October 9th, 1998
» The moment two bubbles are united, they both vanish, a lotus blooms … »
Harm looked at the Japanese lawyer, then at the girl coming out of the tribunal with her father, then finally at Ensign Guitry.
» I’ll take a stab at it, Sir … Love is eternal. »
Mac looked at Harm in amazement. This was a part of his character she had never seen before. Harm often quoted John Paul Jones, but Jones was a sailor, not really a poet. Since when did Harm know anything about haiku poems ? Or romance ?
Lost in her thoughts, she jumped when Harm’s blue eyes met hers, as if trying to tell her …
» Colonel, if it’s not too much trouble, it’s time to get back to DC, » stated Admiral Chegwidden a couple of feet away from her, his voice just a little too harsh. Harm’s answer had brought a smile to his lips, but Mac’s sudden faraway, dreamy look just made him uncomfortable.
After they had been missing in Russia, when he left looking for them and finally saw them stepping out of that chopper, the relief he felt made him unaware of anything else. But after the debriefing Harm and Mac had to go through at the embassy -Webb questioning them with enough malice to make every one in the room feel uneasy – , AJ had begun to raise questions. Sure Harm and Mac had been close friends since their first meeting in the White House’s gardens. This sense of closeness was not something new, but there was now something more, like … an intimacy that he never had seen before. Then again, Mac in this gipsy outfit, this was a picture not many men could resist, and AJ wondered if Harm might have been carried away.
After they were back at JAG, one week later, the admiral had carefully observed them without their notice, but he could not point out anything different in their professional relationship. He had then concluded that this supposed intimacy was born in the danger they had shared and escaped together, that it was just a new step in their friendship, and nothing more.
But Harm speaking about love, and Mac staring at him with this dreamy look, unconscious of people around her, this was something he needed to think about.
GEORGETOWN – RESIDENCE OF SARAH MACKENZIE
October 10th, 1998 – 2030 local time
Mac was pacing the living room, worrying more and more. Harm should have been there at least one hour ago. Being on time was not his strong point, but being an hour late was too much, even for him.
She had tried to call him at home and on his cell phone, but only ever reached his answering machine. She told herself they had no real date tonight, just as they had no formal date since May and their return to JAG. And yet Mac was sure Harm wanted them to be just the two of them, alone, together, as much as she wanted it after this week in Japan, which had been one frustration after another.
First of all the case had almost run out of their control, and they could not anticipate and avoid the admiral committing suicide. Their CO had come all the way from DC to Yokohama to give Harm an unforgettable ticking-off … and they did not have five minutes intimacy in the entire week.
They had been out on an investigation more than once since their return from Russia and as Bud was not there no one was there to watch them. This time, it had been different. Bud and Harm were sharing the same room, and Mac knew Harm could never have explained why he was out every evening to come back in the middle of the night.
But knowing it did not make it less irritating.
Mac wondered what was frustrating her the most at the moment : this irresistible need for Harm’s body, of his hands on her skin … or the impression she no longer had control over her own body … If just a week without getting to touch him was making her so nervous, it was perhaps time for her to take a step backwards and think about what was happening between them. At the same time, she really did not want to think about it at all. There was nothing to rationalize. She wanted this man, plain and simple. They were hurting no one and they were apparently doing nothing wrong, or against the Navy regulations. Well, she was, but Harm ignored it, and that was her real problem …
And this little voice in her mind was warning here again and again just like it had once before, in Okinawa : ‘Be careful, Sarah, don’t get too involved, stay in control, be careful, Sarah’.
Hell, where was he ? Let’s hope nothing has happened. Maybe she should go to his house, he was perhaps in trouble … The phone ringing broke off her hesitations. She hurried to answer it and sighed in relief at the sound of Harm’s voice.
» Harm, but where are you, for God’s sake, I’ve been worrying for one hour … »
» Slow down, Mac, I never said I was coming. »
» You don’t want to come ? »
» … »
» Harm, is something wrong ? Where are you ? »
» In my car, Mac, down at the curb. Come down. »
» Harm? You are making me anxious … what is wrong ? Come up … »
» No, Mac, come down to me, I need to speak to you. Please. »
» Do you have a problem, Harm? »
» Not me … We, Sarah … »
» … »
» Mac? »
» I’ll be right there … »
Mac picked up her coat and her keys and got out of her flat as quietly as she could. She headed to the stairs and began slowly to go down, taking enough time to regain her self control. What did Harm mean when he spoke about a problem they were having? What sort of problem? Why was he suddenly so distant with her? It was clear he was having second thoughts about their relationship … If he wanted to challenge it now, she was not sure she would be ready to accept it so easily.
Once she arrived on the first floor, she shrugged and ran downstairs. Wondering was useless.
She did not immediately catch sight of Harm’s Vette. She knew he hadn’t parked just in front of her building, as she would have seen his car while waiting for him. But where was he exactly? She took some steps and noticed him as he walked towards her, dressed in the way she loved so much : jeans, blue gray sweater and a flight jacket. She smiled wide at him, ready to run into his arms, but her move was stopped when she noticed the serious look on his face.
Harm stopped one step away from her and examined her in silence. Mac felt now totally lost, uncomfortable. She did not dare move and had no idea what to say. He was the one who wanted to talk, but he was the one behaving oddly. What was she supposed to do?
After a couple of minutes, he bent and kissed her lightly on her cheek. Then he took her hand and pulled her towards the Vette, still silent.
» Harm, where are we going ? »
» I’m taking you out for dinner. »
» I have food at home … what is the problem? Why are you so distant tonight ? Why don’t you want to go upstairs ? »
He sighed heavily, opened the door for Mac and remained silent again for some more minutes, his eyes looking distractedly at Mac’s hand, which he still held in his own hand. And finally he answered.
» Sarah, don’t make this more difficult, please … You know that if I go upstairs, we are not going to discuss, and we can’t go on like this … At least, I can’t. Get in the car, please. »
They drove in silence to a quiet restaurant where they often went to when they were just friends and wanted to spend some time together without having to shout to be heard through the surrounding noise. They had never been back there since Russia : in fact, they had never been out on a date in Washington since they had become lovers. In civvies, they knew they could not act as just being friends and they did not want to take the risk of meeting someone they knew. But tonight, Harm was visibly tense, and Mac had the feeling whatever he wanted to tell her would not break the ice.
After the waiter had taken their orders, she observed Harm, who was still looking at her with an inscrutable expression in his eyes. She was getting nervous. Why was he making things so complicated ? She had enough of this, so she decided to speak as he still remained silent.
» So, Harm, here we are, at the restaurant, there is no one near us, I’m sure not going to jump your bones on this table, but I’m not going to spend the evening waiting for you to make a decision. Damn it, Harm, what game are you playing? It’s great to be together, what do you want? »
» Why do you think it’s great to be together, Mac ? Because in a bed, you and me, it’s perfect ? And for the rest, Mac? »
» Which rest ? Harm, you are the one who from the beginning didn’t want to discuss our relationship, you are the one who refuses to stay the night with me, the one who … »
» No, Mac. That is the way you are interpreting the situation. In Russia, I let you decide what you wanted for us, I didn’t want to force you in a relationship, and you didn’t try to discuss it with me after our first night. And don’t tell me we didn’t get the chance, I was there, remember? »
» What do you mean ? Now I’m the one who did not speak and you are the one who waited for me to do it? »
» Yes … »
Stunned, Mac was looking at him as if he had grown two heads. He could not be serious, she could not have misinterpreted his silences this badly. She shook her head as if to wake up, and resumed their so called discussion.
» Okay, let’s say I did not understand it was my responsibility to begin a discussion about us with you. Let’s say I should have insisted … but maybe I forgot to read this page in the manual where it’s written I’m the one being in charge. Sorry, forget it … But can you explain to me why you are running away in the middle of the night? Because I should tie you up? This is my fault, too? »
» Mac ! »
» Excuse me if I sound rude, but I was hoping to spend a marvelous night with a man I’ve been dreaming about every night for a week, and there I am … trying to justify why I did not get to push our relationship further out of my bed. And on top of that, except for accusing me, you never say a word. May I remind you that you were the one who suggested we should talk? Then talk, damn it … »
The waiter bringing their orders stopped Mac’s speech, and she used this break to take a long breath and try to calm herself. Her frustration and her questioning of Harm’s behavior had gradually vanished to be replaced by anger. But even if she really wanted to leave him hanging about with his dinner and his silences and to just forget this situation, at the same time she wanted to know what he really meant. This was Harm, and their two years of friendship could not be washed away so easily. If their affair had to stop now, at least she did not want to take the risk of losing her best friend in this disaster. She owed it to him to listen to him … provided he now decided to speak up.
Harm let out a bitter laugh. He had been hesitating for an hour in his car near Mac’s building before making the decision to call her, and did not answer his cell phone in the meantime. He wanted to have a discussion with her, but had no idea how to do it. He was not even sure discussing things would be such a great idea. And now, in less than five minutes, he had managed to get her really mad, and did not know how to explain to her what still was so difficult for him to understand.
» Mac, I don’t know where and how to begin, actually I can’t even really say what is wrong, but I want us to talk about ‘us’. We ran into this relationship without saying a word, and I feel like … I don’t know … like I’m not being fair with you, like I’m using you … »
» ‘Using me’ ? »
» Wait a minute, let me explain. Sarah, you are the one I trust the most, you are my friend and I care about you, and since Russia, you are also the woman I’m spending my nights with, and I can’t manage to have these two women existing together in my mind. I feel like going each day from one to the other, as if there was a fence between these two parts of our relationship, and it’s harder and harder to go on like that. Do you understand what I mean ? »
» Not really … Wait, you mean you are uncomfortable because we were able to divide our relationship ? Because we were able to keep our affair away from our professional relationship? »
» And you are not ? I mean, you don’t want it to be different ? »
» Not yet, Harm. The only thing I really want for now is for you to stay all night with me when we are not working the next day. I want to wake up near you like the first night in Moscow. But for the rest, I prefer we keep a slow pace. »
» Sarah, we never were slow … we slept together without even dating, without having spoken at least once about it. »
Mac put her hand on Harm’s arm and smiled knowingly.
» You sure know what I mean, Harm. Right now, I don’t need anything more than you. What we share is enough for me if you agree to stay a little longer. And if this is heading somewhere else, … just give it time … we’ll take care of it later. Don’t make it more complicated. »
Harm frowned slightly.
» Sarah, make me a promise, tell me nothing is going to destroy our friendship … »
» Why would something destroy it? »
» Because if this affair we have now is not heading somewhere else – just quoting you – I’m afraid we could get to the point of hurting each other really badly, and then our friendship could not survive. You know, I would be almost ready to let the situation change right now … I think I want it … »
Mac jumped slightly, she had thought this part of the discussion was over, and there was Harm again. She felt as if the ground was vanishing under her feet. She had thought it was safe to have an affair with Harm. She knew he was not one to be looking for commitment. She really did not need that, not yet. And now Harm was there, speaking of having their relationship heading further, faster … She would never have thought she could be in this situation again, it was almost funny … almost …
» Sarah? »
» Give me some more time, please … I need … to think about it … things to … Listen, Harm, as far as I’m concerned, what we are having together is not a problem, I’m feeling better in my life since Russia than ever, I need to get used to this feeling before trying to make more of this. Give me time, please. I only want to have you with me every night and I don’t want to wonder about it. I know this will work out alone, believe me … please … »
» Just make me the promise you’ll think about it. I hate lying, Sarah, and I feel like I’m lying to every one around us at the moment. »
» This is only an omission lie, Harm, just remember we are hurting no one there … »
» Not even us ? »
» Not me, at least, and if you were willing to accept life as simply as it happens, you would not be hurt either .. »
» If you are sure … »
» I’m sure. Drive me back home ? »
Mac was looking at him with a bright smile and a seductive shadow in her eyes, and Harm thought she was probably right. He was making things too complicated. He wanted her, and their relationship was not an issue for their professional lives. So why was he not able to accept life just as it came, without always raising questions ? He was ready to learn how to live following Mac’s rules, and everything would work out itself.
He smiled back, this smile from which Mac always got the feeling nothing wrong could happen when she was with him. He stood and asked, his voice full of promises :
» Do you offer me hospitality till Monday morning? »
» Been too long at sea, sailor ? … As long as you want, Harm. »