When You Need Me Most

Chapter TwentyEight: It's All Over

"I'm sorry, Margaret."

Hawkeye had woken at about five in the morning after falling asleep around dinnertime, and Margaret, who had kept to her promise to stay with him and fallen asleep shortly after him in a t-shirt she had borrowed from his bag, had woken when he got up to use the bathroom. With little to do until 0800 when the court would reconvene, they had begun to talk about the trial.

"What for?"

"For what I didn't tell you until I happened to mention it in your presence about - about wanting to die."

"Oh, Hawkeye." She scooted closer to him under the blanket. "Hawkeye, I don't blame you. You must have been hurting so much." She rubbed his bare back. "I'm only sorry I didn't know."

"I felt so awful about it. So guilty. I buried it and didn't tell anyone until Sidney came to talk to me after Monroe's arrest. He helped me work through the guilt - but in some ways, it's harder to handle now then when it first happened."

"Why?" she asked, running her fingers through his hair.

"Because of everything that's happened since then. If I had done what I thought about, I wouldn't have been there to create that new clamp, or see Radar grow up like he did in those last few months, or meet Charles -"

"Or see Frank flip his lid?"

Her comment served its purpose, and he smiled despite himself, but he grew serious again quickly. "Or be there for you with everything you went through with Donald, or see what kind of a friendship two people as different as you and me can have if they look past the differences."

"But you did see all of that." She scooted a little closer to him. "You had the thought, you didn't act on it. Stop beating yourself up over something you didn't do, Hawkeye. You've been hurt enough without causing yourself more pain."

"I'm just sorry I hurt you by blurting it out with no warning."

"It hurts me to realize how much you were hurting, that's all. I knew it had been bad, but I didn't know - five hours. I didn't realize it was so bad you wanted to die."

"I didn't want to die," he said softly. "I just wanted an alternative to what I was going through. Any alternative."

She kissed his forehead. "I know. But I'm still sorry."

"I'm scared, Margaret," he whispered.

"Of what?"

"That she won't be convicted. That she'll get set free and - I don't know and what exactly, but she made my life miserable enough when I hadn't tried to get her put in the stockade."

"No one would let her anywhere near the camp." Margaret kissed his forehead again.

"I love you, Margaret. Oh, don't get me wrong," he added quickly, "I don't mean it like that. I'm not ready for that yet, and we've already agreed it wouldn't work. But I love you the same way I love BJ - like family. You've been here for me through so much - I don't know what I would have done without you."

"Same," she said softly, bringing his head into her shoulder. "You've done more for me than I think you'll ever understand. You gave me myself back."

"What?"

"That woman you met on my first day in camp - that wasn't me. That was me trying to be what I thought I should be, everything from promiscuous to tough and unfeeling. I had buried the least pleasant parts of my past and had a mask I showed to the world but you - you saw the mask at first, but when I was really hurting, you encouraged me to let my guard down, and without realizing it you had started to peel away that mask. What I said after we spent that night together, that you helped me when I was afraid and so I might have the courage to tell someone when I was afraid - you pulled that mask away and let me see that it was okay not to have it on all at once. I hated you when I first met you, but now I don't know what would have happened to me if I hadn't met you. I'd probably still be that woman you first met, the one who slept with everyone who crossed her path and didn't let anyone get close."

He closed his eyes, pressing his head tighter into her shoulder. "I hate this war. But at least something good came out of it."

"Come on," she said gently. "It's 0700. We both need to shower and eat before the trial reconvenes."

xxxxxxxxx

Hawkeye was both relieved and upset when the judge stepped behind his table. On one hand, the awful waiting was over. On the other, if the ruling was what he feared instead of what he hoped, the waiting would be pleasant by comparison.

"The court has reviewed the evidence, and has determined that the argument of the defense is based on speculation and innuendo with no real evidence."

That certainly sounded good. Hawkeye tightened his hand around Margaret's. Dare he hope?

"Furthermore, the prosecution has presented a large amount of true evidence, including a number of witnesses whose stories all line up, and several of which have been corroborated by medical records. This court finds the defendant, Lieutenant Janice Monroe, guilty on six counts of sexual harassment, two counts of rape, one count of other sexual assault, and six counts of conspiracy to commit rape, in consideration of which, the defendant is sentenced to a life sentence in military prison."

The reaction of the gathered witnesses for the prosecution was immediate. Several cheers were released, Tom Jacobson whispered "Thank God. Thank God," and Hawkeye collapsed against Margaret, shaking with the sudden rush of adrenaline, half-laughing and half-crying from sheer relief.

"In addition, the defendant is of this moment stripped of all military rank, honors, pay, and benefits. This trial is adjourned."

"Hey, Hawkeye!" Tom called out joyfully. "You drink all the scotch last night?"

"Didn't have a drop," he said honestly. "Come on, let's go!"

"Where?"

"My hotel room. We'll make it work."

xxxxxxxxx

Potter reached for his phone, wondering what it could be this time. Business had been brisk the past few days, and with Hawkeye gone everyone had had to shoulder a greater share of the load. He'd only just woken from the first sleep he'd had in over two days. "Hello?"

"Colonel?"

"Major? What's going on?" He was immediately sitting up straighter, eager for a status update.

"It's over, Colonel, she's been convicted."

"That's good to hear, Margaret." He let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Believe me, it's right good to hear. Is Hawkeye there?"

"Right here, sir. You want to talk to him?"

"Put him on."

He vaguely heard Margaret's voice talking to someone, then Hawkeye came over the line. "Hello, Colonel."

"Congratulations, son."

"I'm just glad it's over. I'm glad they're locking her away."

"I'm sure you are. When are you due back?"

"Couple of hours. Oh, and tell Charles I'm sorry, but there's no scotch left for him."

"Do I want to know?"

"I don't know, do you?"

Potter smiled at the very characteristic remark. "It'll be good to see you."

xxxxxxxxx

The Swamp was quiet when Hawkeye entered. Potter had explained to him how rough the last few days had been, and what he saw didn't surprise him a bit - both of his bunkmates were fast asleep. BJ, however, woke as soon as the door closed.

"Yeah?" He buried his face in a pillow. "Don't tell me it's more wounded."

"Not that I'm aware of."

"Hawk!" His sleep forgotten, BJ jumped to his feet. "Good news?"

Hawkeye nodded. "Convicted."

"Thank God." He pulled Hawkeye into a tight hug. "They give you a rough time?"

"You might say that."

"Sit down, have a drink, tell me what happened." BJ took Hawkeye's bag from him and dumped it onto the floor.

"Yeah, all right." He took the drink BJ offered. "Well, first they started asking me a bunch of questions, basically implying that either it was consensual or I made the whole thing up. Then the closing argument basically made out that I was the center-point of some massive conspiracy. Lucky for me, the judge didn't buy it."

"Must've been rough."

Hawkeye recognized the statement for what it was; a pressure-free invitation to talk. "Yeah, it was. I spent the entire time fighting not to throw up."

"Well, you're safe here now." BJ rubbed his shoulder.

"Hunnicutt, what in the world - Pierce! You're back."

"Nah, it's just a viscous rumor."

The statement was so offhand it was hardly of note, but BJ grinned nonetheless. It really was great to see Hawkeye acting more like his old self. Charles smiled too, knowing that if the outcome hadn't been favorable, he wouldn't be acting this way.

"I'm afraid we drank all your scotch."

"Pierce, I know you. Do you honestly believe I would have given you alcohol if I expected any of it to be returned?"

Hawkeye grinned. "Believe me, it was much appreciated. Thank you."

xxxxxxxxx

"I can't believe this," Hawkeye said softly.

"Me niether."

Hawkeye and BJ were seated on their respective cots across from each other. This would be the last night they would spend on these cots. Tomorrow, they were both headed for home. Just like that, the war was over.

The last month had been rough. Just a few days after Hawkeye's trial had been the Fourth of July, and Potter had given most of them the day off and let them use a bus to go to the beach at Inchon. It had been for all of them, but especially for Hawkeye, who desperately needed a chance to relax and let go after the hell that had been June. But their vacation had turned into a nightmare. On the way back, they'd picked up some passengers, including a Korean woman with an infant. When they'd had to hide from North Koreans, the baby wouldn't stop crying, and everyone was petrified they would be found. Hawkeye, all too vividly remembering his last experience in a North Korean POW camp, had hissed at the woman in an impulsive, terrified moment to keep the baby quiet. Then, to his horror, she had smothered it.

The scene had been awful for everyone, but it had been too much for Hawkeye's already-overwrought mind. Filled with guilt for telling her to silence it, for being there in the first place, he had lost it completely, pushing the memory out of his conscious mind until it drove him crazy two days later, and he was shipped off to the funny farm in Tokyo.

Sidney had helped him work through it, forcing the memory back into consciousness and then helping him through the residual pain. He had also gone through a phase of being afraid of children, but just that afternoon he'd managed to operate on a child, and he was glad that he had. It was good to know he could do it.

Meanwhile, BJ had been discharged by some sort of clerical error, only to be stopped at Guam and sent back when someone realized the screw-up. But like Trapper, he had failed to leave a note, and it had taken Hawkeye awhile to forgive that. The euphoria he had felt when the war had been declared over had probably helped.

"I'm sorry, Hawk," BJ said finally. "You have to understand, I got that chopper out of here with ten minutes' notice. I barely had time to pack, let alone figure out how to put everything I wanted to say into words." He met Hawkeye's eyes firmly. "I would have called the second I got back to the States. I wanted to do better than Trapper did."

It clicked so suddenly that Hawkeye was shocked he hadn't noticed it before. "You think I've been comparing you all this time?"

"Well -"

"For God's sake, Beej, why didn't you say something?"

"What should I have said?"

"I don't know, just something. So that we could get the conversation started, so that I could tell you that I haven't been comparing you at all."

"You haven't?"

"Okay, maybe once or twice, like when you nailed my boot to the floor." BJ grinned at the memory as Hawkeye kept speaking. "But overall - you're different than he is, there's no question."

"The first day I met you, you barely noticed me because you were so upset about Trapper."

"Not quite true," Hawkeye replied gently. "At first, I didn't notice you, but even then I remember you offering to help with a problem you didn't even understand. Do you want to know what the first words were that I really remember you saying?"

"What?"

"'Rudyard Kipling.' That was when I realized I was dealing with a kindred spirit, someone with the same sense of humor I had. What I saw when I looked at you, really looked, was a kid, only the least innocent person in the entirety of Kimpo because Radar happened to have been my traveling companion, thrown into the middle of this awful mess, and I made a vow to myself that I'd get you home in one piece. That protective instinct that to that point had only come out around Radar came out around you. You had such an awful first day, I was worried about you. I missed Trapper, but I knew I'd met someone who would become very special to me - and I was right. You're not Trapper, and I only wish I'd told you that a long time ago."

BJ swallowed the lump in his throat and moved across the tent to sit next to Hawkeye. "I was scared stiff coming out here. I didn't know how I was going to handle what I was getting myself into. You got me through this, Hawk, and don't ever doubt it. Even if there are a few things I wish you had told me." He slid a gentle arm around Hawkeye's shoulders. "You let me lean on you, and you looked after me. Thank you."

"Thank you for being there when I needed you."

"I just wish you'd told me when it first happened so I could have been there for you then too."

Hawkeye turned into BJ and embraced him. "That was my decision. Don't ever feel guilty about it."

"Hawkeye, tell me the truth. If it was Trapper, would you have told?"

"Maybe," he said softly, "but that has nothing to do with our bond. Trapper wasn't someone I felt the need to protect." He smiled a little. "You know, what you just said reminds me a lot of something I once said to him when we thought he would get sent home with an ulcer. I guess my role was reversed. He helped me like I helped you."

"I thought you were here at the 4077 from the time it opened."

"I was, and so was he. We showed up at about the same time. But he had this sense of being older. He was, I suppose that helps, but he'd been through rough times before, though not as rough as this. He was tougher than I was, and he was willing to take me under his wing."

"Like you did for me."

"Exactly."

"Hawkeye, I had a thought."

"What?"

"When we take the still apart, let's each take some of the pieces. That way we'll have an excuse to see each other again."

Hawkeye's grin nearly split his face. "Yeah. Let's do that."

xxxxxxxxx

"Hey." Margaret stood aside to let Hawkeye into her tent. "What's up?"

"I just wanted to talk to you. I figure we won't get the chance tomorrow to really talk."

She nodded, indicating for him to sit on her bed and joining him when he did.

"I'm proud of you, Margaret, for taking control of your own life."

She knew he was talking about her decision to return to the States and continue her nursing duties against her father's wishes. "I finally decided it was time to make my own decisions. As annoying as it's been, maybe Charles' indignation at my helping him helped me to realize how much I was used to letting people control my life."

"Good for you."

"I'm glad you're okay," she said softly.

"I wouldn't be if you hadn't been here. I don't know where I'd be. I said this last month but I need to say it again - you saved me, Margaret."

"I'm going to miss you, you know."

"Yeah, me too. Listen, you know where I'll be. Call me if you ever need anything."

"Hawkeye -"

"Promise me, Margaret."

"All right. I promise."

The End

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