Thursday, June 24, 2004
2003 Hours (local)
Mac had just gotten comfortable in a tub full of hot water and bubbles when the phone rang. Laughing to herself, she sat up and reached across to the toilet lid, where she had left the portable phone. Somehow, she had known she wasn’t going to make it through the bath uninterrupted. “MacKenzie,” she spoke into the phone.
“Hey, Mac,” responded the comforting voice from the other end.
“Hey, Harm,” Mac answered, smiling to herself. She loved it when he called, even if she always felt a moment of fear before he assured her that he was fine.
“How are you?” he asked.
“Tired, it’s been one of those days. What about you?”
“Same old, same old.”
“So, you aren’t calling me with any exciting news?” she asked as she leaned back in the tub. Mac was okay with no exciting news from Harm. In fact, it was probably better that way, as she would worry less.
Harm could hear the movement in the water. “I just had a feeling that maybe you needed a call to cheer you up.”
Mac laughed. “We must be on the same wavelength.”
“Are you in the tub?”
Shifting a leg, the water sloshed again. “Sure am.”
Picturing Mac in the tub, he asked, “Do I want to know how you answered the phone so quickly?”
“I had it in here with me. Somehow, I just knew someone would call. I should have known it would be you.”
Harm smiled to himself and leaned back into the pillows on the bed, gazing at the picture of the two of them in Afghanistan on his bedside table. “Rough day?”
“That’s one way of putting it,” Mac sighed.
“Tell me about it.”
Thinking about her current case, Mac began, “A couple days ago I got handed a case involving a Petty Officer who was caught stealing.”
“Anything. From the base commissary, from the office, from coworkers, anything. He seemed like a good kid, though. Honest, friendly, smart, too. He’s apparently been stealing for a while and it was an unfortunate situation that caused him to get caught. So, he tells me this story, why he steals, and it’s very compelling. He was helping his parents take care of his three siblings. His parents are poor, his youngest sister is really sick, and his parents really can’t afford her treatment and medicine… Anyway, I started to feel sorry for him.”
“He keeps shooting himself in the foot. I thought that I could get him off on mitigating circumstances if he went into counseling. But Sturgis is being a real hard-ass on this one, going all out.”
“Okay…” Harm trailed off, thinking. “What does the Petty Officer keeping doing to exacerbate the situation?”
Mac chuckled. “Get this, today I was meeting with him and Sturgis, about an hour or so before court, trying to strike a deal. Sturgis wouldn’t bite. We leave the conference room and I head back to my office. I had the kid taken into custody while we waited for the court time because, honestly, I’m afraid to leave him alone in my office. Sturgis comes by and asks me if I’ve seen his wallet. I hadn’t. He told me he had it in his briefcase, since he was hoping to have time to run downstairs and grab something to eat before court.”
“Oh no…” Harm started, chuckling, knowing where Mac was going with her story. “He didn’t.”
“He did. I went to talk to the Petty Officer and there he was with Sturgis’s wallet, smiling like a cat that had brought me a present.”
“You took the wallet back to Sturgis, right?”
“I did. And told him where I got it.”
“No wonder he’s being such a hard-ass!” Harm exclaimed. He missed JAG, the daily happenings and the occasional weird cases they were handed.
“No kidding. The kid is so smart but he is being incredibly stupid. Ugh…” Mac said, sinking lower into the tub. “I don’t want to think about it anymore. How are things with you?”
“Good,” Harm responded simply. “My handwriting is improving.”
Closing her eyes, Mac said, “That’s good. Anything new from the doctors?”
“Not really. I just have to keep working, but they’re hopeful. They say that I should be able to drive again, as long as I’m careful.”
“That’s wonderful,” Mac said, smiling.
Harm could hear the smile in her voice. “And I’m keeping up with the exercise, too. Walking every day, usually in the evening with my mom and Frank down on the beach.”
“I’ll bet that’s nice,” Mac said, her eyes still closed, envisioning the beach.
“Sometimes. Mom is glad to be back at work. Mostly I just listen to the two of them talk about their days. I’d love to talk about mine, but they really aren’t that exciting,” Harm finished, sounding depressed.
“They’ll get better,” Mac assured him, opening her eyes to stare at the tiles on the wall. She moved one hand and dribbled some water over her shoulders and her chest, both warming and tickling her skin. Being on the phone, she was reluctant to sit too low in the water. “Have they said anything about you coming home soon?”
“Not yet,” Harm replied. He heard Mac shift in the tub on the other end of the line. Closing his eyes, he envisioned her long legs sloped beneath the surface of the water, her breasts and nether regions hidden by bubbles. He stifled a groan. “Mac?”
“Do you,” Harm started, hesitation evident in his voice, “do you want to come out here for the Fourth of July? I know Harriet usually has a cook-out, but I won’t be there and-” He stopped talking when he heard Mac laughing.
“Take a breath, Harm.”
Harm did as she instructed and took a breath.
“Now let it out.” She heard him expel the air over the line. “Would this be like a date?”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to ask someone closer to where you are instead of me, all the way across the country?” she teased.
“I suppose it would be, but I’m not interested in anyone out here.”
Mac was lucky that Harm couldn’t see the blush that wasn’t only forming in her cheeks, but all over her body, bringing with it a tightening in her stomach and a feeling of warmth between her legs. “What day is the Fourth?”
“You don’t know?” he asked.
“Not right off the top of my head. That only works with time.”
“So, you’re going to make me get off the bed and walk across the room to look at the calendar?” he whined, teasing her.
“The other option is that I have to get out of the tub, take a minute to dry off, wrap up in a towel, walk out into the living room, dig in my briefcase and find a calendar. It sounds much easier from your end.”
Harm was lost in the visions of Mac climbing out of the tub and walking through her apartment, dripping wet, having lost him before she mentioned drying off.
“Harm?” Mac questioned, suddenly concerned.
“Where’d you go?” she asked.
“You don’t want to know,” he responded. It was his turn to blush as he glanced around his room, knowing he was alone, but still embarrassed by his physical reactions.
Mac giggled, sank a little lower into the tub, and propped her feet up on the far wall. If his thoughts were straying in any manner resembling her own, she knew exactly where he had gone. And the idea of that wasn’t exactly unpleasant.
“Are you giggling, Marine?” Harm asked.
“Maybe,” she answered, smiling broadly. Wishing Harm were in the next room instead of on the other coast, Mac moved, her hand grazing her breasts.
Harm laughed as he rose up off the bed and walked across the room to the calendar he had hung on his wall. True to his childhood, all the pictures were of Navy planes, his beloved Tomcat the picture for July. “The Fourth is a Sunday, Mac.”
“I’ll have to ask the Admiral if I can leave for a few days.”
“Haven’t you been putting in some extra hours?”
“Yes, but leave time is still something I don’t have a lot of.” Mac knew she could get the time off, but she liked to tease Harm a bit.
Confident that the Admiral would say yes, Harm said, “I’m sure he’ll let you come out here.”
“I’ll beg. And I am pathetic when I beg.”
“I know. I’ve seen you beg,” Harm teased.
Mac sighed. “Then you know it will work.” There was an awkward silence on the phone for a minute. “I’m glad you called, Harm,” Mac finally said, not knowing what else to say.
“I’m glad I called, too. I’ll let you go so you can take your bath in peace. I’ve got to do a little cleaning up, start getting dinner ready. My mom and Frank will be home soon.”
“Take it easy.”
“I’ll call you when I find out if I can come out for the Fourth.”
“You better,” Harm responded. “Take care.”
“You, too,” Mac echoed, reluctantly pulling the phone away from her ear. After placing it back on the toilet cover, she sank low in the tub, smiling broadly, tingling all over, wondering what her visit west would bring this time.
Harm replaced the phone in the cradle and leaned back, his hands laced behind his head. Grinning, he felt excited just thinking about Mac’s next visit. Their conversation had been good, some teasing and flirting, a positive sign for the state of their relationship. Closing his eyes, he let himself indulge in the image of Mac in the bathtub for a few minutes before he attempted to calm himself and head back downstairs.
San Diego International Airport
San Diego, California
Friday, July 2, 2004
1037 Hours (local)
Mac had opted for an early flight, figuring that the earlier she left, the earlier she would arrive in California. Besides the layover in Chicago, the flight was easy, and Mac slept most of the way. As she got off the plane, she wandered through the airport. Just past the security checkpoint, she saw him, searching for her.
The instant Harm spotted her, he grinned and walked towards her. “Mac!” he called when he was closer.
Without hesitating, Mac hugged him, glad to see him. “Hey, Harm.”
Releasing her from the hug, he offered to take the small duffle bag she was holding. “How was the flight?”
“A lot smoother than when I fly with you,” she grinned, surrendering the bag.
“Funny,” he grinned back. “So, it was okay?”
“You do have more than this, right?” he asked, holding up the bag.
Mac looked up at him, a serious expression on her face. “No, I intended on staying in my jeans and this shirt all weekend. Except for when I wear the bikini I packed in this bag.”
Harm’s mouth dropped open. “I know you’re kidding. Right?”
“Well, I did bring another bag…” she trailed off, walking away from him.
“And…” he urged.
“And what?” she shrugged her shoulders, her lips hinting at a smile.
“No bikini?” he asked, his eyes wide.
Mac grinned. “I knew I forgot something. Guess I’ll have to swim naked.”
Harm stopped in the middle of the airport. “Tell me you’re joking.”
Mac started laughing. “I am. About the swimming naked part, anyway. And I remembered a swimsuit. Anything else you want to know?”
Harm resumed walking. “No, that’s good for now.”
“Good, ‘cause I won’t tell you which bathing suit I brought.”
Harm shook his head, smiling. “I am so glad to see you didn’t leave your sense of humor at home.”
“So,” Mac began, looking around. They had reached the designated baggage carousel for her flight, but the bags had not arrived yet. “Did you drive here?”
Harm shook his head. “No, my mom did. She dropped me off and is driving around. It was easier than trying to find a parking space. She’ll meet us outside.”
Mac nodded. “Any news?” she asked him.
Harm grinned. He lifted Mac’s hand up. “Here,” he said, closing all of her fingers save her index finger. “Hold your finger up like this.”
“Okay,” Mac nodded.
Harm did the same thing with his corresponding hand, touching his finger to hers gently. “Now, what I want you to do is move your hand away, like this,” he said, demonstrating by moving his hand about six inches to the left, his finger still extended. “You can move it left or right, up or down, it doesn’t matter. And I will try to move my finger and touch yours as fast as I can.”
“Like this?” Mac asked, quickly moving her finger to Harm’s, smoothly and effortlessly.
“Yeah,” he nodded.
Mac dropped her hand. “And what does this indicate?”
“Well, I have trouble with fine motor movements.” Harm dropped his hand as well. “Stopping them, controlling exactly where they go. By doing this simple task, we’re able to see exactly how much trouble I have, how quickly and steadily I can move, how much control I have over stopping my movements.”
“Is this what you do when you go to the doctor’s office?”
“One of the tests.”
Mac nodded, raising her hand, her index finger extended. “You ready?”
Harm raised his hand and gently touched hers. He nodded.
Mac quickly moved her hand to the right about five inches. Harm moved quickly to meet her, but went beyond her finger and had to move back. When Mac moved her hand up about six inches, the same thing happened, although Harm did not overshoot by as much. The more Mac moved, the better he got. Finally, Mac lowered her hand. “Is that an improvement?” she asked.
Harm nodded, grinning. “It takes me a moment to get into it, but it is a huge improvement. At first, I would be lucky to touch your finger on the fourth or fifth attempt.”
Mac smiled broadly. “That’s neat. Are there any other tests like that?”
Harm nodded. “You know the drunk test where you stick your arm out and have to move it and touch your nose?”
“It’s been a while since I’ve been tested for drunkenness, but I know it,” Mac nodded.
“Well, most people do it in two movements, the first one is very quick and covers most of the distance, but about an inch from the nose, the movement pauses briefly and then resumes slower.” Behind them, the buzzer on the carousel sounded, indicating that the conveyor belt would start moving soon. Both Harm and Mac jumped. “But,” Harm continued, “people with brain damage like I have, do it in several movements, starting with the quick one, but closer to the nose, we make several shorter, slower movements, instead of just one. In severe cases, the person’s hand will jerk to the right and left.”
“But that’s not your case, is it?” Mac asked, glancing down at his hands, one holding her bag, the other resting by his side.
Harm shook his head. “Fortunately, no. Initially, I did have problems, but it has improved.”
Mac watched as the bags moved past them on the baggage carousel. “That’s good. I’m proud of you. You’ve come a long way.”
Harm looked away from her. “Thanks, but I really haven’t done much.”
Turning from the bags, Mac looked up at him.
Feeling her eyes on him, he met her gaze.
“That’s not true, Harm. You have worked for this. You’ve been practicing, exercising your muscles, doing crossword puzzles and reading, talking to people, talking to me, keeping your mind and body active. You haven’t let the situation get you down. You still have that same stunning smile you always did and you still have your sense of humor.”
“I have a stunning smile?” he asked, flashing her the very smile to which she was referring.
Mac nodded. “And you know you have it,” she grinned. “But healing isn’t always just physical. There is the mental aspect, too.” She turned back to the baggage carousel and saw her bag coming around. She took a few steps to the side and grabbed it as it came around. Slinging it over her shoulder, she returned to Harm’s side.
“That it?” he asked.
“That’s it.” They started walking and Mac resumed talking, “You want to get better, you aren’t letting this get you down. If you were, you probably wouldn’t have improved so much.”
“Mind over matter.”
“Sort of. You can’t just will yourself better, but at the same time, you do have to want to get better.”
Harm looked down at her. “You sound like you know a lot about this.”
“I’ve done some reading,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
“It makes sense, though,” Harm responded. For a minute, they were quiet as they wove their way through the throngs of people, Harm leading the way. “Do you want me to carry that?” he asked, indicating the larger, and heavier, bag she had over her shoulder.
“I’ve got it,” she assured him. “But thanks.”
“Just trying to be a gentleman,” he grinned. “This way,” he said, turning towards a set of double doors.
Once outside in the warm summer air, they only had to wait a minute before Trish showed up with the car. Jumping out of the car, she helped Mac with her bag, even though she didn’t need it. After placing her bag in the trunk, Trish enveloped her in a hug. “How are you, Mac?”
“Good. And you?”
Pulling back, Trish responded, “Good.”
Glancing at Harm, Mac asked, “He isn’t giving you too much trouble?”
Trish laughed. “Only when I’m home.”
“Mom,” Harm whined.
“Give it up, Harmon. I am your mother and I will always find ways to embarrass you.”
Mac laughed at that.
“Not you, too,” Harm grumbled.
“Come on,” Trish said, moving to get back into the car. “I’m sure Mac is hungry and wants to freshen up. We’ll go back to the house for lunch and then you guys can do whatever you want.”
Harm let Mac ride up front and the three of them kept up a light chatter all the way back to the house.