"Well, how could it not be with some of our looniest citizens running it." Hawkeye quipped teasingly.
"Yeah, well I didn't realize just how crazy it was until I was told that Klinger had been promoted to Sergeant." Addressing Klinger he added. "I still can't believe the army promoted you."
"So did Colonel Potter." BJ added with a small chuckle. "He promoted him to company clerk after Radar left."
"That wasn't all, Beej." Hawkeye remarked with a mischievous grin. "Remember Boxing Day '52."
"Oh, yes!" BJ exclaimed in amusement. "How could I forget!"
"What, what, what?" Trapper pressed curiously.
"On that day we followed the custom of the English and switched jobs. The enlisted and the Officers swapped positions." BJ replied. "Our illustrious Colonel traded jobs with our Lebanese scrounger."
"You mean Klinger became Commanding Officer for the day?" Henry exclaimed in amazement. "And the place didn't go up in smoke?"
"Nope, he did a fine job." Colonel Potter commented. "Though he did rely on his company clerk for some of the more difficult decisions."
Henry shook his head again in disbelief. Looking at Klinger he said. "I can't believe you were Company Clerk." Then a look of amusement passed over his face. "Did you still dress in dresses?"
The other man shook his head and replied. "No, by that time I had pretty much given up on the woman's clothing bit. It wasn't working anyway."
"It only took him about two and a half years to realize it." Hawkeye remarked, shooting the other man a teasing smile.
"It sounds to me, Colonel, that you were running a circus, not a hospital." Louise Burns remarked with a soft chuckle. Margaret, Hawkeye, BJ and Trapper all exchanged surprised looks. It was the first words that they'd heard out of the woman's mouth all day that didn't involve a scolding to her husband. They hadn't expected her to have a sense of humor.
"Complete with tents and clowns." Henry replied with a glance at all his friends. He too was surprised by Frank's wife's unexpected joke.
"I don't know about you, Blake." Potter piped up with a warm smile on his face. "But I wouldn't have wanted it any other way." Looking around the group the added. "I think that these are the best bunch of people that I have ever had the privilege of working with. And I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to see you all again."
"I agree." Henry echoed, his tone full of warmth. "I never thought that I'd ever get to see this bunch of lovable misfits again. But then, life is full of surprises."
"Which brings me to that one question that has been burning on the tips of our tongues since the moment that you walked through the door..." Hawkeye stated, looking intently at the friend that he figured had been lost forever. "Pardoning my bluntness, but keeping in mind the reason for it - Henry, what the hell are you doing here?" The rest of the group murmured their agreement to the question, causing Hawkeye to add. "We were told that you had been killed over the Sea of Japan."
"Well, that'll teach you not to believe everything that you hear." Henry teased, shooting the group a mischievous smile.
"Come on, Henry, out with it!" Hawkeye pressed, looking at his old friend expectantly.
Henry smiled and looked slowly around the group that surrounded him. He was still amazed at how much and yet how little these people had changed in the last twelve years. Radar, for instance, was still the sweet tempered, easy going, down home guy that he had been when he was younger. Hawkeye & Trapper were just as crazy and boisterous as they had been when they were under his command, though there was a bit more maturity evident in both of them. Sydney Freedman and Father Mulcahy didn't seem to have changed much in the intervening years. They were both as pleasant and amiable as they had always been. Even Frank Burns hadn't changed, he was just as whinny and complaining as he had ever been.
However, looking at Margaret and Klinger, Henry certainly couldn't claim the same for either one of them. It was a great surprise to Henry to see Klinger dressed in men's clothes and not woman's dresses! And Margaret! He looked again to the good looking woman sitting beside Hawkeye, her arm looped through his, her beautiful blue eyes focused at the moment on her daughters who were sitting at her feet. He couldn't believe that this was the same woman that use to walk all over him and everyone else in camp, an who used to fight with and complain about Hawkeye to no end. It had been an incredible shock to his system to find out that they had gotten married.
"Well, come on Henry!" Hawkeye pressed again, an impatient tone in his voice. "Tell us what happened.
Henry smiled softly and started his story. "After the chopped left camp, we had some engine trouble and had to land in a clearing before reaching the airport. While the pilot was trying to fix the problem a troupe of North Korean soldiers came upon us. We were taken captive and held as prisoners in a North Korean camp. After a few weeks of deplorable treatment, the pilot managed to escape. He was going to go for help and then come back for me. But, he was spotted by a sentry and shot a few miles down the road." Henry shuddered slightly at the memory of the North Koreans dragging the pilot's limp body into camp and dropping it in front of him. 'Let that serve as a warning to you.' The commander had said to him as he made him look at the batter body of the pilot. 'Just in case you get any bright ideas about trying to leave.' Then he had been beaten, thrown in a damp cell and given nothing but bread and water to eat for the rest of the week.
"What happened to you?" Trapper asked gently, a concerned look on his face as he regarded his friend carefully.
"I was held as a POW until the end of the war." Henry replied, his face suddenly looking old and haggard. "Nobody knew I was alive, not even the army."
"I bet Lorraine was beside herself when she heard that you were alive." Hawkeye commented, an expectant smile on his face.
Henry's eyes dropped to his hands as he fought for control of his emotions. "Lorraine and the kids had been killed in a car accident the year before the war ended."
"Oh, Henry." Hawkeye moaned in sympathy. Beside him Margaret started sobbing slightly. He put his arm around her shoulders and buried his face in her hair for a moment, not even wanting to imagine what his life would be like if he lost her and the girls. He tightened his arm around her and took a deep breath before looking back at his heartbroken friend.
"What happened?" Trapper managed to ask the question that was on the tip of everyone's tongues, but that nobody had the courage to ask.
"They were driving into town and were hit head on by another car that had just drifted into their lane. It happened so suddenly that neither car had a chance to stop and they hit each other with full force. They were all killed instantly, even the other driver." Tears formed in the man's eyes at the memory of finally making it home only to find out that his family was gone forever.
"Henry, I don't know what to say." Hawkeye replied soberly, his own eyes watering at his friend's heart-wrenching story. "Are...are you still in Bloomington?"
Henry wiped at his moist eyes and nodded his head in reply. "I...I managed to reestablish my practice. I bought a small house on the edge of town and tried to get on with my life. It...It hasn't been easy."
"I'll bet." Trapper commented with a sympathetic smile.
"Well, Henry." Hawkeye's emotion filled voice began. "Don't forget that you have a family here." He gestured to everyone in the room. "You're not alone."
Henry managed a sad, yet grateful smile. "I appreciate that Hawk."
"And I know that I am so glad to see you again." Hawkeye added, his tone gentle. "I've missed you very much."
"We've missed you very much." Margaret corrected, giving the mildly surprised Henry a friendly smile, which he managed to return.
"We've all missed you, sir." Radar echoed with great feeling. Henry put his arm around the shoulders of the man who had been but a boy the last time he saw him.
"I've missed you all too." Henry returned, glancing around at all his old friends.
The room was silent for several minutes as the old 4077th unit started a mental recall of some of the horrors that they had witnessed during their tenure in Korea.
"Well, isn't this suppose to be a party?" Mildred Potter asked with a light tone in her voice. "Enough with the long face already." Looking at Klinger she encouraged. "What other funny pictures do you have on that reel of yours young man? We need something to get these chins off the ground." Having been the wife of a soldier for the better part of fifty years, she was a veteran at dealing with the dark moods that memories of war bring.
She knew the importance of getting their minds onto something happier before the darkness seized them too hard.
Klinger managed to shake his mental blues and respond to the older woman request quickly. "Ladies and Gentlemen, next you are going to see the latest in men's fashions."
At the sight of the new picture amused smiles spread across everyone's faces, followed shortly by chuckles. Eventually a few of them made it to full fledged laughter.
"What?" Trapper asked in an innocent tone. "What's so funny? That's a beautiful suit."
"If you were blind or had no sense of direction." Margaret quipped as she chuckled heartily.
"Like Trap's tailor." Hawkeye added as he laughed at the sight of his friend dressed in a nicely tailored suit with the strips running the wrong way.
"I still think that that was a beautiful suit." Trapper protested with a hurt look on his face.
"You think that was a dazzling ensemble." Klinger remarked. "Feast your eyes on this little number." As he changed the picture he added. "Everything that an officer needs to patrol the downtown streets of M*A*S*H 4077th."