HOPE'S CALLING- CHAPTER 51- ALONE TOGETHER
Disclaimer- When it comes to the characters from M*A*S*H, the only thing I own is a great affection for them and the best TV show ever made. I do own Lieutenant Hope Jones and her family.
"Well Major, what do we do with Lieutenant Jones?" Colonel Potter asked Margaret Houlihan. "I hate to see her go, but maybe it's for the best. She's part of your nursing staff, though. Are you willing to transfer her out?"
"Colonel, Lieutenant Jones hasn't been able to fulfill all her duties since she's been here. I need all of my nurses to be able to perform all the time, " Margaret responded.
"Come on Margaret, just answer my question. Do you want her transferred out or not?"
"Out. She's become too much of a distraction for certain personnel in this unit and you know it."
Potter sighed and exhaled a long breath. "You're right. It's time to see where I can send her and if we can get a replacement."
After Hope told him what had happened the night before, Hawkeye went back to the Swamp. He wasn't on duty until that evening so he thought he would go back and try to sleep for a while to see if he could shake the awful headache he had. It would do nothing for his heartache. He didn't know how to make it go away. Why couldn't he let go?
His dad had told him he would have to figure out if he had found the one woman to share his life with. Hawkeye thought he had. He thought she loved him, even though she'd never said so. Hope joked and flirted with him. She responded to his kisses with passion. It had felt so natural to hold her while she slept beside him.
BJ had asked him if he wanted Hope just because someone else wanted her, too. Could that be true? He didn't think so.
Hawkeye lay there on his back with his arm over his eyes. If he could just sleep for a little while and forget about everything. Finally, he fell asleep.
She was lying beside him. He could feel her breath on his neck. Her hand was on his face and she whispered in his ear, "Hawkeye, I was wrong. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I really do love you."
He smiled and told her, "Hope, of course I forgive you. I love you." He kissed her and murmured "I've won." Suddenly she pulled away from him and sat up.
"You've won? Is that all I am to you? A prize?" She got out of the bed and stood beside it. "You don't want me for me, you just want me because someone else does. "
As she walked out of the tent, Hawkeye called after her. "Come back! Please come back! I need you!"
She ignored him and continued to walk away. He got up and followed her. She was almost within reach. He put out his hand to touch her and she faded away.
He woke up with a strangled cry caught in his throat. His heart was pounding. The dream was vivid and real and so was the sense of loss. He pushed his shaking hands through his hair and rubbed his face. His face felt damp. Was it was perspiration or something else? Tears, maybe? What in the hell was wrong with him? He found the thought of not having her in his life very hard to accept.
When Hope left the mess tent to talk to Hawkeye, Francis went back to his tent. He sat down at his desk and picked up his Bible. It had always been a source of comfort and guidance for him and he certainly needed both at the time. When he opened the Bible for some reason it he found his finger on the book of poetry know as the Song of Solomon. Some people considered it to be poetry about the relationship of God and his people. Others believed that they were indeed poems about the deep love between a man and a woman. For some reason, all he could think of was Hope. His eyes fell on verses from chapter 7. How fair and how pleasant are thou, O love, for delights! This thy stature is a like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.
Suddenly the tent became warm. Francis wondered why there was a sudden temperature change. He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and mopped his brow. He resumed his reading. I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine and the scent of your breath as apples.
For some reason, he was getting warmer by the minute. He held the Bible in one hand while he fiddled with the button on the back of his clerical collar. Finally he managed to get it off and threw it on the desk. He closed the Bible and put it down. "Now I know what it means to be hot under the collar!"
He was so flustered that the knock on the door startled him. "Who…who is it?" he called out.
Hope answered, "It's me Francis. May I come in?"
"Oh, of course."
When Hope entered his tent, she saw his clerical collar and Bible lying on the desk. His face was flushed and he seemed somewhat agitated. She wondered what had happened for him to be that way.
"Francis, are you alright?"
"Um….yes…no," he answered without looking at her.
"Oh come on now, tell me what's wrong. I love you. You can tell me anything."
He swallowed hard and looked up at her. "I picked up the Bible to read and by chance I opened it to the Song of Solomon. Of course, I've read it before. This time it took on a new meaning and I…uh….Well, let's just say that I found it rather…steamy."
Hope came over and knelt in front of him. She smiled and asked, "What made it different this time?"
He reached out and stroked her cheek with his thumb. "You. I couldn't help but think of you while I was reading it. "
Hope blushed involuntarily."I see. Some people think that the Song of Solomon is about the relationship between God and his people. Others see it as a love poem."
"How do you see it, Hope?"
She grabbed his hand and held it tightly. "I see it as a love poem; about a very passionate and physical relationship between a man and a woman. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine, chapter one, verse two."
He leaned toward her and kissed her gently. "How's that?"
She grinned and licked her lips. "Much better than wine. I could get drunk from this." Still kneeling, Hope put her arms around his neck and kissed him. She traced his lips with her tongue. He groaned and then gently pushed her away. It was unexpected and she lost her balance. Her bottom hit the ground with a thud.
"Francis, what's wrong?" Hope couldn't understand why one minute he was kissing her and the next one he had pushed her away.
He shook his head. "I don't think we should be alone together anymore. Not while you're still here."
His words stung and she wondered why he suddenly didn't want her around. Tears filled her eyes as she stood up and backed away. "Alright Francis, if that's what you want."
She was gone before he could explain his actions. What he intended and what Hope perceived were two different things. He needed to find her and explain to her that he was afraid that he would ask her to do something they would both regret. He wanted so much to make love to her, but he wanted it to be in the right time and place; a MASH unit in Korea in the middle of a war was not it. They should be joined as husband and wife in the sacrament of marriage before he took her to his bed.
Hope stood by Francis' tent for several minutes before she walked away wondering if she made a mistake in falling in love with him. How could she be so sure one minute and so unsure the next? They were in an impossible situation. A life after the war seemed like a far away dream. Maybe the best anyone could do was to take each moment as it came and not worry about anything else. But she wanted to share those moments with him.
She finally walked away from Francis' tent with no particular destination in mind. Hope wandered the compound for half an hour before she walked into the O club. It was much too early for the place to be open and it was dark, but she didn't care. It was a place to be alone and think or so she thought until a figure moved in the darkness. A strangled scream caught in her throat. Her heart raced as she gathered her wits and asked, "Who's in here?"
"It's me," the figure answered.
"Me who?" Hope stammered.
"Hawkeye," he answered and touched her arm.
The scream she had been holding in came out. Hawkeye jumped back a few feet and yelped, "Hope, what are you doing here?"
She swallow hard and then answered, "I could ask you the same question. Since you were already here when I came in, you answer first."
Before he responded, Hawkeye carefully felt his way over to the light switch and flipped it on. He pointed towards a table in the back corner of the O club. "Come sit down and I'll tell you."
Once seated, she crossed her arms and said, "Alright, here I am. Now tell me why you're here."
"I came in here to think. After you told me what happened last night, I went to the Swamp to try and shake this god awful hangover. I fell asleep, had a bad dream and here I am." He wasn't going to elaborate about the contents of the bad dream."Now Hope, tell me why you're here."
Hope hesitated. She felt rather foolish to admit that Francis had hurt her feelings by telling her they shouldn't be alone together. It was too complicated to be in love with someone and not be able to be alone with them. There must be a logical explanation for his change of mind, but at that moment all she felt was rejection.
Hope exhaled a long breath before she said, "I don't know about me and Francis. It's just too complicated."
"Giving up so soon? Why? What happened?" Hawkeye asked.
"He thinks that we shouldn't be alone together as long as I'm still here."
"What do you mean by "still here"?"
"I asked Colonel Potter to have me transferred out. I think it would be best for all concerned."
Hawkeye shook his head. He didn't like the idea of her not being around even though she had made it plain that she didn't love him. "Oh Hope, I wish you hadn't done that."
"I think it's better for everyone if I'm not around anymore."Hope uncrossed her arms and put both hands on the table. Her voice trembled and she struggled to hold back tears. "Francis could devote his full attention to his work and maybe if you didn't see me all the time, it would be easier on you as well."
Hawkeye reached out and took her right hand. "You don't think you're running away again?"
"I don't know. I am just trying to make things easier on the people I care about." Hope attempted to brush away a tear from her cheek with her bandaged hand and missed.
Hawkeye wanted so much to comfort her. He couldn't help it. He still loved her. He reached up and brushed the tear away and let his hand linger for a few moments. "You want everything to be perfect don't you? With no conflict or hurt feelings. Life is not like that Hope. It's not neat or pretty. It's messy, just like this damn war."
"I guess I'm pretty naïve. Must be my age."
Hawkeye had never thought about her age in all the time he'd known her. It hadn't seemed very important. Now he wondered. "Hope, how old are you?"
"Twenty-five, almost twenty-six. Now that you know, you probably think I'm just a kid; a dumb one to boot, to be swept away by emotion."
"Hope, age has nothing to do with it. It's called being human." Without thinking, Hawkeye touched her cheek and was surprised that she didn't stop him.
After Hope left his tent so abruptly, Francis regretted what he had done, even though his motive was to protect her. He wanted to go after her and explain the reason for pushing her away. She was hurt and he knew it, but her warm and passionate nature made him believe that she would have done anything he asked of her. He loved her too much to take advantage of her. Anthony MacMillan had done that to her already.
"If only," he thought. "If only this war was over. If we were stateside. If I wasn't a priest. If, if, if…."
A knock on his door interrupted his ruminations. "Who is it?"
"Father, it's Major Winchester," answered a voice from the other side of the door. "May I come in?"
Francis got up and opened the door, wondering why Winchester wanted to see him. "Yes Major, how can I help you?"
"I'm looking for Lieutenant Jones. I haven't been able to find her and thought she might be here with you. I wanted to take a look at her burned hand and change the dressing."
"She was here, but she left abruptly over half an hour ago. I don't know where she is. I hope she's alright."
"Well perhaps we should look for her," Winchester suggested.
"Yes, I think that's a good idea." Francis wanted to find Hope and explain why he pushed her away.
Father Mulcahy and Major Winchester searched for Hope in every place they thought she might be; the mess tent, supply, the lab, the dispensary, or Post-Op. She wasn't in Klinger's or Colonel Potter's offices either. Then the Major remembered the time he found Hope sitting at the piano in the O club. "Father I think I know where she is."
"The Officer's club."
Sure enough, she was there but she wasn't sitting alone in the dark this time. Winchester and Father Mulcahy entered the O club to find the lights on. Hope and Hawkeye were sitting at a table deep in conversation and he was holding her hand.
"Ah, there you are Lieutenant," the Major called out.
Hope looked up to see Francis and Major Winchester standing by the door. She quickly moved her hand out of Hawkeye's grasp. "Have you been looking for me?"
Francis answered her question. "Yes, we have. Major Winchester wants to look at your injured hand and I want to talk to you …privately."
From the tone of his voice, Hope could tell he was upset. Maybe it was because she was with Hawkeye. All she had done was talk to him. Yes, he held her hand. As strange as it seemed, the man she'd hurt had been comforting her. Would Francis believe that's all it was?
Colonel Potter was a frustrated man. He had spent the morning on the phone calling other units to see if they would take Lieutenant Jones. At the time, the 8063rd and 8055th MASH units had a full complement of nurses. The Head Nurses of both units did not want to exchange any of their staff for Hope. He'd also called the 121st Evac Hospital and they couldn't use her either. He would have to go farther afield, like Tokyo General or a stateside post to try and place her.
He was tired of being on the phone. He would work on her transfer later. There was a ton of paperwork sitting on his desk begging for attention and wouldn't get done if he didn't get started on it. In a way, he was glad to do something besides wrestle with the problem of what to do with Lieutenant Hope Jones. He might just have to tell he that she was going to be with 4077th for a while longer.
Now Hope is questioning her relationship with Francis. She doesn't think she has what it takes to hang on and wait for the time to be right for them. Could this work in Hawkeye's favor?
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