Summary: After Hawkeye moves to San Francisco, love grows in the Yellow Monstrosity.
Characters: Hawk/B.J., Erin
Genre: 50s, postwar, romance, fluff, challenge, family, friendship
A/n: An interlude in the How it Happened Arc (between "Walking Between Worlds" and "Big Bang Theory").
A/n2: Part of the Gentleman Doctors series.
#1: "Missing Something"
They drove home from the party maintaining strict radio silence. From Market to Broadway, Hawkeye shot B.J. accusatory glares in his peripheral vision; B.J. maintained his trusty 'what's got you so hot?' Hunnicutt innocence. As if he didn't know.
In the front hall, B.J. hung his hat and offered, "Nightcap?"
Hawkeye slammed his jacket onto the banister. "What the hell was that? You said you wanted to get out there -- meet datable men. So I said let's go to a party. I introduce you to people and you -- you! -- you hole up in the corner alone --!"
"I talked to people." B.J. retreated up the stairs.
Hawkeye trailed him like a bloodhound.
"Oh, no," Hawkeye stabbed his finger at his retreating back. "Hiding behind your lesbian security blanket is not 'meeting people.' It is the opposite of meeting people. It is, in point of fact, preventing me from meeting people. Who crowned you captain of the good ship Hawkeye Love Boat Sinker?"
B.J. tried to shut his door before the Hawkeye force of agitation followed him, but the man was too hot to be stopped by a simple wooden door. He stood at the foot of B.J.'s bed, watching him unbutton and untie.
"Well?" Hawkeye said.
"I said I'm sorry," B.J. said. "I didn't realize you were making time with the u-boat from Pasadena."
Hawkeye rocked back on his heels. He hadn’t been. A little, maybe. Suede-Patch Podiatrist was an intelligent, witty, pocket-sized George Reeves lookalike who wore black glasses that framed his expressive blue eyes. Hell, he might have been Superman, but he would never find out, thanks to his personal albatross.
"That's not the point," Hawkeye said. "Since when are you a turtle at parties? I expected my right hand letch to be there with me."
B.J. brushed past Hawkeye down the hall and dropped his clothes in the hamper. Hawkeye -- crow-like in his dark, poor-posture hovering -- watched him as he padded barefoot and be-underweared back into the room. "I said I'm sorry. I promise I'll never be a wet blanket on your fireworks again."
Hawkeye, hands shoved into his pockets, sighed irritably as B.J. turned down his bed. He'd had been acting weird lately. Too quiet. Hawkeye just wanted to help his friend, B.J. ought to show his appreciation, show some effort, get angry or something. It was no fun to insult someone who had all the fighting power of a wet noodle.
B.J. leaned against the headboard, legs crossed at the ankles, and looked up at the ceiling. "Are you sleeping in here?"
Hawkeye's brain fizzled. "Am I --? When have I ever -- note, never -- slept in your room?"
B.J. shrugged. "You don't seem inclined to leave. We could engage in some more lively debate about my failure as a homosexual party provocateur."
Hawkeye paced -- he didn't know where to look: this languid B.J. on the bed, or the simple escape clause provided by the door. Door or man, door or man . . . Man swung his body off the bed all sexy-long-legs, golden skin naked chest muscle arms, captured him in his personal space. Hawkeye held his ground, baffled. He gazed up at his friend's assured smile and the nervous energy in his eyes.
"You could, you know," B.J. said. "Seeing as we didn't get that much time to . . . explore all our options in Maine." One finger traced the line of Hawkeye's lapel.
"Ah." Hawkeye didn't need a map to follow where B.J.'s thoughts hand wandered. There was, in fact, a blinking sign leading him exactly down the lane his friend was gleefully skipping.
They started with a kiss, as these affairs often do. Brain shocks overloaded his speech center, rendering his mouth useless for anything except kissing in return. B.J. tasted like whiskey and his mouth was soft, inviting, caught Hawkeye's lower lip and when they parted, B.J.'s tongue did a funny-pleasant thing to his. He hadn't realized he'd opened his mouth.
"Mmmnice," Hawkeye said.
B.J.'s fingertips walked their way around Hawkeye's waist, drawing him near. "I have a problem, Doc."
"Do tell." Hawkeye was watching his lips, the white teeth behind them.
"I can't seem to keep my hands off my best friend. Got any advice?"
"Think I do." Hawkeye stood on tiptoe to kiss, arms around B.J.'s neck. "How about . . . lots of bedrest."
B.J. grinned into their kiss. "Somehow I thought you'd say that."
#2: "I Don't"
"When's it summer in this awful city?" Hawkeye wrapped the blanket tighter around himself.
B.J. had said 'beach' so Hawkeye brought the sensible necessaries: blanket and flask, a book to read while sun stealing. The wind was a physical force that surged from the sea and snatched at their clothes. They hadn't ventured past the retaining wall a half mile from the choppy, blue-slate surf. It was late-June and above eighty in North Beach, fifty at the shore. B.J. had warned Hawkeye to expect pockets of weather that roamed like the fog that rolled down the hills near dinnertime. Erin said there were sky dragons who blew misty smoke when they sneezed. Hawkeye of the East Coast had been unable to comprehend a cold seashore in a warm climate in summer, and now he shivered stubbornly until sunset, his self-imposed beach day limit.
"Did I tell you Peggy's getting married?" B.J. was comfortable in his corduroy coat, which he'd pulled out just for the occasion. He'd strip his outers in the car like a cat shedding its winter fur as they drove home.
"Oh?" Hawkeye pulled his knees to his chest so he could arrange the blanket over his flip-flopped feet.
"Sociologist. You met him once -- Curt Wrenfrew."
"You hate him," Hawkeye reported like military radar.
"I don't think he likes Erin," B.J. said, which ought to say it all.
Hawkeye patted his leg. "She's allowed to move on. You could too, you know."
B.J. didn't know how to answer that. If he wasn't moving on, what did you call his new life? He was employed, he had the house, had Erin, had . . . a roommate. Where did Peggy get off showing him up as the one who lost the race? What did he care if he didn't win the cup in the independence derby?
The sun at last dipped orange into the water, igniting a stream of fire to shore; Hawkeye insisted they stay for the whole rosy-fingered performance. Really, he was putting off calling it a day, letting the evening slide into his first morning at his new job. B.J. wasn't sure if he was nervous or just liked staying home in a house to rattle around in, with someone to cook for. B.J. sure didn't mind the arrangement. The past five weeks had been almost idyllic.
"Y'know, Hawk, we've been living together for a few weeks now --"
Hawkeye laughed, not unkindly. "Oh, no. Don't say it, Hunnicutt. You're not in love, you're in fear. You're afraid of being alone."
B.J. slumped, irritated. Damn Hawkeye. Damn best friend.
"Yeah, I'm sorry," B.J. said. "I don't love you."
"And I don't love you."
Teenagers were collecting driftwood for their campfires. Even the crazy surfers were coming in, cutting long shadows across the sand: young men all lean lines -- and even a few girls in bikinis. At last, the sea swallowed the sun. Dusk laid a still, windy darkness. Hawkeye and B.J. gathered their things and walked along the Great Highway to the car.
"What do you want to do now?" B.J. said.
Hawkeye draped the towel over his shoulder. "Well, I was thinking we could get some supper and then, maybe, go to bed together."
B.J. nodded. "Okay."
"Good Lord, what time is it?"
"My name's not 'Lord'. And I'm not that good."
Hawkeye's eyes itched, the room had grown almost too dark to read. A pizza box sat open on his bureau, plates and beer bottles were dead soldiers on the desk. They'd festooned the floor with crumpled notebook pages, napkins, books with same as bookmarks, tossed pencils from the frustration phase of the operation. Erin had been put to bed hours ago.
Hawkeye, unable to stand the silence, had put on his radio after their late dinner. B.J. sent a Glare at the distracting plastic box but didn't say anything, knowing a Hawkeye didn't abide silence for long. It was still the jazz show -- hesitant baritone sax and picked guitar, like long strokes with an oil brush. B.J. had introduced jazz to Hawkeye and he'd immediately absolved himself of Doris Day.
"I still think we should call it 'The Children's Crusade,'" Hawkeye said. He was propped against the footboard, his long legs almost in B.J.'s lap.
"Still taken," B.J. said from the depths of his diaphragm.
His long form was draped across the width of the double bed while he stared at the ceiling and, occasionally, made circles at it with his pencil when he got an idea. His bare feet were in the window, plucking at the catch as he thought. The noise was starting to tug at Hawkeye's train of thought, but just about anything was more distracting than figures and funding sources.
"Are you done?" Hawkeye toed his gallbladder.
B.J. laughed and tried to swat the offending digit away. "Just looking for ideas inside my eyelids."
Hawkeye lurched, crunched across their data, false starts, and grant proposals to the military and Stanford University. He propped himself over B.J.'s middle, half splayed across his hip, and leaned his legal pad upright against B.J.'s stomach. The recumbent one grunted and opened his eyes.
"See, this is the guys who reported long term pain after amputations, with the numbers of that ones who saw a psychiatrist after." Hawkeye flipped a page. "And here's the same numbers, the guys who saw civilian psychiatrists. This proves that the army is shit for taking care of their own boys. But that's not a publication. Next we need to show why."
B.J. turned around rightways, shoved Hawkeye's pillows against the headboard, and attempted to stay awake while he flipped the charts. They had passed the witching hour and were approaching milkman's hours. The bar graphs looked like shoots and ladders. He cut energy to his useless, limp body and propped his semifunctional brain on his hand, holding the chart side-ways. Hawkeye crept up to the head of the bed and looked over his shoulder, nudging like a cat that wants out.
"Are you reading?" Hawkeye said.
"Mmhmm," came the reply from the pillow embankment. "Makes more sense if you cut off the parts of your body that're asleep."
Hawkeye yawned enormously. He slid down next to B.J., leaned his knees against B.J.'s thighs, and flipped the duvet over their legs. It was so comfy here, warm and sleepy with another person, the music so soft and hypnotic. He shoved his palms into his eye sockets. Too much reading, sore eyes. When he opened them, B.J. was staring at him.
"What?" Hawkeye said. "You're smiling."
B.J. hid behind the graphs. "Nothing. I think we need to do some interviews. Find out what these kids didn't get to talk about. Maybe they have some thoughts about why their treatment didn't help."
"Can we really expect nineteen, twenty-one year old kids to come up with their own cure after the doctors failed to provide it?" Hawkeye tugged on one of B.J.'s pillows -- his pillow -- but he wasn't moving. So he rested his head on B.J.'s arm instead.
B.J. set down the pad. "I guess not." He reached around and turned off the light.
Hawkeye protested in noises nonsensical even to himself, but with perfect clarity -- no light, no reading.
"Too bright. Scorching my brain," B.J. said.
They lay there in the near-darkness, the hurricane lantern flickering golden light and long shadows from the dresser. Hawkeye felt fingers in his hair, skritching, soothing. It hit him like a shot of phenobarb. The deejay signed off and put on a long playing record -- Debussy, his stroll through the city from midnight to dawn.
"Lemme see." Hawkeye reached for the notebook of charts and flipped it open against B.J.'s chest. As he ran his fingers over the data, the tips of his fingers slipped beyond the lines and numbers, brushed against the soft cotton of B.J.'s t-shirt. "I agree with your point about interviewing --"
"--but we need a methodology." B.J. covered Hawkeye's hand with his own.
Hawkeye looked him over for some telling trace of what was going on here, but B.J. looked as serene as he felt. Better than that, B.J. smelled like aftershave and their laundry soap, which always smelled better on B.J.'s clothes than his own. He laced their fingers together.
This felt normal. It felt right. During the day, Hawkeye second-guessed the wisdom of insinuating himself in B.J.'s life and when he laid awake nights, he worried about ruining their friendship. When he saw a woman chatting up his tall, handsome friend in the park or grocery store, he thought about the easier life they both could live if never spoke to one another again. But here, in this bed, their bed, there was no other life he saw for himself. To touch him, to share breath, was only an extension of their day-to-day life.
B.J. was right there and Hawkeye wanted to kiss him. So he did.
It was a light touch of lips, like a handshake. Long ago, enemies away from battle shook hands to show they carried no weapons. B.J. and Hawkeye's first kiss was to show that they were both in it, wholly, without agenda or fear.
Hawkeye swallowed and whispered, "We should, um -- for more data. Call Sydney."
"At the V.A."
Susurration of cloth. The warmth of another body dipping the bed beside him. There were papery thumps as B.J. toed their research and Life magazines onto the floor. And then Hawkeye was warm down his whole side, B.J.'s arm across his middle, hands clasped between them. B.J. kissed him. This second engagement said, come over to my house and we'll play.
Hawkeye opened his eyes ever so slightly to catch B.J. staring at him, wide eyed, a little nervous and unmistakably interested. He'd never noticed how very expressive B.J.'s lips were, for a man. Hawkeye traced the cupid's bow with his fingertip (B.J. kissed his finger). His lower lip was sprung from a sculptor's dream -- lush, dipped in the middle, elegantly architected. Hawkeye bit it. B.J. kissed him back, hard.
And they kissed, and kissed. Long, indulgent kisses while they caressed and explored with hands. B.J. worked Hawkeye's shirt tail out from his trousers and slid his hand up his smooth, hot spine. Hawkeye eagerly responded in kind.
The fire burned too hot, too quick. B.J. was still nervous, Hawkeye still scared. A handshake doesn't seal the deal.
Exhausted, Hawkeye ended up tucked under B.J.'s chin, wrapped around him, toying with the hem of his shirt and the skin just beneath. B.J.'s fingers idling up under his shirt was like a spell. Hawkeye's legs went limp, knee wedged between B.J.'s, bare feet and spindly hands unconsciously falling any warm place they may.
"If I knew a backrub turned you into a lump of mashed potatoes, I would have tried this years ago." B.J.'s breath was soft puffs against his ear.
Hawkeye was nearly purring. "Do your nails like spiders."
Hawkeye's faith in this thing between them -- whatever it was -- kicked up a notch when B.J. knew exactly what 'spiders fingers' meant. Dad used to scratch his back after football practice when his right infraspinatus spasmed so badly he couldn't sleep.
"You fallin' asleep on me?"
Hawkeye wriggled across B.J.'s body, making space for himself in B.J.'s arms like a cat. For a slender man, B.J. was supremely comfortable to sleep on.
"I didn't rent just any room in San Francisco, you know."
"And I didn't take in just any tenant."
"I din't show up with intentions," Hawkeye yawned. "Well . . . maybe a few. Don't forget the nape."
B.J.'s fingernails skritched up his spine. "You're going to owe me, you know. Keeping me awake to scratch your neck like a pup."
"I just thought, if I'm here, and if the thing I think I'm feeling is for real . . . I don't know . . . maybe you'll start to feel something again . . ."
B.J. smoothed Hawkeye's hair away from his eyes. Hawkeye looked up, all open-faced bad boy.
"Hawkeye, have you been pining?"
"Ridiculous. I never pine, sir. I am deciduous."
"Right, you turn green with envy every Spring. And a few months later you drop everything."
Hawkeye pushed up off of him, leveraging himself on B.J.'s lower belly. "I won't."
"Really? Because that's the report I've always gotten."
Hawkeye rested his head on B.J.'s shoulder again. B.J. didn't believe in him. What a coincidence, he didn't believe in him, either.
Hawkeye closed his eyes. Enjoyed the skritching. He was here. B.J. wasn't kicking him out.
Let tomorrow come.
#4: "Key to Her Skate"
A mighty thump from above. Erin shriek. Hawkeye shout.
In a second, B.J. was around the desk, across the hall, and up the stairs two at a time. Hawkeye's had Erin in his lap on the top step, a welt on her shin, dress disheveled. She was crying with all-out abandonment. He looked frightened and furious.
"Dammit, Erin, no roller skates on the stairs," Hawkeye said.
"I leh-left my skate key -- in my room," she gasped over her hitching sobs.
"Deep breaths, honey." B.J. sat on the lower step beside his kid and put her wounded leg in his lap. She was fine, just a bump. "What did she do?" he asked Hawkeye.
Hawkeye felt her skull, irritated and worried. "Tried to climb the stairs in her skates and tumble back down like Jack and Jill."
"And broke my crown." Erin wiped her face on her arm. Hawkeye mopped her snot with his handkerchief.
B.J. lifted the tin skate key from around Erin's neck. "It's right here. Did you forget?"
Erin pushed her sweaty curls away from her face. "Yes."
B.J. glanced at Hawk. They shared a Mature Adult conference over her head. She was lying. B.J. unlocked the skates from Erin's red Buster Browns.
"No more skates today, Erin, you're scaring the hell out of me," B.J. said while he chipped his nails on the tiny, tight buckles.
"But I forgot it!" Erin said. Meaning it wasn't her fault she'd been forced by circumstances to be naughty.
Hawkeye set her up on her feet. She wobbled on the step, skidding her hand on the wood railing, looking up at the two men who loomed before her, not buying it. Her little feet turned inward, one Mary Jane toe covering the other.
"Are you sure?" Hawkeye said.
Erin squirmed like she had to go potty. "I was gonna see how far I could go on my skates if I slid down the railing and jumped."
Hawkeye turned, coughing. B.J. closed his eyes.
"Back steps," he said. "Go sit, five minutes."
"But I could do it, Daddy!"
"Five minutes, no talking, no toys." B.J. pointed at the kitchen door, shouting as she went. "You could have broken your neck! Do you know what happens to little girls who fall on their vertebrae? For the rest of your life, you're just a head!"
"I know, I know," Erin said as she thumped down the steps. She did her elephant feet in the hall and banged the kitchen door hard enough to bounce it off the wall. They let it slide.
Hawkeye was snickering to himself as they walked up to the landing on the second storey. From here, they could see their small back yard, Erin's reading tree, and the angry five year old, the top of her head, as she plopped hard onto her designated time out step.
"She could have killed herself," B.J. said.
"We should put her in tumbling class," Hawkeye said.
"Or sell her to the circus. World's tiniest death-defying acrobat on roller skates. Is this the kind of thing I should spank her for?"
"Do you want to?"
"No," B.J. admitted. "I spanked her once in her whole life and I still haven't forgiven myself. Maybe that's why she's a hellion."
Hawkeye touched his back, lumbar area, affectionate and soothing. "She's just got a lot of creativity."
"Did you hear her fall?"
"I went into my room for just a second." Hawkeye held up two fingers a hair's width apart: that much time. "I came out to tell her to take it easy on the flooring and I got as far as, 'get those things off your feet' and she just sailed backward. I mean, I actually imagined her for a second on the operating table with an intracranial hemorrhage and her whole body one big maraca. I grabbed her by the arm and she just crumpled -- Beej, I almost missed. She could have gone down like -- like I don't what I think about what."
B.J. rested his arm on Hawkeye's shoulder. Erin was stomping her feet on the rotted step for the simple satisfaction of destroying something. Hawkeye rapped his knuckle on the glass. She looked around, not knowing from where she was being observed. Both men jumped away from the window. It was a useful tool in child-training: don't let them know the source of your omnipotence.
"She's fine," B.J. said. "Of the three of us, she's the least upset."
"She's five," Hawkeye said. "All she cares from is we took her toys away."
"Do you remember being that invincible?" B.J. said.
"Yeah. I do."
B.J. put his arm around Hawkeye's waist; he covered the hand with his own.
"You're good with her," B.J. said.
"She's here every other week," Hawkeye said. "She's almost like my . . ." he stopped.
"She is," B.J. said. "We can be a -- I don't know. Two good friends who raise a kid together? Why doesn't she call you 'uncle' anymore?"
"Because she knows we're not brothers."
Hawkeye was thinking of the factual way that children state things. But the words echoed up in the silent hall. His feelings for B.J. weren't as a brother and he could think of a dozen instances when B.J. displayed beyond all doubt that he didn't think of him in a family manner, either.
They turned, still wrapped up together. B.J. ran the backs of his fingers down Hawkeye's cheek.
"Hawk, why did you move across the country?"
Hawkeye sought for an answer. The best he could come up with was a kiss.
This was right. This was them. An expected outgrowth of all they had been creating, first in their tent during the war, the OR, the foreshortened half-start in Maine, and the gradual trust they'd been building for six months in their house in San Francisco. And it was their house, their life. They didn't have to live by the expectations of God or Peggy or Daniel Pierce or even -- though they loved them -- their queer family of friends. They were building something new and unique and scary, but it was theirs.
Everything changed with that kiss. For Hawk and Beej, everything already had.
#5: "That Wasn't it Either"
. . . B.J., we can't imagine why you chose to bestow us with this information but we think it's best if you come home for a little while. We promise not to ask any questions.
Do you remember Reverend Barber, your youth pastor? He says your weren't an abnormal child in any way, so your Dad and I think this is simply all about that business in Korea. You may think this man is your friend, but he's sick, he's just confusing you --
B.J. shoved the letter under the blotter.
Hawkeye wandered in from the hall like cowpoke coming in from the field. It was finally Indian summer in October, drippingly hot a month later than Hawkeye expected. B.J.'s new lover was wearing his old cutoff uniform trousers and a Stanford basketball tank he must've found in their shared bureau. It was too small for B.J. now, but it was a keepsake of halcyon days; despite his nerves, he was touched by Hawkeye borrowing his memories.
Hawkeye sat on the desk next to the letter, unaware, and put his feet all over the furniture.
"What's up, Doc?" Hawkeye said.
Hawkeye looked him over. "C'mon, you're sweating more than me and I just hiked up that goddamn hill --"
"I thought I saw a puddle of Colonial in the street." B.J. went for a grin.
He smoothed his mustache as he looked out the window. There was a whole neighborhood beyond their four walls. Eventually, someone will figure it out. Will he lose Erin? If they have to move, will Hawkeye go with him? He was reminded of the parable of the man who sacrificed all his resources to build a castle on the sand, only to see it wash away. B.J. watched his trembling hand retrieve the letter hidden under the blotter. He felt numb all over, a sure sign that his nervous condition was getting out of control.
B.J. paced while Hawkeye parsed his mother's handwriting, postmark from a little town between Pittsburgh and Sacramento. He wrote his parents months ago -- even before Hawkeye had left Maine -- telling them why he was getting a divorce and that he was a homosexual. He thought his parents had a right to know. After all, they raised him, they were a part of the family he had created with Peg. They might want to know why he was destroying all the hopes they'd had for him since he was a child. He had only mentioned Hawkeye to say that he had a friend in all this, to assure them he wasn't frightened or alone. (Who, over the age of twenty-one, doesn't protect their parents from the truth?) Meanwhile, when he was running around like a kid, going to night clubs patronized by homosexuals, making huge life decisions without even informing them, taking in a bisexual roommate, and completely forgetting who he was and where he came from, he had pretended he didn't have parents who were probably going nuts over the letter he had sent them from the Martian that had eaten their son's brain. God, they even talked to the pastor.
B.J. let all this out in a long monologue while Hawkeye attempted to both read his mother's response and corral his increasing craziness.
"She seems to have a strong opinion about you," Hawkeye said.
"They want me home," B.J. said. "I can't do that, Hawk. I -- oh, God, I'm out of Valium."
Hawkeye flipped the letter over. "Sometimes I forget how young you are."
"You're only five years older, grandpa." B.J. picked up a pen, broke the clippy part, set it down again.
"Says here they know a psychiatrist who does 'very gentle' therapy," Hawkeye read. "So that's the car battery hooked up to your temporal lobes instead of your ball-sack."
B.J. stared. He laughed. A little. Okay, that was funny. It felt good to laugh, he loved that Hawkeye could make him -- what the hell? Hawkeye crumpled up the letter and threw it in the trash. B.J. sputtered. His mother wrote that! His mom!
Hawkeye grabbed him by the astonishment and pulled him into a tight embrace.
"You are home," he said. "Do you feel confused?"
"Yes," B.J. said.
Hawkeye kissed his eyebrow. "About me -- us. Are you unsure about us?"
Everything went still. B.J. closed his eyes. "I -- I feel . . . I love you."
Hawkeye was silent so long, B.J. almost took it back. But then it was Hawkeye's arms and his lips and his fingers in his hair.
And it was Hawkeye saying, "I love you, too."
He was home.
Read more of my MASH fic at ficbyaura218