Author's Note: This was originally intended as the sequel to "Glimpses of the Edge." It has ended up something that more accurately can be titled its darker cousin. A collection of vignettes, dealing with the problems of returning to a mold that you no longer fit. Thanks to any number of people who've supported me and cheered my writing on. Eventually, there will be six parts.
It started with a knock on LTC Jacobs' door. Well, if one were being technical, it started when Captain Cushman took shrapnel and fell ten feet, but for Jacobs it always started with the knock and subsequent phone call.
"Am I speaking to Lieutenant Colonel Harlan Jacobs?"
Jacobs resisted the urge to roll his eyes, and instead looked at his watch. "Yes you are; what can I do for you?"
"I am calling for a status report on Captain James Cushman." Jacobs frowned, noting an accent in her voice. Asian, definitely. What the hell was some Asian woman doing calling about Cushman? The man's family hadn't been notified. It wasn't like the fall had been life threatening; Jacobs hadn't even bothered to pull the captain's next-of-kin information. Never mind that it had only been two hours.
"Uh, who am I talking to?" So it wasn't polite; he hadn't exactly been planning on discussing Captain Cushman's condition with anyone until the paperwork went through.
"Doctor Miko Kusanagi, I work for the Japanese Government. I have answered your question, now I would be appreciative if you answered mine. That is, of course, if the time difference hasn't terribly upset your ability to speak."
Jacobs gaped at the phone, and it was a long moment of silence before he could pull himself back together. He didn't know who the hell she thought she was, but since she wasn't US brass she could damn well wait until tomorrow. He'd been off the clock for an hour, at least as far as this kind of shit went. "Well, I'm sorry, Doctor Kusanagi, but you're going to have to call back in the morning. I'm not authorized to distribute information to non-military personnel regarding officers under medical supervision." So it wasn't strictly true; it wasn't like she would actually know that.
"Now wait just a minute, Colonel, I happen to -" He hung up, stood up, and proceeded to leave his office for the day. After all, it wasn't like she could actually cause him any problems.
That night, it occurred to him that there was one explanation he hadn't considered (although it still didn't answer how she had known about the accident). Taking the direct route, he talked the on-shift nurse into letting him perform Cushman's 2200 concussion checks. Studying the sleeping serviceman, Jacobs took the seat next to the bed. "Cushman."
"Cushman! Wake up, airman! Where are you?"
Cushman sat up carefully, blinking hard. "Ugh, Sir, it's the middle of the night."
"Got it in one, airman. You're concussed; we have to make sure you're still all there. Can you tell me where you are?"
"Um, Earth. A field hospital." He rubbed at his eyes with his good hand. "Someplace in the middle east?"
"Close enough. I've got a question for you. You married?"
"No, sir. I mean, I don't think so."
"You don't think so?"
"Well, sir, the colonel said it wasn't binding."
"How do you have a non-binding marriage, Cushman?"
"Oh, that's easy. The colonel and Doctor McKay used to have them all the time. Got to be kind of a joke. We were never really sure who was the wife, though." He frowned contemplatively.
Jacobs rubbed at the bridge of his nose, and then stood. Maybe the concussion was worse than he'd thought; there had certainly been no spouse listed in Cushman's file - divorced, deceased, or otherwise. He'd figured that there might have been a paperwork glitch, but this sounded like the file had been right; Cushman's brain was just scrambled. "Get some sleep, Captain. I expect you back on the tarmac just as soon as the doc clears you."
At 0830 on the way to the mess, Jacobs heard the sound of a chopper coming in. He frowned, and looked up; as far as he knew they didn't have anyone coming in until afternoon. It was a medevac, no surprises there; it was part and parcel with being the base attached to the largest hospital in the region. With a sigh of resignation, he made his way to the landing pad to see just what had landed on his doorstep now.
The first thing out of the chopper was a stretcher with an unconscious figure and an attendant medic; that was normal. Regrettably, so was the second stretcher bearing a body bag. What wasn't normal, was the medic who climbed out after, and then turned to offer a hand to the tiniest soldier Jacobs had ever seen.
The soldier, it turned out, wasn't a soldier at all. It was, in fact, Doctor Kusanagi. She was all of five feet tall, couldn't possibly weigh more than a hundred and thirty with full gear, and apparently her short hair was indicative of her temper.
It was five minutes after the chopper put down, and Colonel Jacobs was wondering why he had ever gotten out of bed that morning. Not only was the doctor demanding to see Captain Cushman, but one of the men from the chopper had wandered over and was leaning against the closest wall in a meaningful way. Upon closer inspection, Jacobs realized that it was one of the medics, and he wondered again just who the hell this Doctor Kusanagi was. "Look, Doctor. I don't know how you found out about Captain Cushman's accident. I'd say I don't care, but that's a pretty massive security breach. We'll deal with that later, though. If you want information on Cushman's medical condition you're going to have to talk to his doctors, and they're not going to be any more helpful than I've been."
"Why should it be a problem? Surely if the captain is conscious he can admit visitors, and if not then..." Miko turned away, rummaging in her duffel bag. "A-ha! You are looking for this, yes?" She held out a piece of paper.
Jacobs took it cautiously, keeping one eye on her as he skimmed the paper. 'I, James Cushman, in the event of my incapacitation, give Miko Kusanagi full discretionary authority over my health and material belongings.' Huh. "Forgive me, because I haven't had my coffee this morning, but I'm confused. Are you Cushman's wife?"
Miko blinked owlishly. "I suppose if you wish to be technical, I am. I do not believe that we were ever officially divorced. However, that is neither here nor there."
Jacobs groaned. "Why didn't you just say so? It wouldn't be the first time the paperwork's been wrong." He sighed, and turned toward the medical complex. "This way."
Cushman was awake when Jacobs led Doctor Kusanagi into the room. "Sir, if this is about-" he trailed off, and Jacobs filed away the look of shock on the captain's face for future analysis. "Miko! How did you get here? Didn't you have that conference in Bangkok?"
Even Jacobs could hear the unspoken 'you shouldn't have' in the question. As 'Miko' launched into something about team members and responsibilities, Jacobs headed for the door. This was a discussion he didn't need to hear, and there was hopefully still some coffee in the mess calling his name. If he hustled, he could still get there and back to his office before his 1000 meeting. Maybe, if he mainlined enough caffeine, the morning would finally begin to make sense.