Chapter Seventeen: The MASH Family
A familiar voice turned both her head and Hawkeye's. He was the one who called out. "Sidney!"
The psychiatrist almost skidded to a halt. "I didn't even notice you." He gestured to the bundle Hawkeye still held in his arms. "And that could be why."
Hawkeye picked up immediately on what the man wasn't saying. "I'm fine, Sidney. It's not the first time I've held this little lady."
"Whose is she?" he queried, looking around for other members of the MASH.
But Margaret cut that short almost instantly. "She's ours."
Sidney's eyes snapped from Margaret to Hawkeye, who was nodding. "As Radar once said, hers, mine, and ours."
He kept looking between them. "What's the joke?"
"No joke," Hawkeye replied, and the tone in his voice finally convinced Sidney this wasn't a prank. "She's our baby. Alaina Margaret Pierce."
"How old?" he queried, stepping in for a closer look.
"Three months," Margaret replied proudly.
"Would you like to hold her?" Hawkeye offered.
Sidney didn't need his psychiatry training to know that this was an ultimate act of trust. He was a father, he remembered when his boys had been that age. He wouldn't have put his children in the hands of anyone he didn't absolutely trust.
He took Alaina slowly out of Hawkeye's hands and cradled her expertly. She opened her eyes and smiled broadly at him. He smiled back. "Just like your daddy," he said to her. "You'll have nearly everyone you meet wrapped around your finger in no time."
"She had her daddy wrapped around her finger five minutes after she was born," Margaret chimed in.
"They all do," he replied, not taking his eyes off the baby. "My boys did for me."
"Hey, Major Houlihan, ma'am! Hawkeye!"
The voice, and the speech pattern, caught all of their attention. Hawkeye grinned as he saw the source. "Speak of the devil. Radar!"
He hugged the young man, laughing. "It's great to see you! How are you?"
"There's, uh, there's someone I want you to meet." He waved, and it was only then that Hawkeye realized the blonde woman standing nearby was with their former company clerk. "This is Patty Haven. And this is Hawkeye, uh, Captain Pierce -"
"Radar," Hawkeye interrupted, but he was smiling, "if you want to stay in my good graces, never call me that again."
"Right, uh, sorry, Doctor Pierce," Radar stammered. "And, uh, Major Houlihan. I can still call you Major, right, ma'am?"
She shrugged smiling. "If you want to. It certainly doesn't bother me the way it does this happily-civilian doctor here. But I'm not a Major anymore."
"Oh, gee, I'm sorry, Major ma'am," he mumbled.
"It's all right, really. I don't miss it nearly as much as I once thought I would." She shook Patty's hand. "You can call me Margaret. So can you," she added to Radar, "if you're comfortable with it."
"Hawkeye, do you mind?" Sidney held the baby out towards him, and the doctor quickly lifted her out of his friend's arms so he could embrace the shorter man. "I'm glad it's going so well for you, Radar."
Alaina apparently decided she didn't like the fact that no one was paying attention to her, and she began to wail. Margaret quickly took her, and Hawkeye went for the diaper bag. In a series of actions so practiced it was almost a dance, he quickly wrapped her in a shawl as she moved her shirt out of the way to allow her baby to latch on. Radar was watching all of this with wide eyes.
"Okay, Radar," Hawkeye said, trying not to laugh. "Who won the pool?"
"How'd you know there was a pool?" he replied in astonishment. "I thought I was supposed to be the one who knew what everyone was thinking."
"Common sense, Radar," Sidney explained, laughing. "What didn't you guys bet on over there?"
"So?" Hawkeye pressed. "Who won?"
"That depends. When did you guys start going out?"
"November," they replied in unison.
Radar grinned. "I won."
"You guessed November?" Hawkeye pressed.
"I said it wouldn't happen till the war was over - Klinger agreed, by the way, but he thought you'd get together the second they called the ceasefire. I said it wouldn't be right away but less than six months."
"I swear you have an unfair advantage, but since I didn't lose any money this time, I'll let it go."
"Hey, Margaret." Something - or rather, someone - had just caught Hawkeye's eye from across the lobby. "Isn't that -?"
"Soon-Li!" she called out, and the young Korean woman turned. She smiled and ran over to join them.
"Where's that husband of yours?" Hawkeye asked.
"He is - how do you say? - on his way," she replied.
"So?" Margaret asked her. "How long have you been back in the states?"
"I am not sure that 'back' is the correct word," she replied. "But we came here five months ago."
"Hang on," Radar interrupted. "Who is she? And how do you know her?"
"Well..." Margaret began, but then the explanation walked through the door, and they began a whole new round of greetings between the old friends and introductions for the others.
Hawkeye turned. "Trapper!" He hugged the man briefly. "How are you? How are the girls?"
Trapper's voice dropped a little; he didn't mind if the whole floor knew he and Hawkeye had missed each other, but he didn't need them knowing every detail of his daughters' personal lives. "They're doing better. Kathy's recovered amazingly fast. She still gets really scared if she thinks an adult is mad at her, but mostly she's a normal nine-year-old. Becky - she's still scared. She wakes up with nightmares every so often, she reacts badly if she's startled, she's even more timid than she used to be."
"She went through a lot more than her sister," Hawkeye pointed out. "Makes sense she'd take longer to bounce back."
"She keeps saying no one understands her."
Hawkeye filed that away for future reference. "And what about you? You got a girlfriend?"
Trapper grinned. "Yep. And she's here, so you get to meet her. C'mon." He pulled Hawkeye down the hallway and tapped on a door. "Nora!"
"John?" a voice called from behind the door.
"Someone I want you to meet."
The door opened and a woman stood in front of them. Hawkeye regarded her. She was tall for a woman, maybe five foot eight, with long reddish-brown hair. "You must be Hawkeye," she said softly.
"I must be," he agreed, shaking her hand. Once upon a time, he and Trapper would have competed over such a woman, but Margaret was it for him, and Trapper seemed serious about Nora in any case, much more serious than he had about any woman in Korea. "This big lug been telling you stories about me?"
"Him - and my brother," she added, a smile crossing her face.
"Your brother?" he repeated in puzzlement.
The expression on her face suggested she was enjoying his predicament. "Oh, we haven't been properly introduced. I'm Honoria Winchester."
Hawkeye's jaw dropped. "Honoria Winchester? As in, the sister of Charles Winchester?"
She grinned. "One and the same."
He turned to Trapper for a moment and then back to Honoria. "Did you - did he know about this?"
"Of course he knew," she replied.
"So why didn't he tell me?"
"What, in a letter?" Trapper asked. "Over the phone? And deny myself the pleasure of seeing your face when you heard?"
Hawkeye grinned. "Point taken." Then he turned to shout down the hallway. "Hey, Margaret! Guess who Trapper's dating!"
"Hello? Can I come in?"
Becky and Kathy were sitting on the beds when Margaret walked into the rooms. She bent over the younger girl. "I'm sorry, honey, but I need to talk to your sister for a minute, okay? Why don't you go play with Uncle Hawkeye and Alaina?"
"Cool!" The little brunette hopped up and bounded out the door.
Margaret sat down next to the other girl. "Hi, honey."
"Hi," she replied softly. "What do you need to talk about?"
"You're not in any trouble," she assured the child. "Your dad said you're still having some problems because of what happened with your stepfather." He hadn't exactly said that to her, but Margaret knew Hawkeye would have relayed it accurately.
Becky shrugged. "Yeah, I guess."
"You feel like no one understands you?"
"Well, they don't," she said matter-of-factly. "I don't say it to be mean. They just can't."
"I know," Margaret told her softly.
"No, you don't," she replied. "You don't understand either."
"That's not true, sweetheart." Margaret took the girl's hand in hers. "I do understand. I've been there before."
Becky's eyes shot up. "You have?"
"Yes. The first time, I was a little older than you are now. There were some boys where I lived -" she broke off. She could count on one hand the number of times she'd shared the details of that day, and this little girl didn't need any more horror in her life. "They did some things to me like what your stepfather did to you," was all she said.
The next thing she knew, a small pair of arms was wrapped around her neck, squeezing gently. "I'm so sorry," Becky said into her ear.
Margaret hugged the child back. "Thank you, sweetheart."
"Were you scared after?" she asked softly. "Did it make you feel different?"
"Yes, and yes," Margaret told her. "And I want to tell you something, and I want you to listen to me hard, okay?"
"Okay." Becky let go of Margaret's neck, but she didn't pull away. She settled in the blonde woman's lap.
"It's okay to be scared," Margaret began. "And it's okay to feel like you're a different person than you were before this happened. But when you get older, you may hear things that make you think that you're worth less than other girls because of what happened to you, and that is not true, and not okay. I know, believe me. I heard a lot of those things, and I believed them, and I got involved with a lot of men who didn't care about me because I felt like I wasn't good enough for someone who would really love me. I even got married to a man who hurt me, because I thought that was all I would ever be able to have. But I was wrong, and now I'm in love with someone who loves me back with all his heart."
"That's right. So don't you think for a second that you'll never find a good man or that you have to settle for less." She hugged Becky.
"Aunt Margaret - can I call you Aunt Margaret?"
"Of course, honey."
"Can I go play with the baby too?"
Margaret laughed. "Go on."
Becky ran for the door. At the same time, Margaret heard a footstep and whirled to find the girls' father standing behind her, having just emerged from the mini-kitchen in the suite. "I - I thought we were alone."
"I'm sorry," he said, and he sounded sincere. "I honestly didn't even realize you were in here until I heard you talking to Becky, and then I didn't want to interrupt. Hawkeye told you what I said?"
"Was he not supposed to?"
"I never said either way. I mean, I didn't want him to broadcast it to the world, but I know couples talk to each other. If it would have bothered me, I would've made a point of telling him not to talk to you."
"And you're not upset I talked to her?"
He shook his head. "I'm glad you did. She needs to know she's not alone. I - I had no idea about any of that." He couldn't meet her eyes.
"No one knew," she replied. "Except your partner in crime, and I didn't tell him right off the bat either."
He sighed. "I feel like a total jerk now, giving you a hard time and always flirting with you, even when you pushed me away. I wondered why Hawkeye laid off that line of teasing all of a sudden. Must've been right after you told him." He drew a deep breath. "You do know I would never do something like that, right? I might have tried to turn a no into a yes, maybe a little too hard sometimes, but I would never ignore a 'no' at the end of the day."
"I know," she replied. "You're like Hawkeye in that."
"Considering what I heard you say about Hawkeye just now, I think that's one of the greatest compliments I've ever gotten."*~*~*~*