It’s after a long shift in OR, followed by a longer shift in post-op, when Hawkeye steps silently across the freezing cold tent and crawls into BJ’s cot.
Normally he’d never chance it, but they’re alone in the Swamp tonight. Frank is off with Margaret, no doubt licking his wounds after the mess tent wrestling match. It’s late, the fire is dying out, and the canvas ceiling is heavy with snow.
“Mmmm..” BJ turns in his sleep, his voice warm and almost amused in the chill of the night. “...Hawk?”
“You’re in my bed.”
“Wha’ you doing here?”
“Couldn’t sleep. Needed company,” Hawk says, and holds his breath. Trapper would never let him get away with this, but BJ isn’t Trapper, and maybe he’ll understand. “And they don’t build two-seater coffins.”
“Are you okay?” It’s a silly question, but Hawk lets himself slip into it like a warm bath, lets himself be warm and cared for instead of cold and lonely and heartsick.
It slips out. “My dad thinks I’m dead, Beej.”
He shivers, and burrows in closer to BJ’s side. “ Am I dead, Beej?”
It floats out into the darkness like a ghost, and there’s silence between them for a second, and then in a flurry of blankets, BJ wraps his arms around Hawkeye and pulls him in close, and for a second, everything goes away. “God no,” BJ says, his voice still rough with sleep, but he’s solid and strong, and for now at least, Hawk is so wobbly that it might be BJ’s touch alone that keeps him tethered to this khaki coil. “No, Hawk, you’re here , you’re alive.”
“How can you be sure?” Hawk asks.
BJ goes quiet, so quiet that Hawk can feel his heart pounding, and he’s sure he can hear the heart beating steadily on in BJ’s chest.
God, everything about him is so steady , and he’s real and alive, and Hawkeye… is a ghost.
And then BJ is wrapping gentle fingers around Hawk’s wrist, warm skin meeting cold, and he grabs Hawk’s hand and presses it to Hawk’s chest. “You feel that?” he asks quietly.
“Well in medical parlance, I believe we call that a heartbeat. Congrats, Dr. Pierce. You failed cadaver school.” Hawk can’t see BJ’s face, but he can tell BJ is smiling, and he squeezes Hawk’s hand before letting go.
“Are you sure?” he asks, because he knows better than anyone the power nightmares hold in the dark.
“You’re as alive as can be, Hawk. And speaking for myself and your father and everyone else who… who appreciates you, please stay that way.”
Hawk chuckles quietly to himself, and presses his head to BJ’s chest. “And you? Are you alive?”
“I should hope so. It would terribly disappoint my wife if I’m dead.”
Hawk tries not to recoil in the dark at the mention of Peggy. It isn’t like he didn’t know that BJ was married going in, but there are marriage vows, and then there are vows made under the cover of darkness.
And BJ is never going to be like Trapper.
“Hawk? You okay? You went quiet on me.”
“Well that happens sometimes,” Hawk mutters, wondering how he can extricate himself from BJ’s embrace without making it look like a brush-off, but he’s just realized he’s in the bed, in the arms of a happily married man, and he needs to get out before he does something he regrets.
“No it doesn’t,” BJ insists. “You’re never quiet unless something’s wrong.”
“You can tell that already?” Hawk asks.
“Yeah. Is that… not normal?”
“Who am I to judge what normal is? I’m in a war zone, halfway around the world, and halfway into a coffin. What’s normal, Beej?”
BJ sighs. “Fair point.”
They’re both quiet for a second, and then Hawk tries to wriggle out.
“Hawk, you can stay. If you want.” It spills out of BJ in a rush, and Hawk is grateful for the way the darkness masks how his mouth drops open, hides the blush spreading across his face.
“Are you sure?” he asks. “Peggy-”
“Peggy won’t mind,” BJ says. “Not when I have my best friend shaking like a leaf in my cot because he’s too scared to go to sleep, because a bunch of moronic idiots tried to tell him he was dead!” It’s angry, and his grip on Hawk tightens as he talks.
“Easy, Beej. Easy.” Hawk pats at BJ awkwardly. “Aren’t morons and idiots the same thing?”
“Maybe, but I’m mad, you can’t expect me to be Shakespeare.”
Hawk smiles. “Maybe it’s a bit selfish, but I’m glad you’re here, Beej.”
And he is, more than he can say. Enough that it leaves tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat.
“Can you tell me about Crabapple Cove?” BJ asks. “Does it snow there?”
“Yeah, Beej. Usually it snows before Halloween, and the snow stays until March.”
“Did you know…” BJ starts in a dreamy, exhausted voice. “I never saw this much snow until I came to Korea?”
“Not a lot of blizzards in California.”
“I know a bar that makes blizzards. Lots of gin, lots of ice… you’d like it.”
Hawk laughs. “Snow is utterly wasted here. It’s terrible. Wars don’t deserve snow, not the real kind.”
“The real kind?” BJ asks.
“The kind that you dream about, the kind that ends up on Christmas cards, not this miserable slush. The snow here is army-issue, so it’s crummy like everything else.”
“Then what’s it like at home?”
“Oh, you really oughta see it, Beej. The way the sunlight reflects off the snow first thing in the morning makes everything so damn dazzling . You go outside and you can’t see for a second, but then when you can, it’s… beautiful.”
“Beautiful,” BJ echoes, and yawns. “What are you supposed to do when it snows?”
“Oh, easy. Go down to the pond with skates, and with someone pretty on your arm. Or if you’re like me, get up a snowball fight with all the neighbours and then go in for hot cocoa with marshmallows after.”
“Well, at night time, it’s like this, only peaceful. You see, Beej, the snow falling past the streetlights… makes the whole world feel like something an author made up to sell books. And the world is perfectly still and peaceful.”
BJ sighs again. “I’d really like to see it someday.”
“I’ll show you,” Hawkeye says, suddenly brave. “Someday, when this place is just a bad dream, you and Peggy and little Erin can all come visit me. And I can show you everything.”
“Sounds amazing.” There’s another yawn from BJ that ruffles Hawk’s hair. “God, Hawk, we need sleep.”
“Can you…” Hawk swallows. “Can you tell me about California, some other night?”
He can tell BJ’s surprised. “Yeah, Hawk, sure.”
And Hawk makes his decision. He reaches through the darkness, groping his way through blankets to press his palm flat against BJ’s chest.
He can feel BJ’s heart beating under his hands, sending blood and life to every inch of BJ’s body, and he’s quite suddenly overwhelmed with love for BJ, who’s quiet and steady and yet so completely all in.
“Good news, Beej,” he mumbles. “You’re alive too.”
It’s the last thing he says before his eyes slide shut.