"So that explains B.J.'s disgraceful condition when he arrived in camp." Margaret commented, looking at the man with a teasing smile. "I just thought you were an incredible slob or something. I didn't realize that it wasn't your fault."
"Hey, I resent that." B.J. remarked with a joking smile. "I was just an incredible slob."
"And proud of it." Hawkeye laughed. "Why else do you think he fit so well into the 'Swamp'."
"Well, I have to tell you one thing." Margaret laughed, looking at B.J. in amusement. "You were an incredible disappointment to Frank."
"Well that's only fair." Hawkeye remarked with a slight shrug. "Frank was an incredible disappointment to the rest of the world."
"Frank had such high hopes for you." Margaret told B.J. when the laughter subsided. She smirked and added. "He was going to train you in his image and everything."
Hawkeye exploded into a fit of amused laughter. "Can you imagine Beej acting like Frank Burns? Running around camp threatening to court martial everyone...
"Especially you." Margaret grinned slyly at him.
"...if they refused to salute him or called him by his first name. Chasing Margaret all over camp, but of course not really chasing her." He shot a wicked look at his wife, the corners of his mouth twitching in amusement. She playfully slapped his leg.
"No thanks." B.J. exclaimed with a laugh.
Margaret looked at him, pretending to be offended. "What's that suppose to mean?"
"What I mean is one Frank Burns is all this world can handle." B.J. replied continuing to chuckle.
"And in my books one is too many." Hawkeye added. He looked at B.J. and laughed. "Remember the time he took the tank for a spin through the compound."
"And nearly wiped out half the camp." B.J. laughed at the memory. "Or how about the time he tried to sell the camp's garbage to make some money."
"I think we found a much better use for it though." Hawkeye laughed heartily at the memory of the Colonel's expression when he got covered in garbage. "Remember when Frank was listening to those baseball games at night and then betting on them the next day."
"Did we get him though!" B.J. exclaimed, trying to catch his breath. "That phony broadcast was perfect! We nailed him solid."
"Speaking of 'nailing', you should have seen Frank's face when Trapper and I nailed twelve cots together and put him on up of them." Hawkeye laughed heartily at the memory. "When he woke up and saw how high he was off the floor he was clean terrified."
"I don't wonder, that was absolutely cruel!" Margaret commented with a horrified expression. "No wonder Frank was so scared of you both."
"No, that wasn't cruel." Hawkeye shook his head, his eyes dancing with mischief. "No, cruel was when we put his hand in warm water while he was sleeping."
"To make him wet the bed?" B.J. asked, his face covered with mirth.
Hawkeye nodded, a devilish grin on his face. "He woke up with such a look of shocked surprise on his face it took everything we had not to laugh."
"You creeps." Margaret exclaimed trying to sound disgusted, but her eyes were twinkling despite herself.
"That was the time that he begged Henry for a transfer out." Hawkeye told B.J., then looked at Margaret with a bemused smile, "And so did you after that little 'broadcast' that Radar made for Trapper and I of your little 'goodbye' scene."
Margaret's face turned a bright shade of red, more from embarrassment than anger. "I remember." She replied, looking at Hawkeye's amused look. "I was so angry and humiliated that I was ready to tear you both to shreds."
"What happened, Hawk?" B.J. asked curiously. "Why didn't old 'Ferret Face' leave?"
Hawkeye looked at B.J. and with a disgusted tone replied. "Because Trapper and I tricked him into staying."
B.J.'s face registered surprise. "Why on earth would you ever do that?" He exclaimed in disbelief. "I would have thought you'd have been celebrating his departure. I know you did when he really did leave."
"I was celebrating." Hawkeye replied. "Unfortunately, Henry put a damper on our festivities. He held Trapper and I personally responsible for Frank and Margaret's wanting to leave and since they were making him miserable, he was making us miserable. So Trapper and I had no choice but to trick Frank into staying. We knew if he decided to stay then he would persuade Margaret to do the same."
"What did you do?" B.J. asked.
"We played on Frank's most outstanding quality." Hawkeye replied with a sly smile.
"His stupidity?" B.J. asked with a chuckle.
Hawkeye laughed and nodded. "That and his love of money. We convinced him that Trapper and I had found a bag full of gold by the river. When he found a few well placed pieces and then some other pieces of 'fool's gold' that we knew were there, he was convinced that he had found a gold mine! He asked Henry to rescind his orders and, as we knew he would, convinced Margaret to stay as well."
"How did Frank respond when he found out that you had tricked him?" B.J. asked curiously.
"Actually, he didn't say too much." Hawkeye smiled slyly. "He just sort of stood there with a very long look on his face. It was rather disappointing. You got a better reaction out of him with your foxhole stunt?" Hawkeye remarked.
"Well what do you expect!" Margaret exclaimed in dismay. "You made him jump into a fox hole filled with cold water in the middle of winter. Of course you're going to get a reaction!"
Tears began running down the men's faces as they hooted and hollered with laughter recalling Frank's pitiful cries when he hit the icy water. Margaret's face lost its annoyed expression and she actually began to chuckle along with them. Soon Peg joined in. The two women were very glad to see their husbands once again sharing laughs. Peg was really beginning to see how special Hawkeye was to her husband and why he considered him such a good friend. The memories these two men shared, the obvious mutual reliance between them was something she'd never witnessed before. The men continued to laugh until they were gasping for air.
"Take it easy." Margaret commented when Hawkeye started coughing from lack of oxygen. "I don't want you to literally die laughing." Hawkeye took a few deep breaths to try to ease his coughing. B.J. was also trying to catch his breath.
After a few minutes he was finally able to speak. Looking at Hawkeye warmly he smiled gently and said. "I've missed you, Hawk. Very much."
Hawkeye smiled back at him. "I've missed you too. I'm so sorry I didn't stay in touch better after that first year."
"Me too." B.J. replied. "I mean, in a way I suppose it was good that we lost contact, I mean it forced us to find our own lives again." He looked sadly at Peg for a minute before looking back to Hawkeye and continuing. "I had been clinging to our friendship and happy memories of Korea to avoid the pain and effort of finding my place in Mill Valley again. Things were so different after being away for those two years that I felt so lost. I think I was expecting you to help me feel like I fit in again, just like you did when I first arrived in Korea. Like I told you when we left, I was so glad that I found you there, I wouldn't want to have gone through that hell without you. Actually, I don't think that I could have made it through the war without you or your friendship."
"I felt the same about you too." Hawkeye looked at B.J. warmly. "You helped me out of a few binds yourself." He chuckled slightly and continued. "Remember when I started having those nightmares and started sleepwalking around camp." B.J. nodded. "I'd never been more terrified in my life. I felt like I was being attacked by two wars - the one in Korea and the one in my mind."
"You never told me about that." Margaret commented, her eyes full of concern.
"I told you about the nightmares." Hawkeye replied, looking at her seriously. "Remember you were saying that some people have extrasensory perception and that they may be a warning or something."
"Yeah, I remember you telling me about the nightmares." She stated, her eyes still searching his face with concern. "But you never told me how upset they made you. I didn't realize that they had bothered you so deeply."
"I was absolutely terrified." Hawkeye admitted, but then looked at B.J. and smiled slightly. "But fortunately I had a wonderful best friend that helped me get through the tough times."
"So did I." B.J. smiled back. "The only regret I had about leaving Korea behind was that I was also leaving you. I've really missed you."
"Trust me, he did." Peg laughed, running a loving hand over the back of his head. "It took him a couple of months for him to stop calling me 'Hawk' every time he wanted something or found something funny. I was starting to get an identity complex."
Hawkeye laughed and innocently shrugged. "I'm just unforgettable."
"Tell me about it." Margaret rolled her eyes in exaggerated agreement and glanced mischievously at her husband.
"Anytime I'd try to wake him up, he'd say things like 'tell the warden it's too late they already pulled the switch'." Peg laughed looking at B.J. mischievously.
"Hey, that was my line." Hawk protested with a laugh. "Next you'll be telling me he strolled around Mill Valley in the dead of night shooting hoops and looking for his marbles."
B.J. laughed heartily and replied, "No, I'm afraid the crazy stuff was your department, Hawk." The moment the words were out of his mouth his friend's face sobered and his eyes clouded. B.J.'s own smile faded when his words sunk in. "Oh, Hawk, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
Hawkeye looked at him and smiled a sad smile. "It's okay, Beej, forget it. I know what you meant. Don't worry about it."
Peg, sensing the sudden tension in the air, tried to ease it by asking Margaret, "Does Hawkeye still sing opera while in the shower?"
Margaret laughed and looked slyly at her husband. "Opera, folk, children's classics. You name it, he sings it."
The two men looked at each other and grinned mischievously. Suddenly they both broke into song. "It ain't going to rain no more, no more. It ain't going to rain no more. So how in the heck will I wash my neck if it ain't going to rain no more." The four of them laughed gaily in amusement.
"Did you find a hard time showering by yourself?" Peg asked Hawkeye when the laughter died down with a sly glance at her husband.
"Do you mean showering without Beej or without the constant interruptions or audience." Hawkeye asked with a laugh.
"Audience?" Peg repeated in surprise. "Wasn't there a tent around the showers?"
"There was." Hawkeye nodded with an amused smile on his face. "But that didn't stop anyone. I never knew who was going to interrupt my shower - Radar, Potter, Father Mulcahy, Margaret, the wounded..."
"...even the press." B.J. laughed.
"And how about Digger, the army undertaker!" Hawkeye exclaimed with laugh. "Now that was an original interruption."
The two men started to laugh heartily again at the new memory. When they had settled down a bit, B.J. commented. "When I first got home I found it weird to take a shower by myself." He smiled at Hawk. "It felt strange to sing solo, I'd always expect to hear you join in."
Peg laughed, "A day or two after B.J. came home, I was cleaning Erin up in the bathroom sink while B.J. was in the shower and he started singing 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat.' at the top of his lungs. After he'd sung the first line he stopped and started scolding 'Hawk' for not jumping in on time. I was so surprised to hear him do that that I opened the shower curtain and asked him who he was talking to. The look he gave me was so heartbreaking. He looked confused, sad and embarrassed at the same time. I felt so sorry for him. He looked like he'd lost his best friend." She looked at him sadly. "Which I suppose he did."
"I know it sounds crazy, but some days I actually longed to be back in Korea with everyone." B.J. admitted with a sad smile. "After all those months, the camp routine, although horrific, was at least familiar. I missed our poker games, I missed Hawk's highly developed sense of humor, I missed the jokes we played on each other, the constant friendship we had. Believe it or not, I even missed the mess."
"Do you mean the food or the condition of the 'Swamp'?" Margaret teased.
"Both." B.J. smiled in amusement.
"You're right, you were crazy." Hawkeye exclaimed. "I don't think my body will ever recover from the garbage they fed us over there."
B.J. smiled as he looked at Hawkeye and Margaret. "I'll never forget the trouble you all went to in order help me celebrate my first anniversary away from Peg. You were both dear friends to have done what you did."
"It was the least we could do." Margaret replied a sincere smile on her face. "We all thought very highly of you...and Peg." She smiled warmly at the other woman. "B.J. talked about you and Erin so much, we felt like we'd known you forever."
"I felt the same way about you all." Peg smiled in return. "B.J. was always telling me stories about you guys, not in as great a detail or with as much enthusiasm as I've been hearing today, but with enough so that I've gotten a good idea what you're all like." She smiled at Hawkeye. "I was very touched when you sent that audio recording to me of your conversation with B.J. about our anniversary. I could tell from the sound of your voice that you were truly interested in what he had to say, you weren't just doing it out of obligation, but because you really cared. It made me feel a lot better knowing what a wonderful friend B.J. had to share his thoughts and troubles with. It really meant a lot to me."
"Well, Beej meant a lot to me. He still does." Hawkeye commented with a soft smile. Then looking at his best friend his smile turned mischievous. "But, I value my health more, so I figured I'd better do something to keep him from missing you and Erin too much. Especially after what happened the last time." Hawkeye teased, looking slyly at his friend as he gently touched his left eye.
B.J. laughed in amusement. "I see, so it was a matter of self protection."
"And self preservation." Hawkeye and B.J. laughed together at the memory of what had taken place.
"What happened before?" Peg asked, wondering what the two men found so funny.
The men just continued to look at each other and laughed harder, so Margaret explained. "After B.J. had gotten your letter about your meeting with Radar at the airport, he got very homesick. The thought that Erin had called Radar 'Daddy' really upset him."
"Upset him?!" Hawkeye repeated, looking at his wife in disbelief. "It didn't just upset him, it drove him nuts." He looked at Peg and said, "He got drunk, he went crazy and he beat up his two favorite roommates - me and the still."
"B.J. actually hit you?" Peg exclaimed in surprise. "I've never seen him so much as threaten anyone before."
"Well, let me assure you." Hawkeye laughed, shooting his friend an amused glance. "Your husband throws one hell of a punch."
"And don't you forget it." B.J. warned in a teasing tone.
"I gather that you guys didn't get along perfectly well all the time." Peg commented glancing from one to the other.
"No, not perfectly." B.J. admitted. "But, we got along most of the time. We did have the odd spat, but we could never stay mad at each other for long. We were usually friends."
"Best friends." Hawkeye added, looking at his friend with a warm smile.
"Best friends." B.J. echoed in agreement, returning the smile. "I don't think our friendship was ever in any real danger." His smile turned teasing. "Hawk worshipped me too much." Hawkeye laughed sarcastically at the comment.