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Pillow Talk

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By the time they reach their designated hotel in Ginza, Tokyo, they’re in a rotten mood with a dark cloud over their heads and a somber attitude to match. It should have been about getting away from the damn war (and often just the sheer boredom), but their effort at work still lingered heavy on their shoulders.

It had been a particularly rough patch of wounded. A ninety-seven percent survival rate was their crowning achievement, yet so many died in such a short span of time that Hawkeye wouldn’t be surprised if it lowered their average by a few percent. When a young man—regrettably a soldier—often so youthful that he had only just stepped out of adolescence passed away, they didn’t have time to process his death before they had to move onto the next one. Regretfully, after more than a dozen succumbed to the severe wounds from heavy shelling, the dead were treated with much less care than they deserved. There was no time to grieve or pause when there were many more in need of help.

It was the first time he and Trapper had experienced that many casualties up close. They had men dying on the way in, dying on their operating tables, and dying due to post-op complications. Even Father Mulcahy was utterly overwhelmed when he couldn’t be three places at once. The stench of death permeated throughout the whole camp. Hawkeye had never felt so grateful he wasn’t a medic at battalion aid.

Henry, as absent-minded as he can be, quietly insisted they take a three-day pass. He and Trapper would have been ecstatic about it at any other time, but they too quietly accepted it, and after one night of desperately needed rest, packed for their trip.

The travel from jeep to airport, plane to Tokyo, cab to hotel was hampered with an uncomfortable silence instead of the never ending wisecracks and musings on what exactly they plan to do or who exactly they plan to do. The usual talk of shenanigans and pranks and sex and food all fell to the wayside, no matter how hard they tried to cheer each other up.

It’s 2 AM when they check in at the desk.

“Room for… Benjamin F. Pierce. Floor three, room thirteen.”

She hands over a small brass key that digs into his palm when he squeezes it in anticipation. Hawkeye’s so ready to pass out in an actual bed. A real, wonderful, comfortable, downy feather bed. He steps aside for Trapper, and the hotel clerk acknowledges him, “Yes, sir?”

“I’d like the key to my room too, honey. Should be under John McIntyre.” Trapper looks nearly as exhausted as him.

“Excuse me, sir, I will check.” The clerk looks over the hotel register, a crease in her brow appearing in concentration while she searches for Trapper’s name. Her eyes roam down the sheet then back up it. Only a hint of displeasure shows by the way she squeezes her pen slightly too hard. She knows that American GIs can be a pain when they don’t get what they want.

The clerk sighs and shakes her head, “I’m sorry, sir. Your name is not here.”

The two of them glance at each other. “Ma’am, could you please check again,” Hawkeye steps in.

She does another once over.

“I have, sir. He is not on the list.”

Trapper flares up, “Damn!” His fist thumps the marble counter, and it rattles under the force of his movement. The attendant flinches but only slightly.

Trapper holds up his hand and lowers his voice apologetically, “Sorry. It’s been a long trip. It’s not your fault.”

He looks back at Hawkeye and says, “Radar?”

Hawkeye shrugs. “It’s not like Radar to make a mistake like that.” He can hear the frustration in Trapper’s voice. Radar will definitely get a talking to after they get back.

Trapper straightens out and clears his throat, “Well, Hawk…”

“It’ll be fine, Trap. We can just share a room.” They haven’t done that in a while. They used to get one room with two beds but later decided it was more efficient to have separate rooms for more privacy with whatever lady companion they could snag that night.

“Excuse me, ma'am,” he gestures at the clerk, “Do you have any other rooms available with two beds?”

“I’m sorry, sir, we are fully booked tonight.”

Plan B. “Any extra futons?”

“No, sir.”

“Any couches? Cots? A blanket and a pillow? Anywhere this poor man can sleep? Anything? You know we’ve had a very long trip getting here?” The irritation in his voice steadily raises with every question.

“No, sir. We have no extras. Would you like me to recommend another hotel?” That was that.

At a loss, Hawkeye deflates, his shoulders slumping, and he turns back to Trapper whose face had impressively not changed that whole exchange. He just rolls his eyes pointedly. He was probably too worn out to protest anymore. “It’s fine, Hawk. Let’s just deal with it for this one night.”

Hawkeye makes sure to thank the attendant for their trouble before heading for the elevator.

Tinged with a slight awkwardness at their impending situation, they head for their room in complete silence. Unlocking the door, Hawkeye walks inside first with Trapper on his heels. The light clicks on, and the door is shut.

They both take in the bed. Japanese hotel rooms are small and compact, definitely a bit small for the average American, especially the one that they’re situated in right now. In a double room, they cannot get beds bigger than a twin size. One of the benefits of getting a single was that they’re able to have a full size bed. A full bed is enough for one tall man such as himself, but it is a bit too close for comfort for two tall men.

Hawkeye sits down on the edge of the bed, facing towards the window. When Trapper sits on the opposite side, he feels a noticeable dip from his weight.

They start getting undressed for bed. It’s a fairly warm summer in Tokyo, so stripping down to undershirts and boxers to maintain a comfortable temperature is logical. A thin but soft cotton sheet is their blanket.

Hawkeye glances back at Trapper. “Trap, I’m sorry about—” he starts. Trapper cuts him off.

“No, no. Forget it, Hawkeye. Besides, you can just pretend you’re sleeping with a nice lady.”

A bit of tension subsides, and Hawkeye laughs. That was the first real joke cracked in ten hours.

“Only if you pretend I’m your wife.”

“Ha! My wife. I’d think I’d prefer almost anyone else at the moment.”

They slip under the covers. As Hawkeye suspected, there’s not much room between the two of them. Maybe half a foot at most. He tries to make himself as small as possible by turning on his side. “Goodnight, darling.”

“‘Night, sweetheart.”

Minutes pass. Hawkeye is getting frustrated that he hasn’t fallen asleep yet. Whatever exhaustion he may have felt earlier was still there, but the ability to pass out immediately has seemingly been left at the swamp. The sticky heat leaves him slightly damp and increasingly suffocated. It’s also hard to forget that he was sharing a bed with another man.

A brief forbidden thought crosses his mind and he flushes and immediately brushes it away, tries to put it in the very back of his mind. Trapper was probably the most aggressively heterosexual man he ever met who remained secure in himself. He was not only not phased by flirty jokes, but he was able to dish them out himself in equal measure. No, it was impossible…

What an odd thing to be thinking about after the hell he just went through. Hawkeye blames it on the fatigue. He couldn’t help it when Trapper radiated body heat like a furnace, distracting him at every moment. The man emanated warmth even when he felt like he was freezing. Trapper always said it was from the football playing.

It’s even harder when he’s unable to sprawl out like he usually does. Those army regulation cots may be narrow but even being able to stick a leg off or laying on his belly helped. He was looking forward to being able to do that on a bed wide enough to accommodate the stretch of his legs, but clearly that did not work out. He’s afraid to even move at this point.

Hawkeye tries to focus instead on the muffled noise of the nightlife outside the window he was facing. Or on the gentle whirr of the fan rotating on the desk. He even tries to relax his muscles and counting sheep. Anything to distract from thoughts of the man in bed with him (ha, ha).

Ironically, it’s Trapper’s heavy, rhythmic breathing that helps him settle into any semblance of sleep—a restless, uneasy sleep, but nonetheless a state of unconscious rest. That, and he could no longer keep his eyes open.

Hawkeye rarely dreams in Korea. In his civilian life, they were extremely common. (Thinking of it as “civilian life” gives him pause. It feels wrong to think of himself as anything but a civilian.) They fascinated him, reflected all aspects of his life, and he enjoyed them a lot. A few weeks into his impromptu trip abroad, he started dreaming less and less until they eventually almost stopped entirely. Often, he was too tired to dream at all, or if he did, he could never remember. What was left was closer to a nightmare.

This nightmare was not vivid. There were only flashes of blood and gore, merely the feeling of death encompassing him, and the distant but unmistakable sounds of shells exploding. He was helpless. He was a grain of sand against a tidal wave, swept away against his will, and so overwhelmed all he felt was abject fear.

It’s not until his whole left side brushes against Trapper that he abruptly wakes up. There’s a tight feeling in his chest, and his heart is racing a million miles per second. Blood pulses loudly in his ears. The early morning light is just starting to peek through the slit in the curtain.

Trapper’s arm comes around his waist, and Hawkeye nearly jumps out of his skin. Then he’s angry with himself that he disturbed Trapper. The timing of the nightmare could not have been worse. Yet Trapper’s behavior is strange. “Shh, it’s alright, honey.” Honey? He must still be half asleep. Hawkeye peers down at Trapper to check if his eyelids are closed. They are.

“Please go back to sleep. I’m here for ya,” he mumbles. Yeah, he was definitely not fully awake. Hawkeye breathes a sigh of relief.

Heat from Trapper’s arm sends a shiver down his spine and leaves goosebumps despite the heat, but Hawkeye forces himself to turn back onto his side and scoot to the far edge. Trapper’s arm slides off almost reluctantly to rest in the space between them. He’s asleep again in moments. By some blessing, Hawkeye follows him shortly after.

When he awakes again, probably well into the midday, he’s warm. Uncomfortably warm. But only on one side. Trapper’s spooned up behind him, pressed up close, with an arm around his middle and their legs entwined. The sheet had been kicked off at some point between the nightmare and now.

Hawkeye stops breathing for a moment. He knows if he moves at all, Trapper will wake up. Worse, is that he doesn’t want to ruin the moment. Is it shameful to feel this good in the arms of another man? Not just another man but his new best friend in the war whom he’d been thick as thieves with ever since they met. A disconcerting realization hits Hawkeye that he may have been holding a torch for a married man this whole time. Yes, he had always been attracted to various men, married or not, over the years but he had never been so… infatuated, or—he dreads to think of it as that four letter word—with any of them, at least not since he was a teenager. Even with women, in a long term committed relationship, there was only ever Carlye. His heart aches at the thought. The risk of being with a man is so great that he doesn’t bother most of the time for his own safety, outside of the glib flirting, of course. Especially not in the army where certain blue discharge papers could ruin his life forever. He’s made due with women. He always has. It was just easier. And smarter.

Trapper stirs and his arm gently squeezes around him. He brings him in closer, and nuzzles at his neck. Hawkeye freezes stiff, not even daring to exhale, and is painfully aware of every touch. Eyelashes brush faintly against the nape of his neck, and Hawkeye can feel Trapper tense in that second when he realizes what position he’s in. He’s fully awake now, and Hawkeye doesn’t know how to respond or explain. He thinks of a million things to say and not one of them is good enough, so he shuts his eyes tight and pretends to be asleep.

There’s a slight delay in Trapper’s reaction. His breathing gets heavy like he’s about to hyperventilate, and his breath is harsh against Hawkeye’s skin, but he takes a deep breath to calm down and carefully detangle himself from Hawkeye. Seconds later, he hears a door squeak shut and the sound of running water. When Trapper comes out, Hawkeye fakes a yawn and stretches, trying to pull off the best I-just-woke-up acting he could muster. Ultimately, he struggles to say anything at all, the words drying up in his mouth, and decides to go freshen himself up to avoid talking.

By the time he’s done, Trapper is fully dressed. He’s the first to break the awkward silence, “Uh, Hawk. I think I’ll go get some lunch. It’s past afternoon.”

Hawkeye nods stiffly, not quite able to look him in the eye.

“See ya later. I’ll meet you back at the Ginza bar for drinks at nine, okay?”

Before Hawkeye could respond, he’s out the door to leave him in solitude. A loud grumble from his stomach reminds him that he better eat something too.

The rest of the afternoon is spent listlessly wandering around the streets. Normally he’d be trying to strike out with some vacationing nurse or local geisha, but he can’t bring himself to do anything. Besides, Trapper was probably going to do just that to wash away the feel of last night. He’ll come back to the hotel room with a new woman, delicate and feminine, very unlike himself. He didn’t think he could deal with seeing Trapper with another woman right now, despite the dozens of times he’d seen him with a nurse back at camp.

From shop to shop, Hawkeye browses around and pretends to have interest in buying something to kill time until they have to meet up again. The watch is checked repeatedly until 8:30 PM rolls around and Hawkeye could no longer take it anymore.

The Ginza bar, the one him and Trapper go to during every R&R, is filled to the brim with officers and enlisted men and geisha. The music is loud, too loud, and the smoke in the room is slightly disorienting. Trapper’s tall visage and curly light brown hair makes him easy to spot on the bar. They typically sit in the middle, enthusiastic for a round of drinks and always seeking attention. Today, he’s in the corner and far right edge. It’s utterly packed, but there’s a seat saved for seat for him.

When he takes his seat, he can see Trapper is avoiding looking at him. Immediately, he orders drinks.

“Two martinis, bartender!”

“As dry as the Mojave desert,” Hawkeye quips halfheartedly. At least it was something to break the ice. Their drinks are placed in front of them and Trapper downs half his drink in one gulp. He pauses a moment to let it settle.

For the first time since afternoon, Trapper looks him in the eye. He smiles, almost forcefully, and says, “So Hawkeye, didja score any? I know it’s been a while since your last nurse.” He laughs loudly in a way that is slightly unconvincing.

Hawkeye hesitates, “Oh, uh… no, Trapper. No luck this time.” He grimaces as he sips and idly rubs the coaster. “What about you, you dog? Last time you had a blonde, this time you said you wanted a brunette.”

Trapper’s gone quiet. The half finished drink is left untouched.

Hawkeye speaks up first, “Look, Trap—“

He’s interrupted, “Hawk. I’m sorry. I’m not feeling so well. Think I’m gonna turn in for the night,” he says in a stilted manner. He looked a little guilty about cutting off a drinking night.

Trapper disappears into the crowd. Hawkeye stays back for a little while, deciding that Trap probably needs a bit of space. It would be a shame to forgo a martini that didn’t taste like their usual paint thinner.

His drink and Trapper’s half finished, Hawkeye leaves a couple dollars onto the bar and walks back to the hotel room. Some doubt is forming in his mind about last night. Was Trapper really half asleep? Was it this morning that was making him feel so bad? It was not like him to be so cagey all of a sudden.

The hotel room door creaks open and he spots Trapper sitting alone on the bed in the dark. Stripes of moonlight come through the open blinds, reflecting off Trapper’s stony face. He was lost in thought, but Hawkeye thought it was about time he shared so they could be lost together.

After a moment of hesitation, Hawkeye clicks the light on. There’s barely a reaction.

“Oh, Hawkeye,” he says distantly. “I thought you’d be out longer.”

“Trap… level with me, please. You’re my best friend. You don’t need to hide what’s eating at you.” That’s what Hawkeye said, but truth be told, it was not that unusual for Trapper to keep serious matters bottled up, even from him. It was just his way. Sure, Hawkeye covered up his own feelings with a lot of humor and drink, but most people could sense when he was feeling bad, and could quite often pry out his honest feelings. Not exactly a “wear your heart on sleeve” type, but he might as well be was compared to Trap, who only allowed people to know if it was so extreme he couldn’t hold it in any longer. But Hawkeye’d like to think that he was the one that got the most of Trapper’s inner feelings, that he was better at telling when something was wrong.


“It’s okay. Really!”

More silence. He tried a different approach.

“Is this about what we went through before coming here?”

Trapper shakes his head. Ah, now they’re getting somewhere.

“Is this…” he hesitates to broach the subject, “is this about this morning?”

He looks away. “Morning? What about it?”

“You know… in bed. You were—“

“Wait! You were awake for that?”

“Yes, Trapper. Calm down, it’s not a big dea—“

“Not a big deal! Maybe for you it’s not, but for me… I’m not…”

“Hang on, what you do you mean by that? Why should it be? We had to share a bed. It’s not like we actually did anything!”

Trapper’s face goes through a number of emotions in a very short period of time. He looks dumbfounded, then terrified, then sad.

He swallows heavily. “I know that, but…”

“But what! I always thought you were secure in yourself.” Hawkeye closes the distance between them. “You seemed fine with George. And we’re not even like him! Well, you’re not, but...”

“Hawk—“ He can’t believe he let that slip. Hawkeye continues talking to save face.

“Yeah, so! Just calm down. You don’t need to get so touchy with me. A little cuddle changes nothing, it means nothing. Seriously, if it was such a big deal, we could’ve gotten you a new hotel last night.” It pained Hawkeye to lie like that but he was not giving up his best friend, someone he so desperately needed, just because of a single awkward incident.

Trapper gets up and lets out a strained sigh. “That’s the thing, Hawkeye. It doesn’t mean nothing.” His hand comes to rest on Hawkeye’s shoulder, and he's inched forward until they’re almost nose to nose now.

“Trapper, what? Why?”

“I, um… I…” he lets out a choked noise. He couldn’t get the words out, so he doesn't try.

It happens in slow motion. Hawkeye initially focuses on the edges of Trapper’s curls, backlit by the dim yellow bulb in the middle of their room. Then the way his adam’s apple bobs as he tries to swallow his anxiety and fear. Finally, Trapper’s lips, which were slightly dry and cracked from the heat. All in the seconds before their mouths came together.

All these months, Hawkeye had felt a certain tension, an electricity, when he and Trapper were together. They were always “just friends” teetering on potentially something more. They were more openly affectionate than any other men would dare but got away with it because of the relentless nurse-chasing.

Some people may have had their suspicions about Hawkeye because of his omni-present flirty nature that didn’t seem to discriminate, but he had never proven to be anything but a red-blooded straight American male. Trapper, well, Trapper was practically foolproof because of a little thing called his wife and children. Hawkeye had assumed so as well. The flirting and the affection regardless, Trapper couldn’t be like him. Until now.

Hawkeye had thought about how Trapper would kiss. He had seen it but could only imagine before this moment. Right now he was kissing with a fiery desperation and an incredible need. He was kissing like he might never get the chance again. Every bit of emotion he couldn’t say out loud was being said through his actions.

They draw closer together, pressed chest to chest. The back of Trapper’s knees hit the edge of the bed, and they fall backwards onto the soft bed with a solid whump. Breaking apart for air, Trapper rolls them over so he’s on top and plants a kiss on the underside of Hawkeye’s chin. He leaves little bites and kisses and a nice bright red hickey on the collarbone. Nobody will suspect anything when they’re in Tokyo, and he’s well aware of it.

Hawkeye grasps and pulls gently on Trapper’s curls, and he groans quietly into the skin of his neck. They’ve both grown half hard but neither is patient enough to stop and take their clothes off, so Hawkeye settles for slotting his thigh between Trapper’s legs. He pulls him back together for another kiss as they rut against each other.

It’s messy and undignified, but Hawkeye couldn’t give a damn. He notices how much quieter Trapper is than him, except Trapper seems to enjoy his moans. The walls aren’t that thick, so he does have to restrain himself a bit. Trapper’s nuzzling at his collar, nipping lightly at the skin. His hair tickles softly against his jaw.

Trapper comes first with a groan muffled into the skin of Hawkeye’s shoulder. When Hawkeye comes a few seconds later, he moans so loud, he’s sure the neighbors heard it.

Trapper collapses next to his friend-newly-turned-lover.

After coming down from the post-coital high, Hawkeye starts laughing.

“What, you think that was funny?” Trapper raises an eyebrow.

“No, no. It’s just… it’s been so long since I’ve come in my pants like that. Like we’re a couple of teenagers!” he cackles gleefully.

Trapper rolls his eyes and snickers. “Yeah, alright. That is pretty funny. Now get undressed,” he points to the Hawkeye’s flowery blue Hawaiian shirt and khakis.

“Oh, Trapper. You should know that our age, the refractory period is quite significant.”

Trapper clicks his tongue, “No. I mean, let’s clean up a little.”

The dirty clothes were tossed aside for some thorough laundering, and Trapper gently wipes Hawkeye and himself down with a spare towel.

They lay in bed together, more naked than when they had sex.

“Trap… thank you. For last night.”

“What, the cuddling?”

“No, there was a nightmare. In the middle of the night. You were probably half asleep.”

Trapper looks at him thoughtfully, “Huh. Wha’d I say?”

“You just…” Hawkeye searches for the words, “comforted me. Called me ‘honey’ too.”

Eyes widening, Trapper nods slowly in understanding. “Yeah. Nightmares. Been having them since I got here. Had them before Korea too.”

“That was my first.” Hawkeye confesses. “Outside of the kind you get as a child, or the ones I’d get about failing med school. It was the first actually about Korea.”

“What happened?”

Hawkeye sighs, “Nothing in particular. Just kinda relived what we went through last week. But in bits and pieces and flashes and sensations, ya know?”

“It’s the same with me,” Trapper nods. “I never remember my nightmares well. It’s the shock I get when I bolt awake at three in the morning that sticks with me.”

He elaborates, “Thinkin’ about it, I probably called you ‘honey’ cause my wife has them too. And my children! We’re a whole family of nightmares!” he chuckles at his own lame joke.

Hawkeye’s smile fades a little as he’s brought back up the elephant in the room, or rather, the wife back at home. He can’t bring himself to ruin the moment by talking about that. Even thinking about it and how he may be nothing more than a wartime fling like all the nurses hurts too much, so he forgets it for the time being.

“Next time, I’ll take care of you when you have the nightmare.”

“Uh uh, sweetheart. I’m the expert here,” he pokes Hawkeye in the shoulder. “Besides, you’re normally fast asleep during my night time troubles. Quite the heavy sleeper, aren’t ya?”

“Oh, sue me.” He tentatively places his palm on Trapper’s cheek, his finger stroking along the cheekbone. “I’ll try my best anyway.”

“I know you will.”

They lay together, not caring if it’s too warm, at least for a little while.