Chapter 8 - Shiloh, When I Was Young....
November 22, 1963
And the heartbeat of a nation came to a halt.
Dallas - A patsy ran, panicked and afraid, the only one who really knew how badly he had been set up. The nameless, many-named man who set him up had nightmares of Hawkeye Pierce leaping down in time to save the President, then force-feeding him his own gun. Somehow, a Secret Service Agent had gotten between the bullets and the First Lady, averting a grim elder history in which her children grew up orphans. Despite this, a time-traveling scientist wearing the Agent's form felt himself a failure, while his younger self in Indiana asked why of parents who had no answers.
San Francisco - An argument between perennial opposites BJ Hunnicutt and Trapper John McIntyre was wiped from their memories of this day. Peg and Erin once again wondered what good power was, when something like this could happen to someone like the President.
Los Angeles - Actor/Singer Frank Sinatra quietly called his studio and asked that his eerily prophetic film, 'The Manchurian Candidate', be shelved. A Doctor, like Hawkeye, but who was wrongfully accused of his wife's murder, marveled in silent despair at just how far injustice could go. His relentless pursuer, only a block away, never left his parked car as he wore out his battery listening to the radio. In the suburbs, an alien being sat silently with his adoptive Earth "nephew".
National Air And Sciences Administration, Florida - For obvious reasons, an astronaut's mission was cancelled. He did not go up again for another two years. When he did, his recovery pod landed on a Pacific island, where the other half of his soul waited, trapped inside an ornate bottle.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin - A trademark motorcycle lay broken on the ground where its owner had dropped it, upon hearing the news. The leather-jacketed titan never did figure out how this damage occurred. He began a heartfelt letter to a friend, like a brother, now on high alert at his army base, and to two women he knew, who were themselves like sisters. He never sent it.
In CrabApple Cove, Maine, Hawkeye Pierce and his fiancee of one year, Samantha, were absolutely oblivious to all of this. They had unplugged the phone, and shut off the TV and radio. A small spell kept almost anyone from suddenly barging in, and kept stray sound out. They were discussing their future together, and they wanted no interruptions.
"So howabout December 21? It's not Christmas, and we can probably--"
"Uh, no good. Winter Solstice. It's a witch thing, honey. What about January 6th?"
"No go, Sam. Father Mulcahy is receiving his promotion to Monsignor on Epiphany. I can't not be there for that. I mean, he tried to be here last year--for Dad."
After 17 go-rounds, Sam folded her arms in disgust. There just seemingly was no good date for their wedding. And a witch does not believe in coincidence.
"Well we could go back in time and elope, right after the ski lodge."
The look on Hawkeye's face made Sam cover her mouth in horror. Her power couldn't raise the dead, nor prevent an already-occurred one. Murdering the mastermind behind it all was out of the question.
"Oh, Hawkeye! I forgot-oh, heavens. Can you ever forgive me?"
"I always forgive you, Sam. And You always forgive me. It's what we do."
She sat back down, and looked over at him.
"You've felt it, too?"
"Yeah. Do you wanna say it, or should I?"
"Ok, but if it's not what you expected....Sam, I love you. But I'm not in love with you. The women I've been in love with, I argue with even in good times. You and me, forgiveness is a given, like we're----"
"A brother and sister? Odd as that sounds, Hawkeye, it feels right. I don't think we are-Lord, I hope were not, after all that's happened-but-what do you think?"
Hawkeye shook his head. This conversation, while awkward, was actually something of a relief.
"We're not. Related, I mean. But, Sam, I knew you before I knew you. Not----past lives, or stuff like that-but, seeing you was like seeing-well, like seeing Sam!"
"One day, my dad told me to make Tuttle go away, stop making excuses. So I did. I felt all grown up at age 6-then Cousin Billy saw fit to drag down my swimming trunks in front of virtually every girl in CrabApple Cove. Mind you, those girls were some of my 1st dates a few years on, but, at the time, I was humiliated. I wasn't allowed to get upset with Billy-it was a rule or something. So I ran home, and locked my door. There was this place I would go in my imagination-and there she was-a tomboy, named Sam. She was great-a friend-my 1st real friend--so to speak. When I told her about the trunks, she showed me hers, and I showed her mine. Nothing too sexual-nothing to show. But I didn't want her for that, even looking back now. It was all fun. For that next two years, my life was fun. Sam and I were like Batman and Robin. I even made up an evil twin cousin for her---um, I called her---"
Samantha was smiling, but teary-eyed. She finished for him.
"Her name was Serena."
Samantha twitched her nose, and turned into herself as a child---into Sam.
"My God! Sam--you're--Sam, Sam! Let me try that again."
The child, disconcertingly, spoke with the adult's voice.
"No need, Hawkeye. Here, this spell isn't meant offensively, so..."
Hawkeye suddenly found himself as 6-year old Ben Pierce.
"Whoa-neat. But-I can still feel the kick from that stuff."
"Since I didn't try to counteract it, the spell was able to affect you. Hawkeye-here's one for you. My imaginary friend--was a boy named Ben, with an evil cousin named Billy."
"You don't say. But how, Sam? We weren't kids at the same time-even in the same century."
They both felt decades pass away, in the presence of their beloved secret playmates.
"Maybe that place that kids go doesn't exist in time as we understand it. But we were there-both of us, and we played together, Hawkeye, and there things were always great. We mistook that welcome companionship for love-the kind I've never found--and the kind-oh, please forgive me-that you still feel for Margaret-and that she still feels for you. Hawkeye, Jack...."
"Forgot to tell her, I know. He called me, to apologize about the funeral. But, Sam, she's another man's wife. I have a rule."
She tried to change the subject.
"When Peggy was born, I was so disappointed that she wasn't a boy-that she wasn't--you. Pretty soon, though, I was sneaking into her room to pick her up and hug her."
"I met Henrietta while Laura and my dad were dating. I pushed a school bully off of her, and all of a sudden I was Big Brother of the year. I miss her, and Laura. But I was kind of bitter that she wasn't my age and blonde."
"We--can't get married. Maybe brother and sister was a strong term, but we're too much alike, Hawkeye. A slow fuse that you do not want to see burn out, a sense of almost irresponsible fun. There's no balance. What you need is a girl like that feisty one I used to see barking orders at you, and beating you up, like---oh, my!"
"If you and Serena weren't imaginary, then--that girl I couldn't stand was--Margaret. Sam-there's more. There was this little geek who used to follow you around, saying..."
"No Magic! No Magic! Like it was the only words he knew. But who was he?"
"Don't you get it? He-whoever he is-is the one for you! Oh, wait. If we're such siblings, then what about all the sack time we've logged?"
Little Sam shrugged.
"Kids play doctor. We just weren't kids anymore. A great time, but just more irresponsible fun."
She smiled a non-6 year old smile.
"Not that I ever minded."
Hawkeye's grin was quite the six-year old's.
"Wanna skinny-dip? I mean, we don't have the equipment, but, just for fun, one--last time."
"Alright, but two things. One, if you try anything, I'll punch your arm. Two---last one bare is a rotten egg!"
"Why, you lousy..."
In a flash, they were outside, two happy children, unencumbered by anything, jumping into the water quite as they were born, no sex, just splashing and fun.
Thirty seconds later, they ran shivering, back inside. Even Hawkeye felt it.
"You know what Sam?"
Warming and drying herself by the fire, the girl said, "No, what Hawkeye?"
"I think it's November outside. Am I still a boy?"
"Um, yeah, it's all there. Boy, were we stupid."
"Oh, yeah, asinine. I mean, really, it is November, we...."
They both laughed out loud, and then each planted a last, tender kiss on the other's cheek. A voice rang out.
"That's quite enough of that!"
Naturally, Endora appeared.
"Well, well. Starting early in more ways than one, eh? Well, change back and dress yourselves, I've two important things to tell you. Very important."
The two children looked playfully at each other. Sam twitched her nose, and when she did, Endora's eyes went wide.
"SAMANTHA! You-yu know I meant for you to get dressed FIRST!"
The former secret couple then decided to forego the Adam and Eve routine, and thus lowered Endora's blood pressure. They again smiled, realizing the unholy terrors they would have been as children together. But after all else was done between them, they would still have that sacred, precious, indestructible memory of the secret place where children went, when cousins and others bullied and whined.
"What's the first thing, Mother?"
Endora's eyes lowered.
"I do not allow news of the mortal world to affect me. But this is far too grim. I know that you two cut yourselves off this day, so please sit down."
Endora's voice lacked her usual monarchical tone, so they did as she asked. This was a good thing. She spoke bluntly, and precisely.
"In Dallas, earlier this day, President Kennedy was killed by an assasin's bullet. Worse still, certain castings I have done lead me to believe that we are the three of us familiar with the assasin-because he is also the orchestrator of dear Daniel's death-and of Sir Bedivere, whom you, Pierce, knew as Henry Blake. Myself, I believe you did the right thing, Hawkeye. Oaths are not to be taken lightly, and you have sworn a healer's creed. Besides, the efforts to kill the President would have continued without him."
"How do I fight that kind of overwhelming evil? I can't kill him, I know that now. But he and his have to be stopped. What good are all these abilities if people like him run the show?"
Sam thought, then spoke.
"Hawkeye, remember, in the other place, as children, I kept jumping on your head, and I wouldn't stop? You did stop me, though."
"I stole your pajamas. Made you look foolish. Cute as a button, but foolish."
"Exactly. And I never jumped on your head again, and never spoke about it, because I was so embarrassed."
"All well and good, Sam. But suppose he doesn't wear pajamas?"
"Then expose him some other way. Show him up and bust some of his toys. In the end, he's as prideful and haughty as Serena, and as lumbering and predictable as Billy. And you beat them both."
He smiled, encouraged by this amazing woman's words.
"Okay, I'll do it. But, I think I'll hand off to the San Francisco Scheme Firm Of McIntyre and Hunnicutt, for the planning--lots of planning. Endora, what's the second thing?"
"Something wonderful-for you two, anyway."
In New Jersey, Margaret Scully watched a world gone mad on Tv. She wanted to call Hawkeye, but wondered if he would even accept the call.
Jack sat silently in his chair. His exhaustion had gotten worse, progressively. The lamp by him had two frilly ropes, one for each light. He looked over at Margaret, whose enhanced hearing picked up his erratic heartbeat. As she looked back at him in concern, he pulled one of the ropes, turning the lamp off. He sat in the dark for 5 minutes, head bowed and quite silent. He then said two words to the wife who cared for but did not love him.