by Kay Em
Disclaimer: The characters, alas, are not mine. They belong to Fox. But once I got the idea, I just had to write it down. By the way, spelling is in English English (not American English), 'cos that's where I am and that's how I write. Constructive feedback and comments welcome! Thanks. firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles whistled a snatch of Chopin's Fantasie-Impromptu as he strolled back to the Swamp from the showers. What a marvellous Thanksgiving Day this was turning out to be, he thought. With Pierce and Hunnicutt having been sent off to Battalion Aide the previous afternoon, and no casualties to deal with thanks to a lull in the fighting, he'd been able to spend the previous evening reading, and listening to his records, without interruption. He'd had a good night's sleep, a lie-in, and even a hot shower.
To top that off, rumour had it that Klinger had actually managed to secure some turkeys for Thanksgiving Dinner - so if the cook didn't do them too much damage, there might even be a halfway decent meal that evening.
He stopped whistling when he entered the Swamp and found Klinger waiting there.
"Tell me you're here with my mail," he said, though he could see from the Corporal's face that he was not bearing good tidings.
"Sorry sir, the Colonel just got a call from the 8063rd, and he wants to see you in his office, pronto."
"I should have known the day was too perfect to last," said Charles, through gritted teeth, as he hurled his towel onto his chair and grabbed his fatigues. "Do you have any idea what this is about?" he asked, zipping his pants and pulling on his shirt.
"No sir." Klinger gave an apologetic shrug. "The Colonel was in my office when the call came through, so I couldn't listen in. All I got was his side of the conversation - you know, a lot of 'uh-huhs' and 'gotchas', and ending with an 'I'll send him right over.' Uh - I'm guessing that 'him' would probably be you, sir."
Charles finished lacing his boots and stood up, with a sigh. "I should have whistled The Slaves Chorus it would have been more appropriate," he muttered, as he slammed out of the tent and crossed the compound.
"Ah, good morning, Major, I see Klinger found you alright," said the Colonel, looking up from his desk as Charles entered the office, and indicating he should take a seat next to Margaret, who was already there.
"Right where I should have been, Colonel," retorted Charles, sitting down, and acknowledging Margaret's presence with a polite, "Major."
"I'll get right to it," said Potter, "The 8063rd have an emergency case - a General with a heart problem, instead of the usual enemy-inflicted wounds, for a change. The chief surgeon over there reckons that there's a ventricular aneurysm and he daren't go near it. But he's heard that we have an expert." He looked at Charles. "That would be you."
"I guess it's off to the 8063rd then," said Charles, his resentment disappearing as his professionalism took over. "I assume Major Houlihan is here because..."
"I want her to go with you and assist," said Potter, nodding. "No sense having you work with someone you don't know, when you can work with someone who's familiar with the way you operate."
"Agreed," said Charles, getting to his feet, "Got any details on the patient, Colonel?"
"All here," said Potter, handing over a sheet of notes, "Hope you can read my writing."
Charles squinted at the scrawl, while the Colonel yelled for Klinger and instructed him to get a jeep ready for the majors.
"Already done, sir," said Klinger, smugly, "It's right outside."
"Have to start calling you 'Radar'," said Potter, dryly, as they all headed for the door. "Oh, and majors?"
"Play nice. I'd like you both back here tomorrow, undamaged. Comprendi?"
"Of course, sir!"
As Charles braked the jeep to a halt in the middle of the unfamiliar MASH compound, a corporal, and a captain in a white coat rushed over.
"Major Winchester? I'm Captain Jim Adams, chief surgeon here. Am I glad to see you!"
"Thank you, Captain." Charles climbed out of the jeep and shook his hand, "How's the patient?"
"His condition's deteriorating," said the Captain, "I've already got him in Pre-op - if you hadn't have gotten here in time I was going to try tackling it myself." He grimaced. "Would've probably killed him, but I couldn't just stand by and watch him die."
"Well, he'll be fine now, doctor," said Margaret, favouring Adams with a broad smile, "I've seen Doctor Winchester perform this operation before, and the General couldn't be in better hands."
"Oh, doctor Adams, this is Major Houlihan, she'll be assisting me," said Charles.
"And this is our CO, Colonel Wheatley, and head nurse, Major Parker" said Adams, as an older man with a grey crewcut approached, together with a tall redhead.
Charles was close enough to Margaret to hear her mutter "oh no!" under her breath, and a moment later his own internal alarms went off as the redhead grabbed his hand and gave him what she presumably thought was an engaging smile.
"Doctor Winchester, I've heard so much about you," she gushed, as Charles involuntarily took a step back. "Margaret." She gave the 4077th's head nurse a frosty nod of acknowledgement, which Margaret returned - equally coolly, Charles noted. He'd have to find out more about that later on.
For now, there was work to be done.
The rest of the 8063rd medical staff were, it seemed, already gathered in OR, waiting to watch the operation and, much as he liked having an audience, Charles' heart sank when he heard one of the masked figures drawl: "Well tie me to a cross-eyed mule! Good to see yuh agin, Chuck!"
"It's 'Charles', Doctor Dupree, as I'm sure you recall," growled Charles, going to the far side of the operating table and looking down at his patient.
"How's his pressure?" he asked the anesthetist.
"One hundred over seventy, doctor," came the response.
He nodded. Good enough. "Scalpel," he said.
As it was placed into his hand with a reassuringly familiar firmness, he focussed his concentration in on what he was doing, and began to teach the 8063rd about how to operate on a ventricular aneurysm.
"...and it's then just a simple matter of over-sewing the aneurysm," he finished, suiting the action to the words and stepping back. "Close for me, doctor?" he suggested, looking across at Dupree.
"Be mah pleasure, Charlie. That was about the best demonstration o' nifty knife work ah ever did see," replied Dupree, managing to both annoy and flatter within the space of two sentences.
"Have you done a lot of these operations, Doctor Winchester?"
There was something familiar about the voice asking the question, and when Charles glanced up he immediately recognised the pretty brown eyes twinkling at him above the mask. Lorraine!
He grinned at her, before remembering she couldn't see his smile behind his own mask. Now what the hell was her surname? Oh yes!
"Captain Anderson. How nice to see you again," he said, carefully. "I thought you were only on temporary assignment to the 8063rd?"
"So did I."
"Ah," he said, hearing the resignation in her tone. "I sympathise. I was only supposed to be at the 4077th for forty-eight hours. But in answer to your question... I've done around, oh, fifteen, sixteen of these. Of course, if I'd been back in Tokyo, or better still Mass. General where I trained, it would have been a lot more. Now - does anyone else have questions?"
There were more than a few, and by the time he'd finished, Charles was ready for another long shower, and said so as he went through to take off his scrubs.
"No problem at all, Major," said Wheatley, "Help yourself. And let me know if there's anything else you need. I've known the General for a long time - I hate to think what would have happened to him if you hadn't been around."
"Ah," said Charles, seizing his chance, "Well - I was just wondering, Colonel... if your VIP tent isn't being used...?"
"Say no more," said Wheatley, with a wave of his hand, "I'll have Stevens move your gear in right now. Least I can do."
"Thank you, sir," said Charles, with a heartfelt smile. At least now he wouldn't have to share a tent with that wretched Dupree!
"Soon as you're ready," continued the Colonel, "Come on over to the Mess Tent, we've got a real special dinner sorted out for Thanksgiving - and after that display, you deserve to be guest of honour!"
"Hey, Margaret, want to see the photos I took in Tokyo?" said Lorraine, as the two of them threw their scrubs into the laundry bags.
"Love to," said Margaret, glad of an excuse to visit with her friend, instead of accompanying Judy Parker back to the head nurse's quarters.
They crossed the compound to the nurses' tent, and Lorraine pulled an envelope of photographs from her footlocker while Margaret made herself comfortable on one of the bunks.
"Hey, I've seen these!" said Margaret, flicking through the pictures.
"Thought so," said Lorraine, grinning, "But old Parallel doesn't know that, does she?"
Margaret grinned back, laughing at Lorraine's use of Parker's unflattering nickname. "Surely you don't need to make excuses just to talk to an old friend?" she said.
Lorraine shrugged. "With Parker, I've learned not to take anything for granted," she said, "Especially as she's the reason I'm still here."
"Yeah, I was wondering about that," said Margaret, "What happened?"
"Oh, Parker was assigned here right after 'Roy Rogers' and me got back from visiting with you at the 4077th," said Lorraine, "She turned everything upside down - duty rosters, assignments, training, the lot. And that included the length of my tour here. I've been putting in transfer requests to the Colonel since Doomsday, seems like, but Parker just keeps putting the blockers on. It's crazy, I mean, she and I never have got along, you'd think she'd be glad to see the back of me - but instead she just seems to take a delight in keeping me here."