A/N: Contains spoilers for Bottoms Up. I referred to Hawkeye and B.J. by their last names since this story is told from Charles' point of view.
Never before did I hate my birthday, but I did today. I was stuck in hell while my family was celebrating without me. I could not explain the emptiness I was feeling, even though one would presume I had gotten used to it by now. I had vowed that I would never adjust to this place of misery, death, rats, dysentery, lice, gruel that barely passes as food, and moronic cell mates. And I can see that I have kept my promise.
"I want silence. Complete and total silence.", I announced as I sat on my bed and took off my shoe. I rubbed my foot as I had been operating for eight hours and my feet were really aching.
"Oh, now that's too good to pass up." Pierce grinned. "So, what's eating you, Chuckles? Found out that they're not serving your favorite meal? Miss out on your latest copy of Nude Volleyball? Want to borrow mine?"
"Neither a lender or a borrower be." Hunnicut chimed in.
"I just want a little peace and quiet. Is that too much to ask from you two orangutans?"
"Something's eating your shorts. What is it? You can tell us. Pul-eeze?" Pierce pleaded with me but I would try to ignore him.
"I'd just as soon take out a full page ad in the Stars and Stripes and announce my candidacy for the president of the United States. Why is it when a fellow makes a simple request you persist in doing the opposite of what he asked of you in the first place?" I was getting annoyed, as well as a headache. I should have known better than to expect too much of his roommates.
"Come on, Charles. We're worried about you. Do you find that so hard to believe?" Hunnicut spoke up.
I do not mind him so much, especially away from the dark haired roommate. He tends to be more serious, although I will never underestimate his sense of humor if you can call it that. On one recent occasion Pierce decided to drop my pants in the operating room. Only he and his adolescent roommate found it amusing. I found it moronic, sophomoric and quite unsophisticated, something I suppose I should have expected from him a long time ago. However, it seems as if Hunnicut was his partner in crime. I shall never forgive their breach in etiquette although I was able to repay him by taking pictures of him in him what you could say was a natural state. I suppose one would have to be there.
I decided that Mozart Quintet for Clarinet was in order. I looked through my collection and found it, then put it on the player. The two men were still annoying me.
"Leave me alone or leave this tent!", I said as I took out two letters from home. I wanted to read them in private, but I knew that would not happen. The music began to carry me into the solitude that I treasured so very much and I felt myself relax, as much as I would allow myself to. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the fragrance of the envelopes. They smelled like home.
My dearest brother Charles,
I cannot do anything but write to you and occasionally send you tapes wishing you all of my best. I hope you know that I am constantly thinking of you. I know that the war cannot last forever. Mother is showing her prize roses and Father has purchased a new Ford which is the talk of the town. I am showing Bitsy next month and expect her to do quite nicely as she came in second place last year to Roberta Iles. Please write soon. We have made you some cookies; you should have received them by now. Happy Birthday!
I had, in fact, received the cookies the day before. I knew that when she said "we" she meant the kitchen help, of course, but it was a lovely idea. I could only picture Honoria cooking.
"Did you get a love letter? I think you did. You're smiling now." Pierce grinned at me. I cannot stand when he looks at me like that.
"No you simple twit, these are from my family. Not that it any of your business. Now will you please leave me alone."
Finally after another half hour of the mindless bantering the two men went to Rosie's bar. I thought that they would never leave. Just when I thought I would have a chance to read my parents' letter in peace there was a knock on the door.
"What is it?" I asked angrily.
"It's me." Margaret said as she walked in. "How are you?"
"I'd be a lot better if I could read my mail in peace."
"I'm sorry to bother you, Charles. But I was hoping you could meet me in my tent. I have something for you. I know that it's your birthday and I wanted to do something special." She smiled warmly at me.
How could I resist an invitation like that? Margaret, getting me a present?
"Well this is certainly an unexpected treat! Let me bring something to drink. A nice bottle of brandy perhaps. And some caviar and crackers. Would you like that?"
"I'd love that."
We made it back to her tent in just a few minutes where she set up the drinks and caviar.
She lit a candle, which set off the colors in her room quite nicely.
"I must say, Margaret, that this has turned into an unexpected treat. I am surprised you remembered my birthday. I may have mentioned it in passing to you but I certainly did not expect you to acknowledge it. I thank you for it."
"Oh I remember."
If I did not know any better I would say that she blushed. And Margaret Houlihan does not blush. It must be the brandy.
"How are you doing tonight?"
"I am fine." I replied. "How are you?"
"No you're not. No one is fine on their birthdays here. How are you really?"
"Margaret, a Winchester is not like everyone else. We have unlimited supplies of strength which allows us to tolerate otherwise intolerable situations. Most people presumably would have difficulties adjusting to their birthdays in Korea. But we're made of different stock. We do not see the need to create a spectacle out of an ordinary day. Birthday celebrations are common. You see, it does not bother me in the least that I am here today. Not any more so than any other day that I am trapped in this festering hell hole."
She looked at me curiously. "Bunk. You claim to not care about no one noticing that it's your birthday. But why do I know about it? You do care! You wanted me to know about it. You would never have mentioned it in ordinary conversation if you did not want me to share with you this special day. Maybe it's not me in particular, but you did not want to be alone today. I was watching you today in the O.R. You were biting everyone's heads off. You were cross with anyone who breathed in your direction. It's killing you that you have to be here today and you won't admit it. But you can admit it to me. I understand, Charles. I do. You're not alone today. I'm not going anywhere."
"I do not need and will not accept your pity!" I stood up.
"Darn it, Charles! I do not pity you! Why do you do this! Why do you push me away when all I try to do is be close to you." She stood up and took my hand.
"I would not be here if I pitied you. I pity puppy dogs. I do not pity you. I respect your strength and your pride. You're a fine surgeon, one of the finest I've ever seen. You know how to be strong but you also refuse to let people get close to you. People want to get to know you but you hide behind your music and your books and your Winchester name. There are people who care for you very much."
"And why should I care if these people care for me."
"This is why."
And then she kissed me. And not just a friendly peck on the cheek. Not just a birthday kiss. A full-blooded kiss between two people who share a passion for life and for each other. A kiss between two people who, for so long, had been denying the feelings that had often been mistaken for pure friendship.
"Margaret.." I whispered.
She pulled away and smiled. "I have to give you your birthday present."
She already did.