“Hey, doc…? “
Hawkeye halted in his stride and elegantly turned to the bed from which a hesitant voice called upon him.
“Good afternoon, young man; how can I help you?” he chirped, flashed the man with a smile while taking the chart describing the patient’s condition and scanning it for a brief moment. “Private Markham. G. Gee, what is your first name? Gary? Gregory? Garlic...?”
“Gene,” Private rewarded Hawkeye’s attempts of humour with an amused smile. “But sometimes I’d prefer Garlic, to be honest.”
“How is that?” Hawkeye asked, and with the chart in his hand, he sat next to the young man to chat a bit.
“You can stand them joking about Gene having the perfect name for Jean factory only so many times, doc….”
“I see your point,” said the doctor who managed to swallow the same corny joke at the Private’s answer, and instead of mourning the lost potential of that humorous piece, he asked: “So, is something troubling you?”
The boy seemed tired and slightly annoyed, Hawkeye noticed, but at the same time, concerned.
“Do you know what happened when I was… before my surgery?”
“Uhm… I’m not sure,” Hawkeye frowned, trying to recall the day Markham was transported to them. “Weren’t you that boy saved by doctors Hunnicatt and Winchester? The one who escapes the graver’s shovel in the last second?”
“Yeah, that was me,” Gene nodded, and something similar to discomfort overshadowed his features.
“Okay, so… you’re BJ’s… Dr Hunnicatt’s patient, so maybe I should ask him to- “
“Please, no, I’ve had enough of them… of him, whatever.”
Markham’s voice was raw with irritation, even bordering on anger, which unsettled Hawkeye.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand you, Gene. The both of them are brilliant doctors and….”
“I know!” the young man barked before calming down remarkably, acknowledging he was yelling at the wrong person. “I know, doc, but… I just need to speak to somebody I haven’t spoken to yet because… Are you… are you doctor Winchester’s friend?”
“I’m… I’m not sure he’d put it like that, but I… I’d like Charles seeing me as his friend, yes,” Hawkeye stuttered a bit as he liked the said doctor to some extent, yet he had no idea whether they were on friendly terms in particular. “We respect each other.”
“I see…” said the patient, eyeing Hawkeye with a frown. “But, you know, he could use a friend. In my opinion.”
“What do you mean, Gene?”
“He had a bad row with the other doctor, Hunnicutt. He yelled at doctor Winchester for harassing me as he kept asking me weird questions about death and the afterlife and… I’d love to give him some answers, but I was drained, and now, I can’t remember a thing. Not to mention it’s not a pleasant thing to know that I was dead for a minute or so…” Markham didn’t break the eye contact with Hawkeye. “But hey, I guess doctor Hunnicutt had every right to be mad about doctor Winchester keeping me awake, but, you know, this guy’s hit rock bottom.”
Hawkeye remained silent, taking in the information young Markham was providing him with.
“Do not use it against him, please, he didn’t seem half that bad, and I think you can help him actually… He… He might’ve thought I wouldn’t remember it as I was highly medicated, but I know he was talking about his brother. You know he had a brother?” Gene asked upon seeing Hawkeye’s surprise.
“No… he only mentioned his sister Honoria,” admitted Hawkeye, already sensing this wasn’t going to be any good. “Something happened to him, I suppose….”
“Yeah…” Gene nodded, lowering his gaze. “He was younger than doctor Winchester, and… he couldn’t understand at first… he didn’t know where he went. I believe it was very hard for him, and now something’s triggered the memory, probably my case, my half-death….”
Looking elsewhere, Hawkeye didn’t say anything, just tried to recall how Charles was behaving in the past days. It wasn’t difficult to discern the pattern.
“That’s why I didn’t want to speak with doctor Hunnicutt. He cares about me, but I feel alright. I think someone should look after doctor Winchester now… you might help him with his personal crisis even though you’re not friends… everybody sometimes needs somebody, and a willing listener could be enough.”
“Eh… you don’t know, doctor Winchester,” smiled Hawkeye sadly at the patient. “He’s the Major Ego, the pompous titan, the imposing and imperial Arc de Triomphe….”
Shaking his head, he couldn’t see himself comforting Charles over his personal crisis as Hawkeye himself tended to solve problems with jokes and alcohol. Charles would’ve never opened up to him. Alcohol wouldn’t work on him, too.
“Just… try it, please. He seemed lost….” Gene was serious about the issue, imploring Hawkeye to give it a whirl. “He’s your colleague; you’re brother in arms. He deserves your help.”
“You’re right about that, Gene, but….” Hawkeye couldn’t resist helping Charles. Yes, he deserved it, and he was willing to try despite the fact he was already dreading the moment he would face Charles, knowing what happened to his little brother. “It must be agonizing… In the middle of the war, he experiences another one inside his soul. As if we all haven’t suffered enough… especially you,” focused Hawkeye again on the patient. “I promise to keep an eye on Winchester, and you promise to keep getting better, okay?”
“Sure thing, doc,” Gene smiled, apparently relieved he got the burden off of his chest. He leaned back into the cushions, his cheeks slightly pink, signalling the healing process was going just fine. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome, Gene,” Hawkeye said as he stood up. “You’re a good kid, you know?”
“Doing my best,” Markham grinned, and upon saying goodbye to the doctor, he relaxed.
Once he left Markham alone, Hawkeye felt an uncomfortable tension in his stomach growing, settling and lasting for the whole shift. It was even accentuated by the information that Charles started for the First Aid to experience the imminent threat of death.
Hawkeye broke into a cold sweat.
It slipped out of his mouth rather naturally when standing in the middle of the Swamp. He must’ve looked really out of sorts, scratching his scalp, his expression dire, making BJ suddenly worried as well.
“Hey… he’s gonna be okay. The place’s not under heavy fire,” BJ said from his cot, watching Hawkeye, who was almost trembling.
Hawkeye himself wasn’t sure what got into him as yeah, some fear for Charles was understandable, but his throat was tight and his breathing heavy. He just couldn’t even imagine the way Charles must’ve felt… leaving for the First Aid, putting himself in such a danger only to get at least a resemblance of what Markham went through. Hawkeye saw the point in it; he did; still, he was angry with Charles and was scared for him because… because damn, he suddenly knew something intimate about his life, something that cast a different kind of light at the Bostonian aristocrat. He seemed so human and vulnerable that it was hard to see how he could stay unscathed on the front.
“I’m gonna call there and see if he’s okay,” Hawkeye said, standing up.
“Potter’s just done that. He’s alive and kicking and got an order to return as soon as it’s safe for him,” BJ informed his friend, though he looked so unfazed that it was like a punch to Hawkeye’s gut.
“How can you be so damn calm?” he inquired, pacing the tent like a tiger.
“Since when exactly you’re so concerned about Charles? He went there willingly to sort some dilemma of his….”
“Dilemma? The man’s suffering from a personal crisis, BJ. He doesn’t think straight, he feels alone… misunderstood… maybe even suicidal.”
“Charles? Suicidal? His existence is too precious for this world! He wouldn’t have ever robbed us of it,” BJ snorted, yet his tone wasn’t as sure as a few seconds ago. “You really think he went to the First Aid to get himself… killed?”
“I don’t know….” Hawkeye forced his body to rest, and sitting on the cot; he started folding his socks. “But he needs our help. Or if not help, he needs understanding. Instead of being yelled at,” he added bitingly, looking at BJ, who gave him an ironic look.
“Markham’s MY patient and-“
“And Charles is your friend. Sometimes you show such a lack of empathy I wonder Margaret didn’t call you out on that.”
“Actually… she did,” BJ sat up slowly, finally acknowledging his poor judgement of the situation. “But to my defence, she tried to treat Charles the way you suggested and… managed to stick to it for like a minute before she lashed out at him as well. Charles’s not an easy person to be… nice to.”
That wasn’t something Hawkeye was about to counteract; the conversation didn’t ease the tension within his chest, though.
“Okay… once he returns, it’s my turn. I don’t want him to go through his problems alone… nobody should be left to do that,” he decided, remembering he and his dad healed over the death of his mother because they had each other. And although he and Charles weren’t much close, Hawkeye was adamant about trying.
Firstly, he promised it to Gene. Secondly, he felt obliged to help another human being, and… and thirdly, he perceived Charles as his friend. Thus it was nearly impossible for him to witness his suffering without giving him a helping hand that might be bitten. But he always could offer the other one.