Author's Note: written for Shalott's Blast From the Past, which combined "dead" fandoms and "dead" challenges. So this is a M*A*S*H story, Hawkeye/Trapper done as for the "38 minutes" challenge from SGA (i.e. write a story in 38 minutes.) M*A*S*H seemed perfect for that kind of pressure. Thanks to Shalott and Terri for beta.
Radar sits up straight and drops the hand he was playing, which is just as well; even without being sure whether he's playing Texas Hold 'Em or Go Fish, the crazy kid's managed to collect four kings. "Choppers!" he says, and is gone. Trapper looks down at the cards, then looks up at him and makes a face. A moment later, he throws down his own hand in disgust: four, five, seven, eight. Hawkeye shakes his head sadly; that's Trapper, all right, waiting for a six to come along and make his day. "Don't look at me like that!" Trapper says, rising in his purple bathrobe and standing with his hands on his hips. "What've you got exactly?" Hawkeye shrugs and puts down two pairs—eights and tens—and Trapper rolls his eyes. "Oh, that's so you," he says. "Collecting pairs, playing it safe," and they're grabbing their jackets off the hooks now, and banging through the door into the cold October night. "Have you ever known the pleasure of drawing to an inside straight?" Trapper demands. "Have you? My god, Hawk, you haven't lived until you—"
"You'd be waiting for that six until the cows came home," Hawkeye tells him. "And with your luck, I'm guessing those cows picked up some hookers and decided to spend the night at a hotel near the airport."
"Your table is ready, monsieur," Hawkeye says, raising his hands as they place the next wounded soldier on the table. "Would you like to start with the wine list? Red or white?"
"You're shitting me, right?" Trapper mutters from behind him; Hawkeye glances over and sees that Trapper's elbows deep in some poor schmuck's thoracic cavity. "Red's all we ever serve around here; we got bottles of the stuff; gallons going cheap," and Trapper's scrubs are already splattered with red, already soaked with it.
"Oh, I don't know," Hawkeye says, rapidly trying and discarding jokes about piss and plasma and lymph fluid—hell, it's hard to make a good joke about lymph fluid; Jack Benny never had to work with material like this—but almost belatedly, he hears the strain in Trapper's voice and thinks, too early; it's too early for this. "You okay?" Hawkeye mutters, turning to look again at Trapper's thoracic case. "You want me to give you a hand with that?" Trapper's they best they've got, so he usually gets the worst cases off the chopper, but usually he's up for the challenge. Not today; today he's—
"Jesus fuck," Trapper mutters, and suddenly there's blood spurting upward, and Trapper's yelling, "Clamp! Clamp!" and—
—all he can think for the next seven minutes, those long terrible minutes they spend clamping and stitching and suctioning and suturing, trying to keep this kid's blood vessels together when they're more holes than guts, is how he's gonna kill Frank Fucking Burns; God, he's gonna wring Frank's turkey-like neck, because Frank was on triage, and triage means making the hard calls; triage means not putting this kid who's got all this blood and hamburger meat inside his chest in front of Dr. John Francis Xavier McIntyre, because now Trap's going to have to ride this out. Trap's started this, and now he's going to finish it even though any sane person would say, sorry—next!—this one's dead already and in his head, Hawkeye frantically debates pulling rank as Chief Surgeon and stopping the operation now—except the kid can't last much longer, can he? Not with all that hamburger meat, not with all that blood inside him. And then, suddenly, Trap makes a series of fast, neat stitches and Hawkeye thinks, "Wait, hey, ho, hang on a minute—he's gonna!—God, I think he's gonna—" because if anyone can pull this kind of miracle out of his ass, it's Trapper, who threw such a motherfucking gorgeous pass at Dartmouth back in 1938.
The kid dies two minutes later, with Margaret softly murmuring, "No pulse," and then, "No pulse," and then, "Still no pulse." Trapper's yelling for adrenaline and a rib spreader and anything else he can think of, but nobody's rushing to get them; this kid never should have gotten onto the table in the first place. He knows and the orderly knows and Father Mulcahy, softly murmuring prayers near the dead kid's feet—he knows, too. Hawkeye can see the knowledge in Margaret's huge blue eyes over the white of her surgical mask, and some days she's their friend, and some days she's not, but nobody wants this to happen to Trapper John. Hawkeye looks at her for a long moment, and then he grabs for Trapper's arm with his gloved and bloody hand.
"Trapper," Hawkeye says. "Trap. Trap. That's it; let it go."
It takes a minute for Trapper to hear him, and another minute for him to listen. "No," Trapper shouts. "No, no! Jesus, I'm there, I've got it," and now it's another minute of softly arguing with a madman and taking all the abuse Trapper can pour out, stuff that only your best friend can say, "You're just jealous!" and "You know I'm better than you!" as the orderlies quietly jerk the body off the table and onto a gurney, and "You are on a fucking dangerous power trip, Pierce," and then Trapper John is tearing off his scrubs, and pushing through the doors to the O.R. and Hawkeye is ripping off his own gloves and throwing them into the bin and following him out into the cold night air.
Outside the corrugated shed that's their hospital, Trapper is cursing softly and walking in small tight circles like a maniac, and for a moment, Hawkeye can only stand there; Trapper John knows all about risk, but he takes too goddamned many of them for someone with his particularly stupendous kind of crap luck.
"Fuck!" Trapper shouts finally. "Fuck, fuck, fuck! Goddammit!" and Hawkeye says, "He never should've been in there," and "You did your damnedest, Trap," and "We need you back in there," but nothing he says does a damn, so Hawkeye grabs Trapper John's face and kisses his cold mouth, hard, to stifle the flow of fucks and goddamns. Trapper pushes him away and then socks him a crack to the jaw, good enough that Hawkeye's got to open his mouth a couple of times and rub at his bristly chin to make sure he hasn't broken anything. But Trapper's better now, standing there with wide-eyes and breathing hard but obviously sane again, and then he's kissing Hawkeye back, deep and dirty in a way that says, I'll suck your cock later and oh, yeah, yes he will; you can count on it. Damned good right hook, and him a lover not a fighter.
"No, really, you'll love this picture," Hawkeye says. "Maria Montez, 1944, and she plays twin sisters—one good and one evil, and both barely clothed—plus Jon Hall is in it. Oh, and also Sabu."
"Oh yeah? Who does Sabu play?" Trapper asks, tossing away a piece of shrapnel. Clink.
"Abraham Lincoln—who do you think Sabu plays?" Hawkeye asks, rolling his eyes. "He's Sabu, he plays Sabu, he's a guy in a loincloth—but her in a loincloth, that's another story entirely," and so he tells Trapper the whole B-movie plot about the evil queen and her beautiful bevy of minions and how she placates her pagan gods by wearing skimpy outfits and throwing people into a live volcano, and everything's normal again, for a while, for these few long minutes, which is all the time they ever seem to have.