Rating: R (adult situations)
Hawkeye tuned out the administrator's welcome speech, concentrating instead on trying to figure out the warren of passageways they'd traversed to get to the O.Rs.--he was never going to figure out how to get back to his office.
"And this is the surgical wing. I can't stress again how happy we are to have you here."
He'd heard this the evening before when he'd been invited to Cabot's house for dinner. He could give the speech by heart: they were happy to have him here, honored to have a surgeon of his caliber; they just knew he'd be happy at Miami General. He was glad they knew that--he wasn't so sure.
But then he wasn't sure he'd be happy anywhere right now.
"Ah, here comes our head surgical nurse. She's new to our staff. And a veteran too."
He turned, expecting to say hello to some Sherry or Melanie or Sandy, a no doubt very pert army or navy nurse who'd never lost her glow--due to spending the war in Tokyo or maybe even Honolulu. "Oh, yes," he said. "I'm sure we'll have lots in commo--."
She looked as shocked as he did. "Pierce?"
His mouth, for once, wasn't working very well. He stared at Margaret for longer than was polite, then said, "Of all the hospitals in all the towns..."
"This is hardly your hospital, doctor." She shot him the glare he remembered too well from Korea and stalked off.
"I take it you and Nurse Houlihan know each other?"
"You take it correctly."
"I do hope this isn't going to be a problem. I can--"
Hawkeye waved away whatever Cabot was going to say. "I'm sorry. I came here to get away from my past, not run headfirst into it."
"Funny. Nurse Houlihan said the same thing. I mean about getting away."
"Not so funny. Not funny at all." He took a deep breath. "If you'll excuse me. I have a head nurse to make peace with...again."
"By all means." Cabot looked a little worried.
Hawkeye didn't really care. If Miami didn't work out, there were plenty of other hospitals. He'd just needed to get away from Maine for a while. It didn't have to be Miami. He could get away from Maine anywhere--too bad the pain inside him wouldn't go away so quickly.
He checked out the scrub room, found her there and felt a rush of nostalgia at the sight of her standing there with her back to him, scrubbing. "Which surgery are you on?" he asked.
She stopped scrubbing. "I'm not."
"Oh. You're just scrubbing because you feel dirty?" He walked over to her. "Or did you want me to find you?" He gave her the old grin.
She didn't give him anything back, didn't even turn to look at him. "This isn't going to work. You and me together."
"I don't see why not. Look how well we did for all that time in Korea."
"Korea was a long time ago."
"No, it wasn't, Margaret."
She turned the water off and dried her hands on a towel. He noticed she wasn't wearing any rings.
"Why are you here, Hawkeye?"
"You mean in the scrub room?"
"I mean at Miami General."
He took her shoulder, turning her toward the door. "Come into my office and I'll buy you a cup of coffee."
"I'm surprised you don't have a still set up already."
He smiled. "I've given up stills."
She didn't look like she believed him.
"I don't mean I've given up booze. I mean I've given up booze I made two hours ago."
She finally smiled. "That I believe."
"Well, good." He held his hand out, indicating the door. "Shall we?"
She led him to his office, which was a good thing because he had no idea how to find it.
A young woman looked up from the desk in the common area. Her smile was sweet and earnest. "Doctor Pierce? I'm Barbara Cooper. I'm the secretary for the surgical unit."
"Barbara. You know Maj--Nurse Houlihan?"
He saw the young woman bristle a bit. "I don't have much to do with the nurses, doctor."
Margaret ignored the comment, which surprised him. She would have never ignored it when they were in Korea.
"Well, you'll probably have a lot to do with her. She's a friend. A good friend. And my good friend and I would like coffee."
Barbara turned a little red. "I'll get it right away. How do you take it?"
"Black," they both said at the same time.
The girl hurried out.
"It's not a good idea to alienate her," Margaret said as she checked out the view from his window.
He joined her. The view from his window was of the roof. "Why not?"
"Because she can help you get used to this place."
"It's just a place." He swallowed. "And she reminds me of someone."
Margaret turned and stared up at him. "Wife?"
"Hmm. Wouldn't have figured you for either."
"I'm full of surprises."
"Not so full. You're here without this fiancÚ, I take it?"
He took a deep breath. "It's been a bad year."
"I'm sorry." She did sound sorry. "I guess you didn't dump her?"
"Dump. Such a terrible word. It was a mutual decision. Prompted by Carol's announcement that she'd met someone else."
"Not to worry. It was just a flesh wound. The real hurt came earlier." He put a hand on the window sill, took a deep breath. "My dad died."
She didn't say anything, just put her hand over his as he stood there staring out at the roof.
"Mine died too." She looked down. "At least your dad was proud of you."
He glanced at her, saw that her face was resigned. As if this was pain she had grown used to over time, not pain that had hit all at once. "I'm sure yours was proud of you."
"Good for you. I'm not."
He thought she would say more, but she didn't. Her hand squeezed his though.
"I found my dad in the boathouse."
"He'd collapsed. He...he was dead and had been for a while--there was nothing I could do." He felt her hand tighten on his again--if it had been Carol touching him, he would have brushed her off. Brushing her off had probably been what had made her look for someone new in the first place. "He'd been doing something to the rowboat. I could have done it. If he'd asked."
"They never ask. They just do things. Until one day, they don't do anything ever again." She let go of him. "My dad was in a car accident. He lingered."
He heard a world of pain in those two words. "I'm sorry."
She nodded. "Once he was dead, I came here. I thought it was the farthest place from everything I'd known."
He laughed. "Great minds..."
"Yeah." Sighing, she walked away from him. "I don't think this is going to work. Us. Together."
"Margaret, we're just working together."
She smiled and gave him the knowing look he remembered so well from Korea. "That's what we used to say in Korea. Usually right before we fell into bed together."
Barbara walked in then with the coffees, her face scarlet. He guessed she'd caught Margaret's comment, and that they didn't talk so plain about falling into bed in her neck of the woods. Putting the coffees down on his desk, she said, "Sir. Ma'am." Then she fled.
Margaret took her coffee. "She could have been army, the way she used those titles. Or maybe just a nice southern girl."
"The latter, I think."
Margaret nodded, sipping her coffee. "I shocked her."
"Yeah, well, she's young."
"It's been my experience that most doctors adore young."
"Yeah, well, we're idiots."
She laughed. "I don't intend to sleep with you." She turned, as if waiting for Barbara to walk in again.
He grinned. "I think she's probably huddling terrified at her typewriter. Praying we don't call her in to take dictation."
Margaret's smile changed. As if she was finally relaxing. "It's hot here."
"It's Miami not Montreal."
"Remember how hot it got in Korea?"
"Mostly, I remember that tank top you wore when it got hot in Korea."
She rolled her eyes. "I said, I don't intend--"
"--I heard you the first time. You reminisce about what you want. I'll reminisce about what I want." He waggled his eyebrows at her.
She sighed. "Hasn't that's always been our problem, Pierce? We're just too different. Right down to the memories."
"You want to tell me you don't have memories of me taking that tank top off you?"
It was her turn to blush. "I may have a vague recollection of that."
"See. We're not so different."
They drank their coffee in silence and he fiddled with his desk drawers, figuring out what was where. "So, you want to get dinner later?"
"You don't eat?"
"You know I eat." She patted her hips.
"You look good."
He just smiled. "About dinner...?"
"Hawkeye, there are tons of good-looking nurses here. Pick one of them, okay?" She put her coffee mug down and stood up. "I mean it. Don't do this. Let's just be friends. Or maybe just friendly colleagues. It's safer."
She nodded. "Neither of us needs more upset."
"Who says it'll be upsetting?"
She laughed, but the sound was more bitter than amused. "It's us. What else can it be?" She met his eyes, her expression turned sad. "I am sorry about your dad."
"And I'm sorry about yours."
She nodded, then turned and hurried out. He tried not to think she was fleeing. But it sure looked like she was.
The O.R. was freezing, but Hawkeye was still sweating. He felt a soft cloth being drawn across his forehead. "Thanks," he murmured, turning his attention back to the patient's heart.
"You're still the master," Margaret murmured.
Smiling, he asked, "Can you move that?"
She didn't ask what 'that' he meant, just gently pushed back the piece that was blocking where he needed to go next.
"And you're still the best nurse I've ever seen," he said. "You should go to med school."
"I'm too old." Her tone brooked no argument. "Besides who would keep you in line?"
The young doctor running the gas snickered. Hawkeye resisted shooting him or Margaret a look. But he imagined her eyes were sparkling the way they always had in Korea whenever she got a good one off on him.
"He's right, Margaret," the young gas-passer said. "You are the best nurse I've seen."
"Flattery will get you nowhere, Rick." Her admonition lacked its normal starch.
"It's not flattery if it's the truth."
Hawkeye called for suction and shot a quick look at the anesthesiologist. Young, blonde, tan. Very handsome. And staring at Margaret the way a lot of officers and enlisted men had in Korea. This young man wanted her, and that irritated Hawkeye more than he expected.
"Oh, Margaret here is great at many things."
"Pierce." Her voice held a warning, as if she wasn't sure what he was going to say next, but she was pretty sure she wouldn't like it.
"Don't be modest, darling." He meant for the endearment to be sarcastic--it didn't come out as mocking as he intended. "Rick is it?"
"Ah." He suddenly felt as if he'd entered the gladiator ring. "Well, Johnson, this is one nurse who's performed surgery. And more than once."
He could feel Margaret relax next to him. Had she really thought he'd taunt her about her prowess in bed? Or about her predilection for married generals--or majors--back in the day?
"In Korea?" Johnson asked.
"Yep. In Korea." Hawkeye made it sound like a club. One that this youngster could never know. Even if it wasn't true--he and Margaret had patched up too many boys to think anyone was too young to be a vet.
"Sometimes, it seems like everything that mattered happened to me in Korea," she said softly, running another cloth against his forehead.
"Yeah. I know." He shared a quick look with her. It suddenly felt as if they were the only ones in the O.R.
"I heard from Colonel Potter," she said.
Hawkeye smiled. He could imagine Potter's voice booming through the O.R., keeping them all sane. "How is the colonel?"
"He's happy, riding horses still and bouncing grandkids in front of him while he does it."