Hawkeye leaned nonchalantly against the post at the entrance to "The Swamp", a martini glass in hand. As he stood looking out over the 4077th M*A*S*H unit as it awoke to face another day in Korea, his best friend stepped through the door and took up a similar position on the other side of the opening. They looked across at one another and raised their drinks in a silent salute.
"Shall we?" asked Hawkeye.
"Why not" replied BJ.
They cleared their throats theatrically, and let rip.
"ENEMY ATTACK! EVACUATE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"
The door of the Swamp flew open, and a large, middle-aged man bounded through it, coming to rest a few paces forward in the middle of the compound. His hair, framing a smooth bald head, was standing at worrying angles, and he clutched his robe to him like an elderly lady clutching her handbag. His eyes, wide with fear, were darting nervously in all directions. It took a moment for him to register the hysterical laughter coming from behind. Turning, he saw both Hawkeye and BJ clutching one another, struggling for breath between howls and wheezing. This was Major Charles Emmerson Winchester III. And he'd just fallen for the latest episode of 'Chucklebaiting' by the two Captains. He was not amused.
"Sorry, Charles!" gasped BJ, as Hawkeye slid to the ground and began pounding on the dirt. "Our mistake, it must've been a jeep backfiring!"
Charles was about to let the two manic surgeons in front of him know exactly what he thought of their 'mistake', but was stopped by a jeep coming skidding to a halt a few feet away. Furious though he was, any sign of something, ANYTHING, happening in this God forsaken hellhole, was cause for pause. Wiping their tears, Hawkeye and BJ clapped Charles on the back and moved off to investigate. Radar had already hurried out to greet the new arrival and was subjecting her to a barrage of information whilst she struggled, unsuccessfully, with her cases. Hawkeye immediately surveyed the sight in front of him - 30-ish, dark hair tied neatly in a bun, definitely army issue from top to tail. But… BUT! Her uniform indicated that she was not US Army, and its dark green serge looked almost colourful in comparison to the drab khaki which dominated life in camp.
He slapped BJ on the arm as an indication to get behind as he got to business.
"Well, hello Your Majesty! Welcome to our humble palace, Hawkeye Pierce at your service!" Hawkeye bowed low, and as he straightened he smiled wildly at the newcomer. She looked unphased.
"Well, hello. I'm Captain Sally Lester, British Army Medical Corps." She looked around, as if hoping someone with more sense would appear. "Wondering why the hell I'm here now…"
BJ laughed out loud, "Oh that's something we're all trying to work out. I learned the hard way not to believe the brochures. I'm BJ, by the way. Hunnicut. Don't trust him," he gestured at the lanky surgeon next to him who was shoo-ing at Radar now and trying to carry more bags than his hands would let him. "He can't find the latrine without a map".
BJ pointed towards Colonel Potter's office, and the two moved off. Hawkeye, seeing this brand new opportunity escaping, started to follow, throwing the bags back into the rear of the jeep and knocking Radar's glasses askew in the process.
"GEE! SIR! Those are LADIES bags! You need to.. Really…" the rest of his words disappeared, as the group of three moved away and he was left to huff and puff to himself.
"So!" Hawkeye fell into step beside BJ and Sally. "I'm guessing from your accent and uniform that you don't hail from one of the 48 states?"
"My goodness, did you read my chart?" she laughed in response. "You'd be right. I'm from Hampshire. The original Hampshire. In England".
"Well, Sally. In case you missed it, I'm Hawkeye, and he's BJ. We're the entertainment around here, and when we get bored with that we go shrapnel hunting in the bodies of young men."
Sally winced at this comment. She looked closely at the loose-limbed man who was holding the door open for her. He was taller than her, and stooped slightly. His black-ish hair flopped forward into his eyes, which were the bluest she'd ever seen. His smile threw her completely, it was magnetic. Suddenly aware of the fact she was gazing at him for longer than was polite, she snapped back into the real world and stepped through the doors to greet her new commanding officer.
As she passed in front of them, Hawkeye rubbed his hands together in delight. "Oh yeah, still got it, baby!" he chuckled.
"I wouldn't say that too loud, Hawkeye" said BJ, "If you've got it, she won't want to catch it".
They were about to follow her through the door to eavesdrop, when Radar yelled from where they'd left him.
"Uh, oh! Choppers! And they sound loaded!" He took off in the direction of the helipad, and the two men felt their shoulders involuntarily sag. A disembodied voice shouted to all in the vicinity over the camp speaker.
"ATTENTION ALL PERSONNEL! ATTENTION ALL PERSONNEL! GRAB YOUR PARTNERS FOR A MILITARY TWO-STEP! EVERYONE TO YOUR POSITION PLEASE!"
BJ looked over at his friend as the sound of the buses approached the compound. "Not a very nice introduction for our new guest, is it?"
"She's a quick learner!" Hawkeye yelled back, as the sound of the choppers came closer, "And I'm a good teacher!"
They both ran to receive the incoming wounded, a task they'd become far too innured to over the weeks, or months, or years, or however long they'd been there. It was a simple but horrific task. Look at the bodies, check the wounds, look at the dog tags. Listen for the shouts of the nurses. Try not to look at the faces. Focus on the job at hand - work out what was wrong and how to fix it. And for the ones that couldn't be fixed? Well, that was where others came in. Corpsmen to move them to one side, nurses to comfort, and Mulcahy to deal with the inevitable. Unfortunately, the first one off Hawkeye's bus fell into the latter category. A quick lift of the field dressing packing the head wound showed there was nothing left to work with. Hawkeye didn't even bother checking the dogtags.
He was there in a moment. "Yes, Hawkeye?"
"Just, y'know. Talk to him. Or something".
Nothing more needed to be said. He left the priest crouched awkwardly in the dirt whilst he moved onto the next one.
Hawkeye was second into scrub. He took one look at Sally and coughed awkwardly.
"Oh hi! Nice to see you again. You know, nurses have a seperate scrub area? I'll show you after this. It's just, well… we surgeons get clean in here, but we're dirtier out there," he laughed. Sally continued scrubbing.
The door opened and in came Margaret Houlihan. She was bristling in a way that Hawkeye hadn't seen her do since Frank Burns had left. "Doctor," she snapped, as she held out a clean tray of towels to Sally.
"Thank you, Major," Sally intoned. "I'm impressed. Your nursing staff are exemplary".
"Thank you, Doctor". Hawkeye detected the merest hint of a smile above Margaret's mask as Sally expertly pinched a towel between index finger and thumb, shook it out, and dried her arms. Hawkeye felt his feet suddenly magnetised to the floor. Doctor? DOCTOR?
"Hi there. Captain Lester was it? I'm sorry… I'm confused. Normally our surgeons are, well…" he stopped, looking for a witty line that wasn't coming. He went with the obvious. "Like me."
"Presumptuous?" she asked, as she tied a mask round her face, leaving him looking at her eyes over the top. As blue as his, and with a dangerous glint. Hawkeye felt his knees knock, and not through attraction. It was like looking in a mirror, but one with a slight crack.
Potter entered at that point, both saving and damning Hawkeye at the same time.
"AH! Pierce!" he bellowed. "You've met our new surgeon. I'll admit, it's a surprise. We'll have to be caref… DAMN! Sorry… AH, Horse Hockey!"
Potter had come in, tried to explain to Hawkeye, tried to remove his trousers, and realised there was a woman present all in the space of 10 seconds. The trousers, then the woman had made him lose his balance, which made him curse, which made him apologise, and then he decided the best course of action was to sit down and explain. Sally beat him to it.
"Captain Pierce. I'm sorry, our introduction was curtailed. I'm Doctor Lester. Yes, I'm a woman. Yes, it's VERY unusual for me to be here. No, you're not the first. Yes, I'm surprised you haven't heard of me. Major…"
The last was directed at Charles as he walked in with BJ. Charles' eyes grew wide as she walked through the door into the Operating Room, mostly because her "Major" was delivered with the exact same intonation as he usually pronounced the word "Gentlemen". Potter was on his feet, Hawkeye was now sterile but silent, and BJ felt someone had to say something.
"What did I miss?" he asked.
Charles gulped. "Was that… was that who I think it was?"
Potter nodded. "Captain Sally Lester. She's been leaving men alive all over Korea for the last year or so. I'd've told you earlier but you'd all have panicked". He finished scrubbing.
"I'm going to tell you this once and once only. We asked for another surgeon, and they sent us Lester. I don't like it any more than you do, but she's what we've got. And dammit, she's good".
Potter thudded through the door into the O.R. and Hawkeye peered in after him. Lester was already elbow deep in a casualty with Margaret Houlihan standing at his head.
Hawkeye looked back at BJ and Charles. Both half shrugged, half tilted their heads. They'd been through some shit here already. But this? This was new.