The next morning Charles Emerson Winchester the third was making his rounds in post-op when he passed by Corporal Steve Johnson. His thoughts drifted back to the events of the night before, and Charles sighed. He loved her, he knew that now. There was no denying it. He imagined taking her back to Boston with him; they would be happy. His sister Honoria would adore Miranda, and Charles could see them becoming close. And his parents...
Charles frowned. No, his parents would never be as accepting as Honoria. They would never like her, no matter how wonderful Miranda was. She didn't have the background that Winchesters usually married into. She was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a middle class working family. In other words, a completely normal family. There weren't even any in-laws to deal with.
Charles gazed down at the sleeping Steven. Was his parent's acceptance of him more important than his love for Miranda? Maybe it was before he left for Korea, but things had definitely changed.
"How is he?"
Charles was torn from his thoughts by Margaret Houlihan. He glanced at Johnson's chart. "He'll be fine," he muttered. "He should be going home in a few days."
Margaret smiled. "That's wonderful. Lieutenant Johnson should be in to see him in a few minutes."
Charles nodded. "Good. Thank you, Margaret."
She smiled knowingly. "Anytime, Charles. Good luck." She turned and left Charles alone with the patients in post-op. He glanced up at Steven and saw the Corporal was coming around. Charles was at his side in an instant. Steve opened his eyes after a minute and focused on Charles.
"Hey doc..." he said weakly.
"Good morning, Corporal," Charles said warmly. "Welcome back to the land of the living." He checked Steve's bandages. "We were a little worried about you."
Steve smiled. "Thanks. Is my sister here? I thought I remembered her, unless it was a dream or something."
Before Charles could answer, Miranda walked into post-op. She saw Steve and rushed over to him. "How do you feel?"
Steve shrugged. "Like I've been shot, but ok. I was just talking to Major..."
"Winchester," Miranda prompted. She glanced at Charles and smiled. "He's the doctor that operated on you." She turned to Charles. "How is he?"
"Quite well," Charles said. "After a few days here, we'll move you to Tokyo, and then you'll be on your way home."
Steve's eyes widened. "Home? Are you serious?"
"Of course," Charles said. "Your wounds were serious enough to send you home. Good luck." Steve shook his hand warmly.
Miranda smiled. "Thank you, Major. Could I speak with you outside for a moment?" He nodded, and she patted Steve's hand. "I'll be back. Get some sleep."
Once outside the door, Miranda turned to Charles and threw her arms around his neck. "I just wanted to thank you, Charles," she whispered. "For everything." He held her close for a moment, and then she pulled back to look at him. "Charles, I've thought about what you said last night, and I-"
"Miranda," he interrupted gently. He had to tell her; he couldn't keep it from her any longer. "I am deeply in love with you, no matter what my family thinks or does." He held her close.
Miranda laid her head on his shoulder, and her fear left her at that moment. She smiled. "I love you too, Charles." He was nothing like her father; she wondered how she could ever think he was. He must have kissed her a hundred times then; it was all a wonderful blur. When they finally parted, Miranda had to remind herself how to breathe. Suddenly, what Charles said about his family came back to her, and she pulled away. "Your family will hate me..."
"No," Charles said. "I won't let that happen. I could leave them; just get away."
She shook her head. "Charles, you can't make your family like me. Do they even know I exist?"
He sighed. "My sister Honoria does. She adores you..."
"Charles, your family is far more important to you than I could ever be. How could I ever live with myself if I was the cause of the break of your relationship?"
"What can I do?" Charles pleaded. He was losing her; he could feel it. "I feel so...torn."
She took his hand. "Why don't you give them a chance? Call them. Tell them everything. I'm sure that their son's feelings are more important than background or money."
Charles snorted. "We'll see."
She nodded. "I better go check on Steve." With that, she was gone. Charles sighed and leaned against the wall of the building. He closed his eyes and could almost see his parent's reactions to the news. His mother's eyes were full of tears, and his father's anger was obvious at his marriage to someone 'below his level'. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with Miranda; money had never been an issue. Why should it be? Suddenly it seemed everything he had been taught to believe as a child was not as crystal clear as he had thought. His sister had married an Italian, something he hadn't accepted at the time. Perhaps this was the time of change, and Charles needed to change himself.
Later that evening, Charles sat on his cot in the Swamp, deep in thought. B.J. and Hawkeye were playing a makeshift volleyball game with an inflated surgical glove. Hawkeye spiked the 'ball', and won the game point. His loud cheer and B.J.'s groan tore Charles from his thoughts.
Hawkeye grinned at his friend. "Come on, Beej, let's make it seven out of ten."
B.J. shook his head. "No thanks, Hawk. I've lost enough games for one night."
"Oh, come on. You're just afraid of losing!"
"I know I'm going to lose! There's no fear in that."
"Excuse me, gentlemen," Charles interrupted. "But would you mind ending this childish squabbling? Some of us are trying to think. Something which I am quite sure you two know nothing about."
"And just what would you be thinking about, Charles?" Hawkeye asked, a strange twinkle in his eye. "Could it be an encounter outside post-op with a certain nurse? A certain gorgeous nurse?" After years of experience, Charles had become a master at keeping his feelings from showing. Obviously someone had seen them, and news spread at lightning speed around the small camp.
He sneered. "You two obviously have nothing better to do than gossip like two old women."
B.J. shrugged. "Well, we try, Charles."
Charles shook his head and rose. "If you two hooligans will excuse me, I have to make a phone call." He left the tent, leaving Hawkeye and B.J. slightly puzzled at his exit. Charles almost never called home. This had to be important...
Charles walked into the clerical office with a determined stride. Seeing no one inside, he called, "Klinger!"
Instantly Corporal Klinger emerged from Colonel Potter's office. "You bellowed, sir?"
Charles ignored the comment. "Get on the phone and connect me with my home, immediately." Klinger cocked his head in confusion for a moment, then sat at his desk and began calling the operator to connect him with Boston. As he waited on hold, Klinger turned to Charles. "I know this is none of my business, Major, but you never call home. May I ask what's going on?"
"Klinger, did it ever occur to you that I might just be calling home to see how everything is? I am not entitled to that?"
"Of course you are, Major," Klinger said quickly. "You look a little nervous. It's just strange...that's all."
"Well, Klinger," Charles said coolly. "You will find that I'm full of surprises." Someone on the line was suddenly speaking to Klinger, and the clerk grinned and rose from his seat.
"It's all set, Major. Just wait on the line for a moment, and it should ring through."
"Thank you, Klinger," Charles said, taking the seat at the desk. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that Klinger was still standing behind him. "You may go." Klinger nodded and left the room.
Charles sighed. Everything was about to change at that moment; nothing would ever be the same. He knew that is could go extremely well, or terribly poor. Charles then heard the soft rings of the phone at his home in Boston ringing. He could almost see their butler coming in from the front room to answer it, and Charles' heart began to pound. He had never been so nervous about speaking to his parents in his life. A voice could suddenly be heard on the phone. It was the butler's. "Hello, Winchester residence."
Charles took a deep breath and changed his life forever.
Four days later, Miranda watched as the remaining patients from post-op were loaded into the ambulance that would begin their trip to Tokyo and then home. Steve was loaded last, and she ran up to him.
"I wish I was going with you," she said sadly. He gripped her hand tightly. "Don't worry about it," he said. "This war will end soon and everyone here will be going home. You're with a great bunch on people here, Randy." Hawkeye suddenly entered the ambulance behind Miranda.
"Come on, Lieutenant," he said. "We can't hold these guys up any longer. I bet they're anxious to get back to reality."
Miranda nodded and kissed her brother on the forehead. Before she left, Steve pulled her close to whisper to her. "I know you like Major Winchester," he whispered with a grin. "He's an alright guy. I approve, baby sis." She grinned and ruffled his hair. "Thanks, I hoped you'd like him. See you later, Steve. Good luck."
"Same to you." Miranda turned and hopped out of the jeep. She and Hawkeye stood together and watched the ambulance go. Miranda sighed, and Hawkeye put a hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry," he said. "He's a good kid. He'll be alright."
"I know, Hawkeye, thanks." They turned and noticed Klinger racing up to them. "I've got news!" He cried. The company clerk was almost jumping up and down, a broad grin on his face.
"Get on with it, Klinger," Hawkeye said. "You can't keep us in suspense any longer."
"It's about you, Lieutenant Johnson," Klinger burst. "You're going back to the states!"
Miranda's eyes widened. "You mean I'm going home?"
"Well, not exactly." Klinger held up a slip of paper. "I got a telegram saying you've been transferred to San Francisco! It may be a couple thousand miles from Pittsburgh, but at least you'll be closer!"
"Oh, Klinger! This is wonderful!" Miranda threw her arms around the Corporal's neck. "Thank you!"
"Congratulations, Lieutenant," Hawkeye said. "Too bad you missed your brother's ambulance. You could have gone half way home with him. I just wish I could go with you."
Miranda smiled. "Thanks, Hawkeye." She hugged him too.
Klinger cleared his throat. "Uh, Lieutenant, there's just one thing I didn't mention..."
"What's that, Klinger?" Miranda asked.
"You better start packing. Your plane leaves tomorrow afternoon."
Miranda gasped. "Tomorrow? I can't leave tomorrow, I won't have time to say goodbye to everyone..."
"Don't worry about it," Hawkeye assured her. "We'll throw you a little party at the Officer's Club tonight. It'll be a big shindig." She smiled sadly, and Hawkeye shooed her away. "Now go pack, you can get sad later." She walked off, a light air to her step.
"She's one lucky kid," Klinger said. "I'd give my entire wardrobe to go with her."
"Yeah, me too," Hawkeye muttered. He smiled. "But I don't think I could ever spare my evening gowns."
Klinger shook his head sadly. "It's a shame she has to leave Major Winchester though; it'll kill him."
Hawkeye was confused. "Klinger, you're speaking in Arabic to me. What are you talking about?"
"You didn't know? Major Winchester and Lieutenant Johnson have been quite the couple for a few months. I can't believe you didn't know. You must be living under a rock, Captain." He shook his head and walked off.
"Yeah, maybe I am," Hawkeye muttered.
Charles was sitting on his cot in the Swamp, his mind scrambling with a hundred thoughts at once. B.J. slept soundly in his own cot, so Charles was thankful for the rare peace. He had told his parents everything the night before, and he was pleased to discover that it went fairly well. They hadn't had enough time on the phone, but his mother had concluded by telling him she and his father had a lot to discuss. At least their answer hadn't been a flat out no. Maybe there was still hope for his parents to come around...
Miranda suddenly burst into the Swamp. "Charles," she said, out of breath. "I have something to tell you."
"Are you alright? What's going on?"
She held up a piece of paper. "Klinger got a telegram today stating-"
B.J. stirred and rolled over. "Hey, can't you two let a guy get some sleep?"
"Hunnicutt, can't you see we're trying to have a serious conversation here?" Charles asked. He took her arm. "We should go elsewhere-"
"No," Miranda said. "It's alright, B.J. can hear this." B.J. sat up then, interested. "What is it, Miranda?"
She sighed. "I've been transferred." Charles looked surprised, but she could still see hope in his eyes. "To another M*A*S*H unit?" He asked hopefully.
She shook her head sadly. "No, I've been stationed in San Francisco." The look on Charles' face was heartbreaking, and she couldn't say any more.
B.J. jumped out of bed. "San Francisco? You'll be so close to my wife Peg it'll kill me. You have to meet her. She'll love you. You can both wait for this crazy war to end together." He smiled sadly. "She needs someone to talk to now. I just wish I could take your place."
Miranda nodded absently. "Yeah, I almost wish you could, too."
B.J. glanced between Charles and Miranda, nodding. "I'll leave you two alone. I have to call Peg and tell her you're coming." He ran out of the Swamp.
Miranda could feel tears coming to her eyes. "Charles..." That was all she could whisper. She was in his arms in an instant, and she didn't know how she'd let go. "I don't know how I can possibly go on without you," he said. He forced a smile. "At least we can spend the next few days together."
The tears flowed freely now. "No, we can't," she whispered. "I'm leaving tomorrow."
The words struck Charles like an icy knife in his heart. He couldn't do anything but hold her close, trying to keep his own tears back. The silence was broken then with the sound of choppers in the distance. Miranda slowly pulled away, wiping her tears from her face. Hawkeye ran into the tent. "Come on, you two," he said. "We've got a lot of work to do!"
Miranda nodded and followed Hawkeye out of the tent, leaving Charles alone with his thoughts. He hated the war at that moment with the strongest and purest of hates. It had brought he and Miranda together, but now it was tearing them apart. The only thing he could really count on was that the choppers full of wounded would always keep coming...
It was about two o'clock in the morning when Miranda finally got back to her tent. Her going away party at the Officer's Club had just broken up, but it had been great. Lots of hugs were given, and the nurses gave her a small gift they all had pitched in to get her. There was music, dancing, and drinks all around. Charles had made an appearance, but said very little to her. Miranda figured he wanted to talk to her alone. After about two hours, Charles had kissed her on the forehead and left, mumbling something about business he had to take care of. She didn't see him again for the rest of the night.
She finished the rest of her packing and looked around the bare room. She had spent a little over a year in this hell, but it had begun to feel like home. She sighed and lay on her cot for the last time. She wanted to lie awake for a while, but fatigue got the best of her, and she fell asleep.