AUTHOR'S NOTES: Alright, I can't sit on this any longer! ^^;/^_~ It's burning a hole in my hard drive! This is, of course, the final chapter-- I hope it doesn't get too weird, or too confusing. Before you read, it might help to think back to the stranger in the diner. ^_^;;; And, before *I* start babbling myself silly, I'll shut up.
So, here goes nothing....
Offer up your last defense,
'Cause this is the end of the innocence.
Offer Up Your Last Defense 4/4
By Meredith Bronwen Mallory
Erin heard her own footsteps like singular explosions as she approached the front door and pulled it back. She wasn't even surprised to see him.
He smiled, more like an innocent, childish smirk, "Guilty as charged, Erin. Everything go okay?"
She nodded, feeling shy, "Yeah. I guess I didn't give Papa enough credit."
"You were just scared," Hawkeye assured her, "happens to everyone." They stood on either side of the threshold, each breathing their terror.
"You want to come in?" she asked, throat dry.
"You know what that means, don't you?" he spoke like he *wished* he was joking, "I can't come in unless you offer it."
She laughed, tiny and plastic in the warm night air, "I thought those were just old stories."
"They have to come from someplace." The smile was gone, Hawkeye seemed as grasping and tired as her own father.
Voice shaking, Erin said, "Come in, Hawkeye."
"Do you want something to eat?" At least it was something to say, as they stood looking at each other in the hallway. "I have ketchup to cover it with."
He laughed, "No thanks. I don't think I can stomach anything." Running a hand through his hair, savagely, he turned on her his eyes as they truly were-- haunted. There was a stranger in him too, one to match her father's. "Damn it... I knew this wasn't gonna be easy. My God. I'm a doctor... er... was a Doctor, whatever the hell the tense is. I'm supposed to beat, not work for--"
"The bastard," Erin finished for him. Death. In all the old books, did they ever say death sent a friendly face?
Hawkeye's grin was genuine, "Someone has been revealing state secrets."
"Not all of them," she replied with assurance, "Just enough to let me know I'm not the only one, and that he really does still love me."
"Of course he loves you," the... well, he wasn't a *stranger*, ruffled her hair with affection. "And I, the great Hawkeye Pierce," he looped an arm about her shoulder, gesturing his hand off into the distant future, "foresee that you shall have a long, happy life with--"
"Abigail," Erin supplied, amused.
"With Abigail," he finished. Taking hold of her right hand, Hawkeye winked, "Do you swear to fulfill this requirement to the best of your ability, to be happy, healthy and always remember that a little gin never hurt anyone?"
Laughing, "I do."
"Then," he said with a flourish, obvious not thinking ahead, "My job here is..." Silence. The clock in the kitchen chimed some strange hour. "No, actually, it's not done."
"I know." Hesitantly, she asked, "But you won't hurt him?"
"Never," Hawkeye swore faithfully, "It's not his fault, about me, you know. It was my choice. I just couldn't... well, it wasn't his fault."
"He might actually believe that," Erin said, "if he heard it from you."
A beat. "We do have some things to work out."
Dryly, she managed, "I imagine you do."
("Give your papa a hug, Erin. Don't let go."
You have to hand him over, now. If you love him, you'll let him be happy. He's your father, he's tired. You have to let go.)
"He's in the living room," she told Hawkeye, and then, almost guiltily, "He's pretty healthy for his age..."
"He'll just stop, Erin," Hawkeye was being the doctor now, true and compassionate. "Natural causes. No bullets, no falling into the Sea of Japan."
Her confusion dispelled the hovering memories in his eyes, "What?"
He shook his head, "Nothing." They just stood still, shadows on the wood floor.
"You better go in there," Erin said at last, "I imagine you don't have all night, and I think Papa has something to tell you."
A brief, ghost
(ha ha, ha ha)
of a smile, but there was love there, "I'd like to hope so."
He crossed the kitchen with an easy gate, and through the doorway, Erin could see him standing over her father, watching, taking the luxury of brushing the other man's cheek with a kiss.
She was both young and old as she turned away, her steps guiding her without conscious thought. The bedroom was the same, with sea-green curtains and sheets-- only the things that were mother's had been removed. It was still Mother's room, really, and the dust lay over it like a shrine to Erin's childhood.
She picked up the phone
(no one on the other end to say it, to tell you...)
and dialed the number.
"Hello, Abigail? It's Erin."
"Erin!" such happiness in that voice, the same Erin felt for Abigail in return. Then, so cautiously, it made Erin wonder if perhaps hearts *came* in pieces and weren't broken that way, "How did it go?"
"He still loves me," Erin cried, and not solely for that reason. In the morning, her father would be dead, but she wasn't supposed to know that yet. "He knows what we've been through. Abby-- he says there's no crime in love!"
"Oh, love," Abigail whispered over the line; the vibration came into Erin's shoulder and made her shiver in delight. "Thank God. It's so late, I thought something was wrong."
"I'm sorry," Erin blushed, "I didn't--"
"No, no!" Abby laughed, "I would have been ticked if you didn't call to tell me. I was just afraid you were at some gas station and he'd run you out."
"No," Erin shook her head, even if the other girl couldn't see, "no. I'll have to tell you all about it tomorrow." Tomorrow, there will other things to take care of as well.
Briefly, Erin caught herself almost sobbing.
"Erin? Is something wrong?" Abigail asked, alto voice rough with concern.
(Another conversation, a long time ago. East coast night and West coast afternoon; there's a man in his red robe, staring up at the moon, and a man perched on the couch, watching his wife move about, a bright bird in er day dress, while he clutches the phone.
East, "I love you."
West. "Same here.")
"Abby, I just wanted to call you and tell you I love you."
"I love you too, silly goose. And I'll see you tomorrow. I'll be over first thing."
"Thank you," Erin said, thinking-- Abigail doesn't not know how much this means, not yet. A few more words between them, then there a click on the other end of the line. Erin held the phone like a baby. Downstairs, someone was laughing and crying at the same time, someone was happy, someone was loved.
(It's a summer night, death is a warm summer night. The phone says, a secret burrowing into her ear;
"Hawkeye is dead.")
Erin laid down on her mother's bed, thinking of what she would have to tell the phone tomorrow.
[to the tune of "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer"]
"Meredith has finally finished this fic,
an occurrence that causes some dis-be-lief,
And now she will love you forever,
if any feedback you would choose to leave.