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PG, slash, Hawkeye/Trapper. How Hawkeye and Trapper met, and what happened after that.
On a green Friday, under shining blue skies in Dartmouth, New Hampshire, a slight young student is hit by a few hundred pounds of football player coming in the other direction. All eyes are on them as they collide. One is the star player, ready to take on the world with a leather ball in his hands, while the other is a new fish, sharp cookie but yet to prove himself, and for a brief moment they have become one entity, rolling over each other on the sweet green turf, coming to rest lying side-by-side, dazed and breathless.
Time has frozen; they are lying there looking into each other’s eyes for what seems like forever but is only a few seconds. The cold air is crystal-clear, and the moment is brittle, shattering into a thousand pieces as the dark-haired one leaps lightly to his feet and is gone in a single fleeting movement.
It is 1945. World peace has just been declared.
They will remember each other when they meet again.
Years pass and things go so very, very wrong. Brown envelopes with square corners have landed on doormats. In Crabapple Cove, Maine, a young doctor picks up his brown envelope and suddenly remembers his name hasn’t always been “Hawkeye” – once upon a time, it was something different, something longer, more formal – and this is the most formal letter Benjamin Franklin Pierce will ever receive, save some he will get after the war is over – “Dear Hawkeye,” and the rest remains unsaid.
But all that comes later, when Hawkeye will wake to cold clinical mornings hidden in Nembutal fog, alone, naked under white sheets. That is then and here is now, and papers are signed, goodbyes are carefully exchanged, and the world falls away beneath him as a plane rises into the clear blue sky.
On the journey, the wind blows against him, red blood spills into foreign dust, one false step could lead to death and is there a doctor in the house?
A moment. Two cots, at roughly forty-five degrees to each other. Everything is rough and sharp-edged, even the attitudes of the two doctors, who are both sitting up straight, carefully facing half towards each other, half away.
One is the only man ever to get a piece on the Boston-to-New-York, the other is the only child of a man who read only one book.
In a sudden burst of audacity, one asks the other, “Who are you?
An instant reply. “Eleanor Roosevelt.”
A pause and a rush of laughter, a chord of mirth in the midst of this chaos, and suddenly they remember.
And so, after the first two weeks of setting up camp, of arranging who does what and with whom, while contending with constant arrivals of wounded who have just realised the new military strategy is putting field hospitals three miles from the front, one of the surgeons decides he needs a heating coil.
“Why’d you need a heating coil?” Trapper asks.
Hawkeye is enigmatic. “Where I come from, it’s real if you make it yourself.”
Trapper watches for a while. Hawkeye’s no engineer, but he’s wise and knows they will need the indispensable liquid before too long; it’s the only love they’ll find here.
Frank Burns already knows his tentmates are liberal libertines – he soon finds out they’re moonshine drinkers, too. While he reads the synoptic gospels to himself, Hawkeye instructs Trapper in the art of making your own alcohol. Trapper’s a quick learner. He provides a jar of green olives and a friendship is forged.
And friendship lasts through hell, and hell is all they know.
There’s a clock on the wall of the OR. It doesn’t have a second hand, so time passes in barely perceptible units. Hours and minutes and seconds have ceased to exist; time only manifests itself in the drip of an IV, the final beats of a shattered human heart, the last rays of daylight falling through the window on the face of a sleeping doctor, still with a dead man’s hand gripped tightly in both of his own.
Twenty-seven years old, Hawk and Trapper, but they’re growing older. Sometimes, they go into the OR, and emerge twelve, sixteen, twenty-four hours older. Every time a suture comes loose and sudden blood spurts into their eyes, their eyelashes quickly gumming together, they grow older; every time a wounded soldier cries out for his girl and is ruthlessly silenced by a gas-passer, they grow older; every time they taste salt on their lips from tears they don’t remember, they grow older.
And then the tears stop, and their vision clears, and they know they’ll never be young again.
It’s so easy to forget, is this day or night, friend or enemy, my blood or yours, Us or Them, who did what to whom, who cares.
All of them, Hawk, Trapper, Henry Blake, Frank Burns, they’re out here to do a job. Shoot no wonder. A job. Who would have thought?
Yes, they are doctors. Surgeons. They all spent years learning how to do this, and now all that stuff they learnt stays between their ears ‘cause if they forget, some guy might die. That’s die, as in dead.
So they all remember the pretty diagrams they used to draw and the shiny books they used to read and the blurry lines of text they used to stay up until the small hours of the morning memorising. Words they used to be able to recite in cold, darkened examination halls come to life.
…blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta and henceforth to the dorsal and carotid artery is vital to the continuance of life, such that injuries sustained to the area are invariably fatal due to the cessation of oxygenated blood flow to the central nervous system…
In other words, shoot a guy in the heart and he’ll die in your arms, you son-of-a-bitch.
One night there’s a sustained offensive up some hill or other, and the coffee, although nice and significantly lacking in saltpetre, just doesn’t cut it in the epic battle of adrenaline versus exhaustion.
No-one is particularly surprised when Hawkeye falls asleep, right there on a gurney, looking for all the world like one of the wounded himself, what with all the blood staining through to his skin. It’s too hot for surgical scrubs, there isn’t enough water to keep them clean, so he resembles some strange hybrid of enemy and saviour, the army-green-and-khaki only roughly masked by a clinical apron that once long ago was disinfected and sterilised and is now candy-cane colours, white and red.
With all the grace of a concerned friend, Trapper calls for an orderly who doesn’t come, and finally he lifts Hawkeye himself, expecting him to wake at this gross amputation of his dignity, but Hawkeye settles into a lighter sleep and drifts, and his friend has to call on all the loyal stamina a young college football player used to have.
They stumble out into the warm light of morning, breathing in time with each other, afraid to look up at the sky for fear it will come falling down on top of them, and Trapper’s ears barely respond to the PA announcement that all surgical staff can stand down. His arms and his senses are filled with Hawkeye, whose constant weight has for a short time become the centre of his world. The scent of alcohol clings to the sleeping one, and not in a good way. They ran out of latex gloves, earlier today, and as always they scrounged, improvised, bribed, shouted and slammed down receivers, and ultimately did what they could with what they had. In twelve hours of meatball surgery, a scalpel doesn’t always land on target, and Trapper hated to see Hawkeye flinch as a nurse poured medical ethanol liberally on his bare hands. Like the pain, the smell lingers.
The soft light of dawn falls into Hawkeye’s eyes and he stirs, murmuring audibly and shifting position, forcing Trapper to stop, adjust his rolling gait, gather his burden closer to himself. He stands still waiting for Hawkeye to settle into sleep again, because he’s afraid he can’t do this for much longer, not here, not now, not with these thoughts running through his head, and for a brief moment it’s not clear who’s carrying who.
The restlessness stops as abruptly as it began. Trapper feels Hawkeye is quiet again, dead weight once more, and he’s moving again, swiftly towards the Swamp, swiftly while there’s no-one out here to see.
Hawkeye awakes in Trapper’s arms. He feels a gentle rocking and knows he is being carried, he sees soft light playing over strawberry-blonde curls, smells the delicate scent of alcohol and blood and hidden emotion, and knows who it is that is holding him.
On the threshold, Trapper looks down, is startled to see blue eyes staring back, and staggers. They come raggedly apart, Hawkeye landing barely on his feet and immediately tumbling towards the hard army issue cot. He falls, but he’s awake and Trapper knows it. He follows, sits beside him, falls beside him, and all the while this is wrong this is wrong this is wrong, but so is war and why are they here again?
One finger, then two, drawn gently across the skin, then more, there’s more to come, and Trapper knows what he’s doing, they might’ve done this before.
Two sleepy words from Hawkeye, “It hurts,” and how can it, when it’s such a gentle touch, but it does, it hurts in a way war and death and blood and suffering and alcohol poured into open wounds can’t. The touch grows deeper, and somehow, there’s nothing to hold them back except exhaustion. They’re tired, but so tired of the war, the shrapnel, the blood, that if sinking into each other will numb whatever it is that hurts, which it won’t, they will try it, which they shouldn’t, but they will.
There’s no-one here, no-one here who can see what’s suddenly there to be seen, and only they can feel, taste salt, smell the blood that stained straight through to skin.
Red on white, blood on skin.
They wake briefly in the light of day, and Trapper’s eyes fall on the pictures of his girls as Hawkeye leaves, moving with easy feline grace to another cot, where he tries to fall asleep and tries to forget this night and fails.
By evening, they still remember, but avoid the dangerous thoughts, and there are unspoken words between them, because of that single, exhausted confession – “It hurts…” – that meant they couldn’t write this off as a casual flirtation, the way they always have before, because in those words was the final admission, the final expression of a meaning words were not intended to express, and where do we go from here?
The blood washes out, the scent fades away, the liquid love pours forth from the jerry-built still, and all’s well on the 38th parallel.
The wounded don’t stop coming, but ninety-seven point eight percent of them are given up for saved and as for the rest, death is a part of life.
They’re still the best cutters in Korea, and they’re still the best of friends. Just because they’ve known each other…
They’ve known each other since a New England day long ago, they’ve *known* each other since a scented warm night they never speak of. Sometimes, in the middle of yet another deluge, they look up from shattered bodies to glance at each other, comrades in arms, and brown eyes meet blue (blue, like a river in Egypt). Fearless, they’re both fearless, because they’ve seen everything there is to be seen.
Hidden glances, brushing of light fingers on green fabric, perilous thoughts by night, they stay close together, almost touching but not quite.
It’s because of a shimmering promise, never to let it hurt them again, never said out loud but set in stone.
Stone is brittle; it breaks.
The truth has no words, for none are ever spoken.
In the dark of the night, no footsteps are heard. No-one must know. They can’t even hear each other breathing. Moonlight is wrapped in silence and the silence must remain unbroken. Don’t say a word.
Words are not needed any more.
They hide in the Swamp some nights, hide in the supply tent other nights, but can’t forget El Huron waiting in the shadows. So they walk out together, escape into the warmth of the night, and find somewhere where a cross-dressing sentry won’t see.
Under the greenwood tree, the ground is hard but the warm, heady air softens all sound. Sneaking out, so much fun, imagine what they would say if they knew what we were doing out here?
But they never will know, no-one will ever know, because they’re so quiet, so careful not to make a sound and not to hurt each other. Hawkeye was the sleeping one, the one who was carried softly home, the one who will leave for Tokyo in a couple of days and return to find all that is left are a kiss and some memories.
Not a game any more. Not that it ever was, this was all best left unsaid, unspoken, unthought of, and though they’re so careful tonight, the future’s a treacherous thing. There will be other warm fragrant nights; life goes on, but not like this one. Ten minutes between unspoken goodbyes, they will always hurt, that was a broken promise, the war had hurt them enough, they weren’t going to hurt each other.
But that is then and here is now.
Here is now.
Moonlight falls on them both, quicksilver light, and it’s the same moon that shines on Crabapple Cove and Boston, Mass. They roll over each other, appreciating each other’s weight, clinging on to each other as if they already know what will be, and remember how quiet it is, how this drama is playing out in a summer silence, and silenced screams are louder than the real thing.
What is the real thing, and why is it so quiet?
Why are they afraid to hurt each other?
It’s been a long dirt road that led them here, and love is no crime…
And the earth cracks, and the sky cracks, and envelopes land on door mats, and now it’s too far gone, don’t dare look…
Too late. A tree resembles a pillar of salt in quicksilver moonlight, and the moment Hawk and Trapper rolled over on the pitch, it was too late.
Close your eyes, this is your lullaby.
Blood washes out, scent fades, it’s too late, it’s too late, you love and you lose, it’s too late, a plane spins into the sea, there’s a new doctor with a strange name, that’s all still to come, it’s too late, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, can you feel how much this hurts?
The hands of the clock point to eleven eleven. Hawkeye is sleeping peacefully, faint scent is carried through on a summer breeze, and his soft breathing mingles with that of another.
Everything changes, everything stays the same. The sun still rises in the east, light falls into eyes that are the same shade of blue. But they look out on new people and new sights.
New people, same wounds. History has a tendency to repeat itself… repeat itself… repeat itself… repeat itself…
Night falls, seven times, and Hawkeye is sleeping with ghosts.
On an olive-drab Friday, it starts again.
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