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BJ is avoiding him for the same reason Hawkeye has been trying to get him alone all week, and it is driving Hawkeye up a wall. He’d accepted BJ’s apology that night, said it was nothing, but they both knew what a lie that was. And the more BJ avoided him, the more Hawkeye was stewing. If he couldn’t have this heart to heart soon, he was just going to end up yelling at him, and that wouldn’t fix anything: not the still, not his eye, and not their friendship.

“I was wondering when you would come to me Hawkeye.” Father Mulcahy gently replaces his bookmark in his bible and indicates the chair the Hawkeye is already heading for. “How can I help you, my son?”

“BJ is avoiding me.”

“How is the shiner healing?” Father Mulcahy reaches up and pauses for the nod of permission before gently touching Hawkeye’s bruised face. “I’ve had quite a few like this before, and they’re always surprisingly inconvenient while they heal.”

“Sometimes I forget that you’re a boxer, Father. But I’m guessing most of your bruises were expected and came with padding.” Hawkeye gets up suddenly and walks over to fiddle with Mulcahy’s boxing gloves.

“It is much different when you’re blindsided.”

“Father –”

“Yes?”

“Sorry, but can I call you by your given name? I haven’t even written my father about this yet, and I need a friend more than a priest at the moment.”

“Of course Hawkeye. You can always call me Francis.”

“Francis, I need to talk to him about this, and he hasn’t let himself be alone with me in a week! I’m afraid that he’s just waiting for the evidence to go away and he’ll pretend it never happened.” Hawkeye has moved on to fiddling with the piles of books on Mulcahy’s desk and can’t seem to sit still.

“Hawkeye, look at me.” Hawkeye guiltily looks up at him. “Come back over here.” Francis pats the chair across from him, and Hawkeye reluctantly slumps back into his previous position, sitting backwards on the chair and facing Francis. “What do you want my help with? Do you want me to tell you what I think is going on in BJ’s head? Do you want me to help you plan what you want to say to him? Do you just want me to listen?”

“I don’t know, Francis. This is the kind of thing I would ask BJ to help me figure out. Or I’d avoid it all by drowning it in the most recent vintage from the still, but he broke that too.”

Hawkeye looks so lost in that moment that Francis does something he normally wouldn’t with a congregant - he reaches out and offers Hawkeye a hug. It’s awkward, as he’s not really accustomed to giving them himself, not to mention the chair back between them, but Hawkeye melts into his embrace. He’s always been very physically affectionate with all his friends (and all the nurses), but Hawkeye has always been respectful of his boundaries as a priest. Francis recognizes the surge of anger he feels towards BJ as he realizes that it’s unlikely that anyone has comforted Hawkeye all week. BJ has a lot to answer for, and Francis is glad he isn’t there to punch right now. 

“Hawkeye.” Francis pulls back enough to make eye contact but doesn’t let go. “I know I’m not him, but I hope you know that I will always be here for you to talk to. We can figure this out together.”

Hawkeye draws him back in, and somehow the hug is even tighter than before. “Thank you, Francis.”

When Hawkeye leans back, Francis makes sure to keep a point of contact with him. It’s not what he’s used to, but he knows Hawkeye needs it to ground him for the difficult conversation they have ahead. They plan it out and talk through the pain he’s feeling and the unfairness of having had to take care of BJ after he’d lashed out. Hawkeye already knew most of what he wanted to talk about with BJ, but talking through it all seems to help. And Hawkeye seems relieved to have told him everything, from the pain at the loss of the still he and Trapper made to the anger at BJ’s selfishness.

When Hawkeye gets up to leave, the frenzied pacing and fidgeting from before are gone, and he grasps Francis’ shoulder firmly as he gives his thanks. The priest turns back to his unfinished sermon and prays that BJ knows how much Hawkeye cares.

 


 

He hates the war. He hates the sound of shelling. He hates WWII surplus beans. He hates endless sessions in the OR. He hates being thousands of miles from home. He hates Radar for getting to hug his wife and his daughter. He hates Trapper for being there first and going home. Most of all, he hates himself. 

He hates himself every time he smiles in this awful place. He hates himself every time he isn’t good enough to save someone. He hates himself with every drink he drinks. And he hates himself for hurting the one person who makes him hate himself less. 

The version of BJ that Hawkeye believes in is the one BJ needs to be. Hawkeye took a second glance at him and saw something worth saving on that first day, and BJ needs to be whatever it is that Hawkeye found worthwhile. He needs to tell bad jokes. He needs to care deeply about every patient. He needs to throw parties and craft elaborate pranks and make Hawkeye laugh. He needs to be the good guy, to be the clean-cut family man and Hawkeye’s best friend. He needs to be that person and not the man who said those things. He can’t be the person who hurt Hawkeye like that, but every time he sees the empty table that held the still, and every time he sees the bruise he left on his best friend’s face, that’s all he his. He can’t see himself through Hawkeye’s eyes anymore because it hurts too much.

So BJ hides from those eyes, from the angry person he’s afraid he’s become.

 


 

BJ has to sleep sometime, so Hawkeye corners him in the Swamp after a post-op shift. Blocking the door, he opens with. “We need to talk.”

“Can it wait? I haven’t slept in–,” BJ checks his watch to avoid looking at Hawkeye. “25 hours.”

“No, no, no. You’re not going to run from me again. You haven’t been able to look me in the eye since you added this little embellishment.”

BJ looks up and winces. The swelling has gone down, but Hawk’s face has blossomed into a gruesome array of colors. “Hawk, I’m sorry. I said I was sorry.”

“Yeah, you did. You said you were sorry after I was sent in by our commanding officer to pull you together. I told you it was okay because I was trying to pick up the pieces of you that were lying all over our tent, the O Club, Rosie’s, and the floor of Potter’s office. But it’s not okay, Beej.

“Before you say you’re sorry again, I know. I’m going to forgive you because I know that you’ve been going through hell, and I know you know how wrong it was to hit me, but we still need to talk because I need to know how to trust you again.”

BJ sits at the edge of his cot and puts his head in his hands. “What’s there to talk about? I fucked up. I lashed out, and I hurt you. I’m a terrible person.”

Hawkeye starts pacing and gestures at BJ, “This. This is what we need to talk about. Every time you’ve said you’re sorry it’s been about you . You crying in my arms, looking for comfort. Or you unable to look at me because I remind you of what you’ve done. I need you to acknowledge me and how I felt.”

He sits across from BJ, grabs his hands, and looks him in the eyes, begging to be understood. “I may not have a kid and a wife back home, but I’m here, and I can understand what you’re going through. I’ve been here since almost the beginning, and I haven’t seen home in years. My dad thought I was dead . It was weeks before I could get mail again. 

“I’m worried that when they finally send me home, I might not make it all the way there, that I’ll end up at the bottom of the sea with Henry. I’m worried that everyone who’s sent home isn’t really going to make it. I never heard from Trapper again, so hearing that Radar made it as far as San Francisco was a relief: certain knowledge that he still exists out there and can give Erin a hug.

“And before you say anything, I know you’re missing milestones in Erin’s life, but she’ll be there when you get home. My dad’s a 62-year-old widower who’s the only doctor for miles. I’ve already lost one parent. What happens if he goes out to deliver a baby in a storm and a tree falls on the car? What happens if he gets sick? I don’t know what I would do if something happened to him.” 

Hawkeye pauses, unable to continue past the lump in his throat. BJ gently frees his hands and pulls him in for a hug. “I’m sorry, Hawk. I wasn’t thinking.”

Hawkeye pulls back, “No, you really weren’t. I still can’t believe you smashed the still.”

“About that. I’ve got Klinger working on getting new parts. We’ll have it up and running again in no time.”

With a crooked smile, Hawkeye looks to where the still would be. “I’m sure you will, but it was the last thing I had from Trapper.”

Before BJ can say whatever he’s opened his mouth to say, Hawkeye waves him off. “I don’t want to talk about Trapper with you right now. Although, you know, he hit me too. And he’s not the first person I’ve cared about who’s done that.”

BJ doesn’t know what to say to that. Even though he’s responsible for the bruise he’s staring at right now, he can’t imagine how anyone could care about Hawkeye and hurt him like that.

“That’s why I know we have to talk about it,” Hawkeye continues. “I know who I am now, and what I deserve, and I can’t be around someone who’s going to treat me like that. I have to know, have you ever done anything like that before?”

“No! And I’ll never do it again, I swear!” BJ pauses, realizing this isn’t maybe the whole truth. “Well, there was that patient who attacked you…”

“That was different. Mostly. You need to promise me you’ll work on it. You spend so much energy telling everyone you’re not angry, BJ, but there’s so much to be angry at here, and I can’t be constantly worrying what’s going to set you off next. I’ve been there before, and I can’t do this again. I can’t be the one they send to fix you up when you’re drowning in the guilt from hurting me. I need to know that this is a two-way street - that you’ll fix me up too.”

“Of course. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had, and I want to be there for you. I’ll, I’ll work on my anger. Maybe I’ll talk to Mulcahy again.”

“Good, good. Francis is an excellent friend, and I think he knows a bit about misplaced anger and frustration.” Hawkeye smiles, remembering some well-placed punches from their otherwise mild-mannered chaplain. “Anyway, I’m glad we talked. I think the Swamp would’ve exploded if we’d bottled this up anymore.”

BJ smiles weekly, “Yeah, I missed you.”

“So, tell me, how are we going to build a better still? Is Klinger having any problems getting parts?”

And with that, they settle back into their routine, the life they’ve built together in this little slice of the war. BJ thinks maybe, just maybe, he can be the friend Hawkeye deserves. He’s going to do everything he can to show that he’s earned this friendship.