They’d survived, their spinal patient was reportedly doing well, the camp had more or less been put back where it used to be, and he’d been ordered to take a shower by at least two different people, but Hawkeye was still mulling over a few things as he filled a decanter with “gin” from a bottle that BJ had saved.
The one one thing that he was mulling the hardest was just why Margaret had insisted on staying with him. It’s not as though she enjoyed spending time close to (or past) the front line, at least that much he knew.
He’d also considered that maybe she’d just done it out of a sense of duty, to the army, the patient, or even other nurses who didn’t have to stay because she was. But he hadn’t asked for a nurse, he hadn’t really needed one. So that left one final option; one that felt as right as it did unlikely: she stayed because she cared, and not just about anyone, but about him.
So, if that was the case, what were they, friends? Besides something had passed between them after he’d kissed her cheek in the jeep as if it were tradition rather than a whim, and He wanted to know what, dammit.
He poured out a glass for himself and one for BJ, handing one to his friend before picking up his own before putting it down again.
“You okay, Hawk?” BJ said looking at him questioningly, an eyebrow raised.
“Yeah,” he answered absently, “I just gotta go ask Margaret something.”
And with that he left, leaving BJ staring after him.
Margaret dug into her footlocker and put a few more possessions back in their former places. They’d been lucky, they’d been incredibly lucky. If that convoy had been the Chinese they’d have been done for.
A knock on her door made her pause mid repositioning and she sighed loudly. It was probably Frank.
“Who is it?”
“Just your friendly neighbourhood Captain.”
Her brow furrowed. What did he want?
She went and opened the door to let him in. “What do you need, Pierce?”
He looked mildly conflicted, which further piqued her curiosity.
“Why did you stay? Yesterday I mean, when everyone bugged out. What made you stick around?”
Margaret was completely caught off guard, her cheeks burning red.
Theoretically it was a simple enough question that she could answer without incriminating herself. She’d been doing her duty, but mostly she couldn’t bear the thought of him staying there alone, nor the thought of wondering whether he was okay if she left. It’d been easier to stay. She cared, and that, she rationalised, was a normal, human thing to do, though admitting any such thing when it came to the man in front of her was not anything close to comfortable.
He watched her intently as she scrabbled for an answer.
“It was my duty,” she offered lamely, silently willing him to drop it.
His eyes bored into hers, fishing for what she wasn’t saying, something he apparently thought he might find.
Sensing danger in the air, her defenses came surging to the fore. “Does it matter?” she demanded with more than a hint of desperation, head tilting to the side as she spoke, almost as if she could physically avoid the topic, but it was there right in front of them.
She sighed again with a huff of frustrated breath as she looked at him again realised that he wasn’t about to drop it, resigned as she uttered the truth. “It didn’t seem right for you to have to stay behind by yourself.”
He smiled a small smile. He had to admit, he was touched. He’d suspected, of course, but hearing her say it was something else entirely.
On a whim he reached out and took her hand in his, and time slowed almost to a stop.
Margaret’s eyes went widened, her breathing hitched as she scrabbled to keep up, and he looked almost as surprised as she did.
There was a line, they both knew it, but neither had realised that this was all that, in this moment, this would be all that was required to cross it.
They were on the verge here, mind you Margaret had been on the verge for quite some time. Not just of this, but of something, anything else.
Every scrap of furlough, every two day pass to Tokyo was spent looking for a partner. Someone who could and would come good on all of Frank’s hollow promises, but so far Mr Right had been Mr Nobody; all brass, uniform, and not much else.
But now here they were, completely improbable, as if fate had stuck its head out from behind the war and thrust them together, or it would be if she believed in such things.
Why him ? Why now ? It bothered Margaret that she hadn’t foreseen this. Sure, they’d always to some extent been a “them”. Rivals, an OR team, odd friends, sexually attracted, strategically avoiding, even allies when it mattered, but this had snuck up on her.
Her hand stayed in his, and their gazes met as they got used to the moment they now found themselves in.
Her lips parted as she sucked in a breath, almost deciding without her what she wanted.
Hawkeye looked as if he was about to say something, even question what this was that they were motionless in the middle of, but said nothing.
If she weren’t otherwise occupied, she might be amused that he’d finally been rendered speechless.
His free hand found its way to her face, cupping her cheek gently, its warmth melding with that of her already flushed cheek, followed by his lips gently pressing themselves against hers.
If time had previously slowed, now reality had ground to a halt.
He’d kissed her before, but never so intimately. Never so quietly, slowly or warmly.
But their moment was interrupted by a sharp knock on the tent door, followed by Frank’s voice, tinged with a whine. “Margaret, are you in there?”
They broke apart in surprise, all but caught in the act, but Margaret gripped Hawkeye’s hand tighter as he moved to withdraw in a desperate bid to communicate to him that this wasn’t over. She needed there to be a later.
He was more than a little surprised, but nodded in understanding.
Margaret rolled her eyes, and addressed the door. “What is it, Frank?”
“Can I come in?” He replied impatiently.
“Fine, Frank. Captain Pierce and I were just talking about a patient, but he was just leaving.”
Hawkeye squeezed her hand before letting go. He turned and made for the door as Frank opened it, careful not to look back.
“What patient?” Frank demanded, eyes narrow as he glared at Hawkeye.
“Hi Frank.” Hawkeye said, avoiding the question completely.
“Oh go soak your head!”
“Bye Frank.” Hawkeye deadpanned.
Frank’s voice could be heard as the door shut behind him demanding again to know which patient she was talking about. The camp, after all, was a little light on those at the moment.
Hawkeye smirked to himself before stopping as he came across BJ, and Radar and the Colonel strolled past the pair and knocked on the door to the nurse’s tent.
BJ grinned at Hawkeye knowingly. “So, how was Margaret?”
“Fine, why wouldn’t she be?”
“Did she answer your question?”
“So why do you look like someone who’s just kissed a pretty girl for the first time?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Besides, what does that look like anyway?”
“How about dazed eyes, goofy smile--”
Hawkeye sighed. “Well, technically it’s the third time I’ve kissed her, but who’s counting?”
“Ha, I knew it!”
Behind them Radar dropped his clipboard, his mouth agape, and the Colonel guffawed, but before BJ could say anything Frank burst out of Margaret’s tent, eyes wide.
“She dumped me.” he said to himself vaguely
BJ’s face was plastered with a grin of cheshire proportions. “You okay, Frank?”
“She dumped me!” Frank exclaimed, still mostly to himself.
BJ and the colonel burst into raucous laughter, while Hawkeye stood stunned, mouth agape, and Frank rushed past them on the way to The Swamp.
Hawkeye gawped, before forcing his mouth to move. “Did that just happen?”
BJ clapped his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “It did, Hawk. How about I buy you a drink?”
“I think I’m gonna need it.”
“Swamp or Officer’s club?”
“Frank’s probably moping in the Swamp.”
“Not that one then.”
BJ laughed as they headed towards the club.