Margaret shifted uncomfortably in the cloth airline seat. The man next to her had already made three passes at her, and she made up her mind that if he did it once more that she would tell him off and move. Her thoughts wandered. Back to last night. The only time she had felt so safe and loved had been nearly four years ago, in an abandoned hut with shells exploding around them in Korea. No, that was a lie. The last time she had felt that way was on July 28th, 1953. The day after the armistice for the Korean conflict was signed. He had held her in his arms and kissed her. She now realized that, unlike his innumerable other kisses, that kiss didn't offer passion, but love. The pilot came on and announced "We will be landing shortly. The 'Fasten Seat Belt' sign had been turned on, so please remain seated until the landing." When the plane landed, she made her way toward the double doors, outside of which she spied several cabs. She opened the door to one and requested tersely: "A town called Crabapple Cove. I was told it was about fourteen miles west of here, right?" Typical Major Houlihan crispness once again surfaced.
"Yes m'am. About twenty minutes." He looked at her hard in the mirror and then pulled out into traffic.
Once again, her thoughts wandered. This time back to the war. The time he had removed her appendix, even though it was Frank's job. The time he had set up that awful congressman's aide who thought she was a communist. The time he had...
"Can I take you anywhere in particular, m'am?" The cabbie had pulled up at the Town Hall, being the first place he saw where it was okay to stop.
She knew that he wouldn't know where Hawkeye lived, so she shook her head. "Thanks, but no. Here." She handed him enough to cover her fare and a tip, got out, and walked into the Town Hall.
"Excuse me, but do you know where I might find Ben Pierce?" She posed the question to a woman of a few years younger that her, and considerably less attractive, though Margaret didn't notice. All she cared about was seeing him.
"You mean Hawkeye?" The woman glared at Margaret.
"Yes. Do you know him?" She was totally unaware of the other woman's scowl.
"Everyone knows Hawkeye. Who, might I ask, are you?"
"I'm an old friend of his. We were stationed together in Korea. I really need to find him." She didn't figure it was any business of this irritating woman's what she wanted.
"Honey, can I help you?" The voice came from a man several years older than Hawkeye, but something about him reminded Margaret of Hawk.
"Oh, I hope so. I'm looking for Hawkeye Pierce. Do you know him?" She fervently hoped that this man would be a sight more helpful that the woman had been.
"Did you say that you and him were war buddies?" The man scrutinized her, and seemed to find what it was he was looking for. "Yeah, you did. You wouldn't happen to be Margaret, would you? Hot Lips Houlihan?"
"Yes, I am, although nobody had called me that in years. I'd actually started to miss it. Can you please help me find his house?"
"Yep. In fact, I can do you better than that. I'll take you there. I was on my way home, anyway." He grinned.
"Dr. Daniel Pierce?" she gasped. "You're his father."
"Yep. Now come on. I can't wait to show him just what I found. He's been a fine froth since he came home, and your name was just about all he could say." The woman she had first talked to looked furious. "He's mine! And everyone knows that," she snapped.
"Everyone but him. Now for goodness sake, Darlene. Shut up!" Daniel marched out, with her in tow.
"Ben!" Daniel called. "Come on down and see what I brought you. After yet another harrowing experience with Darlene, I might add."
She looked up to see him decending the stairs. He didn't look up. "That bloodsucker. Even if I didn't hate that name, I'd still dislike her." He reached the bottom of the stairs and finally looked up. They were standing right in front of each other. Without a word, he reached out and pulled her to him, and they held one another as they had when they had first seen the other at the conference. Daniel tactfully retreated. She drew away. She met his eyes and without compunction said "I love you , Ben. And I want to spend the rest of my life with you." She cupped his head in the palm of her hand and kissed him deeply. As she had often longed to do, she ran her fingers through the thick silvery mass of dark hair, and tilted her head to further deepen the kiss. The gentle hands that had saved so many lives back in another world now clasped her to him, and he began to back her into a corner. His hands ventured beneath the hem of her shirt, and she propped her knee on his hip. Suddenly, he drew away. "The porch swing," he panted, short of breath. He led her out onto the porch, and she saaw a breathtaking view of the bay. They cuddled in each other's arms again, and stared out at the bay. He jumped up. He stood in front of her and reached into his pocket. He withdrew something that she couldn't see, and knelt in front of her. He opened the black box in his hand and held it out to her.
"Margaret Houlihan, will you marry me? Please?" The look on his face was both uncertain and beseeching.
She leaned down and kissed him, hard. She pulled away and said "Yes." He slid his mother's engagement ring on the ring finger of her left hand and leaned towards her. Pressing her into the seat of the swing, he kissed her again, and whispered against her lips "I love you. Very much." Then, he bracketed her head in his hands and his lips met hers once more in the sweetest kiss either had ever felt.
As she sat at the Pierce's table, writing Thank You notes, he spoke to Father Mulcahy on the phone. "Thanks again for doing the service, and on such short notice, Father. It meant a lot to both of us. We love you. Bye." He moved back to her side. "Well, my love, how about taking a break? " He reached out and clapsed her hand. He brought the palm to his lips and kissed it, moistening the soft skin. She stood up and threaded her fingers in his hair.
"Thank you, Hawkeye."
"For what?" he asked, perplexed.
"For your perseverance. I knew almost seven years ago, when I first met you, that I loved you. When we said goodbye, I was dying inside. And as that jeep left the compound for the last time, a piece of me stayed, and until the moment I saw you in that conference room, that piece has been missing. The missing piece of me was my heart. I love you."