DISCLAIMER: The M*A*S*H characters are the property of Twentieth Century Fox, and a bunch of others no doubt. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2012 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
I'll Be Seeing You
"So, that's him, huh?" Bruce was pacing the hotel room, making Margaret annoyed before he'd even opened his mouth.
"Have no idea what you're talking about." She poured herself several fingers of scotch and thought about pretty little Sally, Hawkeye's wife.
His wife. Sweet. Innocent. Clearly adored him. Margaret realized Bruce had said something else. "What?"
"I asked you if you've had sex with him."
She decided not to tell her husband the truth: she'd had sex with a lot of men, not just the one teenage first-love she'd told him about. Bruce was old fashioned. Most of the men she met were old fashioned.
But Hawkeye had been different. Hawkeye hadn't been just sex.
Hawkeye had been the one.
Until he married Ramona, another innocent girl who'd left him once she figured out Hawkeye couldn't be faithful to her. Oh, he hadn't cheated on her with women. It was the long, slow caress of gin that he liked. Vodka would do, though, or scotch. Anything that had alcohol as a main ingredient and intoxication as the main result.
Margaret had cheated on Bruce with the same lovers. Something else she and Pierce shared.
She hadn't been surprised when Hawkeye married Sally. But something in her died when he'd once again chosen someone else. And Bruce had come along and he'd been handsome—or at least handsome enough.
And strong and commanding.
Or at least a loudmouthed bully. It was easy to get the two mixed up when you were drunk and looking for a way out of being lonely.
Bruce stomped over, looming as he liked to do. He'd never hit her even though he'd threatened to just about every fight. She'd never pushed him far enough for him to actually do it.
"I asked you a question, Margaret."
"What was it? I wasn't listening."
"Do you love him?"
He loomed even more. Clearly angry. Fists clenched. "Yes, Goddamn it. Pierce."
She smiled up at him, giving him an expression that she knew was horrible in its cruel humor. "With all my heart."
Bruce's fist crashed into her face. She dropped her Scotch, pushed him away, and stood. She let fly with her own punch, a much better hit, and he went down to his knees.
She leaned in, her fingers gripping his hair, pulling his head back. "Hit me again and I'll kill you."
She could tell by his expression that he believed her.
She picked up the glass, which hadn't broken—nice carpet in this hotel Radar had picked for their reunion—and walked over to the dresser to fix herself a fresh drink. Staring in the mirror, she assessed the red mark on her face and could imagine the bruise she'd sport for the rest of the reunion. Nice. Classy.
"I'm leaving." Bruce said. He sounded sorry. He sounded angry. He sounded sad.
"I'm weeping." She didn't turn, didn't even look at him in the mirror.
This had been coming for two years, ever since they'd said "I do" in front of a justice of the piece in Milwaukee. All they'd needed to finally kick them over the cliff was one man.
"What the hell happened here?" Hawkeye gently eased Margaret's chin up, looking at the shiner on her cheek.
"You should see the other guy."
"I did see the other guy. If I'm not mistaken, you're married to the other guy." The other guy, sporting a much more severe bruise around his eye, had been walking out of the hotel, suitcase in hand, when Hawkeye had gone down for breakfast.
"Not for much longer." She jerked away from his hand. "I'm going to have to find alternate transportation home." She grinned but it was a twisted expression. "Hell, I'm going to have to find an alternate home."
"Yeah, I saw Bruce was leaving."
Mad as hell and glaring at Hawkeye like he was the enemy. "You're the reason, you know," Bruce had said to him as he'd passed. "You two deserve each other." And then he'd stopped and turned. "I feel sorry for Sally. She deserves better. So the hell do I." He'd turned and stomped out.
Sally had been in the tiny gift shop. She'd come out and taken his arm. "What did he mean by that?"
Hawkeye had hoped she hadn't heard. He'd shrugged. "Margaret sure can pick them. I should tell you about her boyfriend back at camp. We called him Ferret Face."
Sally had frowned. "That's not very nice." She'd let go of his arm and walked into the coffee shop without him.
Margaret turned away, and Hawkeye murmured, "He said I was the reason."
"When aren't you the reason?" She walked off, ignoring Sally as she came in from the pool, looking young and tan and impossibly unspoiled.
"What happened to her face?"
Sally studied him. "You're lying. You do that a lot, don't you?" She sighed and moved toward the elevators.
He watched her and thought about following her up to the room, pulling her into his arms, and making love to her. The elevator doors opened, but he didn't hurry over, just let her go, a strange look on her face as she watched him until the doors closed again.
Then he hurried off after Margaret.
Margaret sat on a bench by the lake the hotel was situated on, watching children play. They screamed and laughed as they jumped into the water.
She heard Hawkeye coming down the path. Knew his steps by heart, even muffled by the rubber on his shoes. He sat down next to her.
"Sally seems nice." She turned to look at him.
He didn't turn, just stared out at the water. "She is nice."
"Great, then. Perfect." She folded her arms over her chest, a defensive move, she knew. As if she could keep this man from getting to her.
"I don't love her."
"Probably shouldn't have married her, then." She saw his jaw tighten. "As I recall, you said you didn't love Ramona either."
His mouth got even tighter.
"You marry women you don't love, Hawkeye. Why is that?"
"I could ask you the same thing. It was clear you didn't love Bruce."
"I was drunk when I met him. He looked good. And I was off my game—I'd just heard you'd gotten hitched to the little cheerleader."
"Ramona was the cheerleader. Sally was drill team."
"Same difference." The popular girls. The girls above reproach. Margaret had never been part of that clique. No matter how many times she started over when her parents moved.
"Why did Bruce hit you?"
"Maybe because I hit him first."
"Not your style anymore."
"He asked me if I love you. He didn't like the answer."
Hawkeye sighed. "What are you going to tell the others?"
"I've been trying to figure that out. There's the ever popular 'I ran into a door' excuse." She got up, suddenly unable to stay seated—to stay seated next to him.
He got up too and moved to her side. "We hear that a lot. As doctors. We don't generally believe it."
"Why not the truth, then? Our marriage has been rocky. We had too much to drink at dinner last night and had our last big blow out." She turned, could tell he was surprised. "Why hide it? I'm tired of lying."
He was staring at her helplessly. The way he used to in Korea. The way she couldn't resist.
"Stop it, Hawkeye. Just stop it. You chose her. You always choose her or someone like her. You don't get to look at me like that." Resisting the urge to punch him—because he'd been right: it wasn't her style, not anymore anyway—she turned and walked away from him.
He didn't try to follow her.
"Not sure I like that shiner on Margaret's face," Potter said as he and Hawkeye stood at the bar, watching the others talk.
"Pretty sure she isn't thrilled with it, either." Hawkeye kept his expression as even as he could. "Her husband is a piece of work."
"Yeah, so she told me. Our Margaret usually gives as good as she gets. Wonder what he looked like after the fight?"
Hawkeye grinned. "Pretty much like you'd expect." At Potter's questioning look, he said, "Sally and I saw him leaving this morning."
"Ah." Potter infused a world of meaning into that short sound.
Hawkeye decided to ignore it.
"Sally's a keeper," Potter said softly.
"She sure is."
"You going to?"
"That's the plan." Like marriage had kept him and Ramona together? Like it had kept Margaret and Bruce together? Or Margaret and Donald? Hawkeye looked over to where Margaret was sitting with B.J. and Peg. She looked beautiful, despite the bruise, despite everything.
She always looked beautiful to him.
Sally sat across from them. She glowed. So fresh and vibrant. She sipped her martini and looked as if she was paying attention to the conversation, but she was staring at Margaret as if trying to figure out a puzzle.
"Oh, son. Why couldn't you just go the easy road this time?"
Hawkeye turned to look at Potter. "The easy road?"
"Houlihan Avenue." Potter gave him a gentle smile. "You're both so damned stubborn. And every time I see you, it's more and more clear..." He shook his head, shrugged. "Listen to me. An old man going on. I'm going to rejoin the party and let you get back to your wife."
Hawkeye watched him sit down next to Mildred. Lovely woman. Saucy and spicy and full of love for her husband.
The easy road for Potter, no doubt.
But when had Margaret ever been the easy road for Hawkeye?
Margaret floated in the pool, enjoying the night air, the moonlight, and the way the breeze played across her skin.
"The pool's closed." Sally stood at the side of the pool, dressed in the pretty sundress she'd worn to dinner.
"Yep, it is."
"You don't care about rules, do you?"
Margaret thought about that. There had been a time when she did. Unless she needed to break one to get what she wanted. But maybe that was the essence of not caring about rules? Only following them when they served your purpose?
"It's not that hard a question."
Margaret studied her. "Yes, it is."
Sally kicked off her sandals and sat down, dangling her legs in the water. "You and my husband have a history."
"He tell you that?"
"No. But he says your name in his sleep sometimes."
"Doesn't mean anything. It's just a Korea thing."
"That's what he said, when I asked him about it the first time I heard him do it." She smiled, but it was a harder smile than Margaret expected. "I'm not some stupid girl, you know."
"Never said you were."
"You look at me like I am."
"I look at everybody that way." Margaret suddenly, desperately wished for a drink. She paddled to the wall and leaned against it.
"He looks at me that way, too, sometimes." Sally closed her eyes and seemed to be enjoying the breeze. "Your husband must have been really mad at you to hit you that way."
Margaret decided she'd had enough and kicked off from the wall, swimming toward the steps at the end of the pool.
"I saw him leaving. He said it was Hawkeye's fault."
Margaret didn't stop swimming.
"My husband doesn't love you, Margaret. Even if he does call your name out at night. You're just some woman he knew in Korea."
Margaret stepped out, glad that she'd taken care of her body, glad that she had a better rear end than the beautiful girl who was saying things that might be true.
She toweled off and then turned to look at Sally. "He's your husband, not mine. Don't make whatever's wrong between you two my problem." She saw her words hit home.
Sally looked down. "You're not very nice."
"I never said I was." She gathered up her room key and walked off, leaving Sally alone.
Hawkeye stood at Margaret's door and debated whether he was going to knock.
"Door doesn't open itself, Pierce." Margaret pushed past him, a towel wrapped around her shoulders, the rest of her nicely outlined in a swimsuit. "Your wife is out by the pool."
She turned to look at him. "You're standing at my door and you say that? What do you want?"
What did he want?
She rolled her eyes, unlocked her door, and walked in.
He caught it before it shut and locked him out.
"Wow. Look at you. Making a snap decision. Oh wait, that's not out of character for you."
"For you, either."
She went to the dresser, held up a bottle. "You want some?"
"Yes, you do. You're just afraid she'll smell it on your breath." Her smile was as angry as he'd ever seen it. "What the hell do you want, Pierce?"
"You." It was out before he could stop himself.
She just laughed and turned to the bottle, busying herself with pouring a drink and downing it quickly before pouring another. "We both know that's not true," she said, not turning to look at him.
He walked over, eased the towel off her shoulders, and pulled her close, her back to his chest, his arm across her collarbone. The way he'd comforted her in Korea.
"If you think I'm upset over this, you're reading the wrong script." She ducked out of his grip, went to the window, and said, "Your pretty little wife is still there. Why don't you go join her? I can tell you, they don't police the pool even if it is closed." She turned to look at him. "Go skinnydipping. Make mad passionate love to her. I'll watch from up here. It'll be good for me. That shot of reality that I probably need."
He could feel frustration fill him, could tell it was turning into the self-righteous anger that he'd used so often in Korea to let off steam. "I don't know why I came to your room."
"I don't know either. You're married to someone else. You're always married to someone else." She cocked her head, as if he was some kind of strange creature. "Except in Korea. And even then, you didn't want me. Not for long, anyway."
"Maybe you're the one with the wrong script." He turned to go and was nearly beaned by her hairbrush. It hit the door with a smack and he turned to look at her. "Very mature, Margaret."
She held up her glass. "No, Pierce, immature would have been throwing this at you and then having to deal with broken glass all over my floor. I took that extra minute to think, to pick something that while it made a statement, wouldn't end up hurting me in the end."
"I never meant to hurt you."
"I never said you did hurt me."
"Yes, you damn well did. The words are there; I know you too well not to hear them."
She looked like she might throw her drink at him this time but then turned away. "Go back to your wife and leave me alone." She went into the bathroom, and he heard the door lock.
He stood for a moment and then he went back to his room. Sally gave him a searching look when she came in later, but he smiled and asked her where she'd been, and she seemed to relax.
Once she'd kissed him. Once there'd been no booze on his breath.
Margaret hadn't been wrong about that.
Margaret saw Colonel Potter coming toward her and smiled at him as he took the seat opposite. "Seems like old times at the mess, huh?" She raised her coffee cup to him. "Only the Joe is better."
He smiled at her, the same protective smile she'd learned to love in Korea. Mildred Potter was a lucky woman.
"So, your husband gone for good?"
Always one to cut to the chase, her Colonel Potter.
"Are you happy or sad about that?"
"Little bit of both?"
"Understandable. I didn't really take to him."
"That's because you think I should be with Pierce."
He shrugged and gave her a sheepish grin. "Have since forever. You two have something that doesn't come around all that often."
"I know. I think it doesn't come around all that often because it's toxic."
He laughed. "I don't think so." He studied her face. "I don't like seeing that shiner on you. Bruce ever do that before?"
"Do you think I'd let him hit me and live?" She shook her head. "Seeing me and Pierce together sort of did him in."
"Yeah, I don't think it's sitting real well with Mrs. Pierce either." He shook his head. "Nice girl. Real sweet. All wrong for him. Same as his first wife."
"Well, he keeps picking them. He must like them that way." She waved the waiter over for more coffee, and Potter ordered his breakfast. She waited until the waiter had brought his coffee, then said, "At any rate, in a few days we all go home and that'll be that."
He nodded, then met her gaze with a look she couldn't read. "A lot can happen between now and then."
"Not if I don't let it." She frowned. "Are you urging me on or warning me off?"
He leaned back and looked clearly uncomfortable. "I'm not sure." He took a deep breath. "Mildred would kill me if she knew we were talking about this. 'Leave well enough alone, Sherman,' is what she would say."
"And she'd be right." Margaret patted his hand. "How about you let me worry about my feelings for Pierce?"
"That would be the sensible thing, wouldn't it?"
She nodded and they drank their coffee in peace until their food came.
Hawkeye watched Sally move angrily around the room and couldn't figure what he had done to set her off. She's been like this all day, terse on the group outing, short with him at dinner. She slammed her book into the bedside drawer and then glared at him.
"Ummm, at the risk of making you even more mad, what did I do that's got you so upset?"
"You really don't know?"
He shook his head.
"You remember what you dreamed about last night?"
"I usually don't." Thank God. His dreams in Korea had been doozies.
"Is that another lie?" She looked ready to explode.
"No, it's not. I don't tend to lie to you, Sally. You may not believe it, but it's true."
"Except about her. You were lovers. Why won't you just admit it? You don't call out BJ's name in your sleep. You don't murmur Charles' name. Or the Colonel's. Hawkeye, you don't even call out for any other women. Just her. Always just her."
He shrugged, unsure what to tell her. "I'm not doing it on purpose."
"I know that. Jeez, how stupid do you think I am?" She sat down in the desk chair, slumped as if she was defeated. "Do you love her?"
"Sally, I married you. I love you."
"Those are nice things to say but they don't answer my question."
He sighed, "She's not in my life and you—"
"No. Just answer it. Yes or no. Do you love her?"
He could feel the frustration at being pushed into a corner rising into true anger. He pushed himself off the bed and began to pace. "Maybe you should ask yourself why this is so important to you? Maybe you should ask yourself why you can't just be happy? Why are you trying to ruin what we have?"
She looked at him, her expression utterly stricken. "It was such a simple question, Hawkeye. All you had to say was no. Even if it was a lie." She looked down and he barely heard her say, "Especially if it was a lie."
He wasn't sure what to say.
She stood up slowly. "She's not even that pretty. Rough, I think. Hard, my mom would have called her. She's not pretty and she drinks too much. And I imagine she's great in bed, right? Does all those things you always want me to do?"
He looked away.
"Things I don't even like to do. Not because they're dirty but because somehow I always know you aren't thinking of me when I do them."
"That's not true." But it was. Not always, but some of the time. Especially once the initial rush of being with Sally had worn off. Once he'd had time to miss Margaret again.
And he always did miss her. No matter who he was with.
"I don't know what to do," Sally said, sitting down on the bed, staring at the floor. She wasn't crying, wasn't moving at all. "I love you. I married you because I love you. But if you don't love me—or if you do but you love her more—than what kind of marriage is this?"
"A good one," he said, but by the way she smiled, he could tell he'd taken too long to answer.
"She's alone in her room. Go see her. Get her out of your system."
He shook his head.
"Why not? Might be what we need. You realizing I'm what you want."
"She won't have me. Not that way." He met her eyes and saw the hurt reflected back.
"You've seen her? Alone? In her room?"
"It wasn't like that."
"What it was like, Mister Experienced? What was it like seeing your lover in her room with her husband so recently gone? What was it like knowing you have a wife who loves you and would never, ever do anything like that to you?"
"You don't understand. What she and I have. Korea..."
"That's your answer for everything, Hawkeye. Korea. It made you sad. It made you quiet. It made you drink. It made you...incapable of loving anyone. Except a woman who by all appearances is as screwed up as you are."
He wasn't sure what to say, so he settled for saying nothing.
Sally grabbed her room key and stormed out.
He knew exactly where she was headed. He called Margaret and gave her a warning.
She didn't sound surprised.
Margaret waited by the door for the knock that would mean a conversation she didn't want to have.
It came, but twenty minutes after she'd gotten the call from Hawkeye. She opened the door and realized the delay had been because Sally had been in the bar.
"Liquid courage?" She let the woman in.
"You drink. He drinks. I wanted to see if it helped me understand you?"
"No. I just feel sick." She sat on the bed. "What is it you have, anyway? You're not that pretty."
"Your approach is so winning."
"Oh, shut up. My husband's in love with you. I have the right to be mean."
Margaret smiled tightly. "I suppose you do." She poured herself a fresh drink. "He's married to you, Sally. He had many opportunities to be with me when he was single and he never, ever took them. So...get over this. He thinks he loves me, but it's not real. It's just lust or the Korea connection. I don't know."
"You want him. Why are you being nice?"
"Because I sort of like you. And if you leave him, he won't come to me. Oh, he might for a night or two. But then he'll find another fresh, innocent girl to destroy."
Sally nodded. "He's not a nice man."
"No. He's not." She sat down in the desk chair. "I'm sorry. For what it's worth. I never intended for this to happen. It's just..."
"Chemistry. You two have it. Your husband could see it. I can see it. Hell, I bet everyone can see it."
"No. Definitely." She stood up. "Teach me. What is it you do that he likes so much? What is it you have that he wants?"
"Sally, you're drunk. I'm going to walk you back to your room."
"Why? So you can see him?"
Margaret looked away. The thought had crossed her mind but mostly she didn't want Sally wandering around the hotel looking for men to practice things she thought Margaret did to her husband. "Come on." She took Sally's arm and the other woman didn't resist.
"I wish I could really hate you. But I don't. I think you're probably a nice woman."
"I am. Just..."
"Just not when he's involved?"
"I guess." The elevator took forever and Sally was getting heavier as the drinks she'd had took their toll. By the time Margaret got her to her room, she was nearly out.
Hawkeye opened on the first knock. "You got her drunk?"
"No, I didn't get her drunk. She got herself drunk. At the bar, not on my booze."
He took Sally from her and settled her on the bed. "Thank you for bringing her back."
"Hey, I didn't want her throwing up in my bathroom."
His eyes grew very soft. "That's not why you did it."
She met his eyes and couldn't look away. Finally, she said, "No, it's not," and spun on her heel and fled.
Hawkeye sat by the bed, watching Sally sleep. He'd woken with the sun, had spent the time thinking.
His wife was a beautiful woman, even after a fitful sleep. More beautiful than Margaret.
Why couldn't he love her the way he loved Margaret?
And if he loved Margaret that way, why wasn't he with her?
"Good morning," Sally said. She looked remarkably alert for someone who should be hung over.
"She brought me here."
"She loves you."
Sally rolled to her side. "You know she does." Her voice was very soft, as if all the fight and anger had gone out of her. "What are we going to do?"
"Just like that? Everything's fine again?"
He nodded. "I've been thinking."
"So I see. Deciding for both of us. Figuring out how to run away from her again."
"Don't tell me what it's not. I saw her last night. I saw how much you've hurt her. And she loves you anyway. And you're hurting me and I love you anyway. Why do you get to be loved when you're such a jerk?"
It was a good question. He didn't have an answer for her.
She stood up. She wasn't the least bit wobbly. He frowned.
"I wasn't drunk last night. I just went to the bar and had a few sips so I'd smell like I was, and it's what the two of you would do, isn't it? Drink before a hard thing?"
He looked down.
"I've been thinking, too. Last night. I wasn't really asleep, either. Well, a little at the end." She smiled gently. "I want to be loved, Hawkeye."
"I do love you."
"But I don't want to know you love someone else. And I do know. So this won't work. Ever."
"We go home, Sally. We go home and we start a family the way you've wanted to and we forget this ever happened."
"Until the next reunion, you mean? Or do you intend to not come to these anymore? You love these people, Hawkeye. Not just her, all of them." She smiled tightly. "Or did you plan to come alone? Have your cake and eat it too?"
He rubbed his eyes and leaned back in the chair.
"I want to be the only woman the man in my life loves. And you can't ever give me that." She took a deep breath. "I guess I'm going to leave you."
"Yeah, I guess. This isn't how a marriage should end. I think Margaret had a better ending. All passion and anger. This is so...bloodless."
"You could hit me."
She laughed and held her hand out to him. "But I don't do that. That's why you married me, isn't it? Because I'm nothing like her?"
He gave up and nodded.
"And you love her?"
He nodded again.
"And you guess this marriage is over, too?"
"I guess it is."
She got up, dressed quickly, and began to pack. "I'm going to go home. I want you to stay away a couple more days, all right? Give me time to get out of the house. If I need to, I'll send someone for the rest of my things. I'll even explain to your father."
His father would need no explanation. His father had told him not to marry Sally. Not that he didn't like her, but he thought she deserved better. He'd always known that Hawkeye loved Margaret. He'd never understood why she wasn't in their lives.
"You're much better than I deserve," he said softly.
"I know." She walked over and lifted up his chin. "The sad thing is: I think she is too."
Margaret watched Hawkeye come into the coffee shop. BJ waved him over and he took a seat next to her, smiling at the rest of them then turning to look at her.
"She that hung over?"
"No, she's that gone."
"Gone as in...?"
"As in leaving me. Our marriage is over." He took a deep breath then turned to the others as if he hadn't just dropped the bombshell of all bombshells.
She wasn't sure what to think, what to hope—or not hope. Hope was stupid. Hope was for pathetic people who never learned a damn thing in their—
His fingers twined with hers under the table. He gave her hand a slow squeeze.
Hope maybe was in the vicinity for once? She squeezed his hand back. Hated herself a little bit for doing it, but couldn't have stopped herself even if she'd wanted to.
Colonel Potter looked over at them, then asked Pierce softly, "Where's Sally?"
"Of the hotel?"
"Among other things."
"Hmmm." Potter looked at Margaret and smiled gently. "Hmmm."
"I'm going to be sticking around here for a couple more days," Hawkeye said, "Could use a vacation. Cleared it with work—they said yes so fast, they must think I need one too." He smiled tightly.
"Bruce booked us in longer, too." She looked down.
"Well, that's working out just dandy, isn't it?" There was only a mild trace of sarcasm in Potter's voice. He mostly sounded happy.
"Something we should know, Hawk?" BJ looked toward them with a confused expression.
"I'll tell you later," he said, and his hand tightened on hers, almost unconsciously, she thought.
Potter was staring at her and she gave him a smile. He smiled back, and she thought he was happy for her.
She also thought he looked a little bit worried.
People started saying goodbye after breakfast, heading home, their expressions sad.
Hawkeye found BJ at the front desk. "Check-out time, huh?"
BJ nodded, then turned and smiled gently. "Look, this is none of my business, and if I'm misreading what I think I'm seeing, then you tell me. But if you break Margaret's heart this time, I'll hunt you down."
Hawkeye laughed softly. "You'd have good reason to. How many chances does a man get?" He looked down. "Sally was a nice girl. I hurt her, too."
"I know. So, no more nice girls who can't replace Margaret. And no hurting Margaret. Got it?"
"And, Hawk, for God's sake be happy. You two deserve it." BJ pulled him into a tight hug. "Come out and visit us once you get settled. Peg likes Margaret a lot."
Hawkeye nodded. "If we get settled."
"Okay, wrong word for you two. Once the dust dies down some. How's that?"
"Better. I think."
He saw Margaret giving Colonel Potter a huge hug, then giving Mildred just as big an embrace. He walked over and smiled at them both. "Till next time."
"You bet, son." Potter pulled him into a quick hug. "Take good care of her or you'll answer to me. And if it makes you feel better, I told her the same thing."
Hawkeye laughed. "It does, actually. I hate being the bad guy."
"I know you do. It's part of your charm."
Hawkeye grinned, then turned to Mildred. "Mildred, my love, this man is one lucky devil."
"Oh, you rascal." She gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Come visit us sometime. Missouri is lovely in the spring."
"Missouri is lovely any season," Potter said, his voice gruff. "Take care, you two."
And then it was just them. Hawkeye looked down. "Sally checked us out of the room and they've booked it—"
"I have mine for two more days. You can stay with me." She gave him a stern look. "You can sleep in the bathtub."
"Whatever works for you."
Her stern look fell away and she looked slightly terrified.
"Margaret, it's all right. It's going to be all right."
"I broke up your marriage."
"Well, I broke up yours, so it seems only fair."
She laughed but not very hard. "We're a mess."
"Come on." He took her hand, led her to the elevators. "I want to go swimming in the lake." He went into the room he'd shared with Sally, could still smell a trace of her perfume in the air. He grabbed his bag and followed Margaret to her room. She went into the bathroom to change, then let him use it.
It was charming, this sudden modesty, especially since there was no part of her he hadn't seen and vice versa.
But they were starting over. This was the first day in a brand new way of being. Not the Margaret of his past, but the Margaret of his future. Of his present.
He turned her and backed up so he could admire her. "Still the finest derriere in the world."
She was smiling as she turned around. "You did always seem captivated by it."
"Among other things." He looked away. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all—"
She lay her fingers on his lips. "Shut up, Pierce. It's in the past. Do it again, though, and there'll be hell to pay."
"That's the Major Houlihan I know and love."
She looked away. He waited until she looked back to say, "I do love you, Margaret," and then he kissed her gently.
"I love you, too," she said as they pulled away. "So we're not just going to fall into bed?"
"No. We're going to go swimming. And then we're going to have lunch at the burger stand and share a milkshake." He could feel his grin growing devilish. "And then we're going to fall into bed. And I may not let you out until it's time to check out."
"And then what?"
"Can you come to Crabapple Cove?"
"Well, seeing as I don't have a place to live anymore, it's definitely an option. I imagine Bruce has burned all my stuff."
"Was there anything you wanted to get from your house? I'll go with you." He didn't relish the thought of facing her husband, but he'd do it—the man would not be hitting her again.
She seemed to think about it, then she shook her head. "Everything—everyone—that I care about was here this morning." She took a deep breath. "I probably won't get much of a reference from work, though, if I don't give a decent amount of notice."
"Well, fortunately, I know the chief of surgery at the hospital I work at."
"You do, huh?" Her smile told him she knew he was talking about himself.
"Yep. Nice guy. Or can be. If he's in the right mood. Kind of a jerk otherwise. Never knows a good thing when he sees it."
She smiled. "Hopefully that's changing?"
"It is. Finally."
She didn't look convinced.
He didn't blame her.