by Helen Barrett
Yet another reunion story. Somehow I thought the year the series ended was an appropriate date. The characters are, obviously, not mine - at any rate the show began airing eight years before I was born. But I sat up late in 1983 to watch the show with my parents, and years of reruns later I'm still wondering "What happens next?" Also, I've never seen any spinoffs, so those events have been ignored.
July 26, 1983 - Crabapple Cove, Maine
As the rental car pulled up in front of the pristine but clearly quite old white house, its driver slowed to look around him in wonder. He had never set eyes on this house, or this town, or even this state, except in pictures, but somehow he felt he had been there a hundred times before.
"Look, honey," his wife said from the seat beside him, "isn't that. . ."
She didn't have time to answer. There was no mistaking the tall, lanky form, the brooding expression, or the unruly hair of the figure in the driveway. The rental car skidded to a stop as its driver lept from the front, yelling, "Ben!"
The man in the driveway, who had been peering into the open hood of a decrepit white car, squinted at the approaching man. His face broke into a smile of recognition. "B.J.!" he called happily.
B.J. Hunnicutt, for that smile and that booming voice could belong to no one else, greeted the younger man with hand outstretched. "It's good to see you again, Ben - and under happier circumstances."
"Good to see you, too." Ben Pierce looked over B.J.'s shoulder at the car. "You did bring your family?"
"Oh, yeah, they're all there. Where's your -" B.J. stopped dead as the front door of the house opened and a young woman stepped out into the July sunlight.
"Did you get it working?" she asked, but B.J. didn't hear her words. He was too busy staring. He had seen the photos, of course, but in real life - it was positively uncanny. The fair skin, the firm expression, the hands-on-hips posture, the eyes, startling blue even from several yards away. . . the only thing off was the glowing red hair.
She stopped when she saw the stranger in the drive. "Are you B.J.?" she asked, her tone changing completely. "I recognize you from. . ."
"And I recognize you from your dad's photos," B.J. replied, snapping out of his trance. He bounded up onto the porch and took both the young woman's hands in his own, giving her a friendly kiss on the cheek. "It's nice to finally meet you, Maggie. You're the spitting image of your mother, except for the -"
"Hair," Maggie finished wryly. "Mom says it's from her aunt. Dad says it's from the milkman."
B.J. threw his head back and laughed heartily. "I was just about to ask for your dad. Where is he?"
"Inside." Maggie grinned. "But first I think you should bring the car up and let your family out. Or at least shut the door before the battery goes dead."
Within five minutes the car was parked (and actually turned off) and the entire Hunnicutt family was standing on the Pierces' porch. B.J. froze as he heard a voice that for the last thirty years he had heard only three times in person.
"Why didn't you call me sooner?" The door swung open again and Hawkeye Pierce stepped out. His eyes immediately sought his old friend and a smile that could have lit half of Maine spread across his face. "Beej!" he shouted exultantly. "Welcome to Maine!" He swept his friend into a rib-crushing embrace.
B.J. tried hard to keep the tears from his eyes, but he noticed a sympathetic mist beginning to cloud those of his wife as well. "Hawk, you remember Peg, don't you?"
"Of course." Hawkeye flashed a smile that, although now framed by hair streaked with silver, was no less charming than it had been thirty years ago. He hugged Peg affectionately and kissed her cheek. "Good to see you again."
Peg nodded, overcome with love for the man who, although she barely knew him, had cared so much for her husband - and their whole family - over the years.
Hawkeye turned his attention to the trio standing behind Peg and B.J. "These two I know," he said, shaking hands with B.J.'s son and kissing his elder daughter. "Mike, Erin, welcome to Maine."
"And this, of course, is Mary," B.J. said, draping an arm around his younger daughter. "She was at school when, well. . ."
"Of course." Hawkeye squeezed Mary's hand. "I feel like I know you already."
"I've met Maggie," B.J. said.
Hawkeye beamed in the direction of the young redhead. "Almost scary, isn't it? Come on in, I'll introduce everyone else." They trooped obediently into the house, Maggie and Ben following them.
The Pierce family was waiting in the living room, lined up like the Von Trapp children to meet their father's long-distance best friend. Hawkeye gestured toward the tall, serious-looking boy at the end with thick blond hair and light freckles. "This is Danny, our other doctor of the family. This here is Brendan James, whose initials actually stand for something. . ." B.J. laughed and shook hands with the shorter, darker boy. "This is Lizzy, who's at Barnard now during the year, and our youngest, Abby, and this is Jack." Although he had seen hundreds of pictures of all the Pierce children, B.J. had to marvel at the dark, sleek good looks of Elizabeth and Abigail Pierce - so different from Maggie's radiant Irish charm. To the sixteen-year-old Jack he said, "I hear you're quite the star of the football team."
Jack flushed and said, "I do all right." B.J. grinned. Despite the dark hair, the boy blushed like his mother.
Speaking of which. . . B.J. was about to ask for the lady of the house when he heard his name called from the head of the stairs. He beamed at the woman who came practically flying down them and into his arms. "Hey there, Margaret."
He got a better look at her when the four older people had settled themselves on the porch. Thirty years had added lines to Margaret's face without diminishing her beauty and had delicately silvered her fair hair, but her figure remained as trim as ever despite thirty years and seven children and her smile was the smile of the Major Houlihan he'd known in Korea - only more gentle, perhaps.
"You look fabulous, Margaret," he said, holding Peg's hand so that she would understand the nature of his platonic relationship with the former major. "For the rest of us it's been thirty years, but somehow it's been half that for you."
Margaret laughed shortly. "I certainly don't feel old enough to have a twenty-seven-year-old son," she quipped, watching young Ben work on the car.
"It's women," Hawkeye said, feigning jealousy. "Look at Peg. Erin's what, thirty-three? and you look no older than that yourself."
Peg Hunnicutt smiled calmly. She had become used to Hawkeye's flattery, even through letters to her husband. She certainly knew that she and Margaret were lucky that men like B.J. and the ever-flirtatious Hawkeye were still so much in love with them, even in their "golden" years.
"So when are the others coming?" B.J. asked.
"Radar and Patty are arriving at the airport in twenty minutes, and so is. . ." he hesitated dramatically, "Frank Burns."
"You invited him?" B.J. asked incredulously.
"We invited everyone," Margaret said firmly. "Garbage-heads and ferrets inclusive."
That got her a smile, but B.J. still shook his head. "Frank. This'll be fun." His eyes suddenly lit up. "Does he know about. . ."
"Us?" Hawkeye finished. "Of course not. What fun would that have been?"
B.J. laughed. "How are they getting here?"
"I'm dispatching the lawyer for them - that is, if her car ever starts." As if on cue the beat-up Chevy began to rev and Ben hopped out of the driver's side yelling triumphantly, "Mags! It started!"
Without a word Maggie ran from the house, red hair flying behind her, jumped into the car, and pulled out of the driveway, barely waiting long enough for Ben to slam the hood closed. He stood watching the car screech away, then turned back to his parents and their friends. "I guess it works," he said with an amused smile.
"What if it won't start again at the airport?" Margaret asked worriedly.
Ben grinned in a perfect copy of his father's. "Just in case I told her not to turn it off. She's just going to circle until she spots them at the gate."
Margaret dropped her head into her hands. "Pierces," she muttered resignedly.
"Speaking of Pierces," B.J. said mischievously, "I can't wait until Frank meets Maggie."