I am awakened when the doctor comes to take me for more tests. Mac has to stay behind. I don't want to admit how much I want her to come with me, not even to myself. That thought scares me, and I don't know why I want her with me so bad right now. Maybe I don't want to be alone anymore, after those days in the cave. Maybe I want to make sure she's safe. Maybe, just maybe, I finally came close enough to death this time and I don't want to be away from the person that means the most to me in this world. I don't know, I just don't really want to leave her.
Hours later, and exhausted, I'm returned to my room. Mac is in her chair, hair wet from a shower, reading a book. The nurses carefully arrange me into bed, trying to be careful with my arm and knee. The results of the tests won't be back for several hours. I try to smile through the pain, focusing on Mac. I don't care how much of me she sees, I just want her there.
When I am settled and the nurses have backed off, Mac approaches me and picks up my hand. I smile weakly at her. God, my knee hurts. They can't give me any more pain medication because of my head. I just have to suffer with the pain. Mac uses her free hand to stroke my cheek. "It hurts, doesn't it?"
I know I can't hide it. I've cried in front of her before, over my father, over Bud, but this is just pain. Pure, physical pain. And I feel weaker for giving in to it in front of her, but I can't hold it back anymore. I turn my head away from her and give into the tears. I think she senses this, as she removes her hand from my cheek. The hand clutching mine squeezes tighter and her thumb lightly traces figures on the back of my hand. She calmly whispers, "I know it hurts. Let it go."
I cry quietly for a few minutes. When I turn back to Mac, I know she knows what I've been doing. If she hadn't been there, my face would have given it away. She wipes away the few tears on my cheeks, as I've done for her a few times before. "Sorry," I mumble, somewhat embarrassed by my display of emotion.
"Don't be. You're in a lot of pain. I'm impressed with how well you've handled it. I probably would have already been kicked out for dishonoring the Corps. I don't know how I would have handled all you've been through."
"Thanks," I smile weakly to her. "I just want to sleep."
"I'll be here when you wake up."
"Could you stay here, like this, just until I fall asleep? I want to know that I'm not alone." I hate asking her; I hate asking for anything.
"Happily," she smiles. She leans close and brushes a kiss against my lips, so lightly I'm not even sure they touched mine. She resumes stroking my cheek as I close my eyes. I swear I hear her whisper, "You'll never have to be alone again, Harm. Not if you don't want to."
A few hours later, I wake up and find Mac's head, once again, leaning over my bed, tucked under my shoulder. Her hand is still clutching mine, and her other hand is splayed across my chest. I really could get used to this. I breathe deeply and catch her scent. She stirs in my arms and awakens. "I see you took a little nap yourself," I point out to her, softly.
"Guess I did," she smiles. "You feeling any better?"
"Yeah. Sleep always helps. At least if I'm asleep, I don't hurt so damn bad. What about you?"
"Same. A little more rested. I'd give anything for a bed, though. I don't know how much more my neck can take from sleeping in this position."
"You don't have to, you know?"
"I know; I want to. I guess, well, I got pretty scared while you were out there. I didn't know if I would ever see you again. It's kind of comforting just to feel you here, know that you're with me. Does that make sense?" She looks at me pleadingly.
She doesn't know just how much sense that makes to me. "Trust me, Mac, it makes perfect sense." I smile at her, raise my hand and stroke her face.
She leans into my palm as I caress her cheek, her eyes closed. She reaches her hands up and grabs my wrist, pulls her face away and kisses my palm. She opens her eyes again and her gaze falls on me as she says, "I'm just glad I've got you back."
"And I'm glad I've got you back."
An orderly chooses this moment to come in with dinner. She sets the tray down and leaves, our tender moment interrupted. Who knows what would have happened if she hadn't entered. Perhaps it's better that she did interrupt, knowing our history.
Mac and I settle down and eat dinner, once again straying to lighter topics, avoiding the heavy one between us. I'm nauseated as I finish eating, pushing the remains away and leaning back. Mac gently moves the table away, trying not to disturb me. I lie still for several minutes, waiting for it to pass, like it always does. I swallow heavily, willing it to pass. It's not. I break out in a sweat, trying to fight what I know is coming. "Mac," I say hurriedly.
She rushes to my side. "Harm."
"The pan, quick!"
She jumps back quickly and reaches to the shelf above my bed and grabs the pan.
I lean to the side as she holds the pan beneath me. As sick as I am, my aim is impeccable. I hit it.
Mac carefully lowers the pan to the floor and grabs a tissue and wipes my chin. "You okay?"
"Better. I don't think that was everything," I try to smile.
Mac hits the button to call a nurse. "Just lie back and take it easy."
"Sorry," I say as I follow her instructions.
"It couldn't be helped," she reassures me as she grabs another tissue and wipes the sweat off my head. A nurse comes rushing in and Mac explains what happened.
The nurse checks my temperature and empties the pan. The doctor comes in and the two converse in Italian for a moment. The doctor looks a few more things over and finally turns to speak to me. "This is why we wanted to keep our eye on you. I think this was only a reaction of the concussion. The results of the tests this afternoon don't indicate anything abnormal. We'll monitor you closely and if it happens again we'll run some additional tests. But I think you just ate too much, too quickly," he smiles at me.
I can only nod.
The doctor turns and says something to Mac and she nods. I can't hear what they're saying. I'm not sure I want to; I just want to sleep.
Mac sits down near me again. "And you worry about the way I eat," she jokes, trying to lighten the situation.
I can only groan.
"Sleep. You'll feel better," she sighs.
God, I hate this. I turn my head away from her and stay still, silent, and try to fall asleep. It takes a long time.
I can hear something. Sniffling. Sobbing. I turn and open my eyes. Mac is in her chair, hunched over, her hands covering her face, sobbing into them. "Mac," I call.
She looks up at me. Her eyes are completely red and blood-shot and her face is tear-stained. "Just go back to sleep, Harm. I'll be okay."
"Mac," I say. For a moment, I forget about myself and I turn to get up. The pain that goes shooting through my leg and ribs quickly reminds me. "Mac, what is wrong?" I ask as I turn myself back into the bed.
"Nothing, Harm! Nothing!" she starts crying harder.
"Mac, I want to get up. I want to come over to you, wrap you in my arms, hold you close, and tell you that everything is going to be alright. But I can't. You have to get up and come to me. Tell me what's wrong."
"I can't, Harm. You've got so much else to deal with, you don't need me."
"Yeah, I do. I need you. Tell me what's wrong."
Mac sobs quietly for another minute or two, but doesn't protest. Slowly, she rises to her feet and approaches me. She gently lowers herself into a sitting position on my bed. I fold my good arm around her, pulling her close. Within moments, my gown is soaked through with her tears.
I just wait patiently for her to start; I know she will when she's ready. Finally, she is, but I'm not prepared for what she says.
"You are an idiot, Harm!"
"You shouldn't have come after me. That's why we're here. You wouldn't be here if you had left me well enough alone. You'd still be able to fly; you wouldn't be hurting. It's all my fault!"
I'm shocked at her words. I had no idea she was feeling like this. "Mac, it isn't your fault. I had to come after you. You didn't force me to."
"Then why did you do it?" she looks up at me.
I freeze. I know what I should say, what she needs to hear, but my tongue won't form the words and my lips won't set them free. Three little words. "Because," I take a deep breath, "I simply had to. I'd rather die than live without you… Sarah."
Tears well in her eyes again as she gazes at me. "You mean that, don't you?"
"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it. But why did you come after me? You could have gotten yourself killed."
She smiles softly at me, "Because I had to. I'd rather die than live without you, Harm."
We stare at each other. Did that just happen? Did we basically say we loved each other, just in different words?
"Well, then I guess it's a damn good thing you came after me so I could come after you," she smiles, probably the first real smile I've seen in days, certainly the first one to light up her eyes.
"I guess it is."
She breaks the gaze and pulls closer to me, snuggling down into my chest. I tighten my arm around her, her body pressed against mine. I can feel the hot tears running down her cheeks. I am crying those same tears. Carefully, she arranges herself across me, her body stretching down the length of mine, not touching my left leg or my right arm. She is slightly on my ribs, which can't be good, but I don't care. The little bit of pain is worth the closeness. It is like this, together, that we fall asleep.