LYING TO HIMSELF
When the war ended Hawkeye made himself a promise. Years later he has to admit he'd failed to keep it.
A first time story.
Written: February 2012. Word count: 2,040.
Years after the war in Korea had ended, years after everyone had been shipped home, years after he'd said goodbye to BJ, years after he'd made himself a promise, Hawkeye has to admit he'd failed to keep it.
His promise had been simple: forget about BJ. Forget you'd fallen in love with him in the hell that was Korea; forget his smile; forget his voice; forget the way he hugged you; forget his laugh; forget the way he looked at you; forget his touch - the touch that had only ever been given in friendship - forget he'd been your best friend; forget he'd got drunk with you, played tricks with you, grieved with you, celebrated with you; forget he was your other half. Forget him.
Let him go; let his memory rest in peace; donít think about him back at home with Peg and Erin being husband, dad, doctor, law abiding citizen, savoir, friend, neighbor. Don't think about all the times you nearly told him you loved him, had fallen in love with him, would sell your soul for one kiss, one night together.
Don't remember the time you planned to seduce him, but at the last minute backed out because you loved him just enough. Don't think about the impassioned plea you had all worked out, the one that ended with 'just one night, Beej, and I swear I'll never tell a living soul'; the plea you never delivered.
As he ties his black-tie and pulls on his black jacket and grabs his heavy black overcoat from the bed, Hawkeye knows he's failed in every single part of the promise. He has never forgotten BJ; never forgotten how much he loved him, how much he still loves him. He's never forgotten his smile, his voice, his touch, the way he hugged him and he never would.
It had been a stupid promise, but one he really had meant when he'd made it. But he could no more forget BJ, no more let him go, than he could forget how to be a doctor. Although for the first six months after he'd returned home, he had done his best to do that.
Even all these years later he's not sure how his dad had put up with him, but he had. He'd done what he'd always done: been there for Hawkeye, supported his son, never judged him, never got angry with him. And one day Hawkeye had just got up and told his dad he was taking over the surgery for the day. His dad had simply smiled, nodded his head and put his hand on his son's arm.
His dad. He swallows hard as he adjusts the overcoat on his shoulders and blinks back the tears. He shouldn't be able to cry, he shouldn't have any tears left to cry, he's shed so many already. But they are still there, threatening; he pulls an extra handkerchief from the drawer and tucks it into his pocket.
"Oh, Dad. I miss you," he says and slumps down onto the bed. Even now he can't really believe his dad is dead. He still goes downstairs expecting to hear him in the kitchen or the living room, still goes through into the surgery expecting to find him there. After visits, he still comes home and is already calling out to tell his dad about something one of their patients said or did.
Of course he knows his dad is dead; he was the one who found him outside in the snow, barely conscious. He was with him when he'd died, died with Hawkeye holding his hand and begging him not to die; died where his dad had always made Hawkeye promise he'd die: in his own home.
Even now Hawkeye wonders if he hadn't known from the first moment of examining his dad, from taking his vital signs, from all his years as a doctor, from his dad's own diagnosis that his dad had no chance of surviving, whether he would have broken his promise and called 911. Broken his promise and taken his dad to the hospital; broken his promise and let his dad die in the hospital. As he wipes his eyes he realizes that it's his one comfort: he had known; he hadn't had to face breaking that promise.
He gets up and stares out of the window; already he can see people gathering, standing close together, rubbing their hands against the bitter cold; snow is on the ground, frozen snow, he knows it won't have made digging the hole easy. He wishes it could have been a small funeral, just a handful of people or better still just him.
But duty and love had overtaken his own wishes. His dad had lived in and been the doctor in Crabapple Cove for far too long, had delivered far too many babies, patched far too many people up, held far too many hands, saved far too many lives not to allow the present and past members of the community who had loved his dad to attend the funeral. To attend the funeral and to pay their final respects; to say their goodbyes; to show how much they'd loved Dr. Daniel Pierce and how much they love Dr. Hawkeye as they call him. He wonders if now his dad is dead, he'll become 'Dr. Pierce' - he hopes not.
The ringing of the doorbell sounds through the far too empty, far too quiet house. He sighs, curses under his breath, wipes his eyes again, blows his nose and heads slowly downstairs - maybe if he takes long enough the person will just go away.
But as he reaches the door he can still see the vague shape through the glass. Why can't they give him a few more moments alone? A few more moments of peace before the funeral? A few more moments to say goodbye in private to his dad? But they won't. And he can't not open the door. He's far too much his dad's son.
He opens the door ready to tell the person to get lost and nearly stumbles back in shocked surprise at who is standing on his doorstep. "Beej?" he manages through suddenly dry lips.
"Hey, Hawk." The voice is the same; the eyes are still the same; the way he looks at Hawkeye is still the same. Sure there are more wrinkles on his face, his hair is darker and thinning a little, he's put on a few pounds, his damn moustache has gone, he's dressed in a suit, tie and overcoat, not unlike Hawkeye's own, but there's no question about it, the man standing on his doorstep looking down at him in that oh, far too familiar way is BJ Hunnicutt.
"I was sorry to hear about your dad, Hawk," BJ says, his voice is a little huskier, a little deeper, but Hawkeye would recognize it anywhere.
Hawkeye doesn't reply, he can't reply. He doesn't know what to say; he's not even completely sure he's not hallucinating. That it's not just his deep desire and wish to see BJ again that's making him see him. After all, he's barely slept since his dad died and he's been hitting the bottle more than he should. "Are you real?" he hears himself saying.
BJ smiles and put his hand on Hawkeye's shoulder, squeezing it tightly. "Yes, Hawkeye," he says. "I'm real and I'm really here. Can I come in?"
Hawkeye doesn't hear the last words, at least he hears them but he doesn't pay attention to them. "Why are you here?"
Gently BJ pushes past him into the house and closes the door behind him. "I came to pay my respects to your dad and to see you."
"But . . ." Hawkeye trails off. He hadn't written to BJ, had he? He'd written so many letters, made so many phone calls, had gone though his dad's address book, the surgery's address books going back years, decades, and even his own, much smaller, address book. Had he somehow written to BJ?
BJ puts both hands on Hawkeyes shoulders and says softly. "Your dad wrote to me, Hawk. He left a letter with his lawyer to be sent to me upon his death."
Hawkeye blinks. "Why?"
"Because he loved you and he knew you'd need someone with you today. Someone who -" BJ stops abruptly then sighed and said softly, "Loves you."
Again Hawkeye finds himself unable to compute what his old friend, the man he was sure he loved now more than he'd done in Korea, the man he believed he'd failed because he hadn't been able to forget him, able to let him go, had said.
BJ stares at him. "Maybe now isn't the time, Hawkeye. But then again maybe it is. After all, your dad did write to me. And he had his reasons for doing so. He loved you, Hawk. And I love you; I think I've loved you since you held my head while I threw up the first time we met. And I've always know how you felt. And I loved you all the more because you never told me, never made me choose. You let me go home to Peg and Erin."
Hawkeye frowns. "You really are here?" he says. "I'm not imaging you?"
BJ pulls him into a loose embrace, Hawkeye finds his arms moving of their own accord and slipping around BJ. "Yeah, Hawk, I'm here. And I'm here to stay."
"Peg? Erin?" Hawkeye is confused and despite BJ's words, despite the feel of him, despite the fact he feels real, feel as if he's there, Hawkeye still isn't completely certain it's not just part of his crazed imagination and wish-fulfillment.
"Erin's in her final year at college. Peg's met a nice man. She sends her condolences, by the way."
Hawkeye pulls out of the embrace and walks off into the living room. He grabs a bottle of whiskey and pours himself a large measure. He takes a deep swallow and then puts the glass down and turns around. "You knew?"
"Yet you didn't say anything?"
"What could I have said?"
"I don't know. Something. Anything."
"And what good would it have done?"
"I -" Hawkeye picks his glass back up. "Nothing," he says quietly. "So dad wrote to you?"
Hawkeye nods. "I never told him. I never told anyone." Suddenly he realizes, it was the one part of the promise he'd made himself, which he had in fact kept.
BJ moves a little nearer. "When you love someone words aren't necessary."
Hawkeye stares at him, a mixture of emotions were pouring through him. He doesn't know if to laugh, cry, get angry, throw BJ out, tell his dad to mind his own business (although it was a bit late for that), ask BJ to have him committed to the nearest asylum, just walk out of the house and ignore BJ, or something else entirely.
Tears won out. "I miss him, BJ. I still miss him. I come home and I still go to tell him something. I cook for two. I - I miss him, Beej."
"I know." And with that BJ puts his arms around Hawkeye again, this time pulling him into a tighter, closer embrace. Hawkeye lets the tears fall, lets them be soaked up by BJ's overcoat. Lets arms he remembers, a scent he still knows, a voice he'd always loved listening to, soothe him.
Finally he lifts his head from where it had rested against BJ's shoulder. "You're here to stay?"
BJ nods. "Yes," he says softly. "I am, Hawk."
Hawkeye moistens his lips. "Prove it," he says softly. Maybe it isn't the right time. But then again maybe it is. After all, his dad had written to BJ. In fact as he stares up into BJ's eyes he knows it is exactly the right time.
Seconds later as BJ's lips find his and kiss him in what is a mixture of the platonic kiss and a promise of so much more, he knows it is exactly the right time. And if it isn't, he no longer cares; he is too tired of lying to himself.
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