You know how apparently people say that Dwight/Angela is the new Frank Burns/Hot Lips Houlihan? Some of us are overly literally minded and, well, this is an Office M*A*S*H AU. Strangely, writing a show from the 2000s into a show from the 1970s about the 1950s means that accuracy to the Korean War is not really a priority, particularly when it comes to gender roles. If it starts to bother you, take a step back and remember that you're reading a fanfiction Office M*A*S*H AU, and you'll feel better. Uh, or worse. Thanks to Swmbo and Kyrafic for beta reading.
Obviously, these characters don't belong to me.
Jim shoves his hands in his pockets as he ambles up. "Solitaire?"
"You know it," she says. "How's post-op?"
"Quiet," he says. "I could get used to it."
"Yeah," she says, and smiles up at him with the corner of her mouth before looking back down at the cards.
"Nine of hearts," he says, and points where it can go. "There."
"Thanks," she says, and moves it over. A fly buzzes around his head, lazy in the thick summer air, and he swats at it half-heartedly. They haven't had casualties in ninety-two hours. Later in the day they'll move all Dwight's belongings into the nurses' showers, but first he's going to get his big straw hat, make martinis for himself and Pam, and they'll play Crazy Eights while they drink them. The eights are crazy.
The new company clerk comes around with the mail. He still looks kind of dazed, standing in his crisp new fatigues like he doesn't quite know how he got here.
"Hey," Jim says, shading his eyes with his hand. "Martini?"
"Um," the new guy says, his eyes drifting over Jim's shorts and Hawaiian shirt. "I'm on duty. Isn't that against regulations?"
Jim arranges the cards in his hand and smiles at Pam. "Aww, he thinks he's in the army."
Pam laughs. "That's adorable. Do you have any fives?" They've switched to Go Fish. Jim hands her the five of clubs.
"We are in the army," the new guy says.
"Hey," Jim says, making a oh, come on face. "Speak for yourself, there, buddy." His dog tags rattle as he shifts in his chair.
"Do you have any Ks?" Pam asks.
"Go fish," Jim says, and she reaches for the deck. "Come on, corporal. I make them extra dry."
The new guy looks dubiously through the screen of the tent at the still. "Extra dry, huh?"
"Yeah, I think there was some vermouth in the Swamp once," Jim says. "You remember that, Beesly?"
"Yeah, I think there was once," Pam says, rearranging her cards.
"Sit down," Jim says, getting up to go to the still. "I'll mix it for you."
The new guy sits on the very edge of the extra chair, not settling in. "If Major Schrute sees me drinking...."
"I wouldn't worry about it," Pam says, and she wipes sweat off her forehead. "He'll probably be more upset about how all his stuff's missing."
The new guy peers at Dwight's empty corner of the tent. "Oh. Uh. Why is his stuff missing?"
"Ours," Jim says, coming back out of the tent with a martini in each hand, "is not to reason why." He hands one to the new guy and settles back in his seat. "What's your name again?"
"Ryan," the new guy says. "Howard."
"Welcome to the 4077th, Ryan Howard," Jim says, leaning back and stretching his legs out. Ryan takes a sip of his martini and visibly winces, and Pam grins. "Now," Jim says to Ryan, "how are you at Go Fish? It's a man's game. Don't play unless you're ready for it."
Across the compound, Creed is walking toward the latrines. Today he's wearing a yellow sundress with big green polka dots, and a wide hat with a yellow ribbon. Ryan's head swivels to follow him. "Who's that?"
Pam looks over and tries not to smile. "That's Creed," she says. "He's trying to get out on a Section 8."
Ryan keeps looking as Creed curtsies to Major Martin, the head nurse, who frowns and sweeps around him with disapproval. "Is it working?" Ryan asks.
"Not so far," Jim says, looking at Pam over his martini glass. "And he's been trying for... what? A year now?"
Pam nods. "Something like that."
"And he's still wearing dresses?" Ryan asks.
Jim tilts his head. "I think he likes the way the silk feels."
"Who can blame him?" Pam says, and starts to deal.
Ryan looks down at his army boots. "What about shooting yourself in the foot? Will that get you out?"
Jim looks at him, then Pam. She shrugs and finishes dealing the cards, putting down the rest of the deck as the fishpond and picking up her hand. "Only if no one sees you do it," Jim says. "But I have to warn you, Dwight sees everything."
"Almost everything," Pam corrects him. When he looks up, she's frowning at her cards like she's stopped paying attention to the conversation, and he doesn't know what she means by that. Well, great, now that's going to keep him up at night.
Ryan only stays until Pam wins the hand, then leaves most of his martini behind to finish delivering the mail. Before he goes he hands Pam two letters and Jim one.
"What'd you get?" Pam says, leaning over to see. Her hand rests on his arm as she leans, hot and a little damp, but he doesn't think she exactly means to do it. He holds very still and looks at the handwriting on the envelope.
"Letter from my dad," he says, and Pam sits back in her seat, moves her hand away. "You?"
She 's already ripping one envelope open. "One from Roy, one from my mom."
"Oh," Jim says. He turns his letter over and over in his hand, thinking about his dad holding the envelope back in Pennsylvania and putting on the stamp, thinking about all the people it took to carry it to Korea. AIR MAIL is stamped on it in blue. "How's Roy?"
Pam's already reading the first page of her letter. "Hmm? Oh, I don't know, I didn't open his yet." Her fiancé's at the front, and she opens her mom's letters first. Sometimes Jim doesn’t understand their relationship at all.
He tips his hat over his eyes and settles back to decipher his dad's handwriting before it's time for dinner. In Pennsylvania, his dad tells him, it's been rainy lately, and the grass is getting long. His mother's planting snapdragons.
He's sitting with Toby, the chaplain, poking at something that's supposed to be liver and onions, when Dwight comes storming into the mess tent. "You did this!" he says, pointing at Jim.
"Did what, Dwight?" Jim says. Nobody else really even looks up from their meals - they've seen this scene played a thousand times.
"You know what!" Dwight says. "Where is my bed?"
"Dwight, calm down," Jim says. "Did you check the Swamp?"
"Don't toy with me, Jim!" Dwight says.
Pam's smirking from the next table, and Toby has that funny vague expression he gets when he's trying not to laugh.
Angela walks in and makes a beeline for Dwight. She grabs his arm. "Dwight," she says, "why are all your belongings in the nurses' showers?"
"They are?" Dwight says. He turns to glare at Jim. "I don't know," he says evenly. "Jim, why are all my belongings in the nurses' showers?"
Angela crosses her arms across her chest and looks disapproving. "My nurses need to use those showers. And I don't think that men should be waltzing in and out of there with their foot lockers and cots. It's against regulations."
"Dwight, I am surprised at you," Jim says. "And you're always so good at regulations."
Dwight, fuming, starts to say something, but the noise of choppers cuts him off. Jim shrugs, stabs his fork into the liver, where it stands upright, and pushes himself up from the bench. "Well, it's been fun, Major, but it sounds like we have guests."
"We'll settle this later!" Dwight says, pushing out of the mess tent in front of Jim, but they never will.
They're short on lots of things: sleep and X-ray equipment and edible food and whole blood and decent working conditions, but they're not short on wounded. They keep coming, all through the night, and Jim is pretty sure he could resection a bowel in his sleep. Tonight he wonders if he actually did, when the sun starts coming up and he can't remember the last two patients specifically.
"That was a long night," Jim says to no one in particular, as Creed and Ryan carry the last wounded man off his table and into post-op.
"That's what she said," Michael says, on cue, but even he's lacking some enthusiasm. Dwight laughs appreciatively, but cuts it off when he sees Angela glaring. They think they're having a secret affair, but everybody knows. It's a small camp, and no one has secrets, really.
"Good one, colonel," Dwight says to Michael nervously, and Jim sees Pam rolling her eyes as she puts down her scalpel and stretches. He smiles and they walk out together into the cool early morning air.
"Coffee?" Pam says, but Jim's yawning hugely.
"All I want is bed," he says, when he can talk around the yawn, and Pam looks up at him, really intent all of a sudden. His stomach drops and his heart skips a beat, etc. His liver frolics, his spleen turns over. (He has tried to build up a protective layer of irony to guard himself from just these kind of moments, but it doesn't seem to be working too well.) "What?" he says.
She stands on her tiptoes to rub her thumb over a spot on his chin. "There's a little blood, right there, from surgery."
"Oh," he says, and stands there stupidly while she rubs it off, her thumb warm, his stubble scratchy. "Thanks."
"You better get some sleep," she says, stepping back. "You look dead on your feet."
"Yeah," he says. "I will. You too." She kind of half waves and heads toward the mess tent for that coffee. The sun's rising behind her, so for a second she's just a silhouette and there's brightness all around her. He doesn't sleep for a long time, thinking about it.
Jim and Pam are outside the Swamp, trying to keep cool in the shade. Pam's reading The Great Gatsby for the fourth time. Jim's trying to throw cards into his helmet, and hitting it two out of three times. The air is thick and heavy, and in the distance they can hear shelling, somewhere over the ridge. Casualties tonight, probably.
A jeep comes roaring up in a cloud of dust, and stops in front of the Swamp. A corpsman driving, a woman in the seat beside him - a new nurse. She's young, crisp and pretty in her uniform, red hair curled up under her hat.
"Hi," the nurse says to the two of them, stepping down from the jeep. The corpsman gets her bags. "I'm Katy. I'm looking for, um." She looks down at a piece of paper. "Colonel Michael Scott."
"Oh, you'll enjoy that," Pam says, and Jim tries to hide a smile. Katy smiles vaguely, not sure what the joke is. "We'll take you," Pam says, putting down her book, and Jim pushes himself up too. We, Pam had said. They're always we, PamandJim, JimandPam. Beeslepert, Michael called them once. It didn't catch on.
"I'm Pam," Pam says as they cross to Michael's office. "That's Jim. We're surgeons."
"Hi," Katy says. She's bright and cheerful - you can tell she's been in Korea about five minutes. It's sort of refreshing.
"Where are you from, Katy?" Jim asks.
"Indiana," Katy says. Of course she is. "I'm real excited to be in Korea, though," she says. "It's an adventure, isn't it?"
Pam glances over at Jim in disbelief. "Yeah, definitely an adventure," she says, in the extra-polite voice she uses when she doesn't really like someone. And then they're at Michael's office, and the conversation's over as Michael sees that the new nurse is hot.
"Well, hello, hello," Michael says, coming out from behind his desk. "Aren't you a sight for sore eyes?"
"You've been short on nurses?" Katy says sympathetically.
"No, not really," Michael says. "Why do you ask?"
"Um," Katy says, but Michael's talking, and Jim and Pam are already edging out.
"An adventure?" Pam says, when they're outside.
Jim shrugs. "She doesn't know. She'll figure it out."
"I guess," Pam says. She glances at her watch. "Oh, I gotta go, I'm on post-op."
When Jim gets back to the Swamp, he sees Roy's letter to Pam lying on her footlocker and gets that sick feeling in his stomach again. He has a problem. He wanders back outside, and when Katy comes walking by again, he's playing a game of Horse with Kevin. "Hi," she says, and smiles at him. He wipes sweat off his forehead and smiles back.
"Who's that?" Kevin says, when she's made her way to the nurse's tent.
"New nurse," Jim says, and misses his next shot.
"H," he mutters, and rebounds it to Kevin.
"Nice," Kevin says. "She's hot."
"What?" Jim says. "Yeah, I guess. Shoot the ball."
They're showing the same Shirley Temple movie again, but Jim's only seen it twice. "You going to the movie?" he asks Pam at dinner.
"Nah," she says. "I'm getting sick of that one. I think I'm going to stay in and write to Roy."
"Oh," Jim says. "Sure." He pokes at his creamed corn.
On his way out of the mess tent, he runs into Katy, and on a whim, asks her to go to the movie with him. She's single; he's single. They're young and in a warzone. She smiles and says yes, and he tells her he'll pick her up at eight.
Back in the Swamp, Pam's sitting on her bunk, chewing on the end of her pen. He makes himself a drink and pretends to read the New England Journal of Medicine. But he's actually thinking about if Roy's sleeping around at the front, and whether Pam really loves him.
At 7:30 he gets up and starts rubbing shaving cream on his face, squinting at the little warped mirror hanging on the center tent pole.
Pam looks up. "You're shaving?"
"Yeah, mark it down on the calendar," he says, and picks up his razor. As he draws it down his face he says, "Got a date with Katy tonight."
"Oh," Pam says, and when he glances over, she looks weird.
"What?" he says.
"Nothing," Pam says. "That's good. Good for you."
He shrugs and finishes shaving.
Katy's fine. The date's fine. She sits close to him and links her arm through his, and leans into him when she laughs. After the credits, as they walk across the camp, she pulls him into the shadow of the OR, pushes him up against the wall and kisses him in the dark. She smells like perfume, something clean and American, and her uniform is starched and new under his hands. She makes him homesick for Pennsylvania, for girls at the drive-in, for cherry Coke and fireworks on the Fourth of July, and he kisses her harder to forget Korea.
She slides her hand under his shirt, touches his skin, then pulls back and breathlessly whispers, "Is there anywhere we can go?"
"Supply closet?" Jim says. "Very classy."
She giggles and grabs his hand, pulls him in the right direction. The air's still thick and hot, and at home there'd be lightning bugs. Here the shells in the distance have stopped and the quiet buzzes in his ears.
When Jim pushes the supply closet door open, it's already occupied. "Oh!" he says, catching a flash of someone's bra. "Excuse me." Their heads turn, and that one nurse -- Jim thinks her name is Kelly -- wraps her arms around her chest. She's there with Ryan - apparently the new guy moves fast. "Hey buddy," Jim says. "Sock on the door, next time."
"You got it," Ryan says, and Jim closes the door behind them. He and Katy manage to get out of earshot before they start laughing.
"Yikes," Jim says. "Maybe we should call it a night."
"Maybe that's a good idea," Katy says, and smiles ruefully at him.
Jim walks her back to her tent and kisses her on the cheek. "Welcome to Korea," he says, and heads back to the Swamp with his hands in his pockets. Creed's in the distance, patrolling with a rifle, his sundress fluttering as he walks.
The tent's stifling, even with the flaps up, and Dwight and Pam both have their covers kicked off. Dwight's snoring, his hand in a basin of water, his shorts wet at the crotch. Pam must've been bored.
Jim kicks off his shoes and strips down to his shorts, lies on his cot and hopes he can sleep. After a few minutes Pam says into the darkness, "Good date?"
He breathes, looks at the shadows on the ceiling of the tent. "Yeah," he says, but when he looks over at her, her back's to him, and she doesn't say anything else. He lies there in the heat, not sleeping.
Michael calls a meeting to talk about the duty roster at 0600, which is not an hour Jim and Pam really enjoy. They slouch over to Michael's office in their bathrobes, Jim in red, Pam in blue, both of them still half asleep. Dwight and Angela are already there, in uniform, sitting up straight in the chairs in front of Michael's desk. Jim sits on the shorter file cabinet, and Pam takes the chair next to him, leans her shoulder into his hip. Ryan's standing next to Michael's desk uneasily, holding a stack of paperwork.
"Colonel, I'd like to file a complaint," Dwight starts.
Michael sighs. "Oh really, Dwight? What is it this time?"
"This camp shows a shocking lack of discipline," Angela says. "Look at them!" She and Dwight turn to glare at Jim and Pam. Jim's half asleep with his head leaning back against the wall.
"What about them?" Michael says.
"Those bathrobes are not regulation," Dwight says. "I've reprimanded them a thousand times, and they just ignore me."
"You're not the boss of us," Pam mumbles sleepily. Her shoulder's warm against Jim, and her hair is mussed.
"I outrank you!" Dwight says.
"I'm head surgeon," Jim says.
"Okay, okay," Michael says. "Let's just all chillax here with the "discipline" talk." He does the air quotes. Jim wishes he were still asleep. "It's not like we're the Marines!"
Angela sighs heavily and crosses her arms across her chest. "Then can we discuss the men staying out of the women's showers?"
"What?" Michael says. "When were men in the showers, and why wasn't I invited?"
Jim and Pam look at each other. Angela glares. "I found all of Dwight's belongings there."
"Way to go, Dwight!" Michael says, and puts his hand up for a high five. Dwight slaps it and Angela whips around to glower at him.
"Dwight didn't put his bunk there!" Angela says. "Everyone knows who did it." She turns and looks at Jim, who spreads his hands out in disbelief.
"I am deeply offended you would think that," Jim says. Pam nods along seriously.
"Okay, okay, look," Michael says, and rubs his forehead with his hands. "It just sounds like an innocent prank to me. Have a sense of humor, Dwight!"
"Let's get down to our real business," Michael says. "As you know, General Levinson-Gould -- er, actually, General Levinson, no Gould -- will be visiting the camp tomorrow, so let's make sure that everything is ship-shape for her. I want her to be impressed. I hope the VIP tent is in prime condition."
"The VIP tent?" Dwight says, then lowers his voice. "Are you sure she won't want to stay with...." He looks at Michael meaningfully, then nods his head towards Michael's tent. "You know, because you two... made whoopee."
"Dwight!" Michael says.
"Oh my God," Pam says under her breath, so Jim's the only one who hears her. He slumps lower against the wall and closes his eyes, wonders if he could actually fall asleep sitting up. This early in the morning is the only time it's ever really cool outside, cool enough to sleep, and now Pam's leaning her head against his hip, and he can almost pretend he's happy for a second.
Michael assigns him and Pam to be in charge of getting the VIP tent ready, so after the meeting they go to get clean sheets from the supply closet. Pam rummages through the pile of crisp linen and hands him what they need. Sheets, pillow-cases, a blanket. He stacks them up in his arms, leaning against the warm metal of the shelves, and watches the hair falling into her eyes.
"What're you going to do, first thing, when you get home?" Jim asks. They play this game a lot.
Pam smiles a little, and gets another pillow out. "A bath. A hot one. With fancy soap, the kind that smells really good. Then I'll go to my mom's and hang around the kitchen with her, talking to her while she cooks. My parents still live in the house where I was born. The kitchen table has all these scratches from our cat, because the wood's real soft, and the wallpaper's green. And...." Jim's heard Pam's plans a thousand times, but they never get tired of reciting them to each other. He knows that the plates in Pam's parents' house have roosters on them, and that her childhood room is just the way she left it. It has white curtains.
They make the bed in the VIP tent together. "Do you think things'll be the same, when we get home?" Jim says, tucking in the edges of the sheet.
"Yeah," Pam says. "Why wouldn't they be?"
"No, I just mean," Jim says, and makes a hospital corner. "Do you think we'll feel the same, about things?"
Pam shrugs and puts a pillow in a pillowcase. "I don't know," she says.
"It'll be weird," Jim says. "Not listening for choppers all the time."
Pam fluffs the pillow out and arranges it on the bed. "Hopefully we'll forget," she says. "I don't want to remember anything about this place when I get home."
Jim smoothes out a wrinkle in the blanket, very carefully. "Not anything?" It's getting hotter as the day goes on, and he can feel a bead of sweat roll down his back.
"No," Pam says, and he doesn't know why he's surprised. Of course she doesn't want to remember anything. Her real life's back in the States, with her family and Roy and the kitchen with rooster plates. This is just an interlude. Jim's just a guy who helps make terrible things a little more bearable, and when she goes home she'll forget.
They open up the flaps on the tent to try to air it out a little bit before the general arrives. "How's Katy?" Pam asks.
Jim looks over, but Pam's expressionless, intent on what she's doing. "Fine, I think," Jim says.
"Good," Pam says, and ties the last flap up. "I think we're done here."
"Excellent," Jim says, and Pam walks off towards the mess tent without waiting for him, dust puffing up from her footsteps. The sun's hot on the back of his neck, and across the way Toby's letting Dwight out of his tent, Toby's face beaten down. The radio crackles on over the loud speakers, playing music from back home.
General Levinson never actually shows up -- it turns out that Michael was interpreting a conversation they'd had extremely optimistically -- so the VIP tent stays empty. Instead, they get a visit from heavy artillery, shelling getting closer and closer all day long, until all their ears are ringing with it. In the late afternoon the casualties start rolling in. Jim and Pam do triage, prioritizing collapsed lungs and belly wounds and amputations and weeding out the ones too far gone to even bother with.
They scrub in, Dwight shoving his way to the sink first, so that he's already operating by the time they get into the O.R. It's hard to concentrate over the sounds of the artillery, but Jim takes a deep breath and focuses on retrieving shrapnel from someone's gut. Katy's his nurse, handing him clamps.
A shell hits close enough that the whole room shakes and dust comes down from the ceiling. Jim automatically moves his body over his patient's open wound, trying to keep it clean. Katy shrieks.
"It's okay," Jim says. "It's okay. Ryan! Can we do anything about that shelling?"
"Yeah," Michael says. "Get on the horn to I-corps."
"Will do," Ryan says, and hits the door.
When Jim looks up, tears are streaming out of Katy's eyes, and another shell hits, too close for comfort. "Does this happen a lot?" Katy manages.
"Sometimes," Jim says, and keeps operating. When Katy hands him another clamp, her hand is shaking.
After a half hour of shells, Ryan must get through to someone, because the firing starts moving away again, until it's finally far in the distance and everyone relaxes a little. Katy's still crying quietly, like she can't stop. When Ryan comes back into the O.R., everyone applauds.
"Hey," Jim says to Katy, under his breath. "Why don't you take a break for a little while? It's okay."
Katy nods, and Phyllis takes over for her, and Jim can go back to concentrating on yet another bowel resection.
They're in surgery for eight hours, and by the time Jim comes out, Katy's applied for a transfer. Jim feels relieved more than anything.
The day Katy leaves, Jim and Pam relax in the "pool", the giant metal tub by the water tower. The water's hot and disgusting, but at least they're wet. It's still a million degrees out, because the summer will never end.
Pam puts her sunglasses on top of her head and looks at him. "You sad she left?"
Jim moves his arms through the water slowly, making ripples, and shrugs. "I dunno. Could be worse."
"Yeah," Pam says, and watches Meredith walk towards the mess tent. "For instance, if you left, I'd have to shoot myself in the face."
Jim smiles to himself, and feels for a second like life might be worth living after all. "Same here," he says.
Pam glances back at him and smiles a little, then ducks her head under the water and stays there, holding her breath. After a second Jim follows, and opens his eyes under water, watching her hair drift around her head in a halo. She opens her eyes too and they watch each other through the green water, floating in the quiet.
They drink beer in the Officer's Club after it gets dark, listening to Creed play piano. Pam's reading an old letter from Roy. A few people are dancing - Ryan and Kelly, Phyllis and Bob Vance from the motor pool. Meredith and that awful helicopter pilot, Todd Packer. Out of the corner of his eye, Jim watches Pam fiddling with her engagement ring and feels the familiar rush of melancholy. The song ends just as Pam folds up her letter and puts it back in the envelope, and Creed starts playing something slow and sad.
Jim drains the last of his beer. "Hey," he says, before he can think better of it. "You wanna dance?"
Pam blinks, then nods slowly. "Sure." She doesn't make eye contact as they move onto the dance floor and arrange themselves.
His hand's on her waist, and her thumb's resting against the bare skin of his neck, and he pulls her closer. It's still hot out, and her hand in his is damp, and he can feel her breathing. In the second verse, she leans her head against his chest and he wraps his arm around her body, tries to remember everything. She smells like sweat and army soap, and the khaki of her clothes is rough, and when he holds her tighter she sighs.
They dance until they hear choppers overhead.
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