Picks up after Macs accident in The Four Percent Solution. Does not follow the rest of the season 10 plot line.
A/N: It is possible that updates might take a while for this story (as well as – still – for Once Upon A Chilly Night, sorry!), as I am literally swamped with school work. So I hope you'll still enjoy what I write, even if it takes a while.
Disclaimer: I own nothing and make no money out of my ramblings.
Heart-felt thanks to Staz - for everything!
Chapter 1: The Pain That We're Used To
Pain flooded her body, causing her to wake from an already restless sleep. Mac groaned and slowly tried to ply open her eyes, for a moment not quite knowing where she was and where the pain came from. Even her face was hurting.
Then she realized that her right hand was captured, held in place and gently stroked by a warm presence. She felt the warmth spread up her arm, then through her entire body. Instant comfort. Without even seeing - she hadn't quite managed to open her eyes completely yet and the room was plunged into darkness - she simply knew that it was him. Only he was able to communicate to her this sense of calm in a crisis situation. Ever so gradually, the memory of her accident returned. He had come, and he had stayed.
she whispered. She felt him lean closer, felt him looking at her,
felt his piercing blue stare filled with concern.
"Thank you for staying with me... and I don't just mean tonight."
She wanted to tell him so much more, but for now, she was too exhausted to even think, let alone speak clearly. She could only hope that his staying with her meant that their friendship still had a chance, a friendship that meant the world to her, that had been her anchor in life for the last eight years, but that she had deliberately destroyed.
Yes, she had been the one that pushed him away, even though in her heart of hearts, she had realized that he was finally ready to let go. Why she had acted and reacted that way, she still hadn't completely figured out. Only the realization remained that it was too late for a relationship; she had hurt Harm too much. But she would opt for friendship; that would be better than losing him altogether. She felt him even closer now, and then he was softly stroking her head, his strength seeping through her. She drifted off to sleep again.
Harm kept sliding his hands over her hair even though he felt that she had already gone back to sleep. Yet he wanted to make sure she'd stay asleep for a while, not to mention that touching her was the only way right now for him to truly grasp that she was still alive. It was anything short of a miracle. The thought almost made him chuckle. 'It is Christmas, after all,' he thought to himself, 'what better time for a miracle than that?'
o o o o o
When she awoke the next morning, Mac already felt better; some of the physical pain having lessened over night - until she realized that Harm was gone. Disappointment and loneliness washed over her, hurting almost more than her battered body. Her strong reaction took her by surprise; after all, she had come through worse in her life and prided herself on her independence, her ability to deal with anything on her own.
'Well, fat lot of good that has done me,' she thought to herself, 'now I need a therapist, I hardly ever manage to sleep through a night, I've never had a meaningful long-term relationship, and I've effectively managed to alienate the only person in my life that has always been there for me.'
She hated to admit it, but talking with the therapist had helped. Only now was she able to see how much of her current condition was her fault, how her inability to confide in anybody had kept her from experiencing real closeness with another person. Harm had come close, at times. Yet most of the time either her or him or both of them had shied away from the truly emotional topics, had opted for evasive or cryptic answer or even outright lies.
It was time to actively master her life again, she realized, instead of just feeling like an outside spectator that was merely looking onto what was happening but never quite realizing that any of it was actually happening to her. Resolve manifested itself, and she said into the empty hospital room: "Enough. Enough now."
Harm did come back a little while later, only having left her to bring her some coffee from her favorite coffee shop - and a Christmas tree! It was the tiniest and cheesiest fake Christmas tree she had ever seen, completely decorated with yellow lights and mini candy canes. It was also the sweetest and most thoughtful gift she had gotten in a long time. Leave it to Harm to go out of his way to do something so simple yet so amazing for someone he knew needed cheering up. The little thing was now sitting on the nightstand, happily twinkling. Harm had left to spend a couple of hours of Christmas day with Mattie, who was at her dad's. He was reluctant to leave, but she had told him to go. She knew how much the girl meant to him, and vice versa. No point in ruining everybody's Christmas because of a couple of bruises!
The doctor stopped by a little while later. He checked her through, then told her that she could actually go home the next day, no point in staying at the hospital, all she needed was some time for her bruises to heal. However, she would need somebody to bring her home and stay with her for a bit, whether she had anybody? What was she supposed to answer to that? Maybe she still had her best friend? Could she ask him to do that for her? She didn't know… Or maybe she did.
o o o o o
Many a boring hour later Harm returned.
I've heard you may go home tomorrow?" he asked before she could
even get a word out.
"Doctor told me that I may take you home and settle you in and take good care of you! That okay with you?"
There it was, a trace of his flyboy smile, a bit reluctant still but there nevertheless. She couldn't tell whether he wanted to do it or just felt compelled to, but she was not going to argue it.
"That would be great, thanks Harm." Ouch, face definitely still hurt when she tried to smile.
"But in that case, I'm sending you home to get a decent night's sleep tonight instead of in an uncomfortable hospital chair, and you may pick me up tomorrow."
He made his way around the hospital bed and settled into the same position he was in last night.
"Ok, ninja girl, I promise I'll go home later, but just now I'm going to sit here until you fall asleep."
He leaned forward, and with his right hand gently stroked the left side of her face, his thumb gently running over her cheek, as if to wipe away her tears, just like he had done the few times she had allowed herself to cry since she'd known him. At first, crying in front of him had embarrassed her, she was a Marine after all, and she did not want to have that tough façade crumble. Yet how fast had she learned to trust him completely, had let him comfort her.
She closed her eyes, reveling in the feel of his caresses on her skin. Gradually, she felt the energy change, an almost palpable intimacy settling in. She moved her head slightly so her cheek was more firmly pressed against his hand. His stroking thumb left her cheekbone and traveled south, inching across the rim of her nose, closer and closer towards her mouth until it finally reached its corner.
Her breathing grew more labored; the tip of his thumb now intimately stroking across her bottom lip. She kept her eyes closed, not thinking, just concentrating on feeling everything that was poured into this moment. A soft moan escaped her.
The second it happened, she felt him tense up, his thumb stopped dead in its movement. Her eyes sprang open. She found herself gazing directly into his eyes; so close had he come that his face was hovering directly above hers. For what must have been mere seconds but felt like an eternity, they just remained like this; frozen in a moment too novel yet eerily familiar, scary yet full of promise.
Then, just as suddenly, it was over, him putting a safer distance between their bodies, her eyes breaking the contact. He cleared his throat.
"I should get going now."
"Yeah," was all she managed to croak.
"See you tomorrow at 0900?"
"Ok, sleep well," she whispered.
He turned around, started walking away, yet just before reaching the door, he looked back at her once more, his eyes intense, seemingly boring into her. "I'll try," he rasped, leaving her speech- and breathless.