recs :: about
hear all about it
PG-13, slash, Hawkeye/Trapper. The story of the still: how, why
and by whom it was built, and how certain relationships were forged.
This story was nominated in several categories; it won third place for
best characterisation of Frank Burns, and also won second place for the best
characterisation of Hawkeye, best Hawkeye/Trapper, best non-NC-17 story and best
general story. The bit about Frank Burns worries me.
...gaps in his words...
Sunlight was streaming in through the canvas sides of the Swamp. It had been a
quiet morning for its mismatched inhabitants. Trapper was still asleep, Frank
was off somewhere doing something worthy of his powers of ineptitude, and
Hawkeye was enjoying a moment of solitude.
Hawk extended one hand and inspected it carefully. Long fingers, dirty nails,
the odd scratch from an off-target scalpel, the same as always. He held it still
and it didn’t shake. He brought it closer, close enough for him to see the loops
and whorls of his fingerprints, but it still didn’t shake. He tried hitting his
wrist with his other hand. This time, it did shake for a moment, swinging
limply, then settling into stillness.
Hawkeye decided it was a good sign. Letting his hands drop to his sides, he
sighed, a deep, luxurious sigh, and lay back on the cot and stared at the
ceiling. His month’s tenure in the Swamp had taught him a few things. When it
was hot, it was very very hot, when it was cold, it was very very cold, when it
was busy, it was very very busy, and when it was boring...
He had already seriously considered doing a number of things unthinkable to his
civilian self, most of them illegal, immoral or involving unobtainable fresh
fruit/whipped cream, but debauchery required energy he didn’t have. He glanced
over at Trapper; for some reason, thoughts of the other doctor were coming into
his mind. He had been lucky, he decided, in getting a tent mate quite so finely
attuned to his own sensibilities. He liked Trapper. It had taken a while for him
to pass this simple judgement, especially considering it had taken him less than
a minute to ascertain his opinion of Frank Burns. But then there wasn’t much to
Frank – he whined, he snivelled, he voted Republican, and he claimed carnal
knowledge of Margaret Houlihan. Oh, and he screamed when he found a dead chicken
in his drawer. Not much to him.
Trapper was different; he was a friend, a foil, a willing partner-in-crime,
someone with whom flirting was second nature, and there was... well, something
about him. Something; he wasn’t entirely sure what.
He wasn’t entirely sure of anything in this country.
Hawkeye held his breath for a moment, listening to Trapper doing the same thing;
then he exhaled and let his eyelids succumb to gravity. He wasn’t bored; he
didn’t have the energy. Energy was sapped by the heat and with it went any
motivation to do anything.
Lazily, he reached out for a pad and pencil. The pad fell open on his knees, and
he aimed the pencil at the page knowing no words would pour forth. There was
already a finished letter on the pad, which would be sent as soon as he had
mustered up the courage to write his own address with steady hands.
The pencil came to rest on a blank page. It moved, making a light mark on the
paper. Hawkeye never abused a pencil; his writing matched his personality and
sometimes refused to register convincingly on paper. There were gaps in his
words where the graphite had simply become too faint.
The single line on the page seemed to be somehow lacking. It needed something
more. It needed a sense of community, Hawkeye decided. He had never experienced
life as a newly born pencil line, but he had convictions, and those convictions
dictated no man, or line, could live by bread, or graphite, alone, and this line
deserved to be part of something else, something more.
A drawing, perhaps?
Hawkeye considered showing Trapper something he’d never seen in his twenty-seven
years of life and sketching the back of his friend’s head, but decided against
it. Instead, his hand began to move without him consciously willing it to, in
the way a medical student’s hands will – fingers run across lines of text, hands
are flung up in despair at yet another textbook, and the moment a needle is held
between two fingers, suddenly the whole hand shakes, spewing saline everywhere,
including the patient’s eye.
There. He saw it again. Just for a moment, his hand had trembled, and left
concrete evidence behind – the crazily undulating line on the page. Not a good
sign. The pad and pencil fell from suddenly listless hands and made dull thumps
on the floor. With a practised groan, he leaned over the side of his cot to pick
them up, and his fingers brushed something else, something smooth and cold. He
grabbed it and pulled it up, lying back to inspect his find. Those gentle,
sculptured contours – what could it be but a gin bottle?
He shook it, and the last drop fell out of the neck of the bottle and landed in
his mouth. He licked his lips, and then lifted the bottle up to the light. There
was something oddly fascinating about it, the way the glass had been fused
together to form the definite shape, the way the light shone and refracted
through the clear sides, making rainbows if he knew exactly where to look.
Carelessly, he let his fingers drift over the words engraved in the glass,
suddenly becoming aware of the fact he had spent the last couple of minutes
entranced by a shiny object, like any child or jackdaw. Although, to be fair, he
told himself, it was the last civilian bottle. Any more alcohol would have to be
purchased, and drunk, at Rosie’s. This thought was disquieting and comforting in
equal proportions, and he didn’t put down the bottle for a minute, until it
dropped abruptly from his hands, hitting to the ground in less than a second. It
didn’t break, but it bounced and rolled into rattling stillness with a series of
ringing sounds. Clink, clink, clink.
“People a-tryin’ to sleep over here!” Trapper was belligerent, half asleep, and
in the process of putting a pillow over his head.
Hawkeye ignored him. Suddenly, the pen and paper were back in his hands, and
inspiration lent him clear draftsmanship. Rapidly, he drew in the body of it,
the plastic tubes leading to and from the condenser, the coil, glassware for the
corn, half remembered chemistry running through his head as the pencil flew
lightly over the paper. When he had finished, the pad held the beginning of
something that would keep him occupied for a long time. He sat back, something
of a pleased smile lingering about his lips.
And then the pencil hit the ground with a noisy clatter. There was a groan from
Trapper’s direction as Hawkeye watched his hands shake like leaves in a storm.
Colonel Henry Blake was a great believer in pacing. Up and down, up and down, it
was sometimes the only thing that let him think in this world of olive-drab
“Let me get this straight. You think you’re in withdrawal.”
Hawkeye nodded, which was a difficult feat considering his new and horizontal
world view. Henry continued to pace, but Hawkeye remained where he was. Life was
easier when faced side-on like this.
“Withdrawal,” Henry repeated. “Oh, lord. The paperwork.”
Hawkeye sighed. “You’re a natural at this, Henry.”
“That’s all very well, Pierce, but what do I do about it?”
“Discharge me?” Hawkeye said hopefully.
“Oh, no, no, no.” Henry wagged a finger. “I’ve already got Klinger. I don’t need
“Corporal, sentry, sometimes acts as porter in triage, knows more about ladies’
fashions than my wife?”
“He’s not crazy, you know,” Hawkeye said seriously. “Bucking for a section eight
so he can get out of here – what could be more logical?”
“Don’t ask me, Pierce, you’re the one lying on the floor.”
Hawkeye blinked as the sun came out from behind the clouds, and put his hands
behind his head. “I always say, you’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor
without holding on.”
It was Henry’s turn to sigh. Altering his pacing so he walked around the surgeon
instead of over him, he wondered for a moment how on earth he’d ended up here.
“Did you drink in the States?”
“Don’t ‘yes, Colonel’ me,” Henry said irrationally. “I mean, did
you drink drink?”
Hawkeye considered this from ground level. “No,” he said honestly. “I was a
medical student,” – Henry nodded, understanding immediately – “but I didn’t
drink like that.”
Henry stopped pacing, and suddenly dropped down beside where Hawkeye was lying,
picking up one of the younger doctor’s hands. He took his time inspecting it,
but it remained obstinately still, even when the colonel did the obligatory
check to see if there were any breaks in the wrist.
“Teacher teaches Cunningham...” Hawkeye sang, melodically and distractingly.
“Shut up and let me think, Pierce,” the colonel replied tetchily.
Getting to his feet, he paced with renewed intensity. Up and down,
up and down, until inspiration struck.
“You know what this is?”
“If I did, would I be the one on the floor?”
Henry ignored him. “It’s like the enlisted men who come and tell me to stop
putting saltpetre in their coffee. Like I’d even know how to go about it without
killing them. Like I care about... that.”
“Hey, I trust you. But I also trusted Harry Truman, so…”
Henry continued ignoring him, clearly thinking out loud. “They all think it
can’t be their fault. They’re in a strange country, thousands of miles from
home, their wives and girlfriends and receptionists are all thousands of miles
away too, there’s a goddamn war going on, but they still have to believe I’m
putting saltpetre in the coffee. Or if I’m not, the army are. Someone has to be,
‘cause it can’t be their fault, oh, no.” He finished on a decidedly aggrieved
“I see what you’re talking about, Henry, I do,” said Hawkeye placatingly. “But
just what does that have to do with my... problem?”
“It’s the same thing,” said the colonel abstractedly.
Hawkeye raised his eyebrows. “Excuse me, Henry, but I never said anything about
that. And if you really want to have that conversation, can we please
have it when I’m not lying in the compound?”
“You want something to blame it on.” Having reached the climax of his
deliberations, Henry had a somewhat triumphant air to him. “You’ve found
something strange is happening to you, so you think back to all your
book-learning, you find something that fits, and suddenly you’re in withdrawal.
It couldn’t be anything to do with you being in a war zone. You’re not at all
scared, you’re not feeling at all homesick, so there’s no way anxiety could be
manifesting in hand tremors, no way in hell.”
There was a pause as Hawkeye digested this, and then he looked up and smiled.
“You’re not just a pretty face, Colonel.”
“Neither are you, Pierce. Now will you get up off the floor, for crying out
Hawkeye was about to do so, when someone cried out, “What the hell?” and came
within inches of falling on top of Hawkeye’s sprawled form. Trapper was still
half-asleep, and had not expected to have to watch for low-flying surgeons on
the way to the mess tent. Collecting himself, he took a step back and stared at
Hawkeye in frank bewilderment.
Hawkeye grinned and complied with the last order, scrambling to his feet and
pulling a crumpled piece of notebook paper from his left pocket. “Take a look,
Henry. Do you know what that is?”
Henry took it and scrutinised the rough drawing, made more incomprehensible by
Hawkeye’s scribbled annotations. “Yes,” he said finally. “Except that no, I
don’t, and if anyone asks, I’ll deny I ever saw it.” This said, he gave the
paper back to Hawkeye and turned, trudging off in the direction of the liquor
cabinet in his office. If there was anything being drafted was doing for him, it
was giving him a grasp of doublethink that now approached Orwellian proportions
and an appreciation of alcohol that matched that of most of the people under his
Trapper blinked and watched him go. “What was that about?” he asked plaintively.
Hawkeye draped an easy arm around his shoulders and steered him back towards the
Swamp. “Come, my friend,” he said, gazing at Trapper with innocent blue eyes,
“we have work to do.”
...not a shopping list...
Hawkeye produced his shopping list while sitting on Frank’s cot, purposely
crushing a certain leather-bound volume with his weight. Frank would return to
find Genesis and Revelations crushed into one entity, but all that came later.
Trapper was leaning on Hawkeye’s shoulder, with one arm draped round his
friend’s neck. Hawkeye found this oddly comfortable, and evocative of something.
“That’s it,” he said. Trapper was in the perfect position to read aloud, which
he duly did. “Tripod. Gauze. Buffet. Buffet?”
“Not buffet, bucket,” Hawkeye said patiently. Off Trapper’s look, he added, “I’m
“Ah, yeah. Bucket. Bottle... what kind?”
“Oh, of course. Um… glue. Plastic tube. Glass... um... thing.”
Hawkeye nodded. “Thing,” he repeated. “Anything will do. We also need something
else, but I forgot to write it down.”
“Gimme the pencil,” Trapper said, and Hawkeye did so. After adding the words
‘something else’ to the list, Trapper disentangled himself from Hawkeye. He
stood up, dropped a kiss on Hawkeye’s neck, and was gone.
He’d been gone for two minutes before Hawkeye realised. Pushing his hair out of
his eyes, his fingers carried on until they touched where Trapper’s lips had
been. If that was the something…and it certainly seemed like it… then he might
have found something.
Something that was something.
In the long warm evening, during which Hawkeye had been daydreaming and Trapper
had not returned, a small lone figure drifted past the Swamp. When he saw who it
was, Hawkeye’s eyes lit up.
“My name’s Hawkeye, Radar. How many times I gotta tell you that?”
“Gee, I’m sorry, sir, just with you being an officer an’ all...”
“That was done against my will and my better judgement. Now, they tell me you’re
a guy who knows how to get things.”
Radar nodded and blinked. “Well, I got stuff before... spark plugs ‘n’ dirty
magazines ‘n’ stuff...” He swallowed. “Sir.”
Hawkeye sighed inwardly. “I need a few things, Radar. If I tell you what they
are, can you get them?”
Radar nodded. “I can try.”
“Good. And... Radar?”
Radar looked at him. Hawkeye was smiling in a way that would become very
familiar to the company clerk in the months to come. “You won’t regret this.”
It was easy enough for Radar to get the gauze. He simply presented himself in
post-op and asked for it. The nurse might’ve looked at him a little oddly, but
it seemed people were getting used to the company clerk and his precognition,
and once they had accepted and trusted the boy had the strange power, it was
easy for them to accept everything else about him, including the teddy-bear.
That, his gentle demeanour and coke-bottle glasses seemed to make people think
he was an innocent soul, but there were always whispers… after all, he spent a
lot of time in the Swamp. Hawkeye Pierce had a liking for him, and as most
people had a liking for Hawkeye, Radar had no enemies. When he asked for gauze,
he was given it.
Hawkeye had only asked him specifically to get the gauze and the bucket. But
he’d seen the entire list, and he was on the look out for the other items. He
knew what the equipment was going to be used for, and some part of him admired
Hawkeye’s determination to get what he wanted, but another part of him wondered
why on earth he, Radar O’Reilly, company clerk, had to be involved. When he
thought about it, there wasn’t an easy answer. Hawkeye had asked… and that
seemed to be that.
There was something about him. Just... something. Radar often had cause to curse
his lack of eloquence, but his Ma had always said that what he lacked in words
he made up for in other ways, and she was always right. He wished, just for a
moment, that she was here. She could tell him what was the right thing to do.
She’d know what the something was, all right...
It wasn’t as if he’d been planning to do anything, just read the newest comics
he’d got from Sparky, maybe check up on his rabbits, and the earthworm farm he
was trying to establish...
But he’d had to go past the Swamp to get there, and that had proved his
downfall. Hawkeye had seen him, jumped out into the compound, wearing a red robe
that seemed a part of him, and said, “Radar...”
Radar. The name referred to a little power he had, just a little something...
that was it. It was the same kind of something. Something hard to explain, that
small something that shimmered below his thoughts, something that was always
He was here, in the supply tent, eyes peeled for anything that was around him
that was also on the scrawled list in Hawkeye’s hands, and somehow he was
thinking harder than he’d ever thought before he came to this country and
everything changed. He’d been here such a short time, but a month was long when
you spent it in a place like this. He missed his Ma, and his Uncle Ed, and his
animals, and he missed not having to think about... something.
He wondered if this was what they said growing up was about. Maybe that was all
it was. Just lots and lots of thinking. Maybe that was why he was sent here in
the first place. He knew why he’d been sent, it was because the army wanted him
to go, but there had to be another reason. Maybe when he was out here he’d grow
up and then he could go back home.
Back home, that was a nice thought. He was kinda engaged to a girl back home...
But there was still something. And somehow it was all tied in with the strangely
crazy New England doctor. Something, somehow, Hawkeye.
Eventually, Hawkeye visited the supply tent himself. There was no-one else in
there. He wondered if there ought to be some sort of a Do-Not-Disturb sign for
it, as the denizens of the Double Natural seemed to migrate towards it like
teenagers. He resolved to ask Colonel Blake about it, or rather ask him to ask
Radar about it. He didn’t think the suggestion would be gracefully received, as
no doubt it would provide more recruits for the Saltpetre Conspiracy Theory, but
he could but try.
With the sharp eyes of a man who had to be able to spot shrapnel in hidden
places, Hawkeye skimmed the shelves. The plastic tubing was easy to acquire, as
was the glue, and he couldn’t help but wonder why the army had provided one
M*A*S*H unit with so much liquid adhesive. The cynical part of his brain
insisted on telling him it was how the army thought they operated on people, but
he shelved the thought and stole the glue.
The large glass thing was a problem. When he couldn’t find anything that fitted
the description, he decided to move on, and come back to it. He was thinking
about what he could use to make the condenser when the door opened silently.
Hawkeye swung around at the intrusion of light, and saw Trapper’s silhouette in
His friend entered quietly, and came to a standstill beside him. “What’re you
doing here?” he asked softly.
Hawkeye noticed his voice was lower in pitch than usual. He held up his list,
and answered, “Grocery shopping.”
“Need some help from an honest man?”
“Yeah, do you know any?”
Trapper smiled briefly. “Look who’s talking. Hawkeye Pierce, finest kind!”
Hawkeye couldn’t choose to be offended. His reputation clung to him like a faint
scent, and there were times he was glad of its comforting, familiar presence.
Like now, for instance. Hawkeye knew what Trapper’s glances meant; being
himself, he had to know. Those glances - appraising, appreciative, sweeping in
their focus and single-minded in their objectives. Only… Hawkeye was never on
the receiving end. There was one other time in recent memory...
He doesn’t look up. Somehow, he knows what he will see, so he doesn’t look up,
and he knows his contrariness will irritate this personification of army
directives, and so suddenly he finds his own hands very interesting.
“Do you have a name?!”
Still without looking up, he says dully, “I have lots of them.”
A grab for his dogtags, which he refuses to give up. The rustle of officialdom.
“Look at me when you say that, Captain Pierce!” A pause, and then: “Benjamin
“Most people call me Hawkeye.”
“I am not most people, Captain!”
“No, Major,” - still looking down – “you’re not people. You’re not even a
And then he looks up, and there’s that look]
...but that was a whole different thing. Hawkeye never felt himself under that
kind of scrutiny as a general thing, and it unsettled him. Which wasn’t a bad
thing, necessarily. He felt that with time, he might get used to this. Like it,
in fact. It was just that now it was all new, like the unopened tube of glue he
had in one hand and the unused IV tubing he had in the other, and the whole
goddamn country was new to him, but presently something happened to make him drop
them both, and he knew some things never changed.
Hawkeye held Trapper off with both hands, gently but with purpose, and again
something new for him. “Are you sure?” he asked, in a low voice that betrayed
more of his own emotions than he’d wanted.
For the first time, it was Trapper who was unsure. “Hawkeye,” he began, “I don’t
want... I don’t... if you don’t...”
Hawkeye let one of his hands drift over his friend’s mouth, silencing him. “I
don’t do this much. But if you want this, too...”
He moved his hand, but Trapper didn’t use his mouth to speak. In the strange
half-light of the supply tent, they moved in on each other slowly, afraid to let
the moment come crashing down around them. The kiss lasted longer than either
had thought it would, hands were wandering, they were pulling at each other’s
Hawkeye stopped it. Gently, he pulled himself free, whispering, “Never on a
Trapper accepted this; he smiled and licked his lips. “How are you not married?”
Hawkeye laughed, and they emerged into the compound together, leaning heavily on
each other in the intense sunlight.
They were still arm-in-arm as they passed Klinger in a floral print sundress,
Henry Blake with golf clubs over his shoulder, and Father Mulcahy, who was
holding onto his crucifix with his left hand and gesturing at the sky with his
right. They smiled and nodded at friends and acquaintances, and yet they were
still holding each other when they reached the doorway to the Swamp.
Hawkeye entered first and saw something he hadn’t expected. On the floor by his
cot were a bucket, a large boiling tube, and what looked like a bell jar, albeit
somewhat chipped and battered on closer inspection. Perched on the jar was a
requisition form. Hawkeye picked it up to see it was blank. Turning it over, he
read, “Hope you like. Radar.”
Trapper deposited the glue and tubing on the pile of apparatus, and Hawkeye
added his own crumpled list to the assorted items.
“Is this everything?” Trapper asked.
Hawkeye counted up and snapped his fingers. “And so it begins...”
It was Frank’s elder brother who first noticed his sibling’s remarkable
resemblance to a member of the family Rodentiae. Coincidentally, it was also
Frank’s elder brother who introduced him to his future wife. One might say his
brother had been responsible for both his defining characteristics.
But things were changing, and he enjoyed the thought as he made his way back to
the Swamp. Just tonight, he’d had a very interesting encounter with the head
nurse. He had known who she was, of course... rather, he’d known who her father
was... but what did it matter, when the lady herself had been so charming. He’d
only stopped by her tent for a moment, but they’d started talking, and how the
time had flown. He was quite captivated by her. And her opinions echoed his own,
on every subject, including Pierce and McIntyre, which pleased him even more,
because of how everyone else, including their terminally indecisive commanding
officer, seemed to think quite the opposite. The opposite, that is, to what
Major Houlihan… no, what Margaret thought about them. Which was not to
say, of course, that he thought differently. That is, from her. Differently from
Margaret. They didn’t think differently. They thought the same way.
Having reached this point in his musings, Frank stopped in the compound and
hugged himself with glee. His thoughts were continuing down the meandering
After they realised they shared the same views on just about everything, they
just... connected. Clicked. Just like that. Click! He wasn’t sure if their
behaviour had been befitting to senior officers... but no. He shook his head.
There couldn’t possibly be any moral objection to such a holy union. Not with
such a woman involved. Not with such a woman as Margaret. They were
following the spirit of the rules. No, they were following the rules in spirit.
That was it.
He’d been a month in Korea now, and he’d enjoyed himself so far. He was an
officer, a major... that was only right, and part of the natural order of
things, but it was strange that others didn’t see that. Those enlisted rats,
always in the Swamp playing poker. Poker. A game for rats, indeed. And what made
it worse? Those two. Pierce and McIntyre, the other two officers, who seemed to
be friends. At least Frank thought they were. He wasn’t entirely sure about that
concept. But anyway… together, they were a disgrace to the military tradition.
Particularly Pierce, with red robe and bleeding heart, but then McIntyre was
almost as bad, and when they were together they were worse than they were on
their own together, which made sense to him. And he had to share a tent with
them, because they were officers. Neither of them had any respect, either. No
respect for him, or for the army, or for the generals, or anyone. They did seem
to respect each other, but that was it.
But what had he been thinking about? Yes, he had enjoyed himself so far. Of
course he had. He was in the service of his country, fighting the red threat!
There wasn’t a day that went by when the knowledge of where he was and what he
was doing didn’t thrill him to his very fingertips. And now it seemed things
were getting even better, what with this new development.
Margaret. Oh, Margaret. She was something else that thrilled him to his very
Frank barged into the Swamp with all the gay abandon of one returning from a
He didn’t realise what he had walked in on.
Without a second’s hesitation, Hawkeye plunged his hands into a bucket of
ice-water. “Hello, Frank,” he said pleasantly.
“Hmmm.” Frank wasn’t listening. He sat down on his cot, pulled out his Bible and
began to read. He hadn’t looked at the other two doctors and their motley
paraphernalia, not with visions of Margaret dancing through his head. Lost in a
happy dream, he allowed the gospel text to blur before his eyes.
With a splash and shiver, Hawkeye removed his hands from the water and shook
lightly, but then Frank twitched, and he thrust them back in. Wordlessly,
Trapper stared at him until they both began to smile. With a glance at Frank,
now humming The Star-Spangled Banner to himself, Trapper let his hands slip into
the water. The numbness heightened the sensation as their hands touched.
Invisible sparks ran through the clear liquid and Hawkeye knew he couldn’t
Trapper let his hands leave Hawkeye’s grip and pulled them out of the bucket.
The electric light shone through the water that clung to them, creating gleaming
highlights that captured Hawkeye’s attention for one fateful moment, then cold
fingers were lightly applied to his temples. Icy water dripped down, and Trapper
shot him a mischievous glance.
Hawkeye bit down on his tongue to stay silent. The moment lasted until they were
both shivering, from cold and from... something.
Suddenly, Hawkeye splashed Trapper lightly, and then they both stared at Frank
for a while.
Frank took a while to notice. “What?”
“Nothing,” they chorused.
Frank looked at them suspiciously, and noticed several things for the first
time. “What’s the water for?”
“The condenser,” Hawkeye explained faintly.
A minute passed. Hawkeye let his errant thoughts be for a moment; what he was
doing now required concentration.
“What are you doing?” Frank asked, seemingly curious and nothing more.
“Making a still,” Trapper said, and suddenly wanting to be informative, added,
“The water’s got to be cold otherwise the alcohol won’t condense, it’ll just
“Oh,” said Frank.
Hawkeye finished inserting the tubing into the top of the funnel, and moved his
attention to the base of it. He hit it sharply with one hand and it didn’t
budge, thus convincing him they could dispense with the tripod. It might prove
useful later if this was a portable contraption. After all, it was a mobile
“A still?” Frank stared at them in utter distaste. “Why, you...”
The penny dropped. As Frank began ranting – immoral, disgraceful, unmilitary,
unred, unwhite and unblue – Hawkeye’s eyes met Trapper’s.
The other penny? Never dropped.
Time passed. Radar wrote to his Ma. Hawkeye lay in the compound until Klinger
complained. Frank started disappearing every Tuesday night. Klinger recovered
from the Section Eight hijack, and ordered his first black lacy bra. Strange
glass things were acquired and slotted together. Radar’s Ma wrote back. Margaret
began whistling on Wednesdays. The Saltpetre Conspiracy held momentum, and Henry
decided to take up golf to augment his drinking.
...on a sunny morning...
On a sunny morning, the inevitable happened.
Radar entered the office warily. Characteristically, he already knew why he had
“Radar,” said Henry Blake dangerously, “this bottle’s empty.”
Radar nodded. “Yes sir.”
The colonel sighed and put the bottle on the table. A quick search through his
cabinet revealed a twin of the first bottle, identical in its emptiness. A more
thorough search merely confirmed what they already knew. There was no more.
Radar took a step back to let his commanding officer pass, then followed at a
It was time to visit the Swamp.
Hawkeye opened the door for him as if he’d been expected, which of course he
had, as the last bottle was always an event in this camp. “Morning, Henry,”
Hawkeye murmured in reverent tones.
“A dry run, as it were,” said Hawkeye, still in those hushed tones, and took a
step back to reveal Trapper and the last tube of glue. He was carefully filling
in the cracks between the component parts, and had just about finished when
Henry went for a closer look. It looked like any other still he had ever seen.
“Where’d you get this stuff?” he asked, motioning vaguely towards it in general.
“The coil’s from an ammo truck, the funnel’s from the generator shed… it’s all
stuff we found lying around,” Hawkeye explained.
“Hmmm,” said Henry suspciously. Yes, it was like any other still he’d ever seen.
The only difference with this one was the fact it was in an army tent, being
ministered to by an army doctor. With a rush of feeling, Henry decided
triumphantly he didn’t care. Alcohol was alcohol, wherever it came from, and if
anyone asked any questions, there was always the we-need-antiseptic route. He
looked surprised when Hawkeye reached for the pitcher and three glasses.
“Where’d you get those?”
Hawkeye placed a finger over his lips. “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Trapper swung round and accepted his glass. “What did you say?” he asked
Hawkeye, but his friend didn’t answer. With a triumphant air, Hawkeye was
pouring clear liquid into the three glasses and tossing in inexplicable olives
he had apparently produced from the air. He laid down the pitcher and then
“Something on your mind?” Trapper asked.
“A toast,” Hawkeye said slowly. “Ah, I know. To the US customs and excise!”
“Customs and excise,” they echoed, and drank.
There was a pause, then Colonel Blake laid down his glass. “Congratulations,
boys,” he said. “It’s vile.”
Hawkeye licked his lips. “I’m forced to agree.”
“We’ll get used to it,” said Trapper wisely, and took another sip. Already, it
didn’t taste as bad.
Hawkeye had opened his mouth to say something when a small figure propelled
itself through the door. Wide eyes looked directly at him, spoke directly to
him... (why him?)
...loss of innocence...
After seven hours in surgery, it tasted even better. It washed the taste of
blood out of Hawkeye’s mouth and burned away at his memories. There was silence
in the Swamp. Even Frank seemed affected by the midnight hush, as he wasn’t
grizzling tonight. He seemed to be writing a letter to his wife, pausing every
few minutes as if he simply had nothing to say.
For Hawkeye, the day’s events seemed faint and far removed. If he thought back,
he knew there had been sunshine. Then, there had been blood. And now there was
clear yellow light, and the glow of liquid in a glass held in fingers that
barely had the strength to hold it, and nothing mattered very much any more.
Trapper watched him from afar. “Hawkeye,” he said quietly, and Hawkeye’s eyes
flickered and rested on Trapper’s face.
“You’re a beautiful drunk, Hawk.”
“You too,” replied Hawkeye, knowing all at once that any words had lost their
power tonight. He could see it too, the beauty that clung to the scene. The soft
light, the silence, the peace, after the hours of blood and suffering. The
suffering was quieter here, and he could feel it in himself, the beauty of being
It was like a buffer. That was it. It was something that could protect his heart
and soul from the ongoing attack.
The alcohol. And something else.
Alcohol wasn’t good. A doctor knew that if no-one else did. But it was the
lesser evil. From a choice of alcohol or war, he picked alcohol, and knew it was
the right thing to do.
But the something else, the other buffer... whatever it was… what was that?
It came to him slowly, like he was trying to remember a dream.
It was a moment in the supply tent. It was a kiss dropped on him when he wasn’t
expecting it. It was a brief touch, a hand resting on his shoulder when he was
up to his elbows in blood.
Suddenly he knew it didn’t matter about the saltpetre. There was that, and there
was love, and he’d always known they were different.
He had a secret. A delicious, dangerous secret.
War threw the world into shades of grey, no black, no white, no good, no evil.
But Hawkeye knew, suddenly, that whatever-it-was had to be good. It had to be.
If it wasn’t, it was up to him to change it, because if it wasn’t, he couldn’t
be a hawk-shadow, slip outside in early morning silence and disappear. He had to
stay and see it through to the end, be it bitter or sweet or something in
He had to stay. He was here for good. Maybe not for good, maybe for evil, and
maybe he’d get out in the end, but to all intents and purposes...
They shared a tent. It was olive-drab, infested with rats, damp and faintly
pungent, and it was called the Swamp for a reason, but he’d got used to it.
There were other things in it that made it a home, no matter how temporary, or
perhaps permanent, it would be.
Hell, he had a lover, a still, a bête-noir, and all in one tent in Korea.
That had to count for something. It wasn’t good, exactly. It was still a South
Korean war zone, and Hawkeye had still been born in Crabapple Cove, Maine, on a
very quiet night with a little blood but no gunfire at all. So it wasn’t good,
exactly... but it was something.
Something to try and hang on to in the midst of madness.
The lights went out. Outside in the compound, the sudden darkness caught a
sentry’s attention. He turned, saw everything was as it should be, and hitched
up his dress.
The still dripped.
Things began to happen.
Hawkeye sat up violently in the thick darkness, flailing forwards with hands
that reached out for nothingness. He could feel himself shaking in the dark.
Flinging one arm behind his head, his fingers brushed Trapper’s curls.
He remembered; Trapper did too. Quietly, he left, making for his own side of the
Swamp. They could hear Frank’s stertorous breathing as the only definite sound
in the tent.
With shaking hands, Hawkeye reached out after his lover, and his fingers
collided with a long-stemmed glass, and he tried to catch it, but with the
darkness and the shaking, the cool shape slipped through his fingers and landed
on the ground. The chime of the smashing glass hung in the air, and in the same
moment, Hawkeye whispered, “This was a mistake.”
The still dripped.
And then Hawkeye fell asleep. And no-one ever asked him what he meant that
night, because no-one ever heard.
The slight noise made Klinger twitch. But he saw nothing, and the Swamp lurked
in the darkness the same as always, so he put it out of his mind.
Radar’s Ma knew exactly what the something was, but she knew she couldn’t write
and tell him, he’d figure it out for himself, he was a good kid. And so he did;
but that’s another story.
Frank and Margaret decided to be as discreet as possible. Shortly afterward, the
entire camp knew about it. Hawkeye might have had something to do with it; it’s
hard to be sure.
[Frank also had a secret he kept from Margaret, and that also involved Hawkeye
in some way, but you don’t want to know about it]
Hawkeye and Trapper... they kept their secret, they kept their sanity, they kept
drinking... but another story, again.
Drip, drip, drip.
This was only the beginning; but it’s all about the chemistry.