Chapter 2 - May I Have this Dance?

Margaret was unusually quiet in the midst of the drinking and raucous laughter around the table. She had a look in her ice blue eye that said her thoughts were miles away.

The colonel was the first to notice Margaret's faraway look. He'd come to look at these doctors and nurses as his children. He had a special spot in his heart for the young woman who had been literally raised in the army. He admired her strength in the face of adversity. He had watched her stand stoically beside the doctors when they would have to amputate limbs or worse without flinching. She never missed a beat, she was there with just the instrument the doctor needed.

Of course the colonel had seen Margaret's temper flare and had seen her exhibit irrational behavior at times. But under their current circumstances, irrational behavior was normal.

He hoped that one day she would find what she was looking for. She seemed to have her life all mapped out. Her career seemed to be everything to her and she worked hard to achieve her goals. He trusted that the right man would come along one day and help soften that 'major exterior'. She deserved some happiness. It would take a special stallion to snag that little filly, he thought, chuckling to himself.

The members of the 4077 were enjoying the evening of partying and dancing. Potter was pleased that there had been a break in the influx of wounded to provide some much needed play time for his people. The tension had been thick in camp lately, particularly since the death of Millie Carpenter. She hadn't been with them long so no one really knew her very well. She hadn't spent much time with anyone, except, of course, for Hawkeye, the camp Romeo. Her death in the mine field had shaken everyone to the core, particularly Pierce.

Captain Pierce was one that Sherman secretly worried about. He was an incorrigible soldier but one of the finest surgeons he'd ever known. His greatest strength, however, could one day prove to be his greatest weakness...the depth of his compassion. He cared deeply about the welfare of his patients and was angry about the war that was tearing these young bodies apart. Radar had once pointed out to the colonel that Hawkeye's sense of humor was his way of fighting against the effects of war. It was his shield against the destruction that surrounded them. The colonel feared that one day the man would implode.

Colonel Potter was roused from his thoughts to the tune of "Sentimental Journey" playing on the jukebox. It had been one of his favorite songs since he'd had the pleasure of hearing it sung live by Doris Day years ago. He turned to Major Houlihan and said, "Margaret, may I have the pleasure of this dance? I'm sure Mildred wouldn't mind."

Margaret was startled from her own deep thoughts. She had been so lost in thought that she was almost unaware of the party going on around her.

"Of course, Colonel, I can't think of anyone I'd rather dance with."

"Margaret," Potter spoke as they began to dance. "Something tells me that you have something else on your mind tonight. Care to talk about it?"

"No, really, I'm fine....I'm having a wonderful time, Colonel," she protested.

The colonel noticed a stray tear escape one of her eyes but something told him not to push it. "Okay, Major. But remember my tent flap is always open if you need to talk to someone."

"Thank you, I appreciate that."

Hawkeye had also noticed Margaret's distracted expression that evening. He knew something was eating at her but prying it out of her would be a challenge. By her own admission, she wasn't a very open person. He watched Margaret and the colonel as they danced.

"Beej, has Margaret said anything to you tonight about what's bothering her?" Hawkeye asked.

BJ, who was busy regaling a very drunk Charles with stories of his daughter Erin replied, "No, Hawk, can't say that she has. Why don't you ask her yourself?"

"Why didn't I think of that?" Hawkeye asked. "What would I do without you, Beej?"

"Without me, you would have only Charles as a bunkmate. Think of the endless nights of fun and excitement listening to stories of the lives of the rich and stuffy." BJ laughed.

"It might be more entertaining than listening to stories about potty training and crayon drawings." Charles drawled. He then stood and said, "Gentlemen, I think it's time to retire to that canvas toilet you call the Swamp. That is if the room will stop spinning. Good night...."

Charles made his way through the dancing couples, staggering toward the door.

BJ turned to Hawkeye and said, "Now there goes the picture of high society. It looks like it's you and me and the sleeping sheik of Toledo." He was referring to Klinger who had passed out about an hour before. "He had quite a snoot full."

"And that's quite a snoot to fill," laughed Hawkeye. "If you'll excuse me, Beej, I think I'll go cut in on the colonel and the major."

"Hawk?..." BJ looked at him with that look that questioned his motives. Even though his friend had bared his soul during the eulogy and claimed that he wanted to be more honest and caring, BJ also knew that Pierce was adept at putting up walls. It was second nature for him to use humor as his first line of defense against rejection and pain. BJ saw that Margaret had something gnawing at her and he didn't want to see his friend make inappropriate advances in the guise of fun either.

"I'll be a perfect gentleman. I just want to talk to a friend who seems to be in need of listening ear."

Hawkeye appreciated BJ's concern for Margaret. As the major had begun to open up to the two doctors, BJ had come to be quite protective. But Hunnicuttt tended to be that way. It was the frustrated father and husband in him, Hawkeye thought. He poured out his loneliness into other people, whether a destitute Korean family or a lonely nurse going through a divorce. In a way he was like Radar, who adopted stray animals, only with BJ it was stray people.

"If you'll excuse me, Captain Hunnicuttt...."

Hawkeye walked over and tapped the colonel on the shoulder. "May I cut in?"

"Ah Pierce, " Colonel Potter said, "Of course, that is, if the lovely lady doesn't mind."

Margaret smiled at the colonel. He had a way of making her feel special and cared for. She wished her own father was more like him.

She kissed the colonel on the cheek. "Thanks, Colonel."

"I don't know what I did to deserve a kiss but I hope I do it again." said the colonel with a wide grin. "She's all yours, Pierce. Behave yourself."

Hawkeye followed the colonel with his eyes as he went to take his seat next to BJ and the slumbering company clerk. Turning back to Margaret:

"Now what would make him say that?" He asked innocently. Then He took Margaret's hand in his, raised it to his lips and kissed it lightly. "Ma'amselle, may I have this dance?"

She laughed in spite of herself and slapped him gently on the shoulder. "Oh I suppose, one dance won't hurt. But I'll warn you, Buster, step on my feet and you'll have my knuckles in your face."

"My dear, you cut me to the quick. Everyone knows that I'm the picture of grace and style."

Something about the serious look on Hawkeye's face, coupled with the twinkle in his eyes touched Margaret. She laughed again which pleased her dance partner.

"Have I ever told you how beautiful you are when you laugh?" He asked.

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