When they realize it's not the North Koreans coming around the bend after all, Hawkeye feels the relief straight down to his knees, which buckle on him unsurprisingly. He staggers into a full-on run, head rushing, unbrushed grin and howling with joyful laughter, he embraces his comrades coming home. He's even glad to see Frank. That'll last about eight seconds, but he'll take it.
BJ leaps from the still-moving jeep and catches up to him, and without a word beyond their grateful, shaking laughter, they wrap their arms around each other like a promise and don't let go until Hawk is sure he can stand up again.
Would you believe me if I told you I thought I'd never see you again? he mutters as BJ steps back, their hands still gripping each others wrists. BJ opens his mouth to answer, but a flock of nurses, led by a grumpy Klinger, swoops past and both Hawkeye and BJ are swept into the crowd.
The rebuilding of the unit takes only a few hours, but Hawkeye is still tinkering with the still by the time BJ heads back from dinner. Frank is off somewhere, presumably skulking around Margaret's tent and hoping for a little hero worship. As BJ ducks into The Swamp, he's overcome with a warm rush of fresh gratitude and familiarity - Hawk, in his red bathrobe, pajamas peeking out at the knees, bent over a piece of coil.
This was never supposed to be home.
There was only supposed to be one place he called home. One family. One house. Not this stinking mess of a --
Ah! says Hawkeye, turning around and brandishing the first batch of new turpentine-gin in two glasses. Welcome home, darling. Dinner's on the table, and there's just enough time for a drink before you have to take the dog --
of all the times to pick this joke. This line. This banter. Of all the gddamn times. BJ fixes a smile on his face, feels his heart pounding, takes the glass but doesn't clink with Hawkeye.
This was not supposed to be home.
Then why does it feel like nothing is missing?
BJ takes a breath and knocks back half the drink before he can say something to mess it up. That's when Hawkeye notices he's shaking. His voice drops a register, from his joking voice to that tender, reassuring, concerned tone he takes with fragile patients - and BJ, when he's overwhelmed.
Rough day at the office, Beej?
BJ can't meet his eyes.
You could say that.
Hey. Hey. Hawkeye - miracle of miracles - puts his drink down and steps over his cot, puts a hand on BJ's elbow. What is it?
BJ takes a shuddering breath.
Hawk, I - I packed all your things.
Yeah, he answers, sounding a little confused. You were every bit the perfect bellhop.
No, I mean - I - I packed all your things.
Hawkeye mock-gasps just to break the tension. You found my dirty magazines? Even the volleyball ones? Oh please, Beej, tell me you didn't let Frank burn them -
He doesn't mean it to come out so forcefully, but he can't - Hawk is so normal, and BJ's world is so completely wrenched at the guts.
I found the book.
The look on Hawkeye's face just about kills him. Disarmed. Vulnerable. Absolutely terrified. He drops BJ's elbow and starts to back up slowly.
Beej. I um, listen, we can pretend it never - what book? See? What book? I never wrote a book. This uh, thing you found is just kindling waiting to happen, a nice firestarter I was saving for November -
BJ crosses the space between them in a single long stride, pulls Hawkeye to him, and breaks into tears on the smaller man's shoulder. Through the muffled terrycloth, Hawkeye can just barely make out the whispers, woven with the sobs.
you are my home, too.
Hawkeye lets the tears come, and rubs a hand up and down that smooth, broad back.
It doesn't surprise either of them when he turns his head and kisses BJ's bent neck. But the sound BJ makes when he feels Hawk's lips on him makes his knees buckle again. Something between a half-choked sob, shudder - and is that a growl?
*to be continued...*