The Best-Laid Plans

Chapter Eleven: Truth Will Out

Trapper reeled back when he heard that voice, saw the man's face. Hawkeye just stared at him, not at all sure what to say. He was finally going to say something just to break the silence when Trapper did it instead.

"Hawk." The word was breathy, full of air and laden with shock. "Hawkeye, how?"

He stepped forward and touched Hawkeye's arm gently, as if testing to make sure he was solid. The touch snapped Hawkeye out of it and he pulled back. "What are you doing?"

"What - how - how can you be here?" Trapper was still caught up in his shock.

"I work here." Hawkeye's voice bordered on icy. "You thought that just because you forgot about me I'd disappear off the face of the Earth?"

"Hawkeye, I -"

"No note, not even a message! That kiss you left with Radar doesn't count!"

"I didn't know what to say! What do you say after a year like that?"

"You never wrote, even after you got back! It's not like you didn't know my address! I was stuck in that upholstered toilet until the end of the war, and you never so much as wrote a damn letter!"

"I did write you!" Trapper protested. Then he pulled an envelope from his pocket and dropped it on the desk.

"Then how come I never -" Hawkeye began as he picked it up, but the words died on his lips as he got a good look at it. The address was exactly as he remembered, and it was postmarked a few months after Trapper had left Korea for good, but Hawkeye's eyes were drawn to another stamp, this one only three letters: KIA.

"Trap -" he began, shocked, the anger draining out of him as suddenly as if someone had pulled a cork on a bottle turned upside-down. The letter fell from his fingers to land back on the desk.

"You have no idea what getting that letter back like that did to me," he said softly. "It tore me to pieces. You're far and away the best friend I've ever had, and I thought I'd lost you - never even had the chance to say goodbye."

Trapper's voice was husky, and Hawkeye could see that his eyes were moist. He stepped forward and pulled his long-lost friend into a hug. "It was a mistake," he whispered. "A dumb army screw-up. I'm here. I'm fine."

Trapper's arms came up around Hawkeye's back and he squeezed his eyes shut against the tears as he held his friend, his brother, the brother he'd thought he lost forever three years ago. Residual grief and elation both streamed through him.

"I missed you, Hawkeye," he whispered.

"I missed you, Trap." He had carried so much anger for so long, and in the end it hadn't been Trapper's fault at all. It had been the Army, it was always the Army, he should have guessed.

"Hawk." Trapper slowly broke the embrace. "I really don't want to change the subject, but - my girls. What's going on with my girls?"

Hawkeye had been so shocked to see his old friend standing in his office that the man's reason for being there in the first place had completely slipped his mind. It hit him now, full-force. Telling a stranger would have been bad enough - how could he tell his friend the horrible things he and Margaret had found?

"Sit down, Trap."

Trapper did sit, but he didn't relax at all. "What is it? Becky said there was an accident but it wasn't bad. What -"

"It's not the accident." He joined Trapper on the couch. "We brought them in because of the accident, but when we examined them, we found evidence of abuse."

Trapper's face completely drained of color. "Tell me you didn't just say what I think you said."

"I'm sorry."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah," he said softly. "I'm sure. Rebecca told us."

"Who?" he demanded. "Who hurt my girls?"

"Someone named Ken. Rebecca said he married her mother."

"Kenneth Donovan." He spat the name like it tasted bad. "The jackass my ex-wife married. I always thought he was the scum of the earth, but this - I never thought - what did he do?"

"He beat them both," Hawkeye replied softly. "Repeatedly and seriously. And -" He couldn't say it. Of all the things he had to tell his friend, this was the worst.

"And what?" Trapper pressed. What else could there possibly be?

"Rebecca, she," he swallowed hard, "she said he sexually abused her."

Trapper's eyes closed as a wave of anguish and despair rolled over him. "God, Hawk," he whispered.

"I'm so sorry." It sounded horribly inadequate even to his own ears, but it was the only thing he could come up with to say.

"How could he?" His voice was filled with unbearable pain. "She's just a baby. God, she's just a baby."

"I know." He did. He'd looked into those eyes, and he knew what Trapper meant. It was awful enough when it happened to adults, as he well knew, but Rebecca was so young, young enough that she could barely even begin to understand what had happened to her, and her innocence had been completely shattered.

"What did he do to her? I need to know."

"She was raped," he whispered. "I'm sorry."

Hawkeye hadn't thought it was possible for his friend to get any whiter, but at those words, what little color was left drained out of Trapper's face. "God, no. Not my baby." He shut his eyes against his tears. "I'll kill him. I swear, I'll kill him!" He slammed his hand down on Hawkeye's desk.

"Trap -" Hawkeye began, trying to calm his friend before he hurt himself.

"I'll kill him!" Trapper repeated. He grabbed the first thing within reach and sent it flying across the room. The picture frame hit the wall and shattered. Hawkeye gave a soft, involuntary cry and hurried over to inspect the damage.

It was that reaction, more than anything else, that snapped Trapper out of it. He hurried to Hawkeye. "Damn, Hawk, I'm sorry. How bad is it?"

Hawkeye gingerly picked the black-and-white photo from the glass shards, breathing an audible sigh of relief. "It's okay. You only broke the frame."

Trapper glanced over Hawkeye's shoulder, frowning a little when he saw the picture. The two infants depicted were cute, but the frame didn't look cheap, and yet Hawkeye didn't seem to care. What about that picture made it so important?

Thinking of children, however, only reminded him of what had upset him in the first place, and he felt a pain as sharp as a knife through his heart. Before he could stop himself, he began to cry.

Hawkeye hurriedly laid the picture on a bookshelf and ran to his friend. Trapper felt Hawkeye's arm around his shoulders as he was pulled into his friend's embrace. He leaned gratefully into it, resting his head on his friend's shoulder as he sobbed.

It took him more than a few minutes before he was able to compose himself and lift his head from Hawkeye's shoulder. "Thanks. I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I can only imagine what you're going through."

"I want to see my girls."

"Come on."

"Wait." He stopped Hawkeye with the single word. "I want to see Becky first. Alone. So I can talk to her without worrying about what her sister might overhear. I take it Kathy doesn't know."

"That's what Rebecca told us." It felt a little strange to call the child by a different name than Trapper was, but it was how she had introduced herself and it would have been stranger to change that when she wasn't even there. "I can put you in another room and bring them to you there."

xxxxxxxxx

Rebecca started awake when someone touched her arm, but quickly settled when she realized it was only the nice doctor. "Yeah?"

"I need you to come with me. Your sister will be fine here."

"Okay." She slid out of bed and stepped into a pair of hospital-issue slippers that had to be twice as big as her feet. "Where are we going?"

"There's something I want to show you." By this point they had reached the door of the other room and he pushed it open. "Look."

Her eyes went wide. "Daddy!"

Trapper opened his arms. "Come here, baby."

She shot across the room so fast she managed to lose both of the too-large slippers in the process and threw herself into his arms. "I thought you wouldn't come."

"Of course I'd come. Why wouldn't I?"

"I thought you hate me."

"Oh, baby, that's not true." He rocked her gently. "I love you so much. How could I ever hate you?"

"You stopped coming."

He rubbed her back. "It was hard, baby, that's all. I thought you loved your new stepfather more than me. I know now that he must have made you act like that, right?"

She nodded against his shoulder. "I didn't mean it."

"I know. Shh, it's okay. I'm here now, and I'm not leaving you."

"But the judge said -"

Screw him, he thought, but he had enough self-control not to say it out loud in front of his child. "If the judge tries to make you go back, we'll tell them what Ken did to you. They wouldn't make you go back there knowing that."

"I'm scared, Daddy."

"I know. But I'll keep you safe. You're never going back there, baby. Never. I swear."

She began to cry and he drew her close. "Shh. Let it out. He can't hurt you here, you're safe with me. You're safe, baby." He felt sick. She probably hadn't been safe anywhere in years.

When her tears had began to slow he carefully set her on the bed. Part of him wanted to just sit and comfort her forever, but he was dying to see and hold his younger daughter as well.

Hawkeye didn't even need a word to understand. Trapper only had to open the door before he nodded and headed off down the hall.

A moment later, he returned with the little girl in tow. She seemed hesitant at first, but as soon as she saw who was standing at the end of the hall she forgot her reluctance and took off towards him. He bent down in time to catch his flying child in his arms and lift her up.

"Daddy!" she shrieked. She was yelling right in his ear but he didn't care. All he wanted was to hold his baby. His throat was too tight to speak so he brought her to the bed where he had been sitting and settled her in his lap.

He shifted Kathleen into one arm and opened the other to his older daughter, letting her slide up against him again. He pulled them both to him, unable to stop the tears running down his face. This was what he had dreamed of every night since Louise had taken them away from him, just as he had dreamed of it in Korea, being able to hold both his babies close. But this time it was far, far too late.

xxxxxxxxx

Hawkeye looked up when he heard someone tap on the doorframe, smiling a little when he saw his friend. "Hey. What's up?"

"The girls are sleeping." He shook his head, clearly still in disbelief. "My God. How can anyone do something like that?"

"I don't know." He had accepted a long time ago, after what had happened to him, that he would never know what would make someone do something like that.

"He had me."

"What?"

"If he didn't want them, he could have given them to me. I would have taken care of them. But he just had to make sure I couldn't have them, just because I wanted them. Just to show me who had the control."

"I'm sorry. That must hurt."

"You can't imagine."

"I can." He unconsciously ran his hand lightly over the picture of his babies. Trapper's eyes followed his hand, and he finally made the connection he'd been searching for.

"You have kids?"

"Yeah." He would tell Trapper about the general sometime, but right now it wasn't relevant. The general might have conceived them but Hawkeye was their father. "That's Alaina. And that's Adrienne."

"Wow. You, Hawkeye Pierce, have a family. Who's the lucky lady?"

In answer, he only handed Trapper another picture, this one his favorite. It was the only picture he had of his family all together. Margaret sitting on the chair in her hospital room, holding both babies propped up in her lap while he stood behind her, his hand on her shoulder.

Trapper glanced down and his eyes almost popped out of his head. "The hell?"

It hit Hawkeye just a little too late that Trapper lacked the context to understand their relationship. He had never known Margaret the way Hawkeye had, and he had left when she was still in Frank's shadow, trying to live up to what she felt everyone expected of her. He didn't know the woman that had emerged after Frank's departure and her disastrous marriage.

"I'm sorry," he said quickly, taking the frame back. "I forgot."

"Forgot what? What a -"

"Trap." He cut his friend off before he could say something that would make Hawkeye tempted to hit him. He had said the same things once, he couldn't blame Trapper for still believing them. "Just listen for a minute. She's not what we used to think. What you saw, what you knew - it was a facade. And that was hard for me to understand too, at first. But really, she was scared. She used that to cover it."

"Really." He still sounded skeptical.

"When she got trapped in that closet with you, she was terrified, wasn't she?"

"Yeah."

"And she didn't want you to see because -"

"Because she outranked me."

"Exactly. She was afraid of being vulnerable, of being human. I had to work to get through to her, but she turned into someone I could count on no matter what. She was there for me during one of the hardest times of my life, and I was there for her the same way." He could see Trapper starting to waver, so he played his trump card. "Trap, if she was still the same person she used to be, you really think we could stand to be in the same room long enough even to have that picture taken."

"Guess not," he admitted.

"I'm sorry for springing that on you. I meant it when I said I forgot. I've gotten so used to thinking of her as someone I care about that it didn't occur to me that you haven't been around her for so long you would still remember her the way she was when she was in Frank's shadow. I love her, Trap."

"I can see that." He glanced down at Hawkeye's left hand. "Though not enough to keep the ring on at work."

"We're, uh, not married."

"Oh. Sorry."

"That's fine. We will be someday."

"What's the holdup?"

"She didn't want to get married just because she was pregnant. She wanted to be sure I really loved her. So I figure I wait for the right time, and then I ask her again."

"Wow." Trapper whistled under his breath. "You've got it bad, my friend."

Hawkeye nearly retorted as he would have in Korea, with a comment about Trapper's marriage, but bit it back when he remembered the situation."What happened between you and Louise anyway? You seemed happy enough when you were in Korea.

He sighed, sitting down across from Hawkeye. "I was. But from the time I got home it just wasn't the same. She wanted me to act like I'd never gone to Korea, and I couldn't do that. That was such a huge part of my life. It wasn't about the women, I'd have forgotten them in a heartbeat. But forget you, or Henry, or Radar? No way. And I couldn't just act like I'd never been in the middle of a war either." He sighed. "I told her I needed to get help, she said I'd be wasting my money and I just needed to control myself better. After she left I started seeing a shrink, and it's helped. But she used all that to convince a judge I wasn't fit to take care of my kids, and then she didn't even give a damn about them. She did it just to hurt me. Three years without my girls - you can't even imagine what that was like."

Those words were like a vice grip on Hawkeye's heart. No, he couldn't. It had been two months and there were times he wondered how he could be expected to go on another day without Adrienne. How could he face the years to come?

"Hawk? You okay?"

It was only then that he realized a few tears had slipped loose. "I'm sorry."

Trapper rose and came around the desk "Hawkeye? What's wrong?"

"Adrienne," he choked. "She - I can't -" his grief all seemed to be welling to the surface and he felt his body shake as he tried to contain it all.

"What happened?"

"She's gone," he gasped. "My baby girl, my little Adrienne. She died in Margaret's arms before she was a week old."

"Oh, Hawkeye." He gently pulled his friend to his feet so he could take him in his arms. "I'm so sorry."

That touch did it. He broke down completely in his friend's arms, grief pouring from him in waves. He sobbed helplessly, feeling Trapper's hands gently rubbing his back, trying to soothe him, offering comfort. He leaned his head into Trapper's shoulder, taking comfort from his proximity, clinging to him to stay upright.

When he had exhausted his grief, he stepped back from his friend and collapsed on the couch. "I'm sorry, Trap. You've got your own kids' problems to deal with and here I go crying all over you."

"I could say the same," Trapper countered. "Losing my girls the way I did was hard, but at least I knew I could see them if I wanted to. I used to - I used to go up to their school and just watch them play in the yard from my car. They never saw me, but it was my way of seeing them after I stopped going to the house." He reached over and squeezed Hawkeye's shoulder. "What you went through - no parent should ever have to feel that pain. And yet you looked after my girls, helped me through my pain."

Hawkeye looked up at his friend and a genuine smile crossed his face. "I'm glad you're back, Trap. I'm glad you didn't actually forget me."

Trapper smiled back. "I'm glad you're still here."

*~*~*~*

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