The weeks pass slowly in the hospital. Two weeks after my arrival, they operate on my knee again, fine-tuning the reconstruction. I start physical therapy about two weeks after the operation. About two months after my arrival, I'm allowed to go home. Mac has been great this whole time. She has gone by my apartment and brought me mail, she has driven my cars so they don't just sit on the street, she has brought me new books as I have read through them, and she has bought me food from outside the hospital. She has gone back to JAG part time, working in the mornings up through the early afternoon. After leaving, she'll drive up to the hospital to stay with me. Many times, I'd find her in my room after my physical therapy sessions, waiting for me, reading over a case file, looking up and smiling at me.
She offers to drive me home from the hospital. She brings me clothes to change into, shorts, even though it is early November, but shorts are easier on my knee. I'm allowed to go home, but somebody has to stay with me for the next week. Mac graciously accepts that responsibility. She drives me home in my SUV, even though I'd have loved to have been driven home in a Corvette, either hers or mine, but the Lexus offers more legroom, which I need right now.
Mac stays with me for two weeks, during which she only works in the morning before lunch. We cook dinner together, we do laundry together, she drives me to physical therapy every day, she lets me look at a few of her cases, with the Admiral's permission, and she is my companion in everything. For the first few days, she stays on my couch, but after the third night, I catch her rubbing her shoulders the next morning. Over a shoulder massage, I tell her to take my bed. She laughs at the thought of my taking the couch with my shot knee. I tell her I never said I'd take the couch; we are both adults, we can share a bed for a few nights. We've certainly slept closer in odder places, like the desert floor in Afghanistan, but then, not a lot of sleeping went on that night. She relents, and it works out fine. After the required first week, she stays another week.
We stop by JAG one afternoon. It is great to see everyone. And everyone is very glad to see me. It is kind of strange to be back there. I haven't been inside my office since July. Where I once strode easily across the bullpen, I now take my time on my crutches. I hate them, but I can't move onto a cane yet. I have missed this place though, and I'm eager to get back.
Bud and Harriet invite us over for Thanksgiving dinner and of course we go. I'm never one to pass up Harriet's cooking. It is the kids and the four of us. Bud and I spend some time talking about things. If anyone can understand what I'm going through, it is Bud. I'm probably better off than he was; I've still got my leg. But as he and I talk, I realize that he has everything. He has a loving wife, two kids, a great career, and wonderful friends. He may be missing a leg, but he still has damn near everything. And I want that, more than I ever have at any other point during my life.
Just after Thanksgiving, I am allowed to return to work for a few hours each day. Mac comes by every morning and drives me in. Some days she drives me home at lunch and on other days, she drives me back to Bethesda for physical therapy. It is great to be back at JAG, but it isn't everything it once was. Something is missing.
I've made some inquiries into the whereabouts of Webb. Nobody has seen or heard from him since just after they notified him that Mac and I were safely out. The Agency won't tell us anything and there is no answer at his office or on his cell phone. He may as well have dropped off the face of the planet.
Sometime, over the course of weeks, I'm informed that I will be talking to a psychiatrist. This not because they think I need it, but because they want to make sure that everything is okay mentally. This occurs before I go back to work and I have to get the doctor's approval before I can return to JAG. It isn't so bad. The first session, the doctor, a Commander Nyland, and I talk about past experiences in my life: where I came from, my dad, flying, joining JAG, mostly. Mac is mentioned and the issue of the terrorists is just glossed over. She doesn't seem too interested in returning to the topic.
Commander Nyland and I meet twice a week for an hour. After three sessions, she clears me to return to work, but we continue to talk. And after five sessions, she and I only meet once a week. As much as I disliked the idea of talking to a shrink, I have to admit that it isn't bad. Mac drives me to these sessions, too, and leaves me, returning after it is done. She never wants to know what we talked about; respecting my privacy, but she always asks if the session went well. I do talk about her to Commander Nyland, but that is only because she is a part of my life. I don't go anymore into detail than that. I don't devote any extra time to talk about her. I don't even know if the doctor has any idea of how much Mac means to me.
Just after Thanksgiving, the topic of the terrorists comes up. "Tell me about what happened in Iraq."
"I don't remember much of it, to be honest." That's not quite true, I just don't really want to talk about it.
"Tell me how you ended up there." She's not buying my excuses. Good doctor.
I think I can talk about this part. I'm not sure how well it will come out, or what comes after it, but this part I can do. "Well, Mac and I were there on a mission with Webb. I can't tell you about that, to use one of Webb's favorite phrases, it's classified, but it was successful. Unlike Webb's last mission."
"Who is Webb?"
"CIA Agent Clayton Webb. We've known him and worked with him for years. Sometimes it's nice to have a friend inside the Agency, but when he wants his favors returned, they usually backfire."
"Have you been on many of these backfiring missions?"
"Oh, yeah. The last one, before this, was Paraguay. Only it was him and Mac and the two of them were lucky to escape with their lives."
"But this one to Iraq was successful," she says, returning to the topic at hand. I'd have been much happier if we kept talking about the crazy stunts Webb has pulled in the past.
"So what happened next?"
"Well, we were in Iraq, having finished the mission and we heard about these terrorists that were running around, destroying the camps and temporary homes of the Marines who are there to help the people of Iraq. Orders were sent down to attempt to capture them to stop the attacks. Mac and I wanted to do what we could. We signed off on the rules of engagement and joined the troop of Marines."
"So, you guys volunteered for this?"
"And how did that go?"
"Well, everything was going smoothly. We were tracking the group, waiting for the next strike. Apparently, they became aware of our plans and looped around and caught us. A large part of the troop made it away without being captured. I was one, Mac wasn't. I tried as hard as I could, but I couldn't save Mac."
"And this was important to you? Saving Mac?"
I think about it for a moment. Hell yeah it was, the most important thing. If she's in trouble, I want to help her, whether it is because she's in a sticky situation, like she was with Chris, or she's being stalked like she was by Coster, or stuck on a mission with Webb. She always does the same thing for me, following me to Russia and Chechnya. But this time, it wasn't only Mac; others were involved. I wanted to help them, but it was Mac I was most worried about. "Yeah. I mean, I cared about the others, but I needed to get Mac back."
"So, what happened?" she asks, leaving the subject of Mac, which is probably a good thing.
"Well, those of us that weren't captured had to regroup. Many people were injured. Intel tried tracking the terrorists, but for several days, we had no idea where they were. They eventually presented the United States with a few demands, ones they knew we wouldn't comply with. The United States does not negotiate with terrorists. Then they started killing Marines. I kept count; I knew how many they had. They kept killing them, leaving their bodies in the desert for us to find. When Mac was the only one left, they moved into their base, a cave. They knew they had something with her, the only female in the group, an officer, and a lawyer. They kept her."
"How did this make you feel?" she prods.
Terrified. Anxious. Like shit because I had left her. "Pretty bad. I was worried about her."
"And why wasn't anybody sent in after her?"
"They said they'd get slaughtered trying to get inside. These guys knew what they were doing."
"And how did you get in?"
I think about it for a moment. I defied orders to stay away. I walked out on the command post, right out into the desert, hands raised and let the guards take me. I talked to the ones that spoke English and they led me to the leader. I bargained with him, my life for Mac's. She glared at me as we traded places. Her eyes spoke the words we didn't, the words we couldn't say. They said, damn it Harm! Why? And I tried to answer her with my own eyes. Because, Mac, I have to. I don't tell Commander Nyland about this. I merely say, "I walked into the terrorists' camp. I traded my life for hers."
"And what happened when you traded?"
"I was where she was and she was set free."
"And what happened?"
"I don't really remember." Not the whole truth. I do remember some of it. I remember the breaking of my arm just after Mac left. As they chained me to the chair, they twisted it and snapped it, rendering it completely useless. I remember the blow to my jaw, after I smart-mouthed them. The ribs, the back of my head I remember. I remember thinking about Mac, praying that she was okay, that my rescue wasn't in vain, remembering all the time we had spent together. But other than that, I don't remember much. I only vaguely remember Mac's rescue and leaving the cave. The first week out is still fuzzy.
"Have you and Mac talked about what happened?"
I am reminded of the Admiral's question a few months back. "No, not really."
"Hmm…" she ponders this for a moment. "I want you to. I think it would be good for you and her both."
I'm not sure. We've been fine without it for all these months. I believe what I've always heard; if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But I agree to comply, and here the session ends.
A week later I'm back in Commander Nyland's office. She asks if Mac and I discussed the event that landed us where we are. "No, we haven't."
"And why is that?"
"The time was never right. I didn't want to drag her down with it."
"And what makes you think it would drag her down?"
"It isn't the best topic in the world. We've been fine all this time without discussing it. I don't see why I should bring it up now."
She sighs, "What does Mac mean to you?"
"She's my best friend."
"Is that all?"
"She's my colleague and partner at work."
"And how do you feel about her?"
"I care about her and I don't want to see her hurt."
"And what will you do to keep her from being hurt?"
"Anything?" It comes out more as a question than as a statement.
"Risk your own life?"
"I have before and I'd do it again."
"But she's only a friend and a co-worker?"
"Yeah," I nod. The Commander is really digging now.
"Would you do the same for anybody at work?"
"And would it feel the same?"
I have to think about this. She is pushing me and I know what she wants, but I can't say it. I just can't. So, I just don't answer.
She smiles, "You love her, don't you?"
"Of course I do," I pause. "I've known her for eight years. She's like family."
"That's not what I meant and you know it."
I refuse to answer her again.
She sighs, but smiles. "I'll let it go, for now. But we will return to this subject. And I do want you to talk to Mac about what happened in Iraq. And I want to talk to her next week."
"I want to see how she is handling the situation. I want to meet her. I've heard a lot about her, but I have yet to even see her."
I sigh. "I'll let her know."
The rest of the session passes while we discuss JAG and the progress of my physical therapy. The tough stuff seems to be over. She reminds me at the end of the session to have Mac come in next time.