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Breaking off

November 24th, 1998

How could she feel so tired after an entire week end in the depths of her own bed, this was what Mac was self mockingly wondering about. She had spent more time crying than sleeping, more time wondering what would have happened if instead of pushing him away, she had told him … No, she needed to stop thinking about this. Assuming she would have confessed every thing to Harm on Friday, she would have lost him just the same.

But today she felt more alone than she had since her teenage years, since the day when Uncle Matt had collected her at the hospital to take care of her. When he had been sent over to Leavenworth Harm had so easily taken his role over, and she always could run to him when she was losing her balance. He was there when Dalton had been killed, he was there when Coster had stalked her. And now she just had lost this too.

It was not easy, but a long hot shower helped Mac to achieve an appearance worthy of her uniform.

She felt relieved that she would not have to meet Harm in the next few days.

For the time of an investigation committee, he was working at Capitol Hill with his friend, congresswoman Bobbi Latham. Before he would be back to JAG, she would probably be able to rebuild her fences. He would never understand what she was going through. Never …

The passengers were sparingly coming out. Mac had forgotten to look at the picture of this Lt Commander Michael Brumby she had to welcome and drive to Jag HQ, but she wore her uniform, and he would be in uniform too, this would be a good way to find him.

She had not been so happy when the admiral had decided she would be the one to welcome the Australian officer at the airport, but right now she found it good to have something to keep her mind busy. Her time schedule for this week was not so exciting, and she really needed to focus on something, anything. Why not this Australian sailor?

Some young men dressed casually and laughing loudly passed near her, staring at her with no shame. She glared at them with contempt and turned towards the Australian commander who was finally coming out .

 » Commander Michael Brumby ? I’m Major Sarah Mackenzie, JAG HQ. Wel…  »
 » Excuse me, Major!  »

Furious, she turned towards the intruder, one of the men who had just passed laughing near her. He was smiling at her, a warm and inviting smile, and before she had time to dress him down, he began :

 » Major, I’m Commander Brumby …  »

Mac felt as her cheeks turned red. She looked at the officer standing there, his eyes smiling.

 » I’m sorry, Sir.  »
 » No, I’m sorry, Major, actually I was pretty much enjoying this …  »

He left and Mac tried to regain her self-control. She really did not need to feel ridiculous, especially today. She had really been no good at anything for a couple of days. Her father was right.

No, stop it, now ! shouted the little voice in her mind. Stop now, everything is fine.

She took a deep breath, looked at Commander Brumby and smiled.

 » Welcome to DC, Commander. I’m Major Mackenzie. You can call me Mac.  »
 » Nice to meet you, Mac. Call me Mic, OK?  »
 » Sure. So Mic, do you want us to go first to the hotel?  »
 » Maybe we should wait until we know each other better, » he retorted cheerfully, but stopped immediately when he noticed the ice-cold glare she was giving to him. « Mhh … maybe you could drive me to JAG HQ, I’d love to connect with everyone really soon.  »
November 27th, 1998 – 2030 local time

He was home, his ‘Vette was parked there and she could see light coming through the windows. And yet she could not make it and get out of her car. They had not seen each other, had not spoken to each other since last Friday, since he had slammed the door on her.

What would he think if she was visiting him at home so late in the evening ? That she was running after him ? That she had changed her mind ? That she could not do without him ? This one was true, unfortunately, even if it was not the reason why she was there.

Fate was making a fool of her. Her past had just got her at the exact time her future was destroyed because of this past.

At the moment she had entered her office on Monday morning to find Chris waiting for her, still so handsome, so attractive, she had first thought the lack of sleep and the regrets had shadowed her mind. But she had to admit it, it was not an illusion. Chris Raggle, the man she had married twelve years ago and never divorced, the man she had failed to locate for the past months, was sitting there, charmingly smiling at her.

 » How are you, Sarah ? You don’t want to kiss your husband ?  »

She was not sure she could understand why he was back, he probably intended to obtain money from her through blackmail. Mac’s entire past was coming back to haunt her. Chris had told her he knew about the affair she had had with John Farrow in Okinawa, this affair she had put an end on when John had pushed for something more, too. Why should everything happen this time again ?

She had felt since the first look that she had to stay away from Harm, she might not be more than a friend to him, and yet she was the one who slipped into his bed. And she felt absolutely no remorse about having spent six months in his arms. This was surely a mistake, but how could she feel remorse about a time where she had felt so happy ?

Slowly, she stepped out of her car and went into the building. She climbed the stairs, to get some more time and make herself ready for the encounter, for Harm’s look, for his disappointment when she would explain to him about Chris. But she needed his help to find a solution to this problem, and most important, she did not want Harm to find out about her husband from someone else. She had been stupid enough to marry Chris, she had been even more stupid to not divorce, she would have to face the consequences now.

She knocked briefly and tensed, waiting for the shock she would feel of his blue eyes on her, these eyes she was not able to get over, and the door opened …

… on Bobbi Latham, widely smiling at her.

 » Mac !  »

She listened to the soft jazz music playing in the loft, she watched Harm cooking, jeans and black shirt, the Chianti bottle and the two glasses on the counter …

Mac froze. What was she doing there ? She did not belong here . No longer . He did not want her any more, and he had not waited a long time to find some comfort. He was like the other men, just like all the other men.

Harm turned towards the door and calmly told her :

 » Come in, Mac …  »
 » Yes, come in, Mac, » added Bobbi,  » Harm has cooked enough for three people. »

Mac took a step backwards, she wanted to run away, but she knew it was important to keep her dignity. If Harm was able to forget her so easily and move on, she was not going to let him understand how much it was hurting her.

 » I’m not hungry. I wanted to speak to you, but it’s not a good time. Maybe you can call me tomorrow.  »
 » Sure.  »

She left, her pace steady, but her blood running ice cold through her body. She had made her decision, she would give Chris as much money as she could to get rid of him, but she would not do anything more. Harm was lost for her, she was not ready to lose her career and the respect of her CO while admitting this marriage she had always concealed.

Bobbi closed the door, and came near Harm, a questioning look in her eyes.

 » You let her go?  »
 » She just told me to call tomorrow.  »
 » I don’t understand why you two are not closer.  »
 » Because we work together and it would not work out. We are too different.  »

He turned to the sink, apparently focused on the sauce he was cooking. He had to avoid more questions from Bobbi.

He thought about the way Mac had rejected him last Friday. Because of her reaction, he would never have imagined she would come to him, she would want to speak. He still wanted to run after her, but Bobbi was there, and his damn ego was in the way.

Maybe he would not call tomorrow, this was not something he could speak about on the phone.

He was not even sure he wanted to discuss this again. He was trying with no success to forget his high and hopeless expectations. He still knew it : if Mac wanted him to come back, he would accept her conditions. He despised needing her so much, lusting for her so much, but he had to admit how weak he felt, even if it hurt. The memories of her body, her smell, her touches, had been haunting his mind since the moment he had slammed this damn door and every night he made the same dream : he went back to Sarah, he begged her to forgive him and made love to her. And the dream felt so real that he woke up in the middle of the night, sweating, and so ashamed to feel his body react the same way as the body of a teenager, so much out of control. And each time, he reached to the phone to call her.

He knew one night, he would not be able to regain his self control and would call Sarah.

No, this could not happen again. This relationship was putting him in such a dependency, his mind could not accept this situation any longer. He had to get free of it. And whatever way he would find would not matter. Not at all.

November 28th, 1998 – 0030 local time

Bobbi was getting dressed, almost as uncomfortable as Harm felt.

It was a mistake, once again he had screwed up, and he had deeply hurt a woman he had respect for, and he cared for.

And yet, when he had kissed her after their so-called working dinner, it had been so easy to let go, and touch her, to focus only on the pleasure they were sharing. This was exactly the sort of relationship he wanted to have now, this easy physical satisfaction, and no commitment, body and soul without connection, sharing only body heat without consequences.

And one night, he would finally forget Mac.

Everything was evidently so simple with Bobbi, she only wanted his body, she was attractive, and sweet, and warm, and skilful … Harm had done everything to forget Mac during this night, and he thought it was a success.

Until the moment he had come, shouting out « Sarah ».

First, Bobbi had no reaction, she let him reach the end of his pleasure. Then, she smiled sadly, touched his cheek and whispered :

 » I’m sorry, Harm, I’m not a consolation prize. I’ll leave, and we’ll forget what happened.  »

He waited until she was ready, took her to her car, then got in his ‘Vette. He remembered a bar near Dupont Circle … He would not stay alone, not tonight.

November 30th, 1998

 » We have different ways to seduce women, Chris and I,  » he joked while touching her cheek.

She put a light kiss on his palm and looked up at John.

Mac had always felt great affection for him. And he never judged her.

When she left him, it had been quiet, no fight, no scream, he had just told her he would always be there for her, and if eventually one day she changed her mind … He did not show any contempt when she told him about Chris, when she revealed to him the marriage she never ended. He was so different from Harm in the way he was loving her, he was never demanding.

He did not need her to be perfect, he knew he was not.

Harm had not called, sure he was too busy with Bobbi, too arrogant, too … Rabb.

She had given as much money as she could to Chris, had driven him to Reagan National and had tried to forget …

But Chris came back, he was in big trouble and was really ready to blackmail her. If he revealed her affair with John Farrow, their careers would be destroyed. She had to inform John, she needed to speak to someone. It was just too difficult to face this situation alone, not after the way she had lost Harm just the week before.

She had spent the entire week end fighting the urgent need to run into the first bar around and forget her life out of a glass of gin. Wrapped in the Navy sweatshirt Harm had left in her room, her hand tightly closed around an emerald ring, she stared through the night at the way the flames were dancing in the fireplace, the phone just waiting for her. Too many times to be aware of, she had picked up the phone, and put it back before dialing Harm’s number.

He was probably not alone. Bobbi knew how to hold on something she wanted.

By dawn, she knew her only solution was John Farrow. He would help her. And of course, she had to make sure the career of her ex mentor would not be destroyed, or at least what remained of his career.

And there he was, strong, lulling her in his arms, telling her not to worry, telling her it was a great idea to come to him, he would take care of Chris. Why was not she in love with him ? With John, her heart would have been safe.

December 1st, 1998

 » I did not know how you wanted it, I bought a hotdog .  »
 » I’m not hungry, thanks … Thanks again for getting me out of the brig.  »
 » Apparently the Navy does not consider you as a risk. Mac, I have to question you, you know that …  »

They slowly made their way to the Lincoln Memorial. Some joggers were running past them, young and smart people working for the government across Constitution Avenue, using their lunch break to make some sport. The air was chilly, even if the real cold was still not there.

Mac was looking without really noticing this scenery she was used to, and she was thinking about the events of this horrible night, Chris ‘ threats, the gun shot, the police department and Harm’s voice, when she had called him for help in the middle of the night.

 » Harm, it’s me.  »
 » Who ? Bobbi ?  »
 » No, Mac … Harm, I’m in jail.  »
 » In jail ? Why ?  »
 » For murdering my husband …  »

Then the silence, and finally Harm’s controlled and professional voice.

 » Where are you ?  »
 » Brookland police department.  »
 » I’ll be right there.  »

Harm arrived half an hour later , his eyes quickly noticed John Farrow in the room too, near another police officer. What was Farrow doing there ? Officer Willis was more than happy to explain the police interpretation of the events : with help of her lover, Sarah Mackenzie had gotten rid of her disturbing husband. Harm, impassive, had filled out some papers and taken over on behalf of the Navy a case the civilian justice was too busy to care for.

Without a word, he had driven Mac and Farrow to JAG HQ. There he let them under surveillance of the marines and gave instructions that adequate uniforms should be brought back from their homes. Then, without even telling something to Mac, he had turned to Farrow :

 » I’ll inform Admiral Chegwidden, we’ll be back as soon as possible. Try to get some rest, you’ll need it.  »

And now here he was, walking in silence near her, waiting for her to speak, too confused to know what to say.

She stopped and turned towards Harm.

 » Who do you want to question ? Your client, your friend or … your lover ?  »
 » … Mac … Why did you never tell me you were married ?  »

He was fighting to keep his voice as calm as it could be, but his eyes were shouting all questions burning in his mind since he had received her phone call : why had she not told him before ? Did she believe he would turn her down ? Was that why she had come to him this evening when Bobbi … He had not dared to listen to her then, it was his fault if she had gone to Farrow to find some help. He had let her down when she needed him. But Farrow … and Sarah …

He shook his head to get rid of these ideas, he had to keep his mind as controlled as possible to protect Mac. For the time being it was the only important thing. He would think about the rest … later …

Mac was scrutinizing him. She had expected from him to judge her, to accuse her of having taken him, Harm Rabb jr, this irreproachable officer, in a relationship which could have ruined his future. But this was not what she was reading from his eyes …

 » I could not … I was scared …  »
 » You know everything about me, Mac. I never hid anything important from you.  »
 » But your life is simple and clear, Harm. You are not hosting ghosts in your past. Well, at least not ghosts such as mine, yours are decent, you can be proud of them. Mine … How would you have reacted if I had told you, the day we were looking for my uncle, that I was an alcoholic married to a shabby swindler from whom I forgot to divorce … Even Uncle Matt does not know about Chris. I was too ashamed … and now everyone knows every thing.  »
 » Why did you never divorce ?  »
 » It was easier to act as if he did not exist. Don’t look at me this way, Harm, please, I don’t want to cry and feel stupid just here. I think I’ve done enough for a while.  »
 » Why did you ask Farrow to help you ?  »
 » Because I trust him … and you were not there for me any more …  »

He cringed and took a deep breath. He had to focus only on his client, if he let his feelings overwhelm his mind, they would be both in danger. But he wanted to comfort his friend too, he wanted to tell her he was still with her.

 » Sarah, right now I have to focus only on my client, you know that ? I’m going to get you out of this, Sarah, I promise you. But when all this mess is cleaned up, we will have to speak, just the two of us, really speak. Do you understand ?  »
 » Harm, when all this is over, you will have to go away from me as far as possible, for your safety and mine. We are not going to speak about what happened, Harm, forget me, it’s better for us, believe me.  »
 » Sarah ..  »
 » No, Harm. I bring bad luck, every man who comes near me dies or feels like he is dead. Stay away from me, Harm.  »

Harm watched her carefully, trying to understand what these eyes, full of tears, were still hiding from him. Then he smiled sadly and replied.

 » We’ll see, Mac.  »


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