Title: Temporary Duty
Author: Olivia Sutton
Fandom: Quantum Leap/M*A*S*H
Categories: Hurt/Comfort, Angst, Crossover
Previously Published in the printed fanzine, Crazy Quilt #2, Edited by Mary Fall Wardell, copyright 1996.
Archive: Archive of Our Own, Fan Fiction Net
First On-line Publication Date: 22 October 2012
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Disclaimer: Quantum Leap is copyright Donald Bellisario and was produced by Belisarius Productions for NBC Universal. M*A*S*H was produced by Larry Gelbart for 20th Century Fox Television CBS. I do not own either show and I am not making any money from this fan fiction story. This story is written for fun and for the enjoyment of other fans, but not for profit.
Author Note: As noted above, I originally published this story in a printed zine, and under a different name. I've corrected a few small typos (probably caused by opening a Word Perfect file in Word) but have not re-written or updated this story. I'm very happy to finally have it available on the 'Net. Please enjoy – and reviews are always welcome! And I must thank my editor, Mary, without whom this story would never have seen print. Mary - you are a terrific editor – and thanks for finding your copy of this story for me after I lost the original. Thank you very much!
Summary: Sam Beckett has his hands full when he leaps into an Army Surgeon during the Korean War.
by Olivia Sutton
Dr. B.F. "Hawkeye" Pierce, salt-and-pepper hair blown by the wind passing through the open olive-drab jeep, sped through the green and brown Korean countryside. Besides him sat Dr. BJ Hunnicutt, a clean-shaven, honey-blond haired man. Occasionally, the two ducked as shells hit uncomfortably close.
"Why send us out to the front?" asked BJ, shouting over the explosions and machine gun bursts.
"It must be pretty bad." answered Pierce, biting his lip as he swerved to avoid a hugh pothole in the road. Then, his expression became deadly serious as he admitted, "BJ, I'm scared."
BJ nodded, terrified himself by the situation.
"Listen, Beej, if anything happens, my will is in my footlocker in the Swamp."
BJ looked at Pierce, frightened by his friend's words, "Nothing's going to happen, Hawk," he said reassuringly.
"BJ, this isn't a walk in the park. The front is the most dangerous duty for a doctor in Korea. And it scares me."
"You'll be all right. We'll both be all right." answered BJ, with false cheeriness.
Hawkeye nodded, choosing to hear BJ's words rather than his tone. The jeep reached the crest of a small hill. Below them lay a battlefield... littered with wounded men.
"Oh my, God," said BJ, as he saw the devastation.
Grimly, Pierce looked to BJ and nodded, then threw the jeep into gear and drove down the hill. Both men grabbed their medical bags and equipment and moved to the field. Hawkeye hastened to the first wounded man he saw to the right and Hunnicutt moved to the left. Both started immediate aid procedures and tagged the men they treated for Battalion Aid, a MASH unit, or Tokoyo General. As they worked, moving from wounded solder to wounded solder, the two doctors moved farther and farther from each other.
Suddenly, machine-gun fire exploded and Hunnicutt reflexively hit the dirt. He looked around for Pierce. At first, he couldn't see his friend. A sick feeling assaulted his stomach as BJ noticed Pierce slumped over a patient. BJ fought down his fear and nausea and ran to Hawkeye's side.
Reaching Pierce, BJ saw that he was unconscious, lying over a wounded solder. Hunnicutt carefully turned Hawkeye to his back. "Hawkeye? Hawkeye!" he shouted, but Pierce didn't respond. From habit, Hunnicutt began to examine the other man, whose face was pale, and his pulse thready. But the worst news was he'd been shot in the chest. "Oh dear, God!" proclaimed BJ, as he realized the severity of his friend's wound. Automatically he began to place a pressure bandage on the wound, and looked around for help. Spotting a medic, BJ called him over.
"Get me a chopper, we've to get him to a MASH... now!" He insisted.
As he waited for the medics to return, BJ sat quietly, his hand grasping Pierce's as a lifeline.
"You'll be all right." mumbled BJ.
Hawkeye groaned and shifted but didn't awaken. BJ pressed the pressure bandage again, "Dear God," he said, "Please, he's got to be all right," BJ heard the chopper as it approached the parked jeep, and looked up. Once the small machine landed BJ and the medic loaded Hawkeye into the outside carrying pod. Another medic helped the pilot load a second critically wounded man onto the other pod. BJ climbed into in the cockpit next to the pilot and the double-loaded chopper.
Dr. Sam Beckett, quantum physicist, medical doctor, PhD of many things, and time traveller, gradually became aware of his surroundings. He looked down, and discovered he wore a captain's uniform in the US Army Medical Corps. Before him was a simple and neat desk. The room was small, and seemed to be an office... except that the walls were tan canvas and covered with pictures of horses. A grey-haired man sat behind the desk. He wore causal army green fatigues with medical insignia on the right-hand side of the collar, and a colonel's insignia on the left.
Looking up, the man said in a warm and friendly voice, "Hello, you must be the new surgeon."
"Oh, boy," thought Sam, looking at the brass name plate on the desk. Then be saluted and answered, "Colonel Potter?"
The colonel smiled again, "Nervous?" He asked, trying to put the new man at ease.
"I guess so." Said Sam, bashfully.
"Well, don't be, Doctor Beckwith. You'll soon learn the routine. What we do is meatball surgery. We patch 'em up, and send them on to the evac hospital in Seoul, or back to their units."
Sam nodded, but he was getting more and more confused. He hoped to be alone soon so he could talk to Al... he wanted to know where and when he was and what he was supposed to do.
"I'll have Radar show you to the Swamp. We've put an extra cot in there for you." The colonel paused seeing his confusion, "The Swamp is what our chief surgeon dubbed his tent. His name is Benjamin Franklin Pierce, but everyone calls him Hawkeye. He and Doctor BJ Hunnicutt are temporarily at a battalion aid station, right now. So your only roommate will be Doctor Frank Burns."
At that moment, a short man with wire-rimmed glasses walked into the room.
"Doctor Beckwith, this is my company clerk, Corporal O'Reilly. Radar this is Captain Alan Beckwith, our new temporary surgeon, he'll be with us while Pierce and Hunnicutt are at the aid station." The colonel went on to tell Radar to show the doctor to the Swamp but Radar was repeating the order almost before Potter finished giving it. Sam and Radar walked from the office compound to the Swamp. Radar explained that Major Burns was in post-op., so the tent would be empty for a few hours.
"Why'd he call you Radar?" asked Sam, stopping.
Radar stopped as well, and answered, "Oh, it's a nickname. Everyone calls me that, sir." He smiled, and ducked his head shyly, "I guess, because I can tell when the choppers are coming in with wounded before anyone else, sir." Radar looked up, and smiled an-I-don't-under stand-it-either smile.
"Oh," Sam nodded and smiled at the young corporal, "Call me Alan, or Doctor Beckwith, but you don't have to call me sir." He started walking again.
"Thank you, sir. I mean, Doctor Beckwith." He walked quickly, getting ahead of Sam to lead the way to the swamp.
They stood in front of the Swamp, Radar held open the door to the tent and Sam looked inside. He suddenly understood the name after scanning the disaster area present inside the door. A stove stood in the center of the tent and cots were in the corners. One cot looked like a new arrival, whereas a second may as well have been... it was neatly made, with hospital corners, and a footlocker underneath it. The other two beds showed signs of hasty departure, green army clothes were thrown every which way. A red bathrobe was draped over the near bed. The Crabapple Cove Courier sat on a table near the bunk with the bathrobe. Between the two beds, Sam noticed a collection of glass jars and rubber tubing.
"What's that?" He asked Radar, motioning with his head.
"Oh, that's the still." Answered Radar matter-of-factly.
Surprised, Sam started to say something but be thought better of it, nodded, "Corporal, Could I be alone for a minute? I just want to get my bearings, get used to this place."
"Oh sure," said Radar, and he left, placing the captain's duffle bag at the door.
Sam grabbed the duffle, and entered the tent. A small shaving mirror stood by the door. He bent down to check his reflection. The man in the mirror was young, late-20's he guessed. His hair was a thick light brown, cut short. He had soft, brown eyes and a strong chin. "Al... Al!" called Sam, hoping his advisor and friend, would arrive soon.
Sam set the duffle on the empty cot and turned around. Al stood near the stove in the center of the tent, he was wearing a bright red shirt, silver string tie, black tuxedo-style pants, and a red fedora with a black hatband.
Startled, Sam jumped, "Don't do that! Where am I?"
"Let's start with who you are, You're Doctor Alan Beckwith, a surgeon," stated Al, reading from his hand-held link to the computer, Ziggy.
"That much I know." Sam muttered ungraciously.
Al nodded, "He... well," Al pointed to Sam with his ever-present cigar, "you... have just been transfered to temporary duty at the 4077th MASH unit, in Korea. The year is 1952, Sam."
"MASH unit?" Asked Sam, confused by the unfamiliar acronym.
"Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. They were set-up during the war to treat combat wounds close to the front. Which, by the way, is three miles north of here." Al waved his hands, towards the north as he spoke.
"What?" Sam sounded quite confused.
"The front, Sam, it's only three miles north of here." Al took a calming puff from the cigar, then continued. "Anyway, MASH surgeons did the best they could then evacuated the patients to more permanent hospitals or back to their units."
Sam sat down on his cot. "Why am I here?" he said quietly, knowing he wouldn't like the answer.
Al was started to answer when the P.A. system interrupted him,
"Incoming wounded, all shifts to the O.R."
Corporal O'Reilly soon appeared at the door, "Captain, we need you in O.R."
Sam quickly glanced at Al, then followed O'Reilly. Al trailed after the physicist, moving through the wall. To Al, Sam's surroundings were the hologram - and not solid.
"This may be why you're here, Sam." said Al.
Radar looked up as if he heard something, then shook his head and led Sam to the scrub room. Sam changed into surgical whites, and washed up. Al went directly to the operating room, but after a quick glance around punched the door command on the hand-link and disappeared through the door to his own time. Entering the O.R., Sam grimaced at what he saw. The room was filled with rows of bodies on tables, doctors and nurses surrounding each patient in the large room. Radar now wore a mask, and showed Sam to a table. Sam hesitated.
"This may not be what you're used to at I-Corps." said Colonel Potter his tone gruff but kind, "But we need every set of hands that we've got. So pull up to a patient and get to work, Doctor."
"Yeah, sure," said Sam edging up to a waiting patient, "Thanks, Colonel."
The colonel nodded, and continued his work.
Once in place, his instincts took over and Sam began to patch up the patient.
Much to Sam's surprise, his nurse, a pretty woman with blonde hair peaking out from under her white surgical cap said, "I'll close, Doctor." Adding, "You're needed," she pointed to another table.
Sam fell into the OR's rhythm, moving from table to table, or having new patients brought to him. As he worked, he noticed the banter of the other doctors and nurses. At first, he couldn't believe it, but at the hours grew longer and more and more young kids appeared on his table, Dr. Sam Beckett recognized the humor for the release valve it was. He also began to feel numb. Suddenly, a tall blue-eyed man in surgical whites walked into the OR.
"Hunnicutt, What are you doing back here?" asked Colonel Potter, eyes opening in surprise, while he continued to work on a patient.
Two corpsmen brought in a litter and placed it before BJ.
"Get me a gas passer!" he called before answering the colonel, "It's Hawkeye... he got himself shot out there."
There was dead silence in the room. The blonde nurse who had helped Sam with his first patient whispered, "Oh my god," and glided towards BJ and his patient. Potter swallowed hard, and nodded. The noise level rose once more, as everyone continued to work, yet the atmosphere was subdued. This time the patient was a friend.
Pierce briefly regained consciousness, "Beej..."
BJ leaned in closer to hear his friend's words.
"Beej, listen to me," Hawkeye rasped, "Don't feel guilty about this. It isn't your fault," He groaned, and BJ winced, "BJ, call my Dad, and tell him... tell him what happened. After the last time I was declared dead, I don't want him to get another cold army notice."
"Hawk, You're going to make it, you're going to be okay." BJ swallowed hard, he would not allow himself to lose control. Hawkeye attempted to say something but lost unconscious yet again.
Margearet Houlihan now stood opposite BJ, ready to assist during the operation on Hawkeye. "BJ..." She said encouragingly, "Let's get started."
BJ nodded at her, "Okay, let's do it," he answered as the anestheologist placed a mask on Hawkeye's face. BJ quietly worked on his friend. Normally, he would have been joking, kidding, and working with Pierce in this very same operating room, but this time he found the only way he could do the surgery was to concentrate and try to forget his patient's identity. His only words were necessary commands to Margaret. Eventually, he was able to close. The release of tension in the room was so noticeable that even Sam felt it. BJ moved on to another patient. When Margaret said something to him, he replied, "I've just got to keep working. And you need my hands."
Finally, it was over, the choppers ended their runs, and most patients had been moved to post-op.
Wearily, the doctors went into the scrub room. BJ sat on the bench against the far wall, and covered his face with his hands. Sam was cleaning up and watched as Colonel Potter approached the young surgeon.
"BJ?" he said, softly.
BJ looked up... his eyes were glistening, but no tears were on his face. "I can't even cry. I just operated on my best friend, and I can't..."
Potter sat down next to BJ. "Listen son, you're exhausted. Whatever happened out there, it can't have been easy."
"No. It was anything but easy. I can't even remember what I just did in there," BJ pointed to the operating room.
"Hawkeye's a survivor, BJ. And Margaret tells me you did a good job."
BJ looked at Potter in disbelief, "I had to put him back together again. One minute we were working together, wel l- in different areas, but together – y ou know, and the next, he was lying there. I... God, if anything..." BJ broke off and covered his face again.
"BJ, I'm not going to say that I know what you're going through, but..." Potter crossed his hands in his lap, "Look, if you want to talk, if you need anything..."
"Colonel, he he gave me permission to let him die." BJ's face, full of misery turned to Potter, who raised his eyes to meet his gaze, "He said it wouldn't be my fault. And, in O.R. I mean" BJ broke off, realizing he didn't make sense. "I'm frightened."
Potter put his hand on the troubled young surgeon's shoulder, "BJ, Hawkeye has always been afraid he would die here. He's talked to me about that fear."
"I don't know if I can face this place without him. Dammit, my best friend is lying in there and I'm not going to dismiss him. I'm not going to let him die, Colonel." His tone was determined, and his face reflected that determination as he got up, then went to the sink to clean up. After rinsing away the blood and sweat, he went into the adjacent room to change. "I'll be in post-op."
Sam looked at the colonel, questioningly.
"That was BJ Hunnicutt, one of your roommates in the Swamp. Hawkeye Pierce is our chief surgeon. And as you can probably guess, he was wounded at the front. BJ and Hawkeye are close friends." Potter, began to wash up, "I'm worried about BJ. He's taking this hard, and if Pierce, God forbid, doesn't pull through, it could destroy him." He stopped washing up for a moment to look at Sam.
"What can I do?" asked Sam, turning to face the colonel.
Regarding Sam, Potter felt instinctively that he could trust this new surgeon that fate and I-Corps had thrown in their midst. "You're impartial. BJ will want to talk, eventually." He snared a white cotton towel and dried his hands and forearms, "Listen to him, be there for him. Help him through this." Potter stopped fussing with the towel and leaned closer to Sam, "And pray that Hawkeye makes it, for all our sakes. He holds this place together."
"I'll try to help.,, said Sam, first glancing to his feet, uncomfortable, then looking back up at Potter with smiling eyes, that spoke of his willingness to help.
The colonel left, and Al appeared dressed in the same red and black outfit he'd worn the last time he popped in.
"I think that's why you're here, Sam." said Al, quietly.
Sam briefly wondered how much of the conservation Al had heard, but then his face grew determined as he asked, "To help Doctor Hunnicutt or to save Doctor Pierce?"
"Both." Answered Al sharply, he glanced down at Ziggy's handlink to get the figures, "There's a sixty percent chance that Pierce will survive. But there's a ninety percent chance that if Doctor Pierce dies, Hunnicutt will blame himself... completely. Ziggy's run a projection, and says that Hunnicutt will become bitter and mean; he will sour on medicine, and he will drink himself into an early grave." Al's eyes misted over at the thought.
"No," said Sam, looking at the doorway that Hunnicutt had exited through. His attention returned to Al.
"We can't let that happen, Sam." Al looked unusually serious. "I think you're here to help Hunnicutt, to pull him through this." Al, stopped for a second, and chewed his cigar. He took a deep breath before continuing, "These guys are real close friends, like you and me, Sam." Al pointed to himself and Sam, with his now smoldering cigar, "They need each other. You have to be there to help Hunnicutt. Get him to not blame himself." His voice dropped into bitter tones.
Sam looked closely at his friend, startled by his seriousness, "Is Pierce going to die?" he asked.
"I don't know Sam. Ziggy can't be sure. All we've gotten is that if he does..." Al waved his hands.
"I get the picture." Sam moved into the next room, and began to change back into green fatigues. "Al, did you see what happened in there?" He asked as he looked up at the observer.
"I can't stand the sight of blood." Al mumbled.
"Al, I operated on those kids for fourteen hours." Sam stated quietly, his shock evident.
Without looking at Sam, Al nodded, "That's about average for a MASH in Korea."
"Average! What's a tough day?" Sam looked at the hologram.
His expression serious, Al returned Sam's gaze and quietly stated, "Eighteen to twenty, even twenty-four hours, in the operating room wasn't uncommon, Sam."
"Oh, dear god." Sam collapsed onto a convenient bench.
"Sam, Do you want to talk?" Al asked, concerned.
"No. I'm going to the post-op." Sam stood up and left the room.
Al watched him go... with concern about his sensitive friend. Punching the controls on Ziggy's handlink, he opened the Imaging Chamber door and walked through. With a clang, he was gone from Sam's time.
Sam checked on his patients, and noticed that Hunnicutt still sat on a chair next to Pierce's bedside. Sam walked over.
"Any change?" asked Sam.
"He's still unconscious." answered BJ quietly. "Who are you?"
"Doctor Alan Beckwith, I-corps sent me to help out, temporary duty." Sam stuck out his hand to shake Hunnicutt's.
Getting up, BJ returned the gesture, and asked, "Your first time at a MASH?".
"Yes." Answered Sam.
"Well, you did good work in there, Doctor." Hunnicutt sat again.
"Thank you. You want to get some food, coffee?" Sam offered, smiling.
Hunnicutt looked at Hawkeye's pale face and muttered, "No, I'll stay here, thanks."
"Can I bring you anything?" Sam tried again.
"Not now." Hunnicutt mumbled, as if surprised that Sam was still present.
Sam knew he needed to prod Hunnicutt away from his friend's side, if only to get him to grab some sleep, so he tried again, "Okay, well, listen, if you want to talk or anything..."
Hunnicutt exploded and stood-up, "What is it? Everyone wants to know if I want to talk, just because I saw my best friend get shot!" BJ ended, shouting bitterly.
"I'm sorry, I'm just trying to help. The colonel said..." Sam fumbled.
BJ smiled weakly, "Sorry to bite your head off, but tell the colonel I'll be fine."
Feeling useless, Sam left BJ. I've been in some pretty tight situations since I started leaping, Sam thought as he walked out of the post-op. and into the open air, pausing in the doorway. Saving a life wasn't new, Sam continued thinking as he looked out at the camp. But this, this time it's different. I've never experienced anything like the MASH O.R. He took a deep breath of fresh air then walked out into the compound grounds. A dark-haired, dark-complextioned man in a dress was crossing the compound. Sam looked twice, then walked up to the man.
"Hey, where can I get a cup of coffee around here?" he asked, ignoring the man's unusual clothing.
"You must be new." answered Klinger as he stopped.
"Doctor Alan Beckwith," Sam answered, holding out his hand. "I-Corps sent me here on temporary duty." He continued to explain, smiling at the dress-clad man.
The corporal extended his hand, giving a strong and hearty hand-shake, "Corporal Max Klinger. Don't let the dress fool you, I just wear this to get out of the army." Klinger indicated his dress, "I can take you to the mess tent, but I wouldn't call the swill they serve coffee."
"Thank you." Sam fell into step with the corporal.
They walked to the mess tent, Sam got himself some coffee, Klinger got himself a cup and joined Sam at the table.
"Is it always like this?" asked Sam, motioning with his head towards the O.R.
"What? Oh, the O.R. No, sometimes it's worse... they weren't shelling us this time." Klinger answered, his brown eyes sparkling.
"Shelling?" Asked Sam, fearing the man's answer, as he sipped his coffee.
"Yeah. Hey, you really are new around here, aren't you?" Klinger stopped, and looked up at Sam.
"You could say that," replied Sam, then continued, his voice tinged with pain, "God, how do you stand it? All those young kids."
Klinger put a hand on Sam's arm, briefly, then answered, "You may not believe tbis, Captain, but it does get easier."
Sam looked at Klinger with surprise.
Klinger noticed the troubled look in Sam's eyes. "This place... well, even with all the pain and stress, and all... we're doing a lot of good here. Our success rate is ninety-eight percent, did they tell you that at I-Corps?" He sipped his cooling coffee.
"No, he didn't... I mean they didn't, but, how do you cope?" Sam pushed away the white porcelain cup, half filled with bitter coffee.
"We use humor, alot, as a stress reliever. Hawkeye, especially, he always seems to know just what to say, or what to do." Klinger's voice became wistful as he thought of the now-injured doctor.
"Klinger..." Sam said, pleading with his eyes and voice for someone to talk to, someone who understood.
Klinger looked at Sam with compassion.
Compassion and a friendly ear was all the encouragement Sam needed, as he began to unload his feelings. He talked to the medic more about his experiences in the O.R. Klinger nodded, and listened. Sometime later, Colonel Potter entered the mess tent, he grabbed a cup of coffee and joined them.
"Mind if I join you?" asked Potter, standing at the head of the table.
"Go ahead." said Sam, making a space for the colonel.
Potter, sat and sipped his coffee.
"Any news on Hawkeye?" asked Klinger, anxiously.
"He regained consciousness, but he's sleeping now. Hunnicutt is still with him. The man is exhausted. Doctor Beckwith, I was wondering if you could take over in post-op?"
"Oh, sure, Colonel." answered Sam.
"Tell BJ, to get some sleep, and tell him that's an order." Potter said, concern underlining his gruff tone.
"Do you think he'll listen?" asked Klinger, swallowing the last of his coffee, then grimmacing as he realized the brew was cold.
"Eventually BJ has to realize that exhausting himself isn't going to help Pierce," replied the colonel.
Sam nodded and left the mess tent, crossing the compound to post-op. The room was the same as he left it, and Dr. Hunnicutt was still seated next to Hawkeye's bed.
"Doctor Hunnicutt?" Sam approached the young honey-blond doctor, "When was the last time you slept?" He tapped the doctor's shoulder while asking.
"I don't remember." answered BJ, looking up at Sam with an exhausted gaze.
"Why don't you go catch some sleep." Sam suggested, pulling the chart from the end of the bed and continued, "I'll watch your friend."
"Thanks, but..." Hunnicutt hesitated.
"Colonel Potter told me to order you to get some sleep. I'll watch him."
BJ nodded, and got up, stumbling as he did so. Sam grabbed his arm and steadied him. He shrugged off Sam's grasp. "I guess I'm more tired than I thought." BJ walked out of the post-op and went in the direction of the Swamp.
Sam sat down in the chair BJ had vacated. He observed the man in the bed, whose thin face was pale, his eyes closed. After reading the chart, he returned the clipboard to the hook on the bar at the end of the bed. He stood up and examined Pierce with a stethoscope. Hawkeye's breathing was regular and his heart sounded normal. He shrugged and went to check on the other patients. A nurse moved over to the bed and checked Pierce's vital signs.
As Sam was checking the other patients on the ward, including the first one he had operated on, there was a sharp hiss-click and Al stepped through the hologram door to appear in Sam's time.
"Sam?" whispered Al.
Sam jumped a bit, then subtlety motioned for Al to follow him. They ended up in the deserted pre-op. ward.
"Sam... Are you okay?" Al shuffled his feet and added before Sam could speak, "I mean, you've been very uncommunicative during this leap."
"Al... you wouldn't understand." Sam said, looking guilty as he did so.
"Try me," barked Al. Then his tone softened, "Sam, you're my friend. I want to help."
Sam turned to face the hologram, "Look Al. I did talk with one of the medics here. And it helped, some. But you're not a doctor, you wouldn't understand."
Al looked hurt at that, "Sam..." he mumbled.
Sam started to answer, to give an apology but he was interrupted when Radar entered.
"Oh," mumbled Radar, seeing that Sam was alone in the ward, "I thought you were talking to someone. Nurse Able sent me to find you, Hawkeye is bleeding again."
"What?" Asked Sam, promptly readjusted to the persona of Doctor Beckwith. Al observed, quietly.
Radar looked directly in Al's direction, and for a second he thought he saw a shadow, but he shrugged it aside, "You better come."
Sam nodded and followed the corporal.
When BJ entered the swamp, Frank slept on his cot. BJ looked at the mess of clothes and belongings that littered his and Hawkeye's beds. 'God' he said to himself, it hadn't been that long ago that he and Hawkeye had been getting ready to leave. BJ started to clear off his bed, and noticed one of Hawkeye's Hawaiian shirts on the bed and put it on the other. Then BJ noticed Pierce's red robe, and the events of the day hit him again, for one second he was on that battlefield again, and this time he saw Pierce fall, saw him take the bullet, and heard him call his own name. The added detail provided by his imagination was too much, BJ collapsed on the bed. Moving to a seated position he poured himself a drink from the still. He downed the drink quickly, he poured himself another and drank half of it before falling into bed.
A few hours later, Burns was awakened by a man's screams. He got up and quickly crossed to BJ's bed. The man was screaming... yet, he seemed to be asleep. Burns grabbed his shoulders and shook him awake.
"Hunnicutt! Hunnicutt, get ahold of yourself!" He lightly slapped the doctor, "Wake up!"
BJ came to himselfy "Frank?"
"You were screaming. I had to hit you." Releasing his grip Burns asked, "What is it?"
"You know about Hawkeye." Answered BJ, lying back on his bunk.
"Oh that." At BJ's glare, he said, "He'll be all right." Frank sat quietly on Hawkeye's bunk, near to BJ.
BJ looked at Frank, his quiet manner and concern were new in BJ's experience.
Frank raised his voice, whining, "Look, I know I fight with you guys a lot." His voice dropped and continued in flat tones, "And we don't see eye to eye on army regulations," Frank gripped his hands tightly in his lap, "But I've lived with Pierce for two years now." He stated quietly.
"You want to talk about your nightmare?" Frank asked, simply.
"It was awful. I kept seeing it over and over, I heard the machine guns and ducked but Hawkeye must have been concentrating on his patient. When I got there and turned him over..."
"It's a part of war." commented Frank.
"We're doctors, dammit!" Insisted BJ, rising from the bunk.
"So that's supposed to mean we can't get hurt? When will you and Pierce grow up?" yelled Frank then he shook his head.
"Thanks a lot, Frank." answered BJ, sarcastically.
Frank held up his hands, "I'm sorry. And I'm sorry about Hawkeye, but he's a survivor, and he's going to pull through this."
"I wouldn't be so sure," said Radar, from the doorway.
"Hey, who said you enlisted creep could listen in to officers having a conversation?" yelled Frank promptly back to his normal self.
"What is it, Radar?" asked BJ, ignoring his tentmate.
"You better come, Hawkeye's in the O.R. again. He started bleeding in post-op, that new doctor, Beckwith, is working on him."
"Oh, dear god." said BJ, and he ran for the O.R.
Colonel Potter waited outside the operating room door. "No, BJ."
"What? God, he's not..." grief overcame BJ's face, and he sagged against the colonel. Potter grabbed BJ to steady him.
"Doctor Beckwith is working on Hawkeye. He's a competent surgeon, let him do his work."
"You're too involved, BJ." Answered Potter, letting the younger surgeon go, as he regained his equilibrium. "And you don't want to make Beckwith nervous by standing over his shoulder do you?"
"You're right." BJ began to collapse again, his fatigue taking over. Potter grabbed him just below the shoulders, "Come on, son, let's wait in the mess. I think you need some coffee."
Burns stood quietly by during the exchange between Potter and BJ, then he silently walked over to the mess tent. Radar, Klinger, Margaret, and Father Mulcahy, were already gathered around one of the tables. Frank was about to sit at a separate table when Margaret called him over. He sat down. Potter and BJ got some coffee, and sat down at the long table with everyone else.
BJ noticed Margaret, "Who's assisting?"
"Nurse Able, who discovered that Hawkeye was bleeding." Margaret answered in a business-like manner.
"What happened? What did I do wrong?" BJ said, his voice reflecting hurt and self-blame.
"You didn't do anything. He popped an internal stitch. Stop blaming yourself, BJ." said Potter.
"I can't help feeling guilty."
"Why? You're not the one that shot Hawkeye," said Margaret, practically.
"No, but... Well, when we got to the aid station they sent us to the front."
Thoughtfully, Potter nodded, "So that's how..."
"They said that they needed more men out there, getting the men to the aid station and the MASH units. I said OK."
"Pierce must have agreed." Potter pointed out.
"Well, yeah, but I bullied him into it."
"Oh, come on, nobody ever bullied Pierce into anything," said Burns gruffly.
Father Mulcahy, turned his concerned eyes on the young surgeon, commenting, "Look, BJ, we're all concerned about Hawkeye, but you've got to pull yourself together. We're getting concerned about you, too."
BJ nodded and took a swig of coffee, "Thank you, Father." BJ then stood up and began to pace up and down next to the table.
"What are you doing?" asked Margaret.
"I feel so helpless." stated BJ, flatly.
"Your pacing is making me nervous." responded Margaret.
BJ sat down again, and began unconsciously to drum his fingers on the tabletop. Margaret put her hand over his to stop the noise.
"Sorry," mumbled BJ, looking into Margaret's eyes.
"BJ, you're not the only one who's worried and concerned you know." said Margaret.
"I know." BJ smiled at her.
Sometime later Sam entered the mess tent still wearing his blood-stained surgical gown. BJ rose from the table as soon as Sam entered, and the other MASH personnel soon rose as well.
"He's going to be fine," said Sam calmly.
The room erupted in joyful shouts.
"Doctor... Beckwith?" said BJ, stumbling over his name.
"What was wrong? What did I do wrong when I operated the first time?"
"There was a bleeding artery under the heart, small nick, I just stitched it up."
"So I missed it."
"Doctor Hunnicutt, you did a fantastic job, especially considering the pressure you were under. You have nothing to blame yourself for. Your friend is going to be just fine. If you hadn't acted so quickly he wouldn't have made it this far."
Margaret approached BJ, and patted him on the back. "Thank you, Doctor Beckwith." she said facing Sam.
BJ just looked relieved.
A few hours later, BJ was sitting next to Dr. Pierce's bed in the post-op. Sam was checking the patients on the other side of the ward.
"BJ? Beej, what happened?" mumbled a disoriented Hawkeye as he woke up.
BJ swallowed, then looked straight into Hawkeye's bright blue eyes and answered, "You were shot, Hawk."
Pierce began to sit up, but BJ placed a restraining band on his friend, "Don't overdo it yet."
"But what happened?"
"You don't remember?"
"No... Wait, we drove to the aid station, then they sent us to the front. All those bodies..." Hawkeye shuddered, then concentrated, trying to remember, "I was working on a patient, and I heard something... It's all foggy, Beej. I can't remember."
"You did pretty good. I didn't see what happened. I heard a machine gun burst, then I hit the dirt, when I looked up, you were slumped over a wounded solder," BJ shook as the memory flooded back.
"BJ..." Hawkeye looked at his friend with great concern, and grabbed his arm, "BJ... it must have been awful for you," The look on BJ's face told Hawkeye more than he could have said, "You blame yourself." It was a statement, not a question.
BJ nodded, "I should have warned you, said something..."
"BJ, I've been in Korea since 1950. It's amazing that I haven't been injured before now. Beej... there was nothing you could have done to prevent this. You brought me back here?"
"Yes. A chopper, do you remember that?"
"No. But, you operated on me, right?"
"Yes, and I botched it, Hawkeye. Doctor Beckwith had to go in a second time."
"Who?" asked Hawkeye, confused.
Sam approached the two doctors, "Doctor Hunnicutt is too hard on himself. I had to go in, but it had nothing to do with his work. He did a fantastic job."
"Who are you?"
"Doctor Alan Beckwith, temporary duty, at your service." Sam bowed, and extended his hand. Pierce, shook it, awkwardly.
Hawkeye nodded, "Glad to meet you. BJ, listen to this guy, I think he knows what he's talking about. Now, I'm tired, and I would like to get some sleep."
"Sure, Hawk," and BJ rose to leave.
Sam examined Pierce, checked the chart, then left the post-operation building. He crossed the compound and headed for the Swamp, but he heard BJ and Frank Burns talking inside. So he kept walking. Suddenly, Al appeared next to him. Al was wearing a bright blue shirt with flourescent green brush-like stripes covering it, a silver flight jacket, black pants, a black tie and a black fedora.
"You did it Sam, they're both going to be okay."
"Then why haven't I leaped?"
"I don't know, Sam. But... hey, are you okay?"
Sam searched Al's troubled eyes, "Al, I'll be fine. I had a long talk with Corporal Klinger, one of the medics here." At Al's look of uncertainity and disbelief, he added, "Really, I'm okay."
Suddenly, Corporal O'Reilly approached Sam.
"The Colonel wants to talk to you in his office."
Sam nodded and followed the corporal. Within a few minutes, he entered the Colonel's office.
"Sit down, Doctor Beckwith." said the Colonel.
"First, I want to thank you for your work on Pierce. He's a good surgeon and a good friend, and I wouldn't want to lose him. And thank you for helping with Hunnicutt."
"You're welcome, sir. Uh, sir, does that mean I can return to I-Corps?"
The Colonel looked surprised. "Yes! In fact, your orders just came through. I'll have a jeep ready for you in ten minutes."
Sam, surprised, looked at the colonel. Then the scene faded and Sam realized that once again he was making a quantum leap.