"You'll have to excuse the way I look.." Margaret Houlihan was saying. "I haven't seen a beauty parlor since Tokyo."
"No, you look just fine." Clete assured her.
"Ah, thank you." She smiled, then looking at the interviewer blankly added. "What was the question?"
Margaret's old nemesis couldn't help but exploded into amused laughter as Clete repeated the question. Looking at his wife he joked. "She got compliments so seldom that she gets flustered when she does." Louise narrowed her eyes slightly, not thinking his joke overly funny or kind before turning her attention back to the woman being interviewed.
"What do you miss the most around here?" Clete said, repeating his question.
"Around here?" Margaret repeated her expression thoughtful. "Well, frankly I'd have to say a sense of order and discipline."
"Now that sounds like the typical 'Hot Lips' Houlihan answer." The former M*A*S*H resident snickered.
"Who is she, John?" Louise asked inquiringly.
"Major Margaret 'Hot Lips' Houlihan." Her husband replied with a chuckle. "She got her nickname because she dated most of the Generals on the Pacific. She and Frank Burns were a real menace to the unit. Hated everything and everyone that wasn't Army - including Hawkeye and myself. They were very big on military order and discipline. It was an absolute nightmare anytime that Henry went away and Frank was left in charge. They'd try to turn us into a cracker jack military post. To no avail of course." He chuckled again. "Actually, I'm surprised that 'Hot Lips' is still there, she was always threatening to transfer out there."
On the television another new face appeared. "Well one thing I miss is my wife's cooking." The man was saying. Then with a chuckle he added. "What am I saying, anybody's cooking."
"Captain B.J. Hunnicutt." Louise read the name under the new face. "Who's that?"
John paused for a moment as he quickly examined the man with the light hair and the cheesy mustache. "He must be my replacement." He finally decided.
"How can you tell?" Louise asked curiously.
"Because he's a Captain just like I was." Her husband replied. "Hawkeye and I were the only two doctors that were Captains in the unit."
"He seems like a nice enough fellow." Louise remarked as the program went into commercial.
"Yeah, I suppose." Her husband remarked as he stared unseeingly at a commercial on the screen. He was trying to create a mental picture of what his replacement was like from the brief glimpse he'd had of him. Was he a good surgeon or another disaster like Frank? Was he good-natured and fun loving or a real stickler for military rules and regulations? How well did he and Hawkeye get along? Or were they complete opposites who hated each other? Even though part of him hoped that his old buddy had found a new source of comfort and support he couldn't help but feel slightly jealous of their possible friendship. After all, Hawkeye had been his best friend for his entire stay at that flea and fungus convention.
He was pulled out of his musings by the musical introduction that announced that the program was back on.
"What's this?" He exclaimed in annoyance as a news segment entitled 'Names in the News' appeared. As various famous faces flashed by the Korean War vet exclaimed angrily. "Where's the 4077th!" As one well known politician began talking McIntyre jumped to his feet and said. "Those idiots! They changed the show mid stream." He moved to turn the set off in frustration when Clete Roberts reappeared.
"Looks like it was part of it." His wife calmly commented.
"Well it shouldn't have been." Her husband huffily remarked as he settled back into his chair.
Meanwhile Clete had begun another short monologue. "To repeat an old adage, war, like politics, makes strange bed fellows. The 4077th is a highly diverse, if not disparate group of people, and yet the war seems to have molded them into a family."
"I would say," Potter began thoughtfully. "All things considered, and without overstating it, they are just about...no forget just about. They are the best bunch of people I've ever worked with in my entire life."
The former M*A*S*H surgeon smiled and nodded his head in agreement as his replacement added.
"When you share the horror that we do day in and day out, you don't just feel close, you cling to each other."
"I hate the damn army," Klinger said seriously. "But I love these people."
"So do I." McIntyre commented to himself, his tone slightly wistful as he realized just how much he missed his friends.
"The way people come and go around here," Radar remarked, his tone reflecting his feelings. "You just get to know one person and he leaves, and then it's another person."
'Trapper' John felt his heart constrict slightly as a wave of guilt and longing washed over him. As glad as he was to be home, he still felt bad about having left his friends behind in that Korean hellhole, especially Hawkeye. He still felt rotten about leaving and not saying 'goodbye' to his buddy. He knew that it had been a really crumbing thing for him to do, but he just didn't know what to say to the guy. There were no words to describe what he'd meant to him. It was easier to leave and say nothing.
Margaret's voice caught his attention and brought him out of his musings.
"Well, you have to understand I'm Regular Army, most of them are not." She remarked, her tone serious. "They're a terrible unruly, undisciplined bunch..."
Trapper laughed heartily at the remark, recognizing the strict Army Major's love of everything proper and military. But a moment later he had to catch his jaw as it started plummeting to the floor as she concluded her comment.
"...and I thank God for each and everyone of them when those casualties roll in."
"You get close to everyone in a place like this."
"Well, I'll be." Her old enemy muttered in complete surprise. That didn't sound like the Major Houlihan that he remembered.
"You get close to everyone in a place like this." Hawkeye commented to Clete earnestly. "Some more than other, of course. Ah, my bunkmate, for instance, BJ Hunnicutt - clean cut, family, even temperament - in spite of that I really like the guy."
"Sounds like your old buddy has a new friend." Louise commented to her husband to which he replied softly.
"Yes it does." He felt another pang of jealousy rise up into his heart. He knew he should be glad that his best friend had found another kindred spirit to help him through the hell he'd been sentenced to, but never-the-less he couldn't help feeling slightly envious of his replacement's obvious close connection with his old friend.
"And then of course there's Major Winchester, our newest arrival." Father Mulcahy pointed out. "Someone should say something nice about him."
"Major Winchester?" John McIntyre repeated while Mulcahy paused for a moment, trying to think of something good to say about the new Major. "Did Frank actually leave?"
"Ah,...he's a very good doctor." Mulcahy finally commented about their new arrival.
John chuckled softly. "Sounds like this Major Winchester has made quite and impression during his short stay. I wonder how long he's been there."
The next person to be interviewed was the famous Major Winchester who was sitting on his bunk in the section of the 'Swamp' that was once occupied by the infamous 'Ferret Face' Burns.
"Looks like Frank did leave." The former Swamp rat remarked with great surprise. "I wonder what happened." He chuckled slightly. "I wonder how Margaret took it when he left."
"Tell me something about the people here." Clete asked Charles.
"Ah, no." Charles chuckled lightly in reply. "I don't want to get into personalities here. However, there are some people that I will try very hard to forget, though I know I never shall. One in particular who is, you might say...well, let's start with immature, self righteous, arrogant, everything I abhor."
"You sound pretty arrogant yourself, buddy." McIntyre remarked with disgust, knowing full well whom the other man was referring to.
"For the record, the only thing that makes him marginally acceptable is his skill as a surgeon." Charles continued hautily. "'Course even in there his conduct is insufferable."
Trapper chuckled heartily. "I bet Hawk has some fun tormenting that pompous snob."
"John, do you know who that man is?" His wife questioned, her eyes wide with disbelief.
Her husband looked at the man carefully for a moment then shook his head. "No, who is he?"
"He's none only than Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester the third." Louise replied. "His family lives up on Beacon Hill, Briar Cliff Lane I think. They have a lot of money!"
Trapper chuckled slightly and remarked. "Well, it looks like even his money couldn't ward off an invitation from Uncle Sam to come and play war in Korea."
Clete was again talking to Hawkeye. The comment that his friend makes here gets Trapper's attention immediately.
"Our Head Nurse is really something, Major Houlihan...Margaret."
"Margaret?" Trapper repeated with great surprise as he watched his old buddy try to surpress a broad smile. If he didn't know better he'd swear that his buddy had a thing for their old enemy.
"...Did I mention she's really something?" Hawkeye repeated, a look of deep emotion on his handsome face.
"I think your friend may have a thing for the Head Nurse." Louise McIntyre remarked with a soft smile.
"Are you kidding?" Her husband exclaimed in complete disbelief. "There is no way. Those two absolutely hate each other. Hawkeye and I use to love to pull tricks on her every chance we got."
"How long has it been since you left Korea?" His wife asked pointedly.
"About a year." He replied, trying to figure out what she was getting at.
"A lot can happen in a year." Was her simple conclusion.
As the show went into commercial he pondered his wife's words. Something happen between Hawkeye and 'Hot Lips' Houlihan? Never! He called to mind all the stunts that he and Hawkeye had pulled on Margaret during the long year he had been there. He smiled as he remembered the look on her face when she had found him and Hawkeye camped out in her bed after she'd returned from a wild goose chase to Post Op. Or how mad she had been when they had broadcast her touching 'farewell' scene with old 'Ferret Face'. He remembered all the insults, all the fights, all the words said in anger. Was there something going on between his buddy and the Head Nurse? Never!
"This is just the beginning of autumn in Korea and already there's a real chill in the air." Clete said when the program reappeared. "Before winter even arrives the temperature will dip below zero and all that after a summer of unbearable heat. If you were going to hold a war, this is probably the most brutal climate on earth in which to do it."
"Amen." John McIntyre exclaimed in wholehearted agreement.