Miranda sat in the passenger seat of the jeep as it sped its way through the hills of Korea. The scenery was beautiful, and the sun was poking its way through the clouds. They were already halfway to the 8063rd, and no one had said a word. The silence was two foot thick and getting worse by the minute.
Miranda sighed. She had always been taught to be pleasant even to people she hated. Her mother's words flowed through her head. A kind and pleasant woman will always become someone's wife, Miranda. As a young girl, Miranda had laughed at the words, and she still did at times. Her career was far more important than getting married and settling down. She was an army nurse, and proud of it.
Her guilt soon got the best of her, though. She was being rude, and she could at least try to make conversation.
"So..." she began, searching for a topic of discussion. "Today's demonstration shouldn't be too difficult."
Charles nodded as he drove. "I suppose." He glanced at her for a moment. "Hopefully I'll open my eyes and see any leaks this time."
Miranda bit her lip and turned away. He was still thinking about the harsh comment she had made the day before. He certainly hadn't deserved that, but a red-hot anger had filled Miranda at that moment, and the words had just come out.
"About that," she began, searching for the right words. Colonel Potter was right; this feud had gone on long enough. "I-"
Suddenly the sound of a gunshot filled the air. Charles slammed on the brake, and Miranda could barely keep herself from flying out of the jeep. They waited a moment in silence, and then another shot sounded, striking the jeep only a few inches from Miranda's arm.
"What are you doing?" She cried. "It's snipers, I figured that out. Let's go!"
Charles turned the wheel and plunged the jeep into the forest. Miranda looked back over her shoulder and caught a glimpse of two snipers emerging from the trees. More shots rang out, all of them striking the jeep.
"Get down!" Charles hissed as he drove. Miranda did as ordered, crouching in her seat. They rode into the forest for what seemed like an eternity, swerving past trees and large rocks. And then, Charles suddenly stopped. Miranda picked up her head. The jeep was stopped in the middle of nowhere, and Charles was grabbing his gear.
"What are you doing?" She asked.
He barely glanced at her as he grabbed his things. "There's a cave over there. It should be safer than staying out in the jeep."
Miranda's mouth fell open. "Are you crazy? Who knows who could be in there! That cave could a secret base for all we know. I'm not going anywhere. I'll stay here."
Charles narrowed his eyes. "Fine." He pulled his gear from the jeep and turned towards the cave. Another shot suddenly rang out, making a large bullet hole in the windshield. Miranda gasped and grabbed her gear. "On second thought, I'm not waiting out here!" She ran after him, and they entered the dark cave. The floors and walls were damp, giving the cave a musty smell.
"Looks cozy," Miranda muttered. The cave wasn't very deep, and on first inspection, they found no one inside. She threw her medical bag against a wall and sat on the floor. "So what now?"
Charles was pacing the cave, deep in thought. "I suppose all we can do is wait until the snipers give up and leave. Or someone comes looking for us, whichever comes first." He sighed. "This should be an interesting experience."
Miranda's temper flared at his casual look at the situation. "Well, this is just great," she snapped. "You've really done it this time, Winchester. We're stuck in the middle of nowhere with snipers hunting us down, and you call this interesting? I-"
Charles rounded on her bitterly. "I simply can not understand this constant whining of yours! Have you always been like this? If that's true, you must have drove your parents absolutely mad!" He could barely blink before Miranda was on her feet, her right arm swinging back. Charles had no time to move before her palm slapped him across the face, leaving him shocked.
Miranda was a ball of fury now, glaring at him with icy cold eyes. Charles looked at her for a moment, wide eyed. Suddenly the realization of what she had just done hit her like a freight train. She gasped, her anger leaving her in an instant. She took a step back, desperately wanting to take back what she had done.
"Major," she stammered. "I'm...I'm so sorry. I don't know what came over me..."
He held up a hand. "No, Lieutenant, it is I who should apologize. That comment I made was heartless and-"
"No," she groaned, sliding her back down the cave wall to sit on the floor. "It's not your fault." Miranda sighed. She was about to tell him what she had told none of the other nurses back at camp. "It's just...You reminded me of someone I hate, absolutely hate."
Charles looked mildly surprised as he sat against the wall across from her. "I hope you never run into him again," he said. "May I ask who this is?"
Miranda turned her gaze towards the entrance of the cave. "My father. He never really loved my mother. He was just so...arrogant. Nothing we could do for him was right, and he was never proud of my older brother Steven and I, even though we always did well in school. Then he left for work one day when I was twelve and never came back. My mother was heartbroken. She loved him more than anything, and he didn't return it at all. I always hated him for that." She sighed and let her gaze fall to the floor. "She died about a year later. Steve always said it was from a broken heart. I think he was right..." Her voice trailed off, and she unconsciously wiped her eyes free of the tears that had formed there.
Charles gazed at the woman sitting across from him. She was not the same woman he had argued with the day before, who berated him every step of the way, or scowled at the sight of him. The glimpse of beauty he had caught the day before returned, framed by a humanness that touched him. "I am truly sorry," he whispered, not knowing what else to say.
"I don't even know why I told you this," Miranda muttered. "I've never told that to anyone at camp before. It's funny, you look nothing like my father." She smiled. "You're far more handsome than he ever was." He smiled in return. "Why, thank you."
They sat in the cave for a few more hours, and Miranda discovered Charles' personality was nothing like her father's. Although he could be pompous and arrogant at times, she could see deep down he was a truly good man. And she realized then that she liked him.
"Major, do you think we could possibly get out of this as partners...or even friends?"
His warm smile was answer enough. "Of course, Lieutenant. And please, call me Charles." He held out his hand, and she shook it. "Call me Miranda."
A comfortable feeling filled the air, and Miranda almost laughed at the irony of the situation. If someone had told her a few months ago that Charles Emerson Winchester would become her friend someday, she would never have believed it. They talked for a few more hours, and Charles told her of his hometown of Boston and a little of his family. Miranda then told him of her tiny family. With her mother gone, the only existing member of her family was her brother Steven, who was in the army, stationed somewhere in Korea.
When Miranda glanced outside the cave, she was surprised to see that the sun was about to set. Charles stood with his medical bag. "It's getting late. Colonel Potter is probably wondering where in the world we are."
Miranda nodded, grabbed her gear and followed Charles to their jeep. The snipers had definitely come by their jeep, for the green metal sides were full of small bullet holes. Charles got into the driver's seat with Miranda in the passenger's, and they began the long journey home.
Back at the 4077th, Colonel Potter was standing in the company clerk's office as its clerk, Klinger, was on the phone.
"So you haven't seen them?" Klinger asked the person on the other end of the phone. "They never showed up? Are you sure? Uh huh, I see. Thanks anyway." He hung up the phone and turned to Potter. "Sorry Colonel. Major Winchester and Lieutenant Johnson never showed up at the 8063rd. No one's seen them."
Hawkeye and B.J. entered the office then. "Any word from our traveling duo?" Hawkeye asked.
"No," Potter said. "They never showed up at the 8063rd. I'm beginning to worry."
B.J. looked surprised. "I knew they hated each other," he said. "But I didn't think they'd kill each other."
Hawkeye nodded. "And Johnson was such a good nurse. Who would have thought she'd go and kill Charles?"
"She's done the world a favor," B.J. replied.
Hawkeye grinned. "And beat us to it." They both laughed until Potter silenced them with a cold glare.
"This is serious, you two," he said. "There's been a bit of sniper activity in that area, and we should start looking for them tomorrow morning. We're going to need Winchester in surgery tomorrow if we get a large number of wounded."
"Great," Hawkeye muttered. "Charles gets to die with a beautiful nurse, and we have to pick up the pieces."
"Wait, guys!" Klinger cried. "Listen. Do you hear that?" They all stopped. A soft hum could be heard from a distance. "It sounds like an engine."
B.J. poked his head outside the door. "Yeah, like a jeep engine. Charles decided to live after all." They all rushed out to meet the jeep as it entered the camp. When Charles stopped and got out of the jeep, Colonel Potter was face to face with him.
"Winchester," he cried. "Where in blue blazin's were you? You can't just wander around Korea on a sight seeing tour! And what happened to this jeep?"
"Colonel," Charles began. "Lieutenant Johnson and I were attacked by snipers during our trip to the 8063rd and were forced to take refuge in a nearby cave." He smiled. "You weren't worried, were you Colonel?"
Potter snorted. "Worried? Who's worried? You're just lucky you made it back in one piece, because I would've killed you!" He turned to Miranda. "You alright, Lieutenant?"
She nodded with a smile. "Yes, Colonel, I'm fine."
Potter sighed. "Well, I suppose we can try this again some other time. I hope you two didn't kill each other too much. Dismissed." Potter turned with Klinger and headed back into his office.
Charles grabbed his things, nodded at Miranda with a small smile, and disappeared into his tent. Miranda couldn't help but smile to herself as she hopped out of the jeep. She nodded at the two surgeons who still stood near the jeep. She turned to go, but Hawkeye called after her.
"Uh, Lieutenant, if you could just wait a moment, Beej and I couldn't help but notice that you seem to be in quite a cheery mood for someone who had to spend an entire day with Charles. What happened?"
Miranda smiled. "Actually, it wasn't as bad as I had imagined," she said. "Major Winchester was very charming." The two surgeons were shocked. B.J. came forward and placed his hand against her forehead. "Are you sure you're feeling alright?" He asked. Hawkeye took her hand and checked her pulse. "She seems ok. It's just that we never thought you'd ever put the words 'Charles' and 'charming' in the same sentence."
Miranda pulled away from them with a sigh. "Well, things have changed," she said. "Good night, doctors." She smiled and left for her tent.
"I wonder what happened out there," B.J. said.
"Yeah," Hawkeye agreed. "Well, whatever it is, I want to know Charles' secret. If he can get her to like him, just think how I could get her to really like me."
At first, the camp took Charles and Miranda's new friendship the same way as Hawkeye and B.J. had. But after two months, the shock subsided and things finally returned to somewhat normal. Charles visited Miranda's tent on occasion, and they talked for hours on end. Miranda's love of books was almost equal to Charles', and they often spent a majority of their time together discussing their favorite books.
What surprised Miranda most was the fact that Charles brought her his phonograph for them to listen to together. When she casually mentioned the fact to Fr. Mulcahy, the priest's eyes had widened greatly, and he informed her that Charles' phonograph was one of his most prized possessions, and she was very lucky he let her listen to it. She agreed; she was very lucky. She could tell Charles almost anything; he was like no friend she had ever had in her life, maybe with the exception of her brother.
She entered her tent after a wonderfully short day in OR and glanced at her desk. Klinger was kind enough to leave her any mail she received, but nothing lay on her desk. She frowned. She hadn't heard from her brother in three weeks, and it worried her. She pulled out a piece of paper and a pen and began to write to him. Halfway through her letter, she heard a knock at the door. She smiled and slipped the letter into her desk.
Just as she expected, Charles was standing at the door when she opened it. She noticed a new record in his hands. "Is that new?" She asked.
He nodded. "It was sent from home, and I am quite anxious to hear it, if you don't mind." He set the record in place, and turned the phonograph on.
A beautiful wave of music washed over them in an instant. Miranda had no idea what the name of the piece was, but she didn't care. She sat on cot, listening to the beauty that came from the thin record. She closed her eyes as she had often done, savoring the music in her mind. It was slow and heavenly melodic, and for a moment Miranda completely forgot that she was in the middle of a strange land thrown in the middle of a terrible war.
When she finally opened her eyes, she immediately noticed that Charles was unabashedly staring at her from his seat at her desk. He was smiling slightly, causing Miranda to blush for the first time in years.
Charles suddenly stood and held a hand out to her. "Would you care to dance with me?" His voice was just above a whisper. Miranda nodded slowly and stood. The music wasn't actually made to dance to, but neither of them cared. They slow danced together, and Miranda suddenly noticed how beautiful Charles' eyes were. They danced together long after the music ended, neither of them noticing the silence.
Miranda tore her eyes from his and glanced at the phonograph. "I, uh, didn't hear it end," she muttered, trying to pull away, but Charles caught her hand. He kissed her knuckles gently, and Miranda was suddenly left without words.
"Charles..." she whispered. A sudden fear swept through her, and she felt trapped. Her mind screamed for her to pull away, even to run, but he only pulled her closer to him. He slid his arms around her, and Miranda felt both safe and scared out of her mind.
He leaned down and kissed her then, gently but deeply. Miranda wrapped her arms around his neck and returned his kiss. Time stood still for a moment, until a strong fear knocked Miranda nearly off her feet. She pulled away and found herself breathless and unable to speak. A familiar sound filled the camp around them.
Ambulances were entering the compound; all of them probably filled with wounded soldiers. There was a knock at the door. Nurse Kellye's voice could be heard from outside. "Come on, Miranda!" She called. "Time to go to work!"
"I, uh, ok," Miranda called. She slid out of Charles' arms and walked towards the door. Before she left, she turned back to Charles. "Charles, I..."
He stepped towards her. "Miranda, I want you to know that what I feel for you I've never felt for anyone before, ever."
She took his hand gently. "I feel the same way, Charles. It's just...I need time to think, that's all."
He nodded. "I understand."
"We better go."
By the time they reached triage, bloody bodies were already laid out on the ground to be diagnosed by the doctors and nurses. Miranda rushed to an injured soldier; her eyes focused on a wound in his abdomen. He groaned slightly as she touched the wound. It was pretty bad; he was probably bleeding internally.
"Don't worry, soldier," Miranda said. "You're going to be fine." You're probably in a better mental state than I am, she thought. When she glanced at his face, she did a double take. At a closer inspection, she saw that her first reaction had been right: it was her brother Steven.
"Steve! Steve, don't do this! Steve!" He was barely conscious, but his eyes focused on her.
He smiled weakly. "Randy..." he whispered using her childhood nickname. "I always wanted to visit you...but not like this."
She forced a smile against the tears that began to stream down her face. "Yeah, you never did learn how to duck, did you?"
"No, I never did..."
Miranda turned to see Margaret Houlihan kneeling beside her. She put a hand on Miranda's shoulder. "Is he your brother?" When Miranda nodded, she continued. "He's going in first. I'll assist Major Winchester on him. Don't worry-"
"Major, please," Miranda begged. "He's my brother. I have to assist with him."
Margaret bit her lip, then nodded. "Fine, but don't let me down, Lieutenant. He needs you."
In the OR, Miranda stood across from Charles as Steve was laid before them on the surgical table. Steve grabbed her arm. "Don't leave me..."
She smiled beneath her surgical mask. "Don't worry," she said, trying to soothe him. "I'm not going anywhere. Major Winchester is a wonderful doctor. He'll take good care of you, you'll see." She nodded to the nurse who manned the anesthesia, and Steve was soon asleep.
Steve's surgery went quite well, but that still could shake Miranda's worry. She was still shaking long after he had left, and she was anxious to see how he was. The flow of patients only lasted another six hours, but Miranda felt dead on her feet when it was over. She stumbled to her tent, fell onto her cot, and was instantly asleep.