DISCLAIMER: The M*A*S*H characters are the property of Twentieth Century
Fox. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are
copyright (c) 2000 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
The camp was deserted. She tied her robe more closely around her and
started walking. She could hear voices coming from the Swamp. But when she
got there the lights went out.
"Not funny, guys," she said as she opened the door. But the tent was empty.
She turned to the OR. The lights were on there too. A few seconds later she
was at the door. "Pierce?"
The room was empty. The marble floor scrubbed a brilliant white. She knelt
down, confused. Hadn't this been concrete? Suddenly a crack appeared, then
another. A hand shot through, bloody and torn. A foot kicked out farther
down the room. A terrible moaning began.
She tried to rise but the hand had a tight hold on her. "No," she fought to
get away. Another hand crashed through the ground, which had turned to
dirt...no mud. Red mud. Not mud. Blood. Everywhere.
"No!" Margaret screamed, as she shocked herself awake. She looked around
trying to get her bearings. She was in her quarters. Not in a tent. Not in
Korea. She was safe. Nothing to fear now. So why wouldn't the nightmares
leave her alone?
The patient would not stop squirming.
"Get him under," Hawkeye shouted at the gas passer. "Get him under now."
"I'm trying, Sir."
He turned to Margaret. She was looking at him in concern. "You have to keep
"I am." He went back to work on the bowel he was trying to repair. Finally
he had it. He breathed a sigh of relief. "Next."
"No." Margaret shook her head. Her eyes, over her mask, were confused. "You
have to keep going."
"I'm done." He looked down at the patient. Blood was pooling near the chest
area. And on the arm. And by a nearly severed foot. "But I'm done with this
"You have to keep going," Margaret's voice followed him as he jerked awake.
He turned to look at the clock, three hours before he had to get up. He
didn't want to go back to sleep. He didn't want to dream again. No big
surgeries today. He could afford to be tired. He breathed through his
mouth, trying to slow his racing heart. When would these nightmares end?
"Major Houlihan?" She turned to see a young nurse coming for her. "Colonel
Palmer wanted me to give you this, Ma'am."
She reached for the folded piece of paper. "Thank you, Lieutenant." She was
surprised to see the woman still standing in front of her. "That will be
"I'm supposed to wait for an answer." The young officer looked
uncomfortable with her assignment.
Margaret opened the paper and read the short note. He was sorry that he had
overreacted. He wanted a chance to make it up to her. Dinner, perhaps,
tonight? At Elio's. The best restaurant in Tacoma? She looked up at the
nurse. "Tell Colonel Palmer that I'd rather die than go out with him
again." With that she spun on her heel and went back to work.
Stupid to have done that, she berated herself. So what if it felt good, she
should be smarter. He had pursued her relentlessly since he had been
stationed at Madigan. She had thought this time would be different. But it
had turned out just like all the rest. Well not quite like all the rest.
Generally it took longer for her to walk away.
Margaret sighed in frustration. She had discovered that 1953 hometown USA
morals were a bit different than what she had grown accustomed to in Korea.
With their lives on the line twenty-four hours a day seven days a week the
men and women of the 4077th had often turned to each other for comfort. Or
if they couldn't turn to each other, they found willing men and women from
other units. The times had been frightening and sex had been an easy way to
find companionship, comfort, and perhaps even love.
But this place she had come back to was very different. Though the men were
quite intent on the pursuit of her, they truly did not expect her to give
in, much less welcome their attentions. They were scandalized, she could
tell, and though they continued to come back their treatment of her
changed. So she had learned her lesson. She had been back in the states a
year and had started saying no about two months into it. But Palmer had a
friend who had been with her during those first disastrous months. His
words last night still stung her.
"Come on," he had said as he tried to get her shirt off. "You don't have to
pretend with me. I know what you're like. I've heard all about you...how
you like to make a man feel good. Come on, make me feel good." She had
slapped him hard. And walked home. So now it would begin again. He would
feel bad and try to make it up to her. She wouldn't let him. At best he
would ignore her. At worst, he would become an enemy. It never changed.
She sighed again. Nobody here understood her. Or what she'd been through.
Where were all the veterans of Korea, she wondered. Why didn't she get to
meet them? But it wouldn't matter, not really. There was only one veteran
she was interested in. And he was all the way across the country, forging a
life without her.
Hawkeye felt sluggish and old as he made his rounds at Spruce Harbor
General. The other doctors nodded to him as he passed. Some of the nurse's
looked at him with admiration. He was nearly to the nurse's station when he
realized Carly was sitting there. Petite, blonde, blue-eyed. She had
attracted him instantly. But not for herself he realized now.
"Dr. Pierce," she said with a teasing tone. "I thought I wasn't going to
see you today."
"I've been busy."
"Too busy for me? Hmmm," she moved around the desk so she could lower her
voice. "After our evening the other night I wasn't sure if I wanted to see
you. Just don't try that again and don't ever call me by another woman's
name." She tapped his arm coquettishly. "If you want to have that sort of
freedom with me, you'll have to make an honest woman of me first, Ben."
He nodded. "I understand that now, Carly. And I apologize for the whole
"Take me to Jackson Street Grill and all is forgiven."
"I've got a better idea. Find yourself a nice young doctor who hasn't been
to hell and back. Get yourself someone who still has dreams. Look for
someone that understands how this place really works because I've
She scowled at him. "Your problem, Ben, is that you dwell on the war. If
you'd just let it go you could move on with life."
He gave her a mocking smile. "And you know this how?"
"Everyone knows it. If you would just quit going on and on about how we
don't understand what it was like, maybe you would see that we have more in
common than you think."
So everyone knows, he thought bitterly. "I'll see you around, Carly."
"Ben? What about our date?"
He turned back, "There won't be any date." He felt an absurd sense of
satisfaction as he walked away from her, leaving her glaring at him.
No, no more dates. They all turned out the same. She had been happy to kiss
him in the car. Even let him explore her body a bit. But when he had tried
to push it further she had protested. Whether it was at the liberties he
had been trying to take or at the fact that he had whispered Margaret's
name into her ear he wasn't sure. He didn't think he had done that before.
But it didn't matter really. The woman he wanted was nowhere to be found.
He wasn't even sure where she had ended up. BJ thought she was on the West
Coast but wasn't sure exactly which medical center was her new workplace.
Truth be told, Hawkeye hadn't tried all that hard to find her. She had let
him walk out of her life. She didn't want him. It was just his dumb luck
that she was all he wanted.
"Major Houlihan, your work with the patients is exemplary and you are an
effective supervisor, but I'm afraid the board thinks you need a little
more seasoning." Her supervisor, Colonel Jefferies seemed uncomfortable.
"Seasoning? What do you call Korea, Sir?" She tried to keep the anger out
of her voice but knew she was failing utterly.
"This isn't Korea, Major."
"And if you had served there, Sir, you wouldn't say something like that."
"It was awful there. We all understand that, Margaret."
"No," she got up abruptly. "You. Don't. Understand. You don't understand
anything. Pass me over? Fine. My tour is up in three months. I had always
thought I would re-up. I was career army. Not anymore. I'm gone. I'll find
something else to do. At least at a civilian hospital I wouldn't expect
them to understand what it was like."
He rose, trying to reason with her. "Major, please."
"There's nothing you can say, Colonel. Nothing at all." She walked out of
the door and back to the duty station.
"Bad news?" Captain Baker asked.
"Nothing I didn't expect," Margaret retorted bitterly.
The shrill ringing of the phone interrupted Hawkeye's reverie on the porch.
He heard the phone stop and realized his dad must have picked it up.
"Hawkeye, it's for you."
He got up slowly. Probably the hospital calling with some new surgical
emergency for him to come back into town for. He groaned just thinking
about it. But when he got to the kitchen the look on his father's face told
him this was a call that he would want to take. "Hello?"
He laughed out loud. "Beej? God it's good to hear your voice."
His friend's concern was instantaneous. "Why? Something wrong?"
"No, nothing's wrong," Hawkeye felt immediately guilty for worrying his
friend. "You know, it's just strange. Being back and all."
"It's been over a year Hawk. You need to settle in."
"I know. I'm just having some problems with that."
"Maybe you should see someone. Someone that you could talk to."
Hawkeye laughed again. "You mean like Sydney? I don't think he's hanging
out his shingle in this neighborhood. And the local headshrinker is hardly
going to understand where we've been."
"Actually I didn't mean a psychiatrist. I meant...a friend."
BJ sighed. "Look, I got a call yesterday from Margaret Houlihan. She's
getting out of the army and is looking for a job. Now I know that we have
plenty of vacancies here. But I thought...maybe I should steer her your
"Why you little matchmaker you. What makes you think she'd want to come out
here. She hasn't tried once to contact me."
"Hawk, she doesn't sound like she is doing any better than you. I think you
two need each other."
Hawkeye tried to fight down the hope he felt. "But she hasn't called, Beej.
"And you haven't called her either. Two more stubbornly foolish people I
have never met. Now should I send her to Maine or not?"
For a moment he was unsure, then Hawkeye remembered the last time he saw
her, the way she felt in his arms when they had kissed goodbye. "Send her,
BJ. Send her quick."
Margaret took a deep breath as she sat in the car. It had been a long trip
from Tacoma to Crabapple Cove. She had alternated between hope and fear.
Hope that this would be the last stop for her. Hope that it could be a real
home. And fear. Fear that it would all go sour. That she would have to run
from here too.
"You planning to get out anytime soon?" A male voice, similar to Pierce's,
asked. She turned to look out the open window. A tall, gray-haired man
smiled at her. "I'm assuming you're Margaret?"
She nodded. "You must be Daniel?"
He nodded back. "Well now that we have that out of the way, can I help you
with your bags?"
"Oh, I'm not staying here."
"Sure you are. The hotel in town isn't worth the lumber used to build it.
And Spruce Harbor is such a cold town. You come on in now and make yourself
"I don't know...I don't want to impose."
A new voice, a dearly familiar voice, spoke. "If Dad says you're staying,
there's no use fighting."
He looked the same. His eyes were haunted though, behind the sparkle that
was showing now. He was glad to see her. She felt relief flood her. "Then I
guess I won't fight."
"Let's get her moved in, Son." Daniel held out his hands for the keys. He
walked back and opened the trunk. She got out and helped them carry her
things up to the second floor of their spacious home.
"Sure didn't bring much, Margaret," Daniel said as they cleared out her
trunk on the second trip. "I like a gal that travels light. Hawkeye's
mother never could get the knack of that." He smiled fondly at the
memories. "Well, I've got some errands in town to do. I imagine they're
going to take me most of the afternoon. So I'll be back for dinner. You two
probably have some catching up to do."
She smiled at him as he left the room. Then she turned to face the man she
had never forgotten.
If he could have drunk her in he would have. The scent of her, the sight,
the sound, and hopefully...the touch. He moved toward her,
wanting...needing to hold her. "Margaret."
"Pierce." She frowned at the name. Tried again. "Hawk."
He smiled teasingly, "You can stop there. I don't want to hear you calling
She smiled back. "I've missed you."
"Same here. You didn't call, you didn't write."
"Neither did you." She looked as if she wanted to run. He tried to hold her
with his eyes. She seemed to settle as she studied him. "You look good. And
you don't. Trouble sleeping?"
He nodded. "You?"
"Uh huh. Nobody understands."
He heard the desperation in her voice. Hated it. He moved toward her. "I
do." His hands found her arms, pulled her toward him. He felt her tremble
against him, realized she was crying. Realized he was too. "I understand.
We both understand." His arms wrapped tighter around her, he kissed her
hair, her neck. "You're not alone anymore, Margaret. Neither of us is alone
She looked up at him. Her eyes, normally such a vivid blue, were drained.
"I'm so tired of fighting all by myself."
"I know. You don't have to do it alone. I'm here. I love you, Margaret.
I've missed you so much."
As he leaned in to kiss her he heard her answer back, "I love you,
"Pierce?" She wandered through the deserted camp. "Hawkeye?"
She turned to the Swamp. Maybe he was there. Then she stopped. In the
distance she heard his voice, calling her. "Margaret? Wake up."
A dream. And she was awake. Her bare body was pressed against his.
"A dream, Margaret. You're alright now."
She pulled him closer to her, felt him react to her. "Yes, I'm alright
The OR was packed. Too many bodies. What was he supposed to do? '
"Help me?" pleaded a soldier.
"Save me!" screamed a little girl.
"Heal me," moaned an old man.
"Hawkeye, wake up." Her voice. Margaret's. Calling to him. "Wake up."
He was lying next to her. Her body warm on his own. Her hand stroking his
damp hair off his face. "Wake up, Hawk."
He pulled her closer. Felt her moan of relief, and pleasure.
"Love you," he murmured as he lost himself inside her again.
Hours later they still lay in her bed. She was listening for the sound of a
car returning, already feeling guilty.
"Margaret, he knows what we're doing."
"No he doesn't." She felt slightly scandalized.
"*I'll be gone most of the afternoon?* What do you think he meant?"
"That he had a lot of errands." She answered back with a smile and a kiss.
"Tomorrow I'll take you into Crabapple Cove and we'll see if you can come
up with a way to waste a whole afternoon there."
"So where is your dad then?"
Hawkeye laughed. The rich sound she had loved in Korea. "Probably down at
*Aunt* Corrine's. He swears she is just a friend, but I think something
might be going on."
She laughed. "The apple never falls very far from the tree, I guess."
"I guess not." She did not resist when his arms pulled her back into his
arms. "We like to fool around when we're young, but once we've found the
right woman, we don't let her go." His lips confirmed the sentiment.
"All this time I thought you didn't care about me."
"I thought the same thing. We were both wrong."
"So we owe this all to BJ?"
He nodded. "Yep."
"We're going to have to do something nice for him." She laughed as he
tickled her ear. "Really, really nice."
Hawkeye helped his dad cook dinner. Margaret sat at the kitchen table and
watched them work. Whenever he looked over at her she smiled at him. A
slow, seductive smile that made his knees weak and his fantasies work
overtime. She was more beautiful than he remembered. Being in her arms was
like coming home. Finally.
As he set the table she rose to help him. Once he had deposited the plates
safely on the dining room table he pulled her to him and stole a quick
kiss. That turned into a longer kiss. Then a longer one.
"If you're going to do that you need to warn me," Daniel's voice was warm
with approval. "Old man like me seeing such carrying on?"
"Sorry," Margaret whispered trying not to laugh.
"Yeah, sorry Dad." Hawkeye refused to let go of her. He just pulled her
closer to him and smiled at his father.
"Well as long as you're both sorry. Now get back in here and get some
silverware and napkins."
Dinner passed quickly as they ate and caught up. Margaret loved the warm
rapport between the two Pierces. She contrasted their obviously loving
relationship to the one she had with her own father. She decided she
already felt closer to Daniel than she ever had to *Howitzer* Houlihan.
When the elder Pierce caught her staring at him she gave him a small smile.
He smiled back and she felt warm all through.
Hawkeye turned to her. "I took some time off from the hospital. Thought I'd
show you around some. We can catch up."
She caught his eye, nearly chuckled at the mischief in his expression.
"Son, I've been meaning to talk to you about the hospital. You don't seem
too happy there."
She wondered what he was getting at.
Hawkeye brushed his concern away. "Now that Margaret's here I'll be fine."
"I repeat, Hawkeye, you don't seem too happy there. Are you sure that
surgery is what you really want to do now?"
"It's what I'm trained to do. It's what I know."
She rose to his defense. "He's a brilliant surgeon, Daniel. The best I've
ever worked with."
He patted her hand. "Simmer down, Tiger. I'm not saying he isn't. I'm just
saying maybe he has had enough saving and dying for one man. Maybe it's
time to think about something a little quieter?"
"While I was in town today, visiting your Aunt Corrine," he didn't miss the
wink Hawkeye threw Margaret, "now cut that out. Anyway, she said Doc Grady
is looking to sell the practice. He and Sally want to retire. See the
world. So maybe someone, or a couple of someone's, that have already seen
the world, might want to buy it?"
"Doc Grady is selling?"
"Just something to think about." Daniel turned to Margaret. "You can decide
once you've seen the town."
She laughed uncomfortably. "It's not my decision."
He laughed back. "I have a feeling it will be, Sweetheart. I don't see my
son ever letting you go. And if he does, he'll have to answer to me."
She smiled at his enthusiasm for her. "Well, I appreciate that. Always nice
to know I have a champion."
The next day Hawkeye and Margaret strolled through the town. He was pleased
to see that she did not seem disconcerted by its size or lack thereof. He
put his hand on her elbow to steer her into Doc Grady's office. So far he
had behaved himself and he did not want to scandalize the residents of his
hometown. But if they could have seen them last night, after he snuck into
her room, they would be very shocked.
As if reading his mind, Margaret looked up at him. She took in his
expression and shot him one of her own devilish smiles. He didn't look away
until he heard Sally Grady calling to him. "So, Benjamin Franklin Pierce,
who is your lovely new friend?"
He introduced Margaret. When Doc Grady came out with his patient he did it
again, pleased at the way Margaret had already settled in to this space in
his life. Without realizing he had wanted to ask, he found himself
questioning Grady about the practice.
"You thinking of buying it, Hawkeye?" The older man grinned. "I wish you
would. Can't stomach the thought of some city MD getting it. I'll make you
a fair deal."
Hawkeye put his arm around Margaret. "We'll have to discuss it and get back
to you. Just don't sell it to anyone else in the meantime."
As he and Margaret walked back to the house he stopped. "What do you think?
Could you live here? I know we were going to work in town, but this would
be so much closer and I wouldn't have to be away from Dad so much and..."
He hushed as he felt her fingers go over his lips.
"As long as I'm with you, it doesn't matter. And I like it here. I think it
would be a good place to put down roots. I haven't had much experience with
"Are you sure you could stand working with me and living with me?"
She smiled wickedly. "Who says I'm going to live with you? That Mr. Parsons
down at the general store was giving me the eye. Maybe I want to live with
"He's 78 years old. Besides, you have to live with me."
He pulled her off the path, into the trees and kissed her soundly. She
kissed him right back. "Because Margaret Houlihan, I want you to be my
wife. And that works best if you live in the same house as your husband."
He felt her pull away, saw surprise rush across her face, then happiness,
then finally fear. "Are you proposing?"
"Well, no. But only because I don't have a ring. Consider it a practice
proposal." He saw her face lighten as she realized he was serious. "So what
would your practice answer be?"
"Hmmm. Well let's see. You or Mr. Parsons. I don't know. It's a tough
choice." She squealed as he pulled her back to him. "Ok. You. I'll pick
"Good answer, Margaret." Their lips met and he pulled her farther back into
the foliage. "If we're careful..."
"We're never careful, Pierce. That's why we're so good together." She
laughed as he pulled her back to him and they once again found their way