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When You Need Me Most

By LittleDancerGirl

Other / Romance

Chapter Eighteen: Silent Support

He should have known something would go wrong.

From what he could tell, Monroe had put up a fuss about being arrested, playing the victim for an audience left in the dark. Unfortunately, it was an effective performance. Several of the nurses had jumped to her defense, and much of the rest of the camp had jumped in on one side or the other. Even the sentry looked a little confused. If looks could have killed, she'd have been dead from the one Klinger was giving her from the sidelines, though to the clerk's credit he'd listened to orders and was keeping a safe distance. But the shouting was loud enough to wake the dead.

"What is going on out here?"

And, apparently, to wake the Head Nurse, who came out of her tent in a dressing gown. Which wasn't a bad thing in and of itself. "Major, help me settle this crowd."

"Gladly, Colonel." She stepped on top of a supply crate. "Everybody shut up for a second!"

Colonel Potter nodded gratefully at her as she stepped down from the crate. "Now, one at a time, what is all the commotion about?"

"Colonel, you were in the Officers' Club tonight, and you saw what happened. It should have been quite obvious that I was the injured party, and yet I'm being arrested. There must be a misunderstanding."

"There's no mistake, Lieutenant. I gave the order myself." He didn't even bother looking at her.

This sparked a reprise of the shouting, but Margaret held up her hand and they all fell silent again - a trick she'd learned from Hawkeye.

"Colonel," Baker was the first to speak, "why is she being arrested?"

"That's confidential information."

"That doesn't seem fair, Colonel," Peterson put in. "Lieutenant Monroe doesn't know why she's being arrested, we don't know why she's being arrested, and she was the one who got pushed into a table."

"Someone pushed her into a table?" Margaret repeated, looking over at Potter. She suspected it might have been Hawkeye, and if it had that could be trouble.

"Beside the point. Anyway -"

"Colonel!" All six of the lower-ranked nurses spoke at once.

"Tell us something," Jennings insisted

"I told you. That information's not for the public ear."

"Colonel," Kellye said tentatively, "what about this? Major Houlihan has as high a security clearance as anyone in this camp except you. You tell her, she can decide if she believes the grounds are there for the arrest. If she thinks they are, then we'll accept that."

Potter considered this. On one hand, this had nothing to do with clearance and everything to do with Hawkeye's privacy. On the other hand, they were getting nowhere with the necessary arrest. He had told the young surgeon he might have to tell a few people. Margaret and Hawkeye were close friends and Potter knew the man trusted her. He also knew she'd comprehend the severity of the situation and the depth of Hawkeye's pain.

"Is that all right with you girls?" he asked finally.

"Yes, sir." Baker had been there the longest and knew that Margaret would be fair.

"I'll accept that." Able, also a long-term member of the unit, was willing enough to go along with it.

The other two nurses hesitated more, but they had faith in their bunkmates and slowly first Jennings and then Peterson nodded their agreement. Potter didn't even bother to look at Monroe and see if she did. As far as he was concerned, she didn't get a say. "Major, if you will."

"My tent should do."

He followed her in. "Sit down."

"Colonel -"

"Margaret, sit down."

"What is it?" She felt like she should warn him that she couldn't be impartial, but Hawkeye still hadn't given an inch on telling Potter or anyone else, and she'd be hard-pressed to explain the problem without getting into that.

"I need your silence on this before we begin."

"You have it."

He drew a deep breath, deciding the best way to do this would be to just say it straight out. "Doctor Pierce told me earlier this evening that Lieutenant Monroe raped him some months ago in Tokyo, and again this afternoon."

"What?" Until the last four words, her only surprise had been that he had told Potter after being so adamant about the secret. But she'd heard nothing about the afternoon's incident. She'd gone right to sleep after her shift and nothing had woken her until the commotion in the compound had begun.

"That's the reason behind the arrest. With your permission -"

"By all means, Colonel. I don't want a woman like that on my staff. Where is he?"

"In the Swamp, but Margaret, don't bother him tonight. Hunnicutt's with him. The last thing he needs is a crowd."

I'm not a crowd, I'm his friend. I've been there for him through all of this. "I won't bother him."

"I suppose I can't really keep you away. And," he admitted, "you might be good for him. It might help him to have someone who has some concept of what he's going through. Just help me with the girls, all right?"

"What? Oh, right. Of course." She stood, adjusting her robe.

xxxxxxxxx

BJ looked up slightly as someone tapped on the tent, but didn't actually say anything, still slightly shell-shocked. The knocking came again, more urgent, and then a voice.

"Hello? It's Margaret."

The three men in the tent exchanged glances, and finally Charles shrugged in a what can you do gesture. "Come in."

She stepped in to see Hawkeye fast asleep and the other three sitting around him. Mulcahy spoke first. "What was going on out there?"

"Just a little misunderstanding." When no one seemed ready to accept that explanation, she sighed. "Lieutenant Monroe put up a fuss about being arrested. It escalated."

"How bad did it get?" Charles asked.

"They did get her into custody, didn't they?" Mulcahy asked at the same time.

"To answer Charles' question, just a lot of shouting, it didn't get physical. To answer the Father's, yes. The nurses, who had been the crux of this matter, agreed to accept my judgment on the situation."

"How, ah, how thoroughly do you understand the situation?" Mulcahy hedged.

"Colonel Potter told me what happened. That was part of the agreement."

"Is that why you're here?"

She nodded. Mulcahy slid over to the edge of BJ's cot, indicating for her to sit. She did. "How is he?"

"Sleeping quietly for now, but I suspect that's only because he cried himself out." BJ spoke for the first time, and Margaret knew Hawkeye was the only thing on his mind. "I can't imagine he won't have nightmares." He laid a gentle hand on his friend's shoulder as though to comfort him in advance. "How can anyone be so cruel? I've never seen him so terrified. It's worse than when you two came back from being captured." BJ's voice cracked and he looked suspiciously close to crying himself. "It was so hard for him even with us there. It hurts so much to think that he was going through all this by himself the first time. It must have been so much worse."

"He wasn't," Charles said suddenly, "was he?"

Under his pointed gaze, she shook her head slowly. "How did you know?"

"The argument we had. I was right, wasn't I?"

"What are you talking about?" BJ asked. "And Charles, what do you mean he wasn't going through this alone? He didn't tell us."

"He told me," she said softly. "About three days after it happened, when I found him crying in the Supply Tent."

"He told you and he didn't tell me?"

"He - he thought he was protecting you."

"What?"

"Shh, keep your voice down." She nodded at the still-sleeping doctor. "He said you were barely coping with everything you'd seen. You'd only been here for three months and you'd had your world turned upside-down. He felt like he couldn't put that burden on you." She saw the look on his face. "He wanted to tell you. He admitted it to me. He knew you would take care of him if he did, and he longed for that care, but he felt like it would be selfish to dump it on you just to get relief of his own pain."

"Damn caring idiot, always looking out for himself last." He gently touched his friend's arm again. "Tell me that all those nights he wasn't in here he was with you."

"He was."

"Good. I thought he might have been hiding somewhere." He still looked lost, searching.

"If it makes you feel better, that one had nothing to do with you. The first time, his problem was with Frank. He woke Frank up by accident while he was having a nightmare, and that - that weasel wouldn't stop yelling at him."

"And probably scared the hell out of him," BJ finished.

"I told him he could sleep in my tent so I could comfort him. I think it helped him to have someone there just to hold onto."

"Like you did in post-op after you were captured."

"Exactly. He only came back in here when Frank started taking note and he realized you'd probably noticed too."

"And the second time?" BJ asked softly.

"I'm sorry, Charles, but you had kind of a lot to do with it. It wasn't your fault, but it was hard for him to hear you constantly talking about her."

"I feel terrible," he admitted. "If I had known, I never would have walked around singing her praises like I did. It must have been torture for him."

"The other part was what I said before about needing comfort from someone who knew. He still didn't want to tell you, BJ, and there wasn't anyone else he trusted enough."

"Charles, what tipped you off?" BJ asked.

"The argument we had about Monroe. Before I knew what she was, I accused Margaret of bias for the way she was acting towards her. I was right, wasn't I, about you being harder on her?"

"Of course I was harder on her. She was tormenting one of my friends. I couldn't do anything directly because Hawkeye didn't want it getting out, but I could make her miserable enough to beg for a transfer."

"Regardless of whether that's necessary now, I'm glad for what you did. I know it sounds harsh, but if you made her life even a little bit harder, I'm not sorry in the slightest."

"I should be saying something about forgiveness here, but under the circumstances I'm forced to agree with BJ." Margaret thought she'd never seen so much barely-contained rage in the gentle priest before, but Hawkeye was a dear friend of his too and she knew that whatever he was supposed to feel, religiously speaking, he was as angry as the rest of them for the injury Hawkeye had undergone.

Hawkeye's head turned and a soft, unintelligible string of words came from him. BJ reached out and gently stroked his hair. "Shh, Hawk. It's okay. It's okay. I'm here."

Hawkeye's head dropped back to the pillow and he lay still again. BJ continued to stroke his hair.

The door swung open again and Potter stepped in. "How's he doing?"

"Asleep," Mulcahy said softly.

"Good." He came in completely, favoring Hawkeye with a gentle, fatherly look. "Is there a place for an old man to join this crowd?"

"Here." Charles pointed to a chair by his bed. Potter sat, never really taking his eyes off Hawkeye.

"I could use a drink," he admitted.

"I think we all could." He poured two drinks. "Margaret? Father?"

"Please," Margaret said, and Mulcahy nodded.

"Charles?"

He seemed to consider this for a moment before shrugging. "Why not?"

Raising an eyebrow in surprise, BJ dug out three more glasses. Then he paused and drew out another. He filled them and passed them around, leaving one under the still. "I bet Hawkeye will need one when he wakes up. What happened with the Lieutenant, and I use the term loosely, Colonel?"

"Well, she still wasn't happy about it, but after Major Houlihan laid down her ruling she didn't have the rest of the nurses and everyone backing her up, and the sentry got her into the tent and under guard without any trouble. Klinger got through to the MPs, someone should be here in the morning." He cast a somewhat reluctant look at the sleeping man. "Hawkeye will probably end up having to testify at a trial. I wish we had some other witness, anything, but none of us actually saw anything." He remembered the woman he'd defended. He'd gotten an honest doctor to examine her and that doctor had been able to testify as to her injuries. But the way Hawkeye had told the story, he doubted the man had any visible physical damage.

As one, the other men in the tent turned to look at Margaret, hoping that just maybe she'd seen something that would strengthen their case and help them put that awful woman away.

She sighed. "I did."

"You did what?" Potter asked.

"He was hurt in the first attack. I saw the injures."

"How bad was it?" BJ asked while Potter was still trying to figure out exactly what was going on.

"Bad," she said softly. "The bruises were four days old and he still looked like he'd just been beaten. They cracked three of his ribs, and he tore pretty badly from the sexual assault." She didn't mention that it had taken her a good half hour to get him to take his shorts off so she could see the extent of the damage. It had taken everything she'd had not to burst into tears when he'd instinctively pulled away from her.

"You knew?" The Colonel had finally caught up.

"Pretty much from the first." She'd save the longer story she'd just told the others for later. "If you want me to testify, and Hawkeye gives me permission to disclose medical information, I will."

"It might be what we need, Major. Something to back up Hawkeye's story. Who knows how they'll try to spin it."

"Colonel," she said softly, "when he wakes up, I think you ought to tell him what it was you did that got you sent out here. He needs to know he can count on your support."

"What's she talking about?" Mulcahy asked.

"It's a long story."

"No one's going anywhere," BJ pointed out.

"Well, all right."

xxxxxxxxx

A scream cut through the Swamp, breaking the stillness. For a moment, everyone scrambled blindly in the dark.

Quiet conversation had faded into silence. Charles had gone to sleep on his cot and Margaret had followed shortly thereafter on BJ's, falling into the lap of Father Mulcahy, who had drifted off leaning on the wall. BJ himself had fallen asleep right in the chair by Hawkeye's bed, and Potter had meandered over to the spare bunk. Now they all tried to get their bearings in the dark tent.

Charles, the only one sleeping where he usually did, got oriented first and lit his lamp. Hawkeye was twisting in his bed, shaking so hard the frame rattled against the floor. His face was wet with tears.

He cried out again, and BJ was instantly on his feet and at his side. "Hawkeye! Hawkeye, wake up!"

He took his friend's arm and shook it hard. Hawkeye jerked away, curling into a ball. Tears flowed freely down BJ's face and he looked helplessly at Margaret, who had finally succeeded in untangling herself from Father Mulcahy.

"Hawkeye." She knelt down next to his cot. "Hawkeye, it's Margaret. You're dreaming. Wake up."

"Come on, Hawk." BJ got down on his knees too, imitating Margaret's tone of voice. "Come back to us."

His eyes opened, and fixed on BJ. "Beej, I -"

"Shh." He got up and sat on his friend's cot, helping him sit up and taking him in a hug. "It's all right, Hawk. It's okay."

"No," he whispered, clutching at his friend's shirt, wanting, needing, desperately,to be held. "It's not okay."

BJ was hard-pressed to keep his crying silent so Hawkeye wouldn't notice and feel guilty, as he knew he would. The man's shirt was drenched in a cold sweat, and he was still sobbing and trembling.

Margaret climbed up on the bed behind Hawkeye, hugging him from the back. "You're safe, Hawkeye. We won't let anything happen to you."

Under many circumstances, being literally wrapped in people might have triggered his claustrophobia. But he was so terribly scared already, of something far worse. With Margaret on one side and BJ on the other, he felt safer than he had in a week. He clung desperately to BJ as through his best friend might leave him. The tremors in his body eased as he let the feeling of safety wash over him, but he couldn't stop crying. He felt like the pain would tear him apart from the inside out.

"Hawkeye -" Potter began, but he didn't know what else to say. He'd already provided the answer to 'are you all right'. "Is there anything I can do?" he asked finally.

Hawkeye reached a trembling hand out, and Potter took it gently, edging out a space for himself on the bed. Hawkeye hung onto him like an anchor. "Make sure she's locked up. Promise me."

"I promise I won't rest until that woman is brought to justice for what she did to you." Did Hawkeye really think he had to ask for that? Didn't he know Potter would fight with everything he had to make her pay?

"I don't care about punishing her," he whispered. "Locking her up will mean she can never do this to anyone else."

His hand tightened around the surgeon's. The depth of the man's generosity and care for all people never ceased to amaze him. "I will, Hawkeye. My most solemn word."

"One more thing - stay with me." His voice was barely audible under his crying. "All of you. Please. Forget what I said in March." Three months earlier, Hawkeye had become incredibly frustrated with BJ and Charles and the lack of privacy and had temporarily moved out and into a nearby hut, returning only when Margaret had tricked him into thinking he needed to be there to support BJ through an invented crisis. "I really, really don't want to be alone." He hated forcing anyone to take care of him, but the idea of facing this by himself was more than he could bear.

He felt BJ's arms tighten comfortingly around his shoulders. "We're not gonna leave you, Hawk. I promise."

"I'm not going anywhere," Margaret whispered into his ear.

"Don't worry, Pierce. You're stuck with us."

"We're all here." Mulcahy, standing next to the cot that was already accommodating far more people than it had been designed for, gently ran his fingers through Hawkeye's hair to emphasize his point.

"Indeed we are." Charles didn't actually touch Hawkeye, but everyone in the camp could count on one hand the number of times they'd heard him use that tone with anyone, even a patient.

"You don't -" he choked a little. "You don't know how much that means to me. Thank you."

"You've done the same for us," BJ said gently. "A hundred times over."

"You're the one who always takes care of everybody." Potter's grip on his hand was almost painfully tight. "Just this once, let everybody take care of you."

He wanted to protest, to insist they not inconvenience themselves, but he felt so miserable, and the gentle words and touches were so soothing. Safe in the warmth of his friends' arms, he let his exhaustion overwhelm him again.

"He's sleeping again," Potter reported softly. "Can we lay him down without disturbing him too much?"

He released the surgeon's hand without too much trouble, and Mulcahy backed away, but Margaret and BJ were so tightly wound around Hawkeye that it would present more of a problem to separate them without bothering the sleeping man.

The answer hit Margaret quickly. After all, she'd done it before. "This may be a bit difficult with all the junk in here, but would there be a way to push two of the beds up against each other?"

"What for?" Mulcahy asked.

"If we put two beds together, there'd be enough room for us to lay Hawkeye down and stay on either side of him." BJ had caught on quickly.

"Maybe if we rotate this one a little -"

It took some creativity and a lot of shuffling, but within a few minutes they had a double bed, MASH-style, and they managed to get Hawkeye lying down on it without waking him in the process. Charles turned the lamp back off.

"I can't believe I said that," BJ whispered.

"What?" Margaret whispered back.

"That everything was okay. I was just trying to help, but seriously. Could I say anything worse?"

"You were trying to make him feel better. I'm sure he understood."

"I'm no good at this."

"Of course you are. He doesn't need us to say the right thing nearly as much as he needs us to just be here with him. He said so himself."

They fell silent then, not wanting to wake the man sleeping between them and not entirely comfortable with practically having a conversation through him.

xxxxxxxxx

Hawkeye squinted, trying to block the sun out of his eyes as he woke slowly. He couldn't exactly figure out how he'd gotten where he was now, though he remembered the incident with his friends in the middle of the night. He was wrapped up tight between BJ and Margaret.

Oh God, Margaret. He hadn't told her about what had happened the day before, but the chances that no one had were slim. How would she have reacted when she'd realized he'd kept that from her?

He tried to sit up, but his friends' arms were wrapped around him, and as long as they were lying down he would be too. It didn't really bother him that much. He felt safer in their arms than anywhere else. He would never, ever take the feeling of safety for granted again. Not after a week where he couldn't feel safe in his own bed because she was there, or even all the terror of the first time when she was nowhere near him but he was beyond reasonably analyzing his fears and even Frank Burns' self-righteous shouting was enough to petrify him.

BJ stirred next to him, probably woken by his abortive attempt at getting up. "Oh," he mumbled sleepily, "you're awake."

"Yeah." He wasn't up to making one of his usual jokes.

"How are you feeling? The truth, Hawk, don't try to spare me."

"The truth? I'm still tired, and I feel sick, and I'm so scared I'm shaking inside. I'm not even sure of what."

"You don't have to pinpoint it." BJ ran his hand through his friend's hair, wishing he could take the man's pain and fear away. "You need anything? I saved you a drink."

"I don't think putting anything in my stomach is a good idea right now. I'm having enough trouble keeping down what's already there."

"Pierce?" Potter's voice was heavy with sleep. "You awake?"

"I wish I weren't."

"How do you feel?"

"Why is that everyone's first question? I feel like hell, okay?"

"I'm sorry."

"No, no, I'm sorry. I just feel terrible. I didn't mean to take it out on you."

"I understand, son. Listen, you just take it easy, all right?"

"Is it morning?" Margaret asked from somewhere around Hawkeye's spinal column.

"Close to nine hundred," Potter replied.

Margaret slid away from the man she was cuddled up against. "Hawkeye, is there anything we can do?"

"I want to talk to you guys. Each of you, separately, and Klinger too." He knew they all had questions, and he had things he wanted to say to each of them privately.

"In here work for you?" Potter asked.

"Yeah, sure."

"When?" This from Margaret.

"As soon as everyone's awake."

"Everyone's awake," Mulcahy told him from the chair BJ had been using the previous night.

"All right, then now. Please. Charles first, and get Klinger, he's next."

Potter ushered the others out of the Swamp. BJ was still shaking his head. "Why Charles?"

"He's going through in order," Margaret said softly. "In spite of sharing a tent with him, he barely knows Charles, really, and he doesn't know Klinger all that much better, but they are closer. I'll be shocked if he doesn't leave you for last. You're his best friend, his brother. He wants to leave the most emotional ones for the end."

"I'll accept that."

"And I'll find Klinger," Mulcahy chimed in.

*~*~*~*

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