When I wake up in the morning, she is gone.
I have no way of knowing when she left; all I do know is that I miss her. I pick up a book that I've been reading and continue it. When my breakfast arrives, Mac still isn't back. The doctor strides in as I am about ready to eat.
"Just checking up on you this morning," he smiles at me. "Try not to eat so much. And eat it slowly, we don't need a repeat of last night."
"No, we don't," I smile my agreement.
"So where's your girlfriend?"
"She's not my girlfriend," I deny automatically, as I've been doing for years. "She's just a friend."
He smiles at me, disbelieving. "I get it. I'm former military myself. The whole chain-of-command thing."
"No, really. She's just my best friend," I insist.
He is looking over my chart. "So, tell me, Commander Rabb, what on earth caused the little display of affection I heard the nurses giggling about this morning?"
"Oh, yeah, that," I begin, my mind racing as I feel the flush creep up to my face. "Well, umm, Mac was uncomfortable in her chair, couldn't sleep, so I, uh, offered to share my bed," I stammer.
The doctor smiles at me again. I can tell he doesn't believe me about any of this. "Well, I'm sure it wasn't good for your ribs. Do they hurt?"
"They did a little last night, while we were sleeping. But they feel no worse than they did yesterday."
"Good." He closes the chart. "Just don't let it happen again. At least, not until you get the okay for those sorts of activities." He smiles as he replaces the chart at the foot of my bed.
"I won't," I smile back. He doesn't know the half of it. I could only wish for something like that with Mac.
"I'll see what I can do about getting a cot in here for your girlfriend," the doctor says as he exits the room and leaves me to my thoughts.
I pick at my food. It isn't the same without Mac. I wish she were here. I push my plate away, the food mostly untouched, and lean back, closing my eyes. It is kind of hard to eat too much too fast if you don't eat at all. Where would she have gone? And how did she get off of me without waking me up? I'll have to ask her about that. And I wonder, what the hell did those guys do to me? Sure, I used to think about Mac a lot, she's my best friend, but this is ridiculous. She is all I think about now. Almost like if I quit thinking about her, I'll die. Or worse, she will. I can feel the tears stinging the back of my eyelids. I will not give in to them.
God damn it, I almost lost her in that whole ordeal! I would have, if I hadn't gone after her. And my life would have ended with hers. This has shaken my faith in everything: the government, the bravery of others in the military, myself. I am not the same man that I was when I went in after Mac. I'm weaker, I suppose, crying at the near loss, as opposed to thanking the heavens for the life that we have both been given back. A tear escapes, burning a trail down my cheek and I just let it go. This isn't about the lack of action by others, though, or even what I went through. There is something more at the core of this. This is about who I have become from this and what I am going to do. Am I going to go back to who I was or am I going to move forward with who I've become? But mostly, this is about her, about Mac, and whatever there may be between us. Another tear makes it's way down.
I almost lost her.
What would I have done without her? Probably gone back to JAG as just a shell of a human being, only a sliver of who I was. Lived my life alone, never having the kids that I so desperately want, never being able to pass on my love of flying and the search for the truth. I may have moved up in the ranks, but the gains would have been empty. Without Mac by my side, the titles would have meant nothing. She is my partner, my colleague, my best friend, and my equal. My everything. A life without her would have been no life at all. And I almost lost that.
My thoughts are interrupted by her voice, "Doesn't look like you're eating much."
"I'm not," I grumble, my eyes still closed. I don't want her to see the tears in them. She hasn't entered the room. I haven't heard her footsteps, only her voice. I open my eyes and look at her. She is leaning against the doorframe, picking at a muffin in her hand, holding a cup of coffee, a weak smile on her face. "Where'd you go?" I ask.
"I just needed to get away. I needed to process everything. So I took a walk in the courtyard and watched the sunrise. I cried at the beauty of it and the fact that you weren't there to see it. I went to the chapel and prayed, for you, for me, for the others out there fighting for our country, for everyone. I called the Admiral, gave him an update, poor man was getting ready to go to bed. I consoled myself in my first cup of coffee, bought this muffin and my second cup, and here I am."
I smile at her. I could see the tears welling up in her eyes throughout her speech. It seems we are both trying to deal with reality this morning. "Well, I'm glad you're back. Why don't you come on in here?"
Mac smiles gratefully and enters the room, taking a seat in her chair. "The Admiral sends his regards."
"How is everybody back at JAG?"
"Worried about you. As they should be."
"I'm really okay, Mac. I'll be fine."
"That's not what I was talking about, Harm," she grins. "I know you'll be fine, as does everybody else. Physically, anyway." I know there is a joke coming. "I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I think you could use a psych evaluation based on your behaviors."
"And what about you? You did almost the same thing."
"Not quite. I was packing heat," she laughs softly. "Besides, we've all known for years that I'm crazy. You've always been questionable."
I let the comment about herself go. "And when did this happen?"
"For me, I guess it started about the time I saw you hanging off a helicopter hundreds of feet above the desert floor, asking for permission to board, as opposed to just climbing in. I think everybody else got an inkling of your possible insanity when you shot a hole in the courtroom ceiling," she smirks.
I can't help it and a small laugh escapes, the first one in days. "Point taken, Counselor."
"So, are you going to finish eating?" she asks, gesturing to my tray of food.
"Do you want it?"
"No, but I would like the company."
"I was hoping you'd say that." The two of us eat breakfast, happy for the other's company, at peace with each other, even though the topic of the previous night never comes up.
A week later, I was preparing to leave for the States in two days. My transport had been arranged and I finally got people to quit saying I was getting "shipped" home. I was starting to feel like a UPS parcel. Mac has kept me company the whole time. She has spent her nights sleeping on the cot beside my bed. She has made me smile and she has made me laugh. And everyday I have thanked God for getting both of us out of there alive. She has brought me reading material to keep me occupied. She has even ventured out to buy some non-hospital food for me. She is by my side almost constantly, only leaving to shower and run errands. Many of these she does while they are taking care of me, taking more images of my brain, cleaning my knee, or cleaning the rest of me. And we have not discussed what happened that one night. I am hesitant to bring it up, for fear of pushing her away, even though she has accused me in the past of only showing interest when she can't return it. I'm also afraid that she has forgotten it.
Mac comes bounding into the room, returning from the cafeteria with a little snack for the two of us. I have found that snacking is better than eating full meals because not eating as much decreases the chances of my getting rid of it the same way it came in. "Look, Harm," she squeals. "You got mail!" It's been a long time since I've seen her smile that broadly. She puts the bag with our food down on the table next to my bed and hands me an envelope.
Sure enough, the envelope is addressed to me at the hospital. I can't help but stare at it for a moment in disbelief. I wasn't expecting anything. The return address is JAG Headquarters.
"Well, are you going to open it?" Mac asks excitedly.
I smile smugly up at her. "Umm, I don't know. I think I just might eat first." I set the card down on the table next to the food.
Mac's mouth falls open. "If you don't open it, I will."
"And then you'll be committing a federal crime, Colonel." I can't keep the grin off of my face. Truth is, I want to open it as badly as she does, but it is so much fun to play with her.
"And like you'd charge me with that! Come on, Harm, open it!"
"Well…" I draw the word out. "Okay." I pick the envelope back up and tear it open. I feel almost like a kid on Christmas morning.
It was a card, which was no surprise. Inside, everybody at JAG had signed it. Bud, Harriet, little AJ tried his best, a tiny writing for two-month old David, the Admiral, Meredith, Sturgis along with a message that his father was praying for me, Tiner, Coates, Imes, Mattoni, and even the judges. A Lieutenant Commander Willis signed it, with a note saying, "I'm just here until you get back. I thought I would send along my wishes for your speedy recovery." I couldn't help but to be touched by the gesture. And I suddenly miss home a lot more than I had before now.
"What does it say?" Mac asks. I pass her the card and she reads it and I can see her eyes glaze over with tears. Since we've been here and been spending so much time together, she has at times become more free about expressing her emotions regarding this whole situation, as I suppose I have, too. She looks back up and smiles at me. "That is so sweet."
"Yeah. I guess I really am missed back home."
"You'll be there soon enough," she says, patting my good shoulder.
For the first time, I truly can't wait to get home.