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Care from Charles Is a Last Resort

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Charles threw open the door to the Swamp with a bang loud enough to wake Hawkeye, who curled up in his bed further with a groan.

“Captain Pierce,” he greeted icily, “do you care to tell me why I’ve just come from my second back-to-back shift in post-operative recovery?” Hawkeye didn’t care to tell him that, no, and he’d have said as much if even the thought of moving his lips didn’t send waves of pain rippling through the left side of his face. God, was this what it was like to have a stroke? He was pretty sure he was dying.

When Hawkeye didn’t reply, Charles was his own Greek chorus. “I’ve come from my second back-to-back shift,” he answered himself, “because Colonel Potter deemed you too ‘indisposed’ to relieve me.” Hawkeye let a moan of pain slip past his lips in the hopes that it would end the tirade—or at least make Charles angry enough to storm off and come back to yell later, when his head wasn’t about to explode. No such luck.

“Charles,” he managed through gritted teeth, “leave me alone.” It had hurt as much as he’d imagined it would. He missed BJ, but it would be another three days before he returned from the lecture he was attending several camps away, and by that time, Hawkeye had no doubt that he’d be dead already.

“I will do no such thing,” Charles steamrolled over his misery. “You and Hunnicutt may well get away with these shenanigans when you work together as a team, but divided, you’re no less human than the rest of us. Sit up.”

Hawkeye couldn’t even open his eyes to look at Charles, not with the amount of light in the tent. He covered his eyes with his arm and rolled slightly to be more on his back to face Charles, whose tone immediately changed, almost like he was doubting himself. But Charles didn’t DO that.

“Don’t tell me you’re hungover,” he accused, and Hawkeye frowned disapprovingly.

“No,” he argued, seemingly unable to say anything else. He couldn’t think, couldn’t move; the pain was absolutely blinding.

“Then what’s wrong?”

“Migraine,” he muttered, drawing in a shaky breath to try to ride out the pain that came with moving his jaw to speak, “so go’way. You can yell at me later.”

Charles had never seen Hawkeye like this before. Working so closely together, it was sort of a given, an unspoken reality that they would all see both the best and the worst sides of one another, but it had really never occurred to Charles that he hadn’t seen both already, since for someone like Pierce, much of both were two sides of the same coin: his optimism got them through as a unit, but his inability to take anything seriously was a fatal flaw. He’d never put any thought to the idea that underneath, there was another layer to him, one that even a year and a half of the Korean war hadn’t yet uncovered. And here it was, raw and vulnerable, brought on by stress and a headache.

Hawkeye turned back on his side when he heard Charles leave the tent and tried to sleep once more. He’d only just fallen asleep before the door opening had woken him up, despite that he’d been in bed trying since he told Potter four hours ago that he’d developed a migraine aura and that the headache was bound to follow soon after. Normally, he’d work through it if the only symptom was pain, but trying to read patient charts or tiny numbers on thermometers would be impossible through the massive, warped hole in his vision. He’d promised to go to post-op for pain meds if it got too bad, but by the time it WAS that bad, he hadn’t been able to actually get there by himself. Instead, he’d opted for lying awake in agony for over four hours.

The door opened much more quietly this time.

“Pierce,” Charles said softly, “I’m going to give you a shot of morphine if that’s alright. You’ll feel much better.” Hawkeye couldn’t nod as enthusiastically as he’d have liked, but he did stick his arm out to receive the shot, and almost immediately, his posture positively sank into the mattress like a melting snowman. Charles could watch the too-tense muscles release in relief.

“God, that’s so much better. Charles, you beautiful man, I could kiss you,” he said quietly, daring for the first time to remove his arm from over his eyes. Still tender, but more like a pulled muscle than an active ice pick in his brain. The aura hadn’t dissipated completely yet, but it was on the way out, as it usually went away a few hours before the migraine did, and without some serious painkillers, he’d still have had a hell of a time ahead of him.

“The pain has lessened?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” he smiled. “Still can’t see a damn thing, but I can move again.”

Charles didn’t look amused. “What do you mean, you can’t see?”

He shook his head dismissively. “Aura, it happens; it’s fine. You’re a lifesaver, really.” When Charles didn’t look pleased, he continued to pander. “Alright, yes, I owe you for post-op. Just let me sleep now and I’ll cover as many shifts as you want.”

“That’s not what this disapproving gaze is in reference to, Captain.”

Hawkeye would have rolled his eyes if that didn’t sound like such a terrible idea. “In my defense, all your gazes are disapproving,” he teased. “So, what are you mad at me about?”

“Why didn’t you come to see me for the shot earlier?” he asked. “I’d have given it to you, and you wouldn’t have had to sit this whole time in pain. Not to mention, I wouldn’t have made quite the same entrance had I been aware of your condition.”

“I tried,” he defended himself, “but it was too bright outside. The risk vs. reward assessment I did turned up in favor of dying quietly in here than having my head explode out there.”

Charles nodded. That made sense, sort of; as much as Hawkeye ever made sense. “How often do you get migraines of this caliber?”

“Only after transforming under the full moon.”

“Can you not be frank with me for one moment, Captain?”

“I’ll be anyone but Frank with you, Charles.”

“Hawkeye!” Charles finally blew up, regretting it as soon as he saw Pierce wince. “For two minutes, act like a doctor. Or a patient. Or, for God’s sakes, a human person.”

He shifted in the bed uncomfortably. “Uh, they’re usually only this bad when I’m not sleeping and under a lot of stress,” he admitted.

“One could take that to mean daily, given what we do.”

Hawkeye laughed. “Yeah,” he agreed, “but usually not. Maybe a few times a month. But this has been the worst one yet.”

“Post-partem?” Charles asked mockingly. “Hunnicutt being away must be difficult for you.”

“If anyone is anyone’s mother, BJ is mine,” he pointed out, but, shockingly, Charles didn’t find it funny.

“If ever you’d like to alert me of your situation sometime before you’re incapacitated with pain,” he began, “I’d appreciate a little warning, next time.” Hawkeye nodded.

“This one snuck up,” he admitted “Way too long in OR and way too much coffee. It was pretty sudden.”

“Not so sudden that you couldn’t make the Colonel aware,” he pointed out, and Hawkeye had to give him that.

“You got me,” he caved. “Okay. If it gets bad like this again and BJ isn’t around, I’ll get you.”

Charles nodded, standing from the side of Hawkeye’s bed and turning toward the door once more to go dispose of the syringe and give him a little more peace and quiet.

“Oh, Charles,” Hawkeye called just before he was out the door, and he steeled himself for whatever stupid, tedious remark was about to be made.

“Yes, Pierce?”

“In case you doubted the sincerity the first time—thank you. I mean it.” Charles nodded as if it had been a big chore rather than an enormous fright and left the tent without another word.