A/N: Hello there. So don't ask me where this came from. It's a bit of a character analysis but mostly it's just some feel good fluff.
Thank you for taking the time out of reading, and please leave a review if you have any thoughts/constructive criticism.
I hope you enjoy! :D
August 15th, 1953
Margaret Houlihan sat by herself on a bar stool, sipping a rather strong scotch on the rocks. The location she presided in was a dimly lit airport bar in the San Francisco.
She was among some of the last few service men and women to arrive back on U.S. soil because she had helped several of the medical units consolidate. After the 8063rd, she went to the 8055th, and then finally the 121st evacuation hospital. It seemed like she would never get out of the country, but alas, on the 12th she had finally received a letter stating that her resignation of her commission as a United States Army Major was processed.
Now, finally back on U.S. soil, the nightmare was over. The Korean conflict had, at last, come to close for her.
The men and women who had each lost some part of themselves over there, whether it is mental, physical or spiritual – or even all three – were now expected to put the trauma and horror they endured behind them.
The public had already begun to push it out of their consciousness. In a few years, the newspaper clippings and Movietone News reels about the war would be nothing more than more material to add to the archives in libraries and museums; just like with both of the world wars. Margaret shook her head in disgust of the thought that all of the hardship, mental and physical torment the frontline soldiers, Air Force, and medical personnel had faced; would never really mean anything to the civilians who were unaffected by the war.
If somebody had asked her three years ago what she would be feeling and thinking on this day – her answer would have been drastically different. Never in a million years would she have thought that she would have resigned her commission. The Army was all she had ever known. It shaped who she was a person, and how she viewed the world.
Life without khaki used to mean life without purpose.
But, the war had changed her in many good and bad ways.
Being around a group of dedicated, warm, compassionate, individuals for three years made really changed her outlook on life. So much so, that for better or worse, all of Margaret's experiences had made her feel that leaving the service was the right choice for her. She realized that she had gone as far as she could go growth wise in the service. To continue on living that lifestyle only meant living in some other foreign country, missing the ones she loved. Yet again, she would somehow end up with sub-standard living conditions. She'd fall back into her same pattern of closing herself off to all of the people around her, except when she'd spend a passion filled night with some General or other high ranking officer.
Despite the personal hurdles she had overcome – the memories of the agonised screams of the wounded soldiers and Korean civilians would haunt her in her dreams until the day she died. No sane person could witness the day in and day out suffering, without suffering some psychological effect.
It also saddened Margaret to know that never again will she be able to see her friends from the 4077th everyday, like she had been able to during the war.
Colonel Potter, BJ, Father Mulcahy, Klinger, Charles and Hawkeye were all now on opposite parts of the country, trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and figure out how what it meant to live as a civilian again.
She'd miss being able to waltz into the Colonel's office every time she needed reassurance or help with a personal problem. His gentle guidance and good humour wouldn't be around to cheer her up when she was having a bad day. It would be safe to say that every time Margaret saw a bagel or a horse, she'd think of the Colonel's two favourite sayings when he was peeved, "buffalo bagels" and "horse hockey".
One of the greatest lessons the Colonel taught her, though, was never to give on finding a good man. His marriage to Mildred never ceased to be a fountain of hope for Margaret; that is still a man out there whom will treat her as good and the Colonel treated his wife.
Even though BJ's constant string of practical jokes grated on her nerves at times; she'd miss opening up the top of a clogged, glass sugar dispenser, only to find multiple gag snakes flying at her face. She'd also never forget the time that he, Charles and Pierce had stolen the canvas off of her tent as an April fools gag. Every time she heard a corny joke or saw a man with a mustache that didn't suit his face, she would always think of the good-natured Californian.
What she loved the most about BJ had to be his pure passion for providing for his family. She was certain that now that the war was over – Erin was going to be the happiest, little girl in the entire country because of how much BJ was going to adore and spoil her.
Before meeting Father Mulcahy – Margaret's opinion of Catholic priests was that they were all stuffy and out of touch with modern times. However, having the pleasure to know that witty, good natured, dedicated, and compassionate priest over the course of three years had made her, see the light, so to speak. The padre had shown her that just because a man devoted his life to serving God, doesn't mean that he had also forfeited his personality in the process. There was nobody kinder, braver nor more stoic than Father John Patrick Francis Mulcahy in her mind.
There were only a handful of times that Margaret didn't yell or poke fun at Klinger over the years. Most of the time that desert dunce – as she often referred to him as – drove her completely buggy. All that being said, Margaret truly admired Klinger's sense of humour and hard work ethic. His willingness to give his friend the shirt off his back if they needed it was also admirable in her mind. Even though she never showed it on the outside, she really did care for the 4077th resident lunatic.
Then of course, there was the complete opposite of Klinger – Charles Emmerson Winchester III. Margaret had a sort of odd dichotomous relationship with him.
On one hand, they were often at each other's throats due to their shared personality traits of hard-headedness, quick temper, and sometimes selfishness.
On the other hand, she was happy to have a soul around that enjoyed some of the finer things in life that she had enjoyed before she came to Korea. Fine food, quality music, literature and intellectual conversations.
Even though Charles caused quite a stir when he had first arrived at the 4077th – Margaret recognized a kindred spirit in the snooty, Bostonian Major. Both of them had built up such a big wall between the self-image they projected out into society, and what their true personality was. The wall was nesseccary because of the duties they were expected to fulfill in life. As time went on, Margaret's suspicions were proven correct and the Major's playful, good nature began to increasingly peak through the cracks.
Every time she saw a canned pheasant or heard a classical music, she would smile with joy at the memory of Charles.
Last but certainly not least – Margaret was going to miss, Hawkeye Pierce. In fact, all she had been able to think about outside of work was the tall, goofy, dark haired surgeon since the 4077th had to be consolidated.
If surprised her, a great deal to find that she didn't miss him as she missed all of the others from the unit – in fact, she missed him more. Margaret felt like somebody had jabbed a knife into her heart when she thought about him.
They two of them had been through a rollercoaster of a relationship throughout the war. In the beginning, she wanted nothing more than to be able to throw the book at the surgeon and see him wind up in the stockade for his insubordination. She took an almost personal offence, to his utterly blatant disrespect for the institution that she cherished so much.
As time went on, and Hawkeye's behaviour simmered down a bit after Trapper got shipped stateside. She caught herself beginning to enjoy Hawkeye's company – which was alarming to her, to say the least.
The tipping point in their relationship, though, was without a doubt the night they had thrown away their personal beefs into the wind, and made love in an abandoned Korean shack while behind enemy lines.
She was by no mean a virgin at that point, (nobody earns a moniker like Hot Lips by chance), but that one night with Hawkeye was different than any other time she had experienced. There wasn't just a physical connection – it was spiritual as well.
They agreed to never let themselves get so close ever again, because nothing could ever logically become of their feelings. They acknowledged their feelings in a backhanded way – but said anything more about it afterwards. Of course, after the heat of the moment had worn off the two of them went right back into their old routine of playing the provoked, and the provocateur.
She wondered here and there after that whole ordeal; if she and Hawkeye had made a big mistake. This was mostly due to the fact that their experience behind enemy lines had allowed them to branch out from being acquaintances, to real friends.
But what made Margaret so confused about her feelings for the doctor, was that whopper of a kiss he had given her the very last time she had seen him.
"Major – can you pass me the peanuts please."
The mellow voice of the older Red Cross lady sitting on the stool two to the right of Margaret brought her out of her thoughts.
"Huh?" Margaret asked, having no clue what the lady said to her.
"The peanuts, please?" the lady repeated, pointing to the wooden bowl situated by Margaret's right elbow.
"Peanuts – oh yes of course!" Margaret replied quickly regaining her composure. She grabbed her purse, scotch and the bowl of nuts and walked up to the lady. "Mind if I join you? I'm feeling kind of low right now, waiting for my connecting flight."
"I'd thought you'd never ask," the lady chimed with a twinkle in her eyes. "My name's Vera. I'm assuming you're like me and are part of the last stampede of service people coming home from Korea?"
Margaret nodded with a smile. After sitting down and taking a sip of her drink, she introduced herself, "I'm Margaret – and there is no need to address me as Major… I'm no longer one anymore."
"Ah, so that's the reason for the glum expression. You've just come down with a case of the blues, now that it has sunken that you're no longer clad in khaki," Vera calmly stated her observation.
Margaret's jaw dropped at the uncanny accuracy of Vera's statement. How on Earth could a stranger know so much about her?
"I uh – I'm sorry but have we met before?"
A soft chuckle escaped Vera's larynx after hearing Margaret's question. "No, no. I've just been in the exact same place you are in now. Only difference is that I stuck waiting to board the troop ship in England, in a musty smelling, basement pub in 45' after the Germans had finally given up for a second time. I was a young nurse in a hospital in Italy during the First World War. I stayed in the Corps, and wound up being second in command for the nursing staff for the 4th Field Hospital in Africa when that Rottweiler Rommel was having his little tantrum. My next campaign was in Normandy. Only twenty four hours after the landings, I arrived on Utah beach lead the nurses for the 42nd Field Hospital. After that campaign, I followed them into Holland and that Belgium in that damned hornet's nest in the Arden. After some RnR in England, I got promoted to the rank of Major, and followed the 42nd to the very end of the war in Rhineland."
Margaret couldn't help but admire the spunk and liveliness in Vera's voice as she spoke. She could tell that Vera was regular Army through and through.
"That must have been something else. And to think – I thought I had it bad in Korea. I can't even imagine what you must have gone through."
"It sure was a different time." A small glimmer of sadness flashed in Vera's green eyes for a moment, before she asked, "So what about you, Margaret? What's your story?"
"Well, I grew up an Army brat. The second I graduated from nursing school I signed up in 40'. I was stateside for the entirety of the Second World War. However, as soon as we got involved in Korea, I was immediately selected to lead the nursing staff for the 4077th M*A*S*H. I stayed there for the entirety of the conflict. It was awful hard to stand such rotten living conditions and daily carnage for so long, but –" Margaret paused, when she found herself surprised to find stinging tears, welling in her eyes, "the people there made it more than worthwhile."
Vera gave her arm a gentle squeeze for reassurance, "I know what that's like. You want more than anything to run away from the horrors of war – but you just couldn't stand to think that you would have wound up serving with anybody else except the ones you've served with already."
"Some more than others," Margaret unintentionally blurted out, as Hawkeye's image popped into her mind for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.
"Ah yes," Vera nodded, knowing exactly what was on Margaret's mind. "You left without telling a man how you really feel about him. Who was he? Surgeon? Rear-echelon? Line officer – what?"
"Surgeon," Margaret automatically blurted out. "A very, very talented surgeon. Drove me nuts almost every day – maturity of a toddler outside of the operating room – but yet I couldn't have imagined the war without him. Pierce was his name, though everybody called him Hawkeye."
"Mine was the exact same way. No respect for the uniform he war – a draftee. William was an ophthalmologist that somehow wound up as one of the wars oldest draftees. It seemed that no matter how many different countries and campaigns I was a part of; William always somehow popped up. Without fail, every time I ran into him he'd ask me out. I would always tell him no way in hell. Finally during a weeklong furlough in 45' in London near the end of the war; I ran into this character again. Same routine happened but for some reason I agreed this time. I didn't know why but I said yes – but I did."
"Then what happened?" Margaret asked eagerly, completely drawn into Vera's story.
"That night we stayed up talking until five in morning talking." Vera looked over both of her shoulders to make sure that nobody was listening before disclosing the next bit of her tale, "Let me tell you – the sex that night was unlike anything I'd ever felt before. It wasn't just me and some man doing the deed. We made real, passionate love. It was as if our two souls had merged into one."
Margaret's own one night stand with Hawkeye immediately popped into her mind. She smiled, bowed her head, and felt her cheeks flush in embarrassment.
Vera noted Margaret's reaction and smirked, but didn't say anything else on that subject.
"Anyways, the next morning we got back to our old selves and I realized that there was no way anything type of relationship could form between us. I was a head nurse, with mountains of responsibility on my shoulders – I didn't need to worry about some fast-talking doctor."
"Well, what did he say?"
"He wasn't happy about it, but gave me the address he would be staying at Stateside after the war, and if I came to my senses, I should show up on his doorstep." Vera smiled with a nostalgic look reflected in her eyes.
"Did you?" Margaret almost shouted. She knew she sounded a bit too eager but she really didn't care at that moment. The uncanny similarities in their stories were just about unbelievable to her.
"Yes I did. Waiting for my ride home across the Atlantic, feeling crumby because I no longer had my nurses or the doctors to look after – came to my senses." Vera puffed out her chest slightly in pride as she continued on. "William and I went on to have six wonderful years together in marriage. We didn't have any children obviously, with me being forty-five at the time and William being forty-two." Vera paused for a moment and took a rather large swing of her old fashioned whiskey, before adding on, "On his way to work on November 17th, two years ago; his car was hit head-on by a drunk driver. His car flipped into the ditch. The coroner said he was taken instantly by a broken neck."
Margaret's beaming smile instantly faded into a sympathetic expression. She placed her hand Vera's and said, "I'm so sorry for your loss."
"Thank you." Vera whispered before finishing her tale. "After a year of moping around our empty home, I decided that enough was enough. William wouldn't want me to go on like I was. I needed to get far, far away from everything. So, I sold the house and most of what we owned, called up one of my old connections in the Red Cross and got her to okay my application to work for the Red Cross in Seoul. Nine months later and here I am. I feel like I am twenty years old again."
"Wow," was all that Margaret could articulate after hearing such an extraordinary life story.
"The whole point is kid – don't wait too long to tell your Hawkeye how you feel. You never know when you may lose him." Vera stated with a hint of sorrow reflected in her tone.
She judged that by the sobering look of realization, plastered across Margaret's face that she had done her job successfully.
"What are you going to do now?" Margaret asked changing the subject, not knowing quite hoe to address Vera's comment about her and Hawkeye.
Vera straightened up her posture and with a prideful tone announced, "I am waiting for a flight to take me to New York. From there I am going to London, and then finally to Paris. I am going to stay with the Red Cross. I figured what the hell – I've got no family that needs me back in the States. I might as well live life while I've got air in my lungs!"
"That's wonderful, Vera." Margaret chimed. She was pleased to hear that this lively older woman was refusing to give into the societal pitfalls of age.
Vera dug in her bag which was lying on the bar between the two women. Margaret was surprised when Vera pulled out a quarter and placed it down in front of her. "Here Margaret, go and find your own happiness. The war is over – it's time for you and your Hawkeye to experience the bliss which William and I were lucky enough to enjoy for many years. God bless you."
And with that, Vera shook Margaret's hand, finished her whisky, gathered her purse and luggage up and walked out of the bar. Within seconds Margaret lost sight of her into the massive stampede of airport travellers outside of the bar in the hallway.
Margaret sat frozen for a solid minute, just staring at the shiny coin on the bar. Finally, she gathered up the strength to take action. She then grabbed her own purse off the back of her chair, picked up the quarter and made her way across the hallway to pay phone across the way.
Her heart was pounding out the 1812 Overture, as she waited for the operator to pick up. When she finally did; Margaret let out a wary sigh.
"What type of call is this? Local or long distance?"
"Long distance, please." The anxiety bubbling over in her chest was almost too much to handle.
"Crabapple Cove, Maine."
"I don't know the number, but I am trying to reach a Dr. Benjamin Franklin Pierce."
"Alright. Please stay on the line while I patch you through."
After accidently getting rerouted to Georgia and Wyoming in the process, by some miracle the phone in the Pierce residence in Crabapple Cove began to ring.
"Hello? The is Hawkeye speaking."
Margaret was surprised to find that all of her nervousness has dissipated the second she had heard Hawkeye's deep voice in the receiver.
She took a deep breath and thought to herself, here goes nothing, before uttering the words that would hopefully start the next chapter of her life – and not ruin the best friendship she had ever had.
"Hawkeye, it's Margaret. I'm in the San Fransico airport. I've been doing a lot of serious thinking these past few days. Is it okay if I grab a flight out to you, and see you? There's something I think both of us have been meaning to say for years…"
August 15th, 1958
Crabapple Cove General Hospital, Maine
"Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Pierce – here's your son and daughter," Dr. Fredrickson announced, while he handed the newborn baby girl to Margaret. "Do you have names picked out just yet?"
At the same time, a nurse handed Hawkeye, his newborn son.
Tears of joy weltered in both of the parents' eyes as they looked into the eyes of their twins. Hawkeye sat down on the side of Margaret's bed and said, "Don't look at me – my lovely wife is in charge of that department. Well, Margaret, do you have an idea – or do you need some time?"
A large warm smile spread across her face. With total confidence and pride, she announced, "William and Vera Pierce."