Hawkeye froze. He stood there helplessly as he watched her run into the hallway. At first, he was furious at her, the situation, and then at himself. He decided to do something with his anger. One more time, he promised himself.
He picked up the phone that was on the night stand. "I need Margaret Houlihan's room," he told the operator. He waited, growing more impatient by the minute. The operator finally got back on the line, "I am connecting you to the room, Dr. Pierce." It began to ring - finally!! After several rings, he slammed the phone down. "Damn it!" he thought, and raced out of the room in an effort to find her. "Where would she be?" he stopped and looked around for a moment. Five minutes later, he pulled up a bar stool next to hers.
"Don't you ever give up?" she asked. After years of practice, her voice no longer betrayed her innermost thoughts and longings. It was direct and without emotion, exactly as she wanted it to be. "I can't do it, Hawkeye. I just can't."
"Do what?" He leaned closer to her. He could smell her breath. Just as he thought. She had been drinking like a fish, and it had only been fifteen minutes since she had left his room.
"Please, leave me alone. You don't understand," her voice began to rise.
"Understand what?" Hawkeye felt confused as he sat here trying to figure out his old friend. He knew in his heart that she was a friend first.
"I said, leave me alone!" Now she was practically yelling at him. Everyone in the bar turned toward them, as Hawkeye began to reassure people that the situation was under control, even though it appeared quite the contrary.
"Margaret, I want you to come with me. You are drinking a lot. Honestly, I am concerned," Hawkeye said.
"Concerned? You? You are only concerned about one person - yourself!! Leave me alone!!" With that, she turned away from him as if to leave.
Hawkeye began to say "Marg" and the next thing he knew he was lying on the floor. People began to crowd around him. He looked up and she was gone. His eye began to hurt, too.
"Are you all right?" one guy asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Hawkeye answered.
"Boy, she really got you. You looked like you didn't even see it coming," another guy said.
"That's the problem, I didn't. She's an old friend. She is angry and I need to go find her," Hawkeye stood up. He again thought about chasing after her.
"Hey, do yourself and her a favor. Sit down, have a drink with us, shoot the shit, then if you want to go after her, by all means, do so. But I think you might want to wait, especially if the woman is that angry," the first guy said.
He sat down again, silently agreeing. There was no point in chasing her now. Besides, his eye really began to hurt. She had really hit him hard. "Oh, Margaret, why?" he thought to himself and ordered a scotch.
Meanwhile, back in her hotel room, Margaret downed a few more drinks, and passed out, content once again to find some relief.
"Yes, operator, I need to be connected to Trapper John McIntyre's room. He was supposed to have checked in this morning," he waited again. He was beginning to feel that he spent half his time waiting for operators to give him phone numbers. "Great, you have it. You are a doll. He is in room 310? Thanks, you win the prize," Hawkeye decided that the best way to forget your problems is to call an old friend. He was even luckier that this particular friend happened to be staying at this hotel. God, he had missed good old Trapper.
As he hung the phone up, there was a knock at the door. He secretly hoped it was Margaret, but he knew better than that.
"Yes, come in," he yelled.
"Hawkeye Pierce, that you?" Trapper asked using his best southern accent.
"Yup, tis me," Hawkeye responded. They hugged. They hadn't seen each other since the war. Actually, it had been just after Henry Blake had been killed. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
"Let me get a good look at you. It has been so long," Trapper said.
"How is the wife? Family? Job? You know, all of the 'civilian' things?" Hawkeye asked him.
"Louise is great. The kids are good. The job is all that I could have asked for. It is actually enjoyable to go to work these days," Trapper did look happy. He stepped back to take a closer look at his friend. Something was not right. Sure, he looked older, more mature, but that wasn't it. Hawkeye looked as though he had been defeated by something. A woman? No, Hawk was the best of the best with women. His job? Maybe that was it. Or his father, perhaps? Then, he noticed Hawkeye's bruised eye. He felt he had to say something.
"Hawk, what's up?"
"Are you ready for this story? It is set three years after the Korean War at a Medical Convention just like this one where a certain doctor and a certain blonde nurse are reunited," Hawkeye stopped hoping to see any spark of recognition in Trapper's face. None appeared so he continued his story. Hawkeye was confident though that his old friend would catch on.
"Well, this doctor and nurse are pretty certain that they love each other. Well, I know for a fact that the doctor loves the nurse, and I could have sworn that this nurse loved the doctor just as much," Hawkeye continued.
"Hey, hey, hey, are you talking about who I think you might be talking about? Are you talking about Hot Lips Houlihan? Hawkeye Pierce, you are one of a kind. How did you mange to get that woman to warm up to you? That's like saying that Antarctica had a heat wave. You have to tell me this one," Trapper told him, not believing his ears.
"After Frank Burns got shipped stateside, things gradually got better between us. By the way, he got promoted," Hawkeye began.
"Promoted? To what? To a mental hospital for life?" Trapper couldn't believe yet again what he was hearing.
"Hold on to your hat. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel."
"The guy was nuts, so they promote him. That is like giving a drowning man a glass of water. Go on with your story," Trapper said.
"So, after Frank left, there were even more opportunities to get closer. Did I take advantage of them!"
"I am sure you did. You being a red-blooded healthy male," Trapper still couldn't believe that his buddy had managed to catch the woman most men in the outfit would have killed for.
"There is one catch, though," Hawkeye began explaining.
"It hasn't been an easy road to travel down. Margaret got married, had a short-lived affair with me, got divorced, had other flings. We say goodbye in Korea, and that's it. Then I see her last night for the first time in 3 years, and finally come to the realization that she is the one I want to spend my life with. I invite her to my room, tell her, and she leaves. I found her in the bar downstairs, and the next thing I know is a guy named George is helping me off the floor," Hawkeye said.
"She was the who slugged you? Also, did I hear you right? She cheated on her husband with you?" Trapper asked him, more astounded by the minute. The 4077th had changed so much without him around. Why couldn't this all have happened while he was there? It would have made life much more interesting.
"We had gone to the 8063rd, but they had bugged out. To make a long story short, we kind of made love that one night while the North Koreans were practically knocking on the back door of the shack we stayed in," Hawkeye explained.
"Did your accommodations come complete with room service?" Trapper asked.
"Yes, and there was a lovely continental breakfast that awaited us in the morning. But, seriously, Trap, what do I do about her?" Hawkeye looked at him in desperation. Trapper began to feel uncomfortable. Hawkeye had always been the one in charge, so determined; he knew what he wanted and he went for it, and nothing stood in his way. Until now.
"Hawk, all I can really say is this: Is she really worth it?" Trapper was concerned for his friend.
Hawkeye looked straight at him and said without hesitation, "Yep, she is."
"Well, then, now that we have come to a conclusion, let's go get a drink. It might be awhile before you speak with her, and let's not waste it being sober," Trapper always how to remedy a situation.
"Oh, yes, a martini would be splendid," Hawkeye said.
"Yes, indeed," Trapper nodded in agreement.
Margaret turned to see her clock. It read 8:15. The sun was already out shining brightly on the earth. She didn't care. Her head was pounding. Her stomach felt like someone had gone in and tied it up into twenty different knots.
"What happened last night?" It seemed as though it was one giant blur. Yet she seemed to remember one vague detail. Did she actually punch Hawkeye in the face? How hard? She wondered about what had taken place as she made her morning coffee. "Well, he was being his usual jackass self," she thought, trying to place her anger and hatred on him, as she had done so often in the past.
Then a thought occurred to her - was she the jackass in training? She forced herself to look honestly at the situation. "God, what a fool I am, but he just irritates me so. Always pushing everything to the limit," she thought as she got up, opened her curtains, and looked out by the pool. She saw two men walking by. It was Hawkeye and Trapper. She stepped back from the window so they wouldn't be able to see her, yet she still wanted to be able to watch what they were doing.
They sat down on some lawn chairs next to the pool, martinis already in hand. She wished she could be a fly on the wall, listening to their conversation. They were now two older, distinguished looking men. Very little pointed to the fact that they were old war buddies. "Maturity," she thought as she went to pick up the phone.
Margaret decided she had to speak with him, at least once more to apologize for her inexcusable actions the night before. This whole situation made her feel uncomfortable, because it showed her she had a weakness that she was having trouble accepting. It was that she loved him, probably more so than he loved her. That made her vulnerable, and the thought horrified her. If she could just let down her guard to tell him that. Didn't he deserve the same honesty in return? She pushed away thoughts that maybe Hawkeye wouldn't take the time to speak to her. She then looked at her calendar for today and realized that she needed to be at a meeting in a half hour. First, though, she left a message with the operator for later that day.
"Let's go up to my room quickly, then go down to the bar and order more drinks and lunch. This is our celebration day. It is great to see you again, Trap. Now it feels like only yesterday that you left the 4077th," Hawkeye was right about his plan for the day. Spending it with an old friend was better than dwelling on all of his problems waiting for him in the love department of his life.
"Only yesterday?" Trapper asked. "It feels like an eternity from my viewpoint. I mean, Henry dies on his way home, I leave, and you are stuck dealing with old ferret face as CO and on top of all of that, you get a new bunkie," Trapper said.
"Actually, the guy that replaced you, BJ Hunnicut, was a clean-cut, decent guy who could hold his own with the best of them. As for Frank, he ended up with temporary command. Colonel Potter showed up, a regular army type, and it turned out that he was just as good as old Henry. Different, but good," Hawkeye explained.
"Speaking of Henry Blake, I was thinking," Trapper started. "Maybe we could start some sort of scholarship fund in Henry's name, as a remembrance."
"Who would receive it?" Hawkeye asked him, already liking the idea. Sort of a tribute to a man who died too young.
"Oh, you know, kind of the ordinary guy who tries to do his best against all odds. Ambitious, but not too ambitious. Smart, yet not too smart. You get the idea," Trapper said.
"And a young man with the ability to do target shooting while being completely wasted," Hawkeye added, referring to Henry's affection for his liquor cabinet.
"And with the ability to impersonate and dance with any lampshade that came his way," Trapper continued. "But, seriously, think about it. There are a lot of deserving young kids out there who need the money for school and it would also be a great way for the Henry Blakes of the world to be remembered. Now that we both have the money, why not?"
"Sounds like a great idea. Just let me know." They arrived at Hawkeye's room. "I just want to see if I have any messages." He picked up the phone and dialed the operator. His face lit up as he listened, then he frowned.
"What's up?" Trapper was very curious now. Though he was hoping that Hawkeye wouldn't be as persistent with Margaret today. He wanted his friend to leave the convention alive.
"She left a message saying she wants to meet at the bar around lunchtime. That's it. What do you think?" Hawkeye looked to his old friend for advice. He was apprehensive now about the whole thing.
"Well, we were planning to go there anyway. Let's go down, and see what happens, and hope for the best. If she shows, I'll find something else to do for a bit. Then we can reconvene for dinner," Trapper suggested, and they walked out of the room and down to the bar.
Twenty minutes later, they had ordered their drinks and some food. Hawkeye felt as though he could relax some.
"Hawk, the ball is in her court. Give her a chance to open up and she will," Trapper was secretly hoping he was right, but he remembered the tough-as-nails Margaret Houlihan that he had known. The one who showed no mercy. Couldn't Hawkeye have chosen an easier woman to be dealing with?
Margaret finished attending the lectures that she was required to attend for the day. Finally! It was a little after 1:00 in the afternoon. The morning felt like an eternity. She found her mind wandering quite frequently. The harder she tried concentrating, the more her mind wandered to what had occurred the night before. She had punched him in the face. Her conscience would not allow her to let that go. Hawkeye deserved better.
She entered her room, darted into the bathroom to check her appearance, changed into something more casual for the afternoon and evening ahead. She darted out of the room to head for the bar. She was anxious about this meeting, because she knew she had to face him and Trapper together. She walked in and spotted them immediately. She stopped, took a deep breath, and went over to join them.
"Well, well, well, look who is here to join us, Hawk. It is Miss Margaret," Trapper attempted to break the ice immediately. They didn't need to feel awkward around each other. That didn't need to be added to their already painfully long list of things to talk about. He felt bad for them. Love was hard, and both people had to be ready and willing to deal with it. He hoped they were.
"Trapper John, I never thought I would ever see you again," Margaret was very relieved to have him here today to ease some of the tension.
"I am here alright, in the flesh, alive and well," Trapper was always full of life, more so now that his life had fallen into a very comfortable routine. His kids were older, he had a great job, excellent pay, and a happy marriage. No man could ask for more. He realized how fortunate he was, and appreciated it every day.
"It is good to see you," Margaret said, finally realizing that Hawkeye hadn't said anything yet. She looked at him.
"Would you care to join us?" Trapper asked.
"Well...." she started to say and looked at Hawkeye again for his reaction.
"Actually, Trap, could Margaret and I meet you later? I'll call you and we can get together for dinner. The three of us. We can catch up and talk about old times," Hawkeye suggested. Trapper stood up.
"OK, catch you later. Have fun," Trapper said as he left the table.
"It is great seeing him again. Too many years have gone by. Let's get to the matter at hand. Can I buy you a drink?" Hawkeye asked. A neutral way to start things off.
"Sure, I am done for the day. How about an old fashioned?" Margaret said. She could use a drink right about now. It would relax her, open her up. She knew it would be more of a help than a hindrance at this point.
Hawkeye went over to the bar, got her drink, and refilled his glass. "God, I haven't drank this much since the war." He carried the drinks back to the table and said a silent prayer.
"Here you are, Margaret. Table service," Hawkeye was making a keen effort to keep this going in the right direction.
"Thanks. Hawkeye, it is my turn to talk. I want to say 'I'm sorry' for hitting you last night. I was way out of line. I was angry, confused. No one has ever been that honest with me before," this time she stopped to gauge his reaction. He appeared to be listening and open to what she had to say.
"I don't know. Can we go somewhere a little more private to talk?" She asked him, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable as she noticed how many people had entered the bar since their arrival.
Hawkeye nodded. They stood up. Hawkeye grabbed her hand, hoping she wouldn't reject the gesture. He knew this journey would be painful and yet exhilarating for both of them. They walked down the hall to his room. He opened the door, and they walked in and sat down. Margaret resumed the conversation.
"I am really sorry. I guess I still demand too much of myself and then I demand the same from the people around me."
"I know," Hawkeye said, softly.
"Your confession last night startled me, horrified me, excited me. I guess I have been waiting so long for one guy to say that to me and actually mean it," Margaret stopped abruptly. She wasn't sure if she should continue. The look of concern on his face told it was OK.
"When the words I have longed to hear for so long finally came, I wasn't sure if I could trust them." Margaret was crying now. "I have spent my life trying to be perfect and to measure up to what I thought others expected of me. And I have continuously fallen short of that perfection time and time again. Then I feel that I can only be loved if I am perfect. You standing there and say you love me, perfect or not, is a terrifying thought. I couldn't handle it, so I drank myself to sleep last night." She turned away, feeling uncomfortable for confiding in him as much as she did.
"Oh, Margaret, I am the one who should be sorry." Hawkeye was finally hearing some of the pain and heartache she had endured through her life. He had always sensed there was more going on than she would ever admit.
They looked at each other, silent for a moment. Hawkeye reached to embrace her, and maybe reassure her. He ran his fingers through her hair. She wanted more than that though. She kissed him. At first, he wasn't sure if he should respond, but his body answered for him. Their passion for each other was taking control.
Hawkeye felt that they needed to talk more and it bothered him. There was so much more that he wanted to say. "We need to stop," he told her.
Margaret was momentarily taken aback. She couldn't believe he felt the urge to talk right now. She felt so safe and so secure with his arms firmly around her. She loved the physical closeness he could offer.
"I just feel that we need to be more open with each other on other levels, not just on a physical level," Hawkeye added. He was very well aware of the fact that they were perfect for each other in that respect.
She thought about it for a moment. Before she could respond, he continued, "Is there anything I can do to make this less scary for you? Or is life with me just not in the cards? I accepted that once. I can do it again. Once we returned from Korea, I did know how to contact you, but I never did. I guess I began to believe that our lives were not meant to be spent together. I realized that I needed to accept that and move on with my life. Then I saw you again the other night and realized that my love for you runs deeper than I could ever have imagined." There. He finally said all that he had needed to say.
"I guess I just don't know. Marriage is scary for me after the whole thing with Donald. What it comes down to partly is this. Can I give up part of Margaret Houlihan to because Mrs. Hawkeye Pierce? And do I really want to do that at this stage of the game?"
"Do you?" he asked, not really wanting to hear the answer. He put his hand on her arm and looked right at her. "Only you can decide that. I will give you time, because I have never known this kind of love for anyone before, but I am not going to wait until I am 90 to fool around again. I would be wasting precious years of my life, you know," he smiled at her. "But seriously, I don't want to push you either way. If I push you in the wrong direction, you'll end up resenting or even hating me, and I definitely can not live with that. The old Hawkeye could have though, not this one.
Margaret had definitely begun to see him in a completely different light. Part of her problems stemmed from the fact that he had changed so much. He was now much more honest and direct with her. It was actually a bit intimidating
"Well, how about this? Let's go meet Trapper for dinner and we will continue this when you feel ready, OK?" Hawkeye clearly gave her an escape route. He was taking this from his own experience. For many years, he couldn't commit to women, and he would frantically search for the exit sign. He knew that the gesture would be appreciated.
Hand in hand, they walked down the hall to Trapper's room.
Later, Hawkeye decided he would say goodbye to her that night. The convention would be ending the next day. He reasoned with himself that it would be easier to break things off with her tonight. It would also allow her some time to think before she headed to the airport to go home.
"Well, this is it," Hawkeye said to her once they reached her room. "I am taking off in the morning. Told Dad I'd be home at a reasonable hour." He took her hand in his and kissed it. " I love you, remember that. Also, work on something for me - be happy."
She wasn't sure how she should respond. She didn't want the night to end. She couldn't let it end. They had a wonderful dinner with Trapper. Joking and laughing, they recalled old stories about Henry and even Frank Burns. Margaret found herself falling in love with Hawkeye all over again, and it was a wonderful feeling after all.
"Please, come in for a little while." Margaret decided she couldn't let him go just yet.
"Why, Margaret, are you sure? You know what they say..."
"Shut up and get in here," she demanded.
She shut the door behind her, dimmed the lights, and went over and put her arms around him. That night, they found that the magic they had made a few years ago could be made again. The evening was perfect.
Hawkeye woke up to find her lying right beside him, where he felt she belonged. Could he even begin to hope that she would stay there? They could both play the denial game really well. They had danced around their love for one another for so long. He had tried to capture her heart for so many years now that it really felt that she was the only woman for him. He also knew she felt the same for him, but could she allow him in close to her? He was stupid that time he backed away. His heart ached knowing he may never see her again, so decided right then what to do and how to handle the next few hours. He knew he may live to regret it, but he also felt the need to not push her.
He got out of bed, sat down, found a pen, and wrote her a note. He felt that a note could speak from his heart more and she may not feel as threatened by it. He would then go back to his room before she awoke. Even though this was the right decision, he had to keep telling himself that was he was right. He looked at her one last time. So lovely and peaceful lying there. He forced himself to turn and leave her, possibly forever. She did need time to decide the next chapter of her life, and she was the only person who could decide if he would play a role.
He quietly shut the door behind him and decided to get some coffee and begin the waiting game. It was all he could really do.
"Hey, Hawk!! Wait up!" a familiar voice yelled to him.
He turned around to see Trapper running to catch up to him. "Trapper, how lovely it is to see you this A.M. Care to join me for some coffee?"
"Sure. I've taken my morning stroll already. It is amazing what you see and hear first thing as you pass by other people's rooms. One couple was fighting about who's turn it is to make the coffee. Parents arguing with their children, you name it, I saw it this morning."
They were seated in the dining room. "So?" Trapper asked.
"So, last night, you walk her to her room and...." Trapper wanted to get the details. He was always the type to get straight to the point.
"We went back to her room, and she asked me in. We 'enjoyed' each other's company, so to speak. I just got up, left her a note, and decided it would be best to disappear to give her time to think," Hawkeye told him. Even as he spoke, he realized he placed a lot of confidence in Margaret for her to do what she felt she must. He had gained a better understanding of her in the last two days.
"Yes and it was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make," Hawkeye admitted. "Professionally, making decisions for other people's lives has always come easily. When it comes to my own life, the road becomes much harder to navigate."
"Lots of potholes and u-turns?"
"Well, I would like to tell you that everything will work out and that it will be just fine. But we are both too old for that. We have seen too much."
"I know. Well, Trap, it has been great to see you. Let's do this again sometime," Hawkeye said. He needed to get back to his room in order to get to the airport on time.
"Sure, you name the time and the place, and I'll be there," Trapper said.
"Great. And I'll let you know how things go. Maybe we will be sending out wedding invites. I've decided to ask her to marry me if she does contact me again," Hawkeye had to share that with him.
"Hawkeye, she does love you, I can tell. But the flip side is that she has a lot of crap to work out still. At dinner last night, she was the happiest I have ever seen her."
"Yeah, but the whole time you knew her, she was dating old ferret face," Hawkeye interrupted.
"I mean, I could tell just the way she looked at you. Just relax, and one more piece of advice. If a woman comes your way while you are waiting for her, go for it. Just don't tell Margaret I said that," Trapper smiled. "Hey, let's do better at keeping in touch. What do you say?"
"That I can do for you. I will see you soon, Trap," Hawkeye watched as Trapper stood up and walked out of the dining room.
Hawkeye was alone now to go pack, catch his flight back to Maine, and resume his very predictable life with his dad. He went through the motions, hoping she would call. He couldn't believe how his world had gotten turned upside down since his arrival on Friday night. He came expecting the usual talks and discussions. What he had found instead had made the weekend much more exciting, he had to admit. He dreaded the thought of going to work the next morning. His colleagues would ask him what he had learned over the weekend. He could picture himself standing there saying, "I found the future Mrs. Hawkeye Pierce." They would all laugh, and someone was bound to say, "No, really, Doctor Pierce, what new information did you bring us from the convention."
As it got closer to the time he needed to leave, he thought more seriously about calling her. He decided against it. He finished packing, called a cab, and headed for the airport. "Goodbye, Margaret," he whispered.
Margaret awoke around the same time Hawkeye was leaving for the airport. She looked around the room. She realized that he was gone. She saw a sheet of paper underneath the phone and picked it up and started reading it. Tears began to well up in her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. She picked up the phone and asked to be connected to his room.
"Who do you need?" The operator asked for the second time.
"Dr. Benjamin Pierce," she told her.
"I'm sorry, ma'am. He just checked out."
"Are you sure? Try a different first name. It is Hawkeye," Margaret began to feel even more frantic.
"No listings at all for that name, ma'am."
She slammed down the phone. What the hell was she going to do now? Could she get a flight to Maine? For how much and when? What was she thinking? Follow him to Maine and then what? She didn't live there, or even begin to know her way around. She had never been there, although the thought of going had crossed her mind more than once.
She sat down, desperately trying to figure out what to do. Last night had been wonderful. He had been so loving and gentle. He deeply cared about her. She could feel it in his embrace. It was strong, yet gentle. He had grown up since Korea.
"What the hell am I waiting for?" She demanded of herself.
She called to change her plane reservations in order to fly to Maine. She couldn't believe she was doing this. It appeared to be the desperate actions of a love sick teenager dealing with her first love. Well, she reasoned with herself, aren't I dealing with my first true love? She'd had numerous flings and affairs and was even married, but the love she felt for Hawkeye was different. The amazing part was that she felt the same way about her. She couldn't let him go.
She thought back to a conversation she had with Trapper the night before. Hawkeye had gone to get another round of drinks. They were all feeling pretty good at this point of the evening. Trapper had leaned over and said, "You should really think about what Hawkeye has to offer you."
At first, she was offended. How dare he assume anything, or even dare to presume that it was his business!
"Seriously, Margaret, he would kill me if he knew I was putting my two cents in. He loves you in a real special way. I know he does. He told me so. You may never encounter this kind of love again, so why not enjoy it?"
"Well," Margaret began to say. She wasn't sure how to respond. She was relieved that Hawkeye returned to the table at that moment. End of conversation.