When You Need Me Most

Chapter Nineteen: One on One

For the longest time, Hawkeye and Charles just stared at each other. Neither of them was entirely sure what to say.

Hawkeye broke the silence. "I'm sorry, Charles."

The man shook his head in shock. "Sorry? Whatever the hell for?"

"You were interested in her, I know you were. I knew that the woman you liked was a - I don't even have the words for it, but I knew she was leading you on, and I didn't tell you."

"If anything I'm the one who should be sorry. I paraded around this tent talking about her. For Heaven's sake I was in here yesterday afternoon talking about how wonderful she was." How could he not have noticed Hawkeye's complete lack of reaction to that? How much self-control had it taken him not to burst out crying right there? "I should have known not to judge a book by its cover. And I certainly understand why you didn't say anything. As I pointed out quite recently, it's not like I've ever told you anything personal. All the same, you would have been within your rights to tell me to shut up."

"Don't feel bad, Charles."

"I allowed that woman to completely pull the wool over my eyes. I showed no judgment at all. Meanwhile you knew from the first exactly what she was."

"That's not true."

"What?"

"How much of what I said in Potter's office did you actually hear? The only reason I knew what she was this time was because she walked me right into a trap when I met her in Tokyo. I was so totally fooled I let her take me to the worst time of my life and never suspected a thing until it was too late. I get the feeling guile was a lifestyle for her. She's an expert."

Charles reached out a hand and gently grasped Hawkeye's. "I may never give you a compliment again, so pay close attention. I may be your equal, at the very least, in surgical skills, but there's one area in which you have taught me something, and that is human compassion. I know that you all think I've come a long way from the man who cared more about his own image than about the patients under his care. I have. But it didn't happen on its own. Rather, I was inspired by the presence of a master. That you would be concerned over my own state of mind, after all you've been through, only confirms what I think I've known all along. You're the kindest, most genuinely caring man I have ever known."

Before he could stop himself, Hawkeye pulled himself forward on Charles' arm and hugged him. The Harvard doctor accepted the gesture rather awkwardly, but he didn't pull away.

"You know," Hawkeye said softly, "you're not nearly as bad as you'd like people to think you are."

Charles did break the embrace then, but Hawkeye didn't begrudge him that. He saw the man try to wipe away his tears without looking like he was wiping away his tears.

"Hawkeye - if there's anything I can do -"

"Not right now. But thanks."

They lapsed into silence, a more comfortable silence than last time. Again, Hawkeye broke it. "There is one other thing you should know."

"What's that?"

"I always acted like I hated your music. Don't get me wrong, most of the time I do. But - well, what happened to me isn't something you forget. Sometimes I'd wake up with awful nightmares, memories. Once I stopped screaming in my sleep, I bore it in silence, just lay there until I fell back asleep. BJ never knew, and neither did Frank. But the first time I had one after you came, I woke up and I heard your music still playing, and - and it was the most comforting thing in the world. It made me feel a little less alone. Thank you."

This led to more subtle tear-blotting. He had never cared what his tentmates thought of his music, and their protests of it fell on deaf ears, but he had known they'd hated it. At least he'd thought they did. To know that something he hadn't given a second thought to had been such a comfort to his fellow surgeon touched him more deeply than he could express.

"You're most welcome," he said finally.

"Would you send Klinger in?"

Charles recognized that Hawkeye was trying to give him some privacy to compose himself. "All right, I will. Do you want a moment -?"

"No!" The forceful exclamation slipped from his lips before he could stop it. "No," he repeated more sedately. "Send him in. And tell Father Mulcahy he's next."

Stupid, stupid. He'd heard the man plead not to be left alone just the night before. "Of course. Right away."

Klinger entered but hovered near the door. "It's okay. You can come in."

"I - I don't know -"

"I'm still the same person I was last week," he said softly. "I know it's hard to understand, but I'm still me."

Klinger came in slowly and sat down on the chair that was usually between Hawkeye and BJ's beds. "I'm not sure what to say."

"It's okay. I'm not either."

"You, uh, you should know that the MP's will be here in an hour," he offered softly.

"Thanks, Klinger."

It was impossible to say who hugged who first, but all at once they were wrapped in each other's arms. Klinger rubbed his friend's back gently, trying to comfort him a little.

"You don't have to pretend anything here," he whispered. "It's okay to hurt, Captain - Hawkeye."

No more words needed to be spoken between them. They held each other for a long time.

"Klinger," Hawkeye said softly as they broke apart.

"Yeah?"

A spark of the joking personality they all knew so well showed through. "You're going to make someone a great mother someday."

He chuckled weakly. "Thanks, Captain."

"Can you send in the Padre?"

"Yeah, sure. Who's next on the list?"

"Colonel Potter."

He stood. "Hey, if you need anything just let me know, okay?"

"Thanks, Klinger."

Like before, it was barely a few seconds between people. The priest took up the chair Klinger had vacated.

"Hawkeye - well, I won't ask if you're all right, because I think I know the answer. Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"Different reasons for different people," he said softly. "For you - I honestly didn't know how you'd react."

"Why is that?"

"Well, I - how do I say this so it doesn't sound offensive?"

"Just say it. I won't be offended."

"Father - you're a Catholic," he said finally. "I know enough about the religion to know you have problems with men who, you know, do things with other men -"

"Hawkeye, no, no!" Horror crossed the priest's face. "Whatever I think about those kind of relationships in a consensual situation, you didn't ask for that to happen." He slid from the chair onto the cot and pulled Hawkeye into his arms. "I'm sorry, Hawkeye. I'm so sorry. If I ever gave you the impression that I would be so judgmental, then I was the one in the wrong."

"I just wasn't sure," he whispered. "And I couldn't bear even the remote chance that you would think something like that. It's not you, Father. It's the religion in general."

"Hawkeye, can I share a secret with you?"

He felt his friend's head nod against his shoulder.

"I've never entirely been in line with the Catholic tendency to judge so harshly. Our own scripture says 'judge not lest ye be judged', and yet the Church is so terribly judgmental, and people are hurt because of it." He tightened his embrace around his friend. "The last thing in the world that you need is someone to make you feel even worse about how badly you were hurt."

"I'm sorry. I should have known you wouldn't criticize."

"That you thought I would, or that in another circumstance another priest might, speaks to a serious flaw in the religion. It's my personal opinion that what people choose to do with each other that hurts no one should not be criticized in the first place, and certainly no one should be judged for being the victim of a crime." He rocked Hawkeye gently in his arms. "You didn't do anything wrong. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time and you were brutally victimized for it."

"Thanks, Frances." He didn't use the man's given name very often, but it felt right somehow.

The priest continued to rock him. "Oh, Hawkeye. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I let that awful woman deceive me." He realized now that she'd been sitting with him in the mess tent pretty much every time, talking to him about this or that, and that the whole time Hawkeye had been sitting as far from them as he could get. When he was there at all, that was.

Hawkeye's throat was too tight to speak. He rested his head on the Father's shoulder, letting the man comfort him.

"I painted you with the wrong brush, Father," he whispered when the lump had eased enough that he could get sound through his throat. "I'm sorry."

The man hugged him tighter. "Don't be, Hawkeye. You have enough on your plate as it is."

Hawkeye hugged the priest back. "Thanks for understanding."

"That's what I'm here for."

He drew back slowly. "Would you, uh, send in the Colonel?"

"Of course, Hawkeye. Let me know if you need anything."

Potter wasn't as shy as the others, walking right into the Swamp and joining Hawkeye on the double cot. "How you holding up, son?"

"I don't know." The Colonel saw the vulnerable look in his eyes. "It's better and worse than last time."

"How's that?"

"Well, I have a lot more shoulders to lean on this time. But last time, it lasted for a few hours in a place I visit once every few months. I put up with her for a week in the closest thing I had to a home. She - she raped me in my own bed. And as if that weren't bad enough, thanks to what happened in the officers' club everyone knows something's going on."

"Easy, son." He laid a hand on Hawkeye's shoulder. "Just tell them you don't want to talk about it."

"I'm scared. I'm scared to be alone, I'm scared to walk out that door. I'm afraid to fall asleep." He met Potter's eyes, and the old Colonel could see a deep-seated vulnerability in the younger man's face. "I've barely kept any food down in a week. It makes me sick just thinking about it - about her."

"I know it's hard, Hawkeye. But I want you to know I'm with you all the way. Whatever that means."

"It could mean an awful lot," Hawkeye warned softly. "I looked it up when it first happened. I decided it would be easier to just forget."

"I know how much it takes, son. You won't be the first person I guided through the process."

"Who was it?"

"A nurse at Tripler, the hospital where I worked before coming here. Like you, she hadn't intended to report it, but unlike you she did let it affect her performance. I called her into my office to chew her out, and she started to cry before I'd even gotten into it. I talked her into telling me what was wrong. The man who did it was well-connected, and tried to bully her into throwing out the case. But I stood with her the whole way. And I'll stand with you."

"That means a lot, Colonel. Tell me something."

"What?"

"Did you win?" A spark of desperate hope was so evident it made the Colonel want to cry.

"We won, Hawkeye."

They embraced. "Tell me something," Hawkeye whispered against his CO's shoulder.

"What?"

"What happened to her?"

"I transferred her to a VA hospital in San Francisco before they sent me out here. You never did ask me why they'd send someone who hadn't been in an OR for two years out to a MASH."

"A punishment," he said flatly.

"Don't worry." He began rubbing circles on Hawkeye's back. "There's a reason none of your crazy stunts have ever gotten you transferred out of here. You're too needed right where you are."

"What about you?"

"Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself, and where are they gonna send me anyway? And I doubt it'll be the same. As sad as it is, respect and position equal justice sometimes. You're well-known and well-respected in this man's army. Monroe's not. In that poor girl's case, it was the other way around."

"That's terrible."

"I know. I hate it too. But in your case, it works in the right person's favor. Dear God, Hawkeye, I wish you'd told me sooner. Like as soon as you saw her here."

"I'm sorry, Colonel. I know I shouldn't have knowingly let someone like that run around the unit."

"Hawkeye, if I didn't know better I'd swear no one ever cared about you. I'm not worried about the unit. I wish I could have gotten her out of here before she had the chance to hurt you again." He held the raven-haired doctor tighter. "She put you through hell by the looks of it. I hate that all this went on under my nose and I didn't suspect until it was too late."

"Don't blame yourself. She was sneaky and I did my best not to let on."

"Why?"

"I was ashamed," he admitted finally. "Ashamed that I let something like that happen to me. I couldn't help feeling like it was somehow my fault for letting it happen, even when Margaret kept assuring me it wasn't."

"Would it mean anything if I added my own voice to that chorus? It wasn't your fault, Hawkeye."

"I try to believe it. I keep hearing his voice in my head."

"Whose?"

"This one man - I think he was the leader. He was the one who took my clothes off, who went first. The whole time, he kept asking me if I liked it. Wasn't I just a little excited and all that."

"Sounds to me more like you were terrified." Potter knew he might have to talk his young friend through his misguided guilt.

"I was. I was so afraid of what they were doing, and I was petrified to think about what might come next. It was the only time I can remember in my life that I've really, genuinely prayed for anything, and I was just praying for it to end, for them to stop - it hurt so much -" The tears he was trying desperately to hold in broke free, and he began sobbing on Potter's shoulder.

The older man wrapped him up even tighter. "Whatever he said, you know what you were feeling. You didn't want or ask for it. Put the blame where it belongs, which isn't with you."

Hawkeye was crying so hard he couldn't talk, and the Colonel just let him cry. He knew it would be a long time, if not forever, before the man would be entirely free of the trauma that he'd been put through.

"It wasn't your fault," he whispered. "It wasn't your fault."

That just started Hawkeye crying even harder. All his reservations came crashing down as he clung to his Colonel. All he knew was that he hurt more than should be possible and that he needed to be touched and held and comforted, and that if this man who was so like his father was the person who happened to be there and willing, rank and chain of command were irrelevant.

He sobbed until he ran out of tears to cry, and Potter just held him and whispered what comfort he could. "I know this is hard to believe now, but you're going to be all right."

"Really?"

"Really, son." Even though Hawkeye had stopped crying, he was still holding him. "And just tell me if there's anything I can do, anything you need."

"Thank you - Sherman." Only once before had he ever called the man by name, but if there had been a single, flimsy barrier left between them, it was completely and utterly shattered now.

"Unless we get wounded, you're officially off-duty until I say otherwise. Take a few days and just rest. You look like you haven't been sleeping."

"I tried. I kept waking up from these - these awful nightmares, feeling like I couldn't breathe, like my skin was crawling."

"Just take it easy. After putting up with everything she did to you, you deserve a break." He paused. "Hawkeye, please don't take this the wrong way, but I think you could use a professional shoulder to lean on -"

"Sidney knows. About the first time."

"He does?"

"Not the details, but he knows I was - you know." He'd never get over his revulsion at that one awful word. "When he came to heal me up from my sleepwalking, it was a couple weeks after it happened. He asked about another nightmare I'd had, I woke BJ screaming. He kept pressing, so I - I told him."

"Would you like to talk with him now?" Potter wasn't ready to pull rank, but he did think someone who had experience helping trauma victims might be good for Hawkeye, if he was willing.

"Yeah," he said softly. "All right."

"Really?"

"You didn't expect me to say yes?"

"I thought I'd have to convince you a little at least."

"Then you have no idea how much this hurts. I'd do anything to make it stop. If Sidney can do something to help me feel better, my pride isn't strong enough to oppose that."

He squeezed Hawkeye's shoulder. "I'll put in that call."

"Send Margaret in?"

"Of course."

Margaret didn't even wait for Hawkeye to speak before she pulled him into her arms. He'd been trying to keep it together a little but she knew better. She could feel the tension through his back and shoulders, knew how scared and upset he was.

"Oh, Hawkeye -" She couldn't get out any more.

"Did someone tell you what happened yesterday?" he asked.

"I heard about what she did to you." Margaret tightened her hug. "Why didn't you come find me?"

"You were asleep. I've woken you up too many times already this week. Believe me, I wanted to."

"Then you should have." Her rebuke was gentle, caring. "It looked to me like you really needed a friend last night."

"Did you know?"

"Know what?"

"About the Colonel. Why they sent him out here."

"He told me after I was sick."

"That's why you kept telling me to tell him.

"I kept telling you to tell him because I didn't want what happened to happen. But I told you he'd understand because of what I knew about him. It looks like you listened finally."

He shook his head. "I didn't have a choice. I got into a fight with her in the O-club, pushed her into a table. He wanted to know why I did it. I couldn't think of anything to say - except the truth."

"What about the others?"

"I wasn't paying attention to my surroundings. I didn't realize those four were standing right there when I told him."

"I'm proud of you, Hawkeye," she whispered.

"Thank you. Thank you for everything." His voice cracked.

She kissed his forehead. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"Being the one friend I could always count on in this awful place."

They hugged each other tightly.

"Hawkeye, we'll talk later, okay?"

"Tired of me?" he joked weakly.

"Just trying to keep your tent in one piece. I know for a fact BJ's just barely restraining himself from ripping off the door to barge in here." She kissed his forehead. "I will talk to you later. I promise."

Just as Margaret had predicted, the tall doctor came barreling in the second she was out the door. "Hawk, I - I, uh -"

"What?"

"God, I'm sorry," he said finally. "I'm sorry I wasn't a better friend."

"What are you talking about?"

"I should have seen that you were in pain."

"You did," he reminded his friend softly. "I just kept telling you it was nothing."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Margaret had provided an explanation, but he wanted to hear it from Hawkeye.

"How could I? How could I ever do that to you? You don't need this on your plate, it's too full as it is. Not if I'm going to get you back to Mill Valley in one piece."

"And what about you? I saw how hard you were crying yesterday. You needed me."

"Yeah, I did. But I couldn't be selfish."

"Come here." He sat down on the bed and allowed Hawkeye to throw himself into his arms. "I've got you, I've got you." He'd never seen the other man so vulnerable.

"Don't worry so much about everyone else," BJ whispered. "You've been there for me this whole time. You held my head that first day while I was throwing up. You were there for me an hour after I punched you, holding me while I fell apart. Let me pay some of that back. Let me be here when you need me."

Hawkeye burrowed tighter into his friend's embrace. He'd denied himself this for so long, but now that he'd had a taste of it he longed for more. He felt safe and loved in BJ's arms. It was the only place in Korea right now that was safe.

"You see?" His friend's voice was gentle. "Doesn't that feel better?"

"A little," he whispered back.

"I wish you'd told me. I wish I could have helped you before. I wish I could have known to stay here in the Swamp yesterday while you were sleeping so she wouldn't hurt you."

A soft, dry sob tore loose from Hawkeye's throat. He didn't have any tears left to cry, but God this hurt.

BJ started stroking Hawkeye's hair. "Hey, hey, I'm here. I'm here."

"Please don't leave me."

That did it. BJ was openly crying by the time he could get the words out. "I won't, Hawk. I won't leave you. I swear by my little girl, I won't leave you."

*~*~*~*

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