Chapter Sixteen: Best Forgotten
"If we were short two doctors instead of two nurses, so would you," she said without any real bite. Thanks to a snafu with some personnel transfers, the nursing staff was down to Able, Baker, and Kellye, and so they and Margaret had all had to pull nearly double. They'd done it admirably too, but all the same, "I'll be glad when those new nurses show up."
"When are they expected?" Hawkeye slid the white shirt over his head, tossing it into the bin.
"Yesterday, but there was too much shelling on the road and they got stuck in Seoul. They're supposed to be leaving first thing tomorrow, which means they'll be here by mid-morning if all goes well. And it won't be a moment too soon."
"You can say that again." A 1:1 ratio between the doctors and nurses had been stressful for everyone in OR. For the first time Hawkeye remembered since the flu epidemic back in 1950, they'd had to call in some non-medical personnel to assist in OR. Fortunately, Klinger for one handled the sight of blood far better than his predecessor, but it wasn't an ideal situation by any means. "Go sack out, Margaret."
"Believe me, I will. And Hawkeye?"
"Give the new girls a day or two to get settled in before you start making passes, will you?"
His grin was her only answer."
The jeep driver was grinning as he pulled in. "Why can't they give me loads like this more often?"
Three women climbed out of the jeep after him. Margaret was there to meet them, and she didn't waste time after introductions. "I can't tell you how glad I am to have you girls here. We've been running shorthanded for awhile, so I'm putting you right to work."
"Of course, Major," one said respectfully.
"Come on, I'll show you around." She yelled for someone to take the women's bags to their tent, then led them to post-op, only to narrowly miss being hit by a door swinging out.
"That's all right. Doctor Pierce, the new nurses. Second Lieutenant Patricia Jennings."
"A pleasure, doctor."
He raised his eyebrows suggestively, but to his credit said nothing beyond, "the pleasure is all mine."
"Second Lieutenant Anna Peterson."
"Pleased to meet you, Lieutenant."
"And First Lieutenant Janice Monroe."
"Ah, Captain. It's lovely to meet you."
He'd been keeping the seductiveness to a minimum anyway, but there was no trace of it at all when he spoke to her. The only word out of his mouth was a rather cold "Lieutenant." He barely looked at her.
"If you'll excuse me."
"Who's on post-op duty?" Margaret asked him.
"Charles just took over for me."
She led the nurses in, but was definitely not oblivious enough to miss Hawkeye intercepting Lieutenant Monroe and whispering something brief to her.
She almost laughed when she realized what was going on. Hawkeye was attracted to this woman, and was trying not to openly flirt with her because of his promise to Margaret. She'd have to chide him for it later, though she'd commend him for at least trying while she was at it.
"Who?" was BJ's first question when Hawkeye walked through the Swamp door. His friend's face was white.
"You look awful. I thought something had happened with one of the patients."
"No, it's nothing like that." He poured himself a drink and downed it in one. "Personal problem is all."
"Looks serious." His eyes were on the empty glass.
"Don't worry about it. It'll be fine."
"You want to talk about it?"
"Say, do you know if our new nurses are here yet?"
"Ran into them on my way out of post-op."
"Sorry, I'm keeping you up." The short sentences were clearly Hawkeye's way of saying he was tired, and BJ felt bad about preventing him from sleeping.
"That's all right. But I am gonna sack out."
Margaret set down her book when someone knocked. "Come in."
Hawkeye stepped in. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"I was going to find you and ask you the same question, but Hunnicutt said you were sleeping."
"Ladies first. What is it?"
"Let me first say that I appreciate you trying not to flaunt breaking your promise to me."
"What are you talking about?"
"You said you wouldn't make passes at the nurses."
"Not in front of me. But I definitely saw you whispering to Lieutenant Monroe."
"I wasn't flirting, believe me. I just had something I wanted to say."
"And what was that?"
"'So you lied about that too?'"
"Margaret..." he swallowed hard. "She told me her name was Marissa Cunningham."
"When? What are you talking about? Where do you know her from?"
"It's her, Margaret."
The tone of his voice worried her, but she wasn't sure why. "Who?"
"The woman ... from Tokyo." He didn't say more. From the look on her face, he knew he didn't have to.
"Oh, Hawkeye." She pulled him down to her bed and wrapped her arms around him. He leaned into her, relishing the contact, craving it, needing to be held. Tremors ran through his body as he clung to her.
"Hawkeye," she said softly, not quite sure how to approach this subject, "you should talk to Colonel Potter."
"What?" He straightened up in her arms instantly. "Uh-uh. There's no way."
"She can't stay here! I don't want her here, and I can tell you sure as hell don't want her here either."
"You're right, I don't. I don't want her within a hundred miles of me, all right? But I don't want to tell either. Margaret, please -"
"Shh." He looked so desperate she couldn't stay firm against him, and she pulled him close again. "I'm not going to make you do anything. I'll try to keep her away from you, all right?"
He nodded against her shoulder.
"If you change your mind - I really do think he'd listen." She wished she could tell Hawkeye what he'd told her now a few months earlier when she was recovering from being sick about how he'd risked his career to defend a rape victim in his outfit, but she wasn't sure he wanted that to get around. After all, he hadn't said anything about it for the first year and a half he'd spent there. "Just let me know. I'll be there with you."
"I won't," he whispered. "But if I do, I will."
"Finally, a taste of class in this outfit."
"What are you talking about?" BJ rolled his eyes and shared a glance with Hawkeye.
"I've just had a fascinating conversation with Lieutenant Monroe. She comes from a high-class, wealthy family in Maryland. A lady of good breeding and it shows. A welcome change from everyone here. Especially you two buffoons." This was said with less bite than it once might have been, speaking to the tentative camaraderie between him and the two Captains, but it was clearly still calculated to poke at them. "I'll enjoy having her around."
For me, it was a seaside house in Vermont. Hawkeye sighed. He really hated hearing Charles wax poetic about her, even though once upon a time he'd thought he would return to the 4077 doing the same.
Do you find her as attractive as I once did, Charles? As charming? A perfect match?
For a wild moment, he considered telling Charles exactly what kind of class this woman belonged to. But he couldn't spill it. Not to Charles of all people. It wasn't like he was in actual danger. She didn't have - backup - here.
He couldn't do it. Couldn't make himself say the words.
"Hello, again, Captain."
Hawkeye froze. He had prayed a year ago never to hear that voice again, and he'd heard it on his way out of post-op anyway. Now he was hearing it while alone, and it chilled him to the bone.
"What are you doing here?" he hissed without turning around. He thought he'd be sick if he had to see her face.
"Oh, come now. Have you forgotten what we had together?"
"I haven't forgotten anything." He emphasized the last word hard.
Her hand touched his arm, and he spun around and jumped back. "Don't touch me." He wanted to look away, but keeping his eyes on her was worth it if it meant keeping her hands off him.
"What happened to all those compliments you were giving me? I thought I was the most beautiful woman you'd ever seen."
"You were. Right up until you set me up to be -" Bile rose in his throat with the last word, and he couldn't get it out.
"You're telling me you didn't like it? That there wasn't some part of you that was excited by it?"
"That's exactly what I'm telling you," he ground out.
"Don't you want anything from me?"
"Yes, I do. I want you to leave me alone. Just stay away from me."
He kept himself composed as long as he was within sight of her. As soon as he saw her turn and head into the mess tent, he bolted for the latrine and emptied his stomach.
He stepped back outside on shaky legs to find Margaret waiting for him. "What is it?" She offered him a glass of water.
He rinsed his mouth and drank the rest. "Thanks. How did you know?"
"I saw you running for the latrine, I guessed. What happened?"
"Not here," he whispered, looking around anxiously.
"My place." She led him to her tent and helped him sit down. "Now, what's going on?"
"She tried to talk to me. Kept acting like we'd been lovers, reminded me of everything I said when I thought she was just another date." He choked slightly, and she sat down next to him. "She asked me - asked me if there wasn't some part of me that had liked it."
The next thing he knew, she was hugging the breath out of him. "Don't listen to her, Hawkeye. You know you didn't. She hurt you in the worst possible way."
"But I did, you know, when she -"
"We've had this conversation before. Just because you responded physically doesn't mean anything about your feelings. It's a medical fact, and you know it."
She felt a dampness on her shoulder and realized Hawkeye was crying silently. She ran her fingers gently through his hair, saying nothing, giving him the chance to let out his pain and fear.
"It makes me sick just looking at her," he whispered through tears. "What am I supposed to do in OR? I can't work with her, I'll be putting someone's life at risk. I freeze up when she gets too close to me."
"Leave that to me," she soothed. She was tempted to repeat her suggestion that he tell someone, but she knew he'd made up his mind and had no intention of going back on it. "Shh, just cry it out, Hawkeye."
At that, he couldn't keep himself to silent tears and began to sob. She held and rocked him, trying to do what she could to make it a little bit less painful. It took him nearly half an hour to spend his tears. Once he'd stopped crying, she gently wiped his face. "Any better?"
"I'm so tired," he admitted. The emotional rollercoaster of the day had taken its toll on him.
"If you'd like, you can stay in here tonight." Whatever fears he was facing, she didn't want him facing them in the company of a doctor who she'd heard singing Monroe's praises and a well-meaning best friend who nonetheless didn't have any knowledge of his situation.
"I'd appreciate that," he said softly. He let her help him out of his fatigues and lie him down.
"I'll be back in a little while, okay?"
"No - stay," he mumbled, half-asleep, reaching unconsciously for her hand.
She couldn't refuse him, not here and now. She slipped her hand into his and stroked his hair as he dropped off.