"Pierce is in bad shape. If Radar says Sing Lu can help, then I say let her try. We have nothing to lose."
Charles looked over at Hunnicutt and after a moment BJ nodded in agreement. Sing Lu knelt at Pierce's side and laid a hand on his head, she hissed at the heat from the fever. "Poison much," she said quietly before glancing over at Hunnicutt and pointing down at the unconscious doctor. "Head up, please."
BJ walked over and gently raised his friend's head off the pillow, grimacing at how incredibly hot his friend was. The woman opened Hawkeye's mouth and slowly poured her mixture down his throat. The doctor coughed and sputtered and tried to free himself from BJ's grip, but Hunnicutt was stronger and eventually Sing Lu managed to empty her concoction down Pierce's throat.
"Now what?" BJ asked, laying Hawkeye's head back down and re-soaking the compress.
"For how long?"
Sing Lu put her bowl back into her bag and looked calmly over at Hunnicutt, her dark eyes shining in the early morning light. "If not too late, then not long."
Sing Lu was as good as her word, the wait was not long; within a half hour there was a definite change in Pierce's condition. His face, which was already flushed with the raging fever, took on an even redder hue. He looked as if he had just suffered a bad sunburn. His already labored breathing became even slower and more difficult, as if the air had suddenly become to heavy, and there was the sudden onset of painful muscle spasms. Pierce's right leg swelled again and Hunnicutt had to take the scalpel and slit the skin some more in order to relieve the pressure. BJ looked over to where Sing Lu was sitting on a stool, despair in his blue eyes.
"War begun inside," the old woman answered quietly, her hands folded in her lap. "Now wait and see who win."
On the bed, Pierce's eyes opened, but they were glazed and unseeing, wild with the fever that was burning in him. "BJ," he moaned weakly.
Hunnicutt scooted over so that he was kneeling by his friend's head and took one of the feverish hands in his own, "I'm right here, Hawk," he said quietly.
"BJ," Hawkeye continued, "BJ help me, it hurts. BJ?"
Hunnicutt closed his eyes and contented himself by gently rubbing his friend's hand in support.
"He can't hear you, son." Came a soft voice from behind him.
BJ nodded, "I know, Colonel. Fever induced delirium."
Pierce screamed suddenly as the muscles in his body spasmed. He arched his back and threw his head back, agony etched over his entire face. Hunnicutt jumped in surprise at the sound and a collective gasp sounded from those gathered outside. Only Sing Lu appeared unaffected by the scene.
As Pierce collapsed back on the cot, BJ jumped to his feet and began to pace the length of the Swamp, unable to just sit still but not wanting to leave his friend. The silence outside the tent was almost deafening, it was as if all of Korea was holding its breath.
"Too many wounded, too much blood," Pierce gasped, "BJ, make it stop. Make them stop!"
Colonel Potter bent to pick up the compress from off the floor where it had fallen and soaked it generously with the cool water before applying it to Pierce's face. "His fever's gone up," he said to no one in particular.
BJ ceased his pacing to stand at the foot of his friend's cot, hands clenched into tight fists at his side, a desperate frown on his face, "Hawkeye Pierce, you keep fighting, you hear me? Don't you dare leave me here to face this hell-pit alone! Dammit, Hawkeye, you hear me?!"
Charles rose quietly from the side of his cot where he and Radar had been sitting unobtrusively and went to stand beside his colleague.
"Hunnicutt," he said softly, and when there was no reply, he placed a hand on the tense shoulder, "BJ."
The doctor turned to look at Winchester and Charles gently pulled him away from the scene. "Hunnicutt," the major began softly, "yelling like that is not going to make any difference and it only serves to upset others. We're all worried about Pierce. Right now, you need to be strong."
A sob stuck in BJ's throat as tears welled in his eyes, "I don't think I can, Charles. I can't take it anymore."
Winchester squeezed the shoulder before letting go, "Yes you can and you must. Pierce, and the rest of us, need that from you."
Behind them, Pierce screamed shrilly and BJ cringed at the noise.
"Go to him," Charles said as he clasped his hands behind his back, "and be strong."
Hunnicutt ran a rough hand over his eyes as he headed back to Hawkeye's cot, Potter placed an empty stool beside it for him and BJ sat in it gratefully, blinking as the rising sun shone brightly in his eyes.
"I hope this blasted war takes a coffee break," Potter muttered, "we're in sorry shape to help any wounded."
Hunnicutt rested a hand gently on Pierce's shoulder and didn't say a word.
"BJ," Hawkeye whimpered between gasps for air, "BJ please help me. Make it stop. Make them stop. BJ?"
"Not long now," Sing Lu said suddenly, softly.
Hunnicutt jumped at the sound of her voice, he had forgotten she was even there. "What do you mean?" he asked, his gut clenching in fear, "Not long for what?"
The old woman didn't reply, she merely adjusted her position on the stool upon which she sat and turned her face toward the sun.
On the bed, Pierce began to groan and toss about as if he were having a nightmare. BJ wet the compress again, dabbing his friend's face with it as much as he could. The tossing started growing in intensity and Pierce's groans became much more pain-filled. Finally, knowing that there was nothing left for him to do, Hunnicutt sat back and waited.
The end came quickly and suddenly.
Pierce's body stiffened and jerked violently as his muscles tied themselves into knots. His back arched nearly a foot off the bed and he threw his head back with an ear-splitting scream. Those inside the Swamp jumped at the sight while those gathered outside either held their faces in fear or comforted those near them. Spittle flew out of Hawkeye's mouth and the veins in his neck and forehead stood at attention.
Then, just as suddenly, it was over. Pierce fell back, unconscious.
Sing Lu stood up from her seat and went to stand beside the doctor, gently laying a hand on his chest. She smiled slowly and turned to look over at Hunnicutt. "War over, friend win," she said simply.
Relief flooded through BJ so powerfully that he felt giddy. A giant cheer erupted outside at the news that Hawkeye was going to be alright, all those who had gathered began to hug each other and call out words of gratefulness and friendship to those inside the tent.
"You hear that, folks?" Potter shouted from the doorway, "The worst is over!"
Another collective cheer went up followed by applause as the camp slowly began to resume activity. Potter turned from the door and faced Sing Lu, "How can I ever thank you for what you've done?" he asked with a broad smile, "You saved his life. How can I repay you?"
"War over," the old woman said again, "friend win."
The smile faded from Potter's face and he stared at her solemnly, "Someday soon, I hope."
Sing Lu smiled up at him and turned to gather her belongings. The colonel turned to face Radar as the boy rose from Winchester's cot.
"I'll take Sing Lu home now, Colonel"
"Why don't you take Sing Lu home now, Radar"
"Yes sir," Radar said, a ghost of a smile on his face. As he passed by Pierce's bed, he stopped and smiled at Hunnicutt, BJ smiled back and the company clerk ushered Sing Lu out the door and was gone.
Charles rose next, stopping momentarily to gaze at the unconscious form of his tormentor. "Glad to know he'll be around to harass me some more," he said with a wink before he too was gone.
Potter rested a hand on Hunnicutt's shoulder and looked down at Pierce. "That boy gave us all a mighty scare. Good to know he's gonna be okay." He shook his head as he walked to the door, "Wonderful thing, those herbs," he said to no one in particular as he stepped outside. "Simply wonderful."
BJ smiled as he rested a hand on top of Pierce's, it was cool now that the fever had broken. He was grateful to finally be alone with his friend, now that the crisis had passed. He had been scared, no terrified, at the thought that this man might actually die. He had seen death from the first moment he had arrived here, but none had struck so close to home as this one had. He had almost lost his best friend and it had shown him how much he'd taken that friend for granted.
In front of him, Pierce opened his eyes. After a moment, they slowly focused on BJ and Hawkeye smiled thinly.
"Hey," Hunnicutt said at last, "do me a huge favor and never do that again."
Pierce took a deep breath and looked around him, as if noticing for the first time that he was lying down in the Swamp. "What happened?" he asked quietly.
"Yesterday, when your foot went down that hole, something bit you. Colonel Potter believes it was a spider."
Hawkeye shook his head with a groan, "Wouldn't you know it, the first time I'm bitten by something in a week, and it wasn't a nurse."
BJ smiled at his friend's joke, he was glad to know Hawkeye would be around to make many more of them. "You came too close to dying on me. Don't let it happen again."
Pierce shrugged slightly and shifted marginally on the cot, hissing as his lacerated leg moved. He glanced down and then back over at BJ, "Stitch me up and it's a deal."
Hunnicutt laughed and clapped his friend on the shoulder, "Done!"
"By the way," Hawkeye added as BJ stood up, "thanks for saving my life."
Hunnicutt shrugged his shoulders slightly, "Just returning the favor."