The Banshee

Note and Disclaimer: Yep, I still don't own M*A*S*H. And we're now running on the fifth part of "By the Graveside"…

She never had time for the niceties in life. Everything was always black and white. From her birth to her developing career, everything was about the Army. Rising to the ranks that she did and the responsibilities handed to her was one of the proudest moments of her life. Even though it was through war that she achieved her greatest tasks, she had to be thankful somewhere.

The banshee – that bringer of death to all fun and laughter – smiled at the grave before her. Yes, this person was a nuisance in that ride to the top. She had been stationed at some Army base when the call to war came, partying and dancing until the moment she was shipped out to Korea. Soon, she was dodging bullets and bombs and caring for women who were more afraid than she was. But she had to be tough, harder than nails, and keep herself focused as those Army regulations took control.

But there was always Colonel Henry "Bubble-Head" Blake, always playing golf and poker and catching a few winks. Yes, old Henry sure was ineffective as a commanding officer. The banshee had to screech hundreds of thousands of times to get his attention, to bring an end to the nonsense. Retaliating, he would get drunk or ignore her. It amounted to the same results.

Oh, it annoyed her and infuriated every fiber of her Army upbringing. She had to do something and that resulted in unsatisfactory encounters. There had been favors she had to promise, kisses in the dark, that allowed Henry Blake to be put on trial. It had come close quite a number of times. Each instance, she and everyone else who assisted was thrown off track, ready to pounce again – and Henry Blake ran free. There were more instigators in this game, but they were not the banshee's center of attention.

No, this man laid six feet deep was. What the banshee had not realized was how much of an impact he had on everyone, including her. He had been the first to put her in her place, but in such a firm manner that she did not see, reminded her to be a human being. He also indirectly told her to cool down and to have a life outside of the Army. He entertained the idea that there was something beyond the green uniforms and traveling. There was a family and settling down. It was a sort of peace that the banshee did not understand.

Yet, she continued her howling until she was out of air. There were nurses dating whoever they wanted and committing adultery (never mind that she did too). Drinking was huge on the base too and she was shameless in her inclusion. Pranks and jokes continued and all of them targeted to Frank because he was too easy to pick on (she too was always closely behind if Frank was never there). Gambling was also a way to pass the time, although she condoned it and joined in all at once.

And all this…all of it…because Henry Blake allowed it to happen. He didn't give a damn either, the jackass! The banshee fumed to even think about it.

But she took a step back and thought. The banshee grew from that hotheaded, unfeeling woman and into a blossoming individual. And all it took was a war and several men to get through it. It was after Henry Blake was long gone though, when another colonel stole her heart and made her believe in herself, that she saw what this man had instilled into her. The seed had been there all along though…and Henry Blake planted it there.

Margaret Houlihan was an utter fool not to realize Henry's worth. She disregarded him time and again to pursue what had been a life she thought was meaningful and will advance her illustrious Army career. In the end, it was empty and without meaning, but it also pushed her forward and away from those habits. Frank and Donald had been obstacles. Her real life laid ahead, without the drama and heartache.

She did not scuff at the empty beer bottles and dirty bras anymore. They were Henry's trademark, images of the man who left a footprint in Korea and never survived to tell the tale. It was something Margaret respected now, far away from what had been her former life, and will forever hold in her heart.

There would be no more wailing, she knew. This time, it will be whispers Henry will hear from her…of her graciousness, self-worth and happiness. She was married again and hoped to have children soon. A civilian life had granted her the peace that the Army could not give her.

This was the best gift of all, especially to a woman paying tribute to a dead man she hardly regarded in life. Henry would have loved the tranquility.