Chapter TwentySix: One More Ally
His head was against her chest and shoulder, his arm around her waist. He was lying partly on top of her, using her as a pillow. Her arms were tight around him, keeping him safe against her. He realized he had slept the whole night without a single nightmare. The thought nearly made him weep with relief. Sidney was right. He was getting better.
Margaret was asleep as well, lying on her back, white-blond hair strewn over the pillow. Her chin was against the top of his head as she held him close even in sleep. For a fleeting moment, he wished they weren't so different - but then, if she wasn't exactly the way she was, she wouldn't be the Margaret he knew, the one he'd begun to develop feelings for over a year ago. It could never be more than a dream, but sometimes he wished -
Probably just as well she'd stopped his train of thought right then. "Morning. Sorry I fell asleep on you - literally and figuratively," he added with a smile. He was managing more and more of those every day.
"It's okay. I've told you before I don't mind. You make a good teddy bear."
That got another smile out of him. "Still, you were talking."
"Really, it's okay. I know you were listening until you fell asleep. You didn't miss that much, and you were exhausted." She wondered if he'd heard the last bit she'd said, but she'd wait for him to bring it up.
"I did it," he whispered. "I slept without nightmares."
She kissed his forehead. "I knew you'd get there."
"You helped." He returned her kiss with one on her cheek.
"Major!" The door banged open, interrupting their conversation. "Have you seen - oh, I, uh -"
"For God's sake, Klinger." She sat up a little, trying not to dump Hawkeye on the floor as she did. "What do you need?"
"I wanted to ask if you knew where Captain Pierce was. I see I have an answer."
Hawkeye sat up now too. "What is it, Klinger?"
"There's a patient in post-op asking for you."
Hawkeye frowned. There was no reason for a patient to specifically ask for him over another doctor unless - "Jacobson?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Damn it!" Despite the emotional rollercoaster he'd been riding the last few days, Jacobson had never once sent someone to fetch Hawkeye. If he was now, that probably meant it was serious. He hurriedly grabbed his pants and yanked them on, followed by his boots, leaving his over-shirt lying in a heap on the floor as he rushed out.
"Klinger." Margaret hesitated, torn between giving him an order and appealing to his sense of decency. "Look, please don't mention this to anyone."
Klinger raised an eyebrow.
"Get your mind out of the gutter, Corporal," she snapped. "It has nothing to do with what you're thinking," she continued in a softer voice. "He stays in here to get comfort after everything that happened. I don't want him being asked awkward questions."
All joking faded instantly from Klinger's face. "I promise. Not a word."
"Hey. What's up?"
"I didn't wake you, did I?" Tom asked worriedly.
"No, I was awake. What do you need?"
He chewed his lower lip. "Just got word. My Lieutenant's coming later today, to visit those of us who got hurt. If I can't get up the courage to tell him now, I don't think I ever will."
Hawkeye took Tom's hand gently. "You want me to be there?"
He shook his head. "I need this to be just between me and him. But I need a place where we can talk, a place where -"
"You can cry?" Hawkeye supplied when he faltered.
"No problem, I'll arrange it. If there's any problems, have someone come get me."
"Excuse me, Lieutenant," Winchester stood to intercept an unfamiliar man looking rather worn-down who had just walked into the mess tent, "but who are you, and what are you doing here?"
"Lieutenant Duncan, sir." The man looked to be in his late thirties. "I'm looking for Captain Pierce."
"I'm Pierce, what's the matter?"
"I'd like to speak with you about the treatment one of my men has been receiving." His voice was sharp. "Corporal Jacobson."
Hawkeye winced. Tom had been so sure that this man would listen to him, but he sounded upset and angry, and that didn't bode well. If that was the case, Hawkeye would have to have a few words with him.
"Sure. Shall we step outside?" He saw Winchester looking faintly worried, but the Major didn't know what Hawkeye did. To him, Jacobson was just a patient that had been difficult. To Hawkeye, he was someone who needed an advocate, and he knew that was to be him.
"Somewhere we won't be overheard would be preferable," Duncan said as they exited the tent.
"All right, the supply room." He led the man in and pulled the door closed. "Now, what about Jacobson?"
"We spoke earlier. It appears the Corporal's been keeping some pretty significant secrets from me."
"He told me you were the one who encouraged him to tell me. I want to thank you." He gave a soft sigh. "I'm just sorry he needed the outside push. Poor kid was hurting and felt like he couldn't tell - well, I'm having words with our company chaplain the second I get back to my outfit, you can count on that!"
Hawkeye realized then that the feelings he had been reading from the other man were actually on Tom's behalf, not towards him. He relaxed significantly. "I'm glad you took him seriously."
"He was almost in tears the second he started talking. Any idiot would have known something serious had happened - well, apparently not any idiot," he added venomously. "He needs help, not personal attacks."
"I agree completely. How is he?"
"He looked pretty tired when it was over, so probably sleeping. When does he get back to the outfit?"
"We'll be shipping him to the 121st tomorrow, from there it's in their hands." Hawkeye shook his head. "I wish I could send him home."
"Me too, Doctor. But I'll take care of him the best I can."
"I'm sure you will, Lieutenant." He reached out a hand, which Duncan grasped firmly. When they spoke again, it was to say the same thing.
"So, I hear things went pretty well yesterday."
Tom nodded. "Now I wish I'd told him right off the bat. Maybe this last month would have been easier."
"Hey, don't be too hard on yourself. I didn't tell Potter right away either."
"It seems so silly looking back on it."
"I know, but it isn't silly to be scared of a negative reaction."
"I feel a little better," he said softly. "Odd, isn't it? Nothing's changed, but -"
"You have another person in your camp. That's no small deal, Tom."
"He didn't even say anything when I started crying. Just patted me on the back and let me cry, and then told me he'd back me all the way on getting justice. He wouldn't let me apologize for any of it, for crying or keeping secrets or whatever."
"Good." Hawkeye rubbed Tom's uninjured shoulder. "That's what you need right now. Unconditional support."
"I have you to thank for this." Tom met Hawkeye's eyes. "You pushed me to talk, and listened when I did. You hooked me up with people who made me stop feeling so awful about myself. I owe you a lot."
Hawkeye took his hand. "Someday, when you meet someone who's in need of a shoulder to lean on, pay it forward."