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Chapter 10

0545
Sunday
Tilghman, Island, Maryland

 

Mac lay awake watching the colors outside the window change with the sunrise. She was laying on her right side with Harm spooned in behind her. His arm and the pillow supported her head and his other arm held her close. His breathing was deep and restful, almost lulling her back to sleep. She did not want to sleep anymore until they went back to Washington D.C. She was too happy and her cares were far, far away. The world was Harm and this beautiful place.

If anyone had told her a month ago she would be waking up with Harmon Rabb wrapped around her she would have told them they were crazy. Life had been the same lonely place for so long. Nothing really ever changed, and then one day based on one decision, her life changed course forever. She still had the same fears, but they weren’t as large because she had given voice to them. She truly didn’t have the strength anymore to fight or pretend one way or the other. Mac was in survival mode and she was going to survive. She nestled herself deeper into Harm’s arms, and he responded by tightening his hold on her and pulling her closer still.

Harm woke to the feeling of Mac in his arms. She seemed to want to burrow deeper into his arms; he was glad to pull her in closer and he did. She felt like heaven in his arms. He never wanted to leave this place. She’d said last night that she didn’t want to go back to the way things were before she went to Belleville with him. There was no way that was going to happen. He leaned down to kiss her shoulder and she turned slightly in his arms and kissed his cheek. Just the feel of her turning toward him, the touch of her lips on his cheek pulled them both in. One more time. One more time before they left this place and got back to what they both had to face now. One more time to pretend they had all the time in the world. He loved her slowly but with an intensity that shook Mac to her very core. She would never doubt that he loved her again. She wished she were in better health and in better shape but in truth at that moment it just didn’t matter. It was about love and unspoken promises, but promises just the same from them both.

 

0800
Saturday
Tilghman Island, Maryland

 

Mac emerged from her bath ready for the day. Harm had once again made breakfast for them both. They were going to hike to Black Walnut Point. They had good weather, cool but sunny. Harm wore a backpack with their supplies and Mac walked slightly behind him on the trail. The leaves crunched beneath their feet. As they walked they heard the tree frogs singing. They saw blue heron, mute swans, and a doe gracefully loping across a field near the southern tip of the Island. They were nearly at the Point when Harm placed a finger to his lips and pointed to a nest high in the trees along the shore. He looked through his binoculars and signaled Mac to come and look. She saw a pair of bald eagles nesting there. It seemed strange for them to be there, but they were awesome to see. She had always thought they were ugly birds and wondered why this was a national symbol, but now looking at them she felt differently. They had nobility and power about them that struck you when you spent any time watching them.

It was nearly 1300 when they got back to the cabin. The sky was beginning to become overcast. It seemed appropriate; it was nearly time to go home. Harm could see that Mac was tired.

“Hey why don’t you go lie down and I’ll get things together and clean up before we get out of here.”

Mac smiled wanly and nodded agreement. She stretched out on the bed. “I’ll be so glad when this is over and a morning hike doesn’t knock me out,” she said to no one in particular, but Harm heard her.

He walked to the bedroom door and said, “We’ll come back, Mac, and I might even let you beat me when we run.”

“Oh...you mean like when you ran in front of a car just to get ahead of me?” she said, smiling sleepily. She was teasing… Harm had saved her life that day.

“Hey, I won didn’t I?” He walked to her and draped a blanket over her, and she rolled her eyes and yawned.

“Always have to have the last word…don’t you, Harmon?”

Harm walked toward the door. “Who…me?” He turned to look at her and she was already drifting off. He went into the kitchen to clear away everything and pack as much as he could for both of them before she woke up. They were on their way home by 1430.

 

1600
Sunday
Mac’s Apartment

 

Harm shook Mac’s arm slightly, “Hey you, wake up, were back at your apartment.” Harm got out of the car and walked around to the other side of the vehicle to open her door.

Mac got out of the vehicle and waited while Harm got her bags from the back seat.

“It seems as though I was away for so much longer than 10 days,” Mac said.

“I know,” Harm was worrying that coming back would break the spell that seemed to be around them. One that let them tell each other their hearts. One that would not allow angst or worry.

“Hey do you think your grandmother would mind if I gave her a call?”

Harm answered that she would not and felt immense relief that Mac didn’t want to put the week behind her. Maybe she would want to return to Belleville after all.

Mac made her call and Harm went into the kitchen to make her some tea. He heard Mac laughing and telling his grandmother about their ‘strange interlude’ in Dogwood Harbor. She also gave her details about her surgery, time and approximate amount of time in the hospital. She discussed the possibilities of staying with her and also her concerns about how much trouble she might be if she had to have chemo. She was quiet for a time. He knew his grandmother was getting through. ‘She’d have made a hell of a lawyer,’ he thought smiling. “Okay, okay. I’ll discuss it with Harm…I really appreciate everything you’ve done Mrs. Ra…Sarah. Yes, yes. I’ll be in touch. Okay…Thanks ..Goodbye.”

“Whew,” Mac said. “Now I think I know where you got some of your skills in arguing a case.”

Harm walked to Mac and handed her the cup of tea he had made. “Formidable woman…isn’t she?” Mac nodded. Harm gave her a sidelong glance and said, “Like someone else I know.”

Harm thought it was a good time to ask Mac to stay with him tonight. He did not want to leave her here alone.

“So, Mac, why don’t you just pack a bag and come home with me tonight. You’re closer to Bethesda, and you can get your pre-surgical blood work and x-rays while I’m at work, and I’ll make you a nice dinner after I get home.”

Mac crossed the room and stood in front of Harm. She placed her hand on his arm and looked into his eyes.

“Harm, I need to be alone tonight. I need to get my head around what I have to do. I promise I’m not trying to push you away. I just need to get my house in order before I get started on this.”

Harm was quiet for a long moment.

Mac could not read his expression. She asked, “Are you with me, Flyboy?”

“To hell and back, Mac,” he said. “What about dinner tomorrow?”

“That sounds great,” Mac kissed his cheek.

“Okay…I’ll get back to my place. I need to catch up with Mattie and get this week organized too. Please call me, Mac, if you need me. I don’t care what time it is.”

With that, Harm left for his apartment and Mac closed the door, leaning back against it and letting a breath out slowly.

It was nearly 0200 when Harm heard a knock on his door. ‘Mattie,’ he thought. ‘What is she doing up this late?’ Harm put on his robe and looked out of the security lens in his door.

“Mac?” he said aloud. He opened the door and she flew into his arms.

“Hey, are you alright?” he said.

“I was fine till about an hour ago. I missed you and I’ll have plenty of time to myself after this stupid surgery….What was I thinking???”

Harm chuckled and hugged her tightly to him. “Come on, Marine, let’s get some sleep”. They were in bed and sleeping within minutes. They were where they belonged….Together.

 

0730
Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station

 

Harm and Mac slept deeply for the rest of the night. Mac woke at 0500 on the dot. She slipped out of bed and showered and was dressed by 0530. She sat on the edge of the bed and kissed Harm on the cheek.

“Hey, Sailor, wake up.”

Harm roused awake, “Mac? What are you doing dressed this early?”

“I have to report to the lab at 0630 and I want to be sure I’m on time. You never really know about the traffic on the Beltway,”

“Let me make you some coffee at least,”

“No, I’m fasting remember?” she reminded him.

Harm had forgotten about her needing to fast for her blood work. He was dreading this. The beginning of this damn ordeal. He felt angry all of a sudden and he wasn’t sure why.

“Don’t worry about this, Harm. I’m just getting up and out of here so I can get this over with.” She kissed his forehead and quickly got up and out to the door. “I’ll call you later today.” She opened the front door and said “Don’t expect the call till this afternoon.”

She closed the door behind her. Harm got up and walked stiffly to the kitchen. He walked to the window in time to see Mac walking to her car. She stood tall and, in spite of all she had been through, proud. Every bit the Marine.

Harm smiled to himself and thought, ‘It’s going to take more than this to get Mac down.’

The rest of the morning at home was about details. Mattie breezed in about quarter to seven. Harm had made pancakes for breakfast. “Wow, what’s the occasion?”

“I got up early and decided to treat you and Jennifer to a decent breakfast,” Harm said with a smile.

Just then Jennifer Coates walked through the door, knocking as she opened it. “It’s me,” she said and asked, “Hey, did I see Col. Mackenzie’s car out side this morning? She sure came by early.”

Mattie took a bite and smiled at Harm mischievously. “Okay young lady; it was not what you think,” he said.

‘Not last night, anyway,’ he thought with a sheepish grin.

“Mac came over late last night. She has to get some presurgical testing done today and her surgery is tomorrow. She just didn’t want to be alone.”

Mattie said, “I’m glad she came here.”

“I am too,” Harm said.

Mattie and Jennifer quietly ate the rest of their breakfasts. Mattie took her dishes to the sink. Harm followed her and said, “Mac will probably stay here to tonight. I’ll be taking her to Bethesda early in the morning and I’ll probably be there all day.”

“Don’t worry about a thing, sir. We’ll handle tomorrow morning and tomorrow evening for that matter,” Jennifer offered.

“Yeah, I don’t have any after school stuff and as a matter of fact I have another paper that I need to work on, for U.S. History this time,” Mattie said.

“When is it due?” Harm asked.

“Don’t worry, Harm. I’ve got two weeks yet. I just want to get an early start.”

“Okay… hey, I’m making dinner tonight; you don’t have to stay away. I really think Mac might like your company for a while,” They all agreed on a 1700 dinnertime and everyone set off on their separate ways.

 

0830
Monday
JAG HQ

 

Harm made it into his office with just enough time to drop off his cover and briefcase and be seated before Sturgis began staff call. Two new attorneys sat on opposite sides of the table on each side of Sturgis. Harm felt that the order of things appeared off. He banished the thought and Sturgis began introductions.

“You may or may not have met Lt. Cmdr Faith Coleman and Major Michael McBurney last year.” Sturgis paused a moment then continued, “They will be permanently stationed here at headquarters.”

Harm thought, ‘Thanks, Sturgis.’ He nodded to them both and sat a little taller in his chair. Sturgis looked at each of them,

“Welcome and I hope you have your sea bags packed. Commander Coleman, you will be accompanying Major McBurney to the destroyer U.S.S Hennessey. You will be working to help to settle a dispute between Canadian and U.S. fishermen with the help of our Canadian counterparts. See Petty Officer Coates for your travel itineraries. Commander Rabb, you will defend a Chief Petty Officer Pruitt, who is accused of bigamy. Commander Roberts, you will prosecute.” Bud nodded toward Sturgis after he spoke.

“In addition; Commander Roberts you have been appointed to assist the CNO in his evaluation of candidates being considered for the new Judge Advocate General. You will begin next Monday. Congratulations, Mr. Roberts.”

Bud was stunned. So was Harm; he didn’t quite know how he felt about it. He was happy for Bud, but he couldn’t help feel that he was being stepped over. ‘Did the admiral make this recommendation before he retired?’ Harm wondered. ‘Maybe I was right. Maybe I won’t make captain.’

Sturgis spoke again. “If there is nothing else, you are dismissed. Commander Rabb, if you will stay, I would like to speak with you a moment.”

Harm waited until the others filed out. He looked at Sturgis and waited. “First of all, I want to apologize for that slip of the tongue this morning. I am sorry. In truth I had forgotten all about it.”

Harm assured him it was alright but was relieved to know Sturgis had forgotten that awful time. Brig time and an accusation of murder wasn’t something he would ever forget.

“I also want you to understand I gave you the bigamy case to keep you close to home this week. I can’t promise any more than that.”

Harm waited to see if Sturgis had finished and said, “I appreciate that, Sturgis. I’m okay with it.”

Sturgis crossed the room and looked out of the windows. “Let me say I know you well enough to know you like being in the thick of things. I’m sure Bud’s appointment must rankle a bit.”

“It does, but I’ll deal with it. I’ve got a lot on my plate right now with Mac and it’s really just as well. I’m glad for Lt…..Commander Roberts. He’s grown a lot since his injury. I think the admiral was right to promote him.”

Harm couldn’t help thinking, though, that the admiral still held his resignation against him. He shook it off; he had enough to handle without taking that on.

Sturgis said, “Harm, I have something personal I would like to discuss and I hope you will take this in the manner it is intended.”

Harm thought, ‘what now?’

“I’m speaking friend to friend here. I want to be sure you understand that.”

Harm nodded.

“It appears that you and Mac have become close again, and a year and a half ago I would have said ‘it’s about time’. Now I just don’t know, buddy.”

Harm furrowed his brow and thought, ‘where is he going with this?’

“I’ve seen you rescue Mac too many times only to have her slam the door in your face.”

Harm was getting angry now.

“All I’m saying is watch your back, buddy. I don’t want to see you make another sacrifice and walk away empty handed.”

Harm sat quietly for a moment. If he had acted on his feelings, he would have just stood up and walked out of the room. Handling this well was important. Sturgis had been his friend since they were seventeen. He didn’t want to throw that away, but he wanted to make it clear that he believed in Mac and didn’t want to hear anything like that from him again.

He stood and walked over to where Sturgis was standing. Sturgis looked at him and Harm said very firmly,

“I appreciate your concern, Sturgis, and I will take it in the spirit in which it was given…..this time. Mac and I have both done our share of hurtful things to each other. None of which I intend to go into. I will tell you that our relationship is different now. Mac could very well be fighting for her life, Sturgis. We don’t have time for games anymore. You and I are friends, we go back a long way and I honor that, but understand I will not tolerate any negatives where Mac is concerned now. Are we clear?”

Sturgis stood looking at him for a long moment and said, “So be it.”

Harm went back to the table and picked up his case file. “Will that be all?”

Sturgis looked at Harm, “That is all.” With that, Harm left the conference room and went to his office.

Harm got started setting up interviews with Chief Pruitt and both of his “alleged’ wives. This was not a day to suffer fools gladly and Chief Pruitt was an idiot. Apparently he thought he was divorced. He had never signed his divorce papers but since his wife had had power of attorney he thought she could sign them. *How in the hell did this man make rate?* His record was spotless. He had great quarter marks, all 4.0, but his personal life sucked. 14 years in the Navy, 2 kids in the first ‘marriage’ and another on the way with the other ‘wife’… it boggled the mind.

He decided to have lunch in his office today and try and do a little research on Mac’s surgery and condition. What he found brought him to the reality of what they were facing. Ovarian cancer was a killer. If Mac was stage II or III she was already in a lot of trouble. He had gotten information from a number of sites, most of them very grim. It didn’t look as though radiation was even an option. He saw articles on experimental drugs. Some articles about egg harvesting for women of childbearing age who wanted to preserve their chances of having children through IVF. Most of the reading he was able to do gave statistics about how long a patient would live after surgery. There was not a lot of hope of a ‘normal’ life in the articles he read. He kept telling himself that he had just not found all the information he needed to find. What he did read that was positive was that if Mac’s tumor was encapsulated she had a far greater chance of survival and of possibly having children.

He just wanted to keep her with him. He didn’t care what the cost. They could adopt, raise foster kids. Whatever. He just didn’t want to imagine a world without Mac. He sat back in his chair and covered his face with his hands. He could not grasp it. Was he in some kind of denial? They had finally found each other and now this. It occurred to him to bargain with God and promise anything just let him keep Mac with him. He sat up and shook his head. He picked up the phone and called someone that might help him get a handle on this situation.

 

1400
Monday
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda Maryland

 

Mac lay on a table waiting for the CT scan to begin. She had been given a contrast injection and was waiting for the exam to start. The petty officer and Lt. Cmdr doing the CT were professional, but Mac noticed they stole glances at each other. They looked as others had all day. Everyone had been friendly and professional, but when they read her diagnosis and the surgery she was to have tomorrow, their demeanor changed. They seemed to look at her differently. Mac thought they looked at her as though she were already dead, or as though she had a death sentence. She wondered if she had ever done that to anyone. She hoped she had not, for everyone who did that to her made her feel that much worse. ‘I’m not dead yet,’ she thought to herself.

This was the last thing that had to be done today. Tomorrow they would know what they were facing and how they would deal with it. She was ready to go home to Harm. God, she loved the thought of that. Home to Harm. ‘Please, God, let it always be so,’ she thought.

 

1615
Harm’s apartment
North of Union Station

 

Harm turned his key in the lock of his apartment door. Thank God this day was over. He just wanted to see Mac. It had helped to talk to his grandmother for a few minutes. She always had a little wisdom; she always made him laugh at himself and look at things with hope and faith. He dressed in his favorite jeans and liberty bonds t-shirt and started dinner. He would make something special tonight. He wanted to take Mac’s mind off of tomorrow as much as he could.

A short while later he heard Mac use her key to open the door.

“Hey,” she said. She looked at him with such a sorrowful look in her eyes that Harm immediately went to her and pulled her into his embrace.

“Hello, you.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t call. I just wanted to get out of that hospital and get back here. Oh, I’m so glad to be home,”

Harm leaned back and looked into her eyes, “That’s right, Mac. You are home.”

 

Chapter 11

 

Mattie bounced in the door at 1700, with Jen following not far behind. Mac was setting the table and Harm was finishing up dinner. Fettuccini Alfredo was what Mac had wanted and it was one of Mattie’s favorites as well.

“Wow,” Mattie said as she flopped on the couch. “Pancakes for breakfast and Fettuccini Alfredo for dinner; Mac, you should come around more often.”

Harm looked up from his task at the stove and gave her a warning look. Mattie just smiled and said,

“Um.. do you need any help, Mac?” She got up and walked to the table. Jen had already joined Mac in setting the table.

“I think we have this under control, Mattie,” Mac knew Mattie was needling Harm. It was kind of fun to watch. Not very many things got by Mattie, she was sure.

They had all sat down with the exception of Harm. He was putting the finishing touches on the table. Mattie noticed Harm touch Mac’s shoulder or back as he placed something on the table. She noticed that their eyes locked for a couple of seconds and a slow sly smile spread across Mattie’s face. Harm caught her expression and walked back toward the kitchen shaking his head.

*Gotcha,* Mattie thought. *He finally told her.* Mattie glanced at Jen and smiled knowingly.

Mac got up and walked to the refrigerator. Harm said, “Where are you going? I’ll get it.”

“Harm, I can handle getting my water.”

She and Harm exchanged smiles, and he said, “Okay.” Mattie and Jen looked at each other with raised eyebrows.

They finished dinner, making small talk about school and a little about work. No mention was made of Mac’s surgery. They helped clear the table and started to do the dishes.

“Hey, I’ve got this,” Mac said.

“Okay, well, I guess I’m going to get going then,” Mattie said. “Mac, good luck tomorrow, we’ll be thinking good thoughts.”

She suddenly hugged her, surprising Mac.

She hugged Harm quickly. “See ya tomorrow, Harm. Call me after, okay?”

“I will, kiddo,” Harm answered. *She is handling things like this so much better,* he thought with pride. She never ceased to amaze him. Jen and Mattie returned to their apartment for the night.

Harm and Mac started to clean up the kitchen together. Mac had been dreading this all day, but this needed to be done. *Here goes,* she thought.

“Harm, we need to talk about a few things.”

Harm looked at her, “Okay.”

“I’ve made you executor of my estate.”

Harm interrupted, “Mac …”

“Harm, you have to hear this now. I know this is hard; it’s hard for me. I have to know you understand my wishes and I want to be assured that they will be carried out. I need that now.”

Harm stopped what he was doing and dried his hands. He took her hand and walked to the couch. He had not looked at her the whole time she was speaking. He sat down and Mac followed him. “Harm, do you understand?”

Harm looked up, his eyes glazed with tears. “Yeah…go ahead,” he whispered.

Mac drew a deep breath and plunged ahead. “First of all, Chloe is my primary beneficiary. I do have a small amount set aside for my mother….if she can be found.”

Mac was quiet for a moment, then said, “I don’t know why I’m doing this. Maybe I just want her to know…to care.” She chuckled. “I thought that if there was money in it for her, she would show up.” Mac smiled her half smile but then tears pooled in her eyes.

Harm reached for her hand.

“This is harder than I thought it would be,” Mac said, laughing slightly.

Harm looked at their joined hands and closed his other hand over them. “Go on.”

“I have a ten thousand dollar CD set aside for little AJ’s education. This is already in my will, but there is something I want you to do for me….. I want you to tell him about me. Tell him I was there when he was born”

Harm pulled her into his arms and Mac tucked her head under his chin. They were both crying now, quietly.

“I want AJ to know that little Sarah was my namesake. It is also written in my will that Carriage House will continue to deliver fresh flower arrangements twice monthly to the cemetery; on the second and the sixteenth day of the month. If the days are mixed up, they’ll just be thrown away. I don’t want Sarah to be forgotten. I know it seems a minor detail but it is important to me.”

Harm remembered the loss of little Sarah. Harriet’s grief had broken his heart. He never thought Mac would be grieving her this way as well.

He said, “I’ll see that it’s all taken care of, Mac, but I don’t….”

Mac held her hand up and continued. “I want you to have my Marine Corps ring. I wouldn’t be a Marine anymore if it had not been for you. I wouldn’t even be alive…and I never thanked you. I’m sorry for that.”

Harm spoke up. “Mac, we’ve been there for each other more times than I can count. I’m not keeping score. We will continue to be there for each other because you’re going to get through this.”

“I’m going to do everything I can, and I have hope, Harm. I just want the peace of knowing that if something happens to me the personal things are understood and carried out by someone who….”

Mac stopped, and Harm finished the sentence. “Loves you. And I will, Mac. I swear it.”

Mac felt him struggling to keep his emotions under control. He was trying so hard to be strong for her. She had said enough. She had not meant to upset him so much.

“Now I feel better and you feel terrible.” She hugged him tightly, “Okay I’m done with the serious talk.”

“Thank God, Mac…you’re killing me.” They both chuckled as they wiped their eyes and got up to finish cleaning the kitchen.

They worked in silence, but it was not an uncomfortable silence. They went to Mac’s apartment and packed her bag for the hospital. Harm seemed to need to be touching her all the time – her arm, her hand, the small of her back – and Mac noticed and drew comfort from it. She wasn’t sure who was reassuring whom. They returned to the apartment and seemed resolved to face tomorrow together. They didn’t feel the need for a lot more talk and they were both surprisingly calm. They had this time, this quiet time that was theirs. They showered and slipped into bed. Mac was wide awake and so was Harm. They just held each other and caressed and soothed until they fell asleep.

 

0600
Tuesday
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland

 

Mac and Harm waited in the presurgical area on the surgical deck. Mac’s gynecologist, Commander Fletcher, came in and was accompanied by Captain Dan Morrison. He was a tall man, nearly as tall as Harm. His complexion was fair and had auburn hair and he had an easy almost laid back manner. His manner was professional but appeared very approachable. He was involved because he was the attending oncologist on the case. He introduced himself and discussed his opinion of her options. The doctor was very matter of fact and realistic. He was not grim but was thorough in his assessment of what her options were.

Mac introduced Harm as a close friend who was also her medical power of attorney.

“First off, Colonel Mackenzie, do you have any questions?”

She asked if he was aware that she had had some of her eggs from her right ovary harvested. She wanted to keep her options open no matter how slim her chances of conceiving. Harm was pleased that she still thought of her future, of their future.

“Colonel Mackenzie, we will make every effort to ensure your chances of conception post surgery; however, you do understand that should this tumor not be encapsulated and there is any indication of metastasis we will most likely perform a radical hysterectomy.”

“I understand,” Mac said as though she were discussing a case with Harm. She was with fellow officers now. She had her ‘Marine’ on and he loved it.

“We will also proceed immediately with chemotherapy should circumstances warrant it.”

Harm looked at Mac and Captain Morrison and said, “May I ask a question?”

Mac and the Captain answered in the affirmative.

“What if the tumor is encapsulated?”

Captain Morrison answered, “Since Colonel Mackenzie is hoping to have children, the tumor will be removed and she will be monitored closely every couple of months. Radiation would do more harm than good because of scar tissue defeating our purposes. We would do blood work and diagnostic scans to assess that there is no change in her status. I would prefer a 5 year wait before attempting to conceive, but it could be attempted in as little as a year. You should also know this puts you at risk for a reoccurrence. We have also consulted with Johns Hopkins in Baltimore on this case. The tumor has some characteristics that are uncommon.”

Mac knew Johns Hopkins was a teaching hospital and liked the idea that someone would benefit from all this no matter what happened to her. Just then a corpsman knocked on the door.

“Are you ready for us, sir?”

Captain Morrison looked at Mac and asked, “Any other questions?” Mac answered in the negative.

“Okay, Petty Officer, we are finished here. See you in recovery, Colonel.” Then, looking at Harm, he said, “Commander.”

“Sir,” Harm said, and with that the officers left and Harm allowed Mac some privacy while she was prepped for surgery.

Harm waited on a chair outside the room. The door opened and the corpsman was guiding Mac out of the room on a gurney.

“Well, this is it,” Mac said.

Harm thought that things were moving too fast all of a sudden. Mac looked too small and frail in that hospital gown. They had put in a port for her IV. Harm looked at it and his stomach lurched. Mac noticed that Harm had turned pale and asked,

“Are you okay, flyboy?”

“I’m fine; things are just moving a little fast for me all of a sudden.”

Mac tried to smile, “I thought you liked to go fast.”

He leaned down and kissed her gently. “See you after surgery.”

He stood and watched them wheel her down the hallway. He felt he should go with her. He wanted to stand over every doctor and nurse and be sure they all did everything they could. His life, his future… hell, his whole world was being wheeled down the hallway.

’Don’t leave me, Mac’ he thought.

It seemed to him a childish thought, but one he could not get out of his head. He didn’t care what had to be done or what had to be sacrificed. He could not lose her.

 

0715
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland

 

Harm sat in the cafeteria, staring at but not reading the newspaper he had picked up on his way down. He had walked to the surgery waiting area. The empty room seemed to suffocate him as soon as he sat down in it. He left it nearly as quickly as he had walked in. He had been told the surgery would take two hours minimum about 45 minutes ago. The smell of coffee had drawn him down to the cafeteria but he thought better of having any. He hadn’t drunk anything at all until a few minutes ago. Mac couldn’t have anything and he hadn’t even thought of anything until now. Fruit and bagels with a water chaser. Mac would tease him about his ‘health food’. He was still running on pure adrenaline. The last thing he needed was coffee now.

He looked at his watch and it had only been 3 minutes since he looked at it last. He got up and walked back to the waiting area. A man in khakis sat on the couch leaning forward. His arms were rested on this knees and his head was resting on his clasped hands. Harm stopped and started to turn around and go back out. The man looked up and then stood immediately. “Sir.”

Harm noticed his rank then and said, “Stand easy, Senior Chief.” The senior chief had not been upset but deep in thought. Harm was relieved. He was barely handling his own situation. He didn’t want to take on or be a party to anything else.

The man offered Harm his hand and said, “Senior Chief Matt McGuire, sir. I’m just finishing up my last tour as a detailer at the Pentagon.”

“Senior,” Harm said, shaking his hand. “Commander Harmon Rabb. I’m at JAG headquarters.”

“Sir,” the senior chief said. And they sat down. “Yeah, the wife’s in surgery. Her sixth,” he said shaking his head. “I don’t know how she does it. She just keeps going. She’s having her knee replaced…again. I hope this is it this time.” The senior chief got up and walked to the window. Harm wasn’t quite sure what to say.

Just then a corpsman walked into the waiting area. Harm’s heart went up in his throat. “Senior Chief, your wife is in recovery, sir. She’ll be there for about an hour and then you can see her.”

The senior chief said, “Thank you, Petty Officer.”

“And sir, Captain Henderson will be down shortly to talk with you.” He nodded to the petty officer and the corpsman left the room.

“Whew,” the senior chief said. “Well, that’s finally over.”

“I hope you get good news, senior.” Harm said.

“So do I, sir. We aren’t sure if this was a matter of her bones not being quite strong enough for her prosthesis or if she has had a reoccurrence.” The senior chief swallowed hard and said, “If you’ll excuse me, sir, I think I need some air. This room is definitely too small.”

“I know how you feel,” Harm said and nodded in agreement to the senior chief as he walked out the door.

Harm walked to the window and looked out. It was going to be a gray day. What he wouldn’t give for the sunshine they had in Belleville. He could sure use it now. He looked at his watch: 0800, another half an hour at least. He had wanted to get out of this room but now he was afraid to leave. They might come looking for him and he didn’t want to miss them. Mac just had to come out of this. ‘Six surgeries,’ he thought. ‘God, how does anyone willingly let a surgeon cut into their bodies?’ A traumatic injury was one thing, but scheduling and having surgery done; that definitely took some mental toughness. He thought for a moment about what was happening to Mac right now. He could not dwell on the thought. He already felt that Mac’s body was his. He resented the fact that he had to just hand her over and trust them to do their best. It made him angry all of a sudden. ‘Damn it! They had all better do their best, to the letter, or I’ll see them all in Leavenworth’ he thought. He walked away from the window.

He was driving himself crazy and he knew it. He still hadn’t read his paper. It was pointless. He couldn’t concentrate enough to read it. Just then a young man in an Army uniform stepped into the room. “Excuse me, sir.” Harm looked up. He read McGuire on the name plate of the young man’s uniform. “Have you seen...?”

“He just stepped out, Sergeant,” Harm said.

“Sergeant Jacob McGuire, sir,” he said as he offered his hand.

“Commander Harmon Rabb. The senior chief should be back any moment,” Harm said.

Just then the senior chief did come in. “Hey, when did you get in?”

“Hey, Dad.” They shook hands, and Harm suddenly felt like an intruder.

“I’m going to take a quick walk around. It was nice meeting you both.”

“Thank you, sir,” the senior chief said. “Jake here just got in from Afghanistan.” The young man shifted on his feet uncomfortably and his father stood a little taller and beamed. Harm smiled, nodded to them both and stepped out of the room.

The hallway was cooler, he thought as he looked at his watch. Ten more minutes. Surely someone would tell him something by then. This had to be the longest 2 hours he had ever spent in his life. He walked to the end of the hall and had started back when he saw a man in scrubs walk into the waiting area. He thought it must be Captain Henderson. He slowed his pace, trying to give them time to talk before he got back to the room. He wasn’t far from the room when they all walked out into the hall. The man in scrubs and the senior chief shook hands. “Thank you, sir,” Senior Chief McGuire said and the man in scrubs walked away.

The senior chief gave Harm the thumbs up. Harm smiled at him and said, “That’s great, senior.” He then patted his son on the back and they headed down the hallway toward the recovery room. Harm thought, ‘If he can have this much hope after six surgeries, then I can hang on for Mac, for both of us.’ He walked into the room feeling a little better somehow. He walked to the window and remembered what Mac had said about having hope. ‘Hope for the best and prepare for the worst,’ his grandmother always said. He smiled at the thought of her. He had given her a solemn promise to call her as soon as he knew anything.

“Commander Rabb?” Harm was startled and turned quickly around. “I’m sorry, sir.” The corpsman hadn’t meant to startle him. “Colonel Mackenzie is in the recovery room. Captain Morrison will be with you shortly.”

“Thank you, Petty Officer,” Harm said. ‘Here we go’, he thought. Okay, he could do this. If Mac could go through surgery, he could wait a few minutes for the surgeon to get down here.

Fifteen minutes later, Captain Morrison walked into the room. Harm tried to read his expression but he could not. “Sir,” Harm said.

“Commander, it looks like the tumor was encapsulated. We removed the left ovary and fallopian tube. We performed a few diagnostic scans while she was on the table and there doesn’t appear to be any metastasis at this time.”

Harm’s knees nearly gave way. Relief swept through him from his head to his feet. He reached for the wall and casually rested his hand on it, leaning slightly. The captain noticed and said nothing but suggested they sit down.

“She came through just fine, her vitals are good. She appears to be a strong woman – her level of fitness worked in her favor.”

“So what happens now?” Harm asked.

“The colonel will need to stay at least a couple of days; I prefer a release on Friday. She should follow up with me in two weeks. She will do as I have said before. See me every two months for blood work and any diagnostic testing that may be required,” he said.

“No radiation, then?” Harm asked.

“No, as I said before. The resulting scar tissue would decrease the colonel’s chances of conceiving and cause other health problems as well.” Harm could not help but smile with relief. “Don’t misunderstand, Commander; the colonel is not out of the woods yet. Ovarian cancer is a particular deadly form of cancer and can be very insidious. She must be vigilant in her follow up, as I told you both before; this tumor has some markers that are uncommon. We do not want to take any chances where this is concerned.”

“Understood, sir,” Harm said. They both stood and shook hands. “Thank you, sir,” Harm said.

The captain nodded. “She’ll be in her room shortly and you may see her then.”

Harm walked down the hall and outside. He fully understood the senior chief’s need for air earlier. It was over and she had a chance. They had a chance. Anything…he’d take it. He hoped she would go out to his grandmother’s to recover as she had said. No need to worry about radiation treatments. Just healing, and Belleville was for that.

He walked back into the hospital about 20 minutes later after making a promised call to Belleville on his cell phone. He found Mac’s room and found her still asleep. She looked as though she had been through a battle. She was pale and her face drawn. She laid very still, no movement but her steady breathing. Harm walked to her bedside and leaned on the bedrail. He reached over the rail to brush her hair back from her forehead. She was his again.

‘Just wake up, Mac,’ he thought, ‘let me see that you’re okay. Let me tell you what the doctor said.’

Mac slowly became aware of light in the room. She opened her eyes slightly and saw Harm’s arm and the watch on his wrist. His hand reached for her, to touch her face.

“Hey. It’s about time you woke up,” Harm said.

Mac tried to speak, but her mouth was dry. Harm said, “Wait,” and gave her a small ice chip from the cup beside the table.

“Did Captain Morrison say encapsulated?”

Harm smiled. “Yeah.”

Mac placed her hand over his and said, sighing with relief, “Yeah.” Harm kissed her cheek lightly. “So tired,” Mac said.

“Sleep, baby, I’m right here.”

Mac smiled, starting to drift off, and said in a whisper that only Harm could hear. “Just like always.”

 

Chapter 12

1300
Tuesday
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland

 

Harm sat in the chair at Mac’s bedside; it was turned so that he faced her. He had leaned forward and was resting his head on the side of her bed. He was dozing a bit. Mac continued to sleep.

Mac felt something at her right side weighing down the mattress. She opened her eyes slightly and saw Harm. She had been dreaming at least she thought she had anyway. She dreamed she had been out of bed and that she and Harm were talking to Bud and Harriet in the hallway. Harm had helped her back to bed and he promised he wouldn’t tell the nurses. Was it a dream?

Harm sensed that she was awake and sat up. “Hey, Tiger, welcome back,” he said.

She turned toward him looking slightly confused and asked, “Were Bud and Harriet here?...Was I out of bed earlier?”

“No….Mac, you’ve been in bed all this time. You just had your surgery this morning…remember?” Harm said, looking amused.

“I must have dreamed it. It seemed so real. We were hiding from the nurses so they wouldn’t catch me out of bed,”

Harm was chuckling now. “Honey, I think the anesthesia gave you some pretty vivid dreams.”

Just then the inflatable compression wraps on her legs began to fill and tighten around her lower legs. Mac was slightly startled by them. She remembered then she had been told they would be in place after her surgery. “Whew, I guess I’m pretty out of it, huh?”

Harm took her hand and kissed it. “Yeah, a little, but that’s okay. You’ll be feeling better in no time. So do you remember that you spoke to me earlier, right after they brought you out of recovery?”

Mac looked at him with a slightly confused look, and then she remembered. She said, “Encapsulated,” with a smile.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Harm placed Mac’s hand on his cheek.

“Well…my boy Harm…you may get those little Rabbs yet.”

Harm was a little surprised and very amused by a punchy Sarah Mackenzie. She was still very groggy and he knew she was in no shape to have a serious discussion, so he played along.

“Well Mackenzie, we’ll just have to work on it, won’t we?”

He had just about decided that he didn’t care if he and Mac had any biological children together or not. He just wanted Mac with him for as long as possible. He never wanted to have her wheeled away from him on a gurney again. That was a discussion for another day; right now a laugh or two was just what the doctor ordered.

“Oh, now, sailor I don’t think I’d be too much fun…right now anyway. Just you wait till I’m better. You are in for *a lot* of trouble.”

Harm was grinning mischievously. “Promises, promises, Mackenzie.”

She looked at him, suddenly serious, “I never make a promise I can’t keep.”

Harm answered, “You haven’t yet,” reversing the roles in a long ago conversation.

Mac eyes were drooping and she was starting to nod off again. “I love you so much, Harm…”

Harm stood and leaned over the rail to kiss her cheek. “I love you, too.” And with that she was immediately asleep.

Harm stood and stretched and walked across the room. He felt stiff from sitting and sleeping in that chair. He smiled, remembering their baby deal so long ago. Mac really never got that it was about keeping her in his life; about her waiting for him to get a handle on who he really was, a naval lawyer or a naval aviator. It seemed a century ago. So much had changed – they were different people then. He had loved her then but he was just beginning to realize it, when she had gotten so upset about his leaving and he suddenly knew he didn’t want to leave her either. He knew it wasn’t about losing his partner. Kate and Meg were great and he missed them, but it never broke his heart to leave them. The men in their lives never concerned him. Jordan had been right. He was waiting for her to decide she wanted him. Poor Jordan.

He shook himself slightly trying to wake up, when a corpsman knocked on the door. “We need to check her vitals and her incision, sir.”

“Very well, Petty Officer, I’ll just step out; if she wakes tell her I’ll be right back.”

 

1830
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland

 

Mac had gotten fully awake around 1600. She was able to have dinner and nursing staff had gotten her up for a short walk. She would have her IV until tomorrow morning. She had a PCA pump so she could administer her own pain meds as needed. It pained Harm to see Mac gingerly trying to move around the room. Getting in an out of bed seemed to be the hardest. He found himself not wanting to let her do anything at all. If it hurt, he didn’t want her to do it.

Mac was lying back on her bed with the head of the bed elevated. Harm was finally reading his paper. Bud and Harriet suddenly appeared in the doorway. They knocked on the open door and Bud said, “Can we come in, ma’am?”

“Of course, Bud,” Mac said weakly. She was really hurting after all her activity and she was trying not to use the PCA pump as much. She smiled a half smile at both Bud and Harriet. “I’m glad to see you both.”

“We don’t want to intrude, but the commander told us about your surgery….” Bud said, but was interrupted by Harriet who said, “and we just couldn’t stay away.”

We hope you’re doing okay, ma’am,” Bud said.

“I’m coming along, Bud. I’m getting good care and lots of help,” she said as she looked at Harm. He smiled at her and took her hand and squeezed it. The gesture wasn’t lost on Harriet.

They visited for about 15 minutes. They caught up on AJ and Jimmy and Mac asked Harriet about how she was feeling. Harriet reported that she was doing a lot better with this pregnancy, even though she was carrying twins. She and Harm laughingly told Mac about Harm rolling Harriet to lunch in her chair on a particularly bad day when she was pregnant with Jimmy.

Mac looked lovingly at Harm. ‘He’s going to be such a good father. He should have as many children as he wants.’ Her expression turned wistful, and again Harm took her hand with one hand and covered it with the other, knowing she was thinking of their children.

“Well, we’d better get going,” Bud stood.

“We just wanted you to know we were thinking about you” Harriet said.

“Thanks,”

“Hey Bud, we need to talk tomorrow first thing,” Harm was dreading having to deal with their case.

“About the Pruitt case, sir?”

Harm rolled his eyes, “That’s the one.”

Bud smiled knowingly and said he would see him tomorrow.

Harm noticed that Mac winced when she tried to shift slightly in her bed. “Are you okay, Mac? When was the last time you used your PCA?”

Mac answered, “It’s been a couple of hours.”

Harm frowned at her. “You’ve been moving around – that’s bound to make it hurt more.”

“I want to get off the strong pain meds as soon as possible, Harm,”

“I understand, Mac, but you just had major surgery this morning. I would think a few days of help with this pain isn’t going to make you an addict,” Harm said – and wished he could take the words back.

“I am an alcoholic, Harm. I have to be careful not to let myself become dependent on anything.”

Just then Captain Morrison knocked on her door. “I’m doing rounds a little late tonight. How are you doing?”

“Better, sir,” Mac said.

“Well, let’s have a quick look. Excuse us, Commander.”

“Yes, sir,” Harm said. The captain pushed the nurses call light and when the corpsman answered. She was summoned to assist the captain.

The captain flattened the bed and Mac held her breath to keep from groaning with the pain. “Are you using your PCA, Colonel?”

“No,” Harm answered for her as he left the room.

Mac shot him a warning glare, and Harm narrowed his eyes at her and left the room. “I’m trying not to be too dependent on the PCA. I’m an alcoholic and I don’t want to allow myself to be dependent on anything,”

“It is admirable that you want to discipline yourself this way, Colonel, but you did just have this surgery less than 24 hours ago. You are being monitored by our staff and appear to have a ‘friend’ who is watching you very carefully. If there are any signs of overuse, they will be corrected immediately.”

He pushed the button on the PCA pump and said firmly, “Allow yourself to heal, Colonel, and that’s an order. You will do it more quickly with the help of this medication. That s what it was made for, understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Mac said, her face reddening with embarrassment. The corpsman walked in and the captain did his exam. As Mac readjusted her gown, Captain Morrison had the corpsman call Harm back into the room.

Harm stepped back into the room looking at Mac, hoping she would not be angry with him. Mac smiled a weak smile and was still a little pink from embarrassment. ‘We’re okay,’ Harm thought. Captain Morrison discussed the morning’s surgery. He told Mac all that he had told Harm while she was in the recovery room. The tumor was encapsulated and her left ovary and fallopian tube had been removed. There would be no radiation.

The thing that he said that concerned Mac was ‘unusual markers’ when he was talking about the tumor. “Sir, what is meant by ‘unusual markers’?”

“What we mean, Colonel, in layman’s terms is that this tumor isn’t ‘behaving’ like a malignant tumor, but it doesn’t act like a benign tumor either. This is why we are consulting with Johns Hopkins on this one,”

Harm said, “You mean this may not be ovarian cancer?’

“I won’t say that, Commander. I’m just saying it appears to have rare characteristics which could mean it is aggressive but insidious (difficult to detect), or that it is not and with its removal the colonel may be cancer free.” He raised his hands and looked at them both. “It is important that we treat this the way we do any time we suspect ovarian cancer. We have been and will be as conservative as we possibly can, but we will monitor you, Colonel. …closely. I wish I could give you a more definitive answer, but this is the best I can do for now.”

“I understand, sir,” Mac said.

The captain stood and walked to the doorway. Harm stood, and the captain looked back at him and said, “Commander.”

“Sir” Harm said. With that the captain left.

Mac drew a slightly deeper breath. Her pain medication was beginning to work and she was getting drowsy. She realized too that she had been taking shallow breaths because of her pain. She closed her eyes.

“Mac, are you alright?” Harm asked.

“Yeah, I’m okay. I’m just trying to take it all in.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“I could be cured or I could just be putting off the inevitable,” she said. “God, why can’t I ever do anything like everyone else?”

“Mac…I know this must be frustrating for you. I’m just so glad that nothing has spread.”

He leaned forward in his chair and placed his elbows on the side of the bed. He reached over with one hand and caressed her arm. He looked lovingly into her eyes.

“I don’t ever want to lose you, Mac. We can do this. I know we can.”

Mac tried to smile and put her head back on the bed. “I’m so glad you’re here, Harm.”

Harm stayed with her until around 2100. Mac was in and out with pain meds keeping her groggy.

Harm stood “I’m going to have to go, Mac.” Mac nodded and gave him a wistful look. Harm said, “Hey, no knocking on my door at two in the morning.”

“Not me,” she said. “I’m on drugs.” She nodded her head toward the PCA pump.

“Ha ha, Marine, don’t hold that against me. I couldn’t stand to see you suffering like that.”

“I just want to be normal, Harm, and I want to be my best.”

He leaned over her bedrail moving close enough to Mac to look at her directly in the eye. “You never have to worry, Mac.” With that Harm kissed her lightly on the lips. “I love you.”

Mac smiled but was drifting off to sleep. She was completely out before he got to the door.

 

0930
Wednesday
Jag Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia

 

Harm sat behind his desk, looking over his Pruitt case file. He and Bud had just settled a deal that would have the chief lose one rank and be fined for the next 6 months. He was almost surprised that the chief accepted. He guessed that the one thing the chief did well was his Navy career and he didn’t want to lose it. He also thought that the fact that he was scheduled to deploy in two weeks would get him away from both women. He smiled at the thought.

Sturgis knocked on his open door. “Hey, got a minute?” Sturgis said.

“Yeah, I’ve got about a half an hour til I meet with my client,” he said.

“How is Mac?” Sturgis asked.

“As well as can be expected. I spoke with her early this morning. The doctors are thinking they got everything and that the tumor may not have advanced to the stage they had previously thought when they performed the biopsy,” Harm answered.

Sturgis was genuinely relieved. “I’m glad to hear it, Harm. I know what a relief it must be to you both.”

Harm raised his eyebrows. “It is that; we’re not out of the woods yet, though. Captain Morrison is being very cautious about giving Mac a clean bill of health. He wants to monitor her closely, and really, I appreciate that he wants to be this thorough.”

Sturgis stood before Harm’s desk as he spoke and folded his arms in front of him. “Harm, I think we need to discuss something…”

“Sturgis, it’s okay… really. It’s been a hell of a hard year on all of us. If someone had told me a year ago that Mac and I would be as close as we are now I’d have told them they were crazy.”

Harm stood, closed and lifted his briefcase from his desk.

“Don’t worry about any of it.” He took his cover from the table by the door and Sturgis followed him out. He closed his office door and started for the elevators.

He looked back at Sturgis over his shoulder and said, “There is too much going on now to sweat the small stuff.”

Sturgis smiled. He thought that Harm seemed happier than he had seen him in a long time, even though he and Mac were weathering a pretty rough storm. He looked at his watch and was astounded to think that Harm was going to show up for a meeting 15 minutes early.

 

1100
Wednesday
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland

 

Mac lay back on her bed with the head of her bed elevated. Commander McCool sat in a chair at her bedside. They discussed Captain Morrison’s assessment of her medical status and Mac’s concerns about addiction. They also discussed her week in Belleville and the night that triggered her agreement to accompany Harm there.

“It appears that is the night you found that your old coping mechanisms didn’t work,” Commander McCool said.

“I felt so foolish for falling apart like that. I don’t know what I would have done if Harm hadn’t come by,” Mac said.

“Well, you appear to have stopped isolating yourself from others, and that is definitely a step in the right direction. However, when we discuss your future and the possibility of a family you still appear to feel that you do not feel you deserve happiness.”

“Harm deserves a family; he would make such a good father. He already is to his ward, Mattie.”

“Yes, you have spoken of this before. Since Harm has shown you his ability to love and nurture a child that is not his biologically, why can’t you accept that you could have a family with him this way as well?”

Mac was quiet and Commander McCool continued. “You also have spent a lot of time explaining what Harm deserves. What do you deserve, Colonel? Do not misunderstand; I’m not suggesting that you focus only on yourself, but you need to consider yourself and your needs as well. What is important to you personally? Not what you think you should want, or what you think others would be pleased with, but what is going to make you happy.”

Mac continued to ponder what the Cmdr. had said. “Do you still plan to recover from your surgery with your friend in Pennsylvania?”

Mac smiled remembering Mrs. Rabb, “Yes, I do. It seems to be a place where I can see things clearly.”

“I am glad to hear it.”

“I have to come back in two weeks to follow up with Captain Morrison. I can see you then if you prefer.”

“That would be fine.” The Commander also assured Mac she would follow her progress closely, consulting with Captain Morrison regarding her medications.

“I would like you to consider what we have discussed here today, and we will discuss it further when I see you in two weeks. You are an accomplished woman in your career, Colonel, and that has given you a measure of happiness, but you need to complete the circle, if you will. I have been able to discern from our discussions that you already have a family of sorts. Your friends at work, your little sister Chloe, Mrs. Rabb in Pennsylvania, and Harm along with his ward Mattie. There are all kinds of families, Colonel. You can chose to make one of your own…..or not.” She stood and stepped forward to shake Mac’s hand. “See you in two weeks.”

“Thank you, Commander,” she said.

Mac closed her eyes and tried to absorb all that she had discussed with Cmdr McCool. Why did these sessions always leave her so exhausted? She decided to try and take a nap before lunch. She had been up for a walk this morning and wanted to get up and moving after lunch. Harm would probably be out to see her around 1700. She suddenly missed him so much that tears stung at the backs of her eyes.

She had missed him last night. She had awoken at about 0200 and looked at the clock on the wall. Her pain meds had worn off and at pain on her incision site had awakened her. She’d smiled a bit when she noticed the time. ‘Harm…it’s 0200…too bad I can’t get out of this bed,’ she had thought. She’d hoped he was asleep. This week had been very hard for him, she knew. She had pushed the button on her PCA and eventually drifted off to sleep.

 

1330
Wednesday
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia

 

Harm had taken a late lunch and decided to call his grandmother and give her an update on Mac. She was pleased to know she was coming after all. Harm got a bit of surprise from their conversation. Frank and his mother were there. They had decided to come and see her on their way to the east coast and then Europe. She and Frank were staying for a few days next week in New York to see some friends of theirs and then continue on to Germany. Since Chrysler had become Daimler Chrysler their circle of friends had widened. Frank had retired, but he still held an honorary seat on the board of directors so he kept a lot of his connections.

His grandmother put his mother on the phone. ‘Hello, son,”

“Uh, hi, Mom. How are you doing?” He hadn’t spoken to his mother since July. He hadn’t really purposely avoided her. It just seemed lately that his life and hers were going in two different directions. Things where Mac was concerned were so complicated that he rarely spoke of her at all lately.

“I’m fine, Harm. How is Mac doing?”

“She’s fine, mom.” God… this was awkward. Harm broke out in a sweat.

“Your grandmother said she had been having some health problems and that she may be coming out here to recover.”

“Uh..yeah. That is what she’s going to do. She’ll be released from the hospital Friday and I’ll be driving her up Friday night.”

“Did she have surgery, son?”

“Yeah ...Mom...It’s kind of complicated...” Harm said.

“It’s alright, Harm – you don’t have to tell me everything. I’d like to come down and see you, though, tomorrow before Frank and I leave for New York…If that’s alright with you,”

“Of course, Mom, I’d like to see you. You’ll get to meet Mattie,”

“I’d love it,” she said. An awkward silence fell. “Well…. I guess I’d better let you get back to work,”

“Yeah” Harm laugh a little too nervously.

“See you tomorrow, son,” Trish said.

“Yeah, and tell grandma I’ll call her Friday morning……..Bye, Mom.”

“Goodbye, Harm,”

Harm replaced the phone on its receiver. “Whew….” He covered his face with his hands, then stood up, walked across the room and shook his head. ‘Tomorrow should be *a lot* of fun,’ he thought.

 

1730
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland

 

Harm stepped into Mac’s room. She was walking out of the bathroom, with no IV and no assistance at all. “Hey, you’re getting around great,”

‘Thanks,” Mac said. “They took my IV out about 1400, and I’ve gone for a couple of walks down the hall with the nursing staff.” She carefully walked to her bed and got in. “They won’t let me walk in the hallway by myself yet. That’s tomorrow, I think.”

Harm had been looking at her closely as she spoke. She looked so much better to him. Her coloring had gotten better. She was moving much better than yesterday. ‘Have you had dinner yet?’

“No, not yet. I wanted to get out here to you. I’ll grab something while you’re resting. How are you doing with the pain?”

“Well, I’m due another dose in about half an hour. I can feel it, but it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”

Harm sat down in the chair near her bed “Good.”

“I saw Commander McCool today.”

“How did that go?”

“It was a good session but I felt totally drained afterward. I’ll be following up with her when I come back to see Captain Morrison.”

“I called my grandmother and told her you were definitely coming. She was really pleased.” Mac smiled. “I got blindsided, though,” Harm said. Mac looked at him curiously. “Mom and Frank were there, *and* she wants to come down tomorrow and see me before she and Frank head to New York and then to Europe.”

Mac smiled at him and said, “It’s been a while seen you’ve seen her, hasn’t it?”

“Yeah, but I haven’t purposely been avoiding her, Mac.” Harm avoided her gaze, feeling a sense guilt he could not explain.

Mac remembered that conversation, one that she was ashamed of. She’d had no right to tell him he was a ‘rotten’ son.

“Harm, relax and please don’t believe that I meant that stupid remark I made last Christmas. I was just doing my favorite thing at the time. I was so miserable I lashed out at anyone who came near me. It was just your turn that day.”

Harm took her hand, then looked at their joined hands. “She may want to come out here tomorrow, you know. Knowing Mattie, she’ll probably invite her,” Harm said, shaking his head.

Mac laughed a little, bracing her incision slightly with a pillow. “She really has been good for you, Harm.”

They went for a walk later in the evening and Harm left at 2100. Mac was doing well with her pain management, but the medication still made her sleepy. Harm checked in with Mattie and told her about his mother’s visit tomorrow. “Great,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to meet her.”

“Remember, you’re going to the hospital with me tomorrow after work, so be ready. Are you all caught up on your homework?”

“I’ve never been behind,” Mattie said huffily.

“I just don’t want anything to put you behind. No more ‘dragon lady,’ that’s all I ask,”

Mattie giggled and hugged Harm, and he said “See you in the morning.”

 

 

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Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12
 
 
   

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