Later, in his new quarters...
"Gentlemen, Iíd like to introduce you to your new bunk mate. This is Captain Benjamin Pierce. Pierce, these are Captains Donnaldson and Michaels." Hawkeye smiled and noted that "Major Houlihan" had resurfaced. She sounded just as crisp as she used to, and had the businesslike look that all of her nurses used to dread.
"Call me Hawkeye." He offered his hand.
Donnaldson took it and smiled at him hesitantly. "Iím Gary."
"And Iím Dirk. I saw you in the OR. Youíre a helluva surgeon. Sorry, Maíam." Michaels nodded apologetically at Margaret.
"Itís okay. Hawk, Iíll see you in the morning. We have an officers club, so tomorrow, Iíll buy you a drink. Okay?"
"Yeah, Margaret. Thatís be great," he said to her back as she walked toward the door.
She turned around and flung herself into his arms again. "Itís so good to see you again. Iím glad youíre here."
He hugged her tightly. "I missed you, too, Margaret. Iíve really dreaded the next eighteen months, but if anyone can make it livable for me, itís you."
She finally pulled away, uncomfortably aware of their audience. "Goodnight, Hawkeye."
"GĎnight Margaret." He watched her leave, and silence reigned until she had gotten into her tent.
"Whoa, Captain. You ainít the reason sheís turned all the rest of us down, are you?" Gary was staring at him, and Dirk was doing the same. "That was Colonel Houlihan, wasnít it?"
"She turned you down, too? Graham seems to have been rejected, too. No, I donít think Iím the reason, unfortunately."
"Yeah, donít we all feel that way? And didnít she say it was good to see you again? What did she mean? Where do you two know each other from?"
"Oh, I served in Korea, too. I was chief surgeon of the MASH unit she worked in. We ended up pretty close friends, although we havenít had much contact for about ten years." He grinned. She had changed a lot, and yet she hadnít changed at all. She was turning guys down now, but all the men still wanted her.
"Wait a second! Youíre that doctor she always raves about. Every time we get a difficult case, we hear your name. You must be pretty good." Dirk, unlike Graham, was happy to meet the famous Captain Pierce. If he was half as good as she said, he was pretty damn good.
"Yeah, Iím not too bad. I had some great people working with me then, too. Sheís a pretty fantastic nurse, isnít she?"
"Sheís the best Iíve ever seen, either here or stateside." Dirk nodded his agreement.
"Say. Dirk, Gary, you boys drink...?"
"Oh Lord, Pierce! Not here three weeks, and already youíve built a still, showed up the CO in the OR, and started a riot in the O-Club. To say nothing of that little Ďperformanceí in the mess yesterday. Whatís the matter with you?" Margaret wasnít really angry or surprised. In truth, she thought it was funny.
"Just making the place more livable, thatís all. Whatíre you complaining about? You drink almost as much of the gin we get from the still as I do." He grinned. There wasnít anywhere near as much joking around as there had been at the 4077th, but enough to make life exciting. It was harder here to scare up mischief; his room mates were nice enough, but Margaret had been right. They werenít Trapper and BJ. He had been surprised. He spent almost all of his off-duty hours with her, whether they drank in the Officers Club, drank in his tent, or just sat in hers and talked.
He hadnít been surprised when heíd begun to feel the same way about her as heíd used to. When heíd first seen her in the OR, heíd known that those old feelings would resurface. He just hadnít anticipated how strong they would be.
She shook her head. He hadnít changed much. He seemed older, and a little more caring, if that was possible. He was more able to be serious than he had been, but he was still every inch the practical joker that he had been. He seemed to have retained all of the qualities that she had loved before, and lost many of the ones that she had hated. Well, maybe not lost, but at least toned them down. When she saw his piercing blue eyes over the surgical mask that first day in OR, she had known that all of the old feelings sheíd felt in Korea would return with a vengeance. She just hadnít realized how strong they would be. Who was she kidding? She should have known how strongly she would feel. After all, she had thought of little else but him since they had said goodbye in Korea. Well, little else but him and that disturbing kiss he had given her. But she couldnít tell him. No, she knew he wouldnít welcome hearing it. And they were having so much fun together, he might just walk away if she told him. And, while she knew that they would have to say goodbye again sooner or later, she would rather it be later. Being his friend was infinitely better than being a memory.
He wished that he had the temerity to tell her how he felt. How he had always felt. But she had always been high strung. She might turn away. And he loved just being with her. Heíd rather have that than nothing.
He needed to break the silence. "I canít believe that you havenít married. You couldnít have possibly been short of volunteers," he laughed.
"No, not short of offers, but definitely short of good ones. Anyway, after Donald, I was a bit wary. But what about you? Disgustingly enough, most of the women at the 4077th were fighting with each other over you. Certainly you must have found one decent one." She wanted to turn the subject away from herself.
"Are you kidding? Whoíd have me?" he joked.
Before she thought, she answered. "I would."
It was hard to tell who was more surprised, him or her. They stared at each other. He reached out and stroked her cheek. They moved closer together. Suddenly: "INCOMING WOUNDED! AMBULANCES IN THE COMPOUND AND CHOPPERS ON THE PAD. ALL SURGICAL STAFF REPORT TO OR."
They sprang apart as if they had been scalded. Hand in hand, they ran for OR.
"Oh jeez. Life may be different here, but that never changes. How long were we in there?" Hawkeye slumped against the wall in the scrub room and closed his eyes. It had been a long damn session.
"Sixteen hours, twenty two minutes and..." Margaret checked her watch. "Eighteen seconds. You did good work." She nodded at Gary, Dirk and Graham. "You guys, too." She reached behind her to untie her surgical gown. Hawkeye knocked her hands away and helped her. She returned the favor, and they both sank down on the bench.
"Hey, Doctor, that was impressive work! Next time, Colonel, I get to scrub with him." Parallel Parker winked as she bounced through the swinging doors. "Why donít you have a drink with me after you get changed, Hawkeye? Iíll buy."
"Uh, thanks, Major, but I, uh, already promised one to the Colonel. Maybe another day." Hawkeye was getting tired of having to evade this leech. When was she leaving? Not soon enough for Hawkeyeís taste, that was for sure.
"If she comes in, weíre leaving, got it, Margaret?" Hawkeyeís eyes anxiously scanned the crowded Officers Club. No sign of Parker yet.
"Definitely. I canít hardly stand to be around her. My tent if she arrives." Margaret was already nursing her second scotch, and Hawkeye was on his third martini. They talked for a while, when the door opened and two nurses walked in. As the door opened, Hawkeye saw Parker, about twelve feet outside the door, and heading in.
"Drat! Here she comes, Margaret. And thereís no escape. Iím gonna hide under the table, between the chair and the corner. Donít you dare give me away." Oh, this was getting ridiculous. Had he actually been relegated to hiding under a table?
She flounced through the doors and her face fell when she didnít see him. She made her way over to Margaret, who was, for once, sitting alone. "Have you seen Hawkeye? We had a date tonight. I canít find him anywhere," she lied.
Margaret set her jaw and prepared to set this woman straight, once and for all.
"Now listen up, you hot-blooded little troll. Is it not obvious to you that he doesnít want you? Youíve made it crystal clear that he can have free access to your rather..." Margaret broke off and looked the other woman up and down. "...Abundant body. And heís passed up every single opportunity. Are you so stupid that you donít see it, or do you just have no pride?" She was seething.
"I...well...but...you canít say-"
"I can and I have. And donít lie to me. I know perfectly well that the two of you didnít have a date tonight. I was there when he turned down your offer of a drink and God only knows what else. Now go away!" Margaret hadnít raised her voice, but there was enough anger in her dangerously soft voice to alert the entire bar.
"We did, too, have a date tonight. He asked me to meet him in the supply room at eight. And, no. I donít see any signs that he doesnít want me. In fact, the only thing you could do to make me believe that would be to produce him from hiding under the table or something. Then, and only then, would I believe it." She crossed her arms and awaited a response.
Hawkeye, still cowering under the table, actually felt sorry for the woman. Most of the people in the club knew where he was. And Margaret! She was incredible. And then he realized that after she had jumped all over this "hot-blooded troll," she would look like a fool to everyone who knew where he was if he didnít show himself. Slowly, he pushed the chair away and stood up.
Parker stared at him and ran out of the bar.
"Iíd better go after her. That was kind of cold. Iíll meet you at 2200 hours, okay?" He felt bad about making Parker look stupid, even if she was a royal pain in the butt.
"Um... It doesnít really matter. Your tent?"
"Okay. I got a bottle of Japanese scotch from a bar in Saigon about a month ago. From what I remember about Japanese scotch, itís pretty good." She had, unbeknownst to him, procured a bottle of scotch that was the same brand as they had shared all those years ago, from a friend who got a 24 hour pass to Saigon a few days ago.
"Okay. See ya there." He set off through the doors to find Parker.
He didnít have to look far. The door to the supply room had a hanger on it, but at first, Hawkeye didnít see it. It was only after he opened the door that he saw it. Graham and Parker were in there, and they were only partially clothed. It hadnít taken her long.
"Uh...um... excuse me," he stuttered.
Halfway to his tent, he began to laugh. Yep, that woman was definitely one of a kind. Thank God. It was only 2100 hours. He had an hour before he was supposed to meet Margaret. Maybe heíd catch a nap.
Where the hell was he? It was 2300 hours, and she still hadnít seen hide nor hair of him. Maybe she should go look for him. Yes, thatís what sheíd do. She set off through the camp to find him. Foolishly, she didnít check his tent first. She just looked where she happened to stop. Then she spied the supply room. What was that on the door? She moved closer. A hanger! But nobody used that symbol here. They all put a white towel on the door knob. A hanger had only been used in Korea. And there was only one Korean War veteran here. And heíd gone to find another woman.
She ran away. As she neared her tent, things began to blur. By the time she sank down on her cot, tears were streaming down her face. She hadnít cried like this in a long time. In fact, she couldnít remember ever having cried this hard. Even when she had divorced Donald. Why? she wondered.
Then it hit her. She loved him.
"Oh damn! Itís 2300 hours! Great!" Hawkeye sat bolt upright on his cot.
Drat. Now she was going to be pissed at him. Well, maybe if he picked her some flowers sheíd be more apt to forgive quickly. He set off for the edge of the Mekong Delta, where beautiful flowers grew.
"Maybe Iíll feel better if I go for a walk," Margaret thought. She walked outside and headed for the edge of the Mekong Delta. She loved to watch the river.
He rushed to the river, looking down at his watch. He couldnít believe heíd slept that long. As he looked up, he saw her. Her hair was blowing in the ripping wind. When he was closer, he could see tears coursing down her cheeks. When he was right behind her, he whispered softly
"Margaret?" He took both of her shoulders in his hands and turned her around.
She gasped. "Hawkeye! What are you doing here?"
"Picking flowers for you. Iím so sorry I was late. I found Parker in short order, and had an hour before we were supposed to meet, and so I caught a quick nap. But I overslept. Iím sorry. Donít tell me you were crying because I was late?!"
"And what did you do when you found Parker? Hmmm?" She crossed her arms and scowled.
"Took a nap, I told you. And youíd never believe where she was! Give up? In the supply room with Graham! I accidentally busted in on them. I think I muttered something stupid like: ĎUh, sorry, I was looking for the um, sulfa. Yeah, sulfa.í I laughed all the way to my tent. Now what? What are you bawling for?"
Her tears had renewed with a vengeance. "I saw a hanger on the door, just like we used to do in Korea. But nobody uses that symbol anymore, and I could only think of one Korean War veteran in this camp. Iíd forgotten that Parker was. I thought you were..." she trailed off, feeling foolish.
"So, those tears were for me?" He was simultaneously happy that she cared so much, and sorry that he had caused her such grief. "No. I wasnít with her. If you canít credit me with some morals, at least give me some taste."
"Yeah, well, you know. Hey, you want to go to my tent and talk?" Margaret needed to talk to him. Even if it meant destroying the easy camaraderie between them. She had just realized that she not only cared for him, but she loved him.
"Yeah, sure." He rested an arm across her shoulders and together they walked back to her tent.
"Did you say something about some scotch, Margaret?" Hawkeye was lounging on her cot, facing her as she sat cross-legged on a chair.
"Oh yeah." She handed him the bottle, along with the opener and two glasses.
"This is a damn sight better than the last time we shared a bottle of scotch. Clean cups and everything," he joked. Then, he read the label. "This is the same brand, Margaret. Did you do that on purpose?"
"Yeah, actually, I did. Listen, Hawk, thereís something I have to tell you."
"Shoot. But first, a toast. To getting out of Korea alive, and to finding each other again. I never thought Iíd see you again. But, most of all, this is to peace. Or the hope of it, anyway." He clinked the rims of their glasses together. Then, he looked into her eyes and froze. God, but she was beautiful. Not conscious that he had moved, he reached out and stroked her hair. She unconsciously wet her lips. He cupped her head and pulled her head to his. He kissed her gently.
He meant to pull away, but the feeling of her lips on his after so many years overwhelmed him. She dropped out of the chair and closed the distance between them. He was lying on his side on her cot, and quickly rolled to his back, pulling her with him. She supported herself on one knee and one elbow and kissed him. Her hair fell across their faces and shielded them from the light.
She struggled with the buttons on his shirt, and he pushed the straps of hers down. She reached over and flipped the light off. As darkness enveloped them, all that could be heard was their labored breathing.
Hawkeye awoke to light streaming in the windows. He disengaged himself from Margaret, and rolled out of bed. "Shit," he muttered. Where the hell were his clothes? He collected them from the floor and struggled to get dressed silently. He needed some advice. If they had been at the 4077th, he would ask Potter. No, strike that, Potter would likely horsewhip him for sleeping with Margaret. She had been like a daughter to him. He would ask BJ. The man was the most happily married person Hawkeye had ever seen. Too bad BJ wasnít here. Maybe heíd call him...It was worth a try.
He burst into the company clerkís office.
"Captain Pierce! What are you doing up? Itís 0600 hours! I donít usually see you before noon!"
"Yeah, I know. Listen Teddy. I need to place a call stateside. I need San Francisco. Actually, Mill Valley."
"You got it, Doc. This early, it shouldnít be a problem. Of course, itís 11:00 at night there. Iíll give it a try." The clerk was an amiable sort, and he owed Hawkeye big time. Hawk had given him some penicillin for the clap, and not reported it. If he had, the clerk would be in trouble. Heíd already had it three times in the last three weeks.
Hawkeye stared into space, thinking about Margaret.
"Iíve got San Francisco. Here you go, Doc." Teddy handed the phone over.
"Yeah, I need a Dr. BJ Hunnicut. Mill Valley." Hawkeye held his breath. The phone started ringing.
"Hello?" BJ sounded as if he had been woken from a dead sleep.
"BJ! How are you?"
"Hawkeye?" He was confused as hell. They hadnít spoken in a few months, but what was he doing calling at this hour?
"Yeah. Youíll never believe where I am..." Hawkeye explained the whole thing, ending with this morning, waking up in Margaretís arms.
"Okay... Let me get this straight. You havenít called me for four months, and when you do, you tell me that youíve joined the war and are in a MASH unit in Vietnam. And on top of all that, youíre sleeping with Margaret Houlihan? Hot Lips herself?" Boy, life in the states was sure boring.
"Yeah. Listen Beej. I need advice." He was stopped by the clerk.
"Um Captain? You might want to hang up--" The clerk abruptly broke off.
"Keep your pants on. This is really important. Life and death. Iím not worried about keeping my call under time." The clerk bit his lip. "Okay..."
"Anyway, Beej. Iím in love with her. I always have been. I want to marry her. But I donít think she would if she knew how I feel. I was thinking, maybe sheíll marry me if I can convince her that itís for convenience. You know, like weíll die alone, and should be together to prevent that? What do you think? I mean, goodness knows weíre compatible physically. And if we got married here, then when my eighteen month tour of duty ends, she could request a transfer stateside so we could be together. I mean, sheís only 39 years old for crissake. We could have kids and everything!"
"Um Sir? You need to turn around." The clerk fidgeted. Next to him was Margaret, and there were tears pouring down her face as she listened.
"In a minute! So, what do you say, Beej? Marriage of convience? Because I canít risk losing her by telling her how much I love her. But I canít live the rest of my life without her, either."
"Hawk, maybe you should tell her... It could be uncomfortable married to her if she didnít know." BJ could hardly believe his ears. Was this the same man who had stolen Margaretís tent? And the same woman who had called both him and Hawk Ďgarbage heads?í
"Yeah. I know sheíll turn away though. Maybe if weíre married for a while, eventually Iíll be able to win her love. Maybe Iíll be able to make her love me." He had tears in his eyes.
Then, from the corner of the office, Margaretís voice came. "I already do."