Title: Clerical Error
Warnings: Some slash, obviously.
Disclaimer: I can only wish.
Author's Notes: First time writing M*A*S*H fic, constructive criticism is adored! Also, I apologize for not knowing how LJ formatting works at all...
Summary: Based off of "The Late Captain Pierce." What would have happened if Daniel Pierce had written Trapper as soon as the army informed him Hawkeye was "dead?"
John McIntyre leaves Korea without looking back. There are no drawn out goodbyes. Nothing to keep him from running to his wife and girls with his hair on end and his tail between his legs.
(the one thing that could have kept him was miles away on R & R. he would come back to nothing but an empty martini glass and reluctant kiss on the cheek.)
John McIntyre leaves Hawkeye Pierce without looking back. In stories told over antifreeze aged more than a day, he speaks of an enigma. Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce. A name sans connotation.
(he tells himself it is because the title would annoy hawkeye. he tells himself it has nothing to do with the sharp pain in his chest, because he is not a teenage girl.)
John McIntyre is not expecting a letter from Crabapple Cove. (two months, seven days, three hours since he left. but who's counting?) He is not expecting his knees to buckle when he read the words written by Pierce, senior, or to hear the strangled noise burst from his throat. That noise that clouded the air in Korea.
(friend of my son... hawkeye... said you were close... i'm so sorry...)
Louise McIntyre, née Baker, walks into the kitchen and sweeps up the bits of her husband that have overflowed and seeped into the cracks in the tile floor, but she can never quite mold him back into John McIntyre. Her husband has died with Hawkeye Pierce, and a man from Korea named Trapper is here to replace him. A man with no room in his heart for a woman who is not Hawkeye Pierce.
(Louise reads the letter. An apology. A mistake. This man's army made another clerical error that ruined another life. Alive, if not well, sorry to have misinformed. She drops it in the fireplace, because this man's son has already taken her husband.)
Louise McIntyre, née Baker, does not know how to handle Trapper. Trapper who drowns his sorrows in women. Louise does not know how to handle Trapper, who drinks in front of the girls. Louise doesn't know how to handle Trapper, so she files for divorce.
(Trapper remembers. He remembers when Hawkeye left for the aide station. My will. Under my cot. He remembers courage and fear and pounding hearts and those nights when Frank was with Hotlips and temptation had the tent to themselves. The nights he will never admit that he does not regret.)
Trapper seeks closure in a phone book, and closure goes by the name of Daniel Pierce. When he knocks, a dead man opens the door. Something is said, stuttered. An accusation, maybe a declaration. Hawkeye steps to the side. Trapper's fist follows, and then the rest of him. Right hook and an elbow to the gut, then a knee to the groin because Hawkeye plays dirty. They're on the ground, and they're both too old to fight like this, so maybe that's why they give in. Maybe it's because all the fight bled out in Korea. Maybe it's because they need each other, but you'd never catch either admitting to that.
(later, neither man will be able to pinpoint the moment when the punches turn to rough caresses, heavy breathing no longer due only to pain, and hawkeye's knee between trapper's legs becomes something else entirely.)
Later, each of them will be able to pinpoint the exact moment their lips connect. Nearly two years of soft bodies, curves, and delicate sighs have been preparing them for this moment of distantly familiar edges, of chapped lips that knead and caress and worship.
"You…" Trapper breathed, "are supposed to be," the words are barely there, "dead."
At the same time, Hawkeye nips along the line of Trapper's collarbone, "You never wrote." A tongue darts out, "Never said," a hard bite he knows will bruise, "goodbye."
It takes a moment for Trapper to process the words. He jerks away from Hawkeye like he's on fire (he is) and, "That's what this is? This is all because I never said goodbye?Wanted to – You ruined me, you –"
"What?" Hawkeye looks calm. Acts cool. But Trapper hears the tremor in his voice, the same note of panic and disbelief that arises when a patient's heart stops beating and his eyes won't open.
"You… you're supposed to be dead."
Then, "Your hit man must have missed, you probably shouldn't have tipped him." The joke falls flat.
"A year ago. A year ago, your father sent me a letter telling me you're dead, and it ruined my life. Louise left me. I don't have the girls anymore, Hawkeye. I left everything for a ghost, and now you're trying to tell me it was an accident? Mistake? Clerical error?"
Hawkeye is a good actor, that much Trapper knows. But the look on his face now is real. The shock in his voice could not be manufactured, and suddenly Trapper knows. He can see the army sneering, uncaring, misinforming. He sees Hawkeye and Hawkeye sees him, and now Hawkeye knows too.
(that night, hawkeye's bed is occupied for the first time since he left for korea, and he isn't hungover. instead, he's with trapper. he's not quite happy and nothing is perfect, but for the first time in a long time, something is right.)