The Common Thread

Chapter Four

"I hate our attic," Victoria said as she shoved the ladder back up into the ceiling. She'd spent the past two hours hunting for pictures and newspaper clippings of Josephine Bigelow. There was nothing. "Maybe I was just hallucinating."

"I happen to have that attic stocked with only the finest in grime."

Victoria jumped. "Dad! Where'd you come from?"

"The bathroom. Margaret's been harping on me to fix the sink so I decided I finally should."

"Oh. Good." Victoria nodded.

"Anything interesting happen in school today?" asked Hawkeye.

"Nothing worth mentioning," Victoria said. "We had a guest lecturer in anatomy...I didn't get the scholarship to Georgetown …just a typical hap-hap-happy day at Campbell High."

"What?" Hawkeye dropped the wrench he was holding. "You didn't get the scholarship?"

"Yeah." Victoria sighed. "It was only available to males, which my idiotic advisor didn't tell me until today."

"Wait. You were turned down because you're not six foot three and growing a mustache?"

"In blunt terms, yes."

"You're going to be a better doctor with one arm tied behind your back than most of those morons in your class, scholarship or not." Hawkeye patted his daughter on the back.

"Now you sound like Phyllis."

Downstairs, Margaret was lying down on the couch with a cold washcloth over her eyes. Her head had been throbbing since about noon, which was no surprise. Ever since Korea, her health had progressively worsened.

One good thing about being married to a doctor, she thought as she shifted uncomfortably, is that it's not hard to come by medication.

"I'm going to sue that pompous ass, and then I'm going to sue that quack who teaches science."

"Can you do it a little quieter?" Margaret asked.

"Sorry." Hawkeye lowered his voice. "You are never going to believe what happened."

"That scholarship Victoria wanted isn't open for women."

"You're psychic when you get headaches."

Margaret shot Hawkeye an amused look. "She told me."

"When?"

"About the time she got home."

"Why?"

"Her exact words were 'I'm telling you first so you can keep Dad from flipping out when I tell him.'"

"Flipping out?" Hawkeye repeated. "What makes her think I'd do that?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, was that not you who came down here wanting to sue half of Maine?"

"Not half. A fourth, tops."

"That's one thing I have to admire about you, Hawk," said Margaret. "You'd go through the state of Maine to get justice for Victoria."

"And what's wrong with that?"

"Nothing."

"No, no, no. Margaret, when you say 'nothing,' that means it's 'something,' so..." Hawkeye had a half-smile on his face as he waited for his wife to explain herself.

"It's just…you've got to let her fight her own battles. What are you going to do when her college applications get rejected?"

"What makes you think they will?"

"It's life. I know that she'll get into a good school and make a fabulous doctor, but there are always roadblocks." Margaret winced. "Do we have anything stronger than aspirin?"

"I'll go check." Hawkeye stood up and looked curiously at Margaret as he went into the kitchen.

XXX

"Nothing. Why is there nothing here?" Victoria slammed the cedar chest in the guest room shut. "I know that I've seen that woman before."

It was useless, she decided. She could never figure out how her father organized things, and this was no exception.

The phone rang, Margaret moaned, and Hawkeye swore at the sink. Victoria shook her head and loped out into the hallway to get it. "Hello?"

"Hi," chirped Phyllis. "How's your trig going?"

"I'm not in trig, Phyl. Frankly, I don't know why you are either. Wasn't your last English assignment numbered 'one, three, five, six, nine'?"

"Honest mistake."

"I'll bet." Victoria twirled the orange phone cord around her wrist.

"It—Chad, you little worm! My stupid little brother just threw his cereal halfway across the kitchen. You are so lucky to be sibling-less."

"I've got a feeling that Margaret would kill anyone who threw anything across anywhere. She's got a headache again today."

"Surprise, surprise."

Victoria could practically see Phyllis rolling her eyes. She'd never liked Margaret to begin with and ever since the past year, when the former Major's health had really gone downhill, Phyllis had stayed far away from the Pierce household.

"I almost didn't call," Phyllis continued, "but I wanted to ask how that guest lecturer was."

"She was good. It was..."

"What? It was what?"

"Never mind."

"I know you were going to say something."

"It was interesting how idiotic Norman is. That's what I was going to say? Happy now?" Victoria asked, slightly frustrated. "Look, I've gotta go. See you later."

She hung up the phone and sighed. Maybe she had been hallucinating.

A/N: Finally, an update! This chapter is a little bit of a cooling-off one, so Victoria can process what she's seen and so we can get a little Hawk/Margaret interplay. I hope you enjoyed it!