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It wasn’t a long walk back to the Swamp from the supply tent, but sometimes late at night they’d make it one — take the long way round to prolong their brief window of recreation before returning to the Swamp and the inevitable eventual presence of Frank. Geography and the pressing need to avoid landmines being what it was, this generally meant repeating their circuit of the camp a few times like an Edwardian couple promenading on the sea front, taking the air.

It was on one of these perambulations, Hawkeye having bid a fond goodbye to the ever-lovely Margie Cutler and Trapper to wisecracking Amazonian Linda Hardy after a satisfyingly thorough double date in adjoining sections of the supply tent, that Trapper said to Hawkeye,

“I noticed something tonight.”

Hawkeye tucked one hand in the crook of Trapper’s arm and gestured aristocratically with the other.

“Another vivid detail in the eternal unfolding mystery of woman? Do tell.”

Their promenade route weaved slightly as pleasurably wobbly post-coital legs combined with the effect of the Swamp-gin-and-food-coloring ‘wine’ that had accompanied their evening’s activities. Trapper, undeterred, continued on with his report of his night’s observations.

“Well there’s this sound you make — you know, when you’re close—”

“You as in me, or you as in people?”

“You as in you. What I noticed tonight... never mind the nurses, I was listening out for you.”

Hawkeye, blinking, found himself on the back foot — not a position he was familiar with. More than that, he was at a loss for words and somewhat breathless. This was venturing into new territory between them. Virgin soil, so to speak. He decided it best to take a conversational leaf out of Trapper’s book and keep it simple.

“Yeah?"

“Yeah.” Trapper, unperturbed, continued. “And after, I thought about it and I realised…”

“Mmm?”

“...I want to make you make that sound.”

The mildly stunned silence was broken by the chuntering of the residents of Radar’s petting zoo and the muffled jukebox music coming from the Officers Club (Enlisted Men Welcome). Hawkeye wondered — was there another foot behind the back foot? And was it perilously close to a landmine?

“Jesus. Never let it be said you’re not seductive, Trap, you sheik. My heart rate just tripled.”

He grabbed Trapper’s free hand and held it to the pulse leaping in his neck.

“Feel that. Flight, fight or fuck mode well and truly activated.”

“Sorry. Didn’t think that through.”

“You don’t say.”

Hands now firmly in pockets, they continued on their way. Trapper ducked his head apologetically.

“Caught me off guard when the person I generally tell my sexy adventure story to suddenly made an appearance in it.”

“It is quite the narrative twist.”

Trapper reached out and slowed Hawkeye with a hand on his forearm. Hawk could feel the hairs rise under his sleeve as the warmth seeped through.

“I’m not propositioning you Hawk, honest. Just observing a phenomenon. And, uh, offering it for discussion.”

“Uh-huh. Some discussion you’re offering there, doctor.”

“Yeah, well maybe I’m the impulsive one and you’re the cerebral one.”

“Not just now I’m not. So much blood just went south I think I’m going to pass out.”

Trapper chuckled. “Such drama, Hawk.”

Hawkeye rolled his eyes. “Hold on a second. Let me sit down, put my head between my knees.”

They paused against the corrugated iron wall at the back of the Officers’ Club and Hawkeye, leaning back against it, slid down to the floor. Trapper settled beside him.

“Hawk, are you swooning? I didn’t mean to sweep you off your feet.”

“Kneecap me is more like it.”

Trapper laughed, eyes sparkling as he hid his grin behind his hand.

Hawkeye shoved him. “Oh you’re laughing now? This is your fault.”

“Sorry, Hawk. Shoulda kept my idle fancies to myself.”

“No, come on, I thrive on idle fancies. It’s just apparently this one makes me literally weak at the knees.” He glanced across. “Maybe it’s the shock at getting protestations out of you that aren’t under protest. You’re usually the strong silent type. Trappist even.”

“I’ll return to my vow of silence.”

“No, no no no no. You’re no monk, it goes against your very nature. Hold on.”

Hawkeye took a few deep breaths and scrabbled at his scattered thoughts before continuing,

“So I guess the question is whether I just played a cameo role in a fluke double-exposure fantasy scene — I mean you’re very suggestible — or if you were thinking of…”

“Of…?”

“…more of an um... recurring role.”

Trapper cleared his throat. “I’d say that’s probably on the table, yeah.”

“On the table?”

The tension bled out of the moment as Hawkeye raised an eyebrow.

Trapper shrugged. “After I’ve swept everything off it, of course.”

“Well, of course.”

Hawkeye looked out into the night. Music from the jukebox inside the club was vibrating through the corrugated metal, pounding gently against their backs. Unknown small creatures rustled in the bushes at the perimeter. Trapper tapped Hawkeye’s bony kneecap, gently.

“So, what’s it gonna be, Hawk? Flight, fight or…" His eyebrows waggled in a lecherous fashion.

Hawkeye hit him, lightly, not hard enough to dislodge Trapper’s hand from his knee.

“Not much of a fight, Hawk.”

“Oh, shush.”

Hawkeye’s head dipped forward, fringe falling in his eyes. He pushed it back.

“OK, Trap. My prescription is, monitor the situation, watch and wait for further symptoms, and schedule a full case conference at our next R&R in Tokyo. And meanwhile deep breaths because I think I’m hyperventilating, doctor.”

“Sure you don’t need a full physical examination?”

“Oi, down in front. Don’t get fresh with me, soldier, as a wise man once said. You can buy me a brandy in the Officer’s Club to settle my nerves.”

If their entry to the club was perhaps suspiciously nonchalant, no-one paid it the least attention. Trapper went to the bar while Hawkeye found a corner table and wondered idly when his hands were going to stop shaking. Now would not be a good time to operate. His inner monologue seemed to be hysterical teenage screaming, and every time he looked over at Trapper his stomach flipped alarmingly. Trap really had gone into this at a hundred miles per hour, however offhandedly.

Father Mulcahy joined Hawkeye at the table, because of course he did, and the three of them passed a slightly hyperactive half hour during which Hawkeye nursed his brandy and didn't know where to look, before he and Trapper excused themselves and headed back to the Swamp where, Frank being on duty in post-op, Hawkeye could spiral unobserved by anyone except the unwitting architect of his consternation. Well, would-be architect, if he’d been better at math.

Hawkeye headed straight for the still and began pouring. Trapper hesitated in the doorway, then crossed the tent to his cot and sat unlacing his boots. Both activities required concentration after this much booze, which was why they weren’t making eye contact, right?

Hawkeye steeled himself to break the silence and dropped an olive into his glass with a splash.

“Why, Trap? I mean why do you want to? Why now all of a sudden?”

Behind him a boot hit the floor. Trapper’s cot creaked.

“How should I know? I just told you how I felt, I don’t know why I felt it.”

“OK, so we’re talking in the past tense now. I guess Tokyo’s off then.”

Hawk’s voice sounded quiet and small to his own ears. He could feel Trapper scrambling to find words, his inner conversational reserve screaming at the effort. Still, Trap had got them in to this, he would have to get them out.

“Now hold on, Hawk. OK, I know one reason.”

Hawkeye turned, glasses in hand, and leaned his hip against the table. “Yeah?”

“OK, this is kinda basic, but… it… when you... it sounds like you really want something, like you need something. And generally, I help you get what you want. Call it a habit. I mean, you don’t ask for much, really. And I uh, like to take care of you.”

Hawkeye laughed, nervously. “You been reading the Ladies Home Journal again?”

Trapper looked down at his hands.

“Hawk?”

“Yeah.”

“You ever think of me like that?”

Hawkeye let out a long breath. Bluff called, cards on the table. Apparently it was that simple after all. He put down the martini glasses, walked over to the cot where Trapper sat gazing at his hands, and crouched down. Tracing across Trap’s cheek with his thumb, his fingers grazed stubble as he tipped the hazy hazel gaze up to meet him.

“All the fucking time, McIntyre, all the fucking time.”

He kissed him, briefly, sealing the deal. Pulling back, he looked up into shocked and, yeah, fairly delighted eyes. Somehow they’d manoeuvred themselves to a place where this was possible, logical, the expected next move, like a game of checkers. Suspended animation unsuspended, animated once more. Trapper grinned.

“Did I mention that you’re also pretty cute? I mean, I’ve seen you naked.”

Hawkeye shrugged. “Hey, who hasn’t?”

And then, inevitably, Frank came back.