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knit two, purl two

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This is the tenth time this week that BJ is in this position, sitting in the chair beside Hawkeye’s bunk with yarn draped over his hands, Hawkeye dutifully wrapping the yarn into a ball as he sits on his cot. It started on Sunday with Hawkeye deciding that he was going to make a sweater, but by Monday, he realized he didn’t possibly have enough yarn to make a whole sweater, so the unraveling began and BJ was called over to hold the tangled yarn as Hawkeye formed a ball from the mess for the first time. 


On Tuesday, his idea for a scarf panned out, which led to BJ sitting in Potter’s office with Hawkeye, holding the yarn through the staff meeting. Two hours later, Hawkeye was throwing his knitting needles across the Swamp as he realized he had dropped a stitch halfway through the hat he had started and there was no chance of fixing it, so back BJ went, holding the yarn for Hawkeye once again. On and on it went, Hawkeye starting projects and stopping them, unraveling his yarn and calling BJ over to hold it as he wrapped it back into balls. Each time BJ came obediently; Charles compared him to a dog around the seventh time Hawkeye had called him over, but didn’t say anything else after BJ threw one of the finished balls of yarn at him. 


And now it's the tenth time, the pink yarn hanging off his hands as Hawkeye winds the yarn around the almost fully formed ball that was another attempt at a scarf only twenty minutes ago. "Teach me how to knit," BJ says without warning, breaking through the radio that was playing behind Hawkeye. 


Hawkeye looks up, hand frozen in place over the ball of yarn. "Really?"


BJ shrugs, trying to keep his gestures as small as he can, knowing if he drops the yarn again today, Hawkeye will yell at him. "Sure, I mean I see you knitting all the time. How hard can it be?"


"What is that supposed to mean?" Hawkeye asks, giving him an annoyed smile. He begins to wrap the yarn again, taking another section of yarn from around BJ's hands. "Are you saying I can't do complicated activities?"


"You said it, not me," BJ smiles and kicks his feet up onto Hawkeye's cot as casually as he always does. Hawkeye pushes them off, acting out his irritation just as planned, but when BJ brings his feet back up, he doesn't do anything, any possible exasperation already out of him. "But I'm serious, Hawk. Teach me how."


Hawkeye's eyes shift from the yarn he's holding to the basket his pillow, the three other balls of yarn he had already wrapped up sitting there nicely, deciding whether to go through with this. It takes a moment, but then he sets down the ball he is holding and takes the rest of the yarn off of BJ’s hands and sets them in a pile at his side. "Well if you insist, I guess I could spare some of my precious time to teach you."


BJ smiles and watches Hawkeye lean over, pulling his footlocker from under his cot, maneuvering it underneath BJ's legs, and opens it, grabbing two pairs of needles from the jumbled mess of magazines and shirts before slamming it closed. Hawkeye turns back to BJ and hands him one of the pairs of needles. "These are called knitting needles. They're what you do the knitting with. See the pointed end, try not to hurt yourself with it." Hawkeye says, talking slowly, and points at the end of the needle, holding it up so BJ can see.


"I know what needles are, Hawk. I've been watching you knit since I got here." BJ pushes Hawkeye's hands away and grabs a ball of yarn, determined to show that he doesn’t need to be babied. Hell, he has tied millions of knots in surgery, so how hard can knitting really be? BJ pulls the end of the yarn away from the ball, giving himself a lot of slack, and wraps it around one of the needles in an attempt to get started. He has seen Hawkeye done this enough times, he's sure he can at least start without any help. The string stays in place for a second, yarn holding loosely around the needle, but then BJ moves his hand and the yarn falls away, prompting Hawkeye to let out a burst of laughter at his pitiful attempt at casting on. 


"You need to make a slipknot, Beej," Hawkeye says after he has composed himself, his laughter calming down from the shouting barks into a calmer stifle of laughter.


BJ looks between the yarn in his lap and Hawkeye's face, not even knowing where to begin now that his first try went so badly. He doesn't even know how to make a slipknot, and from the way Hawkeye is looking at him, with a grin that could only be described as shit-eating, BJ knows he’s having the time of his life seeing BJ so confused. But BJ’s determined to get that grin off his face, because if he agreed to teach BJ how to knit, then by god he is going to teach him and not just sit there as he throws around random words at BJ, expecting him to know what they mean. So BJ reaches and tosses a ball of yarn into Hawkeye's lap. "Show me what to do, teach!"


The grin disappears as the ball falls into his lap, realizing that BJ is serious about this, that he actually does want to learn. Hawkeye leans forward, unwinding some yarn, holding the end delicately in between his fingers, not even a smile on his face now, just a calm and serious stare, the same one he gets when he’s working on a particularly tough case in the OR. He holds the yarn between them, waiting for BJ to pick up his own before continuing. "So you just make a loop like this and..." Hawkeye narrates his actions softly, talking as his hands form a small loop in the yarn and he slides it onto the needle, pulling the slipknot tight. 


BJ watches, trying to copy what Hawkeye is showing him, movements mirrored, but somewhere along the way, he messes up and the slipknot loses all its slip and becomes just a regular old knot sitting in the yarn. "I think this is going to be harder than I thought."


"Look who's laughing now, calling my interests simple." Hawkeye says before taking the yarn out of BJ's hand and untying the knot for him. He passes it back to BJ, but keeps his hands hovering over the yarn as BJ grabs it. "Okay, so you make a loop and then pull this strand of yarn through it." Hawkeye guides BJ's hands through the motions, pointing at the parts of yarn he's talking about, fingers lightly moving BJ's own. "Yes, exactly!" Hawkeye exclaims as BJ slides the slipknot onto his needle and it works, tightening against the metal. Hawkeye looks at BJ with excitement, as if teaching him how to create a slipknot is the most rousing thing he has ever seen.


"So do we just keep doing slipknots now?" BJ asks, waving his needle around.


Hawkeye almost looks offended at the thought. "No. We need to cast on."


"That means nothing to me, Hawk."


Hawkeye sighs and moves forward, sitting on the edge of his cot now. "It just means to create the stitches. Jeez, it's like I'm talking to a baby." He looks at BJ and shakes his head disapprovingly at him, before wrapping the yarn around his hand. "There's a lot of different ways to cast on, but if you want to learn another way, ask Margaret. I'm only showing you the easy way. I’m not sure you can handle anything harder." 


Hawkeye's head is bent over his hand and needle, watching his hands as he moves the needle through the yarn, creating stitch after stitch appear on his needle. BJ tries to follow but can't get the yarn right, the stitches falling away before he can even tighten them against the needle. 


"Hawk," BJ says, holding his hands out for him to guide them. And Hawkeye starts without a word, dropping his own work and wrapping the yarn around BJ's hand, pulling it around his thumb. The thought that he could just show him how using his own hands, his own yarn, does not cross either of their minds. So they sit together, leaning inwards, Hawkeye's hands guiding BJ's for a few more stitches than necessary.  His touch lingers, hesitant to pull away, but eventually his fingers leave BJ's hands and BJ wishes he mess up again without causing suspicion because all he wants right now is for Hawkeye to come right back into his personal space and touch him again.


The thought makes BJ stiffen, because what is he thinking? Was this his plan all along, his mind subconsciously making him ask to learn how to knit just so Hawkeye can touch him? BJ doesn't want to think about that, and really doesn't want to think about how much he wants Hawkeye's hands on his again.


He pushes all those thoughts away and looks back at his needle. There are a good twenty stitches there, all lined up neatly like children in a line. "So what now, boss?" BJ gives Hawkeye a wide smile, grabbing the second needle and tries to hold it as he remembers Hawkeye holding his. It is mostly successful, and once Hawkeye picks up his own needles, BJ fixes his hands so they're in the proper position.


"Now it is time for the infamous knit stitch, which from there opens us up to a world of possibilities. If we continue on this journey with but this single stitch, then we will create the fabulous garter stitch, which will make any scarf the envy of the town. But if we introduce the second, even lovelier purl stitch, the twin to the knit stitch, brothers in arms, they will work together to create a world of possibilities that will unfold at our fingertips. With the purl stitch, if we follow each knit stitch with its wonderful opposite, a pattern of knit-purl-knit-purl, if you will, then we will have ribbing. The cuffs of sweaters, hats, and the top of socks all around the world owe their internal gratitude to the wondrous style that is ribbing. 


“But if we go a different direction, knit the entire first row, and only then on the second row introduce the purl stitch to our work, purling each stitch on that row, alternating the stitches with each successive row, we get what could possibly be the stitch that holds the world together: the eminent stockinette stitch. Creator of sweaters and blankets and all that you can think of; the world is filled to the brim with stockinette stitch. The king among techniques, created from a mere two stitches, knit and purl. So, Beej, to purl or not to purl, that is the question. Do we limit ourselves only to the knit stitch, our creation sentenced to be the humble garter stitch, or allow our needles to be blessed with the purl stitch as well?"


Hawkeye looks at him, expecting an answer, like anything he had just said made sense. BJ looks at his needles and back to Hawkeye, at a loss for what to say. "Was I supposed to understand any of that?"


"Jesus Christ, I'll just show you the knit stitch." Hawkeye grumbles, his waxing of stitch types told to the wrong audience, the knowledge he had bestowed upon BJ falling on deaf ears, mind still closed to the dazzling world of knitting.


Hawkeye shifts, clearing a space beside him on his cot. He pats it with a smile and BJ gets up without a word, saying nothing as he moves from the chair onto the cot, carrying the needles and yarn against his chest until he sits and drops it all in his lap again. Now sitting parallel with him, Hawkeye positions himself so BJ can see his needles clearly. He holds the yarn in his right hand, tensioning it behind the needle as he moves his right handed needle, slipping the tip into the first stitch and then guiding the yarn over and around the needle. Before he pulls the yarn through the stitch, he looks over at BJ's hands, the needles almost falling out of his grasp as BJ moves them, trying to follow Hawkeye.


"You have to hold it like this," Hawkeye drops his own needles and reaches over, grabbing BJ's hands with care, moving his fingers delicately along the needle, showing him where to hold the stiches, how to hold the yarn, guiding him through the motion of inserting the needle into the stitch and pulling the yarn around the needle. BJ tries to focus on the knitting, the technique he is being shown, but BJ's mind keeps trailing off, thinking about the care Hawkeye is taking to teach him this skill, how he could have brushed it off as a silly request, or just show him the skills without any investment for how he performs it. But that isn't Hawkeye's style, to half ass anything, so here he is, huddled right around BJ, holding his hands, mumbling words that BJ hears clear as day because his mouth is right beside his ear. 


BJ turns his head to look at the side of Hawkeye's face, any attempt to even pretend to be focusing on his hands and what the hell a knit stitch is forgotten about. Hawkeye keeps talking, his own mind wrapped around the yarn and the needles and BJ's pretty sure he doesn't even realize how close he is to him, or how warm his hands are holding his, or how soft his voice has gotten. But then Hawkeye stops talking altogether and turns his own head to look at BJ. He doesn't pull his hands away from where they are still holding onto BJ’s, their four hands now held dumbly in front of them, yarn hanging off them like a sad marionette. 


"Uh, that's the knit stitch," Hawkeye says, his voice impossibly quiet for such a simple sentence, something tender behind his words, like he was trying to say something else but knitting is what he fell back on. "The purl stitch is just as fun."


"I believe you," BJ says, like he even cares what a purl stitch is. Maybe he should say something, or better yet, maybe he should pull away, take his hands away from Hawkeye's. Or maybe he should kiss him, this thought crashing into his mind and almost makes him jump at how sudden it comes, fast and loud and screaming at him. Jesus Christ, they were knitting a minute ago but now he's thinking of kissing him? 


But maybe it won't be so bad, kissing Hawkeye. If he puts even half the care into kissing as he does into teaching him to knit, BJ thinks kissing him might be the best thing that could ever happen to him. To be cared for like that? Almost an unthinkable thought. But he has thought it, and now it just won't leave his mind.


Hawkeye is still looking at him despite neither of them talking for a solid minute, only half a foot separating their faces, a measly six inches keeping them apart. It would all be easier if Hawkeye made the first move, to just lean over and kiss him right now, to stop BJ from thinking about it so much. But his life has stopped being easy since he got his draft notice, so maybe BJ's expecting too much to think life will suddenly go back to being easy now of all times.


And then Hawkeye blinks, and BJ can tell he is about to turn away, to go back to what is at hand, to simply move past this awkward tension between them. And suddenly that is the worst thing that could happen, if they just move on from this moment without anything happening, so BJ needs to do something, feels a pit in his stomachs opening as he can sense Hawkeye's shoulders about to stiffen before he turns his head, the moment quickly coming to a close.


BJ leans in without giving himself a chance to think about it too hard. He closes his eyes and let's his lips meet Hawkeye's somewhere in that six inch distance that was separating them. And, really, BJ knows he probably shouldn't be doing this, that he is messing up the deepest friendship he has ever had by acting on his desires. He should be doing a lot of other things right now, writing a letter to Peg being at the top of that list, and maybe actually learning to knit being number two, but that list is forgotten about as soon as he feels Hawkeye start to kiss him back, his own lips moving against his with something short of aching slowness, as if he is giving BJ every chance to pull away, to stop whatever it is that he started, to realize that this us all just one big mistake.


It's not a mistake, BJ is certain of that, because kissing Hawkeye has been something he has wanted to do for a while, longer than he cares to admit. There's no mistake in what he is feeling, something kept deep inside him as large as an ocean, ready to overflow and drown him at any time with the feeling of love and affection he has for Hawkeye. So it's not a mistake, kissing him now and having Hawkeye kiss him back, but it might have been a mistake to kiss him while both their hands are tangled and wrapped around knitting supplies. When BJ tries to move his hand, the needles that he had been precariously holding fall from his grasp, taking the yarn and everything with it.


This fumble of material from their collective grasp makes them break the kiss, moving back to a respectable distance away from each other. Hawkeye's face is flushed and he looks away from BJ like he has just done a terrible crime, like kissing BJ was something he never should have done, despite BJ being the one to kiss him first. BJ looks away from that face and onto his lap where the jumbled mess of needles and yarn now lay, but then he smiles, and he really shouldn't be feeling this good, but he is, the happiness almost ready to pour out of him, so he turns to look back at Hawkeye, determined to stop him from looking like a kicked puppy, to ease all the worries that are plaguing his friend’s mind.


"Want to teach me how to purl?" BJ asks, putting every bit of suggestion and affection in his words, making sure Hawkeye knows exactly what he means.


And Hawkeye gets it, his face changing like he has been slapped, going from the fear and guilt to a budding smile, wanting to break free. "What?"


BJ shrugs, letting his eyes speak for themselves now that Hawkeye is looking at him again. But Hawkeye doesn't let his smile break through just yet, something still holding him back.


"But, Peg? I don't understand?"


"Don't worry about it," BJ says, hoping he can explain the odd arrangement he has with Peg at a later date and not right after they kissed and BJ can still feel that warm pressure of his lips on his own, that simple point of bodily contact able to make him forget about the temperature outside and how he's wearing five layers to try to keep the cold out. All he really wants to do right now is to feel that warmth again. "We've talked about it."


"You have a kissing boys clause in your marriage?" Hawkeye asks, using humor to test the waters, seeing if it is okay to jump in and swim. "A legal loophole that lets you commit adultery? A written agreement that says you can kiss me?"


"Something like that," BJ shrugs again, because it's close enough to the truth to not worry about it. "I can kiss you. Peg can kiss the woman she is seeing. It's all perfectly fair."


At this, Hawkeye's smile finally breaks through, lighting up his whole face in a smile that scrunches his eyes closed and pulls his cheeks back so far it looks like it has to hurt. "Oh, that sounds very agreeable." Hawkeye leans closer to him, hands that no longer are burdened with knitting needles coming up to rest on BJ's shoulders, pulling him closer in. Hawkeye kisses him again, all the unsure trepidation that held him back during the first kiss is gone, and he kisses him with a passion BJ has never felt before, hungry and loving and achingly soft. 


But before anything can happen, before BJ can even break out of his stupor and touch Hawkeye, they both hear the door to the Swamp begin to open and they pull away from each other before the first breeze of cold air can even enter the tent and freeze them. They both go back to the materials in their laps, knitting needles picked right back up and BJ is focusing on straightening out his stitches as the door closes shut, pointedly keeping his eyes on his hands until his breathing has evened out and his heart has stopped beating wildly.


Charles pulls his hat off as he takes a look around the Swamp, eyes eventually landing on the two of them on Hawkeye's cot. He looks at the yarn in BJ's lap with weary eyes. "Great, now both if you knit. I can hear the clack of two needles ceaselessly drone on as I try to sleep. Just wonderful," Charles mutters some more insults at them as he goes to his side of the tent, throwing his hat down on his cot before slumping into the chair at his desk.


"You know, Charles, I wouldn’t talk like that when I'm holding these needles. I'm told they can be very dangerous if you're not careful with them." BJ threatens, glancing at Hawkeye with a smile. Hawkeye is looking at him as he always does, like he is the best thing he has ever seen, eyes shining with pride as he beams at him.


And maybe something has changed between them, or maybe nothing really has and this was just the next step they have both been heading towards for a long while now and what happened is really just what was going to happen anyway. But BJ can't help but to smile and settle into the warm feeling that is spreading through him despite the cold outside and the numbness that is starting to reach his fingers again, because he’s happy, impossibly happy, to just be sitting here at Hawkeye’s side, replying the feeling of his lips on his and thinking of all the possibilities the future holds.


BJ motions with his needles, raising them to move Hawkeye's attention away from his face and back to the task at hand. "So this is how you do a knit stitch?" BJ moves his needles slowly, fumbling with the yarn and the needles. He doesn't even get past slipping the needle into the stitch before Hawkeye is laughing.


"Beej, you are the worst knitter I have ever seen," 


"A student is only as good as the teacher," BJ says and looks over at Hawkeye again. "Show me how to do it then."


"This time actually pay attention," Hawkeye mutters and reaches over to fix the needles in his hands. BJ laughs and let's Hawkeye manhandle him, and if Hawkeye moves so he is almost sitting on top of BJ as he shows him the stitch again, no one says anything. And if Hawkeye doesn’t move away when BJ doesn’t need his help anymore, choosing to stay sitting with their entire sides pressed together and arms knocking into each other’s as they each knit through their stitches, then Hawkeye doesn't mention it, and BJ doesn't mention it, and even Charles doesn't mention it, so, yeah, maybe everything is okay, or at least they can pretend it’s okay until the next call of wounded comes across the loudspeaker and they have to go back to being doctors. But for right now, it's just BJ and Hawkeye, and twenty of the worst looking knit stitches sitting on BJ's needle, and the possibility of so much more resting between them.