Part 7

"So, where's dinner?" Hawkeye exclaimed as he, Margaret and Frank stepped outside to join the others. "I'm starving."

"Just hold your horses, Skizicks." Potter replied with an amused chuckle. "You'll have to wait a few more minutes. The ladies aren't quite finished setting it up yet."

"Excuse me." A voice with a sweet accent said from behind the trio. Moving to one side, they allowed Soon-Lee Klinger to pass by, her hands full of dinner plates.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Margaret asked, as Patty followed Soon-Lee passed the three.

"Yes, as a matter of fact there is, Margaret." Patty replied as she set a couple of big serving bowls on the long buffet table. Wiping her hands on her apron she looked at Margaret and gave her a warm smile. Looping her arm through her new friend's, she steered her towards a vacant chair. "What I want you to do is sit down, put your feet up and relax. You look completely exhausted."

"But I really should help." Margaret protested as she slowly sat down in the chair that Patty had indicated for her to take.

"Margaret, don't you know that it's not good manners to argue with your hostess." Hawkeye scolded gently, a soft smile on his face. He knew how stubborn Margaret could be about taking it easy when she was pregnant. She was always determined she could do anything, even though her body kept telling her otherwise.

"That's right." Patty agreed with an amused chuckle. "So you do as you are told, Madame Pierce or else you'll be sent to bed without supper." Margaret smiled softly as the other woman added. "Besides, soon enough you'll be run off your feet and wishing for the opportunity to sit down, so you'd better rest those poor tootsies up now." She gave Margaret a friendly wink and then turned back towards the house.

Margaret opened her mouth to comment, but wasn't able to do so before the other woman retreated. She sighed softly and leaned back in her chair. She was actually very relieved to be able to just sit down and relax. Her back and her feet were absolutely killing her and she was becoming increasingly worried about the pains in her abdomen. It had been almost two hours since she'd been awaken by the first one, and she'd had a few mild ones since then. The one in the bathroom had been really intense and had left her somewhat concerned. She had thought about telling Hawkeye about the pains she was having, but she decided that there was no sense alarming him until she was sure what was causing them. She was still hopeful that it was just a false alarm brought on by the stress and excitement of seeing everybody again. Today was not exactly the day she'd planned on to have her baby.

"Sweetheart, would you like something cold and refreshing to drink?" Hawkeye asked her after Patty left.

"That sounds nice." She smiled gratefully at him. "How about a double bourbon and water." When Hawkeye opened his mouth to object she added with a teasing smile. "Hold the bourbon."

His eyes twinkled mischievously as a smile broke over his face. "I'll see what I can do." He bent down and kissed her on the side of her head before turning and heading towards the refreshment table.

Margaret watched him as he poured her a tall glass of water and himself a lemonade. Even after seven years of marriage, she still marveled at how lucky she was to have such a wonderful husband such as him. She never would have thought back in Korea that he would be the marrying kind. He was always chasing one nurse or another and never seemed to take any relationship seriously. She thought Hawkeye was right when he said that B.J. had been a good influence on him in that respect. Margaret didn't know anybody in camp, besides perhaps Colonel Potter, who was as loyal to his wife and family as B.J. was. He was a remarkable man to be that far away from his family for that long and still remain faithful. She'd always envied Peg her loving, caring husband, especially when Donald was cheating on her. But, now that she had such a wonderful husband of her own, she didn't feel envious anymore. She felt grateful instead. Grateful for the Hunnicutt's strong relationship that showed Hawkeye, and herself, that it was possible to have a strong and happy marriage, no matter what little things life threw at you.

She couldn't help but smile when she noticed B.J. come up behind Hawkeye and thump him on the back, causing Hawkeye to jump and shoot his friend a mock annoyed glare. Margaret couldn't make out what they were saying, they were too far out of earshot, but she could tell from the amused look on her husband's face that it was something amusing. And her suspicion was confirmed when she heard Hawkeye's hearty laugh pierce the air. The two men talked and laughed heartily for several minutes, catching up on lost time. Margaret was so glad that the two friends were able to get together again after so many years of separation. She knew how special B.J. was to Hawkeye. He was the closest thing that Hawk had to a brother, and definitely the dearest friend. She remembered how incredibly sad and disappointed Hawkeye had been when he hadn't been able to get in touch with B.J. before the wedding. He had desperately wanted his old bunkmate to be his best man. He tried so hard to reach B.J., he must have called about twenty times a day trying to catch his friend at home. Unfortunately he hadn't been able to reach him. He'd even tried after the wedding so that they could spend their honeymoon in Mill Valley, but he still couldn't reach him. At the most momentous and memorable time of his life, his best friend was no where to be found. Margaret had felt very sorry for him. Even though Hawkeye had done his best not to let it show, or to ruin their special day, she could tell the he was terribly disappointed. Looking at the two men now, laughing and talking, she smiled again. She decided to make sure that they were able to get together on a regular basis. She would make sure that they didn't drift apart again.

"Mommy! Mommy!" Margaret smiled as she saw her oldest daughter running towards her, hand-in-hand with another little girl about the same age. Sometimes it still seemed strange to her that she was actually a mother, even though she was about to become one for the third time. When she was in Korea, having children was the last thing in the world she ever expected to do with her life. Her main focus was on her army career, not changing diapers and telling bedtime stories. She didn't think that she would make a good mother, she didn't think that she had the instinct for it. But, life had proven her wrong. She loved being a mother. She loved holding her children in her arms, she loved reading them bedtime stories, she loved getting hugs and kisses from them and hear them tell her how much they love her. The girls - and Hawkeye, of course, make her life seem complete. Rebecca's excited voice brought her out of her musings. "Mommy, can Clara come and stay with us?"

Margaret chuckled softly at her daughter's eager expression. Whenever she was this excited about something her blue eyes had the same dancing twinkle that her father's had. It always warmed her heart to see the little traits of her husband and herself reflected in their daughters. Both girls took after them very much. Rebecca had her looks - blond hair, blue eyes as well as the Houlihan stubbornness, though Hawkeye could be pretty stubborn himself at times. But Rebecca's mischievous sense of humor was a mirror of her father. She loved a good joke and was constantly getting herself into trouble by playing them on her family members. Beth on the other hand, had inherited Hawkeye's gift of telling stories. She had a less developed sense of humor, more like her mother's, though she could pull off a good joke when she put her mind to it. In the matter of looks she bore a strong resemblance to her father, from her shiny black hair to her big, mischievous smile. Margaret thought that they were both a perfect reflection of her and Hawkeye's best qualities and of their deep love for each other.

Looking at her daughter now she smiled warmly. "Of course Clara can come and visit, Sweetheart." She told her daughter. "We'd be very glad to have her."

"Oh, goody!" Rebecca exclaimed, leaning up to kiss her mother on the cheek. "Can she come next week?"

Margaret smiled in amusement, but shook her head gently. "No, I don't think that would be a good idea, Becky. I think we'd better wait until after the baby comes. It's going to be very busy at our house for a little while."

"That's right!" Becky exclaimed excitedly, looking at her new friend, a proud smile on her face. "Mommy is going to have a new baby soon. I'm going to have a new baby sister or brother."

"Really?" Clara exclaimed, her own eyes dancing with excitement. "That must be really neat."

"It is!" Rebecca assured her. "See, the baby's in here right now." She put her small hand on her mother's rounded stomach. "But soon we'll be able to hold the baby and he or she will sleep in the cradle in Mommy and Daddy's room. That's what happened when we got Beth."

"And you, too, Sweetie." Margaret added, loving brushing back some hair that was falling into Rebecca's eyes. "When you were born, you slept in the cradle in our room too."

"That's right. But now I have a room of my own." Rebecca said proudly.

"Until the baby is big enough to sleep in the crib and then Beth is going to be moving in with you and well be setting up the crib in Beth's room." Margaret reminded her gently.

"I know." Rebecca nodded. "I hope the baby doesn't grow too fast. I like having my own room."

Margaret chuckled softly and gave her daughter a quick hug.

"I don't have any brothers or sisters." Clara admitted to them, her tone sad. "Mommy wants more children, but Father doesn't. He says that with the cost of education and everything today, one is enough."

"He said that in front of you?" Margaret asked, a look of shock on her face. The little girl nodded. "What kind of school do you go to?" She pressed curiously.

"I go to a boarding school in England." Clara replied, her eyes clouding slightly.

"England?" Margaret exclaimed in horrified surprise. "Isn't that awfully far away?"

Clara shrugged slightly. "Father says that it's a very good school. They have a high level of education, which he thinks is very important."

"How old are you, Clara?" Margaret asked, unconsciously tightening her arm around Rebecca.

"I'm eight years old." Clara replied. "I started boarding school when I was six."

"Six years old?" Margaret exclaimed in horror. She couldn't imagine sending Rebecca away to boarding school and she knew Hawkeye couldn't either. They both had a hard enough time last fall accepting that she was ready to start school at the Public School down the road. There was no way that they could send her to another continent to go to school. Both she and Hawkeye would be lost without her, without either one of their girls. They loved them both very much. Everyday when Hawkeye came home from work, the girls would come running to greet him and during supper the entire family would laugh and joke and tell stories of what happened during their respective day. At night, she and Hawkeye and the girls would all gather on Elizabeth's bed and snuggle together while Daniel sat in the rocking chair beside them and read a story. Afterwards they'd tuck the girls into their own beds and take turns kissing them goodnight. They all looked forward to that part of the day, because it was the only time of day that they could guarantee that everyone would be together. No matter what else was going on in their busy lives nothing, short of a life or death emergency, was allowed to interfere with their special time. Margaret knew that Hawkeye silently prayed each night that nothing would come up to interrupt that part of their routine. Looking at Rebecca lovingly Margaret knew that she wouldn't trade those times together for the best education in the world. She was sure that it was times like those that helped keep their family so strong.

"Who's your Father, Clara?" Margaret asked, coming back to the present. Her arm tightened around Rebecca again, causing the little girl to smile at her mother and press closer to her side. Clara noticed the silent exchange of love between them and felt a mild pang of envy.

She turned and scanned the groups of people scattered around the yard. "There he is." She pointed to her father who was talking loudly to Father Mulcahy. The little girl turned back to Margaret and rolled her eyes. "Father doesn't seem to understand that yelling at that deaf man isn't going to make him hear him any better. It just causes the rest of us to go deaf."

Margaret covered a snicker with her hand, but then the comment really sunk in. "What do you mean 'deaf man'? Father Mulcahy's deaf?"

Clara nodded. "I heard him telling Father that he'd lost his hearing in an explosion or something while he was in Korea. "

"I never heard anything about that." Margaret commented more to herself than to Clara. "I wonder when it happened." Then she thought of something else. "But, how is he conversing with everyone? I saw him carrying on a conversation with a few people earlier."

"He told Father that he can lip read fairly well." Clara replied. "He said that in a group he can't catch everything, but he can usually catch enough to understand what's being said."

"Oh." Margaret replied, her expression thoughtful.

"You nerd, I couldn't believe you did that!" Hawkeye exclaimed, a hearty laugh following his exclamation. "You could have gotten yourself killed. My heart was in my throat as I watched you."

"What? I knew what I was doing." B.J. protested innocently.

"Sure you did. I just pictured having to tell Peg that her idiotic husband survived the war safe and sound but broke his fool neck on his motorcycle on his way to catch his plane home. " Hawkeye laughed, shaking his head in amused disbelief. "I was ready to kill you myself for giving me such a scare!" B.J. chuckled in amusement as Hawk turned to his wife and handed her a glass. "Here you go, Madame. Bourbon and water - extra heavy on the water and extremely light on the bourbon."

"Thank you, Darling." She laughed as she took the glass from his hand. The two men pulled up a couple of chairs and sat down next to her.

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