When You Need Me Most

By LittleDancerGirl

Other / Romance

Chapter Two: No Rest For the Weary

Every shred of anger she'd felt towards him for waking her up last night evaporated in an instant. She hurried to him, expecting to see some sort of injury, but he appeared unharmed.

"Pierce?" No response. "Hawkeye?"

Bloodshot eyes fixed on her. "You promised," he whispered, just as he had the previous night. "You promised I could talk to you."

It hit her suddenly, what had been nagging at her all day. The conversation they'd had all those months ago rang in her head as strongly as if it had been yesterday.

"If you need someone to talk to, ever, about anything, just give me a sign and I'll be there."

"That goes both ways. If you ever need to talk to someone, all you need to do is ask."

"You're right," she said softly. "I did promise, and I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking clearly last night."

"Obviously." His sarcastic edge, usually playful, came off as biting, but she knew she deserved it.

"I really am sorry."

"That doesn't change anything."

"I know." She sighed. "You have every right to be mad at me. If you want me to leave, I'll leave."

"No!" he said with enough intensity to freeze her in place. "I'm sorry, Margaret, really. I didn't mean to snap. Please don't go. Please."

He sounded so much like a frightened child that it broke her heart, and she dropped to her knees in front of him. "I'm not going anywhere. Why don't you tell me what's been eating you?"

"What do you mean?" He tried, valiantly, to smile but it was a losing battle. "This is just my reaction to a bad date."

"Like hell. You haven't been acting like yourself since you came back from Tokyo, and I'm not the only one who's noticed. Now, what's going on?"

"I - I can't -" he gasped, his face twisting in impossible pain.

"Yes, you can," she whispered encouragingly. "Just tell me."

"I was in Tokyo, in a bar, and I bumped into this girl. Prettiest thing, I tell you, and she seemed every bit as interested in me as I was in her. I bought her a couple drinks, and then she asked me if I wanted to go somewhere more private. I said I did, she said she knew a place. We walked together - her hair looked so beautiful under the streetlights." He knew he was rambling, but he was getting closer and closer to the part of his story he really didn't want to revisit. "She led me into this place, but there were already some guys there, I figured we'd walked in on some kids blowing off some steam or something. I suggested we go find another place, and she laughed and shut the door and said we'd come to exactly the right place." He drew a shaky breath. "Two of them took me by the arms and another one pulled my shirt off, and I thought they were going to beat me up for whatever reason. Then," he forced back tears, "the same guy started to undo my belt and take my pants off. And I got a good look at his face, and I - I knew exactly what he was going to do." He broke off abruptly, unable to say any more. Just getting to that point had taken incredible effort.

The next thing he knew, Margaret's arms were wrapped tightly around his shoulders and she was holding him close, rocking them both gently, stroking his hair. His own arms went around her waist, clinging to her for dear life, his entire body shaking with the effort of holding back his emotions.

Then her hair was brushing his face, and her voice was in his ear. "Shh, I'm here. I'm here. Just let it out, Hawkeye. Let it all out."

If she had thought he was really crying hard before, she'd been sorely mistaken. He broke down completely at her words, burying his face against her neck. Painful sobs shook his entire body, and he let out several long wails, muffled by her shoulder. She held him tighter, just letting him cry, still rocking him like a baby. She could no longer hold back her own tears, and they fell in his hair.

"They all took turns," he sobbed once he found his voice again. "Two of them would hold me down while one would - and then she wanted to get in on it, the girl that brought me there, said she'd earned it for bringing me in, and she made me - I don't understand how she could -"

"Hawkeye, you're a doctor," she whispered soothingly. "You know that that sort of thing can happen. It doesn't mean you liked it or wanted it."

"I should've done something. Fought somehow. I tried, I really did, but there were six of them, not counting her -"

"Hawkeye, you stop that right now," she said firmly. "They hurt you, they used you, and I'm going to tell you what you told me last year, because you need to hear it as much as I did. It wasn't your fault. You didn't do anything to bring this on yourself, so stop questioning what you could have done differently. And you sure as hell didn't secretly want it or something. If you have to blame someone, blame them. They deserve it. Don't blame yourself."

Her words stuck a chord in Hawkeye, soothing the part of him that had been filled with guilt over what he might have done. He was overcome by a fresh flood of tears, and Margaret pulled him close again. She could feel him shaking under her hands, terrified even though there was no threat.

"You're safe now, Hawkeye, you're safe," she whispered. "No one's going to hurt you here."

It seemed ages, but he finally stopped crying and lay limp in her arms, exhausted and drained of all energy. She stood slowly, pulling him up with her. "Come on, Hawkeye. You can sleep in my tent tonight."

He let her lead him to the tent, but as soon as he was inside he shook his head. "I don't think I can sleep at all. I haven't slept since - since it happened."

"At least try. You need to sleep."

He slid slowly out of his clothes, fumbling with the buttons and clasps in his weariness. Margaret watched, concerned, but she doubted he'd let her help him right now. He collapsed onto her bunk, no longer having the strength to stay upright.

She slid out of her robe and gently nudged the man in her bed. "Move over."

A look of understanding crossed his face, and he did as she said. Carefully, she laid down next to him, taking him in her arms, and began to rub his back. She felt his tense body relax slightly, and heard the steady, even breathing that indicated he was asleep.

"Good," she whispered, letting her head drop onto his shoulder. "Just sleep. Forget."

She didn't know how long she stayed there, but it couldn't have been very long before she was jarred out of her sleep. Hawkeye had dislodged her when he had bolted partly upright, shaking and sobbing, still half-caught in the grip of a nightmare. His body was drenched with cold sweat, and his breathing was much too fast.

"Hawkeye." She didn't really want to touch him, she was afraid of making it worse. "Hawkeye, you're dreaming. Wake up."

Blue eyes flew open, and Margaret could see that they were filled with panic. They locked on her and cleared up just a little.

"Margaret?"

"It's me. I'm here." Since he had recognized her, she chanced putting her arms around him again. He fell forward against her, still crying. She bit back the reassurances on her lips, it's okay, it's going to be okay. She knew better than anyone that it wasn't okay for him right now, and it would never be entirely okay again, but she wanted to say something. She was overcome by the urge to take care of her friend.

"Easy, shh, just lie down, you're safe here, nothing can hurt you. I won't let anything hurt you."

He said nothing, only stared at her through those huge blue eyes, haunted and lost. He looked for all the world like a scared little kid.

"Just hold onto me. No one's going to hurt you anymore."

He was gripping her so tightly she could barely breathe, but she didn't care. She remembered nights spent sobbing into her pillow, clinging to a battered stuffed toy she had to hide so her father wouldn't see it because she didn't have anyone to hold or be held by. She remembered the restless slumber, muffling her screams so he wouldn't become angry with her. She remembered the pain she had tucked away and carried with her for nine years, until one man had finally encouraged her to feel, held her and cared for her.

This man lay against her now, hurting as she had once hurt, longing to be held as he had held her, and she knew that if she could spare him one tiny bit of the pain she'd suffered, being held in his crushing embrace was a small price to pay.

xxxxxxxxx

Hawkeye woke slowly, disoriented. There was something about the tent that was distinctly unfamiliar. It didn't look anything like the Swamp he was used to. On top of that, there was a weight pressing down on his chest and shoulder. He glanced down to see a head of blond hair.

Wow, what exactly was I doing last night? Is that why I feel so sore?

He shifted a little to try and determine the source of his discomfort, and a sharp pain through his ribcage brought him back to the moment. All at once he remembered what had happened last night, and more importantly what had happened a few days ago. He wished he hadn't. Those few moments of disorientation and uncertainty were the best he'd felt since before - no, he couldn't let his mind go there.

Margaret stirred from where she was wrapped around him, blinking her eyes sleepily. "Oh - good morning."

Even in the state he was in, Hawkeye was still Hawkeye. "You look tired. I didn't keep you up all night, did I?"

"No, not really." That was true. She'd managed to catch some sleep in the intervals between Hawkeye's nightmares. "Anyway, I don't mind. You needed someone to take care of you, and I know you'd have done the same for me."

Hawkeye tried to respond, but his voice caught in his sore throat and he started coughing. Instantly Margaret was sitting upright, concerned, starting to check him over. "Hawkeye, when was the last time you drank anything? You're dehydrated."

"I can't stand liquids," he admitted. "Just that feeling in my mouth makes me sick."

He saw her eyes soften with understanding. "Oh, Hawkeye. They -?"

He nodded, trying to choke back his tears. God knows I cried enough last night! It seemed she noticed, however, because she hugged him tightly. He lay in her arms for a long moment before she slowly pulled away.

"Hawkeye, I'm sorry, but you really do need to get some fluids in your system. Wait here for me, okay?"

He nodded and she slipped out, returning with a glass of water, which she handed to him, sitting down next to him.

"Take a small sip," she said quietly, and he obliged. Bile rose in his throat again as soon as the water hit his mouth, but he felt Margaret's hand on his back and that kept him grounded. "Okay, now swallow. There."

She coaxed him through another sip, and another, but by the fourth he was able to get the liquid down by himself. Once he got over the gag reflex, he realized how thirsty he was. The liquid felt wonderful in his aching throat, and he gulped the rest without hesitation.

"There. Better?"

He still couldn't force a smile, but the look in his eyes conveyed his gratitude. "A little. Thanks."

"I assume you've been eating as much as you've been drinking."

His silence was as good an answer as any.

"Do you think you could stomach a little bit of food?"

He just shrugged and shook his head slightly, looking heartbreakingly lost and confused. Margaret pulled him to her, wrapping her arms so tightly around him that he couldn't muffle a soft whimper of pain as she put pressure on his still-sore body. Instantly, she let up on him.

"God, you're hurt! I didn't even think - Hawkeye, did you see a doctor in Tokyo?"

"Don't need one. I know what's going on with me."

Margaret sighed. "Don't even try to pull that one. Being a doctor doesn't make you qualified to self-diagnose, and you know it."

"Okay, fine. I just didn't want to see one. Happy?"

"No. You need medical attention. Why the hell didn't you see a doctor?"

"What's a doctor but another stranger putting his hands all over me?" Again, the sarcasm faded in the face of his distress. "I did think about it, but the idea of anyone touching me, even in a professional capacity, made me sick. I couldn't deal with it."

"Oh, God, Hawkeye. I didn't even think - I mean -"

"I know."

"Would you -" she stopped, uncertain. "Would you let someone here look at you, then? Hunnicutt, maybe? I know you're friends."

"No!" he said forcefully. "I can't - I can't tell him."

"Why not?"

"I can't do that to him. If it were Trapper, maybe, but not BJ. He's barely dealing with Korea and everything he's seen as it is, if I told him - no. It's not happening. And before you ask, there's no way I'm letting Frank anywhere near me."

"Believe me, that's two of us. And I suppose you have some reason you're not telling the Colonel?"

"I'm just not - not entirely sure what I think of him yet. I mean, I like him, I respect him, but tell him something this personal? The one thing we have never been is personal, and I don't think I can bear to cross that line now of all times."

She sighed. The last thing she wanted to do was push him when she knew he was feeling vulnerable. "Then at least let me take a look. I may not be a doctor but I know something about injuries."

He didn't actually respond, but he slowly peeled off his shirt and laid down on the bed. It nearly brought her to tears. The gesture itself was so small, but the trust it conveyed was monumental for someone who had gone through everything Hawkeye had.

She gasped when she saw the bruising on his body. If it was this bad now, she could only imagine how it must have looked four days ago. He must have been in so much pain the whole time - how had he stayed on his feet for the ten-hour OR session? She took a deep breath, trying to steady herself. This shouldn't be getting to her like it was. She'd seen men with their insides literally falling out, a few bruises was nothing compared to that.

But this wasn't just some soldier. This was Hawkeye, a man she'd worked beside for over a year. This was the man who'd looked after her when they'd stayed behind during the bug-out, who had held her close during those horrible days at the aid station, who had been there for her when she couldn't keep her own traumas buried anymore. If she was to be honest with herself, Hawkeye was the best friend she had in the world, and seeing him in pain hurt her more than any wound she might see on anyone else.

"I'm going to touch you now, okay?" She didn't want to startle him.

"Okay."

She slowly placed her hands on his bare torso. "Why don't you tell me what medical opinion you've come up with about yourself?"

"Cracked ribs, two on the left, one on the right. A lot of bruising. And some, uh, tearing -"

"I understand." She could tell from the look in his eyes that just describing his injuries was bringing back the memories of how he'd gotten them, and she moved a hand from his ribcage to stroke his hair.

"I think you were right," she said after a long silence. "Let me get something to bandage your ribs. And something for the pain, too. I can't believe you've been trying to function, hurt like this."

"It helps."

"What?"

"When I'm working, I can stop thinking so much about - other things."

"I know," she said softly. Giving in to her instincts, she leaned down and gently kissed the top of his head before slipping out of her tent to get the required supplies.

xxxxxxxxx

"Not much of a breakfast there, son."

Hawkeye gritted his teeth a little. He knew the old Colonel was only trying to make conversation, but he really didn't want any attention called to his rather unusual meal. Burnt or not, the toast was the only thing on the line he'd found remotely appetizing - that is, he thought he could swallow it without throwing up.

"Just not that hungry," he finally managed, truthfully enough. He felt too sick to be hungry.

The man's face took on a concerned frown. "Are you all right? You've been eating like a bird these last few days."

"More like a fish," BJ put in as he sat down, "at least if his shower time is any indication."

Hawkeye felt his heart leap into his throat. "What are you talking about?" he asked, praying his face didn't betray signs of the panic he felt.

"Oh, c'mon, Hawk. You've been spending enough time in the shower for three people, and you know it. Trying to compensate for Radar?"

Again, Hawkeye took a deep breath, praying he could keep a straight face. I thought no one would notice. Hawkeye had, in fact, realized he was taking a lot of time in the showers, but he could hardly help it. No matter how long he washed, how hot the water, how hard he scrubbed, he still felt like he was covered in grime. He felt like he could never be clean again.

That thought broke what little control he'd had over his stomach, and he instantly stood and bolted for the door, nearly knocking Frank down in the process.

"Figures," the older surgeon sniffed. "Can dish it out all he likes but can't even take a tiny joke."

"Oh, shut up," Margaret snapped. For once, she was glad she was fighting with Frank constantly. In this case, it meant she could snap at him all she wanted and no one would find it odd.

Hawkeye reentered the tent a few moments later, looking pale and a little shaky on his feet. "Sorry about that. Something about this food."

"Disagrees with you?" Hunnicutt asked.

"More like despises," Hawkeye shot back, again trying for a smile.

"Maybe you picked something up in Tokyo," Potter suggested. Margaret grimaced sympathetically, knowing the man was a lot closer to the truth than he realized.

"Yeah, maybe." He prodded at his food uninterestedly. "At any rate, I'm not remotely hungry."

He left the rest of his meal untouched.

xxxxxxxxx

"Hawkeye, are you okay?"

Oh, not again. "I'm fine. Really." No, I'm not fine, but what else am I supposed to say? He'd made his feelings on the matter clear to Margaret, and he wasn't going back on it. BJ didn't need Hawkeye to burst what little he had left of his bubble, no matter how miserable he felt.

BJ opened his mouth to press the issue, but another voice cut him off. "Attention all personnel! Incoming wounded! Repeat, incoming wounded."

Hawkeye could never be grateful for wounded, but he couldn't help a tiny sense of gratitude for the timing. BJ was out the door before he was, and the topic of Hawkeye's strange behavior was abandoned.

*~*~*~*

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