Romance(H/M), Crossover (NCIS)
words; 605 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
||1: The medical
diagnosis and treatments mentioned in these chapters are
fictional and are not meant to represent anything outside of the
context of this story.
|2: Thanks to Fawe
for her permission to use a legend she wrote of in her wonderful
Danger to Life and Health---- EOW: Engineering Officer of
the Watch---IG: Inspector General----NLSO: Naval
Legal Services Office--- NLSO BROFF: Naval Legal Services
||The song ‘Broken’ is
from the soundtrack “The Punisher”. Recorded by the group
Colonel Sarah MacKenzie walked quickly across the bullpen to her office.
Staff call seemed to last forever this morning. She just wanted the day
to really begin so that she could lose herself in her workday. She could
shut it all out, forget that she might be in for the fight of her life
and forget that Webb had lied over and over about so many things. With a
bit of effort, she might even forget the pain she saw in the eyes of her
best friend and partner Commander Harmon Rabb Jr., even when he was
She had returned to counseling. She had known even before she learned
that Webb was indeed alive that she needed to get help or everything she
had worked so hard to accomplish in her life would be ruined. ‘You’re
only as good as your last sober day.’ Before learning the truth, she was
able to cry and mourn Webb; now she felt completely numb. Commander
McCool explained that her feelings were to be expected given her
background and coping mechanisms since she had become sober. What
worried her now was that she didn’t know if she would ever feel anything
The day passed quickly, since she didn’t have court today. Paperwork was
plentiful – She was glad that at least that was one thing that never
changed. Mac turned off her computer, slipped a few case files into her
briefcase and turned off the lights in her office. ‘I’ve made it through
another week,’ she thought, ‘now to get through the weekend.’
Mac started to walk toward the elevators when Harm spoke to her. She
froze mid-stride and turned quickly toward his voice.
“I’m sorry, Mac, I didn’t mean to startle you,”
“It’s okay, I just thought everyone but the watch was already gone,” Mac
continued to walk toward the elevators, not making eye contact with Harm
“Mac, are we ever going to talk about this? You asked me if I would
always be there – here I am. Let me in.”
She looked at him then and she saw the pain once again, pain she had
caused. She felt as though she couldn’t breathe – she had to get out of
there before she completely lost it. She had to get away before she said
something, anything to make him stop talking to her. She didn’t want to
hurt anyone anymore. She just wanted to get away.
“Harm, I can’t, not now. Please, I’ve got to get out of here!” She
nearly ran to the elevators and slipped in just before they closed,
taking her away, getting her home.
Harm stood in the middle of the bullpen, watching Mac slip away from
him. He had never seen her quite like this. There was no light in her at
all now. She barely looked at him when she spoke. This morning in staff
call she’d sat next to him but never turned toward him, even when she
was speaking to him. He had always felt connected to her, even when he
was still with the CIA. When he was in the same room with her, her
presence was such that you knew, whether she spoke or not, if she was
happy or sad or angry about something. It was one of the things he loved
about her, the strength of her personality. Now, it was almost as though
she were a ghost, going through the motions, getting the job done and
interacting with people as little as possible.
Harm returned to his office, got his cover and briefcase, and just as he
turned the lights in his office off, he heard the sounds of thunder
coming from outside. “Great,” he thought, “just what I needed.” Harm
started walking out of the building, and it began to rain harder as the
storm grew more intense. Harm ran to his SUV and got in, soaking wet
even though he had parked very near the entrance. “Hope Mac makes it
home okay,” he thought aloud. Harm took out his cell-phone and called
“Hey yourself,” Mattie answered.
“Just checking in, are you all ready to go?” Harm asked.
“Yeah, it’s all under control, Jen and I are catching a movie tonight
and my Dad’s picking me up in the morning, first thing.”
Harm asked Mattie to check in after the movie and hung up. Harm started
the car and started toward Union Station. He was nearly halfway home
when he decided to take a quick drive by Mac’s apartment. ‘Just to make
sure she made it home alright … besides she’ll never know,’ he thought.
Mac had made it home without a problem, although she didn’t really
recall the drive. She felt the storm, the thunder booming so loud that
she could feel it in her chest. She wasn’t afraid. She was almost
relieved that she could feel something. She had gotten away and said
nothing stupid or hurtful to Harm. She could not face him now.
Mac removed her coat and placed her briefcase or her dining room table.
The storm continued to rage outside. Mac felt drawn to it. She walked
toward the French doors leading to her balcony and opened the doors. The
moment she opened the doors she felt and heard the thunder clap and saw
the lightning streak across the sky. Mac’s breath caught and she gasped.
The rain blew into her face and it was cold. “I’m not numb after all,”
she thought. The storm raged on, and Mac continued to stand on the
balcony, pulling in the storm and willing away the numbness, trying to
feel something, anything again.
Harm turned his SUV onto Mac’s street. The rain continued to pour which
made the night that much darker. He looked up toward Mac’s apartment and
saw no lights in the windows. Harm pulled into a parking place across
the street and looked up toward her apartment again. Lightning pierced
the sky as he was looking and he saw her.
“Jesus, Mac!” Harm got out of his SUV and climbed the stairs into her
building 2 at a time. He pounded on her door and when she didn’t answer,
used his key to get in. He did not remember crossing the room. He saw
her turn slowly toward him.
She looked confused and she was trembling violently. “Harm?” she said as
she stepped backward. Harm then took hold of both of her arms and guided
her back into the room. “Harm, I can’t feel anything, I … I can’t feel
anything at all. I can’t cry, I don’t feel anything at all. I feel
hollow. What’s going to happen to me?” Mac said as she crossed her arms
and hugged herself as though she were all alone.
“Mac, you don’t have to go through this alone. I’m here. Please let me
help you,” Harm pleaded. She still could not look at him directly.
She then realized that she was soaking wet and cold. “I have to get out
of these clothes,” she walked toward her bedroom. “You don’t have to
stay. I’ll be alright.”
Harm had no intention of leaving; he had stayed away for 3 weeks after
they learned Webb was alive, no more. “I’m staying until you talk to me.
I’ll make some tea while you get dressed.”
Harm picked up his cell-phone and dialed the number of someone who might
be able to help.
Mac emerged from her bedroom after showering and dressing to find Harm
waiting expectantly. “Feeling better?” Harm asked.
“Yeah, just a little embarrassed,” Mac looked everywhere in the
apartment but at him.
“There is nothing to feel embarrassed about,” Harm walked toward her. He
stood in front of her, careful not to get too close, “Do you trust me,
She looked quickly up at him, surprised that he would ask such a
question. “Of course I do.”
“OK, then I have an idea, and I want you to hear me out before you say
Harm stepped away from Mac and walked toward her balcony, stopping at
the French doors. He turned and looked back at her and then down at his
feet. Mac could see him struggling with how to say whatever he had to
say. She felt that much more wretched for putting him in this position.
She started to speak, but Harm stopped her with a raised hand.
“Hear me out,” he said. “You may not have noticed, but I’ve been getting
out of D.C. every weekend for the last month or so. Mattie goes to see
her Dad, which makes a very long weekend for me. I’ve been driving out
to Pennsylvania to see my grandmother. The drive clears my head. The
talks with my grandmother and the work on the farm have really gone a
long way in helping me get through this time.”
Harm walked back toward Mac again, close enough so that it was difficult
not to look him in the eye.
“Look, I get that you don’t want to talk about this now, but you still
don’t have to be alone. Come out there with me this weekend. I don’t
want anything from you but to know you’re alright. I’ve wanted to get
you and my grandmother together for years. She’s the only other person
besides you who won’t let me get away with anything.”
Harm smiled his smile and Mac had to smile back at him, in spite of
Mac thought for a long moment. She was not looking forward to spending
the weekend trying to interest herself in a book or the files she had
brought home to review. She had completed everything she needed to do to
prepare for Monday long before she left work today. Mac had a lot to
decide and maybe she did need to get away. “Harm, I’ve got a lot on my
mind, some things that you don’t even know about yet. I won’t be good
company for anyone. I would hate for your grandmother to have this first
impression of me.”
She walked back toward her kitchen to the steaming mug of tea Harm had
made. Harm followed her and picked up his mug of tea. He leaned against
the counter across from her and studied her for a moment. ‘Patience,
Rabb,’ he thought.
He had the feeling she really did want to come with him, but he was just
going to give her time to decide for herself that it would be good to
get out of here this weekend.
“Mac, my grandmother has a working farm, so she’ll be pretty busy. And
she is not someone who would pry into things that don’t concern her.
Although I can’t promise she won’t put you to work.”
He smiled with that and Mac remembered again why he was such a tough
opponent to beat in the courtroom. He could convince anyone of just
about anything. She looked around the room and walked back into her
living room. Suddenly the room seemed smaller and the thought of staying
here seemed unbearable to her.
“Ok, Harm, I’ll go. Let me grab my sea bag and a few changes of clothes
and we’ll get out of here.”
Interstate 76 West
Somewhere in Pennsylvania
Harm glanced over to see Mac sleeping soundly. He smiled to himself,
remembering how easily she fell asleep just about anywhere. He also knew
that the trick for Mac was staying asleep. If the dark circles under her
eyes lately were any indication, she wasn’t sleeping much at all. He was
surprised and relieved that Mac had agreed to come with him. He had
called and left a message for Mattie at the apartment and let her know
he was leaving early for Pennsylvania this weekend. He had told her to
call him on his cell when she got in. She did call, right on time, and
Mac didn’t even stir. She had taken a mild pain medication before they
left her apartment. She had undergone a biopsy about 10 days ago and
still had some residual soreness. The biopsy was the other subject
besides Webb that she would not talk about yet. During the last week she
had been so distant that he knew something was going on – she wasn’t
angry; she just didn’t interact at all.
At last Harm turned into the long drive onto his grandmother’s property.
Oscar, her Labrador retriever, barked a warning then a greeting as he
pulled in front of her house.
Mac looked toward the house, then at Harm squinting from the porch
light. Harm got out and came around to her side of the car. He opened
the door and offered his hand. Mac took it and stood, then, letting go,
leaned into Harm for a moment. He slipped his arm around her and guided
her up the steps to his grandmother’s front porch.
“You okay, Marine?” he asked.
“I didn’t realize how tired I was. I think I was asleep before we got
out of D.C.”
Harm laughed a little “I know you were.”
Just then the front door opened, and a tall, slender woman of nearly 6
feet stood before them. She was dressed in worn jeans and a loose
fitting turtle neck. She had a shawl around her shoulders and all of her
clothes were different shades of blue. She had long silvery white hair
just past her shoulders and had it pulled back from her face with a
clasp. When Mac looked at her, she smiled and offered her hand. Mac saw
in an instant that Harm and his father had many of her features. Sarah
Rabb’s features were finer, but the striking blue green eyes and
beautiful smile were her gifts to her son and grandson.
“Hello, Mac, I’m Sarah Rabb. It’s great to finally meet you.”
Sarah Rabb stepped back to allow her guests to come in. The house
smelled of coffee and something wonderful baking in the oven. Harm
stepped up to his grandmother and said, “You shouldn’t have gone to all
this trouble, Grandma.”
“You know it’s no trouble at all. I’ve been such a night owl lately; it
was nice to have something to do. If you’re both too tired for anything,
don’t worry about it. The cookies will keep and I made the coffee for
me.” Harm frowned at his grandmother, and she said, “Don’t worry,
Harmon, it’s decaf.”
They walked into the kitchen after she offered them a cup of coffee and
The kitchen was simple, with older appliances and a deep kitchen sink.
It was neat and clean, without a lot of clutter. The room was warm and
welcoming, and Mac’s anxiety about meeting Mrs. Rabb was beginning to
leave her. They talked about the weather and the trip out to the farm.
The conversation was easy, not uncomfortable. Mac began to feel sleepy
again and said, “If you two don’t mind, I think I’ll turn in now.”
She began to stand up. Mrs. Rabb also stood, “Here, let me show you to
your room and Harm will bring your things in.”
Harm smiled at Mac, “You see who gives the orders around here, don’t
you?” They all laughed as Mac and Mrs. Rabb walked up the stairs.
“Mrs. Rabb, I want to thank you for allowing me to tag along with Harm
this weekend. And the coffee and cookies were great,”
“Don’t give it a thought, I’m glad to have you here. I hope you don’t
mind that I called you Mac right off the bat. Harm has spoken of you so
often that I almost feel I know you and I know you as *Mac*.”
“Not at all,” she answered.
”Here we are,” said Mrs. Rabb as they reached the door of the guest
Mrs. Rabb stepped into the room and turned on the lamp at the bedside
table. The room was bathed in warm yellow light. An inviting room full
of quilts, pillows and a wrought iron bed, it also was neat and without
clutter. The mirrored dresser had two framed pictures: one Mac had seen
before of Harm’s mother and father when she was pregnant for him, and
one of a man and woman in an embrace, cheek to cheek. As Mac walked
toward it, Mrs. Rabb spoke. “That’s my David and I.”
Mac picked up the framed picture and, looking more closely, said, “You
were both so young.”
Mrs. Rabb looked at the picture thoughtfully and said, “Yes, we were.
That picture was taken just before he went to join the Army Air Corps. I
was 17 years old and he was 20.”
Just then Harm walked into the room and dropped Mac’s bags onto the bed.
She turned and thanked him, and Mrs. Rabb showed her the guest bathroom
and all the ins and outs of using the plumbing in a very old house. Harm
and Mrs. Rabb bade her goodnight and went back downstairs and Mac got
ready for bed.
Harm and his grandmother sat back down in the kitchen, each taking a
fresh cup of coffee.
“Thanks again, Grandma. I can’t give you a lot of details. I don’t even
have them all. I just know Mac needed to get out of D.C. and I felt the
need to keep an eye on her right now. She’s going through a pretty rough
Mrs Rabb studied her grandson for a moment. “Son, I’m glad to have your
company, and Mac is welcome too. I have loved having you these last few
weekends. I don’t think you’ve spent so much time here since you came
home and restored ‘Sarah’.”
“That was a bad time,” Harm said.
Mrs Rabb rose from her chair and stood before her grandson, who was
seated on the kitchen chair. “You got through it, Harmon; you come from
good stock.” She placed her hand on his cheek and kissed his forehead.
They both smiled, and Mrs. Rabb said, “I’ll think I’ll turn in too. Make
yourself at home, Harmon, and lock up before you go to bed.”
Harm walked out onto the front porch sipping his coffee, trying to
unwind before trying to get some sleep. It was cool but not cold with
the smell of early fall in the air. Oscar padded around the porch and
brushed against his legs. Harm reached down and patted the dog behind
his ears, and he sat down at Harm’s feet. He wasn’t sure what, if
anything would come of this weekend, but at least he had Mac close and
he could be there for her if she needed him. There was something healing
about this place. Coming here after his ramp strike had saved his sanity
and his career.
He hoped being on the farm would do the same for Mac. There was so much
he wanted her to know, but didn’t know how he could even begin to
approach her about anything now. He just knew he wasn’t going to back
away and wait for her to come to him, not this time. He wasn’t going to
push, but he wasn’t going away either.
Harm walked up the stairs to go to his room, passing the guest bedroom
at the top of the stairs. Mac stood in the dark looking out the window,
her arms folded in front of her. The moon was full, casting shadows
outside. They had driven out of the rain in D.C. and into a clear crisp
night in Pennsylvania.
“You okay, Mac?”
Mac smiled her half smile, “Not yet, but I will be. I’m so sorry for
scaring you like I did tonight. I really don’t know what came over me.
One minute I was walking in my door and the next I was standing on my
balcony in the rain.”
“I’m just glad I happened to be driving by and saw you,” Harm said as
Mac raised her eyebrows. “Okay, so I decided to drive by and make sure
you got home alright.”
Harm walked over to her at the window, and as he did Mac slipped her
arms around his waist and pulled him close. “I’m sorry I have avoided
you and that I haven’t talked to you about what’s going on. Just give me
time and I’ll get this all sorted out.” Mac paused for a moment and
sighed heavily. “One of the things that has been so hard for me to bear
was to see the worry on your face and know I was the cause of it.”
Harm had closed his arms around her, and she felt so small and fragile
that his impulse to protect her became even stronger. He thought for a
moment about what she said and then stepped back from her embrace. “The
reason for the worry was because you wouldn’t talk to me and because you
seemed less like yourself than ever. Whatever happens, Mac, I’m your
friend – we make a good team and I think we could handle anything if we
do it together.”
Mac looked into Harm’s eyes, “Thank you for bringing me here with you,
“You’re welcome,” he said, kissing her forehead. “If you need anything,
I’m just down the hall.” With that, he turned and left the room and went
They both lay in their separate beds, listening to the sounds of the
farm at night: the leaves on the trees rustling in the breeze, the
crickets chirping, even a far away train rumbling on its tracks.
Harm could still feel her arms around him and could smell the scent of
her on his t-shirt. He didn’t know which was worse, being away from her
or having her so close but not being able to tell her how he felt. He
heaved a sigh, turned onto his side and willed himself to go to sleep.
Mac could feel his kiss on her forehead and felt as though she would
burst into tears at any moment but she could not. She felt a dull ache
in her chest and throat and with that she turned over and willed herself
to go to sleep.
Sarah Mackenzie woke suddenly from a dreamless sleep and was wide awake
at once. She needed a few moments to remember where she was, and upon
remembering sighed with relief and rose from the bed. She walked to the
window and looked out. The view was breathtaking. The house stood on a
hill and the long drive wound from the road. The land was hilly and
thick with trees. The sky was pale blue and pink above and green with
touches of russet below in the trees and on the ground. The scene was
like a painting in an art gallery. It was so quiet Mac could hear
someone walking outside on the gravel drive. She looked and saw Harm
walking up the hill on the drive with Oscar playfully following him. He
wore faded jeans and old liberty bonds t-shirt with a jean jacket worn
open. He looked like a Ralph Lauren ad out there; why was it that Harm
looked *in place* everywhere he was? He looked as though he belonged
here. He also looked every bit the lawyer at JAG. He looked like a naval
aviator from a Hollywood movie. Why did she feel such a fierce
resentment just now? ‘Do I resent that he belongs so many places and the
only place I feel at home or at least any use is at JAG?’ she wondered.
Mac shook herself to clear her head and gathered her things to freshen
up before going downstairs. The coffee smelled heavenly and she suddenly
felt very hungry.
Mac joined Harm outside on the porch with her coffee cup in hand. “So,
Sailor, what are you making me for breakfast?”
Harm turned toward her and smiled. “Well, Mackenzie, what would you
Mac was about to answer when they heard the sound of a truck coming up
the drive with gravel and dust flying in the air. “Who in the world is
that?” Mac said.
Harm grinned sheepishly “Uh, that’s Grandma.”
“Harm, she’s got to be over 80 years old. What in the world is she doing
driving like that?” Mac was incredulous. Harm looked amused at Mac’s
reaction to an independent woman of any age.
“Look, Mac, at least she’s driving that Jeep Liberty. I talked her into
that about 2 years ago. She used to drive an old Willy’s that was at
least 30 years old. She was banging around in that old Jeep all over the
county. She went off the road and was thrown out of it. It was a wonder
she didn’t break anything. I still can’t believe she didn’t.”
Just then Sarah Rabb got out of her Jeep and called to both of them.
“Glad you’re both up. I’ll just put you two to work.”
Harm and Mac walked out to the Jeep and helped carry in two bushel
baskets of apples and couple of crates of groceries.
“I convinced Jack to open up for me. He’s up with the chickens, just
like I am,” said Mrs. Rabb.
Harm smiled, “Is Jack still running that little store in town?”
Mrs. Rabb laughed, “Well, Harmon, I don’t think you could call it a town
anymore. We don’t even rate showing up on the map. I think we’re more
like a gas station, a four way stop and Jack’s little general store.”
They all laughed and went inside to prepare breakfast.
They had a wonderful breakfast. Mrs. Rabb baked biscuits served with
strawberry jelly that she had made herself. They had eggs and bacon, and
Harm even stole a slice from Mac’s plate. “Has this country air turned
you into a meat eater, Harm?” Mac said.
“Anything I eat here is fresh and not full of the preservatives that are
in most things in the supermarket. So no, it’s *not* the country air.”
True to her word, Mrs. Rabb put them to work. She sent Harm to the edge
of the property to repair a fence, although she didn’t have any animals
to keep in right now. Harm suspected she was giving him some busy work
so that she would have time to talk with Mac. Mrs. Rabb truly wasn’t the
type to pry, but she had a way about her that drew people out of
themselves. He never felt the need to be any more than what he was with
her and that had been his saving grace after his ramp strike. Harm gave
them both a glance over his shoulder and went to do as he was told.
Mrs. Rabb and Mac walked down a path to a long building. As they
approached, Mac heard clucking and wrinkled her nose. Mrs. Rabb laughed
and said, “It’s a chicken house, Mac. Why do you think I had it built
down wind?” They both began laughing then and set about gathering eggs.
After a few moments of instruction about how to gather eggs without
hurting herself or the hens, Mac said, “I guess you must be wondering
what’s going on with me. Harm may have told you.”
“No, Harm hasn’t said a lot. I know you have lost some one you were
close to recently and that you are having some health problems, but
nothing other than that.”
Mac looked away from her, her expression suddenly very serious. “Harm is
a very good friend to me. In fact, I think he’s the only true friend I
Mrs. Rabb smiled “Rabb men are loyal, that is a fact. My son Harmon, my
husband David, and his father Andrew were wonderful people. David’s
mother was a small, quiet woman but very kind. She wasn’t much of a
talker, but when she spoke, *you listened*.” Mrs. Rabb shook her head
after she had spoken. “I don’t know what I would have done without Mary
and Andrew Rabb and that’s the truth.”
Mac listened thoughtfully, “You know, I’ve always wanted to know more
about Harm’s family, I’ve been almost envious of how solid they all
seem. When Harm has spoken about his family, this farm or his mother and
stepfather, I’ve always felt such a loss that I never had anything like
that in my life.”
Mac stopped speaking, surprised that she had spoken her thoughts out
loud. Mrs. Rabb stepped up to her and gave her arm a pat. “I know just
what you mean.” Just then Mac got a little too close for comfort to one
of the laying hens, causing it to squawk and ruffle its feathers. Mac
stepped back quickly, startled, and she and Mrs. Rabb both laughed and
made their way back to the house.
They came back into the kitchen and put the eggs into the old fashioned
cooler she kept on the back porch, and then settled at the kitchen table
with a cup of coffee. “Never enough coffee for me, I’m afraid,” Mrs.
Mac smiled and nodded in agreement, “Mrs. Rabb, I’ve got some decisions
to make about my health, and Harm, being the good friend he is, brought
me out here to help me clear my head.”
“Mac, you don’t have to explain yourself to me.” Mac told her that she
wanted to and then told her what her doctors had told her. She had a
tumor on her left ovary; the biopsy had revealed a stage II to stage III
tumor. There had been some question about which stage she was in; only
surgery would confirm that The tumor had to be removed, but options
afterward were the most troubling, and a lot would depend on what was
found during surgery. If the tumor was ‘encapsulated,’ then she might
need to have radiation treatments as a precaution, but her chances of
full recovery were about 90% and chances of pregnancy would be 50/50. If
the tumor was not encapsulated, more aggressive surgery would be
required, with chances of conceiving a family of her own almost
nonexistent. It was also very likely she would require chemo therapy.
“Harm has been there for me every step of the way since I learned about
my problem. I don’t want to put more on his shoulders than I already
have. My other issues about the loss of a person close to me, Harm
shouldn’t have to take on either. The situation is complicated,”
Mrs. Rabb raised her hand, “You don’t have to tell me more and I really
prefer that you didn’t. We can talk about things in general terms if you
like and then you don’t have to worry about details or what you should
or should not have said. I get the impression that you are weary, Mac.
Rest here, relax, you are among friends.”
Mrs. Rabb stood and walked around behind Mac to get more coffee and as
she brought the carafe to Mac’s cup, she placed her arm around her
shoulder and gave it a squeeze. Mac felt tears stinging behind her eyes.
Mrs. Rabb saw them and said, “Oh, honey, it’s okay.”
It was as though a dam had burst and all Mac’s pent up pain over the
past few months rushed out at once. She drew a deep breath, trying to
compose herself, but trying to hold back only seemed to make it worse.
Mrs. Rabb straightened her back and drew Mac to herself. Mac put her
arms around her waist and began to cry in deep wracking sobs. She felt
foolish and embarrassed but she could not stop. “I’m s-sorry – I …” Mac
could not continue.
Mrs. Rabb hugged her close. “It’s all right, Mac. Cry it out if you need
to.” And she did for some time.
Mrs Rabb looked up and saw Harm standing in the entry way to the
kitchen. Harm’s eyes were welled with tears and he started to come
toward Mac. Mrs. Rabb stopped him with a look and a nod to go upstairs.
Mac began to calm down and said, “Please don’t tell Harm about my making
such a fool of myself. I don’t think I could stand it if I embarrassed
him in front of you.”
Harm walked out of the room, and as he walked up the stairwell he heard
his grandmother say, “Oh, I don’t think you have to worry about Harmon.
Here, I think this occasion calls for a paper towel.” Mrs. Rabb smiled
and handed her the paper towel, and they both laughed.
“Mrs. Rabb, I don’t think I’ve laughed and cried this much in a long
time.” Mac wiped her eyes and blew her nose.
“Well, Mac, after all this, I think you can call me Sarah.”
They laughed again and the sound drifted up the stairs to where Harm was
cleaning up after his work outside. He smiled to himself and thought
‘Bringing Mac here was one of the best ideas I’ve had in a long time.’
Mac woke slowly, and her eyes came to focus on Harm sitting at her
bedside. She had suddenly become so tired after her emotional outburst
this morning that Sarah had shooed her upstairs to lie down for awhile.
She didn’t need a lot of convincing and she was asleep almost before her
head hit her pillow. “Hey, sleepyhead,” Harm lightly brushed the hair
from her eyes.
“Hey, I’m sorry I got so sleepy all of a sudden. It was as though I
couldn’t keep my eyes open.” She pulled the light quilt back that
someone had thrown over her. Mac sat up on the side of the bed and tried
to get her bearings. She had begun to feel weaker than normal lately and
she couldn’t pass it off as a result of not getting enough sleep
She stood and walked to the window. Looking out, she said, “I don’t know
how you can stand to leave here and go back to Washington. It’s just so
beautiful and peaceful here.”
Harm joined her at the window. “It was easy when I was younger, because
nothing moved fast enough for me here. Now I have come to realize more
and more that I am connected to this place more deeply than I ever
believed.” Harm looked thoughtfully out the window, resting his hand
lightly on her back.
Mac turned toward him and said, “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate
your bringing me here with you, Harm. I know I fought you on it at first
but I don’t think I could have taken another weekend alone in that
Harm smiled. “Well, Mac, that’s the advantage of having known you for
over 9 years. I knew you wanted to get out of there. I just let you
think it was your idea.”
Mac pretended to punch him in the chest and laughed. “Ha! Think you’re
pretty slick, don’t you flyboy?”
Harm laughed too and said, “Well, you’re here, aren’t you?”
Just then they heard Harm’s grandmother call them for lunch. “Hungry,
Marine?” Harm asked as they walked down the stairs.
Mac shrugged her shoulders. “Oh, a little. I think I’m still full from
Harm walked into the kitchen behind Mac, frowning with concern. When was
the last time Mac wasn’t hungry? It had been over 5 hours since they ate
They had another wonderful meal, homemade vegetable soup and cornbread
with an apple pie that Mrs. Rabb had made from some of the apples they
had brought in that morning... “Grandma, I’m going to have run an a few
extra miles this week to keep from gaining weight. The weekends here are
going to put it on me for sure,” Harm said, pushing away from the table.
Mac finished about half of everything she was served. “What happened to
that famous appetite I’m always hearing about?” Mrs. Rabb said as she
cleared the dishes.
Mac gave Harm a side long glance, “What has Harm been telling you about
me? I have a healthy appetite. I always have.” She raised her eyebrows
at Harm and saw him looking at the ceiling, out the window and generally
avoiding her eyes. Mac smiled and tossed a dishtowel at him.
“Hey! For that you get to help me clear out the flower beds. Keep it up
and I’ll have you mucking out the barn.”
Harm and Mac walked out of the kitchen, taking their jackets from the
wall as they went. “Don’t worry, Mac,” Mrs. Rabb said. “I have Jack’s
boy come help me with the barn. Harm hasn’t done that in years.”
Harm had almost reached the door when he slipped back and stuck his head
back in the kitchen. “How old *is* Jack’s boy now, Grandma? Sam’s about
60, isn’t he?”
Harm’s grandmother laughed and picked up her dish towel and started
toward Harm with a purpose. Harm quickly slipped out the door before his
grandmother could reach him. “He’s 56, Mister! Maybe I will have you
clean a few stalls out there before you head back to Washington,” she
then turned back into the house chuckling to herself.
Harm and Mac started out toward the shed at the side of the property.
There was a large flower bed that could be seen from Mrs. Rabb’s kitchen
window. Most of the flowers were brown and looked sorely in need of
clearing away. They gathered their tools and started on the flower beds.
“You start on one end and I’ll take the other, then we’ll finish
together in the middle, okay?” Harm said
Mac nodded and began her work. She was quiet for quite some time as they
worked. Harm would look up at her from time to time. She didn’t look sad
but very deep in thought. They worked in silence for nearly an hour.
They were closer together, toward the middle of the garden when Mac
reached down to pull a weed from the ground. She drew in a breath
sharply; Harm heard her, “Hey, are you alright?”
Mac straightened her body and grimaced. “You’re going to sit down for
awhile. You should have said something, Mac.” Harm came to her linked
his arm with hers.
“Come on, I need a break anyway. If I don’t slow down, I’ll be so broken
down old Sam will be kicking my butt.” Harm looked into Mac’s eyes and
was pleased to see that he had made her smile.
They sat on the front porch, which stretched across the front of his
grandmother’s house. They both sat on a cushioned glider with Harm
helping ease Mac into the seat and resting his arm behind her. Mrs. Rabb
had looked out and saw Mac and Harm walking toward the porch. She made
them both a large mug of tea and brought it to them.
“Sarah, I thought you were a coffee drinker,” Mac said.
“Oh, I keep tea in the cupboard for our teetotaler here,” she said as
she ruffled his hair. Harm quickly straightened what she had ruffled and
rolled his eyes. Mrs. Rabb walked back to the door and said as she went
in, “You had that coming, Harmon.”
Harm looked at Mac. “See, I told you she won’t let me get by with
They sat in silence for awhile, then Mac said, “Harm, I think it’s time
I told you what’s going on with me. I want to tell you before I do that
I appreciate what you have done for me this weekend. I know I keep
saying it …”
Harm smiled, “Yes… you do.”
“This is hard for me, Harm, give me a break. I need to get this out.”
Harm settled back against the seat and nodded and Mac began to speak.
“First, about my biopsy: pathology reports have graded my tumor at Stage
II to III. They will know more when I have my surgery. I will have it
removed next Tuesday. One of two things will happen. If my tumor is what
they call encapsulated and has not spread, it will be removed and I
could possibly undergo radiation. It will leave me with a 90% chance of
full recovery and a 50/50 chance of conceiving a baby. If the tumor is
not encapsulated and has spread then I will have to have a more radical
surgery and my chances of conceiving a child myself will be nil.”
Harm slipped his arm off of the back of the glider and squeezed her
shoulder, waiting for her to continue. “Harm, I know this tables our
little deal and may cancel it forever. I don’t want you to feel
obligated to honor a promise you made when life was much different for
both of us.” Harm looked at her and asked her to go on.
Mac took a sip of her tea, “Secondly, about Webb. I’ve had a lot of time
to think about all that’s happened and whether or not I loved him. I’ve
wondered; since I’ve learned of all the lies that were told, if I even
knew him at all. When we were in Paraguay and he was being tortured, he
told me he would keep them away from me as long as he could. He told me
he wasn’t sure if he requested my help because of my skills or that he
just needed me with him. I didn’t know what to say to him, other than I
didn’t want him to die for me.”
Mac stood and walked to the edge of the porch, looking out at the hills
at the far side of the farm. “I thought that he had let himself bear
that torture for me. I could hear him screaming for hours then weakly
begging for them to stop. After a time the silence would come and I
feared that he was dead.” Mac drew a deep shaking breath. “The hardest
thing…Oh God…The hardest thing for me to bear was the guilt.”
Harm stood and walked up behind her. “Mac, it wasn’t your fault.”
Mac turned to face him. “You don’t understand. All I could think of, all
that kept me from losing my mind when I heard that Webb screaming was
…was that it wasn’t you.” Harm looked confused for a moment. Mac walked
back to the glider and sat down on the edge of the seat. “I thought to
myself, *It’s not Harm. He’s safe at home.* Webb could have been
tortured to death and all I could do was thank God it wasn’t you” Mac’s
face contorted in pain and she began to sob, covering her face with her
Harm crossed the porch to her and knelt in front of her, gathering her
into his arms. “Its okay, Mac. It was hell and you were just trying to
get through it. God, when I think that I could have lost you forever… We
all came so close to losing our lives on that trip, Mac.”
Mac looked up at Harm. “You
came to our rescue and I was so glad to see
you, but I also thought Webb was
dying. I thought he was dying because he was trying to protect me...the
person who was dreaming of you,
while he was being tortured. I wanted to comfort him. I thought I would
never see him alive again.. I kissed him
and told him I liked being his wife. I wouldn’t let him say more. I
couldn’t believe it. It was Dalton’s murder all over again and I was
Harm closed his eyes, shook his head and remembered how that kiss had
changed everything. He remembered every nasty remark he said and in
hindsight how callous it must have seemed to her. Mac continued,
“Then Webb came through alive and I was so relieved that he didn’t die.
Just before that when you and I were lying so close together in our bed
at the hotel, I was ready to fall into your arms and forget the world.
When Webb and Gunny came in and interrupted us and I saw again how badly
he was hurt, I felt disgusted with myself for reaching out to you while
he was suffering so badly. Things just deteriorated from there. You
would hurt me with your nasty comments and I would hit back harder. I
always do. I know that. We saved the day, we came home and you lost
everything because of me. I remembered your comment to Sturgis – *every
man who has ever been involved with Mac is either dead, or wishes he
Harm sat back on the porch wishing he could take back those words, but
Mac said, “Harm, it’s true. My life is a train wreck. It has been for a
long time and I can’t blame anyone but myself. Dealing with this disease
and the possibility of losing my life has made me look at my life with
clarity I never had before. I walked into that relationship with Webb
knowing what he was capable of but I did it anyway. I came to visit him
right after the admiral had let you go. I heard him and Catherine Gale
talking to you and then I knew. I knew Webb had used us. He knew you
would come after me. He knew I would feel guilty about his torture. He
knew your jealousy would get the better of you and we would once again
walk away from each other. He also must have known the admiral wouldn’t
take you back. You flew for the Company and gave him yet another feather
in his cap.”
Mac sat back on her seat and looked at the ceiling. “I thought I
deserved Webb. I ruined everything and he was just up my alley. My kind
of guy. I don’t feel that way more. Whatever happens to me now, I will
never let myself be used by anyone again. Commander McCool has helped me
more than I have wanted to admit. I know I have a long way to go, but I
think I’m on my way now. Coming here this weekend has helped so much,
Harm. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank you enough.”
Harm stood and walked to the porch steps. He turned and looked at Mac,
his expression unreadable. “You have given me a lot of things to think
about, Mac. I need time to take it all in. I’m going to take a walk. I
want you to know and understand something, though. I don’t want your
gratitude, Mac. I never did.”
Mac stood and watched Harm walk down the stone walkway leading to the
drive. This was the first time all weekend that she had seen his walls
go up. His face had nearly been an open book to her until now. She
didn’t want to lose that again so soon. She needed him and with all she
had to deal with she was just too tired to fight her feelings for him
She turned and walked toward the front door and entered. She saw Mrs.
Rabb at the kitchen sink peeling the remainder of the apples. “Come on
in here, Mac, and help me get these ready for making my pastries in the
“You really are trying to fatten us up, aren’t you?”
Mrs. Rabb smiled. “You look as though you could use some weight, and if
I know Harm he’ll run it off before next weekend.”
Mac stood next to Mrs. Rabb at the sink and began her task. She glanced
every so often at her features in profile. She was a handsome woman for
her age and she really would have passed for someone in her 60’s. Her
skin was worn but not overly so and tanned from the sun which made her
eyes that much more striking. It was one of the features that Harm had
that never failed to start butterflies in her stomach. *Harm,* she
thought and sighed.
“Are you alright, honey?”
Mac looked at her and replied. “Harm and I were having a pretty intense
discussion. I finally told him about my health issues and we also
discussed ….” Mac struggled for the words.
Mac exhaled, “Yeah, among other things. It’s complicated.”
“You and Harm really seem to like that word.” Mrs. Rabb chuckled to
herself. “Don’t worry about him, Mac. He’s just doing what he always
does. He’ll walk down the drive and follow that old creek until he finds
his favorite place. He’ll sit on that rock and throw stones in the
water. Every major crisis that he ever went through in his life brought
him back here to that little place. You both seem to be at a place where
you have some decisions to make and you both need time to make them.
I’ll quote my mother in law – *let’s not borrow trouble.* Sometimes you
have to take things minute by minute.”
After they had prepared the apples for her famous apple fritters, they
walked into the living room. Mac sat down on an overstuffed chair near
the fireplace. Mrs. Rabb crossed the room and covered Mac’s legs with a
“Mac, I want you to think about something,” I’d like you to consider
staying here for awhile, this coming week, at least. I’d love to have
you and to be honest I think you could use the company too. I’m not sure
what you and Harm are to each other, but I know you are very good
friends, and because of that alone I’d like to help too.”
Mac was so touched she didn’t dare speak. She was afraid she’d start
blubbering again and she wasn’t sure her pride could take much more of
that. Mac nodded an affirmative, and Mrs. Rabb smiled, seeming to
understand her fear. “Great. I think you and I are going to be friends,
Mac nodded said in almost a whisper, “I’d like that very much, Sarah.”
Mrs. Rabb winked and smiled Harm’s smile, then went back to the kitchen
to start yet another pot of fresh*decaf* coffee.
Harm had walked down the winding drive just as his grandmother said he
would. He passed under the thick green and russet foliage arched over
part of the drive. Oscar pranced again at his heels, following his
favorite visitor. He walked without thinking about where he was going,
his mind reeling with all that had happened in the last 24 hours.
Yesterday Mac seemed a million miles away, now she was here, in one of
his favorite places in the world. Yesterday he felt clueless as to how
she felt about anything and just now things seemed to rush out of her so
fast that he barely had time to absorb it all. He loved her that was
certain. The difficult part was, knowing when to tell her without
overwhelming her more than she already was.
Harm walked along the stream, nearing the place he always stopped and
climbing atop the rock, he sat down. He smiled when he saw a pile of
small stones in a depression on the rock’s surface. Reaching down to
pick them up, he began to throw them in the stream one at a time. He
frowned all of a sudden when he thought,*how did these stones get up
here?* He could see his grandmother trying to scramble up on this rock.
He shook his head and leaned back. The sky was what his grandmother
called *October blue*. She decided it had a special color. Sunlight
dappled through the trees and Harm reclined back on the rock.
“Gratitude,” he said aloud. He wanted more than gratitude from Mac. He
wanted – no, he needed – her love.
Harm‘s mind went back to the time in his life when he understood the
difference between love and gratitude. It was the summer his mother had
married Frank. He knew she did not love him. He was so angry at her. He
felt that his mother had betrayed him and his father. That was a long
time ago, he wasn’t angry anymore and he understood her decision was not
a betrayal of anyone. He did feel, though, that his mother had settled,
and the thought still made him ill. What had made Mac and Webb so hard
to take had been the look of gratitude on Mac’s face and Webb’s
willingness to accept it. Webb was no fool; he knew she didn’t love him.
He should hate him, but somehow in light of all that had happened he
could not. Webb had lost his life as he knew it. Mac’s heart was closed
to him. He knew what that was like and would not have wished it on
anyone. Harm felt for a long time that they had both turned their backs
on him. Now he felt as though they had all been swept up in something
far bigger than they were. He was glad for their friendship together but
knew now that the time for them was over. At least anything that had
Harm drew a deep breath and thought aloud, “Mac has cancer.” He sat up
quickly and ran his hand through his hair to the back of his neck. He
bowed his head and prayed aloud. “Oh God, please don’t take her away
from me now. No matter what happens between us, I have to know she’s
alive in the world and that she is well.” He looked up and tears stung
his eyes. She *had * to let him help her this time. Her question at the
Dining Out ran through his mind once again. *Will you always be there?*
“Yes,” Harm said aloud. He got up and climbed down the rock and headed
back to the house.