did you know when you go it's the perfect ending to the bad day i was just beginning? ***Deleting 4/15. Download to save.***
Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at

Archive Warning:
No Archive Warnings Apply
Carrie Donovan/B. J. Hunnicutt
B. J. Hunnicutt, Carrie Donovan, Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce
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Somebody had to write it. Might as well be me.
Published: 2021-01-08 Completed: 2021-01-31 Chapters: 3/3 Words: 18610

did you know when you go it's the perfect ending to the bad day i was just beginning? ***Deleting 4/15. Download to save.***

Chapter 1

Carrie Donovan knew her marriage was falling apart. 

Letter by letter, she knew by the changes in Kenny's tone, and that was why she'd let that Marine buy her drinks and flirt with her at Rosie's a few nights before, and why she'd gone a little heavy on the whiskey after her gussying-up in Seoul, because who was she even getting her hair done for, even in her own mind? She'd thought it would cheer her up, but it didn't surprise her much when it failed to work, hence the whiskey. Hence the attention, even if it was short and empty and she had no real heart for it. After the last letter she'd sent, one that had seemed to suck the pride out of her to write, waiting for the next mail day was taking up all the heart she had. Most days she felt like a walking, talking flag at half-mast, going about the business of hanging in there but not quite making it all the way up - to laughter, to peace of mind, to good sleep even. Her world back home was falling to ruin in her absence, she knew it in her gut, and it all felt so predictable, the way she blamed herself for most things in her life that went wrong whether she knew better or not. 

The one thing going well, the one thing that snapped her out of her thoughts and into capable action, the one thing that reminded her of her purpose, was work. 

Would she have still volunteered for the MASH position if she'd known the distance could do so much damage, and it would feel as desolate and horrid, and taste sourly so much like failure to the degree it did? She was growing less sure by the gut-twisting day, and drinking a snort more most nights. But she hadn't shed a tear in the OR since the stress of an inhumanely long shift her first week, and she wasn't about to start when there was hope yet. It was possible she'd misread the tone. It was possible his extra hours at work would make for shorter, more distracted letters as a rule. So he was making new friends through work - so what? Good for him. But there was so much she didn't know, and really had no way of finding out, and it made for the worst haze in her head.

But she had to be scalpel-sharp in the OR, and that was where her pride refreshed itself. She never missed a beat, and Major Houlihan only ever found the littlest things to call her out on, and that was a testament in itself. Sometimes the workday got laughs out of her, mostly when she was at Dr. Hunnicutt's table and within range to hear the things he muttered under his breath. She liked Dr. Pierce's humor just fine, too, but if you were tired of finding creative ways to playfully turn someone down every five minutes over the course of a long shift, BJ's table was always the more relaxing place to be. 

She liked him. They'd become casual friends quickly over her couple of months at the 4077th, the way he was a quick friend to just about everybody, it seemed, and she'd never had to turn him down every five minutes. They talked here and there at the O Club, over a patient, at small get-togethers, and he'd always been easy to carry on with. Not every doctor noticed a nurse's good work, either, but he bothered with the occasional compliment, and on those half-mast days, those words meant something to her. 

If he was overattentive lately, and he did seem to single her out a little, it was probably because he understood what it was like to worry over what was happening back home. Maybe worrying whether anything was untoward with BJ was a nice break from worrying about how she might survive losing the home she thought she had. But their being friends made it okay to call him BJ, made his recent nosiness somewhat make sense, and there was nothing wrong in inviting him to her tent to talk. He hadn't thought anything untoward about it and was simply being a friend; she could use one, especially one that could make her laugh in the direst of circumstances. 

He'd actually made her laugh before they'd been introduced; as first impressions went, his and Dr. Pierce's double act was one she might never forget. She and two other nurses had only been at the 4077th a few hours, nearing the end of a basic lay-of-the-land tour from Major Houlihan and Kellye, when the doctors rolled past where the nurses had paused in front of Colonel Potter's office.


The man in the blue robe and goofy straw hat had nodded their way with a grin. "Morning, ladies," he called cheerily then went back to whistling as he pushed the wheeled gurney along. Atop the gurney, a dark-haired man in a purple-red robe was sprawled elegantly, and raised a martini glass in greeting before he tossed his head back and began to sing. 

Carrie had tried to maintain a straight face, she really had, but a laugh had sputtered up nonetheless as the gurney creaked onward and disappeared from easy sight. "Let me guess. The cooks?"

"Doctors Pierce and Hunnicutt," Major Houlihan seethed, hands on her hips as if the forceful stance and the heated authority she embodied could make up for their lack of it.

Those day-drinking dick-arounds are the doctors? Carrie had thought, suddenly less amused, eyebrows raised and teeth worrying her lower lip for a moment. Everything she'd read about the 4077th's impressive success rate didn't match the picture that had wheeled past. 

"Kellye, you finish up the tour, I'm going to go have a word with those two..." Major Houlihan had suddenly announced, and before Kellye could get in a Yes, Major, had stalked away after them.

Kellye had accepted her newfound responsbility by the end of a single breath, but the exact phrasing as she turned to the new nurses was difficult to drum up. "...They're really, really good surgeons," she began earnestly. "Honestly, the best. And if you want my opinion, I think they just do this stuff to rile her up, and I'm not really sure why she keeps falling for it..." Kellye looked off into the distance and shrugged before smiling their way once more. "But you didn't hear any of that from me. Well, except for the good surgeons part. Major Houlihan's a really good major, too. You've just got to get to know her," she began as they walked away from the office.

Carrie swallowed down more trepidation. Usually when people said you just had to get to know someone, it meant they were a hard-ass. But time would tell. 

She got a proper introduction to more of the staff, and the doctors, in the mess just after dinner. By the end of the night, the more experienced nurses bought the new ones a round, Dr. Pierce had flirted with her but backed off when she told him she was married, and she was so jetlagged by bedtime that she fell asleep easily only to be woken five hours later by choppers. 

It was then that she'd learned that these surgeons were far more than day-drinking dick-arounds, and that, yes, she was needed here in this barely sterile corner of Korea, and nothing Kenny could say about needing her could have changed her mind on that. And Dr. Hunnicutt's offhanded, "You're really on the ball. Hawk, can I make nurse reservations? Donovan and me, table for two for the rest of the war," hadn't hurt to put her at ease. 

As the days passed, she got the lay of the land - in and out of the OR, professionally as well as socially - pretty damn quick. She was proud of her work, proud of the things she wrote Kenny she'd been through and maintained a cool head. She liked most of the other nurses and most of them liked her, as far as she could tell. She even got to understanding how, on a very slow day, the novelty of a gurney ride might be the best entertainment to be found on the compound. 

But almost immediately after she'd started to feel settled-in, Kenny's letters changed on her.

Was it just the letters that had changed, or him, too?

She'd asked him eventually to be honest about that, even if she didn't like the answer. She deserved that much. But sometimes she regretted the asking, when waiting for the answer was such hell. And the day she'd sent that letter all but demanding the truth, she regretted it the second the truck carrying the mail had left the compound. She could be imagining things, worrying too much, putting distance between them that wasn't really there, and then he'd feel wrongly accused, and it would be so difficult to clear up a miscommunication like that from all the way in Korea... She didn't need stress like that atop work, she didn't need worrying about that party he'd mentioned going to, she didn't need to be left wondering if he was proud of her at all, since he never said so, and didn't that say so very much-

"Donovan? Metz."

The scissors were in her hand, then BJ's, within a second and a half. "Sorry, Doctor," she muttered, suspecting it may not have been the first time he requested them.

"It's okay..." His gaze flicked up at her briefly before he leaned over the patient, returned his attention fully to the task at hand. "You okay? You look a little pale." 

"I'm... tired," she ground out, watching the pooling blood, already reaching for a sponge. "Didn't make it to breakfast, so. A little lightheaded, I guess..." Thinking about Kenny made her nauseous, and she hadn't made it to breakfast, so it was near enough to the truth. 



"Hawk's about done, I'll borrow his nurse," BJ reasoned. "Cut out early if you want."

"No, I'm... Thanks," she smiled tightly under her mask. From the look of things, they'd be another 20 minutes tops with the kid on the table; she'd have said that work was a good distraction but since she'd claimed physical pains over emotional, she held it back. "How's your little girl? You get any new pictures since the last one I saw?"

BJ smiled beneath his mask at the mere thought of Erin. "Was that the Easter one?"

"I think so?"

"I think it was. But unfortunately, no... Peg said she got some cute ones when they visited my parents, but she hasn't gotten them developed yet..." 

"Aw, well. Love to see 'em when you do," Carrie said softly, but she knew as she spoke the words she didn't mean them. On principle she did, of course she did, but suddenly the last thing she wanted to hear about at any length was a happy marriage, and kids, and contented grandparents - things she'd planned for with Kenny, dreams his letters no longer reflected he shared. 

She worked another minute with full focus before she could feel it slipping, could feel the knot in her stomach tighten and churn, could barely stay upright from a wave of disquietude. "Maybe... maybe you were right, Doctor," she said suddenly, "About taking off early?"

"If you're that dizzy, yeah, grab a spare bed in post-op for a few minutes," BJ nodded. "Hawk, can I borrow your nurse?" he called out into the room, then met Donovan's eyes. "I'll come check on you after I'm done."

Carrie blinked, sucking in a breath. Neither the bed or the check-in was truly necessary when the goal was to get away from Dr. Pierce's sappy crooning, the marital bliss that radiated off of BJ, the sliver of a risk of a slip-up... but as his tone brooked so little argument, there was no point raising one. 

She thanked him, left the table once a replacement had arrived, and cursed herself out as she scrubbed down. If she let problems with Kenny creep into the OR, she was risking lives. She hadn't even slipped up in any meaningful way but the self-annoyance was strong. She was equally annoyed with Kenny; this could well all have been an act on his part, a way of showing how angry he was that she "chose" her career over him, an attempt to sabotage it, make her long to come home and lower herself to letting her whole life revolve around fixing everything...

"Feeling any better?"

Carrie had taken up half a bed, elbows on spread knees and gaze on the floor, ready to leap up in a moment if she was in the way of wounded, and looked up at the sound of BJ's voice. "You want the honest answer?" she asked plainly.

"Aren't those the best kind?" he asked, pressing the back of his hand to her forehead.

Her brow twitched in surprise at the touch as she snorted. "Ask me some other day. M-Major Houlihan didn't say anything?"

"She did but I got you off the hook, don't worry," BJ said easily as his hand dropped to his side. "Well - no fever. Mind if I sit?"

With Major Houlihan? Maybe he'd gotten her off the hook for now. Carrie's spirit only flagged further, certain he was going to say she seemed too distracted lately in OR, yet she waved a little in acceptance as she shifted over a few inches to make room. The day already felt like shit; why shouldn't he make it worse? "Sure, suture self..." It was an old joke, but a classic. She fiddled with her jacket hem, realized how ungrateful her tone must have seemed, and rolled her eyes sidelong towards BJ in clear and wincing embarrassment. "And... thanks," she added. Beneath the consuming layer of her worries from home gnawing at her heart, there was still grace; there were still manners, and warm appreciation, and any time one could cut out of that stinking OR early because of a personal problem because a doctor decided to be kind was something to appreciate. But then, she'd always known him to be kind. 

"I won't pester you long, I promise," BJ smiled, easing onto the bed beside her, a polite distance of several inches between them, enough room that he could twist and face her comfortably as he crossed his ankle over his knee. She looked so closed-off, so stiff, so unhappy that he didn't want to spook her any. The opposite, in fact. And he didn't mean to pry, but she was one of his favorite, most capable nurses, and he'd barely gotten a laugh out of her for a couple shifts now. And then there was the party the other night... "It's just that... the other night at Klinger's birthday thing, you looked pretty down in the dumps."

Carrie's eyes flicked nervously his way again. "You noticed, huh?"

BJ shrugged. 

She looked down at her hands. Her problems were her problems, the way she saw it, and she was trying so hard not to bring them to work, and post-op counted. "I'll be alright," Carrie asserted softly. "There's a lot to worry about back... back home. I didn't mean to be distracted during surgery, either. I-"

"Hey, give yourself a break," BJ laughed, eyes concerned but warm. "You're holding up just fine in there for somebody who's worried about stuff back home. Trust me, I would know."

Carrie considered the words and took them as a reaching-out as well as something like a compliment. She offered him a weak smile. "Yeah?"

"It's non-stop," BJ sighed out, shoulders slumping, feeling the weight of it in a new way, simply getting that out. "Wondering on any given day if... if Erin's gonna fall down and hurt herself, or Peggy's gonna have problems with the car, or just... missing them... It's a constant. So's trying not to think about it."

She understood.

He shook his head, snapping out of the very brief mental picture of home. "God, I'm... sorry, checking in on you and... going on and on..."

"It's okay," Carrie nodded, smiling tiredly. She was miserable, sure, but she couldn't help believe in love a little yet, seeing this man's face when he talked about his wife. And since he'd given up something personal... "With Kenny and me, it's..." She swallowed thickly. "Sent out a letter today trying to make sure there still is a Kenny And Me..."

"Ah..." His head hung, shaking again, before he looked up hesitantly. "I'm sorry, that's... tough."

You have no idea, she thought. "Yeah. Tough."

The room was growing livelier around them, BJ noticed, Frank snapping at nurses over his patients' care - not that he knew much about that - and Margaret snapping back. The usual chaos. And Donovan looked the sort of gloomy a 'cheer up, it'll get better' wouldn't fix. He turned to check the clock, then turned back with a sympathetic smile. "Tell you what. Tell me all about it over a drink, my treat," he suggested. "I bump into all sorts of things with these shoulders, but they're the perfect size for leaning and crying on."

The offer drew a halfhearted chuckle from her. She wasn't much used to crying or leaning on anyone's shoulders, but he was so amiable and such a good listener on casual occasions that she almost did regret having to turn him down on a more personal one. "I'm back on duty in a few minutes, I'm afraid."

"Ah, well. Thought I'd offer."

"To-tomorrow night?" she asked before she knew she was going to. It slipped out, eyebrows raising hopefully despite her misgivings. No, she wasn't used to crying and leaning on the shoulders of people she barely knew, much less ones whose authority she worked under. But maybe just once, letting it all out would be a good thing, especially to someone who could sympathize awfully closely with some if not all. "If you've got time," she added. "I'll be off."

"Tomorrow night," BJ nodded with a smile then made to stand. "Oh, hey. I'm gonna hit the mess before a shower. Want me to swing back here with a coffee?"

The kindness surprised her but it shouldn't have. He was just that way. "That'd be really nice, Doctor. Thank you." 

"What're friends for?" he asked.

She hadn't been sure until that moment they could count each other as friends, but once she heard it it rang true enough, and registered the sweep of his fingers against her shoulder in a parting, comforting pat with a wan smile. The break had helped a little, the coffee would help her stay on her toes, and his kindness helped a little, too. Too bad none of it could do enough. She didn't believe any of it could help much of anything. But to talk about that the next day was something she might look forward to more than dread, she realized as she watched him stride away and Major Houlihan called her sharply by name back to work. 

And that next night had been nice, nicer than sitting around in her tent fretting, nicer than the platitudes her other work friends dropped on her as they painted their nails. Sure, they'd only had about 10 minutes of conversation to themselves before Captain Pierce inserted himself, amusingly, into the socializing. But BJ had foregone platitudes and really empathized, and she had leaned on his shoulder as much as she could let herself, and she'd counted him more firmly as a friend ever since. Little chats, little laughs - what little time they spent together, grand scheme of things, was always a little relaxing, a little like a breath of fresh air, a little sprinkle of pleasantness in an unpleasant place. He was nosy lately but a little bit sweetly, a little bit pleasantly, and while his curiosity wasn't always something she particularly felt like entertaining, she found herself a little bit grateful for it. 

That was why, with a head full of divorce, desertion and disgust, she'd invited BJ to her tent. Just because his smiles in post-op had been handsome didn't make them flirtatious; his jokes about the 'kitchen', his plays at domesticity, were nothing more than a reminder that his shoulders, big and strong, were there for the crying-upon. It was just another one of those nights and then some, the mother of all bad news - read, folded, re-read, folded again, wet with angry tears - burning a hole in her pocket and squeezing her heart into dust. The very foundations of her life had suffered a blow (her fault for leaving, she was sure), her future was uncertain, and the only thing she was sure of was that Kenny didn't want her anymore... 

But at least she had a friend, and she needed one more than she cared to admit. 








There was plenty BJ didn't care to admit to himself, either. 

One of those things was that he may or may not have known exactly what he was doing. 

But he didn't see it that way, per se. 

Even when the thought occurred to him after she had left post-op for the night, and he took a peek at the schedule and saw that her two roommates were on the overnight shift, he only clicked his tongue, mentally muttered a Huh. It was a very fleeting thought, was all, that Carrie had to know they'd have the tent to themselves rather than keeping to a whisper to avoid waking anyone. But it meant they could talk at whatever volume they liked, drink without sharing, she could cry, he could never really rule out that he might do the same, and they could be more open with each other. 

As friends.

He was helping her through a difficult time, so difficult he'd had the occasional nightmare about similar, and that was all. It didn't matter what Hawkeye thought might be going on, or that he did in fact find Donovan beautiful, or that everyone else on the compound might take advantage of an empty tent with a trusted member of the opposite sex. She really did seem to need a shoulder again, and his really were made for the leaning. 

Frankly, he admired how rarely she seemed to need it from anyone. She'd cracked once that first week and never again, and while it was clear she carried a lot on her petite shoulders, she held them straight and tall more often than not. He noticed her often enough in the mess to notice a change, the way she'd laugh and chat with the other nurses but her smile would fade the moment their attention turned elsewhere, and she seemed to keep all her real concerns to herself. Oh, he understood too well. And the last time they'd tried to talk, that understanding was both a cloud over their heads and a troubled halved by making it a trouble shared... until Hawk had appeared and changed the tone of the evening altogether. 

In BJ's mind, they hadn't had a proper talk as he'd initially intended, and this was Take Two. He knew she had a hard time opening up but it'd be better for her if she did, and he'd probably try again in a day or two if a need, occasion and free time arose. But tonight seemed of utmost importance. If he'd gotten such a letter from Peg - Dear BJ, I don't know how to tell you this, but... - he'd be beside himself. Losing his mind trying to reach home by phone, losing his mind altogether, unable to eat, unable to sleep, unable utterly to deal with any of Hawkeye's louder and more whimsical moments yet unable to escape them, tearing himself apart to figure out what he'd done wrong aside from get drafted...

He felt for Carrie Donovan. He truly did. And it was better as a friend, as a co-worker who needed her on the ball, as someone who might find solace in a listening ear of his own someday for whatever reason, that she knew she had support. A good, long hug, too, if she wasn't too skittish and off-put and rightly ticked off with men for one. 

She hadn't wanted a hug in the O Club the evening they'd talked. Carrie had sat with her back to the wall, and even as she thanked BJ for the drink and clinked her bottle against his own, she had an all-around evasive look about her that, again, he felt he understood. He often felt it was better to say nothing when the alternative could lead to more spilling out than intended. High-running emotions could be pesky things, cats better left in their bags, and maybe he shouldn't pry so much. Yet there they were. "What are we drinking to, Donovan?"

She'd snorted. "Can you think of anything worth it?" 

Tough crowd, BJ had thought, but powered through. "Hm. Well. Your keeping it together so well this week's as admirable a toast as any."

Carrie had to actively suppress another snort. Really, what did he know? He saw her in the hospital, their brief conversation the night before, and for a few seconds a few other places. He didn't know how long it took her to fall asleep, he didn't see how many times she'd had to recount the sponges in Supply because her mind drifted agonizingly elsewhere, he didn't know some tiny part of her was considering seeking a discharge - he barely knew her, truth be told. 

But he seemed to want to, which was more recently than could be said of Kenny, and she couldn't look down on it. So she forced a smile. "You're sweet, Doctor."

"I'm not trying to be," BJ had insisted amicably. "And please, come on," he urged lightly, waving his beer, "Outside of the OR, just BJ's fine. Save the 'doctor' stuff for when we've got gloves on." 

"All right... What's BJ stand for, by the way? I just realized, I don't know."

BJ blinked then gasped as if in realization, his palm falling to the table in a light smack. "That's what I forgot to ask my parents last time I called!" 

Despite everything, Carrie laughed, and BJ thought a real smile coming across her face was like a sunbeam breaking through clouds - not in a romantic way but that he was glad to see it - and he went on before she could get a word in. "Anyway, I think it deserves a toast. I've seen nurses... drop the ball worrying about a date," he blinked in bafflement. That type tended to last all of one afternoon once Margaret got her claws into them. He'd personally witnessed Margaret gossiping with Donovan. Kind of incredible. He sipped his beer in consideration. "At least your worries are... valid. I think they are, at least," BJ amended with a questioning tone, then raised his brows in her direction. "What're those worries, again? Remind me."

Another laugh tumbled from her, uneasy but slowly warming. He had a light touch as prying went, and she had agreed to talk tonight. She had looked forward to getting to know him better, soak up some of that good humor he seemed to emanate, and put as much trust in him as she might any friend made of a fellow nurse. Considering only about half her fellow nurses were married, he'd probably understand better in some ways. She simply wasn't sure where to start, or how much she could give voice to without her voice breaking. The cloud of her potential failures hovered that thick and that close, no matter how brightly BJ's caring seemed to light any room. 

"...You know, some of it's just going to sound like I'm worrying for no reason?" Carrie pointed out, leaning an elbow on the table between them, wary and pre-defensive that he might agree with her.

"Uh, Korea's... reason enough some days, but I'm not out to... judge you, or your reasons, especially when..." He was trying to draw her out delicately, but phrase it gently, too. "Well, you had some big doubts last night. I've got to figure they're founded, but if I happen to think they're not, I will say so."

Big doubts? She barely remembered what she'd told him the night before, but recalled admitting she thought she and Kenny were really on the outs. "That would be real nice to hear," she admitted but sounded as if she expected the opposite. "But, no, it's..." Her lips pressed into a thin line as she thought about how to put it. "Have you ever had a plan with your Peggy that... that felt like a sure thing, and you were both dead-set on it, and then it turns out she wasn't?" 

BJ closed his eyes for a moment in remembrance of  the Astonish Mint, among the prettiest sea-foam-colored sailboats he'd ever seen and certainly the prettiest sailboat he'd ever had multiple arguments about. That letdown still stung, it turned out. "It's happened," he said and sipped his beer, not wanting to interrupt her shaky beginnings. 

"Well, for me it's happening, and it's with every little thing," Carrie clarified intensely before she continued. "Before I left, we talked about kids someday, BJ... The, the house we've got, it's sort of a fixer-upper," she sighed, "And he was going to get the spare room sorted out... gutted, from scratch, you know? To make it right for... someday." She took a steadying breath, shaking her head. "I've asked... He hasn't mentioned it... Same with the summer place we were thinking about, and now he's got this new job... Meeting all these new people, people I don't know... women..." She'd known some of this would sound unreasonable, and slugged back a hearty swig as if to drown it all back down.

"You, uh, you don't think there's any chance he's doing it on the sly? You know... you get home from Korea, he's done everything he said he was going to, just wants to surprise you?"

What planet are you from? "That doesn't sound much like Kenny. Or... most men that have ever lived, as far as I know," she added, looking at him quite severely before she inclined her head with a smirk. "No offense."

"Oh, none taken," BJ chuckled. "And you're right, that's true, I don't know Kenny. Like I said - I really can't judge, even if I wanted to. However," BJ paused, meeting Carrie's grey-blue eyes. "I do know he'd be the idiot of the century to let you slip away just because of a silly little war."

She didn't want pity compliments. She didn't want any compliments, when she was married and so was he, and he was a handsome friend as friends went. They made her blush, and maybe that was a nice feeling, but her gaze dropped to the table for lack of knowing how to respond. Atop that, a nurse with marriage trouble on an army base had much in common with a critically wounded swimmer in shark-infested waters, or so seemed to think the sharks in question. BJ was no shark, and one of the last men she wanted to have to be suspicious about. "I'm... sorry to tell you this, but it happens to a lot of people." The harsh reality, the sorrow within it, was threatening to override her usual stoicism once more. "I just never thought it'd..."

Watching her expression turn crestfallen again, BJ wanted to reach out, pat her hand or her back, anything for comfort, yet held back. Every time she seemed to rally a little, she dropped right back down. Which was natural, sure, but painful to see keep happening. "Carrie... Did he... say anything in particular, or..."

Just as she'd assumed: he thought she was over-worrying. She hated the assumption, feeling too exposed in a room full of people all of a sudden - none of whom were looking their way - and mistrusted that elaboration would make him think any differently. So, she skipped to the point. "I think this... this next mail, when it comes..." She nodded, dread written across her face. "I'll know one way or another."

"Eatin' you up meanwhile, though," BJ observed softly with a sad smile. 

"I can't help it," Carrie shrugged and trailed off after, "Work's about the only thing..." 

"Yeah... Easy to forget your guts are in knot when theirs are far worse off," he agreed, lost in thought for a moment before he leaned back in his chair. "Why'd you become a nurse?" he asked then, peering at her across the table with eyes narrowed in newly appraising attention.

"Have you ever heard an answer to that question that isn't about, I don't know, wanting to help people?" she challenged, amused.

"Got me there... Wait, wait, no, once..."

"Really. What was the reason?"

"Well," BJ began simply, hands spread, "She... started out as an artist, and wasn't very good at drawing people, or scenery, or animals, or much else, come to think of it, so! She decided to try drawing blood instead."

Carrie eyed him with playful suspicion before sipping her beer, shaking her head as she swallowed, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. 

"All right, Poker Face," BJ granted the anecdote's awfulness with a chuckle. "You hear any better jokes lately? Be warned, I might borrow them," he raised his almost-empty bottle her way in a little salute of thanks in advance, smiling slyly back. Maybe she hadn't gotten out everything on her mind, but god, he knew the value of laughter here in these rare times between life-or-death emergencies, and she seemed on the verge of it. Laughter was on par with penicillin as crucial medicine went. 

Unfortunately for Carrie Donovan, and the ease with which a blush sprang to her fair skin as a rule, the last joke she'd heard wasn't particularly clean. But it was funny. She bit her lip, considering. It wasn't that inappropriate... "...Truthfully? I'm not sure which's funnier, the joke itself or who I got it from."

"A twofer, beautiful, the floor is yours."

"...It's not clean."

"We are all adults of the medical profession here, no matter how rarely we act like it," BJ grinned.

That may have been so, but somehow she couldn't meet his eyes as she relayed the joke between the occasional stutter-huff exhale of suppressed laughter. "Okay... There's a nurse," she began, "Who works at an old folks' home. And her patient, Eugene, he's got to be ninety or so, with... with Alzheimers." She glanced BJ's way to make sure he was still listening, then back down at the bottle in her hand. "The nurse goes to check Eugene's room... at the end of the night, and finds him, uh... putting black shoe polish all over his..." She trusted BJ to fill in the blank. 

BJ quirked an eyebrow. Her hesitation was funny to him somehow, and it told him something about her, too. Whilst Carrie could hang with the boys, as it were, and keep up just fine with wit sharp enough of her own, she was more reserved than he'd expected, and knowing this about her registered nicely for some reason. 

"And she's, well, pretty upset," Carrie went on with an abrupt laugh, "But she goes over to his bed and says, 'Eugene, Eugene, no. I said, remember to turn your clock back.'" She glanced BJ's way, gratified to watch him spend a second working it out before he laughed, looking down, shaking his head. 

"And who'd you get that from?" he asked with a grin, regarding her expectantly across the table as he raised his bottle again. 

"Sweetest baby-face in camp...," she hinted, mirroring his imminent sip. 

BJ drank, then paused. "...Radar?"

Carrie laughed again. "Kellye!" 

His eyes bugged comically in surprise as he polished off his beer, but mostly for effect. That was less shocking than Radar would be. No matter how respectful of professionalism Carrie wanted to seem, nine times out of ten, nurses knew far filthier jokes than the surgeons tended to toss around. It amazed him sometimes, though that amazement was ridiculous in itself when it had cause to occur to him. But that sweet baby-face in particular, he'd learned to never underestimate, in any respect. "Kellye'll surprise you," he admitted wryly, holding his bottle up in salute to Lieutenant Yamato, stuck in post-op for the night but at their table for a moment in spirit, then peered at the bottle as if mildly astonished to find it empty. "Well, this evaporated fast. Want a second round?"

Her own beer wasn't dead yet, but it was more a question of company, wasn't it? Did she have the energy and attention enough to enjoy BJ's, rather than shuffle back to the tent and feel sorry for herself? And if the roommates were home, well, there wouldn't be solitude for it, anyhow. At least here there was alcohol, and a kind smile, and someone helping keep her head above water. She had been quick to laughter once upon a time, before the stress with Kenny, and he seemed to know as much. "...Sure, why not?"

By the time he was back from the bar with two more bottles, Carrie was back to looking like she might never laugh again, her hands in her lap, her lips downturned, her brow heavy. These things came and went, BJ knew, and one joke didn't do much by way of fixing life-changing concerns. Nor did beer, but BJ pushed hers gently towards her as he sat. Carrie saw the drink out of the corner of her eye, but lifted neither hand or chin for it. "Penny for your thoughts?" BJ prompted, and when she mumbled something he didn't hear, he scooted his chair nearer to hers, dipping his head down. "What's that?"

Carrie shrugged, fingers fidgeting with the label she'd ripped in idle thought from her first bottle. "I was... thinking... I dunno how much difference it'd really make, but maybe enough of one, you know, if we could just... call more often..."

"It... does border on sadistic," BJ admitted with a mental wince at how right she was. He didn't focus much on how hard the army made it to call home - he'd get too angry at the unfairness of it if he did. "And it would make a lot of difference," he nodded solemnly, "To get to hear their voices before bed..."

"Get to work out problems before they're problems...." Carrie sighed.

"Hear all those... silly, insignificant little things couples tell each other about, about the day..."

"Yeah," was all Carrie could say.

BJ grimaced at his slight faux pas - here he was, waxing romantic, and here she was in a different position altogether. "Hey, I'm... sorry, Donovan, I didn't mean to..."

"It's alright," she assured with a shrug as she reached for her new drink. 

"Are you gonna hate me if I do suggest you could be worrying too much?"

The thin gaze that slid his way over a sip of her beer said Maybe.

"I don't mean to... to belittle gut instinct, trust me," he went on despite the look that said to tread lightly, hands raised for a moment in surrender. "I just mean, until you know for sure, there's no sense... tearing yourself apart over it." Which he did to himself all the time, but that's why he knew how horrible it felt. "It could be... anything, you're right," he shrugged casually. "He could have something at work, or there's something wrong with the house he needs to fix before he can even think about the kids' room... That does happen, you know? Sometimes there are things I'd love to tell Peg, but I don't wanna worry her... And that's my end, in Korea, not stuff at home, but I'm... sure she does that to me to some degree, too..." He trailed off then, distinctly displeased at the thought, before he remembered cheering Carrie up was the goal, not worrying himself needlessly. "It's hard to know how to phrase things sometimes when all you've got is letters, is my point," BJ said finally, tilting his head her way, reading her face for any effect the admittedly optimistic words could have had.

She didn't feel she believed a word of it, of course, but the sweetness of his trying, the compassion in his eyes, counted for something. "Thanks, BJ," she said again.

"Shoulder's right here if you need it," he reminded with a brief nudge against her own, and smiled as he sipped his drink. 

It was then that she realized how good it was she'd befriended The Very Most Merrily Married Man in the whole camp, or his sitting so close in sight of all at the bar, buying her drinks, listening... it might feel date-like - because when the hell else did men try, but for dates? But he wasn't like that, and she wouldn't have entertained it if he was. She was still a married woman, and while BJ's eyes were plenty lovely - most everything about him was - she tried to ignore the fact than pay it more attention than was right. She loved Kenny, and BJ loved Peggy, and a shoulder was a shoulder - one she didn't need, even if she might have appreciated it. 

"I'll... manage," Carrie said, subconsciously sitting taller, lifting her bottle. She wanted to say more, to let it all spill out, she trusted him enough - but he had said she worried too much, and that was belittling despite all his best intentions. She wasn't going to hold it against him, but she'd known it would happen, and knew what, indeed, her very gut was telling her to the contrary. "But it's... real nice of you to get me out of my head for a little while. Or try to." She gave him a smile that said she was plenty aware she wasn't the easiest mind to change. "If you ever need to... get something off your chest, or an ear, or... whatever... I owe you one." 

"I'm sure I'll take you up on that one of these days," he said, even if he wasn't. Carrie was someone he was getting to know, not someone he was giving a Chin Up, Kid pity-chat, and he wanted her to know as much. Even when she was down, she was easier company than he'd expect to fall into with a nurse. But then, she was indeed his right hand in the OR more often than not, and they knew each other enough that, sure, if he was stressed about something he didn't need Hawk's quips or disdain about, maybe he would. He wasn't that much more used to the process of spilling than she was, but maybe. "Just as I'm sure you will manage," he added with the same simple smile. "And then some. No matter what happens. You, Carrie Donovan," he met her eyes for emphasis, "Are a... stupendously capable person, and admirably strong," which were things he'd say of any MASH nurse worth a damn and it'd be true, "Pretty smart, and..." His eyes widened and rolled to the table as if embarrassed at what he was about to add, but it was true, as well, "Pretty damned pretty." He shrugged off his own observation. "Like I said. If he's dumb enough to let you go, he's not worth you worrying about."

Carrie had blushed at the compliment, but damn it, she was getting bored of thanking him! She took in his smile with an uneasy one of her own, all bemused uncertainty at how thick he was laying on the solicitude. "Doct- uh... I gotta ask..." she began, biting her lip.


She laughed then, shaking her head, which tilted towards his shoulder before raising again. "It's not even a question! I just don't know how you do it, is all."

"Do what?"

"Keep a... a smile on your face like that, here," she said insistently.

BJ snorted, taking another swig. "Not easy, lemme tell ya... But I..." He lowered his beer, holding it in his lap. "I think there's plenty to laugh at, if you know where to look. The Army being one big... walking, talking joke, for starters," he dropped to a disgruntled mutter.

"Mm..." She agreed to an extent but while he hadn't chosen to be here, she had, and saw it a little differently no matter challenging she found it to smile through. "Some people like the structure..." Sometimes being told what to do, when, where, with or to whom, was a lot easier than civilian life in that it left less room for your own decisions screwing things up.

"And Hawkeye sure helps," he added more brightly, not having heard her.

And as if summoned, the O Club door opened, letting in the early fall wind and the class clown of the unit. "Speak of the devil," Carrie said after seeing the familiar Hawaiian shirt in her periphery, and BJ followed her gaze. 

Instinctively, as soon as Hawkeye caught his eye, he straightened in his seat, shifted an inch or two away from Donovan, re-wrapped his fingers around his beer, and tried to look as if he hadn't just been finding a pretty damned pretty nurse's proximity the secret highlight of his week. It was nice to talk, to make her laugh, to verge occasionally on innocent flirtation; there was nothing wrong in any of it, and he wasn't about to let Hawkeye rib him as if there were, and he knew Hawk would try. He simply raised his bottle in recognition of Hawkeye's appearance, and warned fondly, a touch regretfully, "Here comes trouble," as Hawk made his approach.

Carrie had straightened up, too, and felt suddenly sure she wouldn't stay for a third round. 

It wasn't that she disliked Captain Pierce whatsoever. He was fun, funny and sweet in his own boyish way as often as he was overbearing or a nuisance, and he truly was the beating heart of the unit. But his reaching their table and pulling out a chair changed the evening somehow. She didn't know or trust his attention or intentions the way she did BJ's, and it was probably Hawkeye's presence somehow altogether that made it feel a little scandalous when BJ scooted his chair to make room and his knee pressed to hers beneath the table, and didn't move immediately. She'd signed up for a confidential airing of grievances for BJ's ears only, not whatever crazed scheme, outlandish idea or suggestiveness popped out of Captain Pierce anytime he sat down anywhere. She missed the air of semi-private peace as soon as it was gone. Yet, politeness and rank being what they were, she offered him a smile as he sat. 

"Well, well, well, what have we here?" Hawkeye asked, glancing between them, and he snatched BJ's drink forcefully from his hand. "Beer?! Oh, no, no, you can't have this stuff, Beej. You're way too young. I'm calling your mother the second I finish this," he said, holding up a finger and slugging back half of BJ's drink in one go. 

BJ, at a loss, only pouted a little as he looked at Carrie, and she stifled a disbelieving chuckle.

Hawkeye leaned then on the table, chin in hand, eyes sparkling. "Hi, Donovan," he schmoozed, batting his lashes, not letting on that it was something of a surprise to find her with Beej. "You know, every time I see you, I get absolutely Carried away?" 

Yeah, this night's taken a turn, BJ thought even as he laughed, casting Carrie a look he hoped was discreetly apologetic, so discreet Hawkeye wouldn't notice it. But she didn't notice it either, too busy brandishing her wit.

"And when I see a Hawk," Carrie said, using a nickname she usually wouldn't but that for BJ just had, "I know it's time to fly." She rose from the table, raising a brow at him in challenge. 

"You know, I'd be really hurt by that if you weren't married," he said matter-of-factly, citing the one thing that made her un-Pierce-able even if she were interested. "The ring really puts me off," Hawkeye deadpanned, then added with a dip of his head towards BJ. "So does his, actually." 

Carrie didn't know what to do with that last odd comment, or the quizzically dull blink that followed it; BJ sure as hell didn't, either, but knew marriage jokes from an unaware Hawkeye might hit Carrie badly. He wanted to put her at ease again, wanted her even to stay, and he was going to go for a pun in line with their own quips, but...

"I don't really get to play the name game, do I," he mused suddenly, pretending to be chagrined about it as he leaned back, pout returned.

"Mm, no, you really don't," Hawkeye said immediately, reaching to give BJ's hand a conciliatory pat as his other lifted the purloined beer to his lips.

Carrie breathed a laugh but she knew already, standing there, she didn't have the energy to keep up with them both for long. Some other night, perhaps. "Look, I've... I'm gonna get off to bed. Major Houlihan's got me busy early tomorrow."

"Oh, yeah? Tell her she can keep me busy late if she wants," Hawkeye drawled. 

It went ignored by Carrie, who at the moment only had eyes for the better-behaved of the pair. "Thank you for the drinks, Doctor," she said, catching herself on his name at the last moment, feeling strange calling him BJ with Dr. Pierce sitting right there. 

Drink(s), multiple, Hawkeye filed away.

"Any time," BJ said easily, watching her hover as if reluctant to leave, and he was regretting Hawk's interruption more than he probably should have been but was powerless to stop it. He felt like Carrie had more to say, let out, and she hadn't utilized his shoulder even once, he realized. And she told good jokes. He was sorry to see her go so soon. 

"And if you wanna tell Major Houlihan that," Carrie added with a glance down at Hawkeye, "You'll have to do it yourself, but unless you mean busy in traction..."

Hawkeye grinned. The way he found something special and adorable about every nurse that crossed his path, he liked Carrie's humor. "Nice of you to look out for me, Donovan," he said, reaching up and giving her elbow a squeeze. "Have a good night, okay?"

She barked a soft, empty laugh. "Yeah, I'll try," she muttered, and looked at BJ again, paused in a moment of secret, silent gratitude for their new level of acquaintance that she hoped he understood. She was relieved, too, that he hadn't tried to push Hawkeye away, or invent reasons to walk her back to her tent, or anything else. He really was a friend, not a shark. "You guys, both, too. G'night."

And then Carrie was walking away, and BJ was watching her without meaning to, and of course Hawkeye noticed. 

"Nurse with a shape like that, looking at you like that... Tell me the truth, Beej: doesn't it make you wonder what you could get away with?" Hawkeye prompted giddily. 

Hawkeye's question didn't sound semantically intended for free-to-roam bachelor types, so he took it as the curious, non-theoretical poke it was. BJ had found himself wondering once or twice, in that vague way men did about any woman, which was precisely why he wasn't going to touch the comment - nothing good could come of encouraging the thought in Hawk's head, or his own. "We were just talking, Hawk," BJ decided on - simple as that.

Hawkeye hummed as he sipped, looking away. It was flat-out odd finding BJ drinking alone with a woman. Especially a woman with a neck so chewable-looking as Donovan's, with the intriguingly sculpted and expressive brows of a starlet, with cheekbones Hawkeye thought downright powerful if you caught her from the right angle. He wasn't going to say any more about it, but having seen that look, and BJ blowing it all off as he was, he intended to keep an eye on the situation, and he knew a situation when he saw one. Hadn't he once told BJ he had much to learn about ruining his life? Perhaps the time had come. Ganted, he'd rather BJ get experimental with him than a nurse, if he was going to get experimental at all, but... yeah, he would definitely keep an eye on it.

BJ regarded Hawk's distant look, could very almost hear the thoughts that wanted to spring off his evidently held tongue, and rolled his eyes. Hawk would think whatever he wanted to think - that didn't make it true. And Hawkeye currently owed him a beer, which would be a fine enough thing to point out and take the focus off his drinking with Donovan, but something else came to mind, and he whacked Hawkeye's arm lightly to ensure his attention. "Oh, hey. Got a new joke for you..." he said, shifting forward in his seat. 

"Oh, yeah? Clean or dirty?"

"Uh, un-clean," BJ settled on.

"Hit me."

"Okay. There's a nurse-"

"All about the nurses today, huh, Beej?"

"Will you shut it?"

"Alright, alright..."

"So, there's a nurse..." BJ, with endless patience, began again, and from there the night went on like any other, Donovan slipping soon from both their minds.






Until the next day, when BJ saw her walk by with a couple other nurses and had to settle for a quick smile when really, he wanted to say he hoped her early morning hadn't been too awful. 

Or at the mess the day after that, when she came in late, chose an empty table and pulled out a book, and nothing in her body language invited disruptions, friendly or otherwise. 

He noticed her around, he couldn't help noticing her, and that was a little new. (Sometimes she noticed him back, a little wave across the mess here, a half-minute of chit-chat there.) But he blamed it on knowing it was a matter of time before her mail would come and she might seek out a friend again. Despite her more retiring moments, he'd seen her joke around with the nurses, and he knew she was more or less fine; one night they'd played Scrabble, he and Hawk versus she and Kellye, and she even popped by the Swamp once, having exhausted her reading material and wondering if they had anything good. (She didn't linger, but it still came as a happy surprise when Hawkeye made no comment.) 

But maybe more importantly, he remembered what she had said about the power of work as distraction, and did his best for the next several days to keep it in mind. He became suddenly convinced the pharmacy could use a re-organization, and that Donovan and Gaynor had the right skills to do it fast. Some days later, when he overheard Margaret complaining to Potter one night about a scheduling flub the next evening, he told her not to worry, and he'd get Donovan to cover the gap. It was his shift, after all, and he knew she would want to. Probably, anyway. 

He'd spotted her not long after, berobed and capped and and en route to the showers, and waved her down. "Hey! Carrie."

She'd looked up at the call, clutching her towel full of shower supplies closer to her chest. "BJ. How're you?"

He clicked his tongue. They'd had a rough couple days, far too many wounded, but they were coming up on 20 hours of relative quiet and the respite helped. "Ah, I'm... alive enough," he waved away the usual concerns. "Listen, I'll let you go in a sec, I just wondered if you wanted to help me out tonight."


"Oh, post-op. We're short otherwise."

Carrie considered it. The movie wasn't a new one, so it was hardly as if there was much else to do. "Yeah. Yeah, sure, I could," she nodded, shivering as a breeze made its way beneath the neck of her robe.

"And," BJ admitted, hopeful but so teasing in tone that she had to know he'd be fine if she said no, "Since you do owe me one..." He paused, licking his lips as he rocked back on his heels, arms crossing over his chest in a way that made his big frame smaller with playful shame. "Well. I might be... a teensy-eensy, weensiest bit behind on some files..." 

Carrie laughed, shaking her head vehemently as she led the way the last few steps towards the showers. "I am not doing extra paperwork."

"Aw, Carrie, c'mon, you've seen my handwriting..."

She couldn't help laughing more. "I have seen it, yes, though you're right, I can't say I've read it," she teased back before sobering, realizing just how little time she had for a quick shower before the nurses' meeting. "How about this, Doctor? You do your reports, and I'll keep an eye on the patients," she suggested as she reached for the door.

BJ took a polite step back, and made sure it was one that steered his vision away from any accidental peeks inside the tent. "Can't blame a guy for trying, right?" he asked with a grin, hands rising and falling in a so-be-it shrug before he turned and strolled away. 

And no, she couldn't. She liked his trying. Worrying over life back home was both easier and harder by the day, depending on the day, and he was making her day easier. It wasn't worth the filling-out of extra reports, that was for damn sure, but she still appreciated it, and knew they'd be in for a pleasant enough shift so long as no patients went south or anything else happened to spoil the day.

Like the choppers and ambulances whose presence was announced after she'd been in the shower all of four minutes.

Like a mail bag lying in wait near Radar's desk.

Like certain songs that Captain Pierce chose to sing that pulled her thoughts helplessly back to Kenny, enough that her attention faltered, and BJ noticed. 

"You seem preoccupied, Donovan," he pointed out, reserving her first name for less professional, less Hawk-watchful places. "Is anything wrong?" 

"No, nothing. Thank you," Carrie answered, all business. Some deja vu, she thought, before refocusing on the usual chaotic din of the room. BJ's hands rather than his vibrant, curious, sympathetic eyes. Captain Pierce's demands - the very second he made them, chop-chop. The war, the wounds, the work. He thought of her as strong? Well, she was, and some days were made for proving it. 

Nearly eight hours later, when Hawkeye pecked at him like a suspicious mother hen about Donovan, BJ shrugged him off as best as he could. He had sensed she wouldn't appreciate his spreading word about her personal troubles around, so he hadn't, but he let Hawk in on the basics. What choice did he have? It was that, or let Hawkeye keep joking about 'mutual irresistibles', this, that, and the other, joking as if he fully expected BJ to slip up one of these days. 

That thought had never really crossed BJ's mind. No way.

Or if it had, he wasn't truly aware of it until Hawk joked about it and brought it to the surface, and BJ had to fight a slightly guilty grin, the idea appealing on some level even as he denied ever having considered it. 

Because he hadn't, honestly.

And on the way to Carrie Donovan's tent, he still wasn't considering it. He was showing up as an ear, a punching bag (in rhetorical jest, or so he hoped), a sturdy shoulder; Hawkeye was plain wrong to joke about any of it, just as he'd been wrong to joke a couple weeks before about BJ wondering what he could get away with. It wasn't like that. Granted, it could be. It was harmless enough, but going by the genuine grins he could pull out of her over paperwork, a tiny glimmer of a sparkle he thought he saw in her eye, on the same day she got a Dear Jane... well, okay, maybe there was something mutual there, but BJ would prove it wasn't irresistible by any means. He could be alone in a tent with her and be a friend. Maybe Hawk didn't know how to do that, but he did. 

Or so he told himself. 

He knocked on her door, stepping back almost startled when she swung it open a moment after. She'd just done it so fast, and as he took in the way agitation had pinched her features, the tension in her body language, the disarray to her swept-back locks, he assumed she must have been pacing. BJ offered a smile, palms up. "Whoa, there," he laughed softly, "I- usually make it through the front door before I'm in the kitchen..."

Carrie tried to smile but it didn't quite happen. She'd read the letter again, and gotten to wondering why it was so damned impossible in this world for a woman to have a career and a home life simultaneously, and gotten aggravated as well as sad. But the sadness remained and reigned supreme. Ever since the letter came, she'd felt like a marionette, held tautly up by government order and little else. In her own space for the night, she wanted to let her hair down, wanted all the strings loosened, and here was a guy who probably expected all his jokes to get a laugh, and for a second she regretted inviting him. But only for a second. 

"Come on in," she murmured, pushing the door open further on its hinge and casting a quick glance beyond, curious who was around to see Dr. Hunnicutt enter the tent of a married nurse. Hopefully no one. But then, when she thought about it, she supposed she wasn't much married anymore... 

Well, it was a good thing his reputation was spotless. 

Funnily enough, as BJ ducked to enter the tent, he was thinking much the same thing. 

Chapter 2

"I'm sorry," Carrie muttered as she closed the door behind him, rubbing her own arms briefly for warmth. 

"Ah, come on, what've you got to be sorry for?" BJ asked, turning to face her with a smile. "You're... upset, and rattled, and nobody-" he laughed for emphasis, "Would blame you for that right now." His hand had found her shoulder without his meaning to, so he gave it a light squeeze before his arm dropped away. "If I were in your shoes, I can't imagine..." And he didn't want to. He related to what she'd been feeling, but not the circumstance, thank Christ. Sighing softly, BJ shook his head, meeting her eyes again, forcing lightness into his tone and the attention back away from his own potentially dismal day-mares. "And- I'm sorry, that sounds..." Like pity, maybe. No good. "How're you holding up?" 

She shrugged, inclining her head towards the table where a bottle of whiskey sat. "If I'm being honest? With that. More or less," she said with a thin smile. "Want some?"

"Rude to let you drink alone, right?" BJ asked with a smile. 


BJ moved when Carrie didn't, making for the bottle, wondering to himself how to draw her out. She'd said she wanted to talk but seemed, understandably, to have frozen up. Here he thought she'd had more of a fighting spirit, deep down. It was why he'd exaggerated kitchen arguments with Peg; it was an outright lie to imply she ever really swung at him. She never had, or thrown a plate, or done anything like that. But Carrie seemed, to BJ at least, to carry enough anger that it needed out. An invitation to the proverbial kitchen-turned-boxing-ring he'd conjured up implied acceptance, that she could vent and let it out and not worry how he might look at her for it. Couldn't hurt any, he'd thought, too, to remind her that no marriage was picture-perfect - even if his own happened to be damn close.

"Got a spare glass?" 

"Hm? Oh. The ones on the sill there are clean." 

"Want a refill?" 

Carrie nodded, handing her cup over. 

"Evans is breathing better, by the way," BJ switched gears. "He was when I got outta post-op, anyway." He poured and handed her glass back, and somehow it was the brush of her fingers against his own when she took it that reminded him... he really was alone with a nurse in her tent, wasn't he? Yes, work was one of the only right topics.  

"I'm glad to hear that," she replied, smiling finally if not broadly. 

"Me, too," BJ agreed with a nod. "He's managing full sentences before that gasping starts up."

"Guess that's... better than I can say," Carrie joked mildly. 

BJ had had a natural sense that boring her with work talk might swing the conversation back to its purpose. "Like I said!" he chirped, turning and raising his glass towards her. "No court would convict you on that." 

"Thanks," she murmured, meeting his eyes uncertainly as she raised her glass back, taking a quick sip after. 

Again he swung out another topic he felt sure wouldn't land. Work was dull but the next, he assumed she wouldn't be ready to give much thought, and refocus on what needed true venting. "Have you... thought about what comes next?" he asked carefully. 

"Oh, I..." Carrie took a deep breath, blinking. "You know, it's funny. I feel like... like I can't stop thinking, you know, running over... over every little thing that might have..." She sipped again to steady herself. "And then," she smiled nervously, "Someone asks me what I'm thinking and I... damned if I know." 

Sad sympathy curved BJ's mouth into a knowing smile. "Kinda numb, huh?"

She nodded briskly. "It's go numb or go crazy, isn't it. I mean! Come on." She drank again, her free hand rising and falling in frustration. "What can I fix from here? There's no way to fix all this without... without leaving the army, and going back home... And why would I, why should I, when he's got somebody..."

BJ fought an urge to hug her, casting his glance around the tent, the chairs beside the little table. He could have asked before sitting, but it seemed a superfluous question no matter how well-mannered. Sitting put a solid few feet between them. He watched her chew her lower lip in consternation. She was miles away, he could tell. And he didn't want to say it, but if this Kenny had someone else, the odds of her fixing much even if she went home did seem slim. "Is that what you want?" he prodded gently, unsure of his own footing in understanding her as she wanted to be understood, and took another slow swig. 

She twitched with a dry chuckle. "Want... I'm not sure what I want has anything to do with anything anymore. You... know that, that feeling?"

Peering down at his glass, BJ tilted his head, eyebrows raising and falling quickly at the impact of her poignantly familiar phrasing. How many times had he had the same thought until bitterness burned him, until he had to walk it off or risk losing face? "Yeah, I... I think I get that," he muttered, then slugged back the last of his drink as if to drown the thought. The peril of being a listening ear, it turned out, was occasionally understanding well enough for it to hurt. 

Carrie's glass didn't need refilling yet but she was clear-headed and present enough to notice that BJ's did. She reached for the bottle again, feeling a tiny tremble in her hand as she served up round two of liquid hospitality, watching as she poured. "I thought I had a good marriage," she offered up simply then, meaning to distract BJ from whatever degree of empathy had put a frown on his face. "The war killed it." She set the bottle back down and didn't want to reach for the letter again, but there it was, a grenade of emotion on the table, and it illustrated everything better than she could. Bolstered by BJ's resence, she picked it up less gingerly than she might have in solitude, yet her hands still shook. 

"I wish you were writing this letter instead of me," she began to read aloud. "It'd be so much easier..."

The notion that she needed to do this, to read it aloud to solidify it all, came clearly to BJ. He merely listened, noticing the waver in both the tear-stained paper and her voice. 

"I know I'll always love you," Carrie read for maybe the 50th time but the first aloud, feeling the 50th lump of the day rise in her throat because, how could that be true, or how could it matter, when: "But I met someone...

BJ knew a woman seconds from crying when he saw one, and it was always intolerable. "Carrie..." he began as he rose, drawing her attention away from the letter by taking her hands, propriety be damned. Her hands were small and warm in his own, she didn't pull away, and he sought to catch her gaze. "Let me make a little prediction?" She looked up miserably but she did look up, and he continued with conviction and with a quiet fervor he truly felt, even if this idiot Kenny didn't; that what he happened to believe, happened to line up with everything someone might want to hear in the circumstances, was mere coincidence. "One fine day, believe it or not" - please believe it - "You'll get over all this. The hurt'll pass." He knew it sounded cliche, he really did, but she needed to hear it, he was sure of that. "You'll forgive him, and be ready to love again." Did she buy it? Did she want to buy it?

She didn't, as much as she wanted to. "It seems impossible," Carrie admitted, and it was that admission that caused tears to spring. It was wrong for a steel-stomached Army nurse who, for a time, had managed to balance a marriage and a career, to admit that anything felt impossible. She was supposed to know better than that. 

"I know," BJ agreed, and why it mattered to him so much that she believed it, he couldn't say, but it did. He wanted to lodge it all firmly in her brain so badly that his fingers wrapped firmly around the back of her neck, another move to grab her attention and keep it, almost subconscious. Again she didn't pull away. "I know," he repeated, "But someday, you'll be glad that guy's out of your hair." 

As Carrie hung on his words almost desperately for something better than cliches, she couldn't help but wonder fleetingly, Why do you care enough to be here, to tell me all this?

"A new fella'll come along," BJ insisted gaily before she could voice that question or any other, more confident she was hearing him now that her gaze was steadier on his own. 

Getting a little old for new fellas, Carrie couldn't help laughing. Not a real laugh, she wasn't there yet, but his humor and good nature were having an effect.

Or was it his large hand curved around her neck in a way that would be adoringly possessive if they were more than friends? Something about him was lightening her up, wearing her anger down, wearing her down for the better.

To what end, BJ was trying not to let himself wonder, even as she... kept not pulling away.

She must have needed the comfort badly enough - the contact, the grounding touch - that she barely noticed it. The closeness felt so natural to him somehow, he hardly noticed it happening either. She was warm to the touch, he noticed that, but he assumed anger boiled beneath the surface, unexpressed sorrow simmering, her thick sweater keeping all that tense heat close, if he assumed anything at all. 

It was nice that she felt so warm, that was all he knew for sure, aside from that the story he was telling would someday prove entirely true. "A nice, bright guy," he went on as if she hadn't scoffed against his wrist, "A sucker for eyes like yours..."

Carrie laughed a real laugh. She wanted to believe him, she really did, and made an effort to sniffle back more sorrow, to make more room in her spirit for his curious light. 

There you are, BJ thought with a smile. But he couldn't give up now, no more than he could find a reason she should find a reason to pull away when this was warming them both. It was all true. Why wouldn't it be, when she had beauty and brains in spades? Unthinkable to him that nobody would find that irresistible about her. "And you'll start dating," he promised conversationally, "And he'll fall madly in love with you." Her shy laugh only encouraged him, and he grinned. "And you'll turn around and clobber the poor slob!"

He was too much, too sweet, and probably too right. She laughed out a gratefully overwhelmed mix of shut up and stop even as she reached for him, wanting the contact, the hope, for him to know he was helping. There she was, making real use of his shoulder at last, taking the focus off his charming grin by squeezing him close in recklessly real appreciation. He did have big shoulders for the crying-on, and it felt achingly good to be held by someone who cared, if only for a brief while.

BJ registered her pulling away for the first time and let her go easily, straightening from the embrace for which he'd had to bend a little. Only she didn't pull away at all. Her hands slid from his upper back to his shoulders and remained without a twitch of hesitation.

He was so wonderfully solid beneath her hands. So wonderfully kind, and with a smile so marvelous that married and engaged nurses had to struggle to ignore it. And she needed to believe everything good that he'd envisioned for her.

As making her believe went, BJ could only think of one way to drive the point home, and the way she was looking at him -

the way she wasn't pulling away but hovering subtly, he thought, closer -

she was so warm - so heartily willing to yield, if it cheered her better than booze -

he'd have slid his hand from her back and lifted her chin then with intent, he knew.

But in a wordless admission of who knew how many unmet needs, needs sated well enough by his smile, his tone so soothing and sure, she raised it for him. 

To BJ, it seemed as if he breathed out then was breathing her in, sealing all those cliche promises, the more-than-friendly move one around which a haze of inevitability filled the tent. Could anything have gone any other way when she needed comfort enough to accept it however it came? When her sweater was appealingly soft to stroke, when an apple hint to her perfume only made him hungry, when he abandoned fidelity for sake of a near-stranger's self-esteem? Oh, there was plenty selfish about it, too...

But a kiss counted; a kiss was as bad as anything else in BJ's mind, yet his hand against Carrie's back only drew her nearer. 

For Carrie's part, she wouldn't have expected him to kiss her open-mouthed off the bat, if at all, but he'd gone how many months without kissing altogether? It was harder then, pressed against his chest and feeling his full lips purse against her own, to remember that his charms were off-limits. The soft rumble that emanated from him said BJ wasn't off-limits to her all of a sudden, and the canvas veil between them and the world outside felt just thick enough. He was making it more believable there were other men than Kenny, and the gentle crush of his mouth implied somehow that this wasn't the worst possible thing they could do, the worst thing she could do, mess with a friend's happy marriage simply because her own was in tatters-

Oh, god. 

Carrie drew back, still holding his shoulders as she shook her head. "BJ," she rushed to say, "I don't want to ruin-"

"Shh... Carrie..." He dipped his head, nudging her forehead with his own, a way of staying close, too close. "You're not ruining anything," he assured in a murmur. If anything, I'm ruining myself. If anything, you're helping, but with the best parts of that...

Again she wanted to believe him, but he had to understand if was harder to do so than before. "N-no?"

"No," he whispered, and his right hand slid around her pretty neck once more, fingers splaying wider, his pinkie dipping below her collar to stroke her nape. "Would another kiss prove it?" he ventured softly with a smile. 

Carrie fought a shiver at the feather-light touch, and for once let herself really take in and appreciate the undeniable attractiveness of his smile, the startlingly lovely blue of his eyes as they dropped to her surprise-parted lips before meeting her own. Combined with the caress at the back of her neck that couldn't have been accidental, she was partway to convinced already, but if he thought he could kiss away her awareness of his wife and little girl, he was going to have to try a little harder. 

"Well, it's... worth a shot," she admitted with a single nod, her eyes locked questioningly to BJ's before his proximity, his purpose, his seeking mouth said she could neglect her visual senses safely, all the better to give into those of taste and touch. 

He wanted her to give in. He wanted her, truly and predictably, but there was more to it than that.

He was careful to kiss her tenderly at first, because she deserved gentleness. But it bothered him he couldn't explain the ways in which kissing her helped, so when his tongue nudged between her lips to deepen the connection, he tried to at least get gratitude across, pulling her closer with a hand around her waist, a sign he wasn't thinking of anything else, a sign he really wanted her there. How could he put into words what she was helping him with when he was only consciously aware of some of it? 

This wasn't merely about cheering a friend anymore. 

It was about getting away with something and knowing, even though he had a strong hypothesis that leaned towards the disastrous, what it felt like to get away with something bigger than pranks. What it felt like to join the ranks of all these ordinary jerks who cheated on their wives and had some understandable-sounding justification for it all. What it felt like to take Hawk's bad suggestions and run with them, just to see if he could. What it could feel like to have a private corner of crummy Korea, land of unwanted Army rules yet intriguingly unprecedented freedom, where he could kiss a pretty nurse, take comfort in a soft body against his own, have a bond that Hawk had no say or stake in. And Hawk, pansophical and omnipresent Hawk... Christ, BJ had occasionally found Hawk appealing in a way he didn't want to analyze, and to find that kissing a nurse felt exactly as nice as one would think was, frankly, an unacknowledged relief. 

But more than anything, Carrie needed whatever BJ could give her in the moment, needed BJ in a sense, and he had a real soft spot for feeling needed. It was practically a blind spot, and a dangerous one at that if he could tell himself he'd already kissed Carrie, already cheated, already started down a path of events that no sudden stop would be too early or too late to adjust meaningfully. Simply by allowing his kiss, Carrie was helping him experience all those wrong-feelings things he'd never admit aloud to Hawk or anyone else that he'd want to experience, helping him feel wanted, helping him feel something nice in Korea.

And kissing her was definitely nice. Too nice. Traitorous, treacherous, terrible of him; not Peg, not his beloved jewel of a wife, but it had been five and a half months without, and...

And suddenly that seemed amply understandable justification for any man, in any moment. 

Regret would come. 

BJ knew that.

Regret could wait. 

After all, last he saw, there were still tears in her eyes, and he intended to kiss her until there weren't.

As he held her, Carrie let herself reassess BJ in this new light, to understand him not just as a friend but as a man pressed to her, tall, comforting, there, there because he cared, there even if he shouldn't have been; a hard bicep beneath her roaming hand, a friend that she liked enough to know this wasn't the wisest course, a friend whose tongue swept along hers in a way that weakened her knees and told her wisdom didn't have to matter just now. 

She wasn't aware of it but after another kiss, and yet another more questing and heated, distracting and believable, she felt less on the verge of crumbling apart. Gentle giant BJ passed a hand through her hair, his fingertips pausing over a complex assortment of pins, and she knew if she crumbled, it'd be into this, into him, into sating a deep-seated craving for touches just like that one. 

Over time, she slid from holding back hyperventilating sobs to holding back soft moans of encouragement, of interest, of giving in. Over time, with her thumb tracing his jaw, his sigh against her mouth turning breathier, grounded in the physical and fast giving heartache the sneaky slip, the internal squall quieted. A different tumult was kicking up, Captain Pierce's word rebound slipping back to mind, her hand wrapping around his nape and using the leverage to stand taller, to press closer, to feel more of him than she'd ever let herself seriously think about, and by then the tears had stopped, no fresh sorrows springing forth.

The tears stopped long before the kisses did.

The kisses led to Carrie backed against the little table and, later, BJ's calves backed against a cot.

The kisses wandered, blazing a trail that fingertips followed, and pulled rough GI fabric aside to expand.

And no matter BJ's other reasons, all of which were falling by the wayside for sake of increasingly mindless need, landing on a cot and petite Carrie landing on his lap - her eyes wide, his wider, her lips beating his to smiling - was about her still, in his mind. 

This specific woman who'd caught his eye, tugged his heartstrings, lured him coyly to her tent, woke everything in him he'd been trying so hard to ignore, she was as beautiful as he'd assured her, as easy to fall for, as easy to want. If Carrie didn't believe him yet about that, her oft-aloof coworker was living, panting, cheating, hard, principle-abandoning, incontrovertible proof plucking hairpins away to urge her hair down as he murmured her name against her neck, and she'd come to believe him soon.

BJ was going to make sure of it.

He'd find a way to get the message across.

He had an idea or two about how to make it really sink in.

Chapter 3

Chapter Notes

Twice. They made love twice, not that BJ would really call it that, not when the second time happened almost because it was easier than going back to the Swamp, dealing with questions from the peanut gallery that was Hawk if he was still awake. That same hesitation was what made it easier to justify catching sleep there, clothed but curled as close to Carrie as when they'd been undressed, telling themselves and each other that if her tent-mates came back early and questioned a thing, they'd gotten drunk, too drunk to do anything but use each other as a pillow, and nobody would think twice about it.

It felt a little like college.

No, it was better than college.

No, fucking god, no, it was so much worse than college!

At Stanford if he'd woken up somewhere random, piled against someone and regretting the night before the moment he opened his eyes, it didn't usually have to do with sex, and if it did, he wasn't married for it. Trying to sell a story of Oh-we-blacked-out-here to anyone was far less seedy then, in every respect.

So he left before there was anyone to sell a story to. 

Destination: shower.

Unfortunately, it seemed that day that the shower tent had been relocated from Uijeongbu to the shady side of Regret Street, in What The Hell Was I Thinking Town, which could be found on the map in the middle of Self-Loathing County, in the great state of Fail-ifornia.

Population: one.

It could have easily been two, if Carrie's thoughts turned as quickly to Kenny or Peg, or if any muscles protested the night's exertions too painfully, or even if she'd gotten a little less rest. 

But as it was, Lieutenant Donovan woke up feeling great.

She shivered in reminiscence as she showered, hummed as she dressed and fixed her hair, pouted with pretty gusto when she applied her lipstick, and left the tent ready to greet the day with a spring in her step only an excellent rebound with skillful hands could have put there. Which wasn't at all a mindset meant to disregard or belittle BJ's genuine caring. But he'd risen in her estimation in new ways above and beyond his personality, ways that gave her a glow she couldn't dare explain to anyone who noticed it.

She probably should have toned down that glow in the mess, and toned it down even further in front of Captain Pierce specifically, she realized all too late.

Carrie barely had any time at all to enjoy the glow before it was dampened by the realization that BJ, so different in tone than the night before, was likely going to make this complicated.

Which wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world; she didn't need more from him, just as she didn't want more from any married man, than their previous and platonic foundations. She didn't actively want anyone but her husband back! But as soon as BJ left the mess and took the cloud over his head with him, she saw a metaphorical door closing almost as soon as it had opened. She had cause to worry about their rapport, and worry about how he was bound to take what had happened between them. 

But she'd give BJ a day or two of time, space, room to think, and be grateful meanwhile that at least she didn't have to worry about how it would effect work, should wounded land. Surely that was sacred, and no matter what moods or regrets simmered, BJ would be mature enough, and know she was mature enough, that their having platonically screwed wouldn't screw anything up in the operating room. 

Really, she would have bet money on that, that Dr. BJ Hunnicutt wouldn't let his own complications follow him through the swinging OR doors.

But if she had, she would have lost. 



"Psst. Donovan. You're with me today," she heard Hawkeye murmur as she tugged on gloves at the start of the next long shift. 

She met his gaze briefly, guiltily, indignantly in surprise. Her being at BJ's table was hardly a law of the land, but there was nobody she worked better with. "Oh, I- I am?" 

"Mhm. Don't worry, we'll have a good time," he gave her a knowing little nudge before taking his place at the table, watching as corpsmen brought their first patient in. 

Carrie wasn't worried. No, she was slightly furious at how obvious it was that BJ requested her elsewhere, and that his dear friend, the room's chief surgeon, clearly knew enough about the situation to accommodate his wish sans complaint. She pointed the incredulous fury towards BJ's table, staring daggers over her mask just in time to see him turn quickly, conveniently away. 

Her daggers didn't make a dent in the tee stretched over his broad back. Mouth a hard line, she had only a few seconds to register the harshness of the rejection, but rejection it was. Where once those attractively clutch-able shoulders had soaked up tears, they were set tense and hard against her. Where once his whole demeanor had been like a friendly hand extended her way, had warmed her to her core, she felt his sudden glacial chill as acutely. 

But there was no time to dwell. 

"Yes, Doctor," she ground out, turning then to face her workspace for the day, shooting Captain Pierce another half-accusatory, half-questioning look. He only shrugged, shaking his head as if it were all mere whimsy, and put his attention to the body between them.

Carrie followed suit even as she felt nauseous. Typical, she fumed as she provided perfect yet perfunctory assistance. Typical man, to play the friend, get what any man would want, then turn their back. But to let it bleed into work! Get over yourself, she wanted to tell BJ then and there. But then, she knew surgeons, and while they were skilled at many things, getting over themselves was not one of them. 

And maybe out of revenge she tittered more at one or two of Captain Pierce's jokes than she might naturally, but it was only revenge if BJ noticed, if he cared.

He didn't appear to.

Carrie had enough of her own problems. She didn't need his. So she tried not to care, either. When he barely greeted her in the scrub room, silent vitriol coming off him in waves, she didn't understand but she didn't show her disappointment. Not there, not in front of people, not when it was bad enough that Captain Pierce surely knew. Again Carrie found herself regretting her open friendliness - there may have even been a smirk at some point - in the mess.

Over the next couple of days, she grew to regret a lot of things.

All because of how he was acting. 

Carrie wanted to save them both some grief and tell him whatever he was worried about was unnecessary, but BJ never gave her the chance. He slipped away from breakfast early the next day, seemed to have no time to discuss anything deeper than patient charts and test results, and with every interaction, Carrie could feel herself growing more certain she'd lost a friend for good. Why he seemed hell-bent on making her feel terrible for it, when all she'd wanted was comfort and, it turned out, rejuvenation, she couldn't figure. 

The awkwardness of it all was not the biggest factor that led her to Potter's office, but it was one. 

Luckily, divorce was a big enough heartache that she needn't elaborate on any smaller ones.

Unluckily, the bid for transfer didn't pan out.

Perhaps even less luckily, Major Houlihan learned of it anyway, and accosted Carrie about it the next morning when she was just striding away from Radar's final off-key notes.

"Just a moment, Lieutenant!"

Carrie stiffened. "Major?"

Major Houlihan moved to stand before her, glancing this way and that as the gathered enlisted began to disperse, hands moving to her hips. "I'm very curious, Donovan," Margaret began, "Why I heard from Colonel Potter that one of my nurses is seeking a transfer, and not from the nurse herself."

Carrie wet her lips. "Personal reasons, Major," she said by rote.

"Such as."

"Back... back home." She was getting tired of telling the same story to people who didn't care. "My- Kenny, my husband... Things aren't... going very well."

"Is that all?"

How can you ask that, when it's so much? "The... the big Not Going Well, Major. Um. Divorce, not going well."

This gave Margaret pause, and by barely perceptible degrees, her posture and expression lightened. She still looked Army, but she was listening. "Well. I'm sorry to hear that, Lieutenant, but duty's duty."

"Yes, ma'am."

It surprised her when Major Houlihan's posture went fully civilian, her expression turning to one of confidential, wry ease as she folded her arms, shifting her weight onto her right leg. "And in a way, I'm happy to hear it."

Carrie's left brow rose sharply, saying plenty of her shock that she couldn't say to a higher-up verbally.

"Oh, that sounds- terrible," Margaret corrected herself without apologizing. "I mean, being at Pierce's table the past couple days hasn't led to anything... untoward that would influence a transfer request."

The pained lieutenant felt heat rise to her cheeks, and would have given anything then for a true friend in which to confide.

Instead she glued her gaze to the mountains beyond the camp, steady except for a single tic-twitch of an eyelid, and fought to un-grit her teeth.

"No, Major."

"Very glad to hear it," the Major continued wryly, her own eyebrow saying plenty she wouldn't aloud. "...Look. I don't want to bark at you for this, Donovan. Relationships in the middle of a war..." The major had a moment of mountain-staring of her own, complete with a sigh. "While I understand how... urgent it may have felt, you come to me first. I don't enjoy appearing to not have a handle on the goings-on of my nurses, least of all the official goings-on, and I won't have it happen again. Understood?"

Carrie swallowed, nodding once. "Yes, Major."

It was a terrible time for the doctors to stroll by. A terrible time to see Hawkeye fling an arm around his best friend's shoulder, a physical re-engagement of BJ in whatever conversation they were having en route to morning rounds. A terrible time to be reminded that the omission had stung, and that BJ himself only stung nowadays, and what was the point in protecting his reputation? 

A transfer could have solved so many problems. Hers and his. 

As Carrie mentally digested the major's latest order, she was already, in great detail, debating how long she might reasonably have to wait before making another bid to get the hell away from the 4077th. It was a disheartening thought, considering how badly she'd wanted to be there in the first place and how rewarding she found the work. But it was just as she'd told the colonel. Everything was too big a mess. If anything came along that wasn't disheartening, she'd probably scoff, and stand there waiting for it to turn on her.

Which was more or less her reaction that evening when Captain Pierce followed her to Supply like a casually fretful duckling, picking up her steps as a detour from his own. 

"Oh, Carrie miaaaaa," Hawkeye sang out, and changed tactic the moment he realized Donovan, two paces ahead of him and speedy about it despite her height, clearly planned to ignore him. "Hey. Donovan. Wait up."

When she found Supply empty, she couldn't help that the first words out of her mouth were bitter. "How's BJ - still hiding?" she asked casually as she made for the shelves of blankets.

Hawkeye paused in the doorway, lips pursed in thought at her complete disregard for polite word-mincing. 

"Do not tell me he sent you to talk to me," she laughed.

"Uh... uh, no," Hawkeye stammered, stepping into the room properly as he swept hair out of his face. "No, no. I wanted to see how you'd feel about... getting back to his table tomorrow, maybe."

"How I feel about it," Carrie repeated evenly as she counted blankets in the stack. 

"Well, sure. As Chief Surgeon, it's important to me that the nurses are comfortable," Hawkeye shrugged.


"And... you know, maybe I wanna make Nurse Baker especially comfortable at the Swamp sometime soon, so why not get to know her better over a nice, frosty IV and an un-appetizer?"

"Because that always goes so well," Carrie muttered in a huff as she set a stack of blankets atop a chair, then started counting and collecting sheets.

"Well, a girl can dream," Hawkeye grinned and fluttered his lashes. 

"Why don't you ask Captain Hunnicutt how he feels about me at his table," she suggested, sounding just as sick of caring about his opinion on the matter as she felt. 

Hawkeye watched her for a long moment, finally smiling sadly. "Maybe not the best," he admitted but immediately straightened, scratching at an itch his collar had caused. "But my OR, my call."

And now mine, for whatever godawful reason, Carrie sighed internally. As if she cared sympathetically about Hawkeye greasing a fellow nurse's wheels. But... it did sound like an excuse as much as anything else, and Carrie folded a previously badly-shelved sheet as she cast a discerning sideways look his way. "...Talk to him for me?"

Hawkeye's gaze traveled in a flat line from one wall to another, without seeing a single detail, as he sought fast words for how much he didn't want to do that. "Nah, nah, Donovan-" His hand wavered midair. "The OR's my place, but that-"

"Just tell him," she cut in as she stacked sheets, "I'm not going to bite him! I don't know...." How much you know, for starters, she reminded herself, and collected her thoughts and discretion with a blink or two. "I don't know why he thinks his mood has to change- everything, or why-"

"Come on, Carrie." It was Hawkeye's turn to interrupt, insistent in tone but discreet in volume in case anyone else walked in. He wasn't about to talk to Beej for Donovan, he wasn't going to bother BJ that way, but he had an insight or two that might prove helpful to her. In BJ's eyes, he'd committed a mortal sin. Carrie didn't seem to view it the same way, which Hawkeye respected greatly about her, but how well did she really know BJ? "He's guilty, okay? BJ doesn't mess around, he's guilty as sin, and he's still working his head around how to deal with that." 

She'd paused in her folding. 

It sounded right. It struck her as true, and maybe big enough a truth, big enough a guilt, to be the whole story. 

But that didn't make it any better an excuse. 

"He's guilty and that's my fault somehow?" she asked pointedly.

And Hawkeye got the point, he did, but he was seeing it from all sides; Donovan's, admittedly, the least. "Just give him a couple days," he urged after another pause. "Let it... blow over."

"Oh, I, I am letting it blow over," she said as calmly as possible, though the folding had an aggressive edge. "If nobody's noticed."

"...yeah. Yeah, okay." What could he say? "Look, if anything'll help it along, it'll be work." 

"Yes. I agree, Captain. This doesn't interfere with work," she snapped, wondering why she was the one getting this speech instead of a certain surgeon.

Hawkeye licked his lips before venturing, cautious as could be, "...And you're sure you're not gonna bite him."

Carrie shot him a look that bordered on playfully sharp before the sense of play faded from it. "I try to talk to him, he bolts. I know you've seen it. Fine, put me at his table, maybe it'll help, I'm just... past caring, Hawkeye, honestly," her shoulders sagged for emphasis. 

"Yeah, you're dealing with a lot," Hawkeye murmured, paused once more before adding, "How, uh, how're things going with your beau? Need a, a, a shoulder or anything..."

"Doctor?" Carrie asked as she gathered up the pile of blankets. 

"Well, that's what the diploma says," Hawkeye nodded up at the ceiling, "But nobody needs to know it came from Cracker Jack U... Hm, yes?"

"The next captain that asks how I'm doing," Carrie declared as she approached him with a bulky armful of wool, "Gets to carry all these!" 

She was none too gentle in the hand-off. In fact, she all but threw the pile at him from a couple feet away, and in a moment of madcap optimism - or was it conscious clownery? - Hawkeye tried to catch the whole thing. He yelped as he fell backwards, landing on his backside both atop and buried beneath the blankets, waving a hand out wildly in an SOS intended to make Donovan laugh.

Amazingly, it worked. 

She wasn't so bad, Hawkeye found himself thinking as he emerged. Sure, she'd taken the sheets - the lighter pile - and gone on her merry way, but at least she'd dragged a blanket corner off his eyes on her way out. Nice of her. And he was sure those crazy kids would do just fine around each other, given enough time. And, oho, oh, it was secretly novel, being a smidge embarrassed to be associated with Beej for bad nurse behavior rather than the other way around. But Hawkeye would do something far stupider soon enough, the world would balance itself back out, and thanks to his helping hand, a lovely lady in Mill Valley would be none the wiser and a nurse-lieutenant had just gotten to enjoy seeing a doctor-captain land on his ass. All in a week's work. He deserved a drink, and why stop at one? 

Why, if he had a martini for every aggravatingly scratchy blanket it was now his job to re-fold, he could stay sloshed for a week.

Captain Pierce wasn't so bad, Carrie mused as she delivered the sheets to post-op. Major Burns was doing his rounds and Carrie settled back into her shift with a mind that roamed on tiptoes to the Swamp and wondered about BJ's motivations despite herself. Had he ever really been a friend, and if so, was the guilt big enough to ruin that? Did she care enough about their connection, upset as she was, to try and talk to him about that?

She thought she did. Even if the next try for a transfer was successful, this wasn't a thread she wanted to leave loose, dangling by a frayed thread, threatening disappearance altogether. To know that he was that ripped up by guilt made her feel as low as he made her feel in other ways, and it was such a shame after what they'd shared.

Carrie had known from that first morning after that they should talk. She'd tried, happily at first then increasingly otherwise, and she didn't need Captain Pierce telling her it would blow things over to work together. 

But being back at BJ's table the next day did get two entire consecutive polite words out of him - "Morning, Donovan" - so she had to give Hawkeye credit for knowing where to start. 

"Good morning, Doctor," Carrie said crisply, resetting the array of clean implements on the small tray before she met his eyes. BJ's gaze held no heat, but no jagged ice, either. 

"Let's- hope for a short day, huh?" BJ asked as brightly as he could, sucking in a breath before he averted his gaze to the sudden ruckus coming in from pre-op, the start of the parade of patients he could only hope, for so many reasons, wouldn't prove endless. 

"That sou-"

"Uh, hello, attention, kiddies!" Hawkeye called into the room. "Alright, for a warm-up number here at Camp Meatball - ah, Kellye, move over, let Klinger-... Okay, okay, happy campers one and all, it's time for our morning singalong!"

"It really isn't, Pierce," Potter grunted.

"All in favor?" Hawkeye tried, and when no one piped up, he reclaimed the limelight for himself - as if he'd ever been willing to share - in his best announcer voice. "And now, returning to your regularly scheduled programming, The Benjamin Franklin Pierce Variety Hour! Tonight we feature Larry Fine - alright, get him under gas - his good friend Harry Okay, and his neighbor's second-cousin's caddie twice removed-"

"Jerry Adequate," BJ suggested.

"Well, jeez, Beej, saying Jerry ought to quit's a little harsh," Hawkeye riffed back, smirking behind his mask as he did. 

BJ barked a laugh, and for a moment, the light in his eyes made Carrie forget her anger and simply miss someone whose company she enjoyed. Even if Friend was a label he didn't seem to know anymore how to live up to anymore, she sure wished he'd at least try. 

The OR was no place to say anything of importance, especially not with Hawkeye acting the role of tip-your-waitress-try-the-veal entertainment, so BJ didn't try. Nor did Carrie, who noticed when their eyes met again for a second too long that he straightened abruptly, and cleared his throat so hard it sounded to her like he might've permanently loosened something critical. They didn't joke, but he didn't push her on speed or focus, either. He didn't have to. The work part was smooth as ever. The worst part was how badly he wanted to meet her eyes when she wiped sweat from his brow, and how very much he couldn't let himself do that. 

All in all, it could have gone worse.

Yet BJ remained wary, even when the walking, talking, beautiful reminder of his misdeeds spent the start of their first shared post-op shift basically ignoring him. Carrie didn't attack him, she spoke to him only professionally - as if his attitude had made her given up trying otherwise - and it felt... as crappy and cold as most everything else that had come after the sole good night. But he had no idea where to begin with any of it, and he was as quietly ashamed of that as the rest, too.

But just as work had always grounded her, and as chatting with the few alert patients was grounding BJ that night, it was the work that pressed them back together, and proved to Carrie that her once-friend hadn't thoughtlessly shed all his respect for her. 

"That was a good pick-up, Carrie," BJ had said as he lifted the blue-lipped soldier's eyelid, checking for movement. "Alert as hell..."

Whether professional praise or olive branch or both, Carrie couldn't tell. She hung the plasma without looking at him, accepting his impressed tone any which way. "Thanks..."

"We're gonna have to watch him for a while." Which, BJ realized, put them together and talking whether he felt ready for it or not. He sucked in a quick breath. Here goes... "How are you feeling?"

For Carrie's part, maybe she wasn't ready for an olive branch, intended or otherwise, much as she wanted one.  She kept her gaze firmly on the IV and her tone light. "Why do you ask?" 

"What?" He knew it was snappish, but he also thought she knew she was making this harder than it had to be, while he was keeping aware of the shocky patient's pulse.

How can you sit there and ask What? Men astounded her sometimes, truly, and for a moment she forgot there was a patient between them, righteous daggers sharpening anew in her eyes behind blinking lashes. "What do you care?" Carrie peered at him, again just in time to catch him turning away, and breathed a tiny scoff. "Those are the first civil words you've spoken to me in a week." She didn't think it counted as biting, to state simple facts. 

BJ felt differently. And he was still trying to count the beats, which was why he hadn't wanted to even approach starting anything with Carrie while at work... "You're exaggerating a bit, aren't you?" he murmured lowly.

Boy, but you're a whole different brand of thick than Kenny. If she looked at him, she might end up 'meeting him in the kitchen' and taking a good, Irish swing after all. "No, I'm not..." She tilted her head, gaze sliding towards his profile. "You've been salty as hell," she asserted plainly, a hand on her hip as she emphasized, "A bear with hangnails."

"I wasn't aware of it," BJ said, but the decidedly guilty flick of his gaze up at Carrie from where he sat told her that might not be true. 

He's guilty. Give him time. Captain Pierce's words rang in her mind like bells that had been gently nudged. She tried for gentler, too. "Want to talk about it?" 

Certain and clipped, immediately: "No."

"Why not?" Carrie pressed. 

"'Cause the last time we talked," BJ reminded her as he braved the severity of her pretty eyes again, "We didn't." 

And you've been an ass ever since, so: "That's what we ought to talk about." The hesitation on his face was so cowardly, it didn't suit the sides of him she was familiar with at all. "BJ," she sought his full attention more urgently, needing him to understand that she still, for some idiot reason or another, found their friendship worth salvaging or at least giving a proper autopsy, if he was so determined to put it on the slab. "It's important to me."

And it was. There were so many aspects on her end she wanted there to be no mistaking about, one being that she was done with letting men make things her fault that were not, but more than that, who did he have but silly Pierce to talk to? If he was so full of guilt he was sluggish and slinking with the weight of it, wouldn't it better to get it out? Wouldn't it be better to have a friend than not? 

BJ wished he could quiet the dirge that rose in his head. She was right, he knew that, and he'd already hidden too long. He wasn't used to guilt, no, but what kind of man would he be if he didn't try to carry it more gracefully? What kind of friend could he have ever been to her, if he was comfortable with how they were now?

It's important to me, Carrie had said. In that moment of secret strain on her face, strain that he'd known he'd caused - great, more guilt, just what I need - his downhearted, dithering reticence had met its match.


She swung up and away from one half of the bedside when he did the other, a shaky inhale propping her to stand as tall as she could as she gathered her jacket and rattled nerves. Carrie didn't know exactly how she might phrase things yet, but she'd seen an openness in BJ's eyes that hadn't been there the past few days, and she was going to take the spare minute and that earnest look for all the clear communication he'd allow it to be worth.

t was good, probably, maybe, BJ told himself as he tugged on his jacket. So what if he didn't know where to start? Carrie seemed to. Even if it... didn't always bode well, when a man was even a little bit in the wrong and a woman knew where to start...

But it was important to him, too.

A single physical step behind her and likely several mental, too, BJ lied to himself (not for the first time) that he'd already forgotten the softness of his friend's hair, and followed her outside.

Out-of-doors on a chilly, maliciously windy night in the middle of a war was an unlikely place to seek warmth.

But there BJ and Carrie stood, face to face and determined regardless to try. 





Chapter End Notes

(in no order) writing soundtrack:

(title) Sheryl Crow - My Favorite Mistake
The Grass Roots - Temptation Eyes
Natalie Imbruglia - Instant Crush
The Pretenders - Talk of the Town / Night in My Veins / Baby's Breath
Rolling Stones - Dear Doctor
The Hollies - Carrie Anne
Lisa Loeb - Let's Forget About It / Truthfully
Juice Newton - Angel of the Morning
Crowded House - Into Temptation
Tuscadero - Hollywood Handsome
Sixpence None the Richer - Easy to Ignore
Paul Anka - Put Your Head on My Shoulder
Caro Emerald - Tangled Up
Patti Smith - Because the Night
Cliff Richard - Carrie
Bif Naked - Moment of Weakness
DEVO - Girl U Want
Liz Phair - Fuck and Run / Friend of Mine / Never Said
The Cars - Just What I Needed
The Rasmus - Guilty
Twinkle - What Am I Doing Here With You?
Suzanne Vega - It Makes Me Wonder / Men In A War
Helen Shapiro - Move Over Darling
Garbage - Cup of Coffee / Can't Cry These Tears
Adele - Cold Shoulder
Nanci Griffith - Nobody's Angel / Friend Out in the Madness
Butch Walker - Trouble
Laura Marling - The End of the Affair
Alison Sudol - The Quickening


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