Welcome Home, Hawkeye

Disclaimer: I own nothing but a majority of seasons on disc and two shirts with the MASH insignia.

AN: This happens after 'Temporary Duty' and for this to work, I'm going to have to change the ending. Much as I hate myself for doing it, cause I love the ending…

And there maybe some people acting a bit out of character, but that's to be expected.

Hawkeye Pierce stretched in his cot as he let his eyes lazily slide open. 'Much as I hate to say this,' he yawned, 'I really missed this place.'

Spending a week at the 8063rd was actually not that bad, but Hawkeye knew that Bigelow had been worried about his unusually quiet demeanor. He had explained to her that he was feeling unaccountably lonely and they had both shared a knowing smile, her feeling the same.

Sitting up, Hawkeye noticed that his two bunkmates had already gone. He and Bigelow had gotten back late last night and no-one had been around at that late hour.

Looking outside, he saw quite a few personnel running around doing their jobs. 'I really missed this,' Hawkeye smiled sappily as he got ready to face the day.

Leaving the Swamp a bit later and heading for the latrines, Hawkeye met Father Mulcahy hanging around the shower tent. "Hey, Father," he greeted on his way by.

"Ah, Hawkeye," Father Mulcahy immediately hurried to catch up. "You had a good week at the other MASH unit?"

"Well, it was alright, I guess," the taller man shrugged. "So, how was the other doctor?"

Hawkeye frowned as the Father took his hat off. "I… Well, suffice it to say, I am glad you're back."


"No, really. I missed our morning talks during the week." Hawkeye quietly agreed, remembering how the two of them would run across each other in the quiet mornings during a lull or break and strike up a conversation about whatever was going on at the time. "Erm, Hawkeye? I would like to have another chat with you later."

"No problem, Father. Just let me take care of some business…"

After an hour long walk with Father Mulcahy- during which he had found himself attracting various nurses and enlisted men as they came up to welcome him back- and another trip to the latrines, Hawkeye wandered into Post-Op and ran into Radar O'Reilly.

"Oh, sir! Welcome back!" The younger male positively lit up.

"Good to be back, Radar," Hawkeye genuinely meant it. He was actually surprised when Radar awkwardly darted forward to hug him. The clerk hung on for a few minutes and let go.

"Eh, I have to go do stuff," Radar said shyly, wiping a hand under his glasses. "See you later."

He left before Hawkeye could pick his jaw up off the floor and ask what was going on. Shaking his head, he continued on his way to Radar's office and met Major Margaret Houlihan.

"Pierce," the blonde smiled slightly. "It's good to see you back with us."

"Never thought I'd hear you say that, Major," Hawkeye was just as happy to see her. Trading barbs and tender moments of friendship with her was also something he had missed while away.

"Me too," she lifted a shoulder as she checked the charts in her hand. Hawkeye spent a minute reading over her shoulder and noticed that her gaze was turned inward.

"Margaret? Something wrong?"

"Mmm? Oh, no, I just… The nurse who spent the week here was an old friend of mine and I already miss her."

"Sure you do," Hawkeye smiled at the look in his friend's eyes. "I'm sure she'll be sending a letter to you before you know it."

She nodded before frowning slightly. Before Hawkeye could ask if something was wrong, Margaret captured his wrist and squeezed slightly. "Glad you're back, Hawkeye."

'What in the world is going on with everyone today?' he mused as he watched her wipe an eye and go to a nurse to talk about a patient.

"Pierce! Good to see you, son," Colonel Potter slapped him on the back as the younger man entered Sophie's corral with a cup of coffee doctored (pun maybe intended) to perfection. "How was the visit?"

"Something was missing about the whole thing," Hawkeye sighed as he watched Potter brush Sophie down. "I could not, for the life of me, figure out what that something was."

Potter nodded in understanding. "I think I do. Say, Pierce, while you were there, did you feel tired all the time? More than usual?"

Thinking about it, he nodded slowly. "I did." He woke up that morning with a strange buzz of energy that had been missing for that whole week he had been away.

Sophie trotted over to him and nudged his shoulder with her nose. Patting it, Hawkeye grinned. "Any idea why, Colonel?"

"Maybe a clue," he smiled mysteriously. "Seems like Sophie missed you, too."

She probably did, at that. Hawkeye felt a warm feeling bubbling up inside as she nibbled his hair. Radar was the usual one that animals interacted with.

Strange as it seemed, Sophie had sensed that he had gone and wanted to make sure he felt welcomed back so that he wouldn't leave another doctor to take his place like that annoying human had done. This dark-haired man wouldn't take her out and yell as he pranced her about camp…

An hour later, Hawkeye wandered past the Swamp and almost ran into Corporal Max Klinger.

"Hey, Captain," Klinger had no reservations about giving the officer a bear hug. "I bet you can't guess how much I missed you!"

"Really?" Hawkeye patted him on the back with a grin. "Back at you, Klinger."

"Say, would you like to help me pick out an outfit or two to help the Father out next weekend?" He finally released the other man. "There's gonna be a party for the kids on Saturday and Sunday is when the rehearsal talent show is. Oh, yeah, and I'm gonna need some help picking out something for that, too."

"Why not?" Hawkeye wrapped an arm around him. "I got some time to kill. Lead the way, my good man."

A few minutes later, Klinger was modeling a new addition to his collection when Hawkeye noticed the strange smile on his face, almost content in nature. "Something funny, Klinger?"

"Nope, just enjoying the laughter."

Hawkeye looked around. "What laughter?"

Klinger just shook his head and smiled ever bigger. "Exactly. Good to have you back."

Leaving Klinger's tent awhile later, he went back to Post-Op and saw one of his bunkmates, Major Charles Emerson Winchester, lurking in a corner. "Charles! Haven't seen you in awhile. How's it going?"

"Pierce, I see you have returned in one piece."

Hawkeye studied him. "Bet you had a wonderful time with Dupree hanging around camp."

"Captain," Charles worked his mouth for a few minutes, trying to find something to let him know how much his quiet sense of humor was appreciated. "Suffice it to say, I learned a valuable lesson."

"What would that be?" Hawkeye questioned, tilting his head to the side in curiosity.

"As much as I hate being here, there are worse people that I could have been stuck sharing the camp with. I, for one, am glad that I ended up being with the people here and not with someone who insists on caterwauling and carrying on in rhymes."

The bigger man promptly stalked off, leaving a bemused Hawkeye to try and sort that conversation out.

The sun was on its way down by the time Father Mulcahy ran into Hawkeye again.

"Evening, Father," Hawkeye hailed from the lawn chair next to the Swamp. "What brings you into the neighborhood?"

"Have I told you that I so look forward to seeing you in the morning?" he blurted out, before flushing slightly. "I've come to realize that our conversations would be the highlight of my early hours and it helps to stabilize my state of mind in order to deal with the rest of the day ahead, no matter what happens."

"Th… Thanks, Father," Hawkeye smiled warmly, the feeling from before returning with a vengeance. "I enjoy them just as much as you do."

Nodding, seemingly done, Fr. Mulcahy left for the mess tent.

About to go into his tent to return his martini glass, Margaret suddenly appeared with determination in her eyes. "Hawkeye, I was thinking about what my friend told me and I think that we should… maybe… get to know each other a little better. What I… as friends. I mean, Charles and BJ think we can be-"

"Sure, Margaret," Hawkeye put her out of her misery. "We'll have to all get together for a picnic or something… as friends."

The bright smile that came across her lips made Hawkeye wonder why she and her husband were having so many problems.

"Sounds good, Hawkeye."

A few minutes standing around and staring at each other made Margaret flush shyly and turn away. "Coming to the Mess Tent?"

"In a bit, I have to get ready for dinner," Hawkeye shrugged, gesturing with his half-forgotten glass. "Want to sit for a spell?"

"No, I have to eat," she stood for a second more. "I just thought you'd like to know that… there is a potential for a good, solid friendship."

Not entirely sure what she kept blabbering about but knowing it had something to do with this old friend of hers, he nodded like he knew exactly what was going on. "Always wondered about that."

As she took her leave, Hawkeye shook his head and entered his tent. 'Something definitely happened when I was gone.'

"Hey, Hawk," Captain BJ Hunnicut, the third 'Swamp Rat' and Hawkeye's best friend, poked his head in. "Glad to have you back."

"Thanks, BJ." Hawkeye rotated a shoulder and yawned widely. "Ready to eat? BJ?"

Turning, Hawkeye found his friend leaning against the doorjamb with a blissful look on his face, a smile steadily growing. "Hey, BJ! You alright?"

"Like you wouldn't believe," the fair-haired doctor sighed happily. "You know, Hawk. I never thought I'd be so happy to hear my name come from your mouth. At least I know I made the right choice when I got here in trusting you. You're my best friend, you know. I don't want anyone else to take your place in this unit."

"I'm not going anywhere," Hawkeye told him, patting an arm soothingly. "Whoever said that was lying for some reason. Probably to get a reaction."

Hawkeye sighed as, yet again, he found himself in a hug. "Can we eat now?"

"Sure," BJ let go a few minutes later. Letting his best friend lead, BJ wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "Nice night."

"Sure is, Beej," Hawkeye wrapped an arm around his friend's waist as they ambled toward dinner.

"Quiet night."

"Yes…" He was going to get to the bottom of this mystery if it took him the rest of the war do it. Something was going on with everyone here in camp and it had to do with what he had missed at the other unit. If there was one thing Hawkeye hated more, it was missing something as important as this thing seemed to be.

"Say, Hawkeye," BJ stopped them before they entered the Mess. "I am happy to have you back, you know. There are some people that I am glad I didn't meet my first time here. But you… Every night last week, I was thanking my lucky stars for meeting you at that airport with Radar. I have never regretted it and I don't expect to."

"I don't expect to, either," Hawkeye was the one to initiate the hug for once all day. "Now, c'mon, BJ. I'd like to get some dinner before I-"

The doors swung open to reveal what was inside.

All the personnel he had met that day - and everyone had insisted on at least shaking his hand - stood proudly behind his friends. Letting his eyes slide from one face to another, the wide blue eyes finally tracked upwards to see a hand-painted banner reading:

"Welcome Home, Hawkeye."

Frowning, he looked at a beaming Nurse Bigelow and asked, "Why just me?"

"Well, I don't have as much of an impact around this camp as you do, Hawkeye," she smiled warmly. "Everyone here has missed you."

As everyone behind her agreed, Colonel Potter caught his eye. Unbidden, their earlier conversation floated back and finally, finally the pieces fit.

That inexplicable feeling that something was missing…

The reason he felt like he had no energy all week…

They were one in the same. And he had been missing something.

The faces he encountered every day, in every waking moment:

The priest he took mornings off with…

The animal-loving company clerk that he looked on as a younger brother…

The head nurse he knew would be an invaluable member of his inner circle…

The Army man assigned to look after this motley group of misfits…

The cross-dresser who was only as crazy as the rest of them were…

The Bostonian who would, in time, become a great friend to trade insults with…

And the best friend he could only have imagined in his wildest dreams…

They made his day every time they let their paths cross with his. They were a constant energy boost, always something going on in and out of OR.

As Hawkeye looked around at the others who played various roles in their daily routines, he realized something that, until that moment, he didn't have the words to.

Smiling widely, he let his eyes rest on that banner again.

"It's good to be home."