A/N: This is my first M*A*S*H story and any inaccuracies are my own.
Hearing about the puppy was the last straw. She wished that she hadn't bothered to eat that day. If she hadn't, she would have never been sitting at the table in the dining area and she never would have overheard-
Her throat felt tight as she rose from the table, her food half eaten, her appetite completely gone. She walked out in anticipation of spending time alone. But being alone was not in the cards. For she found herself face to face with the one person she really didn't want to see.
He smiled and tipped his imaginary hat. "At your service."
"No thank you."
"Well, that's a fine greeting."
"What do you want?"
"Hello to you too, Margaret."
She tried to move past him but he purposely blocked her way, moving back and forth like a linebacker for the New York Jets. Finally she pushed her way through. "Will you get out of my way?"
"Not until you tell me what's wrong."
"Wrong? Nothing's wrong." She lied.
"Well, that's where you're wrong because I think something is wrong."
"Leave me alone!"
"Not until you tell me."
She turned around and sighed. "What do you want?"
"Well, you look all chocked up and I just want to help."
"I don't know what you mean. And anyway, I'm fine."
"I don't believe you."
"Fine, don't believe me."
She could feel him following her as she walked the short distance to her tent. To her annoyance he followed her inside. Didn't this guy know when he wasn't welcome?
"Look, just leave me alone, all right?" She pleaded. At least her words softened his expression. It was a start anyway.
"Fine, don't tell me what's wrong. I don't need to know. But sooner or later this place gets to everybody. So what is it?"
"You just said-."
"Well, nothing's wrong. Why would anything be wrong? We're in the middle of a war! People are dying every day, while doctors walk around out of uniform and talk about going to the beach with some girls they met just moments before. There are dogs running around loose!"
His eyebrows rose. "Dogs?"
"Yes, dogs! Dogs that get run over by jeeps! I mean, can't people drive more carefully? They're just dogs! They don't have much sense of direction and it's not fair that-." Her eyes filled with tears and she turned away from him.
"Oh God, just leave me alone, all right? I'm begging you!"
"No, I won't! Not until you let it out!"
"Let what out?"
"This! I've seen you sneaking food to that dog every day this week and then he gets run over by a jeep this morning. You're gonna tell me that you're not affected by that?"
"I see people die every day!" she yelled. "Why would I care about some little dog? I-." Her voice broke and the rush of tears began. She sobbed like crazy, embarrassed to face him. So she kept her back to him. But then she felt his arms around her. She could no longer deny that she didn't' want him there. At the moment she needed him badly. He was the only one who understood.
He drew her closer and she leaned against him, turning his army green jacket a darker shade of green with her tears. He held her for a long time, allowing her to cry until she was spent. And when she drew back she found that she missed the warmth of his arms. Not that she would ever admit it.
"Don't be sorry. It was obviously building up for a long time. You had to let it out."
"I know, but-."
"I wish you'd stop acting so brave all the time."
"Brave? I am brave!"
"Yes, yes you are, but Margaret, like I said, everyone loses it eventually."
She nodded, unable to speak.
"Look, I'm sorry…"
"Sorry? For what?"
"About the dog. I'm sure he appreciated what you did for him."
"Well… a lot of good it did, right?"
"It did, at the time anyway."
"All right, well, I'm going to go now, so-."
He paused, his hand on the screen door. "Yeah?"
"What do you think of Nurse Cooper?"
"Oh, well, I think she's great."
Margaret smiled. "She is, isn't she? I should tell her that more often."
"I'm sure she knows. All right, well, I need to get back to Radar and those other guys."
She straightened. "Radar? He's all right, isn't he?"
"Oh yeah, he's fine. He um, got a tattoo."
"A tattoo? Radar? Are you serious?"
"Yeah. We tried to discourage him but he insisted."
"Well, this is…"
"He didn't want anyone to see it, but then Colonel Potter made him drop his pants."
"He has a little teddy bear on his-."
Margaret burst out laughing. "Oh my God! I can't believe it!"
"Actually it's probably gone by now."
"He said he couldn't handle the needles so he had the tattoo artist draw it on. Should have washed off when he took a shower."
They both burst out laughing and she couldn't help hugging him. "Thank you for the laugh, Hawkeye. I needed this."
"You know you can come to me anytime, right? I'll always be here for you."
"I know. Thank you."
"Get some rest and I'll see you tomorrow."
She watched him walk out of her tent and then took off her shoes and climbed onto her bed. She was asleep within minutes. As she slept she dreamed about the puppy and hoped he was happy, wherever he was.