San Diego, California
Tuesday, April 6, 2004
0803 Hours (local)
They had taken turns throughout the night, sitting with Harm for short periods of time. After talking to the doctor, Mac pulled herself up off the chairs that had served as a bed and went outside for a few minutes. Dialing on her cell phone, she called JAG Headquarters and was put through to the Admiral.
“Colonel, how is he?” the Admiral asked.
“He’s…” Mac trailed off. “They’re doubtful that he’ll ever regain consciousness.”
“Mac…” the Admiral didn’t know what to say. He knew that her heart was breaking. “Has there been any improvement?”
Mac sniffled, fighting back the tears. “Some. He has been pulled off of 100 percent oxygen down to 30 percent. Normally, people require about 20 percent. It’s better, but they still aren’t hopeful. His internal organs aren’t working any longer…” Mac trailed off.
The Admiral just sat in stunned silence. He hadn’t told his staff about Harm’s accident, hoping he would pull through. Harm was just too damn stubborn to give up, but the reality was that recovery, of any sort, in cases like this, was rare.
Mac took a deep breath.
“You okay, Mac?”
“It’s tough, Sir. He’s not… I don’t want to give up on him, but it’s tough to have hope.”
“I understand. Have faith, though. It’s Harm. If anyone can make it, it’ll be him,” the Admiral spoke softly, trying to reassure her.
Mac smiled through her tears. “I know, Sir.”
“If there is any change, call me, anytime.”
“I will, Sir. Thank you,” Mac said as she hung up. She took a seat on a bench and this was where Trish found her twenty minutes later, tears still falling softly.
San Diego, California
Thursday, April 8, 2004
1623 Hours (local)
Frank was in the room, visiting Harm, leaving Trish and Mac in the waiting room. Staring down at her feet, leaning forward so that the weight of her upper body was resting on her elbows and on her knees, her hands clutched a mostly full cup of cold coffee. She was exhausted; the hours waiting for any change in Harm’s condition were taking a toll on her. Her body was giving out on her and she knew it, but felt powerless to stop it. Her throat felt like sandpaper; her eyes were burning from the lack of sleep; her stomach was constantly in knots so she hadn’t eaten in days. All of her muscles were sore from the hours spent in a chair, only broken up by periods of pacing.
Her mind, though, was far away, ignoring the discomforts of her physical being. The memories of her time with Harm were flooding her brain, spanning the years of their friendship, from their first meeting in the White House Rose Garden to their last good-bye at his apartment in December. The cases they had worked on together, their disastrous flights, and their kisses that had been few and far between… They all brought fresh tears to her eyes, knowing her memories might be all that she would have of him. Even the pain of his betrayal the previous autumn had lost its sting. Facing the present situation, the pain that had driven them to this point seemed much less important.
“Mac?” Trish spoke from the chair next to her.
Mac was not sure how long Trish had been calling her name, whether it was the first time she had spoken or the hundredth, and her voice sounded as if Trish were a million miles away. “Hmm?” Mac answered absently, still drowning in her memories.
“What are you thinking?” she asked weakly.
Mac slowly turned her head towards Trish, trying to figure out why she was asking the question.
“It was about Harm, wasn’t it?” she questioned softly.
Mac nodded. “It’s hard not to. He’s here, but he’s not.”
Mac looked away, back down at her feet. At least lost in her memories, she wasn’t so focused on the here and now, but stuck more with the ‘what ifs’ of their past.
“Why weren’t you and Harm talking?” Trish asked suddenly.
Mac turned back to Trish, surprised. “He didn’t tell you?”
“No,” she shook her head sadly. “A few weeks after his arrival, he finally told us he was out here. After that he came to visit a few times, saying he was on a temporary assignment at North Island. I was surprised he was out here, and even more so that he made the effort to visit. Before he always talked about you, but this time, he didn’t say a word.”
“How did you know we weren’t speaking if he didn’t say anything?” Mac asked, curious.
“I asked him about you. I wanted to know how you were, and I was curious to know why you hadn’t come up in conversation.”
“Things happened. We just needed some time,” Mac said sadly, turning once more to her feet.
“I’m not sure I should tell you, Trish. It isn’t pretty. And it…” Mac trailed off, searching for the right word.
“If you don’t tell me, Mac, I might not ever know.”
Mac thought about this. She didn’t want to dredge up the past, but she didn’t want to hide things from Trish, exclude her from her life, and the life of her son. Turning back to her, Mac asked, “I don’t want to be rude, but why do you want to know?”
“To understand my son, why he has acted the way he has these last few months, why he came here and why he’s been so closed off. I want to understand.”
Mac had to respect that. Nodding her head slowly, she inquired, “How much do you know?”
“Not much. He kept his mouth shut pretty tightly.”
Mac sighed heavily, not really knowing where to begin. “He and I were assigned a case to work together last fall. We don’t get to work together as often as we used to, much less do investigations, but the Admiral handed us this one. And Harm, he had been given mostly paperwork during the summer, rarely getting to see the inside of the courtroom, and when he did, the cases were straightforward and simple. I think the Admiral was starting to feel sorry for him, or let go of his grudge from the previous spring.”
“Why would the Admiral have a grudge?” Trish interrupted.
Mac turned swiftly to look at her. “He didn’t tell you anything about last spring, did he?” Mac was quickly getting the idea that Trish was kept pretty much in the dark about Harm’s life.
“I knew he was out of town for a while on a couple of cases, but that’s it. Did something happen?”
Mac snorted, “You could say that. I was given an assignment, a joint operation with the CIA, and I can’t give you many details because they’re classified. We’ve worked with the agent I was going with before, Webb. He needed a pregnant wife and I was chosen. I was outfitted with a pregnancy suit, given the details of the mission, and handed my plane ticket. I hadn’t really had the chance to speak to Harm for a few weeks, not since he was arrested, so I-”
“Harm was arrested?!” Again Trish interrupted suddenly.
“Oh, God,” Mac groaned, closing her eyes. “Harm didn’t tell you about that either, did he?”
Shaking her head, Trish responded, “No, he didn’t. What was he arrested for?”
“Murder,” Mac responded quickly. “But it wasn’t him. Commander Lindsey was eventually found to be responsible for Lieutenant Singer’s death.”
“Why would Harm be blamed for her death? He had mentioned her before in passing, how frustrating she could be, but Harm wouldn’t…” she trailed off.
“No, he wouldn’t, not like Loren died. But he was acting like a suspect, trying to keep NCIS away from his-” Mac stopped short, not knowing how much she should tell Trish about Harm’s brother.
Trish swallowed and searched Mac’s eyes. “Was he protecting Sergei?”
Mac nodded, looking away, gazing at a couple that had just entered the room.
Trish smiled weakly. “That’s Harm. He’d do anything for his family, and those he cares about.”
Hearing the softness of Trish’s tone, Mac continued on. “He didn’t want NCIS to know about Sergei. He knew that Sergei would immediately look like a suspect because he was possibly the father of Loren’s child.”
“She was pregnant?”
Nodding again, Mac went on, “Four months at the time of death, with a little girl. Turns out, Sergei wasn’t the father. Neither was Commander Lindsey, although he thought he was and decided to kill her in order to keep his affair out of the spotlight. But Harm spent time in the brig because he was the original suspect in her murder. Shortly after he was released, I was given the assignment with the CIA. I stopped by to visit Harm before I left, just to make sure he was okay. When I showed up with the pregnancy suit on, he knew something was up. The conversation didn’t last long and I left pretty quickly, not telling him much more than the country to which I was flying and who I was going with.” Pausing, Mac looked down at her feet again, tears in her eyes. “He asked me not to go, but I didn’t listen.” She blinked back the tears, but she couldn’t stop her nose from running. She sniffled.
Trish placed a soothing hand on Mac’s back, rubbing it gently, and asked, “What happened next?”
“I went. During the course of the mission, things went wrong. Harm came down and he didn’t only save my life and Webb’s life, he saved the mission as well. But it came at a price. In order to come after me, he gave up his commission in the Navy.”
Trish gasped, her hand pausing on Mac’s back, “But the Navy meant everything to him! He’s obviously back in…”
Mac nodded, a single tear making its way down her cheek and dropping to the pale, green linoleum floor beneath her feet. “He is. I didn’t know what he had given up for me until he couldn’t get home. He had lost his passport and papers and since he was no longer military, he couldn’t get home. The CIA eventually paid, thanks to his wife.”
“Harm is married?” Trish was now even more confused than she had ever been. “Is that why you guys quit speaking?”
Mac shook her head, her heart hurting just thinking about the events that led them to where they were. “It was a fake ceremony to make a dying woman happy. By doing it, he was able to speak to someone in the CIA in hopes of finding me. Anyway, after everything he did for me, I never said thank you. I meant to, things just happened so fast. Then when we got home, he was ordered to report to the Admiral the next day, and he was given his job back. I think he was less than 24 hours away from becoming a civilian and after the way the Admiral treated him when he came back, I think the only reason Harm was allowed back was because he had saved me.
“After the adventure with the CIA, Harm was given only cases that he would not have picked, were he given a choice. He’s a better lawyer than that. But the Admiral was angry with him, and the investigation last fall was the first real case Harm had gotten in months. We were working with a Detective Denise West from the D.C. Police Department. She was good at what she did and we were able to solve the case. However, it all came at a price, and things between Harm and I just… fell apart doesn’t begin to describe it.” Sighing heavily, Mac glanced back up at Trish, unsure of how to continue.
Frank walked down the hallway to join them. He took a seat beside his wife, who grabbed his hand absently, knowing there was no change.
Trish nodded to Mac, seeing the sadness in her eyes.
Glancing away again, Mac chose her words carefully. “Harm and I had quite a few arguments about recent events, Paraguay, his time in the brig, the state of our relationship. He had hurt me, but I was too chicken to just tell him why. I let it go, let things build, and when they came out, it only made things worse.”
“What did my son do?” Trish asked.
Mac shook her head, saying, “I’m not sure I should be the one to tell you. I don’t know how… open… the two of you have been in the past.”
“Mac, he can’t tell me. He may never be able to.”
Nodding, Mac blinked back the tears as she said, “He and Detective West had an affair. I more or less caught them in the act.”
Trish gasped, stating, “But Harm loves you. Why would he do that?”
Mac jerked her head back up. “You knew?”
“He never said it, but I knew. He talked about you all the time. He never talked about anyone quite like he talked about you, not Renee, or Jordan, or even Diane. He smiled when he said your name, his eyes always sparkled, and even over the phone, he sounded happier when he talked about you. Even when you were engaged, there was something in his voice that gave him away, and it wasn’t there when he spoke about Renee.”
“God, I must be the only person that didn’t know,” Mac said sadly, looking once more down at her feet. “We finally cleared the air about how we felt the night he left. I couldn’t have stopped him, but I wish it hadn’t ended like that.”
Releasing Frank’s hand, Trish pulled Mac into an embrace. “You couldn’t have known that this would happen.”
Shaking her head, Mac responded, “I know, but I still feel like I could have done something to change this. If I had called him, or asked him not to go, or if I had never caught him with Denise, would we even be here now? And like you, I want to understand. I don’t know why he did it, but I think I’m finally ready to listen now. I’m tired of arguing with him, fighting whatever it is that’s between us. But I’m too late,” Mac finished, sniffling.
“You don’t know that,” Trish said, tears springing up anew in her own eyes. “We don’t know.”
Watching the scene, Frank rubbed his wife’s back soothingly, not knowing what else to do.
“I did thank him, though, for saving my life,” Mac said suddenly. “I was glad he did it at the time, but if he dies, I’m not sure it will have been worth it.”
“Oh, Mac…” Trish whispered, pulling the younger woman closer, her own tears falling into Mac’s dark hair.
It was Frank who spoke the words they were all thinking, “Maybe all we can do at this point is pray. If anybody can make it through this, it’s Harm. He is the most obstinate person I have ever met and he will not give up so easily. We shouldn’t give up on him.”
“I haven’t yet,” Mac said softly, thinking of that long ago spring afternoon on the steps in front of JAG Headquarters. “I haven’t yet.”
San Diego, California
Saturday, April 10, 2004
1515 Hours (local)
Two days later, Mac was sitting at Harm’s bedside, once again clutching his hand. The days had been passing in a blur, filled with hours spent in the waiting room and precious few minutes by Harm’s side. The doctor’s words had begun to enter one ear and continue to go right out the other, nothing more than medical mumbo-jumbo. Mac had ceased to be aware of the passage of time; her internal clock had shut down. Trish and Frank had made the decision earlier to take Harm off life support on Monday if there was no further improvement, as there was still no brain activity and most of his internal organs weren’t functioning.
Giant tears fell from Mac’s eyes. She had never cried so much in her whole life. Sucking in her breath, Mac spoke in her best Drill Instructor voice without yelling, hoping an order would reach him, “Commander, listen to me. You have to make an effort. Your mom and Frank,” she paused before continuing, “they are going to take you off life support on Monday if you aren’t doing any better. You have to try, Harm.” As the words poured from her mouth, her voice sounding less and less like a Drill Instructor, she felt separated from herself, as if she wasn’t really there and that the situation couldn’t be real.
There was no response. Deep down, Mac wasn’t surprised. She had been losing hope with every day that passed without improvement.
Trying again, with a softer voice, “You can’t do this, Harm. Not to me. We have so much to work out between us. I know we said some mean things, but you didn’t have to do this to get my attention. I’m ready to listen, Harm. Talk to me.” As more tears fell from her eyes, faster now, she went on, “You know, your mom called me on the fifth. AJ’s fifth birthday. We still have that baby to work on. I haven’t forgotten our promise and I know you won’t go back on your word. That’s not like you. So, you have to come back to me. I won’t let people say that you were the type to go back on your word. I still want that kid, Harm. I still want you. I love you.”
Mac looked down at her feet, letting her tears fall.
From the doorway, Trish cried silent tears at the sight before her. The hospital staff had relaxed the rules a little about visiting Harm. Although they weren’t allowed in the room constantly, the one person for fifteen minutes every hour was not being strictly adhered to, and at times, all three of them had been in the room. Mac’s heart was breaking and Trish’s was going right along with it, not only for her son, but also for the woman at his bedside now.
When Harm had come out to San Diego a few months ago on a temporary assignment, Trish knew something had been bothering him. He came up to La Jolla to visit them when he could get away from the base, and he had gradually opened up, as open as her son became, anyway, but he never said much about what drove him out to North Island. He spoke about events on the base, but never about events back in D.C., or Mac. When Trish asked him what was going on between him and Mac, he avoided answering questions, never saying what was at the root of the problems Trish knew they were having. And even though Harm hadn’t spoken to Mac since he came west, she knew he would go back and they would find their way back to each other, whether it was as friends or something more. But looking at the sight before her now, she felt calmly certain that Harm and Mac would never get another chance.
Turning away from the heart-wrenching scene in front of her, Trish headed back to the waiting room, and her husband, seeking any comfort he could provide.
San Diego, California
Monday, April 12, 2004
0859 Hours (local)
It was time.
They had all been given a few minutes alone with Harm to say their goodbyes. In the previous 24 hours, Mac, Trish, and Frank had been allowed to stay in the room with him constantly in preparation for the approaching event. There had been no improvement, so the time had come to turn the life support system off.
Mac stood on one side of Harm, clutching his hand. Trish was on the other side, clutching his other hand. Frank stood by his wife, one hand resting gently on one of Harm’s knees. The doctor was standing next to the life support machine, holding a clipboard. He looked over at Trish, who was only looking down at her son.
The doctor cleared his throat and spoke in a soothing tone. He hated this part of the job, but it came with saving lives, and sometimes, you had to let them go. “It won’t be immediate. He will most likely die within five minutes, though, and there will be no resuscitation attempt.”
“Do it,” Trish said, her voice barely above a whisper, hesitating to speak and hating the words once she said them.
The doctor hit the required buttons and the machine stopped. He gently removed the tubes from Harm’s throat, pulling the pump out that had been forcing his lungs to work.
Mac closed her eyes and let the tears fall. She didn’t know how one body could be capable of producing so many tears without drying up. She had cried so much over the last few days, cried until her eyes hurt, but that never stopped the tears. As she stood there with her eyes closed, she sent up one final prayer for a miracle, to whoever may be listening.
The heart monitor kept beating out the rhythm of Harm’s heart, the rhythm of his life. Oxygen was no longer being given, although the tubes were still connected, as were most of the tubes, though they were all shut off. Any breathing was being done by Harm’s body alone.
One minute passed, then two, then five. Mac held her breath, only breathing when her lungs screamed for air. When she breathed, she would glance at Harm and the monitors, making sure her ears weren’t deceiving her, making sure that he was still with them, if only for a moment. Every minute that passed seemed to be an eternity to Mac.
After ten minutes, Trish spoke, her voice shaky. “Is this normal?”
“It’s common,” the doctor answered. “Many patients do continue to breathe for several minutes after being removed from life support. However, it does not tend to last long as the body tires quickly.”
Suddenly hopeful, Mac opened her eyes, bloodshot and tear-filled, and looked at the doctor. “But, it does sometimes last longer?”
The doctor nodded. “There have been cases where patients have lived for years after being taken off life support.”
Hope flickered in Mac’s eyes. “Have these people ever recovered?”
The doctor saw the flicker of life in Mac’s eyes and he was saddened. Miracles like that were truly rare. “A few. Of those that have, the majority suffered permanent brain damage. But for most people who live beyond the life support, the quality of life is not good.”
“But there is still hope?” Trish asked, hope growing in her eyes as well. She felt guilty for giving up on her son like this, but the chances of any recovery were slim.
The doctor nodded. “I’ll be honest. The chances of him recovering are nearly nothing.”
They fell silent again as they watched Harm. He was breathing on his own, but the question was, how long would it last? For now, none of them knew the answer. They could only pray, and hope.