Margaret fumed. Of all the people that could have walked in at this moment, why did it have to be this jerk? Dr. Peter Johnson was her least favorite doctor she had ever encountered. His smug attitude extended far past the point of confidence into something resembling unearned bravado. Most men have their shit together by thirty-seven, but Johnson seemed stuck in adolescence in a way that reminded her of Frank Burns. His reaction was classic Frank, from the sneer on his lips up to the quirk of his brow.
She turned around in surprise that quickly morphed into annoyance. She held his gaze with a confidence only Major Houlihan could muster and felt Hawkeye's hand on the small of her back in silent support.
"My personal choices are none of your business, doctor, and you need to stop pretending they are."
Dr. Johnson - Margaret refused to acknowledge him by first name, even in her mind - took a step back at the force of her tone.
"My apologies," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. Margaret saw her opening and pushed him aside, stepping out of the elevator. He stumbled into Hawkeye's way, who ignored him as he followed her into the hallway.
"Wow, I hate him," Hawkeye said without a hint of sarcasm.
"You have no idea," Margaret responded, surprised by his sincerity. "But I'm not ready to tell you, either."
Determined to ignore everything that happened from the moment she and Hawkeye stepped into the elevator, Margaret strode down the hallway with purpose. Hawkeye struggled to keep up. She pushed open the door to Dr. Williams' office.
"You asked to see me?"
The doctor looked up in surprise as she almost burst into the room.
"I did," he answered calmly. He gave a quizzical glance when he noticed Hawkeye standing behind her. "Hello Doctor. I assumed you'd still be with Nurse Sullivan on your tour."
"Margaret - I mean Major -" he stopped awkwardly. "Pardon me, Nurse Houlihan took over a little while ago."
"Doctor…" Margaret sent him a warning glance.
"I see," Dr. Williams said.
Margaret could tell that he did not see, however. She really needed Hawkeye to stop "accidentally" referencing their time in Korea. Only a few people knew about her past and she wanted to keep it that way.
"It's good that you're here, doctor. I was about to call Nurse Houlihan into surgery. You're welcome to observe."
"Emergency surgeries are my speciality, sir. I'd be glad to join you."
"Oh you wouldn't be joining me. Margaret, you've been asking for more responsibility lately. Here's your chance."
"Sir?" Margaret gave him a surprised look.
"We're short on staff and this is just a minor wound, but one that requires an experienced hand. You're the most senior member of the surgical team that we have available and I know you've dealt with these cases before. You told me as much a few weeks ago. I looked more closely into your background and uncovered your war record. You've got the skills, nurse, and we've got the need."
"There must be a supervising surgeon in the room," Margaret insisted.
"Exactly why I asked Dr. Pierce. I haven't seen his work, but I've seen yours. He'll be in the room if you need him, but I'm giving you the lead on this one, Margaret."
Margaret gave Hawkeye a pleading glance. "Hawkeye say something."
"Margaret, it's my first day. I can't just take sides against our superior."
"Why not? As I recall, you didn't seem to have a problem with it your first day in camp." Margaret's voice rose in desperation.
"That was nine years ago," Hawkeye reminded her. "I know you have the experience and strength to do this. I'll be there every step of the way, just as it's always been. If Dr. Williams says they need you, then they need you, not me."
Margaret took a deep breath and turned back to Dr. Williams. She saw a mix of confusion, amusement, and admiration on his face. Calm and composed once more, Margaret agreed to take the lead.
"Good. Head to room 209 and scrub up. You too, doctor. I'll brief you both on the way."
Margaret stared incredulously as she followed them both out the door. Her mind reeled as she realized what was about to happen.
The surgery was a long one, more gruesome and complicated than any Margaret had experienced since the war. Hawkeye stayed by her side the entire time. She knew he had to of course, but there were moments when she knew he stood closer for support rather than supervision. They chatted easily as they worked and their light banter comforted her. While she certainly didn't hold the patient's life in her hands, she knew she definitely held his future. The man's triage report said that his leg had been crushed by a falling machine part as he was running out of the building. Margaret's focus was on digging out splinters and resetting the bone. The splinters were very much like shrapnel and she remarked as much to Hawkeye.
"I can see why Dr. Williams chose you for this job," he replied.
"I was uncertain at first, but I am the person here in the hospital with the most recent war experience. You don't get a lot of shrapnel in this part of the Midwest," she agreed.
"I heard they already brought in a burn specialist for the skin grafts. He's going to get more experience that he has in his life," Hawkeye said as he handed her the scalpel she needed.
"Most of the staff here today will, I assume."
Margaret's eyes narrowed in concentration as she turned her attention back to her patient.
They had been given the larger of the two adult surgery rooms in the hospital. Spacious enough for a doctor, two nurses, and a handful of observers, usually medical students from the University of Minnesota, the room felt overwhelming with just the two of them and a silent patient.
"I know it's been six years, but I don't think I'll ever get used to such a large, clean room for just one patient," Hawkeye observed.
"I know," Margaret agreed. "It makes a world of difference when you know the lights will stay bright and the electricity will last through the whole operation."
Margaret's mind went back to the 4077th. "Do you remember when the camp had to bug out to a cave, but you and I had to go back early with the patient?"
"Of course. I was scared out of my wits in the cave and you were scared out of your wits in the OR," Hawkeye laughed. "I haven't been that scared in a long time."
"I have," Margaret said quietly.
Hawkeye paused. "I have a feeling this is neither the time nor the place for you to elaborate on that."
"No, it's not," Margaret replied.
They fell quiet after that, only talking when Margaret asked for help with the tricky pieces.
About an hour later, Margaret turned to Hawkeye and asked him to sew up the final incision.
"I'd be honored," he said, smiling.
"It just didn't feel right, having you standing there over my shoulder and not being able to give you the chance to use your best skills," she explained.
A few minutes later, they called in an orderly who took the man into post op. Margaret and Hawkeye cleaned up from the surgery, removing their gloves and masks. They made their way to the waiting room, where they updated the patient's family on his status.
Margaret and Hawkeye gazed out at the expectant faces.
"Seven years later and it still surprises me everytime I see friends and family waiting for us."
"It did take some getting used to," Margaret agreed. "There's a world of difference between penning a letter meant for across the ocean to walking into a room ten minutes after surgery."
Margaret stepped forward and introduced herself to the family. She turned to Hawkeye and he took the lead.
"Everything went as well as expected," he said with a reassuring smile. "He's resting for now, but you can go see him in a few minutes. It will be best if you only go in a few at a time, however. We don't want to overwhelm him."
"Of course, doctor," said the patient's oldest brother. He shook Hawkeye's hand and thanked them both. The rest of the family expressed their gratitude as well and then followed him out of the room.
"Good work, doctor," Margaret smiled as she turned to Hawkeye.
"Ditto, nurse. Let's get out of here and get a drink," he suggested, offering his elbow.
"Orange juice from the cafeteria it is, then," Margaret joked as she took his arm.
Hawkeye grinned back and started to lead her down the hallway. Margaret coughed and pointed in the opposite direction.
"The cafe's that way."
Hawkeye rolled his eyes and turned around.
"Looks like I'm following your lead once again, Major."
"Some things never change. Isn't that right, Captain?"