Saturday, October 25, 2003
2147 Hours (local)
Harm was running a few minutes late, as usual. Mac had asked him to get to her apartment a little early so she could give him his birthday present. It was the big 4-0 and she had teased him mercilessly about it all week. Most of the week had gone pretty smoothly, although there had been a few awkward moments between Harm and Mac. And no one had heard anymore from Denise, so they assumed all plans were on. He knocked on the door and Mac answered it almost immediately.
She was already dressed for the club in a long, black, skirt that was very close to see-through. She had a skin-tight black sweater on top that was cut low enough to reveal some cleavage. Around her neck was a simple, black, choker.
Harm, too was already dressed for the club, wearing his standard black jeans and black button-down shirt.
Mac had a big smile on her face, something he hadn't seen much of recently. Her brown eyes were twinkling with happiness and mischief. Harm knew he was in trouble. "Happy Birthday," she greeted enthusiastically, adding, "old man," to the end.
Harm shook his head as he broke out into a smile. "Give me a break, Mac. How many men my age still go out to clubs almost every Saturday night?" he asked as he stepped into the apartment.
"I'll give you that one," she conceded. "You are the oldest guy I've seen there."
"I know," she said with a flirtatious smile as she walked away.
"So, where's my present?" he asked.
Mac shook her head. "Patience."
"Mac, it's my birthday. I've waited all day."
"Well, you're just going to have to wait a little longer," she teased. She had debated all week on how she wanted to do this. She was so afraid of having him over before they went out for the night, afraid they'd get into another argument and say some more hurtful things. But, she did want to give him his gifts and she knew he hadn't said anything about his birthday at the office. She had finally opted on his getting to her place about fifteen or twenty minutes early.
"Hmm…" Harm said, grinning. "Okay, it's been a few seconds," he declared. He loved it when they were like this, teasing, smiling, and laughing. It was like everything that had happened recently had slipped away, leaving just the two of them as friends again.
Mac smiled as she said, "I'll be right back." She walked off into the kitchen and returned a moment later with a Tupperware container filled with cookies. She handed it over to him.
"You baked?" Harm asked with raised eyebrows.
"Yup," Mac responded proudly.
"Are you trying to kill me?" he asked, teasing.
"Damn it," Mac responded with a grin. "You figured me out."
"Us pilots aren't all that stupid," he said.
"You sure fooled me," she teased back.
Harm opened the container and pulled out a cookie. Chocolate chip, he should have known. Mac loved chocolate chip cookies. And she was pretty good at making them, he had to give her credit. Cooking dinner might not be her strong suit, but making dessert was. He took a bite and moaned with pleasure. It was heavenly. "This is great, Mac," he said, his mouth full.
Mac nodded. She knew they were good.
Harm set the container down on the table and after grabbing a second cookie, closed them back up. "I could make myself sick by eating them all right now," he declared.
"Please, don't," Mac said, still grinning. "I'd hate to listen to you whine."
"I don't whine that much," Harm said, defending himself.
"Your ears must stop up when you're sick so that you can't hear yourself," she teased. "Hold on," she said, retreating to her bedroom, "let me get your presents."
"You mean there's more? It's not just the cookies?" he asked. The way things had been lately, he would have been happy with just the cookies.
"For your fortieth? I had to get you more, Harm," she called from the bedroom. She returned a moment later carrying two packages: one was rectangular, maybe seven or eight inches long and five inches wide, and about two inches thick, and the other was a small box, maybe about four inches tall and three inches wide. She handed him the flat, rectangular package, saying, "This one first."
Harm pulled the wrapping paper off, cream colored with multi-colored balloons and the words "Happy Birthday!" on it, to reveal a book about American pilots who were shot down over Chichi Jima in WWII. "Thanks, Mac," he said as he studied the cover.
"I figured you probably have a million books on aviation and wars, but I saw it and thought of you," she said, sounding embarrassed.
Harm opened the cover and looked at the contents of the book. "I do have about a million books on the topic, but you are the only person I know that could have found the one I don't have. Thanks."
Mac smiled as she handed him the smaller package.
Harm set the book down on top of the container of cookies and tore open the paper, the same design, on the smaller package. It was a simple black box, snapped shut in the middle of the longer side. Harm undid the snap to open the box. Inside was a sterling silver watch. It was very simple, only displaying the time, the date, and the day of the week. The face was black and the hands and Roman numerals, like the band and rim around the face, were silver. Harm studied the watch.
"Do you like it?" Mac asked worriedly. His old watch worked perfectly fine, but it was bulky and complex, it had a few scratches and the band had been broken and repaired numerous times, so when she saw the watch, she opted to buy him a new one.
Harm lifted the watch out of the box. "It's beautiful. Thank you, Mac."
"It's kind of simple, I know, but this way when other people look at it, they'll be able to find the time."
"I don't need something so complex most of the time, anyway," Harm stated, reassuring her. As he turned the watch over in his hands, he noticed the indentations on the back. Looking closely, he saw that it was an engraving. It said, "To Harm, my best friend, on his birthday. Love, Mac." Harm pulled his old watch off and placed it in the box. He turned to Mac and said, "Thank you. This is incredible. I mean it."
Mac was nervously watching him. "You're welcome."
He held the watch out to her. "Would you put it on?"
Mac nodded, smiling, "I'd be honored."
Harm extended his wrist and Mac placed the watch on it, locking it in place. Smiling, Harm pulled Mac to him in a hug. "Thank you, for everything, Mac."
"You're welcome. Happy birthday," she said, her arms around him.
Harm hadn't noticed that the watch was set five minutes fast.
Sunday, October 26, 2003
0127 Hours (local)
Denise had shown up at Mac's apartment right on time to go to the club. Just before leaving for the club, there had been an awkward moment among the four of them, each of them thinking their own thoughts. Denise was feeling like a third wheel between Harm and Mac, knowing she had caused some trouble. And Harm was torn between the two women, his best friend and, as Mac put it, a one-night stand. Mac was still angry with both Denise and Harm for the situation, but she tried to not let it get to her and enjoy what she had. Jen only knew the smallest part of what had occurred, but she had a pretty good idea of why things were so tense between Harm and Mac.
And once again, their night at the club, seemed to be pretty uneventful. They had no leads on any of the guys and it appeared that their killer's appearance at the club was pretty sporadic. They didn't know how much longer they would be working undercover.
Sitting at a table by herself, Mac was stirring her drink with a straw, her face sullen. Following her gaze, Jen saw Harm and Denise on the dance floor, but neither of them seemed greatly interested in their activities, but rather, only interested in blending in. It wasn't like it had been two weeks ago, where the experience had been fun, but it was now more like a chore.
Jen took a seat and said, "I know it's early, but do you want to cut out of here?"
Mac looked at Jen. "If you're having fun, we can stay."
Jen shook her head. "I don't think anything is going to happen tonight. Plus, I don't think any of us are really having fun."
Mac shook her head. She waited until Harm glanced over at them before she smiled, nodding towards the door, indicating that she and Jen were leaving. He smiled and nodded back while Denise pretended not to notice. She and Jen rose up from the table and headed up the stairs.
Sunday, October 26, 2003
0247 Hours (local)
Harm and Denise had once again waited for closing time, though they would have been grateful to get out of the club early. Back at Mac's apartment, their post-club conference was quick and was only on topic. Denise took off as soon as she could. After a few awkward moments between Harm, Mac, and Jen, Harm took off as well, Mac sending him off with his container of cookies, his book, and the box containing his old watch. Jen was staying the night, as had become the usual, although she didn't feel as tired as she usually did.
Sitting on the couch after Denise and Harm left, sipping hot chocolate and eating cookies, Jen turned to Mac. "Are you really that mad at Harm?"
Mac shook her head. "He made a mistake. I can accept that. We've both made plenty over the years. But it is how he handled it that gets to me." Mac paused before going on, "He hid it from me."
"Was there any reason he should have told you?"
"You mean, are we involved?"
Jen smiled sheepishly, "I guess that's what I meant."
"No," Mac responded sadly. "And maybe if we had been, it would have been different. I'd like to believe that he would have told me if we were together. If he had done it at all…"
"Why aren't you guys together?" Jen asked, grabbing a cookie.
"Never the right time, I guess. We always had work; there have been other people… It just never seemed right."
Jen nodded her understanding. "Sorry for intruding. It's just that, well, since I've met you guys, you've been really close. He came to you when he needed someone to hold me prisoner, you guys talked like you knew each other well, I just kind of assumed that there was something there."
Mac laughed softly, grabbing a cookie for herself. "That's been known to happen before. You aren't the first."
They were silent for a few more minutes, each sipping their hot chocolate, munching on their cookies, lost in their thoughts.
"I saw a different side of him that day," Mac said suddenly.
"What day? The day he and Denise…?" Jen didn't know the whole story, but she had figured out that Mac saw him with her.
"No. I've seen him with other women before, Annie, Jordan, and Renee, never blatantly making out like that. I always thought he had more respect for himself and, I don't know, the viewing public." Mac sighed. "No, the day Denise's husband came into the office."
"How so?" Jen asked, taking a sip of her drink.
"He just fought the man. I've seen him kill to save lives and because it is his job. I've seen him angry enough to hurt a man because he was withholding information that Harm was desperate to get. But I've never seen him just fight like that. He was fighting over a woman he had no right to claim. It just repulsed me because it was so… caveman-like."
"With all due respect, Mac, would you feel so repulsed if that woman they were fighting over was you?"
Mac was silent as she sipped her drink for a moment, pondering Jen's question. "That happened once."
"Harm fought another man for you?"
"I didn't know it at the time. I just thought that Harm hated Mic. They had decided punching each other outside the courthouse in Sydney, Australia, over a case was a way to solve the problem. Unfortunately, Bud got in between them and they broke his jaw. As punishment, it was decided that the two of them would be locked in a warehouse and allowed to duke it out."
"And how was this about you?"
Mac sipped her hot chocolate before continuing, "I didn't know it was. I didn't hear the whole argument. But Bud did. He realized what was happening. What they were saying was about the case, and me. They didn't get into a fistfight over the case, but they did about me. Bud informed me of this later. Of course, I was the only one that could understand him, so Harm still doesn't know that I know why he got into that fight."
"And how did it make you feel when Harm got into a fight over you?"
"Initially, I was disgusted by his behavior. I didn't think it was an appropriate way for him to act, for either him or Mic. But inside, secretly, I was flattered by it. It's something most women dream of at some point, having two men fight over her."
"How come you never told Harm any of this?"
"I didn't see how it would change things. I was already on that road to my engagement. If he really wanted something from me, he could have spoken up."
"Or, maybe he couldn't."
Mac turned to Jen, her eyes flashing. "And what do you mean by that?"
"Just that he's your best friend. Regardless of anything else, he probably wanted to see you happy, no matter what that meant to him. Have you ever heard that saying, 'If you really love something, set it free; if it doesn't come back to you, it wasn't meant to be yours?'"
"Maybe he was setting you free, seeing if you would come back to him or go through with the relationship with Mic. If you did, you and he weren't meant to be. And if Mic made you happy, who was he to interfere? Saying something might ruin that happiness."
"But I wasn't really that happy. I thought I was, but looking back, I wasn't," Mac admitted softly.
"And you didn't tell him, did you?"
"Then how was he supposed to know to say something?" Jen questioned softly.
Mac put her mug down and closed her eyes, drawing her knees up close to her. It had taken mere minutes for Jen to point something out that had been a mystery to her for years: why Harm never said anything. She sighed heavily. "I'm tired, Jen," she said as she rose slowly off the couch. She put her mug in the sink in the kitchen and headed back towards the bedroom.
"Mac," Jen called.
Mac turned back to her.
"Sorry, if I over-stepped the boundaries."
Mac shook her head. "Do you think we will ever get past this?" she asked.
Jen nodded, "If you were meant to be."
Mac nodded her head and retreated. Perhaps it was time for her to let all of it go, let Harm go. And if he came back, well, like Jen said, it was meant to be.
AN: The book I describe here is Flyboys: A True Story of American Courage by James Bradley. I haven't read it, but I saw a commercial for it as I was writing this and it seemed to fit. The book really sounds interesting, even though history normally isn't my thing. If you are interested in learning more about it, go to Barnes & Noble Online and type "Flyboys" in the search box. Click on the book and you can get more information about the book itself. That's what I did!