Here's the next chapter. My apologies for it taking so long! I thought I posted this sooooo long ago! I can't believe I never did! T_T Sorry!
Emily's mind was far away as she made her return journey to the 4077th. She was brought abruptly back to earth however by a sharp shout. "There she is!" Within sight of the camp, Radar had spotted her and sent out the alarm. Emily took a deep, mental breath. She knew she'd catch a lot of flak for leaving in the first place. Steeling herself for the verbal sparring match that she knew would be forthcoming, she picked up her pace. Her return to the camp was cacophonous. Everyone was yelling, pressing in from all directions, patting her on the back. Some people seemed angry. Some seemed relieved. Some just seemed happy to see her.
From behind her, she heard a yell and turned, to find herself enveloped in BJ's arms. He hugged her tightly, one hand on the back of her head, the other around her shoulders. "Thank God," he said, hugging her even tighter. Just as suddenly, he pushed her back to arm's length and looked her straight in the eye, a steely expression on his face. Apparently seeing the coming conflict, Emily could see Colonel Potter sheparding people away out of the corner of her eye. BJ shook her gently, returning her eyes to his. "Don't you ever do that again," he said. His voice was low and dangerous. "Do you realize how much you scared us? Thank God nothing happened to you. I know you're smart. But this is Korea! There's a war going on! Please think before you do something like that!"
Emily bristled. "Don't treat me like a child!" she said, indignantly.
BJ bristled right back, "If you're going to act like a child, then I'll treat you like one!" Hawkeye, Sydney, Radar, and Colonel Potter stood off to the side, heads moving back and forth, watching the two like a tennis match.
Emily pulled away from him. "I can take care of myself!" she said, looking annoyed. "And I'm not stupid – I know it's Korea. I know there's a war. In case you've forgotten, I was able to take care of myself for a long time before you guys got here!" As soon as she said it, she regretted it. She didn't really mean it. She hadn't meant for it to sound like that. But, no one had given her a chance to explain why she had left. Or where she had gone. Or to even show them what she found. They all just started yelling and screaming at once. It was too much.
She could tell she had hit a nerve. BJ froze as though stunned and then arranged his face into a carefully neutral expression. "Fine," he said calmly. "Go do whatever you want. You're an adult. Don't let me stop you." He turned and walked away. Struggling between annoyance and tears, Emily stalked off in the opposite direction.
Colonel Potter and Hawkeye exchanged a look. Without a word, the two agreed. Right now, BJ needed the words of a fellow father while Emily needed someone she was comfortable with who would just listen. Colonel Potter headed to BJ in the Swamp while Hawkeye headed off in the direction of Emily. Sidney eyed Radar, who was clearly unsure what to do, and Sid said, "For now, it seems the situation is under control. How about you and I get some food?" Radar was never one to turn down food, so he nodded and headed off with the psychiatrist to the mess tent.
Colonel Potter found BJ sitting on his bunk, head in his hands. Without a word, the Colonel settled down opposite BJ, took off his hat, and waited. After a minute or so, BJ looked up. His face was raging with emotions. Some anger and annoyance, but mostly open sadness. "I was terrified," he said simply, spreading his fingers expressively.
"Terrified of what?" Colonel Potter asked, settling himself more comfortably on Hawkeye's bunk.
BJ took a shaky breath. "When she left, I – I was terrified that she would never come back. I just – I was afraid – I kept seeing…dead at the side of the road. And I realized how much I cared about her. And when she came back…I was so relieved…but so angry! I care about her. How could she just…take off and leave like that…without so much as a word. Doesn't she care about me? Doesn't she care about any of us?"
Before Colonel Potter could answer, another voice from outside the tent interrupted. "Of course she care." The two looked over to see Mama standing outside the door, waiting to be invited in. BJ stood and opened the door. She came in, but refused the seat offered by Colonel Potter. BJ resumed his seat on his bunk.
"Of course, she care," Mama repeated. "You need understand. For long time, she alone. Her father always very far away. Maybe he body here. But mind is far away. He miss his wife. Emily grow up very lonely. She grow up fast. Kyung Mi and I keep eye on her. But she independent. She no used to have someone who care about her. Her mama, she no remember. It make her sad. Now, she have you. Kyung Mi tell me much – Emily like you. She like you a lot. But she need time. Do not give up on her."
BJ sat for a minute, processing. "I don't want to give up on her. I love her. I love her like she was my own daughter. I don't want anything to happen to her."
Mama gave a long laugh. She cleared her throat and said, very sincerely, "You no want nothing to happen to her? If nothing happen, how she live life? Things happen. They happen everyone. You no can stop them. But you got to let her know you is there for her. That is best you can do." And with that, seeming to think her piece had been said, Mama gave a small bow and hurried out again, likely to rejoin with Kyung Mi. Since their reuniting, the two had been near inseparable.
Colonel Potter looked at BJ and said, "Damned if I could say it better myself. You know she loves you BJ. She's got that look in her eye. She takes real comfort in you. She trusts you like a father. But like Mama said, she's lived alone for a long time. She's still adjusting to having someone who really cares about her. She's learning the lesson that when you love someone, things change. I know she upset you and scared you, but try to take it in stride and move on. Maybe, some other day, explain to her why you got so upset. But for now, just let her know that you care and you want to be there for her."
BJ paused and took a deep breath. "I want to be more than just there for her now."
"Hmm?" asked Colonel Potter, looking confused.
"I wrote some long letters to Peg. I explained what's been going on here. And how I feel. I asked her…I asked her if Emily could live with us."
Colonel Potter sat, stunned. He knew BJ was a kind man with a big heart. But taking on a full grown adult as a new family member was certainly no easy task – especially from a country that the US was currently at war with.
BJ continued hurriedly, "If she'll have me, that is. I don't know. Maybe she likes being on her own. Maybe she's too old to have a dad again. Maybe –,"
Colonel Potter cut his upset ramblings short by placing a hand on his shoulder. "You're sure this is what you want?"
BJ nodded, eyes clear and serious. "I thought about it a lot and wrote about it a lot…and talked about it a lot. I had Radar connect me to Peg twice. We talked about it for awhile. Erin's been wanting a sibling. And Peg knows…she can tell…how I feel. She said that she trusted my judgment and would support me in this if it was something that I wanted to pursue. Of course, it's all up to Emily." He looked both pleased and terrified that he had finally said those words aloud.
Colonel Potter squeezed BJ's shoulder. "Son," he said, firmly. "You're a good man. Emily needs people like you and Peg and Erin in her life. She hasn't had a normal life being here. She needs to know what that's like. And I can't think of anyone better than you to teach her that. You're a fine father and a fine man. For now, the best you can do is let her know how you feel." BJ nodded. He made to stand, but the Colonel kept his hand on BJ's arm. "You might want to wait a bit. Hawkeye's gone to talk to her. I don't think she's really mad. I think she just got surprised that so many people care so much about her." BJ nodded and sank back down to the bed.
After some searching, Hawkeye found Emily behind the supply room, sitting on the ground, knees pulled up to her chest, head on her knees. He lowered himself down to sit beside her and waited. She looked up, expression unsure. Hawkeye eyed her briefly and gave her the mental once over. Other than dirty, she didn't seem to be any worse for the wear from her excursion outside of the camp. And so long as she was physically alright, they could take their time with being alright emotionally and mentally. "I'm sorry!" she blurted out. "I had to go!"
"Back to the village?" he asked. It wasn't really a question, though. She nodded.
They sat in silence for a minute. Finally Hawkeye said, "Did you find what you were looking for?"
In response, Emily rustled through the pack sitting next to her and brought out the Bible with the note in it. She handed it reverently and silently over to Hawkeye, who took it gently. He looked at the Bible, flipped through it, and came to the letter. He looked over the envelope, saw the name and date on the envelope as well as the sender and asked, "Your mother?"
She nodded once. He looked at her, silently asking for permission. Getting the permission that he sought, he pulled the letter out and read. After a moment, he looked up, to find Emily staring straight at him. "You got what you wanted?" he asked. She nodded again.
He could hardly blame her for wanting some closure. And honestly, he was thrilled that he'd found it. But he had to make her understand how hard the whole ordeal had been on BJ – how hard it had been on all of them. "I'm glad you found what you wanted," he said with a smile. "But," he said, expression suddenly stern, "next time, tell someone before you leave. I know you're an adult. I know you're not stupid. And I know you've been here longer than we have. But around here, no one is safe. Even adults rely on each other. We care about you. And we worry about you." He paused a moment for impact before saying, "Especially BJ."
Emily bit her lip, looking anxious. She knew she had behaved badly, but didn't seem to know what to do about it. Hawkeye stood. "I'm gonna get some grub, care to join? I hear the special of the day is day-old meatloaf," he joked.
Despite his attempt at levity, Emily looked distressed and shook her head.
"Well," Hawkeye said, "suit yourself." Maybe she just needed some time to think things through. He headed off toward the mess tent.
For awhile, Emily sat in thought. Apparently, Hawkeye had asked people to leave her alone, because no one else came to bother her. Emily found herself conflicted. She loved knowing that someone else cared for her. But part of her heart felt guilty. She had lived for so long in the quiet company of Chang Hee, Kyung Mi, and Mama. In their own way, they had helped raise her. And yet now she found herself longing for a life away from Korea. With someone else. She knew she wanted to stay at the 4077th forever. She'd grown to love that weird bunch of people. Somehow, in the chaos of it all, it made sense. It was more like home than anything else she'd ever known in her life. She couldn't remember what it was like living with her mother anymore. But she was certain that it felt like this.
And yet…what to do about Kyung Mi and Mama? Now that the two were reunited, they would certainly be off again…to somewhere. True, their village had burned down, but they'd moved once and they'd move again. They were strong women. Their lives would go on as before. Yet now, Emily wasn't so sure if she could go back to that kind of life again.
She was startled from her confused ruminations by a voice from behind her. Mama always seemed to know just what other people were thinking, and this was no exception. "Please understand, my daughter, she dear to me and this where I live. Even if not nice place, I can stand it. But, there no reason for you to put up with and keep living here."
Emily stood, looking crestfallen. "You want me to leave?…"
"It not like that. I no try chase you out. But from what you father told me, Olivia not put up with nothing and you her daughter. Understand? You mother would be more free in place where she spread arms wide. You father would say also."
"My father? Really?"
"Mmmmm. If there somewhere you rather be, you can go."
"B-but that wouldn't be right. How could I be anything less than grateful for what I have? I've been blessed with a father who loved me, two wonderful friends, Kyung Mi and Chang Hee, what more could I possibly want when I have people in my life who care about me as much as they do?
There are so many people who've been kind to me: BJ and Hawkeye and the others. And you – you've given me a place at your table, a roof over my head. I should feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I have so much to be thankful for right here. So, where else would I rather be?
Except…I didn't think that staying here in Korea would make me feel…so…so lonely. There's still so much I hope to learn about all of them. I want us to go on eating our meals in the mess tent together like a family where I can talk to them about so many things – everything. The truth of it is…I don't want to leave them at all. I feel like I belong here. I want to stay in that tent with BJ and Hawkeye…I want to stay." She took a shaky breath.
"In that case – why not come home?"
Emily turned around, shivers running up and down her spine. "BJ?" she asked, looking confused.
He took a deep breath and ran his hand shakily through his hair. "Since you've been here, I've…" he faltered, looking for the right words, "I've grown very attached to you. I've grown to love you as much as I love my own daughter. And I…I don't want…to lose you. When you left this morning…I couldn't hardly bear the thought of losing you. I've been talking a lot with Peg. And she's agreed. I mean…I suggested…" he cleared his throat and licked his lips.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're willing…Peg and I would like to have you come stay with us…we'd like you to be part of our family." There. He'd finally said it. He couldn't believe how liberating it felt to have finally just said it. She looked at him for a minute.
Then she rushed at him and tackled him with a hug so hard that it nearly knocked him over and half knocked the breath from his lungs. "Are you sure?" she asked in a rush, her breath warm and slightly ticklish in his ear.
"I'm sure," he said firmly, into her hair. "And Peg is too. Erin will be so pleased to have a sister. And we'd love to have another member of our family."
"You mean…like forever?" she asked, suddenly sounding worried.
He blinked. "Why, of course," he said, softly. "Why not forever?"
He pulled away from her, to see her eyes looking worried and uncertain. "Well…" she hedged. "Forever is an awfully long time."
BJ just stared at her. She continued, "What if you get bored of me? Or if I spill strawberry jelly on your white rug? Or if I leave the kitchen messy? Or…"
BJ burst out laughing and hugged her to him. "When I said we wanted to make you a member of our family, which means no matter what. No walking on egg shells. No worries about things like that. We just want you. And yes, that means forever."
Emily's lip trembled for a moment, her eyes watered, and then she buried her face into his shirt and burst into noiseless sobs. She trembled against him for awhile and then grew silent.
He calmly stroked her hair and waited, while inwardly, he was celebrating. He was a father again! And here was his daughter. He couldn't help but grin inwardly at himself as he was thinking about just how brave his daughter was. And how independent. And pretty. He snickered at himself. Already the proud father.
For awhile, they stood. Just the two of them, giving and taking comfort from each other. Finally, they pulled apart and Emily tugged him over to where her backpack still sat. She reached down and grabbed the Bible. Wordlessly, she handed it to him. Hawkeye had retucked the letter back safely into the pages. Like Hawkeye, BJ took a moment and took in everything fully – the name in the Bible, the name of the sender of the letter and the addressee, the contents of the letter. Finally, he looked over and said, "Your mother."
Emily nodded and then said very quietly, "It's like a puzzle."
"It's like I've been a puzzle with a few pieces missing. It's not so bad, but not as good as it could be either. This letter and the Bible filled in one piece. And you filled in another."
BJ was so touched that he didn't know what to do. So he said tremulously, "How about some lunch?"
She smiled. She was about to say, "Yes," but was interrupted by the loud speaker announcing "Choppers!"
Thoughts? Please leave a review, it'd be greatly appreciated! More to come!