By: Casey Nora
"God rest ye merry gentleman, let nothing you dismay!"
Hawkeye strolled past a group of carolers on his way to 6:00 AM breakfast in the mess tent. He pulled his scarf tighter around his neck and continued to slosh across the muddy compound.
Just as he opened the door to the mess tent, Radar came over the PA.
"All personnel, report to the compound to meet your Christmas gift, arriving via ambulance!"
Three ambulances revved into the compound , followed by a hoard of jeeps. He rushed over to meet them.
As medics unloaded limp and bloody bodies, Hawkeye looked up at the clouding sky in dismay. "December 23 was a great day to restart the war."
Trapper and Hawkeye emerged from the OR 30 hours and countless patients later. they were sore and achy and very tired.
"Captain Pierce and Major Houlihan, report to Col. Blake's office on the double!" Hawkeye groaned as his name boomed over the PA.
"Hey, Hawk, What'd you do to Hot Lips this time?" Trapper asked jokingly.
Hawkeye shrugged and headed to the C.O.'s office to find out.
"Hawkeye, Margaret," Henry Blake addressed them with drunken, slurred speech, "There's a village twenty miles east of here-- it was bombed. The road is blocked by debris so the ambulances can't get in, and the helicopters are grounded because of the approaching storm."
Both sighed miserably as they realized what was coming next.
"I want you to take a jeep and some medical supplies out there," Henry said.
"No way! Henry, I refuse to leave camp on Christmas Eve!" Hawkeye said flatly.
"That's an order, Pierce," Henry took a swig of his holiday scotch, "Here, you'll get hungry," He handed Margaret a bag of cookies and a canteen of egg nog.
"Henry," Pierce said, "You can't make me go!"
"Pierce," Margaret planted her hands firmly on her hips, "If you don't I'll go right over Henry's head to General Clayton."
"Hey--" Henry began, but Hawkeye cut him off.
"I'll go get a jeep. Margaret, find my bag." Hawkeye stomped out in resignation.
"Can't we get there any faster?!" Margaret asked as they sped away from camp.
"Look, the speedometer broke off ten minutes go!" Hawkeye replied, turning to glare at her.
"Pierce, you're supposed to be driving!" She grabbed the steering wheel right before they rolled into a ditch.
Hawkeye slammed on the brakes as they came to a crossroad. An old Korean man was pushing his cart across.
"Hey, which way to Lin Chon?" Hawkeye called.
"Left," The man replied, "Or straight."
"Which way is faster?" Margaret asked, her voice struggling to stay calm.
"Straight, but--" too late. They sped by before he could finish.
The road went down into a steep hill. Mud splattered on them as the jeep picked up speed.
"Slow down!" Margaret let out a scream when she saw a hairpin turn in the road ahead.
"I can't!" Hawkeye shouted, "The brakes are jammed!"
"Do something!" she yelled at him.
"Like what?" Hawkeye asked bitterly.
"PRAY!" With that, she grabbed the steering wheel from him and spun it around as fast as she could.
The road turned to gravel. They bumped and jiggled and jolted. There was a loud squish as they landed in the mud at the bottom.
Hawkeye looked at the road ahead of them It was a steep incline.
"You steer," He ordered to Margaret, "I'll push."
Hawkeye hopped out of the jeep and went around to the back of it. He firmly planted both feet in the mud and placed his hands squarely on the back of the jeep. He pushed forward as hard as he could.
"Push down on the gas," Hawkeye panted.
"Whatever you say," Margaret nodded.
Mud splattered up in Hawkeye's face as the wheels turned hopelessly.
Margaret walked around to the back of the jeep. "You'll never get this thing to move by yourself, Pierce. Now push."
At the exact same moment they thrust all of their weight against the back of the jeep. It surged forward slowly, then rose up out of the mud.
"Whew," Margaret paused to wipe her brow. The jeep rolled backwards -- right onto Hawkeye's foot, trapping it in the mud.
"Margaret," He growled, "If I weren't in such great pain right now, I'd strangle you!" Hawkeye let out a yelp to punctuate his sentence.
"There's a jack in the back," Margaret pulled it out from under the seat. The jeeps tires sank farther down in the mud. Hawkeye moaned and sat on his free leg. "Is there any morphine in my bag?"
She sat the jack down in the mud and climbed into the front. Margaret rummaged through the small medical kit. No luck. She'd forgotten the morphine. Then she spotted Henry's canteen peeking out from under the driver's seat. If she knew Col. Blake, then he had most likely spiked the egg nog for Pierce. She grabbed it.
"There's no morphine, Hawk. This will have to do." Margaret handed him the canteen.
Hawkeye took a swig and began to cough and sputter."Good old Henry," he said hoarsely, "It's my homemade gin." He let out a subdued moan.
Margaret slid the jack under the tire and cranked it up enough for Hawkeye to get his foot out.
With her help, he stood and limped to the front seat of the jeep. He pulled himself up and spread his wounded leg across the seat. Margaret diligently unlaced the muddy boot and tugged it off.
"Oh, Pierce!" Margaret gasped, "Your foot smells like the officers' latrine!"
"Margaret, please, just do something for my foot since you were the one who decided to make it Korean road kill," Hawkeye said in frustration.
"You're the one who chose the road," Margaret replied bitterly.
"At least I remember to pack morphine when I'm going on vacation in a bombed village!" He yelled.
"It's your bag, you can pack it next time!" She shouted, "And never yell at a superior officer! I can have you court marshalled!"
Hawkeye, who had forgotten about his leg, shoved past Margaret and and stood on both feet. He landed with his face in the mud.
"Shhh..." She knelt beside him. "Don't say anything, Pierce. I'm sorry."
And there, in the ice cold mud and snow, Hawkeye saw a different Margaret from the one at the 4077th. She was a sweaty, mud soaked mess; but she smiled a soft and comforting smile.
Margaret looked at Hawkeye. He was still Hawkeye, only a little more alone and afraid than before. He was covered in mud and probably colder than she was, but he managed a lopsided grin.
"Yeah, well," Hawkeye chuckled, "The superior officer isn't always the smarter one."
"At least I know how to drive a jeep," Margaret gently pulled off the muddy sock.
"At least I know how to grow toe jam!" He laughed when she pinched her nose.
She looked down at his foot with a mix of surprise and disgust. It was black and blue, swollen, with bones visibly broken.
"Pierce..." Margaret's voice cracked when she looked at him, "Your foot..."
"I guess they'll give me the purple boot as a reward," Pierce stared out into space.
"Very funny," Margaret rolled her eyes at him.
"I know," Hawkeye grinned.
Margaret wrapped his foot in bandages from the med kit while he polished off the gin.
"I wish I could have set it better," Margaret sighed as she helped Pierce to his foot.
"I wish I could have more gin after that," Hawkeye groaned.
Margaret climbed into the front seat beside him. She rubbed her gloved hands together, then stuck the key in the ignition. "Let's go back to camp."
"Better yet, let's go back to civilization," Hawkeye wisecracked. She turned the key. The jeep engine stuttered and jolted, then slowly died away.
Margaret hopped out of the jeep and raised the hood. "Man, Pierce, I think this thing has been drinking your gin!"
Hawkeye began to laugh his high pitched cackle. "Margaret," he gasped, "The idea of you telling a joke is like the idea of Father Mulcahy with horns and a tail!"
The thought of the kindly little chaplain dressed as the devil got Margaret into hysterics. She stopped laughing when she smacked her forehead into the hood of the jeep. "Ohhh..." she reached up and felt the bump rising on her left temple.
"I guess we'll be spending the night here," Hawkeye said sadly.
"Yeah," Margaret moaned, climbing back into the jeep.
He took his handkerchief and filled it with snow to bring down the swelling. Margaret took it and thankfully pressed it to her forehead.
By that time, the sun was down. the sky was illumined with fiery shades of red and orange.
Suddenly, with no warning, an artillery shell went off near the driver's side of the jeep. The sky lit up with orange as more showered around them. Instinctively, Hawkeye pushed Margaret to the floor and huddled over her until it had passed.
He looked down and shook Margaret gently. Then, he saw the blood on the silvery floor panel of the jeep. Terrified, he rolled Margaret onto her back in effort to see who the blood was coming from.
There was a deep gash across her forehead. He tried desperately to keep her blond hair out of it, soon his hands and her head were dripping with red.
Hawkeye checked her pulse. It was weaker, but there.
"God, Margaret, if you can hear me squeeze my hand!" Hawkeye felt it very softly. The slightest bit of pressure was on his fingertips.
He grabbed the med kit off the seat of the jeep. "Margaret," Hawkeye said as he dug through the contents of the bag, "You're the dumbest, craziest, hardest, most stubborn woman I know."
A chill ran down his back as he realized that the only bandages were on his foot.
Without even thinking, he pulled off his coat and cut two long, wide strips out of the back with a pair of surgical scissors. Without warning, someone grabbed his hand.