Author's Notes: First M*A*S*H story. H/M pairing. Alternate episode ending to "What's Up, Doc?" Dialogue taken from the episode is in italics and not mine. Spoilers from "Comrades in Arms" 1 &2 implied.
The truth revealed itself once the nurse showed her a glimpse of still slimy black hair. She held her breath for a moment, staring. Piercing blue eyes blinked back at her.
She let out her breath. All babies had blue eyes at birth. That wasn't enough proof.
But in her heart, she knew. Knew what she feared was true.
"Expecting? Our little major's gonna have a minor? That's wonderful!"
"There's nothing wonderful about it."
"Are you kidding? All we see is death and destruction and now in the middle of an inferno that even Dante wouldn't buy tickets to, there's a little glimmer of life thanks to you. That's not wonderful, that's a miracle."
She hadn't had the guts to tell him that there was a slight chance Donald wasn't the father. After all, a slight chance wasn't enough to reason to tell a man worlds different from her, a man frightened of commitment, that due to a frightened night of passion he was bond to her forever. She knew he was a decent man and that if he knew, he'd feel he needed to make it right. She and Donald were trying to avoid divorce, mainly because she hated admitting she failed.
She couldn't and wouldn't trap herself and someone else into another marriage doomed to fail based on a hunch. An inkling. A feeling….
…whose blue eyes and black hair stared her right in the face.
"This is incredible..."
"I never knew my thumb was this big."
"Will you cut it out!?"
"All right, all right, and the winner is..."
She'd held her breath then, finding herself at a loss for words. She'd turned her gaze down, only to have a hand cup her chin and tip her gaze up. Blue eyes met hers then and smiled.
"It really is a miracle in the mist of a war zone, Margaret."
"A miracle," she'd muttered back. "My career is over."
"Maybe it's just starting," he'd thrown back.
She'd told Donald, who took the news almost in the same way she had. She'd only been able to reach him by phone and the silence on the other end was deafening. She should have known right then and there it wouldn't work. She and Donald were too far gone. She'd married him because it was better then being lonely or in a relationship with Frank, a married man who would always be married. She was as giddy as a school gal, hoping for an ideal that simply didn't exist.
Despite her hard exterior, she wanted "whosh" and instead got "sturdy." Sturdy was what nearly everyone saw.
No. Stupid romantic ideals got a woman nowhere. She and Donald were through before her army discharge was a month old. The actual divorce came a couple of months later, after she'd clashed with his mother and seen evidence that even a baby on the way couldn't keep him faithful. She missed the army.
She found civilian work in a hospital, working as long as they'd let her in her state. An older co-worker, Patricia, and her husband, Sam, had befriended her and she was grateful for the friendship. She started a couple letters to the 4077th – to him, really – but they all fizzled after the first paragraph.
She wasn't sure until now.
"He's very handsome, Margaret," Patricia said the next day, cooing over little fingers and toes. "With that dark hair and those eyes, he'll break hearts one day."
Just like his father, she'd thought. She'd picked up a pen again that night, thinking she should write, should tell him the truth, that it was only right. But was it? The same things always stopped her.
She was strong. The army had taught her many things and she'd learned to build a tough exterior and to never crack under pressure. Being a single parent would be easy.
Right, easy. But the trials she went through in months following her son's birth were anything but easy. Her career, her life, certainly wasn't just starting. It was stuck in an endless cycle.
"Didn't you hear?" Patricia told her one evening. She had come by to drop off some leftovers and chat.
"Hear what?" she said. Her son was battling colic and she was exhausted. She'd had laundry to do and bills to figure how to pay. Her one room apartment was a mess, the walling forever closing in. "I haven't turned on the radio today."
"The war is over. A cease-fire is in place."
She dropped the towel she'd been folding. "Over?"
Patricia nodded. "I figured since you'd been over there that you'd be all over the news today."
"The baby's been crying…" she trailed over, simply staring at her friend. "Wow. Really over?"
"Really. I've been hearing that some of our boys could be home in a couple of weeks or so."
She couldn't believe it. She spent the next three weeks fingering a phone book from Maine. She knew where he'd go. She wanted to tell him.
But wasn't really fair. They weren't right for each other. It was the bridge to another failure.
But she could get rid of the phone book either. Couldn't stop opening the pages, couldn't stop committing an entry to her memory.
Her apartment buzzer rang. The baby was fussy and she scooped him up, trying to sooth his cries as she made her way to the door. It was just after six and Patricia often stopped by with food around now.
She opened the door.
"Patricia-" she began, before looking up. She blinked, holding her breath.
"Did you miss me?"
She almost dropped the baby.
"Whoa, Margaret." He reached a hand toward the baby, steadying her. "I know I'm devilishly handsome and all, but that wasn't the reaction I was expecting."
"Why are you here?" she asked, surprised at how unsteady her voice was. "How did you find me?"
"I had Klinger dig up birth announcements for weeks. I figured you'd find Donald's family first, so…why didn't you tell me?"
"Tell you what?" He couldn't know. How could he know?
"I can do math, Margaret."
Of course he could. He was a smart man, almost too smart for his own good, really. Could he understand why she didn't? Why she let it dangle unspoken in the air even when he gave her a hug the day she left?
"I wasn't sure. You and I…and Donald…it was a mess."
He nodded. "I know." He smiled again, looking more closely at the baby in his arms. "Hey there, don't cry…" He paused. "What's his name?"
She swallowed. "Ben."
"Ben," he repeated, a ghost of a smile appearing on his face. "Don't cry, Ben."
She met his gaze. Piercing blue eyes blinked back at her.
"I missed you," he admitted in a tone that was the most sincere she'd ever heard him use. There was no joking in his voice, only pure truth. "Can I come in?"
It wasn't fair, her mind said, she couldn't trap him.
Wouldn't trap him.
But she couldn't stop herself as she stepped aside and let him in.