DISCLAIMER: I don't own them, they're the property of Twentieth Century Fox. All the characters you don't know from the show, are mine, just like this fiction.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I'm not a born English nor American, and I'm just learning this language. Hope there won't be much mistakes, but if any, please tell me and I'll correct them. Ah, also I'm not medically learned, so this could be a little "unprofessional". Still hope you'll like it and mail me:-) More notes on the end.
by Nicol Leoraine
It was one of these days - when one casualty came after other, and the doctors didn't have enough time to sleep off the twelve or more hours lasting shift, when another choppers came from the blue sky.
At the fourth day, it was clearly evident, that they're working on sheer will. B.J.Hunnicutt was currently trying to save the life of a nineteen-years old boy, who was accidentally shot by his comrade. Somewhere in his stomach where three bullets from an American gun. His comrade was on the second table, with the shrapnels from a land mine in his body after his attempted suicide. Hawkeye Pierce, surgeon with great sufficiency, was the only chance the boy had to open his eyes again. But the chance was really small, even with Hawkeye's extraordinary skills.
Charles Emerson Winchester the Third, was working on a Korean boy at the age of twelve, another victim of a land mine.
"How's it going, Winchester?" asked Colonel Sherman Potter, treating a simple (at least, in this hour) gunshot.
"Oh, really good. I'd just amputated the right leg from knee down to a kid. But at least, I saved his pity life. Really good," repeated the annoyed doctor.
"You're complaining, Charles? That's new to me," quipped B.J., half awaiting Hawkeye's remark. But there wasn't one.
"How many are waiting?" asked colonel Potter thoughtless of the silence around him.
"Three, but they're just light cases," said Father Francis Mulcahy and walked next to B.J.
"Can I help?" he asked quietly. B.J. shook his head.
"I hope not, Padre, but you can do a little prayer for him."
Father Mulcahy made a cross and silently blessed the boy lying on the table, then got to Hawkeye, just as the surgeon groaned and shook his head in frustration. The pain that clouded his eyes was mistaken for sorrow above the patient. Father Mulcahy silently prayed for the boy just as for his surgeon.
"It's not good," said Hawkeye in the voice hushed from the mask, as his fingers worked on the last stitches. "Klinger! Take him to post-op." Breathing out, the surgeon watched as his patient was wheeled out, then rubbed his eyes. Nurse Baker looked at him, troubled by the uncharacteristic silence. She knew that Hawkeye was always sad when a patient so young had so little chance to a normal life, but this was something different. The bead of perspiration covering his forehead was disturbing even if the outside temperature was something akin to 102 degrees. In the middle of July, it was a really hot day.
"Are you all right, doctor?" she asked him quietly and he blinked, slowly turning his head.
"What is it, Pierce?"
"I'm not feeling... well-" Hawkeye blinked and took a step back, nearly stumbling at the next table.
"Hey, watch it!" shouted Winchester and Potter, like Hunnicutt, looked at him.
"Take a break, son. It's a little hot here." admitted Potter, frowning.
"Sure. We will take it from here."
Pierce nodded, little ashamed, but more tired than he would've like to admit. The splitting headache was making it hard to think, and he can't endanger the life of a patient. He stumbled out of the Op-room, not sensing the looks of his colleagues.
Charles began to grumble about the favouritism, but Potter silenced him.
"Winchester! Quit being an idiot and work! Hunnicutt, do you know what's with him?"
"No," answered B.J. worried about his friend and anxious to talk with him. "But I didn't really talk with him today. Half the night he was at Post-Op, then came the injured."
"Pierce is just trying to slip from his duties," announced Charles, when Klinger wheeled in another patient.
"Charles, how would you like a little plastic operation? Because if you don't shut up, I will make sure, that you will need it, soon." B.J. was angry and tired of the heat, just like everyone else.
"Try that, you little..."
"Enough, Winchester! Hunnicutt! You both have patients, so quit the wrangle!" barked Sherman Potter vehemently. "Klinger - bring me the next one."
Hour later, B.J.Hunnicutt stitched up his last patient and walked into the room to change out of the bloody clothes. He stopped abruptly, seeing the sleeping form of his friend, half lying, half sitting on the bench. B.J. smirked, thinking that Hawkeye must be really tired, when he noticed his face etched with pain.
"Hawk?" Hunnicutt sat next to him and gently shook his arm. Pierce mumbled something, but didn't awaken. B.J. saw the flushed face and put his hand to Hawkeye's forehead.
"I thought you're married, Hunnicutt. Anyway, I'm not free tonight - I have a meeting with one of the nurses. If I could only remember, which one it is?" asked the man, smirking.
"Now I know that you are delusional." answered B.J. with a lopsided grin and changed into clean shirt. Hawkeye rubbed his neck, softly turning his head to left then to the right side, wincing in the process.
"Uhm," muttered Hawkeye, then stood up and for a second wavered. B.J. grabbed his arm to steady him and Hawkeye nervously coughed.
"I'm all right."
"You sure don't look like it, Pierce. You're pretty hot to touch."
"Geez, thanks for the compliment,"
"What's wrong with you?"
"It's hot in here, Beej. I didn't sleep last night and I don't remember eating since yesterday. That's all, really. I just need a cold shower, some food from the mess hall and sleep longer than two hours."
"Fine. You have it. Potter is giving you a day off."
"Oh," Hawkeye didn't seem to be very happy with that.
"That's all? Oh?"
"Uhm. The last I need is Potter being nice to me. I'm in trouble."
"You better get that shower, Hawkeye. I think that our Colonel is finishing his last patient."
"Right," said Hawkeye and hastily walked into the burning day. The hot air hit him with a vengeance. Seeing the long front before the showers, he abandoned the idea of a cold water, and headed to the Swamp.
B.J. was on his way out, when Colonel Potter, followed by Charles Winchester, walked in.
"I think that boy can make it, after all," said Potter, thinking about one of the British soldiers, who was brought in.
"Colonel... I think Hawkeye needs a day off."
"How is he?"
"Complaining about headache. I think he's coming down with something. I found him asleep on the bench," referred B.J. to his commanding officer.
"Probably just a bad hangover," quipped Charles. B.J. shot him a warning look. He was starting to feel really protective towards his comrade, at least before Winchester.
"If you had listened before, Winchester, you should knew that he was at the Post-Op," snarled B.J.
"Well, I think that all of us need some free days. If just this heat would pass... oh, General Wetters told Klinger, that the enemy is retreating. The casualties will soon recede."
"Thank God!" exclaimed Winchester and walked out of the tent. B.J. heard a low moan and a curse, when Charles saw the front to the showers. He couldn't suppress a grin.
"Hey, Hunnicutt," asked the Colonel, "Take care that Pierce get his nap, okay? I don't really believe General Wetters - and I need all my surgeons in top shape."
"Yes, dad," mumbled B.J. and walked out into the sultry heat.
Going straight into the Swamp, B.J. found Hawkeye asleep in the same clothes and shoes. He was lying across the cot, with head on his arms, as if protecting it from any movement. B.J. yawned and finding that he too is tired, stripped only to his shorts. When Winchester came after 40 minutes of waiting for the shower in, both doctors were soundly asleep.
The heat was unbearable. His head was pounding, as if trying to win some rock competition. It felt like he's lying on the hot sand somewhere in Sahara, lost at the scorched desert. The sun was burning his skin, and every move he took was slow and painful. His joints and muscles were dry - all dampness was gone, and his bones were rubbing against each other, causing a creaking sound. Like the skeletons making love on the metal plate.
Hawkeye moaned and shifted on his cot, trying to get away from the heat. It didn't help, and Hawkeye wriggled restlessly, his left leg nudging at the pile of nudist magazines, sending them to the floor with a crash. B.J. jolted up in his bed, looking around with wide eyes. He was just dreaming about something, and in the moment of awareness thought, that they're under fire. Then he saw the magazines on the floor and his friends restless form and rubbing at his eyes, B.J. stood.
"Hey, Hawk..." shaking the wriggling man, B.J. was awarded only with a soft moan, followed by a murmured: "Kingdom for ice,"
B.J. grinned, but the smirk left his face abruptly. Once again touching his friends face, he cursed.
"Hawkeye... wake up. Come on... Pierce!" shouting loudly, Hawkeye opened his eyes in panic and jumped from the bed.
"Wha...?!" In the next second, he was in B.J.'s arms, when his legs gave away.
"Sit down," directed him B.J. and concerned, scrutinized his condition.
"Damn, Beej," Hawkeye moaned and grabbed his head, softly massaging his temples. "Don't yell at me like that. I thought something hit me."
"Sorry. I just wanted to wake you."
"No, well, not that I know. How are you feeling?"
"You woke me to ask this?" wondered Hawkeye looking at B.J., and seeing only concern.
"Christ, Beej! I'll feel better sleeping it out. But if you're so curious, I felt better after a three days hangover."
Hawkeye shut his eyes and lie down, holding his head like a big treasure.
"I'm right back,"
"Great. First he's shouting at me, then he goes away."
He must've dozed off, because someone touched him.
"Open your mouth," ordered B.J. and when Hawkeye did it, wanting to ask why, B.J. inserted a thermometer.
"Gosh, give me a break," mumbled Hawkeye, but became silent, seeing B.J.'s scowl. But he couldn't suppress an urge to roll his eyes, when B.J. grabbed his wrist.
"Beej," he moaned gruffly as the doors opened and Hawkeye knew that he's in trouble.
"What's the problem, Son?" asked Sherman Potter. Hawkeye reached for the thermometer, but B.J. was quicker.
"Nothing, just B.J. playing doctor. I wanted to play with a nurse, but they were all occupied."
"I see your sense of humor is not lost completely. Hunnicutt?"
"Yeah, but that's the temperature outside," meddled in Hawkeye, keeping down his voice.
"Headache, fever," named them Hunnicutt. "And he stumbled a few times, so probably dizziness."
"No sore throat, cough?"
"Nope," answered Hawkeye for himself. "There's no reason for the fuss. Some aspirin, few hours long sleep, and I'll be fine." He turned at his CO, but winced. Potter saw it and frowned.
"Mm, it's from the work," he tried to detract the attention. But Colonel Potter wasn't in the mode for joking.
"Turn it slowly to left, then to the right side."
"Colonel," whined Hawkeye.
"Pierce, do it." Hawkeye grumbled. He could turn his head, even if slowly and painfully, however it wasn't the full range.
"Okay, I get your point. Not that I very like it. But I didn't treat anyone with meningitis."
"Yeah, I also thought about it. But you were in MASH 8063 the last week..."
"No such cases, either." Hawkeye answered sleepily and blinked. Both doctors saw it.
"I think it would be best take him to Post-Op," suggested B.J.
"No. If it's a case of meningitis, I want him in isolation. The VIP tent is free. I will call first to 8063, however. If they've another case, we will at least know for sure."
Potter left and Hawkeye seemed to fall into slight slumber. B.J. watched him shift restlessly. Soaking his handkerchief in a water, he applied a cold compress on his forehead. Hawkeye blinked.
"Thanks," he mumbled, little embarrassed by the whole thing. "You know... when I was kid, one of my best friends died from Brain fever. One day he didn't come to school, and my dad said, he's sick. The other, he fell to a coma. Three days later, I was standing at his funeral. Dad said, that he couldn't do a thing. It was so quick."
"You'll be all right, Hawkeye," B.J. saw the fear in his eyes, as Hawkeye remembered the fate of Billy Krochek. "We won't let you die."
"Dad didn't save him, Beej. Sometimes - it just isn't possible."
Before Hunnicutt could respond, Colonel Sherman Potter returned, his face grim.
"News?" asked Hawkeye, trying hard to hide his nervousness.
"8063 have five cases. They don't know, what it is. Seems like meningitis or encephalitis. It doesn't seem to be infectious, though. Three of the men wasn't in contact, and one of the patients was brought in with a single shot wound. Few hours before they sent him back to the front, his condition worsened. But two of them are on the road to recovery."
"And the other three?" asked B.J. somehow reluctant.
"Two have just began to show the first symptoms yesterday. They're isolated and on antibiotics and supportive care. Colonel Sterling will update me on their conditions, if anything change. The last one died."
"Don't be so low spirited, Captain! We will put you through it, even if it means, we are void of Chief surgeon. Do you understand, Pierce?"
"Uuhhh, yeah, just don't shout, please,"