Chapter Nine: Grandpa Sherman
The Best-Laid Plans"What the hell is all this?" Hawkeye demanded. The old house was filled to the walls with people.
Daniel shook his head. "I'm sorry, Hawk. I tried to tell them you and Margaret wouldn't like this, but no one listened."
Margaret just looked overwhelmed, and Hawkeye didn't blame her. He was worried about her. She had been in a sort of daze since Adrienne's death. He knew it must be how she dealt with it, by feeling everything through a haze. If only he could. He knew how. It had been a strategy for surviving the nightmare in Korea. But if he checked out, there would be no one left to care for Margaret and for Alaina, who inexplicably seemed to be aware that an important part of her life was gone.
They had stayed in the hospital for a week after Adrienne's death, unwilling to leave until Alaina was able to come with them. Margaret had been stable to be released days earlier, but the hospital staff had been sympathetic to the parents' grief for their child and their need to be close to the remaining twin.
"Look, do me a favor. I want to get Margaret and the baby upstairs without being mobbed. Just hold off the crowd, if you would."
Daniel nodded. Hawkeye wasn't exactly sure what it was his father did, but he was able to escort Margaret up the stairs and carry Alaina into the room they had converted into a nursery.
He carefully laid his baby down in one of the cribs in the room, trying to keep his eyes off the second tiny crib that only served as a reminder of his agony.
"More visitors?" Hawkeye grumbled angrily. "Can't they understand we just want to be left alone?"
He pulled open the front door and stopped dead in his tracks. "What - you!"
"Me." Colonel Potter took a step forward to meet Hawkeye in the doorway.
"Who called you?"
"Your father. He told me what happened. I'm so sorry."
"What are you doing here? Look, I appreciate the gesture -"
"Who said I was here for you?" he retorted in the tone and with the look Hawkeye knew so well from every time the man had 'redirected' him in Korea. "Your father thought Margaret needed another shoulder to lean on."
Hawkeye managed a weak smile at that very characteristic remark. He knew, of course, that Potter was there for him as much as for her, but it was just like him to retort to a remark like that when Hawkeye tried to brush him off.
"How've you been?" Hawkeye asked him.
"Oh, no you don't. This is about you."
"Well, come in."
"The night before Adrienne -" he still hated using the d-word to talk about his baby, "you know, I had a nightmare. About the baby in Korea."
Potter shook his head sadly. It was so awful that that had to happen at all, but for it to happen in front of a group of tired, overworked people all on the verge of breakdown was damn tragic. He should have guessed that this would call back bad memories.
"Do you want to meet Alaina?" he asked suddenly.
Hawkeye frowned. "Didn't Dad tell you?"
"Come with me."
Hawkeye led his former CO up the stairs and into the nursery. "Just be quiet."
"What ..." but before he could finish the sentence, Hawkeye pulled the door open and he obligingly fell silent.
The first thing he saw was the empty crib, set up all ready for a baby to come home and occupy it, a virtual shrine to the little girl who would never sleep in it. But movement drew his eyes to the other side of the room, and he drew in a sharp, sudden breath. There was another crib, and this one appeared used. And then he finally realized the source of the movement - there was a baby in it.
Hawkeye bent over the crib and lifted out the child inside. "Colonel Potter, I'd like you to meet Alaina."
"Twins," he said, his voice breathy with shock as he finally figured it out.
"The ray of hope in all of this." He was tracing Alaina's face with a finger. "Would you like to hold her?"
"If you're sure -"
"You have what, two children and three grandchildren? I assume you know how to do this." He carefully passed the baby over to the shorter man, who held her tenderly.
"Hello, little one," he whispered. "I'm your Grandpa Sherman." Realizing too late what he had just said, he looked up at Hawkeye, about to apologize. But Hawkeye was nodding and there was a very small smile on his face.
"Hawkeye, about what I said -"
"Don't worry about it."
Alaina had fallen asleep in the Colonel's arms and they had carefully put her in her crib and stepped into the hall. Potter had decided it would be best not to wait to clear the air with Hawkeye about his little slip.
"I am worried about it. I had no right to lay claim to a child that I'm not related to."
"It's not inaccurate," Hawkeye countered. "You've been more of a father to Margaret than her real father ever was. I think that makes that baby in their your grandchild." His eyes softened even further. "She's lucky to have a grandfather like you."
"Almost as lucky as she is to have a father like you."