AUTHOR'S NOTES: I wrote this on the fly last night, after viewing "War of Nerves", and I'm not certain it's of any quality. It's more of a snippet, really-- five pages, told from Sidney Freeman's point of view.
I do hope this doesn't disappoint! This is a missing scene from the above episode, "War of Nerves". I noticed that BJ has never really gone to see Sidney. I mean, Hawkeye's seen him several times for various reasons (we all know what a darling lunatic he is), and most of the other staff has also spoken with him. I apologize if there actually is a BJ visit in this ep-- with FX's lousy editing, you never can tell. If so, this is an... alternate scene. (Ohhh... ahh...)
I tried to do Sidney's voice right. ^_^
Also, a note-- the term gestalt, as it is used here, has been blatantly borrowed from Theodore Sturgeon's "More Than Human". Go read it, now. The man's a genius. (Have you read him, Flick?)
As always, I have to thank the Slash-Angels (Iolanthe, Leigh, Dagny, Ra-chan and Raven) for just being around. You ladies are an inspiration-- so is the whole MASH-SLASH list.
*eyes the paragraphs above* I really do have a hard time shutting up, don't I? ^^
In Case of Emergency 1/1
(a missing scene from "War of Nerves")
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
Sometimes I wonder how many there are.
You can't count, of course, by the very nature of things; that need for invisibility, for silence, and the constant coding of words and affection. Creatures of this nature, like unicorns in myth, are only truly visible when they want to be; and they don't. Want to be, anything really-- except perhaps left alone.
You know that old saying, 'no man is an island'? Well, it's true and it's false, because, like so many things, it's all what you do or don't see. On occasion, I think back to my orientation meeting with the head army psychiatrist-- funny, I don't remember his voice or his face, just what he said. He wanted me, he _commanded_ me, to reveal any of _those_ that might be in the ranks of the U.S. Army; I wonder if he knows that the precious troops would be down by at least ten percent? When I see two army buddies arm in arm, or a fond look between a sergeant and one of his men, I think about those orders and I usually want to laugh. Other times, I want a drink-- I very badly want a drink. Bathtub-gin, strong enough to knock the feeling in your gut away and, yeah, it comes best Swamp-style.
So numbers, by the very nature of things, are out of the question.
Chances are, it's better that way. If only we could somehow make it so that casualties were also uncountable, able to be seen only as individuals framed by the scope of their lives-- well, that might make all wars stop on a dime. I'm sure Hawkeye Pierce is working on it, rattling the idea around somewhere in that sideways-Van-Gogh-painting mind of his.
Most people, when they meet me, shy away a little-- afraid, suddenly, that I am privy to some secret, that I can read their every thought through some mannerism. Each 'ah-ha' and 'hmmm' and 'ahem' takes on meaning for them; they try to decipher me even as they think I am deciphering them. People like Hawkeye-- no, scratch that, there is no one _like_ Hawkeye. But the 4077th's chief surgeon _is_ a wonderful example of the only essential truth behind psychiatry, and that is this:
The human mind is so complex a machine, so delicate a mechanism, that no one can really understand it.
Someone told me that the war gave him something he never would have asked for, never thought he wanted-- but something he needed just the same.
I've been thinking about that a lot lately.
Contrary to what the Army might like to believe, everyone is unique-- take one person in a unit and replace them with someone else? It changes the whole dynamic. People living and working together form a larger organism of which each of them is a part; it's just as alive as you or me. _Gestalt_, I've heard it called. (You understand now, that this is a different type of creature from the ones I was talking about before-- species, you see.) The most vibrant, crazily sane gestalt I've ever met would have to be the 4077th M*A*S*H. Those boys and girls have been enough lucky to have commanding officers that give them room to breathe-- the result is a thriving entity, a creature made up of other creatures. Sort of a talking coral reef, if you will. Like people, who feel ill when one or more of their parts stop working properly, a gestalt can become sick or injured-- by tension between its 'cells'. So it's an overdrawn metaphor; it comes in the job description.
Everything I stated above is true, and the same time it's not.
Now _there's_ some psychiatric double-talk for you.
BJ Hunnicut was the last person I expected to see during my informal session with the gestalt of the 4077th-- following that nutty logic that governs humans, he ought to have been the first name in my appointment book. He's a good guy, BJ-- in that clean-cut, honest manner that sometimes makes you want to get annoyed, it's just so _nice_. There's a bit of mischief in him, too; a love of practical jokes and puns, which I suspect his what makes him such a good match for Hawkeye. Pierce, I imagine, tickles that little devil of BJ's and runs with it.
But there in the doorway of my borrowed 'office' stood one Captain Hunnicut, surgeon in the U.S. army. He nodded to me with a small, quick smile and folded his lanky form into a chair.
"Is this a social call?" I asked leaning forward a little, "Or am I to take a look at the bats in your belfry?"
"If you can wade through the guano, Sidney, I'd appreciate it," BJ said, focusing his eyes on something vaguely behind me. Those eyes wouldn't have told me anything even if he had met my gaze; it was his hands I was looking at, the unconscious motion. With his left hand primarily still on his knee, BJ used his right hand to toy with the band of gold on his finger. Like many men entering the army, I imagine he lost weight initially, and what had once been a tight fit was now sliding along the bone before his knuckle.
The metaphor may be getting a bit thick in here-- you'll excuse me.
With my best couch-side manner, I replied, "I'd be happy to help." He seemed, from the tilt of his head, as though he was rehearsing what to say in his mind, or perhaps listening to something he wasn't even sure he could hear. I let the silence be, for coaxing patients usually has the opposite desired effect. But I wasn't surprised when his first words were--
"I feel like I'm going crazy," he glanced up at me, laughed perceptively, "I guess you've been hearing that a lot."
"Once or twice," I admitted with a shrug.
"It's just-- this place, Sidney," for a moment, he covered his face so I wouldn't see the person behind his hands, "it's making me crazy. Everyday, I think if I could only go home... but I _can't_."
"It's a natural reaction to being drafted," I affirmed, "Having a young family of your own back home doesn't help. You feel like there won't be a place for you when you return."
"Yes," he held up a finger, "Yes, that's it exactly, and-- it's this damn _war_."
"The killing?" I inquired, "You doctors, I'll bet, have it worst of all in some cases-- most soldiers just do the killing and maiming. You have to try and fix it."
"You're shooting every fish in the barrel," Bj's tone was dry, "except the big one."
"Would you care to enlighten me?" I took a sip of brandy, courtesy of Colonel Potter, "Or shall I continue to test my aim?" I could see, by the way he was holding his muscles, that he was poised to get up and leave-- perhaps his brain was even sending the command, but something made him stay. Gradually, he relaxed enough to be counted as at least sitting once more.
"You won't... repeat anything I say, will you?"
I nodded into my drink, "That's the essence of patient confidentiality, yes."
Now his eyes did meet mine completely-- he leaned back in the chair and curled his fists in his lap. He spoke softly, but I could hear him over the growing bond-fire party outside-- another little bit of therapy.
"I love my wife," he said with absolutely no duplicity, "but I've been having a tendency lately, towards these... tendencies."
"Humans do tend to have tendencies," I pointed out dryly. He smiled, showing me he was still actively involved in the conversation, though part of his gaze seemed to have turned inward.
"Peg is... there's no one like her," he continued, pronouncing each word carefully, "When I first got here, she was all I could think about-- getting home to her and Erin. Continuing my life." Softer now, and perhaps slurred too-- it was hard to tell; "Now sometimes I go a whole day without thinking about her."
"There's nothing wrong with that, BJ," I touched his hand to draw him away from the guilt, "It's natural. Before, Korea was an interruption to your life. Now that you've been over here long enough, you have a life here and a life waiting for you back home. Friends at home, friends here. Someone you love at home, and," I chose my words carefully, "someone you care for here."
"You're a little too good at this, Doc," BJ said sheepishly.
"Just wait," I raised an eyebrow, "For my next trick, I shall fly to Tokyo under my own power."
"You should be in the airline business, then." The laughter was brief, but it broke the very yawing tension in the room.
"I feel like I've been unfaithful to her," no more eye contact-- instead his gaze was on the crack under the door, and the freedom he was probably thinking about behind it.
"But you haven't," I clarified, "Caring does not an affair make."
"But what," he said with sudden vehemence I had only guessed in him before, "what if I _did_?"
My face was very carefully neutral, "It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened."
"Oh, come on, Sid!" BJ breathed deeply even as he covered his mouth with his hand, "How can I have room to love both these people-- not even the same way but, God help me, I think just as much."
"As far as I know," I spread my hands, "Loving is not a crime."
BJ spoke into the sudden silence, "Maybe some kinds of love are."
"What kind?" I couldn't resist pouncing-- BJ was one of those people, I imagined, who could deal with a little offensive work from my end.
"I feel like I'm a different person! Back home, I never even would have thought about..." His hands were still fisted, but their grip relaxed.
"Can I tell you something?" I asked, watching the flicker of relief on his face, "Just bare with me." At his smile, I continued, "My parents came to America at least a decade before the Holocaust. All while I was growing up, my mother told me stories about the sister she left behind in Germany. My Aunt Hadassah and my mother were very close, but they went for years only being able to speak to each other through letters. Luckily, Hadassah got out while the getting was good-- I remember, my mom took me with her to the docks to meet her." We were watching each other's expressions carefully now, BJ and I; not out of fear, but simply looking for understanding. "My mother was so excited. She kept pointing out people in line, saying 'Oh, that must be her-- Hadassah always wore such-and-such' or 'there's Hadassah-- I know because she wears her hair that way always'. But here's the thing," I held up a finger, "all of these 'Hadassahs' were young women. When my Aunt finally did get off the boat and heard my mother calling her name, she came straight up to us. She was an older woman, BJ-- those women in line looked like my mother's _memory_ of her sister. They changed during their time apart; they couldn't help it. And the first thing they said to each other was, 'Why did you turn into an old woman on me?'" Briefly, I took a drink to chase the thought down, "The moral of this little story is, that-- yes, you _are_ going to change while you're over here, BJ. When you go back to the states, you and Peg are doing to have to get to know each other again. Don't let that get in the way of you forming connections here-- you'll only hurt yourself, and perhaps even begin to resent Peg."
That's the thing about people, about the gestalt. Though no one is interchangable, new gestalts can be formed from pieces of old ones, from people throw together by life. You may have guessed, of course, that I didn't tell BJ that-- because when you really get down two it, all you need is two people to make one new organism. And that, is truly a frightening thought.
Is marriage a gestalt? Sometimes. Is friendship? It can be.
I looked very carefully at BJ, trying to sharpen the image, perhpas understand. After a moment, he shook his head and accepted the drink I poured for him.
"I hate this place," he said, like a sullen child, "I never wanted any of this. Why should I have to change? Stupid, stupid," he mutter vaguely, "If I'd never come here, I never would have had to see young men die, or know what shell fire sounds like, and I..." He looked so much like he was trying to drag the words back in, I was rather surprised when he said, "And I never would have met Hawkeye."
"Well," I said, trying to keep any tone out of my voice, "I know the man steals your socks, but I'm sure he's not so bad as to be classed with shell fire." That drew a half-smile, "You two _are_ very different people."
"And yet," BJ admitted with something a lot like reverence, "I can't imagine what-- or rather, as you said, _who_ I'd be without having met him." For just a moment, with his eyes closed and his mind focused on that one thing, he seemed very nearly serene.
And there. Not the words that gave me insight, not even the way they were said-- there was simply a subtle clicking in place.
"I think," I began, "I--"
He read-- or thought he read-- something in my expression, "I think I should go."
"I don't _want_ to love anyone else but Peg," he stood up, turning his back towards me and running his hand through his hair. "I shouldn't care about anything here. But I can't help it."
Again, I tried, "You know--"
"I don't want to talk about this anymore," his shoulders slumped a little. "Maybe, if I just put this _away_, I can forget about it."
"Anything you bury," I said with certainty, "is going to grow into something you can't ignore."
He turned to me quickly, "Don't you find this conversation at all strange?"
"BJ," I raised an eyebrow, "I grew up in New York; the city reknowned for oddities and people who drive under the impression that green means fast, yellow means faster and red means fastest. Nothing surprises me."
"I'm still going," BJ replied honestly, "I can't not... and I also can't... do. I don't know!" His tone was almost apologetic-- though not directed at me, "I'm going back to the Swamp."
"All right," I smiled in what I hoped was a reassuring manner, "but I'm here, in case you need to talk again. Or not talk, as the case may be."
"Thanks, Sidney." With his hand on the door, he paused, "And nothing leaves this room, right?"
"Nothing," I nodded, though I still somehow wanted to ask, to really be sure. One conversation can mean a million different things. "You can forget this conversation even happened."
"Oh, so now you think I'm in denial?" He grinned.
"No," I snorted, "I could give you my official diagnosis that you seem to be in love, but I think you already know that."
BJ rolled his eyes, only half kidding, "Yeah, thanks for reminding me."
So, allow me to digress. We have humans-- this rare breed that loves and fears and fights and makes war. Humans who, in and of themselves, are really a thousand different types of animal. Together, they form another type of animal, the gestalt. Doesn't matter about gender, or race, money, or anything like that. We have doctors to patch up wondered people, but what about wounded gestalts? What about those people that need but never meet each other, or meet to late or too different or too soon? And, silently, those other, invisible creatures also make larger organisms-- perhaps they go on with the least help of all.
Those other creatures being--
You know what? I'm not going to say it. Why put a name on it? I'll respect their invisibility and their existence; they (and I can almost hear you thinking, perhaps, inside that I am saying 'us') really do get so little respect.
That very night, I saw BJ and Hawkeye together-- or I saw that being which is BJ and Hawkeye combined-- out by the bonfire, arm in arm, drawing energy from the blaze. I saw them smirking, eyeing Major Winchester and communicating with each other in a way so that words were only part of it.
BJ never really _said_ anything; things are and aren't, all at the same time.
Sometimes, I do wonder...
But then, you really can't tell, by the very nature of things.
(to the tune of the Beatles' "She Loves You"-- and many thanks to darling Becca T, for her song in "You Can't Hold On Forever"! ^_^)
She wants feed back-- yeah, yeah
She wants feed back-- yeah, yeah
She wants feed back-- yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
There's a story written by Mere,
one of many (cause she has no li-i-ife),
Her joy at feedback can't compare,
it makes her high as a ki-i-ite.
She writes ficcies,
And she hopes that they aren't bad,
And do you know what?
Feedback would make her really glad-- oooo.
She wants feed back-- yeah, yeah
She wants feed back-- yeah, yeah
She wants feed back-- yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah