Charles Emerson Winchester III weaved his way through the crowds at the surgical conference that was being held at Boston Mercy Hospital. His facial muscles were starting to feel sore after all the fake smiles he’d pasted on while schmoozing with all the right people, and he was looking for somewhere he could be alone and relax for a while. Perhaps the bar he usually frequented after a long day’s work would have a quiet corner free; after all, most of the conference attendees would prefer to get drunk on the inferior but free wine they were serving at the reception.
As he exited the room where the reception was being held, he collided with someone else who was also leaving. He turned to apologize, then his eyes widened.
“Charles!” the other man said at the same time. “Hey, long time no see! It seems like forever ago that we were elbow-deep in intestines together. So, what brings you to this neck of the woods?”
“This ‘neck of the woods’, as you so charmingly put it, happens to be my home town and this hospital is where I work, so it’s not at all surprising that as a surgeon I would be in attendance at a surgical conference here and besides, being Head of Thoracic Surgery as I am… you can stop genuflecting now, Pierce… I’m expected to make an appearance at this wretched thing. I’ll be giving a paper tomorrow. You should come - you might learn something.”
“Actually, learning something is what I’m here for… look, why don’t we do something that’s actually useful and find a bar to catch up instead of cluttering up this doorway. I was just on my way to find one when we bumped into each other.”
“Great minds think alike - so was I, and being a local I know a good one. After you, Pierce.”
The atmosphere in the bar was every bit what Hawkeye would expect from Charles: lush and opulent, and Charles was obviously well-known there. He acknowledged the greetings from several patrons as he went to get drinks for them.
They spent some time catching up on their friends and colleagues - BJ was in San Francisco working in Pediatrics. Margaret was still on active duty. Colonel Potter was at Walter Reed. Father Mulcahy was still at the orphanage in Korea, Radar was making a fortune as an entrepreneur. Klinger had made it back to Toledo with Soon-Yi and all her family, marrying them off to willing members of his own family to get them into the country…”don’t tell anyone, but her parents’ and grand-parents’ marriages might be a bit bigamous”… and was making a fortune in ladies’ fashion. Charles for his part contributed that he was happy to say that Colonel Baldwin was working at a no-name hospital in the sticks, due in no small part to Charles’ disrecommendations.
“How petty and vengeful of you, Charles!” commented Hawkeye.
“Oh, really, Pierce. When have you known me be petty and vengeful?”
“As long as I’ve known you - those are the qualities I most admire about you.”
“No. If only you’d devoted half the time you spent on that to pranking with BJ and me we’d have pulled some great ones. I remember the time you two turned Urbancic’s urine blue and convinced him he was so ill that he blew the bowling tournament… oh, and the stunt you pulled on Dupree with Sophie! I wish I’d been there for that one.”
“If you’d been there, Pierce, we wouldn’t have needed to do it.”
“Good point, now you come to mention it.”
“So, what brings you to this conference then, Hawkeye? You said you were here to learn something, which must be a novel concept for you.”
“Ha-ha, very funny, Charles. Well, I’ve been working with my father in his general practice since the war, but our local hospital, which is basically one step up from a M*A*S*H Unit is really short of surgeons, and the ones we have are pretty inexperienced, so I’ve been putting in a few shifts here and there. I’m a bit rusty when it comes to real surgery - for some reason the meatball surgery approach doesn’t go down too well over here, so I thought I’d come along and pick a few brains and find out what’s new and exciting in the world of surgery.”
Charles agreed that he'd had to make an effort to slow down when he got back. “I had to keep reminding myself that there weren’t going to be more patients arriving at any moment, just the ones on my schedule, that I had enough time allocated to do everything I needed to do.” He took a deep breath. “But enough of the bad old days. So, you’re here to learn. I suppose you’re going to go back to Maine and pass that on to your young colleagues. You’re hardly going to learn much from just talking, though. You need to spend some time actually watching surgeries.”
“That’s true - in fact, I was planning to try and find someone who would come to Crabapple Cove and give some lectures and demonstrations. How about it, Charles?”
“You have got to be joking, Pierce. Me, come to Maine? I don’t think so. I have a better idea. Why don’t you stay with me and spend some time at Boston Mercy? I can certainly show you state-of-the art thoracic surgery myself. I have some influence with the other departments, so I’m sure I can persuade them to let you observe their procedures too.”
“How long can I stay?” asked Hawkeye, full of enthusiasm.
“I don’t know, how long can you be spared?”
“Let me phone my dad, see how long he can do without me.”
Hawkeye went to the phone in the foyer, and came back a while later looking somewhat puzzled. “He says he can spare me for two weeks. In fact, he sounded really pleased that I’d be staying with you. I’d almost say he sounded happy to be rid of me.”
“That’s quite understandable; I used to feel the same in Korea whenever you went on leave.”
“Charles, you wound me. I always thought you missed me terribly. BJ told me you cried yourself to sleep every night.”
“I’m sure he did.”
“Anyway, Dad’ll be happy to see me when I get back. Like they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
“It certainly does,” agreed Charles, then appeared rather embarrassed and hastily suggested that they have dinner in the bar before collecting Hawkeye’s luggage and taking a taxi to his apartment. “Their filet mignon is superb - my treat, I insist.”
Hawkeye was kept very busy during the days of his stay watching and learning from the best surgeons at Boston Mercy. When they found out that he was Charles’ colleague from the 4077th, most of them went out of their way to show him all the newest techniques they were using and bring him up-to-date on the latest developments in their specialties. It seemed that Charles was very well-liked despite his sometimes-pompous personality.
Though it was all fascinating and he enjoyed himself immensely, he found that the best parts of his visit were the evenings he spent with Charles, reminiscing, talking about their current lives and their plans for the future, watching TV. Sometimes they just sat together in a companionable silence, which Hawkeye found to be much easier than he would have expected, and also very relaxing after a busy day. He met Charles’ parents, and found his father to be much as Charles had told him the time his own father had been in surgery. He really appreciated his dad that evening.
One night about halfway through his stay, Hawkeye was so tired after a long day spent watching surgeries and having his head stuffed with information that he drifted off to sleep while sitting next to Charles on the sofa. When he woke up he found that his head was resting on Charles’ shoulder, and Charles’ hand was stroking his hair gently.
“Mmmm, that’s nice,” he murmured sleepily.
Charles snatched his hand away, dislodging Hawkeye’s head as he did so.
“Why’d you stop? I was enjoying that,” Hawkeye said, still half asleep, followed a moment later by, “Come to that, why did you start? Not that I’m complaining.”
“I’m sorry, Hawkeye, I don’t know what came over me. It won’t happen again, I promise.”
Completely awake now, Hawkeye leaned over and put his hand over Charles’ lips to shut him up. “Stop apologizing, Charles, and don’t make promises I don’t want you to keep. Didn’t I say I was enjoying it? I just want to know why it happened so I know where we go from here. I’m very much open to options.”
Charles took a deep breath, then kissed the palm of the hand over his lips.
Hawkeye smiled. “I like the way you’re thinking. Why don’t you go into more detail?” He moved his hand down to Charles’ shoulder and leaned towards him. Charles met him halfway and they kissed, first tentatively, then with increasing passion until they broke apart to catch their breath.
“Maybe we should take this to bed,’ Charles suggested. “We’ll be more comfortable there.”
Hawkeye beamed. “That’s the best idea you’ve had in all the time I’ve known you.” He jumped to his feet and held out a hand to Charles. “Come on, then.”
And Charles did.
They both did.
Time passed by far too quickly. The day before he was due to leave they woke up in each others arms as had become their custom and shared a good-morning kiss.
Hawkeye sighed. “I’m going to miss seeing you every day. I know we can write to each other, and I’ll come back as soon as I can, but…”
Charles interrupted him. “I’ve been thinking, Hawkeye - Crabapple Cove isn’t that far away from Boston - just a few hours down the I-95 in my Corvette.“
“You have a Corvette?? I might have known you’d have something loud and overstated…”
“You can mock my car all you like, but you’ll be begging me to let you drive her as soon as we hit the Interstate.”
“I’m begging you now, Charles - I’ve always wanted to drive a Corvette! I’m just jealous. Pretty please? I’ll do anything!”
“Anything, hmm? That sounds interesting. I shall give the matter due thought and let you know my price tonight.”
“Tonight, hmm? I can’t wait.” Hawkeye leered and kissed Charles, rubbing his groin against Charles’ in a way that was full of promise. “So you’re going to come train my surgeons, then? You can stay with me and my dad - from all the things I’ve told him about you over the years he’ll be really glad to meet you. Come to think of it, I bet that’s why he sounded so pleased I was going to stay with you, the sly devil!”
“You make it sound like you’re taking your boyfriend home to meet your family.”
“It’s only fair, I’ve already met yours. Oh, don’t worry, darling - I’m sure he’ll love you!”
Charles managed to swat Hawkeye round the head despite his laughter.