Rating: PG-13 (for questionable language and adult situations)
Disclaimer: The Tour of Duty Characters do NOT belong to me and I am not being compensated in any way for this work of fiction.
Summary: A new doctor reports to Camp Barnett and complicates Doc Hockenbury’s life.
Placement: Around the time of The Road to Long Binh (3rd Season)
Sergeant Hall and Dr. Cassidy had just finished the inventory for the narcotics and non-scheduled drugs when Stringer’s runner appeared in the doorway. He pushed open the screen, pulling his hat from his head, revealing sweat-darkened hair.
"Captain Cassidy, ma’am? I have a message for you from Colonel Stringer." He shoved a sleeve across his damp forehead.
"Yes, soldier?" She looked over her shoulder, keeping her place on the form with one outstretched finger.
"Colonel Stringer says you got to draw bedding and equipment from the Supply Room. You got to stay the night. He says you can sleep in the Dispensary, ma’am." He twisted his hat in his hands, his gaze flicking over her for a second, then darting away again, wide blue eyes startled to find her looking back at him.
She blinked, surprised that Colonel Stringer was allowing her to stay. Dropping her pen on the form, she pushed away from Hall’s desk, swiveling the chair around to face the runner. She looked at him for a long moment, not realizing how uncomfortable her scrutiny was making the young soldier.
"Ohhhh-kay. Can’t supply just bring this stuff over?"
The runner shook his head, chewing lightly on his lower lip. He shoved his hands into his pockets, then thought better of it, pulling them out and knotting his fingers together behind his back.
"No ma’am, you have to sign for it." He drew himself up and saluted, turning briskly to the door. As it swung closed behind him, he looked back, catching it with one hand.
"Oh, and ma’am? They know about this in the Supply Room." The door clattered against the frame as he vanished, his boots pounding down the steps.
Cassidy sighed, reaching one hand absently behind her head and freeing her ponytail. She raked her fingers through the thick hair, smoothing it over her ears and quickly tying it up again. With a shrug she climbed to her feet, scooping up her pen and tucking it into her pocket. "All right. Guess I’d better find out where Supply is."
"I know where it is, ma’am." Pugh’s voice was low, tentative.
Looking over her shoulder, Cassidy glimpsed his reddened cheeks. She grinned as she turned away from him, hiding her amusement. "Sure thing, Pugh. Wanna lend me a hand?"
"YES MA’AM!" The skinny medic grabbed his hat off the peg by the door as they stepped out into the bright sunshine of early afternoon.
Pugh ambled with the unhurried steps of a man with an infinite amount of time on his hands. Cassidy found herself waiting for him at every turn, since she had no idea whatsoever where the Supply Room was. She realized quickly that the medic was deliberately prolonging their walk and quit hurrying, falling into step beside him.
He pointed out the various buildings as they passed, waving at his buddies with a huge grin. Cassidy found herself saluting repeatedly, her arm not quite returning to her side before she had to raise it again.
After what seemed to be three or four laps of the camp, they arrived at a fairly large wooden building, the sign out front proclaiming it to be SUPPLY. They climbed the stairs, the screen rebounding loudly off the frame with a bang behind them as they passed through the door.
She dropped her hat on the counter and looked up at the tall man behind it, squinting in the dimness of the building as her eyes adjusted. Is everyone in this camp seven feet tall? She fought the desire to inquire as to the weather up there. "I’m Captain Cassidy. I understand I’m to draw some bedding?"
The burly supply sergeant nodded, raising an appraising eyebrow at the doctor, and handed her a form on a clipboard. He watched her as she ran a finger down the list, all thoughts of his wife and kids at home, not to mention his girlfriend in Saigon, gone like smoke in a breeze.
Cassidy studied the form, wondering what the hell she was going to need all this stuff for. Especially if she was only staying the night. Perhaps Stringer was having more problems replacing her than he had anticipated. Perhaps the female doctor with the security clearance from the germ warfare center was looking better all the time. She smiled to herself and pulled her attention back to the list.
A clerk began carrying items out and stacking them on the floor, his lips moving silently as he repeated the list to himself.
Pugh eyed the growing pile and wondered if he should round up some reinforcements. He glanced at the captain and saw the same question in her eyes.
Cassidy signed for a mattress, sheets, towels, pillow and case, rain poncho, footlocker, flak jacket and steel helmet, her pen following the sergeant’s index finger as it moved down the list. Yeah, she groaned to herself, I guess I DO need someone to help me carry all this.
Finally the supply sergeant came to the last item on the list. He blinked, read the line again.
"Are you qualified on a firearm, ma’am?"
The captain frowned, puzzled, and shook her head, the end of her ponytail brushing the damp skin on the back of her neck. "I don’t need a weapon, Sergeant, I’m Medical."
"Well, it is on the form, ma’am, and see, the Colonel underlined it on the note he sent over? You can draw whatever weapon you want ma’am, but I can’t issue it to you unless you are qualified." He leaned on the counter, waiting for Cassidy to solve this little issue.
"Perhaps I can help?" The voice came directly over her shoulder.
She turned and found herself face to face with a handsome 1st Lieutenant, his dark hair carefully combed and his uniform clean and just short of pressed. He carried himself with the grace of a natural athlete. And the attitude of a campus jock. The same guy she’d run into coming out of the mess hall.
McKay smiled at her, the smile he reserved for romancing beautiful young ladies and conning everybody else. He’d been wandering around the camp looking for her after he’d returned from dropping off a SOG team in the jungle. The glimpse he’d had on his way into chow that morning had ignited his curiosity as well as a few stray hormones. And now, here she was.
Cassidy raised an eyebrow under his scrutiny, completely aware that his interest wasn’t totally altruistic. She smiled back, silent, waiting to see what the lieutenant’s angle would be. Leaning one elbow on the counter, she glanced at Pugh, amused to catch him rolling his eyes behind the officer’s back.
The supply sergeant sighed, happy to have some help on the weapons issue. "Well, yes sir, this is our new base surgeon. She needs to sign out a weapon and get familiarized with it."
McKay stuck out his hand, grinning. "John J. McKay, chopper pilot."
Cassidy shook his hand with a firm grip, an answering smile spreading across her face. "Pilot? Guess that’s why you’re wearin’ those wings? J. Cassidy, surgeon. You can call me Caz, ev’rybody does."
His smile growing wider, McKay allowed his gaze to linger over her gleaming chestnut hair in its neat ponytail and her greenish-grey eyes and high cheekbones. She was about average height and slender, but she moved with a grace that promised a wiry strength. McKay caught himself staring and cleared his throat.
"Okay, Caz, are you qualified in any weapons at all?" He winced slightly at the quick intake of breath he heard from the sergeant and quickly added, "Ma’am."
Caz shook her head, ponytail whipping once over her right ear then her left. "Nope." She flattened the palm of her hand onto the counter, stretching her fingers out then curling them loosely under.
McKay swallowed hard, watching those supple fingers. He turned abruptly to the supply sergeant. "Well, then, uhh, how about a .38, Sergeant?" McKay rubbed a hand over his face, wiping the sweat on the side of his pants, and glanced at Pugh. The medic was studiously watching something out the window, his back to the room.
The sergeant returned with a pistol, setting it gently on the counter in front of the doctor. He turned it over, squinting at the serial number etched into the metal and copied it meticulously on the form.
Caz took the pen from the NCO and signed on the form where he pointed. She flinched when he picked the .38 up and set it in her hands, surprised at the weight of the weapon.
"Lieutenant McKay can check you out on the pistol, ma’am. He’s a right good shot."
Grinning, McKay watched her slowly look up at him, then back at the .38, setting it carefully down on the counter. She wiped both hands absently on her shirt, leaving a thin sheen of LSA across the fabric.
"Be happy to, ma’am. Anybody out on the range now, Sarge?" McKay stacked up the pistol and the box of ammo the sergeant had added next to the rest of her things, along with a black leather holster.
"No sir, I think it’s empty right now. Sign this card, ma’am, here, and here." The sergeant pulled the paperwork to his side of the counter and looked quickly through it. "Okay, ma’am, that’s it."
Pugh turned from the window, grabbing the bedding and wrapping his skinny arms around it.
McKay and Caz distributed the rest of the gear between themselves, McKay keeping the pistol and adding the small brown cardboard box of ammo to Caz’s stack. She picked it up, almost dropping it before she adjusted to the weight.
McKay found himself without a hand to carry the doctor’s helmet. He grinned suddenly, plopping it on her head and shoving it forward over her eyes. "Okay, Pugh, let’s get the doctor’s stuff over to the dispensary."
*** *** *** *** *** ***
Hall was waiting for them as they staggered in, raising his eyebrows as Lieutenant McKay followed Captain Cassidy through the screen door. With quick movements, he removed the equipment from Caz’s arms and led her to one of the locked doors.
"Your quarters, Captain Cassidy, ma’am. I do believe one of those keys will fit this door."
Cassidy pulled the ring out of her pocket, not bothering to look at the keys this time. The first one she tried snapped open the lock and the door swung back on its hinges, squeaking in protest. Hot, humid air rolled out of the room and Caz instinctively turned her head away.
Pugh slipped by her, tossing the mattress on the bare metal bed frame. He dumped the rest of the bedding on top of it and then flipped the light switch by the door.
Caz walked into the room slowly, hazel eyes taking in the gloomy room that was little bigger than a closet. "You used to be a bell hop, there, Pugh? Don’t expect a tip." Her voice was barely above a murmur.
Hall and McKay followed her in, setting their armloads down on the small desk and the battered dresser. Hall sneezed in the musty air, waving a beefy hand in front of his face. "Just needs a little airin’, ma’am."
McKay picked up the pistol, holster and the box of ammo, tucking it carefully in the crook of one arm. He grinned, beckoning to Caz. "Let’s get goin’ and I’ll show you how to use this thing." He turned and left the room, calling to Pugh for cotton balls.
The medic dropped the pillow he’d been fluffing and trailed sheepishly after the pilot.
Caz looked at Hall, shrugging, a small smile on her face. "Home sweet home, eh, Sergeant?" She spread her arms out, turning a full circle in the middle of the floor.
The big sergeant cleared his throat. He took a step towards the door, allowing her to precede him through it. He pitched his voice low. "So, they’re arming you, ma’am?"
Caz grinned over her shoulder at him. "Yeah, can you believe it?" She laughed, hearing a faint baritone echo behind her as she walked through the dispensary toward the waiting McKay.
*** *** *** *** *** ***
McKay led Caz to a flat, open area, the jungle looming beyond the barrier of barbed wire and sandbags. The sunlight reflecting off the bare ground shimmered in the heat and he noticed Caz tugging her cap further over her eyes. He pulled off his sunglasses, suddenly feeling inconsiderate wearing them when she had none.
Dumping the box of ammo into an empty pocket of his fatigues, McKay quickly ran practiced hands over the pistol, taking care that it was unloaded. He glanced at the doctor; her gaze never left the weapon, hazel eyes wide and nervous. McKay realized that something he always took for granted, his natural ease around firearms, was clearly not the case for the base’s newest doctor. He’d have to find some other occasion to turn on the McKay charm. Dammit!
"You ever shoot before, Caz? Anything? Rifle, shotgun, bow and arrow?" He smiled at her, trying to lighten the mood.
Caz looked up, an obvious effort that was not lost on him. She was as tense as if she were turning her back on a crouching tiger.
"Nope. Never. My daddy always had guns in the house, my brothers all shoot. Me? Never." She blinked, reaching up to adjust the brim of her cap again, dropping a shadow across her face. And glanced back at the .38.
"Where you from, Captain? I hear an accent." He reached out, taking her hands and placing the gun in them.
Caz swallowed hard, closing her fingers around the grip. "North Carolina. Outside of Asheville." Ash-vul.
McKay smiled. "A mountain girl, huh? Okay, so you’re right handed I see. Put your left hand at your side. Just relax your shoulders and let that arm hang loose. Good."
Taking a deep breath, Caz reluctantly lowered her left hand. She could feel cold sweat running down her back between her shoulder blades and shivered. She tried to cover it by shifting her feet and clearing her throat.
McKay crossed his arms over his chest and turned away from her slightly, feigning interest in a group of soldiers walking by. He knew how hard this must be for the Captain, yanked out of the relative comfort of Tan Son Nhut, dropped in the middle of nowhere and now being asked to do something she clearly had never intended. When he glanced back, he noticed the renewed set of her shoulders and the determined look on her face. Tough little thing, gotta hand her that.
"Okay, you’ve seen cowboy movies? Point this end toward the bad guys. That’s the barrel. The trigger, right there? Keep your finger off that until you want to shoot, okay?"
Caz nodded, the muscles standing out in her slender neck. Her ponytail, sticking out the back of her cap, bounced wildly.
He indicated the end of the barrel. "This is the front sight. Point that where you want to shoot, but aim a little lower." He forced her to look directly into his eyes, drawing her attention away from her fear. She blinked and he saw some of the tension drain away.
"Okay now, pull straight back on the trigger. It’s not loaded, but still point it downrange, down that way." He waved his hand toward the target area, stepping back slightly and giving her room to gather her concentration.
Caz sucked in a breath and squeezed the trigger, her wrist muscles, developed more for endurance in the OR than tensile strength, trembling at the effort. Finally, the hammer slammed home with a surprisingly soft click. She let out the breath she’d been holding, raising her eyes to meet McKay’s.
He smiled encouragingly. "Very good. Now, try to pull it six times in a row. As fast as you can." He leaned against the sandbags, pulling the box of ammo from his pocket and tossing it back and forth between his hands.
The young doctor seemed to have found her resolve as she unhesitatingly pulled the trigger six times rapidly in succession, rewarded each time with the sharp snap of the hammer striking metal. Raising the barrel into the air, she turned back to McKay, a small grin finding its way across her face.
"I’ve never done this before, McKay, my brothers would be so surprised." A faint blush spread over her cheeks as she back-handed the sweat off her forehead, tipping her cap back in the process.
"You’re a natural, no doubt about it, Caz. Now let’s give you something to shoot at." He stood, picking up one of the paper targets and walked briskly to the wall, pinning it up. Returning to Caz he pulled the wad of cotton balls from his pocket.
"Put the cotton in your ears, deep, now, don’t want you losing your hearing the first day here." He took the pistol from her as she shoved the white fluffy stuff into her ears. He quickly followed suit and then loaded the .38 with a single bullet. He felt Caz’s gaze on him, watching him closely.
"Okay, let me demonstrate." He picked up the box of ammo and crooked a finger at her. "Come on, we’re gonna get a little closer to what we’re shooting at."
Caz shrugged and followed him until they were only ten feet or so from the target. He carefully dropped the cardboard box at his feet. She kept her distance from him, standing off to the side as he held the pistol in front of him.
"I want you to take a deep breath, let it out, take another, then hold it. Okay?" He glanced at her, catching her nodding.
McKay turned himself in a circle, making sure he knew where everyone in the immediate vicinity was. "Friendly fire!" He shouted, facing toward the target again.
"Ready? With me. One, inhale, two, let it out, three, inhale and hold…" McKay raised the pistol and fired.
Flinching involuntarily, Caz clapped her hands over her ears, eyes wide and unblinking, but McKay was already slipping another cartridge into the weapon.
"I want you to keep the barrel pointed up and downrange. Keep your finger off the trigger unless you are going to shoot." He waited, gun held against his chest until she glanced up, meeting his eyes.
She quickly wiped her sweaty palms down the sides of her pants before McKay handed her the weapon. Taking the gun in her right hand, she wrapped her fingers around the grip. Nodding slightly, Caz looked up at McKay.
"Okay. Remember, breathe in, let it all out, inhale and GO! Center of the target. One, two, THREE!" McKay took half a step back from her, turning his body slightly downrange.
Caz raised the gun and fired.
Smiling, McKay reached out for the weapon, removing it smoothly from her fingers. "Great! You got it!"
Caz frowned skeptically, raising an eyebrow at the pilot. She’d felt the kick of the gun and was aware that SOMETHING had happened, but doubted seriously that she’d actually hit the outline. She shook her head, certain that the lieutenant was pulling her leg.
"No way, McKay."
Johnny kept his attention on the revolver, deftly reloading it. He grinned, glancing up at her. "Better than me, the first time my sister Gertrude took me shooting."
Caz’s mouth dropped open. "Your sister WHO?" She pulled her cap off, smoothing the damp hair off her brow and resettling it back on her head. "Nobody has a sister named Gertrude, NOBODY!"
"Well." McKay shrugged as he dropped the box of ammo onto the sandbags. "It was her middle name. She taught me to shoot, back in Indiana." He shrugged again. "Okay. Now pay attention."
Eyeing him warily, the doctor sighed and shook her head. "Okay."
"Now you have six bullets. Remember to breathe. Remember to aim. Front sight slightly below the middle of the target. Pull the trigger until you hear it click. Ready?" He paused, waiting for her nod. "Okay, one, two, three!"
Caz raised the pistol and shot until she heard a click, the air a blur of noise and smoke around her. She blinked, her eyes tearing, and coughed, waving her left hand in front of her face.
McKay took the pistol and walked a few steps to the pristine target, leaning close to inspect it. He pointed to a tear on one side, beaming at Caz. "Here, this was pretty close."
She leaned in, almost pressing her nose to the post. "I CAN’T have missed it six times! Not this close!" Caz closed her eyes briefly, hanging her head.
Johnny could see her disappointment and moved swiftly to counter it. "You did as good as I did, see? I only hit it once myself. My sister Gertrude used to say that one shot was all it took. Let’s try again."
They practiced reloading the pistol and then McKay let her fire it a few more times. Finally, she managed to get three shots somewhere in the proximity of the target’s center. The pilot pulled the cotton from his ears and she did the same.
"My girlfriend Gertie couldn’t have done any better!" Johnny gently took the revolver from her hands, noticing the slight trembling of her fingers.
Pulling her sleeve roughly across her forehead, Cassidy took a deep breath, holding it for a second then letting it out with a heavy sigh. She glanced up at the young man. "I thought she was your sister?"
McKay grinned, faint creases appearing in his cheeks. "Well, maybe she was. I had a lot of sisters...."
Caz rolled her eyes. "And a lot of girlfriends, too?" She wiped her hands down her shirtfront, adding streaks of LSA to the damp patches of perspiration. Shaking her head, the surgeon looked up at the pilot and grinned sheepishly.
He laughed. "Just a few here and there. You actually did pretty well for the first time shooting." McKay reined in his smile for a moment, hoping to impress on her the sincerity of his compliment.
Cassidy scratched her ear, shaking her head slightly. "I really don’t like guns. I’m kinda scared of ‘em." She raised her gaze to his, green eyes defiant, daring him to make fun of her.
McKay smiled, picking up the cardboard ammo box and tucking it under his arm. "That’s good. You should be. Let’s walk over and sit down somewhere."
They sat down on a sandbag wall by the Supply Room. A passerby casually placed a can of oil and a cleaning rod by them and strolled on, whistling.
"I don’t believe this!" Caz stared at the man’s departing back, catching him looking back quickly over his shoulder before disappearing between two buildings. She turned to the pilot, one eyebrow raised quizzically.
McKay shrugged. "Been awhile since anyone has seen a round-eye here."
They talked for a while as McKay deftly cleaned and oiled the pistol, then reloaded it. He handed her the holster and showed her how to put it over her shoulder. Then he held up the pistol.
"All right, it’s ready to go. I put five rounds in there. It is absolutely safe until you pull the trigger, just like on the range. Remember, one, two, three?"
"One, two, three." Cassidy reached for the gun as the lieutenant held it just out of reach. She frowned at him, lowering her hand quickly in embarrassment.
Smiling reassuringly, McKay went on. "And where do you aim?"
"Center of the target, slightly below." Caz caught herself this time before she stretched her arm out.
The pilot nodded. "And when do you stop shooting?"
"When I hear a click."
"You’re qualified." McKay took her hand in his, shaking it vigorously and then handed her the weapon.
Nervously, Cassidy put it in the holster and fastened the holster strap. She was conscious of the weight on her side. She raised anxious eyes to his. "I don’t exactly feel like Annie Oakley."
The pilot swallowed a laugh and answered her seriously. "You shouldn’t."
Caz patted the holster, shifting the strap to a more comfortable position. "I’m going to lock this up somewhere."
"Good idea. But know where it is. Remember, you signed for it!" McKay laughed, tossing the remaining ammo to her.
The young captain caught the box easily, setting it in her lap and rubbing her thumbs over the cardboard flaps, picking at them idly. "I don’t think I could really shoot anyone. Not even a Viet Cong."
Johnny nodded, watching her thoughtfully. "Well, hopefully you won’t have to. By the way, the Colonel would want me to tell you not to shoot any Vietnamese at all on his base. All of them work for him, and some of them wear funny black clothes."
"Well, why’d he make me take this gun then, anyways?" Caz glanced at him, taking in his appraising eyes and half smile, and felt her cheeks grow hotter than they already were from the sun.
"In case you have any unwelcome American admirers." McKay turned on his most dazzling smile and pulled his sunglasses from his pocket. "Speaking of which, would you do me the honor of escorting you to the Team House tonight?"
The doctor shifted her weight on the sandbag, dropping her glance to her boots and crossing her arms over her chest. The unfamiliar gun in its holster was uncomfortable and she reseated it a few times before giving up and resting her hands on her hips.
"What’s a Team House?" Cassidy regarded McKay with skeptical interest.
"Well, it’s our local watering hole. It’s all we’ve got." The pilot met her gaze, waiting for her answer.
Caz considered the invitation, weighing the prospect of sitting alone in her Spartan dispensary quarters against an evening with the charming dark-haired pilot. No contest.
"I’d love to go."
*** *** *** *** ***
Taylor reshouldered the shovel he’d been carrying when he and Ruiz had wandered past the firing range on their way to yet another trench. At the sight of McKay instructing the young captain in the fine art of killing things, he’d shoved Ruiz against the wall of the nearest building and blatantly eavesdropped.
"You hear that? We’re goin’ to the Team House tonight, Roo."
Rolling his eyes, Taylor’s buddy jabbed him with a sharp elbow to the ribs. "I think he was talkin’ to the lady, Taylor."
Taylor laughed, dark eyes still on the pilot and his beautiful companion. He watched McKay stand, offering a hand to Captain Cassidy, who accepted, allowing the pilot to pull her to her feet. As they turned to leave the range, the young woman suddenly knelt, picking up a rock from the ground. She looked back at the target, still tacked to the post, its one ragged edge fluttering in the muggy breeze. With one quick movement, she drew her arm back and let fly, the stone hurtling directly toward the silhouette and slapping loudly against the paper, right in the center ring.
Ruiz’s eyes grew wide and he slapped Taylor’s arm. "Did you see that?"
Taylor shook his head as they set off for the trench. "Yeah, brother, I saw it, I saw it."