by Della Mills
|I remember tears of joy and laughter
The first time I set eyes on you
I remember my heart thump with pride thereafter
And the flash of the first photo we took
That photo, now faded, inside my breast pocket,
|By Della Mills|
BJ Hunnicutt, once surgeon of the 4077th M*A*S*H unit in a God-forsaken place, during wartime, called Korea, silently watched as the helicopter, carrying the best friend he'd known and would ever know, lift off the ground and bank away from him.
He felt the air gush about him, instantly drying the tears on his face. He briefly glanced forward at the stones neatly laid in the only message he could give his friend. 'Goodbye'. He'd never understood why Hawkeye had been so caught up to hear the words. He'd watched with confusion and had felt his heart constrict with concern each time when someone had left and he'd heard the words muttered from his friend's mouth; often muttered with a hint of obsession. But, just because he could not understand why, it did not mean that his friend did not deserve to get from him what he wanted. He had wanted to say it, and he nearly had, but he didn't really believe in goodbyes, the finality of them, and 'see ya later' in this case, was too soon.
He looked up again, watching the helicopter's ascent away from him. He raised one arm to shield his eyes against the glare of the sun and the other to wave. Once the helicopter was out of sight, he turned and started off towards his own carriage that awaited him. A beat-up yellow motorcycle. He supposed he should have accepted the helicopter ride with Hawkeye, it would have delayed their parting a little longer, but he needed time alone, and the freedom a motorcycle ride gave you was second to none.
He sat upon the seat of his motorcycle and took one last long look around the now empty site of the finest, he thought, M*A*S*H unit there had been. Here in this hellhole amongst the dying, the dead and the hustle bustle of trying to save those that they could, friendships had been forged in blood, indelible and strong, but the people he'd become friends with were now gone. So, despite the strong bonds of friendships that he had made, it was time to go home... and no bomb, grenade, nor sniper had separated them as much as this leaving had.
He swallowed hard at the thought, kick-started his motorcycle into action and pulled away.
Benjamin 'Hawkeye' Pierce sat back against the seat in his helicopter and bit down hard on his lip. Of all the friendships that he had made during his time at 4077th, no stronger had been than the one that he'd gotten from BJ Hunnicutt. Hawkeye knew that his friend never liked saying goodbye, in contrast to him having to hear it, so when he'd seen his friend's 'Goodbye' written in stone, he'd been unable to stop the sudden sting of tears or the empty feeling of loneliness that had engulfed him. He'd nearly been unable to say goodbye to his friend, such was the power of their friendship, but he'd managed it, albeit wobbly and filled with emotion. It had never before been as hard to say and he knew why.
Even though Trapper had been his co-conspirator in the pranks, his advocate, it had been a sort of distant prank play. No strings attached. The true depth of their friendship hadn't really gotten past the prank playing that they both had thoroughly enjoyed. He hadn't had the chance to say his 'Goodbye' to Trapper, but even the pain of that had not come close to the pain he was feeling now. He now understood why it had been an easier friendship with Trapper, because Trapper had been the same as him.
BJ Hunnicutt, very different to Trapper, had turned up and had soon replaced what Hawkeye had thought had been an irreplaceable friendship, with one that contained all the fun loving he'd had with Trapper, but also a friendship that had a depth and honesty to it. Yeah, with BJ there still had been the pranks and laughter. Oh God the laughter, but there had been a depth to their friendship with the tears, the angst, his family. A family that he had missed on a daily, hourly basis. Hawkeye knew that this man called BJ Hunnicutt had shown him that there really was no shame in having nor expressing any deep-rooted emotions.
Hawkeye took one last look at the ground, so far away now, and wished his friend a safe journey back to civilisation. On that thought he felt a tendril of fear envelope his heart. The only one taking the long route back to civilisation, alone, was his friend. The prayer for a safe journey back intensified, until he heard himself muttering it aloud.
The sound of his motorcycle spluttering and juddering when he hit one of the many potholes in the road accompanied him on his journey, along with the many thoughts of what had been, where he was now and what was to be. He raised a moment off his seat as the front wheel of his motorcycle hit another pothole, then the bike suddenly wobbled precariously underneath him. He tried to apply the brakes, but the front wheel hit another pothole. He landed heavily on the seat of the bike and bounced again, his teeth jarring painfully against the sudden movement. The wheel of his bike hit another pothole and that was it. He suddenly felt himself flying backwards and off the bike. A loud 'Bang!' accompanied his cry of surprise and then a 'Thud' as he landed unceremoniously on the ground.
He felt a streak of fire chase itself across his chest and down his arm, taking his breath from him. He turned over and lay on his back, breathing in the dusty air about him. His hand automatically went to the worst of the pain in his shoulder and was surprised to find it wet when he pulled it away. He raised his head a little to look at his shoulder and grimaced and groaned when he saw a patch of blood quickly spreading across his shirt. He felt sick to the stomach and his last drink with Hawkeye threatened to leave its resting-place in the most unceremonious of ways.
As he laid his head back on the ground, he swallowed back the bile and gulped down the pain that was threatening to overwhelm him. He really needed to get up. Someone here didn't know that the war was over. He was in danger. Another 'Bang!' and a spurt of dirt accompanied his slow rise to his feet. He ignored it, turned away from his motorcycle and started running as best he could towards the trees that surrounded him. He made it to the first of the trees when a sudden pain in his leg took it from beneath him. He cried out and fell. He did not feel the hardness of the ground, as a cool darkness that threatened hostility, but also a comfort from the pain, took all his senses from him.
Hawkeye suddenly sat upright. He felt sick to his stomach with nausea. At first he was confused as to why. He'd been dosing, reliving the laughter that he'd shared with BJ, Margaret and, on occasion, with Charles. He'd been on the verge of a chuckle, when the nausea had hit him. He wanted to throw up such was the intensity of his sickness. He pushed the urge to be sick as far down as he could and started to look about himself to try and find out why he suddenly felt this way.
Nothing had changed. The hum of the rotor blades still filled the compartment and the helicopter was still flying in a straight line; none of the fancy two-ing and fro-ing that he'd witnessed on occasion. Then something touched him, something indescribable, but enough of a something to have him suddenly shuffling forward and frantically tapping the pilot on the shoulder.
The pilot half turned to him and on seeing a frantic pointing in the opposite direction from his passenger, he slipped the headphones from his ears and indicated that he couldn't hear.
Hawkeye almost whimpered his frustration. "Take me back," he suddenly yelled.
A frown of confusion first appeared on the pilot's face and then a look of utter shock. "Are you crazy?" he yelled back at his passenger.
Hawkeye grasped the man by the shoulder and yelled again, "Either you take me back or I take us both back."
"Listen, Buddy, you're home free... What d'ya wanna go back for?"
Hawkeye felt a surge of anger engulf him in an instant, that was transposed in the rough shaking of the pilot's shoulder. "TAKE!... ME!... BACK!..." he screamed at him.
The pilot stuttered a moment, no words, just an opening and closing of his mouth, until he eventually replaced his headphones on his ears and nodded.
Hawkeye sat back again, feeling the shift of the helicopter turning beneath him. He was hoping to have felt a sense of relief that he was going back, but if his suspicions were right he knew he wouldn't be feeling that relief until he'd found his friend.
BJ painfully came to his senses, groaning and moaning the darkness from him. He was surprised first and foremost. He was alive when he thought that he shouldn't be. He then thought that perhaps he had died but, what with his thoughts on dying, he asked himself that if that was the case, then why did he still feel so much pain.
He blinked back the last blurred vestiges of unconsciousness and breathed in a dusty breath of air. He coughed once or twice, but quickly gave that up when each movement sent a shooting pain the entire length and breadth of his body. Seeing the dried, ochre coloured blades of grass not two inches from his nose, he knew that he was lying face down. He thought to lie there, in the hope that whoever had shot him would think he was dead, but he didn't fancy lying there for an eternity. He needed to get back to Peg and Erin... and that was when the harshest pain of all paralysed him. 'Peg' he thought, 'Peg'. In an instant he could see her. Their child in her arms, her smile of welcome, her love for him and he felt his own love rise for her with the image. He needed to get back to them both. He missed them, had always missed them. He couldn't afford not to go back to them. All that he'd suffered away from them he'd only suffered because he thought he'd get back to them.
He suddenly felt a surge of helplessness and desperation. He was going to die here. He was going to be one of those that never got back. Despite the pain he felt with each shudder, he started to silently weep... not for himself, but for Peg and for Erin. He'd let them down in the most unforgivable of ways.
Hawkeye started to shift backward and forward on his seat, silently urging the pilot to fly faster. He knew the futility of such a silent plea, but it still didn't stop him from wishing it.
He looked out of the window and could see the 'Goodbye' in stones still lying on the ground of the abandoned 4077th. Only now did he understand why his friend had hated to say goodbye. Only now, when Hawkeye believed that he was in trouble, did he understand the possible finality of such a word. He hoped with all his heart that this message, lying in contrast to the ground around it, had not been a portent of what was to come.
He felt the sting of tears at the thought. When the helicopter moved downward, he shuffled forward and once again tapped the pilot on the shoulder. When the pilot turned to him, he shook his head. "Not here," he yelled, "further on."
"What? What d'ya mean 'not here'?"
"He left," Hawkeye yelled in explanation, then waving his hand in a forward motion, he added, "He isn't here... You need to go on..."
The pilot sighed. Secretly he thought his passenger had lost all his marbles, if he'd had any in the first place, but then who wouldn't have with what they'd had to go through. If nothing else, he supposed this guy deserved what ever he wanted to do. So he nodded, pulled on the controls and took them a little higher and onwards.
Hawkeye briefly sighed with relief, then looked out of the window again, hoping and praying that his friend wasn't too far away. He blinked as a glare blinded him a moment, then looked to where he thought it had come from. There, lying on its side, was a beat-up yellow motorcycle. His friend's motorcycle... His heart leapt into his mouth and the confirmation of his worst thought painfully clenched his heart. He shook the pilot's shoulder and silently pointed downwards, trying very hard to keep his grief from showing.
The pilot looked out of the window and nodded when he too saw the motorcycle, then he looked about himself to find a suitable landing area. He couldn't find one, so yelled, "I can't set her down here."
However, Hawkeye would not be deterred, "Set her down as low as you can go," he yelled back, "and I'll jump."
The pilot shook his head, "I can't do that sir, " he yelled in response, "You won't be able to get back."
Hawkeye leant as close to the pilot's ear as he could and said through gritted teeth, "Look, you jockey, my friend is somewhere down there, alone and probably frightened out of his wits. Now take me down as low as you can go."
The pilot sighed but eventually relented, "Alright, sir." He looked at the fuel gage and added, "I need to go back and get some fuel. If you find your friend, take him back to the M*A*S*H unit and I'll come and get you."
Hawkeye nodded, patted the pilot's shoulder and said, "Thanks..." He then followed their descent with his eyes. It wasn't long before he heard the pilot tell him that it was as low as he could go. Hawkeye nodded and stood. He opened the side door to the helicopter and staggered against the gust of air that immediately buffeted him. He looked outside and determined that it was at least a twenty-thirty foot drop to the ground. Manageable. He grasped the pilot's shoulder one more time, gave him the 'thumbs up' sign and then jumped.