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For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her

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For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her

What I dream I had, pressed in organdie,
Clothed in crinoline of smoky burgundy,
Softer than the rain.
I wandered empty streets down past the shop displays.
I heard cathedral bells tripping down the alley ways,
As I walked on.

And when you ran to me your cheeks flushed with the night.
We walked on frosted fields of juniper and lamplight.
I held your hand.
And when I awoke and felt you warm and near.
I kissed your honey hair with my grateful tears.
Oh I love you, girl.
Oh, I love you.

'For Emily Whenever I May Find Her'
– by Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel

 


 Mill Valley, California – April 1954

"I gotta admit, this is a bolt out of the blue." BJ was beaming as he poured them each a drink and handed Hawkeye a fine, crystal glass. "I never thought I'd see you turning up on my doorstep with girl trouble!" He was still smiling expectantly as he returned the bottle to the drinks cabinet and took a seat.

The corner of Hawkeye's lip twitched into something that could generously be called a fraction of a smile. He took a long, reassuring drink. "Girl trouble – that's one way of putting it," he muttered, shifting a little awkwardly on Peg's floral print couch. Trust BJ to be able to meet even the most terrifying crisis with reassuring, unshakable good humour. Nothing seemed to faze the man. Hawkeye could only assume California grew optimism on trees the same way it did oranges. "Sorry to drop in like this. I bet you thought you left all the mayhem behind in Korea, didn't you?"

They were sitting in the plush suburban living room of the Hunnicutts' plush suburban house, BJ propped up in an easy chair with his long legs stretched out across the carpet, and Hawkeye slumped opposite him, elbows resting on his knees as he rolled his now-almost-empty glass between his fingers. Apart from their surroundings and the line of longitude they were sitting on, it seemed like nothing had changed.

Except everything had changed, or was about to. Telling BJ had made it seem all the more real. The thoughts that had been tumbling through his mind like flurried images from a dream suddenly snapped into focus.

"Must be quite a special lady to get you flying all the way across the country. I'm guessing she made an impression."

BJ's comment shattered Hawkeye's thoughts and dragged him back to reality. Hawkeye swallowed. He took a large swig of gin, set his glass down, and sighed. "She sent me a letter." Reaching into the pocket of his slacks, Hawkeye produced a worn, grubby, folded piece of paper. It looked like it had once been lemon yellow, but weeks of handling reading and re-reading had rendered it a mottled grey. He extended it to BJ, but his friend shook his head and held up his hands.

"Hey, you keep your dirty letters to yourself – I'm a married man. Just… give me the gist."

In a rare moment of self-consciousness, Hawkeye glanced over his shoulder. Peg had busied herself about the house in a thinly disguised attempt to give them space to talk in private, and had clearly vanished upstairs.

BJ seemed to read his mind. "Peg can't hear you. She's got better things to do than eavesdrop on your love-life. Now quit stalling, would you? I'm on tenterhooks here!"

Nodding, Hawkeye unfolded the letter and cleared his throat. He had a feeling that BJ's grin was about to vanish. Without any further ceremony, he began:

" Dear Hawkeye, How's Korea? I've been trying to write this letter for three hours now, and only managed those two little words. Pretty good going, right? But you know me, I was always the quiet type.

" I guess I'll start with the small-talk: America is beautiful – even more beautiful than I remembered – but I'd be happy anywhere as long as there's no bombs, or shells, or cold showers in the mornings. I think of all of you every day and I hope you all get to come home soon too. There's news on the wireless that peace talks are making progress, so with any luck you won't have to wait long.

" I'll never forget the party you threw for me the night before I flew home. I know it was you because nobody else in that camp knew how to make gin Jell-o. I'll also never forget that midnight walk we took up to the hill by the chopper pad, and down the other side again so we could lie in the grass and look at the stars. We only got two constellations in before…"

Hawkeye trailed off for a moment, coughed and murmured, "I'll skip a bit." As he resumed, he found himself wavering in his recitation.

" I hope it won't sound too corny if I tell you it was the most memorable night of my life. Not because I'm some lovesick little girl with her head in the clouds – I'm twenty-four, and I'm no fool – but because I'm expecting a baby in six months. I've spoken to my doctor to make sure. I wouldn't have written to you about this unless I was certain, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that it's yours. Don't feel bad for me – I know circumstances are hardly ideal, but in a funny way I can't help but think this could be the one good thing to come out of Korea. And please, please don't be scared. If anyone should be scared it's me – I have to tell my folks next. I hope they understand."

Hawkeye paused. His voice cracked and he inhaled a deep, tremoring breath.

" I want you to know I'm not demanding anything from you. You didn't sign up for this, and I know that. I just wanted you to be aware, so you can make whatever decision you choose. I won't chase you, or even name you unless you want me to, but I'm sure you understand that I would dearly, dearly love to speak with you.

" Yours, Emily (formerly Lt. Winters)."

Hawkeye folded the letter along the well-worn lines and sat holding it awhile before looking up at BJ. They sat in silence for a minute or so, each unsure of what to say.

It was BJ who spoke first. "When did you get this?"

"Two months ago. She wrote it last summer. It must have come through while I was– uh..." He gave a little sideways nod, indicating his stay at the psychiatric hospital. "Looking at the stamps on the envelope I'd say this has been shipped to Uijeongbu, Seoul, Tokyo, back to Uijeongbu again, and then stopped for a vacation in some military sorting office before they finally managed to get it on a plane back to Crabapple Cove."

BJ's eyes widened as he did the math. "So that means…"

"The kid would have been born about four months ago." Hawkeye went cold. It was the first time he'd said the words out loud. He hadn't spoken of this until now. He couldn't tell his father, could barely even admit it to himself. He tried the idea on for size again. "I have a kid. There's a little part of me out there shaped like a tiny human being, keeping Emily awake at night, laughing, crying for a bottle, throwing up."

BJ quirked a smile. "The apple didn't fall far from the tree." Hawkeye shot him a look, and BJ took note that this was not a time for witty remarks, but he couldn't deny the idea of a tiny, miniature Hawkeye had some appeal to his paternal side. "Sorry – I get that this is a shock."

"No kidding!"

"I mean, I know what you were like out there. Are you seriously telling me this kind of thing never even occurred to you?"

"I was careful, Beej." Hawkeye's tone was morose rather than indignant. "I'm a doctor. I might have laughed at those lousy movies they showed us but I wasn't stupid. I single-handedly kept Japanese rubber shares at the top of the stock market!" His mind wandered for a moment, recalling the embarrassed silence of the regulation VD checks, and the way the officers would subtly palm little bundles of army-issue prophylactics into the sweaty hands of terminally cringing enlisted men. Not to mention the way Potter would always call him back after and personally hand him however many were left over. Hawkeye was the poster boy for 'if you can't be good, be careful', doing his best to grin and joke and toss off a cheeky one liner about 'something for the weekend'. "I was the epitome of careful," he muttered.

"Those things don't always work, Hawk."

"I noticed," Hawkeye replied softly. "Remind me to write a strongly worded letter to the army on the subject of their poor craftsmanship." He turned his attention back to the note in his hands, unfolding it, refolding it, and turning it over.

"Forget the army – you need to write back to her. You need to write back to her now."

"I did!"

"I mean, your kid's gonna be four months old by now."

"I wrote to her already!" Hawkeye ran his hand through his hair, agitated. Did BJ think he'd just ignored this? "It took me a week to get the words out. I must've started twenty or thirty letters and tossed 'em in the trash before I got it right. But I wrote. And I got nothing. So I wrote again…" He toyed with Emily's note once more. "I'd keep writing but I don't think I'm getting through." He buried his head in his hands, the anxiety and the tension of the past two months beginning to seep out of him. "I just… I thought maybe if I came out here I could track her down, just sit down and talk to her. Her letter gives her address as San Francisco. We could drive down, swing by…"

The rest of the plan faded to silence, and BJ took it upon himself to urge him on. "You're missing one important part of that plan – what exactly is it that you wanna do if we find her?"

Hawkeye shrugged. "I can't know that until I talk to her. You know, we'll do the responsible thing: sit down like two mature, intelligent adults. Two mature, intelligent adults and their four month old illegitimate kid. Talk it out, weigh up the pros and cons, work out the right thing to do."

BJ looked at his friend in disbelief. His words spoke of calm, rational decision-making, but his demeanour was that of a man in total emotional upheaval, the way he fidgeted and fumbled with the paper that had brought him this life-changing news. The trouble was, BJ couldn't tell which way his emotional compass was pointing. Did Hawkeye want to commit, or bolt? He decided to prod the sleeping bear. "You do realise that 'the right thing to do' might well be to marry her?"

"I know that. I thought about that a lot over the past two months. Lying awake at night wondering what happened to the girl you knocked up kinda leaves you with a lot of time to think, you know."

"And you think that's something you could do? Marry a girl you barely know? Someone you spent one night with over a year ago?"

"If she'll have me."

BJ flashed a grin. "Ok, who are you and what have you done with Hawkeye?"

Hawkeye's rolled his eyes, slouching back on the couch, arms folded. "Great – I threaten to get serious with someone and nobody takes me seriously. I don't believe this!"

"I am serious. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's admirable that you want to do the right thing by her, but marriage isn't something you should rush into – not under any circumstances. You're not being serious – you're being an idiot! This isn't a commitment to you – it's a gesture. A big, dramatic and dare I say stupid gesture."

"A gesture? I'm talking about asking for her hand in marriage and you call it a gesture?"

"You're not looking at the big picture! You're talking about the proposal like it's a big deal, but you don't sound like you even know what it actually means. If you're going to offer to do that you'd better be prepared for what comes after. What happens once the sense of nobility wears off, huh? You know what you're like – less than a year and you'll be chasing your neighbour's wife and making excuses to stay late in the office, sneaking sips of gin out of a bottle under your desk so you can face going home. You could wind up hating each other."

"Anyone would think you were trying to talk me out of this. I thought you of all people would understand! You're the poster boy for Matrimony Incorporated! I figured you'd be all for this."

"Not if you're doing it for all the wrong reasons! Look, you think you've screwed up, and you're trying to compensate by throwing yourself on your sword. It's self-sacrifice! Marriage shouldn't be a punishment!"

Hawkeye blinked and stared at him mutely, and for a moment BJ wondered if he'd been too harsh. "Self-sacrifice?" Hawkeye repeated. He grimaced, wiping his sweaty palms on his knees, anxious and tense. "Okay, I realise we haven't seen each other in a while, but what exactly do you think I'll be sacrificing?"

BJ stared back. An awkward silence descended and he noticed with some concern that there was still a sadness in his friend's demeanour that he'd always ascribed to the horror of wartime Korea: the way his shoulders slumped, and his smiles never quite reached his eyes the way they used to. His expression had a permanent look of mourning to it. "I always thought you liked your life the way it was."

Hawkeye laughed a bitter kind of laugh as he downed the last of his gin. He stood and walked to the drinks cabinet. As he did so, he couldn't help but recall a similar walk he used to take, somewhere halfway across the world. Dusty wooden boards had now been replaced by plush carpet, and where there was once a homemade still propped up on old crates, there was now a gleaming stock of bottles and crystal glasses. He caught sight of himself in the reflection in the glass doors as he refilled his drink and turned away. Addressing his liquor, he smiled a thin, joyless smile. "What life?"

BJ tried his best to bury the dreadful sinking feeling. This was a lot to deal with. They'd had their share of difficult conversations in Korea; of emotional evenings where the death and the violence had become too much, and they'd crawled into their Martini glasses and spilled their guts to one another until the daylight began to creep through the cracks of their canvas home. The end of the war was supposed to change all that. They had gone back to the lives they had craved and missed for so long; back to happiness and carefree living and loving families. Clearly, in Hawkeye's case, it hadn't worked out like that. BJ pressed gently: "Care to elaborate on that?"

Hawkeye sighed and leaned heavily on the drinks cabinet, rattling the contents a little. "I moved back out to Maine as soon as I hit the States," he mumbled into his glass. "I didn't think I could hack it in Boston, and I wanted a fresh start. I guess I thought I'd come back home and carry on like nothing happened."

"I think we both know it doesn't work like that."

"But that's what they want!" Hawkeye gestured aggressively with his glass, spilling gin on the carpet. "My dad, our patients, everyone in Crabapple Cove. They want the old Hawkeye back; the guy who was all smiles and jokes and not a care in the world. They look at me like they don't know me! People I've known all my life cross the street to avoid me! Do you have any idea how much that hurts?!"

His question went unanswered. BJ struggled to put himself in Hawkeye's shoes. Out here in California, with the bustling metropolis of San Francisco only a drive away, he'd had no end of love and support: his folks, Peg, Erin, all his friends, not to mention the hospital where he worked. It hadn't occurred to him how different things would be out in small-town New England.

Hawkeye sloped back to his seat, bringing the bottle with him. "Once I'd settled in, some of the guys decided to take me out to a bar – but we didn't make it that far. A car backfired in the parking lot and I hit the tarmac. They laughed. My first day back at work, this guy came in with a compound fracture, and the rest of the staff were all wondering why I spent an hour and a half hiding out the back waiting for my hands to stop shaking. Nobody out there gets it!" He ran a hand through his hair, wiping at the thin sheen of perspiration that had gathered at his brow. He tried to calm down. Gazing through the window at the clear California sky, his expression softened. "She'd get it, though. She was out there. If I was ever going to settle down with anyone…"

He trailed off, the silence hanging, heavy with unanswered questions. BJ nodded and finally raised his first drink to his lips as Hawkeye poured himself a third.

"I need a shakeup, Beej," Hawkeye said, reading his disbelief. "Maybe this is it. Maybe this whole thing is a blessing in disguise. No more nosy neighbours asking why I freaked out at the store; no more lousy dates with women who treat me like a curiosity. I could move out here, I could start a new life, I could have my best friend living uptown instead of the other side of the country. And I could have a relationship with a woman who's shared two of the most significant things that ever happened to me. But I can't know until I talk to her."

"So this is your quick fix," BJ concluded, a dubious look on his face. "Like you can just turn up on her doorstep and see what happens, hoping it'll cure everything. Ten months is a long time! A lot could have changed since she wrote that letter. You can't expect to turn up after a year and pick up where you left off!"

Ah, BJ – ever the voice of reason. Hawkeye stared into his drink and tried to get his head around the vast plethora of possibilities, good and bad. It was no good imagining though – without a word from Emily, his future stretched out before him in a vast grey fog of unknown. "I'm not expecting anything. I just want to talk." He handed the folded letter to BJ, the address displayed at the top in neat cursive. "You think you can help me out?"

"You want me to go with you?"

An indifferent shrug. "If you wouldn't mind."

BJ smiled. He was familiar enough with Hawkeye's machismo. "That means you do."

"Yeah."

"Scared?"

"Terrified."

Letting Hawkeye's admittance pass without further comment, BJ regarded the letter thoughtfully. He spent enough time in San Francisco to be familiar with most neighbourhoods. "Sure, I can get you there. Shall we say Saturday?"

Hawkeye looked like a startled rabbit. "Saturday. Right,"

"Or… I could take a day off this week. Tomorrow. Let's say tomorrow."

A business-like nod from his friend.

"You're allowed to be nervous, you know," BJ assured him.

"I am? Well, that's good to know!" Hawkeye downed another gin. BJ watched as he wrestled with the cap on the bottle for several seconds, his hands shaking. Eventually he got in, and made several attempts at pouring before looking up at BJ with an expression of inebriated confusion. "Hey – this bottle's empty."