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Classification Angst, AU, Romance (H/M)
Length Approx 6,000 words, 14 pages (8 ĹĒ x 11Ē)
Spoilers Third in the ďFive Whispered WordsĒ trilogy.  Anything up to the end of season 7 and reference to some of season 8. However, this veers away considerably from the season 8 storyline and into A/U. Most of season 8 is not relevant.
Rating CF
Summary A setback forces Mac to reevaluate her life with Harm. This is the third story in a series chronicling Mac's recovery from serious injuries and the deepening of Harm and Mac's relationship. This story will make more sense if you have read the previous parts of the series, ďFive Whispered WordsĒ and ďRebirthĒ.
Author's Note I know absolutely nothing about the details of applying for permanent limited duty or disability discharges, so I did with them what fit the story.


Fall 2003
North of Union Station


She was washing and he was drying and putting away the dinner dishes when she decided to broach the subject again. The admiral's summons and subsequent announcement that Harm would be offered a transfer to Force Judge Advocate COMNAVAIRPAC had taken them both by surprise. Her initial pride and elation had been turned to dismay when Harm rejected the idea out of hand, telling the admiral that he wasn't interested in a transfer to San Diego, even if it cost him a chance at promotion. AJ had responded angrily, waving Harm's duty to his country in front of him like a red cape. Mac, like some foolhardy rodeo clown, had managed to intercede, extracting a concession from the Admiral. She had one week to convince Harm that the change of duty station was a good move for them. Harm was furious with her and refused to discuss it during their ride home or dinner preparations. Dinner had been a tense, silent affair. She had had enough.

As she finished the last dish and watched the soapy water swirl down the drain, she steeled herself. They were going to talk about this as a couple, just like they had promised three months ago in the Academy Chapel in front of 150 witnesses, whether Harm liked it or not. As nervous as a six-year-old contemplating the deep end of the pool, she took a deep breath and plunged in.

"I think you should consider taking it, Harm," Mac suggested quietly, carefully, afraid that he would jump to conclusions about her motive and the state of their relationship.


"I think you should at least think about taking the position."

"Mac, this could mean months apart. Is that what you want? Is that how you see our relationship?"

"No, of course not," she answered trying valiantly to stay calm, though two hours of silence had shortened her fuse dramatically.

"Then why would you want me to accept a transfer?" he asked incredulously.

Mac took a couple of breaths, fortifying herself, trying her best to come up with the right words. Words that would explain to him how strongly she felt that he should take this position, how sure she was that they could weather the separation if necessary, how certain she was that they were strong enough to handle this.

"It's a great opportunity, Harm. The perfect position, the perfect fit. How many other JAGs are there who could even do the job? It's tailor made for you."

"There'll be other chances," he insisted.

"Will there? You know as well as I do that at our level politics comes into play. You've never been great at the politics, Harm. You don't play the game. You're impulsive. You think with your heart and your emotions. You do the right thing, regulations and consequences be damned. I love you for it, but everybody doesn't see it the way I do."

"Now there's a ringing endorsement," he interrupted petulantly.

"You know I'm right, Harm. It's not about how good you are, necessarily. It's about how you fit with the command in question. You fit with the AirPac. You can't give up this opportunity."

"What about us? Do you really want to be apart for months at a time? God, Mac, we just got married and you want to be separated by a continent?"

She smiled, trying to lighten the mood. "It's very fashionable to be bicoastal."

"This isn't funny, Mac. I don't see anything funny about this. I didn't marry you to live 3500 miles away from you."

"I know that, Harm," she answered gently. "But I think the sacrifice could be worth it."

"I thought we agreed, no sacrifices, nobody would be giving up their career, right? Isn't that what we decided?" His voice had taken on an anguished whining quality.

"Yes. But think about it this way. You wouldn't want me to resign to follow you, right?"

Harm nodded.

"But arenít you really doing the same thing by turning down the transfer? Aren't you effectively capping your career at Commander? What if there isn't another position?"

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mac," he grumbled.

Mac reached over and gently touched his arm. "You know that's not what I meant. Dream positions like this are few and far between."

"I know, but what about us? I don't want to be apart for months at a time, Mac."

"Neither do I, but this is a sacrifice that's worth it. We do it together, nobody throwing away anything. We both sacrifice, even-steven, but for a payoff that both of us will be able to enjoy; your promotion to captain. I can keep my eyes on the BUPERS listings and join you when I can. On the judiciary, I'm a good bit more flexible than if I were still a litigator. I know there will be an opening on the bench soon."

"Do you really think we can do this?"

"Don't you?"

He looked skeptically at her. "Maybe."

Mac leaned in closer to him. "Just consider it, please? Don't dismiss it out of hand. The admiral gave us a week, correct?"

Harm nodded.

"Then think about it. We can talk about it as much as you want. Hash and rehash it until it's dead. If, in a week, you still feel the same way, turn it down. But turn it down after real consideration."

Harm considered her for a moment and then agreed. "But if I do turn it down, you'll accept my decision?"

"Yes. I just don't want you to be cavalier about it. If it's not the right move, fine, but give us both a chance to get used to the possibility."

Mac felt enormous relief at Harm's answering smile. He leaned over and kissed her gently. "This is one of the reasons I love you so much. You keep me grounded."

Mac smiled. "I didn't think pilots ever wanted to be grounded," she teased. She turned and headed toward the bedroom.

"Well you gotta come down from the clouds sometimes, Mac," he chuckled. He finished the dishes, turned off the light and followed her.

As it turned out, the planned conversations about Harm's transfer never happened. The next morning the Admiral sent Harm TAD for a week to a carrier group in the Med to remind them, once again, about the rules of engagement in all their various and sundry incarnations. Mac found her docket suddenly filled with cases. They managed a quick goodbye behind closed blinds in Harm's office before Mac reported to chambers and Harm left to pack for his flight. At the end of that very long day, Mac dragged herself home after a stop at Beltways for takeout, her guilty pleasure whenever she and Harm couldn't be together. She played the messages on the phone machine, hoping for word from Harm, but he apparently hadnít had a chance to call her. "Suck it up, MacKenzie," she muttered. "You're the one who said you could withstand the separation, here's your chance to prove it." She inhaled her super deluxe meal in front of Jay Leno and then crawled into bed.

When she arrived at JAG the next morning there was a dozen roses waiting in chambers and a note from Harm. In her email was a note and her voice mail was filled with apologetic messages from him for not calling the night before. Her spirit buoyed by the welcome, albeit long-distance, attention, she headed into the courtroom for another round.

Two days later, Bud and Harriet's house


Mac lay awake sobbing, tears flowing freely down her face. Overwhelmed by fear and pain and exhausted by the day's events, she didn't have the energy to control herself. How had this happened? One morning she woke up and started an ordinary day and the next, her life had been irrevocably changed. A petty officer running from the marine guards, a collision, a soft pop from her right knee. A typical lateral blow injury, they said. No big deal, they said: a couple of hours in surgery, some down time and you're good as new. Waking up after surgery knowing she had lost six hours not two. Complications, they said. Avascular necrosis, torn ACL, ruptured medial something-or-other, a gazillion other medical terms she didn't understand. Permanent instability, they said. Knee replacement. Limited duty. Disability. Discharge.

She lay awake in Bud and Harriet's guest room, the tape playing over and over again in her head, taunting her; daring her to make sense of the nonsensical; challenging her to go on with a life she no longer understood; begging her to figure out some way to salvage the unsalvageable. She couldn't understand why this was happening to her, again. She felt like that character from mythology, doomed for all eternity to keep rolling a stone up hill only to have it roll back to the bottom each night. This was worse than being kicked when she was down. Time and again, happiness seemed within her reach, and then she was dragged inexorably away from the prize. Somewhere, she was sure, the Fates were having a good laugh at her expense.

In the distance she heard her goddaughter crying and soft footsteps moving overhead. Soft voices murmured comforting words. Footfalls sounded on the stairs as a rocker creaked rhythmically. She heard a light switch and her room was bathed in soft light from the dining room. She struggled to control her sobbing, burying her head in the pillow, not wanting to be discovered. Bud and Harriet had done so much already, taking her in after the surgery, calling Harm to let him know what had happened, taking care of her when she couldn't take care of herself. She would not burden them further.

"Ma'am, are you ok?" Bud asked gently peeking into her room.

Mac sniffed and wiped her eyes. "Yeah, I'm, um, fine. I'm sorry if I woke you."

Bud chuckled. "You didn't. The baby was hungry and I, uh, had a craving." He walked into the room with a sheepish grin on his face and a dish of ice cream in his hand.

Mac smiled. "Does Harriet know you sneak down for ice cream at 2 am?" she asked pointedly.

"I think she does, Colonel, but she doesn't harp on it. Do you want some? You didn't eat much dinner."

Mac sighed. "No thanks, I'm not hungry."

Bud sat on the chair next to her bed. "You sure? It's rocky road."

"Yeah, Bud, I'm sure," Mac whispered turning away as her eyes filled with tears.

"Talk to me, Colonel. What did they tell you at Bethesda?"

"I told you, Lieutenant."

"With all due respect, I don't think you did, Ma'am. I think you told us what we wanted to hear." Bud put down his bowl and leaned toward her, as if trying to draw her out. "Talk to me, Ma'am. I'm a pretty good listener."

His sincerity was her undoing. The tears she had been trying so valiantly to hide from him flowed unimpeded down her face, dripping onto her nightgown. Her shoulders shook with the effort of stifling the sobs growing inside her chest. She knew if she started to cry, she would never stop, but she couldn't hold it together any longer. She had to tell somebody, anybody, before she faced Harm. She had to have something figured out by then. She couldn't let him see her like this. He had seen glimpses of the old Sarah MacKenzie, but she wouldn't subject him to that again.

"It's over," she managed to croak out between gasps for air.

"Are you sure?" Bud asked gently.

"Yeah. I had two opinions. Both said the same thing. Disability."

"Oh no," Bud sighed as he squeezed her shoulder gently. "I'm sorry, Colonel."

Mac sniffed and sighed. "It would help if you didn't call me by my rank, Bud."

"Of course, Ma'ÖahÖMac." He sat quietly, expectantly, waiting for her to continue.

"The Corps is my life, Bud. Being a Marine is how I have defined myself for nearly twenty years. I don't think I know who I am without the uniform."

"I used to think that, too, Mac. About the Navy."

Mac turned toward him. "Bud, before I joined the Corps, I was a drunk in an abusive marriage. I got sober and ran straight to the Marines. I became a new person, a better person." She turned away again, overcome by shame, drowning in self doubt. She stopped to regroup before continuing more quietly, "The old Sarah MacKenzie is not somebody you would want to know and would never respect. I'm afraid that she is still inside, waiting to come out when I take off the uniform."

"Mac, nobody else sees you that way. Believe me, it's not the uniform that garners my respect." He reached for her hand and gently squeezed. "If you don't mind my asking, Mac, why not petition for permanent limited duty?"

She sat, examining their clasped hands silently for several seconds. How could she answer his question? There was no way there could be two slots at headquarters for permanently disabled officers, even if the Marine Corps would allow it, but she would never say that to him. As she tried to decide how to answer his question, she realized that Bud was the one person who could really understand the place she was in, because he had been here himself. He had faced this particular demon and won. Maybe he could show her a way out, a lifeline to hang on to until she reached the shore. How hard could she press him for answers? How much of his privacy was he willing to give up?

"What were you going to do?" She asked, studiously avoiding eye contact.


She turned to meet his gaze. "If the board had turned you down? Did you have plans?"

Bud shrugged. "Um, well, I had lots of ideas: NCIS, OIG, DA's office, private practice, maybe even Larry Kaliski," he finished, chuckling.

Despite her mood, Mac smiled, but sobered almost instantly. "You had lots of ideas," she commented, quietly. "I don't have any."

"Actually, they sound pretty good now, Colonel, but I don't think I would have been too happy to have used any of them."

Mac winced inwardly at his use of her rank. She looked away, hoping to hide her discomfort. "How did you do it, Bud? How did you even think rationally about leaving the Navy?" she asked, desperate for some clue how to live with the uncertainty, any tiny sliver of hope to hang on to.

"I was so happy just have survived. That, and Harriet and AJ reminded me every day that I had a life outside the Navy, Colonel. You need to remember that, too." He stood when she yawned. "Get some rest. The Commander will be here after lunch tomorrow, and I think little AJ is going to surprise you with breakfast in bed in the morning, so you should sleep while you have the chance."

"Good night, Bud. And thanks."

"Good night, Ma'am. Remember, you are the same person you were yesterday. It's not the uniform that matters."




Mac smiled to herself as she gently stroked the soft, blond hair of her sleeping godson. He had surprised her, creeping into her room at 0630 struggling valiantly to carry a tray of his favorite sick-bed breakfast: two enormous bowls of "cocoa pups". Harriet followed him into the room, laden with videos and apologizing profusely at the earliness of the hour. Mac hadn't minded. She had been awake most of the night, Bud's words replaying in her head. AJ's cure-all breakfast and his favorite Pooh videos had been a welcome diversion. He had insisted on joining her in the bed, and they had eaten and talked and laughed. He had been just what the doctor ordered. As she gazed at him dozing, snuggled in the crook of her arm, a feeling of peace enveloped her, cradling her. Suddenly, she knew that everything would be all right. She knew this was what she wanted, as sure as she had known seventeen years ago that the Corps was the place for her. Bud was right. Her job wasn't her life. She sighed as she drifted to sleep. Now all she had to do was convince Harm.




"Auntie Mac. Auntie Mac! Wake up!"

AJ's urgent whisper and his hand patting her face drove her from slumber several hours later. She awoke with a start and looked quickly around the room.

"Uncle Harm is here, Auntie Mac. You need to wake up."

She smiled at him and stretched the sleep-induced stiffness from her neck and shoulders. "It's ok, sweetie, I'm awake."

"Oh, AJ. I told you not to wake her up," Harriet scolded as she came into the room to remove her son. "I'm sorry, Mac. I know you needed the sleep, but he got away from me before I could stop him."

"It's ok, Harriet," Mac answered, smiling, as she pulled herself into a sitting position. "No problem. Is Harm here?"

"Yeah. He's helping Bud put together the sand box. I can get him if you want."

"No, that's ok. I can manage on the crutches," she answered, already gathering her clothes from the bag next to the bed.

"Are you sure, Ma'am? You were pretty out of it yesterday."

Mac was in such a good mood that Harriet's mothering amused, rather than annoyed, her. She chuckled. "Yes, Lieutenant, I'm fine, thank you. I'll just get dressed and join you on the deck in a minute."

"OK. C'mon AJ, let's go help Daddy and Uncle Harm."

Mac dressed carefully and made her way slowly out onto the deck. She stood watching Harm and Bud struggle with some wooden contraption in the backyard while Harriet tried to corral AJ. She knew this was it. This was what she wanted: a family, a home. What had seemed so complicated in the middle of the night was extraordinarily simple in the light of day. What was a tragedy just 11 hours and 40 minutes ago seemed almost like a gift, the proverbial blessing in disguise. It was a clichť, she knew, but there it was.

"Hey," Harm said as he walked up the steps to the deck.

"Hey," she answered brightly, turning toward him.

He crossed the distance between them in two strides and took her into his arms, kissing her gently. "I missed you," he whispered into her ear.

"Me, too," she answered breathlessly, wobbling a bit on the crutches.

He stepped back and looked into her eyes, concern erasing his earlier smile. "Are you ok? Should you be standing? Do you need to sit down?"

She chuckled. "Yes, I'm fine. No, I don't need to sit down. I'm tired of sitting."

He took a step back and sat on the edge of the picnic table. "What happened?"

She leaned back slightly so that the railing was bearing some of her weight, giving her arms a break. "It was stupid," she answered, sighing. "The petty officer got away from the guards. I acted on instinct, moved to intercept him. We got tangled up. I felt my knee pop and then collapse. Sturgis took me to Bethesda. Bud and Harriet brought me here after surgery."

"How bad is it?" he asked tentatively.

Mac looked out at Bud, Harriet and AJ, playing in the newly assembled sandbox. She took a couple of deep breaths. Convincing Harm that her newly enforced freedom was a good thing was not going to be easy, but she had to try.

"Mac?" Harm interrupted her reveries.

She turned back toward him. "My knee's trashed. Apparently the old repair was failing and this just finished it off. I'm probably going to need a cane to get around for a long time and eventually a knee replacement. They suggested a medical discharge, Harm."

He simply stared, his mouth hanging open.

"I think I'm going to take it," she continued tentatively, wary of his reaction.

He shook his head negatively and stood. He walked toward the railing and looked out across the yard.

"Harm?" she reached over and gently touched his shoulder.

"You're giving up? Just like that, you take a discharge?" he asked, his voice weak, uncertain.

"A discharge wasn't my first choiceÖ"

"Then why not fight it?" Harm interrupted turning toward her.

The sadness in his eyes startled her. His expression mirrored her own feelings of 12 hours earlier. She had to make him understand that what was happening to her wasn't a tragedy, but a gift of a sort.

"I think I knew this was coming, Harm, even before I got hurt this time." She turned away from him trying to protect herself, before continuing, "I barely passed my PFT last month. The last few days, jogging was becoming more and more painful. I think, deep down, I knew the knee wasn't holding up. What happened yesterday just confirmed my fears. No matter what I do, my knee is never going to be 100%." She turned her head to look at him, trying to decipher what he was thinking. "You know that neither the Navy nor Marine Corps would allow two limited duty officers at headquarters. You heard the statistics when Bud came back. 85% of officers who go before the board get discharged. And besides, if I went permanent limited, I wouldn't be able to relocate. Your career would suffer, too. Accepting the discharge is the right thing to do."

"Is it? You love the Corps." He moved toward her and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.

She sighed. She had come to terms with her decision and her needs. She couldn't let his sadness reinfect her. "Yes, it is. It, ah, uncomplicates things."

He gently turned her so she was facing him again. "How?" His voice was tinged with anger.

"You can take the job in San Diego," she began tentatively, regretting the words when he reacted, dropping his hand off her arm and jumping back as if stung.

"Excuse me?!" he whispered heatedly. "I thought we said no sacrifices."

Oh boy. This was going to be harder than she thought. "It's not a sacrifice, HarmÖ"

"It's not?" he interrupted incredulously. "Then explain it to me. How is this not a sacrifice for you? Huh?" His voice rose several notches.

"If you would calm down, I could explain," she hissed vehemently, trying to regain control of the conversation. She moved toward him, forgetting in the emotions of the moment that she had spent the last 15 hours in bed after surgery and hadn't eaten anything but cocoa puffs since yesterday's breakfast. As the world tilted, she tried to brace herself with her damaged leg. Biting her lip, she managed not to cry out in pain, but the proximity of the railing was the only thing that kept her from crashing to the deck.

"Whoa!" Harm whispered gently, his hands grabbing her shoulders. "You need to sit, or maybe go back to bed. We can finish this later."

"No, Harm, we need to do this now. I can rest later," she protested, but allowed him to guide her to a nearby chair. After she was settled and had gotten her bearings again, she motioned to the nearby chair. "Sit," she ordered him. There was no way she was going to have this conversation with him towering over her.

He sat, but everything about his posture indicated that he was not going to willingly participate in the conversation. She sighed, set her posture and plunged in again.

"Harm, just hear me out, please? Iíve thought long and hard about this and I need you to just listen to me before you jump to any conclusions about what Iím thinking or saying. Can you do that?"

He nodded reluctantly.

"When they told me yesterday that my career was over, I reacted the way you just did. I was devastated. I couldnít help wondering who I was, what I was going to do with my life, what it would mean for usÖ" she trailed off, giving him a moment to process what she was trying to say so ineloquently. He opened his mouth and she silenced him with a soft touch on the thigh. "Let me finish. I need to say this," she implored him. "I hardly slept at all last night trying to figure out what to say to you, how to tell you how I had let us down." She felt his thigh muscles tense under her hand and she gently patted his leg before continuing. "But then I had a conversation with Bud in the middle of the night and breakfast in bed with our godson and it became so clear to me." She smiled at his puzzled expression. "This isnít a tragedy, Harm. Itís an opportunity." She put her fingers to his lips silencing him once again as his face clouded. "I know. It sounds like some goofy Hallmark card, or the ramblings of somebody hopelessly naÔve. But I realized that my life is so much more than that uniform, Harm. I have dreams." She paused gazing into his eyes. "We have dreams," she continued, emphasizing the plural pronoun.

She gazed out over the railing to the back yard just in time to see AJ trying to bury Bud in the sandbox. Their laughter floated up to her, cementing her resolve to make Harm understand. She struggled up from the chair and leaned a bit precariously on the railing, watching her best friends playing in the yard. They had been through so much, and yet they were unquestionably happy. She wanted that for herself and for Harm. She turned toward him when he stood to support her. He smiled tentatively, a warmer smile then before. Maybe he did get it.

She looked back out over the lawn. When she spoke, it was with conviction and confidence. "I want this, Harm, for both of usÖa homeÖchildren. Iím not getting any younger, and neither are you. The job in San Diego is perfect for you and we would be near your mom and Frank at least for your tour."

Harm spoke before she could stop him. "We could have this if you were still in the Corps," he protested, but without the earlier anger.

"Could we? Without sacrificing my career?" she asked, skeptically.

"No, maybe not," he conceded. "But I wonít consider this some kind of blessing in disguise, Mac. I canít look at you injury that way."

Mac turned toward him and gently caressed his face. "Look at me, Harm." He turned toward her. "If two years ago somebody had told you that my getting blown up in Afghanistan would, in many ways, be the best thing that ever happened to us, would you have believed them?"

"No," he said quietly.

"And yet, here we are, on the threshold of our dreams."

He smiled, the tentative near-smirk he usually wore when he wasnít sure what to do with his expression. He had mixed feelings about this. She understood that, and could live with it, as long as he understood her feelings. She sighed and took her hand from his cheek, grasping his hand.

"The job is perfect for you, Harm. You know that as well as I do. It broadens your experience. In a couple of years youíll be a shoo-in for captain. Years from now, when youíre the JAG or IG or at the Pentagon, all of this drama will fade from memory. It wonít matter anymore."

Harm squeezed her hand tighter. "That is patently untrue. I will never forget seeing you lying on the sand in Afghanistan, wondering if I would ever see you again. Never."

"I know. But thatís over now. Itís behind us. Iím fine and so are we."

"What will you do, Mac? Itís not like weíre going to have a baby tomorrow."

Macís whole body felt immediately lighter when a genuine smile crept across Harmís face at his mention of a baby. "I know, but I have a few months of rehab and maybe another surgery. By then if we arenít pregnant, Iíll take the California bar exam. I can work for the DA or at a womenís legal clinic. Or I can teach. There are lots of possibilities, Harm. I am still a lawyer."

He smiled again and pulled her tighter to him. "I know, Mac. I justÖI guess Iím afraid that someday youíll look back and regret that you gave up everything to be with me. I couldnít bear that."

"It will never happen. Iím not giving up, Harm. I am accepting the inevitable with open arms and embracing new possibilities."

"Making lemonade out of lemons?

"Yeah, I guess, something like that."

"Youíre sure you donít want to fight the discharge?" he asked softly, his eyes begging her to tell him the truth.

"Iím sure. Itís the right thing, Harm -- for the Corps, for me, for us. Iím not sure why, but I am certain this is the way for us to go."

"Ok," he acquiesced. "If youíre game, then so am I. In all honesty, I had some time to think in Norfolk. I have to admit, I want the job in San Diego more than I thought I did."

Mac stepped back a bit, her brow furrowed. "Were you going to tell me? Or would you have sacrificed your needs for what you thought I wanted?"

Harm sighed and turned away, his posture tense and his tone rueful. "The truth is, I donít know. I was trying to figure that out when Bud called to say you had been injured and were in surgery. At that point, all bets were off. All I could think about was seeing you and making sure you were ok. It took both Bud and Harriet to restrain me from waking you when I first got here." He turned back and flashed her a self-deprecating half smile.

Mac rubbed her hand along his back and shoulder, chuckling softly. "Iím fine, Harm. In the scope of our lives, this is a minor setback. Nothing we canít handle."

He leaned over and kissed her gently. "I know. I guess I just wanted everything to be perfect."

"No guarantees in this life, Flyboy, but I think things are pretty good the way they are."


"Yeah," she whispered leaning for another kiss. Still a bit off balance, she wobbled and would have fallen if he hadnít grabbed her arm.

"You need to sit down. Now!" he rebuked her. "You should be in bed."

"Iím fine, Harm. Besides, I told Harriet and Bud we would stay for dinner."

"Mac," he started to protest.

"Iím ok as long as I sit down and I get something to eat soon. By the way, shouldnít you be calling the admiral? The deadline is tomorrow."

He guided Mac gently onto a nearby lounge chair and got her situated comfortably before perching on the end near her feet. He smiled at her and shook his head, chuckling. "Do you know how much I love you?" he said as if resigned to his fate.

"Yeah," she answered quietly, as tears pricked the corners of her eyes. "As much as I love you."

Her reached out and brushed the tears away with his thumb. "You're convinced this is all going to be ok, aren't you?"

She smiled and drew his hand into hers. "Yeah, I am. I think this is how it's supposed to be, Harm. I'm not sure why, but I am sure, more sure than I've ever been of anything in my entire life."

He leaned in and kissed her gently on the lips and then stood, still holding her hand. "You get some rest. I have a phone call to make." He released her hand, gave her a wink and a smile and walked toward the sliding glass door into Bud and Harriet's kitchen.

She rested her head back on the chair and scooted around until she was comfortable. A feeling of calm well-being surrounded her and penetrated her all the way to the bone. She knew, somehow, that everything would work out. She finally had made it to the top of the hill. She watched him walk into the house through eyelids suddenly too heavy to hold open.

As she drifted off to sleep, laughter bubbled up from the back yard. Mac imagined it was the laughter of the Fates.

Only this time, they were laughing with her.


The End


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