Part Seven:

Hawkeye stood on the edge of the beach, staring across the cove. Having lied to Margaret about his need to leave the conference on account of a patient to see, despite his schedule being entirely clear, was bothering him no end. He scratched an arm aimlessly, and toyed with the idea of kicking sand along the beach for the 26th time that afternoon.

He rocked on his heels, hands shoved boyishly in pockets and regarded the afternoon sky. Were it not for the ridiculous laugh escaping his thoughtful mood every few minutes, one which served to break his glum expression into one of almost comical delight, Hawkeye appeared just another local out for a walk in the waning Maine sunlight.

Those thoughts betraying his melancholy exterior were of running wildly back to the medical conference, to poke more fun at professionals and peers, run laughing from lectures and sneak up on colleagues with that woman upon whom most.. all - he corrected his inner monologue with a shake of his head - all of his thoughts had been focused, lately.

Hawkeye had thought much about how surprisingly little it bothered him to confess some kind of feelings for his long time antagonist. And how incredible.. incredible.. a woman she was, when she let herself go and laughed that riotous laugh of hers. And even when she didn't, he saw it in her still.

He sighed audibly and raked two hands back through his mess of hair.

Mostly, he thought about how selfish it was to want her to stay.

Sitting through her second afternoon lecture, Margaret wondered when she'd first come to the conclusion that without someone to point out that the lecturer had cheese hanging from his beard, a medical conference could be quite the bore. She propped up her cheek on her hand and tried desperately to concentrate on the man's words, but what seemed more pressing was the dire need to poke the man next to her and pointing out the offending bit of food tangled in the academic's facial hair. She turned her head sideways, in the ends of doing just that, but one look at her neighbour's serious expression made her think otherwise. She quickly faced front, with the wide-eyed expression of a chastised schoolgirl.

Margaret left the room giggling softly at the image of Hawkeye standing up in that conference theatre to ask a question of the lecturer and addressing him as 'Professor Parmesan.' Yet without the cackle she'd lately come to take for granted would mirror her own, hers echoed across the hall and sounded a desperately lonely noise.

For some reason, she'd not ever thought of herself as lonely, not even in the oft-quiet confines of her apartment in Washington. But having become used to hearing his laugh again, and how that lovely sound brought back memories of something.. something that served to run a chill down her spine every time she heard it..

"No.." Margaret shook her head to clear such pointless romantic notions and earned herself a few wary stares from passers-by.

Those scraps of Major Houlihan which remained managed to glare at them in annoyance, as she began her walk back in the direction of the Pierce home, with noticeably less and less purpose in her stride.

They almost collided walking up the steps of the house, both oblivious to the other.

"Hey.." His face registered surprise and blue eyes smiled at her.

"Hi." Margaret didn't have a chance to mask her previously distracted look, and looked briefly away. "Everything okay with your patient?"

"Yeah.. he, uh, heart complaint." He tapped his chest demonstratively. "Turned out to be heartburn. So how was the rest of the conference?" Hawkeye turned the conversation to something less dangerous.

"Oh, very interesting." She nodded excessively. "I went to the Advances in Microscopy lecture, and um, he, it.. " Sensing he didn't believe her feigned interest, she gave up the pretense.

"And the man had cheese in his beard!" Margaret cried, throwing her hands up in sheer delighted relief at being able to tell someone.

"Aha!" He laughed and took her hand gleefully. "I've created a monster!"

She blushed at that, and covered her mouth to stifle a laugh.

"You do know that you're now an official member of the "Hawkeye Pierce Subversion of Authority" club, don't you Margaret?"

She looked at him warily. "How many members?"

"As of today?" He made a show of counting on his fingers, then looked at her, sheepishly. "Two."

Their chorus of laughter carried them inside.

"You're not wearing THOSE to the dinner?" Margaret's voice carried down the hallway of the Pierce home, her shriek bringing forth a muffled laugh from Hawkeye's father, who was pretending not to listen to the argument at the other end of the house.

Hawkeye sat on the edge of his bed fully dressed in his tuxedo, yet still managing to look sufficiently rumpled; his bow-tie astray, buttons in wrong holes, and the inevitable odd sock. All the while, Margaret paced the floor like a rampant bull.

Both were thoroughly enjoying the argument.

"Margaret, these happen to be my most comfortable shoes, you don't understand!" He held up a ragged pair of sandshoes, complete with holes, stains and torn shoelaces to emphasize his point.

"It's black tie formal!"

"My shoelaces are black!" he insisted. "And I'm tying them, aren't I?"

"I'll hang you with those laces if you don't wear dress shoes." Margaret pointed a neatly manicured finger at him menacingly. "You do OWN dress shoes.. don't you?"

"I own a dress, is that the same thing?" he said, batting eyelashes in a pathetic attempt at an expression of innocence.

Margaret slapped her thighs in mock frustration and stamped her way down the hall to the kitchen, where Ben Pierce almost fell over himself trying to open the newspaper he had been playing the pretense of reading.

"Mr. Pierce.. Ben." she corrected herself and smiled at him in exasperation. He nodded back, solemnly. "Would you please tell your stubborn son that if he doesn't wear some proper shoes to this formal conference dinner, I'll be forced to dance alone, WHICH I DON'T INTEND ON DOING!" The last was for Hawkeye's benefit, and obviously so, as the elder Pierce winced and covered his ears to avoid further damage to sensitive auditory canals.

"Margaret, it is a rare woman who can convince my son to change age-old habits of sloppiness," Benjamin said seriously, flicking straight to the comics. "I've yet to see him wear anything that matches even remotely, in my entire life."

And with that, Hawkeye entered the kitchen, elegantly clad in his tuxedo and polished wingtip shoes.

"But he's been known to surprise," he stifled a laugh at Margaret's expression.

Hawkeye paused, posing for both Margaret and his father, before dance stepping his way to the fridge, opening it, and proceeding to drink out of the milk carton.

As she received a milk-moustached grin from the other side of the kitchen, and found her own face shaped unconsciously into a ridiculous smile, Margaret was struck that she'd never felt quite so... comfortable and content in her life. Yet as common sense and responsibility warred with those other less complex feelings, a look of confusion brushed across her face. She struggled to push it away.

Hawkeye half turned and caught Margaret staring at him with an unusual expression. He looked at her for a moment, seeing an interesting study in contrasting expressions on a face usually so black and white in its readability. He waved a hand in front of her eyeline jokingly and then, a little more concerned, crossed the kitchen in two paces and stood in front of her.

"Margaret?" he searched her blank face with an anxious expression of his own.


"You okay?"

"You've got milk on your.." and she unconsciously reached up to wipe it away, without thought for the implications of that tiny gesture.

"I was saving that for later," Hawkeye said quietly, sensing something had changed. And in that, a barrier which both had been fighting to preserve came crashing down.

They both stepped back a pace quickly, as though remembering their respective places. That, combined with the fact that Hawkeye's father was sitting behind them, apparently engrossed in a newspaper which hadn't rustled for several minutes.

Hawkeye took the milk container - which he hadn't even realised he was holding - back to the fridge, while Margaret went to the sink, filled a glass with a water and drank it ridiculously quickly.

"So, we should.." he started.

"Go?" she finished, turning breathlessly away from the bench.


"That's a good idea."

Benjamin Pierce watched his son and Margaret rush for the door, and had to suppress a laugh, as both got to the entrance at the same time, further adding to their obvious discomfort.

Hawkeye had cracked jokes with an almost manic pace all the way through the taxi ride to the conference dinner venue, and she found herself impossibly grateful for his ability to talk for 5 minutes straight without so much as a pause for breath.

"So am I dance-worthy now?" he asked, as they made their way through the entrance.

She looked him up and down, appraisingly.

"You just pass."

"Oh good, because last time Charles and I danced, he stepped on my toes," Hawkeye joked.

"Ha, you and me both!" she laughed out loud. "I had to stand ON his feet and let him lead, so he'd stop clumping on mine."

"Oh.. so you two have a history of dancing, do you?" Hawkeye couldn't keep the note of almost jealousy from his tone.

"Jealous, Doctor?" Margaret failed miserably at keeping the anxious interest from hers.

"Well of course Margaret," Hawkeye bit his tongue down on the obvious joke about Charles' own special beauty, and decided to try another mode.

"Of course I am." 

"You are?" she sounded utterly surprised at his lack of a punchline.

"Well.. not at the moment, given that I do have the most beautiful woman on my arm, the most intelligent company wrapped up in that lovely package, and on top of that.. I've just got the NICEST shoes!" He leered the last part at her cheekily, hiding his inability to finish his sentence with the compliment he'd had in mind.

"They are nice shoes," replied Margaret quickly, not realising that she wasn't exactly looking at his shoes. "Though, I have to admit, those sandshoes of yours were growing on me."

"That's funny.. they were literally growing on me," he laughed, and both were at ease again.

"I truly don't mean to antagonize you Hawkeye," she pulled him to a halt outside the double doors of the venue, as though it were crucial she tell him this. "Actually I - and this is really silly!" she laughed to hide the awkwardness she felt, "I.. think I just like arguing with you.." Margaret finished softly.

"So do I Margaret," he said, with a small puzzled smile. Despite a growing nervousness which made him feel like a schoolboy, Hawkeye laced his fingers with hers and pulled her gently toward the entrance. "So do I."

"Wait, wait, wait." She stopped his motion again, more urgently this time.

"What? What is it?"

"Do you realise that we just agreed on how much we like to disagree?"

"Huh," he thought about that for a moment, not admitting that the thought had struck him also. "I guess we did." His face broke into an absurd grin.

"Doesn't that defeat the point of our arguing?"

"Do you think it does?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Well, whatever you said, I was going to disagree with you," he admitted with a laugh.

"Oh, damn, you beat me to it." She nudged him towards the door, and the music they could hear from within.

Continued in Part 8.

My most humble apologies for the big hunk of time it took to get this part done, I've had four weeks of absolute mayhem, beginning and ending with my somehow (idiotically) managing to miss two final uni exams.. yikes, I won't even go into that disastrous - and actually, really hilariously stupid - episode of my life. As for Left, heh, I promise I'm getting down to the ending, perhaps a few more installations, a bit more dancing around the obvious, just cause I do enjoy building dramatic tension.. 'tis endlessly fun! (And deliciously infuriating, I hope). But my ultimate wish it that all this will add dimensions of depth to a better finale. Or something literary-sounding to that effect.. ;)

I do hope you enjoy - and as always, comments, feedback, suggestions, marriage proposals and suitable alibis are most welcome at My best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to you!

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