"Things weren't that simple. I mean, I wanted to say good-bye. I had Radar on the phone around the clock trying to locate you on R&R. And you know me, Hawk, I've never been too good at expressing myself. Anything I tried to write just sounded stupid and I figured it was better to just leave things as they were." He chuckled suddenly. "Except for Radar's thing, of course. He did give you that smooch, didn't he?"
Hawkeye found himself chuckling as well at the memory. "Yeah, he did. Though he wasn't very happy about it. In fact, immediately afterwards he took an impromptu shower fully dressed!"
"Good ol' Radar! I bet Frank loved that."
"I thought his squinty little eyes were going to pop right out of his head. See, I'd just come back from R&R with a squadron of elephants playing bongo drums in my head, and the first shower in uniform was mine. Then I made Radar take me along to pick up the new surgeon at Kimpo so I could try to catch you before your plane left."
"No kidding? You got back that soon?"
"I missed your plane by ten lousy minutes. Ten minutes!"
Trapper was caught off guard by this admission. "God, Hawk, I didn't know it had been so close. If I'd known…but I had to leave when I did."
"I know you did. But couldn't you have sent me a damn telegram or something? You know, until Charles called me the other day, I didn't know if you were alive or dead." His voice fell to quieter tones. "For all I knew, your plane had been shot down just like Henry's, and they'd just forgotten to tell us about it."
"Hawk, I'm sorry." Trapper knew the words didn't mean much, but he knew of nothing else to say. "I never even thought about that. Henry's death hit me pretty hard, you know, and when I got my orders to go home, I just went, and was glad to leave every reminder of the war behind."
"Henry's death hit all of us pretty hard. Only for us, the war didn't go away."
"I know, and I meant to contact you, do something. But it kept getting put off for one thing or another, and then a couple of months had passed and it seemed pretty futile to write then. I didn't mean for things to happen this way, Hawk. They just did."
Hawkeye looked at his friend, coming to the realization that after all this time he wasn't going to get any real answers. There were none to receive. "And that's all there is to it, isn't there?"
"That's pretty much it. I'm not sure what you wanted to hear, but there's just not anything more to say. Life gets kind of strange sometimes and you don't end up where you thought you would." Trapper couldn't help but feel a little relieved that Hawkeye wasn't as upset as he'd been before. Not contacting his friend after going home had always been something he'd regretted, but chances to eliminate regrets came rarely.
Hawkeye found the anger had drained out of him, leaving him only rather dissatisfied. After the years he'd carried a grudge, it seemed anticlimactic to have it end so simply. "Yeah, life throws you some curve balls sometimes."
"And unfortunately, instead of me getting them with the bat, they usually get me right between the eyes." He finished off his drink and ordered another. "You okay now?"
"Yeah, yeah. I'm okay." Hawkeye managed a grin, draining the last of his own glass.
"Good. So, tell me, how long did you guys have to put up with Frank in command?"
"It was really more like putting up with Margaret in command. She kept Frank on a tight leash back then, but thankfully it wasn't for too long."
"It couldn't have been that bad, since you signed up to have her boss you around again!"
"That I did, but we've got it worked out. She gets out her martinet-like tendencies at work, keeping the nursing staff at Crabapple Cove General in shape and then tones it down a little at home." He grinned. "We compromise. I make sure the clothes are cleaned more than once a month and she lets me keep my Hawaiian wardrobe. Great sacrifices on both our parts, I assure you."
"Sounds like she's got you domesticated! Doing the laundry?" Trapper had never even considered doing the household chores in his own home.
"I figure since we both work all day at the hospital, it's only fair that we both do part of the housework. Of course, we've got my dad living with us too, and he does all the cooking at least. It's a good thing too, 'cause I couldn't cook a decent meal to save my life and Margaret can't even boil water."
"Is that right?"
"Uh-huh. Anyway, like I said before, your replacement, BJ, showed up not ten minutes after you left. He got a nice baptism by fire on the way back to camp from Kimpo too so we had to make a pit stop at Rosie's to bolster him up before introducing him to the Swamp. That got a nice reaction out of Frank too!"
"He a decent surgeon?"
"Who, BJ? Finest kind! Don't worry Trap, he filled your shoes nicely. Even with practical joking, but I'll tell you about that incident later."
"I can't wait to hear it." Even though Hawkeye hadn't said anything directly, Trapper was getting a very good picture of just how close Hawkeye had become to his replacement. His brain told him that this only made sense considering the conditions they'd been under and that he should be relieved that Hawk had had someone to get him through the remainder of the war. And he was relieved, or at least a part of him was. Another part couldn't help but feel a few pangs of jealousy.
Oblivious to this, Hawkeye kept talking. "So, our new CO, Potter, took a little longer to get there, but he came before Frank could get too big for his britches. Scared us shitless for a while, him being regular army and all. Klinger even developed this psychosomatic rash all over his body since Potter made him stop wearing dresses."
"Klinger had to stop wearing dresses? I can't imagine him in a normal uniform!"
"Oh, as soon as Potter figured out he was harmless he let him drag out the Klinger Collection again. Of course, after Radar left and Klinger became company clerk he quit with the dresses anyway…" They continued talking, Hawkeye filling Trapper in on the happenings at the 4077 after he had left, the two laughing and drinking like old times.
Eventually the conversation lulled a bit and Hawkeye idly inquired, "So Trap, you never did tell me what your wonderful excuse was for being late."
"Oh, now that is a great one. You're gonna love this. Okay, so we've got this secretary at the hospital, green eyes, blonde hair, and legs like you wouldn't believe. Incredible piece of a woman, and the best part is, she's got the hots for yours truly." He grinned, waiting for the reaction.
"So, what? You were late because you were with some chick?" Hawkeye wasn't impressed.
"Yup, she's got an apartment a couple blocks from the hospital. Makes things seem a bit more high class then just throwing her down on top of the desk." He took a drink of his martini. "I see you still like these parched. Also, doing it that way lowers the risk that the janitor or someone's going to walk in. Takes some of the excitement out of it, but what the hell, I'm getting too old for those cheap thrills anyway."
"Um, Trapper, this may be a stupid question, but what about your wife?" Hawkeye was incredulous at Trapper's casual attitude.
"My wife? Whaddya mean? She knew I was meeting you tonight and doesn't expect me until late. She won't suspect a thing. It's no big deal."
"No big deal! You come in here, almost a half an hour after you were supposed to meet me, tell me you've just been cheating on your wife, and then say it's no big deal?"
It finally occurred to Trapper that Hawkeye really was upset. "Jeez Hawk, chill out. What's eating you?"
"Doesn't it bother you at all to be sleeping with another woman? What about Louise?"
Pierce's protests caught Trapper off guard. He had been cheating on his wife for so long that he'd ceased to even consider any larger issues. "Hate to break it to you, Hawk, but this was hardly the first time. Since when did you get so noble about it anyway?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"Well, I don't remember you having any problem with it when we were in Korea. And for that matter, I seem to recall you doing your share of sleeping around too!"
"That's different. I wasn't married then. I'd never cheat on my wife."
"Well goody for you! And because you got married, suddenly that makes you the authority on what everyone else should do in their marriages? Just what gives you the authority to be so high and mighty all of the sudden?!"
Now it was Hawkeye's turn to be taken aback at the other man's vehemence. "Look, Trapper. I'm not trying to tell you what to do. I was just surprised, that's all. In Korea, things were different. I mean, you cheated on your wife, Henry cheated on his wife, Frank cheated on his wife, but you were all so far away." He searched for the right words, not coming up with much. "Now you're home and I guess it never occurred to me that you'd still be doing this to Louise."
"Doing this to Louise!" McIntyre repeated the words, infuriated. "Where do you get off acting concerned about my wife?! She's not being hurt! She's got a nice house in the suburbs with enough money to do whatever the hell she pleases all day. She gets to tell all our snooty neighbors that she's married to a doctor, a doctor who's not about to leave her, I might add. Louise is doing just fine, thank you very much." He had to pause for breath. "So what if I sleep with a few other women? I don't know a single guy at the country club who's been faithful their whole marriage. It's all part of living in the good ol' US of A! You get married, have a couple kids, move to the suburbs and get it on with the babysitter in your spare time! It's as American as apple pie!"
Hawkeye had sat, half-disbelieving, through McIntyre's tirade. As he was so fond of saying, it had been a long time since the early days of the war when he and Trapper had run rampant through Ouijongbou and Tokyo, or even the pre-war days when they had terrorized Boston. It was difficult for him now to understand that his friend had never really left those days behind. "That's not the America I know. I've never cheated on my wife, and I never will!"
The way Trapper saw it, as long as Louise let him get away with it, everyone else should mind their own business. There was nothing wrong with his behavior. The smallest niggling of doubt tickled a corner of his mind at this thought, but he pushed it roughly away. No, there was no shame to his actions, and getting lectured by his old friend was more than he could take. "God, you are a sanctimonious bastard! Always think you know what's right for the rest of the world. Don't you ever get tired of polishing your halo?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"You've done it ever since I met you! Hawkeye Pierce, defender of freedom and justice; his mission: to save the world and stick his nose into other people's business whenever possible! Although I don't know when you turned puritan on me like this. Well, I've got news for you, my friend, you're not nearly the saint you make yourself out to be. Maybe you haven't slept with anyone but your wife since your wedding, but you just try and tell me that out of all the women you've been with in your life, not one of them, not one of all those nurses in Korea, was married."
"Nice try, but you can't catch me there. Even when I was single, I didn't go around sleeping with married women! A ring on their left finger, and I kept my hands off!" As Pierce was protesting, a vision of a petite figure with short blonde hair surfaced in his mind's eye.
McIntyre caught the pause and recognized it for what it was. "Thought of someone, did you? You hypocrite!"
"No, this was different. It was Carlye, when she came to the 4077. I couldn't…she…" He objected weakly.
"Carlye! No, I don't care who it was, that's not the point." Trapper refused to be distracted. "And what about Lieutenant Dish? You had a nice little thing going with her and she may not have been married, but she was engaged. Or doesn't that count as a reason to keep your hands off a woman?" Hawkeye opened his mouth to strike back, but McIntyre didn't give him a chance. "And what about your pretty little wife? Seems to me she had quite the affair going with Mr. Family Man himself, Frank Burns!" McIntyre stood up, not willing to stay for a minute longer. "You don't have any right to be telling me what I should or shouldn't be doing, and I don't have to listen to it!" Fury radiating from him, he turned and stalked out the door of the pub.
"Well, that certainly went well." Hawkeye muttered under his breath. Angry himself, he slammed down some money on the counter and walked out, ignoring the covert stares that followed him.
31 October 1959; the McIntyre home; Boston, Massachusetts
Trapper stood in his living room, staring out the picture window at the front yard. He'd been moving about the house restlessly all day, trying not to think and not being able to help it. The confrontation last night had disturbed him more than he cared to admit, even to himself.
Becky McIntyre sauntered into the room. "What's the matter, Dad? Trying to decide whether the grass needs cutting yet?"
"Something like that, sweetheart." He grinned at his daughter. "Why? You thinking you might like to help me out?"
"Uh, sorry Dad. You wanted help with the yard work you shoulda had a son." Becky smiled cheekily and moved to head towards the kitchen.
"Hey, Becky!" He called her back before she could exit.
"Your mother tells me you're going to a Halloween party tonight. Who all are you going to be with?"
"Oh Dad." She rolled her eyes. "You're so overprotective."
"You're only sixteen, Becky. Will there be parents there?"
"Yes." The irritation was audible in her voice. "It's not that big of a deal. There'll be maybe twenty people. Mom already said it was okay."
"Your mother was never a teenage boy and she doesn't understand what they're like."
"Dad! I do not need another sex lecture right now!"