Oct. 12th: 0830 hours

"Doctor Winchester. Wait, please." Lieutenant MacAllister caught up with him outside the surgeon's changing room. "Let me help you with your scrubs---out here---so I won't embarrass myself again."

Exhausted, the officer nodded in agreement. MacAllister helped him slip out of the tops of his surgical scrubs. Sitting down on a bench, Winchester cradled his head in his hands.

She tossed the blood stained clothes into a nearby hamper. "I've been told I give a darn good back rub. May I?"

He nodded again---too tired to speak. The woman stood beside him. Her fingers glided across his shoulder blades in soothing circular motions.

"You did some mighty fine knitting in there, sir." MacAllister whispered.

"Yes, I did." He agreed without conceit. The doctor tilted his head to look at her. "And you are a first-rate surgical nurse." He liked the way she smiled at him.

"Thank you, sir." She worked to reduce the muscle tension in his neck. "And thank you for that wonderful line in there!"

"I hadn't realized puns were so contagious." He muttered.

"Perhaps we should work on a pun-oculation." She suggested.

"Work on my right shoulder some more, instead." The major directed as he closed his eyes. "Sarabeth, Major Houlihan doesn't appreciate your sense of humor. Was it worth it?"

"You probably should ask me that question after I have my meeting with her." MacAllister answered as she gently kneaded his shoulder. "However, yes. It was worth it. And, yes. I know I'm going to pay dearly for that smart aleck remark. Sometimes, sir, you have to grab the knife, even though you know you're going to get cut."

"That was one of the very first things we were taught in medical school---how not to cut ourselves with our scalpels." He responded acerbically.

Hawkeye Pierce stumbled into the area. He saw the two of them and sank onto the bench beside the other surgeon. "Is this a private massage or can anyone ask for one?"

"You're in luck, sir. I have a 2-for-1 special, tonight." Sarabeth limped over to him and rubbed his shoulders. She gave him the same gentle treatment she had given to the man still slumped beside him.

Pierce exhaled. "Sarabeth, I think I have to talk to you. Officially."

"Yes, sir." She dropped her hands to her side, stood at attention and waited for him to speak.

"I can get you on a surgical team. But I can't...." He shrugged. "I can't help you with anything else."

"Understood, sir. I'm not asking for any intervention. I've been taught that you have to ride the horse you draw." She smiled at their puzzled expressions. "Rodeo lingo. Do y'all realize there are some serious gaps in your Yankee education? They sure don't teach the important things up North, do they?"

The woman placed a hand on each man's shoulder. "Now, I want both of y'all to take a hot shower and get some sleep."

"Don't tell me we're getting more wounded, soon." Winchester groaned.

"Not for a while, I think. I just want y'all well rested---so I can finish beating y'all at Stomp."

"Lieutenant," the major said, "I seem to recall that I was winning the game."

"Only temporarily, sir." MacAllister assured him with a grin.


Major Houlihan walked out of the nurse's changing room with Lieutenant Thompson. Because of the partially drawn curtain, she didn't see the three people. Rather than remain hidden, however, the Texan moved towards her ranking officer.

"Major," she called. The head nurse turned to face her. ‘Do you want me to help with the OR clean up before or after I report to you?"

"I want you in the OR first. You'll be handling the clean up detail by yourself. That means everything---equipment sterilized, trays packed, gowns and aprons washed, walls and tables disinfected---everything."

MacAllister nodded. "I'll get it done, ma'am."

Houlihan was expecting an argument from her wayward nurse. She was not expecting quiet acceptance. "And I want it done right. Otherwise, you'll be doing it over again."

"Rest assured, Major. MacAllisters do the job right...the first time."

"One more thing. After you finish in the operating room, relieve Riggs for the rest of the first post-op shift."

"I was scheduled for second and fifth post-op duty."

"I rescheduled you. You now have first and fourth."

Sarabeth sighed. "Yes, ma'am." She stretched. "Major, before I get started, I'm going to have to take a break. I'd like to take a shower. I need to visit the latrine. And my stomach thinks my throat's been cut."

The head nurse relented. MacAllister's requests were not unreasonable. "You may take a 30 minute break. But no longer than that. Do I make myself clear?"

"Perfectly clear, ma'am."

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