Chapter TwentyThree: Bigger Than Me
The eyes of all the surgeons had been on Hawkeye, but no one who didn't know there was a problem would have suspected anything. Hawkeye was more like himself than he'd been since the day they got the new nurses in.
"Suction." Peterson's voice was terse. Hawkeye flinched almost imperceptibly. The nurses still hadn't forgotten what had happened, and to them it looked like Hawkeye had been the one at fault and had somehow escaped punishment.
"Blood pressure's dropping," Kellye reported.
"Clamp! Clamp, come on!" He hurried to slow the bleeding, but there were a lot of holes to close.
"Can't get a pressure. I've lost the pulse!"
Hawkeye began to compress the chest. "Anything?"
"Corpsman!" Peterson shouted.
"Cancel that! Scalpel."
"I said give me a scalpel."
"But Captain -"
"Forget it. Margaret! I need your help over here!"
"Lieutenant Peterson, give the doctor what he asked for and then get over here and help Captain Hunnicutt!"
She slapped a scalpel into his hand before stepping away and replacing her gloves. Hawkeye cut carefully into the chest.
"Rib spreader," said a voice, echoing the words that had been about to pass Hawkeye's lips. He half-smiled. He hadn't just called on Margaret because she was the only nurse who didn't hate him. She'd assisted on this procedure a half dozen times at least, and she knew what he was doing and what he would need.
"Pull them apart. Give me more, I can't see." He was vaguely aware that the two new nurses were watching him, clearly wondering what on Earth he was doing, but he paid them no mind as he plunged his hand into the man's chest.
"Kellye, bag him!"
Whatever the problems between them, the Hawaiian nurse was a consummate professional. Hawkeye continued to massage the heart. "Come on, come on, don't you dare give up on me!"
"I'm getting a pulse," Kellye reported hesitantly. "It's stronger. Pressure's coming back up."
"All right, come on, let's close these holes before he has a chance to go sour again."
"Doctor, that was amazing," Jennings said softly from where she was working with Winchester.
"Yeah." His response was short, and Margaret knew he was just a little overwhelmed, even though he'd done this procedure before.
"Well you don't have to be snotty about it."
They were right back to where they had been. Margaret didn't need to see Hawkeye's face to know that a wave of anguish had just crossed it.
"How you feeling, son?" Potter laid a hand on Hawkeye's shoulder as the younger man sat with his head in his hands.
"I don't know. I've been saying that a lot these days, haven't I?"
"I feel - I feel better than I've felt in days. There's something about getting back in there, doing what I've always done - it was like for the first time since, you know, it happened, I was myself. The last few days have been like being stuck on a ship caught in a hurricane. And now - well, I'm not on dry land yet, but the seas have calmed enough that I can walk on the deck again, you know?"
He hugged the younger man tightly as tears, mostly of relief, welled up in his eyes. "That's good, son. That's good."
"That was some good work you did," Margaret added, resting a hand on his shoulder.
"How's the patient?"
She knew who he meant. "He's doing pretty well, actually." It wasn't until after he'd finished that she had remembered that the first patient he'd performed that operation on had died four hours later. Not that there was really anything else they could have done, but it had terrified her. Hawkeye's emotional state was already so fragile. What would a blow like that have done to him? She was grateful beyond words that they wouldn't have to find out. She ran her hand down his arm until she could take his hand.
"I'm sorry about my nurses," she said softly. "I'll talk to them."
"You don't have to. If I had done what they think I did -"
"But you didn't." She sat down next to him. As Potter took a step away from them to let them talk, she leaned into his shoulder. "You don't deserve the way they've been treating you."
Hawkeye didn't feel strong enough to argue, and he knew Margaret would do what she wanted regardless of what he told her to do.
"Pierce, can you get back in the game?" Potter asked gently.
He could barely hold his eyes open, but he doubted anyone else was much better. "Yeah, I think so."
"I'll put you at the end of the rotations. That'll give you some time to sleep."
"Thanks." He should have known he couldn't fool the old man.
"Go to bed, Hawkeye."
"I'm going, I'm going."
He lifted his head. "Is it morning?"
"No, it's afternoon," BJ replied, "but you missed morning completely."
"Thanks for letting me sleep." He caught a grimace on BJ's face. "Oh, God. What happened?"
"You started shaking and crying in your sleep. I couldn't wake you so I ended up getting onto your cot with you and holding you for a few hours. I hope you don't mind."
"I don't mind. I'm sorry."
"Don't be, it's all right." He touched his friend's shoulder gently. "Hey, Peg sent me another care package. You want some peanut butter cookies?"
"Sure." He reached for the box BJ offered him and took one.
He took a small bite. It tasted wonderful. Despite being a ladies' man, there were a lot of things he envied about BJ for being married. His wife's cooking was one of them.
It didn't hurt that, as he realized suddenly, he was starving. He took another bite, quickly devouring the cookie, and reached for another one. Three more cookies disappeared before he forced himself to stop.
"I'm sorry, Beej. I didn't mean to take all your food."
He waved that away. "Don't worry, Hawk. She'll send more. You look famished. Eat."
"You sure?" Hawkeye's longing look never left the tin. He didn't want to take all of BJ's food, but god he was so hungry.
"Hawkeye, you haven't eaten in three days. You haven't eaten anything that didn't come back up later in a week." He pushed the item in question closer to his friend. "You need those cookies more than I do. Take as much as you want."
"Well, if you're sure..." he took another one and stuffed it in his mouth. He couldn't help it. It was impossible to resist food when it was sitting there right in front of him, so freely offered.
BJ couldn't help smiling. It was such a relief to see his friend eating. "I'm sure, Hawk. Go on."
Several more cookies followed those Hawkeye had already consumed. BJ made a mental note to get some of the other personnel to contribute gift food. If that was what it took to get Hawkeye to give his body some sustenance, he would do everything he could to make sure it was available.
"God, I'm sorry, Beej."
"What the hell for?"
"For all of this. For crying all over you so much, for demanding so much attention, for taking your food and making you pick up the slack for me in Post-op. For making you sit up with me all the time. I'm being such a child about all this, damn it. I should just deal with it and not get you involved."
"Oh, Hawk!" Instantly, BJ had stood and crossed the small distance between his cot and Hawkeye's. "Is that really what you think?"
"It's really what it is."
"God, no, no." He gently put an arm around his friend's shoulder. "Hawkeye, you've been hurt."
"Three days ago."
"That's hardly enough time to recover. You're getting better, Hawk. It doesn't have to happen all at once. And in the meantime, you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. We all help each other here, and frankly I can't remember a time until now when you weren't the one doing the helping. If anything, I'm the one who should be sorry."
"What are you talking about?"
"I treated you like hell, and I'm sorrier than I can explain. I should never have made you do that thing on the table. I shouldn't have teased you about spending so much time in the shower. I shouldn't have acted like - how did Margaret put it? - my brand of suffering was worse than anyone else's. I can't even imagine how much this has to hurt you, Hawk. And more than anything, I left this damn tent while you were sleeping. You probably thought you'd be safe because I was here, and then I just left. I'm so sorry."
"Beej, I didn't tell you." Hawkeye turned to hug his best friend. "I didn't ask you to stay. It's not your fault. Please, stop feeling guilty."
"Fine. But it's not your fault either." He tightened the embrace. "I owe you way, way more than I could ever repay. You're in pain, Hawk. If you need me to help you, there's nothing wrong with that. You're not being a child. You're just trying to deal with one of the worst things that's ever happened to you. No one expects you to just get over it. You are getting better. You worked as hard as you ever do in OR. You walked back here without checking to see where I was. You slept without having any major nightmares." He pulled Hawkeye even closer. "You're going to be okay, Hawk. But in the meantime, there's nothing wrong with admitting you need help."
"Thank you." His friend's arms were still the safest place in Korea, and his words were soothing beyond explanation. He did need help. He just never felt comfortable asking for it. "Thank you so much for everything."
"Don't mention it." He held Hawkeye closer still. "I'm here as long as you need me to be."
"Don't tell me. Now that I've stopped bucking for a Section 8, you've decided I'm crazy."
Sidney smiled despite himself. "I'm afraid that's not it."
"Aw, damn it." He grew serious quickly. "This about Captain Pierce?"
"Yes. And about you. How are you feeling about all this?"
"If I started talking about that, I'd end up trashing this office. Trust me, I get on a rant and nothing is safe. A couple years ago I started talking to Hawkeye about how angry I was at Zale and I started throwing things at him while he was trying to give me a shot." He laughed a little, sadly. "Come to think of it, that was probably right around the same time the first attack happened. God, I feel awful now. The last thing he needed was me making his job harder."
"You want to know how many times I've heard that today? Klinger, everyone in this camp feels bad."
"You all feel like there's something you should have done differently, like you should have handled him with kid gloves."
"Watching him cry like that, I think we should have."
"As I've already told two people, Hawkeye made the choice to only tell one person."
"Yeah, and in a way I'm glad he did."
Sidney raised an eyebrow. That one he hadn't heard before.
"Well, think about who was in camp then. Burns wouldn't have been sympathetic to him no matter what the circumstances, might have even messed with him about it. It would have been the worst possible thing that could happen to him, if that weasel had actually tried to taunt him about it. And can you imagine what it would have done to Radar if he'd known?"
"I don't know," he said honestly. "It might have completely panicked him, but on the other hand -"
"He might have turned into the rock we all knew and loved," Klinger finished. "Now that I think about it. there's a chance he knew without ever having to be told."
"Knowing Radar, he probably did. But we're not here to talk about Radar."
"Look, it's not like I've never heard of this kind of thing happening before. Cities are cities, after all, and it's not like Toledo is perfect, for all I love it. But there's a difference between hearing a third-hand rumor about someone I barely know and watching one of my best friends fall apart in his bunkmate's arms after confessing that he was gang-raped and then assaulted again by one of our nurses, and maybe that's wrong but it's just how I feel."
"If everyone reacted to the suffering of strangers the same way they do the suffering of their friends, none of us would be here in Korea."
"That's supposed to make me feel better?"
"Klinger, you're human. From the standpoint of pure morality it may seem wrong, but it is human nature. There isn't a person in the world who can honestly say they're not that way. You care about Hawkeye. You have a close bond with him. You care about his feelings, so when he's hurt it hurts you, in a way it doesn't when it's a stranger."
"It's normal, Sidney? The way I feel?"
"Of course it is."
"What do I do?"
"I think you try to be normal. I know it's tempting to treat Hawkeye like he's made of glass, but take your cues from him and try to continue doing what you would have if this had never happened. Maybe you give a few more hugs and a little more kindness, a little less joking and a few less arguments, but don't completely change the way you behave. That won't help Hawkeye."
"Can I see you outside for a moment?"
"Yeah, sure." He followed Charles into the scrub room. "What is it, that open heart massage patient?"
"No. Pierce - Hawkeye - I want to formally apologize for the way I behaved."
"No, allow me to finish. Regardless of whether or not I knew what had happened, I completely ignored your repeated requests to be left in peace. Instead, I continued to bother you, about the very thing I am sure you wanted to forget, no less. I am sure it felt like rubbing salt in an open wound."
"It doesn't -"
"You don't have to lie."
"All right." His head lowered. "It did hurt. It hurt like hell. But it wasn't your fault. We poke fun at each other all the time. We bug each other. It's the basis of our relationship. I've done the same to you."
"No, Hawkeye, you have not. The closest you have ever come was taunting me over losing that job, and that's hardly the same. A job is a job, no matter how important or rare. It can't have hurt as much as you were hurting."
"You didn't know how much pain I was in. Under any other circumstances, I would have deserved it. How could you have known that that one time you were going too far?"
"Charles, I forgive you, okay?"
Before he could stop himself, Charles stepped forward and embraced his fellow surgeon. Hawkeye tensed, but from surprise, not fear. He quickly relaxed and hugged Winchester back.
"Thanks, Charles," he said in a somewhat watery voice as they separated.
"Anytime." He met Hawkeye's eyes. "I mean it."
A quick, weak, but very genuine smile flashed across Hawkeye's lips. "You know, when you first came here I offered you an olive branch."
"And I refused. Rather blatantly. In my defense, I was unaware of the duration of my stay. Had I been, I might have done things differently. But the fact remains, I rejected your offer of friendship."
"Well, you see, Charles, there's this thing about me. I don't like to take no for an answer. The branch is still there if you change your mind. Now is there anything I should know about the patients?"
Charles smiled genuinely, knowing Hawkeye had spared him having to answer. "Just one. Corporal Jacobson. He's been giving all of us some difficulty."
"He makes a fuss every time anyone tries to get near him. He had to be sedated so we could change his dressing."
"Jacobson, Jacobson - which one is he?"
"He was hit in the thigh and the shoulder. It's really the leg wound he's been especially difficult. Maybe you will have better luck."
"I hope so."
Charles left and Hawkeye walked back into post-op. Kellye was there, having relieved Baker. She gave him a slight, unreadable glance and then leaned down to check on one of her patients.
He batted her hand away. She frowned and tried again, with the same result.
"Don't!" he snapped. Hawkeye realized that this had to be Jacobson, the corporal who had been giving Charles trouble.
"I need to take your blood pressure," Kellye said patiently. Hawkeye didn't think of her as the second-best nurse at the 4077 for nothing.
"Don't touch me!"
Hawkeye looked up suddenly.
"I need to change your dressings."
"No!" That was even more vehement. The man looked around frantically, and the doctor got a glimpse of his face. The terror on his face was familiar. Hawkeye had seen it before. In the mirror.
"Nurse." Hawkeye stepped up behind Kellye. "Can we move him to that bed over there?" He indicated a bed in the corner with two empty beds next to it. It was a good thing, he thought, that post-op wasn't that crowded on this particular day.
"Do it. This is important." He wanted to do something, maybe touch the young man's shoulder, but the way the kid was acting that might just make everything worse.
"Hey, what's this all about?" he protested as two corpsmen moved him to the new location.
Hawkeye sat down on the next cot. "I just want to talk to you. I didn't think you'd want this to be overheard."
"Just - just stay right over there!"
"I will, don't worry. Look, I know you're afraid. I also know you don't just get this way for no reason. No one does. What happened? Was it the battle?"
He didn't say anything.
"Look, you can tell me, okay? I won't judge."
Still no reaction.
"Would you rather talk to someone else? We have a psychiatrist in camp and our chaplain is always willing to lend an ear to anyone's problems, religious or otherwise."
"No!" Finally, he responded. "I don't need someone messing around in my head, and I don't need any holier-than-thou preaching either!"
He was awfully quick to jump to conclusions about what Father Mulcahy would do, Hawkeye thought to himself. Either he has a deep-seated hatred of the church or he's already tried to talk to a chaplain with negative results, and my money is on the latter.
"Then me. I won't preach and I won't mess around in your head. I just want to help you."
"You can't help me."
"Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes just talking helps."
"You won't believe me."
"Yes I will." He said it instantly. He knew that fear so well, and he knew that he would believe whatever he was told, because the Corporal looked like he needed to be believed.
He spoke softly, trying to make sure no one heard. "Well, something happened to me the last time I was in Tokyo, about a month ago. There was this girl..."
Oh, God. Hawkeye was suddenly even more all ears than he had been. He suspected he knew what was coming.
"She talked me into going with her - I don't suppose I needed much talking. Took me to this place, and there were these men and they - they -"
"Easy. Take your time," Hawkeye said, trying to sound comforting. He knew so well how much pain the young man was in.
"They did - horrible things to me. You know - sexually. Like guys do with girls - but to me."
"Is that why you don't want anyone touching or coming near you?" he asked gently, without any accusation, already knowing the answer.
"Oh, God, doc." His face crumpled in an expression that suggested he was forcing back tears with everything he had. "You don't get it. You don't understand. It's not you, it's just that any time anyone tries to touch me or get near me, especially so close to, you know, there."
"I know. It's all right - I mean, it's not all right what happened, but it's all right for you to feel the way you do. I know. I know."
"You don't know. You have no idea."
"The woman - was she about five foot four, golden blond hair -?"
"Big green eyes, fair skin, sort of willowy?"
"Called herself Marissa Cunningham?"
"Yeah." He finally stopped long enough to take in his doctor. "Wait. How do you...?"
The pain in Hawkeye's face was the only answer he got - the only one he needed.
"Oh, God, Doc, I'm sorry."
Hawkeye tentatively reached a hand out to him. For a long moment, the Corporal just stared. Then he reached out his good hand and placed it in Hawkeye's. Hawkeye stroked the man's hand with his thumb, trying to provide some comfort.
"I don't know if this helps at all," he said softly, "but the woman who orchestrated all this won't be hurting anyone anymore. She's been arrested."
"I promise you." Hawkeye saw the man's face contort again. "Would you like to continue this conversation somewhere more private?"
Jacobson didn't even hesitate this time before nodding.
Jacobson was barely able to wait until the corpsmen left the room before he began to sob, unable to hold it back any longer. Hawkeye knew immediately that he had been keeping it all locked inside since it had first happened. Not for the first time, he thanked whatever God there was for the luck that had given him a friend like Margaret to take care of him after he had been attacked. He tentatively embraced the Corporal, ready to back off if he showed any signs that it made him uncomfortable. But it turned out to be unnecessary. Jacobson wrapped his good arm firmly around Hawkeye's waist as he wept, all fear gone where the doctor was concerned. Hawkeye began to cry too. The corporal's agony tugged at his heart, and his own pain was so raw, that he couldn't help it.
"Thanks, Doc," he whispered hoarsely when he'd run out of tears.
"You tell anyone?" Hawkeye asked softly.
"Yeah, I told my unit chaplain. He - he didn't react well."
"What happened?" Hawkeye had already suspected as much.
"He lectured me. Lectured me. I was looking for - solace, I guess, someone to talk to, and instead he gets on my case about fidelity and exclusive relationships and the sin of homosexuality - like I wanted this to happen! Like I wouldn't have walked out of that damned room in a second if I could have. Like I wasn't sitting there hurting so bad I could barely walk and almost in tears remembering what - what they did to me, what they made me do." He swallowed, as though trying to get this all out before emotion stopped up his throat. "After that, I didn't tell anyone else. I was going to, maybe. I wanted to talk to our medic, get something for the pain, and then I was going to tell my Lieutenant. He's a good guy, I thought he'd help me. But after what happened, I couldn't. I was so sure no one would listen."
"Including me." There was no bite at all to this. Hawkeye would never forget those few awful seconds when Sidney had thought he was joking. What the corporal had gone through with his chaplain had to have been so much worse.
"Would you like to tell someone?" Hawkeye had no intention of forcing him to speak, but wanted to offer the option.
"Who?" The man looked desperate. Desperate to tell someone who would listen, who wouldn't dismiss him or pass judgment.
"My CO was the one who helped get her arrested. I'm sure he would listen."
"He know about you?"
"Yeah." He still held the younger man in his arms. "And after that, it might be worth you talking to our own chaplain."
"To try and undo some of the damage your chaplain did. All priests aren't created equal. If my own experience is any indication, you'll have a very different talk."
"Okay," he said finally. "Okay, I will."
Kellye sounded almost frantic. Hawkeye turned to face her. Tears were shimmering in her eyes.
Forget getting Father Mulcahy for the moment. This looked more important. "Kellye, what's wrong?"
"I - well, I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I overheard some of what you said in Post-op. I heard your description - it fits Janice to a T. And I heard what Jacobson told you happened to him, and I can guess from his reaction what you were getting at - and what it was that your problem was with her. I'm right, aren't I? What happened to him, with those men - she did the same to you?"
Hawkeye nodded slightly, resignedly. "With them - and herself," he admitted, forcing the tears in his own eyes back.
"While she was here?" Kellye asked.
Hawkeye was sure he would cry if he tried to speak, so he nodded.
The nurse's hand tentatively brushed his arm. "Major Houlihan told us earlier that we needed to lay off you, that you didn't deserve everything we were saying to you. Well - now I know she was right. I'm sorry, Hawkeye. There's nothing I can say to excuse my behavior, except that if I had known what she did to you I never would have said the things I did. I never would have taken her side, and I know the same goes for the other girls." The tears in her eyes were more pronounced now. "Hawkeye, I'm so, so sorry. I'm sorry about what happened and I'm sorry about the way I acted."
Her hand touched his, and his fingers folded around hers. "I don't want you to pity me."
"I don't." She met his eyes earnestly. "There's a difference between pity and wishing something hadn't happened to someone." She momentarily tightened her grip on his hand. "I wish with all my heart you hadn't had to go through that. And more than that I wish I hadn't given you such a hard time."
"I just wanted her to get her hands off me," he said brokenly.
"I know. I know now. I'm sorry." She knew how many times she had said that already, but it was the only thing she seemed to know how to say.
"You didn't know."
"I know you. I went out with you for a month. You would never hit or push a woman. I should have actually thought it through instead of letting my emotions and the other girls drive what I thought." On impulse, she stood on her toes and kissed his cheek gently. "I'll tell the others to lay off."
"If they haven't listened to Margaret -"
"What if I tell them? I mean, I'll tell them that I know what happened and you had a reason. They'll listen, Hawkeye. Please. I don't want you to keep having to deal with this. I care too much about you."
"Just - just don't tell them the whole story."
"Because I don't want everyone to know that I was - you know, that I went through that. Some people will always judge, and I don't want that. I don't want the rumors to follow me around. I couldn't stand that."
"Okay, Hawkeye. I promise." She gently ran her hand over his shoulder. "Just let me know if you need anything from me. Please."
He nodded. "Thank you."
"It's the least I can do after how I hurt you."
"No, I - I meant thank you for being so sympathetic."
That caused several tears to spill out of her eyes. "Oh, Hawkeye -" she squeezed the hand she still held tightly, but couldn't come up with anything to say.
"Actually, there is something you can do."
"Can you go get Father Mulcahy? If you see Sidney, get him too."
"Is that why he's here? To help you?"
He nodded slowly. "Yeah, but I want him for Jacobson. Do you mind? I'd kind of rather not have to walk across the compound in the dark."
A look of sad understanding crossed her face. "Of course I don't mind." She kissed his cheek again. "I'll be back soon, okay?"
"Oh - sorry, Sidney. I was lost in prayer."
"I could see that."
"Please, sit down."
"Can you take a break to talk to me?"
"I might as well. I'm not getting any answers from the person I'm trying to talk to."
"My faith teaches me that nothing happens by chance, that God has a reason for everything. But what possible reason could He have for putting Hawkeye through that? The worst sinner would not deserve that, to say nothing of a man who has devoted his life to caring for others. I can't see what good could possibly come of this."
"A crisis of faith, Father?"
"At least, as close as I've ever been. This whole war is a crisis of faith really. Awful things happen to people who don't deserve them."
"That's war for you."
"How do I reconcile this?" he asked.
It was clearly a rhetorical question, but a possible answer occured to Sidney. "Do you not also believe man is blessed with free will?"
"Well - yes, of course."
"Then isn't it possible that God never intended for this to happen, that the people who hurt him were going against His will?" Sidney wasn't really religious, and he knew little about the intricacies of Father Mulcahy's beliefs, but he wanted to find some other explanation.
It seemed to work, too, judging by the man's expression. "I never thought of it that way."
"That's what I'm here for, Father. An objective opinion."
Someone tapped on the door. "Come in!"
Kellye poked her head in. "Major Friedman, Father, Doctor Pierce wants both of you in Post-op."