QUIETENING THE SILENCE
Set after the end of the war.
One of the many things Hawkeye hated about Korea was that it was never silent. So now that he is home again without the constant noise he should be happy. So why isn't he?
An established relationship story.
Written: October 2013. Word count: 3,855.
Hawkeye punched his pillow, turned over onto his other side, closed his eyes and waited for the sleepy feeling to take over his body. Except twenty minutes later he was still wide awake, his body was tense rather than relaxed and despite the fact he was lying down, his heart rate had increased.
He sighed, sat up, put the bedside lamp on, ran his hands through his hair and glared at the radio that sat on his nightstand. "No," he said firmly, looking away from the radio and instead staring at the wall. "You can do this, Hawkeye," he murmured, "you can sleep without noise."
There he had told himself and that's what he would do. He would lie back down, turn the lamp out, close his eyes and this time he would go to sleep. He would not do as he'd done every night for the past six months and turn the radio on. He could sleep in silence; he could. He didn't need constant noise; he wasn't a child who couldn't fall asleep without a lullaby playing.
He was a grown man who for three years had wished for nothing more than to be able to enjoy even a minute or two of silence. The peace, the bliss that came with hearing nothing - that's what he'd wanted during those years in Korea. That's what he had now; that's what he'd had ever since he had returned to Crabapple Cover and his dad. So why wasn't he basking in it? Why wasn't he able to enjoy it? Why did he have to fill every moment with noise? Why did he have to fill every moment he spent with his dad with talk? Why, whenever he walked into an empty room, did he have to turn the radio or the television on?
And why, every night just in order to fall asleep, did he have to turn the radio on? For three years he'd slept in the noise of battle, helicopters, shouting, crying, fighting and for three years he'd wished, he'd hoped, hell at times he'd even prayed (which was pretty good for a so called agnostic) for just one night, hell for just one hour, one minute of silence. He'd looked forward to the day he could return home and spend minutes and hours in silence; he dreamed of the first night home in his own bed, with clean sheets, pillow slips and fresh blankets, in his own room, in his dad's house when he could turn off the light and fall asleep to the sound of - nothing.
But so far he hadn't been able to do that. The first night the silence had been so loud, the only way he could quieten it, the only way he could fall asleep, was to break the silence and turn the radio on. He had told himself though that very morning enough was enough. He had been home for six months; he wouldn't turn the radio on again, he'd just settle down in his bed and bask in the silence and fall asleep to the sound of silence and awaken to the sound of bird song.
Another twenty minutes went by during which his heart rate not only increased again he began to sweat and couldn't lie still. Finally, after five more minutes he gave in, reached for the switch and turned the radio on. He awoke in the morning to the sound of bird song and a voice telling him what a wonderfully warm day it was going to be.
His dad had breakfast already on the table when he joined him. "Morning, Dad."
"Morning, Hawkeye." His dad pushed a plate of bacon and eggs across the table, sat down and picked up his own fork. Hawkeye shoveled a mouthful of scrambled eggs into his mouth and concentrated on eating it and not speaking. It was actually his dad who broke the silence. "Fall asleep with your radio on again did you, son?"
Hawkeye stated slightly and glanced across the table and saw his dad was staring at him. His eyes, so similar to Hawkeye's own, seemed heavy with compassion and understanding, and not for the first time Hawkeye wished he could confide in his dad. However, he knew if he began to talk about the silence it would lead to other things - things he doubted even his dad could, would, understand and accept.
Thus, he gave his dad a quick smile. "Yeah, Dad, I did. Sorry. I hope it didn't disturb you."
His dad shook his head. "No, Hawkeye. It didn't disturb me."
Hawkeye pushed a piece of bacon into his mouth. "Good. Because -"
"You know," his dad paused for a moment and took a deep swallow of coffee and then another forkful of eggs. Hawkeye waited, alternating between sipping coffee and eating the eggs and bacon until his dad spoke again. "If you need to - want to - talk to me, I promise you there's nothing you can tell me that would - You're my son, Hawkeye. I love you."
"I know that, dad. I know you do. Everything's fine." He piled his fork with the last piece of bacon and the last of the scrambled eggs, swallowed them quickly, drained his mug and stood up. "Got to go, Dad, I promised Mrs. Fletcher I'd - I'll see you later." He grabbed his plate, put it into the sink and turned the faucet on.
His dad, leaning back in his chair and still sipping his coffee, just watched him. "I'll be here, son."
THREE NIGHTS LATER
Hawkeye awoke with a start and sat up suddenly, he was breathing hard and shaking; it was silent; he'd actually fallen asleep in the painfully loud silence. Hand shaking he reached for the bedside lamp and turned it on, before turning the radio on as he ordered his breathing to slow down. The clock showed him it was a little after one o'clock.
As the endless drone from the radio broke the quiet, Hawkeye found himself begin to relax and calm down. He leaned back against the headboard and pulled a pillow up; he'd fallen asleep in silence; for once he hadn't needed the radio on. He'd done it! And then he looked at the half empty bottle of whiskey that stood on his nightstand and knew how he'd done it. Drinking himself into a state of unconsciousness every night was not the answer; he knew that. Besides, it made him dream; it made him remember.
It made him remember his one big secret; the secret that consumed him at times; the secret that made him feel guilty because he didn't feel guilty and he should feel guilty. He remembered all the times he'd been in BJ's arms. He remembered how BJ had felt under his hands as he'd done things he never dreamed he'd do with another man; things that had been so wonderful he'd craved them and had become addicted to them.
He remembered the taste of BJ as they kissed; he remembered how different kissing BJ had been before and after he'd got that darn moustache. He remembered the times he'd begged BJ to put his hands over his ears and hold him closely and block out the noise. He remembered the love, the passion, the intensity, the fear of being caught, how he'd refused to think of BJ belonging not to him but to Peg and Erin.
He remembered it all; the risks they'd taken; how at times desperation had overtaken them and they hadn't bothered to even change out of the scrubs or even shower. He remembered the dirt, the sweat, the taste and smell of blood and filth; he remember how near to impossible it had been to keep clean, but that hadn't stopped them. He remembered their two perfect nights in a clean bed with actual real sheets and pillows in a hotel in Tokyo. He remembered despite how beautiful it had been to be clean and shaved and know a hot shower was there whenever they wanted it, he'd almost missed the scent of blood and dirt.
He remembered his promise; not one he'd made to BJ, but the one he'd made to himself. He'd vowed once they returned home, once he'd gone back to Crabapple Cove and his dad, and BJ had gone back to Maine and Peg and Erin that he'd never call or write to BJ.
But maybe, just maybe, he had to. Maybe it was what he needed to be able to get through each day and to be able to sleep without constant noise. Maybe if he spoke to BJ he could do as he'd promised himself when they'd been in Korea what he'd do: he'd bask in the silence.
He listened to the phone ring once, twice, three times before . . . "Hello?"
"Beej?" He whispered the name and felt tears well up in his eyes. "It's -"
"Hawkeye. Yeah, I know. How're you doing, Hawk?"
"I'm doing fine, Beej. I'm -" And Hawkeye found himself telling BJ about how loud the silence was, how he had to fill every moment of silence with some kind of noise, and how he couldn't sleep without the radio on - unless he drank himself to sleep. And BJ just listened and made the odd comforting noise from time to time.
As Hawkeye came to the end of his story he glanced at the clock and saw it was now nearer to half past one than to one o'clock and something occurred to him. "We're not keeping Peg awake, are we?" BJ didn't answer. After listening to the sound of BJ breathing for a few seconds Hawkeye said, "Beej? Did I wake Peg up?"
He heard BJ sigh softly. "No, Hawk. You didn't wake her up - well at least I don't think you did - and we're not keeping her awake. I'm in my study," he said.
Once more BJ fell silent and then he sighed again and said. "No. I'm - But let's not talk about me, Hawk. How's your dad?"
For a moment Hawkeye hesitated and then he decided to go along with BJ and started to talk about his dad, the practice, the folk of Crabapple Cove and how good it was to be home. BJ told him about his job at a nearby hospital, how different it was from their work in Korea, how he had to remember to change scrubs and not just gloves between patients, how he missed Hawkeye and Colonel Potter and the others. But not once did he mention Peg or Erin.
"And Peg and Erin?" Hawkeye made himself ask when BJ finally fell silent. "How are they?"
Again there was a fairly lengthy silence before BJ said, "They're fine."
Hawkeye waited, but BJ didn't elaborate. He glanced at the clock and saw it was gone two o'clock. With regret he said softly, "It's been good talking to you, Beej, but I guess we've both got to work in the morning."
"Guess we have. It's been good talking to you too, Hawk. We must do it again - soon," BJ added firmly.
Hawkeye swallowed and tried to push away the image of BJ in his arms, his mouth about to - "We must, Beej."
"I mean it, Hawk. I really mean it."
"So did I. Beej -"
"Go to sleep, Hawk," BJ said softly.
Hawkeye sighed as he suddenly realized quite how tired he was. "I will. You too," he added, momentarily forgetting BJ was in his study, not his bed.
When Hawkeye awoke in the morning it was to the sound of birdsong and nothing else. He lay for a moment or two basking in the silence before he got out of bed and went to the bathroom.
SIX NIGHTS LATER
The phone only rang once before Hawkeye grabbed it. "Hawkeye Pierce," he said quickly.
Hawkeye smiled. "Beej!" He fumbled for the lamp turned it on and glanced at the
clock. He frowned when he saw the time. "Are you okay, BJ? Has something
happened to you or -"
"No. I'm fine. Sorry I called so late. I hope I didn't wake your dad."
Hawkeye laughed softly. "You probably did, but when he realizes I'm not bouncing out of bed and about to race off into the night to visit a sick patient, he'll go straight back to sleep. Don't worry."
"Still. I am sorry to have called so late. Look, Hawkeye," BJ fell silent for a moment.
"Yeah, BJ?" Hawkeye finally said.
"Peg and Erin are going away for a few days or so with her folks and I wondered," again he fell silent, this time Hawkeye waited. "I wondered if I could come and visit you for a few days. Would your dad mind?"
"Of course he wouldn't. He's said more than once he hopes he gets to meet you one day. But aren't -" Hawkeye stopped speaking and said instead, "When do you want to come?"
"Is tomorrow too soon?"
"Today tomorrow or tomorrow tomorrow?"
BJ laughed. "Tomorrow tomorrow."
"A bed'll be waiting for you," Hawkeye said.
BJ was silent for a moment and then asked softly, "And you?"
Hawkeye actually held the phone away from his ear and stared at it. Then he shook his head and put the phone back to his ear; BJ hadn't meant - He couldn't have meant - It was just because it was late and . . . And because after one night of sleeping in silence he'd had to once again resort to turning the radio on. "I'll be here. If any patient needs their hand holding, I'll make Dad go out to them."
"I'll see you then."
"See you then." And Hawkeye carefully and deliberately hung up the phone.
THE FOLLOWING DAY
"It's so good to meet you, Dr. Pierce," BJ said, holding out his hand.
"It's good to meet you too, BJ. Hawkeye's told me all about you. And it's Daniel, son, not Dr. Pierce."
Hawkeye saw BJ glance at him and he shrugged and nodded. "Yes, sir," BJ said, and they all laughed.
A COUPLE OF HOURS LATER
The three of them sat around the dining table, even though they'd finished the meal some twenty minutes before, just talking in a relaxed way. Hawkeye was really happy that his dad and BJ were getting on so well - his happiness almost made up for the fact he was worried about BJ who seemed paler than when they'd said goodbye in Korea, as well as having an almost haunted, gaunt look and certainly his eyes didn't shine in the way they had done. It was almost as if he'd just arrived in Korea, not gone home.
"How are you adjusting to life back home, BJ?" Hawkeye's dad asked.
BJ sipped the whiskey Hawkeye had poured for them and glanced away from Hawkeye's dad's steady gaze. Then he looked back up and said quietly, "It's not as easy as I thought it would be, Dr. Pierce." Hawkeye's dad had told him several times to call him Daniel, but BJ didn't seem comfortable doing so and so his dad had stopped mentioning it.
His dad nodded. "I've seen that with other people; it's quite normal. And your wife? How is she adjusting to you being back home? I imagine it isn't that easy for her either."
BJ stared at Hawkeye's dad, as did Hawkeye. For a moment Hawkeye felt faintly annoyed with his dad, what right had he to question BJ like that. He was about to suggest BJ and he went for a walk or something when BJ sighed and said quietly, "It isn't no. She's . . ."
Again BJ and Hawkeye glanced at Hawkeye's dad. "Yes, sir. She - It's difficult for both of us. And Erin, well, Erin doesn't know me. It's -" Suddenly he pushed his chair back and stood up. "If you'll excuse me for a moment," he said and hurried out of the room.
Hawkeye looked at his dad. "Dad -"
"I'm going out, Hawkeye."
His dad nodded. "Yes. Charlie Babson, you remember him, don't you?" Hawkeye nodded. "Well he invited me and one or two others to join him in a poker game."
"Yes. Don't forget, son, I was the one who taught you all I know."
Hawkeye smiled. It was true, his dad had been the one to teach him how to play poker - and a worst player Hawkeye had never come across, well with the possible exception of Frank. "I hadn't forgotten, Dad."
"Good. As I said, he invited me and I'm going. It's going to be an all night game, so you can lock up after me and I'll see you in the morning."
Hawkeye stared at his dad. "Dad -"
His dad put his hand on his shoulder. "I know, Hawkeye. I know. I knew when you were in Korea. As I told you, you're my son, I love you. I respect you. Now say goodnight to BJ for me and tell him I'll see him bright and early; I'll take him out with me on my rounds."
Hawkeye swallowed hard around the lump in his throat. He honestly didn't know what to say to his dad. So instead he just did what he did best and hugged him. "Thanks, Dad," he whispered, his lips against his dad's ear.
"Was it something I said or did?" BJ said, when after about ten minutes he returned to the dining room to find Hawkeye had cleared the table and was pushing the chairs back into place.
"No. One of his buddies invited him to an all night poker game."
"Your dad plays all night poker?"
"Apparently. Come on, let's go and sit in the lounge and have another drink."
BJ put his hand on Hawkeye's arm. "Hawk -"
"Lounge. Drink. And then you can tell me. And then -" BJ's mouth on his silenced him. For a moment or two he tried to fight the kiss, but then he moaned softly and began to kiss BJ back. It took mere seconds before the intensity rose to the point where Hawkeye knew if he didn't break the kiss, they wouldn't even get to his bedroom.
Thus against his wishes, he pulled his mouth from BJ's and moved back, holding BJ at arm's length. "Beej?"
"What, Hawk? What's the matter?"
BJ stared at him. "I was married in Korea; that didn't seem to matter to you." He all but snarled the words at Hawkeye.
Hawkeye bit back an angry reply. "It was different," he said softly.
BJ closed his eyes for a moment before opening them and saying softly, "I'm sorry, Hawkeye. I didn't mean . . ."
"I know you didn't. Look, come and sit down and have a drink. Dad's out all night. He's not going to . . . Just come and sit down." He turned towards the lounge.
However, BJ caught his arm. "Just tell me one thing, Hawkeye."
"Do you still love me?"
Hawkeye turned back to look at BJ. "Yes, BJ. Yes, I still love you."
BJ smiled. "That's all I needed to know. Now you mentioned whiskey."
"Yeah, I did."
They sat together for half an hour or so, drinking whiskey and talking about Korea and the rest of their then family until BJ put his glass down and said quietly, "Peg and I aren't married any longer. Well, technically we are, but we're just waiting for the divorce to be finalized."
"Oh, Beej. I'm sorry."
Hawkeye nodded. "Actually, I am. Yes. I know how much you - What happened?"
BJ shrugged. "Korea? You?" Hawkeye frowned and opened his mouth, but BJ shook his head. "No. Neither of those is true. If the marriage had been that strong, it would have survived Korea. Look at Colonel and Mrs. Potter."
"Potter's career army."
BJ shrugged. "They still survived. Hell, Hawk, he still loves her after all the years they've been together. He loves her more today than I - Than I loved Peg when we married."
Hawkeye frowned and shook his head. "No. No, Beej. You and Peg - you were -"
"Idealistic. Well, maybe I was. Your dad was right; she wasn't the girl I married. Oh, I know she had to adapt, had to take care of things around the house, had to manage without me. But somehow I'd thought when I went home that she'd -"
"Stop taking care of herself?"
BJ nodded. "Yes. She doesn't need me, Hawk. And I - Well, I realized I need to be needed."
"You weren't working the night I called, were you?"
BJ shook his head. "No. I've been sleeping in my study ever since the night - Ever since the night I failed to make love to her for the fifth time."
"Don't. Just - Hawkeye, can we go to your bed?"
Hawkeye nodded. "Yes. But we're not sleeping together. I mean we can sleep together, but we won't sleep together. That okay with you?"
BJ nodded and smiled. "Yes. Oh, by the way, I quit my job at the hospital."
"What are you going to do?"
BJ shrugged. "Find one nearer to here. What? Don't look at me like that, Hawk. You won't leave here, you can't leave here. What would your dad do?"
"He survived without me for three years."
"That was different. Besides why would you want to leave this place? It's so quiet, so peaceful, so silent."
Hawkeye listened and heard - the perfection of silence. He heard silence; a silence he didn't need to quieten. He stood up and offered BJ his hand. "You're right, Beej. Come on, let's go and bask in the silence."
SIX MONTHS LATER
"Are you sure, Dad?"
"Of course I am, Hawkeye. I've been thinking about cutting back for a while now."
"You mean only deliver one baby a week rather than three?"
His dad laughed. "It's not as if I'm quitting altogether. I'll be a consultant; you and BJ can consult me. And they'll be the odd patient who won't -"
"Want some still wet behind the ears kid who can't possibly be a real doctor visiting them?"
Hawkeye and his dad laughed. "There's not many of them left, Hawkeye."
"I know, Dad. And you know what?"
"You miss them?" Hawkeye nodded. "So I can still keep busy and I can make sure you and BJ have a good dinner each night."
"Dad, about BJ -"
"I told you, Hawkeye. You're my son. I love you. Now, isn't it time you picked BJ up from the station?"
Hawkeye stared at his dad and opened his mouth to say - Well he didn't know what to say. So instead he put his arms around his dad and hugged him. "Love you, Dad," he murmured, before pulling away and heading out into the hall. "We'll be back soon."
"Dinner will be waiting.
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