Seeing her change in mood, Hawkeye sobered slightly. "We were on opposite sides of a lot of things back then, werenít we."
"Weíre still on opposite sides of a lot of things."
"Touché. But you know what life is when everyone agrees on everything all the time?"
"Boring, monotonous, tedious, dull...."
"Now whoís reading whose mind?" He smiled, marveling at the sparkle of her eyes. "Dull is one thing weíll never be, let me tell you."
"No, weíll likely kill each other before we become boring."
"True enough." Hawkeye took her hand between both of his.
Margaret watched his thumb caress her palm, a jumble of feelings coursing through her. He was so easy to talk to, and come what may, she trusted that he would never intentionally hurt her, as Donald had done. Did they have a chance of making things work together? "Hawk..." She started, but then her voice trailed off.
He looked at her expectantly.
Scrunching down her doubts, she gave free rein to her gut feeling. "A part of me wants to forget we ever talked about this. There are so many things that could be so difficult, and the last thing I need is another dead-end relationship. But then I think I might burst if I see you with another woman, and Iím not sure any other man could ever measure up to you."
Hawkeye remained silent, knowing enough to let her speak her piece without interruption.
"Youíve been an enemy, and then a friend, and somewhere in there you crossed the line into being something else. I guess the bottom line is that I do want to see where that something else can go." There, she had said it.
"Margaret, you are the most remarkable woman Iíve ever met. Hands down, no contest, you win every time. You deserve someone who can have two dozen red roses delivered to your doorstep every morning when the best I can offer is a few weeds from the minefield." Hawkeyeís voice was soft, and he disentangled one of his hands from hers to reach up and stroke her cheek. "I care about you, and I want to be with you. But thereís a very good chance that weíll end up clashing, crashing, and self-destructing. Are you sure this is what you really want?"
For answer, she leaned over to brush his lips with her own. "No, but I want to do it anyway."
"Well, with logic like that, who am I to refuse?" Hooking his hand behind her neck, Hawkeye pulled her in for another kiss. "It wonít be easy, you know, in the middle of camp like this."
"I know. Thereís no privacy." Sighing, she backed off just a touch. "Letís not think about all the problems right now. Thereís so many of them, and thereís no sense dooming this whatever-it-is before we even start. Weíll be facing them all soon enough, but not tonight, please."
"Sounds like a plan to me, but does that tonight mean I might be allowed to have a go at nibbling again? Hawkeye leered at her appreciatively.
"Oh, why do you always have to say things like that?" Irritated, Margaret frowned at him.
"I canít help it. My brainís hardwired to understand everything in the dirtiest possible manner."
"Well, fix it!"
He didnít want to upset her, which pushing would surely do, but couldnít help asking the first question that came to mind anyway. "Uh, Margaret...you arenít saying that you donít ever want to, well, you know..."
The dismay on his face was so comical that she forgot her momentary annoyance and burst out laughing. "Typical Hawkeye --- the libido must be seen to first. Donít worry; this is Hot Lips Houlihan youíre talking to, after all! Just not tonight --- itís too soon." For reassurance, Margaret kissed him, long and passionately. He tasted good, spicy, with only a faint hint of gin.
Hawkeyeís voice was husky. "Thatís a helluva way to turn a guy down, Major. But youíve got a point." His lips sought hers once more, and then he sat back. "Now, since we wonít be nibbling on each other, maybe we can find something else to nibble on?"
"What?" She regarded him blankly.
"I missed dinner earlier, and Iím starved."
"Like I said, itís always your appetites with you." Margaret teased him. "The mess tentís closed at this hour, but if you donít mind something simple, I might be able to rummage up some crackers."
"Mmm, crackers. I knew you would find some manna, goddess that you are."
"Better watch it; I could get used to being worshiped." Standing, she started to rummage through her foot locker. "Clear off that table, would you?"
"Your wish is my command, dear lady!" Hawkeye salaamed, and then obeyed her order.
"Here!" She came up triumphantly with a box of Saltines and a chocolate bar. "Itís not much."
"Chocolate and Saltines! Food of the gods!" Having finished clearing the table, he dragged over the two chairs, placing them on either side. The two seated themselves, Margaret taking a bite of a cracker and Hawkeye munching the chocolate bar. "So, tell me about your first boyfriend."
Surprised, she looked at him quizzically. "My first boyfriend? Why?"
"Iím interested. I want to know you better."
His casual, honest curiosity made Margaret smile, and inwardly she was reminded once more of just why this man had gotten so far under her skin. "Well, the first boy I ever went on a real date with was Jack Dolredo. His father was second-in-command of Fort Dix, where we were living at the time, and I was completely smitten with him...."
"...I jumped about five feet into the air. Dad laughed so hard that he dropped the lobster, which, understandably upset at being taken so unceremoniously from its home, bit him in the ankle. Dad was literally hopping mad and would have eaten the thing for dinner that very night, except Mom had seen the whole thing. She thought it was hysterical and said that any lobster that made her laugh like that deserved a second chance, so she made Dad dump it back in the bay. Dad was limping for a week and still says that he never completely forgave her for not letting him have his revenge." Finishing the story, Hawkeye leaned back in his chair.
"Poor man." Margaret was laughing herself. "He must have had a tough time of it, with you as a son."
"Who, me? Madam, you insult me! I was a veritable cherub growing up."
"In a pigís eye!" Margaret snorted and then yawned, the effects of her long days catching up to her. "I canít believe weíve been talking for half the night."
"Yeah, and weíll be getting casualties in a couple hours. I should go and let you get some sleep."
"Youíre right about the sleep..."
"Oh, so now you want me to stay the night?" His voice was lightly teasing.
Margaret glared at him sternly. "You know what I meant. Iím tired, but my bedís big enough for two, and having only a pillow for company gets very old."
"That means Iíll be seen leaving your tent in the morning. Are you okay with that?"
"If you are, I am. Itís not like we can keep this a secret. Believe me, I tried that once before, with not so pleasant results."
"In that case, Major, move over." After pulling off his boots, Hawkeye stretched out on the bed next to Margaret. Spoon style, they curled up together, with his arm draped across her.
"Hmmm, yes, youíre much better than a pillow." A small smile played across Margaretís face at the absurd turn of events. If someone had told her a week ago...ah well, no sense in second-guessing a bit of happiness.
"Remind me next time not to wait for a tragedy to reach for something good." Tired himself after several nights of not sleeping, Hawkeyeís voice had grown drowsy, and he was quickly asleep.
Margaret stayed awake a few minutes longer, wondering at the fact that he was here with her even after she had pushed him away so many times. What was that old story about man and woman being two halves of the same creature, and each person needing to search the world, no matter the obstacle, to find the one that made them whole? Was it possible that he could be...oh, she was probably just tired. Chuckling softly at her whimsy, Margaret nestled in close to Hawkeye, and then she, too, dropped off into dreamland.