The Jeep hurtled down the road at an alarming rate. Hawkeye shouted at BJ to slow down, but his friend ignored his requests and kept on driving at the same petrifying pace. Suddenly, they rounded a corner and saw a pile of metal debris blocking the track ahead.
“Look out!” screamed Hawkeye. BJ swerved dramatically, but hit a large bump on the side of the road. The two surgeons yelled in terror as they felt the Jeep’s right-hand wheels coming off the ground, and before they could process what had happened, they found the vehicle had capsized.
BJ struggled to sit up in the dust. He had been thrown violently from the Jeep, and was now sprawled out in the middle of the road. His head was spinning, but once it had cleared slightly, he remembered his colleague and spun around to look for him. What he saw made his eyes go wide in shock.
Hawkeye was lying on the road with his head lolling back against the ground. His left leg was caught underneath the overturned Jeep, and blood was streaming down his face from a large gash in his forehead. BJ rushed over to his friend and peered into his eyes, which looked dazed. He patted Hawkeye roughly on the cheek to get his attention, and his friend stared blearily up at him.
“Hawk, are you okay? Say something!” BJ’s voice was panicked.
“My leg… It’s stuck…” replied Hawkeye breathlessly. “Help me, Beej, it hurts like hell.” His words were vaguely slurred, but BJ had bigger problems to worry about. He scampered over to the Jeep and tried to assess how best to free his friend’s trapped limb. He recalled a technique he’d seen the Marines used, and put both his hands against the cool body of the Jeep.
“Okay, Hawk, I’m going to rock the Jeep. When it comes off the ground enough, get your leg out of there, alright?”
Hawkeye took a minute to process this, then nodded. BJ sighed, before pushing the Jeep up and putting his whole body weight into getting it off the floor. The bottom of it was lifted a few inches, but not enough to allow Hawkeye to draw his leg free. BJ tried to keep the vehicle up, but it was too heavy, and he was unable to stop it from rocking back down. As it did so, it crushed Hawkeye’s leg, causing the man to cry out in pain. The sound of agony was heart-wrenching to BJ, and he ran back over to his friend to soothe him.
Cradling Hawkeye’s head in his lap, BJ whispered, “shh, it’s alright. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you like that. I’m really sorry.” Hawkeye gazed up at his best friend, hot tears filling his eyes. He didn’t quite know why he was crying; the pain shooting through his leg was probably the biggest cause, but some part of him was also saddened by his friend’s concern for him. He loved BJ; he’d lived with the guy for years, and they’d shared all their secrets with each other. BJ meant more to him than he could ever admit, but he knew his friend would never feel the same. The concern BJ was feeling was purely on a friend level, and that little reminder of their situation made Hawkeye feel sad and alone. His heart panged with longing for the man he could never have, and it was enough to cause a few tears to spill over. They rolled down his cheeks and fell onto BJ’s pants, staining them with dark splotches.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” BJ asked worriedly as he noticed his friend’s tears. Hawkeye merely shook his head, not trusting himself to speak without his voice cracking. BJ reached down to wipe the tears away, and Hawkeye leaned into his touch. He tried to move closer to BJ, to enjoy his warmth, but the movement jerked his trapped leg, making waves of pain wash over him and drawing another cry of agony from his lips.
“Beej,” he gasped through clenched teeth. “Please get my leg out of this thing.”
BJ gently slid out from under his friend’s head and moved back over to the Jeep. Hawkeye propped himself up on his hands and watched nervously as his friend tried to rock the vehicle up again. This time, when BJ felt it falling back, he pushed even harder, desperate not to let it drop onto Hawkeye’s leg. He grunted as he used all his energy to lift the Jeep, and just managed to get it far enough off the ground to allow Hawkeye to slide his leg out from under it. As soon as his leg was clear, BJ let the Jeep drop with a thud, and stood there panting for several minutes. Finally, once he’d recovered his breath, he sat down next to Hawkeye’s injured limb and began to inspect it. As his fingers danced across the bloody skin, Hawkeye’s face twisted in pain. When BJ’s thumbs jabbed down into the wound to feel for a broken bone, Hawkeye let out a piercing scream.
“Beej! Beej, please stop!” he begged. “I’m a doctor; I know it’s broken! I don’t need you to diagnose it! Please just leave it alone! Ah, God, that hurts! Beej, please…” his sentence was cut off when BJ abruptly moved up and kissed him hard on the lips. Hawkeye was stunned at first, then melted into the kiss and allowed pleasure to overtake him. He’d dreamed of this moment for months, but the real thing was so much better than he could’ve possibly imagined. BJ’s lips were soft yet dominating, and Hawkeye couldn’t find the words to express how much he loved them. Eventually, when the two drew apart, Hawkeye’s head fell back and his arms gave out; he crashed to the ground, smiling the whole time.
“You okay?” BJ’s worried frown was back.
“Yeah, just a bit lightheaded after that wonderful kiss.” He grinned up at his friend. “What brought that on?”
“Well, I hated seeing you in so much pain, so I tried to relieve you of at least some of it. I couldn’t bear listening to those heart-breaking pleas, Hawk.”
“Yeah, but why now? You’ve never shown any interest before. I’m not even sure if you’re expressing interest now.”
BJ laughed. “That’s because I’m a lot subtler about my feelings than you. Every day it’s been driving me mad to be so close to you but not get to hold you or kiss you or even tell you how I feel. I had a pretty good idea that you, ya know, liked me back, but I couldn’t be certain that I wasn’t just misinterpreting stuff. Now I’m sure that it’s real, and I’m just so happy. I can’t believe this is actually happening.”
“I know, I feel the same way, Beej. But what about Peg? I thought you’d never fall for me because of her. What changed?”
BJ sighed sadly. “Hawk, I’ve been kidding myself my whole life. I’ve never really gone for women, but I didn’t want to admit that to anyone in case I got ridiculed. I guess getting married and having a kid with someone was just another way to try and persuade myself that it was all just nonsense, that that couldn’t really be who I was, because it didn’t make any sense. All my life I’d been told that a guy liking another guy was unnatural, so how could it feel so right to me? I was lost, and I turned to marriage for help, to give me direction. I’m just terrified that one day I’m going to have to let Peg down by telling her the truth. I can’t keep running from myself forever, but I’d hate to hurt her like that. I’ve always thought that maybe she already knows, at least on some level, but she’s been so good to me even despite having that knowledge. And I can’t even do her the simple courtesy of loving her back. It’s just not who I am. And I don’t know how I’ll explain all of this to Erin when she grows up, I can only hope that she’ll understand.”
“The only thing she needs to know right now is that you love her and you’re there for her. As for telling Peg, it’ll be easier than you think. When the time is right to tell her, you’ll know.”
“Yeah, I hope you’re right.”
“Beej, I’m always right,” smirked Hawkeye.
BJ laughed. “And that is one of the things I love about you, Hawkeye. Your astounding modesty.”
“Well, I try,” he joked. BJ’s eyes gazed lovingly into his, and soon their lips were connected again, duelling passionately. BJ lifted his hand to comb it through Hawkeye’s hair, but pulled it away when he felt a warm, moist substance coating the other man’s face. BJ remembered his friend’s head wound and reluctantly broke the kiss so that he could lean back to study it. The crimson blood still shone on Hawkeye’s forehead, and BJ skimmed his fingers over the gash. Hawkeye hissed in pain, cringing at the waves of discomfort BJ’s touch sent crashing through his skull.
“No serious damage,” concluded BJ after some examination. “Probable concussion, maybe a few stitches required, but nothing major. The main problem is your leg. How am I supposed to get you back to camp?”
Hawkeye paused to deliberate the issue. “Um, you could leave me here and come back with another Jeep?”
“And what happens if you’re found by North Koreans while I’m gone?”
“Good point,” sighed Hawkeye. “I can try to walk, but you’ll have to help me.”
“But how would we carry all the medical boxes back to camp? Colonel Potter needs them.”
“Again, good point. What if… What if we tied them together and slung them over my shoulder, then you helped me to walk?”
BJ considered that suggestion before replying, “yeah, that could work. Let’s give it a try, at least.” He stood up and crossed the road to the Jeep, where he retrieved the five boxes and medical bag and strung them together into a pseudo-backpack. He rested the arrangement of supplies on the ground and extended an arm out to Hawkeye to help him stand. Taking a moment to prepare himself, Hawkeye gingerly took his friend’s hand and placed his good foot squarely on the ground, transferring all his weight to it as he slowly rose up. He was steady on one leg for a minute, before he began to overbalance, and instinctively put down his other leg to support him. As soon as his weight was put onto the injured limb, it buckled, sending fire shooting up his spine. He began to fall back to the ground, but BJ managed to catch him on the way down. He looped Hawkeye’s arm over his own shoulder and took over the job of supporting Hawkeye’s weight. His friend had tears in his eyes once more, predominantly due to the severe pain that was now racing through his leg, and BJ noticed this immediately. He placed a light kiss on Hawkeye’s lips to draw a small smile from his friend, then awkwardly bent down to pick up the bundle of boxes.
“Right, here we go.” He helped Hawkeye slip on the make-shift backpack, then the two tried to walk a few steps together. It was a strain on Hawkeye’s usable leg; every hop caused more and more discomfort to build in his muscles. Still, he thought, it’s better than the alternative of trying to use the other leg. Their pace was excruciatingly slow, but gradually they began to make progress. They rounded the first corner, then the second, then began to ascend a large rise. BJ, remembering that they were lost, figured that they could use the hill as a vantage point to look for the 4077th. Sure enough, when they finally reached the summit, they could make out a collection of olive-drab tents and dull metal structures on the horizon. The road ran down the other side of the hill, through a forest and then out into the camp. Looking at the forest they would have to venture through gave Hawkeye an uneasy feeling. All those trees provided perfect cover for snipers, and he was in no condition to run from a rain of bullets.
“Uh, Beej, if we get, you know, shot at, I want you to run and save yourself, okay?” he said nervously. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.”
“Famous last words,” BJ replied. “I’m not leaving you behind, Hawk. Not after all we’ve been through together. I’ll find a way to carry you if I have to, but I’m not abandoning you. You got that?”
“Okay, but if you die on my account, don’t come back to haunt my loved ones.”
“Never say die, Hawk. We’re going to make it through this.” They began to make their descent down the hill towards the dense mass of trees. It was easier for Hawkeye, having gravity on his side, but he felt his undamaged leg growing weaker with every step. He slowed in anticipation as they approached the forest.
“Uh, maybe we could go around,” he suggested.
BJ looked at him doubtfully. “You really think you could make it that far?” His tone sounded dubious.
“Okay, fair point. Well then, I guess we’ll just have to go through it. Ready? Here we go.” He didn’t move an inch. “How’re we doing?”
“We haven’t gone in yet. Come on, Hawk, the longer we stand here, the more chance they have to shoot at us.”
“You’re right, let’s go. In three, two, one, run for it.” Hawkeye hopped hastily forward, faster than BJ thought he’d be able to go. Adrenaline could make the body capable of amazing things, he thought. They were keeping up a rapid pace, and were almost clear of the trees when the first shot rang out, scaring both of the surgeons half to death. They picked up their speed, until the second shot ripped through the descending silence. BJ gasped and faltered as the bullet grazed his shoulder, causing blood to seep into his shirt.
“You’re hit!” cried Hawkeye, noticing BJ’s clenched teeth.
“It’s just a flesh wound!” shouted his friend in response. “Come on, keep going!” They raced faster and faster towards the light at the edge of the forest. Hawkeye had to concentrate on not putting his broken leg down to help him run quicker, knowing that he would collapse if he did so, endangering himself and his best friend. They galloped towards safety as more shots were fired but luckily did no damage; one nicked the corner of a medicine crate, but the rest missed them completely.
After what felt like a hellish eternity, they emerged from the forest into blinding daylight. The gunshots ceased, and the two men began to slow down once they had put a good hundred yards between themselves and the trees.
Once he’d recovered his breath enough to speak, Hawkeye turned to his friend and asked, “you okay, Beej? Let me see your wound.”
“Hawk, leave it alone. I’ll have it looked at once we get back to camp. Let’s focus on getting there for now, shall we? Come on.” He readjusted his grip on his friend and helped him to continue hobbling down the path. Eventually, when they were both feeling ready to pass out, they stumbled into the compound, which was completely deserted. BJ, feeling slightly more energetic than his injured friend, cried out, “Klinger! Colonel Potter! I need help out here!”
Almost immediately, the CO emerged from Post-Op; frowning in concern at the sight in front of him of his two battered colleagues. The cry drew Margaret from her tent and Charles from the laundry.
“What on earth is going on here?!” demanded Charles, then he noticed Hawkeye’s torn-up leg and added, “what happened to you?”
“Our Jeep turned over and my leg got trapped beneath it,” explained the Chief Surgeon. His decent leg was beginning to tremble under the strain of supporting all his weight, and he felt himself beginning to collapse. BJ could feel his friend growing weaker and turned to the Colonel.
“Colonel, can you get some corpsmen to bring a litter for Hawkeye? I don’t think he can stand for much longer.”
Margaret responded for her CO, “all our corpsmen are down with salmonella. Klinger’s Thanksgiving turkey poisoned everyone who was here to eat it.”
“So that’s why Colonel Potter looks as green as the Mess Tent gravy,” quipped Hawkeye. “You better go get some rest, Colonel.”
“Thank you, Pierce, but I’m a doctor, and I say I’m not going to rest until you two are sorted out.”
“Oh, don’t worry, sir. Charles and I will take care of everything, won’t we, Charles?” She shot the surgeon a glare.
“Oh yes, whoopee,” he replied sarcastically.
Colonel Potter sighed, then agreed reluctantly, “okay, I’ll go lie down. I’ll be in my tent if anyone needs me.” He walked stiffly across the compound and into his tent.
“Beej,” Hawkeye muttered to his friend. “Litter.”
“Right! Margaret, can you and Charles bring the litter for Hawkeye? He really needs it, fast.”
Margaret nodded. Charles simply stated, “being a corpsman trumps being a laundryman any day.” Together, the two Majors set off to find a stretcher. Hawkeye put more and more of his weight onto BJ, unable to bear any of it himself. His grimace deepened with each passing moment, until Margaret and Charles returned carrying a stretcher between them. As soon as it was close enough, Hawkeye fell ungracefully onto it, causing Charles to grunt at the sudden addition of weight to his burden. BJ let out a small sigh of relief as his own burden was lifted, but as soon as he could stop focussing on supporting his best friend, his thoughts turned to his shoulder wound, which began to burn. He trailed after the litter as it was taken towards the x-ray room, clamping his hands by his sides so that he wasn’t tempted to irritate his wound.
Once they had reached X-Ray, Charles and Margaret began to set up the machine and position Hawkeye’s leg beneath it despite pained protests from the injured man. After much arguing, Hawkeye gave in and let the Head Nurse move his leg at will, contenting himself with a few groans now and then. As soon as he was properly in place, the x-ray was taken, developed and he was shuffled into the OR on his stretcher.
“I’m operating,” commanded BJ as soon as Hawkeye had been put onto an operating table.
The other two nodded in agreement, but then Margaret noticed his blood-covered shirt. “Hold on, what happened to your shoulder?” she asked worriedly.
“Oh, just a bit of friendly sniper fire on the way back. It’s nothing serious.” He hissed as she ran a finger across it.
“We need to get this stitched up,” she concluded.
“Stitch him up then he can operate on me,” suggested Hawkeye, glancing between Margaret and BJ.
“Okay, let’s get to work. Charles, you’ll need to be the anaesthetist for Hawkeye’s surgery.”
“Fine, as long as there is no intolerable drivel while we’re working.” Margaret rolled her eyes while BJ scowled at him.
“Right, let’s go scrub,” BJ declared, and the three vanished into the scrub room, leaving Hawkeye to whistle to himself. Seven minutes later, they returned with clean hands, and were all wearing white surgical gowns except for BJ, who needed his shoulder to be accessible.
Charles donned a pair of latex gloves and administered a local anaesthetic to BJ’s wound, then proceeded to put a line of stitches across the gash. Once it had been properly closed, he removed the gloves and moved to the head of Hawkeye’s operating table to prepare the anaesthesia machine. Margaret helped BJ into a gown of his own, then they both joined Charles around Hawkeye’s table.
“You’re sure you’re alright to operate like this?” questioned Margaret dubiously.
“Margaret, I’m fine, now can I see the x-ray?” The nurse pinned the image up on the board and flicked the light on. BJ studied it for a moment before turning to Hawkeye.
“Now, you know what to do. Take a deep breath and we’ll see you in a few hours,” he said reassuringly. Hawkeye smiled as the mask was put over his face, then inhaled deeply and found everything around him fading to black.
As his eyes slowly began to flutter open again, he felt an enormous pain crushing his skull. He blinked repeatedly to clear the black dots from his vision and glanced around to take in his surroundings. To his surprise, he found himself in his bunk in the Swamp; those distinctive coils of the still could be found nowhere else in the entire camp. As his eyes darted around the tent, he caught sight of a figure sitting to his right. His gaze settled on the person, and he made out the unmistakable face of his best friend.
“Beej,” he whispered weakly.
BJ smiled and shushed him gently. “Don’t try to talk,” he advised. “The anaesthetic’ll still be wearing off. Rest for now. I’ll be right here the whole time.”
“Is fine. I stitched up the damage, and we’ve put it in a splint to hold it for now until the wounds heal and we can put a cast on it. Don’t worry, you’ll be up playing golf in no time. Now try to get some sleep.”
Hawkeye could feel the blissful abyss of sleep tugging him down, so he closed his eyes and allowed himself to fall into the warm darkness.
He woke again several hours later, his head feeling a lot clearer. As soon as his eyes opened, they began to search out his bunkmate, who, sure enough, was sitting on the other side of the tent skimming over a letter from his wife.
“Beej,” Hawkeye called to his friend, though his voice was akin to a whisper. It was enough, however, to catch the attention of the other man, who placed his letter down on the table and turned to face his friend.
“Hawk, you’re awake.” He smiled warmly at his friend.
“So they tell me,” he replied.
“How’re ya feeling? You were out for quite some time.”
“Oh, I’m okay. A little post-operative discomfort, possibly a mild fever, but nothing I can’t handle.”
“And I’m supposed to be the doctor here,” BJ laughed. “How does your head feel?”
“My head?” Hawkeye frowned questioningly at him, then reached up to feel his head and discovered that a bandage had been fastened around it.
“Yeah, you remember. You hit your head during the accident and I had to put a few stitches in it. Should be good as new in no time.”
“‘Good as new’ in my case means seriously demented,” joked Hawkeye in response. “But it feels fine. The occasional twinge, but I can live with that.”
“It feels fine because you’re on morphine. You need it after what happened to your leg.” Hawkeye looked over to the table next to him and saw a needle on a tray with a few vials of medication and a tourniquet. He also saw an IV stand next to his bed, from which were hanging a blood bottle and a bag of penicillin. He guessed the antibiotics were to fight off any infections the dirt-covered steel that had crushed his leg might bring on, and the purpose behind the blood bottle wasn’t hard to figure.
“Hey, listen, Beej,” he said after studying the various things he was connected to. “Thanks for fixing me up.”
BJ waved his hands dismissively. “Don’t mention it.”
“I do have one question, though. Why am I in here and not in Post-Op? Surely it’s not for the scenery.”
“Aha, that is because the salmonella patients were taking up all the beds in Post-Op, so we had to bring you here. I hope that’s not an issue.”
Hawkeye smiled. “Of course it’s not. It’s nice being near the still,” he smirked.
BJ frowned in confusion. “You know you’re not allowed any alcohol while you’re on medication, Hawkeye,” he scolded gently.
The smile faded from Hawkeye’s face and was replaced by a sarcastic glare. “I know, Beej. My medical degree wasn’t all for show, you know?”
BJ held up his hands defensively, slightly worried that he’d accidently insulted his friend. However, his worries were soon dispersed when Hawkeye sensed his anxiety and broke into a grin.
“You know I’m only joking,” reassured Hawkeye.
“Yeah, I know,” smiled BJ. He reached out and delicately placed a hand on Hawkeye’s leg. “You look tired, Hawk. Why don’t you try and get some more rest?”
Hawkeye nodded. Although he was more alert than before, he could feel the morphine making him drowsy, and the idea of sleeping some more sounded wonderful to him. “Okay, Beej. But… don’t go anywhere, okay?” He didn’t like the thought of waking up alone in an empty tent.
BJ squeezed his leg gently. “Of course not. I’ll be right here. I’m not going anywhere until you’re feeling better.”
“Thanks, Beej,” said Hawkeye softly. He leaned back into the pillow, closed his eyes, and soon fell into a dreamless sleep.
Curated with permission from author