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The Trench Rats: Part 6


SO FAR GOLD had saved Burgundy's life once. It was something Burgundy both appreciated and regretted, since this was what had led to Gold's promotion--at Burgundy's suggestion--something he now felt he'd done a little too hastily. They'd been in the trenches, Burgundy had been hit by a Nazi bullet, and Gold had dragged him out, bullets whizzing over their heads, all the way back to Headquarters. He supposed he'd mistaken Gold's brash foolhardiness for courage. So now Gold was in a position of authority over Burgundy, and though Burgundy couldn't be sure if he meant it or not, he seemed to be reveling in it.

Right now the corporal was in the hospital ward with him. He'd come close on the heels of Turquoise, who had brought along a new refugee for him to look over. She hadn't been very compliant. Burgundy had had to settle with a brief onceover before shooing Turquoise away, telling him to take her to Mahogany. He had no idea why Black was sending the girl to him when she was obviously able to take care of herself. Turquoise had let out an annoyed sigh but said nothing, waving at her again; Burgundy was glad to see them go. Once Gold showed up, the place was too crowded for anyone else not needed.

And Gold most certainly wasn't needed at the moment.

At least Burgundy could foist some trivial duties on him, since he was present and wouldn't leave. He ordered him to help out in the section of the ward reserved for all those wounded who were not Trench Rats. There were only four people in there now, one of them British, two of them French, and one German. The English one was always sitting on the edge of his bed watching everything going on. One of the Frenchmen entertained the other carving little pieces of wood, something Burgundy didn't exactly relish him doing--what if he ended up with his finger cut off?--what then?--but otherwise had no say in. It kept them quiet. The German was, of course, a Nazi whom they'd found wounded in the woods, apparently abandoned or else having set off alone. The Nazi hadn't liked them taking him in, to put it mildly; Burgundy was still trying to decide what they'd do with him once he recovered. At the moment he sat in his bed, glowering at the two Trench Rats as they entered, a sling on his arm.

"Guten tag," Gold greeted. He didn't speak fluent German and the phrase just about exhausted his vocabulary. Burgundy rolled his eyes.

"Don't talk with the prisoners."

"So he's a prisoner now? When did he get upgraded from patient to prisoner?"

The Brit heard the joke and laughed. One of the Frenchmen, the one with the knife, evidently understood also, for he smiled and murmured the statement in French to his companion, who laughed too.

"Your sense of humor leaves much to be desired. Help me ready him for his checkup."

Gold shrugged, winked at the Brit, and followed Burgundy to the German's bedside. As they approached he scowled at them, and Burgundy could see his fingers tighten. He didn't like the look of him. It made him uneasy.

"You sure you want to do this right now?" Gold inquired, also noticing the Nazi's look.

"Look, he needs his arm checked out. If it gets infected and falls off I don't want it to go on my record."

"Whatever you want, then."

Gold crossed his arms and scowled back at the German, in a mock attempt to look threatening. Evidently it didn't work very well, for as soon as Burgundy reached out for his good arm the Nazi hissed and lashed out.

"Ooo! Naughty boy!" Gold said.

"Stop that," Burgundy snapped at the Nazi. He could speak German but chose not to; he wasn't sure how he was going to check out that arm if the guy kept acting like this. "Come on and quit fighting back."

"I don't think this is a really good idea, Burg..."

"Be quiet. I didn't ask your opinion, did I?"

Gold just shrugged again. "Oookay." He stepped back.

Burgundy stepped forward again. Again the Nazi growled. The Trench Rat spoke to him in German this time, telling him to stand up. When the Nazi didn't, Burgundy again reached for his arm. That was a mistake.

Instantly the soldier was up. He snatched the carving knife from the hand of the surprised Frenchman, whirling back and advancing on the doctor. He was at him before anyone else could react.

Surprised, Burgundy flung up his arm. The knife glanced off his armband, slitting it off and tearing down his upper arm. He managed to yell as the two of them ended up in a tangle, struggling around the room; they rammed into a table and the instruments scattered over the floor with a tremendous clatter. The Nazi slammed him into the wall, the knife inches from his throat.

"Gollllld!" Burgundy hissed. "Help me, would you?!"

So far everyone else had merely watched the fight with goggle eyes. On hearing his name, however, Gold immediately snapped out of it and dashed forward, scooping up his rifle, which he'd set next to the door on coming in, Burgundy not appreciating weapons being brought onto the ward. A second later the butt-end of the gun rammed into the side of the Nazi's head; the knife slipped from his fingers and he slumped senseless into Burgundy's arms. With a shudder the doctor shoved him away, and he fell over and hit the floor, blood oozing from a cut above his eye. For several long moments the two Trench Rats, plus the other three patients, stared at him with fascinated horror.

Finally Gold stooped down and pressed his fingers to his neck. Burgundy watched. The corporal let out his breath and looked up.

"Well, he's still alive," he announced. "Bummer."

Burgundy let out his breath as well, supporting himself against the wall. His mind was in a whirl; he felt he'd fall over if he tried to stand up straight. "Let's get him back into bed."

Gold slipped his arm under the Nazi's shoulder and pulled him up into a sitting position. Burgundy finally recovered himself and bent to help him. Together they half-carried, half-dragged the unconscious German back to his bed, where they lifted him up and dropped him on the bunk. His head rolled to the side, his mouth hanging open. Gold snapped it shut, not caring if he bit off his tongue or not. Then he retrieved the Frenchman's knife, wiped it off on his cape, and handed it back to its owner, who received it in awed silence.

Burgundy, meanwhile, righted the toppled stand and started picking up the scattered instruments. Well, that was Rescue Number Two. If Gold kept this up, he'd make colonel by next winter. Burgundy just decided not to recommend anything outside medicine anymore. Then maybe he wouldn't get into these situations.

"How is he?" Gold asked. He winced. "It looks like I hit him a little harder than I intended...."

Burgundy joined him and cast a brief look at the Nazi. "He'll live," was all he said, and returned to his cleaning. The truth was, like Gold, now he couldn't care less if the guy lived or not. Whenever his patients tried to attack him, that was it. Do no harm or not. He could only tolerate so much.

Gold couldn't help but to smile a little at what he heard in Burgundy's voice. "Do I note some resentment? Tsk tsk, Doc. Remember, the first part of the Hippocratic Oath states--"

"Keep your sermonizing to yourself!" Burgundy snapped. "I know it well enough already!" As he reached for a scalpel he saw blood drip onto it, and wondered if he'd cut himself. It was then that he noticed the long gash running down his right arm. I'd better bind that, he thought, and started looking for some bandages. "If I ever want to hear it from you, I'll let you know in advance."

"Whatever you like, Doc."

"What in heaven's name is going on in here?" a new voice exclaimed. Gold turned to the curtain dividing this section from the Trench Rat area. He smiled as Lance-Corporal Lyndsey Skye entered, looking around in bafflement at the mess before her. So far she was the only female the others considered a "Trench Rat," although technically she wasn't; the title itself was good enough, and Gold made sure to point this out to her almost every time they met. She saw him first, with his gun slung over his shoulder, then Burgundy with his cut arm, scrabbling on the floor for a roll of bandages, then the three patients staring at the fourth one, the German, who lay in bed with a bloody gash in the side of his head. "What is all this?" she asked, stunned.

"Hi, LC," Gold greeted. "Busy tonight?"

Burgundy's eyes shot up immediately. His face reddened and he stood up, so abruptly that he nearly knocked the table over again. He reached out to steady it as it tilted to the side, spilling its instruments again, and cursed under his breath.

"Lieutenant? Corporal? What's going on? You woke up one of our own, and he's absolutely demanding to know the cause of all this--"

"Just a little scuffle, that's all," Gold replied, sidling up to her and casually taking her arm. He smiled charmingly. "Seems one of our patients isn't so happy about the wonderful treatment he's getting from Lieutenant Burgundy. Isn't that right, Doc?"

"Don't you have anything better to do?" Burgundy snapped in return. He came forward, still holding his arm, the blood squeezing between his fingers. He shot a look at both of them in turn, though his look at Skye seemed to be more guarded than the one aimed at Gold, which was just plain pissed. "Like go in there and let him know everything's all right?"

"Yeah, sure," Gold said, faking a sullen attitude. He smiled at Skye again as he went for the curtain. "Hope you like rice soup, LC. They're serving it in Mess tonight. If you don't mind, I could join you." He disappeared, and a moment later the two could hear him and the other Rat talking.

Skye watched him go--his comments didn't bother her in the least as she knew they were all a part of his routine--then turned back to Burgundy, who had since gone back to cleaning up the floor. "Lieutenant? What happened here?"

"Just what he said. It's nothing. I'll get this cleaned up in a minute."

She stepped forward, noticing him picking up a roll of gauze and hissing softly as he looked at his arm. Her eyes widened as she saw what was wrong.

"Lieutenant! Your arm! Where'd you get that?" Immediately she was pulling him to his feet, pulling the roll from his hands and walking across the room for a needle and some sutures.

"It's nothing," he protested. "I can take care of it myself."

"Nonsense. Not unless you've suddenly turned lefthanded, which I know you haven't. Now hold out your arm and quit this holier-than-thou routine. I too know how to stitch up a wound, Lieutenant."

Burgundy sullenly did as she asked while she daubed the cut clean and proceeded to sew it up. He found it embarrassing to have her stitching up his arm--he was, after all, the doctor here--but it was true that he wouldn't have been able to do it on his own. Nevertheless, he'd have preferred someone else--Gold even--to do it, rather than Skye. He turned his head to glare at the German patient so that he didn't have to watch her, the look of concentration on her face, as she finished her job and wrapped it up with gauze for good measure. "There! That should take care of it. I won't trouble you any further by asking you how you got this, but if you two keep this up there's going to be a shortage of nurses around here, I can tell you that! Now, if you don't mind, I have to get back to work."

"Fine," he replied, voice sharper than he'd intended, not bothering to add anything else. He cringed inwardly at the annoyed-bordering-on-disgusted look she gave him, though he knew why she gave it--he never seemed happy whenever she ended up doing something useful, not unless he was in charge somehow--and she turned away and went back to tend to the Nazi, who was finally just starting to stir.

Burgundy peered over his shoulder at her, rubbing his arm. Well, that was it; she was thinking exactly what he knew she would. With a frustrated sigh that he prayed she didn't hear, he turned away and finished sorting out the scattered instruments.

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