Part 5 by Carrie

"Oh, you know, Crabapple Cove, Maine, is small town America. My life is part of that town now. People know me, respect me. But sometimes, I just feel like throwing it all away, and starting over. Maybe settle down, have a family, who knows," Hawkeye looked into her eyes, leaving a large part of what he was thinking and leaving a large part of his life unspoken.

Margaret looked away, forcing herself not to care.

"I guess I want more now, than I ever did before. Well, not that I am unhappy really. Living with Dad has been fine. He appreciates it, and as he gets older..." Hawkeye let the sentence end by itself. "Well, not that I am home every night with him," he said and grinned at her. "I am not his babysitter, you know."

"Finally," Margaret thought to herself with great relief. "Some of the old Hawkeye Pierce is showing through."

She felt herself relaxing. She enjoyed his sense of humor, more so than she would ever admit. "Imagine if I told him that again? Could he handle it? Why do I even think he'd be interested?" She quickly pushed the thoughts aside. They terrified her, and made her feel out of control.

"But there is something missing in my life in small town America, and it took me until tonight to finally realize what it was," he stopped, looking directly into her eyes.

She looked away again, pretending not to know where the conservation appeared to be leading. Now she was genuinely scared. What was he about to say?

"And that is? How much you love medical conventions?" She desperately tried to keep the conversation light. She wasn't sure if she was completely ready to hear what he really had to say. Wanting to change the subject, she asked, "What is it that Hawkeye Pierce does for entertainment these days? To be honest, you seem to be beyond all of the boozing and womanizing you did back at the 4077th," Margaret was genuinely interested in the answer to this question. She tried to look calm on the outside, but thoughts raced through her mind. Did he date anyone? Kiss anyone? Hold anyone with the same passion he held her with?

"Damn it, she went ahead and changed the subject yet again on me. Ok, I'll play along for now. She could leave if I don't play this 'game' right," he reasoned with himself.

"Well, I attend medical conferences like these, for example," he stopped, looking to see if he could figure out what she was thinking. "Damn her again! I feel like I am wasting my time. Should I tell her I have to go and forget about her once and for all?" he thought to himself.

He knew he couldn't go through the pain of a broken heart again. He was too old and tired. He preferred safety these days, over sticking his neck out on a limb, as he once had. Once in a lifetime was enough. He would never forget the day he said 'goodbye' to her in Korea. He couldn't find the right words, so he grabbed her close to him and kissed her. He never imagined he would lose contact with her for three long years. He now realized that he could wait no longer. It was now or never.

"Look, Margaret, I need to be going. If you would care to continue this conversation later, please come by my room. Room #210," Hawkeye finally decided to end the mind games. It took all of his strength to stand up, grab her hand, squeeze it tight, and say, "So, will I see you later?" He paused, but not long enough for her to answer. It was as though he didn't really want an answer. He knew he wanted to give her time to think. "If I don't see you, I have one more thing to tell you. I love you, Margaret Houlihan, and I have since the day we met. So, if I never see you again, at least I can manage by knowing I could be completely honest with myself and with you. Goodbye for now," he turned to leave, but not fast enough, for Margaret saw a tear sliding down one of his cheeks. He left the room and didn't look back. Her eyes followed him until he disappeared into the people in the hallway.

She remained there. Shocked and confused, because one part of her felt a strong urge to run after him. If she did that though, she would have to know what to say. She didn't have any intention of standing there in front of him sounding like a bumbling idiot.

Did she love him? She knew she did. Did she love him enough to go find his room tonight and be completely honest with him? That she wasn't sure of. It meant being vulnerable, letting down her guard, and allowing him to get to know the "real" Margaret. The one who was scared and lonely, and the one who loved him as much as he loved her. Could she really allow him to see the real Margaret? She knew she wanted to be with him, but she wished it could be that easy. She had learned a long time ago it was easier to keep other people out, then to risk them coming into your life.....

She finally decided to go out for a walk to think about her evening plans and whether or not they included Hawkeye Pierce. She entered the hallway and saw him again, but this time he was hugging some other woman. She instantly froze. They were joking and laughing so loud that she could practically hear them at her end of the hall, a good twenty feet away.

Jealousy as she had never known came over her. "A quick exit. How do I get out of here?" she thought to herself as she quickly walked, then ran back to her hotel room, hoping that he hadn't seen her.

She found her room, put her key in the door, and bolted into her room with tears streaming down her face. She couldn't believe her reaction to him holding another woman. She had seen him fawn over the nursing staff back in Korea. Why should this bother her? She kept replaying it in her mind. "It is probably an old friend of his," she continued telling herself, wanting desperately to convince herself of this. The woman also had to be ten or fifteen years younger, which stung Margaret even more. She knew she wasn't as young as she used to be, and she was also very aware of the fact that men her age were known to date women half her age.

She went into the bathroom, splashed cold water on her face, and spoke to her reflection, "OK, no more tears. Pull yourself together." No matter how awful a situation got, she could always rely on her enormous supply of inner strength. She was tough. It was the strength that kept her going on alone in her life.

Part 4 | Part 6