Chapter Sixteen: New Meetings in New York
It was July, and they were in a New York hotel for the reunion of the 4077th MASH. Trapper had gone on more dates with Honoria Winchester, and had convinced her to come despite her reluctance. "The MASH guys aren't like what you're used to," he'd told her. "They won't care that you stutter." The four Winchesters would be coming separately, but hopefully they'd be there soon if they weren't already. Hawkeye had called him at home before they'd left Maine, but they still had a drive ahead of them just to get to where the McIntyres had started from, to say nothing of the additional drive from Boston to New York, and Trapper had no doubt he'd beaten them there, especially with a baby in Hawkeye's car. Other members of the MASH might already be there, but the truth was that he could run right into half those people and he still wouldn't know who they were.
"Daddy!" Becky called out suddenly. He started, managed to turn the descent of the suitcase in his hand from a drop to a controlled lowering, and turned to her. There was a little blonde girl, maybe three or four, standing there, crying.
He hurried over. "What's wrong, sweetie?"
She folded her arms and turned away. Becky gently stepped in front of her. "What's wrong?"
"I can't find my mommy and daddy," she replied, sniffling. "And I'm not s'posed to talk to strangers."
Becky smiled kindly. "My name's Becky. So now I'm not a stranger anymore, am I?"
"You don't count anyway. You're a kid."
Trapper bit back a laugh at the child's logic, while Becky took her by the hand. "Well, since I don't count, how about I take you inside to find your parents?" She looked up at her own father, silently requesting permission.
"You can go," he told her, "but as soon as you find her parents, come straight back here."
"Two seconds! I took my eye off her for two seconds!" BJ put his head in his hands and let out a sigh. "God. Why did I think this was a good idea?"
"Because it was," Sidney Freedman replied gently. "Look, you just brought several dozen of your closest friends here, and now you have all these people to help you find her. Chances are, she's still in the hotel somewhere."
BJ lifted his head and looked from Sidney to Charles, who was standing there with his sister. "Calm down, Hunnicutt," his former bunkmate chided. "We'll look for her."
BJ looked over at the sister, who had yet to say more than hello to him. She still didn't speak, but she nodded. Mulcahy and his own sister were nodding too.
He looked then at Potter and his wife, also standing by. "Your wife already went to the desk, right?" the old Colonel asked, and BJ nodded. "We'll spread out, look for employees, check the elevators."
BJ nodded again in agreement with this plan and began to remember one of the few things he'd missed about Korea, namely the way everyone would come together in a crisis without a second thought for any existing personal conflicts.
The little girl clung to Becky's hand as they navigated the halls of the hotel. Becky started for the information desk, but it was crowded and she had to keep changing course to avoid being run over.
An old man suddenly ran up to them. "Erin!" Then he seemed to notice Becky and stepped back. "Oh, sorry, Miss. I mistook your sister for someone else."
"She's not my sister," Becky replied, careful not to look the man in the eyes or seem like she was contradicting him. Her father didn't get mad if she contradicted, but Ken had and she wasn't sure what this man would do. "She's lost. I'm trying to find her mommy and daddy."
The man eyed the little girl with renewed interest. "Erin Hunnicutt?"
Her eyes went wide. "How do you know my name?"
"I'm a friend of your daddy's. He's very worried about you." He suddenly turned around. "Hunnicutt! BJ!"
At first, Becky didn't see anything. Then she saw a man, taller than most of the crowd, running towards them. Erin's face lit up. "Daddy!"
He reached them and swept Erin into his arms. "There you are! You scared me." He turned to the old man. "Thank you for finding her."
"Don't thank me," he replied. "Thank this little lady here."
BJ turned to her. "Well, then thank you. What's your name, honey?"
"Rebecca. Rebecca McIntyre." She still kept her eyes on the floor.
"Thank you, Rebecca McIntyre."
By now, several other people had gathered around them. A small blonde woman carrying a baby embraced both the tall man and little Erin; she had to be Erin's mother.
Then she heard a familiar voice. "What did I tell you, Hunnicutt? She was missing for all of five minutes."
Becky looked up and saw the man standing there with his sister. For the first time since BJ and Potter had met her, a smile graced her face. "You know Erin's daddy too?"
He smiled back, nodding. "I take it you're the one who found her?"
"She came out by our car. Daddy said I could take her inside but I have to go right back." Then she looked at the woman next to him. "Come on, Nora. You should come too."
BJ exchanged a shocked look with Potter. The woman had been nothing but standoffish to them, the idea that a child - and a very shy child, it appeared - would call the woman by a nickname and talk to her as a friend, and that she wouldn't be offended.
"I'm sure your father wants to get settled before he sees me." She remembered a moment too late that she wasn't alone with the girl and bit down on her lip, but by now, her secret was true.
"That's silly," she replied. "He likes you. Of course he wants to see you. Come on." She took the woman by the hand and pulled her by the hand to lead her out the door.
Several startled glances were exchanged now. Sidney spoke first. "Well, that was...interesting."
"She's not stuck-up or distant," Charles said softly. "She's very timid. She prefers not to speak in most company in order to avoid having anyone hear her stutter." He half-looked at BJ. "Believe it or not, living such a life as we do has its deficits."
"Well, make darn sure that girl knows we couldn't care less about something so trivial," Potter replied firmly, and the others nodded. Charles felt a warmth inside, one that was vaguely familiar from the few times he'd allowed himself to connect with the others back at the 4077th.
"So who's the kid?" BJ asked. "If she was your niece, you'd never have shut up about it in Korea."
Charles now got a smirk on his face, relishing the fact that he knew something Hunnicutt didn't. "No, she is not, at least not yet. Her father is seeing my sister."
Peg Hunnicutt had mostly stayed out of the debate to this point, but now she spoke up. "You didn't tell me about a whole other family!" she protested. "We didn't set aside any rooms for them!"
"Well, actually -"
But Charles never finished his sentence. Because at that moment, Sidney spotted Honoria Winchester walking back their way. And when he saw who was walking beside her, he couldn't help but burst out laughing. Mulcahy, following his gaze, broke into gentle chuckles a moment later.
The man in question looked up, and his eyes lit up when he saw the psychiatrist. "Sidney!"
And Sidney decided there was no need to call the man's name in return as he crossed the short distance to embrace the man. That, and he enjoyed the puzzled looks on Potter and BJ's faces as Mulcahy continued to laugh and Charles smirked knowingly.
Mulcahy's hug of the tall man was a little less exuberant, but there was no less emotion and care behind it. By now, Potter and BJ looked thoroughly confused, and Charles was all-out grinning in a very I-know-something-you-don't way.
It was Potter who first addressed the issue head-on. "Anyone going to let me and Hunnicutt in on the joke?"
Sidney would have been content to keep them chasing their tails, at least for another minute or two, but Mulcahy finally took pity on them. "Colonel Potter, BJ Hunnicutt, may I introduce John McIntyre?"
BJ's eyes went from the blond man to the woman beside him, then to Charles, and he couldn't help a laugh of his own as he realized the situation. "So, you're the famous Trapper," he said, offering his hand to the man. "How'd you end up with Major Ego's sister anyway?"
Trapper took it, laughing a little himself. "You can thank my sidekicks." He beckoned to the girls. "C'mere. It's okay. This is Kathy, and Becky."
Kathy stepped forward, but Becky hung back shyly. The older man stepped forward. "Well, you'll be happy to know that your legacy remained at the 4077th long after you left. I'm Sherman Potter. I oversaw that nuthouse after you left."
He shook this man's hand as well, and he could already sort of see what Hawkeye had been telling him about. Yes, this man was definitely more confident and self-assured than Henry Blake, and he was definitely the sort of man who would actually lay down the law and expect it to be followed. A leader, not some doctor who just happened to be thrown into a command post. But he was kind, and he clearly had a real connection to the people around him.
"I have to ask," BJ said to Trapper in an undertone. "Does Hawkeye know about your girlfriend?"
Trapper grinned broadly and shook his head. "You kidding? And miss seeing his face?"
Hawkeye slowly woke. "What? What's going on?"
Margaret turned to look at him from the driver's seat. "We're here."
He ran a hand through his hair. "Where's here?"
"The hotel. And you might want to take stock of where you are and what you're doing before you squirm around too much."
"What?" He looked at himself, and then grinned as he noticed his three-month-old asleep in his lap. Memory came back and he remembered settling her in his arms after their last stop. "Oh, did someone have a good nap?" he cooed.
"Looked to me like three someones did," Margaret teased. "All three of you were out cold within half an hour of us getting back on the road."
Hawkeye shifted the baby expertly to one arm so he could open the car door. His father was already out and starting to offload the luggage. Hawkeye started to hold the baby out, to offer her to Margaret so he could help his father, but she ignored the gesture and instead reached in and hauled out one of the largest suitcases. He laughed to himself, pulling Alaina back against his chest. Some things never changed.
The hotel lobby wasn't that crowded, but even if it had been, Hawkeye knew his eyes would have been immediately drawn to the tallest figure present. He held Alaina out to Margaret again and this time, understanding, she took the baby without question.
BJ turned, as if sensing the gaze on him, and his face, thankfully free of the cheesy mustache he'd sported the last few years in Korea, split in a wide grin. "Hawk!"
The hug between them was at least as intense as their final embrace in Korea. Whatever BJ's promise, a part of Hawkeye had believed that they really would never see each other again. But now they were standing there, in a hotel in New York.
"Come here." Hawkeye finally broke the embrace. "There's someone I want you to meet."
Margaret was only a few steps behind Hawkeye, and BJ embraced her too, mindful of the precious package in her arms. Then he reached down to caress Alaina's cheek. "And this little bundle must be the someone you wanted me to meet. She's beautiful."
"Where's yours?" Hawkeye asked.
"Right over here." BJ led the way back to the little blonde woman Hawkeye recognized from so many photos and the video they'd conspired to make. "Hawkeye, may I finally have the honor of presenting my lovely wife?"
The woman smiled warmly at him. "It's great to finally meet you. Forgive me for not getting up, but I just got Benny to fall asleep."
"Believe me, I understand." He looked down at the baby in her arms. "Naming a baby after me; I told your husband it was a mistake."
She laughed. "You want to know a secret?"
He grinned. "Sure."
"I told him to."
"When we were making lists of baby names, I asked BJ what your real name was, and then I told him I wanted to put it at the top. Don't get me wrong, he was all for it, but it was my idea."
"For God's sake, why?" he asked, only half-joking. BJ wanting to name a child after him he could understand, but Peg?
"He told me a lot about you. You kept him together over there."
A thousand sarcastic responses occurred to him and were dismissed in a moment. Instead, he did something he'd been practicing a lot recently; he replied seriously. "He kept me together too."