"Hey, hey! In my hand, not on the floor. Come on, Annie. Okay? Pickupís." Hawkeyeís nurse was new, and not working out too well. Not quite as bad as the one whoíd run out of OR at the sight of blood, but right up there. She was prone to drop instruments on the floor, and to compound that, she was slow.
She picked up the requested instrument and handed it to him at a leisurely pace. He felt like growling his frustration. She was a nice kid, but not cut out for the fast-paced MASH unit. At this rate, why didnít he just reach into the tray and get the surgical tools himself?
"Damn! Clamp, Annie! Heís hemorrhaging. Come on, Annie! Get with it." Usually her slowness was irritating. Now, it was threatening the life of his patient. Well, her feelings be damned. The patientís life was more important. "Margaret! Get over here. Annie, move it."
Margaret hurried over, glad that someone else noticed this girlís incompetence. The last time, people had jumped all over her, saying she should be nicer. Well, if all else failed, she knew that Hawkeye would side with her.
"You know, Pierce, you canít blame all of your surgical short-comings on the nurse. Try going back to school, and then see if you can do decent surgery." Charles loved baiting Hawkeye, and he was fun to fence words with. He was an exceedingly worthy opponent.
"Yeah, maybe youíre right. When Iím done, Iíll test my skill by trying to create a human being out of dead body parts. Oh, but thatís already been done, by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. The result was you, Charles." Hawkeye was able to joke again. With a decent nurse, the patient would be okay. And Margaret was head and shoulders above any of the other nurses.
"Everything okay, Pierce?" Potter asked.
"Yeah, Colonel. The abdominal aorta started to gush a little, but itís fine."
The changing room...
"What a session. I think I might just be too beat to drink. Lets go find out." Hawkeye never lacked an excuse to drink. "You coming, Beej?"
"Yeah, just a sec." BJ was still changing. Hawkeye hadnít bothered.
As they started to walk out, they heard Margaretís raised voice. "I donít care, Lieutenant. Your problems are not my concern. My concern is the lives of the patients, and your continued presence is endangering them. Iíll talk to Colonel Potter about a transfer. Dismissed."
"Poor girl. Maybe she just needs a while to get accustomed to the place." BJ always felt bad for anyone on Margaretís black list, having been there a few times himself.
"I agree with Margaret. Sheís a menace. And a pain in the tukus. Sheíd do better somewhere else." Hawkeye found it hard to garner any sympathy for her. They both turned back to the door.
Margaret walked into the changing room. "Hang on, Hawkeye, BJ. Mind if I join you two for a drink? Even if it is that gasoline you call liquor." She needed a drink, and she wanted to talk. Something was bothering her, and Hawkeye was usually the only one she talked to. Him or Potter, and she didnít want to involve Potter in this. He already loathed Donald enough, he wouldnít be as impartial as Hawk and BJ. Hawkeye had been more interested in making sure she was okay at the beginning of the divorce than he was in hating Donald. Potter did both.
"Sure, Margaret." Hawkeye pushed the door open and stood to the side.
The three of them walked across the camp arm in arm.
Hawkeye poured them all drinks, ignoring Charles, who sniffed rudely and huffed out.
"So, whatís up, Margaret? That nurse? Iím with you all the way on shipping her out." Hawkeye knew she had something on her mind, he just didnít know what.
"What? Oh yeah, her. No, thatís not what I needed to talk to you about. Read this." She handed him a letter.
He read it, and his face became angrier with each word. At the end, he gasped and stared at the paper. "How dare he? That arrogant, obnoxious, brazen asshole! The beginning of the letter was bad enough. ĎI miss you, Margaret. I want to give it another shot, Margaret. Can we get together, Margaret?í Here, Beej, read this! Yes, that was awful enough! But the end!! How dare he? ĎI still love you, Margaret. I miss our being together. And that last trip in Tokyo is still haunting me. I canít forget what youíre like when weíre together, itís never been that good for me, before or since, with anyone.í After the way he acted? Want me to kill him?" Hawkeye couldnít believe Donald had the effrontery to ask her to take him back after the way he had treated her.
From the look on BJís face, he agreed wholeheartedly with Hawkeye, he was just quieter about it.
She smiled, glad that they cared so much. "No, please donít kill him. Itíd cause an incredible amount of paperwork. No, I just wondered if you thought I was being unreasonable to want nothing to do with him. If I judge your reaction properly, you donít."
BJ was a little more hesitant than Hawkeye had been. "Well, it all depends on how you feel, Margaret. Maybe youíre feeling ambivalent about the letter because part of you wants to work it out."
Margaret knew he was only playing devilís advocate, but she had preferred Hawkeyeís reaction. She knew that each man cared about her, but she also realized that Hawkeye might care a bit more. In fact, she was probably closer to him than she was to anyone else right now. It was hard not to care when you had gone through what they had together. They had seen each other halfway through a war, it went without saying that they would care. And, it often seemed that he knew what she was thinking better than she did. She would go with what he thought. Anyway, she hated Donald. What had even made her wonder? And how dare he mention the two of them and their trip to Tokyo? That disgusting creep! Didnít he know how ashamed she was to ever have touched the likes of him? Yuck!
"Well, from the look on her face, Beej, Iíd swear that sheís having no second thoughts about how much she loves Donald. The way things ought to be." Hawkeye smiled, satisfied. There were no words to describe the hatred he felt for Donald. How many times had Hawkeye held Margaret while she cried over him? And, how badly he had hurt her when they finally got divorced. That was unforgivable. And yet, when he heard Margaret say that she would get a divorce, he had felt strangely elated. He didnít care to wonder why that was.
Suddenly, Klinger burst through the door. "Hawk, they need you in Post-Op. You too, Major." He scuttled out.
"Oh, come on. We just came out of OR. I think Iím going to ask for a raise." Hawkeye heaved himself to his feet and then offered a hand to Margaret. She took it, and they both shuffled out the door.
"Um, Sir? Sir? The Colonel can see you now." Klinger was distinctly uncomfortable. He knew who this man was, and he was prepared to have to drag him out of the office, unconscious, after the Colonel got through with him. It wouldnít be pretty.
The man strode through the doors to the office arrogantly, ready to demand that Potter put him in the VIP tent to stay indefinitely. Potter was sitting at his desk, doing paperwork. He looked up when the door opened.
"What are you doing here, Penobscott? Havenít you caused enough damage in my unit for one lifetime?" Potter stood up and faced the taller man angrily. His face was red, and he knew that his blood pressure had probably skyrocketed to at least 170/100.
"What? Colonel, I demand that you put me in the VIP tent for as long as I need it. I plan to stay until I get my wife back. And, mark my words, I will."
"You know, you have a lot of gall. First, I want to know how you got all that time off. Then, I want to know what makes you think that you can just waltz into my unit and demand that I let you stay here. Last, Iíd like to know just why you think that Margaret would take you back! You treated her terribly, and if I were her father, Iíd shoot you myself. In fact, Iíve a good mind to do it anyway. Where do you get your nerve?" By now, Potter was shaking a fist in Donaldís face and shouting. "Get out of here. Get out, get out, get out! And Iíd better not see your ugly mug around my office or that woman again. Got that?" His face was beyond red. It was closer to purple.
Donald just stared at the colonel, and quickly exited the room. Radar glared at him on his way out. "Yeah!" Klinger hated this man, on principle alone.
Later, in the Officers Club...
"One bourbon on the rocks. And make it quick." Donald was trying to drown his sorrows. He didnít understand why Margaret left him in the first place. She just didnít care how he felt. She didnít give a thought to his feelings. If she werenít so pretty, heíd never bother with such a callous woman.
From the corner of his eye, Klinger saw a stranger back at the bar. The man had been drinking heavily all night. He decided to approach him. Maybe he was new in the unit.
He sat beside him. "You come here often, Sailor?" he joked. Then he got a good look at the other manís face. "What are you doing here, you jerk? Get lost! Youíre likely to get yourself beaten to death in this unit, and Iím likely to be the one who starts the trend. You sorry SOB!" While he and Margaret didnít always get along, he liked her. A lot. And she definitely deserved better than the way this lout had treated her. He was boiling mad, just thinking about it.
"Hey, shut up, lady. What I do here is my own business. Iím here to make my cheating wife come back to me, and nobody, not you or that old geezer of a colonel, is going to stop me." Donald was too drunk to recognize the rage on Klingerís face, and his wits were too scattered to duck the blow aimed at his eye.
It was a solid punch, and Klingerís aim was true. Donald reeled backward, and fell off the bar stool, unconscious. Igor, who was working the bar, rushed around and gaped at Klinger. He slapped Donaldís face lightly, and his eyes drifted open. He struggled to his feet.
Klinger grabbed him by the back of his shirt and the seat of his pants threw him out the door. "And stay out! You damn creep." Klinger muttered the last of this.
Late at night, in the Swamp...
"Look at me, Beej. In the prime years of my life, and where am I? Iíve got no wife, no kids, not even a girlfriend. To top all that off, thereís not a single good looking woman in this camp who wants the job. Iím sitting here in an infested tent, with smelly socks, barely palatable food, and Iím bored to tears." Hawkeye wasnít seriously depressed, he was just spouting off as usual. He tossed another card toward the bedpan on the stove.
"You know what we need, donítcha? We need to play a really good joke. Like, the time you painted that guyís head black. Or the time that Trapper supposedly flew Henryís shorts over enemy territory. Or when I filled the foxhole with water and Sydney shouted ĎAir raid!í That was great. What do you say?"
"You know, that might be just what the doctor ordered. What do ya say, Charles? You want in?" Always fair, Hawkeye decided that if Winchester snubbed them this time, then the joke would be played on him.
"Gentlemen, as much as this pains me to admit, Iím as bored as you are. Count me in. Now, who do we nail?"
The door opened. In stumbled a very drunk Donald. "Hey, boys! You all know where I might scare up a drink?"
The three co-conspirators shared a look. What was he doing here? But, more important, they had found a butt for their joke. At least, two of the three men were thinking this. Hawkeye was rapidly filling with anger. Why was he here? His question was quickly answered.
"Hey, ainít you Hawker? And youíre Chuckie. And youíre the nice fella who set my body after it got broke. J&B or something. Any oí you fellers got some booze?" he slurred.
Hawkeye pointedly ignored him, turning his back and resuming tossing his cards. Damned if he was going to give the bastard the time of day.
BJ gave him a martini glass full of gin. Donald stumbled over to Hawkeye and plopped down next to him. "Hey, Heckaye. Dontcha remember me? Iím Margaretís husband. Or I was. ĎTill the bitch dumped me. Donít even care about my feelings none. Left me, after all I done for her. Went and served me with them papers, no warning or anything. Just divorced me, for nuthiní at all. I tell you, if she wasnít so purty, Iíd never think about taking her back. Gee, she really gave no thought to how Iíd feel." Donald was talking to Hawkeye, and Hawkeye was studiously ignoring him. It was getting harder and harder, though. How dare this idiot lecture him about how badly Margaret hurt him. More like the other way around. But, Hawkeye held his tongue. If he opened his mouth, then heíd likely reveal something that he didnít mean to reveal.
"She thought just Ďcause I slept with some other women, she had the right to leave me. She had no right to even question my actions." Donald rambled on, oblivious to the stares he was getting.
BJ could almost see the numbers tick across Hawkeyeís forehead as he silently counted to ten, in effort to keep from blackening Penobscottís other eye. Where had he gotten the first shiner, anyway?
"She has it in her head that just because I went with other chicks that she had a right to be angry. Well, sheíll learn to deal with it. Sheíll learn to respect my feelings, too. Not just give them no thought, like she did before."
Hawkeye lost it. "How dare you? How can you stand there and talk to me about her cavalierly dismissing your feelings? Do you have any idea how badly you hurt her? How many times I held her while she cried over you? Once, we got a new nurse who was talking about some creep named Penobscott who slept with every woman in the outfit, and liked to lick fingernails. That was you. You drove her self concept so low that I thought sheíd never become the person she was before you. She once got a letter you meant for another woman, saying that she was Ďsturdy.í Donít you know how much that must have hurt? When she finally decided to leave you, it was when you sneaked off to San Fransisco after telling her that you wanted to Ďwork it out.í Yes, then she decided to dump you, but not before, once again, crying over you. Now you want her back, and you have the nerve to say that the split was her fault. Well, you know what? F**k you." Hawkeye turned back to the cards, having summarily dismissed Donald. His blood was boiling.
"Hey, doc, whatís yer problem? Why do you care so much?" Donald was now just needling Hawkeye.
Hawkeye remained silent.
"Well? What do you care? Youíre friends, but that donít give you right to be this mad. What do you care?"
Hawkeye still stayed quiet.
"Captain! I asked you a question. Why do you care? Hmmm? Why, Captain? Well?" Donald was persistant, pushing Hawkeye.
"Because I love her!" It just came out. He regretted it the moment it was out of his mouth.
"You bastard! You were sleeping with her! You screwed my wife. You slept with that easy bitch. You sorry bastard!" Donald took a wild swing at Hawkeye. He missed, but that didnít deter Hawkeye. He wanted to kill Penobscott.
"You damned jerk." Hawkeye punched Penobscott, hard, right in the cheekbone. He hit the ground with a thud. Hawkeye jerked him act to his feet and shook him lightly.
"Hey, bud. You okay?"
Donald groaned and opened his eyes.
"Good." Hawkeye hit him again, this time even harder. He slumped over, only Hawkeyeís grip on his collar holding him up. Hawk held him out the door and dropped him. He stepped over him and stalked away.
"Wow... Iíve never seen him that mad. Have you?" Charles was flabbergasted.
"Never. But his buttís in a sling when Penobscott reports him for assaulting a superior officer." BJ was even more stunned than Charles was.
"Well, the way I saw it, Penobscott was trying to kill Hawkeye, and he did what was necessary to protect himself. Why, he could have hurt us, too. The way I see it, Hawkeye is innocent." Charles smiled deviously.
"You know, I thought so, too." BJ was glad to know that Charles would protect Hawkeye. "Hey, did you hear what he said about Margaret? Was he just mad, or was it a Freudian slip?"
"I wondered about that too, Hunnicut. Did you hear the way he said it, though? He meant it. He didnít mean to say it, but he certainly meant it." Charles looked troubled. He had seen the way Margaret looked at Hawkeye when she thought no one was looking, but it had never crossed his mind that the feeling was mutual. The problem was, he knew that neither knew that the other returned the sentiment. It was a shame, really. They were perfect for each other. They cared a whole lot for each other, but aside from that, their personalities complemented each other. He needed order and discipline, and she needed to loosen up some. He shared this thought with BJ.
"Iíve seen it before, Charles, but I thought it might be my imagination. Neither of them will make the first move, though. Itís sad."
"Well, they wonít, but maybe we can..."
In Margaret's tent...
"íScuse me, Maíam. Thereís a Korean lady in labor, and since the beds are all full in Post-Op, and even Pre-Op, sheís in the supply room. ĎCause you do most of the midwifery around here, will you come and look at her?" Klinger was standing just inside Margaretís tent as he asked the question.
"Sure, Klinger. Iíll be right there. Do you know how many centimeters dilated she is?" Margaret had already had her showdown with Donald, and it had left her feeling drained, physically and emotionally. She was lonely. Why did it seem that she was incapable of maintaining a meaningful relationship?