Hello, all. Yes, you may all die of shock; I finally posted a new chapter!! Anyway, it's a little shorter than I thought it would be, but it was also much harder to write than I expected. This is a pivital plot point, and I wanted to get it right; that's my pitiful excuse for this taking so long.

I hope you enjoy, and please review even if you don't.

disclaimer: Nope, I still don't own it, but can you blame me for wanting to play with such amazing characters anyway?

chapter six- COLOR OF FEAR

--Chinese Hospital Unit—Hawkeye's POV—

"Damn it all, Suen!"

Normally my manners tended to behave themselves while in the presence of my foreign superior, but when you've been locked into a stalemated argument with someone (anyone) for a long enough period of time… let's just say you get it done in any manner possible and manners be damned.

"What do you expect me to do, Hawkeye?! This plan of yours is completely insane! If I thought I'd heard everything when you volunteered for duty here, this has taught me never to underestimate the recklessness of Americans."

We had been secluded in Dr. Suen's office with Tan as door guard for nearly two hours. It was the week after our mega-marathon session and my brilliant brainstorm, and I had been attempting to explain the workings of said plan to my not-so-fearless leader. Suen was not as receptive to the idea as I would've liked.

"If you'd listen to me, you'd know this isn't reckless! This will work; you've got to trust me on this."

"My trust isn't the biggest problem here! Have you even thought about what could--?"

I cut him off before he could finish that particular sentence. That certain argument had come up enough in this one debate to last me a lifetime. "No, Suen. I'm completely irresponsible when it comes to the consequences of my offers. Of course I've thought of what could happen if this goes wrong! But if we don't do this, you will never help those kids lying in pre-op dying because you don't have the means to help; nor will you be able to help the next group just like them!"

"You think I don't want to help?!"

Dr. Suen was livid just like he had been every other time I'd dared to bring up the helpless situation we found ourselves in concerning the few straggling remains of our previous session. The boys at the end of the line were still in line, but the line had stalled due to the now complete absence of supplies, back-up supplies, and even improvised supplies. All that was left was to make them as comfortable as we could and wait for the best… or the worst as was turning out to be the most common scenario.

Their situation ate at both of us, and Dr. Suen was not about to let me forget it.

"I've been trying to help them ever since this god-forsaken war started! But if you think I'm going to—"

I broke him off once more, sensing the beginning of the cycle yet again. As I interrupted him, my voice surprised me; it was much quieter and wearier than I had intended, "Do you have any better ideas?"

He stopped, now matching the more subdued mood. He looked me in the eye and sighed.

--4077th (two weeks later)—Trapper's POV—

"All Officers to the office. All Officers to Henry's office on the double."

The grey of early morning just wouldn't be Korean without Radar's voice shattering the stillness.

"Henry, remind me to beat you with my alarm clock," I grumbled into my pillow without making any move to get off my cot.

Army cots may not deserve the word comfortable, or even tolerable for that matter, but there was nowhere, excluding the States, Seoul, or Tokyo, I'd rather be after a thirty-five hour OR session.

"Get a move on, Captain."

"Shove it, Frank." This time I did move. Just enough to throw a boot in Frank's general direction.

"It must be important if our drunken leader dragged himself out of bed at this hour."

"Damn. Now I know it's too early. You're making sense. Go back to bed Frank; your brain will shrink and you'll be back to normal in no time."

"Poo on you," Frank shot back as he swept through the door of our tent.

I grunted sleepily. "Never mind, normality restored."

Groaning, I reluctantly peeled myself out of bed and threw on a robe and boots.

From the looks of things when I dragged into Henry's office, I wasn't the only one reluctant to join this non-slumber party. Frank, unsurprisingly, seemed awake. The surprising part was he wasn't the only one who looked capable of full mental function. Henry and Radar were on full alert. So much for restored normality.

That simple concept of Henry not falling over in his chair in exhaustion at this hour got my full attention, and drove away all the biting comments I had planned concerning the interruption of my beauty rest. Something important was definitely happening, and I had the distinct feeling none of us were going to like whatever it was.

"Sit down, everybody. Trust me you're going to want to," Henry said with an almost toneless bitterness and weariness. It scared me shitless.

"What the hell is going on, Henry?"

"Well-- I… Oh hell, there's no easy way to say this…. We have a situation—a situation involving Pierce."

My blood froze and boiled simultaneously in my veins. "What—what kind of…situation?"

Everyone looked warily between Henry and I with wide, frightened eyes, waiting for answers. Margaret looked torn between bursting into tears and tearing Henry apart with her bare hands if that was what she had to do to get to the bottom of this.

Henry sighed and rubbed a hand across his forehead with the same weariness that seemed to only deepen as this meeting wore on. "Radar… show them the letter."

Radar unfolded the paper in his hands and handed it over the desk; I pounced. I was standing with the letter in my hands almost before I knew what was happening. I began scanning the letter while everybody tried to gather close enough to read over my shoulder.

4077th MASH: As I'm sure you are aware, we have a mutual acquaintance in Captain Hawkeye Pierce. You are also aware, I'm sure, that he has a considerable surgical talent; he has been useful here.

I regret to inform you, however, that his surgical abilities have out-lived their welcome here. We believe he will become much more useful in another fashion. Namely, he is an invaluable link to your cooperation.

To get to the heart of the matter, we need supplies; you want him returned safely from his volunteer mission into our camp. Both aims can be easily reached with your cooperation. Neither will occur if you refuse.

If you agree to offer your help, send word, and we will reply with reassurance of his health and a list of the supplies we require.

We await your decision.

--Commander Suen, M.D.

Silence in Henry's office is not a normal occurrence. These weren't normal circumstances.

All eyes slowly left the paper in my hands and cautiously met Henry's, afraid to see a confirmation of the letter's message in his face.

"Colonel?" Mulcahy's voice was even quieter than normal as he broached the question no one else could ask that everyone was thinking, "This isn't… it can't be… true? Can it?"

Henry's eyes slid closed and he nodded slowly. "Any ideas?"

And with that the remaining silence shattered. All our newly forged fear, frustration, anger, sadness, and confusion found their target in Henry as he wiped away any hope of denial.

"What do you mean 'any ideas'?! Henry we're not—we can't just leave him—!"

"There's only one thing we can do, Colonel, and you know that as well as I—!"

"What the hell are you thinking, Henry! Why haven't you already sent back a—!"

The four walls of the office rang with the echoes of our simultaneous outbursts as we continued our barrage of emotion. Henry just sank heavily into his chair and let the words rampage past him for awhile until he'd had enough.

"Everybody shut up for a second, will ya?! Now, sit down and stay quiet. We all want to help Hawkeye, and everybody shouting themselves hoarse isn't going to do anything." He waited for us to comply, his glare daring us to attempt to break this new round of silence. "Now, I'm not going to pretend I know what to do next because we all know that I don't. So we're all going to sit here and figure it out together."

We all nodded dumbly. Henry was taking charge, a move that might have been the tiniest bit comforting if it had ever happened before.

As it was, it was only another disturbing reminder of just how wrong everything had become in the last few moments, and I, for one, didn't expect anything to be right again for quite some time. If ever.