A/N: Well hello there! First off, I'd like to thank you if you read the older version of this fic, and have decided to try out the new (hopefully improved) version. I will definitely use chunks from the old fic, but there will also be several new add on's such this opening chapter.
If you are new to my story, thanks for wanting to give it a whirl! A lot of things may not make sense in the beginning chapters, but all of the pieces will all fit together and make sense eventually!
Please leave a review if you have any thoughts/constructive criticism.
Disclaimer: I do not own M*A*S*H - only my OC's and their storylines.
Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger was taking a load off of his pastel blue five-inch tall pumps, on a bench in the hallway between the O.R and Pre-Op. The fabric of Klinger's short-sleeved yellow sundress was soaked with sweat under the armpits and all the way down his back. It was even daring enough to invade his bloomers. It was pretty safe to say that Klinger felt and especially smelt, awful.
It was the beginning of May, and Korea was as hot as hell. No, wait, scratch that – it was hotter than hell.
Even with Klinger's desert heritage, he found the thick humidity and mercury breaking temperatures unbearable. If this was just the beginning of the summer, he couldn't even imagine what horrors the Korean climate has in store for July and August.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like you to think back to forty minutes ago when there was a U.N style shindig happening in the compound. Well, guess what? It's time to put on your party hats and boogie once more! Wounded arriving by bus and chopper!"
An exhausted sigh escaped Klinger's lips at the grimly sarcastic P.A. announcement. He had been on duty for eleven hours already and the last thing he wanted to hear was that the 4077th was going to be receiving more casualties.
His biceps were so overworked that they didn't even burn anymore. Instead, it felt like he had two ginormous sausage casings stuffed with gelatin attached to both of his shoulders. Klinger's lower back was so stiff that he was sure he'd be in pain for at least a day or two afterwards.
Just like clockwork, a stream of corpsmen and nurses flooded out of the O.R. and Pre-Op. As they stampeded toward the set of doors that led outside to the compound, Klinger gave himself a mental pep talk.
This was war. Whether he liked it or not, he was stuck being a part of it. Even though Klinger was only a corpsman, he found a bit of comfort in knowing that his part in the war helped save lives, as opposed to taking them away. That being said, Klinger was still very unhappy. Dropping his entire life and hauling his twenty-nine-year-old self, halfway across the world, was by no means his idea. He had his own stupidity and Uncle Sam to thank for this lovely vacation. There were at least a million other things he would rather do than haul bloody bodies to and fro like some sorta pack mule. Peeling potatoes, diggng latrines and marching around at all hours of the night with a rifle slung across his shoulder were also far down on the list.
Since the second Klinger had opened that damned letter from his draft board, he vowed to utilize every cell in his brain to think up a scheme to get him out of the mess. He had mentally kicked himself in the butt more than once since he had shipped out to Korea. Why didn't he just suck it up seven or eight years prior and enlist during the last war? What was the worst that could have happened?
He should have signed up early for the infantry and after suffering through basic training, he could have requested to be assigned to some low-grade, rear echelon post. There would have probably been several openings for a man like him because people were more gung-ho about defending America back then. Most men signing up wanted to be with the Marines or the Airborne so they could part of the frontline action and defeat the Germans or the Japs.
"Corporal Klinger, you get up off of that bench in three seconds or else you are going to be wearing my boot print on your backside!" The shrill sound of Major Houlihan's voice was enough to bring Klinger out of his fog.
"Yes sir," Klinger grumbled, intentionally addressing her by the wrong sex.
He had only been in the service for eight months, but he had found that Major Houlihan was a tougher, more rigid officer, than all of the other male officers he had encountered save for his first basic training C.O. It was safe to say that Klinger was intimidated by the woman. However, the way she and Major Burns constantly treated the enlisted men like they are some sort primitive, alien lifeforms made Klinger disregard her authority.
The Majors were always on Colonel Blake's case about how Klinger's lunatic antics and cross-dressing were a threat to the morale of the unit. The always went out of their way to point out the fact that his behaviour was "perverse". Like he really cared what a couple of General Patton wannabe's thought!
Klinger knew what kind of man he was, a man that didn't want to be destroyed by the venomous viper of war.
War had taken away everything cared about once before. He knew how it could cripple the bodies and spirits of the men and women in the service. Moreover, Klinger knew how it had the power to crush the lives of their loved ones back home.
The civilian female clothes, he crazy stunts, manic moods and general effrontery were all just an act. He would do anything it took to escape the fate of being another sad, statistic of war.
"What did you just call me?" Major Houlihan exclaimed as Klinger stood up. She would not stand to have her status disrespected by the likes of Corporal Klinger.
"Nothing, Major," Klinger sighed as she pushed past her and headed toward the doors that lead out to the compound. He was far too tired and grumpy to argue with the Major.
Once outside, Klinger stood still for a minute and scanned the compound. There were at least a dozen bloody bodies lying on stretchers on the ground, waiting to be assessed for triage and hauled into Pre-Op. It took only a few seconds before Nurse Kelley bellowed out his name, and motioned for him to come over to where she was at.
"Here we go again," he thought.
Kelley repeated the instructions she was told, as Klinger positioned himself in front of the stretcher handles by the head of the patient.
"Klinger, this one is low-level priority. Dr. McIntyre said to tell Pre-Op, to start him on a saline and penicillin IV."
Klinger nodded. After exchanging a glance of confirmation with Goldman – the man on the other end of the stretcher – they lifted the wounded solider up off of the ground.
"Hey, the Doc and nurse barely looked at me. Am I gonna be okay?" The wound man piped up ash he was being taken to Pre-OP. His tone mirrored the terror in his voice
If it was the beginning of his shift, Klinger would have been more than willing to offer a few genuine words of comfort. However, in his current state Klinger just didn't have it in him. He glanced down at the young soldier and gave recited his generic spiel, "you're going to be fine, kid. The doctors and nurses here are some of the best south of the thirty-eighth parallel."
"Really?" The red-haired, freckled face soldier asked, with a cow-eyed expression plastered on his face.
"Betcha' bootstraps on it kid," Klinger replied as he and Goldman set the soldier's stretcher on top of a gurney.
Klinger suddenly noticed a small, worn-looking, leather-bound pocketbook rustle out of the soldier's BDU jacket pocket. The faded, gold-stamped lettering on the front of the book – Heavenly Highway Hymns – sent an eerie chill throughout Klinger's otherwise overheated body. Acting on instinct he quickly snatched up the book. He knew better than to take a patient's personal effects without consent, but Klinger could not help himself.
The eerie feeling only intensified when Klinger noticed that there were dried blood splatters on the edges of the pages. He assumed that the blood wasn't the soldier's as it was too brown in colour to belong to the freshly wounded young man. Klinger's heart began to race when he noticed that the top part of the pages were charred and blackened with gun powered residue. With shaky hands, Klinger flipped open the cover of the book. His wildest fears were confirmed when he read the two inscriptions on the inside of the cover, each one directly underneath the next.
Dorthy A. Morango, 1928
Bobbi R. Morango, 1934
May the love we share bring you comfort if ever you feel afraid. Thinking about you always.
Love Your Darling,
Maxwell Q. Klinger 1941
"Where the hell did you get this kid?" Klinger shouted.
The wounded soldier looked at him bewildered. He had no idea as to why the hairy medic (who was wearing a dress that resembled one his mother owned) was suddenly barking at him like his platoon Sergeant.
"I, I uh f-found it," the soldier explained, his voice was shaky from nervousness.
"Where?" Klinger growled.
"At Battalion Aid. It was just lying on the ground so I picked it up. My Ma gave me one just like it when I was a kid."
"So what you're saying is that you stole it!" Klinger's voice boomed, which caused several heads in the chaotic room Pre-Op to snap in his direction.
"Hey, calm down Klinger," Goldman cut in as he placed a hand on Klinger's shoulder. He wanted to be ready to physically intervene in case Klinger suddenly snapped and began to beat on the soldier.
Klinger thrashed his shoulder forward to free himself from Goldman's grip. He was still holding onto the hymnbook, gripping it so tightly his knuckles white.
"Your name wouldn't happen to be Dorothy, Bobbi, or Maxwell?" Klinger paused to read the name on the kid's dogtags, "Timothy?"
Petrified by the raging expression in Klinger's dark eyes, Timothy simply shook his head slowly.
"What's your outfit kid?"
"7th Infantry Division, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, Able Company, third platoon, second squad," Timothy automatically recited his chain command like his life depended upon it.
"Was there a woman up at your aid station?"
"What on Earth are you talking about, Klinger?" Goldman asked, wondering if Klinger had actually gone crazy.
Timothy furrowed his brows together. After thinking for a moment he responded, "actually, yes there was. How did you know that?"
All of the emotion seemed to vanish from Klinger's face when he heard Timothy's reply.
"Your name ain't on this book, but mine is. Find yourself another hymn book kid." Klinger huffed as he walked away from the scene.
The war had just become a hell of a lot more stressful.