Radar paused in the shovelling of food into his mouth, his fork stuck mid-air, liver dangling off it. Lieutenant Nugent, Linda—he had to keep reminding himself to remember that—was looking at him, a smile on her lips, coffee cup held between her hands.
"What?" he said, suddenly self-conscious, worried that he'd done something wrong. It was all very good that Linda told him to be himself, that he didn't have to impress her, but he was, well, himself. He wasn't Hawkeye or Major Winchester or even BJ or the Colonel. He was plain old Radar and girls ignored or laughed at him. And Linda was the swellest girl he'd ever seen. She was so pretty, her brown hair and bangs, her sparkling eyes—she was the prettiest girl in camp. Any guy would be lucky to date her as she wasn't just pretty, she was also as sweet as pie.
"I love that you like the food here. You find something to like in everything," she said.
"Oh," Radar said, with a nervous laugh, glancing down at his piled high tray. Everybody else thought he was weird for being able to eat the camp food. He shrugged and smiled. "It doesn't taste that bad to me."
Linda drank some of her coffee. "I wrote a letter to my parents today. I told them about you."
"Oh, yeah? Really?" Radar put his fork down, feeling a bit faint, his appetite suddenly gone. A girl had never written home about him before.
"Really. I told them how sweet you are, how much you love your animals. And how much I like you."
"Gee, wow." A girl had written home about him and said nice things. Wow.
"Have you written to your mom and Uncle Ed about me?" she asked.
"Um," he stalled. He hadn't yet, terrified that Linda would suddenly realise that she didn't want to go out with him, that she liked Hawkeye or somebody else better. "Ye-yes. I told them how pretty you are." He could feel the tips of his ears burning under his hat.
She smiled. "Oh, Radar. You really are sweet."
Now he'd have to write a letter.
Radar looked up to see the Colonel's stern face looking at him from behind his desk. Picking up his pen again from on top of his clipboard, Radar tried to pay attention. "Huh? Oh, sorry, Colonel. What was it you were saying?"
"That's the third time you've gotten distracted in the last ten minutes, Radar," the Colonel said, sounding concerned. "Anything you want to talk about?"
"Oh, no, no, Sir," Radar said emphatically, shaking his head. "I'm fine. Really."
The Colonel pursed his lips. "Are you sure, because it sure seems like there's something on your mind. And I'm betting it's something to do with a certain Lieutenant of a nurse persuasion?"
His life was apparently an open book. "How did you guess? Is it that obvious?"
"I have my ways. What's the problem, son?" the Colonel said, his voice soft.
"I really like her, Colonel, a lot. And she seems to like me." His voice rose slightly at the end.
The Colonel's eyebrows lowered; he was confused. "I don't understand, then what's the problem?"
"What if she doesn't like me anymore?" Radar burst out, not able to keep it inside any longer. It had been playing on his mind ever since Linda had said that she'd written home about him.
"I think you've lost me, Radar. Have you done something to make her not like you?"
"Well, no, I don't think so."
"Then why would she think that she wouldn't like you?" The Colonel was now starting to sound a bit exasperated with him.
Radar decided to come out with it. "My teddy bear," he said dejectedly.
"Your teddy—ahh." Understanding dawned and the Colonel leaned back in his chair, tapping his finger against his chin.
"What if she thinks that I'm just a kid? Nobody else has a teddy bear." A terrible thought dawned. "Ohhhhh! What if she makes me decide between my teddy bear and her? I've had that teddy bear since I was a kid! Jesus even blessed it!" He got more and more agitated the more he said.
"Radar, calm down," the Colonel said. "I'm sure that you're making a mountain out of a mole hill. If she really likes you, she won't care about your teddy bear. And if she does care, then, well, she's not worth it. If she really likes you, the bear won't matter."
"Yes, Sir, you're probably right. I really hope that she's worth it, I don't know what I'll do if she isn't."
"We've all been there, Radar. You'll be fine," the Colonel said, his tone reassuring. "Now, back to work."
"Yes, Sir." Radar got his pen ready, determined to put the issue out of his mind.
Radar took a deep breath, reminded himself of what Colonel Potter had said, worked up his courage and knocked on the door to Linda's tent.
"Come in," she called.
He pulled the door open and stepped inside. He was relieved that Lieutenant Baker wasn't there.
"Hi Radar," Linda said, her face lighting up. She kissed him full on the lips.
"Hi Linda," Radar said with a silly grin. Boy, he really liked her. But maybe she wouldn't like him for much longer. His grin fell.
"What are you holding, Radar?" Linda asked, a bemused smile on her face.
He was clutching his bear to his chest, nervous. "Oh, ah, it's nothing. It's just..." He held it out before his courage failed him.
"A teddy bear? Is this for me?" she asked, taking the bear from Radar's suddenly nerveless hand.
"Oh, no, no. He's not for you," he said emphatically.
"It's not?" Now she sounded upset. Oh, man, he couldn't get anything right.
"He's not for you, because he's mine," Radar admitted. "I've, uh, had him since I was little."
Linda was turning the teddy around, looking at him from every direction. "Oh, Radar, he's sweet. Just like you."
"I'm sor—really?" Radar had been so expecting Linda to laugh at him that it took a minute for his brain to catch up. "Really? I sleep with him, you know. Every night."
"Even sweeter." She kissed him again. "Does he have a name?"
Radar shrugged, taking the bear back when she handed him over, relieved that he wasn't going to have to choose between Linda and the bear. "He's just my teddy bear."
"And you're my Radar," Linda said.
Radar was going to start writing that letter to his mom and uncle Ed tonight. It was time.