Title: Forgive Me
Disclaimer: Belongs to many other people, not me
Summary: Who does the confessor confess to? What are his sins?
Notes: First posting on the group. I’d really like feedback on it. And consider this a prayer for more Sidney or Mulcahy fic.
Beta(s): none so feel free to point out errors.
By Lady Gray
“Forgive me Sidney, for I have sinned.”
Sidney was half drunk, half asleep in the sticky night air. He wasn’t sure if he’d heard right.
“Shouldn’t that be my line, Father?”
“I have no one else to hear my confession.”
A welcomed breeze ruffled the tent but did not enter. Priests and shrinks must have privacy, but not for themselves.
“Tell me you sins, Father.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“Francis, Johnny, John.”
“John.” Sidney said softly. He couldn’t make Francis or Johnny fit.
“I have committed the sin of envy, of vanity, of pride, of lust, of rage. I have contemplated unforgivable sins, yet felt no guilt in my soul.”
“That’s a lot of sin, John.”
“Not really. You hear sins when souls are breaking. Everyday I’m told of sin and I look into their eyes, and their souls are glad, and yet it is a sin.”
“I’m not sure I follow.”
Francis Mulcahy shrugged and poured himself another drink. Good scotch, won in a poker game, a fortune on the black market, it should have been saved for the orphans. He poured Sidney another drink as well.
“I can pick them out you know. There’s a way they move and I envy them their sin.”
“The sin of Hawkeye. I had to invent a new category. There is always the sin but I never see guilt, never regret, just an academic knowledge of right and wrong.”
‘The sin of Hawkeye.’ Sidney mulled over. ‘That man would be a sin in himself.’
“My own sins are slight.” Mulcahy continued. “I make myself clean in this dump, and feel pride when the right kinds of words fall from the right set of lips, and I have lusted for those lips and felt rage at them for even existing.” Sidney knew he was too drunk to properly analyze an equally drunk priest having a minor homosexual crisis. He took another drink.
“To me sin always seemed like nothing more than basic human expression. You are human John.”
Mulcahy closed his eyes and took another drink. “No one will touch me, Sidney.” He wined suddenly.
“I thought that was a big no no?”
“Not to touch, a simple pat on the back, punch in the arm, they won’t even bump into me, won’t touch my hand when passing the salt, won’t give me a hug. Is it wrong to desire just that much.”
“Well touch is primal. The first thing we are aware of is the doctor’s hands on our bodies and our own scream in our ears.”
Mulcahy shifted sideways on his cot and looked at Sidney in the dim light, in a way that made him think of Hawkeye drunk and lounging in the heat.
‘The sin of Hawkeye.’
“Would you like a hug John?”
Sidney got up and sat next to Mulcahy and wrapped his arms around him. Mulcahy hugged back and they both closed their eyes.
Sidney was laughing when he returned to the VIP tent. Frank was wet and all was right with the world. Mulcahy was sitting on his bed, waiting.
“John. What can I do for you?” Sidney never called him John where anyone else could hear, always Father, just like Doctor or Captain.
“I came by to check on you. I wanted to see how your spirits where. I hope you’ll forgive my coming in. I didn’t want to lurk outside.”
“I’d forgive you nearly anything John, you know that. And as for your previous concern, I’m feeling much better.”
Mulcahy smiled. “That’s good to hear. Someone in this mess needs to have their head on strait.”
“I didn’t say that. I just said I felt better.”
“Well that’s something I guess.” Mulcahy smiled and moved to leave the tent.
Sidney put his hand on Mulcahy’s shoulder to stop the man then pulled him into a hug. Both in their bare sleeves the skin of their arms touched. “Thank you for caring John.”
The cold wind came through camp as the fire began to burn low. Sidney realized, perhaps a little too late, that he didn’t have a change of clothes.
“Can I offer you sanctuary?” Mulcahy whispered in his ear.
“Thank you, yes.”
In the chaplain’s tent a spare blanket was found and drinks were poured.
“The doctors tell me that this doesn’t actually warm you up, it merely creates the illusion of warmth.”
“As a psychiatrist I can state that illusion is a very powerful thing.”
“That it is.” The two men sat in quite contemplation.
“How have you been managing, John?” Sidney asked.
“The war goes on, I go on with it, and how I manage means little to the army as long as I carry on.”
“Such a good little soldier.”
“Ours it not to reason why...” Sidney reached out and touched Mulcahy’s hand.
“This isn’t the valley of death, John, even if it feels that way, you can to better than just manage.”
“I know. I try.” Sidney sat next to Mulcahy and drew him in for a hug. Sidney felt the warmth of a cheek pressed against his neck. Sidney felt John begin to shake, and held on harder.
Sidney heard the soft tap on the door of the VIP tent.
“Come in.” The door opened letting in the night and a lone figure. “Hello John. What can I do for you?” The priest looked agitated, looking over his shoulder as the door closed.
“Hawkeye? Will Hawkeye be ok?”
“He’ll be fine. He had a couple of old bats in the bell fray but I’ve scared them out.”
“He was just so sick.”
“I know, he’ll be fine. Sit down.” Mulcahy sat in the offered chair and quickly stood up again. “John please, what’s wrong?” Mulcahy went to his knees but did not cross himself.
“Forgive me Sidney for I have sinned.”
“What is your sin?” Sidney watched as the man he called John began to cry, he kneeled down in front of him and took the fine, scholarly hands into his. “John?”
“Is it so wrong to want to feel, Sidney? To want to remember what the doctor’s hands on your body felt like the first time, in that first breath.”
“No John.” The hands shook and began to move. They moved around Sidney’s wrists, never stopping, like a blind man seeking for something. Mulcahy had closed his eyes. Sidney felt himself begin to shake. How long had it been since someone had touched him with gentleness? Certainly not as long as a priest would have gone, but in war every touch seemed tainted with violence. Sidney pushed up his sleeves. Mulcahy squeezed his eyes tighter as if blindness would somehow negate what was happening, but his hands began to shake harder. Sidney pulled him in, wrapping his arms tight around the slim body.
“Ssshhh, it’s ok, it’s ok,” Sidney whispered. “It’s ok.” Mulcahy nodded into Sidney’s shoulder.
Hands began to rove along his back and he reciprocated. Sidney could feel where a bit of his shirt was untucked. Mulcahy’s long fingers found it and froze, fingertips lightly touching skin.
“It’s ok.” One voice whispered.
“Forgive me.” Said another.
Sidney felt the hand creep under his shirt and he sighed, squeezing his own eyes shut. ‘To far, to far’ a voice in his head said, but he didn’t listen. After all one of the first things they teach you is listening to the voices in your head means you’re crazy.
He worked his own hand under John’s shirt. The skin was too soft. He could feel bird thin ribs under his fingers bellowing with deep shaking breaths.
He became aware of a noise over the pounding of his own heart. A thin sound, like a scream from a great distance. The man in his arms was screaming, vocal cords pulled so tight it was hardly more than the faintest whisper. Over and over, a lifetime of screams.
Sidney pulled back and pulled his shirt over his head then pulled off Mulcahy’s as well. The men grabbed each other pressing chest to chest, skin to skin. The screams became great wracking sobs.
“Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me.” One voice said.
“I forgive you.” Said another.
Sidney opened to door of his apartment letting out a blast of frozen, conditioned, air into the muggy New York summer.
“John.” Sidney said with a smile. “Come in. You made it.”
“Well I could hardly come to New York without looking up my favorite shrink.”
“Sit down. Let me get you some ice tea.”
“Thank you. That would be lovely.” Mulcahy sat in the tidy living room and looked around at the pictures and knickknacks.
“So how have you been John?” Sidney called from the kitchen. He got no answer. He carried the drinks back into the living room. “Did you want sugar?” He asked, but also received no answer. He sat down across from Mulcahy.
“Ah. Ice tea. Lovely thank you.”
“You’re welcome. How have you been?” There was a moment of silence and Mulcahy had a look of concentration.
“I’ve been well, getting by.”
“Does the tea need sugar?”
“No. It’s just fine, thank you. It’s odd seeing you in civilian clothes.”
“I’ve got my class A in the closet if you’ll be more comfortable.”
“Thank you, no.”
Sidney peered at his friend.
“Why are you watching my lips?”
Mulcahy flushed slightly and looked down for a second.
“I’m sorry. I’m afraid I’m quite deaf these days. I have to read lips.”
Sidney felt the shock run through him. “What happened John?”
“The war, the last days.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
Mulcahy shrugged. “I didn’t tell anyone.”
“You could have told me.” Sidney said a little hurt, but suddenly aware of the movement of his own lips.
“You had a bigger worry in those days.”
“I could have made room.”
“True. I rather bent God’s ear on the issue instead.”
Sidney laughed. “I’m sure you did.”
“So how have you been?” Mulcahy asked. “Is your family about?”
It was Sidney’s turn to lower his head. “I’m afraid I’m divorced, she took the kids upstate, I get them every other weekend.”
“I’m so sorry Sidney. What happened?”
“The war. I came home with too many nightmares that belonged to other people. The last straw was when I woke up screaming about chickens and couldn’t stop crying for an hour.”
“You spent three years scooping up the remains of shattered minds, it’s to be expected that you’d get stuck with a shard or two.”
“Perhaps. And what about you John? Did you come home with the guilt of sins you never committed?”
“And a few that I did. Yes.” Mulcahy lowered his eyes and Sidney realized he wasn’t just averting his sight but plunging himself into an even greater silence. When he finally looked back up Sidney smiled.
“So what brings you to New York?”
“A job interview actually.”
“Really? I thought you sort of had a job for life.”
Mulcahy shrugged. “Not a lot of use for a deaf priest. I’m on semi-permanent sabbatical.”
“I’m so sorry.” And he was.
“It’s ok. There’s a school for the deaf a few stops up the line from here. They have an opening for a history teacher.”
“I didn’t know you taught.”
“Priests are encouraged to get their teaching credentials. It makes it easier to staff all the Catholic schools.”
“Of course. Do you think you’ll get the job?”
“I have an interim yes until final approval goes through.”
“Think you’ll be able to handle a classroom full of kids?”
“After the 4077th?”
Sidney laughed “Fair enough. Do you have a place to stay yet?”
“No. I honestly didn’t think I’d be offered the position, I only went to the interview on a whim. I suppose I’ll have to find an apartment. At least the move will be easy. I’ve been staying at the seminary, all my own stuff still fits in a duffle bag.”
“You know you’re always welcome here.” Sidney gestured to the large apartment, meant to house a family.
Mulcahy flushed a little. “I wouldn’t want to be an intrusion.”
“It would be no intrusion. I could use the company, this place is way to big for just me. I’d move but it’s rent controlled.”
“I take it that’s a bonus around here?”
“You have no idea. Besides, it would be nice to have a roommate that I can’t wake by screaming in the middle of the night, not to mention one that will forgive my cooking.”
“Only if you forgive my screams as well, Sidney.”
Sidney reached out and took Mulcahy’s delicate hands into his.
“I’d forgive you anything, John.”