In that split second between life and death, in that flashpoint of all that you are-sins forgotten and understanding attained-that is when you know what love is.

The closest he'd come to understanding it before was in the cradle of her hips, her breath soft and hot against his cheek. It was in the lilt of a co- ed's voice, reading poetry to her lover in a coffee house, overheard and uncaring.

"Love is anterior to life, posterior to death, initial of creation, and the exponent of breath."

It was the whorls of her fingerprints, pressed into his skin. Fireworks across a frozen lake. It was altitude and speed, the metal around you a supersonic streak of grey.

It was purpose and frustration, illumination and regret. Le petite mort. A shot of morphine and a streak of red. It was her smile in profile, composed against the sky.

And it was a wonder to him that he'd known it, and a wretched disappointment that it was gone.


He was hungry and stuck in traffic. Even the gaudy neon of the Beltway Burger held a little appeal.

He was getting used to the commute to the Pentagon but he'd never get used to the gridlock. He looked off in the distance, to where a missle-defense vehicle guarded the Washington memorial. He'd never get used to that, either.

A cold front had blasted down from Canada, picked up moisture over the Great Lakes, and was now dumping snow over most o the Eastern Seaboard.

He'd lived in DC long enough to know that even the promise of a white Christmas wasn't enough to dissuade the general populace from snow panic and especially bad driving.

He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and decided to phone Mac. Her cell rang twice before she picked up.

"Running late again?" She asked, skipping a greeting.

"Not my fault this time, you can blame the snow."

"Snow is a blameless entity," she said, "I mean, you can't sue snow. I had someone try once."

"In that case, blame the government, everyone else does."

She chuckled through the earpiece.

"What's your ETA, sailor?"

"I'd say about 45 minutes."

"Then I'll meet you at your place. And I'll bring dinner. I can hear your stomach growling from here."

"You suppose you'll beat me there?"

"I know better than to take the beltway."

"Jarhead spidey sense?"

"Second X chromosome," he could hear her smile. "I'll see you at home, Harm."

"Bye, Sarah."

Neither of them hung up right away. Looking back, she would often say that somehow, she knew.