La Jolla, California
Friday, December 24, 2004
2301 Hours (local)
The Medical Review Board cleared Harm for duty in August. Within days of returning to work, he was back in action in the courtroom like he had never left. Two months later, he was given permission to drive, as he was able to control his movements. It was recommended that he not drive for long distances, or when he was extremely tired, but his life was returning to normal. Given the extent of his injury, however, he was unable to continue flying for the Navy, and unable to maintain his private pilot’s license.
He and Mac had formed a much closer relationship. That’s not to say that they didn’t have their arguments, because they did, but they never reached the intensity of the previous autumn. Sometimes the specters of their past rose from the ashes to haunt them, but they were dealt with before being reburied. After Harm’s close call, after the time and space they had given each other, neither was willing to give up on the other. They both wanted to make things work, well aware of what a failure would cost. Broken hearts were not easily repaired, but it could be done, although annihilated hearts were another matter.
“I’m glad you came out here for Christmas,” Harm said as he pulled Mac close to him on the couch.
“Thanks for inviting me,” Mac responded as she snuggled down into his arms, her back to his front, his back nestled into the corner of the couch.
“I think my mom is glad to see you, too.”
“She just wanted to make sure somebody was keeping you out of trouble,” Mac grinned.
“That’s it,” Harm nodded, rolling his eyes. “That’s all she wants is for you to keep me out of trouble. Never mind all the trouble you get into…”
“I always make it out when you have my six, and you seem to make it out okay when I have yours,” Mac reminded him.
“Speaking of sixes…” Harm trailed as he slipped a hand down between them, caressing Mac’s six.
“There you go, giggling again. One day I am going to get it on tape just to show people that Marines do giggle.”
“Do that and you won’t have a six anymore,” Mac threatened, her smile lighting up her eyes. “And please, kindly remove your hand from my six. Your mother’s couch is not the place for this.”
“Then let’s take it upstairs,” he suggested, nuzzling into her hair, moving his hand from her rear end to her breast.
Mac shook her head. “Not right now. I just want to stay here in front of the fire and look at the Christmas tree.”
“You just want to know what I got you for Christmas,” he teased. He had gotten her good this year. Her big gift was actually small: a necklace with three diamonds on it, one representing their past, one their present, and one their future, each cut in the shape of a tear. Along with the necklace was a pair of earrings, two small gold roses with a tiny diamond in the center. He had been dying to show her the items the day he bought them and it had taken all of his self-control to not give in.
She had no idea what he had gotten for her, but the smile he had when he came back from shopping for her let her know it was good. “Like staring at it is going to help. I’ve had a month to stare at it because somebody wanted to get his Christmas shopping done early this year,” Mac teased him. But Mac wasn’t only excited about her gift from him, she also couldn’t wait to give him his gift: a new watch, to replace the one she had given him for his fortieth birthday that was lost during his accident. It even had a new engraving on the back that read, “To Harm, my best friend, for Christmas. Love, Mac.” Like the first watch, it was sterling silver and had a simple design.
“Only for you.”
“I suppose I should be flattered.”
“I want you to always feel flattered with me.”
“Really?” Harm asked, his eyebrows raised.
Mac twisted in his arms so she was facing him. “Maybe flattery isn’t the right word… But these last few months have been good, Harm. The dinners, the movies, the late nights at your place or mine…”
Harm could see the tears welling in her eyes. “Hey,” he said, reaching up to stroke one cheek. “You’re scaring me. Don’t cry.”
Mac laughed weakly and closed her eyes. “You remember that night on the Admiral’s porch?” she asked.
“Your engagement party or his?”
“I said I wanted to be happy,” she reminded him.
“You deserve to be happy.”
“You make me happy.”
It was a simple statement, but Harm knew what she meant. “And you make me happy, Sarah.”
At the use of her given name, Mac opened her eyes and turned her gaze to him. “I used to think about what it would be like if we ever got this to work,” she began.
“And?” Harm wanted her to go on.
“The good ones always turned out kind of like this. They always made me feel good.”
“There were bad ones?” he asked.
“Occasionally. And there were times when I thought it would never happen between us. But this, what we have, Harm, it is what I’ve always wanted for us. I’ve always wanted us to be happy.”
Harm looked at her closely for a moment before he asked, “Have I ever told you that I love you?”
“A few times.”
Harm nodded. “I love you.”
Thinking back to the first time he had said those words, just a little more than a year earlier, Mac had a worried expression on her face. “Do you plan on leaving anytime soon?”
“Not at any point in the future,” he answered, his gaze meeting hers.
Mac relaxed and smiled. “I love you, too.”
Harm wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. Mac rested her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. Gazing down at her, he knew she was the most beautiful woman in the world, her skin illuminated by the firelight and the lights on the tree. “I think maybe I should have invited you out here for Christmas years ago.”
“You didn’t used to come out here for Christmas,” she reminded him.
“No, not for a few years.”
“Why this year?”
“Don’t get me wrong, I love my dad and I miss him, but I wanted to spend this year with the living. I came a little too close to seeing my dad again. I’m not ready for that.”
“I’m not ready to let you go,” Mac whispered.
“And I’m not ready to let you go, either.”
“You’ve changed in the last year,” Mac said gently.
Her statement did not insult Harm, only made him curious. “Is that good or bad?”
“We’re together, aren’t we?” Mac asked, hoping he would understand the meaning.
Harm smiled in the dim light. “I saw things a little differently after the accident. I came too close to losing everything to not do something about it. But you’ve changed, too, Mac.”
“I suppose,” she responded quietly. “I guess that comes from seeing you on death’s door.” She went on, her voice still quieter, and somewhat shaky, “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
“You would have gone on, had a great career, lived a wonderful life that made you happy, and I would have been watching over you to make sure you didn’t get hurt.”
Mac shook her head. “I don’t think so. I think I would have gone down with you.”
“Look at me, Mac,” Harm insisted. When her gaze met his, he went on, “You are an incredible woman and you would have done fine without me. It may have hurt, but in the end, you would have gotten back on your feet again. You are strong, intelligent, brave, beautiful, loving, caring… amazing. You would have survived.”
Mac nodded. “Thank you.”
“I mean it. It’s because of those reasons that I love you.”
“But you know what would have really hurt?” she asked.
“That you would have gone and you wouldn’t have known that I love you.”
“I knew, Mac. I’ve always known. It’s in every little thing you do. I would have regretted never really getting to tell you that I love you.”
Mac smiled. “But I knew that you loved me. Not everybody would fly to Paraguay to save me and thwart a terrorist plot,” she said, thinking of all the things he had done for her over the years.
“It’s funny. It took us so long to get to this point,” Harm responded.
“No,” Mac shook her head. “It’s sad. But I think we just had to go through things, experience life, to become who we are, to make this possible.”
Harm nodded. “I think there is something to that. Life makes us who we are.”
“The important thing,” Mac said, suddenly brightening, “is that we are here.”
Harm smiled, tightening his arms around her once again. “Very true.”
Mac leaned low and kissed him. As their kiss heated up, she whispered, “What do you say to taking this party upstairs?”
Harm continued to kiss her before answering, “I think that sounds like an excellent idea.”
Pulling away from him, as difficult as it was, Mac climbed off the couch and held her hand out to Harm. Once on his feet, he pulled her close for another kiss before they headed up the stairs, side by side, holding hands.
Blacksburg Municipal Airport
Saturday, January 8, 2005
1257 Hours (local)
They had spent the morning working on Sarah. Even though Harm couldn’t fly it, he was determined to keep it maintained. Mac had been truly interested in learning about the plane, and Harm was impressed with how quickly she was picking up on the mechanics of the machine. They had been cleaning some of the parts and had taken a break over lunch, laughing and enjoying the day.
Harm rose from the table while Mac shoved the last bite of her sandwich into her mouth. She wasn’t watching him as she finished cleaning a small part. Harm removed a tiny object from the pocket of his pants, a smile on his face, and slipped it into the engine of his plane. Having purchased it the previous summer while he was still in La Jolla, he had been waiting for the right time, waiting to see how things went between him and Mac. When Mac was done wiping the small part, he called to her. “Hey, Mac?”
“Yeah?” she responded, without looking up.
“You want to bring that part you’re working on over here?”
“Sure,” she said. She got to her feet and shoved the rag into her pocket. As she headed towards the plane, Harm stepped away, moving to the toolbox, searching for something. It wasn’t very long before he heard her voice. “Hey, Harm, come here for a second.”
Harm quit rifling through the toolbox and moved back to the plane. “What’s up?”
“Umm… look in there,” she instructed, her eyes wide with curiosity.
Harm looked where she indicated. “Yeah?”
Mac looked again and said, “Does that belong there?”
“No,” Harm said shaking his head, still gazing at the object. “It doesn’t belong there.” He glanced back at Mac for a moment. She was trying hard not to smile but it was a losing battle; Harm was trying to not smile as well. Quickly turning his gaze away and back to the plane, he reached up and removed the object. He lifted Mac’s hand and slid the ring onto her finger. “It belongs here. That is, if you’ll have me.”
“Sarah, will you marry me?”
Mac’s eyes filled with tears. “Yes,” she said quietly.
Harm smiled, slid the ring on the rest of the way, and pulled her close to kiss her. When they broke, a few tears had spilled out of her eyes. Harm thumbed them away. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Pulling her close to him for a hug, Harm knew he had a good life. He may not be able to fly anymore, but he was alive, and he had Mac.
Her head on his chest, Mac blinked back her happy tears. This was how it was always meant to be for them. They were always meant to be together.
Speaking into her hair, Harm asked, “What do you say we get back to work on the plane?”
Mac nodded. “That’s what we’re here for.” She pulled herself out of his embrace, already missing his warmth in the cold January air.
Harm turned back to the engine as he said, “I was thinking that after we finish here, we could head home, get cleaned up, and go out for a nice dinner to celebrate.”
“You had this entirely planned out, didn’t you?” Mac asked, her hands on her hips, one clenching a wrench, a rag hanging out the side pocket of her jeans, and a streak of dirt on one cheek from where Harm had wiped her tears.
“Of course,” Harm smiled. “And I knew you’d say yes, so I’ve got reservations for Julian’s later tonight.”
Mac’s mouth dropped open. “They have the best Italian food outside of Italy. And they are so hard to get into on a Saturday night!” Mac squealed.
Harm nodded. “We’re in, so if you want to go, we have to finish up with the plane.”
Dropping her wrench, Mac raced to Harm and jumped him, wrapping her arms and legs around him. “Thank you, Harm!”
Harm held her close for a moment until she was ready to get down. “You’re quite welcome.”
Planting her feet on the ground, Mac pushed a few strands of hair out of her face, tucking them behind her ear. “I never would have taken you for a romantic,” she said, bending down to retrieve her wrench.
“I hate to tell you this, Mac, but this is as romantic as I get.”
Handing Harm her wrench, she said, “I can live with that, as long as all of your romantic gestures are meant for me.”
Accepting the wrench, Harm went to work in the engine of the plane again, looking at Mac over his shoulder, and said, “Then this marriage thing between us is going to work out fine.”
Mac watched as Harm’s long fingers worked skillfully with the engine parts. By looking at him, one would never know that he had been seriously injured. She both respected and admired the way he treated the plane and hoped that one day, he would trust her with the machine. Smiling, she focused on the task at hand, her stomach already anticipating the meal it would get later in the evening, and her heart filled with a sense of joy she never knew was possible.
Manassas Regional Airport
Sunday, February 26, 2005
0955 Hours (local)
“Mac, are you sure you want to do this?” Harm asked as he looked at the wide, open space around them.
Mac nodded, grinning broadly. “I do, Harm,” she responded, pulling a few wisps of hair away from her face. She had butterflies in her stomach and the windy weather only caused them to multiply, but she was determined. And she really did want to do this, not just for Harm, but for herself, too.
“‘Cause you don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“Harm,” she said, silencing him by placing a finger on his lips, “I want to.”
Looking into the depth of her eyes, he could see the smile there and knew she meant it. “I’m proud of you.”
Mac shook her head, breaking the gaze. “This is nothing. I’m proud of you. You’ve overcome a lot and come a long way.”
“Is that why you’re doing this?” he asked, his uncertainty showing in his eyes.
Mac shook her head again. “We talked about this, Harm. I really want to do this. I know how much this meant to you and I want to experience that. I want to feel the freedom you felt. And I want to give part of that back to you. I can’t give it all back-”
Harm interrupted her, “I don’t need it back. I’ve already got something better.”
“Who says you can’t have more?” Mac asked with a smile. “I know you could go the rest of your life without this, but you shouldn’t have to. This is a part of who you are. And this is a part of getting that back.”
“But you aren’t doing it just for me, right?” he asked, still uncertain.
“No. I’m doing it for me, too. It’s something I want to do. I promise.”
Harm’s face finally broke into a grin.
Greg Waters approached the couple. “You ready?” he asked Mac.
Mac nodded enthusiastically. “Let’s do this.”
“Follow me,” Greg said, turning to walk away.
“I’ll be back in a little while,” Mac said to Harm, starting to walk away.
After about ten steps, Harm called out to her, “Mac!”
Mac turned around. The sun was shining brightly above her, the wind whipping her auburn hair, her eyes dancing with the sense of adventure, and her face was eager.
Harm walked to her and pulled her into a hug. “Thanks.”
Mac wrapped her arms around him. “No, thank you. Thank you for coming back to me.”
“I had to,” he said, smiling. He pulled away a little and looked at Mac. She looked absolutely beautiful at the moment, heavenly, and Harm could have held onto her forever. But he also knew that he had to let her go and do this, let her spread her wings. He leaned down to her and claimed her lips in a passionate kiss. “Be careful up there,” he said.
Mac’s smile widened, “I know, I know, you’re the only one allowed to pull dangerous stunts.”
Harm mocked a look of hurt. “I don’t try to, they just happen!”
Mac laughed. “I’ll be careful.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
Mac pulled herself away from Harm and started walking across the field once more.
“Mac!” Harm called again.
Mac turned around but kept walking, going backwards so she could face him.
“I love you!”
“Love you, too!” She gave him one last smile and turned around, jogging to catch up to Greg.
Harm remained where he was and watched her go. He was never more proud of her than when he saw the plane taxi down the runway, even though he knew she wasn’t at the controls. Not yet. He couldn’t help but to fight the tears as the small plane became airborne. He may never fly again, but she was determined to learn. She wanted to take him up in Sarah one day, let him take the controls, like he once let her. It’d be the closest he’d ever come to flying again.
Watching the small aircraft disappear in the clouds, he would occasionally catch sight of it as it came out from behind the blankets of white to be silhouetted by the bright blue sky. He could go the rest of his life without flying, now that he had Mac, but he did yearn to be back up in the air again, even if he wasn’t in complete control. And Mac was the ticket to that freedom.
Mac was giving him wings, letting him fly.