Breaking off

9/11

JAG HQ – FALLS CHURCH
April 20th, 1999

Harm parked his ‘Vette at his usual place, near Mac’s car. After long discussions with the ophthalmologist and Jordan, he was sure of his decision. The appointment was set for Friday, 23th. The doctor would perform the eye surgery on him and he should have his vision totally back … his vision, and his ability to fly fighter jets again.

Jordan had helped him a lot in considering all aspects of this situation. He spent a lot of time with her, and knew every one around believed she was his girl friend … Mac too, probably, but he could think of no reason to tell her she was wrong.

Jordan had told him laughingly how Carolyn Imes had questioned her during the party at Mc Murphy’s celebrating Bud’s promotion.

Carolyn insisted on asking about how Harm was like in bed, and at the beginning Jordan had thought about telling the truth to Carolyn and Mac. Mac was acting so relaxed, looking both entertained and interested, and so innocent … But she decided against it, none of the young women there would have believed that Jordan had only slept once with Harm, on the night when Webb was supposed to have been killed and that after these events, Harm had told her everything, explaining Palmer, the danger he brought with him, and gradually telling her about Mac and their relationship. And Jordan soon became weirdly the presumed girl friend, while she was only the confidante and she began using her professional skills while being with Harm.

Harm was aware he would never be grateful enough toward her for what she was doing. He knew their relationship could have been much more than this special friendship they shared, if his life had just been different.

But each time he asked Jordan to forgive him about the way their relationship had turned out, she stopped him smiling.

Ten days earlier, after leaving the Hamilton ophthalmologic clinic, as soon he was in his office at Jag HQ, he had picked up the phone and called Jordan, not thinking about closing the door of the room.

He was looking outside , his back to the door, smiling widely. It was just like the day when he had learnt he was going to join the USNA in Annapolis. Today, the big news was about his eyes, his night blindness was not a night blindness, the hope of flying again at night was back, a door he believed condemned was unlocked again. His voice sounded enthusiastic and impatient while he spoke with Jordan.

 » Yes, tonight, come over, I’ll cook for you. »
 » …  »
 » As soon as you can, 1800 if it’s okay for you, I’m so impatient to tell you.  »
 » …  »
 » Not yet, not on phone. »
 » …  »
 » I do too. You’re the best, Jordie. »

Harm turned toward the desk to put down the phone. His eyes were bright with happiness and impatience and … he found Mac standing in the doorway. He had been so quick that she was surprised and had not time to put on this ‘I-don’t-care’ face she had each time she saw him with Jordan. He could read sadness out of the eyes of this woman, the only woman in his life. But she had to be the one to make things clear between them.

If she had asked him at this exact moment what Jordan meant to him, he would have explained every thing. And he would have explained to her about his eyes too, he wanted to share this with her, Sarah, but he would wait until she was the one coming to him …

On this Tuesday morning, Harm was about to enter the building when he caught sight of Mac’s figure sitting alone at one of the tables on the deck, with a weird expression on her face … She had no coffee and it was not exactly time for lunch break. So what was she doing there, right now when he expected her to be focused on the Lawrence file, the appeal case for the next week ?

His hesitation lasted less than one second. This was not Mac-like, she surely had a real problem and he would not let her face it alone this time, even if he had to impose himself upon her.

Relaxed, flashing his trademark smile, he came to the table.

 » Hey, Marine, I thought you would be polishing your arguments to kill me next week … You are … »

She looked at him, her eyes veiled with tears, and interrupted him, her voice dry.

 » This is not a good time, Harm. Leave me alone. »
 » Mac, what is …  »
 » Not now.  »

He stared at her for a moment, wondering once more how to behave. He turned and made a few steps toward the building, then suddenly came back, put a chair and sat down, elbows standing on the table, just in front of her.

 » Harm, I told you not now. »
 » Yes, but it was a couple of seconds ago. Mac, what is wrong ? And even if you get mad, I’m not leaving. »

She remained silent a few more minutes , staring somewhere beyond the trees, then turned to Harm.

 » It’s about my father, he is dying. »
 » I believed you had no more contact with your father ?  »
 » He is in a hospital in California, a priest taking care of him just called me. He wants me to come and meet him, Harm …  »
 » What are you going to do ?  »
 » Nothing.  »
 » Mac !  »
 » I won’t do anything, Harm, I can’t face him now. I don’t want to know anything about him. »
 » And that’s the reason why you are sitting here alone, fretting about things you don’t ever know about instead of working in your office ? That’s the reason why you are about to cry, even if usually you are the bravest woman I know ? Because you don’t want to know anything about him ? Mac, don’t lie to yourself.  »
 » Oh no, you stop this now, I get this enough from Laura …  »
 » Who is Laura ?  »
 » My … A friend .. I won’t go, Harm, period.  »
 » Sarah, you have to go, for you, for your future. From what you told me about your father, I believe as long you will not get over the issues you have with him, you won’t be able to go on with your life. Sarah, you have to go and meet him, and tell him what he did to you, and then you’ll make peace with yourself.  »
 » Why do you care so much, Harm ?  »
 » You know the reason, Sarah … Stop hiding behind God knows what, face the truth, for us.  »
 » … Harm, there is no us …  »
 » Because you don’t want it to be, because you run away each time I’m trying talk to you.  »
 » Jordan …  »
 » Leave Jordan out of the picture, she has nothing to do with us.  »

His eyes were still on her. JAG HQ’s deck was probably not the best place to have a conversation about their future, but no one was around at the moment, and Harm knew intuitively that he had to grab the first chance he got with Mac. Jordan had told him again and again that Mac probably needed help, that he had to not judge her, and he had to be there near her as soon she would need it, whatever the place or the time would be. If he loved her, he had to be ready about putting himself at risk, this would probably be what Mac would request from him.

And the first and biggest of these risks was once again to make the first move toward her, even if she was perhaps going to turn him away.

But Mac did not run away, she was still watching him.

Harm felt safer and smiled at her, encouraging.

 » If you wish, Mac, I can go with you …  »
 » No, this is something I have to do alone. But you are right, Harm, I have to go and meet him, I know I have a lot of things to tell him, and when I’ll be back … I believe we should speak … I mean really speak.  »
 » You know this is the only thing I wish, Mac. Let’s go, you have to see the admiral and leave. I’ll take care of your flight ticket with Tiner.  »
 » I can’t leave right now, I have to meet Laura first.  »
 » Laura ? This friend of yours you never mentioned until today ?  »
 » I’ll tell you about her when I’ll be back, but right now don’t ask. If you want to help me, just find a flight this evening to Fresno, California . »
 » Aye, aye, Madam  » answered Harm standing at attention.
 » Harm, stop being stupid.  »
 » Hey, you smiled, Sarah … I hate it when you are sad …  »

AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT AA320 TO WASHINGTON DC
Friday April, 23th 1999

She wished she could have talked to Harm before boarding the plane, she would have asked him to pick her up at Reagan National. She needed him to be with her, she needed him to rock her gently in his arms and help her forget she just had said her farewell to her father.

How could the death of this father she believed she had turned away upset her so much ? The doctor Ashton had asked her a few times during their meetings to tell her about her childhood, to tell her about her parents, but soon Mac was silent. She could not bear the pain the memories from her childhood and her teenage years were bringing back. Now, she was totally aware of how important this supposed deep buried past was in her adult life, in the woman she was, but until the death of her father she had not been able to confront it.

Harm did not answer her calls on his cell phone. She had called Tiner, and he had explained her that Commander Rabb had requested leave for the afternoon, and he did not know how to reach him. He had been so friendly, asking her if she had got in time the flowers her colleagues had sent, and telling her once more how sad they all were for her, and how much they would have loved to be with her in this difficult time.

They all were so nice, they were the family she had chosen, they never turned her away and were never mad at her, although she lately was so often in a bad mood.

She had arrived too late and had not been able to speak with her father, tell him her anger and her frustration, ask him for explanations. So she had been pretty aggressive toward the priest who just wanted to calm her. But slowly doctor Ashton’s words made their way in her mind : her father never left her, she was the one to run away, she had run away from Chris, and John, and Dalton, and even Harm. She was the one running away from men, they were not leaving her. And each time she found reasons to excuse herself for behaving with them the same way she had behaved with her father … the same way her mother had behaved with her … And her father, despite his real verbal violence, despite alcohol destroying him, had tried to protect her as long as she had been with him. He needed help, but she dumped him.

As the priest showed her the news articles Joseph Mackenzie had in his wallet, articles relating Sarah Mackenzie’s professional success, Mac had struggled to remain impassive. But her heart broke. She had turned her father away, but he still kept an eye on her, he still wanted to know what was happening to her, he was proud of her, and he had been willing to make truce with her before his final leaving.

She had flown out of the room, looking for comfort in the beautiful garden, and felt on a bench, surrounded by a luxurious vegetation, the sun shining brightly over her. Nature around her meant life, new birth, and she thought about her father, about this life gone to hell because he never found enough courage to face his problems, because he found easier to destroy his life and the life people he loved than to admit he needed help.

She had finally realized she had almost made the same lethal mistake, that this was her exact behavior until February, until she had made the decision to speak to someone, to request help. Mac had begun to cry, once again. She hated herself for being apparently so weak, for the tears she barely could refrain , even if she now admitted that crying was part of the recovery process. She had called doctor Ashton, and explained her that her father was dead before she could speak with him, but that she just realized she was no longer mad at him.

And then she could not reach Harm. She understood she now did not need her therapist any more. No, she needed the man she loved, the man who once had wanted her to share his life. And even if she was still crying, after so many sleepless nights, Mac had the feeling she was about to find the answers she had been looking for so long. Harm would not be there at the airport, but tomorrow she would call him and would try to explain him the whole story. Finally.
HAMILTON OPHTALMOLOGIC CLINIC – GEORGETOWN
Friday, April 23th 1999

Harm went to his car, his eyes protected by sunglasses . It would still take one long week before being sure about the outcome of the surgery. He just had called Tiner to make sure his absence did not perturb the video conference with the Chief of Staff .

Actually, he did not really worry, Bud was able to replace him in this case, but it was the best excuse he had thought of to call Tiner and ask if he had news from Mac. She was supposed to be back today, and he was really mad at himself for not being with her. Once again, he had failed her and had not told her why. And yet, she had been there with him, on that day when he had to accept the death of his father.

She always was there for him.

Jordan had been insistent on telling about the surgery to Mac, telling him again and again that he must not hide anything from her, neither his hopes to have a perfect vision again, nor the fact that no woman was in his life, and especially not her, Jordan.

But right now Harm did not want to go this way, not as long as Mac would not open to him first.

He looked at his watch, it was 1900, Tiner had explained that Mac’s plane was supposed to land at 1930, he could try to be there. At least, Mac was not arriving at Dulles. If traffic was not too dense on Arlington Memorial Bridge, he should be able to catch her before she took a cab.

Twenty five minutes later, Harm parked his car outside the airport. Thank God, he was not wearing his uniform and had not to bother about keeping a proper appearance. He began racing through escalators and hallways, examining passengers hurrying for their luggage, checking if Mac was somewhere around. Right as he approached the arrival gate, he saw Mac coming toward him, casual dressed in jeans and sweater, her bag on her shoulder. She was starring into space, walking as an automaton, and her eyes were red.

He came slowly to her, she still had not noticed him. She looked like she was not aware of the world around her, lost in thoughts which surely were not fun. He put quietly his hand on her shoulder and hoped she would recognize him before her marine’s reflex came on gear and sent him to sickbay.

 » Mac …  »

She jumped, in defensive mood, but as soon she looked up and saw him standing just in front of her, she relaxed and fell into his arms.

 » Oh, Harm, here you are …  »

Mac’s tears could not stop. They stood in the middle of the traveling crowd and he hugged her tightly, touching her hair, trying to calm her. He put her bag on his shoulder, took gently her hand, kissed it lightly and said :

 » Come on, I’ll take you home.  »
 » No, I have to meet someone first. But maybe you could drive me there ?  »

Her voice trembled hopefully.

 » I’ll drive you wherever you want, Mac. I’m not leaving my best friend just when she needs me the most.  »

Friend …

Mac bit her bottom lip, closed her eyes but regained immediate control. Here he was, even if he was just here as a friend. After all, she had been the one to destroy every thing, she could not turn him away every single day and then request he would wait for her for eternity.

Harm noticed how Mac had tensed, the words he just said were not the best, but the place was not right for love declarations, just in the middle of a crowded hallway, even if they both were wearing civilian clothes.

He took her hand and led her out, wishing she would not shy away. But to his utmost relief, she looked up at him with a wide and faithful smile and told him :

 » So let’s go flyboy. Drive me to Fairfax, I’ll call from your car to say I’m not alone.  »

One hour later, Harm parked his ‘Vette in front of a nice white house, in a quiet and elegant street of Fairfax. During the whole drive, Mac had been silent after she had phoned to someone she called Laura, explaining to her that Harm was with her. It sounded as if she was negotiating something. But why would Mac have to negotiate the fact he would meet her friend ? Mac did not want to speak, refusing to answer his questions, speaking only to give him directions.

Before he could get out of the car, Mac stopped him, putting her hand on his arm.

 » No, Harm, wait here a little more, it’s a bit … complicated …  »

Harm clenched his jaws before he could say something unpleasant. He watched as she rang and enter the house, but could not see who had opened the door. Never mind, he still had waited so long without the smallest clue why Mac was driving him insane, he could allow her some more latitude, especially after the events she just got through.

He got out of the car and went to the door, but the name written here did not ring any bell.

ASHTON

Maybe she was a friend of Mac. And yet, in three years, she never had him met a friend of hers, male or female, out of the military, and she never told about dinner or week end getaway. But yet she never mentioned an ex husband, nor an ex lover in the marines, nor …

‘ Stop now, Rabb ! Wait and see what will happen before thinking about the worst. She told you she would explain to you … ‘

After about ten minutes, a very pretty blond woman opened the door.

 » You are Harmon Rabb, I presume ? Good evening ! Come in .  »

Harm followed her through a vast white hallway in a room, probably an office : a couch, two armchairs, a large desk with a portable, some modern paintings hanging on the walls, and a big bookshelf.

The room was empty and the woman vanished before Harm could ask her any thing . What did this all mean ? He went to the bookshelf and looked at the titles of the books. Suddenly he stopped : the books there were reminding him a lot of the books he had seen in Jordan’s office or in her flat. And much more, this room looked a lot like Jordan’s office in Bethesda, the real difference being the paintings here looked like originals, and the furniture was much cozier. It could not be a psychiatrist’s office ?

The door was opened behind him, he turned on his heels and watched as the young woman came in, this time with Mac apparently pretty uncomfortable.

 » Harm, meet doctor Laura Ashton. She’s … my … therapist …  »

Harm’s eyes traveled from one woman to the other, obviously he was disturbed by Mac’s last words. Hesitantly, he asked :

 » For how long ?  »
 » Since last March, in fact since Webb ‘s supposed death. I did not want to tell you from the beginning, I was not ready, but now I think I owe you the truth if I want a chance to have you back.  »

Seeing how they were just standing and now silent, Laura Ashton decided to step in … just a little …

 » You should sit down, you two … Harm … may I call you Harm ? Sarah wanted really for this to take place here, but I’ll leave you alone. This is a neutral place. Take all the time you need and leave when you want, don’t wait to see me again tonight, I’m not going to make any mediation between you. Sarah, you can call me tomorrow if you wish.  »

She left and closed the door.

Minutes flied and the words Mac had so long thought about seemed now totally out of order to her. She finally laughed, this situation was just too ironic : two brilliant lawyers were sitting, facing each other, not speaking, unable to find the first word to express feelings so many people had no trouble to accept and proclaim loudly.

 » What is so funny, Mac ?  »
 » I had a great speech ready in my mind, but right now I’m aware this is not what I want to tell you. In fact, Harm, I just want to tell you this : I know I hurt you, and the more I was hurting you, the more I was hurt too. I needed a long time to understand that I would never be able to have a successful relationship with a man, you or another one, as long I would not understand why I was just doing my best for these relationships to fail. If it were not for you, Harm, I would never have wondered. But you were right, I really had a problem and I’m just beginning to accept and face it. I wanted to make sure you know now I want to find a way out of this, and I don’t want to lose you … Don’t leave, Harm, don’t leave because of me …  »

Mac stopped, tears in her voice.

 » Why did not you tell me before ?  »
 » Harm, you are the reason why I became aware of the problem, and just as I noticed it, Jordan was in your life because I had urged you to do so. I could not speak before, it’s still so difficult today while I just begin to have a better understanding of … every thing.  »
 » Jordan is not in my life, Sarah, at least not the way you think.  »
 » What do you mean ?  »
 » Jordan is not my girlfriend, even if we spend a lot of time together. She’s just a friend, someone who helped me to clarify my mind. I’m not going to tell you I never touched her, it’s true I could have had an affair with her if you … if … if we had not spent the night together when we believed Webb was dead. Until that night, Sarah, I believed our relationship was over, you were so cold and distant. And you made it as obvious as possible for me to believe that there were something between Mic and you, that you had no feelings for me. And then you almost pushed me in Jordan’s arms, remember. But after what happened in my home, there was no way I could touch another woman, Sarah. With you, love is magic, and I’m too old now to be satisfied by just physical pleasure. I love you and I want only you in my life, you or no one.  »

Mac was crying silently, grateful for heaven to grant her once again the chance of finding happiness with the man she wanted.

 » Harm, I was so weak, we lost so much time because of me. I love you Harm, and I almost destroyed us. Can you forgive me ?  »
 » Forgive you for what ? It’s useless to keep thinking about the past. I want us to speak about the future. We were moving too fast in Russia, I was not ready for something else at that moment, and I was so locked up in my obsessions, in the search and grief over my father, that I did not really pay attention to what you needed. I did not think deeper than the surface, because appearances were nice and easy to live with. And when I wanted our relationship to be different, I did not really bother to understand you or listen to you. I have been such an egoist for a long time, but I believe I’m changing. Even if I know I still need some time to learn how to open up.  »

Mac stood from the armchair she was sitting in and went to the couch where Harm was, cuddling in his arms. He hugged her with all tenderness he was feeling, trying to only convey in this embrace a pure and serene love. He was determined to get back to the beginning of their relationship, to share with her all steps they had missed one year earlier, discovering each other, building gradually a tender and true intimacy. He wanted to build a stable and long term relationship with Sarah, and would be patient while they worked on its foundations.

He put a light kiss on her hair and stood, taking her with him :

 » I’ll bring you home, Sarah.  »

An hour later, he stopped in front of Mac’s building. He quickly went out of the car to open her door and took her bag.

 » Will you come with me ?  »
 » I’ll help you get settled and I’ll leave as soon you feel better.  »
 » You don’t want to stay with me ?  »
 » God, no, not this way, Sarah. I don’t want our life together to be built on physical need, I want more for us, I want us to take our time.  »
 » Stay all the same with me, I’ll be a good girl …  » answered Sarah, flashing an impish smile.  » But don’t let me alone tonight, please, not tonight.  »

Harm watched her, he knew he could not resist her, whatever she decided. He smiled at her, put his arm around her and whispered in her ear :

 » For the record, just remember I tried …  »

10/11

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