"Where are Ben and Paul now?" B.J. asked, an angry tone in his voice. He searched the yard carefully for any sight of his naughty son.
"They're hiding behind the old oak tree over there." The little girl replied pointing to the tree where the two little boys were hiding.
"Ben come over here!" B.J. called, watching the tree closely for any signs of his son. "Benjamin!" He called in a firm tone.
Hawkeye gave an involuntary shiver. "Boy, does that bring back memories." He whispered to Margaret. She smiled in amusement.
For a moment there was no movement from behind the tree, then suddenly Ben appeared.
"You too, Paul." Another voice called out. B.J. turned his head to see Klinger standing just behind him. Turning back he saw that the second boy had come out of hiding. They were walking slowly towards their fathers, their heads lowered slightly in meek submission.
"Hurry it up." B.J. told them firmly. Ben quickly picked up his pace, recognizing the angry tone in his father's voice. When the young boy reached him B.J. calmly asked. "Did you lock Beth in the playhouse?"
"Yes, sir." Ben mumbled softly.
"Why did you do it?" B.J. pressed, his tone still controlled.
"It was Paul's idea." Ben defended, kicking the ground with the toe of his shoe.
"I don't care who's idea it was." B.J. replied firmly. "You should have know better than to go along with a mean idea like that. You really scared her!" Ben's head dropped a little lower.
"We didn't mean to scare her." Paul told his father defensively. "We only did it as a joke. We didn't think that she'd freak out like that!"
"Beth suffers from claustrophobia." B.J. informed both boys seriously. "Which means that she can't stand being in small confined places. It really scare her because she feels that she can't get enough air to breathe."
"But there's lots of air in the playhouse." Ben informed his father.
"I know there is, Ben." B.J. replied. "And a part of Beth's brain knows there is too, but another part tells her that there isn't, so she panics. Now I want you to go over and apologize to Beth." Ben kicked at the dirt again. "I mean now, mister." B.J. warned.
"Yes, sir." Ben acknowledged softly. He took one small step in Beth's direction and then lifting his head slightly murmured. "I'm sorry, Beth."
"Benjamin!" B.J. reproached angrily. "Look at me." The young boy slowly lifted his head higher and looked at his father. "I want you to go over to Beth and tell her you're sorry in a tone of voice that she will actually hear." Ben sighed and then stepped over to where Beth was still clinging to her father.
"That goes for you too, Paul." Klinger told his young son.
"But Dad!" Paul objected, giving his father a pleading look.
"I mean it, Paul." Klinger told him firmly. "Now go."
"Yes, sir." Paul sighed audibly and followed Ben to Beth's side.
"I'm sorry, Beth." Ben said, gently touching her back.
"Me too, Beth." Paul echoed softly.
Beth turned her head and looked at the two boys, her eyes and cheeks red from crying.
"Now, Ben, I want you to go and sit on the steps over there and think about why it isn't nice to lock little girls in playhouses." B.J. told his son, pointing towards the deck on the back of the house.
"Ah, Dad!" Ben protested giving his father a pleading look. "Please don't punish me in front of everyone! Please!"
"Go and sit until supper is ready." B.J. told him firmly.
"Yes, sir." Ben walked dejectedly over to the deck and sat down. Putting his head in his hands and leaning on his knees he let out a pitiful sigh. His dejected demeanor almost broke B.J.'s heart. He hated to have to punish him, especially in front of everyone, but he couldn't let him away with what he'd done.
"And you, my little monster." Klinger said to his son. "I want you to go and sit under the tree over there until we're ready to eat. And don't you move until I say that you can. Got it."
"Yes, sir." Paul replied, his tone sorrowful as he moved slowly towards the big oak tree and flopped down on the ground.
"I think we have two very unhappy little boys on our hands right now." B.J. observed to Klinger as he looked from one boy to the other.
"Two very unhappy, mischievous boys." Klinger chuckled as he glanced at both culprits with mild amusement.
"How's Beth?" B.J. asked, turning his attention to the victim of the boys' mischief. Beth was now sitting on her father's knee, leaning back against his chest. She had stopped crying, though her eyes and face were still red from her tears.
"Better, I think." Hawkeye replied, smoothing her disheveled hair. "Are you okay, Shortcake?" The little girl turned her head and buried it in her father's chest without a word. "She'll be fine." Her father assured his friends. "She was just badly shaken."
"I don't wonder." B.J. commented as he claimed a chair across from his best friend. "It must have been scary for her in there."
"I imagine it was." Hawkeye nodded, a small smile on his face. He knew all too well how difficult it was to be stuck in a small confined space. His heart skipped just thinking about it.
Suddenly Margaret began to rise awkwardly to her feet. B.J. quickly jumped up to help her. "Why don't I take Beth inside and wash her face and hands for dinner." She reached out for the little girl who went willingly into her arms.
"Careful, Margaret." Hawkeye warned as he watched her settle Beth on her expanded hip. "You really shouldn't be carrying her like that in your condition."
"Oh, don't worry, Darling, we're fine." Margaret assured him. "Besides, she won't be my baby for much longer, so I want to treat as such for as long as I can."
"Are you sure that you don't want me to take her in and wash her up?" He asked, rising from his chair. "That way you can sit down and take it easy."
"I'm fine." Margaret told him. "Besides I need to do something that I don't think that you can do for me, if you get my drift."
Hawkeye chuckled. "Well, if you say so, dear." He gave her a kiss on the side of the head and then watched her as she walked towards the house.
"Isn't she beautiful." Hawkeye commented to B.J., who had come up beside him.
B.J. chuckled. "Yes she is, but I'm a married man."
Hawkeye glanced at him and grinned. "Well, so am I, but I still think that she's absolutely the most beautiful woman I've ever seen." The two men chuckled as they reclaimed their seats.
"Well, I must say, Hawkeye." Sydney began with a smile. "Marriage and fatherhood definitely seem to agree with you. I don't think that I've ever seen you happier. Not even when you glued Frank's head to his steel soldier hat and filled his boots with cement." Hawkeye and B.J. laughed heartily at the memory.
"Maybe not, but that was a close runner up." Hawkeye remarked as he laughed heartily. "The look on Frank's face when he couldn't lift his feet out of his boots and then when he tried to throw his helmet at me and couldn't get it off his head, that was priceless." The others laughed at the mental picture that Hawk's description created.
"You know Hawk, I think that Margaret is the best thing that could have ever happened to you." Sydney remarked, smiling with amusement at Hawkeye. "I mean look at you. You're happy, you're healthy, and despite your present attire I think you're being well looked after."
"What's wrong with my present attire?" Hawkeye asked, smoothing the front of his Hawaiian shirt. "I love this shirt."
"I know you do." Sydney laughed. "You loved it so much in Korea that you wore it out. And now ten years later its even more wore out."
"Yeah, I thought that Margaret threw that out years ago." Daniel remarked with a mischievous smile. "That and your old red bathrobe."
"Bite your tongue!" Hawkeye exclaimed in an appalled tone. "Those are both National Treasures. You can't throw out National Treasures. Like I told B.J. before, I plan to be buried in them."
"Getting back to Margaret." Daniel commented, shooting his son an amused look. "I agree with you Dr. Freedman, she is definitely a wonder."
"There is something that I'm curious about, Hawkeye." Sydney began slowly, as if trying to word his thought carefully. "How did you first handle the thought of being a father? The last time that I saw you, you were still dealing with your discomfort around children."
Hawkeye nodded, his face sober as he remembered the past. "To tell you the truth, Sydney, it took me quite a while to completely shed my discomfort. It wasn't until after Rebecca was born that my fears finally began to subside."
"How did you feel when Margaret first told you that she was pregnant?" Sydney asked curiously, watching his old friend closely.
Hawkeye looked thoughtful for a moment before replying. "I felt a lot of things actually. I was happy, excited, amazed, scared. I couldn't believe that I was actually going to be a father. It seemed so unreal to me at first." He looked at his friends and smiled softly. "The first time I held Rebecca in my arms I was so afraid. Here I was responsible for this tiny little life. Between Margaret and I we were suppose to care for her and raise her to be a responsible, loving individual. I wasn't sure that I could to that."
"Well, Hawk, you've obviously done a wonderful job." B.J. remarked, giving his friend a warm smile. "They are both beautiful, sweet, loving girls and anybody can see that they're crazy about you and that you're crazy about them. You should be proud of your accomplishment."
"Margaret deserves a lot of the credit." Hawkeye replied. "She has been such a wonderful help to me. She is really a terrific wife."
"Now that is something that I never dreamed that I'd ever hear you say about Margaret Houlihan." A voice piped up from behind the group.
Hawkeye smiled as Trapper pulled up a chair beside Klinger. "I can't see why not." He retorted to his friend, pretending to be offended. "After all we were always very open about how we felt about each other."
"Yeah, you hated her and she despised you." Trapper replied with a hearty laugh.
"Hates a rather strong word, Trap." Hawkeye replied with a mischievous smile.
"What would you call it then?" Trapper asked, a sly smile on his face.
Hawkeye looked thoughtful for a minute before responding, a big grin on his face. "I would say that we just didn't appreciate each others fine. outstanding qualities. At first we were too busy looking at the war from two very different angles - she was glad to be there and I was glad to be anywhere but there." Everyone chuckled in agreement. "Once we finally began to appreciate the quirks in each others character, we realized how much we loved them - and each other."
"Well, it's quite obvious to anyone that sees you two that you are deeply in love with each other." B.J. commented with a gentle smile. "Just the way you two look at each other speaks volumes."
"Well, she is just so special, it's hard not to love her." Hawkeye remarked to his friend who gave him an even wider smile.
B.J. was so glad that his best friend had found someone that he loved so much.
"Speak of an angel and she shall appear." Daniel commented with a smile as Margaret stepped outside followed by Rebecca, Beth and Clara. The older girls scurried off to join Erin who was mixing a jug of lemonade at the refreshment table while Beth and Margaret joined the men. "Come and see Grandpa, Shortcake." He encouraged his granddaughter as Margaret sat down next to her husband. Beth willingly obliged and smiled at him as he picked her up and placed her on his knee. "Everything okay now?"
Beth nodded her head and looked at him seriously. "Yes, Grampy. But I hate playhouses and I hate little boys too. They're so mean and hateful and they pull mean jokes." She shuddered as she made the comment. The adults laughed heartily at her comment.
"It's okay, Beth." Her father told her as he reached over to pat her small leg affectionately. "You can hate little boys as long as you want to." He glanced at his wife and jokingly commented in a stage whisper. "I wonder how many years that'll last." Margaret chuckled in agreement and reached over to squeeze his hand lovingly.
"Oh, I don't hate all little boys." The little girl told her father seriously. "I love you and Grampy very much and you use to be little boys when you were my age."
"Sometimes I think that they're still little boys about your age." Margaret teased looking at her husband and her father-in-law mischievously. The rest of them laughed as both Hawkeye and Daniel gave Margaret mock offended looks.
"When I grow up I'm going to marry Grampy." Beth informed the group, looking at her grandfather lovingly. The others chuckled in amusement.
"I thought you wanted to marry Daddy, Sweetheart." Margaret commented, a soft smile tugging at her mouth.
"I did." Beth nodded seriously. "I wanted to marry Daddy very much, but Becky told me I couldn't because you were married to Daddy and Daddy couldn't be married to two girls at the same time. So I'm going to marry Grampy because he's not married to anyone."
Daniel Pierce chuckled and hugged his granddaughter to him. "So, I'm second choice as I, Shortcake." He stated, looking at his son with amusement. Hawkeye merely laughed in return.
"Oh, no Grampy." His granddaughter assured him seriously, wrapping her arm around his neck lovingly. "I love you just as much as I love Daddy. It's just that he's my Daddy and you're my Grampy, so of course he'd be my first love."
"Oh, I understand." Daniel laughed heartily at her four year old logic.
"Is it as clear as mud, Dad?" Hawkeye asked, laughing at his daughter's reasoning.
Daniel nodded and hugged his granddaughter to him. "Is it ever." He replied with a chuckle.