Charles woke up suddenly; he didn't know what the problem was. In a way, it felt what he had always imagined having a heart attack felt like. Of course, as a doctor, he'd heard fellow doctors always say "I know how you feel son" and that always angered him. No sense in patronizing a patient, Charles had always said. But he'd never been a patient before. This couldn't be happening to him. He'd always been a healthy man; true, he could have stood to lose a few pounds, but this was the holiday season, and he had probably put on a few just thinking about what his family might send him.
"Pierce...wake up." It was an order, not a request.
"Unless you've called an all-female staff meeting, I'm not interested," Hawkeye replied before rolling over in his sleep.
"I'm putting my fate in the hands of an idiot," Charles muttered to himself, before picking up his glass of water and pouring it over the sleeping surgeon.
"I'm awake! What the hell is the matter with you, Charles? Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"I realize the late hour, and I do apologize, but you see...there seems to be a bit of a medical emergency."
"You've always claimed to be top dog around here. Can't you take care of it yourself?"
"I would, gladly, if the circumstances were right. You see, Pierce, I cannot be the surgeon..."
"Because, it seems, I am the patient."
Hawkeye stared at him, and saw how pale and sweaty his roommate was. He stood up and put his robe on. "What's going on Charles?"
"I..I don't know. I was sleeping, if that is what you call it in this environment, when , not to dramatize my situation, I woke up feeling as if there were a deep pressure upon my chest."
"Stay right there. I'll go get a stretcher."
"Pierce, I think I hardly need a stretcher. Now who's overdramatizing."
"Charles, I don't want to take a chance. Now are you going to let me be doctor or do you want to take a chance, one that we don't have t take if you'll only cooperate. Sit down, I'll be back in a minute."
True to his word, Hawkeye got Klinger, who was on night duty, and another person to take Charles in. Before too long, Hawkeye was scrubbed up and ready to go.
After doing a battery of tests, Hawkeye shook his head. He'd seen this in the wounded, those who'd faced action, but never a surgeon before. And it happened to Charles Winchester the Third, for goodness' sake!
"Tell me the news. I can take it. Before I go there are a few things I would like for you to do. First there is a book with my family's addresses..."
Hawkeye started laughing hysterically. Charles shot him a dirty look.
"Is there something funny, Pierce? Something amusing about my impending demise?"
Hawkeye wiped his eyes. "You really think you're dying?"
Charles was sharp enough to realize that by that statement, nothing was wrong, nothing serious at least. "Of course not. I was just mentioning that so that you could bring me my address book while I continue this little rest period. That is, what it is, isn't it?" He eyed Hawkeye suspiciously.
"Charles, you're no more dying than I am. Your heart is as healthy as any I've seen around here."
"So I can go back to duty-in a few hours, of course?"
"Not yet. I'd like us to have a little chat," Hawkeye sat down on the edge of Charles' bed and he grew serious as he continued. "How have you been doing lately?"
"Oh, I'm having the time of my life. How do you suppose I'm doing?"
"Let's just call a truce long enough for us to have this conversation, which, believe me, is no day in the park for me. I'm asking because you appear to be suffering from acute anxiety..."
Charles sat up. "A Winchester? With anxiety? Surely you jest!"
"Sit back, Charles. I'm serious. I put in a call to Sydney just to be sure, and he confirmed what I'd been suspecting. Now there's nothing wrong with you..."
"Don't patronize me, Pierce! I know what anxiety is and I also don't fit the bill for one of your typical patients. Care to explain that?"
Hawkeye took a deep breath. "Do you know what day today is?"
"Of course I do. It's Thursday. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to go back to my bed, as it were."
"Charles, it's Christmas. It's Christmas Day."
He sat back down and stared at Hawkeye. How could he, of such a sound mind, forget something like that? Still, no matter. It was all a matter of fatigue. All days seemed to mesh into one around this hell hole.
"Are you accusing me of something?"
"I never thought I'd say this, but I'm accusing you of being human. It's your first Christmas without your family. You see people day in and day out that you don't know will make it back to their families, leaving you to question your own mortality. War is tough business, Charles. It happens to the best of us. I've broken down a few times..."
"Stop. I am not like you in the least bit. And secondly, do you not think that I have more pressing matters to consider then a simple holiday?"
"That's just it. It can be a simple thing..a color, a smell, a day of the year...any little thing can cause the mind and or body to shut down, even momentarily. War catches up with the best of us. I'm afraid you do have a condition- it's called being human, and while I know that's a hard pill for you to swallow, that's my diagnosis. If you like I can call Sydney..."
"I do not need Sydney. And I do not need one of your profound lectures. I just wish to be left alone. Can you comprehend that?"
Hawkeye shook his head, then walked off.
Charles started to think about what Hawkeye had told him. Could it be that he was, indeed, similar to those around him? This damn war, he thought bitterly. Surely it couldn't be the holiday that was bothering him.
And yet, he started to realize, it was. Everywhere around him were fellow members of the 4077 trying to induce the Christmas spirit, from Klinger and his ornament earrings, to Father Mulcahy's constant preaching. He'd always assumed that he was immune to the Christmas spirit. After all, he wouldn't bother associating with any of these people outside of the war, so why should the environment make a difference?
To be honest, he had thought of his own mortality when he was lying on the bed with the chest pains. What if he were to go, like this, under these conditions? He might have died without seeing his family again, and the thought was almost too much to bear.
He would not- could not- allow the 4077 crew to see him as weak. He would never show his face around the place again. It was humiliating enough to ask Pierce to treat him; the last thing he wanted was everyone's sympathy.
As he dozed off, he fought back the thoughts that were troubling him, and finally settled into a sound sleep.
"Wake up, Major!" An excited Klinger woke up the sleeping officer. "Don't you know what time it is? It's time for the Christmas get-together! Captain Pierce said that you'd want to know."
"All right, all right. Just please do me the favor and remove those offensive earrings. The glare is blinding me," Charles complained.
"Some people," Klinger muttered as he walked away. "Merry Christmas, Major."
Fortunately for Charles' sake, Klinger was already gone when a smile spread across his face. "Merry Christmas, indeed."
After the party, when most everyone was settling in for the night, Charles decided to stop by the Father's tent.
"Charles! What a surprise. Is there anything I may help you with?"
Charles looked around, ensuring that no one saw him. "May I enter?" he asked as he did not hesitate for permission.
"I have something for you, rather, for the orphanage, and I have only one condition-" Charles started as he presented his offering to Father Mulcahy.
Father Mulcahy was startled. This was a generous amount of money, the likes of which, in one setting, he wasn't sure that he would see again for quite some time. "Anything you like, Major."
"This is to be completely anonymous. I do not wish my name to be associated with this donation. Are we clear on that?"
"Why, anything you like. May I ask, "Father Mulcahy smiled. "Why?"
"Why, Father, " Charles smiled back. "Don't you know that it's Christmas?"
And with that, life went back to usual for the major, who realized that he would not forget this holiday after all.