Here's an older fic that's finally polished enough for publishing. I've decided I like writing Peg Hunnicutt. Enjoy!
The first reunion of the 4077th M.A.S.H. was proving to be everything she'd hoped it would be. When all of the former members of that khaki home had arrived by plane, train, and automobile, it had been a melee of shouts, whistles, backslapping hugs, and the occasional lengthy kiss. The hotel staff couldn't have anticipated the noise and excitement that would radiate out of their rooms for the next three days.
The group had rented out the hotel's ballroom, bar, and an entire floor of rooms. The first night became a free for all with the various M.A.S.H. members reconnecting. Each took the chance to stand before their old friends and introduce the various members of their families. The families, of course, knew each other from what had been dubbed the "Great Hunnicutt Family Reunion Caper" a year before, but it was the first time for most to meet the actual friends and coworkers of their loved ones. Peg was luckier than most in that regard.
She'd met Radar O'Reilly when he arrived home months before the rest and switched planes in San Fransisco. Margaret Houlihan, now stationed in California, had come by her house for dinner at B.J.'s invitation. And she'd met Hawkeye, of course, a few times in the year they'd been home, though she felt she'd met him long ago in her husband's letters.
Peg felt as though she'd met them all in B.J.'s letters and in their family members. Now, up close, she could finally see their resemblance to everything she'd always heard about them. And they lived up to the reputation. Charles Winchester was the posh gentleman who had kissed her hand when they first met, but he'd rolled his eyes good-naturedly when Hawkeye offered to kiss him on the lips. Corporal Klinger, though he wasn't wearing a dress as in the picture B.J.'d brought home, was as warm and loving as she'd always imagined as he went around showing off his baby son. Father Mulcahy proved himself so gentle, but with a snappy sense of humor. Colonel Potter was a dear who told her she'd had the hardest job on the warfront and that she reminded him of someone very special.
The group of her husband's close friends was everything she'd heard they'd be. And their care for him was apparent in everything they did, as was his for them. They were an intimate group, and at times she found herself decidedly outside of it.
But it was not an unpleasant experience. Nor was it isolating. The other family members seemed to have the same struggle navigating the reunion. Each was tied closely to only one of the M.A.S.H. residents, and when they were engaged, the families got to know one another better.
Peg floated from group to group, hugging Mrs. Potter, laughing with the Winchesters, and leaving Erin in the momentary care of Radar's mother. She did feel connected to these wonderful people.
Peg noticed the woman as she was moving away from Soon Lee Klinger and her new baby. She was sitting alone at a table on the fringe of the group. A little girl and a small boy played together near her, and she looked with fondness to where Radar, Hawkeye, and another boy were talking.
Approaching the table, she caught the woman's eye and smiled hello. "Care if I join you? I'm Peg."
"Please," the stranger said softly. The little girl took the small boy by the hand and led him over to the table of food, still within their mother's sight. She returned Peg's smile. "I'm Lorraine." Her gaze returned to Hawkeye, Radar, and the boy. "I'm sorry, this is all just a little overwhelming."
Though she seemed to have an advantage, Peg understood that. "They're quite the group, aren't they? And somehow their antics never seem to get old. Which one is yours?"
Even knowing the majority of B.J.'s friends and their families, there were certainly still people at the reunion that Peg didn't know. She wasn't sure which serviceman or woman Lorraine claimed as a loved one.
The dark haired woman smiled at the question, but it didn't carry to her eyes. "The boy -my son, Andrew," she said, nodding in his direction. Radar had his arm across the young teenager's shoulders, and Hawkeye was shaking his hand and grinning.
"He's a fine young man."
The smile seemed a tad more genuine now. "It's hard to believe he's thirteen now. He'll forever be my first baby."
Peg nodded in agreement. "My baby's only three, but I understand."
Lorraine gestured to the food table where the little girl was helping the small boy take hold of a cookie. "That's Molly and Sammy. Sammy is three now as well." She turned back to Peg. "Your child was born during the war?"
Peg's smile turned somber. Her daughter was the greatest joy of her life. But Erin's birth and early days had coincided with some of the hardest she'd ever lived through. "Erin," she supplied, pointing to her daughter in the crowd. The child was laughing as her daddy tossed her in the air. "She was born in March of '51. B.J. shipped out just three weeks later."
Again, she savored the sight of her little girl playing with her father. Erin had only had the last year to get to know B.J. She had no memory of him before their meeting at the airport when he finally made it home. B.J., on the other hand, remembered his daughter as the tiny baby she'd been when he left. It had taken time for them all to reconcile their memories of one another.
For her part, Peg hadn't pictured her husband with a mustache.
Lorraine listened quietly, a look of wistfulness touching on her face. She pulled the edge of her skirt straight over her knee. "He got to meet your daughter," she said softly. "The rest is a nightmare, but that is a gift."
Peg nodded in wholehearted agreement. She didn't know how she could have made it through Erin's birth and first weeks without her husband. Sometimes she wasn't sure how she had managed those first two years without B.J. by her side.
The other woman's tone and words were piecing together a picture of tragedy. She, too, had a child born in the middle of the war. Peg guessed that her child's father had not met him at birth. She wondered if he ever had.
"It truly is." She inclined her head gently and chose her words carefully. "Sammy's father was already in Korea when he was born?"
A simple nod answered her question. "Yes. I didn't even know I was pregnant when he was drafted. He only met Sam in photographs arriving months later."
"That must have been so hard."
"Yes," the mother said simply. "It was."
Another story might have had a happy resolution. A soldier coming home to meet his growing child and building that fatherly relationship. But Peg knew already. That wasn't the case for this family.
She could see it in Lorraine's eyes when she looked at her son - the last piece of her husband in her life.
Peg laid a sympathetic hand on her arm. "I'm so sorry for your loss, Lorraine." There weren't words enough to say that. The terror that she might lose B.J. had been with her every day of the war. For this woman, what was once fear had become terrible reality.
"Henry was on his way home when he died. He served his time, and he was coming home." Lorraine stared at the wall beyond Peg. "He never made it."
Henry. Peg had been around the 4077 community long enough to recognize that story. Henry Blake had been the camp's commanding officer before Potter, before B.J.'s time there. He had led and mentored and slogged through the war beside the people her husband so loved. And he had died in a plane crash on his way back to the States.
It was a flight B.J. had taken, not once but twice. He'd left Korea en-route to Guam just months before the war's end, only to be redirected back to the MASH unit. Then he'd flown out with the thousands of others troops exiting the country.
He'd survived both flights. He'd met his child and come back to her. Henry Blake had done neither.
In many ways, Lorraine Blake's life was a mirror image of Peg Hunnicutt's. Their husbands had fought and served beside many of the same good people. They both had children born in the midst of the Korean Conflict, whose lives their fathers had missed out on. Both of their worlds had been forever changed by the war.
But the reflection was different, too, in ways that were oh so important. B.J. had come home.
She didn't know what had protected B.J. Hunnicutt and not Henry Blake. Both men had deserved to live. Both had loved ones to come back to.
But that was the nature of war. It wasn't really about the survival of the fittest or the most deserving. It was wanton. Destructive. Deadly. B.J. Hunnicutt lived. Henry Blake did not.
Lorraine's gaze returned to where B.J. and Erin were now sharing a dance. "Treasure them," she said simply, and Peg promised herself and the woman beside her that she would.
The solemn moment was pleasantly ended by Andrew, Radar, and Hawkeye joining them. "Mom," said the excited thirteen year old, "Can I visit Radar at his farm this summer?"
Peg watched, amused, as the teenager presented his case. The younger children returned, and Sammy raced to Radar to be picked up. The former corporal happily bounced the little boy while assuring his mother that the whole family was welcome at his place in Iowa.
Reassured that this family was in good hands, Peg excused herself and promised to return later. She wandered across the ballroom to where her own family danced. B.J. had Erin hoisted up to eye level, and the little girl was giggling as he spun them around.
It might have been so different, and even as Peg smiled at the sight, she felt the familiar tears burn the back of her eyes. She could have lost him; they could have lost this. The realities of war would not be soon forgotten.
As the twirl ended, Erin caught sight of her mother. "Mommy, come dance with us!" B.J. spotted her, too, and beamed under his mustache. Peg returned the smile and smoothly slipped under her husband's arm where she could hold her family close.
So many parallels played out in such different ways. I love reviews, so if you enjoyed it, please tell me!