Title: Reassurance at the Bottom of a Bottle
Rating: PG to be safe
Summary: She finally righted the bottle, opened it and took a long draw. It was cool in her mouth and burned down her throat just the way she liked it. Margaret works on convincing herself that she's not becoming an alcoholic like her mother.
Authors notes: My first M*A*S*H fic and since there is no love at fanfiction.net unless your toy is H/M, H/B or H/T, here I am.
Cross posted: It's around.
The day in OR had been hell.
Not that this was different from any other day in the OR in lovely Korea, but something about today just made everything worse.
Maybe it was the fact that the kid - a baby, really - she had promised would be OK was lying under a sheet, waiting for the poor sucker on morgue duty to show up and take him away.
She couldn't get the picture of that kids face out of her head. He couldn't have been more than 18 with blonde hair and baby blue eyes that made him look about 15. He had shrapnel wounds and was scared shitless and was looking for anyone to hold his hand and tell him it would be ok.
She felt bad for only spending enough time next to his stretcher to asses his wounds, assure him he was going to be fine and flash a quick smile while offering his hand a squeeze from her own before hollering for Hawkeye to come and see him.
The tall surgeon from Maine had smiled and assured the kid he'd be fine before ordering that he be on the table first and have several units of blood standing by.
She had assured him again before he went under that everything was going to be fine. Reaching out for her hand again, she had to deny him that last bit of human contact from her freshly scrubbed yet gloveless hands.
Instead, she gave him a wide smile, hoping it showed in her eyes since the rest of her face hid behind a white mask.
"To Private Holt!" Hawkeye finally called out, startling her from her memory.
"To Private Holt!" she quickly called back as they lifted their glasses of scotch and swallowed them in one go. He motioned for a refill and she accepted, loosing herself in the daydreams. Hawkeye made another toast, to whom or what she didn't know, but she toasted along with him.
And this time, as the scotch burned it way down her throat, the rest of the Officer's Clubs started to float away and there was no one but her and Hawkeye sitting at the bar, toasting everything and everyone so they had excuses to keep pouring liquor down their throats.
Eventually though, she declared it a night after struggling to regain her balance when she slipped off her stool. He called it night too in order to walk her to her tent.
"You know what?" he asked as they neared her tent. Margaret couldn't help but roll her eyes.
"What?" she asked as they neared her tent.
"I don't think you should be alone tonight. It has been a very long, very hard day," he reasoned.
She looked at him, a crooked drunken smile graced his features and she was pretty sure that a similar one was on her face.
"You've had the same very long, very hard day," she pointed out to him.
"You're right," he said quickly. "We should be alone together," he quickly added, his grin flaring into the trademark smile she knew so well as he attempted to follow her into her tent.
"Why don't you go be alone together with Charles and BJ," she suggested as she stood in her doorway and kept him from passing. "Goodnight Captain," she finished as she closed the door.
"Fine!" he called at the door. "I know when I've just been rejected!" She shook her head a little as she heard him stumble off towards the Swamp before she turned and headed toward her cot, flicking on a light as she went.
Quickly, she sat and undid her boots before toeing them off and reaching under the bed for a box she knew was there.
It took her a few minutes and a few curses, but she eventually located the box and pulled it out. She set it on her lap and her hands hesitated to open it for a moment before they finally did and she pulled out a bottle of clear liquid.
She had picked up this bottle of Soju the last time she had been in Seoul and though she had questioned exactly how far from bathtub Soju it was, she had decided that she ultimately didn't care. It had been cheap and she knew that, when she was ready, it would do the job.
She settled back on the bed, made herself comfortable and just as she was about to open the bottle, she hesitated.
Flashing back to her childhood, she remembered coming home many nights, her kid sister in tow, to find her mother passed out in one of the chairs in the living room, a bottle of bathtub gin hanging loosely from her hand. She remembered this happening a few nights in a row before her father would magically appear at the door at 5 o'clock one night.
She and her sister Olivia would throw themselves at him, desperate for his attention, but he would brush the girls off and stalk into the house to find his wife and make sure that she wasn't passed out somewhere.
This would last for a few weeks and just as Margaret and Olivia were starting to believe that their family was going to be just like every other family on the block, Al Houlihan would go back to work and Bea Houlihan would go back to the bottle.
Margaret shook her head, pushing the memories away as she contemplated the bottle and its Korean label in her hand. It certainly didn’t look like gin.
She tipped it to the side and thought he liquid did slosh around like gin, she assured her self that she wasn't her mother just because her bottle of Soju behaved liked her mother's bottle of gin. A bottle of water would behave the same way.
Opening the bottle was the last confirmation she needed. Soju didn't smell like the bathtub gin she had grown up with. There was no bitter smell with a tang that made her nose itch and there wasn't an overwhelming odor of juniper berries, an attempt to hid the poor quality, wafting out of the bottle and hanging in the air.
She finally righted the bottle, opened it and took a long draw. It was cool in her mouth and burned down her throat just the way she liked it.
What she didn’t like, however, was the queasy feeling as soon as it mixed with the scotch already rolling around in her stomach, a sign of bootlegged Soju.
She didn't put the bottle away though, instead she rested it against her stomach as she leaned her head back and closed her eyes, willing the sick feeling away.
As she let the silence of the camp wash over her, her mind wandered back to her childhood again, of her mother drinking and her father arguing with her as Margaret tried to keep Olivia from noticing by reading her a story.
Margaret's eyes snapped open as she felt her stomach lurch, ready to make a mad dash for the door, but the moment never came. Instead, a little voice in her head muttered that she was becoming her mother. No matter how much she tried to justify her drinking, she was becoming her mother.
But she was sure she wasn't becoming her mother. She had put an end to that path in life when she was 8 and tried to steal a candy bar to gain her fathers attention.
Her mother did it all the time; stole little things from various stores in whatever town they were living in at the time. It usually started a few weeks before they'd move, little figurines and what not would start appearing around the house. And then one day, her parents would come home at the same time and her mother would look like she had been crying. She'd go directly into the kitchen while Al would go directly into his study and Olivia would look to Margaret for leadership.
As soon as the girls had crawled into bed, the yelling would start, Olivia would come and crawl into bed with Margaret and a few days later their father would announce that they were moving.
And, in Margaret's 8-year-old brain, even though she hated moving, she loved that it kept her father close and available for several days at time. So, she had tried it and it had all gone horribly. Al had shown up at the small corner store, apologized to the owner, assured him it would be taken care of and had dragged Margaret home by the arm.
He had yelled at her, and then at her mother before sending her to her room. He came to her just before he went to bed and told her how disappointed in her he was and she had decided that she didn't ever want to see that look on his face again and decided to become the son he never had. Surely having a son, or at least a daughter who acted like a son, would garner some attention and love from Al Houlihan.
No, she assured herself as she snapped back to the present and took another draw from the bottle, she wasn't her mother. She didn't steal and she didn't drink herself into oblivion every night. Sure, she was divorced, but that wasn't her fault. She had divorced him for infidelity and that was the important part. She capped the bottle before putting it back in its box and tucking it under the bed.
No, she wasn't her mother. She had set her drinking hours for after the OR and until she'd had enough, instead of from dawn until dusk.
As she crawled under the covers and turned out the light, Margaret assured herself one last time that she wasn't her mother before she finally drifted off.