"Yeah. Yes. Still with my dad. I suppose I'm old enough to get my own place, but I don't feel right leaving him alone in that big house."
"Oh? Well I'm sure he appreciates that." There was another long silence. "Hawkeye..."
"Margaret..." They both spoke at the same time, and then smiled at each other awkwardly. "Jinx."
"I'm sorry. What were you saying?"
"No, no. It's okay. I interrupted you."
"No, it was my fault. I apologize. After all, I don't outrank you anymore, and I can admit when I was in the wrong."
"Margaret, this is ridiculous!" Hawkeye stopped his pacing and turned to look at her. "I haven't been this tongue-tied around a female since I was in the seventh grade."
Her laughter was tense. "I know what you mean. We're like two teenagers!"
"Look, I'm sorry about the way I've been acting. I've been treating you like a pariah, when I should know better than to let the past get in the way."
"And I haven't been acting especially mature either. You'd think two old friends like us would be able to get along better."
Hawkeye winced internally at her emphasis on 'friends.' This wasn't easy. He took a deep breath and broached the subject he knew was on both their minds. "I think we both know the problem is that we were a lot more than just friends."
Margaret cursed the hope that rose inside her of its own accord. Why couldn't she control her inner emotions as well as she could control showing them? "You're right. It's silly to try to ignore that."
Hawkeye looked at her, watching her fiddle nervously with her glass, seated on the sofa with every muscle tense. She was beautiful. The only thought that entered his mind was to go over and take her in his arms. He took a half-step, and stopped. What was he thinking? "I'm sorry. You'd think I'd know how to act after all this time."
"Yeah, me too. It's not like we haven't both had our share of break-ups." This roller coaster ride of emotions was not her idea of a good time. She seized on the opportunity to hide her own feelings, and still try to dispel the tension between them. Offering her hand, she said "Friends?"
Hawkeye took it and they shook. "Friends," he responded.
The handshake seemed to dispel some of the awkwardness, and they were able to talk almost normally for a little bit, although both studiously avoided any mention of their previous relationship. The clock ticked on, and eventually Margaret commented, "It's been over thirty minutes! I wonder what could be keeping them."
"I don't know, but I hope they get back soon. I'm starved." There was another of the uncomfortable pauses that had been all too frequent that evening. Without warning, Hawkeye spoke before he knew what was coming out of his mouth. "Margaret, did you ever get the note I left for you?"
She was shocked out of her complacency, and looked up to meet his eyes. Why would he ask that now, after all this time? "Yes, I did," was all she could manage to get out.
Hawkeye's whole demeanor altered. He cursed himself for having mentioned that, when he already knew her feelings had changed. What difference did it make when? Suddenly he didn't think he could take much more of this conversation. "Yeah, I guess you would have. Sorry I brought it up." He turned away from her and stood at the bar, mixing himself another drink.
Margaret was struck by the sudden change. Could it possibly mean he still felt something, that he had been testing her? "Wait. Hawkeye, I think we should talk about this." She stood up and walked over to stand next to him.
"I don't think there's anything to talk about." He refused to turn and meet her eyes.
She hesitantly placed her hand on his arm. "Please, Hawkeye. At the very least, I'm an old friend. Don't shut me out like this."
He felt the electricity jolt through him at her touch. He softened and finally turned. "Margaret, it's just that I had hoped..."
Just then the front door open, and a woman's voice called, "We're back!"
"So, did you kids manage to entertain yourself sufficiently while we were away?" BJ came into the room, but stopped short when he saw the two standing together. "I think that was an example of rotten timing on our part," he muttered under his breath to Honoria.
Hawkeye sprang away from Margaret as if he had been burned. "Oh, you're back! I was wondering if we were ever going to get to eat. I've heard so much raving about Charles' fine palate that I can't wait to taste what he comes up with." Hawkeye ran his hand through his hair, and tried to calm his racing heart.
"Where is that brother of mine anyway?" Honoria asked as she removed her coat.
"Isabelle forgot her glasses, and he drove her over to get them. They should have been back by now." Margaret hurriedly strode across the room to join the two new arrivals, and away from the man who occupied her thoughts.
As if her words had been a catalyst, the front door opened again. "Oh, good Honoria. You and BJ are back." Isabelle took off her own coat. "Again, I am sorry about having to leave like that. It just couldn't be helped."
"Oh, don't worry about it. We understand completely," Margaret assured her.
Isabelle smiled in response. "Well then, how about if we get dinner on the table? It'll be just about ten minutes."
Several hours later, they were all back in the living room, sitting around and talking, with the ubiquitous drinks in hand. Hawkeye and Margaret had remained under close observation by the other four all evening, but they were not betraying any of their emotions.
"Well, it's getting late." Hawkeye set his glass down on the coffee table and sat up straight as if preparing to leave. "We should probably hit the road, BJ."
"Oh, you're not leaving already!" Honoria was greatly enjoying talking with her brother's friends, who she was already beginning to think of as her own.
"I think I'd better. I have to head back to Crabapple Cove in the morning, and being able to stay on the road might be useful." He cast a surreptitious glance in Margaret's direction, unable to help himself.
BJ and Charles exchanged a worried glance. If the party broke up now, their little scheme would have failed. "Oh come now, Pierce. Have another drink. The night is still young, and besides, there's no harm in you staying in Boston for another day or so!"
"Now I know the world's coming to an end. Charles is trying to get me to stay instead of leave!"
"C'mon Hawk, it's not every day we get to have a little reunion. Not to mention the addition of these two lovely ladies!" BJ raised his glass in the direction of Isabelle and Honoria.
"And it's been fun, but I really do need to get an early start in the morning." Even as he spoke the words, Hawkeye admitted to himself that what he was really doing was running away. All he could do was hope that a little distance would help to dull the pain.
As Hawkeye rose from his seat, so did the others. "I am sorry you have to leave so soon, but I'm glad I was able to meet you finally. Charles' friends are my friends, and I do hope you'll come back for the wedding." Isabelle played the gracious hostess well, but her words were genuine.
BJ joined Hawkeye in moving towards the door, and the various pleasantries were exchanged and good-byes were said. As he stepped out the door, Hawkeye half turned and took a last look at the woman who had caused him tremendous amounts of both pain and joy. "Good-bye Margaret."
Margaret had been quiet through most of the good-byes, her mind racing as she contemplated the fact that there was every chance she would never see Hawkeye ever again. The thought of what her friend Rebecca had said to her several months ago ran through her head. "...what's a little humiliation in front of a guy you'll never see again when it also might bring you together with the love of your life?" After his comments earlier, she had begun to wonder if maybe, just maybe their relationship could possibly be salvaged. And didn't she owe it to herself to find out? "Hawkeye, wait."
He turned back and looked at her. "Yeah?" Neither of them saw Charles' fingers tighten on Isabelle's shoulder or the smile that played across Honoria's face.
"Can I talk to you? Now?" Margaret continued, firm in her resolve, although her insides were tied up in knots.
"Yeah, sure." He wasn't sure what was going on, but this damn hope kept rising within him. "BJ, I'll catch up with you later. Care to go for a walk, Margaret?" She followed him out the door, both oblivious to the four hopeful people that watched them leave.
For a few minutes they simply walked side by side, a myriad of questions and doubts running through both their minds. "So, why did you want to talk to me?" Hawkeye finally ventured.
"Well don't you think we need to talk?"
"Do we? About what, pray tell?"
He obviously wasn't going to make this easy for her. After a moment, she answered hesitantly, "I didn't want to leave things between us unresolved...not again."
"Margaret, do we have to rehash all of this? I'm perfectly aware you've long since moved on with your life. Otherwise, I would have heard from you months ago. I don't even know why I agreed to come out here."
"I'm don't know why this makes you so uncomfortable. I'm a big girl and I can handle the truth. I just want to, no I need, to know what the truth is!" She was getting angry at his obstinacy. "Did you mean what you wrote in that note? Would you have even wanted to hear from me?"
"Yeah, of course I meant what I wrote. What, you think I go around telling women I love them for kicks?" Upset, Hawkeye stopped walking and turned to face her.
"If you meant it, then why were you so upset to see me here yesterday? Why didn't you try to keep in contact with me?!"
"Because you never responded! You went on with your life with that damn Dr. Googlyeyes from Portland! And you didn't look too thrilled to see me here either!"
"I got involved with Michael because I was tired of being alone! At least he's just one. How many dozens of women have you been involved with since the war?"
"What if I have dated a few women? What was I supposed to do, sit and pine over you when it was obvious you didn't want me?"
"What the hell makes you think I didn't want you?!"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe the fact that you never called, never wrote, never made the slightest attempt to contact me!!"
"How could I? You made it perfectly clear when the war was over that you needed your space and I had no part in your life anymore! What was I supposed to think of that note? You wrote it the same night we said good-bye, just a few hours after we'd decided it was over forever! How could I possibly think a year later you would suddenly want me in your life again?"
"I never meant to be saying good-bye forever! I was so screwed up I didn't know what I was saying. So maybe the note was stupid! I only knew that I loved you!
"Oh, so now you loved me? I suppose that was just one more thing you were screwed up about!"
"No, I think it was the only thing I was thinking clearly about! It was the one thing in my life that I knew was never going to change!"
"What is that supposed to mean?!"
"It means I love you, damn it!"
Margaret stared at him for a moment, struck dumb by this confession. And then suddenly, she was in his arms, and they were kissing. It was like coming home to feel his arms around her again after so long.
When they finally separated, Hawkeye looked at her disbelievingly. "Can I ask what's going on here? Because frankly, I'm very confused."
"Did you mean it? You love me?" Margaret searched for confirmation that her dreams might really be coming true. She hesitantly reached up to caress his cheek with her finger.
Hawkeye caught her hand in his own and held it. "With all my heart."
The phrases came to her clumsily at first and then more smoothly. "I hated you the first time I saw you, you know. You were unmilitary, undisciplined, immature, and in general a pig."
"Well don't hold back. Tell me what you really thought."
She smiled. "And then as I watched you I found that under all your crass humor, there was a good, strong man, someone who I wanted to be with. I never forgot that first time you kissed me, as we nurses were evacuating. Frank was so mad!" She chuckled, remembering. "And then later, that night in the hut brought things to a head. But it wasn't until after that that I fell in love with you."
"Really?" This surprised Hawkeye. "What did the trick?"
"It was all the times you held me while I cried over Donald. How you were always there for me when I needed you. How you were the first man I'd ever met who wanted to be my friend too and wasn't just interested in getting me into bed. I fell in love with you then, and I guess I've never stopped." Margaret looked up at him, trying to read what he was thinking.
"Why didn't you ever answer my note?" Hawkeye asked at last.
"I wanted to. But I was convinced you'd written it in a moment of weakness and had regretted it ever since. I thought if I called you, you would just reject me, or that I would call and a woman would answer the phone. I couldn't have handled that."
"There hasn't been any other woman. None that meant anything, anyway. I think you ruined me for other women."
"Good, that's the way I like you. All mine."
This time it was Hawkeye who initiated the kiss, a long and passionate one, with all their pent up feelings coming out. "One thing's for sure," he murmured into her hair.
"Oh? What's that?"
"I'm never letting you go again. I love you too much."
"Don't worry, I'm not going anywhere."
They began to walk again, arms about each other, talking in low voices. An hour passed, and then two. They had several years of lost time to make up for.
"Do you think there's anything strange about this little reunion we've been having?" A thought had just occurred to Hawkeye.
"Strange? What do you mean?"
"It just seems a huge coincidence that you would be visiting Charles at the same time that BJ and I were here." The wheels were turning in his brain as he pieced together a theory.
"What, you think it was planned? By who?"
"Our dear friends of course, that's who. Those dirty rats! I bet they orchestrated this whole thing!"
"BJ and Charles? You can't be serious." Margaret was a good bit more skeptical.
"I'm perfectly serious! BJ keeps bringing you up, and in the cab on the way over here, he told me I needed to talk to you. And why would he be in Boston in the first place? He's a good surgeon, but Boston is hardly so desperate that they need to fly surgeons out from California to demonstrate new techniques! And didn't you say you'd seen Charles just a few weeks ago?"
"Yes, in Seattle. And come to think of it, he asked me about you!" The idea was beginning to make more sense. "And Honoria has asked me about you specifically more than once, like she's deliberately trying to get me to talk about you. Do you suppose Charles recruited her too?"
"I wouldn't be surprised. And then the other day in the restaurant, BJ hung back and had that conversation with Charles, like they didn't want us to hear."
"And this evening when all four of them disappeared so quickly, leaving us alone! I thought that seemed awfully strange they all had to rush out."
"I'd bet you anything it was planned! And at dinner, how conveniently BJ sat by Honoria, forcing us to sit next to each other."
"You know, you're right!" Margaret had quickly become convinced. "I don't know which one of them started this, but BJ and Charles have been trying to set us up."
"They tricked us! I can't believe I didn't see it before. My edge must be dulled from too much time away from those two." Hawkeye was indignant. "But I can't believe they would stoop to matchmaking!"
"I think we should be glad they did." Margaret put things in perspective.
He smiled, pulling her closer to him. "Believe me, I'm more than glad about it. I don't even want to think about what the rest of my life would have been like without you by my side."
"Why Hawkeye! That sounds suspiciously like a proposal." She was half joking, and so was shocked when he stopped and got down on one knee.
"I should have done this two years ago, but better late than never. Margaret Houlihan, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Margaret looked at him, feeling the tears start to well up in her eyes. A few hours ago she had been convinced that their relationship was over for good, and now here he was, asking her to marry him. And in the middle of the night on a Boston sidewalk no less! "You can't be serious!"
"I have never been more serious in my life. Although I have to admit, I didn't exactly plan this, and I don't have a ring."
"I don't need a ring. Donald gave me one of those, and look where we ended up." She looked at the man in front of her, and knew without a doubt that the suddenness of this didn't matter one bit. She loved him, and that one simple fact was never going to change. "Yes."
He stood up. "Say it again."
"Yes. Hawkeye Pierce, I would be honored to have you as my husband." She was half laughing, half crying now.
He enveloped her in a tight hug, almost crushing her ribs and spun her around in a circle that lifted her feet off the ground. "You don't know how long I've waited to here you say that," he breathed into her hair. And then they were glad for the cover of darkness as their display of passion wasn't exactly appropriate for the streets of an upscale Boston neighborhood.
Margaret finally came up for air. "I don't believe this. Who would've thought we would end up getting married?"
Hawkeye grinned. He couldn't remember the last time he had been this elated. "I have a feeling there are at least a couple people who aren't going to be shocked."