Disclaimer: To my great sorrow, I do not own M*A*S*H, or any of it's characters.
Author's note: This is sort-of-AU in which Peg and Erin do not exist. Some of the scenes/vignettes call back to canon, while others I just made up.
Slight spoilers for anyone who doesn't know about Donald, Scully, or the finale.
mostly one-sided BJ/Margaret, possible implied Hawkeye/Margaret, one-shot
The first time you meet her you're so drunk you don't remember her the next day, when she passes by you in the Mess Tent and acknowledges you with a distant, Captain Hunnicut. She seems a complete stranger so you turn to Hawkeye to ask who that woman is, and he says, "Hot Lips," and he says, "you met her yesterday," and you would swear to God that she looks like the type of woman who would kill you with her bare hands if she heard someone calling her Hot Lips. It turns out she's in a relationship with Frank though, so maybe she's not intelligent enough to understand the words hot and lips when they're strung together (you do get to talking to her eventually though, and you find out that she's not as stupid as a relationship with Frank would suggest, and you figure that whatever goes on between them is either a lot more simple or a lot more complicated than anyone else thinks). It doesn't matter to you anyway because you don't plan on staying here long enough to get attached to anyone other than maybe Hawkeye, because you've never really met anyone like him before.
She dyes her hair because it's not naturally blonde, and you don't understand the obsession women have with blonde hair because your own hair is brown and you quite like it. Your first girlfriend's hair was brown (and so was the second one's, now that you think of it), and your mother's hair was brown too, but she used to dye it as well so that ought to tell you something.
Sometimes she dyes her hair and sometimes she throws tantrums and screams at Frank in the night until you can hear it from across the compound even with your pillow pressed tight over your ears. She doesn't stop shrieking until Frank comes slinking back into the Swamp, his metaphorical tail tucked between his legs, and it's fun when this happens because Hawkeye will giggle into his mattress and make snide remarks in the morning. And at least it's something to look at other than your mother's letters that are only two weeks old and already worn from rereading.
You see Penobscot coming ages before he happens because she's too good for Frank and you've almost always known it. Finally it seems that she's getting the message too, and it's good for her because she's independent and intelligent and certainly the most stubborn woman you've ever met and (even though she's getting married) she doesn't need anyone to be happy. It's about time she takes her life in her own hands, you think, and you tell her these things one night as you lie draped across the bartop in the Officer's Club with a gin in hand and a grin spread sloppy on your face. Again, you don't remember anything the next day (even though she does), but this is Korea and by now you're almost expect gaping black holes in your memory because as far as you're concerned the less you remember about this place the better.
Anger isn't a foreign emotion. Ever since coming to Korea it's become the emotion you're most familiar with because it's the feeling you take with you to bed and the one you wake up next to and the one you eat and work with. Anger is a constant companion (almost like Hawkeye except Hawkeye has blue eyes and a squinty smile and sometimes he chases the anger away). But even with all that anger and all that fury and all that outrage you are shocked by the wave of pure burning animosity you feel for Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscot when you catch wind of the way he's been treating Margaret (she's Margaret to everyone now, not Hot Lips, even though she was never anything but Margaret to you). It's not you she confides in, but Hawkeye, because apparently they had a thing in some shack (and when you heard about that you felt a little twinge of not-exactly-but-almost-anger in your gut that you pushed away before you could examine it too closely). But anyway you lie in your creaky half-size cot under your scratchy brown blanket at night and you listen to Hawkeye and Charles breathe and you think that it doesn't matter that you're angry with Penobscot because you're angry about everything all the time anyway. Your anger with him is like a single drop in an ocean but the longer you think about it (all night) the bigger the drop becomes until that one drop fills your whole ocean and Jesus Christ thinking about this will give you an ulcer. (If you get an ulcer at least you get sent home so at least some good may come of this.)
She deserves better and you don't understand why you seem to be the only person who fully comprehends that fact. Nobody else, not even Hawkeye, seems to really understand that she deserves better all the time, unconditionally, even when she yells at the nurses for no real reason or when she laughs at your mustache or when she does something irrational, like she did when she stayed with an idiot like Penobscot for longer than she should have. You swear if you ever see Penobscot again you'll kill him, you'll feel his neck crack beneath your hands with pleasure, and you haven't told Margaret that except maybe you did and you just don't remember. If you did tell her anything she hasn't mentioned it, but she probably doesn't take half the things you say while drunk seriously and perhaps that's for the best because you make a few too many confessions anyway.
You're fighting with Charles about the stupid paper when you see Margaret walking across the compound in a frilly pink dress. You loose the thread of the conversation, trip over your words and stutter to silence and Charles snickers. "If you haven't yet mastered the power of speech, Hunnicut, then what makes you think you are capable of writing?"
She's in heels, pearls circling her neck, and she's carrying herself differently. This isn't Margaret so maybe this is Hot Lips, the woman who will change herself to please a man.
It's strange, but you used to like Scully.
She is drunk and she laughs and her teeth are white. In the corner of the room Hawkeye sits swathed in his red bathrobe and Charles is sitting next to him and they swim and quiver in your eyes. The floor is shifting like a boat on the sea and you're still in your bloody scrubs and you realize you are crying but you're not really sure why because you don't feel anything, not even anger.
There weren't that many patients today, but a little girl was brought in and you were the one who saw, when the corpsmen put her stretcher down in triage, that her head wasn't attached to her body under the bandages.
You used to be a nice boy, clean cut and kind and now you are nothing, a shell scraped hollow by war and washed whistle-clean by blood.
You can't feel anything, and this must be death.
Except then Margaret's favorite song blares through the Officer's Club and she grabs your hand because you're the only man standing, and twirls you around like a ballroom dancer. She laughs again and her hand is soft and something warm unspools in your belly.
She dips you, and you smile.
You're not jealous of Hawkeye. It's not his fault that Margaret opens up to him and confesses her feelings, trusts him with things that she doesn't trust with anyone else. It's not his fault that they've known each other for longer than either of them have known you. He has seen sides of Margaret that you never have; they have a shared history that is sprinkled with events you never witnessed and people you have never met: Trapper and Henry, Spearchucker, Ginger, and you tell yourself you're not jealous.
It's not Hawkeye's fault that you hover somewhere near the outskirts of Margaret's life, while she is the center of yours.
"I love you," you say. Hawkeye is next to you, his sleeping face distorted and pressed against the bartop and Margaret is on his other side, popping pretzels. You've been drinking (since you got to Korea) but you're still sober.
She thinks you're joking and you don't correct her. "What else is new?" she says. "Get in line."
"I hope someday I find someone like you," she says, and you laugh because you don't exactly know who you are anymore, but you play along. "I hope so too," you say, "you deserve the best," you say, and something in her eyes changes. Suddenly she's holding you so tight that you can't breath and you are positive that tomorrow you will have bruises where her fingers dig into your back. You don't know how long you stay like that, months, years, but it's still too soon when she lets go.
Hawkeye kisses her and you try not to look but it lasts so long that you can't help but stare out of the corner of your eye. Later she gets in the jeep and waves and you watch until she shrinks and disappears into the distance.
You probably won't ever see her again and you pretend it doesn't hurt.
You're back in America, a surgeon in California who jumps at loud noises and tenses at the sound of airplanes overhead. Your house seems too big, now that you're not used to having this much space all to yourself anymore, so you live out of one room and rent out your top floor. You can't sleep at night because it's so goddamn quiet when you're alone, so most nights you spend hours on the phone with Hawkeye. On some nights he's his old self and on others you have to talk him down from a ledge.
You stop drinking the day your mother drops by for an unexpected visit and finds you passed out on your bed on top of all of your dirty laundry. When you wake up she is perched next to you on the bed, stroking your hair and crying, and the moment she leaves you collect all your beer and gin bottles and throw them in the dumpster down the street.
Life goes on but you have the impression of watching it go by without being a part of it, like a neutral observer, or as if you are a boulder set in the middle of a rushing river. Spending all those hours telling Hawkeye that life is worth living makes you wonder if you yourself are suicidal, and your words begin to sound meaningless and without conviction.
"War never ends, not really," says Hawkeye once, and you think he's probably right.
The phone is ringing when you walk through the door and you pick it up without enthusiasm because it's not Hawkeye. He never calls this early.
It's Margaret. "BJ!" she cries, her voice vibrant even through the scratchy telephone line, and it feels like electricity has rushed to your fingertips, like your chest has been filled with sunlight. "Guess what!"
"Marga—" you say faintly, "what?"
"I bet you're surprised to hear from me, huh? I'm in the Dallas airport. I can be in San Francisco in three hours. What d'you say?"
Your eyes rove over the clothes strewn across the floor, the row of empty Chinese takeout cartons perched atop the windowsill, your suitcase, still unpacked and dusty from Korea, tossed into the corner. You imagine wrestling the window open to let in some fresh air, cooking a proper meal, getting your life together.
"I'll be waiting for you when you get off the plane," you say, and you can swear you can hear her smile.
I'd be grateful for reviews, but be kind with any criticisms. Thanks for reading!