Chapter Nine: Behind the Bolted Door
He pulled the items inside, and she could hear him fumbling in the dark. Then he slid a small cup and bowl to her. "There."
It wasn't much, just rice and stale water, but she gulped at both items. It had been hours - how many was impossible to say - since they'd been captured, and she was incredibly hungry and thirsty.
"That's a little better," she said once she'd finished.
He said nothing. She crawled over to him and slid her arm around him. He was trembling again, that tiny taste of openness having only made it worse once the room was sealed. His hands found purchase in her jacket and he clung to her.
"Shh, shh." She rocked him gently. "Don't worry. There's plenty of air, the walls aren't going to collapse. There's nothing in here that can hurt you."
They both knew what she wasn't saying. There were plenty of things just outside that room that could.
"What is it, Radar?" He turned on the light and fumbled for his glasses.
"MPs on the phone, sir. It's about Captain Pierce and Major Houlihan."
"What did they say?" He pulled his robe on, instantly wide awake.
"They wouldn't tell me anything. Insisted on speaking directly to you."
"All right, all right." He followed Radar into the office. "Hello? Hello? This is Colonel Potter! What have you - oh, I see. Yes. I understand. I'll be waiting. Thanks."
He hung up the phone. "Radar, go wake up Winchester and grab Hunnicutt out of post-op. Tell them to meet me in here, on the double."
It was a still half-asleep Winchester and a thoroughly concerned Hunnicutt who stumbled it.
"What is it, Colonel?" the young doctor's face was creased with worry.
"Sit down, boys. You too, Radar." He waited for them to oblige before continuing. "I just got off the phone with the MPs. I'm afraid it's not good." He drew a deep breath before continuing. "They haven't found Pierce or Houlihan. But they found the jeep, and both sets of dog tags under one of the seats."
"What does that mean?" Hunnicutt asked in a stunned whisper.
Radar screwed his eyes shut against his tears before responding. "A lot of times, people about to be taken prisoner will get rid of identifying information so that the enemy doesn't know who they are. Especially if they're officers."
The silence was so absolute they could have heard a pin drop. For several seconds, it hung in the air, broken only when Hunnicutt grabbed a glass from the Colonel's desk and threw it at the wall.
It shattered into countless pieces, mirroring the way his own heart felt. He picked up another glass and threw this one too, with the same result. He grabbed a bottle of whiskey from the Colonel's desk and swung it back, but something stopped his hand.
"Hunnicutt." Potter's voice was firm but gentle. "Hunnicutt, put it down."
The rage flowed out of his body, and he allowed Potter to take the bottle out of his hand. "Oh, God. Oh, God." He sank into a chair and began to cry. "Hawk, no, no," he whimpered, sobbing for the man who had become his brother. "Hawkeye."
He felt Potter's hand on his shoulder, but nothing was said, and BJ knew why. There wasn't a thing anyone could say that would make this hellish situation any better.
"I don't see why we're all assuming the worst." Winchester's soft voice drew everyone's attention to him. "The last time those two went missing we assumed the worst, and they turned up in one piece a few days later."
"Last time, there wasn't strong evidence they'd been captured!" BJ was still sobbing, leaning into the Colonel's hand, which was almost white-knuckled from the grip on his shoulder.
The old man knew how hard it was for his young doctor. He'd seen from day one that the two surgeons were inseparable. He'd had buddies of his own that he'd shared that relationship with, several of whom had died in one war or another, and he knew the hell Hunnicutt had to be going through.
"I've got the MPs out trying to find them, but I don't know how much good that'll do. And before you ask, Hunnicutt, no, you are not going out to look for them yourself. You already tried that stunt once and got lucky, but we can't be caught short a surgeon if wounded come in."
He felt the dejected slump of BJ's shoulders and gently patted him on the back. "Why don't you go back to the Swamp. I'll finish your shift for you."
"Look, son." Son indeed, the man sounded like a worried father. "I know this hurts like hell. Go back to the Swamp, try to get some sleep, have a drink, you look like you need one. If necessary, that's an order."
He nodded numbly and stumbled towards the Swamp, towards the still which promised the longed-for oblivion. Potter watched him go sadly.
"Keep an eye on him, Winchester. In his state, there's no telling what he'll do."
"You don't think he'd -"
"If you mean hurt himself, no. But," he added, glancing at the pile of shards, "I can't say the same for property damage."
It wasn't the opening door itself that woke Margaret, but Hawkeye's reaction. Just as he had when food had been brought the day before - or was it earlier today? I have no sense of time anymore - he crawled over to the door, desperate for even a taste of open air.
This time, though, the door opened all the way, and a soldier stepped in. "You." He pointed to Hawkeye. "You will come with me."
"Oh, I will? That's news to me."
Hawkeye, don't provoke him. But she couldn't say it out loud, not if the man could understand English.
The guard stepped closer to Hawkeye and grabbed him by the upper arm. "You will come with me."
"Well, when you put it that way..."
He was dragged out, and the door slammed shut again, leaving Margaret in the cell alone. And alone, she cried, cried with the fear of what would happen to herself and her gentle friend.
"How much did you drink last night?"
"Enough," BJ moaned, pulling the blanket over his face to block out the sun.
"You call waking up with what appears to be the hangover of a century 'enough'?"
"Enough to knock me out so I could get some sleep."
"I'm still shocked that you're giving up so easily. Where's that youthful optimism?"
"It's not that easy!" He sat suddenly upright. "You think I don't want to believe they're alive? For God's sake, Hawkeye and I are closer than brothers. But there's not a damn thing I can do about it, and that's the worst part of it all."
Margaret sat with her hands over her ears, singing to herself to try and drown out the screams that echoed through the hall. She couldn't stand that awful sound. She was glad Hawkeye wasn't there to -
She crawled over to the bucket in the corner and vomited. Tears ran freely down her face as another agonized scream rang out.
The door slid open long enough for them to leave food and water, but hungry as she was she couldn't eat with her friend's cries ringing in her ears. It occurred to her that they'd already been by once to bring those same items. Unless they were a lot more generous than she'd heard, it had probably been days since he was removed from the cell. What hell had they been putting him through that whole time?
As her stomach settled, she forced the food down, only to have it come right back up. She reached for the water to rinse her mouth but stopped herself. She didn't know when she'd get more, and she wanted to make sure there was some for Hawkeye if he got back.
When, she reminded herself. When he gets back.
She didn't know how long it was before the screaming stopped, but she was grateful for it. The door swung open, and a figure was thrown through it.
He landed on the floor with a whimper he couldn't suppress, and she was instantly at his side. "Hawkeye? Hawkeye?"
He moaned and tried to roll over. "Margaret?"
"Shh, I've got you, don't try to move." He hissed in pain as she pulled him into her arms, but relaxed noticeably once he was there.
"Don't talk either." She was trying not to panic at the blood she could feel on his clothes. "Here, you thirsty? I've got some water for you."
She tipped the small cup to his lips, and he sucked at it greedily, draining every last drop from it. He was still thirsty, but it was better than it had been. He slumped into her arms, trying not to panic at once again being locked in the small room.
"What did they do to you?" she whispered.
"Asked me some questions," he gasped. He knew she'd pick up the implication. She did. He felt himself being rocked in her arms.
"Shh, just get some sleep. I've got you. Rest."
Her soft words lulled him into a sleep he'd been close to as it was. Blissful oblivion enveloped him as he allowed himself to pass out in her arms.
When the guards pulled Hawkeye out of Margaret's arms, there was no doubt in her mind as to where they were taking him. She clung to him as though it would help somehow, but they tore her from him and dropped her to the floor.
She curled in on herself. Bile rose in her throat as she realized she was covered in his blood. She crawled over to the bucket again but could do nothing but dry heave. There was nothing left in her to throw up.
Again they brought water and food. She had to drink, she knew. She was dehydrated, and she'd be no good to Hawkeye or herself in this condition. But she saved half her food. She knew he had to be hungry.
"Replacements?" BJ repeated the word as if it was in a foreign language. "Sir, it's only been a week and a half."
"I'm sorry, son. But the MPs haven't found a trace of either of them. That's a week and a half we've been short a surgeon. If we get wounded, that one surgeon could be the difference between life and death for one of those boys. No one's trying to replace Pierce and Houlihan in our minds or hearts, but we have to replace them in the OR."
BJ sighed, all the fight going out of him. "It just feels so final."
"It's not. They're going to keep looking for them."
"You don't even know what I was going to say!"
"Would it have anything to do with leaving camp to find them?"
BJ's abashed silence was as good as an answer.
"The MPs are taking care of it. I need you here."
The days had blurred together long ago. Hawkeye lay in her arms, sobbing in pain. He was frequently given only a few hours to rest before they tortured him again.
He had stopped allowing her to give him her rations. She knew he had to be hungry and thirsty, but he insisted that she take what was brought to her. Only twice had food been brought while he was there, and in both cases he'd inhaled every morsel and drop he was allowed, until she longed to give him a bit of her own. She'd tried the first time to offer, and he'd refused before she'd finished asking.
The door slid open and he tensed against her. He knew what was coming. They both did. There was nothing Margaret could do to calm him.
"You lucky, Joe," the Korean said in broken English. "You get break. We take her."
"What?" he was shocked. "She doesn't know anything."
"We take her. Have other uses for girl."
Margaret went rigid. No, no, please no.
She felt movement against her body. She didn't know how he did it, but Hawkeye was instantly on his feet. "Leave her alone."
The Korean began to laugh. "You can't fight, Joe. You can't stand."
A fist connected solidly with his face, and he went down hard. Two guards rushed in at once, and Hawkeye went pale. He knew he was in major trouble now.
Then Margaret was on her feet and one of the guards was down, having been simultaneously slapped firmly across the face and taken her knee between his legs. Before he could recover, she'd grabbed his gun and pointed it at the other guard's head.
The man's eyes went wide, and he dropped his own gun on the floor and put his hands behind his head.
"Show us the way out."
With Hawkeye stumbling next to her, she followed the guard. He walked to the door and, at Margaret's urging, slid it open.
"Kneel down." When he obeyed, she pulled off his belt and bound his hands. Then she tore a strip from his jacket and gagged him.
Hawkeye stood by, leaning against the wall. "Come on, Margaret. Let's go home."