Chapter TwentyFour: LongDistance Call
"He's pretty upset. Hopefully Sidney and the Padre will be able to help him. Whatever happened between then and now seems to have just made things worse."
"Seems his company chaplain decided to take him on a little guilt trip." Hawkeye's voice took on a bitter edge, but Potter didn't blame him. He just shook his head sadly.
"I'd like to have a talk with that man."
"Get in line." Hawkeye sighed. "It makes me think, you know?"
"How - how even though one of the worst things in the world happened to me, I was lucky at the same time. I was lucky to have someone like Margaret to take care of me who actually believed me, even if I did go to her knowing she would. And to have friends like the rest of you, who went from being angry at me to worried about me in a second and never doubted how bad I was hurting. It could so easily have been different -" his voice caught in his throat.
Potter took him in a gentle embrace. "I don't think there's a chance in hell anyone in this camp would have reacted differently. Sidney did tell me what happened when you first told him, but that seems like it was only a momentary issue, and he still feels bad about it."
"No one in this camp right now," Hawkeye pointed out, leaning slightly into the older man's arms. "But I could have ended up with a completely different group in camp. Look, don't take this the wrong way, but when I heard our new CO was a Regular Army man, I was scared to death. I was so sure there would be no room for compassion or leeway or any of the other things that had made us run so well before. Let me tell you, I've never been so glad to be proven wrong."
"I suppose I didn't give the best first impression," Potter admitted, "going through your records and chewing you and Hunnicutt out for notable but not really significant incidents - and poor BJ had only been here a week to boot."
"I'd almost forgotten that part," Hawkeye said softly. "It's just so unlike the you I've come to know - why did you do it?"
"Honestly? Don't ever tell Radar this, but it was something he did."
"What did he do?"
"I asked him to move a file cabinet. He said that Colonel Blake had tried moving it but found it worked better where it was. Instantly I felt like I'd stepped into a shadow that was too big for me. It didn't help that I told Radar 'Blake's gone', and this wave of pain crossed his face. I didn't realize it was grief. No one had told me what had happened. I was told I was replacing Burns, but I wasn't told anything about the man Burns had replaced. So I thought that it was something about Blake's leadership or something, and I wanted to assert my authority and not be always in this shadow, so -"
"I didn't realize how hard it must have been for you," Hawkeye said apologetically.
"Well, it changed when I learned what had actually happened to Henry. It was then that I realized that it wasn't a question of missing his leadership style as much as grieving a dead friend, that I wasn't competing with him for your respect."
"To tell you the truth - there was no competition. We liked Henry, but respect never entered into the equation. The two most military people in this outfit didn't respect him in spite of his rank, and the rest of us - rank couldn't have mattered less. It still couldn't matter less to me. You've seem the way BJ and I act around Generals and Colonels and the like. The rank of an army I can't stand means nothing to me."
"I'll try not to take that remark personally."
"Oh, please do, but take it as a personal compliment." He pulled back from Potter and looked him right in the eyes. "You have, and have had since our first OR session, my utmost respect, and that should mean all the more to you because it isn't something you got from me automatically. You had to earn that respect on a personal level, and you did. God, did you ever. And not just from me, but from BJ and Margaret and Radar and Klinger and Charles; even Frank respected you." Potter gave him a skeptical look. "Don't get me wrong. He didn't like you, but if you'd seen the way he treated Henry - he walked all over him so much Henry practically had bootprints on his uniform." He shook his head sadly. "I suppose we all did, really, because he was such a pushover. The motive may have been different, the end that we used to justify the means, and God knows we liked him more than Frank ever did, but really it was the same. Trapper and I knew we could get away with just about anything so we did just about everything. But you - you were our friend, BJ's and mine, and yet you clearly drew a line and made sure we knew we couldn't get away with crossing it. And whatever fuss I put up about it, the truth is that we - I - respected you for it."
Potter's eyes were moist by the time Hawkeye had finished speaking. He knew how hard the young surgeon's respect was to earn, but he had never realized to what extent he had it. But something else hit him, and he felt his heart breaking as he hoped vividly that it wasn't true. "Hawkeye, that difficult first impression - is that why you didn't come to me when you were first hurt?"
Hawkeye said nothing, but the look on his face, the way he ducked his head, said it all.
Potter sat him down gently before hugging him even harder than before. "I'm sorry, son. I'm so sorry."
"I just didn't know," Hawkeye said softly. "I mean, you seemed like a friend most of the time, but I'd seen you be angry about things before. I didn't have any indication of what you would think or say. The army can be so, well, callous sometimes."
"Don't I know it," Potter said from somewhere above his head, never letting up his grip. Not that Hawkeye really wanted him to.
"I didn't know if you'd listen to me or just act like the local representative of the Army. I know now how you would have reacted, how you did react, but then - I couldn't have borne it if you'd done what I was afraid you would do, what Jacobson's company chaplain did to him. I was hurting so much already -" his voice cracked a little.
Potter began to rub his back. "Easy, son. It's okay. I understand." He regretted not being able to help Hawkeye the first time, but the last thing he wanted was to make him feel bad for being afraid of people's reactions. How horrible must it be to go through something like that and then know you might not be believed? His heart had been breaking for Hawkeye for days, this just added another crack.
"I just didn't know," he repeated.
"I had your respect," Potter said softly. "I still have it, and that means a lot to me. But I wish for your sake that I had earned your trust. For your sake, so I could have helped you." He was careful, again, to stress that it was for Hawkeye's sake. He knew about Hawkeye's tendency to suffer extreme guilt himself for his feelings towards others, and he wanted to make it clear that the reason he wished this was so he could have cared for his friend, not because of any sense of personal offense.
"I wish I had too," he said softly. "I told Margaret when it first happened that I wished my dad was here. I still want him." Hawkeye struggled not to let his voice crack, but he knew it had. "But you're the closest thing I've got here, and I didn't let you in."
He pulled Hawkeye tighter, stroking his hair, feeling like a poor substitute. He couldn't imagine how badly the young man wanted his father. He knew how close they were.
An idea occurred to him, something that might help. "Would you like to call him, Hawkeye?"
A spark of hope went through his face, but was quickly replaced with dejection. "I don't know if I could tell him what happened while looking him in the eyes. How could I tell him on the phone?"
"What if I told him for you?" Potter had seen his first reaction to the suggestion. If hearing his father's voice would lift Hawkeye's spirits, ease his pain just a little, he would move heaven and earth to make it happen.
Hawkeye seemed to think this over before nodding. "What time is it?"
"That's - hold on, US Eastern time is thirteen hours behind, so about 0500 this morning."
"If I wake him up, he'll think I've been killed - again - or something. I won't do that to him."
"All right. If I call him in three hours, he'll be awake and you'll hopefully be awake. I'll get someone to cover for you in post-op."
"Thank you, Colonel."
"You don't have to thank me, son. It's the least I can do."
Kellye shifted a little nervously on her bunk. She had gotten all the nurses' attention, now she had to say her bit. Unfortunately, it wasn't an easy bit to say.
"I, ah," she began, "I was talking to Hawkeye before. In Post-op."
"So now he's Hawkeye again?" Jennings said a little sharply, but Baker hushed her.
"Well, he is, you see - I know why he pushed her."
That got everyone's attention. "Why?" asked more than one voice at once.
"I - I can't tell you. I'm sorry, but I promised. But, uh, I think we need to leave him alone."
"Seriously?" Jennings still looked put out. "You saw the way he snapped at me in OR."
"He didn't snap at you," Baker said softly. "Look, I was there. You told him he'd done a good job, and he responded a little shortly."
"I was trying to compliment him," she responded. "He couldn't accept it with a little more grace?"
"He held a man's heart in his hand," Able pointed out. "Even here at MASH, we don't have to do those kinds of procedures here all that often. It can shake someone up."
"Especially someone like Hawkeye," Kellye added. "No matter how many patients get sent through here, he still sees each and every one as an individual, not some sort of number." She was pleased to see her oldest MASH friends nodding. They had spent the last few days hating Hawkeye, and had apparently forgotten pretty much everything they had known about him previously. "Look, Major Houlihan may seem tough, but when it comes down to it, she would never side against one of her nurses unless there was a real reason."
"You're right," Baker added. "We got so caught up in what we saw as an offense against one of our own that we didn't think it through. Hawkeye isn't the type to hit or push a woman unless there was a serious reason, and Major Houlihan would never stand up for him if he did. And Kellye says she knows what happened and that it was justified. Personally, the word of the two of them is enough for me."
"And me," Able put in.
"All right." Anna Peterson wasn't the type to be a last holdout.
Jennings took longer, but finally she too nodded. It was more of a whatever-you-say than an I agree with you, but as long as she left Hawkeye alone, it was enough for Kellye.
"Hello, Sidney. He's not -"
"I'm not looking for Hawkeye. I'm looking for you."
"You've been involved in this almost from the beginning. Hawkeye came to you, trusted you, leaned on you in a way he didn't with anyone else."
"That's not entirely true."
Sidney raised an eyebrow.
"He trusted BJ. I know he did. He just - well, he did what he does. He decided to protect BJ."
"Uh huh." Sidney didn't doubt that, especially because Hawkeye himself had said as much. But there was something that was just a little out of place. "Do you consider Hawkeye a close friend?"
"Of course!" she seemed offended by the very question.
"And did you consider him one when this first happened?"
"Yes - well, we weren't as close, but I cared about him."
"And did he think the same about you?"
"Yeah, I think so." The aid station, the bug-out, the night he'd spent comforting her in her tent - "Yes, he cared about me."
"And yet, he decided to protect BJ and not you."
"There was nothing to protect me from."
Sidney raised an eyebrow. "But there was something to protect BJ from?"
"It's not the same."
"BJ was - Hawkeye called him innocent, I think, and it fits. You saw how he reacted when he did find out, and it had almost nothing to do with how long it's been."
She sighed. She didn't like talking about it, but Sidney wouldn't be likely to let her off the hook on this one. "It's not easy being a girl on an army base," she said finally.
She saw his face soften with sympathy, but to his credit he asked only, "Hawkeye knew?"
She nodded. "I don't exactly know why I told him, except that for a long time I needed to talk, and - and he was the first person who ever offered to listen."
"I think that was the night I realized who he really was. But yes, when he was hurt he came to me because he knew I'd understand and be sympathetic - not that I was," she added bitterly.
"That's not what I get watching you and Hawkeye together. It's not what the Colonel told me either."
"Well - I didn't exactly tell him everything. It's true that I came across Hawkeye crying in the Supply Tent, but - the night before that he tried to come to me, and I was so - so upset that he would wake me up that I didn't even think about it. I yelled at him to leave me alone." Her eyes were brimming with tears. "It was a whole day between that and when I actually found him and took the time to listen. He told me later that he spent the whole day just hiding, trying not to talk to anyone while he was fighting back flashbacks, and that he tried to sleep, woke up screaming, and woke Frank who proceeded to get in his face about it. It scared him half to death in his condition. I doubt it really registered in his mind that it was Frank. It was just a man getting in his face. And the part of him that did know who it was certainly didn't want to let Frank see him cry, so he decided to go shut himself in the supply tent so he could give some expression to his pain without anyone seeing."
"I went in there looking for something I'd forgotten and heard a noise - I thought we had rats in there again," she admitted. "He was sitting on the floor crying. I'd never seen him cry."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, he kind of snapped at me for not letting him in the night before - I had promised he could talk to me. I offered to leave - he started falling all over himself apologizing and he outright begged me to stay. That was when I knew something was wrong. Once I got that far it wasn't hard to get him to talk to me. It was hard for him to get the actual words out, but he looked like he was dying to tell someone."
"This is going to sound like a strange question, but can I ask about the language he used?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well - call me crazy, but it seems to me that Hawkeye has some kind of problem specifically with the word rape. I don't know if I'm the only one who's noticed."
"I think a lot of people have a problem with it. It's a four-letter-word, Sidney. When you think about it it does seem sort of wrong, but it's just the way it is. Nobody wants to use the word, and then the more we watch people dodge it, the more we get the idea there's something wrong with the word itself instead of just the act it describes." She was realizing it even as she said it. "Especially when it comes to men. Hawkeye doesn't have a problem using the word when he's not talking about himself."
"How do you know that?"
She flushed when she realized what she had just blurted out. "Uh, that's not important."
"I think it is."
"Why? How does it relate to any of this?"
"It doesn't. But I have a feeling it's important to you, and that makes it important where I'm concerned. I'm responsible for everyone's mental state, not just Hawkeye's. If something happened, Margaret, I want to know about it."
"Well -" she looked down at her folded hands in her lap. "My husband running out on me was just the straw that broke the camel's back on my marriage."
"Oh, Margaret." Some time ago, before this ordeal, he had written about her: Some people won't accept pain. They just refuse delivery. He was realizing now that he, for all he was a psychiatrist, had failed to see that inner struggle, the pain she had had no choice but to accept and just pretended she hadn't.
"He drugged me. When I confronted him about it, he insisted it wasn't anything big, just him showing me who was in charge, and anyway I was his wife so how could he rape me? I was still so - so delusional that I believed him. But I mentioned it to Hawkeye. He had a different perspective. He wasn't afraid to use the word he felt best described the situation."
"Have you seen anyone about this, Margaret?"
"About what your ex-husband did to you. For that matter, did you ever see anyone about what happened when you were a teenager?"
She shook her head. "Sidney, only four people I have any contact with even know about it. My father, Hawkeye, Colonel Potter, and now you. And I think I told BJ about Donald once. I was sort of drunk." She noted his raised eyebrow. "Okay, I was more than sort of drunk."
"I think if I tried to talk to you at length right now, you'd have something to say about it."
"You're damned right I would."
"Well, I assume you've been listening to the same news reports I have."
"You mean the ones that say peace might be imminent? What about it?"
"Once this is over, you'll likely end up on a fully equipped base. Including, hopefully, a psychiatrist. Have a few sessions. Talk it out. For your own sake."
"I'll take that under advisement. Now can we get back to Hawkeye?"
"Of course. Something you want to let air out?"
"Sidney, you've probably been hearing this all day, but it's different at the same time. I did something - something that upset him badly. The difference is, I knew what had happened. I should have known about it. I blamed Winchester - but I didn't have to go along with it."
"We got into a prank war. Me against the Swamp duo, with Winchester playing both sides. Well, they did something to me, I don't remember exactly what but I was mad and Winchester pushed me to strike back. So I stole their robes out of the shower and then waited with the other nurses in the Swamp - it was like I forgot. How could I forget?"
"Did you talk to him about it?"
"He didn't leave me much choice."
"What the hell are you doing here?" Margaret asked. Walking into her tent to find Hawkeye standing there was the last thing she had expected.
"We need to talk," he said shortly.
"Look, if you're angry about this morning, you deserved it for what you pulled on me!"
"You think that was some sort of joke? It wasn't exactly funny!"
"Well I wasn't exactly laughing at what you pulled last night!"
"Do you honestly think that's the same?" he snapped back angrily. "If it had been anyone else, I might have understood - but you, Margaret? You? How could you?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Making me walk through the compound naked?"
"You've done it before!"
"Yes, because I wanted to. There's a difference there! And bringing your nurses in to - to gawk at me! To stare at me naked like I was some kind of object -" His voice cracked sharply. When he spoke again, it wasn't nearly as fierce, a broken near-whisper. "How could you, Margaret?"
It hit her suddenly what he was trying to say, and she felt sick when she realized what she had done. "Oh, God. Oh, God. I'm sorry, Hawkeye. I'm so sorry - I wasn't thinking -"
"Come here." She opened her arms. He hesitated only a second before stepping into them. She felt the slight but noticeable shivers in his body. Guilt flowed freely through her. How badly had she hurt him?
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." She whispered it over and over again, holding him tight to her. "I just wanted - I only - I don't know if you'll believe me, but I never intended to hurt you. Never. If I'd been using my head, I never would have done it."
"I know that," he said softly, relaxing marginally in the comfort of her arms. "It just - for a second, it was like I was back there, with other people, strangers, staring at my body. Being laughed at and taunted and -" He broke off abruptly. "I'm sorry I yelled at you."
"Please don't be. I deserved to be yelled at. Damn Winchester," she said softly.
Hawkeye pulled back marginally. "What about Winchester?"
"It was his idea for me to steal the robes. He just got me riled up enough that I didn't think it through."
"He's been encouraging me and BJ to pull pranks on you too." Hawkeye's voice was soft with realization. "He's pitting us against each other."
"What do you say we pull a really good one on him?"
"What are you thinking?"
"I was hoping you'd have an idea, actually."
"Well, no. But I bet between you, me, and BJ we can come up with something."
"You want to get him in on it?"
"How do you plan to do that without telling him what we were discussing?"
"BJ is probably already planning revenge. I'll go along with it, and something will happen. We'll fight, then we'll start comparing notes and 'realize' Winchester is behind this whole thing."
Her eyes sparkled. "Brilliant." Then she pulled a bottle from under her desk. "Here. A toast to our new alliance."
"Shouldn't we do that later?"
"We can do it again later." She poured him a glass of what he could tell by the smell was brandy. "Here. Take it as my apology for being such a jerk."
He smiled tentatively, taking it from her. "Apology - and alcohol - accepted, Margaret."
"So he forgave you."
"Of course he did, but that doesn't change what I did. I know BJ and Winchester and the others are probably all going on about what they did to upset him. The difference is, they didn't know. I did, and I did it anyway."
"So for a few minutes, you decided to just treat Hawkeye like the Hawkeye you knew before all this started, instead of like a victim?"
"It sounds completely different when you say it."
"You're behaving just like BJ and Winchester and the others. You're beating yourself up over an offense that the offended has already forgiven."
"Well, when you put it like that -"
"Let it go, Margaret. Let it go."
"Oh, this better be good." The doctor wondered who was disturbing him at eight o'clock in the morning. One thing was certain - if it wasn't an emergency, that person would be getting an earful.
"Doctor Pierce?" An unfamiliar voice, somewhat distorted from static, came through the line.
"May I ask who's calling?"
"It's Sherman Potter. I think you've met my wife."
He had, indeed, met Mildred Potter at the reunion a year earlier, but that was beside the point. If Sherman Potter was calling him from Korea - "What is it? Is it Hawkeye?" Near-panic welled up in him. The last time he'd gotten a call from Korea from someone other than his son, it had been to tell him that Hawkeye was MIA. He still shuddered to think how that could have turned out.
"First things first, Hawkeye is currently sitting in my outer office. There's nothing physically wrong with him."
"Then what?" He had noted Sherman's choice of words. Nothing physically wrong still left a lot of possible problems.
"Hawkeye's been through a serious emotional trauma," Sherman said bluntly. "I thought it would do him good to hear your voice."
Every question in his mind bubbled to the surface at once. "What happened? Is he okay? Why isn't he telling me this himself?"
"He's not at a point where he's really able to talk about it. I told him I would tell you what happened for him."
"Well then, for God's sake, tell me what happened!"
"I will. But you might want to sit down."
That couldn't be good. He settled himself hurriedly in a chair. "Okay, I'm sitting. Now spit it out."
The moment Potter started talking, Daniel wished he hadn't. This was the last thing in the world he'd expected to hear - the last thing he wanted to hear. Potter's gentle explanation of what had happened to his son in Tokyo and then again so recently at the 4077 was tearing his heart to pieces. Tears flowed freely down his face. "Hawkeye - my boy - Hawkeye -" The words flowed from him without any conscious action on his part.
"He misses you. I know he wishes he could be with you."
That makes two of us. He wanted nothing more than to hold his son, to have Hawkeye in his arms and be able to keep him safe and soothe his pain. Ten thousand miles had never seemed father away.
"Since that's not possible, I thought it might help him if he could talk to you for awhile."
"Of course. Put him on." If this little thing would make Hawkeye feel better, he would do it, no questions asked. He couldn't imagine how much pain his son was in. "One more thing. Once we're done," and they both knew he meant once the army cuts us off, "give him a hug for me."
"You bet I will."
"Hawkeye." Potter stuck his head out the office door.
No further words were necessary. Hawkeye jumped up and hurried through the doors, picking up the phone from Potter's desk. "Hello? Dad?"
"I'm here, son."
Daniel's voice was choked, but it was unmistakably his. It struck a chord in Hawkeye, in his still-aching heart. This was the voice of his childhood, the voice that had soothed him when his mother had died and comforted him through many a childhood nightmare. Hard as he tried, he couldn't hold back a flood of tears. He hadn't realized just how badly he needed that voice.
He could hear soft, comforting words through the phone and it just made him cry harder. He wanted to be in his dad's arms, wanted those words whispered directly into his ear instead of on a phone line across multiple continents.
Daniel could hear his son sobbing on the other end of the line, and nothing he said seemed to be making an iota of difference. "I'm sorry - maybe this wasn't a good idea. I can hang up -"
"No!" That one word was sharp even through his tears. "No - don't go. Please don't."
More tears spilled down Daniel's face. Hawkeye sounded like a scared kid. Come to think of it, Daniel suspected he felt much the same way. "I'm not going anywhere, Ben." He didn't use his son's real name very often, but it felt justified now. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"I don't even want to think about it. It just - it's really, really good to hear your voice."
"I love you, Hawkeye." It was the only thing he could say to that. "I love you so much." He hoped it conveyed everything he couldn't put into words.
"I love you too, Dad." Hawkeye still seemed to be crying, and Daniel wasn't sure how much of his message had made it through. "I - I miss you."
Now that the older doctor could read like a book. He gripped the phone tightly as though he could reach through it and take his son in his arms, share the embrace they both craved. "I miss you, son." He'd heard just the day before that it really looked like peace was imminent. He'd already prayed that it would come true, but now he was doubling down. The sooner he could comfort his only child, the better.
"What about you? What's going on up there?"
"Please. I want -" he choked off. "I just want to hear your voice. Please, Dad."
Daniel was sure his heart had just shattered inside him. "All right. Whatever you need."
Hawkeye just sat holding the phone long after the connection had been disconnected, as though his father's voice might somehow come back through the line. He had known he needed to hear his father's voice, but he hadn't realized just how desperate that need was until those first few words had reached his ears. One thing was certain - he wanted to go home even more than he had any time in the past three years.
A gentle hand took the phone from him and put it back on the hook. "You know he can't call back."
"I know," Hawkeye said softly. "I just want him to."
Strong arms wrapped around him and he was pulled into his CO's chest for a long, silent moment.
Potter let up the embrace slightly. "That was from your father," he said softly, before pulling him close again. "And this one's from me."