Disclaimer: I don't own the characters and people in this. I can't afford to own them and still pay the actors what they are currently making. DPB, Paramount Pictures, Belisarius Productions, and CBS Television can pay them, though. But if they were willing to sell them for a really cheap price, and everybody was willing to take a very steep pay cut, I'd be happy to own them! I'd put them to good use, I promise. Oh, any characters you haven't heard of prior to this story, I did make them up and I do own them. They don't get paid 'cause I can be mean like that to them!
Rating: NC-17 (sexual references/situations)
Spoilers: Anything up to and including “A Tangled Webb (1)” and a brief one to “Secret Agent Man,” the same one as in “Catacombs of the Heart.”
Feedback: Always welcome and appreciated! Can be sent to email@example.com.
AN1: The baby deal does come into play in this story. For some reason, when I was writing this, I kept thinking little AJ was born in April. If we go by the date that “Yeah Baby” aired, it was really in May. I, unfortunately, realized this way too late to change it, so in my little world, AJ’s birthday is in April.
AN2: A big, huge, gigantic, massive, colossal, mammoth, immense, enormous (*time for me to quit playing with the thesaurus*) thanks to Kay for beta-reading this and offering her advice and suggestions. This story would not be what it is without her. The words “thank you” seem so small, but I mean them with all of my heart.
Falls Church, Virginia
Monday, April 5, 2004
1044 Hours (local)
Mac was going over her case very carefully. This one had been tricky; the defendant was very skilled at lying. She had a psychologist coming in to talk about his condition, his compulsive lying, but Mac knew she needed more to nail him. This would have been one of those times when she would have turned to Harm for ideas, but he was still TAD. After a four-month absence, she still didn’t know where he was. She knew Sturgis and Bud had talked to him and the Admiral certainly knew where he was stationed. But Harm had left without telling her where he was going, so she respected that, figuring that he must have had his reasons. She hadn’t spoken to him since the night he left.
She would never forget the way the early spring sunlight was filtering through the blinds on the window in her office. She would never forget where everybody in the bullpen was standing, what they were doing. She would never forget what case she was working on, or what the date and the time was when the phone call came in. “Lieutenant Colonel MacKenzie,” she answered cheerfully.
There was silence.
“Hello?” Mac spoke into the phone.
“Mac?” a weak voice asked.
Mac didn’t immediately recognize the voice, but they obviously knew her. “Yes?”
The voice drew a shaky breath. Mac heard a sound like a sniffle.
“Who is this?” Mac asked, both confused and worried.
“Sorry,” the voice responded weakly with just a hint of laughter. “It’s Trish. Trish Burnett. Harm’s mom.”
With those words, Mac’s heart was in her throat and her stomach clenched in a knot. “Mrs. Burnett, is Harm all right?”
For a moment, there was no answer. “No,” she finally stated simply, her voice heavy.
Mac was glad she was sitting down. If she had been standing, she probably would have collapsed on the floor. As it was, she placed her forehead on one hand, looking downward, not focusing on anything, and her elbow resting on the desk. Her other hand was clutching the phone to her ear. “What happened?” she could barely get the words past her throat.
“There was an accident. They think it was an accident. They’re still looking into it,” Mrs. Burnett began. Sighing heavily, she spoke again, her voice wavering and sounding teary. “When they found him, he was unconscious, face down in the water.”
“Is he…” Mac started, struggling to keep her tears from falling, but losing the battle. “He isn’t…” she tried again. She couldn’t bring herself to say the word.
“Dead?” Trish asked. “No,” she answered quickly. “They have him on life support. They believe he was in the water for ten to fifteen minutes, but there is no way to tell for sure.”
“Will he make it?” Mac asked weakly, a few tears spilling out.
“They don’t think so. It’s doubtful. Most people don’t survive this. He’s lucky to have made it this far.”
“But people do survive?” Mac asked hopefully.
“Some do, but there is almost always permanent brain damage. The brain can’t go for a long period of time without oxygen. Brain cells start to die within the first two to five minutes.”
“Oh, God,” Mac moaned. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be ending like this. “You know,” Mac began, her voice wavering again, “we hadn’t spoken to each other in four months.”
“I know,” Mrs. Burnett spoke calmly. “But we thought he’d want you to know, that he’d want you here. That is...if you want to be here.”
“Yes, of course,” Mac responded. “But I don’t know where he is. He never told me where he was going.”
“He was stationed at North Island. We’re at Kindred Hospital in San Diego.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Mac said.
“Hurry,” Mrs. Burnett said tearfully.
When they hung up the phone, Mac stared at the wood on her desk for a few minutes, blinking back the tears, trying to calm her stomach and stop her heart from racing. Then, with a firm resolve, she rose from her desk and walked to Petty Officer Coates’ desk outside the Admiral’s office. “Can I see him, Petty Officer?” Mac asked, sounding stronger than she felt.
Jen looked up at Mac and saw the expression on her face. Her eyes were red and her skin was pale, but what struck her most was the pain and fear in her eyes. “Let me check, Ma’am,” Jen said quickly. Picking up the phone, she said to the Admiral, “Sir, Colonel MacKenzie would like to see you.”
The Admiral barked at her, “Is it important?”
“I think so, Sir,” Jen responded, casting a nervous glance up at Mac.
Sighing, the Admiral said, “Send her in.” He was busy this morning and he didn’t have time to be wasted.
“You can go in, Ma’am,” Jen said to Mac.
“Thanks,” Mac said quickly as she stepped into the Admiral’s office.
“At ease,” he immediately ordered, continuing to look at the papers in front of him.
“Sir, I would like to request a few days leave.”
“You know we are shorthanded here, Colonel. What are your reasons for wanting leave, and how long do you expect to be gone?” he asked curtly, still working, not looking up.
“Sir,” Mac began weakly, her voice trembling, “I don’t know.”
At this, the Admiral looked up. Mac’s appearance and the tears he saw in her eyes shocked him. This was not at all like his Chief of Staff.
“Admiral,” she continued, “I just got a call from Trish Burnett, Harm’s mom. There was an accident and he’s in the hospital.”
“It’s serious?” he asked, although he knew by Mac’s face that it was.
“They have him on life support, Sir. They don’t expect him to make it.”
The Admiral leaned back in his chair, rubbing a nervous hand over his face. He hated this part of his job. He couldn’t let her go because they were shorthanded and she was handling several big cases at the moment. But on the other hand, he had to let her go. Based on her appearance, she just might pull a Rabb and resign, and he couldn’t handle that loss.
“Colonel,” he began, unsure of how to tell her this. “Mac,” he tried again, “if I don’t grant you leave, what will you do?”
Mac closed her eyes and swallowed. “I’ll resign, Sir.” She didn’t want to do that, but she was prepared to do whatever it took to get to Harm. He had proven that he would do the same for her, and it was past time she showed him what she was willing to do for him.
The Admiral nodded, but she couldn’t see it. “I shouldn’t let you. The SecNav will probably have my head for this, but I can’t afford to lose a good officer. I damn near lost Rabb-” he stopped short. From Mac’s report, it seemed he had lost Rabb anyway. “Go. We’ll figure something out.”
Mac opened her eyes and a few tears spilled out. “Thank you, Sir,” she responded, wiping a few fallen tears with the back of her hand.
“Get out of here.”
Mac nodded and turned sharply on her heel. She opened the door and turned back to the Admiral. “Thank you, Admiral. You don’t know how much this means to me.”
The Admiral nodded. “I might have an idea.”
Mac left quickly and raced back to her office, grabbing her purse and personal items. After driving back to her apartment in the city, she spoke to the airlines while she shoved clothes and toiletries into a bag. By the time she left her place in a cab, she had a flight secured that was leaving for Los Angeles shortly after 1230, where she would have a layover before departing for San Diego. She was due to arrive around 1645. It was the best she could do on such short notice.
Racing through the airport, Mac was thankful that Washington National was pretty efficient with security. Having heard stories from people flying out of airports where the line through security was a three-hour wait, she was appreciative of the effectiveness of the TSA agents today. She made it to the gate and was one of the last passengers to board the plane. Leaning back in her seat, Mac closed her eyes, finally alone with her thoughts.
She and Harm hadn’t gone their separate ways on great terms. A lot of things had been said prior to his departure, a lot of hurtful things, but things that perhaps had needed to be said. When Harm left, Mac knew he was right in doing so. They were gradually tearing each other down, chipping away at whatever was there between them. Things had been good, at times, before he left. His birthday and the Admiral’s engagement party were memories that brought a smile to Mac’s face. It had been like old times that night, for just a little while. But Mac hadn’t been able to let go of the image of Harm in a passionate embrace with another woman, a married woman.
Then, somehow, the line between friends and lovers became blurred and they had stepped over that line, or come close to it, more than once in the weeks before Harm left. It seemed like the more they fought, the closer they got to crossing that line. And the more Mac tried to fight it, the harder it was to resist. When it came to having Harm next to her, wanting her, she couldn’t make herself stop. She had walked away from him once, but the next time they were in a compromising situation, she hadn’t been able to. And the worst part of it was that it was in a public place, while they were on an undercover mission, putting Jennifer Coates at risk.
Yes, Harm leaving was perhaps the best thing. But watching him disappear into the darkness in that cab, and not knowing where he was going, had brought it all home for Mac. Something had to be done before they destroyed each other. As she stood in the cold December air, wrapped in darkness, she had felt alone, hurt, and empty. But the longer he was gone, the better Mac felt. She had been given the time to find herself again, not worry about what was going on between them. About a month ago, Mac had won a big case in court and was so excited when she got home, that she picked up the phone to call Harm. Halfway through dialing his number, she remembered that he was TAD and she didn’t know where he was. That’s when she knew. She was ready for him to come home, ready to work out whatever was between them, and see where it led. She was done with the arguing; she didn’t care anymore who he had slept with. She was just ready for him to come home.
And now this. It couldn’t end like this. There was no way she was flying out to San Diego to go visit Harm in the hospital to watch him die. This was somebody’s idea of a practical joke. Sure, Harm was right when he said, “This never was a fairytale,” but that didn’t mean they could never have a happy ending. They both deserved one.
Lost in her thoughts, Mac drifted to sleep, as she was thousands of feet above the earth. Stepping into Harm’s hospital room, she saw him laying in the bed, pale, his lips blue, and there were tubes and machines hooked up to him, but they were all turned off. She was too late. They had only allowed her to come in to say goodbye. Tears streaming down her face, she approached him, whispering, “No, no, not like this… It was never supposed to be like this…” Grabbing his hand, she found it cold and lifeless. He was gone and he wasn’t coming back. “No!” Mac said louder, waking herself.
Looking around the cabin, she noticed people looking at her. Shivering in the stuffy air of the plane, she looked away, choosing instead to gaze out the window. The clouds slipped beneath the wings, obscuring her view of the land below, lulling her into a thoughtless trance.
San Diego, California
Monday, April 5, 2004
1813 Hours (local)
Mrs. Burnett met Mac outside the hospital. Mac had only met Harm’s mom once, but she recognized the woman instantly. Her son had inherited the same proud stance and strong sense of self as his mother. “Mrs. Burnett,” Mac spoke as she cautiously approached the woman.
“Mac,” Harm’s mother responded, opening her arms to envelop Mac in a warm hug. “Please, call me Trish.”
“Okay, Trish,” Mac said, glad to be holding on to someone, someone that may be able to understand the storm of emotions inside her. “Have there been any changes?”
Pulling back, Trish began to lead the way inside. She took a deep breath before starting, “When they brought him in yesterday afternoon, he had already crashed once on the way in. It hasn’t happened since then, but there have been no changes, either. They have him on a ventilator, giving him 100 percent oxygen, and IVs to feed him, but his stomach isn’t digesting anything, and most of his internal organs are no longer working. It's like he just shut down.”
“So, if they stopped the machines…” Mac began, her eyes welling once more with tears.
Trish nodded as they stepped onto the elevator, “He’d die,” she finished, her voice tinged with sadness.
Mac was silent for a moment, trying to let this sink in, but she wasn’t having any luck. She didn’t think the idea of Harm being kept alive by machines would ever sink in. “Do they know what happened?” she asked.
Stepping off the elevator, Trish spoke, “Not exactly. They believe he was hit in the back of the head and knocked unconscious. There seems to be some damage, at the base of his brain, indicating a hit. Then he was either thrown into or fell into the water. Harm was always a good swimmer, so if he had been conscious…” she trailed off as she spotted Frank.
Frank spotted the two women, and like Trish, immediately wrapped Mac in his arms. “Mac, we’re glad you’re here.”
Mac sniffled. Her nose was getting a little runny from all the tears. “Thank you for calling me, Mr. Burnett.”
“Frank,” he stated simply as he let Mac go.
“One of us has been allowed to go in and see him for fifteen minutes every hour. We haven’t been in for a while, so if you want, you can go, Mac,” Trish said.
Mac nodded. “You sure?”
They both nodded in return. “I’ll walk you down,” Frank said.
Mac took off after him.
“It’s hard,” he said. “But I think he’d like to know you’re here.” They walked through a set of double doors, and Frank acknowledged the nurses at the station on the other side. He stopped outside a door and Mac could hear the beeping of machines, the sounds of a pump. “He’s in there.”
Mac stood up straighter, steeling herself, and stepped through the door. She had been expecting the sight to be bad, but it was far worse than even her imagination could create. Harm seemed smaller in the bed, nothing like the commanding presence he normally held; his skin was pale and waxy, and his lips were tinged with blue. His arms lay stretched out beside him, tubes connected in various places. He had a heart monitor on and tubes in his nose providing oxygen. Another was running down his throat, forcing his lungs to work. Mac drew in a deep breath, suddenly finding it hard to breathe, feeling like she was the one drowning. There was no way that this could be real, that this was Harm.
But it was. It was very real, and it was definitely Harm.
Mac took a seat in the chair by his bed and gripped his hand. Her chin quivered and her eyes were flooded with tears. There was no stopping them as they fell. Mac reached up and stroked Harm’s forehead, whispering, “I’m here, Harm. I’m here.” She sat for a long time, merely gazing at him, unsure of what to do or say. She only knew that things shouldn’t be like this.
The nurse came by and indicated that Mac had to leave. Leaning over, she managed to find her voice once more. “Harm, I have to go now. But I’ll be right outside. I’ll come back. Now you have to come back here and meet me. Please…” She walked out of the room, taking a last look at the shell of the man she knew. Out in the waiting room, Trish and Frank met her immediately.
Trish’s mothering instinct kicked in and she wrapped Mac in another hug, pulling her down into the seat next to her.
Mac’s brain was running wild. She was thinking of a case she had been on about a year prior to this. An oxygen tank was contaminated and the Commander essentially suffocated when he was in his plane, 45,000 feet in the air. He had made it, on life support, and his wife pulled the plug, killing him. At the time, Mac had no idea what she would have done if she were in that situation. Now, she pretty much was. Sure, Harm wasn’t her husband, but that didn’t mean she loved him any less. Now, she didn’t have to make the decision, but she would be there to see it, and she knew what the outcome would be if Trish and Frank took him off life support. Sobbing into Trish’s chest, Mac let herself melt into a puddle of salty tears.