Chapter Eleven: No Place Like Home
He remembered getting into the jeep, being loaded onto the chopper, the flight, being unloaded and carried, and then a familiar voice, BJ's voice, and then the mask -
Post-op. At least knowing where he was meant he could get right to a latrine instead of having to try and find one. He opened his eyes and sat partway up, but the movement caused pain to shoot through his body and he slumped back to the bed, gasping.
"Hey, take it easy." BJ's voice sounded from somewhere above him. "What are you trying to do?"
He turned his head to look at his friend, to make sure it wasn't all an illusion. "Beej, you're a beautiful sight."
The younger doctor grinned. "I like to think so. Now why don't you tell me where you thought you were going?"
"Latrine." He was too tired and hurt too much to keep up any banter. He just wanted to take care of what he needed to take care of and go back to sleep.
"Not for the next couple of days. You're strictly on bed rest. The bathroom's one floor down."
He felt too awful and needed to go too badly to argue the point. He did what was needed as quickly and discreetly as possible and slid the bedpan back under the bed.
"How do you feel?"
"What's wrong? You in pain?"
"We can start with that."
BJ stood and walked over to the cart, picking up a needle. "I'm going to give you a shot of morphine, all right?"
"Fine." Anything to stop the pain.
He felt the needle in his arm, and sighed with relief as it began to kick in.
"Much. Hey, you know if I can get room service in this place?" With his pain down to tolerable, he could start making weak jokes again.
"Like you wouldn't believe."
"I'll see what I can do."
Of all the things to be grateful for, mess tent "food" was one Hawkeye had never expected to put on his list. But when he'd been sat up and the tray was brought to him, he'd never been so glad to see food - any food - in his life.
He took a huge mouthful of whatever it was. He knew it tasted terrible, but he didn't care. It felt wonderful in his aching stomach. He drank half his glass of water in one gulp. Nothing in the world could have tasted better than that simple liquid. He didn't bother even trying to act like he wasn't starving. He inhaled the meal. He drained the glass of water and drank two more.
"Anything else?" BJ asked once he'd finished.
"I feel sort of sick. Not like sick to my stomach, just - sick."
"You're running a fever. I've ruled out secondary infection, so it's probably just a side effect of the dehydration. You'll feel better once we get your fluid levels up to normal."
"All I want to do now is sleep." He was fighting to keep his eyes open. Having a full stomach had just added to his weariness.
"Then sleep, Hawk." He helped his friend lie down. "Get some rest, you look like you need it."
"Won't argue with you," he mumbled before he dropped off completely.
A noise roused Margaret from a sound sleep. That in itself was odd - being in the army meant learning to sleep through anything. On top of it, the only noises she could hear were a soft snuffling, whimpering sound, and a faint rattling, hardly loud enough to wake even the lightest sleeper.
It hit her, and she sat up suddenly, eyes flying open. The noise hadn't woken her because it was loud, it was the first noise that had done it, and it had woken her because she knew what it meant. She turned to her right, looking at the occupant of the bed.
Hawkeye was sobbing in his sleep, shaking so hard it was rattling his cot. Grateful beyond expression at this moment that she was off the IV, she carefully stood and walked over to him.
He didn't say a word to acknowledge that he'd heard her. She carefully reached out and touched his hair. "Hawkeye, it's all right. You're safe now, you're home, and I'm here."
His eyes opened and he took her in. Then he weakly reached for her arm. "Margaret."
"Margaret - so scared," he sobbed.
"I know. I know you are. But you're safe now."
She hesitated. To get both of them on one cot as they had done so many times in the past would mean getting extremely close, and she was worried she might hurt him. But he clearly wanted her there, and as scared as he was she couldn't deny him.
"Look, I need to take a few steps away, I won't go far, all right?"
"Okay." He reluctantly let go.
He heard a few soft scraping noises and then something bumped his cot. Then he felt a slight dip in the very edge of it.
She brushed gently against him. "I'm here, Hawkeye."
He turned his head slowly to see that she had brought her own bed up next to his and was lying spread over the edge of his and part of hers. His hand found hers.
"Go to sleep," she whispered. "It's going to be all right."
"Uh - Doctor Hunnicutt?"
"What?" BJ wasn't sure why Riley, who was supposed to be on duty in Post-Op, was interrupting him in the middle of his breakfast. He really couldn't stand the guy.
"There's something going on in Post-Op..."
"What does 'something going on' mean, Riley?"
"Well, uh, it's not a medical problem or anything, I'm just not sure it's allowed -"
"Oh, for God's sake. Forget it. Just show me the problem."
Post-Op was quiet, much to BJ's relief. He'd been half-expecting an epic fight to have made the young doctor so nervous. "I don't get it. What's the problem?"
"There." He pointed to a cot on the right side. Actually, BJ realized, it was two cots that had been moved to create one makeshift bed.
Hawkeye and Margaret had moved together in their sleep. She lay on her left side, her right arm draped across his waist. His left hand was wrapped around it in a death grip even as he slept. His right arm was under her head and his hand lay on her shoulder, while her left arm crossed over his right and her hand rested in his hair. Her forehead was against his cheek.
"Are they allowed to do that?" Riley asked.
"Under the circumstances, I'll allow it." He couldn't help smiling. "I think separating them would do more damage than anything that could happen because of this - arrangement."
"But how am I supposed to take vital signs with them all - wrapped up like that?"
"Never mind, I'll do it." God, what an idiot. I'll be glad when Hawkeye's able to take his job back.
Hawkeye was dead to the world, but Margaret stirred as BJ took her pulse. "What time is it?"
"About 10 hundred hours, but don't worry about it. You're off duty until Potter or I say otherwise."
He'd expected her to protest, but she only nodded. "How is he?"
"He'll be tired and in pain for awhile, and it'll be a week or two until he's back on his feet, but he'll be fine. His fever's down."
"BJ, I need to, uh, get up for a minute." She turned slightly red, but he only nodded. "Can you just sit here with him until I get back?"
Margaret carefully disengaged herself from Hawkeye, and BJ carefully took his friend's hand. Hawkeye's eyes opened slowly and he squinted at his friend.
"How do you feel?"
"A little bit better. Still hurts."
"You want some morphine?" BJ started to get up, but Hawkeye gripped his hand tighter.
"No. Don't leave me."
"I won't," he promised, sitting back down. "I missed you, Hawk."
"I missed you too."
"You don't know how worried I was. When we heard you'd probably been taken, I almost trashed the Colonel's office. For days I cried whenever anything reminded me of you."
"Why, Beej. I had no idea."
"Can't you ever be serious?" he asked through a watery smile.
"Sure I can. It's just easier to make jokes, especially when I feel like I do."
"And how's that?"
"I'm scared," he admitted softly. "I keep thinking this is all a dream, that I'll wake up back in that awful dark place. I can't stop remembering their faces. I tried not to scream, but it just hurt so much." Tears brimmed in his eyes. "They kept asking questions - I didn't even know the answers. The only thing I could have told them was the one thing I wouldn't."
"What was that?"
"That I wasn't the ranking officer."
The reason for the clusters he'd found when he'd examined Hawkeye hit him. "My God. You went through all that - to protect Margaret?"
"I couldn't let them hurt her." A couple of tears slipped down his face. "I couldn't."
BJ gently wiped his friend's face. "I know, Hawk." And he did know. He knew that for all the front Hawkeye put up, he'd die before he'd let a friend be hurt.
The gentle touch broke him and he started sobbing. BJ brought him into a sitting position and hugged him carefully. Hawkeye pulled his friend tight, frightened, just wanting to hold and be held.
Margaret stepped back into the ward and took in the scene. She sat down behind Hawkeye and began to stroke his hair as he cried. She didn't dare touch his back, she knew it would hurt him more than comfort him.
"I'm sorry," he said softly, lifting his head from BJ's shoulder.
"Don't be, you needed that." He kept his arms around Hawkeye's shoulders.
Hawkeye unwound one hand from BJ's back and reached out for Margaret. She slipped her hand into his. "I'm here."
"I'm sorry, Margaret. You've been through everything I have and I'm making you comfort me."
"No, Hawkeye. I haven't been through everything you have. I'm not the one who's claustrophobic, and because of that little stunt you pulled while I was out, I'm not the one they tortured."
"You weren't supposed to know about that."
"BJ noticed your rank pins. Or rather, mine. On your uniform."
"I'll buy you a new set."
That completely broke her and she started crying. Hawkeye looked both puzzled and concerned. "Was it something I said?"
"You did all - all this for me, and you're worried about replacing my clusters?" she sobbed. "No, you're giving me my old ones back, and that's my final word on the subject." She rather forcibly pulled herself together.
"They'll be on my jacket - wherever that is. BJ won't let me out of this bed." He yawned. "And I'm not sure I could get out of it if he did."
"Do you need anything?" BJ asked.
"You know that morphine you offered?" He closed his eyes and drew a deep breath. "I'll take you up on it."
"All right." He disengaged from his friend, noticing with heartbreak that Hawkeye slid closer to Margaret as soon as he did. He wouldn't have thought anything could shake his friend so badly that he'd cling to them the way he was.
He gave Hawkeye the shot and watched him relax a little. "Should I have someone bring you two some breakfast?"
"That sounds great." Hawkeye's stomach growled in agreement with his statement.
"I'll see what I can round up."
"Margaret, what can I do for you?"
"Colonel, I want to talk to you. It's important."
He shocked her by starting to laugh. "I'm sorry. But I've missed your attitude. What was it you needed?"
"Colonel, I want to put Captain Pierce in for a commendation."
"He risked his life for me out there, in more ways than one. I know all this army stuff doesn't mean much to him, but I think - he knows how much it means to me, and I think that will mean something to him."
"I'll see what I can do. For what it's worth, I agree with you that he deserves one."