A/N: Here it is, the final chapter of this story. Thanks to everyone who's read it and left comments; I really appreciate your kind words and encouragement. I'll do more MASH fanfics, but for the time being I'm going to turn my attention to finishing my CSI fic. For the final time in this story, I don't own MASH. Oh, and we'll find out here why the house is so big :)
Five years later…
Trapper stood waiting in the terminal of Boston's Logan airport one fine July day, waiting for flight 814 from Toledo to land, as well as flight 1699 from Philadelphia. It was his second trip to the airport that day, and he had quickly gotten bored reading the same posters and advertisements on the walls. Trapper allowed his mind to drift back over the last five years.
Henry and Anne had grown in leaps and bounds. Anne was indeed the perfect miniature of Kate, right down to her mischievous green eyes, black locks, and ivory skin. The only hints of her father were her tumbling curls and impish behavior. Henry had the same energy Trapper had at his age; already he could outrun most of the young boys in the neighborhood. His hazel eyes had sparkled the past Christmas when he unwrapped the football from his uncle Hawkeye, although the little boy didn't understand the ensuing 'discussion' between the adult men about the merits of playing for Dartmouth rather than Androscoggin. The twins would start kindergarten in the fall.
Kathy and Becky still alternated weeks between Trapper and Kate, and Louise and her new husband. The girls fell instantly in love with their tiny siblings when Kate and Trapper finally brought them home from the hospital…of course, so had everyone else. Becky had appointed herself primary babysitter for the twins, although Kathy would claim the title herself when Becky wasn't around to hear.
When the twins were two years old, Trapper gave in to the pleas of his older girls and—with Kate's permission—brought home a collie puppy. True to modern times, Becky and Kathy instantly christened her Lassie.
Trapper chuckled to himself as he recalled an evening not too long after he had brought Lassie home…
After Kate put the twins to bed, she challenged him to a few hands of poker, using peanuts in the place of betting chips. As the evening passed and the pile of peanuts dwindled in front of them, Trapper declared the next game to be the last for the night. "How did your clinic appointment go this afternoon?" he asked, scrutinizing the cards he'd been dealt. "I'll take two."
"It was fine. Nothing that I hadn't already concluded myself," Kate responded, a twinkle in her green eyes as she innocently studied her cards before taking two for herself. "Whatcha going to bet?"
Trapper compared the pile of peanuts in front of him to the pile in front of his wife. "I raise by half my pile," he decided, pushing the peanuts towards the middle of the table.
Kate smiled as she slowly pushed her entire pile towards his. "All in. Let's see 'em."
"Read 'em and weep, gorgeous. Full house, kings over sevens," Trapper said as he revealed his cards with a flourish. "Only two hands can beat that."
"I'm well aware of that. And…" she laid down her cards, "I believe that four of a kind is one of those hands. How ironic that we ended with those hands."
Trapper chuckled. "How is that ironic, Lady Luck?"
Kate smiled at his nickname for her; it was one that only came out during poker games. "Want to make a wager?" she asked, momentarily avoiding his question.
"That was the last game, remember?"
She ignored that. "How much do you want to bet that we'll have a full house in seven months? Or do you think we'll end up with four of a kind?"
Trapper shook his head as he swept the cards into his hands. "Why are we betting on a game seven months from…" His voice trailed off as her words hit home. "Are you…are we…"
Kate nodded. "You bet your bootstraps, Big John."
It had proven to be four of a kind with the arrival of Grace Adara McIntyre. Now three years old, Grace was the calmest of the children; she often had a dreamy look in her hazel eyes. Like her sister, she had inherited Kate's black locks and Trapper's curls. Her middle name, which Kate had explained meant 'beautiful' in Greek, certainly suited the little girl.
Since the birth of the twins, Kate cut back her schedule at the hospital; when Grace was born she resigned completely and was content to be a stay-at-home mother. She kept herself busy by repainting and renovating the extra rooms in the massive house. After many long months, the house was now completely made over and ready for visitors.
"Flight 814 from Toledo is now landing. Passengers will be arriving through Gate 12."
The announcement over the loudspeaker brought Trapper out of his reverie, and he started walking towards the gate. As he approached he heard his name being shouted. Searching the departing passengers, Trapper grinned when he spotted Klinger and a Korean woman—his wife—breaking away from the crowd. "Klinger! Good to see ya again!" The two men hugged, slapping each others' backs as they greeted each other. "And you must be Soon-Lee," Trapper said as he turned to greet Klinger's wife. "Kate's looking forward to meeting you."
"I am anxious to meet her, too," Soon-Lee replied. "Max has told me a great deal about you and Kate." She smiled at Klinger. "I am also anxious to see the others again as well."
"It looks like being back in America is agreeing with you, Klinger."
The Lebanese man laughed. "It sure is! I tell ya, there's nothing better than waking up in my own bed, instead of an Army cot. I've been introducing Soon-Lee to the best parts of Toledo, like Paco's Hot Dogs and the Mudhens." He wrapped his arm around his wife. "So who all's here so far?"
"Well, both BJ and Frank and their families flew in yesterday afternoon. Radar and his wife and Lorraine Blake and the kids got in at 9:30 on the same flight, and the Potters came in at 10:15. You two just arrived, and Sidney and Father Mulcahy are coming on the same flight, which is due to land…" He cast a glance at his watch, "in about ten minutes. Charles and his fiancée should be at the house by the time we get back, and that should account for everybody."
"What about Hawkeye and Margaret?" Soon-Lee asked.
Trapper grinned. "They came on the Boston-Maine Express on Wednesday so they could help get everything set up." With a chuckle he added, "Well, Margaret helped as much as she could."
Just then the loudspeaker blared, "Flight 1699 from Philadelphia is now landing. Passengers will be arriving at gate 7."
"Looks like we'll be getting to the house sooner than I thought," Trapper noted as he glanced at his watch again. The trio made their way to gate 7, arriving as first of the passengers started exiting the plane. After a few moments Sidney Freedman and Father Mulcahy strolled into view. Trapper noticed that Sidney was using his hands more as he spoke to the padre; he and Kate had heard about the explosion that had robbed the man of his hearing. He waved to the two, who veered out of the throng of passengers and made their way to the trio.
"You three are a sight for sore eyes," Sidney said as a greeting.
Trapper grinned. "It's good to see you too, Sidney." Raising his voice, he leaned closer to Father Mulcahy. "How was the flight, Father?"
The padre smiled, the same smile he had bestowed upon Trapper back in Korea. "The flight was fine, Trapper, but there's no need to yell. I can hear you just fine."
"But...Kate and I had heard…I mean…" Trapper was at a loss for words.
"You heard correct. I did lose my hearing before leaving Korea. I spent a few years ministering to and teaching the deaf before learning of a new surgical procedure that could repair the damage here in the states. The surgery, as you can see, was a success."
Sidney chuckled. "You can imagine my surprise when the good Father turned down the car radio on the way to the airport, saying it was too loud."
With a final glance at his watch, Trapper gestured towards the luggage carousel. "Well, how about we get your luggage and head out to the house? Kate's looking forward to seeing you all again."
Within a half hour the members of the 4077th were reunited and mingling in the McIntyre backyard. Hawkeye and BJ—who, upon Peg's insistence, had shaved his moustache—had fired up the grill while Trapper was picking up the last group of travelers; now the former Swamp-mates were manning the grill while Kate kept everyone supplied with drinks, all the while keeping an eye on the children running around.
"So Hawk, what'll ya have? We've got liver, or fish," Trapper said innocently.
Hawkeye stared at Trapper. "I didn't hear you say that," he said. "Because it's impossible. It's inhuman. I haven't eaten liver or fish since I left Korea. I can't stand for it. I won't stand for it. I want something else. We want something else. Right? We want something else! We want something else!" Within seconds he had almost everyone chanting the mantra: "We want something else! We want something else!"
Kate laughed as she went to defuse the situation. "Relax, Hawkeye, I wouldn't let him do that to you," she said. "That's cruel and unusual punishment." Margaret, resting in a lounge chair nearby, chuckled as Kate continued. "We made a special order of spareribs for today, from a little place in Chicago."
"Chicago? You don't mean…"
Trapper nodded. "Seems this place serves these ribs with a flamboyant, devil-may-care yet introspective barbeque sauce."
Hawkeye grabbed BJ's arm, since he happened to be standing nearby. "You got Adam's Ribs? Succulent, finger-licking ribs, the best in the world?"
Crabapple Cove's finest let out a war whoop and proclaimed, "This is both a thank you and a payback," before kissing Trapper square on the mouth as everyone laughed and resumed various conversations.
Kate took a seat beside Margaret and Peg Hunnicutt. "He's your husband," she said to the former head nurse.
Margaret nodded, a smile creasing her face. "I'll claim him. After all, he is partly responsible for this," she replied, rubbing her swollen stomach.
"When are you due, Margaret?" Peg asked, keeping an ear tuned to the children.
"The end of next month. I'm looking forward to seeing this little fellow, rather than feeling him hammer away at my kidneys!" the blonde answered with a laugh.
The tantalizing smells of barbeque sauce and sizzling ribs soon mingled in the air along with the sounds of happy chatter. Becky and Kathy had been appointed ringleaders, keeping tabs on all the children present: Erin and Rob Hunnicutt; Jean, Judith, and Jackie Burns; Molly, Janie, and Andrew Blake; and of course their own siblings, Henry, Anne, and Grace. Of course, Kate and Peg were also keeping an eye on the children, and as the ribs finished cooking they started dishing up servings for the little ones. Lassie, for the most part obediently staying out from underfoot, waited patiently at Kathy's feet for a few choice morsels sure to fall from a child's plate.
After everyone had eaten their fill—or more, in some cases—the former campmates and their spouses started filling each other in on the goings-on in their lives.
"Hey Frank," BJ called out.
BJ grinned. "What say you, Ferret Face?" Immediately the former MASH members—even Charles and former-Colonel Sherman Potter—burst into laugher.
Even Frank laughed as he replied, "Oh…you guys!" just like days of old.
"Seriously, though, Frank, how has life been treating you these last few years?" Trapper asked. He wasn't sure how his wife had come across the Burns' address, since no one from the camp had heard from him since his psychotic break.
Frank shrugged. "Well, I served at the VA hospital while Louise and I patched up our marriage." He squeezed his wife's hand as he continued, "Even though I was a putz, I realized that she is one of the best things that happened to me, and I don't want to lose her." Louise smiled, a complete opposite from the woman Trapper had seen in Frank's wedding video. "Almost three years ago I finally realized what most of you already knew: I was a lousy doctor. So I quit." Margaret gasped as everyone stared at Frank with wide eyes. "I quit practicing medicine and opened…and you're not going to believe this…a pastry shop. I'm a pastry chef now."
"And he's a darn good one, too," Louise stated. "He's almost getting more orders than he can fill."
Frank nodded. "It's better this way. I'm home with my girls more, and I'm not getting called into the hospital for emergencies at all hours of the night." He glanced around at everyone. "I'm not the same Frank Burns you knew in Korea. I only hope that you see me as a better man now."
Margaret smiled. "Frank, I can't speak for everyone else, but I can see the change. You're happier now." She sipped her drink and turned to Charles. "What about you, Charles? You must have some news."
The former major, who had arrived with his brunette fiancée, smiled slightly. "I've been the head of thoracic surgery at Boston Mercy since I arrived stateside. I quite enjoy having the ability to take my time and do my work thoroughly, without the worry of a cretin shelling the operating room." His smile turned rueful as he added, "It took many months before I regained the ability to listen to Mozart without immediate flashbacks. I finally began attending concerts again, which is where I met Eleanor, a former classmate of mine."
"What kind of concert?" Radar asked.
"A concert portraying the work of Johann Sebastian Bach," Eleanor replied.
Radar smiled. "Ah, Bach." Trapper and Hawkeye burst into laughter.
"We used to go steady in high school," Eleanor said once the two men could control themselves. "I was surprised to hear what Charles had done since high school…not surprised that he became a doctor; that was inevitable, of course. But in all my life, I never pictured him serving at the front in Korea." She linked her arm through his, the sunlight catching her engagement ring. "I'm just glad he's home safe and that we found each other."
"As am I, my dear," Charles said, looking at Eleanor with tenderness in his eyes.
Sherman cleared his throat. "Winchester, you've grown a great deal since you left my command. So have you, Burns. Aw heck, so have all of us. Well, I intended to come home and be mainly Mrs. Potter's Mr. Potter." He chuckled slightly. "Guess the military wasn't quite out of my blood. I served as the administrator of the veteran's hospital back in Missouri for a year before finally becoming a semi-retired country doctor. I'd retire completely but then Mildred would kick me out to the barn after a week!" Mildred Potter chuckled in agreement. "And who else would be my assistant at the hospital but one of my company clerks?"
Everyone glanced at Radar, who shook his head. "Not me! I haven't left Iowa longer than a couple weeks since I got home."
"Klinger?" Charles said, incredulous.
Klinger nodded. "Yep. Me and Soon-Lee spent about a year in Missouri before moving back to Toledo." His expression darkened. "Some folks back home weren't too keen on accepting Soon Lee in the community."
Soon-Lee smiled. "They do accept me now. I am a member of the women's society, and they have been teaching me how to quilt. I am glad they accept me."
"If they didn't accept you at first, why did you move back?" Louise asked.
"Toledo's my home, and…sorry, Father, but I'll be damned if I can't live with my wife in the city I grew up in," Klinger replied. "Besides, it's hard to follow the Mudhens in Missouri!" Everyone got a chuckle from that.
"I, too, worked at the hospital with Sherman and Klinger…after continuing my work with the orphans in Korea," Father Mulcahy said in his thoughtful manner. "While I was still in Korea, I learned about an operation that could restore hearing loss to people who endured an injury such as mine. While I miss the children, I have no regrets about undergoing the surgery." He smiled his jovial smile. "I can hear confessions again. So if any of you have something to get off your chest, you can come to me again." Chuckles once again sounded throughout the group. "I returned to Philadelphia after my work in Missouri."
Sidney, who had been quietly listening to the stories, leaned forward in his chair. "I don't really have anything new or exciting to report," he admitted. "The good father and I often get together for visits, and whenever I'm called for a special case in Boston I take the time to visit Trapper and Kate, and Charles as well. I mainly treat patients with post traumatic stress from the war. Compared to what all I treated in Korea, well, one might say it's a walk in the park. I haven't felt the need to write a letter to Sigmund since I've gotten home."
BJ took the next turn. "After the war I went back to work at the hospital in Mill Valley. After a couple of years of falling in love with my beautiful wife all over again, Peg told me that Erin was going to be a big sister. I think I cheered loud enough that everyone in California could hear me."
Hawkeye slapped the table. "That's what that cheering was!" Margaret shushed her husband and gestured for BJ to continue.
"Okay, so everyone in California and Maine could hear it," BJ chuckled. "Erin loves her little brother, and Waggle loves having a new playmate. Last year I was appointed Chief of Surgery." He leaned back, linking his hands behind his head. "Things are looking good for the Hunnicutts."
Peg smiled and leaned her head against BJ's shoulder. "What about you, Lorraine? How have things been going for you?" she asked.
Lorraine smiled gently. "Life was a struggle at first, after Henry's death," she admitted. "But things eventually got easier. Other couples at the country club helped me get back on my feet, and…" A soft flush brushed across her face. "I ended up meeting someone, a very nice gentleman named Ed Winters. He's been a great help with things around the house. Ed has asked me to marry him, and I accepted." Everyone cheered, and Lorraine's eyes sparkled. "The children like him, and I think Henry would approve of my decision."
"Do you have a picture of him?" Patty O'Reilly inquired. Lorraine nodded as she pulled one from her purse and passed it around.
Kate whistled softly as she and Margaret looked at it. "He kind of looks like Colonel Flagg." When Lorraine raised an eyebrow at her, Kate chuckled. "I'll fill you in later."
"So, Radar, I haven't heard how you and the missus met," Klinger said, glancing at the man he had replaced as company clerk back at the 4077th.
Radar and Patty both grinned. "We met at the air base in Tokyo, during my last leave before…before I left," Radar said. "My seat on the flight I was supposed to take got taken by a cardboard cutout. So I was waiting for the next flight, which didn't leave until 0800 hours."
"And I came in to wait for my flight stateside," Patty added. "We sat by each other and started talking."
"We talked about everything. Turns out Patty lived just a few hours from Ottumwa. And she likes Grape Nehi!"
BJ grinned. "That must have been what made up your mind."
Radar shook his head. "Anyway, we exchanged addresses, and after I went home I wrote her a letter."
"We wrote each other for months. He's such a great writer; so descriptive and eloquent," Patty said, a dreamy look in her eyes.
Sherman leaned over and patted Radar on the shoulder. "Well, Son, looks like that 'Famous Las Vegas Writers School' finally paid off!"
Hawkeye laughed. "I'd forgotten about that!"
"After the Colonel helped send Park Sung to the farm to help us out, I took a day to drive over and see her," Radar continued. "Her family reminded me a lot of mine. We started visiting each other a couple of times a month."
Patty smiled, the dreamy look still in her eyes. "I remember when he asked me to marry him two years ago. Charlotte was having trouble lambing, so we were helping her with that…"
"Charlotte?" Hawkeye asked. "You don't mean that lamb you got a discharge for?"
Radar nodded. "Private Charles turned out to be Lieutenant Charlotte."
"Anyway, she ended up having twin lambs. I was sitting in the straw, bottle feeding one of them, and Radar just came out and asked me to marry him."
BJ lightly slapped Radar's arm. "What, no getting down on bended knee with a ring?"
"Oh, I consider that horse and buggy thinking," Radar replied. As everyone around the table protested, he grinned. "I'm joking. I did everything proper that evening after we got cleaned up. But when I saw her sitting in the straw, holding a new, wet lamb in her lap, I just had to ask her then. She said yes, and we had the wedding at the farm a few months later."
"How's the farm doing, Son?" Sherman asked.
Radar shrugged slightly. "It's doing better now. When I first got home, I had to take a job at the General Store, but with Park Sung's help we've had decent harvests the last few years."
"And how's your mother?" the former colonel asked.
"Ma died last winter." Murmurs of sympathy echoed around the group.
"Well…" Hawkeye started to speak but Margaret stopped him.
"You've got other news, don't you?" she asked Patty. "Kate, Peg, do you see what I see?" The two women looked closely at Patty, and immediately spotted what Margaret had. Patty had a tell-tale twinkle in her eyes.
The scrutinized woman grinned. "How can you tell?"
"You have that look in your eye," Kate replied.
Radar wrapped his arm around Patty. "Well, you're right." He looked around the group, his smile growing. "In January, we're gonna have a baby!"
As the congratulations died down, Hawkeye glanced around. "Can I go now?" he asked, his typical grin on his face. Without waiting for an answer, he went on. "After the war I came home and worked with Dad at the hospital in Crabapple Cove, enjoying the lobsters again. Heck, enjoying everything about civilian life again! Now I get to know my patients as people instead of as casualties. Since I've been back, Dad's been cutting back on his load of surgery; I'm now chief surgeon at the hospital. I take all the new patients, which is fine by me. Along the way I met a very beautiful nurse, asked her to marry me, and here we are. The end."
"Gee, thanks, Hawkeye," Margaret said wryly. "After I helped the 8063rd consolidate, I was sent to Tokyo General for a little bit before finally getting stateside. I was assigned to an army hospital, but after a couple months there I realized something. I was tired of the Army. Me, a born Army brat! Can you believe it? So I put in my resignation and willingly became a civilian. I moved to San Francisco and worked at San Francisco General for a year, then after some prodding from BJ and pleading from Hawkeye, I packed up and moved to Maine."
"Margaret! I did not plead for you to come here." After a semi-icy look from his wife, Hawkeye admitted, "Well, maybe I pleaded for your skills as a nurse." That comment earned him a swat on the arm.
"As I was saying, I moved to Crabapple Cove a little over three years ago to work as Head Nurse at the hospital. Of course, that meant I was working with this clown every day. Eventually, sparks started flying, as I'm sure some of you had hoped would happen back in Korea. We were married last summer, and," she patted her stomach, "this little one is due at the end of next month."
"Dad sold me the house I grew up in, so little Pierce here will be able to grow up in the same room I did. He said he had 'rattled around in that big house long enough'. Of course, he bought a little house down the street, so he'll be close enough to spoil his grandchild thoroughly."
Kate smiled. "And if I know your father, he will happily do just that!" She glanced at her husband. "I've kept myself busy with the children; I resigned from the hospital after Grace was born. They keep me busy, that's for sure! Sometimes we get a chance to visit Hawk and Margaret in Maine, which the children love."
"I was named Chief Surgeon at Boston Mercy three years ago," Trapper added. "Most of the time I've got good hours, but every now and then the hours stink. But," his crooked grin creased his face, "the pay is great."
As everyone chuckled, Henry ran up to Hawkeye. "Uncle Hawkeye, Uncle Radar, Uncle BJ, come play with us!" Unable to resist the pleading look in the youngster's hazel eyes, the requested men—as well as Frank and Klinger—went to entertain the children, while their wives shared parenting tips. Sidney, Sherman, and Father Mulcahy sat and reminisced as old friends do, and Charles and Eleanor enticed Lorraine into a discussion about classical music.
Amidst it all, Trapper contently watched as his friends—old and new—mingled and reunited, strengthening the familial bond started back in Korea. Kate sighed happily and rested her head against Trapper's shoulder, reminding him of another, more personal bond that had started in Korea. Pressing a kiss to his wife's forehead, Trapper wrapped his arm around her before summing everything up with two simple words: