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In Their Own Words - Full Engagement

Harm    Mac     Bud

Major Sarah MacKenzie

By Tracy (hmtomcat@hotmail.com)

When I first wake up, it takes me a few moments to clear my head enough to remember what had happened and where I am. Everything is so clouded and it takes supreme effort to make my eyes open and then even more effort to make them focus. The first sight that greets me is hardly a surprising one - Harm, his head resting on the table next to him, his six-foot four-inch frame squeezed into a chair, deep in sleep.

He's cleaned up a bit - probably at the insistence of Bud, or more likely the Admiral. He made me a promise out there in the mountains and until he's satisfied that I'm completely out of the woods, I imagine that the most that even the Admiral will been able to do is to get him to shave and change his clothes. But I know Harm. Until he is convinced that I'm going to be okay, he's not leaving my side. And it's not just his promise that's driving him. It's guilt. He feels guilty that he missed that fuel line in preflight, which caused the engine stall which forced our emergency landing and started this entire mess. I might protest that I'm a Marine and that I don't need a Squid to look out for me, but I know it's not true. I did need him out in those woods, more than I've needed anyone else in my life, except for maybe Uncle Matt ..

~*~*~*~*~*

It's hard to believe that what started out as such a fun day could turn so terrifying so fast. When Harm had first approached me about taking a day of leave and going flying with him, I didn't even think twice before accepting. I'd seen a while back, when I met Harm and Bud at the airfield before we went out to Miramar, how much Harm loves flying. He looked like a little boy, full of life and joy - until I'd had to tell him that a friend and fellow aviator had lost her life. It had given me a bit of insight into the enigma that is my partner and friend. Although I'd never really cared about flying - or really ever thought much about it - beyond a plane's ability to get me from point A to point B in the least amount of time, I was looking forward to going up with Harm in his Stearman. I wanted to see a little bit more of that joie de vie he seems to find behind the controls of a plane.

And saw it I did - and even found a little bit of it for myself. I had more fun than I ever thought that I could. When I told Harm that I loved flying in his plane, the words came out before I even thought about what I was saying and they were true. I couldn't remember the last time I'd had that much fun. With all that I've been through in my life, there hasn't been much opportunity to have fun.

Of course, I saw flashes of that flyboy arrogance that I've learned so well over the last few months. When I nearly drove the plane into the tree tops and was calling out to Harm to take the controls, he laughed. The SOB laughed as the trees came closer and closer, until he pulled us up at the last moment. Arrogant, over confident .. And calling the plane 'her'? What was that about? Only a man would think of naming his overpriced, oversized toys after a woman.

~*~*~*~*~*

When the engine started cutting out on us mid-flight, I experienced a brief moment of panic when Harm didn't answer me right away, after I'd asked where he was going to set the plane down. Then I'd remembered who I was flying with. Harm would set us down safely, although I didn't really breathe easy until we set down safely in the clearing which Harm had found. After Arizona, I didn't even think to question whether or not I could trust him with my life. I just knew that I could.

In spite of my trust in him, I still couldn't believe the chance that he had taken, not setting down in the first clearing I had seen. He said it wasn't big enough to take off from again, but he hadn't known about the larger clearing that we did end up landing in until we happened upon it. We lucked out? What if we hadn't come across that clearing? How long would it have been until the engine stalled completely and we'd ended up in the trees?

Then I found out the name of his plane. I wasn't sure at the time what to think of it. Who was this other 'Sarah' who was so important to him that he went so far as to name his plane after her? I wasn't sure that I wanted to know. My first thought was that it might have been her, the woman whom I'd reminded him of, but I nearly laughed at the absurdity of the thought. It could be explained away as mere coincidence that this woman who apparently had meant so much to Harm could have been my twin in looks, but us having the same name? Very unlikely. So who was she?

And I couldn't understand at the time what his problem was. Damn. I couldn't believe that his precious airplane meant so much to him that he'd refuse to leave it, begrudgingly accompanying me only when he realized that I was heading for the cabin we'd seen from the air, with or without him. Boys and their damned toys. Even if someone had come across the plane, it wasn't like they'd be able to steal her .. I mean it. They wouldn't be able to steal it. God knew we weren't going to be able to take off again until Harm found a way to fix that fuel line. The plane wasn't going anywhere and we weren't going to get out of there if we stayed with the plane. But all he seemed to care about was that damned plane, or so I thought at the time. And I thought that cabin would end up being our salvation. I never thought I'd end up being so wrong .. on both counts.

~*~*~*~*~*

I must have drifted off to sleep again, because the next thing I know, Harm is awake, watching me with tired eyes as he sips a cup of coffee. I can still feel the cold mountain air, as the temperature had dipped below freezing that night, and coffee would be so good right now, even stale hospital coffee. "I don't suppose you'd like to share some of that with me," I ask, managing an expression that I hope comes off as a grin.

He doesn't return the grin. "I don't think the doctors and nurses would appreciate that," he says, without a trace of humor in his voice.

"So, I take it we still have jobs?" I joke, trying to get him to lighten up. I know what he's thinking, but there's nothing he could have done. I was the one who had insisted on leaving the plane. If it hadn't been for me, we never would have gone to that cabin and run into those poachers.

"Yeah, I guess," he replies, shrugging. "Bud's taking care of what he can for us until we return to work." He chuckles a little, but there's not much feeling behind it. "Remind me to tell you when you're up to it how he got that continuance for me. He had to face down Captain Morris."

"Poor Bud," I murmur sleepily. Since he was Harm's assistant during the Connors case, I'm sure that Morris was remembering that HNK incident and was not too happy to see Bud in his courtroom again. The only thing that would have been worse would have been Harm having to face him down.

"Go back to sleep," he says. "You're still fighting that infection." His hand covers mine on top of the bed covers and I turn my hand palm up, curling my fingers around his.

"It's not your fault, Harm," I whisper as all the drugs being pumped into my system through the IV take their toll and pull me under. It's a comforting presence, his hand clasped in mine, and my mind drifts back to the moments when a simple search for help turned into a fight for survival ..

~*~*~*~*~**

You would have thought we would have been on guard more after we heard those rifle shots off in the distance. Harm was right when he'd pointed out that it wasn't hunting season. But he suggested that maybe it was just somebody target shooting. That wasn't outside the realm of possibility and neither of us had any reason to believe otherwise.

In hindsight, coming across that game warden's truck should have provided a clue. But poachers never entered my mind and I don't think they entered Harm's either. Damn, we're lawyers and there's so much that never occurred to us. We're supposed to be suspicious. That's our job. I guess we were too busy working against each other at the time - Harm so worried about his plane, which he'd finally revealed had belonged to his father, and me so concerned about just getting some help and getting off that mountain. I had the right idea. I just never imagined that we were going about it in the wrong way.

When we first ran into those men, something just didn't feel right about the situation. First off, the game warden's Jeep was out front, but none of these men wore a Park Service uniform. And two of the men looked very nervous, standing with a shovel over a patch of ground it looked like they'd been about to dig into. It became so obvious later that the ground was already freshly dug. But Harm seemed so relaxed at first, introducing us to the man who'd walked over to talk with us. I guess I thought at first that if there had been something wrong, Harm would have felt it, too. His instincts are usually so good about things like that.

I could hear it in his voice, the moment Harm became suspicious of the men when the one we were talking to hesitated before agreeing to our request for a ride into town. That's when he started back pedaling, suggesting that we could catch a ride with the game warden. All of a sudden, Harm wanted nothing more than to get us out of there and I couldn't have agreed with him more. One of the men had moved over towards a tree. My view was partially blocked by the man standing in front of me, so it wasn't until it was too late - when we heard the crack of a shot and Harm knocked me to the ground - that I realized the truth. Harm and I had managed to end up in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time.

Now, all of a sudden, it had become so clear. We'd stumbled upon poachers and they apparently had just killed the game warden to whom the Jeep belonged. Things were happening so fast at that point. We ran, taking cover behind the Jeep while Harm broke the driver's window with a rock, hoping to hot wire the vehicle, while I dug into our emergency kit for the flare gun. It may not have had much in the way of firepower, but it startled our pursuers enough that Harm was able to grab something from the engine compartment of the Jeep.

The next thing I remember is the burning sensation in my leg as one of the poachers - the one we'd been talking to - got off a shot while my attention was distracted by aiming at one of the other men, the buck shot tearing into my thigh. I'd come under fire while in Bosnia, but I never imagined that anything could hurt that much, a searing, white hot pain spreading out from my leg as I fell to the ground, clutching my leg. I vaguely remember yelling at Harm to go when he tried to help me up, but he wasn't listening to me. Just like he hadn't been so far on this trip.

I knew we didn't have a chance if Harm had to carry me. That's why I'd told him to go. I knew that for sure when I saw the three men start to chase after us as Harm took off, me slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Then we got our fighting chance. Harm had picked up the flare gun I'd been firing and shot at the stream of gasoline on the ground. The gas tank must have gotten punctured during the shooting and the resulting fire gives us the opportunity to get a bit of a head start on them. Nice improvisation. For a Squid, Harm might not make a half-bad Marine.

~*~*~*~*~*

Suddenly, allowing Harm to talk me into taking a day of leave to experience the 'open air' and the 'adrenaline rush' with him didn't seem like such a great idea, but I regretted the words as soon as I pointed that out and his face fell. I could see it, the guilt in his eyes. He blamed himself for missing that hose in preflight and now he blamed himself for my getting shot. At least he wasn't the one who was hell bent on heading for that cabin in the first place. It was time to change the subject.

He was so concerned, as he was attempting to clean and bandage my wound, about having to sterilize it using a flask of bourbon he had tucked away in the emergency kit. I was right in that I wasn't going to be swallowing it, but that wasn't the entire truth. I could smell it - the scent was calling out to me as he poured it over my wound. If I hadn't been in so much pain and so concerned about our very survival, it would have been so easy to reach out for that flask. Just a sip. It would have felt so good going down my throat. That isn't true. It could never be just a sip. That's why I am an alcoholic. Anyway, Harm knows that. He would never let my hand get anywhere near that metal flask.

Then he brought up that damned plane again. Jesus Christ. How many times was I going to have to hear this? That damned piece of metal would be completely useless to us, I thought, unless Flyboy had a mechanic with parts hidden up his sleeve. When he told me that he'd swiped the fuel line from the Jeep in the hopes of jury-rigging a fix, I felt bad. Harm had been right. We'd needed to land in that clearing. If he could fix the hose, even temporarily, then we could take off and pray that we could make it far enough to get help. I didn't need for Harm to tell me later that the temperature would drop below freezing or to feel the constant sting from my wound to know that I'd never be able to walk off this mountain. I even knew from how far we'd already walked that there was no way we'd be getting out of there that night. I'm a Marine. I've been through survival training. I knew he was right that the plane was our only hope.

And then Harm's beeper went off again. At least Bud wasn't giving up on trying to locate Harm, for what reason I didn't have a clue at the time. I could only hope that Bud had learned enough in the few months he'd been working with us to lead him in the right direction. Neither of us had told him that Harm was taking me flying. Bud loved to fly and neither of us wanted to make him feel bad that Harm was taking me instead of him on this trip. Just one more thing working against us on this trip.

~*~*~*~*~*

Our hike was nearly as hard on Harm as it was on me. I knew he was strong - I'd seen him hang from a helicopter skid in the Arizona desert and manage to pull himself up into the helo, all while fending off crazed militia members. But even Harm has to get tired, forced to support my weight as walking became more and more difficult for me as the hours wore on. I knew he'd been teasing with the Beltway Burgers remark, just as he knew I had been with my comment about working out. But just teasing didn't negate the fact that no matter how light I was, no matter how strong Harm was, we were in a fight for our lives and it would take every ounce of strength both of us possessed - and then some - to make it out of this one.

Then I'd had to open my mouth about that damned plane and then it all came out, just why that plane meant so much to Harm, aside from the fact that it was our best hope of getting off the mountain. Even as I'd suggested it, I knew we stood a better chance with the plane than with trying to take the poachers' truck. But finally hearing just what that plane represented to Harm, that shut me up. This wasn't just a case of a pilot being in love with his plane beyond all reason. This was about family - a grandfather down in World War II, a father shot down in 'Nam, a son lost, facing the loss of the Naval career he'd worked so hard to attain. I got just a little glimpse into the enigma that is Harmon Rabb.

I admit, I had been a bit of a bitch about his insistence on first staying with the plane, then on returning to it. I knew that he didn't have to tell me that story. Just like I hadn't had to tell him, just after I'd met him, that I am an alcoholic. But there was just something about him which made me feel that I could confide in him, even though I barely knew him. I felt honored to find out that he felt the same way about me. At least, I hoped he knew that he could trust me to understand.

The moment was broken when Harm realized that the poachers were closing in on us. I was right. I knew I'd never be able to run and I .. care too much about Harm to risk him getting shot as well, or worse, just because he felt the need to play the knight in shining armor with me and make up for his feelings of guilt about getting us into this situation to begin with.

All I could hope was that Harm knew what he was doing when he came up with some idea - brilliant to him, I'm sure - to misdirect them and give us a chance to put some distance between us and them. Okay, so he'd done good back at the cabin, throwing up a diversion which allowed us to escape and make it this far. I could only hope that Harm had been through some really good survival training as a pilot.

Everything that happened next is still mostly a blur. I know that I don't want to think about it, even though I probably should. 'Stress has to relieve itself.' That's what Harm had said. I just .. I can't remember ever feeling that scared, that helpless before, even in a house with a drunk and violent father and a mother who couldn't stand up to him. I remember trying to be as quiet as possible, although I was sure that everyone within a five-mile radius could hear the pounding of my heart in my chest. And I remember his hands grabbing at me, his foul breath against my cheek. And I remember Harm pulling him off me, ready to tear him apart, only to find that I'd managed to stab the guy with his own knife. I don't remember doing that. I was just going on instinct, doing anything I could to protect myself.

I could feel Harm's eyes on me. I knew that he was probably blaming himself for . for what nearly happened to me. But if anything, the incident only gave me a renewed determination to get off that mountain. I needed something to focus on, something to think about besides .. that. If I didn't have time to think about it, then I could just pretend that it didn't happen, even if only for a little while ..

~*~*~*~*~*

I awake with a start, the room darkened, matching the outside world beyond my hospital window. It's hard to believe that just twenty-four hours ago, Harm and I were settling in for the night, both of us probably praying that the dark would bring a brief respite from our desperate race. I do remember that man's eyes, when Harm pulled him off me and he realized that his knife was sticking out of his gut. He knew that he was going to die, that the air he was taking into his lungs would be among the last breaths he would ever take.

I'm gasping for breath myself when I realize that I'm still not alone, warm fingers still closed around mine. I blink several times and my tired eyes make out Harm's form, still in that chair just small enough that he's got to be so uncomfortable. "You're still here," I murmur, my eyes drifting half closed as I take comfort from his continued presence.

"I made you a promise, remember?" he replies. Even in the dark, I can make out his eyes, so full of concern. So different from those other eyes .. those other eyes that I can't get out of my mind ..

~*~*~*~*~*

No wonder Harm's got a reputation as such a good lawyer. Before I even realized what he was doing, he'd gotten me to talk a little bit about what had happened, subtly drawing me out, gently asking me questions until I'd told him what had happened. I could see it in his eyes, the guilt he felt for leaving me alone, even if only for a few minutes. I tried to assure him that it wasn't his fault, that we'd probably both be dead if he hadn't, but I can still see it in his eyes.

Just like I saw the knowledge of impending death in my attacker's eyes. The bastard did have it coming, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with. I took a life. I caused that look in his eyes, and all those memories come flooding back. The look in his eyes, the blood on his shirt, it wouldn't let go of me and for just a moment, I lost it. I can't believe I lost it in front of Harm. I'm a Marine. I'm stronger than this. He used to be a pilot. He's seen enemy action. I wonder if it's any easier, killing from a distance, not having to see the look in someone's eyes as you take their life. I guess it doesn't matter. But the knowledge that some of these same thoughts and fears might have gone through Harm's mind at one time or another does provide some comfort. A brother in arms.

I was a bit steadier, after Harm had gotten a small fire going and we sat next to it, sharing one of Harm's beloved cigars. I wondered if that had been one of those Cuban cigars he'd had in his apartment that first day. I can't tell one cigar from another and don't really care to. The taste was repulsive, the smell repugnant and I had to fight against the urge to cough with every breath I inhaled, but it was so warm. At least it was better than the alternative, the metal flask which Harm has been careful to keep out of my sight since he cleaned my wound earlier.

I opened up about Eddie, remembering the look in his eyes, lying next to the twisted hulk of metal that had been his car, knowing that he was not going to be there much long, just like that man today. I tell the story without hesitation. Opening up about my alcoholism was the hard part. After that, it all becomes somewhat easier. He was right that Eddie was responsible for his own death, just like the other man. And I was right that Harm had checked the engine as carefully as he could and wasn't responsible for our entire predicament. If you look back over the entire string of events that led us here, from the moment Harm had first approached me about taking a day of leave with him, what could we have done differently? There's a reason they say that hindsight is twenty-twenty.

We manage to relax somewhat and by the time we decide to turn in for the night, we were laughing and joking with each other, just like we normally do. It felt good, being able to forget for just a little bit our dire circumstances. Under any other circumstances, sitting in front of a crackling fire with a handsome man, huddling close to him throughout the night to keep warm .. Where the hell did that come from? This isn't like that. It's not like that at all ..

~*~*~*~*~*

When we awoke, we managed to retain some of our good humor from the night before. But what was I thinking, teasing about most men making me breakfast? He didn't throw me a red light, but maybe I should have thrown myself one. We were on the run for our lives. I shouldn't have been thinking about how easy ..

Soon enough, it all comes back to me, just how dire our situation is. I tried to hide it from Harm, how warm I felt, a warmth that had nothing to do with the company I was keeping and feelings that I shouldn't have been feeling in this time and place. But he knew, as soon as we stopped by the stream to check my blood-soaked bandage, even before he pressed his cool hand to my forehead, I think. The cool, wet cloth he pressed against my face and neck, his tender attention - it all felt so good and when our eyes met and he promised that he was going to get me through this, I wanted nothing more than to let go of the strong Marine I'd managed to become and let him take care of me.

In that moment, when we tore our eyes away from each other, I somehow found the courage to ask the question that had been plaguing my thoughts ever since I'd first heard the name of his biplane. God, what made me think of asking that at that particular time? It was hardly the proper time or place, soon to be proven as the crack of rifle shots split the air. But I realized that I was falling and I needed to be sure that there would be someone there to catch me. I needed to know just what Sarah meant to him that he'd named his plane after her.

But then the moment was gone and we were again fighting for our lives. Son of a bitch. He dares question my dedication to the uniform I wear, the dedication of all the women who've chosen to defend their country. In hindsight, I have to laugh. Just like during the Connors hearing, he played me like a violin and I fell for it. At least it was for a good cause this time. It did get me to get my six in gear.

Harm set up another diversion, which allowed him to take down another one of our pursuers and reach the plane. I never thought I'd be so glad to see anything in my life as I was to see her. For a scary moment, I began to think that the plane was going to take off without Harm in it, then I began to worry that Harm was wrong and the field wasn't going to be big enough. If I could have gotten out at that moment and pushed 'Sarah' over the tree tops, I would have. But it wasn't necessary. I guess I had been right earlier, when I'd suggested that maybe Harm's dad had been looking out for us when we'd found that clearing. I heard it above the roar of the engine in his soft, heartfelt 'Thanks, Dad' as the plane cleared the trees with literally inches to spare.

I'm not sure how I managed to stay lucid through the flight, but I managed to ask the question I'd been about to ask earlier. For a moment, as I listened to him tell me that he was wild about her, I wondered how I could compete with this woman who obviously held a large place in his heart, until he paused just a moment and uttered three words that made all the difference. 'She's my grandmother.' I couldn't help the relieved smile that crossed my features and when I heard his soft laugh. I wondered if he suspected that the question had been more than just a casual one, that my interest was more than that of a friend. What was I thinking? We work together. This could get entirely too complicated ..

~*~*~*~*~*

Disclaimer: While based on the JAG episode, this is for entertainment purposes only and no profit is being made.