Hey, everyone. This is my second MASH story and basically exists in the same universe as my first, an alternate-ending "Comrades in Arms" story. Not that it matters much, because there are roughly 31 years between the events of the two. I'll be filling in the middle soon - but in the meantime here's just a little anecdote about the characters that don't belong to me and never will and from whom I am getting no money. Also, I'm guessing that the Boston Aquarium was there in 1983. If it wasn't - oops. - Abbie
The lone man walked slowly along the Boston harbor, circling around behind the aquarium to where he could watch the small pleasure craft sail out into the bay. He rubbed his eyes tiredly and brushed at his clothes, conscious of how they must look after being crushed under scrubs for the last five hours. The stinging words of the young nurse still echoed through his mind - "should he still be operating at his age?"
I'm not even seventy, he wanted to tell her. I can still see without bifocals and I remember how to cut a person open. Just because I'm grey-haired and a grandfather. . .
A grandfather. He still couldn't get over that, no matter how many times he saw the baby. Little Nancy, his seven-month-old granddaughter. He'd tried to keep his attitudes toward Republicans under wraps when they'd unveiled that name. At least they hadn't named the poor kid after Ronald. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the small photo that was always there. Little Nancy Laura Stern smiled up at him - or what passed for a smile, anyway - and he immediately began to feel better.
And immediately stopped looking where he was going. He collided almost instantly with another person.
"I'm so sorry," a young female voice apologized.
"No, pardon me," he replied. "I was so caught up in my baby granddaughter's picture that I wasn't looking where I was going."
"I wasn't paying much attention either." By the time he looked up at her, the girl was staring out over the water, her hair blowing forward and hiding her face. "What's your granddaughter's name?"
"Nancy." He held the photo out to her as she leaned on the railing separating them from the sea. She took it carefully and then handed it back. "Pretty."
"Thanks." He stood watching her for a moment, watching the way her copper-colored hair fluttered around her face and the way her long coat swung about her legs. He nodded toward the water even though he knew she couldn't see him. "I never get tired of watching the boats."
"No, me either," she agreed. "I've always lived by the water."
"That can't have been a very long 'always,'" he teased gently.
She laughed, a low, melodious sound. "I guess not. Twenty-two years."
He put Nancy's picture back into his pocket and leaned against the rail beside her. "I used to sail."
She didn't turn to face him. "You don't anymore?"
He shrugged. "You know, after I came back from the war - it's hard to explain. Suddenly I had lost all desire to escape from home."
She was too polite to ask which war - it could have been any of them. "You were overseas?" she asked instead.
"Sure was. Not for very long, but - long enough."
She nodded. For a moment they were silent together. He was remembering - Korea, Ouijongbou, the 4077th - Henry. . .
"Thinking of going myself," she said. "At least I was."
"Going where?" he asked. "Into the army?"
"Oh, no," she said quickly. "Overseas."
"Ayeh." The one syllable gave away her more northernly origins. "That's why I came here - to think."
"I don't follow you," he admitted.
She tossed back a section of red hair, but couldn't keep it entirely out of her eyes. "I've always thought I'd go, you know. See the world. Study in Europe. But now - someone - wants me to stay here."
Aha, he thought. The plot thickens. "A male someone?" he asked aloud.
She nodded. "Would you stay, if someone asked you to?"
"It would depend on how I felt about the person."
She turned to face him, and he gasped aloud. "Are you all right?" she asked anxiously.
"Of course," he replied, recovering his composure. "You just - you remind me of someone I knew a very long time ago."
"Well, all redheads look alike," she joked.
"She wasn't a redhead," he replied. "At least, I don't think so."
She didn't ask why he wouldn't know the hair color of the woman he was remembering. "Someone you liked?" she asked.
He smiled fondly. "Sort of. Someone I liked a lot more in retrospect than I did when I actually knew her, you know?"
She smiled back. "Yeah, I know."
"She sure was beautiful though. You have her look, around the eyes and nose, and the skin - I bet you burn in the summer."
"Fry like bacon," she said cheerfully. "Was she Irish, your friend?"
"Oh, yes." He fell silent for a moment, remembering those days, remembering the war, the letters home, the pictures of his girls. . . "How do you feel about him?"
"Sorry?" She looked confused at his non sequitur.
He smiled charismatically. "I feel compelled, in the memory of my 'friend,' as you call her, to give you good advice. The guy who wants you to stay - who is he?"
She sighed and looked back out over the water. "A friend of the family. His dad and mine have been friends for years, since the army. They live on opposite sides of the country, so we'd only met a few times before now, but here we are both in Boston and we've been seeing a lot of each other. . ."
He smiled gently. So she was an Army brat too - or perhaps her father had been a draftee and not career. She'd have been born in - let's see - '61, well after Korea and before Vietnam. . . "How do you feel about him?" he asked.
She spread her hands helplessly. "I don't know. I mean, I'm afraid of falling into this just because it's easy, but. . ."
"But?" he prompted.
"But he seems just about perfect," she burst out. "Good-looking, sweet guy, good sense of humor, interesting to talk to, plus he's the marrying kind if you know what I mean. Mr. Fidelity himself."
He laughed. "I know what you mean. But how do you feel?"
He could see that she was struggling with this. "I think I love him. But I also think I can't be sure this young."
"Twenty-two is old enough to know your own mind."
"My parents didn't marry until their late thirties," she said. "I don't know, I just don't feel old enough - I still feel like a kid pretending."
He touched her arm gently. "That's the first indication that you've grown up."
She smiled, and his heart skipped oddly at the memory her smile induced. "God, you look like Margaret," he breathed.
Her brow furrowed. "That's funny," she said.
"That's my name. Margaret. Well, Maggie."
"What an odd coincidence." It never occurred to him that it might be more than that. "Margaret was a - colleague from the war. Except for the hair you're a dead ringer."
Maggie's eyebrow raised a bit further. "I'm supposed to look like my mother - and her name is Margaret, and she was in the army. She served in Korea."
His eyes widened. "Where?"
"In a MASH unit."
"Do you remember the number?"
She frowned. "It's on the tip of my tongue - almost a subconscious memory from my childhood - but they don't talk about the war much these days. Vietnam kind of brought back bad memories." She saw his look of shock and said, "Her maiden name was Houlihan, though, if that helps."
His jaw dropped.
"Did you ever run into her?" Maggie asked innocently.
"The number of her unit was 4077," he said dazedly. "I'm a surgeon. We worked together the whole time I was there."
"That's right!" she exclaimed. "You must have known my -"
"Margaret's daughter," he mused, cutting her off mid-sentence. "I don't believe it. I just don't see her as a mother."
Maggie nodded. "Neither did she, I guess. She didn't become one until '56, when she was thirty-six."
"'56? You would have been born in '61, right? So she had another child?"
"Three others," Maggie confirmed. "My brothers are twenty-five and twenty-seven, and my sister Lizzy is twenty."
"Margaret Houlihan, a mother of four." He chuckled softly. "Something tells me you were well-disciplined children."
Maggie laughed outright at that. "That we were." Something was nagging at her mind. A moment ago she had been about to ask the man something. . . what was it. . . something about the war. . .
He shook his head. "Well, it certainly has been a fascinating day. It's been an honor to meet you, Maggie - is there a last name that goes with that?"
"Oh, I'm sorry." She held out her hand to be shaken formally. "Maggie Pierce."
"Pierce?" he echoed, still holding her hand. "Now that's strange. Pierce was -"
"That's it!" she suddenly remembered. "I meant to ask you - you must have known my father, too, if you were at the same unit. He was a surgeon there as well."
"Hawkeye Pierce," he repeated, completely dumbfounded. "But that's impossible. Hawk and Margaret -"
"Hated each other?" Maggie asked dryly. "They certainly did, from the stories we've heard. Things change."
"They must have," he said, still in a daze. Then he shook himself and snapped back to the present. "I have to get back to the hospital. I have three things to tell you first."
"One - I can't express how I feel having met you. It's like a vision from the past - Margaret's face exactly, and Hawkeye's eyes." She smiled, and he noticed that her smile was Margaret's, but the crinkle around the eyes was all Hawkeye. "Second - overseas is overrated. Family and love, that's what counts. But you do whatever your heart tells you is right."
She nodded solemnly. "And third?"
He pulled a business card from his wallet and handed it to her. "You tell your dad it's been thirty years - it's time to give me a call."
She nodded again and held out her hand to him for the last time. "I'll do that."
He shook her hand fondly, memorizing the way his friends' features had blended into the lovely young woman before him. "Good luck, Margaret Pierce."
It wasn't until he had turned to go that she looked down at the card in her hand. "John F. McIntyre," she read. A slow smile spread across her face as she watched him walk back toward Charles Street and Mass General, imagining him as the curly-haired renegade who'd been her father's original partner in crime. "I'll give him the message, Trapper," she whispered.