Chapter 2 - Countdown

"Margaret, you are gorgeous!" exclaimed Lorraine Anderson as Margaret modeled her wedding dress. "You look like a princess!"

Margaret hugged her friend and whispered, "I'm so glad you could come. There's no one else I'd rather have as my maid of honor."

The two women laughed as they enjoyed each other's company. Margaret was grateful to Lorraine for talking her into taking a chance. She was the one who had encouraged her to leave the military and pursue the relationship with Hawkeye.

"You weren't kidding, Margaret! Hawkeye's really cute! If I'd known how good-looking he is I might have let you have the army and taken him for myself... So what am I wearing?"

Margaret held up a long red dress. "What do you think?"

"It's beautiful. Let me try it on."

"I thought it would look good on you with your brown hair and brown eyes. Besides I love red," said Margaret and then sighed, "It's Tuesday, just four more days."

"Benjamin, how long do I have to put up with that woman? She's driving me crazy!" said Daniel.

Hawkeye and Daniel were spending some down time together in the study in front of a fire. Lorraine, Margaret and Rose had gone to do some shopping and have lunch in Boston with Charles' girlfriend, Louise. They were planning an impromptu bridal shower for Friday night when Mildred Potter, Peg Hunnicutt and Patty and Mary O'Reilly would be there.

Hawkeye looked up from the book he was reading. "Which woman would that be, Dad? Right now there are three in house."

"Who do you think I mean?" growled the older doctor. "Rose Houlihan has been on a fault finding mission ever since she got here. She has to know everything that's going on...she's the most meddlesome woman I've ever met in my life! I can't make a move without her being right there...checking the guest list, questioning my food choices."

"Look, Dad, it's only for a few days. She's excited...her daughter's getting married and she wants to do all she can to help."

"Help? Oh she's helping all right. She's helping me to be a candidate for the giggle barn. I'm going to need to be a guest on Sidney Freedman's couch before it's all over. That mouth of hers never stops. Yak yak yak! I can't leave a cup of coffee on a table for two minutes before she has it washed and in the cabinet. The woman is a mental case! If she picks up my shoes and moves them one more time I'm liable to forget that I'm a doctor and a gentleman."

Hawkeye laughed loud and hard and said between breaths, "Dad, you're...you're raving! You're...just not used to having...a...a woman around. You know Rose is a widow...who knows...maybe you and she could...uh...you know..."

Daniel picked up a couch cushion and threw it hitting Hawkeye's head. "Don't you even think it! You're not too big for the old man to take out, Dr. Pierce."

Soon father and son were engaged in a full-fledged pillow fight that culminated with the two men laughing and embraced in a bear hug.

"Margaret," Hawkeye called up the stairs, "It's time to go to the airport to pick up our guests."

Margaret brushed her hair and hastily applied her lipstick. It was Thursday morning. Peg and BJ were coming in this morning with Erin. Margaret hoped that the little red dress she'd gotten for Erin would fit her. BJ had mentioned the last time he'd called how fast his little girl was growing.

"Coming, Darling!"

Margaret laughed at Hawkeye as she saw him for the first time that morning. He stood at the foot of the stairs wearing his blue and white Hawaiian shirt and his cowboy hat.

"You're going to the airport like that?" she asked. "I'm not sure I want to be seen with you in public."

"I want to make sure that BJ recognizes me. Is your mom still in bed?"

"Yes, she's worn out."

Hawkeye laughed and said, "Dad went to work early this morning. He said that he was worn out from your mom."

"Yes, she can be a little on the overbearing side," Margaret admitted and then, seeing his sly grin, added, "Pierce if you say it you will be having a peanut butter and fist sandwich for breakfast!"

"Why my dear wife to be, whatever do you mean? Far be it from me to say anything as tacky as 'like mother like daughter.'"

Margaret rolled her eyes and hit his shoulder with her fist.

"Oooouch! Medic! Medic! I've been mortally wounded!"

"Shhh...you'll wake Mom up."

"You're right. We definitely don't want to do that. Let's get to the airport. The Hunnicutt's plane is due in at eight. After that we're meeting Charles and Louise for breakfast."

BJ stood out on the Pierce's front porch watching the moon. He pulled his robe around him. It was a little chilly to be outside without a coat yet. It was good to see Hawkeye and Margaret again. As resolved as he'd been that the final goodbye in Korea wouldn't be final he hadn't been altogether sure. Their two states were an entire continent apart.

Hawkeye and BJ had taken turns calling each other on the weekends since September. It wasn't the same as sharing a tent but being able to make voice contact seemed to shorten the distance.

BJ was happy to see that his best friend had found the love of his life and was ready to settle down.

"Come here often, soldier?"

BJ jumped. He hadn't seen Hawkeye sitting on a deck chair sipping a cup of coffee.

"Couldn't you sleep either?" asked Hawkeye.

"I guess it's all the excitement of being here. What are you doing up? Nervous groom jitters?"

"I suppose," said Hawkeye with a faraway look in his eyes. Then he turned and focused his eyes on BJ. "I wonder when they stop."

Seeing the pain in his friend's eyes, BJ sat down in the chair next to Hawkeye. "You wonder when what stops, Hawk?"

"The nightmares. I still see them, Beej. Those baby faced soldiers we used to operate on.... Corporal Owens...the baby on the bus," he sighed. "I guess my job doesn't help...working in an emergency room can be a memory trigger. Some of the car accident victims I work on look like they came off the battlefield in Korea."

"You could always go back to being a country doctor in Crabapple Cove," offered BJ. "When you left Korea you thought it would be enough to make Crabapple Cove say 'aaah.'"

"Would it be enough for you, Beej?"

BJ smiled and shook his head.

Hawkeye smiled, "I guess it's one of life's little ironies. A surgeon is all I ever wanted to be."

"How does Margaret like her job in obstetrics?"

"She loves it. I hated to lose her as a surgical nurse but she said she's had enough of mutilated bodies. I don't blame her. She's had her share of nightmares." Hawkeye gave BJ a knowing look. "I think we all have."

"I think I will be happy not to see the airport again for a few days," sighed Margaret.

Hawkeye and Margaret were on their way to the airport in Portland for the third time that day. The Potters had come in early in the morning. By the time they'd gotten settled in Crabapple Cove it was time to drive back to pick up the O'Reilly's. Now they were on their way to pick up Father Mulcahy and the Freedmans.

"It beats the hell out of making a trip to the helipad to do triage," smiled Hawkeye who began to sing, "Some enchanted evening, you will meet a stranger..."

Margaret smiled at him. She couldn't argue with him on that point.

"Are you sure you have room for all of us, Dr. Pierce," asked Mary O'Reilly. "I mean it's a grand old house for sure but there's an awful lot of us."

"You needn't worry about a thing, my dear lady," said Dr. Pierce in a way that caused her to blush. "We have plenty of room. There are four bedrooms upstairs and three more down. We have it all worked out if everyone is agreeable. Mary, you and Margaret's mother will share a room with Margaret and Lorraine," he turned to look at Rose to make sure she wasn't going to protest. He fully expected her to since it seemed nothing he did pleased her. Cantankerous woman! For once, Rose said nothing.

"We have four couples, the Potters, the Freedmans, the Hunnicutts and the O'Reilly's. Father Mulcahy can share a room with me. And of course tomorrow night Margaret will be moving in with Hawkeye," Daniel said and winked at Margaret. Margaret felt her cheeks grow hot and lowered her eyes.

"Ben," Daniel addressed Hawkeye, "You and I can show everyone to their respective rooms and then we'll meet down here to have some supper and a time of getting acquainted."

Because there wasn't a lot of room around the dining room table everyone was spread out through the huge front room eating off of TV trays or balancing their plates on their laps.

"So Sidney, you've been holding out on us. Who is this vision of loveliness with you?" asked Hawkeye. "I don't believe we've met."

Hawkeye was referring to the slender brown eyed, redheaded woman sitting beside Sidney, holding a three-year-old boy on her lap.

"Everyone, I would like you to meet my beautiful wife and mother of my children, Rivka Freedman," said Sidney as he proudly patted her rounded belly.

"Pleased to meet you! I'm Peg Hunnicutt. When's your baby due?"

Rivka smiled at her, "July 16 is my due date. But Aaron was a couple of weeks early so this one is liable to make an appearance by the end of June."

Margaret looked at the little boy who was the spitting image of Sidney with his curly black hair and big brown eyes. "He's adorable, Sidney, he looks just like you!"

"I just thought of something funny," said Peg to the Freedmans. "We both have three year old children. Our daughter's name is Erin and your son's name is Aaron!"

"'A rose by any other name...'"said Sidney with a smile.

"So has anyone heard from Max and Soon-Lee?" asked Sidney.

"I haven't heard anything, have you, Colonel?" said Hawkeye as he dealt cards out for the Friday night poker game slash stag party.

"That's Sherman to you, Hawkeye. I got a letter from him a couple of months ago. At that time they had searched through Seoul without any luck. He said that there are so many refugees who have been separated from their families. It's a terrible devastation and upheaval of lives. I could tell by the letter that Max is homesick as all get out but completely devoted to that little wife of his. Frankly I don't hold much hope of them finding her family."

"I wish he could be here this weekend," said Father Mulcahy. "I'll take two cards."

"Those hearing aids seem to be working pretty well for you, Father," said BJ. Now that they were all stateside, the priest had let his secret about his hearing out. "I'll take one card."

The priest smiled and said, "Yes, they work well and I've gotten pretty good at reading lips."

"Ah, I'm out already," whined Radar. "Can't ya deal me better cards, Hawkeye?"

Hawkeye smiled at the young man across the table. He'd missed the kid from Ottumwa. Now here he was with a wife. Hawkeye raised his martini glass to Radar and the younger man raised his bottle of Grape Nehi and grinned.

"Hey it was swell of you to get Grape Nehi for us. Patty likes it too."

"I bet the Grape Nehi sales in Iowa have shot through the roof," laughed BJ.

"See, Beej," said Hawkeye. "I told you there was a Mrs. Right for everyone; even our little son, Radar."

"Aw cut it out," said Radar scowling. "I ain't no kid anymore. I'm a married man with responsibilities. In fact," he said lowering his voice and looking around as if someone outside the room might be there to hear, "I'm going to be a daddy in seven months."

"Hey, Radar! That's great news!" cried Hawkeye. "Our little boy really has grown up!"

BJ smiled as he remembered how Radar had taken Corporal Mulligan's family under his wing when the corporal was sent stateside. Radar worried about little Lee Chin as if he were his own son. In fact when Mulligan returned for his family Radar had been disappointed. Now he was going to have a child of his own. BJ knew he'd be a wonderful father.

"Well yippie-eye-o-kai-yay! This really is a call for some rip snorting celebrating!" said Sherman. "I say we drink a toast to the new arrival to be. Hey wait! That's three unborn babes among us. Sidney, Hunnicutt and now Radar! Why we're having ourselves a regular baby boom!"

"Yes," said Charles, "About that. Hunnicutt, your little Peg looks like she could give birth any minute. When is the blessed event supposed to happen?"

"Not for another month," said BJ with a grin.

"Well let's hope she waits to get back to Mill Valley to give birth," said Charles.

"I've brought over half of the population of this town into the world, Charlie," said Daniel. "And there are five doctors among us. I don't think Peg has anything to worry about....and...um...can anyone beat a Royal Flush?"

Margaret blushed as she held up a filmy black negligee. The ladies were having a bridal shower for her. The gifts were quite personal and the evening had been filled with giggles.

Lorraine told stories about when she and Margaret were teenaged army brats. When she told the story of how the two of them had melted down their father's medals to make earrings the ladies howled.

"Remember the time we fried donuts in the back of the biology class?" laughed Lorraine

"We used the hot plate," explained Margaret. "The class got really boring so we took out the ingredients we'd brought for homemaking class..."

"Pretty soon stuffy old Mr. Schmidt asks 'Vot em I shmellink?' And little Miss Houlihan sashays up to him, bats her eyelashes and offers him a donut! I don't think I've ever seen anyone turn that shade of red," Lorraine dissolved into fits of giggles.

"He-he was so mad!" laughed Margaret. " I thought his head was going to blow up."

"Margaret, you are going to be a beautiful bride tomorrow," said Peg once she could catch her breath. "And judging from all the nighties you're going to be a beautiful bride in the bedroom, too!

"Thank you, Peg," said Margaret, her cheeks coloring. "And I can say that being a mother to be agrees with you! You are positively radiant! Are you getting excited about the new baby?"

"Yes," said Peg. "I'm hoping for a little boy but I don't think BJ would mind having another little girl. I don't know how Erin will take it if it's another girl, though. She doesn't like sharing her daddy with anyone, not even me. I'll be glad when this is over though. I'm getting pretty uncomfortable. I can't wait to get reacquainted with my feet. BJ has to tie my shoes because I can't reach them anymore."

Again the ladies laughed.

"In October, Walter and I are going to have a little one of our own," said Patty shyly.

"Walter?" questioned Margaret. "Oh you mean Radar! I'm sorry I'm still having trouble getting used to hearing him called by his given name. Patty, that's wonderful. Our little Radar is going to be a daddy! I bet you two will be wonderful parents!"

"Congratulations, dear," said Mildred. "Mary, you must be so excited, too!"

"Yes I am," Mary replied.

Lorraine put her arm around Margaret and said, "In less than twenty four hours you'll be Mrs. Margaret Pierce. Are you ready?"

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