"Well, why don't we ask the devil himself?" Trapper suggested, gesturing towards the door where Hawkeye had just exited. The group turned and watched him as he approached.
Hawkeye smiled as he walked over, he knew they had been discussing him and Margaret. He could tell by the look on their faces. This should be fun. He thought to himself. I should make this interesting.
"Where did all the ladies go?" He asked as he got closer to his friends. He looked around the yard, pretending to be deeply interested in where the fairer sex was hiding. "They didn't have to leave on my account. I wasn't going to kiss them all. Just the cute ones, like Patty." He shot Radar a mischievous glance. The young man stiffened angrily until he realized his old friend was just teasing him.
"Sit your carcass down." Potter urged, moving his chair over so Hawkeye could join them. "The ladies are all inside preparing the food for dinner."
"Where's Beth and Becky?" Hawkeye asked, this time scanning the yard more seriously.
"Peg took Beth inside and Erin's pushing Becky on the swing." B.J. replied, handing his friend a beer.
Glancing over at the swings, Hawk smiled as he watched his daughter laughing gaily as Erin Hunnicutt pushed her on the swing. Another girl, who Hawk figured must be Charles' daughter, Clara was on the swing beside her. Nearby, Paul Klinger, Ben Hunnicutt and Radar's daughters where playing in the sandbox. Feeling reassured that his daughters were in good hands, he joined his old friends for a drink.
Opening the beer, he took a sip. Then, looking around at his friends he laughed. "You know, this does feel like old times. Though I must say this beer is a lot better than that gasoline we use to drink." Everyone laughed in agreement.
"I don't think my liver will ever be the same again." B.J. commented.
"You mean that still lasted the entire war!" Trapper exclaimed in surprise, glancing at Potter pointedly and then back to Hawk & B.J.
Hawkeye and B.J. exchanged smiles. "Actually, to be honest." Hawkeye replied. "The still we had didn't make it thru the entire war."
"What happened to it?" Trapper asked, looking at Colonel Potter out of the corner of his eye.
"It met with an untimely death at the hands of a drunk, chair wielding madman." Hawkeye laughed, glancing mischievously at B.J.
"B.J.?" Trapper asked in surprise after noting Hawkeye's glance.
"B.J." Hawkeye confirmed. "Our quiet, mild tempered, soft spoken B.J. turned into a fire breathing, still bashing maniac."
"And if I remember correctly, Pierce, the still wasn't the only think Hunnicutt clobbered." Potter laughed at the memory.
B.J. gave Hawkeye a sheepish smile that Trapper caught. "You?" Trapper exclaimed, looking at Hawkeye in disbelief. "B.J. nailed you?"
"That's right." Hawkeye nodded with a good natured laugh. "And he swings one hell of a punch. I never saw it coming."
"I thought you too were suppose to be friends." Trapper exclaimed.
"We were." Hawkeye replied, clasping B.J.'s shoulder warmly. "But sometimes being a friend includes letting the other person vent their frustrations out on you." He smiled slyly, "Either verbally or physically."
"And I've never seen two people stick together as well as these two did." Potter commented. "They were a special team." The two men looked at each other and smiled warmly.
"I've missed you partner." Hawk stated, looking at B.J. seriously.
"I've missed you too." B.J. returned. Lifting his beer bottle he said, "To old friends."
Hawkeye smiled and raised his bottle. "To best friends." He replied. They smiled at each other and then took a drink.
"So, how's Margaret doing?" Potter asked, a more serious tone in his voice.
"Okay." Hawkeye assured him. "She's sleeping right now. I think the trip was a little harder on her than she'll admit. I tried to make her take it easy, but you know how Margaret is."
"You didn't drive all this way did you?" B.J. asked, worry in his voice.
Hawkeye shook his head. "Are you kidding, that would have been a long drive. Flying here seemed long enough."
"I'm surprised her husband let her come." Trapper commented, looking at the others slyly.
"So am I." Hawkeye replied. "But, you know Margaret. She was determined to see you all again."
Finally, B.J., who was sure that Hawkeye was just playing games with them, exclaimed. "Come on Hawkeye. Tells us the story."
"The story?" His friend repeated, a look of confusion on his handsome face.
"Yeah, the story about your trip into matrimony." Trapper finished, looking expectantly at his friend.
Hawkeye stared at his buddy, pretending not to understand what he was talking about.
"Are you trying to tell us that you and Margaret are not married to each other?" B.J. asked, obviously not convinced.
"What makes you so sure that we are?" Hawk asked, looking at his friend with a serious expression on his face.
"For one thing, you kissed her in front of everyone." B.J. replied.
Hawkeye laughed. "That doesn't prove anything. I just did that to irritate Frank. I wanted to see him have a fit, and kissing Margaret always did the trick." He looked at B.J. and Trapper innocently, "You guys should know that by now."
"What about you being so concerned about her fall?" Klinger asked. "If you ask me that was more than 'friendly' concern."
"Klinger, she's nine months pregnant." Hawkeye exclaimed, looking at the man, pretending to be annoyed. "A fall like that could have seriously hurt her or the baby."
"What about the girls?" Trapper asked.
"What about them?" Hawkeye asked, an innocent look on his face.
"Now, you can't deny that Beth is your daughter." B.J. said, pointing a finger at his friend, as if daring him to deny it. "She looks just like you."
"Why would I deny it." Hawkeye replied, acting surprised that his friend would even think he would. "I told you she was my daughter."
"She's also Margaret's daughter." Potter added.
"What makes you say that?" Hawkeye asked, looking at their former C.O. with a surprised look in his eyes.
"Because the Major introduced both the girls to Patty and me as her daughters." Radar replied.
"Which brings us to Rebecca." Trapper commented. "We know she's Margaret's daughter, but is she yours?"
Hawkeye, his eyes twinkling with fun, opened his mouth to reply with something to make his friends wonder a new about his marital status, when Rebecca, who had spotted her father from the swings, came running up to him with Erin Hunnicutt right behind her. As if on cue, she cried excitedly: "Daddy, Daddy! Did you see how high I went? Erin pushed me really high!" The two girls stopped breathlessly by their fathers.
Everyone broke into hearty laughter, when they heard what Rebecca was saying, even Hawkeye who realized his jig was up.
"What's so funny, Daddy?" Rebecca asked, a big smile on her face. She loved hearing her father laugh. She especially loved the big hearty laugh that he had when he found something especially amusing.
"What did we miss?" Erin asked, draping her arm across her father's shoulders and leaning against him.
"Oh, nothing much." Hawkeye replied once he could talk. "My joke backfired that's all. It's a long story." He pulled his daughter on his knee and kissed the side of her head lovingly. Laughing again, he looked at his friends and shrugged, "I guess you got your answer."
"Speaking of stories." B.J. commented. "I believe you were going to tell us one."
"Oh, yes. So I was." Hawkeye replied. Then looking at Rebecca for a moment, began. "Once upon a time, there were three little bears. A mama bear, a papa bear and a baby bear."
"Hawkeye!" B.J. rolled his eyes in mock annoyance.
"What, I was just getting to the interesting part." Hawkeye protested in mock indignation.
Rebecca giggled. "That's mine and Beth's favorite story. It has a really good ending."
"And it's a nice story." Potter assured her. "But that's not the story we want to hear right now."
"What story do you want to hear?" Becky asked. "Daddy tells good stories."
"We know." Potter smiled, looking at Hawkeye. "And we've heard plenty of them."
"Come on, Hawk." B.J. urged. "Tell us how you ended up married to Margaret Houlihan."
"It's really not much of a story." Hawkeye shrugged evasively. "I'm sure you're not really that interested."
"Not much of story!" Trapper exclaimed above the protests of the other men. "You and 'Hot Lips' get married and you say it's not much of a story."
"Come on, Hawk!" B.J. urged again. "Spill it. Don't hold out on us." The others murmured their agreement.
"Okay, okay." Hawkeye laughed. "You all look so pathetic and sad who could resist your sorrowful pleas."
"Come on, we want details." Klinger encouraged.
"Clean details." Potter added, gesturing toward Rebecca who was still sitting on her father's knee.
"Okay, but first, where's Frank?" Hawk glanced around looking for his old enemy.
"Mrs. Burns sent him to the store for some ice or something." Radar laughed nervously. "I don't think she liked the way that he was defending Major Houlihan."
"Radar, do me a favor and drop the 'Major Houlihan' bit." Hawkeye stated, a slight tone of annoyance in his voice. "It was bad enough at the 4077th, but you're in your own home now. It's just Margaret."
"That's right. 'Margaret Pierce'." Trapper added. "And when and how her name came to change is a mystery to me." Then, looking at his friend urged, "Come on, Hawk. Spill it. The two of you certainly weren't chums when I left Korea. If I remember correctly, you and 'Hot Lips' could barely tolerate each other."
Hawkeye chuckled and pointed his beer bottle at him. "That's what you think. And do me a favor, don't call her 'Hot Lips', especially in front of the girls."
"Sorry." Trapper exclaimed in a slightly offended tone. He was feeling more than a little jealous of the obvious closeness of Hawk and B.J.'s friendship. He'd always considered himself to be Hawkeye's best friend, even though they hadn't spoken since he'd left Korea. He'd never even anticipated that his replacement would have usurped that position and have built an even closer friendship with Hawkeye than he had. "If I remember correctly, you and 'MARGARET' could barely tolerate each other." Hawkeye looked at his friend, mild annoyance on his face.
"Mommy and Daddy met and fell in love in Korea." Rebecca giggled, looking shyly at her father's friends. Her cute words broke the tension between the two men.
"What she said." Hawkeye added, pointing to his daughter with an amused smile on his face.
"Come on, Hawkeye." Everyone begged. "Out with it."
"Okay, okay." Hawkeye replied, a tone of surrender in his voice. "Truth be told, I loved Margaret the whole time we were in Korea. I just didn't know it at first."
"Then what clued you in?" Trapper asked, keenly interested in the story.
Hawkeye hesitated for a moment, looking at his daughter with a loving smile.
"Come on, Pierce, out with it." Potter pressed, watching him eagerly.
"I bet I know!" B.J. suddenly exclaimed excitedly. Then laughing to himself he added. "I don't know why I didn't think of it before."
"Well, come on Beej." Hawkeye prompted. "Don't keep me in suspense. I'm dying to find out what happened."
Rebecca giggled and cuddled closer to her father.
B.J. looked thoughtful for a moment and then replied, "I bet it was the time that you and Margaret went to the 8063rd, when you went to explain the artery transplant and they had bugged out before you reached them. You two had gotten lost in the woods together for a couple of days."
"That was the time that you and Doug Alysworth disobeyed orders and went out looking for them in Doug's chopper." Potter added, a stern look on his face. B.J. nodded. "I tell you, Hunnicutt." Their former C.O. continued, an impish smile appearing on his face, "I was torn between horsewhipping you for going and hugging you for finding them."
The others laughed as B.J. excitedly declared, "That's it! That was the time!" He looked delighted that he had figured it out himself. "That explains the smiles on your faces when Charles was going on about how disastrous the trip was for you. It wasn't disastrous, you guys had fallen in love."
"You know, you missed your calling." Hawkeye commented, looking at his old friend with an amused smile. "You should have been a detective."
"So what happened in those woods?" Trapper asked, leaning closer to Hawkeye. "It must have been something big to have changed your opinion of each other so drastically."
"I don't know if I want to hear it." Potter commented, looking pointedly at Rebecca, who was taking in every word. "I'm getting a vivid enough picture without any details."
"Oh, no, Colonel, nothing like that." Hawk assured him. "We took shelter in an abandoned hut since it was raining artillery fire and the jeep had broken down. There we spent the evening talking. Margaret was upset by the letter she had received before we left from Mr. Lieutenant Colonel 'Wonderful'. So, I tried to comfort her."
"Wait a minute." Trapper broke in. "Who's 'Lieutenant Colonel Wonderful'?"
"Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscott." Potter replied, a disgusted look on his face. "The biggest horse's patoot in the whole army."
"And definitely the biggest jackass." Hawkeye added, taking a drink of beer. Looking at Trapper he added, "He was Margaret's husband for a while during the war. And I use that term very loosely."
"I gather you don't care for him much." Trapper noted, seeing the look of disgust on his friend's face.
"Put it this way," Hawkeye replied. "If I had the choice of being stuck on a deserted island with Frank Burns or Donald Penobscott, Frank would be a picnic."
Trapper nodded, understanding how much Hawkeye detested Margaret's ex husband.
"So, go on." B.J. encouraged. "What else happened in that hut."
"Well, in the middle of the night, they started shelling us again." Hawkeye continued, thinking back to that memorable night. "Margaret began screaming in fear, so I went over to comfort her. She wanted me to hold her, so I did. Next thing I know, we're clinging to each other and kissing. Finally we fell asleep in each others arms."
"Wait a minute." Trapper interrupted. "She asked you to hold her and then she kissed you? I thought she hated you."