She decided to spend the rest of the day and the night in Hawaii. Maybe the beautiful scenery would help her relax and calm down a little. She booked a flight to San Francisco for the next day. There she would meet BJ and his family.
The little vacation indeed was good for her. She enjoyed walking at the beach and just doing nothing. She called BJ and Hawkeye in the evening, telling them when she would arrive in San Francisco and when she would finally come home. The phone calls were really emotional for both sides. Hearing the voices of the two men she loved so dearly made Casey cry and she knew that BJ and Hawk felt the same way. She realized how much she missed them and was looking forward to see them again soon. This night was more restful than the sleep in the plane. The nice soft hotel bed gave her the sense of sleeping on clouds in contrast to the hard army cots in the camp. Only the nightmares didn't stop totally but she could handle it and finally dreamt of Maine and meeting her father.
The flight was scheduled for early morning. Casey was nervous when getting on the plane, she could neither sleep nor eat during the flight. When looking down at San Francisco while the plane slowly descended her heart was beating faster. Just a couple of more minutes and she was back home - at least almost.
She walked along the gangway nervously straightening out the uniform which she wore this time instead of the dirty fatigues and heavy boots. As soon as she got her bag from the baggage claim she went through the door. Although there were crowds surrounding her she immediately spotted BJ, since he was one of the tallest. Without saying a word Casey rushed into his arms and couldn't help crying.
"Hey, girl." BJ said and hugged her tight. He had tears in his eyes. "It's great having you back!"
Casey looked at him and smiled. "It's great being back!" She replied still in tears.
Then Casey saw the rest of the Hunnicut family standing next to them. She gave them all big hugs.
It was a tearful reunion. Since Casey had three more hours before her next flight was leaving she spent them with BJ and his family. They ate lunch together and enjoyed themselves. She didn't talk much about Vietnam, at least not about the bad things she saw in OR. She didn't want to make Peg, Erin and Mike worry but one look into BJ's eyes told her that he knew what she had been through.
BJ accompanied her to her gate when the flight was announced while the others waited outside.
"Have a nice flight and say hello to Hawk from me." The doctor gave her a goodbye kiss. "I'm really happy that you are back, Casey! And now get on that plane. I think it would be Hawk's death if you didn't arrive on time."
Casey grinned. "You may be right, Beej. I know his temper." She hugged him. "It was good seeing you again!"
BJ nodded. "Come back as fast as you can. And if you want to talk, you know my number."
"Yes, thanks." She kissed him on the cheek, then turned around and finally was on the plane bound for Portland.
She thought that the last flight would be an easy and relaxing one. But that was wrong. She was more nervous than before, her heart pounding violently at the thought of finally seeing her dad again.
When Casey left the plane in Portland, got her bags and entered the arrival lounge Hawkeye Pierce welcomed her with open arms. They held each other for a very long time, both weeping with joy.
"My baby is back home!" Her dad said in a choked voice while kissing his daughter.
Casey nodded laughing. She wasn't able to speak, she was overwhelmed by emotions. She looked at the man in front of her, his black hair seemed to have turned grayer during her absence, his eyes were filled with tears but at the same time sparkling with joy and his smile was contagious as usual. She slipped back into his strong arms and never wanted to leave his embrace. Finally she made it - she was home! No more wounded soldiers, no more explosions, no more life threatening situations - for the first time in six months she felt save!
"Where's grandpa?" Casey asked when they left the airport and headed for Hawkeye's old Ford station wagon.
"He is at home waiting for us with his homemade pizza in the oven. Hope you're hungry."
"You bet." Casey answered and got into the car. "I can't wait to get out of this uniform and into some clothes that are not army green."
Hawkeye laughed his unique laughter. "I know exactly what you mean. I stopped at your apartment on the way to the airport and picked up some of your stuff. Hope it's okay. I thought you might like staying with us in Crabapple Cove for a while."
Casey smiled at him. "Seems like you can read my mind."
It was late evening when they arrived at Hawkeye's house. When the two travelers stepped onto the porch the front door was opened. An man who could have been Hawkeye's double, only thirty years older, came out.
"Grandpa!" Said Casey and then they embraced.
"It's good to have you back, sweetie!" Daniel Pierce held her tight. "Would you like some pizza?"
"I'd love to."
They entered the house. Casey enjoyed the evening very much, she felt a little strange though. It was weird, a couple of days ago she had been miles away in a foreign country fighting against death, fear and loneliness and suddenly she was back with her family, sitting in the kitchen and eating the best pizza in the whole world.
While Daniel went to bed after dinner Hawkeye and his daughter ended up staying awake the whole night. They talked about everything that had been on their minds, they cried together and Hawkeye comforted Casey. Both fell asleep on the couch around sunrise clinging to one another.
Casey spent the next two weeks in Crabapple Cove. Glad about not being in the army anymore she helped Hawkeye in his private practice and tried to leave the war behind. Talking to her dad and BJ about the things she had experienced in Vietnam and hearing something about Korea made it easier for her but somehow she knew she would never be able to go back to being that innocent and perfectly happy girl she had been before her tour of duty. The nightmares kept coming and they always reminded her of the pain and fear that she had felt in Vietnam.
After this short period of adjustment she moved back to Portland where she found a job as a ward sister in her old hospital. It wasn't exactly the kind of work she dreamt of, she'd rather be back in the OR or maybe in the ER but there was no vacancy. The only thing that she liked about being back in Portland was that she had the chance to meet her old friends again. But it was weird talking to them because most hadn't been to Vietnam, they did not know what she saw and it was hard explaining it.
Soon Casey felt totally bored with her job, it was not challenging enough for her. In the army she had been trained to work in the OR, even doing surgery herself and all she was doing here was not much more than giving shots. She was thinking about looking for something else, maybe moving to another city.
A couple of months later she went to St.Paul for a vacation. Meeting Eric again, who was luckily back at his old job as a thoracic surgeon in the children's hospital, was one of the happiest moments after her return. She stayed with him and his family for a week and just enjoyed having him around. He was the person she could talk to about anything without being afraid that he might not understand her thoughts. They still had this special connection and both were sure that their friendship would last a lifetime. They had gone through the same hell and shared so many memories.
"Do you know what I think is the worst about being back home?" Casey asked one evening when they were sitting in a bar having a drink.
Eric looked at her and suddenly answered: "The nightmares."
Casey stared at him. "Yes, exactly. I just can't get some of the wounded out of my head. The burned soldiers are the worst, even now I can smell their charred flesh. It's awful.You're having nightmares, too?"
Eric nodded. "Had them almost every night when I came back. It was horrible. They aren't coming up that often anymore but to be honest I think I'll never get rid of the images. It's hard living with them but I'm glad to have a lot of nice memories about Vietnam also including you and they help me. And the best help are my wife and little Alex."
Casey looked at him sadly. "I know what you mean. I was glad having my dad to comfort me. He had been in Korea and kind of knew what I saw in Vietnam. He was a great help but that didn't stop the nightmares. I'm still having them quite regularly and I really hope they go away one day!" She looked at Eric. "I still can't stand loud noises. Once I heard a backfire I panicked. I was so scared that I would have jumped into the next ditch to take cover if dad hadn't stopped me."
"He must have been terrified seeing you act so crazy."
Casey nodded. "Yeah, he was really worried but he understood. He's almost the only one who does. But now I'm so glad I can talk to you about this. I needed somebody from the 55th to confide in, someone who had seen exactly the same things."
Eric hugged her. "I feel the same way and am happy to have you here. You're my best friend, my soul mate and I hope that never changes."
They stayed a long time in that bar comforting each other, sharing thoughts about everything, reveling in memories and also laughing together. This evening they both found parts of themselves that had been missing since their home-coming, parts they thought they had lost in Vietnam for good.
"And how about this guy... this doctor. Josh. Did you hear from him?" Eric asked when they returned to his house.
"No." Casey sounded a bit disappointed.
"I'm sorry. Don't you have his address?"
Casey shook her head. "Nope, I don't have his and he doesn't have mine. Pretty dumb but we didn't think about it that night."
Eric couldn't help grinning. "I can imagine...you had something else in mind."
She smacked his shoulder but then laughed about his comment. They went to bed but it took a long while before Casey could find some sleep. Suddenly all she could think about was the night she had spent with Josh at the aid station. His image appeared in her mind, she could almost feel his lips on her lips and his hand stroking her hair, caressing her body. She missed him. This night she didn't have any nightmares.
When Casey was finally driving back to Portland in her car she felt so much better, somehow relieved. She decided to start all over again. She left Portland three months later and moved to Boston to report to her new job as an OR nurse at the Boston Mercy Hospital. She loved it and got along well with the doctors and other nurses. She enjoyed her job very much. Hawkeye, who at first wasn't very enthusiastic about her sudden relocation, soon realized that she had made the right decision. She was happy again and that was what he always wanted. Since Casey had seen and worked on so many chest wounds in Vietnam, she ended up willingly assisting mostly thoracic cases.
Boston, summer 1973:
A very strange phone call was the beginning of a whole string of mysterious coincidences. It was on a Monday in the middle of September. Casey just returned home from her dayshift at late afternoon when the phone rang. She picked up the receiver.
"Hey girl, how are you doing?" A voice greeted her. It sounded very excited.
"Dad? Is that you? You sound so strange." Casey wondered. "Everything okay? Has something happened? Something with grandpa?" She was worried.
"No, no, no, honey. Everything is just fine." Hawkeye assured her. "As fine as could be. You don't have to worry! I was just wondering if you had to work this weekend?" Did Casey just hear joy in his voice?
"Come on dad, what's going on?" Casey wanted to know. She was totally confused. This was a very odd conversation. She could tell from the way he talked that he was hiding something. "You seem so different. Are you sure everything is okay with you?"
Hawkeye laughed. "Yes, we all are fine, believe me. I'm as sane as can be. Don't you dare think your old dad is lying to his only daughter."
Now Casey had to laugh at Hawkeye's comment. "No, I believe you."
"Okay then please answer my question. Do you have this weekend off?"
"Yes, dad. So what's the point?"
"I'm inviting you to my house this weekend. As you might know the Crabapple Cove lobster festival is coming up and I'd like to go with you, of course only if you think it's okay to go out with an old, gray-haired doctor and his best friend. BJ is coming as well."
"Sure, I'd love to spend the weekend with the two of you." She was happy. "I could be there on Friday evening. Does that sound okay?"
"Yeah, great. I'm looking forward to it. And by the way I'll have a big surprise for you."
"What is it?" Casey asked curiously.
"If I tell you now it won't be a surprise anymore." Hawk answered chuckling. "Okay, see you on Friday then. Love you."
"Love you, too!" Suddenly she heard a strange noise. "Tell me is there somebody standing next to you giggling?" She asked.
"What gives you that idea?" Hawkeye replied. Casey again heard somebody giggling and it wasn't her dad, for sure. "Well, I gotta go. Have a nice evening."
He had hung up even before Casey was able to tell him good-bye. She stared at the receiver in disbelief then put it back down, went to the kitchen and made herself something to eat. The whole evening she couldn't stop thinking about this phone call. Her dad really had sounded weird. And she was sure there had been somebody with him and it definitely hadn't been grandpa Daniel. She wondered if her dad might have a new girlfriend. But who was it? And was that the surprise he talked about? She had no clue. She had to wait until next weekend whether she liked it or not.
Two days later the next incident happened. Casey was helping out at the ER since they were short of nurses. She spent most of her shift with treating little cuts or broken bones. It looked like a slow day. But then around noon a couple of casualties rolled in. There had been a severe car crash a couple of blocks away. A school bus had been involved. Before she could think straight Casey was standing in the middle of wounded who were mostly kids. It reminded her a lot of a push at the 55th. She was on the verge of panic but then took a deep breath and tried to relax.
"I need a nurse!" She heard a harsh voice from far away.
"Go, help Trapper in room two." A nurse who was busy treating a bleeding leg told her.
Casey rushed. Her mind was rotating. "Trapper", that sounded familiar. Where did she hear that name before? She couldn't place it until she was standing in front of him, a handsome fifty-year-old man with short curly blond hair.
"Trapper John McIntyre." She stuttered and began helping him treating a ten year old boy who had a bad belly wound.
"Yep, that's me." He looked at her for a short moment then turned back to the patient. "Should I know you?" He asked.
"Maybe." Was Casey's answer then they continued their work without anymore private conversation.
As soon as the young boy was on his way to the OR and both had a little time to think they started to talk.
"You did a good job in there. And by the way, what did you mean with 'maybe'?" Trapper asked curios. "Do I know you or not? Who are you?"
Casey grinned. "We met before. That was about fifteen years ago. At a certain reunion. My name is Casey."
It took Trapper a while to realize who he was facing. "My god, you're Hawkeye's daughter!" He gave her a hug. "You changed a lot since our last get-together. You're beautiful."
Casey blushed. "Thanks."
They didn't have much more time to talk, they had to get back to work. But in the evening after their shifts they both went out for a drink.