I awaken again in the morning, sunlight streaming through the window, illuminating Mac's face. God, she is beautiful. I lift my arm and move the hair off her cheek. She probably slept there all night and she'll be sore when she gets up. If I were in better shape, I'd happily massage her shoulders, but I won't be doing that for a while. I won't be doing much of anything for a while. I'll just have to pay her back when I can.
"Hmm," she mumbles sleepily. She moves her head and looks at me, blinking in the bright light. "Harm," she breathes. Her voice is light, wispy. I think I could wake up to this every morning for the rest of my life.
"Hey you," I smile. I'm feeling much better after my night of sleep. Maybe it's because Mac was there. I'm still playing with her hair. It is so soft and glides through my fingers like liquid gold.
"Feeling better?" she asks.
"Yeah," she nods. "Except for my neck," she rubs the back of it absently.
"I would have scooted over and made room for you, but I don't think the bed is big enough for the both of us and well…" I trail off. I certainly wouldn't have minded having her sleep close up to me all night, but I think close body contact right now wouldn't be wise. A broken arm, cracked ribs, a shot knee, and a concussion wouldn't make for a good sleeping partner.
"You needed your sleep," she concedes.
"So did you."
"Turn your chair around," I instruct her.
"'Cause I'm tired of looking at your beautiful face," I grin at her. I'm joking with her and she knows it.
She continues to gaze at me, her eyebrows raised.
"No, I want to see what I can do about working the kinks out of your neck." I raise my good arm. "I can still use this one."
"You don't have to, Harm. I'll be okay."
"I know you will, but I want to do something to feel useful," I gaze at her.
Mac looks sternly at me.
"Please?" I ask.
"Fine," she sighs, like she has to do a lot of work. She gets out of her chair as I raise my bed. The motion makes me dizzy, but once I stop, the dizziness stops. She has turned her chair around and she lowers herself into it. "This okay?"
I use my good arm to start massaging her shoulder. "Perfect."
For several moments we exist in this happy silence. I can work on one of her shoulders better than the other, but I try both anyway. "Where's the Admiral?" she asks.
"He came by last night. He was leaving. I didn't even know he was here until then. But you were passed out here."
"Was he mad?"
"Why would he be?"
"I kind of told him in no uncertain terms that I wasn't leaving you. I shouldn't have spoken to our CO like that."
"Nah, he wasn't mad. I don't think you disappointed him, I think he expected you to react that way. In fact, I think he would have been disappointed if you hadn't insisted on staying," I reassure her. "And I would have been disappointed if you had left," I say, quieter.
"You would?" she asks tentatively.
"Yeah. I'm glad you're here."
We were silent again, our moment of honesty content to lie between us.
"That was a foolish thing you did, bargaining for my life, you know?" she asks.
"I know. But so was rushing in there after me, guns blazing."
"I had to."
A nurse comes in and interrupts us. "Can I have a moment with him?" she asks in heavily accented English.
Mac rises. "Yeah, I'm going to go use the restroom. I'll be right back," she smiles at me. Her eyes look wet, as if tears had been threatening.
While Mac is gone, the nurse changes my IV and the bag collecting my urine (how humiliating is that? I can piss anytime I want to, but it goes into a bag, in plain view of Mac. At least it isn't all over me now, I should be grateful for that.), cleans various parts, inspects my wounds, and changes the packing on my knee. She makes some notes on my chart and informs me that breakfast and the doctor will be arriving soon. She leaves the room, saying nothing more.
Mac returns a moment later, eyes clear and her skin looks fresher. She smiles at me again, "Everything okay?"
"As can be expected."
"Thanks, for the shoulder rub. It did help."
"I'll give you a better one as soon as I can. It's the least I can do after you're willing to stay here with me."
"I wouldn't think of going anywhere else. I couldn't leave you here by yourself."
"Mac, you should go get something to eat from the cafeteria."
"I'm not hungry."
"Go. Bring it back. My breakfast will be here shortly. I want you to eat something. You need to. You'll be no good to me if you pass out from hunger."
Mac sighs. "I'm not hungry."
"I believe that like I believe that I'll ever fly Tomcats again."
Mac looks stunned. "You think so?"
I think for a moment. The thought had crossed my mind. The prognosis for my knee wasn't good. When they opened it up to remove the bullet, a large portion of the bullet had shattered, leaving shards throughout my knee. There was not much left even resembling a knee. When they removed the bullet, they did what they could, but it wasn't much. The second operation in Italy reconstructed my knee, but I will most likely receive more surgery when we get home. I will probably always walk with a limp. And I'll be handling a cane for a while before I can even get to that point. And with a busted knee, I can't fly for the Navy. "Yeah, I do," I say grimly.
"I'm sorry, Harm. I know how much flying means to you."
"It was only a matter of time, Mac. I was lucky enough to get a second chance once, it won't happen again. But I learned last time that JAG was where I wanted to be. That's where I belong. I lost more by returning to flying than I gained."
"Still, it kind of sucks."
"Yeah, but I'm lucky to still be alive. I'd rather live and not fly than be dead."
"I suppose that's one way of looking at it," Mac says, with a little more happiness in her voice.
The doctor strides into the room to talk to me. "Go, Mac. Get some food," I insist, looking at Mac.
Mac sighs and stands up. "I'll be right back," she promises.
"And I'll be right here."
She leaves the room as the doctor looks at the chart. "I've decided to have you try to eat real food today, Commander Rabb." That explains the breakfast. "The IV can give you all the necessary nutrients, but eating real food is still healthier. You may still feel nauseous, especially after eating and we're going to keep an eye on you." I've had concussions before and they aren't pleasant. The nausea and the dizziness can last for days and this will probably not be an exception. I wouldn't expect it to. Not to mention being awakened every few hours. I can't remember being awakened last night, or at any time during the last few days, but this isn't surprising, either.
"How long will I be here?" I ask him.
"Probably for another week, at least, depending. And once you make it back to the States, you will be staying in the hospital there for a while longer. Physical therapy will help your knee, though another operation may be necessary in the future."
It was as I suspected, but I can't wait to get home. Stuck at Bethesda, but still, that much closer to home.
"We do want to take some more images of your brain later, check on the condition of your head. We're closely monitoring the swelling. I will be back before then," the doctor says before he leaves.
I lean my head back and close my eyes. I'm still not sure it has all hit me yet, the loss of my ability to fly, the near loss of my life. The fact that I almost lost Mac in this whole ordeal is a thought that is never far from my mind, but I don't believe it has hit home, yet. If I was left alone here for long enough, I'd probably fall apart. That's why I need Mac. I just need her to be nearby, just so I know she is safe, that I'm safe. There's a lot more I want to do in this life before I leave it. The squeaking of some wheels causes me to raise my head and open my eyes. A nurse comes in bearing a tray of food. I wonder if the hospital food in Italy is any better than the hospital food in the States. Judging from the look of the food, probably not. I close my eyes again and wait for Mac. A few moments later, I hear her.
She comes in carrying a tray of food. "I thought you weren't hungry," I mention.
"I'm not," she states calmly. "Most of this can be eaten later. What did the doctor say?" She sets her food down on another small table.
"I'll be here for at least another week, transported to Bethesda for a while longer, physical therapy, maybe another operation on my knee. He wants me to eat real food 'cause it's better than tube feeding. And they want to take more pictures of my brain later." I know I sound grumpy by the end of it. I can't help it, I am grumpy; the whole thing is depressing.
"Probably just want to make sure your head isn't any emptier than it used to be," she tries to cheer me up.
I roll my eyes at her. I have to give her credit for trying.
"Look, Harm, I know this situation isn't the best, but it could be worse. You could be dead."
"Or you could be."
"Yeah," she agrees.
Her efforts are rewarded with a smile. I don't want to continue this depressing topic. It's making me lose what little appetite I have. "Let's eat," I say, trying to sound cheerful.
She smiles back at me. "Sounds good." She turns my table over my bed so I can reach it with my good arm. My left arm. This is going to be difficult. I may need her help, but damn it, I'm going to try.
We make small talk over breakfast, trying to avoid the depressing topic at hand. I struggle, but I manage to eat successfully with my left hand. Mac eats more than she was planning to. I do, too. I'm feeling nauseated, so I lean my head back and close my eyes. Mac sits on the bed beside me and strokes my forehead. I love it when she does this. I sigh contentedly. Despite all of the pain, this is good.
"You okay?" she asks.
"As long as you're here, I'm fine."
She says nothing and I fall asleep.