Disclaimer: I don't own M*A*S*H… as usual.
(Author's note is at the end)
June, 1953: Marion VA Hospital, Indiana
The sound of Dr. Roberts voice directly behind Frank startled him. His body lurched upward in shock before promptly spinning around on his heels to face the doctor.
The young surgeon recognized that he had surprised his superior officer by Frank's widened eyes and tense, shrugged shoulders. So, he quickly scrambled to fix his wrong.
"I'm sorry Colonel Burns – it wasn't my intention at all to scare you!"
Frank opened his mouth and was about to spew a childish, defensive retort when his brain clicked in and thankfully stopped him. Snapping at the overtired, doe-eyed Surgeon would be something that the old Frank Burns from Korea would have done. However, he was a changed man now and knew that that type of behaviour was completely inexcusable as a superior officer and a medical professional.
"That's okay Captain. What can I do for you?" Frank asked in a mellow tone of voice.
"Oh I uh," Dr. Roberts scratched the back of his head out of nervousness, "just wanted to er – I'm sorry for how I acted in the O.R this morning. You had a better method of how to go about performing an emergency bowel resection on the Bernard kid. I should never have snapped and shouted out you like I did."
Frank furrowed his brow and studied the all too familiar expression of anguish present in Dr Roberts' green eyes, from having to swallow his pride and admit that he had acted immaturely.
His mind automatically replayed at least a dozen scenarios of back in Korea, when the other surgeons at the 4077th had to step in to save one of his patients. That was usually because he just didn't have the skill or professionalism to get the job done.
Frank straightened his posture, took his hands out of his white lab coat and crossed them behind his back. Responding in a definitive tone, he said, "Thank you Doctor – that's very manly of you to admit so. Mistakes happen to everyone, but I am sure that it won't happen again with you."
Dr. Roberts jaw dropped slightly in astonishment. He expected for his C.O. to give him a chewing out of a lifetime for his idiocy earlier in the day.
"Th-Th- Thank you, Colonel. I uh, well I don't know what to say. I thought for sure that you'd want to reprimand me or something."
"Yes. Well, I thought about filing insubordination charges earlier in the day. I remembered though, that the only reason I knew how to perform the resection faster was because I spent well over a year working at M*A*S*H in Korea. Meatball procedures like that are second nature to me now."
The slumping of Dr. Roberts' posture and the break of eye contact made Frank realize that his tone was a bit too authoritarian.
"Good job Ferret Face – you've just succeeded in making another man feel as crumby as Hawkeye Pierce and made you feel every day in Korea." Frank scolded himself.
"Yes, you're right Colonel. I am sorry for taking up so much of your time. I can only imagine how busy you must be being a Lt. Colonel and all," Dr. Roberts muttered with his head hung low. He then quickly turned around and skulked down the hall in the opposite direction of Frank.
"Oh nerts," Frank mumbled under his breath as he watched the younger surgeon begin to flee.
The voice of his therapist suddenly popped into his mind, saying "the best way to use your negative experiences of your life is to try to guide others going through the same things as you did."
Dr. Roberts was just about at the end of the long, busy hospital corridor by the nurses station when Frank shouted, "Captain Roberts – wait up!"
The Captain stood as still as a statue, frightened about what his C.O. would want with him now. When Frank finally caught up to him; he thought that his heart was going to give out because it was pounding so rapidly. He had had a shitty day, and being lectured in front a group of nurses who already didn't respect his authority was the last thing he needed. So, he puffed out his chest to make himself look more masculine and put a gnarly scowl on his face.
"Just save it, Colonel – with all due respect I've already apologized for the whole Bernard kid ordeal. So, I don't see how humiliating further in necessary," the Captain cut Frank off, in a hostile tone of voice.
"Dr. Roberts! Now you hold your tongue. How dare you talk to a superior officer of the United States military with such insubordination?" Frank couldn't help but to raise his voice. Roberts' feelings aside; he would stand to be disrespected in front of the nursing staff. It was one of the lessons he learned from reflecting on how Colonel Potter lead back at the 4077th. Frank then grabbed Roberts' by the sleeve of his lab coat and led him into a nearby supply closet.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Dr. Roberts barked; feeling violated by Frank's rough handling.
"That's enough, Captain!" Frank snapped. His deafening tone of voice was enough to get it through to the younger surgeon that anger was going to get him nowhere. After pausing to take a deep breath to calm himself; Frank began to explain his actions.
"Dr. Roberts, all I wanted to say to you in the hallway was that I think it's time you and me sit down and have a talk. By a talk I mean - man to man, officer to officer, and surgeon to surgeon."
"Sir?" The Captain gaped in confusion, wondering if an alien life form had somehow replaced and taken the form of his Commanding Officer.
"Your first name is Scott – right?"
"Yes…" Now Roberts was officially confused.
"Scott, for the three months that you've been here, I've been observing you. I can see how it hurts and frustrates you that even though you are trying your best – the nurses and other surgeons mock you and make your life hell. Believe it or not, a little over a year ago I was in the exact same position you are in now while I was stationed in Korea."
"You were, Sir?"
"Really," Frank nodded in confirmation. "Look I think you have potential as an officer and a surgeon, even though you aren't doing so well at the moment. If you don't mind, I would like to sit down with you over dinner or something, to explain exactly what I mean. You shouldn't give up on yourself. I can already see the dimness of defeat in your eyes. I only recognize it, because it was what I'd see every morning when I woke up in Korea."
"I uh – I suppose we could do something like that," Roberts replied tentatively.
As a child, Roberts was picked on from kindergarten up until he graduated from medical school as an adult for being a bit too neurotic and by the book for most people. He wasn't sure if Frank in the present was trying to lure him in for some sort of sham of a practical joke or not.
"Good," Frank immediately answered, relieved that Roberts' wasn't going to fight him on it. "What time are you off duty tonight?"
"18:00 hours, Sir."
"How about we meet up at that pub across the street from the hospital, at oh say – 19:30 hours?" Frank suggested, with his tone of notably more friendly.
"Whatever you say, Colonel."
"Good then it's a plan," Frank affirmed, feeling hopeful and a bit anxious about the prospect of his months of hard work on himself, finally being put to productive use.
A/N: Hello! So the idea for this short story popped into my head after reading a prompt in this writing book I bought, and I just had to roll with it.
I hope Frank doesn't seem OOC in this opening chapter. If he does, I can assure you that it will all be explained next chapter!
I apologize to any of my regular M*A*S*H readers for my absence lately. My summer has been shitty so far. My family have been a bunch of a**holes and to top it all off – my brand new, luxury Honda Civic for college, got side swiped in a hit and run and got really beat up so that's been a headache and a half.
I am working on my Hawkeye fic, "To those whom I love" every day. I am taking a very long to make sure that Margaret's letter and the epilogue is 100% perfect before posting. (And also making myself very sad in the process!)
Also, I am halfway done the 8th chapter for "Don't Let Me Fall for You". So you can expect an update sometime within the next week or so.
Anyways, thank you for giving this new M*A*S*H fic of mine a gander. If you have any thoughts/criticism about it, please leave a review! I am curious to hear what people think about how Frank may have changed or how he will presented with a chance for redemption.