Three days later, Thursday, Mac is at my place and we're cooking dinner. We've been doing this a lot lately. I have found that despite Mac's diet at home made up of mostly TV dinners, she does know how to cook. I like spending our evenings together like this. There is a knock on the door.
"Will you get that?" I ask her.
"Yeah," she says. She wipes her hands on a dishtowel and crosses the room. We are cooking vegetarian lasagna. She has cooked a little meat to put in her side, not content to settle for my veggie-only meal. The lasagna is already in the oven and we were cutting some vegetables for a salad. I turn to see who is visiting us tonight, as having drop-in visitors these days isn't unusual. "Clay!" Mac squeals. She embraces him in a hug and gives him a quick kiss.
I put the knife down and wipe my hands on the towel. We haven't heard from him since I was hurt. I approach him, slowly, on my crutches and extend my hand. I am allowed to put a little weight on my knee these days and I will probably be only using a single crutch soon. "How are you?" We shake hands. I don't know how to respond to him. We were fine in Iraq, although, we didn't spend much time together. But after this, seeing Mac's open display of affection for him, I can't help but feel hurt.
"I'm good," he says. "I'm sorry I haven't been by sooner. I've been away."
"Where?" I ask.
"That's classified." I turn away from him. I didn't think I'd be this angry with him. I'm trying hard to not let it show. I walk back towards the kitchen, still watching the two of them from the corner of my eye. "I wanted to see how you were," he calls. "I heard that you made it out alive. Both of you." He turns to look at Mac, she meets his gaze and they hold it. I might be sick. "So how are you, Rabb?" he asks, looking back at me.
"I'll never be able to fly again, how's that for you?" I return angrily.
Both Mac and Webb look startled. I return to the meal.
"I'm sorry to hear that." He looks as if he doesn't know what to say. Good. Let him feel as uneasy as I do right now.
"Hey, Clay, we were getting ready to eat. Do you want to stay?" Mac asks, still holding onto his arm.
I can't see what they are doing; I'm slicing tomatoes again.
"I don't think I should." Good. I turn and look at them. She drags them away to the couch. I keep cutting the tomatoes. The two of them sit on the couch for a few minutes, talking. I can't hear what they are saying over the music coming from the stereo. A few minutes later, Webb rises to leave. "I'll call you, Sarah, and we'll see about that dinner we never got the chance to go to."
"I'd like that," she says, smiling flirtatiously at him.
I wouldn't like it.
"Well, I'll call you, then," he says also grinning. "Hey, Rabb, it's good to see you up and about."
"Yeah, thanks for dropping by," I say, hoping he'll take the hint and leave.
"I'll walk you out," Mac offers. The two leave and I crutch over to the window to watch. The two of them are outside, standing by Webb's car. He says something that makes Mac smile and laugh. He smiles back at her. She leans in to hug him and he kisses her cheek. They freeze, looking at each other and I can see it before it happens. They kiss. More passionate than the one I saw in Paraguay, both very much alive, eyes closed, arms wrapped tightly around each other. I don't think they knew I was there. I don't think they cared. When they break apart, I step away from the window. Suddenly, dinner seems a lot less appealing. I stare at the salad bowl, contemplating it, half full of lettuce and tomatoes.
Mac comes back in with a smile on her face a few moments later. "That was nice of him, wasn't it?" Mac asks me.
"I suppose," I grumble.
"Harm, what's wrong?"
I turn and look at her. What is wrong? Mac is a free woman; she can do whatever she wants with whomever she wants. Even Clayton Webb. And Webb wasn't responsible for getting Mac and I involved with the Marines in Iraq. The only role he had in that was getting us to Iraq. So what is wrong? I thought we were headed somewhere after things. I thought we were working towards a future together, however slowly it might have been. But then she goes and moves much quicker with Webb, a man who isn't even around half the time and can't tell her where he's going. And she has to ask what is wrong? "Nothing."
"I believe that like I believe I'm not in the Marine Corps any more."
"Well, then, welcome to civilian life," I reply testily.
Mac approaches me and touches my arm. "Talk to me, Harm."
I continue working on the salad, angrily slicing the cucumber I had begun to work on, ignoring her. Juvenile, I know.
"It's about Clay, isn't it?" she asks.
"What is it between the two of you?"
"What do you mean?"
"You kissed him in Paraguay."
"I had to. He was my husband."
"After that. Then nothing. Not even in Iraq."
"That wasn't the right time."
"And tonight was?"
"No, Mac, what is it with the two of you?"
"He's a nice guy. He treats me well, he pays attention to me…" she trails off, smiling softly. I'm not even sure she is with me right now.
"And you go running because he showed you attention. Same thing you always do."
Mac is quiet for a moment. She turns away, looking hurt.
"Mac, I didn't mean-"
She cuts me off as she reaches for her coat. "Do you ever mean anything? Do you think about what you do? I agree to go to Paraguay and you say don't go. You come after me, clean things up down there, and bring me home. And back off. We agree to go to Iraq, get into trouble, you come after me and I, in turn, come after you. We have this amazing heart to heart conversation, I really think we're getting somewhere, and you back away. I'm here, helping you, doing whatever I can, and all you say is thank you. Nothing. After everything we went through, for each other, nothing! If I want to go to Clay, I can! And I will! He is here, he isn't afraid to say what he feels, he's willing to be here for me when I need him, give me the family I want before it is too late! He's a good guy, Harm, and I'm tired of waiting for you!" By the end of this tirade, she has her coat on and the door is open, tears streaming down her face. She slams it behind her as she leaves.
"Mac!" I call, crutching my way to the door. I leave and push the button for the elevator. She probably took the stairs, which are faster. Not an option for me and I wait anxiously for the elevator's arrival. It comes and I jump in, pounding the down button. "Hurry up! Damn you, fucking slow elevator!" I yell at it, as if I can make it move faster. I get off on the ground floor and race to the door. I get there just in time to see Mac squealing her tires as she drives away in her 'Vette. I stand out in the cold and watch her go. "Damn it, Mac! I didn't know!" I yell after her. "I didn't know," I repeat, quieter. I turn and go back inside, heartbroken. I take the lasagna out of the oven. It's done now, but I won't be eating it.
I grab a beer from the fridge and drink half of it at once. I've really fucked it up now. History really does repeat itself. I've driven her right into the arms of another man. Again. I swallow the rest of my beer and reach for another one. I never even bothered to sit down. I might as well get drunk. It's not like I have anything else to do. Look at cases and think of Mac? Neither of those options sounds appealing. Getting drunk is much more appealing. Getting drunk to forget.
I try to call Mac. No answer. She is either avoiding me or not there. I don't leave a message. I'm just hoping she is there, not with Webb. I don't want to think about that. My third beer finds me hanging up the phone again. I'm not sure what I'd say to her if she answered. My fourth beer finds me sitting on the couch, thinking of her. Had I misconstrued everything? My fifth beer finds me thinking about Webb. That man has more lives than a cat. My sixth beer finds me wondering how I got the six-pack in the first place. I don't remember buying it. It must have been before Iraq. I'm lucky the stuff isn't bad. Or maybe it is and I just don't care. I polish it off and wander into my bedroom. I drop my crutches and plop onto the bed. My knee hurts, but not as much as my heart. I fall off into an alcohol-induced sleep.
I get up in the middle of the night to piss. I struggle to find my crutches. Jeez, I don't remember the last time I got so drunk. And I have to work in the morning. I stumble back into bed, lucky to hit it before I fall asleep again.