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Homecoming
after the war is over
by Raven

PG-13, gen. Hawkeye comes home, through the eyes of Daniel Pierce.

This story won second place for best post-war story.
 


One look at my Hawk, and I knew heíd have a hard life.

Even before everything that happened, I knew it.

 A small town, this is. Itís small and itíll always be that way, surrounded on so many sides by ocean. Itís not an island, but it could be. There arenít many people, and they all know each other, and they always have and they always will, unto the final generation. The people are a part of their town, and the town is a part of the land, a part of the sea, and my Hawk is part of all three and something different besides.

Heís different. He calls himself a doctor; and he is, heís a good one. Better than good. He calls himself a small-town doctor; and thatís where heís wrong.

Iím the physician round here. I know the people and they know me. Iím as much a part of the town as the stonework and mortar, and Iím as predictable as it too; steady, reliable, unchanging, everything you want in your family doctor. I only ever did one remotely unusual thing in my life, and that was to call my only child after a character in a book no-oneíd ever heard of. Itís a classic, but try telling that to a town of lobster-fanciers. Theyíre good people, but English literature isnít their strong suit. 

Thatís ďcall,Ē not ďnameĒ Ė heís got a proper real name. Whatever that means. In my mind his name is whatever he answers to; but the US government wanted his ďreal nameĒ when they drafted him, and who am I to quibble?

Itís a good name. Benjamin Franklin, hero in his own time, and not allowed to work on the Declaration of Independence for fear heíd put a joke in it. I canít hear that story and not think ofÖ

Hawk.

Hawk-eye, white hunter, last ally of the last of the Mohican tribe, through to the tragic, bitter end. I fear that story now. I donít have my copy any more; I gave it to Hawkeye. Itís his story, now.

Iím sorry, Hawk, but your story isnít the story of a small-town doctor.

Not you, with that strangeness about you that has always been there, lurking at the corner of my eyes when I look at you.

 

 Itís not the charm that Iím thinking of, though there is that. Oh, Hawkeyeís got that kind of charm, the kind politicians and bureaucrats dream of possessing, but them thatís got it donít abuse it that way. My son is Tuesdayís child, full of grace, eloquent as hell, can sweet-talk his way out of anything in this world or the other. Everything he touches turns to silver. I like that; sometimes his charm even works on me, and I always thank the powers that be that my Hawk will never be lost for words. But itís not that.

Itís not that. Itís something else. Something that comes through most clearly when heís overtired, and I know when heís really exhausted, so far gone he can barely stand, he loses whatever it is that keeps his thoughts inside his head. The way he talks, sometimes, of cabbages and kings, makes me wonder whether itís him whoís speaking at all, or something deep inside him, something from somewhere else. Itís so hard to explain, to describe, but whatever-it-is, it clings to him. Itís a touch of the netherworld, where his mother has gone, where the men whose blood covered his hands went to, somewhere far beyond this mortal coil, and Hawkeye carries it with him as careless as if it were an old glove. Itís that strangeness that makes his eyes blue.

 

Heís lucky. Strange, and silver-tongued, and so talented, and I knew from the start he wasnít meant to live, grow old and die in Crabapple Cove. I knew he would be drafted long before he did, long before the US government did. I knew his hands would be covered in the blood of soldiers, not children recently fallen from old apple trees and rushed to the family doctor.

I was even afraid he wasnít meant to live at all. Not when heís come so close to the otherworld, heís not a part of this one any more.

Heís so close to me, heís my son; and heís so far away, buried in his own mind, so different from how he used to be.  

Especially now. I knew when he shouted his goodbyes, laughing and swinging into a rising aeroplane, that Iíd never see him again. Iíd see the man he was to become, but not the child he was.

And I was right. When he came back he was different. Changed. In the dark of the evening, the strangeness seems to take over his personality. And heís such a part of me that it begins to overpower me, too, and thatís when I start to feel frightened.

I havenít done any psychiatry since med school. But even I know sometimes the only thing that can be done is to get the patient to talk.  Doesnít matter what about. Get him to tell you what he had for breakfast this morning. Get him to explain how to mix a Martini in three easy steps. Thatís the recurring theme. Easy steps. Everything happens gradually. Itís easy enough when you read it in the book.

Itís even easy enough with a patient, if you follow the simple guidelines. Treat each one as an individual, try and get to know them while staying detached, slowly guide them until they can finally bring the horror through to the conscious mind and deal with it on its own terms. 

But I tell you when itís not easy. Itís when you reach the words ďwhile staying detachedĒ and feel like laughing and crying at the same time, because the ďpatientĒ is your own son, and the horror that lurks within him lurks within you, too, and thereís nothing you can do is wait for the storm to be over.

And itís even harder when the storm refuses to begin.

 

Itís not hard to get Hawkeye to talk. It never has been, for as long as I can remember. Thereís a lot going on behind those big blue eyes, and more often than not, heíll cheerfully let his thoughts spout forth like a torrent, confusing his listeners half to death. The same thing happens when you put a pen in his hand. I kept all the letters he sent me when he was over there, because they were just soÖ Hawkeye. Ironically funny, often bittersweet, sometimes depressing, always honest, and his words are so much of a part of him that if I threw them away Iíd be throwing him away.

And he lights up when he talks, he really does. I knew Trapper John; he and Hawk were friends in college, but itís not just him who comes to life when Hawkeye talks. They all do. I feel I understand why Klinger wore dresses, why Colonel Henry Blake ďcouldnít make a decision with a monthís notice,Ē why Colonel Potter kept a mare, why BJ wrote letters to his dog, why Radar knew about things before they happened, and why Hawkeye loves to talk about them.

He loved them.

Loved. In Hawkeyeís mind, everything is past tense. Crabapple Cove is a place where time stands still.

 

Making him talk is easy. But heís a carefully objective observer, my Hawk; trying to make him comment on his own feelings is proving difficult. They tell me he came very close to the edge near the end, and looking at him now I can believe it. He watches me watching him, daring me to come out with whatever Iím thinking, and little does he know that Iím thinking how much I love him.

 

I sometimes wonder what Iím doing, keeping Hawk here. Sometimes I wonder if he needs the kind of help I canít give him. Help from someone who isnít digging out decades-old psych notes from a beat-up old box. But then I see him, barefoot in his raggedy old red robe, walking over the wet grass and smiling to himself, and I know the soft air of his home is doing more for him than anything else can, even me. Theyíll never take him away from here again. Not if the President of the United States himself came down and asked him. Hawkeye is a part of this place, so much a part of it you might as well try to draft the sea breeze.

 

But then I wishÖ

I do wish. I hate myself for wishing it, but I do. I wish Hawkeye would justÖ crack.

Thatís a terrible thing for anyone, especially a parent, to say. But I try to be honest. Like Hawkeye does.

I wish it because then maybe my son would come back to me. Heís so much better than he was. He was burnt-out and exhausted when at last he came home; he slept for a day and a night, and when morning came, he hardly spoke for hours, eyes wide, drinking it all in. He might have been destined for higher things, he might have been a part of a greater cause thousands of miles off, but this is his home. I thought maybe, maybe, Crabapple Cove will bring him back.

But heís still not back, not my son, because he drifts off sometimes and I canít follow him. And I canít help but feel that as long as he stays like this, wide-eyed and vacant, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with tears in his eyes he thinks I canít see, the pressure will keep on building up, crack. And only then can I feel Iím being as supportive, as compassionate as Iíd like to be if only he would let me.

Heís so used to making it on his own, he thinks thereís no other way.

Catharsis. Beautiful word. But Hawkeyeís a tough nut to crack.

 

Itís strange that Hawkeyeís anger has always been turned in on himself. Anger turned inwards is depression. In some ways itís a blessing, as I know his temper. He flares up and down, quickly, painlessly. But when heís really angry, honestly furious, in a long-term sort of way, it turns inwards quicker than quick. Iíve seen it happen so many times, and I worry. Hawkeye is too passionate to live long with his soul intact. Those who suffer from apathy also suffer from a good nightís sleep each and every night. I canít remember the last time I didnít check up on Hawkeye of a night, just in case.

In case of what, I donít know. Just in case.

 

Sometimes Hawkeye murmurs names in his sleep.

I canít be blamed for wondering. As well as three years of his life, what else did Hawk leave behind him in Korea?

Heís not one for the pursuit of true love. I think Carlye was too much for him at the time. She didnít treat him too well, and he didnít treat her too well, and it all ended in metaphorical tears, when she left him and he was moody and drank a lot.

He mentioned in a letter heíd run into her again out there. He glossed over it, but knowing him, something happened that he isnít telling me. But if he doesnít want to tell me, I wonít ask, itís none of my business.

But she might not be all, and Iím aware of that fact. Thereís other people, other affairs, love and more base considerations, and hell knows Hawk isnít choosy. Well, he is, but in certain matters, heís not. I worried about that tendency of his, in the military, but heís got a brain in his head. Donít ask, donít tell, and I wonít, on both counts. But I knew Trapper John, you see. I canít help but wonder.

 

In recent days, Hawkeye seems calmer. Every night for a week, Iíve checked up on him and heís been sleeping soundly, and somehow my own sleep has been the sounder for it. During the day, he drifts less and smiles more, and is helping me with my practice. I know better than to ask him to do anything; he does everything thatís needed. He treats patients, the milder cases, the children mostly because they prefer him to me, makes out prescriptions, runs into the dispensary when we need something then and there, and when the ever-present fatigue threatens behind his eyes, I make him stop. No working to the point of exhaustion, not here. But itís a conditioned response and Iím having to break him of it.  

In the calm of the evening, when weíre done for the day, he tells me heís tired and slips away. Iím pleased; itís something he used to do, before. Heís lying to me, and he knows I know he knows I know, because thatís not the point. I donít expect his steady tread on the floorboards above my head; I know where heís gone. I can hear the front gate click. His footfalls are silent on the wet grass, but I fancy I can hear them recede. I donít know where it is he goes, and I donít need to know; all I need is to be here when he gets back. I know he likes the night; maybe he feels he can hide in it, or maybe thatís just my inner psychiatrist talking. Hawkeye was born at night, under a starry sky, and I feel the starlight that shone on him then shines on him now, drawing him out in the dark of the night. Thereís strange powers at work under cover of darkness Ė the darkness of the night, the darkness of shadows, the darkness of despair, the darkness that lurks in menís souls. Itís that darkness that makes them go to war.

Thereís darkness inside Hawkeye, and no probing scalpel would ever touch it, but itís there nonetheless.

There isnít always a scientific way to explain things, especially not here in Crabapple Cove. The odd thing is that Hawkeye, card-carrying sceptic as he is, wouldnít believe me if I told him so. Heís a living, breathing example of things not always being what they seem, and he doesnít see it himself.

Ah, well, thatís my Hawk. A mess of contradictions.

 

Time is slow tonight. I sit, and I wait, and I think, and all the time the clockís ticking gets slower and slower until I feel Iím hearing it from somewhere far away. I hear him come back as if in a dream; Iíve begun to realise I need sleep, too. I wait for the gentle footsteps to fade away. Heís gone to bed, I know, and slowly I get to my own feet and follow him up the wooden stairs. I check the front door is locked, I kick closed the door to the dispensary, which someone has left open, and I try not to let the floorboards creak too much under my tired feet. The air is warm and scented, as the windows have been left open. I know Iíll sleep well. At least, I will if Hawkeye does.

I open his door and look in on him, and know something I didnít know before.

Hawkeye lies sprawled under a blanket. His bare feet are poking out from under its frayed edges. Heís always slept like this, even when he was a child.

His hair is a sharp dark contrast to the white of the sheet under his head, and itís longer than it was, covering his eyes. I brush it away, feel his breathing on my hand, and his eyes flicker for a moment, giving me a glimpse of blue. After a moment his eyes open properly. Pupils dilated, unfocused, he isnít looking at me or through me, but beyond me, to something more than this, something only my son can see. The room is quiet. A night breeze drifts in through the window; I can hear the swish of wings as a dove falls into free flight, a white shape that passes the glass and is gone.

Hawkeye murmurs in his sleep, turning slightly away from me, eyes closing for the last time.

I reach for his outstretched hand, and force him to uncurl his fingers. The last of the pills spill out into my hand.

 One look at my Hawk, and I knew.

 

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