn't sure B.J. was aware he was doing it. He unlaced B.J.'s other boot.
"How come your t-shirts are softer than mine?" B.J. said. "Mine still feel like they could survive an Armageddon or three."
Hawkeye attempted to lift B.J.'s last shod hoof, but it wasn't budging. "Stick around here long enough, they will."
B.J.'s thumb and forefinger were still twirling the hem of his shirt. "I stole your shirt once. Out of the laundry?"
Hawkeye knew. He hadn't said anything at the time. The shirt was too tight and rode up B.J.'s back when he leaned over. Hawkeye didn't know why it hadn't bothered him that B.J. stole a whole shirt when a single stolen sock drove him batty. The next laundry cycle, Hawkeye was a little disappointed to find one stretched-out t-shirt in his pile on his bed, without comment, waiting for him when he came back from Post-Op.
"I just wanted it," B.J. said. "I was sick that day, remember?"
Hawkeye swallowed. B.J. woke with a fever that morning -- the chills and everything. He was laid up two days straight, too sick to even move or talk, just laying on that awful army cot with nothing to do except be miserable. And he was wearing Hawkeye's t-shirt the whole time.
"You stretched it out," Hawkeye said. "It's a tent across the shoulders now."
B.J.'s chin was slumped against the inside of Hawkeye's elbow. "Sorry, lady, guess I fill out a t-shirt better'n you."
"Well, my lingerie sales lady says I'm only an A-cup but I think I can fill a B."
A giggle shook B.J.'s chest. He slipped neatly into Hawkeye's lap. Hawkeye looked down at the languid body nearly in his arms. B.J.'s eyes opened. Hawkeye's hand hovered in the air. Hesitantly, he brushed B.J.'s messy hair to one side. B.J. watched him curiously. Feeling bolder, feeling like this was right or normal or something crazy like that, Hawkeye brushed his fingers through B.J.'s hair and softly caressed his cheek.
Charles' cot creaked.
Hawkeye's hand pulled back. He carefully slipped out from under B.J.
"Get some sleep," he whispered.
B.J., a lanky, graceless mess with one boot off his cot, one stocking foot in it, whispered, "Hawk?"
Hawkeye paused on the way back to his cot. "Yeah?"
"Does it really bug you when I steal your t-shirts?"
Hawkeye smiled. He turned to fall into his own bunk. He left B.J. to his bed, his snapshots from home, his letters. He left B.J. alone.
"Chantilly Lace" played on the radio. B.J. turned it up -- had it really been over a year since the Big Bopper had died in that fateful plane crash?
"Where's my undershirt?" Hawkeye said, digging at the back of the dresser drawer.
B.J.'s reflection was guilty in the mirror inside the closet door. "You've got fifty in there."
Hawkeye looked him over. "I want the new v-necks I just bought."
"Oh. Sorry." B.J. turned to the mirror, adjusting his tie.
Hawkeye 'grrr'd in frustration. "What is your obsession with possessing my clothing?"
"Good luck?" B.J. turned around, clean and pressed, mustache trimmed, with nary a hint of undershirt at the throat of his Oxford shirt.
"I'll luck you." Hawkeye stretched the neck of his undershirt. "You drag me to church on Sunday, and steal my favorite clothing. Are you really wearing a tie to this thing?"
B.J. looked at him across their mostly blue bedroom on the top corner of their little yellow Victorian. Already, he could feel sweat prickling down his spine. Hawkeye was buttoning up a striped shirt he had no intention of tucking in.
"After all, it's just a bunch of homos down in the Castro, right?" Hawkeye said.
BJ flopped on their bed. "I wish you'd use halfway civilized words."
Hawkeye sat on the middle of the bed while he put his socks on. "What's wrong with 'homos'? It's what we are. Fine, fine, 'gay,' it's a bunch of gay people in someone's living room celebrating God or 'god' -- little 'g' -- nondenominational, no judgementalism, let's forget Leviticus, and for some reason I have to go even though I haven't darkened a narthex since our dear Father Mulcahy muscled me into his church tent by my dangling --"
"I just thought we should do something together," B.J. said.
"We work together, we eat together, we sleep together --"
B.J. called in the general direction of the hall, "Erin! Are you getting dressed?"
Footfalls thumped down the bare wood hall. Erin, four foot two, blonde and breathless, appeared at their door. "Can I bring a book?"
Both men answered, "No."
B.J. said, "Erin, why do you think you can wear blue jeans to church?"
Erin cocked her head, blonde curls bouncing. "It's gay church."
Hawkeye rolled over to one side cackling. B.J. put his face in his hands.
"Maybe this is a bad idea," B.J. said. "It's too hot to drive all the way down to the Mission in Sunday traffic, we don't even know these people except for Jo and Bette --"
Hawkeye put his hand on B.J.'s back. "Erin, put on your seersucker sundress. Beej, relax, take off the tie, we'll go as we are. Comfortable."
"Yeah?" B.J. said.
"I'll be a well trained Christian, I promise," Hawkeye said. "You can even wear my favorite Hawaiian print shirt."
"Ah. . . . Thanks."