Chapter Four: The New Road
The ER at Portland General had recieved a tough case that day. Two people in a bar fight, one had pulled a pocketknife and stabbed the other several dozen times, including several wounds to the throat. Hawkeye had tried his hardest but the damage had been too severe, and the patient had died on the table, to his horror and anguish. He had been shaking too hard to drive and had called a cab to bring him home, and then promptly collapsed on the couch.
It was the third week of November now, and he still couldn't seem to shake Korea. He and BJ remained in weekly contact and he was grateful beyond words for it. BJ was the best friend he had ever had and BJ understood what was going on in his life. No one else did.
Toby and Dickie had significantly decreased the frequency of their visits when they had belatedly picked up on the gap Hawkeye had noticed when he had first seen them. In any case, he wouldn't have been going to them with this problem. They wouldn't understand, and they wouldn't try to sympathize or to comfort him. The only childhood friend who might understand was Tommy - that thought, considering the reason for his mood, only made him feel worse. He still missed his old friend terribly.
Someone rapped sharply on the door and Hawkeye slowly got up to answer it. He peered into the snowy November night to see a cab driver, someone who like the rest of the town he'd known his entire life, standing on the porch.
"Got a delivery." He shrugged. "There's a girl in my cab who was specifically looking for you - one of you, anyway."
"She flagged me down and asked if I knew where the Pierce residence was. From out of town, I assume."
"So why are you coming to the door instead of her?"
"She almost keeled over while I was helping her out of the cab, so I put her back in and said I'd come get help. Pretty girl, but let me tell you, she needs to take better care of herself. She looks awful. Probably could use you even if she hadn't asked."
"All right, I'll come take a look." But he still couldn't figure out why a woman would have been looking for either him or his father.
Hawkeye stepped outside, shivering against the cold air, and he started to turn back to grab a coat when he heard Kyle give a soft sigh. "For God's sake. I told her to stay in the car until I came back. If she'd fallen..."
Hawkeye looked where the man was looking and drew in a breath. "I don't believe it."
"I know, she already almost fell once."
But Hawkeye was no longer listening. His entire attention was fixed on the woman leaning on the cab. Forgetting all about the cold, he hurried down his front steps to where she stood.
"Hawkeye!" A smile lit up her tired face (Kyle had been right, she really did look awful).
"Margaret," he repeated, his voice breathy from shock. Then he did the only thing he could do - he stepped forward and pulled her into his arms. "Margaret, Margaret."
"Hawkeye," she whispered back, her face securely buried against his chest. They clung almost desperately to each other.
He moved his lips near her ear to whisper the one question he had. "What are you doing here?"
She looked up at him, and he could see that she was extremely upset. "I - I've done something stupid, and now I'm in trouble," she said finally.
"I get the feeling this is going to take awhile, and it's freezing out here. Come on in, I'll make you some hot chocolate and you can tell me about it."
"Sounds nice," she breathed.
"Come on. You got any bags?"
He very reluctantly let up his embrace to pick up her suitcase, escorting her into the house. "Thanks, Kyle!"
"No problem!" He called back just as Hawkeye closed the front door.
"Come on," he told Margaret, "sit down. You look out on your feet."
She sank gratefully onto his couch, feeling him help her remove her coat. She winced when he touched the bare skin on her neck. "Hawkeye, your hands are frozen."
He grinned. "Cold hands, warm heart." Then he turned serious. "What is it, Margaret?"
"What, no hot chocolate?" She pretended to pout, hoping he'd buy it so she could delay the inevitable.
"How could I ever be so careless?" He grinned disarmingly and walked into the kitchen. "It'll just be a minute," he called over his shoulder.
She laid back on the couch and studied the ornate house. It was certainly fancier than anything she had ever lived in in their multitude of army houses. She thought she could sit there for hours, just studying every little detail.
She heard Hawkeye's footsteps and sat up to take a mug from him. "This smells divine."
He smiled and sat down next to her, leaning over to give her a light kiss on the lips. She pulled away.
"I'm sorry," he said softly.
"No, no, I'm sorry, it's just -" she took a small sip from the mug in her hands. "I did one stupid thing in a moment of foolishness, and now I've ruined my whole life,"
"How bad?" There was no hint of humor in Hawkeye now. "Come on, tell me what happened."
"Do you remember General Wisecoff?"
"Sure. You got that great idea of training the nurses for triage and he came to inspect you."
"There's a part of that I never told you. After the demonstration, he approached me and offered to promote me to Lieutenant Colonel and give me a place on his staff. I turned him down."
"Because his personal staff was more like a personal harem. I was finally starting to get my independence back, I didn't need him to take that away from me."
"So what happened?"
"He visited the VA hospital in Virginia where I was working. Normally I wouldn't have cared, but I've had a hard time connecting with anyone back in the states, and there was somebody I'd once called a friend. He invited me out for drinks - how could I have been so stupid? So he got me really drunk, and then he took me back to his hotel room, and we - we -" She made a soft sound of frustration. "I swore to myself I would never go back to being Hot Lips Houlihan, not after you helped me come so far, but that night I did."
"It's okay, Margaret." He rubbed her arm gently. "You made a mistake is all. Everyone does. It's okay."
"No! You don't understand. It's not that simple and it's not okay. I can't just move past it. We were really drunk, and I knew we were forgetting something but I didn't know what, and, well, I know now, you see - I'm pregnant."
"Uh-huh." Hawkeye processed this information, hoping his shock didn't show on his face. "How long?"
"That night was four weeks ago. As soon as I was, you know, late, I had a test done. I suspected."
"Have you told him?"
"I called him. He asked how I could be sure it was his. Then he hung up on me."
"That -" Hawkeye trailed off, unable to come up with an appropriate insult. His teeth were gritted in anger. She'd had enough people take advantage of her already.
"So here I am. My career is over and I'm stuck with a baby whose father wants nothing to do with it and no way to support myself, let alone a child." Her voice cracked a little.
"What do you need from me?" he asked.
"I don't know," she admitted. "I don't even know why I'm here, except that I couldn't be there anymore You're the one person who's always been there for me, no matter what, and I just expected - I don't even know what I expected, except that you wouldn't judge. It was one of the most impulsive things I've ever done, jumping on a plane and coming out here, but I -"
"Shh." He cut her off gently, taking her mug from her hands and placing it on the table so he could take her in his arms. "What's important is that you're here now. You're here, and I'm here for you, and it's going to be okay."
"How? I don't even have a place to live, and I barely have any money. What am I supposed to do?"
"You have a place here." It was out of his mouth before he was aware of it.
"Yes, you can." He rested his chin on the top of her head. "You said yourself you don't have anywhere to go. Why not stay here?"
"I -" she didn't have a reason, and that was the worst part. His offer was so tempting.
"If you're worried about repaying me, don't. I want you here. You'd be doing me as much good by staying as you'd be doing yourself. I need someone here who can help me, someone who understands what it was like out there. You're that person, Margaret. We can help each other."
She buried her face deeper in his neck, knowing the battle was lost. "Okay. I'll stay."
"Have you heard anything from the other members of the 4077th?"
Hawkeye had taken her bag up to a guest room and returned to find her sitting on the couch, where he had joined her, falling easily back into their old rhythm. "A few. Potter writes now and again. BJ and I talk every week," he admitted with a smile. He knew she would understand. He debated for a moment whether or not to reveal what BJ had just told him, but decided his friend would likely have no objections. "BJ and Peg are going to have another baby."
"When?" Margaret asked.
"Early April." He could see Margaret's mind working, doing the same calculations he had when BJ had first told him. "Makes you wonder what they did his first night home, doesn't it?"
She laughed a little. "He happy?"
"You kidding? Over the moon."
"Peg's lucky," she said wistfully.
"Hey." He hugged her gently. "I told you. We'll make it work."
"What am I supposed to tell my kid when he asks where his daddy is?"
"You'll figure it out. We'll figure it out." An idea had occured to him, but it felt too soon to mention it. Maybe in a few days, when this wasn't all new, when she'd had a few days to adjust to being in his house. "Come on, you're tired. Bedtime."
"You don't look so great yourself."
In the shock over seeing her, to say nothing of her news, he had forgotten about the day he'd had. He wished it could have stayed forgotten. "Just a rough day at work."
He sighed deeply. "I lost a patient," he said finally. "I tried everything - he was just too badly hurt."
She touched his shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"Thanks." He drew a deep breath. "It's just - that was a Korea thing in my mind. I guess somehow I imagined that when I came home all the death would stop, and for the most part it has, but a day like today happens and -" he choked.
"I know," she said softly. "Would you rather I stayed in your room tonight?"
"It's not like we'd do anything. We'd just be able to be close. Like we used to - over there." She hoped he would say yes. She wanted to be with him as much as she could see he wanted to be with her.
"If you want to."
"Just show me where it is."
He led her up the stairs. "Your room is here." He indicated the guest room. "That's where I left your bag. And mine is here."
"Give me a few minutes and I'll be right in."
Hawkeye went into his room and pulled off his work clothes, sliding into a pair of pajamas and wearily landing on his bed, realizing just how exhausted he was. Only a few minutes later, Margaret came into his room in her own pajamas and a dressing gown which she dropped on a chair before climbing into bed beside Hawkeye and curling up with him.
"What would your father say if he saw this?" she asked, curling into his shoulder.
"He wouldn't care. If he asks, I'll explain." He closed his eyes, pulling her tight so there wasn't an inch of space between. "God, you feel good." She did. It felt wonderful to hold her, like a missing piece finally slipping back into place. He hadn't realized how much he had missed her.
"So do you." She nestled her head in his shoulder. "I really missed you."
"Yeah. Me too." He buried his face in her hair, breathing in the familiar scent. "Sleep, Margaret. I've got you. Sleep."
Hawkeye woke early, smiling to himself as he felt Margaret still snug in his arms. It felt to him like she belonged there. No woman had ever felt quite that way in his arms - not even his former long-term girlfriend Carleye.
He ran his fingers through her hair, noticing with a smile that it was no longer white-blonde all over. It was still a light color, but it was more of a reddish-blonde shade. The roots were still white-blonde where she retained the remnants of years of bleaching. I always knew that wasn't her real color. He kissed the top of her head lightly.
Over in Korea, the idea of this had been a fond wish at best. She had one set of plans, and he had another. That was just the way it was. But now, that had all changed. She no longer had the life she had so carefully planned for herself, and he was genuinely sorry for her. But this changed everything. Suddenly, that barrier that was her Army career was gone, and he wasn't at all sure how to react. The last thing in the world he wanted was to scare or hurt her. That General had done plenty of that, and he was just the last of a long list. Hawkeye had vowed long ago that he would never do that to her, and laying there with her in his arms he renewed that vow.
She had asked him, what felt like a lifetime ago, what he would have done if a pregnancy that had turned out to be a false alarm had been the real thing, and if it had turned out that, as had been possible, the baby had been his and not Donald Penobscott's.
Would you have been there for him or her? she had asked.
For the baby and for you, he had replied without a second's hesitation. Every step of the way.
He brushed his hand almost reverently over Margaret's still-flat belly, and made another vow to the baby that lay within. The baby was hers, and he cared for it for that reason alone.
"Every step of the way, Margaret," he whispered so quietly she didn't even stir. "Every step of the way."