DISCLAIMER: The M*A*S*H characters are the property of Twentieth Century Fox. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2000 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
The camp was deserted. She tied her robe more closely around her and started walking. She could hear voices coming from the Swamp. But when she got there the lights went out.
"Not funny, guys," she said as she opened the door. But the tent was empty. She turned to the OR. The lights were on there too. A few seconds later she was at the door. "Pierce?"
The room was empty. The marble floor scrubbed a brilliant white. She knelt down, confused. Hadn't this been concrete? Suddenly a crack appeared, then another. A hand shot through, bloody and torn. A foot kicked out farther down the room. A terrible moaning began.
She tried to rise but the hand had a tight hold on her. "No," she fought to get away. Another hand crashed through the ground, which had turned to dirt...no mud. Red mud. Not mud. Blood. Everywhere.
"No!" Margaret screamed, as she shocked herself awake. She looked around trying to get her bearings. She was in her quarters. Not in a tent. Not in Korea. She was safe. Nothing to fear now. So why wouldn't the nightmares leave her alone?
The patient would not stop squirming.
"Get him under," Hawkeye shouted at the gas passer. "Get him under now."
"I'm trying, Sir."
He turned to Margaret. She was looking at him in concern. "You have to keep going, Pierce."
"I am." He went back to work on the bowel he was trying to repair. Finally he had it. He breathed a sigh of relief. "Next."
"No." Margaret shook her head. Her eyes, over her mask, were confused. "You have to keep going."
"I'm done." He looked down at the patient. Blood was pooling near the chest area. And on the arm. And by a nearly severed foot. "But I'm done with this one."
"You have to keep going," Margaret's voice followed him as he jerked awake.
He turned to look at the clock, three hours before he had to get up. He didn't want to go back to sleep. He didn't want to dream again. No big surgeries today. He could afford to be tired. He breathed through his mouth, trying to slow his racing heart. When would these nightmares end?
"Major Houlihan?" She turned to see a young nurse coming for her. "Colonel Palmer wanted me to give you this, Ma'am."
She reached for the folded piece of paper. "Thank you, Lieutenant." She was surprised to see the woman still standing in front of her. "That will be all, Lieutenant."
"I'm supposed to wait for an answer." The young officer looked uncomfortable with her assignment.
Margaret opened the paper and read the short note. He was sorry that he had overreacted. He wanted a chance to make it up to her. Dinner, perhaps, tonight? At Elio's. The best restaurant in Tacoma? She looked up at the nurse. "Tell Colonel Palmer that I'd rather die than go out with him again." With that she spun on her heel and went back to work.
Stupid to have done that, she berated herself. So what if it felt good, she should be smarter. He had pursued her relentlessly since he had been stationed at Madigan. She had thought this time would be different. But it had turned out just like all the rest. Well not quite like all the rest. Generally it took longer for her to walk away.
Margaret sighed in frustration. She had discovered that 1953 hometown USA morals were a bit different than what she had grown accustomed to in Korea. With their lives on the line twenty-four hours a day seven days a week the men and women of the 4077th had often turned to each other for comfort. Or if they couldn't turn to each other, they found willing men and women from other units. The times had been frightening and sex had been an easy way to find companionship, comfort, and perhaps even love.
But this place she had come back to was very different. Though the men were quite intent on the pursuit of her, they truly did not expect her to give in, much less welcome their attentions. They were scandalized, she could tell, and though they continued to come back their treatment of her changed. So she had learned her lesson. She had been back in the states a year and had started saying no about two months into it. But Palmer had a friend who had been with her during those first disastrous months. His words last night still stung her.
"Come on," he had said as he tried to get her shirt off. "You don't have to pretend with me. I know what you're like. I've heard all about you...how you like to make a man feel good. Come on, make me feel good." She had slapped him hard. And walked home. So now it would begin again. He would feel bad and try to make it up to her. She wouldn't let him. At best he would ignore her. At worst, he would become an enemy. It never changed.
She sighed again. Nobody here understood her. Or what she'd been through. Where were all the veterans of Korea, she wondered. Why didn't she get to meet them? But it wouldn't matter, not really. There was only one veteran she was interested in. And he was all the way across the country, forging a life without her.
Hawkeye felt sluggish and old as he made his rounds at Spruce Harbor General. The other doctors nodded to him as he passed. Some of the nurse's looked at him with admiration. He was nearly to the nurse's station when he realized Carly was sitting there. Petite, blonde, blue-eyed. She had attracted him instantly. But not for herself he realized now.
"Dr. Pierce," she said with a teasing tone. "I thought I wasn't going to see you today."
"I've been busy."
"Too busy for me? Hmmm," she moved around the desk so she could lower her voice. "After our evening the other night I wasn't sure if *I* wanted to see *you.* Just don't try that again and don't ever call me by another woman's name." She tapped his arm coquettishly. "If you want to have that sort of freedom with me, you'll have to make an honest woman of me first, Ben."
He nodded. "I understand that now, Carly. And I apologize for the whole evening."
"Take me to Jackson Street Grill and all is forgiven."
"I've go a better idea. Find yourself a nice young doctor who hasn't been to hell and back. Get yourself someone who still has dreams. Look for someone that understands how this place really works because I've forgotten."
She scowled at him. "Your problem, Ben, is that you dwell on the war. If you'd just let it go you could move on with life."
He gave her a mocking smile. "And you know this how?"
"Everyone knows it. If you would just quit going on and on about how we don't understand what it was like, maybe you would see that we have more in common than you think."
So everyone knows, he thought bitterly. "I'll see you around, Carly."
"Ben? What about our date?"
He turned back, "There won't be any date." He felt an absurd sense of satisfaction as he walked away from her, leaving her glaring at him.
No, no more dates. They all turned out the same. She had been happy to kiss him in the car. Even let him explore her body a bit. But when he had tried to push it further she had protested. Whether it was at the liberties he had been trying to take or at the fact that he had whispered Margaret's name into her ear he wasn't sure. He didn't think he had done that before. But it didn't matter really. The woman he wanted was nowhere to be found. He wasn't even sure where she had ended up. BJ thought she was on the West Coast but wasn't sure exactly which medical center was her new workplace. Truth be told, Hawkeye hadn't tried all that hard to find her. She had let him walk out of her life. She didn't want him. It was just his dumb luck that she was all he wanted.
"Major Houlihan, your work with the patients is exemplary and you are an effective supervisor, but I'm afraid the board thinks you need a little more seasoning." Her supervisor, Colonel Jefferies seemed uncomfortable.
"Seasoning? What do you call Korea, Sir?" She tried to keep the anger out of her voice but knew she was failing utterly.
"This isn't Korea, Major."
"And if you had served there, Sir, you wouldn't say something like that."
"It was awful there. We all understand that, Margaret."
"No," she got up abruptly. "You. Don't. Understand. You don't understand anything. Pass me over? Fine. My tour is up in three months. I had always thought I would re-up. I was career army. Not anymore. I'm gone. I'll find something else to do. At least at a civilian hospital I wouldn't expect them to understand what it was like."
He rose, trying to reason with her. "Major, please."
"There's nothing you can say, Colonel. Nothing at all." She walked out of the door and back to the duty station.
"Bad news?" Captain Baker asked.
"Nothing I didn't expect," Margaret retorted bitterly.
The shrill ringing of the phone interrupted Hawkeye's reverie on the porch. He heard the phone stop and realized his dad must have picked it up.
"Hawkeye, it's for you."
He got up slowly. Probably the hospital calling with some new surgical emergency for him to come back into town for. He groaned just thinking about it. But when he got to the kitchen the look on his father's face told him this was a call that he would want to take. "Hello?"