This is my first try at MASH fanfiction… any feedback is very appreciated.
She is looking for answers in the silence and shadows of the empty operating room, but finds him instead. He is sitting on a table, his long legs draped over the side, his lean frame folded in thin shafts of grey light slipping in from under the door to post-op. His head is bowed, elegant fingers folded in his lap, as if he is praying. She knows him well enough to know he isn't.
He looks up when he hears her slow footsteps on the cold, scrubbed-clean floor. "Hmm," he breathes, a wispy smile appearing on his lips for a moment. "You too, huh?" His voice is uncharacteristically soft in the still, tepid darkness.
Margaret hesitates, shifting unconsciously from foot to foot. The wet sheen of his eyes makes her nervous. She lies. "I was just, um... I forgot to restock the morphine in the supply unit after surgery tonight. I... I wanted to do that."
"In the middle of the night?" he asks, expressionless.
"It has to be done," she finds herself whispering to match his soft tone. "What are you doing in here, Pierce? You should be sleeping."
He shrugs his hunched shoulders. He looks breakable, like even the gentle touch of a hand on his shoulder would scatter his body into a thousand brittle pieces. Her chest feels tight.
"Too dark in the swamp. I kept seeing his face in my head." He shivers visibly. "Or what was left of his face."
She takes a step towards him. "You know there was nothing you could have done for that boy, Pierce."
He laughs, a sickeningly sharp sound.
Tell me a joke, Hawkeye, she implores silently as she watches his fists clench in his lap, so hard his fingernails must be digging into his palms . Show me that irritating grin. Just don't lose yourself this way.
"Of course there was nothing I could have done. And even if I could have done something to save him, what kind of life could he have lived?" His voice is thin and silvery with strain. It isn't her he's trying to convince. "His face was gone! His whole goddamn face! Just... gone." His eyes widen, haunted.
Their gazes lock in the muddy darkness, and she knows that he can see the same frustration in her that she sees in him. He can see the pain she felt as she held the boy's hand as he died slowly. He can see the helplessness she felt when she finally covered his head with a sheet, the anger she feels because it isn't the first boy's face she's had to cover, not the first by hundreds. He can see that she didn't come in here to stock the supply cabinet.
"How can this happen?" he asks.
Margaret shakes her head. She has no answer. It is the same question she has been asking all night.
She wants to know why people have to die this ugly way, and at who's hand they suffer. She needs to put a name to the silent evils and the anonymous enemies, to put a face to the unfathomable villain that could be Hate, or something worse, something more inherent that noone wants to mention.
She is tired of this endless fight with futility. They work ceaselessly to save wounded soldiers, but with every man healed two more are brought in with more vile wounds. And when those two are saved, the choppers come again. Everyday the war burns on, and soldiers lose their pitching arms, and young men take baths in their best friend's blood, and boys come into the MASH with their faces blown off.
She finally takes the last few steps across the room toward the dejected surgeon and carefully eases herself onto the operating table beside him. He's a beautiful mess tonight, a tangle of tired bones and angry questions swept up in a pain that is dark and sharp. His eyes are shining and his hair is tussled, and his fragility makes him so endearingly human that she wants to kiss his face and rock him like a child. Instead she places a hand on his back.
To her relief, he doesn't break.
Under her hand she feels the warm expanse of muscle beneath smooth skin shift as he sighs. She moves her hand up to his shoulders, the soft, thin cotton of his over-washed t-shirt wrinkling slightly under her palm. His body tenses slightly, and she is desperately afraid that he will pull away. Her movement is slow and cautious, as if she were trying to soothe a spooked horse. Her fingers encounter the skin of his neck, smooth and warm, and hesitate there for a moment before moving up into dark hair, impossibly soft between her fingers. It is almost sensual to be touching him in this slow, deliberate way, and it would be, on any other night, in any other room, in any other war. Tonight, she touches him for solace.
"Hawkeye..." she whispers, searching.
He stares at his hands and breathes a deep, shaky breath. "I don't think I can take this anymore, Margaret."
"Yes you can." Her voice isn't as solid as she would like it to be.
"Well, I don't want to."
"It's your job."
"No. It. Is. Not." His words are low and hoarse and painfully slow. "I am a doctor. My job is to heal people. It is not my job to watch teenagers die because somebody told other teenagers to kill them." He stands as his voice gets louder, his eyes growing dark and heavy with fury. "It is not my job to take all the little pieces that are left of a human person when he's been blown up by a land mine and try to put him back together like some kind of goddamn jigsaw puzzle– especially when some of the pieces are MISSING!!"
He erupts, knocking over a tray of tools. It goes flying across the room, hitting the wall with a powerful crash that resonates in the thick silence of the O.R.
Margaret starts at the noise, jumping off the table, her palm pressed to her chest. There are patients sleeping in the next room, she thinks, seething. How dare he! How dare he be so selfish, so impudent and inconsiderate?! Anger and frustration well up in her throat, bitter and hot, and she opens her mouth to berate him.
She bursts into tears instead.
Immediately the anger drains from his face and he is left pale and still, staring at her like he's never seen her before in his life. Then, a stifled sob leaves her lips and the spell is broken. In two strides he is beside her. His long arms enfold her small frame, and then he's crushing her against him, holding her so tightly she can barely breathe, but she doesn't move, doesn't push him away. She just stands there, with her cheek pressed firmly against his chest, breathing in the dark, somewhat musty smell of him.
In time, the terror abates.
In the morning they both go back to work. With the sun comes a new round of wounded, another broken body, another faceless evil. But at one point during the day she catches his eye across the operating table, and she knows he's wearing that irritating grin under his mask.
She was looking for answers in the silence and shadows of the empty operating room, but she found him instead.