Ignorance is Bliss
SUMMARY: Harm learns more about Mac than he wanted to know
DISCLAIMER: They ain't mine. 'Nuf said.
NOTE: I have no idea what is contained in an individual's service record or what questions are asked on a service application. Bear with me in that regard, please. This story takes place a while ago, maybe in Season 4.
Feedback is always welcome at email@example.com
"Can I move those files out of your way, sir?" Petty Officer Tiner asked.
"I'll only be here a few minutes, Tiner. Why don't you wait until after I'm gone," Lt. Commander Harmon Rabb suggested.
"Yes, sir. Is there anything else I can get for you?"
"No, Tiner. That'll be all for now."
Tiner snapped to attention. "Aye, sir." He pivoted and left the office.
Harm sat back in the chair. The Admiral was on vacation for a week, and he'd left Harm in charge. Harm loved this chair. He felt so powerful sitting in it. He could see himself as a permanent occupant of this chair some day. He shook himself out of his daydream. Even if he was the acting JAG, he still had a deposition to attend in a few minutes. Now where was that file?
He looked through the stacks of files on the desk, the files that Tiner had offered to move. He realized immediately that they were the service records of the personnel stationed here at JAG. The Admiral must have been reviewing them for some reason. The first pile contained files for "Abbott, Glen, Ensign" through "Lyle, Kelly, Petty Officer". The second stack was topped with "Mackenzie, Sarah, Major" and ended with "Wyman, Peter, Major."
Sarah Mackenzie. Harm ran his hand over her file. Did he dare? He was curious to know what he'd find there. He looked at his watch. He was already late. Without stopping to think, Harm grabbed her file and put it in his briefcase. There he found the file he'd actually been looking for. He snapped his briefcase closed and left, giving Tiner instructions not to disturb the office while he was gone. Couldn't have Tiner discovering he'd "borrowed" Mac's service record, now could we?
Later that night, in the comfort (and privacy) of his own apartment, Harm pulled the file out. He felt a little guilty and paused before opening it. What the hell? he thought. She didn't need to know he'd seen it. And as acting JAG, he had the authority to look at it. Right? His conscience satisfied, he opened the file.
There he found the expected stuff -- information concerning her duty stations and evals completed by her various commanding officers, all of which were stellar. Towards the bottom of the file, he found her application for acceptance into the Marines. The first thing he looked at was "marital status". She'd left it blank. Well, at least she hadn't lied. He read down through the entire application. Under "mother's address", she'd written "unknown". She'd listed her Uncle Matt as her next of kin.
This was interesting. The application asked if there had been any prior psychiatric treatment. Mac had checked the "yes" box. Someone, probably her recruiter, had written "see attached documents" next to the box. Harm looked at the documents underneath the application. Hospital records. He began to read.
Chief Complaint: Increasingly disordered behavior with truancy, running away from home, and living with adolescents.
This is the first psychiatric admission for this 16 year old single Caucasian female. She has run away from home on multiple occasions. She has not been attending school regularly. She has been increasingly involved in acting out behavior including drinking to intoxication on several occasions recently. Her father reports that she has been increasingly out of control at home and for the past several months has been provoking arguments with him. Her father has been increasingly out of control himself and has been physically abusing her. She reports that she has been sleeping adequately but has had a 15-pound weight loss in the past six months due to decreased appetite. She has been abusing alcohol and was attempting to minimize this. She does admit to drinking to the point of intoxication on several occasions recently. The patient refuses to indicate whether she is sexually active. It should be noted that this acting out behavior has worsened significantly since the mother left the home on the patient's 15th birthday. The mother's whereabouts are currently unknown.
Physical Presentation: She presents as an attractive adolescent Caucasian female who is of slender build and average height. She appears to be about her stated age and in no acute distress. She is visibly intoxicated. She is awake, alert and partially oriented. She is dirty and ungroomed.
Mental Status Exam: Mental status was difficult to assess initially due to the level of intoxication. Upon later examination, she gave relevant, spontaneous information. She did not evidence pressure of speech, looseness of association, or tangential thinking. She did not evidence formal thought disorder or obsessions or compulsions. Her affect was predominantly agitated. Her intelligence appeared to be in the high average range. Her thinking was concrete. Her memory was intact. Judgment and insight are limited.
Hospital Course: The patient was hospitalized on B3, locked adolescent psychiatric unit. She was seen in individual psychotherapy on a daily basis. She was not easily engaged in individual psychotherapy, and a number of issues related to family functioning and the abuse that she has been experiencing remain unaddressed. She was seen in family therapy with her father. She voiced a desire to return to the home with her father. She feels she will be safe there. The patient was discharged to his care.
Condition on Discharge: She is ambulatory and able to return to school.
Discharge Plan: No limitation on activities or diet. The patient will live with her father and attend school. She has a follow-up appointment with the undersigned.
Chief Complaint: Increasingly disordered behavior
This is the second psychiatric admission for this 16 year old single adolescent Caucasian female living with her father since being discharged from this facility three weeks ago. She was hospitalized at that time for similar difficulties with labile mood swings and increasingly disordered behavior. At that time, she reported that she had been physically abused by her father. She reports no additional instances of abuse at this time. After the first admission, she returned to the father's home and to school. She did very well for a period of days. She very quickly decompensated. She began to be increasingly labile in the home and at school. She began to be somewhat grandiose and hypersexual and began to dress more provocatively than she had done previously. She began to use inappropriate degrees of makeup. As a consequence, she came into increasingly frequent conflict at school. At the father's home, she had alternate periods of relatively stable moods for 2-3 days followed by periods of labile, explosive outbursts, running away episodes, and conflict with the father lasting 2-3 days. She continued in this behavior and ultimately ran away from home on the evening of admission. She was apprehended by the father and brought to the hospital for evaluation and treatment. Following her evaluation, she was hospitalized for further inpatient evaluation. The patient has a history of significant alcohol abuse in the past several months. She admits to being sexually active.
Family History: Her father has been an alcoholic, labile and explosive much of his adult life. Her mother's whereabouts are currently unknown.
Physical Presentation: She presents as a slender, attractive, adolescent Caucasion female of average height. She appears her stated age. She is in moderate distress. She was awake and oriented x 3. She was clean and casually dressed, but somewhat provocative in dress and manner.
Social History: The patient reports she has a very difficult time relating to her peers. She reports feeling ostracized at school and indicates that she has a single friend, a male named Eddie.
Mental Status Exam: Unchanged from prior admission with the exception that there is no indication of current intoxication.
Hospital Course: The patient was hospitalized on B3, locked adolescent psychiatric unit. The patient's mental status was confrontational during the course of her admission. Attempts were made to address issues related to family stress, the alcoholism which affected her father and the impact this had on her life over the years, and her own alcoholism. Limited progress was made. When the patient cleared significantly from her labile mood swings, she was discharged to home. Both the patient and her father were strongly recommended for family therapy and substance abuse counseling.
Condition on Discharge: Moderate improvement. The patient is significantly more stable in her moods and behavior.
Discharge Plan: Return home. Recommend family therapy and substance abuse counseling. She has a follow-up appointment with the undersigned.
Chief Complaint: Labile mood, disruptive and chaotic behavior
This is the third psychiatric admission for this 16-year old female living with her father. She has been attending school sporadically. The patient was discharged from this facility approximately nine months ago. Her behavior on discharge was stable for a period, but she has gradually declined over the past two months. The event precipitating this admission occurred earlier this evening when the patient threatened her father with a steak knife. The father was able to subdue the patient and brought her here for evaluation and treatment. The father reports that the patient had been drinking prior to this evening's events. It should be noted that the odor or alcohol was also detected on the father's breath.
The mother left the family some time ago, and her current whereabouts are unknown. This has placed the family under a considerable amount of stress for almost two years. The father has been increasingly distressed and is struggling to support the family, both financially and emotionally. The father reports that the patient is increasingly labile, is out more frequently in the evenings (often not coming home at all), has had a brush with the law (reportedly she and another adolescent "stole" the father's car; the incident was resolved without formal charges being brought against the patient) and is increasingly verbally aggressive to her father. Conflicts surrounding the patient's most recent boyfriend are often and violent. The father is increasingly overwhelmed by her and unable to set limits. The father reports that the patient has decreased sleep, labile appetite, and increased makeup and provocative dress.
She readily admits to abusing alcohol and to being sexually active without any form of protection.
Physical Presentation: The patient is uncooperative and hostile. She is clearly intoxicated. She presents as a slender, attractive Caucasian female who appears her stated age. She is in moderate distress. She is alert and somewhat oriented. Her dress and manner are extremely provocative. A nurse sat in on the interview with the patient.
Mental Status Exam: Unable to assess due to patient's belligerence. As noted on previous admission, the patient's intelligence appears to be in the high average range. She has demonstrated a lack of judgment and insight.
Social History: The patient generally has good social skills. She had done well in school until 1 year ago, when her functioning deteriorated. She has increasingly become involved with students with a very negative attitude. The father questions whether the patient has been abusing illegal drugs, but she denies this. She does admit, however, to abusing alcohol.
Family History: Essentially unchanged from last admission.
Hospital Course: The patient was hospitalized on B3, locked adolescent psychiatric unit. The patient stabilized rather quickly following her admission to the unit, and a family meeting was held with her father. At this meeting, a number of issues were addressed which had brought her into the hospital. Both the father and the patient were able to recognize the difficulties which had arisen in the home due to her substance abuse and the need for increased structure to help her function. She was then discharged to home.
Condition on Discharge: Very mild improvement. Until the patient addresses her increasing dependence on alcohol, any progress she makes on admission will be temporary. I have highly recommended to the patient and her father that the patient be admitted to the thirty-day detox program. The family will make a decision in that regard after discharge. Until this family addresses its significant substance abuse issues, it will continue to be in crisis.
"Poor kid," Harm sighed to himself. He was kind of sorry he'd read those reports. He'd never be able to look at her the same again.
The following day . . .
Mac followed Harm into the Admiral's office upon his arrival. "On time, huh? This boss stuff gone to your head?" she teased.
He put his briefcase down on a chair and went to stand behind the desk. "Probably. When the Admiral comes back on Monday, I'm sure I'll slip right back into my tardy old self."
"Enjoy your last day. When the Admiral finds out how you've run this place, you'll probably be representing walruses in Antarctica!"
"Did you want something? Other than to harass me, I mean."
"Yes, actually I did. Did you by chance pick up my expense folder? I had it at the deposition yesterday, and now I can't find it."
"I do," Harm said. "I must have picked it up by mistake. It's in my briefcase."
Mac moved to open his briefcase, and Harm realized immediately he couldn't let her do that. "Mac, wait! Don't open that!"
She ignored him and snapped the locks open. "Why? Have you got girly magazines in here?" She opened the lid and picked up the three or four files inside. She looked at the labels, expecting to see her own handwritten "Expense" notation. She did see it, but she also saw something else – her own name. She pulled that file out and opened it. Her service record. What was he doing with that? She looked at him, that question obviously on her face. She flipped through the file, including the psychiatric records.
"Have you read this?" she asked.
"Yes," he admitted.
"I don't know." It was the truth.
She read through the reports. She needed to know what he now knew about her. While she read, he didn't speak, move or even breathe very loudly. He felt as though any sound from him could trigger the avalanche of her anger, and he intended to delay it as long as possible.
When she'd finished reading, she closed her eyes. It was unbearable to her that he knew as much as he did. She hid her shame and embarrassment in her anger. He could tell how angry she was the moment she opened her eyes again. So angry she couldn't speak, she threw the file down on the desk with a glare that could have melted steel, turned on her heel, and left him standing there.
He'd told himself that half a day should be enough for her to cool off. He brought the expense file she'd been looking for earlier to her office. "I thought you might like this," he said.
She didn't look up. "Keep it. And don't let the door hit you on the way out."
Okay. Maybe half a day *wasn't* enough. He'd try again later.
Harm had tried again later that day, and she'd rebuffed him just as firmly. He needed to see her, he needed to apologize. He went to her apartment and knocked on the door. She opened it, and he could tell she was going to tell him to take a hike. "Please, Mac," he said quickly. "I just want to say I'm sorry."
"I don't really want to see you," she said coldly.
"I know. Please let me in. I'll apologize, and then I'll go home."
"Make it quick," she ordered, stepping aside to let him in. She didn't close the door, though. Her intent was obvious. He wouldn't be here long enough to warrant closing the door.
Harm sighed in exasperation, moved her out of the way, and closed the door.
"Mac, I'm really, really sorry," he said, turning to face her. "I don't know what possessed me to look at your file. It was stupid. You never talk about yourself, what it was like for you growing up. I guess I just wanted to get to know you better. I'm sorry."
"So what are you sorry about?" she challenged. "Are you sorry I found out, or are you sorry that you learned what you did about me?"
"Both," Harm said honestly. "Mac, I had no idea there was such personal information in your file."
"And you wouldn't have read it if you had?!" she said with obvious disbelief.
"I probably would have anyway," he admitted.
"Well, now maybe you understand why I don't talk about that part of my life. I'm not very proud of what I did back then."
"Hey, a lot of that stuff wasn't your fault," Harm said.
"That's crap!" Mac said vehemently. "Of course it was my fault! I made decisions, and I live with the consequences of those decisions!"
Harm said nothing, unsure what to say.
"Harm, do you remember your first time?" she asked quietly. "With a girl, I mean."
Yes," he said hesitantly, wondering whether she wanted details.
"Well, I don't," she said. "I was at a party in the desert with some friends. We were all drinking. In the morning, I woke up with this kid I didn't even know. I didn't remember a thing about how I'd gotten there."
"Then how do you know you even . . ."
"Oh, I knew," she said without further explanation. "I was fifteen, Harm! Fifteen years old and on my way to becoming a Grade A drunk! Your opinion means a lot to me, damn you! The more you know about me, the less you'll respect me! I can't stand that!"
"Mac," Harm said, turning her to face him. "The more I learn about you, the more amazed I am that you are who and what you are. You have come so far, and I respect you now more than ever."
A tear slid out of Mac's eye at his sincerity.
"You should never feel embarrassed or ashamed, especially with me," Harm continued. "I happen to think you're a pretty special lady. Have for a long time. Nothing's changed."
Smiling up at him through her tears, she reached over and took one of his hands in both of hers. "You're pretty special yourself."
He brushed a stray tear away with his thumb and left his hand on her cheek. She leaned her head into his hand. She could stay like this all night. That kind of thinking was dangerous. She kissed the palm of his hand and smiled at him again. "Thank you," she whispered.
"You're welcome," he said, his voice not much louder than hers. "And I *am* sorry."
"Okay," she breathed.
They stood looking at each other, still touching. Time stood still as they gazed into the depths of each other's eyes. What they saw scared them both. Both knew that if they got any closer, their lips would meet and life would never be the same. Both longed for and dreaded that prospect.
It was Mac who pulled away first. "Well, it's getting late."
"Yeah. I should be going. I'll see you tomorrow."
"'Kay," she said. "Good night."
He smiled at her, that smile she saw in the dead of night when she couldn't sleep and she couldn't keep her mind from wandering into places it wasn't supposed to go. Then, he was gone.
On opposite sides of the door, both sent a silent thank you heavenward that their friendship had been pulled from the fire once again.