There was nothing you could have done, they would say, and he supposed that they were right. He would nod, do his best to smile... and wish like hell that he believed there was any truth in those words. Nothing he could have done. Nothing.
Sometimes, if he tried hard enough, he could almost convince himself. They're right, he would tell himself, and the longer he would say it the better it would sound. He could lie in his head, that was easy. It was his heart that was holding him back.
Hawkeye sighed, weary fingers running absently through his hair. He was lying on his back, wishing that his bunk would yield a comfortable position. No matter how he shifted, his muscles couldn't seem to relax. He sighed again, letting out a long breath. It wasn't the bunk that was making him uncomfortable; no amount of pillow-fluffing or rolling over could lift the weight that had sunk into his chest.
"Hawk?" Across the Swamp, BJ Hunnicut was seated in a chair, an unread magazine spread open in his lap. Hawkeye hadn't said a word since they'd finished in the OR, and BJ had a pretty good idea why. He stared at his friend, angular body stretched out on his bunk, a dejected look on his face. BJ smiled sadly.
"It's not your fault, you know."
Hawkeye shook his head, eyes fixed on a point on the ceiling. "Yeah. I guess. It just... it never seems to get any easier."
"There's only so much a doctor can do. We aren't superhuman." BJ got up out of his chair and walked the several feet to his bunk, sitting down to face his roommate. "You can't win all the time."
"All? I'd settle for some."
BJ sighed. "Hawk... you've got the highest survival rate of any of us. Something like ninety-eight percent of the people you treat get out of here alive. And the other two percent... there's nothing anybody could do for them. Some of these guys, it's just their time to die."
Their time to die. Jesus. Hot tears sprang into Hawkeye's eyes. It was never anybody's time to die, not here, not when they had families, and houses, and lives back home. Not when they were only children. Tears leaked out the corners of his eyes, burning angrily as they ran down his cheeks. He clenched his teeth. "Dammit."
"I'm sorry, Hawk." BJ's strong voice wasn't much more than a whisper. "I'm really sorry. But you can't blame yourself like this."
Hawkeye turned to look at his friend. He wondered if BJ could see the pain in his eyes. "I don't know what else to do."
"Major? Major. Major Houlihan!"
Margaret started, the hand that held her coffee cup shaking a little. She looked up from where she sat, alone, at a table in the mess tent, to see the colonel standing before her. A puzzled look crossed his face. Margaret blushed.
"I'm sorry, sir," she said. "I was... thinking. What is it?"
Colonel Potter shook his head. "It's all right, Margaret. Mind if I sit down?"
She shrugged, gesturing to the seat across from her. "By all means."
"Thanks." Potter slid slowly onto the bench, resting his arms on the table. "It's about Pierce."
Margaret swallowed. Hawkeye hadn't been himself lately, and she was beginning to really worry about him. Usually he was so full of life, singing while he scrubbed up, smiling beneath his mask. Sometimes he was so loud and crazy, she thought he was incredibly annoying. But these days... Margaret found herself yearning for him to crack a joke, to make a pass at her, to laugh. Even just to say something. She cared about Hawkeye more than she liked to admit, and the depression he had fallen into was scaring her. He was the only person in the camp who could comfort her when the war was too much to take, and if he were to fall apart... Margaret didn't think she would be able to cope anymore.
"Margaret?" Potter said gently. He frowned. "You okay?"
She sighed. "Yes, Colonel, I'm fine. I've just... got a lot on my mind."
He nodded. "I know what you mean. Now, about Pierce."
"What about Hawkeye?"
The colonel shifted in his seat, his fingers drumming softly on the table. "Has he seemed... different to you lately?"
Margaret nodded. "Yeah."
"I've noticed it, too. The OR's been quieter than a graveyard. I've tried talking to him, but I can hardly get him to say a word."
"He's really down." Margaret raised her coffee cup to her lips, then set it back down again. The lump in her throat was growing with every minute. "I think he's depressed, sir."
Potter looked at her intensely. "Do you, Margaret?" He paused. "I do, too."
"What do you think we should do?" Margaret asked nervously. Her hand was shaking again, and she stuffed it into her pocket. She met Potter's gaze, and her eyes were moist. "I'm worried about him."
The colonel nodded. "I know, Major. I know. I think we should just give him some time. Maybe he'll tell us what's eating him."
"I hope so, anyway." Potter stood up, looking down at Margaret with concerned eyes. He turned away and started for the door, pausing just before he reached it. "Surgery's not the same without his singing." Then the door swung open, and the colonel was gone.
Margaret was alone in the mess tent. She closed her eyes, unable to stop the single tear that escaped down her cheek. "It's not the same," she whispered. "It's not the same."
Author's Note: This is chapter one... please review and tell me what you think! Thanks :)