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Subject: 'Chasing Childhood Dreams'


Author:
doc
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Date Posted: 15:18:17 07/13/08 Sun


Chasing Childhood Dreams


A/N #1: This story was written for the “He Said, She Said” ficathon. The prompts, submitted by readers, were from the dialogue of their favorite television shows.

A/N #2: This story takes place during the Season 10 episode “Hail and Farewell, Part 2.”

Summary: Sometimes you have to let go of the fears from your youth to achieve the full height and splendor of your childhood dreams and fairytales.

Prompts: This story makes use of two different prompts.

The first is from “The West Wing,” compliments of lska. The “set-up” dialogue for the proposed prompt is actually quite lengthy, so I’ve included the Fic Recon addy of the original post for your perusal (www dot voy dot com/194540/1/7612 dot html). The majority of those “set-up” lines make an appearance in this fic. The submitted prompt was:

Danny: You can be scared. That’s okay. But you’re not gonna walk away from me because you’re scared. I’m not that scary.

*

The second prompt from “Xena Warrior Princess” was submitted by Theresa.

Gabrielle: I don't have a gift for you.
Xena: You are a gift to me.


Category: Drama

Rating: Appropriate for anyone.

Disclaimer: I don’t own JAG or any of the characters. I just take them out and play with them on occasion before replacing them safe and sound back on the shelf.

Special thanks to Mom, my faithful finder and keeper of all things related to spelling and grammar.



***


Chasing Childhood Dreams

“Let go of the past and go for the future. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau


Late Afternoon
24 September 2004
The Beach at Manderlee

“Well Mac, when you’re ready let me know…”

She watched him walk away, determinedly trudging through the sand, wind tousling his hair. Walked away, just like all the others, without a backward glance. Why was it that no one wanted to stick around? Wasn’t she worth the effort? The hard work needed to sift through the jumbled mess of her life?

Maybe it was easier, or perhaps more fulfilling, to bail at the first sign of resistance than to futilely chip away at the stone façade she’d erected so impermeably around her heart. Futile. Her shoulders slumped under the weight of that notion. Today had not been a good day for Sarah MacKenzie. First, she’d succumbed to the ploys of a sweet-talking mercenary, following him like a Pied Piper right into his baited trap. Then, she’d played the fool, chasing after every imagined lead no matter how elusive to her mendacious and unrepentant lover. And then there was Harm…

And then there was…Harm…

That thought gave her pause. A promise, delivered on a moonlit porch just a few months back, echoed in her mind…

“We could do it together, like we planned.”

“Men just seem to pass through my life, except for you. Will you always be there?”

“Yes.”

Her eyes drifted away from the rolling waves of the ocean to the expanse of beach at her side. His footprints marred the sand in deep depressions…deliberate, strong, decisive, just like him. She continued to stare along the course of his path and wondered where he’d gone. Had he grown as weary as her of the push, pull and drama that encompassed her life?

“Will you always be there?”

“Yes.”

She reached out a hand and traced the outline of his step, laid her palm flat in the depression. Even extended to its full length, her hand was dwarfed in the shadow of his step. She pressed deeper still, causing the surrounding sand to topple and collapse against her skin. The sand felt warm and dry from the heat of the sun. Gently pulling back, the sand sifted through her fingers, completely obliterating the depression left by him. She shivered at the sudden onset of a shaking chill, and wondered at the source. Scanning the horizon, she was surprised by the absolute calm of the water and the wind. Glancing back to the restored surface of the sand, smooth and even, as if he’d never been there, another chill wracked her to her core.

***

He exited the vehicle and began to pace the hot pavement of the asphalt drive. His anger had proven to be short lived, evaporating into plumes of self-doubt in the afternoon sun. As each step took him further away from her, a little more of the edge and frustration had fizzled and died, stomped into begrudging understanding by the firm resistance of the sand. It had taken a full mile, until the marching cadence of irritation had begun to give way to the gentle shuffle of introspection, and yet another before the calming stillness of sympathy took seed. He dropped to his knees, hot and tired in the blazing late afternoon sun. Head bowed in self-loathing, her words played in a constant refrain through his mind…

“There’s so much more to talk about than just Webb.”

“So much more…”

“…than just WEBB.”

She’d said WEBB not Clay…just Webb. He smacked his palm against his forehead and muttered to himself, “So much MORE to talk about.” And what had he done? He’d walked away, just like…

“Damn,” he mumbled under his breath, and heaved his tired body off the sand to go in search of her. He veered up a nearby dune, and crossed over a rickety wooden footbridge, to the solid soil of the grassy bluff. The sun beat down bright and hot off the surface of the ocean, and he swiped away the beads of sweat rolling down his brow.

Arriving back at the main house, he immediately noticed the distinct calm of his surroundings, which stood in juxtaposition to the previous danger and chaos just a short time before. Glancing at his watch, he realized more than an hour had passed since he’d left her at the shore. His car was the only vehicle remaining in the long private drive. Walking briskly toward the towering clapboard structure, he tried the handle of the door, but found it locked. The only sound disturbing the stillness of the picturesque surrounding was the crashing of ocean waves, and the occasional squawk of a diving sea gull. He wandered out toward the edge of the deck, but found nothing save the barren solitude of the deserted beach, and his heart lurched in emptiness.

Backtracking his path along the sidewalk, he reached into the car to retrieve his cell phone. Quickly dialing her number, he was disconcerted to hear a familiar ring emanating from her purse on the floor. He slid into the vehicle and turned the ignition waiting for the circulating air to cool. Grabbing a bottle of water from the cooler in the back, he dragged the damp plastic across his sweaty forehead and sighed at the cool relief.

The interior temperature of the car began to slowly drop, as the AC blasted out cold air, and he tipped his head back against the leather seat, contemplating his next move. Had she hitched a ride back to town with Kershaw? Webb? Called a cab? Not likely from that distance, and she’d seemed none to happy to be in the company of anyone associated with the CIA.

The sun was beginning to set in the distance, as the first inkling of dusk appeared. He checked his watch again, before exiting the car to begin a repetitive worried pace. Surely, she would’ve informed him of her departure, left a note on the car, called his cell, something. Then he remembered the ringing of her cell phone from within his car, and knew with certainty that she hadn’t left.

He reached into the vehicle and turned off the ignition, before retrieving a couple water bottles from the back, and set off on a trek for the shore. Arriving at the bluff overlooking the beach, he immediately froze at the bewildering sight.

He watched her twirl around in circles, faster and faster, arms extended straight out to her side, head thrown back. Her repetitive geometric movements grew wider and wider, more erratic and random, as she staggered and swayed on her feet. On and on. Round and round. Unendingly, she twirled, until tripping over her toes; she lurched forward, landing in a hapless heap. Her head fell forward in resigned defeat, as her body collapsed upon itself.

Puzzled by her behavior, and fearful for her state of mind, he propelled himself down the hill, quickly trudging through the sand and almost plummeting himself. Arriving within ten feet of her being, he skidded to a stop, when her hand nearly collided with his face. She was twirling again, head thrown back, eyes clenched tight. He watched her lips flutter away in rapid whispers, uttering unintelligible syllables, as if she were absorbed in prayer. Wider, faster, stumbling, she flew like an intoxicated bird.

He fought to control his escalating panic at her bizarre perseverating motions. He wanted to reach out and embrace her, to still the nervous behaviors, calm her insecurities and fears. Maybe if he hadn’t walked away, left her behind…

“Mac,” he softly called her name, trying not to startle. No response, none, the twirling dance continued on and on.

“Mac!” he called a bit louder, and she stumbled and fell.

He rushed to her side, cautiously extending a hand. “Mac, are you…”

“I’m fine!” She scurried away from his grasp, and slumped forward in the sand.

“Okay,” he took a step back, giving her space, attempting to pacify and calm. Her head remained downcast and buried, wisps of hair obstructing her face.

“Mac,” he tried again, “…um, what were you doing?”

“Twirling,” she stated the obvious. Pushing up into a sitting position, she gracefully rose to her feet.

“I can see that,” he studied her closely, assessing her mood, “…but why?”

She began to sway lightly in the wind, head thrown back, eyes closed loosely against the blinding rays of the sun. The ocean breeze gusted around her, whipping her ponytail at a frenzied pace, as the silken strands strained against the forced captivity of their elastic band. Her cheeks glowed red and rosy, kissed by the sun and wind, and her forehead glistened with droplets, evidence of the exertion expended in her dance. He marveled at her statuesque beauty, and wondered how he could ever forget.

Her arms lifted at her sides, rising without effort, as she slowly began to twirl. Her hands soared heavenward, aimless and light, fluttering like the wings of a songbird about to take flight. Her feet moved faster, spinning round and round.

“Mac,” the tone of his voice laced with worry, “…please talk to me.”

“Why?” her toes caught the ridge of an ever-growing mound, created by the continuous beat of her feet into the sand. She stumbled forward, landing on her knees. Sighing in disappointment, she pounded a fist into the sand.

“Because I care,” he offered his hand.

She batted it away, and stood once again, tripping over her feet. She stood in place; feet planted shoulder-girth wide assuring her balance, and waited for the dizziness to pass. When her brain ceased its annoying spinning, she threw her head back and extended her arms.

“Maaaac…”

“Just recreating a childhood dream, Harm. Nothing to worry about. A mere fairytale really, seeing as it never came true. There were certainly no white knights or noble rescuers to be found in my sordid past.” She once again commenced her slow dance of circles and spins. “But that didn’t stop me from wishing and dreaming of…” she trailed off as her speed increased.

“Of what?” he furrowed his brow in question, in concern and care…in a soul-wrenching desire to make all her dreams and fairytales come true. She swayed erratically, but continued to spin.

“Mac?” he lunged forward to catch her before she could fall. Sensing the uncertainty in her stance, as she weighed the need for control against the crippling instinct of fright and flee, he gently lowered her to the ground and retreated a few steps away to drop down beside her in the sand.

He chanced a quick look her way, before his eyes darted back to the horizon. The sun hung a foot above the waterline, but was rapidly descending into the night. He cautiously extended a hand in her direction, palm right side up.

“Uhhh,” his breath came out as a nervous quiver, resembling more a chuckle than a sigh. He cleared his throat, “I ah…I’d really like to hear about this fairytale of yours.”

“It’s just one of those stupid childhood fantasies,” she dismissively shrugged her shoulders. “You know, kids and their ridiculous imaginations churned by nighttime stories and fairytales by Grimm.” She nervously raked her fingers through the sand creating mounds and furrows. He noticed the slight tremor of her hand, before she masked it with a fist and tucked it to her chest.

“I’ll tell you mine, if you tell me yours.” The singsong lilt of his voice drew her eyes to him, and he flashed a disarming smile.

“Let me guess,” the corner of her mouth tugged upward in a tiny grin, “…yours involved a brave prince, a dragon, and the saving of a kingdom to the cheering accolades of adoring fans.” She quirked her brow upward to both challenge and tease.

His countenance visible relaxed, when he realized she really was all right…decidedly sad and emotionally lost, but physically and mentally okay. He shook his head, eyes rolling skyward, “You think you know me so well.”

“Do tell,” she dared, then outright laughed when his ears burned bright.

He looked the opposite way down the shore, and muttered under his breath, “It involved a … hooorse…drag-on…princessssss…accolades…”

“What was that?” she grinned.

“I said,” he stared her down defiantly, “…it involved a horse, a prince and princess, and maybe…”

Her grin grew wider, “A dragon?!”

“All right, ‘Miss Know-it all’,” he wagged a finger in her direction, “…your turn to share.”

Her challenging demeanor immediately slumped, “Look Harm, I um…”

“That was the deal, Marine,” he watched her nervous mannerism of sifting fingers commence again.

“Mac, I told you to let me know when you were ready to talk.” He saw her eyes quickly flit away, as her fingers viciously raked. He reached for her hand, engulfing it in his own, “And I promise, I’m not going anywhere this time.” He squeezed her hand, but didn’t let go, and waited.

And waited.

Finally, she began to speak, “There was this summer, when I was 6-years old. My dad decided to take us to the beach for a long weekend. I was so excited to finally go on a family vacation, because we never got to go away. Sometimes, we’d visit Uncle Matt or my grandmother, but other than that, we never went on family trips.”

She stared unflinchingly out over the water, watching the waves crest and roll, mesmerized into silence by their easy motion. He watched as the recalled hurtful memory tumbled across her face, and wished again for the opportunity to confront the bastards who deliberately inflicted pain on such a tiny fragile girl.

His thumb stroked back and forth across her hand in a calm and soothing gesture. “What happened then, Mac?”

She released a deep trembling sigh, and commenced her tale in a sorrowful haunted voice. “We were all enjoying the beach, the sand and water. We built a sand castle, and then dad took me out into the ocean to swim. He held me tightly by the hand, pulling me out into the deep water, then he lifted me to safely ride the waves on his shoulders. There were all these other families playing at the beach…fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, siblings. I couldn’t remember ever having a more perfect day. For once, we were having fun, just like all the other normal families. My mom had packed a picnic basket filled with sandwiches, chips, and soda, cookies and treats. We all sat down to eat lunch, when dad started drinking.”

Her shoulders slumped forward, as she continued her story, “I tried to distract him by telling him how much fun I was having. I thanked him over and over for bringing me to the beach. That’s when mom took his beer, and tried to hide it under her beach towel. My dad got really mad, and started yelling at us. He slapped my mom across the face and kept yelling and yelling, until she gave it back. He spent the rest of the afternoon drinking, and yelling, and smacking my mom. All those normal families, sitting around us in the sand, they just kept staring at us with sad and sorry looks. I hated those looks…it made me cringe in humiliation…I wanted to bury my head in the sand and make everyone go away.”

“I’m sorry, Mac,” she startled when his breath tickled her cheek. She hadn’t noticed him moving closer.

“It’s okay, Harm,” she flashed him a sad, conciliatory smile, “…I got used to it.”

“But that didn’t make it right.” Her eyes once again locked on the mesmerizing waves of the sea, and they sat in uncomfortable silence.

After several long minutes, he softly asked, “What did that day at the beach have to do with your childhood dream?”

She glanced at him from the side of her eye, “Not going to let that go, are you?”

“Not unless you insist,” he turned her hand over in his, and gently traced the lifeline of her palm. “I meant it, Mac. I’m here to listen…for as long as it takes.”

She flexed her fingers around his, and began to softly speak. He hovered closer still and squinted his eyes in concentration, as he attempted to listen to her words over the din of crashing waves and gusting wind.

“I finally laid down on a blanket, and pretended to fall asleep. With my eyes closed, I didn’t have to see all those looks of pity. I had a great imagination as a kid. I would spend hours conjuring up brave saviors to rescue me from my dad, just like in all those Grimm’s fairytales. That day on the beach, I dreamed of a tall brave knight, dressed in white, flying in on a gigantic horse just to save me. He flew in fast and high, and snatched me right up from the ground, before my dad could give chase. We flew higher and higher in the air, all the way up to the clouds, sailing on this huge gray horse. We circled round and round. I could see my dad down on he ground waving his fist, but he couldn’t touch me. He was ordering me to come back, but we didn’t…we just flew away to this wonderful castle in the clouds.” She chanced a quick peek his way, and found him listening with rapt attention to her ludicrous story of childhood make-believe.

“What does that have to do with twirling, Mac?” his voice was low and reverent.

“My mother’s whimpering woke me up from my dream. She was quietly sobbing and looked so scared. There was a big bruise on her cheek under her left eye, and her lip was bleeding. I couldn’t stand the yelling and hitting for one more minute of my life, so I decided to spin and twirl to make my dream come true. If my brave knight could fly so fast and spin so high, I thought maybe if…if I could twirl fast enough too…”

“You could fly away,” he voiced the desperate heartfelt-yearnings of a scared little girl.

“Yeaaaah,” she shrugged and looked away chagrinned, “…stupid, I know.”

“No, it’s not,” he spoke in hushed empathetic tones. “I thought if I could slay dragons and save a beautiful princess, that I could bring…” he trailed off.

“Your father home?” she finished the childhood dream for him.

“Yeah,” he sighed on a soft sorrowful breath.

They sat in silence, both weighted down in the heaviness of the moment. The sun finally touched the water with a momentary flash of brilliance, and the daylight started to fade. Suddenly, he sat up rigid and straight, and peered her way.

“Mac, what happened when you twirled?”

“What?” she furrowed her brow.

“What happened when you twirled?”

“That should be painfully apparent to you after my earlier display,” her cheeks blushed an intense pink. “I would twirl around faster and faster, the wind would catch my hair, and just when I thought for sure I would fly away…”

“You’d fall down,” he stated the obvious.

“Give the man a cookie,” she tried to joke away her discomfort.

“Mac, stand up,” he excitedly tugged her hand.

“Why?” she attempted to pull away from his grasp.

“Because, I can show you how to twirl without falling.”

She turned away from him and headed back toward the bluff, “I think it’s time to pack it in and head home, Harm. It’s starting to get dark.”

“Maaaac….”

“Harm, I’m not going to humiliate myself further just to indulge your sick sense of fun…I think I’ve done quite enough of that for today.” She continued to trudge stubbornly through the sand.

He trotted along behind her trying to catch up, then grabbed her arm and spun her around. Her expression reflected an equal mixture of smoldering repressed anger and the beseeching alarm of regret. Taken aback by her silent emotional appeal, he almost abandoned his plan. Her eyes dropped to the sand at his feet, but not before he caught sight of the intense fear buried in their depths.

“Do you trust me?” he cupped her chin in his palm, and lifted her face to his view. She remained silent, tears welling in her eyes, teeth worrying her bottom lip.

“Do you trust me?” he earnestly whispered his appeal. The begging tone of his request carried along on the wind.

She nodded her head, as a tear slid down her cheek. “With my life,” she choked out, her words garbled thick with emotion.

He pulled her close, hugging her to his body. Kissing the top of her head, his breath fluttered warm in her hair. “Then do this for me, please?”

With her arms hanging limp at her side, she leaned into him. Her movements were subtle and cautious, as she nodded her head, bumping against his chest. He released her from his embrace, and taking her by the hand, guided her back to their spot on the beach. He abruptly came to a stop, smiled brightly, and took a step away. She watched him with guarded eye.

“It’s okay,” he nodded his encouragement. She quickly glanced away then looked back, her eyes finding his. “There’s a trick to spinning, Mac. They taught us in flight school. It’s actually quite easy. We had to learn, so we didn’t become dizzy as we rotated in the air. That’s why I can do barrel rolls and not fall out of the sky, or toss my cookies,” he ribbed her with a teasing smile.

“If you think you’re getting me back into an airplane,” she warned.

“Not just yet, Marine,” he flashed her his cockiest grin, “…you need to learn to twirl, before I can teach you to fly.”

“Harm,” she glared her response.

“Anyway,” he flicked his hand waving away her protest, “…put your arms up.” When she didn’t comply, he eyed her in challenge, “Do I need to make it an order, Colonel?”

“You can’t…”

“UP!” He chided, and knew he had her, when her feathers ruffled in the breeze. She stomped her foot in mock annoyance, before finally complying.

“Now, the trick to spinning without falling is to spot. You need to choose a point on the horizon, and then comeback to focus on that exact same spot with each rotation. It’s like an unwavering support or your ‘true north,’ so to speak,” he shrugged.

“Like a skipper navigating to the North Star, Navy?” she nervously chuckled to lighten the mood.

“Kind of, but not quite. Although, I just might make a sailor out of you yet,” he shook his finger in her direction, “…AFTER, I teach you to fly.”

“In your dreams, flyboy!”

“You have no idea,” he muttered under his breath.

“What was that?” she dropped her hands to her hips.

“Nothing,” he waved her off. “Now, arms up, and start to twirl,” he wiggled his finger around in a circle.

She released an exasperated breath sending her bangs fluttering in the wind, “If I fall…”

“You won’t, I promise…I won’t let you.”

She began to slowly turn, head thrown back, eyes focused on the clouds. As her sense of dizziness increased, she tightly closed her eyes, and promptly began to stumble.

“Open your eyes!” he quickly shouted his correction.

“But,” she slowed her rotations to a near crawl, in order to maintain her balance.

“Open your eyes and spot, Mac,” he hollered above the roar of the gusting night wind.

“Where should I look?” she yelled back.

“Find your one true constant and unwavering support…find me,” his voice caught and hitched on the last few words. “I won’t let you fall, Mac…I’ll never let you fall, ever again.”

Her eyes sprung open at his promise of everlasting strength and quickly found his with each new rotation. His face radiated joy, as he shouted, “Faster...Faster!” Her twirling movements accelerated in speed and grace, as he encouraged her more, “That’s my girl, faster…faster still! Now, ‘FLY’!!”

She giggled with unbridled joy, as she felt herself soaring weightless and free, unencumbered by the horrors of her past. His laughter joined in with hers, imbuing the cool evening breeze with rich notes of exuberant glee; the perfect harmony to the nighttime serenade of whistling winds and crashing seas.

Satisfied and exhausted, her twirling circles began to slow. He rushed forward to greet her, and whisking her up high in his arms, he spun her around once more. They tripped and stumbled along the sand, before skidding to a stop.

She poked an index finger into his chest, all the while, sporting a wide teasing grin, “Forget to find your spot of support, Sailor?”

“No,” his sincere eyes bored into hers, “…I found my true north; she was just a little too close.” He reached up to brush a strand of hair from her eyes.

She gazed at him a minute more, before attempting to ease the solemn mood. “Uggggh, that was completely sappy, sailor,” she gave him a playful shove.

His stumbled backward over a mound of sand, landing on his back, and taking her right along with him. Both were startled into momentary silence by their ungainly descent. When she finally hazarded a glance his way, he was still gasping for breath.

“Sorry about that, Harm…wasn’t exactly the best way to thank you for your help,” she pushed up using his chest for leverage. Dropping beside his supine form, she resolutely focused her attention on the ocean, stubbornly avoiding his gaze.

“Mac,” he pushed to a sit, “…I know that Clay really hurt you, and that you need some time…”

“Harm, Webb’s gone…he’s no longer a part of my life, in fact, he never really was. I’m glad he’s alive, but I don’t want to talk about him, think about him, or see him…ever again.” She picked up a seashell and hurled it into the surf.

“Mac, you can’t just forget…”

“Yes I can, Harm! He’s gone, just like every other man in my life. I guess he should consider himself fortunate, that he at least made it out alive,” she snorted in self-derision, “…even though, I desperately wanted to kill him.”

“Mac, could you please let that damn comment of mine go. It was a stupid remark to make, and I was being an ass when I said it. I certainly never meant for you to take it that way. I was just being stubborn and,” his voice dropped to a mere whisper, “…jealous. You should’ve clocked me when I said it.”

“Doesn’t matter why you said it, Harm,” she dismissed his apology out of hand, and continued deriding herself, “…that remark held more truth than…”

“No, it didn’t!” he barked. “Any man should feel fortunate to be loved by you. I’d certainly feel fortunate,” he grabbed her arm to halt her retreat as she began to scamper away, “…if I had the chance to be involved with you.”

She looked away, “Harm, I can’t do this.”

“I know you need time to heal right now, but…”

“No, you don’t understand,” she cried, “…I can’t do this…ever. I don’t know how…maybe one time I did, but not anymore…”

“Maaac…”

“I missed the window, that’s what’s going on here. I missed the window to figure out how to do this,” her head bowed in defeat.

“How to…”

“Share my life with another person, how to be a partner or whatever condescending way you put it this afternoon.” She scooped up a handful of sand, and watched the smooth grains filter between her fingers until there was only nothingness remaining.

“Mac, I wasn’t trying to…”

“I don’t know how to do it,” her shoulders slumped even further, as her head touched her knees. “Maybe at one point I did, maybe I never did, but it’s over now. It’s too late. This and skiing, it’s too late. It’s not gonna happen.”

“Mac,” he fought the desperation he felt closing in.

“You said yourself it’s not an accident that this hasn’t come together. You couldn’t let go either, and you were right. Much as I hated it back then, you were right.”

She shrugged in resignation, and gave him a weak sad smile, “This is who I am. I’m good at my job, Harm. I’m good at working. I’m not good at this.”

“You’re right! You suck at it, and so do I!” He threw his hands up in mock surrender then grinned when she gawked back at him.

He powered back to subtle cockiness, pointing an index finger her way. “You know, you’re going to need a tremendous amount of training.”

“You’re not gonna…”

“I am actually,” he crowed.

“Train me?” she snorted in disbelief at his unbounded arrogance.

“Well, I’ll call it something else,” he waved a dismissive hand, “…that sounds bad, but we’ll deal with it.”

“I don’t need training!” she crossed her arms over her chest, and glowered at the setting sun.

“Of course not,” he grunted out a dubious laugh, then picked her up, depositing her none to gently between his knees. Wrapping his arms around her body, he struggled to pry her hands loose from their death-grip of self-protection across her chest.

“That’s not funny!” she huffed, wedging her elbows more firmly into her sides.

“No, it isn’t,” he acquiesced and wrapped his arms around hers, leaving her no path for escape. “You’re gonna get good at it. WE’RE going to get good at it…all these new feelings, relationships, sharing, and things.”

“You don’t know that!” Her chin remained defiantly high, even as her body betrayed her and melted back against his chest.

“I do,” his chin bumped and nudged her head as he spoke. Her arms slowly began to relax. His hands took immediate advantage of her surrender, tunneling beneath to find her own.

“Don’t make it sound like it’s nothing,” after all this time, she was still afraid to hope.

“You didn’t miss it,” she could feel the warmth of his words expelled against her hair.

“What if I did?”

“You didn’t miss it.”

“What if I can’t,” her voice cracked terrified to give in.

He kissed her hair, nuzzling his cheek into its perfumed softness. “We’ll figure it out. All of it,” he breathed into her ear.

She sighed nervously, scared and unsure, but desperately needing to believe.

“You can be scared. That’s okay. But you’re not gonna walk away from me because you’re scared. I’m not that scary.” He tightened his hold, firmer still.

She curled her fingers around his and let the moment engulf her. Tugging one of his arms free from its snug embrace, she extended his hand forward. She traced a fingertip over the roughened and calloused skin of his palm, then along the length of his fingers. Through it all, she never offered a single word of response to his emotional declaration. Moments passed as she traced his skin, over and under and across. Finally, she lined up her hand with his, palm-to-palm, and marveled at the strength and breadth of his. He curled the tips of his fingers over hers then sliding past, allowed their fingers to intertwine, encasing her hand in his. She released a fluttering sigh of contentment, of happiness and peace.

“So, um, who do you think they’ll nominate for the next JAG? Do you think any of us will be transferred or given a new assignment? Should I step aside as Chief of Staff, maybe pursue a seat in the judiciary? I mean, there’s a chance…”

“Where the hell did that come from?” He twisted her in his arms, and gaped at her in confusion.

“I’m trying,” she shrugged, “…you wanted to be more involved in my life, right? I mean, don’t you think we should make some decisions…” she trailed off at his look of exasperation.

“I think you should do whatever makes you happy, Mac. I just want you to talk to me about it. I want us to talk about what it will mean and how we’ll make it work. I want us to talk like we’re going to figure it out together. I want us to talk,” he paused with a newfound look of awe, “…because I like the sound of your voice. I just want to talk.”

“Okay…”

Tears flooded her eyes at the sincerity found in his expression and words. He reached up to gently wipe them away. She leaned more heavily into his embrace, ducking her face into his neck. Contented, relaxed and happy for the first time in more than a year, she snuggled closer still and allowed her eyes to slowly drift shut. He sensed the change in her state, as the resistance in her body went slack. As she acquiesced to the promise of peaceful slumber, he wrapped his arms even tighter around.

“Are you still with me, Marine?” he quietly asked.

“Mmmmm,” her words slurred back.

He chuckled at her incoherent response, “Maybe we should head back to the car, and start for home.”

“In-a minnute,” she mumbled and burrowed even closer.

He reached up and released the elastic band from her hair, combing his fingers through the soft strands. She relaxed even more to the soothing repetition of the gesture.

“Whaat doin?” she yawned.

He smiled but didn’t stop the gentle caress, “Thought you’d be more comfortable with your hair loose and free.”

“’kaaaay,” her eyes drifted back shut.

“I love your hair like this, Mac,” his breath fanned her face as his lips touched her brow.

“Niiiice ta knooooow….”

He shifted her weight slightly to relief the pressure on his back. Reaching into a side pocket, he fingered his key chain with a frown of concern. Finding the small flashlight Mattie had attached, he settled in to watch the sun disappear below the horizon. The sky was ablaze in beautiful colors of coral and blue, and the stars were just beginning to signal their appearance. He’d always enjoyed watching the fall of dusk from Vulture’s Row while on deployment, figuring there could never be a more spectacular view of the setting sun than high atop a carrier. His eyes drifted down to the beautiful woman relaxed in his embrace, and he marveled at how much his perspective had changed. Forgotten indeed, not quite, he mused…more like grown accustomed and taken for granted, but never, ever again. She was an exquisite treasure, a gift to be cherished.

He leaned forward, lightly touching his lips to hers, and whispered to the sleeping woman in his arms, “I love you, Mac. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. Thank you for giving me another chance…for not surrendering at never. I just wish,” he paused carefully considering his words, “I, um…I don’t have a gift for you.”

Her lids fluttered open, and she unerringly sought his gaze. Transfixed in the blue-green depths of his eyes, she lifted a hand to caress his cheek, “You are a gift to me. I wouldn’t be here if… Harm, you’re the brave knight on the towering gray steed flying in to save me.” Her eyes sparkled bright in the receding sun, leaving no doubt as to the sincerity of her proclamation. A soft smile graced her lips, as she stared into his eyes and confessed her long-held secret to its rightful owner, “I love you, sailor.”

Her hand slid behind his neck, fingers tracing through his hair, as she determinedly tugged him near, firming the union of their lips. He pulled her closer still, delving inside, memorizing her softness and taste. When he released her panting for breath, she hugged him tighter, arms encircling his neck. She never wanted to let go.

His hands traced up and down her back, fingertips sensing the subtle shivers and trembles of her body. Fearing she was chilled, he buried a hand deep within the softness of her hair, gently trying to pry her away. Her embrace tightened and held firm. It was then he felt the warm dampness of tears trailing down his skin.

“Mac?”

Turning her face into his neck, she nuzzled against the prickliness of his evening beard and marveled at the fairytale turn of her life. Glowing fireflies flitting past, twinkled off and on, casting the magical spells of fairies and sprites in the fated world of lovers. In all her fantasies of twirls and spins, brave knights, and castles high, she never dared to imagine this perfect end when chasing those childhood dreams. A lesson learned at her grandmother’s knee echoed through her mind: Let go of the past…Pursue your dreams…Live the life that you’ve imagined.

Pulling back a mere whisper’s breath, she nibbled the skin of his ear. “Take me home, Sailor…I’m ready to fly.”

The End…

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Replies:
Subject Author Date
This was such a nice piece! (NT)gypsyrose0600:56:53 07/14/08 Mon
A beautiful story, doc! (NT)Cookie17:46:45 07/17/08 Thu
This piece may be my favorite of yours.doc, though there are several contenders for that title. It's definitely one of the most soothing resolutions to the prolonged frustration of Season 9. Thanks. (NT)lotilu18:25:58 07/21/08 Mon
This was just the sweetest story. (NT)janlaw21:47:32 08/03/08 Sun
That was beautiful doc. A very insightful way for them to find each other. (NT)Karen12:15:08 08/05/08 Tue


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