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Chapter 4
Four Four Time
90% of Getting There is Heading in the Right Direction


1229 ZULU – Thursday, April 22, 2004
USS Seahawk
Somewhere in the Mediterranean

 


The CAG and Harm stood on the weather deck watching, with great interest, the landing of an F-14. The pilot was Lt. Commander Mark “Madman” Watson, not a pilot that Harm had a lot of confidence in. The person in the backseat was not a RIO, in fact she was not even in the Navy. One could go so far as to argue she had no business in the back seat of an F-14; they aren’t the Navy’s taxi service after all. Who was back there? It was Colonel Sarah MacKenzie.

Second attempt. “Too high.” Harm said. “Too high.” He shook his head as the plane took the wave off for the second time. Harm looked over at the CAG. They shared a knowing look. The CAG excused himself to go down to the LSO platform.

Harm could already imagine what kind of mood she was in. She was TAD to an aircraft carrier as defense in a case Harm was prosecuting, the only transport available was a Tomcat with a pilot who was not the smoothest flyer in this man’s Navy and she had to endure at least two failed attempts at a trap. The fact that she had never experienced a successful trap should shake a few more nerves. Harm swallowed hard. She would be fit to be tied and of course it would be his fault. Wait until she heard that they are sharing a cabin due to limited space. This was shaping up to be a really wretched couple of days. There was no getting around it. They were going to have to talk if only to discuss the case and enough to know when to stay out of the quarters. Harm and Mac had not talked seriously since that Sunday night. She had been easy to avoid; she was not around much. Harm was also pretty preoccupied with Aunt Em.



~~~~~~~~~~


Harm and Em had had dinner several times – sometimes with Mattie and sometimes alone. Harm had to admit Em was fun and very attractive, they actually had a lot in common: flying, music, books. She was even a lay lawyer for a small town in northern Alaska. But there was still a part of him that felt like she was just playing him so she could woo Mattie. Harm didn’t know how to feel about that. Would Mattie be better off with a relative – a female relative? Em was strong willed enough to handle Mattie and was apparently more familiar with the family history. An idea was germinating in his head that Mattie some how picked up on.

“Why don’t you and Em hook up, Harm?” She declared one night after dinner thankfully after Em had left. “One big happy family.” Harm was not sure if Mattie meant it to be funny or if she were sincere.

“What?”

“You need a woman. Em is more than attracted to you –.”

“Mattie!”

“And you two seem to get along.” She added ignoring his scolding.

Harm was embarrassed that she so blatantly voiced his tentative thoughts. “Mattie, please don’t match-make for me.”

“You like her don’t you?”

“Sure.” He said quickly. “She is family.”

“I don’t like most of my family.”

“You like her.”

“Yeah, she is pretty cool.”

“So why didn’t you tell me about her before?”

At that Mattie ended the conversation, feigning something about homework and quickly left. That was the other flag going off with Harm about Aunt Em. Mattie wouldn’t talk about her much.


~~~~~~~~~~


That conversation was the night before Harm was sent to the Seahawk to investigate the death of a pilot. He was not killed in action; he died of anaphylactic shock because he was given the wrong medication by the ship’s corpsman. Due to the war in Iraq, the case would be handled aboard ship. Harm was prosecuting and Mac was defending. Butch and Sundance ride again; too bad it felt more like the north and the south facing off.

The third pass trapped the plane – Madman caught the wire late and hit the deck hard. Mac was never so glad to be on a ship in her life.

Harm went down to meet her as she descended from the plane. “Meet her head on, it was the only way.” He convinced himself.

She unstrapped her helmet and glared at him. “Was that your idea, Hammer?” She was not amused.

“No.” He took her bag from the petty officer sent to meet her and nodded for him to go. “That was.” He nodded over to the other side of the plane.

Mac looked over and saw that the CAG was reading the riot act to the Madman.

“Is that because of me?” She asked.

“No, because of him.” Harm smiled at her carefully. “He should be a better pilot and he shouldn’t have been screwing around with a VIP in the backseat. It amounts to career suicide.”

“Is he going to be grounded?”

“Pending review.”

“But not because of me.”

He nodded forward. “With me Colonel.”

When they got inside they were able to speak in normal voices.

“I am sorry that you were sent out here.” He felt he needed to say something first.

“Why?” She attacked.

“Well – a number of reasons – but I know – forget it.” He so much didn’t want to fight with her.

“Go on, Commander.”

“Well, in case your flight has not set you up for it, I have another piece of bad news.”

“Oh?” She gave him the look he was expecting.

“We are sharing a cabin.” He watched her eyes darken. “But arrangements could be made, if you would prefer, to hot bunk down with the Special Forces unit – or I could sleep on deck.” He tried to laugh.

“You and I are sharing a cabin?” She repeated.

He nodded.

“Sharing a bunk?”

“No.” He shrugged. “Just the air.” He wanted to add that they could kill each other in private, but thought better of it.

She read his smirk as a smile, like he was enjoying it too much. “You think I can’t handle that, Commander?”

“I am sure you can, Colonel. You are nothing if not professional.” He stated, “But I am pretty clear that it would not be your first choice of accommodations.”

“Nor second or third.” She stated.

He looked annoyed. It was so much easier a long time ago when they got a long.

“But it ranks well above hot bunking with some jarhead or sleeping on the deck.”

She walked ahead of him. Harm felt that there might be a thaw.


~~~~~~~~~~
 


Mac met with her client and discussed the case. He was a young kid who was overloaded and over his head. There was no history of allergy with the Lt. Commander who died so there was no reason to believe that anything would happen. However, and this is the big however, there was no one around in sickbay when the pilot went into shock. That was the corpsman’s watch and he stepped away for five to fifteen minutes – the amount of time was still in debate. The captain – convening authority – wanted his blood, which meant that Harm and Mac could not deal.

They were able to stay out of each other’s way for most of the rest of the day. They met for a briefing and agreed to share dinner with the CAG and another officer. There was some good-hearted ribbing about turning Mac into a RIO and she gave it back well. To everyone around them, everything appeared normal. That night Harm had taken a run around the ship to allow Mac time to do what she needed to do. He arrived back around 2300 local; she was up and working at the desk, prepared to go running herself. They passed with few words and Harm took the hint to be asleep by the time she got back. He wasn’t but he pretended to be.

Hours passed. Harm was thinking about what was going on at home. He had talked to Mattie and she was planning on spending the weekend in Blacksburg with Em. They were going to do some spring-cleaning of the house. How could Harm say ‘no’, hell he wasn’t even in town. He felt Mattie slipping away from him.

Mac’s mind was spinning. She had forced herself to remain perfectly still for the past three hours so that Harm would think she was asleep, she knew he wasn’t. Her mind was filled with a hundred different things. She had cancelled the last two appointments with Dr. Madden. She also turned Webb away when he showed up at her door at 0100 the night before.


~~~~~~~~~~


“Sarah,” He stood in her living room. “I came as soon as I could.”

He was lying. She had seen him at the agency the week before on her way out of Dr. Madden’s office. Whether he stayed in town or left again quickly she did not know. Mac did not call him, follow him or expect him to call her. She made no move at all to find out where he was.

“Not tonight Clay.” She said. “I am leaving for the Seahawk tomorrow and I need my sleep.”

“Sarah, it has been almost a month.” He was just short of begging.

“Yes, it has.”

“Can we just talk for a while?” He asked. “I think there are things we need to talk about.”

“There are a lot of things we need to talk about, but we aren’t going to do it tonight.”

“Are you still upset about Paris?”

Mac had to think about Paris. She had blocked it out of her mind. What weighed heavily on her mind now was when, how and why his feelings for her changed and when, how and why her feelings for him changed. She left Dr. Madden’s office not agreeing with anything the woman had said, but everything she said made her think. Mac didn’t felt guilty toward Clay, but he certainly did toward her. He said as much. He said it in Paraguay and numerous times since then. Was he really in love with her or did he just feel guilty? Was Mac doing what she always did; which was return affection regardless of her own feelings?

“Clay, go home.” She stated. “I will call you when I get back and we will talk.”

“Talk?”

“Talk.” She reiterated. “Just talk.”

Clay left and Mac got the first good night sleep she had had in a long time. Too bad that was shot to hell but a wretched plane ride, a hard landing and a shared a cabin with a man she also needed to talk to.


~~~~~~~~~~


“Wanna talk about it?” Harm said in the darkness knowing full well that she was awake.

“Depends on what you think ‘it’ is?” She called down to the lower bunk.

“Well, something is keeping you awake and I know it’s not my snoring.” He gently nudged the bottom of her rack with his foot.

“You’re awake – what is keeping you up?”

He paused for a moment trying to decide if he should play it straight, make some inappropriate joke or blow it off. “We could just play cards.” He was going to blow it off.

“Strip poker?”

He laughed and then got quiet for a long moment. “I miss you Mac – I miss us.” As soon as he said the word ‘us’ he felt he stepped over the line and that he just blew a hole in the moment.

“I do too.” She said quickly so he would not back pedal too much.

The cabin was dark and only the night noises of the ship were drifting softly into their space. It would not take much for them to take that next step, but Harm felt that it had to be her. She was the one who pushed him away; she had to be the one to step up.

“Talk to me Harm. What is going on with you?” She adjusted her self on the rack so that she could hear him better but made no attempt to get down.

Harm’s words shot out his mouth before he knew it. “Mattie has an aunt who is back in the picture.”

“An aunt?”

“Aunt Em to be precise.”

Mac smiled in the darkness. “Is she from Kansas?”

“Alaska – she is a bush pilot who runs her own company and makes a wicked salmon steak.”

Mac felt something pull at her heart. “When did she arrive back on the scene?”

“A week or so ago.”

“You think she wants to take Mattie back to Alaska.”

Her ability to read him comforted him. “I do.”

“What does Mattie think?”

“I don’t know. She won’t talk to me much about her, and I still haven’t gotten why I just found out about this aunt.”

“Aunt Em is…”

“Mattie’s mother’s twin sister.” Harm stared up at the back of the bunk seeing Mac’s soft eyes in her tender voice. “Apparently money is not an issue, she paid the note on the house and is attempting to get Grace Aviation back.”

“That doesn’t sound like a woman who is planning on packing up a fifteen year-old girl and taking her to Alaska.”

“No, no it doesn’t.”

“Could you be over reacting?”

“Me?” He laughed. “When do I ever over react?”

“You have been known to read the signs wrong, on occasion.” Mac did not mean that the way it sounded – well she didn’t mean to imply that he read her signs wrong – well he had read her signs wrong on numerous occasions, but she was not trying to rub his nose in it then.

“Yes, I have.” He said quietly.

“Harm, don’t make this be about anything else.” She warned meaning ‘anything else’ equaling ‘them.’

“Nope.”

“I am serious.”

“I know.” He brushed it aside. “Em also told me that Mattie’s mother was driving the car and not Johnson.”

“Really?” Mac edged closer to the side. “Did you ask Mattie about it?”

“No, but I did get a copy of the police report.” He stated sheepishly.

“Without Mattie knowing?”

“Yes.”

“That is not going to sit too well with her.”

“Her mother was driving and had a blood alcohol over .13.” Harm exhaled. “She lied to me Mac, I just want to understand why.”

“Harm, you know why.”

“Do I?”

“She can’t blame her mother – her mother is dead.” Mac sighed. “She has to pick the only target in range.”

“Is that what you did?” He asked gently.

Mac paused. “Yeah.” She took a deep breath. “I guess I do that a lot.”

“Don’t make this about anything else, Sarah.” He said knowing that he asked the wrong question.

He called her Sarah. He rarely did that, Mac wondered why. “I owe you another apology, Harm.” She rolled over on to her back.

“No you don’t.”

“I owe you a lot more than an apology.”

“Really, you don’t.” He wanted to get up so he could look at her, but he didn’t.

“I am sorry about what I said the other night.”

“Sarah.” He tried to stop her then he changed his mind. “What happened?” He laughed. “I mean I know what happened, why?”

“I took something out on you that I had no right to.” She said ambiguously. “You were an easy target.”

“Glad I could help.” He snickered. “Are you going to tell me what I was the target for?”

“You don’t want to get into the gory details and I really don’t want you to know them.”

She was thinking about Clay and that woman she saw him with and the lies that men tell women. Mac could have dealt with the truth – the woman was a target or a cover and he did what he had to do. But instead he lied - to her face he lied. When Mac saw Harm with Anna Levinson, and he claimed it wasn’t a date – it was a lie too – at least Mac thought so.

“Ok.” He was slightly put off.

“Don’t be like that Harm.”

“Like what?”

“Just know that I know I was wrong, and I am sorry that I took it out on you.” She was firm. “Ok?”

“Ok.”

“Apology accepted?”

“Of course.”

“I took your advice.” She added. “That ought to win me a few points.”

“My advice?”

“I went to see an agency psychiatrist.”

“Part of the family medical plan?” The snide remark was out before he could stop it.

She felt herself tensing up and forced herself not to. “Rabb, your mouth is going to be the death of you one of these days.”

“Sorry.” He said biting back his tongue. “So you are talking to someone?”

Mac laughed at herself. “Well, I cancelled that last two appointments. Apparently twice was enough.”

“So you are cured.” He again nudged the bottom of her bunk.

“No, but now I have other things to think about when I lay sleepless at night.”

He was quiet for a moment. “You should call me.”

“You don’t want to hear about what I am thinking about.” She warned.

“I can be a friend.” He said simply. “No ulterior motive – I won’t even diss your boyfriend.”

“Diss?”

“Mattie taught me.” He explained.

They were quiet for a moment.

“I mean it. I can listen - if it would help.”

She laughed. “You could shut your mouth and just listen?”

“I’ve changed, Sarah.”

She rolled back over on her side. “Why are you calling me ‘Sarah’ all of a sudden?”

“Don’t know – I guess I always thought that when we started sleeping together that I couldn’t call you ‘Mac’ anymore.” He laughed.

“Hate to be the one to break it to you, Rabb – but we are not sleeping together: literally, figuratively or biblically.”

“Got to give a man his dreams, counselor.”

She was quiet for a long moment.

Harm waited patiently.

“You still awake?”

“I am.”

“I let Sadik get inside my head.” She said like a woman accepting a short fall.

He paused before he spoke. “Can you get him out?” He asked.

“He is out, but he opened a few doors on the way out.” She exhaled. “Hell, he blew them off the hinges.”

Harm waited for her to continue.

“He called me weak. He called me barren. He called me a whore.” She said evenly. “He said the only way I would be truly free is with him. He was the only one who could protect me.”

Harm was becoming enraged at a dead man. His first thought was to deny those accusations, but he knew that Sarah didn’t believe them. Sadik got inside her head in some other way. He had to let her talk.

She continued. “But that was nothing, the worst thing that Sadik did; was to die by my hand. I killed him – I pointed my gun and I killed him with no other thought in my head, than I wanted him dead.” She sat up in her bunk and pulled her knees to her chest. “It was not self-defense Harm. I murdered him – I executed him – in cold blood.”

He sat up too but made no attempt to get up.

She continued. “I lost control.” She thought for a moment. “I have struggled with control my whole life. Control over my drinking, over my career, over my feelings for men, over the choices I make – it is all I have to hang on to – it is the only thing I have that is me. I gave it up because I wanted him dead.”

Harm was silent trying to find the right words to say.

After a moment she asked. “Are you still listening?”

“Every word.” He said quickly.

“So you understand now why I said that you wouldn’t want anything to do with me if you knew.”

“Nothing could be further from the truth.” He responded. After a moment he continued. He told her what she already knew. “Sarah, you are so much more than what you control.” He said gently. “You are more than your actions, you are more than your choices, you are more than the worst thing you have ever done in your life.” He braved the next comment even though he knew it sounded like he was placating her. “Killing Sadik was not the worst thing you have ever done.”

“It is damn close.”

“Sarah, believe me when I say this – the man meant to kill you either by taking away your free will or your life. He would have killed you. You defended yourself.”

“When you say it I almost believe it.”

He heard the tears in her voice. “You already do believe it.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Faith.” He said softly. “Faith in you.”

His words comforted enough for her to slide down into a fetal position.

“Sarah, I believe you did what you had to do given the situation you found yourself. No one should have been put in that position.”

“I walked into it with my eyes open.”

“Did you? Did you really?” He asked.

“I went looking for Sadik.” She claimed.

“After he came looking for you.” Something occurred to Harm. “He was responsible for my battery blowing up, wasn’t he?”

“Yes.” She confirmed.

“He wouldn’t have stopped there, Sarah. Who knows who he would have gone after next? Webb – again? The Admiral? Bud? Harriet? Little AJ?” Harm was again getting furious with a dead man and the havoc he wreaked and could have wreaked on their lives. “He would have used the people closest to you. He was determined to draw you out.”

“I certainly hurried it along.”

“You are a Marine – you fight the fight head on.” He said with a half smile that she heard. “Nothing to be ashamed about there. He attacked you Mac both physically and emotionally. You defended yourself – like you were trained to do.”

“Yeah, Semper Fi.” She said sarcastically.

“Semper Fi.” He confirmed.

She was quiet for a long time. “Do you really believe in me so...”

“Completely.”

“In all the decisions I make?”

He shook his head in the dark and closed his eyes. He could not bring up the decision she made about them or about Webb. “Well there was a haircut that I really didn’t agree with about six months ago.” He laughed.

She laughed too.

“Sarah, I believe in you.”

If he had said he loved her, she would not have felt closer to him at that moment. It was not as if Mac had no faith in herself, or even that she questioned her actions with Sadik any more, it was more like she was learning about Harm and about what he thought about her. She let her hand drape over the side of the bunk. Harm saw it in the dark and reached up and took it.

“Thank you Harm.” She said softly. “Thank you for everything you have done for me.”

“Welcome.” He was hard pressed to get out those two syllables without his voice cracking.

“I am sorry I have been so wretched to you.”

“I am no saint.” He said. “I am sorry too.”

After a moment she asked. “Can I still be your friend?”

It would have been so easy to pull her down into his arms and kiss her and put all that other crap to bed too; she probably even wanted it. But he couldn’t, it had to be her idea. “Absolutely.” He said.

She squeezed his hand. “I think I can sleep now.” She said yawning.

He pressed her hand back. “Good.”

“You too?”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Things are going to be OK with Mattie – you know.” She said. “It will work out.”

“Yeah?” He said sadly.

“Mattie loves you.” She wondered if she should tell him the secret. “She told me that she did.”

Harm smiled in the darkness. “Thank you.”

She let go of his hand and rolled over to face the wall. He slid down to the cot and faced the room. Each of them allowed their breathing to slow, but neither one closed their eyes. Now there were more things to think about.

 

 

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