JAG HQ – FALLS CHURCH
December 23rd , 1998
The Jag Christmas party was running one day earlier because Admiral Chegwidden was leaving to spend the holidays with his daughter Francesca in Milan.
A light hearted AJ watched as his team joked and had fun in the bullpen Harriet had decorated with colorful ornaments. The mood was pleasant, even if military protocol was not totally forgotten, but every one seemed to have a good time.
Bud smiled in his almost childish way and was telling again and again to every one around how much Jag had raised to buy toys for the kids in Bethesda. Each time his wife was near him, he took her hand and kissed it, trying nevertheless to be discreet, as only Bud could be.
AJ repressed an amused smile. He never had to regret his use of his admiral’s privilege to keep Harriet working at Jag HG. This young couple was competent and gave the entire team the warmth of a family that some missed at home.
His eyes moved around the room and found Major Mackenzie, talking with Commander Brumby.
In barely one month, Mic had managed to find his footing at Jag HQ, although the first weeks had been a little rocky. And much more, it looked like he had found his place in the major’s life.
AJ carefully observed Mac’s face, remembering the disastrous year she had gone through : she had almost left Jag to follow this wealthy and annoying lawyer, who was then killed just some feet away from her, her forgotten husband had returned and died, and finally she had to go through this article 32 hearing. And even if it had not destroyed her career, its consequences were pretty bad for her reputation. And yet, all summer through, and until her husband suddenly appeared, Mac seemed serene, even happy.
While AJ watched her joking with the Australian, he remembered the Christmas parties of the past years : usually, Rabb was the one standing near her.
Puzzled, he looked around the bullpen and finally caught sight of the commander’s tall figure in the furthest doorway. The commander acted as if he did not want to share the holiday mood around, his look was dark, the sign of his bad mood.
AJ frowned and crossed his arms on his chest. He studied his officer : no drink, no smile, the commander was staring at Mac and Brumby, and he looked as if he was hurt. This was only a vague feeling, AJ had no proof he was right or wrong about it, but he felt as something had happened during the past year between his two senior officers. Whatever it was, it had soothed them for months, and now it was weighing heavily on Rabb’s mood.
AJ went nonchalantly to Harm, who jumped when he noticed his CO standing near him.
» So, Commander, you are not sharing the common euphoria tonight ? »
» You know, Sir, Christmas does not really mean joy for me. My father … »
AJ gazed at him a little more, and decided not to let the discussion lead this way.
» I wanted to thank you for acting as JAG while I’ll be off, Harm. I haven’t spent Christmas holidays with my daughter since she was two, I missed so many things I will never have back … You should make something with your life now that you know what happened to your father … »
» Sir ? … I … What do you mean ? »
» Nothing specific, Harm, it’s just a feeling … You stay here, alone, when you should be with your colleagues … And then, even though I don’t want to intrude in what is not my business, I believe it’s about time you have a private life … Look at the major, she spent a particularly difficult year, but she went on, she does not let things get her down … why don’t you try to do as she does ? »
AJ noticed Harm’s hurt look and his clenched jaws. Sure something had happened, something the Major might have ended. But there was nothing he could do for his officer, and he had to keep Harm from understanding that he felt sorry for him. It was time to change the subject of the discussion.
» Are you going to the Wall tonight ? »
» No Sir, tomorrow morning if you don’t mind. I’ll be there around 0700 and will not be late to JAG, don’t worry. »
» I don’t worry, Commander. Take all the time you need, I believe this year must be special for you, now that you know what happened to your father. »
» Yes, Sir, this year has been really special for me. Excuse me for leaving, but I have to ask the major to go to the Wall with me tomorrow, you know, she was there … and … »
» I understand, Rabb … »
Harm was going away when AJ called him back.
» Harm … »
» Yes, Sir ? »
» You should really try to have some fun during these holidays, Harm, you should try … »
» Yes Sir. »
Smiling sadly, Harm turned away and went to the couple chatting across the room.
» Sarah, just tell me it’s ok, I’m sure you have plenty of leave on the books and we will only be gone for three days … »
Mac, smiling, was looking at Mic, he never gave up. Since last week he was charming her because he wanted to take her to ski holidays in Snowshoe Mountain during New Year holidays. It was so easy to let him court her, he knew now it was safer not to insist when she stopped smiling, but slowly he was making his way through her armour. And when she spent time with Mic, Harm did his best to stay away from them. She often felt his eyes on her, and it hurt her more than she was willing to admit , she was mad at herself for hurting him more and more, but it was the best for him.
God, she was pathetic each time she thought about Harm, and she was stupid too. She was hurting a man she cared about more than anyone or anything in the world and it was supposed to be the best for him ? Then, why was all this so difficult, why did she hate herself for her behavior ? And how could she go on smiling at Mic, spending so much time with him, while her body and her soul only longed for Harm ?
She did not hear him as he arrived from behind and she blushed slightly when he interrupted :
» So … where are you heading exactly ? »
» Harm ! You scared me ! »
He smiled softly at her. Her cheeks were blushed, her eyes glanced and he had to remember she was not this way because of him, but because of Mic … He turned towards Mic.
» I’m taking her to Snowshoe Mountain, she agreed, but now she is saying that she can’t leave, because with the admiral away, you will not make it without her during these three days. Come on, Rabb, she needs to get out of here and change her mind, and you are a big guy, you’ll be able to face the situation without her, right ? »
Harm would have loved to wipe this satisfied and smug smile off Mic’s face. He had the sudden impression he was back in his past, during his last high school semester, on this day when just before prom the captain of the football team had told everyone around that he would be Joann’s date for the evening. The jealousy and wounded pride Harm had felt on this occasion was nothing compared to the cold rage he felt right now. But since he had grown up, he had learnt to keep his self control. The admiral, unlike the coach, would not have to break apart two alpha males fighting in the middle of the bullpen during the Christmas party …
» Sure Mic, if this is what Mac wants, I’m not going to counter it … »
Harm turned to her and could read from her eyes she understood what he really meant. Whatever her decision would be, even if he could not approve it, he would accept it.
» Mac, I’m going to the Wall tomorrow morning, I want you to go with me this time, please … »
» You are sure you don’t prefer to be alone, Harm ? As usual ? »
» This year has not felt usual for me, Mac. Without you, I would never have found him … I really wish you’d come with me, this will be the best way to close this period of my life … if I don’t have other options … please … »
They stared at each other, not saying a word, still observed by a questioning Mic. Finally, Mac smiled almost shyly to Harm.
» If I can help you close this page of your life, Harm, I’ll be there. At what time will you pick me up? »
VIETNAM MEMORIAL – « THE WALL »
December 24th 1998 – 0700
The snow had begun to fall during the night and was now all over the fields. The flakes were falling pretty strongly in the dim light of the street lamps. The silence was surreal near the Wall, the traffic noise from Constitution Avenue almost vanished, just like all the monuments around them. So early in the morning, in this holiday, they were alone standing in front of the Wall, two silent and still silhouettes strapped up in their uniforms.
A lump in her throat, Mac almost did not dare to watch Harm, who was lost in his memories. She often came there to meditate near this black marble stone, contemplating the engraved name of Lieutenant Harmon Rabb, one name in the middle of thousand others, but she never came there with Harm. This visit, especially on this day where Harm senior had been missing in action years before, only belonged to her friend. She knew it was the most intimate part of Harm, the only moment where he dropped every fence he had built around himself and agreed to face the grief of a young boy. She still could see in her heart the tears on Harm’s cheeks at the moment he had contemplated the taiga, this ocean of trees where he finally knew his father was resting.
She wanted to take him in her arms and lull him to soothe his pain. But she stood there, motionless, knowing her behavior during the past months and the one she chose to have now would only increase this loneliness Harm was feeling.
Mac hated herself because of all she was doing, but she told herself again and again she had to do it this way for him. If she let go and followed her feelings, she would lead them both to failure. She was not the woman Harm needed. Only in fairy tales and romance novels was love stronger than everything. She had to let him have the life he wanted, but with another woman.
She jumped as Harm’s low voice, full of held back tears, began to speak just near her, and a chill of emotion ran through her body.
» Merry Christmas, Dad … I am not alone this year, because I wanted you to meet someone … really special to me … much more special than I knew last year. If she had not been there, I would never have found out what happened to you, and I would have died searching for the truth … She is the most important person in my life, dad, and today, I needed her to be with me and meet you. »
And then again, the silence.
Mac was struggling to keep the emotion away. She had to stay strong, she had no right to cry, no right to show any feeling. She kept her eyes on these many names engraved in the cold stone, her arms along her body, as if at attention, as if behaving exactly as military protocol required would protect her from these feelings she had no longer control over.
A few minutes went away, she felt as if Harm’s eyes were touching her, her will was focused on just one thought : showing nothing, nothing at all … Suddenly, Harm’s right hand took hers and his whispered voice continued to give out his feelings.
» Barely one month ago, I still believed I would be here today to have you meet the woman I was about to marry. But I should have known better, I should have remembered that life seldom allows you the gifts you are expecting … I hesitated a lot before asking her to come here with me today. But in spite of every thing that could part us, she still stays and will always stay my best friend, the only person in the world to know so much about me. So I imagined that taking her here today to meet you was the best way to tell her I’m accepting her choices and her decisions, I’m accepting everything provided I never lose her. »
He lifted Mac’s hand, closed it into his both hands and faced her.
» Ma … Sarah … I don’t understand what happened to us, but I know one thing for sure : I don’t ever want to lose you. If you don’t want me any longer the way I wish, just let me still stay your friend … Our friendship is what I care the most about in my life. I will not try to pressure you, but don’t turn away my friendship, please. »
The snow still danced around them, the air was ice cold, but Mac could only feel this inner cold spreading through her body. Harm was about to give up, he was about to surrender, she had won, but this was so terribly painful. She had to immediately break the spell, she had to get away from this mood, or she would fall in his arms and tell him she was wrong.
She had to. Now.
She quickly pulled her hand away, gave a forced smile towards Harm and spoke, hoping her voice would sound really steady :
» I’ll wait for you in the car, Harm, it’s too cold … We’ll be better there to finish this discussion. »
» I’ll come with you, Mac, I was done here. »
As soon she was safe in her old car, she switched on the motor, but Harm stopped her before she could drive away.
» No, Mac, we have to finish this discussion. Please … Tell me why ? I believed you loved me … »
» You’re my best friend, Harm, I’m feeling safe with you, more than I ever felt before. And you know you look really good, this is not a surprise for you. So, maybe I loved this idea of having an affair with you. And … the two of us together, it was … well, you know … but I know I’m not the one you need, Harm, we would end up destroying each other, I know that. »
» And what about you let me decide what is good for me, who is the one I need and who is not ?Mac, what are you afraid of ? »
» I don’t know … honestly, I don’t know … but I know one thing for sure. If we want to protect our friendship from falling apart, we can’t be more than friends. I’m serious, Harm, this is the only reasonable decision we have to make. Every thing else would be foolish. We don’t want the same things in life, you and me, and a couple, this is not only what happens in a bed. I want you to be happy, Harm, really and totally happy, and I want to be happy too. But we will not be happy together. »
» And you could be happy with Brumby ? »
» Maybe, I don’t know … Please, Harm, let’s stay friends and take a look around you. So many women out there have no higher hope than waiting patiently for you, and just the fact of being your wife would made their life happy and beautiful. Many of them, but not me, Harm … It would only be a fleeting moment, and soon we would hurt each other. I know it … »
» So … it’s over ? »
» If you mean the affair we had together, yes, Harm, it’s over. But our friendship will never stop if I can avoid it, I promise you. »
» I’ll learn to be satisfied with just this friendship, if this is the way you want it. »
They stayed there for some more minutes, staring at the other. There was nothing to add.