Oct. 25th: 0230 hours
Alone in the operating room, two woman sat in exhausted silence. Colonel Blankenship, sitting on a stool, was slumped across a table. Lieutenant MacAllister, sitting on a bench, was adjusting an ice pack on her ankle. They looked up as the company clerk entered the OR. He was carrying a tray from the mess tent.
"Here's a couple of bologna sandwiches, ladies. There's no other food left. I brought you some cold water. Sorry, there's no juice left, either."
"That's OK, corporal. There's no juice left in me, either." The surgical nurse answered with a tired grin and a yawn.
"The mess sergeant wanted to know if he could shut down the kitchen since the rush is over. I told him he could go back on regular schedule." Klinger reported.
Corporal Klinger turned to the older woman. "Colonel, would you care for something to eat?" She straightened and accepted the plate from him.
The man poured MacAllister some water.
"Thanks, Klinger." Sarabeth winced as she reached for her food.
"Do you need another ice pack for your ankle?"
"No. It's fine." She yawned again. "All right, Klinger. Let's finish camp business."
"Yes, ma'am." The clerk consulted his list. "I checked on the colonel. He was sound asleep in his tent. I removed his boots and covered him with a blanket. The guards have been posted. Pre-op is ready. Lieutenant Kellye made sure it was cleaned and restocked before she went off duty."
"I stopped by all the post-ops. They have enough supplies. The ward nurses report no problems. And everyone knows their duty schedules. I'll put in a requisition for more supplies and call grave registration---in three hours---when the lines are clear."
"Is there anything else we need to take care of?"
"All right. Hand me my crutches. Once you escort the colonel to the VIP tent, you can stand down."
"What about you, Lieutenant?" Worried, the corporal asked.
"After I check on the surgeons and get the OR taken care of, I'm going to collapse on the nearest flat surface. Colonel Blankenship, I really appreciate your help. You made the OR procedures run smoother. Thank you."
"It seems to me, that you had the OR running smoothly, even without my contributions."
"That's because of Major Houlihan's preparations. You made it easier, however. And I'm very grateful for that."
In the alcove beside the operating room, the doctors were sleeping on the cots provided for them. Standing beside Hawkeye Pierce's bed, Sarabeth reached down and gently moved the hair out of his eyes.
"Don't dream about the blood, Hawk. Think about Maine and the lobster festival, instead." She spoke very softly. He mumbled something but remained asleep.
After covering him with a blanket, she turned to B J's cot. He had managed to remove one of his boots before falling victim to exhaustion. She finished the job he had begun and looked at him fondly. "B J, Peg loves you and needs you. And she always will."
"Tucking the children in for the night?" Major Winchester's fatigued voice startled her.
"It is way past your bedtime." MacAllister responded. "That shows you how tired I am, Charles. I didn't even know you were awake."
He pushed his covers away and sat on the edge of the bed. "Sit down before you fall down, Sarabeth." Maneuvering her crutches, she sank down beside him with an exhausted sigh. "I was debating whether or not it was worth the effort to get up and find some water to drink." He said.
"I'll bring you some."
He shook his head. "It is not worth the effort for you to get it, either. How's your ankle?"
"I was debating which is better: an above the knee or a below the knee amputation."
With extreme gentleness, the doctor raised her leg from the floor and rested it on his knee. She tried not to flinch as he examined her ankle. "Take some analgesics. And get some sleep!"
"As soon as I can, sir." MacAllister said.
When the acting-head nurse returned to the operating room, she discovered Corporal Klinger and Colonel Blankenship hard at work.
"Corporal, I told you to stand down."
"There's an old Lebanese saying, Lieutenant: You don't get to sleep until you've cleaned your camel's stall."
Sarabeth's smile spread across her face. It even touched her eyes. "Then let's get this stall cleaned, shall we?" She looked at the other woman. "Colonel, you don't have to work this detail."
"It's been a long time since I've had OR duty. I haven't forgotten how to disinfect tables, however."
"Thank you, ma'am. Thank y'all, both." Was her tired reply.
"I'll walk you to your tent, Sarabeth."
"No need, Klinger. I'm headed for that fourth cot in the hallway. Doctor Winchester and I have second post-op duty. Make sure I'm awake by 0730 hours, will you? You may have to use a bucket of water."
"I'll bring two." The corporal grinned at her. "Stand down, Lieutenant."