Breaking off

8/11

JAG HQ – FALLS CHURCH
February, 20th 1999

The upset voices from Major Mackenzie and Lieutenant Commander Rabb sounded in the bullpen, announcing their arrival, and every body moved away, trying to avoid them. For a few days, it seemed to be usual that life at the office was punctuated by the endless arguing of both officers.

 » You skipped over the stage of the corpsman to the lab assistant, what was the whole point of this line of questioning : to create the possibility of a break in the chain of custody.  »
 » That was your intention, Harm. As far as I am concerned, lab and corpsman were never in the center of this case.  »
 » So then what was ? »

Admiral Chegwidden came out of Tiner’s office and stopped near his two officers, who were so focused on their arguing that they were not aware of the Jag crew looking at them, nor of their commanding officer standing now by them. Arms crossed on his chest, his look ice cold, AJ decided now was the time to interfere.

 » Please. This suspense is killing me.  »

Mac and Harm jumped and came instinctively to attention. Mac was the first to regain self control.

 » It’s the Lipari court martial, Admiral.  »
 » You’ll have to explain this in my office. Now.  »
 » Yes, Sir,  » they answered at the same time.
AJ stood near the window, looking outside. Even while they tried to explain why they had different opinions on the case, it turned once again to a verbal fight. It looked like they were not able any longer to speak to each other without exasperation. It was not the first time Harm and Mac had different ideas about a case they were investigating or defending, far from that, but never before had this misunderstanding and arguing lasted longer than a day. And never before had AJ felt he had to interfere.

Today, the issue was more serious, it began to impact on the mood of all people under his command, and he had no right to just ignore it.

Actually, from AJ’s point of view, it looked like it all had begun after Harm had found Webb alive, and Palmer escaped him. In the first days, AJ believed this tension every one around was experiencing was just the follow up from this situation. It was unual for the both of them, but AJ assumed Palmer’s run and the constant threat on Harm and his girlfriend, Lt Commander Jordan Parker, were probably the source of this tension. But now, it had been a week, and AJ felt intuitively there was another reason, something only Harm and Mac knew about, something aggravating their tiniest dissensions.

Solemnly, he turned to the two officers still standing at attention for ten minutes.

 » I just requested the authorization from Admiral Morris to have you both removed from the Lipari’s case … Don’t be thrilled. I’m sending you both as a team on board the submarine USS Watertown in the Arctic Sea to conduct an investigation about the navigation mistake from last night.  »
 » The two of us, Sir ?  » interrupted Harm.
 » The two of you, Commander. And now, I’m going to make it really clear . If you don’t prove to me that you are still able to work on a normal basis together, if you are not able to get over the problems you two seem to have with each other, as soon as you are back, I’ll have the both of you transferred on the other side of the world, as far away as possible from the other, before you set the whole Navy on fire. I will not tolerate one more minute of the unprofessional behavior you have had for one week in this office, understood ? I don’t know what is wrong, and I don’t want to know unless one of you think it’s in your best interest to let me know … but if I have once again to step in and maintain discipline, you’ll spend the rest of your career being sorry about it.  »
 » Aye aye Sir,  » they answered both together, their eyes focused on the horizon line, living examples of military behavior.

AJ noticed how Mac’s cheeks suddenly blushed. Now he was sure of one thing : their problem was not professional, but he would not follow such a dangerous path. While he explained to them shortly the circumstances of the mishap they had to investigate, he scrutinized them carefully. He had now second thoughts about sending them together on board a submarine. Until this day, Rabb and Mackenzie had been totally able to manage just about any situation together, but today AJ was not sure he was not making a mistake. If the two officers were not able to work together better than they had been during the past week, the USS Watertown was going to sail through troubled waters. And all this agitation would have immediate consequences on their careers.

He allowed himself a deep sigh and dismissed them, deciding once again to trust them.
OFFICE OF DOCTOR LAURA ASHTON
FAIRFAX – VIRGINIA
March, 8th 1999

 » I don’t know how to begin … I never figured I would one day seek advice from a psychiatrist  » stammered Mac. She was sitting on the edge of a deep armchair near the window, she seemed to be ready to jump and run away.

It was a large room, with bright walls, a big bookcase full of books against the farthest wall and a large French window hovering a big garden. It was still winter, the trees were dark and bare, but at least the sun was shining. After the two weeks when Mac had only seen artificial light, only breathe recycled air, she would have happily welcomed even rain.

She felt uncomfortable, but at the same time was relieved to be here because she had finally made a difficult decision, a decision she had been wrong to not think about before. If she had spoken to Harm before, if she had accepted that the source of her problems could be more serious than just an unresolved divorce, she would probably not have driven them into this dead end from which they could not escape.

She still could hear in her mind the words Harm had said to her in the corridor of the USS Watertown. These words had been floating around her while she was driving to the psychiatrist and had helped her to be strong and not run away.

 » Want to know my opinion ? You really have a problem !  »

Yes, she had a problem, but she would no longer run away , she was going to face her demons. And in case a future with Harm was still possible at the far end, she would fight to obtain it.

The young woman sitting in front of her smiled quietly, her presence was soothing, her voice was sweet, and Mac was surprised to feel so confident with her.

 » So, Sarah … may I call you Sarah ? Just speak aloud as if I were you. You called me on the 14th of February, you were crying. Explain to me why, the same way you would explain it to your best friend. And don’t try to make it clear, or logical, don’t try to follow the same idea, just try to follow your emotions.  »
 » The problem is I have no friend I would speak with about all this. My only friends are all job related, and my best friend … well, it’s a man … and he is …  »

Mac stopped, tears were flowing her cheeks. Embarrassed, she snorted, looked for tissues in her purse, but she could not stop her hands trembling.

 » You have tissues near you, on the coffee table by the chair. Let go, Sarah …  »

Mac closed her eyes, and pictures began to overflow her mind : the endless arguing with Harm, the first days aboard the Watertown and the almost physical hostility between them …

 » You know, Mac, I’m beginning to think that this is more than just a bump in the road. You obviously resent me.  »
 » And you have no faith in me.  »
 » How did we get to this point anyway ?  »

Mac was aware that as long she would refuse to speak to Harm, to explain to him why her behavior was apparently so irrational, things could only get worse between them. If she did not have guts to tell him the truth, her prophecies would turn out to be true : their friendship would sink, washed away in the shipwreck of a love she was too scared to accept.

She was not able to give up on Harm, and yet every thing she did was taking them further apart. What did he think after that night when she gave herself to him with no word of explanation ? She knew he loved her, but she behaved exactly as if she was only interested in his body. And it was so easy to draw Harm into that bed, so easy and so wonderful … and so stupid …

She heard someone speaking, a voice she barely recognized as her own .

 » He is not only my best friend, he is the only person I ever really cared for since I was a child … about ten days ago, he saved my life … and sometimes I just wish he would have let me die … »

Mac’s sobbing punctuated the silence. She could not remember ever having cried this way before. As Harm had left her apartment, on this night when he spoke about marriage and she turned him away, she had cried for a long time, but her tears meant the end of love, the end of hope, a door closing when you will never have the key.

Right now, the tears she was crying were washing her clean, they were breaking fences which had to be broken now. Slowly, the sobbing became quieter, and silent tears replaced it. She could speak again. She told about Harm, their friendship, these two long years while they did not dare to act on their feelings, the six months happiness she had with him, and their breaking off.

Laura Ashton watched her as she relaxed slowly, still crying, as if the spring could not dry out. But the young woman who had found the strength to come and speak to her seemed now to be ready to fight out of her confinement.

After about twenty minutes, Mac stopped speaking and the young psychiatrist stood up and went to her desk.

 » Which day can you come back ? Next week would be good.  »
 » I don’t …  » hesitated Mac.
 » Sarah, you’re on the right way, but this is only the first step, and the road will probably be long. Don’t wait longer, for you … and for him …  »

Mac looked up to the therapist, tears glistening in her eyes, and she tried a weak smile.

 » For him ? He has someone else in his life, now. »
 » Give him another chance, Sarah. Learn how to love yourself and to understand yourself, and a lot of things could change in your life. You’ll come here next week … If you can’t, call me. But only if it’s a professional reason. Sarah, you made the first step, it’s known to be the most difficult, don’t give up now.  »
USS CORAL SEA – ARABIAN SEA
March, 29th 1999

Leaning against the door, her hand bandaged, Mac was observing Harm.

During the whole air fight, it looked like he was gone, his body was still on the bridge, but his mind was flying the Tomcat and fighting the Mig …

He turned toward her, feeling her look in his back, and his bright smile vanished when he noticed the worry in her eyes.

Slowly, at first without him noticing, their relationship was getting back to a quieter , almost friendly one, even if they both still avoided any personal conversation. They had not spoken about the USS Watertown, about the way they had saved each other’s lives.

After the way Mac had run away from him once Webb was found alive, Harm had decided he would not be the one to make the first move, he would not take the risk to suffer a rebuff again. Before being in love with Mac, he had been one to seldom accept to follow his heart’s orders. And now, in less than one year, because of Mac he had experienced too many different and contradictory feelings. He did not want to put his heart in danger again. He did not understand Mac’s behavior at all. He was sure their relationship was not just about sex, even if Mac was not willing to admit it. But if she was not willing to accept this fact, he could do nothing against it, except wait.

Once Mac would be ready, he’d be there.

Maybe.

Meanwhile, he would go on with his life. Just as before.

Mac watched him for a while, and then left the bridge without saying a word. Quickly he caught up with her in the deserted corridor and held her arm.

 » Mac, why do you run away ?  »
 » You were good, right ?  »
 » I’m still good, Mac. You can’t forget that.  »
 » Harm, even if your eyes were fixed, you could not fly on a carrier any more. I’m worried for you.  »
 » Mac, I was just watching the action …  »
 » No Harm, not with this look in your eyes. I know you better than that. Each time you see pilots or fighters, you are different. It’s as if you were happier when you fly. »
 » Maybe I am. Maybe my life is less complicated when I fly. »

She bit her bottom lip and closed her eyes, trying to ignore the reproach in his voice. She was aware she had made his life unusually difficult, but he did not look like he was really hurt. He spent a lot of time with Commander Parker, much more than she wished …

She looked up at Harm again, and noticed she could not read anything in his eyes.

 » Since when are you looking after simplicity, Harm ? Since you are dating a shrink ? I would have thought you would get lost in centuries long analyses with her.  »
 » Mac, it’s not the place to have this discussion  » he muttered, struggling to control his anger.  » If you are willing to speak, really speak, without running away … just tell me, but stop playing games with me. »
 » I’m not playing games, Harm. One day, you’ll understand.  »
 » I believe there is nothing to understand, you … »

People were approaching and quickly Harm and Mac went apart and back into the empty officer’s room. Harm brought them some coffee and they spread their files to work again, both aware they were doing their best to avoid a true discussion about their feelings.

Silence was getting more and more dense. Suddenly, Harm swept away the papers lying in front of him. He stood and began pacing the room.

 » Mac, can we decide about a truce and keep our personal relationship out of the way when we’re on an investigation ? I can’t stand this continuous tension when I’m with you. If we are not able to forget about it while working, I’m going to call the admiral and request he replaces me immediately and transfers me. Maybe it’s time to face the truth, Mac, we can’t work together anymore.  »
 » Harm, of course we can …  »
 » No, Mac, in DC it’s possible, because we are not all the time together. But when we are sent away together on a case, you know it’s different. And how do you think we could explain to Admiral Chegwidden why he can’t send us working together as a team ? It’s getting ridiculous, Mac. Remember what he told us before sending us aboard the Watertown. We could manage only one thing, put everyone off the track. But as soon we are alone together, we can’t make as if. We must get out of this, Mac, and save what still can be. Or we’ll have to accept that everything is over and move on …  »
 » I believe you already moved on, Harm.  »
 » No, Sarah, not yet … but I’m not sure I still have enough energy to fight with you every day without knowing why. Damn it, marine, react ! How can you behave the way you do and not understand something is wrong ?  »
 » Who says I don’t know ?  »
 » Why don’t you do anything then ? Why did you leave without speaking to me, Sarah, without even letting me a note ? After what had happened ?  »
 » Harm, not here …  »
 » See, Mac, you run away each time I want us to speak.  »
 » I know, Harm. Just be sure I’m aware of all this … and I … I’m working on it. I just need you to wait a little more.  »
 » Just tell me you are not playing games with me, Mac. »
 » How can you believe that ?  »
 » You try your best to seduce me, and in the morning you throw me away as if I were a used tissue … this is not really the sort of relationships I’m used to, unlike what some people may think. I never behaved this way with any woman and I can’t stand the idea that you, Mac, are the one acting this way with me.  »
 » I’m not playing games with you, Harm. I was sincere that night, more than you can imagine. Just when daylight is here, I have troubles facing our relationship. But I promise you I’m trying. Can we make a truce, Harm ? Please ?  »
 » Each time you look at me this way, Mac, I forget any grief I could have against you. This is still the core of the problem. But I’m serious, if the situation between us does not change, I’ll do all I can to avoid working with you in the future. »
OFFICE OF DOCTOR LAURA ASHTON
FAIRFAX – VIRGINIA
April, 5th 1999 – 1900
 » Are you really sure you want to do that, Sarah ? It’s too early, you know, we are far away from the heart of the problem.  »
 » I know that, but I’m so afraid I won’t find any solution soon enough. I feel Harm to be each time further away. He is not willing to live this way any longer. If we had not slept together in February, it could have worked out, but now every thing is getting more and more complicated. I wish Harm could understand that I’m serious when I tell him I’m addressing my problems. I wish he would not think about leaving. If he left now, just when we are losing what little was still there, this therapy would be pointless.  »
 » Don’t say that, Sarah. Your whole life is not only this man. You are fighting for you, not for him. »
 » No, you are wrong, I’m fighting for him first. If it were not for him, I could have lived the way I used to live. I could have been happy enough with the men who wanted me, and I would never have the feeling I had to be perfect to be worthy of them … If it were not for him, I could have faced every thing alone.  »
 » Sarah, I advise you against telling him about your therapy right now. Gain some more time, avoid being alone with him, or if you can’t, you’ll have to speak to him alone about this. I will in no case meet him, it’s not in your best interest and it would even be against the idea of your therapy. What is happening here is just between you and me, Sarah, actually it’s even just between you and you, I’m only there as a facilitator. I can’t forbid you to speak to Harm about your therapy, but you’ll have to make it alone. It’s essential for your relationship.  »
 » But I can’t do that right now.  »
 » Then, wait !  »
 » And what if he leaves ?  »
 » Sarah, just one thing at a time. He is still there.  »

Back in her car a little later, Mac was rehashing doctor Ashton’s words : he is still there, yes, but for how long ? Why had she this feeling that every thing was spiraling up, that she would run out of time ?
LICHFIELD AIRFIELD – VIRGINIA
April 5th, 1999 – 1900.

The Stearman was making her approach for landing, the sun had just gone down, Harm had been flying a little longer than usual. He could forget anything while flying, JAG, trials, and over all Sarah and her totally irrational behavior. Here he was free, he was regaining the strength he needed more and more every day to work with her and have no other relationship with her.

He looked at the lights along the runway, but every thing was sunk in fog. Today was not the first time he was landing at dawn. Sweat covered his forehead, even if the air around was chilly. He took a deep breath and landed the Stearman, using his instinct more than his eyes.

Getting in his car to drive back to DC, he decided to see as soon as possible an ophthalmologist. No one had ever told him his night blindness could get worse.

He sure did not need this new problem, right now.

9/11

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