When You Need Me Most

By LittleDancerGirl

Other / Romance

Chapter TwentyTwo: The Doctor is In

When You Need Me Most

"How's he doing, Sidney?"

"He cried himself to sleep. Margaret's with him now."

"I'm worried," the Colonel admitted, though he didn't need to say it for Sidney to know. "He sleeps so much these days. It's not like his body is trying to heal from something."

"First of all, he may be sleeping but I don't know how much rest he's getting. If he keeps waking up with nightmares, the sleep's not doing him nearly as much good. Secondly, he's emotionally exhausted. His emotions are running wild inside him, and it's wearing him out."

"He's always crying these days," Potter said softly, "and he's so clingy, always wanting to be touched and held. I've heard of victims being afraid of contact, but this seems to be the opposite."

"It's not surprising, not really. Think about how Hawkeye is normally. He's an affectionate person by nature. He almost needs to be around people even under normal circumstances. It's just the way he is. He thrives on human interaction. It's part of what makes him such a good doctor."

"Of course. So when he's hurt -"

"That need becomes even more striking. He craves physical comfort and affection to soothe his wounds. Also,he needs to feel safe."

"What?"

"That one's pretty common, actually. Hawkeye's been invaded in one of the worst ways possible, and he's has his sense of safety shattered. He's absolutely petrified that something else will happen to him - that's incredibly typical of trauma victims. He trusts you and BJ and Margaret and the others. As long as he's in the arms of someone he trusts, he feels like he can't be hurt."

"What about the crying?"

"He's hurting, Sherman. It also doesn't help that he spent so long not letting himself express his emotions unless he was alone or with Margaret. This whole past week has been horribly emotionally draining for him, and he's been trying to keep a lid on it so he wouldn't worry all of you."

"So it all just festered."

Sidney nodded sadly. "And now, all that pain, some of which he's kept buried for over a year, is all coming front and center at once, and it's all built up inside him. Tears are his pressure valve, the only one he has. Some people start yelling at everyone, but that's not Hawkeye's style."

"He worries about everyone else first."

"Exactly. So he holds back that anger reflex, and instead it all comes out as grief."

"Is there anything I can do for him?"

"I'm doing it. Hawkeye needs to get this out of his system, and trust me when I say that's something I'd better handle." What Hawkeye had told him would probably haunt his dreams that night, and he'd been specially trained to deal with people who'd gone through horrific situations. He didn't think Sherman or anyone else should hear those details. "Just be a shoulder for him to lean on. In the meantime, I have other patients to counsel. Starting with Hunnicutt."

"Good. Go to him before he drives himself completely insane."

xxxxxxxxx

"Sidney."

"Major Freedman."

The psychiatrist bit back a smile. The contrast between Winchester and his tentmates never ceased to amuse Sidney, from a professional and a personal standpoint. But the urge to smile faded when he took in the blond doctor's pale, exhausted features. BJ looked almost as bad as his friend had.

"Winchester, can I see you outside for a minute?"

"Certainly." The Harvard doctor stood and stepped out the door. "What can I do for you, Major?"

Sidney didn't beat around the bush. "How's Hunnicutt holding up?"

Winchester sighed. "Not well, I'm afraid. He keeps it together whenever he's around Pierce, but as soon as he's not, well, you can see for yourself what he's like." Charles nodded towards the door of the Swamp. "Are you going to talk to him?"

"That's what I'm here for. Do you mind clearing out for awhile?"

"Not at all." He was more worried about his bunkmates, both of them, than he would have liked to admit.

"We'll talk later, Major."

He re-entered the Swamp, waiting for BJ to acknowledge him before sitting down. "How're you doing?"

"Shouldn't you be with Hawkeye?"

"He's asleep. You therefore become more interesting."

"Sidney, how is he?"

"Oh, no you don't. We were talking about you."

"You were talking about me. I want to know how he is."

"Don't worry, BJ. He's going to be all right. Now I'd like to get back to you."

"Why me?"

"Because you're as white as a sheet. Well, at least as white as the sheets get over here." BJ didn't even crack a smile. "You present the appearance of a man with a problem."

"You think?"

"You want to talk about it?"

"My problem is that my best friend - scratch that, my brother - was raped, multiple times no less. I think it should be obvious." He took a long drink from the glass in his hands. "You can't begin to imagine how I feel every time he starts to cry, Sidney."

"Tell me."

"Mostly, I just want to go to him and hold him and reassure him that everything will be all right even though I know it won't so I don't say anything even though I want to. It's heartbreaking to have to watch him go through this and know that all I can do is hold him and let him cry. I would do anything to take his pain away, and it kills me that nothing I do will make any difference."

"I wouldn't say that."

"No? What the hell could I do to make this any better?"

"You said it yourself. How does Hawkeye react when you hold him?"

BJ's voice was tight with tears when he replied. "He hangs onto me like his life depends on it."

"Then how can you say you're doing nothing, when he so clearly needs you to do what you're doing?"

"I never thought of it quite that way."

"Maybe you should put that glass down before you break it in half." Sidney couldn't fail to notice how tightly BJ was gripping the stem.

"What?"

Shaking his head, Sidney liberated the glass and placed it under the still. "Something you want to get off your chest?"

"Sidney, how can people do something so horrible?" His eyes finally met Sidney's and the psychiatrist could see the tempest that lurked beneath them. "And why Hawkeye? He's the kindest, gentlest person I've ever known. What gives them the right to put someone through so much pain for their own pleasure? Especially someone like him? What the hell gives them that right?"

Sidney said nothing. Just like he'd needed to let Hawkeye cry, he needed to let BJ get this out of his system too.

"Why, Sidney? What did he do to deserve this?"

That required some sort of response. "He didn't do anything, BJ. Sometimes awful things happen to the people who least deserve them."

"It's not fair! Who do those people think they are?" His eyes blazed. "I thank God that she's locked up and I don't know who the others are."

"Why's that?"

He drew a slow breath, and the look in his eyes scared the Major. "Because I'm not a murderer and I don't want to be. But if I had the chance, I would kill every son of a bitch who hurt the best friend I've ever had."

"You don't mean that." It was half a statement of fact and half a hope, because he wasn't entirely sure.

"Honestly, I don't know," he admitted. "On one hand, I've never intentionally killed anyone. I have enough trouble with the boys I can't save, I don't know if I could ever actually take a life. On the other - I am so angry, Sidney. How dare they?" He was shouting now. "How dare they hurt a man so badly he can't feel safe in his own bed unless someone's there to hold him? How dare they waltz into the life of a man who's taken and lived by an oath to never harm a human being and rip that life all to shreds? As long as I live, I will never forgive them, and I will never forget what they did." His voice dropped in volume significantly, but the way he spoke was even more powerful, taking on a fierce protectiveness. "I love Hawkeye so much, and I despise each and every one of them for what they did to him."

Professionalism be damned. "I hate them too, BJ."

"It's not fair," he repeated. "God, it's n-n-not -" He left his sentence unfinished as he broke down crying, his legs folding underneath him.

He missed his cot entirely, falling heavily to the floor. Sidney got down on his knees, carefully wrapping BJ in his arms. "Come on. Let it out."

He broke down as he remembered doing only once before, when his daughter had called Radar 'Daddy'. He'd forced himself to bury his own emotions on this situation to this point. Hawkeye's well-being had to be his priority. But here, now, when it was just him and Sidney, he could give voice to everything he wouldn't let Hawkeye see lest his friend try to take care of him. All he knew was that nothing that had ever happened in his life had hurt and angered him this much. Not his daughter calling someone else the name that should have been his, not the kid he'd had to leave to die, not even the innumerable wounded he hadn't been able to save. Erin's little mistake seemed so much less significant of a thing to be angry about now. No one had been seriously hurt. And none of the dead and wounded had come close to meaning as much as Hawkeye did to him. He knew it was probably wrong from an objective standpoint, but he couldn't care less.

"I feel so awful," he sobbed.

"Why?"

"I didn't know, so I didn't know I should be gentle with him. I said and did so many things I never would have if I'd known he'd been through that."

"Like what?"

"We got into a fight," he said softly, "a few months ago, about how much I miss Erin and Peg and wanted to be there for them, and he said no one wanted to get out of here as badly as he did. Of course they don't - I can't imagine how badly he wants to go home after all this, to be in his dad's arms instead of Margaret's and mine, to be those ten thousand miles from where he was hurt. But I just dismissed it, all but laughed in his face, because no one could possibly want to go home as much as I did. Could I have been any more insensitive?"

"You didn't know," Sidney pointed out. "And it's not like that was right after the first incident. For all you know, that wasn't even what he meant. He's been here longer than anyone who's currently here, that very well may have been all he meant."

"There's more," he said miserably. "Last month we made a bet, and he lost - I made him stand on a table and sing without his pants." Fresh tears followed this. "I thought it was funny, but God. Doing something like that to a rape victim -"

"Was the result clear when Hawkeye made the bet?"

"Well, yes -"

"Then he knew what he was getting into. If it really bothered him, he could have refused the bet. BJ, it's not like he was feeling this awful the entire time. He's in the early stages of trauma recovery now. You weren't watching when he was going through this all last time, so you didn't see the progress he made. If this hadn't happened, I doubt the first incident would be more than a dark spot in the back of his mind now."

"He was acting strange," BJ said tearfully. "You know, when it first happened? And I was so insensitive. I poked fun at him for spending so much time in the shower. He feels dirty, tainted, Sidney, and I know that now. But instead of being there for him, teased him about something that was probably eating him up inside. I wasn't paying attention - I didn't pay attention to the look on his face. Now I can't get that almost haunted look out of my mind."

"You didn't know. Hawkeye knew you didn't know, he's the one who insisted you not be told."

"He was protecting me," BJ whispered brokenly. "How can a person go through something so horrible and still decide that he should be the one protecting me?"

"That's how he is, BJ. He heals himself by taking care of others. BJ, there is no reason to feel guilty!" It hit him how much this was exactly like what he'd had to tell Hawkeye. "There's nothing you could have done differently."

"Yes, there is." His voice was heavy with pain. "I was in here, you know."

"BJ, you're in here all the time. You'll have to be more specific."

"Day before yesterday. Hawkeye came in here and went to sleep, and I decided to go get something to eat. I came back maybe an hour later. Somewhere in there, she walked into the tent and raped him. If I had just stayed, she wouldn't have gotten that chance."

"You couldn't have known what would happen."

"I hate this, Sidney," he said finally. "I'm a doctor, and there's not a thing I can do to make it better. If he'd gotten a big wound or something I would give him a shot of morphine, to keep him out of pain until it healed. I wish there was something I could give him now, to take the pain away while this heals."

"So do I. Believe me."

"What can I do for him?"

"What you've been doing is a good start. Once he gets a little better, guiding him to get back in his normal routine is a good place to go. He can't hide in his tent forever. Sooner or later, you'll have to convince him to start walking around by himself. And in the meantime, stop blaming yourself. That's not going to do you or him or anyone else any good."

"I'll try, Sidney."

"That's the best I could ask for."

xxxxxxxxx

"Major, would you join me in the VIP tent?"

Charles turned towards the psychiatrist. "Why not?" He followed Sidney into the tent. "Is this about Hawkeye?"

Sidney caught the Major's use of his fellow surgeon's nickname but chose to refrain from commenting. "Yes. And about you."

"What about me?"

"You can't tell me this doesn't affect you."

"You're right," he said softly, "I can't. It does."

"How do you feel about this?"

"I feel like a fish out of water," he admitted. "I mean, nothing is normal here anyway, but this. It's not something I've ever really thought about, here or anywhere. When it happens to women, it's hushed up quickly, which is bad enough. But men - it's supposed to be something that happens in prisons or to, you know, homosexuals, or that occasional little boy who runs across the neighborhood creep, not a doctor on R&R." He realized with horror what he'd unthinkingly said as soon as it was out of his mouth. "Not that it would be right if it happened to someone in one of those circumstances, but when you think about rape of a male, that's what you think about, not -"

"Someone like Hawkeye."

"Exactly. And that's male-on-male. The idea of what she did - that's not supposed to happen at all." Again, he caught himself a second too late. "I mean, none of it's supposed to happen, but I'd bet most people wouldn't think a woman is capable of raping a man." He sighed. "Why is it so hard to say all this? I've never had trouble with language before, and now I keep saying all these things that sound so callous and even cruel even as I hear them."

"This isn't something you're prepared to deal with. It isn't something anyone's prepared to deal with, in men or women. Like you said, it gets shoved under the rug, and it's seen as something that only happens to certain kinds of people."

"Why?"

Sidney eyed him sadly. "Because people want to believe it couldn't happen to them. They try to come up with reasons the victims are different than themselves, because if the victims are people just like them they have to face the possibility that they could just as easily have been the victims. It's horrible, but it's a defense mechanism."

Charles shook his head. "I don't know what to do. I know I hurt him in the week where she was here and I didn't know what she'd done. I liked her, and I wasn't shy about saying so. I got off my shift the day she assaulted him in the Swamp, walked into my tent and started talking about how wonderful she was. He just lay there, not responding to anything I said, and I kept talking, trying to get a reaction out of him. It must have been so painful, rubbing salt in a fresh wound, and I just wouldn't let up." He buried his face in his hands. "He said it over and over: 'Leave me alone, Charles. Please just leave me alone.' Dear God, what did I do to him?"

"Have you spoken to him about this?"

"I mentioned it. He told me not to feel bad about her tricking me, but he never said anything about the way I treated him."

"But he spoke to you."

"Well, yes."

"That's a good sign. I must admit, I'm a little surprised that you're so worried. Last I checked, you despised him."

"That's not true. I don't hate him, Major. I don't love him by a long shot, but I don't hate him. I might go so far as to say he's a friend." Charles paused. "Sometimes. Besides, I wouldn't wish everything he's been through on my worst enemy, and for all his faults Hawkeye is far from my worst enemy."

"That's the second time today you've called him Hawkeye."

"Well - we've made a few breakthroughs. Right now he needs me to be a friend, so that's what I'll be. When he goes back to playing bad practical jokes, I'll start calling him Pierce again."

Sidney smiled to himself. He'd always suspected there was something under Winchester's tough exterior. The care he exhibited for his bunkmate only confirmed this hypothesis.

"Go to him. Explain what you told me. Like I was just telling BJ, Hawkeye is hardly unaware that you two didn't know what he'd been through. He was the one who insisted on it. I'm sure he'll accept an -"

"Attention all personnel! Incoming wounded! Repeat, incoming wounded!"

"Oh, God." Charles sighed. "So we've got a surgeon who's laid up from emotional trauma and one who's a nervous wreck."

Sidney looked over at him. "I don't think you should go condemning your patients so readily."

*~*~*~*

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