Chapter Eight: The Past is the Future
The Best-Laid PlansThe screaming seemed to ring in his ears, the baby's cries. Everyone else had turned to look. Terror was written on every face.
Hawkeye couldn't think. The only thing he could do was remember the last time he'd been careless and let himself fall into North Korean hands, everything he'd been forced to go through. Not again, please, not again.
He spoke without thinking. "Keep that damn baby quiet!" he hissed, anger masking the terror in his voice.
Then the crying stopped, as abruptly as if someone had thrown a switch. The first thought in Hawkeye's mind was relief, followed by panic. He'd wanted the baby to be quiet, but that sudden silence just didn't happen with babies. He turned back to the woman to see what had happened.
The baby's head flopped back limply, and the mother was sobbing silently. He realized what had happened, and it staggered him. In his selfishness, he had killed that child.
He jerked awake, gasping. He was slumped over Margaret as he lay beside her in her hospital bed.
He reached out, pulling her close, and it was only then that he realized his whole body was shaking. He buried her face in her blond hair.
This was his fault too. If he hadn't been playing around with Margaret, they would have been in a different part of the store, further from the front, when the car came through the wall. Tears fell freely, and he stifled his sobs so he wouldn't wake Margaret, who lay there exhausted from giving birth.
He sat up, looking over at the doorway where the voice had come from. "Dad?"
"I heard there was an accident. Are you two okay?"
He nodded, but a lump stuck in his throat. "Margaret had the babies," he whispered.
Daniel nodded grimly, knowing as well as Hawkeye did how early they were. "How are they?"
"Alaina's fine." He had taken almost instantly to the names they had chosen. "But Adrienne - they're not sure yet." He choked.
Daniel stepped forward and put his arms around his son. He wanted to reassure him that it would be okay, but he knew that wasn't necessarily true. "Two little girls?"
Hawkeye nodded, and in spite of his concern a prideful smile split his face. "Two beautiful little girls."
Daniel smiled too. "It's a wonderful feeling, isn't it? That's how I felt when your mother had you."
"I look at them, and they seem perfect. I mean, I know they're way too early, that Adrienne is really sick, but when I looked at them they were the most perfect babies I'd ever seen."
He rubbed his son's back. "Father's prerogative, Hawk. How's Margaret?"
"Tired and banged up, but fine. She wouldn't go to sleep until we'd named the babies." He smiled again despite himself. "I wonder if they'll be as stubborn as their mother?"
"If just one of them is half as stubborn, you'll have your hands full."
Hawkeye laughed. "Am I crazy to say I'm looking forward to it?"
"Yes. But you'll realize that yourself soon enough."
He jerked awake again. He hadn't meant to fall asleep after waking from his nightmare, but his injured body had overridden conscious thought and he had nodded off against the headboard with his father nearby in a chair. At the moment, however, Daniel was nowhere to be found.
He followed the source of the sound to the woman lying beside him. "How are you feeling?"
"Sore." She tried to sit up and winced a little. "But I delivered enough babies in Korea to know this was part of the package. How are they?"
"Right now, doing well." Daniel stepped back in carrying a bag. "Anyone hungry? I brought breakfast."
Hawkeye reached for the bag to sort out the takeout. "You saw the girls? Did you talk to the doctors? What did they say?"
Daniel couldn't help a small smile at this barrage of questions. "I saw them, and they're both absolutely beautiful." His smile widened as Margaret and Hawkeye exchanged smiles of their own. "And yes, I spoke to the doctor." He steeled himself now, wishing he could tell them something better. "They said the situation is the same as last night. The first baby - Alaina, right? - is going to be fine. But they still don't know about Adrienne."
The look that passed between the younger couple this time was anything but pleased. Margaret leaned into Hawkeye and he pulled her close. "We have to hope for the best, Major baby. We have to."
Hawkeye woke when he realized someone was standing in the doorway. Squinting at the clock, he realized it was after midnight. Why was someone - a nurse, he guessed by the uniform - standing in the doorway after midnight?
He had spent the entire day in Margaret's room except for his regular passes by the nursery and five minutes he had taken out to call BJ and tell him what had happened. His friend had shared both Hawkeye's joy and concern and urged him to call as soon as they had news - any news. BJ's own child was due to be born any day now.
"Hello?" he whispered, trying not to disturb Margaret.
The nurse came in, and the look on her face was enough to send Hawkeye's concern through the roof. "I think you should wake Ms. Houlihan. This is something you both need to hear."
"Margaret." He shook her gently. "Margaret!"
Her army nurse instincts were clearly still there; she was fully awake in seconds. "What is it?"
He nodded to the nurse, who looked between them with that expression that so troubled him. "I'm afraid I have bad news. Your daughter, Adrienne, has begun having respiratory problems. We don't think she's going to survive."
Margaret gave a dry sob and buried her face in Hawkeye's chest. He held her numbly, still trying to process what he'd heard. This can't be happening this can't be happening this can't be happening.
"Another nurse is bringing her in. I thought you'd want a chance to spend some time with her."
As if on cue, the other nurse appeared and wordlessly placed the baby in Margaret's arms, a look of incredible sympathy in her eyes. Both their eyes were glued to her.
The tubes had been removed from her body. There was no sign of how sick she was. She looked peaceful.
She made a soft sound and her tiny mouth opened in a yawn. Margaret let out a soft sob and pulled the baby closer. Hawkeye reached out, placing his finger in her tiny hand, letting her grab hold, wrapping the rest of his fingers around that hand.
"Hey, baby," Margaret whispered. "I'm so sorry I acted like I didn't want you and your sister. I do want you. I want you so much -" a sob cut off her words, and Hawkeye put his free arm around her shoulders. "We're going to miss you."
She kissed Adrienne on the forehead, and Hawkeye carefully bent around Margaret's shoulder to do the same. A few tears landed on the baby's face, and Hawkeye wiped them away roughly. It wasn't that he was ashamed to cry; he just didn't want his vision obscured for even a moment. He wanted to stare at Adrienne, watch her breathe and move while he still could.
He didn't know how long he'd been sitting there before Adrienne's chest stopped rising and falling. Margaret's hand hesitantly felt the baby's chance. The slight shake of her head was unnecessary; Hawkeye knew as soon as he saw her face that their baby had no heartbeat.
She fell into Hawkeye's arms, sobbing brokenly, still holding Adrienne. He kept his free arm wrapped around her, his own tears falling freely.
They almost had to tear the body out of her parents' arms to take her to the morgue. When they carefully slipped Hawkeye's finger out of Adrienne's hand, he gave a soft cry and reached out for her.
A nurse put a gentle hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry." Then they took her out, leaving her parents alone with their grief.
The look on Daniel's face made it plain that the doctors had informed him, and Hawkeye was glad of it. He wasn't sure he could have said the words.
He wasn't sure exactly how long it had been. He vaguely remembered someone saying it was 2:49 am, and it had been light for awhile. Probably about eight. Pain, not the ticking of a clock, had marked the hours.
Daniel reached out to pull his son and the woman he hoped would someday be his daughter-in-law into his arms. Their tears started anew, and that triggered his own. He wanted to say something, but there was nothing to say. The only thing in his experience that even came close to this was getting that false death notification from Korea, and he doubted strongly that even losing an adult child (and even though Hawkeye was safe, he did know what it was like to lose him) was the same thing as losing a baby.
BJ's hand was shaking as he dialed the number on the piece of paper he'd somehow remembered to grab on his way out the door. He didn't know why he was so nervous, but he supposed that was his prerogative.
A voice came over the line. "Portland General Hospital."
"Hello." His voice was as shaky as his hand. "I need to speak to Doctor Hawkeye Pierce. I know he's not on duty, but I believe he's staying the room of Margaret Houlihan, maternity."
He tapped his foot impatiently. It seemed to take forever before someone picked up again. "Hello?"
"Hawkeye, guess what?" He was sure his best friend could hear him smiling. "Peggy's in labor!"
"What?" He sounded truly confused, as though what had been said hadn't registered.
"I'm about to be a daddy again! Your twins are gonna have an honorary cousin almost exactly their same age!"
"That's great." Hawkeye's flat voice contradicted his words.
"Geez, try to restrain your enthusiasm, won't you?"
"I'm sorry." For the first time, BJ realized how strained Hawkeye's voice was. "I just - I -"
"What's wrong?" BJ recognized this tone now. It was the same tone Hawkeye had used when he was trying to tell Colonel Potter why he had pushed a nurse into a table. It meant something was bad, so bad he couldn't even say it.
"Adrienne." The word came out in a sob. "She's - my baby died this morning."
BJ felt like someone had stabbed him. "Oh, God, Hawk, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Guilt washed over him. Whatever his intent, he knew his excitement had probably only served to drive the proverbial knife in deeper. He could hear his friend crying on the other end. "I wish I could be there with you. I just -"
"I know. Your family needs you."
"I'm sorry." He didn't know what else to say. Anything he could say just seemed inadequate. "I'll be out there as soon as I can, okay?"
"I know you will. I have to get back to Margaret."
"Hug her for me."
BJ became aware of the tears on his own face as he hung up the phone.
Hawkeye was on his way back to Margaret's room when something seemed to pull him towards the nursery instead. Almost without thinking about it, he turned and followed his instinct.
Alaina lay in her incubator. She was awake, her eyes searching. Hawkeye wondered if she was looking for her sister. A fresh pain pierced his heart.
A nurse spotted him and walked over. "Can I do something for you?" Her voice was soft with compassion. Hawkeye realized they must all have been told.
"Can she be removed from the incubator? Just for a few minutes?"
The smile the woman gave him was sad but genuine. "I don't see why not, as long as you're careful."
She tenderly lifted the tiny baby out of the incubator and placed her in Hawkeye's arms. She stood by in case Alaina needed to be placed back in in an emergency, but not so close as to interfere. Hawkeye barely noticed her once the child was in his arms.
He slid his finger into her hand and was rewarded with her firm, tight grasp. He watched her chest rise and fall, relishing in every breath she took. He had lost Adrienne, and he would carry that pain with him for the rest of his life. But he had hope. He had Alaina.