Chapter 4 - Incoming
The sun was shining brightly bathing the swamp with light that was completely unappreciated by its inhabitants.
Charles was the first to open his eyes and groan, "Ooooh my head."
"It must be quite a headache you have, Chuckles. It's made all your hair fall out." BJ spoke without opening an eye. "Could you please keep that bellering of yours to a tolerable sound level."
"As in shut up, Charles," Hawkeye spoke up. "You went to bed before any of us. Have a little respect for the dead."
"What happened to all the love you were oozing yesterday, Pierce? Has that changed so soon?" quipped Charles.
"I still love you, Winchester...now leave me alone." said Hawkeye, pulling his pillow over his head.
"Would you two like to be alone?" asked BJ.
Charles glared at BJ and then at Hawkeye. He pulled himself from his cot and headed for the door. "Gentlemen," he drawled. "If you'll excuse me, I'm going to head for the mess tent for some coffee and aspirin. You may carry on your childish prattle without me....oooooh why did I drink so much of that cheap booze last night? Somebody just shoot me..."
Hawkeye and BJ looked at each other as Charles made his way to the mess tent, whining all the way.
"I'd feel sorry for him if I didn't have the king of hangovers myself," said BJ.
"Actually I don't feel too bad this morning." said Hawkeye, stretching his arms and legs.
"Well, you didn't have as much to drink as the rest of us. You and the major were too busy dancing the night away."
Hawkeye smiled, thinking of the night before. He had to admit that he enjoyed dancing with Margaret. She felt natural in his arms. He still didn't see a real future in their relationship other than a great friendship. But then who knows? Who would have ever thought the two of them would ever be anything but mere colleagues?
"Hawkeye, you're smiling. You want to talk about it?"
"Talk about what?"
"Do you want to talk about why you're smiling?"
"Beej! Can't a guy smile without being interrogated?"
"Okay. Okay. Far be it from me to interfere. If you don't want to tell your best friend why you're smiling I'll understand. Excuse me, I think I could use some of that motor oil they pass off as coffee, myself." BJ acted as if he was offended even though he really wasn't.
"Beej, I just don't know what to tell you right now. Margaret Houlihan is an incredible woman and a wonderful nurse. I don't know if we'll ever be more than friends but I gotta tell you, we shared a great evening just talking. I certainly never thought I'd hear myself saying that about nurse of the opposite sex."
Margaret Houlihan woke up and looked around her tent. He'd gone. She was still fully clothed and laying under her blanket. She smiled as she thought about her evening with Hawkeye. Once they had realized that the music had stopped and they were the only ones left in the officers club they'd walked slowly to her tent. She'd invited him in and they continued to talk the night away. They shared their hopes and dreams, thoughts and frustrations. At some point she must have fallen asleep and he put the cover over her and left.
She'd never known Captain Pierce to be such a gentleman. She stretched and smiled. She opened her door and let the sun warm her face.
"Good morning Klinger! Beautiful morning isn't it?" Margaret called out to the obviously hung over man. He looked at her through big bloodshot brown eyes.
"Yes, ma'am. I'm sure it will be a beautiful morning once I've soaked my head in a pot of hot coffee."
Attention all personnel: Sorry to interrupt your hangovers, folks! Choppers are on their way!
The doctors and nurses of the 4077 sprang into action. After nearly 3 years of the bloody barrage of wounded, everyone knew what to do and did it with skill and speed. The nurses, thanks to the strong leadership of Major Houlihan, were the finest kind, according to Captain BF Pierce. They were one of the reasons for the 98% survival rate of their patients. They had become adept at triage which freed the doctors to quickly get to the most critical cases.
This morning there wasn't much time to be lost in thought. As the Peace Talks showed some promise it seemed that both sides were launching heavy offensives. This meant heavy casualties to go with it.
"Seems that someone always has to get the last word in, doesn't it," Hawkeye remarked to BJ as they scrubbed.
"Kind of reminds me of you, " BJ replied with a smile.
"Me? Are you saying that I always have the last word?"
"Aw, Hawk, we've been through this before."
"So you say."
"I rest my case."
"Fine." Said Hawkeye, satisfied that he'd gotten the last word in after all. BJ rolled his eyes in concession. There wasn't time to enter a battle of wits with his friend. There would be time for that later over a glass of 'antifreeze' back in the Swamp.
"Ah the rapier wits of my roommates are a constant source of amazement. What else would I do for entertainment?" remarked Charles, dryly.
"Okay, children, let's get to work," Colonel Potter said.
Hawkeye's first case was a head wound. It would take a lot of concentration to pull this boy through. And even then, he wasn't sure that he would have a normal life. Just another day in the Korean theater, he thought, where every day was an adventure in wading through other peoples' blood. The surgeon sighed wearily.
"Scalpel." Margaret replied.
"Ah, Major Houlihan. You look bright this morning. Your smile is lighting up the OR even from under your mask. Is there a particular reason for this cheeriness?"
"Yes, there is. I spent the night talking to a good friend." And then she leaned over and whispered, "Thanks, 'Good Friend.'"
"Anytime, Margaret, anytime."
At that point their conversation ended. The surgery was delicate and Hawkeye put himself into it. Margaret anticipated which instruments he would need with each move. Three years of meatball surgery had made her an excellent surgical nurse, the best he'd ever worked with Hawkeye thought.
Margaret's surreptitiously admiring glances at the surgeon beside her were not lost on anyone within a 5 foot radius. Hell of place for romance, thought Colonel Potter.
A cry arose two tables down from BJ, "Isn't it enough that we send our young boys home without arms and legs or eyes!" He stood, tears forming in his eyes, looking down at the young girl on his table. She couldn't have been more than six, only a few years older than Erin. The child had been searching for junk to sell and stepped on a land mine. It was a sad and all too common occurrence here. He mentally reminded himself to hold Erin tightly when he got home and never let go.
"Hunnicuttt, I can take her," said Charles with uncharacteristic compassion.
"No thanks, Charles. I'll take her. I just don't think I'll ever get used to seeing children as casualties of war. Kellye, scalpel."
"No one should get used to it, Beej," said Hawkeye, looking up into the other surgeon's teary eyes.
"Amen," said Father Mulcahy in agreement.
After twelve hours of relentless surgery the seemingly endless supply of wounded stopped. A collective sigh of relief could be heard in the room. Father Mulcahy uttered a prayer of thanks.
The surgeons finally had a chance to rest for a few minutes. Hawkeye leaned his head back against the wall of the scrub room.
"Just dedicate my body to science," Hawkeye groaned. "I think I've done all I can with it. Margaret I'll sell it to you for fifty cents."
Margaret grinned at him and rolled her eyes.
"First, a shower, then a belt and then BJ's going to sleep for 12 hours," Hunnicuttt moaned.
Hawkeye got up to move to the showers when he heard an all too familiar sound. No! It couldn't be...of course it could....
"Choppers," Potter said wearily.