3

"Of course I'm sure, Pierce! You think I would have bothered to call you on a hunch? As a matter a fact, I didn't even recognize the name until I discovered he had been at the 4077." Winchester was indignant.

"So it really is Trapper." Hawkeye said the words almost under his breath, not sure what to think.

"Did you talk with him at all?" Margaret asked. "Does he know that you were at the 4077th too?"

"Yes, we spoke briefly about it. In fact, he asked about both of you."

"He did? I mean, McIntyre asked about me?" Margaret reacted in surprise. "That's strange. What did he say?"

"I don't care to repeat much of it, but suffice to say, he didn't seem to realize that you had a name other than 'Hot Lips'."

Margaret laughed sharply. "There never was much love lost between the two of us. He and Hawkeye were great friends though, weren't you, Hawk?"

"Oh yeah." Hawkeye responded almost automatically, his thoughts churning. "Trapper and I were inseparable."

"They were a terrible pair! The absolute bane of Frank Burns' existence. Mine too, for that matter."

"What McIntyre said about you, Margaret, may not have been terribly complementary, but he was quite eager to find out about you, Pierce."

"What can I say? I'm the life of every party. So what'd you tell him?"

"Mainly he inquired as to whether I'd ever met you, naturally learning that I had indeed had that misfortune. He also purported to be rather shocked that you didn't despise me."

"Don't jump to conclusions, Charles." Hawkeye interrupted him automatically.

"Pierce, if you will cease your puerile attempts at humor, I will continue in my efforts to complete a sentence uninterrupted." Winchester willingly did his part in the requisite sparring. "As I was saying, he said something about you being his closest friend, or some such nonsense, and was rather surprised when he heard you were married."

Margaret began to laugh. "Oh, I didn't think of that! Did you tell him who his wife is?"

"I did try. However, he didn't believe me. Also made a comment about pitying your husband."

Margaret laughed even harder. "I can just imagine the look on his face! Hawk, can't you just see it?!"

"Yeah, must have been a sight." Hawkeye chuckled halfheartedly, but his thoughts were elsewhere. He rarely thought about Trapper much anymore. After all, it had been over eight years since he'd seen the man. But all the same, Trapper had been his best friend during part of the most difficult time of his life, and then he had left without even saying good-bye. It still stung.

"As I said, he didn't believe it, but I did suggest he get in touch with you."

"That he contact me!" This got Hawkeye's attention. "Is he going to?"

"I can hardly predict what the man's going to do, Pierce. He's a bit of a loose canon, absolutely will not leave my secretary alone, or the nurses for that matter. But he did say that it had been too long."

"Oh. Well he's probably right. It has been a long time." Suddenly Hawkeye didn't think he could take much more of the conversation. "Margaret, I think I hear one of the kids so I'm going to hang up. Charles, been nice talking to you." He placed the phone back on the receiver.

"What's eating him?" asked Charles, not understanding. "Somehow I anticipated a different reaction."

"I'm not sure." Margaret was puzzled by her husband's behavior, but had something of an idea what was causing it. She struggled to give an explanation that her friend would accept. "Things were so different in those days. McIntyre and that husband of mine could go through every nurse in the camp, except this one, inside a week. A lot has changed, with us, and I'm sure with Trapper too." She paused. "I'm glad you called with this, Charles. It really is amazing to have McIntyre turn up after all this time. Try not to let him get your goat too much, and I'll call you tomorrow or the next day, alright?"

"Yes, of course." Winchester still didn't understand, but was too much the gentleman to press the issue.

"Give my love to Isabelle and Beth."

"And mine to little Charles and Briana Jane. Good-bye, Margaret."

"Bye." Hanging up the phone, she went in search of her husband. She found him upstairs, still sitting on their bed by the phone. "They weren't awake, were they?" she asked as she sat down next to him, putting her arm around his shoulders.

"No." They simply sat there for a few minutes, Hawkeye lost in thought and Margaret knowing that he would open up to her when he was ready.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she ventured quietly after a while.

"It's just so out of the blue. I mean, it's been years since I've seen Trapper. Hell, you and I weren't even friends then, much less lovers."

"I know a lot of things have changed, Hawk, but is that really all there is to it? If you and I can go from sworn enemies to husband and wife, I'm sure Trapper and I could learn to get along. You can't tell me you wouldn't want to see him again, after what close friends the two of you were."

Hawkeye stood up suddenly, shrugging off her arm, and began to pace. "You don't understand. Trapper used to be my best friend. I knew him even before the war and then those first few months, he was my lifeline. Joking with him and trying to drive Frank batty were the things that kept me sane." Margaret simply watched her husband, knowing better than to say anything yet. "There was a time when I thought I would never have a closer friend. I mean, we didn't talk about it ever, but it was understood. We both knew." Hawkeye paced from one side of the room and all the way back before saying anything else. "But then that changed."

"BJ."

"Yes, BJ. You too, for that matter." He ran his hand through his graying hair. "But that's a whole other kettle of fish. You're my wife, you're supposed to be my other half."

Margaret smiled slightly at his offhand comment. Even after being married for years, it still at times seemed a miracle to her that she had ever found this man.

Not noticing her reaction, Hawkeye continued. "You know, both BJ and Trapper pulled the same stunt on me, leaving without saying good-bye."

"I remember."

"It's not easy on a guy to have his best friends ditch him like that, but it hurt a hell of a lot more when Beej did it than when Trapper had done it a couple years before. I was a mental basket case then anyway, after that day on the bus and then the loony bin, not to mention the thought of losing you."

Margaret stood up, moving to join Hawkeye on the other side of the room. She put her arms around him, being there for him physically as well. "I'm not going anywhere, Hawkeye."

His hand stroked her cheek gently. "I know." He mutely accepted the support she offered before continuing speaking. "I don't think that was the reason it upset me more with Beej though. For whatever reason, the betrayal was far greater since there was a lot more to betray. But the thing is, even with all that, it wouldn't even occur to me to be angry with BJ now, but I can't help still being mad at Trapper."

"What do you mean by that?"

"It's been eight years, and I'm still ticked off at the guy for not saying good-bye. Not that I would've wanted him to not go, but the least he could've done was leave a damn note! I'd never even think to be angry with Beej for the same thing."

"BJ came back." Margaret stated the obvious, not completely understanding her husband's mood.

"But not because he wanted to. I guess, what it is, is that even if BJ had managed to pull off that whole 'Hunnicutt the chaplain' act and made it back to California, he would've at least called. Not just disappeared off the face of the earth like Trapper."

"Do you meant to tell me that Trapper never even wrote you once after he went back to the states? I never knew that! I assumed he'd written or called or something and then you two had just fallen out of touch after a while."

"I guess you wouldn't know, would you? We weren't exactly chummy back in those days."

"Hardly." Margaret grinned ruefully.

Hawkeye answered her smile with one of his own, sharing her sentiment. "I would've as soon shared personal things with you as with Frank Burns. Which would've been the same thing anyway. But no, for all I knew, Trapper'd been hit by a bus the second he set foot on American soil. I never heard a damn thing until Winchester's call today."

"That's awful! But didn't you ever try to find him?"

"No. At first I kept expecting Radar to hand me a letter in mail call one day, or even to get a lousy telegram. You know, something like 'Dear Hawkeye STOP How's the war? STOP It's good to be home. STOP My wife was really glad to see me. STOP So was my secretary. STOP Trapper John.' I at least deserved that much."

"So you have no idea what happened? Maybe there was some reason why, something that prevented himů" Margaret had never particularly like McIntyre, but for Hawkeye's sake she tried to make excuses for the man.

"Somehow I sincerely doubt it." He stopped for a moment, shaking his head. "I don't understand how you can run out on your friends like that, after what we went through together."

"Does that mean you don't want to see him at all? That's going to be a tough one to explain since Charles sees him all the time." Realizing how that sounded, she hastily added, "Not of course that there's anything wrong with that! Whatever you want to do, Hawk, is fine with me."

"Don't worry, I won't try to drive Charles nuts, not on this anyway. I do want to see Trapper, I have to admit that. We had some great times together, and besides, I can't wait to see his face when I introduce you as my wife."

"I knew you couldn't pass that one up." Margaret smiled smugly.

"Ah, you know me so well, Mrs. Pierce. The only problem is when I see the bastard, should I hug him or punch him in the mouth?"

12 October 1959; the Winchester home; Boston, Massachusetts

Charles checked the clock again and, realizing the late hour, reluctantly put down his book and shut off the symphony playing on the record player. Standing up, he shuffled into the bedroom where Isabelle was already in bed. As he was changing into his pajamas, he casually said, "There's something I've been meaning to talk to you about, sweetheart."

Isabelle looked up from where she was writing in her journal. "Uh-oh. What's wrong?"

"Why do you automatically assume that something is wrong?" he protested. "I could have wonderful news."

"Because you almost never use endearments like 'sweetheart,' and when you do, I know that either you're going to try to convince me to do something unpleasant or you've done something you know I won't like." She chuckled as her husband took on the look of a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "Come on now, Charles. Confess. What is it this time?"

"If only I understood you as well as you seem to know me." Although Winchester was somewhat chagrined to have been figured out, he couldn't help also being rather pleased that his wife knew him and his differing moods so well.

"Don't worry too much, Charles. That's what these journals of mine are for." Isabelle lightly teased her husband. "Someday, after I'm dead, you'll be able to read them and finally know what makes me tick."

"That's morbid, Isabelle! I wish you wouldn't joke about death." Charles snapped at her. The unwelcome image of a green hat with a bullet hole through it emerged in his mind's eye. He knew she didn't mean anything by her words, but the very thought of death brought on a familiar tightening in his chest.

"I'm sorry." Isabelle was instantly contrite, knowing how uncomfortable the thought of dying made her husband. "I didn't mean to be making light of the subject." When he didn't respond, she spoke again. "What did you want to talk to me about, anyway?"

Charles silently let his breath out and forced his mind to the subject at hand. "I know you've heard me speak about the new surgeon we acquired last month."

Relieved that Charles had responded, she replied, "Yes, Dr. McIntyre, was it? The one you don't like?"

"The same." Quickly, he outlined having made the discovery that McIntyre had been at the same M*A*S*H unit during the war and that he had spoken with the Pierces about it. "I didn't see any reason to inform McIntyre that I had spoken with his old chums, so he is unaware of this. As you know, I'm not especially fond of the man, and I prefer to avoid contact if at all possible."

"That's a remarkable coincidence," commented Isabelle, intrigued by the situation. "But I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at."

"Well you see, I spoke with Margaret again this evening, and she seems to think that I, that we, should be involved in any sort of attempt to for them to meet up with McIntyre and his wife."

"What? Why us?"

"I'm not precisely sure. I did gather that there is an awkwardness on their parts with the idea, and Margaret seems to think that with our presence as a buffering element, things would go more smoothly."

"More smoothly? Even given that you hate the man?"

"Perhaps loathe would be a better word, and I didn't say it was logical."

"Then surely you didn't agree to the proposal?"

A slightly sheepish look crossed Winchester's features. "I was hoping you could help me think of a way to get out of it."

Isabelle snickered. "You did! Oh, poor Charles, Margaret can talk you into anything! If I didn't know better, I'd be jealous."

Charles was not as entertained. "Laugh all you want, my dear, but I beseech you, please do help me escape this predicament."

"And just why, pray tell, would I do that?" Isabelle was amused at her husband's plight. "You got yourself into this one, and anyway, I owe Margaret a favor." She closed her journal with an emphatic bang and placed it back on her bedside table, effectively ending the discussion.

Winchester groaned theatrically. "You are a cruel, heartless woman."

"I am, aren't I?" She grinned mischievously. "Now come to bed, Charles. We'll figure it out in the morning." She patted the sheets next to her. "And you won't be needing those pajamas either."

His pique forgotten for the moment in favor of more compelling matters, Charles obeyed his wife's orders. It was a long while before either slept.


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