What A Difference A Year Makes
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: Harm and Mac look back on the year of their lives following Hail and Farewell.
21 May 2005
Today was the day most looked forward to all year (besides Christmas) - the Annual JAG Family Picnic, the one held every year to give them a mental health day and enjoy each other's company. The grounds are perfect for such an affair, with a large parade field. There's only one rule - No Shop Talk allowed and strictly enforced. Admiral's warning: "Put your cell phones on vibrate, people, and run, don't walk to the nearest exit if I see that thing come out of your pocket."
It's been a year since Admiral Chegwidden retired. He had walked away without saying goodbye that night, which was exactly how he had wanted it, no fuss, no muss. And he did precisely as he said he would.....he and Francesca had spent the summer touring all the nation's ballparks, and they even made it to Fenway Park during the playoffs, not that they'd won the pennant Bostonians had been ogling for lo these many years. Maybe next time.
So AJ had found himself a free agent again, and had been toying with staying in the baseball arena. He finally had been offered his dream job of coaching the Academy softball team and he sold his house in McLean, moving to Highland Beach so he could be closer to Annapolis now. They had had a good, albeit mediocre, season but next year he thought, they'd get the rhythm. He couldn't be happier - all he needed now was someone to share his other interests.
The new JAG was a happy surprise. Captain Sebring had been promoted about 1-1/2 years ago and was selected the new JAG. That was such a relief. Everyone was begging that it not be Krennick and their prayers were answered. Sebring was tough, fair, but mostly he didn't have his own personal agenda.
It was a fine Navy day - the sun was shining overhead, a little hazy this morning, but it'll burn off and there won't be a cloud in the sky.....so no chance of rain. Everyone arrived intermittently, families laden with children of all ages and more food than they'll possibly be able to finish. But that's okay, because it's meant to be a day of overeating and over playing, or just relaxing with a good book if that's your sole mission on this day. The barbecue pits were being fired up, and badminton nets erected, horseshoe pits cleaned, and croquet spikes being placed on the grass. The kids were being lathered up with sunscreen, which in turn had them buzzing in anticipation of all the fun they were going to have today.
After Mac had arrived, she brought her covered dish to one of the food tables. To make things easier and be sure there would be no doubles or triples of items, a list had been made of what items were needed: there were categories for food, stuff for the fire, drinks, ice, plates and utensils, etc. to choose from. She had wanted to bring her famous chili for the dogs, but had signed up too late and wound up with the cucumber and tomato salad instead. Not a total loss, I guess.
Mac met up with Harriet and the twins, she sure had her hands full these days, and it never ceased to amaze Mac how well she handled whatever came her way. She wondered how Harriet was always so.....unflappable was the word she wanted to use. Mac offered to watch them in their double stroller while Harriet got little AJ and Jimmy started on an activity with the other little ones.
It's been a year since Harriet had announced she was having a baby - twins. Oh, Mac had been so happy for her. You know Harriet is one of those people who good things happen to. Not to say she didn't have her fair share of heartbreak, losing Sarah, little AJ running away. But to say she glowed through this last nine months is an understatement. This pregnancy really agreed with her and she was so deserving. Since she stopped working early on, she had hardly any physical problems, especially the toxemia she seemed to suffer with during her last two pregnancies. Surprisingly, Harriet went full term and in February 2005, she gave birth to one of each, a boy and a girl. She warned Bud she had sole discretion as to the naming of these infants, no more Star Trek characters in her family, thank you very much. Her life is not a sci fi movie, after all. And so they were named Abby Michelle and Thomas Keith (TK for short).
Mac got herself settled after saying Hi to everyone and conversing with some of her coworkers, mostly about their kids and how they were looking forward to the end of school. When she was finally alone she made her way to a quiet spot not far from the activity and out of the line of fire to put down a large blanket under a tree. She was waiting for Harm to show. He'd been stuck on the Patrick Henry for an investigation for the last several days, but promised he'd be done in plenty of time. She joked with him, "Okay, but don't hurry on my account, I'd rather not have to pick you out of the ocean again, once was enough for me." She said lightheartedly.
She sat back against the tree and let out a sigh. She took in her surroundings and wondered where the year had gone. It had been a long year, much longer than either of them believed it could be. Wow, she thought...hard to believe it's been 2 years since Paraguay. Where has the time gone?
It's been a year since Webb....perished. It hadn't been a dream, and there was nothing fake about it – he was really gone. His body had been shipped to Tripler AFB in Hawaii, and then was returned home to his mother after the obligatory autopsy. Positive identification had been made, but Porter made them open the casket to make her own identification. They were never told of the mission or its failure, no such facts came to light – need to know, Mac thought as she stood by Porter Webb on that overcast and showery day, as they put Clay to rest, another star on the Wall.
Occasionally Mac still missed him, or rather the thought of him, and of what might have been. But that was all behind her now.
Mac picked up her latest novel by James Patterson and started to read, but she couldn't concentrate. She leaned against the tree and watched the bustling crowd, and smelled the charcoals burning. She inhaled, and felt so alive.
Mac's illness - what can she say about that? She looked back on the night of the Admiral's dining out, thought back to the conversation with Harm, where the word yes would bring on a whole new meaning and change their relationship forever. Harm had made her an offer, one he had made before but she really didn't intend for him to fulfill. For all the wanting, she didn't expect him to make the offer again, especially considering the state of their relationship at the time.
Mac had been sitting outside with Harm after his insistence that they get some fresh air. She could feel the concern in his eyes but at the time, she didn't have the energy for a conversation about her health or whether she loved Webb. But she acquiesced, knowing Harm meant well and knowing, too, that she had to let off some steam, maybe shed a few well-deserved tears for the state of her life at this moment.
"Men just seem to pass through my life, except for you. Will you always be there?"
"Yes." He'd turned to face her when he said it. It was such a powerful word, and she could feel the weight of the statement....he'd always be there no matter what.
"Then you need to know what the doctor told me." Harm reached out for Mac's hand and she took the strength from it. But she wasn't ready to talk just yet.
"Harm, I'm not feeling well." Her eyes start to mist up. "I need to take my pain medication, go home and get to bed. The doctor didn't even want me coming out tonight, I've done too much already and my brain is mush. I'm sorry, can we talk later? Would you mind taking me home?"
He pulled back and reached over to run his hand over her shoulders. "Of course, I'm sorry Mac, we can talk whenever you're ready. Let's get you home, okay? Maybe I can get someone to take your car home for you, we'll work something out, it should be safe to leave it here."
"No, that's not necessary, I took a cab, that's why it took me so long to get here. I promised the doctor I wouldn't drive."
He helped Mac stand and reached to tip her chin up to face him. "Mac, I know you're hurting so I'm not going to yell at you," he said with concern, "But please, you know if there's anything you need, ever, all you have to do is ask, okay?"
"I know, you're right." She stood there, feeling tired and weary, even her hair hurt. With Harm leading the way at the small of her back, they went back inside and bid good night to everyone. Mac stopped at the powder room and took her medication, then they left. Harm opened the car door and Mac got in rather gingerly. Funny how a little incision and some puffs of air can make you feel like you're going to explode. They started on the road and Harm put on some light, soothing music. Mac was tucked in the passenger side and had adjusted the seat so she could lean back a little further. That, along with the blanket Harm put over her seemed to make her somewhat comfortable. A few minutes later the pain medication kicked in and she was asleep, breathing peacefully. This was the first time in months Harm had seen her without a scowl on her face.
Harm spent most of the trip stealing long glances at Mac. At least when she was asleep he didn't have to walk on eggshells around her. He missed her. Being with her, working dinners....he laughed inwardly when he remembered that coin toss where they had banged heads and that "Don't be gentle, be good" statement. Oh, how he wished it could be that easy again.
He thought back to that conversation on the Wake Island where he had all but declared is love for her, and wondered if she ever understood what he was trying to say. And then Webb had died. And now she needed him. But did she want him? He didn't really know. But just for now, he'd take it slow, one day at a time, and see what happens.