Oct. 2nd: 2030 hours
Outside Lieutenant MacAllister's tent, the human babble was quieting down. Inside her tent, the heater was gradually warming the room. Under the blanket, the woman was drifting off to sleep. Once again, there was a knock on her door frame.
With a sigh, she sat up, pulled on her robe, tied the sash around her waist and reached for her crutches. "Who is it?" She asked as she hobbled to the door.
"Hawkeye Pierce." Was the answer from outside. "May I come in?"
MacAllister opened the door a crack. She grinned up at the man. "Not without MPs being present, sir. Your reputation has preceded you."
"It's OK. I just want to talk to you. Look...I left my other six arms back at the Swamp."
She laughed and opened the door wider. "Come on in."
Pierce stepped inside and stood near the heater. He looked around at the bare interior. "Nice. I like the Early Nothing decor."
"I'd offer you a chair, except I don't have one." MacAllister grinned. "Corporal Klinger's promised me some more furniture."
"Don't expect any before the next war." He advised. "I brought you some 'welcome wagon' gifts. They're from B J and me." Hawkeye showed her the contents of the small box he held.
MacAllister used the opportunity to observe him. He was wearing a purple bathrobe over his green fatigues. His battered Stetson made him appear even taller. His hair was grayer than she had first thought. And worry lines creased his face. Even though he needed a shave, he was a handsome man, especially when he smiled.
He was smiling at her now.
"It's not much, but we wanted to let you know how glad we are to have you here."
"Thanks, Captain. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness."
"Call me Hawkeye. It's from The Last ...."
"Of the Mohicans." The woman finished his sentence for him. 'The eyes of this hunter were quick, keen, and restless....' (James Fenimore Cooper) She quoted.
"You've read it! That is my dad's favorite book. He always calls me that." Pierce grinned broadly. He was elated that she knew the source of his nickname.
"I do hope your real name is not Natty Bumppo." The Texan teased.
He laughed in delight. "No. Thanks goodness! I'm Benjamin Franklin Pierce."
"Are you named for the statesman or the president?" Sarabeth questioned.
"Both. My dad was feeling very patriotic that day." Hawkeye joked. His expression changed. "I also came over to see if you were all right." He told her in complete seriousness. "Really all right. I know you've had a rough time, today. Having to fight off your own troops, being shot at by the Chinese, having to the treat the wounded in a battle zone, being yelled at by me...."
She grinned at his last words. They had already exchanged apologies in the operating room. "I have had better days." She acknowledged. "However, other than my ankle hurting and being homesick...I'm OK. Thanks for asking, Hawkeye."
"You have the analgesics B J prescribed, don't you?"
"Make sure you take them." The doctor directed. "Sarabeth, everyone has to find their own way to cope with this madness. But I want you to know that I'm here and I'd like to help you. Any time you want to talk, or need a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to shout at...come find me. I promise I won't try anything, either. Until you're feeling better, that is." He informed her with a lecherous grin. "And then, Lieutenant, since you have an incredible body, I intend for us to do some incredible things together."
"Perhaps this would be an appropriate time to mention that I have two brothers stationed nearby. Two very large, very protective brothers." She informed him with an amused smile.
"I'll keep that in mind." He reached to smooth a tendril of hair away from her face. He ignored her eyebrows lifted in warning. "Whenever you need me, Sarabeth. You're a bright light in a dark world. I'd prefer neither of us were in Korea, but I'm glad that you are here at the 4077th."
"Thank you, Hawkeye. It means a lot to me to know that there are people here who care about me. I come from a loving, supportive family. And everyone who has stopped by tonight has really helped me. I appreciate all the concern and the warmth people have shown."
"Around here, you need all the warmth you can get---from any source." The man told her. "And I happen to know this doctor who has discovered this incredible way for two people to keep warm." He gave her another inviting smile.
Amused, she asked, "This doctor wouldn't happened to be named Pierce, would he?"
"By some amazing coincidence, yes."
"Amazing." Sarabeth laughed as they moved towards her door. "Good night, Hawkeye. I appreciate the goodies." With more solemnity, she added, "Thank you for offering to help me survive this place."
Oct. 3rd: 0500 hours
The silence in the woman's tent was once again broken by a knock on the door frame. MacAllister woke with a start. "Don't these people ever sleep?" She grumbled. Once again, she climbed off her cot, tied the robe around her waist and struggled to the door. "Who is it?"
"Major Winchester." Came the reply. "Lieutenant, may I speak to you?"
Sarabeth opened the door. "What can I do for you, sir?" She asked with a yawn.
The officer's smile faded. He looked dismayed, "I completed my post-op duty a short time ago and I noticed your light. I...I thought you were awake." He drew a deep breath. "My apologies, Lieutenant, for disturbing you."
MacAllister smiled at him. "No need for apologies, sir. I'm usually awake long before now. I just had the light on all night to keep the darkness at bay." She shivered. While she had been sleeping, the temperatures had dropped and the winds had increased, "Major, it's warmer in here than out there. Come on in."
They walked over to the small heater. Winchester held his hands near the flames.
"They tell me the Korean winters are brutal." Sarabeth spoke as she warmed her hands by the fire, as well.
"So I have been informed. I've only been sequestered here in this slimy sewer for five months. The summer was atrocious, however. Certainly not like the many splendid summers I have spent at our Cape Cod house."
MacAllister understood why Kellye Tanakhamara considered him stuffy. He did have a pompous manner that bordered on arrogance. Still, she liked him. Smiling to herself, she changed the subject. "How is Private Glennis's leg, sir?"
"His toes are warm and he can move that foot. The prognosis is good." He looked at her curiously. "Tell me, Lieutenant, would you have completed that arterial transplant by yourself?"
"If I had had to, sir. Luckily, the hospital was close enough so that all I had to do was to get it ready for y'all."
"That was an excellent graft preparation." Winchester remarked. "Incidentally, I have something for you." He pulled a bottle from the pocket of his lab coat and handed the container to her.
She read the label out loud. "Hair tonic?" She looked at him in astonishment. Involuntarily, her eyes traveled to the top of his balding head. The corner of her mouth quivered. MacAllister had to hurriedly avert her eyes to give herself time to regain her composure.
"It is not what you think." He informed her stiffly. "You are holding a bottle of a superior Madetta Peach Brandy. I only placed that marvelous elixir in this container to keep Pierce from guzzling it."
"I see." Sarabeth tilted her head and asked, with a mischievous grin, "What's in the brandy decanter?"
Winchester merely raised his eyebrows in reply.
"So...." She was still having difficulty keeping her face expressionless. "I take it that Captain Pierce is unaware of this switch?"
"You are correct."
MacAllister gave up trying to control her laughter. Winchester enjoyed watching her. Very few people recognized that he had a sense of humor.
"Thanks, Major. I needed a good laugh." She told him merrily.
"I shall, of course, deny ever having had this conversation." He noted.
"What conversation?" She asked with a countenance that betrayed nothing.
The major nodded his approval. He continued to moved his hands over the heater's warmth. "Lieutenant," he considered his words, "probably better than anyone else, I know how difficult it is to adapt to this despicable place. It can be very lonely here without someone to talk to...I know that from experience. Therefore, I would like to extend my assistance to you. Should you feel the need to talk, I am quite willing to listen." He watched her, trying to gauge her reaction. He didn't make overtures like that often.
The woman could tell his offer was sincere. She smiled up at him. "Having someone who is willing to listen is a wonderful gift. Thank you. I'm going to need someone to talk to."
For a few minutes, a comfortable silence fell between then as they stared into the flames, Then, from the corner of her eye, MacAllister noticed that Winchester was rubbing his fingers and grimacing in pain. With gentle compassion, she inquired, "Major, do your hands hurt?"
Startled, he quickly placed his hands in the pockets of his jacket. "No." Winchester said as he turned away. "The cold wind was blowing on them, that's all."
"Are you sure, sir?"
"That is the only possible explanation, Lieutenant!" The man answered with an edge to his voice. He was adamant in his refusal.
"Very well, sir." She agreed, neutrally. "So where are your gloves?"
"I...." He was embarrassed. "I lost them in a poker game."
"With winter coming on?" MacAllister shook her head in exasperation. "Men!" She muttered as she rummaged through one of her gift packages. "Here." She handed him a pair of woolen gloves.
"I can not take your gloves." He declared.
"This is an extra pair. I don't need them. And you do."
"This is unnecessary." The major tried to return them to her.
"No. They are on loan to you."
He tried again to return them.
"Take them!" The woman insisted with a touch of anger emerging from her drawl.
Winchester studied her expression. "I see that the corollary between red hair and temperament does indeed hold true. You are ...." He searched for an appropriate word. "Determined. Aren't you, Lieutenant?" He asked in dry amusement.
Her anger disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. With a slightly embarrassed grin, she admitted, "People have called me hard-headed on occasion." She paused before adding, "Of course, they were wrong."
"Of course." With a small smile, Winchester agreed. He pulled on the gloves and buttoned his jacket. "Lieutenant, thank you for the loan of your gloves. I shall return them."
"You're welcome, sir. Thank you for the brandy. And for the joke on Captain Pierce. Laughter is a good tonic, you know."
He groaned. "Not another one who likes puns." The officer sounded as if he were in pain but he smiled at her.
"Well," she confessed, "I have been know to pun-ish people."
"Hunnicutt is going to relish talking to you." As he caught the sparkle in her eyes, he raised his hand to prevent her from speaking. "Please, Lieutenant. Do not say anything about pickles or onions."
"Aw, Major." MacAllister protested. "That's not fair! You give me such a wonderful line and then you won't let me use it."
"I am quite certain other opportunities will arise."
"I'm sure they will." She laughed. "Major Winchester, I'm going to enjoy working with you."
"And I shall enjoy working with you. Goodbye, Lieutenant."