"In some ways it was." Margaret nodded. "But in other ways it seemed like it took forever."
"What do you mean?" Peg asked curiously.
Margaret looked lovingly at Hawkeye for a moment before she replied. "Meaning that I would have married him ages before. By the time he finally got around to asking me, I was getting worried that he never would. I was scared that after all these years he was by now a confirmed bachelor."
"When did you realize that you loved him?" B.J. asked curiously.
"To be truthful, I fell in love with Hawkeye when we were all back in Korea." She confessed, looking directly at B.J., checking his reaction. His face showed mild surprise. "After we came home, I didn't expect to ever see him again. I tried my best to forget about him. I dated a bit, threw myself into my work, but even that reminded me of him. I couldn't go into surgery without thinking of how much I enjoyed working beside him in Korea. How much I missed his constant sense of humor that he used to try to lighten our tense atmosphere. The more I tried to forget, the more I remembered. I can't even tell you how surprised and happy I was when I bumped into him in Chicago. And my happiness grew the more we saw of each other." She paused thoughtfully for a moment before continuing. "About two months after the Medical conference, Ben invited me to the Crabapple Cove Lobster Festival. I had taken the entire week off, something that I hadn't done since coming back home, and we spent the whole time together. It was the first time that we had spent more than a day together since Korea. We spent hours boating, walking, talking. One night we set up a bonfire on the beach and spent the whole night talking and laughing. Hawk's poor father was almost beside himself when we returned the next morning. He thought something horrible had happened to us." She glanced slyly at her husband.
"What did you think of Hawkeye's father?" B.J. asked curiously, he glanced over to where Daniel Pierce was sitting, energetically talking to the Potter's and Charles and Klinger.
"I loved him immediately." She replied, a warm tone in her voice. "He was so kind and sweet. I had never felt so welcome anywhere as I did at the Pierces' that week. He did everything he could to make my visit wonderful. And it was." She looked at Hawk again and squeezed his hand. "After that weekend all the feelings that I had for Ben in Korea resurfaced. I realized then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him." She placed her hand on her rounded stomach. "To have a family with him. I always knew that he would make a terrific father, he was so loving and caring and tender."
Trapper laughed and shook his head. "I never ever thought I would hear you describe Hawkeye in those words."
"Me neither." B.J. laughed. "Especially since I clearly recall her calling both Hawk and I 'garbage heads' and the like."
"That was before I learned to appreciate his sense of humor." She defended with a smile. "To appreciate the good qualities he had, and not to mind some of his annoying little traits."
"MY annoying little traits?" Hawkeye exclaimed, pretending to be offended. "I wouldn't talk 'Major'." Margaret smiled a little sheepishly. Calling her 'Major' was a private signal between them that Hawkeye used when he thought she was slipping back into her old 'Major Margaret Houlihan, Head Nurse at the 4077th' mode - cool and demanding. She was well aware that everyone who knew her hated that cool persona, but no one worse than herself. It had taken a lot of time for her to shed that cool exterior that she had put up around herself. She'd considered it a protective cover to keep things and people from hurting her. It had been Hawkeye who had managed to chip that icy exterior away and help thaw out her feelings. It had been a slow process, and Margaret hadn't even been aware that he was doing it at first, until she found herself admitting little weaknesses to him and looking to him for comfort and support. Like the time the unit had evacuated to the cave and she and Hawkeye had been discussing their phobias. She had been surprised to find out that Hawkeye, who she didn't think was bothered by anything except the horrors of the war, suffered from claustrophobia. Telling him of her fear of loud noises had come so naturally, that she couldn't believe she'd told him. She still remembered clinging to him when the shell had landed close by, looking for protection and comfort. The same way she had clung to him when they had been in that abandoned hut when they were being surrounded by artillery fire. She had, for the first time since she'd joined the army, admitted when she was afraid. She remembered the way Hawkeye had held her in his arms as the shells exploded all around them. The way he had kissed her as they both tried to find warmth and comfort in the other. It had been a real milestone in their relationship. She had realized then that she could rely on him when she was afraid, that no matter what, he would be there for her. A concerned voice suddenly brought her back to the present.
She looked at Hawkeye, a puzzled look on her face.
"Are you okay?" He repeated reaching over to squeeze her hand, his eyes full of concern.
She flushed in embarrassment and nodded. "I'm fine. I just got lost in thought, that's all. What were you saying?"
"Peg was trying to ask you about the wedding." Hawk replied, an amused smile on his face. "But you were off in your own little world."
"Sorry, I got a little side tract." She said, then looked at Peg and asked. "What was it you asked?"
Peg smiled softly at her new friend and asked, "What was the wedding like?"
"Very simple, but nice." Margaret replied. "We just had our parents and the minister. A couple of Ben's friends from the area, a couple of the nurses' I work with. About twenty people maybe."
"Did you cry during the ceremony?" Peggy asked, then she looked at B.J. and admitted, "I know I did."
Margaret and Hawkeye smiled at each other for a minute before Margaret replied. "I was fine during the ceremony. I was too excited and happy to even think about crying. There I was standing beside the man that I loved more than anything else in the world promising to love, honor and cherish him for the rest of my life and hearing him pledge the same." She smiled at him again before continuing. "The tears didn't come until later."
"What happened?" Peg asked gently.
"While we were eating our dinner, Ben got up and gave a toast. He thanked everyone for coming and for their love and support. He thanked his father for everything that he had ever done for him, but especially for giving him the best advice that he'd ever gotten when he told him to follow his heart and ask me to marry him. Then he thanked my parents for raising me and for helping me become the wonderful woman that he loved and for finally realizing how special I was to him."
"You romantic." B.J. laughed, looking at his friend with a teasing smile.
"Then, he turned to me and told me that he never thought that he would ever find anyone or anything that he loved more than medicine, but that now he knew that he would never find anyone or anything that he loved more than me. He then promised that he would always be there for me, and that he would never do anything to hurt me or to make me unhappy. Then he leaned down and gave me a long and loving kiss. When he pulled back he whispered softly that he loved me very much." She looked from her husband to Peg and B.J. "That's when I lost it." She admitted, tears in her eyes at the memory.
"That is so beautiful." Peg sniffed, tears in her own eyes.
"I agree." Patty echoed, her voice cracking with emotion. She thought that Margaret was one of the luckiest women in the world.
"And I thought you said that you could never love a man you didn't out rank you." An older voice exclaimed in a teasing tone. Margaret looked up to see that the Potters and her father-in-law had joined the group.
Margaret smiled sheepishly and laughed. "Well, what can I say." She looked at Hawkeye. "This 'lowly' Captain stole my heart." Then her smile turned mischievous. "Besides, he did 'out rank' me at one time."
Potter laughed heartily. "So I remember!"
B.J. leaned over to Peg and whispered. "She's referring to our little 'dirtiness strike' when Charles wouldn't give up his horn." Peg smiled and nodded in understanding.
"Seriously, though." Margaret continued. "I learned that rank had nothing to do with the man. Donald was a Lieutenant Colonel and he turned out to be a real louse. He cheated on me almost since day one of our marriage. Then, after promising we could work things out, he gets himself transferred back to San Francisco, without so much as a 'goodbye'." She smiled mischievously at Hawkeye. "I got a better 'goodbye' out of Hawkeye when we left Korea then I did from my own so called husband." Hawkeye smiled back at her.
"That's awful!" Peg exclaimed. "What did you do when you'd heard he'd left?"
"Well, I started kicking a can around camp, trying to vent my anger." Margaret replied. "Then I came across Hawkeye who was trying to vent some anger of his own. He was tearing the back seats out of a jeep."
"That was when we'd heard about the rotation points." B.J. recalled, looking at his old friend who nodded. B.J. looked at Trapper and explained. "They'd raised the amount of rotation points needed to get out because they were having a hard time replacing surgeons." He looked back to Hawkeye. "I felt so sorry for you, Hawk when Potter told us. You'd been stuck in that hell hole for an eternity already."
"How long were you in Korea, Hawkeye?" Peg asked, looking at the former M*A*S*H surgeon curiously.
"I was there all three years that the stinking so called 'police action' lasted." He scoffed when he said 'police action'. "But I'll tell you, it felt more like 300 years."
"I don't blame you for being upset then." Peg gave him a sympathetic smile. Then she looked at Margaret and asked. "So, what happened when you came across Hawkeye dismantling the jeep?"
"Well, I angrily told him about Donald running out on me." Margaret continued.
"What did he say?" Peg pressed curiously. Her tone was gentle and full of concern.
"He started venting his own frustrations about the rotation points, but then when what I said sunk in he suddenly became very concerned about my problem." Margaret replied. "He asked what I was going to do and when I tearfully told him that I was going to get a divorce he offered his sympathy and then later, after he'd worked out his own problem he offered his help. He said he'd do whatever he could."
"That was very kind of him." A voice commented in a sarcastic tone. The group turned to see Frank coming up behind them. He leaned himself against the Hunnicutts' side of the garden swing and sneered at Hawkeye.
Margaret continued on, ignoring Frank. "For a long time after that I was afraid of getting hurt again, so I avoided getting too close to anyone. I would come up with different reasons why this one or that one wasn't 'Mr. Right'. Like Ben once said, I was looking for 'a custom fit in an off the rack world'."
"She was looking for somebody who was, what was it again?" Hawkeye looked at her thoughtfully for a moment. "Oh, yes. Somebody who was 20% her father, 10% Scully..."
"Who's Scully?" Frank demanded in a harsh tone, looking intently at Margaret expecting a reply.
He received none for Hawkeye continued without missing a beat. "...10% me..."
"You!" Frank exclaimed in disgust. "Why you?"
Again, he received no reply. "...3% Frank Burns..."
"How do you rate a higher percentage than me?" Frank whined giving Margaret a hurt look.
"...and 2% Donald Penobscott."
"No, I had changed it to 1% Donald." Margaret corrected.
"Oh, that's right." Hawkeye nodded, then laughed, "Which left 56% goodness knows what!"
"And instead of that she got 100% Hawkeye." B.J. laughed.
"And I wouldn't change a single percentage." She smiled lovingly at him. Then looking back to the others added. "After Ben and I met again in Chicago and started spending time together, I soon realized that life with him would be different. I knew from Korea that he was a very caring, loving person. He was always concerned about the welfare of his friends, and even that of strangers."
"And even that of the enemy." B.J. added smiling at his friend.