"Okay, enough is enough, dad!" Hawkeye cried, hands covering his face in embarrassment.
"No, no, no! I wanna see more photos!" Margaret cried, pulling the Pierce family albums away from an exasperated Hawkeye. "I'd always wondered what lil' Hawkie looked like growing up...without a diaper on is even better." She tilted her head to sideways to get a better view of one particularly risque photo- a gesture mostly for Hawkeye's benefit- and then laughed pointedly in his direction.
"Oh, I am so regretting this..." Hawkeye moaned and lifted his head to regard the Maine sky and its incredibly vengeful god.
"Ah, maybe we'd better give my boy a break, hey Margie?" Through the sly look aimed at Margaret, Daniel Pierce looked as though he had no intention of letting his son off the hook.
"Aww...okay then, if you say so Mr. Pierce," came the reply, chased by a less-than-subtle wink.
"Didn't I tell ya already to call me Daniel, love?" the smile-crinkled Pierce insisted. "I mean, we're practically family, seeing as how often Hawkeye wrote about ya lovely self."
"Ah.. dad. Margaret knows of my immense professional respect for her..." Hawkeye said with a nervous chuckle and a pointed look in his dad's direction.
Ixnay on the letters-ay dad..
"Yes, right son. I'm sure she does," Daniel Pierce said, nodding his head a little too excessively. "Anyway kids, I'm off to bed," he said with a wave and a smile. "Margaret, you be sure to enjoy the rest of this beautiful Maine night, Ben, you take good care of this 'ere lady, else I'll box your ears.
I hope that spare room's okay for ya love..." he said over a departing shoulder.
"Oh... I can't burden you any more Daniel, I'll check myself into a motel," Margaret called. "But thank you so much for the offer."
"You'll do no such thing!" called the elder Pierce from the other end of the hall.
"He moved all of his junk out of the spare room, especially.." whispered Hawkeye in Margaret's direction.
"Hey, I heard that!"
"Oh, so you only pretend to be deaf, dad!" Hawkeye laughed. "Thanks for making me seem infallible in the eyes of my favourite nurse, by the way!"
Silence from the hall indicated that the elder Pierce's selective hearing had kicked in. Hawkeye grinned.
"Well, if you're sure.." she called.
"Course we are love, besides, there's more naked pictures of Hawkie-poo to show tomorrow!"
Hawkeye gave Margaret a pained look and she laughed.
"Goodnight Daniel! Thank you for everything!"
"You're welcome love! Sleep well.." echoed back down the hall of the Pierce home.
"Oh Hawkeye, your dad is just wonderful!" Margaret chuckled, remembering the countless hilarious and charming stories they'd been told over dinner.
"Ha! He is, you think?" cried Hawkeye. "I noticed you were laughing particularly hard at my expense, Margaret! I do believe you'd think differently if that were your tushie we were looking at just now!" But he smiled nonetheless.
"Bah. You don't wanna see my tushie." Margaret waved a hand dismissively and hid a smile behind her wine glass.
"Oh Margaret, you underestimate the immense appeal of your backside."
"My backside is immense?!" she shrieked. The look of mock indignation Margaret threw Hawkeye's way was deserving of an Oscar.
"Uh, no, no!" he spluttered.
"Well?!" Margaret said righteously.
"I meant.... ahh... you tease Margaret!" Hawkeye's face broke into a grin to shame the Cheshire cat as the self-proclaimed king of quick quips realised he was being played.
"And here I was thinking you were the king of tease. Ha! " She sat back with a sufficiently pleased smile.
"Ah, me no longer guilty. I have been bested." And he tipped his wine glass in salute towards the woman sitting opposite him.
She gave him a queenly nod. "Oh, I am having such fun," Margaret breathed.
"So am I," he admitted easily. "Soo....what's the verdict on dinner?" Hawkeye smiled over the rim of his glass.
"Oh, I say it scores about a 20 out of 10, Hawkeye. If I'd known you were such a wonderful cook, I'd have kept in touch just for recipes!" she joked.
"Huh..yeah." he mused.
There was moments' silence, in which Margaret sensed that the joke had fallen flat, before he spoke again.
"I was thinking about that earlier today, before you got in. Y'know. Us. Uh, not keeping in better touch. In hindsight, I realise that it was kinda stupid of us, because we might have lost touch. And that would have been..." he stopped to choose words.
"Not good." Margaret finished his sentence.
"Really not good." Hawkeye repeated.
"But!" Margaret said brightly. "Here we are now, and I am having a lovely time. Thank you Hawkeye. For everything."
"Ah, my pleasure. It's not often I get to share such good company. Dad's a laugh, but really, those hairy legs are a turn off."
Margaret had to force a swallow of wine, lest she do something not particularly ladylike as she laughed.
"So what are your plans for tomorrow?" Hawkeye inquired, sitting back in his chair, seemingly oblivious to Margaret's nearly jettisoning her drink out of a nasal passage. "You have a conference to attend, people to see, autographs to sign, I guess."
"Ah, I was meaning to ask you about that...." Margaret fiddled with the edge of a napkin.
"Of course Margaret, you can have my autograph!" he cried. "Which part of your gorgeous anatomy shall I sign?"
"Hawkeye!" she squealed.
"Oh, I'm kidding! Kidding! Don't hit me, I bruise.."
Margaret gave him the dirtiest of looks. Then she struggled to remember just what it was she was asking, before that picture had popped into her head of Hawkeye signing... something. And where had that come from?
"No, well, as far as the conference goes, I don't suppose you'd, would you, umm, uh..."
"I'd love to." He intercepted her question. "Do I need to wear shoes? Or will our professional colleagues accept me in my chicken slippers and Groucho Marx nose is the 64 dollar question?" He gave an easy smile to show he'd be delighted to accompany her.
Margaret released a held laugh and dropped her head to study her glass again.
"God, how do you read my mind like that!" she laughed. "But thanks Hawkeye. I'd really appreciate the support, these fellow medical people can be vultures in competition, even though we're supposed to be sharing knowledge.."
"Ah, a certain so-called Doctor Burns comes to mind."
Hawkeye continued quietly. "Actually, my peers have been a little jealous of my popularity as a doctor and "resident surgeon extraordinare" in this relatively small place. It's not hard for your reputation to precede your miracles," he said with a self depreciating smile.
"But so they should be jealous Hawkeye. It will force people to improve techniques and patient manner to keep up. You are the best," she said without having to think of an appropriate compliment. They seemed to come easy with this man.
"Second only to you." The words, quickly though they came, lacked nothing in sincerity.
"I'm not a doctor Hawkeye.." Margaret insisted.
"Doesn't matter." Hawkeye said, shaking his head. "You are, without doubt, the most caring and most professional person I've ever had the pleasure of operating with. Let alone sharing a meal with, don't even get me started on that."
"Wow." Margaret was lost for words. "You really know how to pay a compliment.." she said quietly, finding herself suddenly fascinated with the edge of the tablecloth.
How is it that I feel the most comfortable and most awkward I've ever felt in my life at the same time around this man..
"All part of the service ma'am." Hawkeye said in his worst Southern accent, tipping an invisible hat.
After having woken the whole of Crabapple Cove with their cackling, both realised that the very few silences between them were entirely comfortable ones, with neither feeling an overwhelming need to fill a usually uncomfortable void with idle words.
"You know what's strange?" Margaret played idly with the stem of her wine glass.
"Well, the only time we got along in Korea was when we were working, or fighting, or uh.." she didn't seem to be able to finish the sentence. "But now we seem to be able to talk about things without a word edgewise."
"Well.... we can have a fight if you like... " Hawkeye suggested cheerfully. "But I'm kinda liking this "friendly conversation" thing, if that what kids nowadays are calling it.."
"Oh god, we're not that old are we?" she exclaimed and covered her eyes in mock misery.
He chucked. "Well...." Hawkeye mused. "I guess we'll find out tomorrow, when all these new young MDs teach us how to resect a bowel with nothing but a toothpick and an aardvark to assist."
Margaret blinked and the two exchanged a thoughtful look.
And simultaneously burst out laughing.
"Oh god, I'd rather operate with Frank, if it comes to that." Hawkeye said.
"God, be careful what you wish for.." Margaret said with a laugh.
He looked at her in disbelief.
"Oh, did I say that out loud?" she said innocently, with a batting of eyelashes.
It was getting on to 2am when Hawkeye showed Margaret to the pleasantly decorated spare room of the Pierce home. After making sure her towel was neatly folded at least 3 times, wishing her goodnight and promising not to wake her with a bugle at 6am, he closed the door excruciatingly quietly behind himself.
Hawkeye's head leaned against the cool wood of the door jam of its own accord.
Oh god, what a living breathing cliche in motion, Hawkeye. Your heart speeds up, your mouth is dry, you make bad jokes and worst of all, there's nothing you can prescribe yourself... How terribly ironic.
With a small sad smile and a resigned headshake, Hawkeye padded down the hall to his own bedroom.
Her hand lingered on the door knob as Hawkeye closed the door softly. Margaret's head leaned against the cool wood of the door jam of its own stubborn accord.
Oh, how childish and impulsive Margaret. You're not.. It's silly. And impulsive. And, uh, well.. damn. I said impulsive, didn't I..
And with a quiet smile and a shake of her head, Margaret slipped into bed and into sleep.