"That's alright, honey. As much as I heckled Henry, I'm no better at giving them than he was." Receiving a quizzical look, he relented. "Well, if your mother says it's okay, I guess that's good enough for me. What are you dressing up as? Or don't you do that anymore?"
"Of course we do! What fun would a Halloween party be without costumes? Brian and I are going as Superman and Lois Lane." Apprehension crossed her face. "Oh, and Daddy? Please don't interrogate him this time when he picks me up. I promise we won't get into any trouble!"
Trapper had never been any good at refusing his daughters anything and now he yielded to Becky's pleading. "Okay, you have my word that I won't cross examine your boyfriend tonight." He looked at his daughter, so young and so full of life. Not so different from another young woman whom he had seen less than twenty-four hours ago. "Just promise me you'll stick with guys your own age."
Becky was slightly confused at the odd request. "Don't worry, Dad. I might see a senior or two, but I'm hardly one of the sluts who go after the teachers."
"Good, good. I knew you wouldn't do that." He exhaled, not knowing quite where his thoughts were. "You just go back to whatever you were doing, honey."
She eyed her father a little suspiciously and left the room.
Trapper sighed and stared out at the front yard again without really seeing it. In his mind he reviewed the scene at the bar for the fiftieth time. Hawkeye had been wrong to attack him like he had, that much he was confident about. But then he had reacted to the challenge much more strongly than the situation warranted. Had he really called Hawkeye a puritan and stomped out of the pub? Was he right? Had Hawkeye changed? Well, that was a given, considering he had married Hot Lips Houlihan, but Trapper couldn't believe that his old friend could have altered that much. No, he was just a guy in love with his wife and, thinking about it clearly, his reaction to Trapper's cheating had been made up more of surprise than of censure. So where was this headache and uncertainty coming from? He'd never doubted his actions before. After all, no one was getting hurt, were they?
Louise, he wasn't hurting Louise. He knew for a fact that she was aware he wasn't always faithful. And he also knew that as long as he was discreet and she didn't have to hear about it, she didn't care. And besides, Louise had had one or two extramarital affairs of her own. When he first discovered this it had wounded his pride badly, but he was a fair enough man to acknowledge that as long as he was getting his jollies elsewhere his wife had that right too. Divorce was out of the question. They were Catholic for one thing, plus Louise was far too attached to being married to a doctor and her position at the country club to give it all up for a fling with the riding instructor. As for himself, he was fond enough of Louise in his own way and was perfectly content with his marriage and home the way they were.
Trapper exhaled, half-angry with himself for the maudlin fit. He'd never been one to give much rein to his emotions and didn't like the fact that something was getting to him now. His thoughts turned to his daughter again. He hoped she was telling him the truth and really was sticking to guys her own age. He shut his eyes, seeing again the image of a scantily clad blonde figure. God, what was he doing fooling around with girls young enough to be his daughters? Abby couldn't be more than twenty-one or twenty-two. She didn't mean anything to him, and she was an adult, knowing full well what she was getting herself into, but still. "Just like Henry and that teenager he hooked up with." Realizing he had spoken aloud, Trapper checked nervously over his shoulder to make sure he was still alone in the room. What had her name been? That was it: Nancy Sue Parker. Funny that he still remembered her and her sorority girl pep. "I wonder if people are laughing at me just the way we laughed at Henry."
The idea unsettled him and he wondered if maybe he should break things off with Abby. If he wasn't careful he could start getting weird ideas, just like Henry had, thinking about starting over with one of these pom-pom shakers. Now that was a scary thought!
"Dad, who's Henry?"
Trapper turned in surprise to see that Becky had come back into the room. "What did you say, honey?"
"Who's Henry? Before, you said he wasn't very good at giving sex lectures."
"Oh, yeah I guess I did. Henry was my CO when I was in Korea during the war. You remember me telling you stories about him when you were little, don't you?"
Becky considered and then replied, "I guess so. He was the one who would salute and get his hand caught on the fishhooks on his hat, right?"
He chuckled at the description. "That's Henry all right. I forgot how much you and Kathy used to laugh at that."
"Well, you told some pretty good stories." She paused as if unsure of herself, and then ventured a question. "Do you miss your buddies from the war, Dad?"
"What makes you ask that, sweetheart?"
"Oh, I don't know. I know you and Mom saw a couple people the other day, and I guess it made me wonder about it."
"Well sure, I miss people. Hawkeye was my best friend from the war. But he's the one I just got to see again, so there's no reason to miss him. Henry…Henry was killed right before I came home, so I can't exactly see him to catch up."
Becky looked shocked. "He was killed? You never told me that before, Dad! Just all those funny stories about silly things he would do."
"He got his orders to come home just a couple weeks before I did, except his plane was shot down on the way. I guess I didn't feel much like talking about it when I was telling you and your sister stories." Even now, telling his daughter wasn't an easy thing to do.
"Oh, wow. I'm sorry, Dad."
Trapper wasn't sure what to say in the face of his daughter's sympathy, so he shrugged and took the escape of finishing the answer to her question. "I don't know about any others. Sure, if I got a chance to see Radar again, or Klinger, I'd take it, but I wasn't too sorry to leave them all and come back to you and Kathy and your mother."
Becky looked up at her father, and smiled almost shyly.. It had been a long time since they'd had a conversation without one or the other getting upset. "So you don't miss the substitute teacher then?
"The substitute teacher?" Trapper was mystified by the allusion.
"You wrote me a letter once and described someone you didn't like as a substitute teacher who never left."
"Hey, I remember that." He chuckled at the memory. "That would be Major Frank Burns, the biggest pain in the…neck in the whole army. And no, out of all the people there, I definitely do not miss him. That's a pretty good description of him though. How'd you remember that?"
"Oh, I've still got all the letters you wrote me while you were there. Plus, for years Kathy and I would call anyone we didn't like a 'permanent sub'."
"Really, you did that?"
"Yeah, we did. Not so much anymore, but sometimes." Becky straightened, seemingly remembering she wasn't supposed to get along too well with her father. "Anyway Dad, I've got to go put some finishing touches on my costume." She left the room.
Trapper watched her go, surprised and pleased by the short conversation. Her question ran through his head again. Did he miss the people from the 4077? Truth be told, the only one he'd really ever missed was Hawkeye. And then he'd finally seen him again and things had gotten back to normal, and then he'd had to go and blow his top. Added to this, Trapper's guilt over never contacting his friend had been doubled by the conversation the night before, despite Hawkeye's tacit forgiveness. What's worse, he knew that he would likely never cease to feel at least some degree of guilt for it. No matter what happened in the future, the past could never be undone.
Mentally, he kicked himself, shaking his head in an attempt to clear it. What the hell was he doing, moping around like this? Since when did John Francis Xavier McIntyre mope? For whatever reason he'd overreacted last night, and now the only thing to do was call Hawkeye, set things straight, and forget about the whole mess. No sense in over-analyzing everything. Louise had to have the phone number around here someplace or, if worst came to worst, he could always get it from Winchester on Monday. As he turned away from the window to go in search of his wife, he grimaced at a thought and promised himself one last thing. No more women more than ten years younger. He took a moment to consider that and then muttered, "No, better make that no women under twenty-five. Don't want to take all the fun out of it." 31 October 1959; the Pierce home; Crabapple Cove, Maine
"Hawkeye! Where are you?" Margaret Pierce was searching the house for her husband, not sure where he had gone.
"I'm out here!" came a faint reply.
A little surprised, she followed the voice out onto the porch where she found the object of her search sitting on the swing. "There you are! I should've known you'd be outside. Are you sure you don't want a sandwich or something for lunch?"
"Yeah. I'm not hungry."
"Oh. Well okay, but if you change your mind, there's plenty of stuff in the fridge." Margaret felt her chipper mood dim a little in the face of her husband's pensiveness. "I finished feeding B-Jane and Charlie and they're down for their nap. I'm so excited to take them trick-or-treating for the first time tonight!."
Hawkeye perked up a little at the mention of his kids. "I'm not so sure they understand just what's going on yet, but anything that involves getting candy they're sure to love."
"That's for sure. I was practicing with them last night while you were in Boston, and B-Jane had the trick-or-treat down pat. Charlie had it too, but you know he's always a bit shyer around strangers."
"They'll both do just fine. Once Charlie figures out there's candy to be gotten he'll lose the shyness."
"I'm sure you're right. Anyway Hawk, I was thinking I'd go for a walk since it's such a beautiful Saturday. Do you want to come with me? Your dad's in the study and isn't going anywhere so we can leave the kids."
"Sure, why not." Hawkeye acquiesced.
"Great! Just let me grab my coat and tell Daniel we're leaving." She slipped back inside and reappeared a moment later.
Standing up, Hawkeye took her arm and they set off down the road. "Are we headed any place in particular?"
"No, not really. I just wanted to enjoy the fall colors. I know this is my fifth year here so I should be getting used to it but I still can't help but marvel at the sight of New England in autumn."
"Don't worry. I've been here all my life and I'm still unprepared for it every year."
They walked in silence for a few minutes before Margaret broached the subject that had been on her mind. "Hawk, what happened last night?"
"What do you mean? I went to Boston, saw Trapper, had a few drinks, and came home."
"Yes, but you got back much earlier than I expected you to. And when you didn't say anything about it I kind of got the feeling that something had gone wrong."
"Good guess, dear." There was a slight sarcastic edge to his words. "Something did."
"Did you fight?" Margaret felt like she was pulling teeth, but knew from experience that once she'd gotten him going, he would tell her everything.
"Yeah, but not about what you think."
"It wasn't about me, was it? I know he calls me Hot Lips, Hawkeye, but he doesn't mean anything by it, and it's really not necessary to defend my honor so staunchly. If it comes right down to it, I can deck him myself."
The assertion amused Hawkeye. He knew no other woman who could take care of herself quite the way that Margaret could. "No, it wasn't about you. It wasn't even about him never contacting me."
Hawkeye took a deep breath and glanced at his wife. "He showed up almost half an hour late, making me wait, and then gives the excuse that he'd been having a quickie with some girl half his age!"
Margaret couldn't help herself: she laughed. "Why am I not surprised?"
"Margaret! He was cheating on his wife! Doesn't that bother you at all?"
"Why should it? This is Trapper John McIntyre we're talking about here. He cheated on his wife with half the nurses in Korea…" Abruptly she stopped, looking up at her husband. "Oh no, what did you say to him?"
"He caught me off guard! I didn't mean to offend him." Hawkeye feebly defended himself, a little embarrassed. "You know me, I like to go off half cocked sometimes."
"And tell other people what to do." Margaret finished the sentence.
"Not you too! I'm not really so arrogant, am I? Just sometimes I can't sit back and not try to change things!"
"I know, darling, and it's one of the things I love about you. You make things happen and don't take no for an answer." She slipped her arm about his waist. "But there are some things you shouldn't try to interfere in."
"I guess you're right. And hell, I know I never used to care what anyone else did with their marriages. But that was before we got married. Margaret, I can't even imagine wanting to be with any other woman now, and I have a hard time understanding that anyone else could do that." Glancing at his wife, he continued, "In fact, I don't think I understand right now why you're defending Trapper. I didn't expect it from you, of all people."
"I'm not defending him, Hawkeye, just saying that he has to make his own decisions. Lord knows I'd never in a million years have an affair now, but considering our respective pasts, neither of us are in any position to criticize on this particular subject."
"Our pasts." He repeated the phrase. It disappointed Hawkeye that his wife wasn't backing him up on this issue, but her words drove home the realization that maybe he had been to blame for the previous night's altercation.
"Come on, Hawkeye." Margaret gently admonished her husband. "You know perfectly well that before I met you I'd slept with half the generals in the Far East, and most of them were married. And there's always Frank, if you really want to dredge up my history."
"Trapper certainly did," commented Hawkeye, although he didn't elaborate on the circumstances. "So, maybe neither of us are completely innocent, but I really did try to avoid married women, even when I was single. I remember one nurse, Erika was her name, and I was crazy about her. We were all set to hop into bed when I saw she was wearing a wedding ring. I'm telling you, I was a very frustrated man for a couple days until I found out it wasn't her ring! Really, Carlye was the only woman I can think of that had a husband while we were together."