Title: Expectations Realized
Disclaimer: JAG family borrowed; property pass signed: to be returned in the same or better condition.
A/N: I've taken liberties – I admit it - regarding medical (dating and complications of pregnancy), medical-legal (medical malpractice issues), military (liberties taken with regard to orders and transfers, permitting an officer to assist another with a claim against the government) and ethical (rules of professional responsibility) matters. The Donny's bad example throughout the series must have rubbed off.
Maryann, Jeanaz and TxJAGb – mucho thanks. You made the story better.
WARNING: Death of an unborn child occurs in the story (not Harm and Mac's).
This story was written for the 2007 holiday Ficathon. A few changes have been made prior to posting at this site. My Fortune Cookie prompt was: "Expect good things to happen at work"
Summer in Washington DC and its environs is totally predictable. Hot. Humid. Sweltering. Temperatures in the 90s or 100s and humidity to match. 84 degrees at 4 am. It never really cools off.
With the weather so predictable, perhaps it should come as no surprise that after the myriad of calamities of the last few springs and summers, the events that befell the JAG "family" were also predictable in their very unpredictableness.
Enroute back to DC from the Admiral's retirement dinner
Staring dully out the side window, and then focusing blankly straight ahead, Mac's voice sounded as weary as she felt. "I'm going to call CDR McCool tomorrow and leave a message asking if I can see her this week. I was mad when the Admiral made me go to the Psych Clinic, but she helped, and she said I could call her and come back if I ever wanted to talk some more….I'm not going to be one of those "my glass is half empty" people ….I'm not going to burst into tears every time I see a pregnant woman or a baby in a carriage….I'm not going to live like that. I can't. I won't."
Clutching the steering wheel so hard his hands hurt, Harm concentrated on the road, on anything but what he wanted to do –yell, cry, jump up and down and rail against the injustice of it all. If anyone deserved to have what she wanted, to be truly happy, it was Mac.
"Do you think…"
"Do you want …."
They spoke together, their voices overlapping in the darkness of their thoughts, in the darkness of the gloom that seemed to surround and engulf them. "You first," Harm reached over to touch Mac's arm gently, his long fingers meandering downward to grasp her hand lightly.
"I thought maybe …maybe you'd like to come with me?" Mac spoke timidly. Despite what Harm had said at the O'Club, she wasn't really sure whether he just felt bad for her, or whether her dream of the last five years had been his dream too. She didn't want a Sir Gallant feeling sorry for her. Pity she didn't need.
"Great minds think alike," Harm chuckled nervously, his hand tightening slightly on hers. "That's what I was going to ask you – could I come too …"
The next Friday evening
Watching Mac carefully wrap the Lego® sets they'd chosen in bright birthday paper, Harm marveled at her strength and resiliency. They'd met with CDR McCool Tuesday and Thursday and planned to see her once a week through the summer unless they were TAD. Just as Mac hated going to doctors and hospitals, Harm had always particularly disliked talking to a "shrink." But, CDR McCool had helped them immensely in just their first two hours with her. Of everything they'd talked about, with her and afterwards, they'd found out that for five years, they'd each had exactly the same dream. Now they just had to figure out together how to go about making it a reality.
AJ's fifth birthday party
"Thank you! Thank you!" The young guests and their parents had gone, Jimmy was asleep and Harriet, Bud, Harm and Mac watched indulgently, with lemonade, beer and iced tea in hand as the birthday boy carefully re-examined each of his gifts. Thrilled with the elaborate Lego® sets he'd wanted, AJ exuberantly threw his arms around Harm and Mac's legs as they sat on the loveseat in the family room. "Will you help me build 'em – the starship an' the space fleet an' the starport on Mars?" AJ had definitely inherited his father's love of everything "Trek."
"Of course we will," Harm grinned at his godson's eager excitement.
"I'll take good care of 'em," AJ promised. "I know they're real 'spensive. If Jimmy" – AJ turned to glare at his baby brother sleeping in his porta-pen across the room – "doesn't eat'em – he eats everythin' – I can give'em to your boy or girl when he's five!" AJ smiled happily at his godparents, clearly pleased with himself.
Harm felt Mac tremble slightly, but her voice was cheerful – at least to the unobservant listener – as she replied, "they're yours AJ, you can build the sets in the pictures on the boxes, or anything you want to …. don't you worry about giving them to someone else. Excuse me," she mumbled, "back in a minute…."
"Uhhh ….does AJ know a secret we don't?" Harriet looked pointedly at Harm and he made sure his voice was firm, hoping Harriet wouldn't follow up with Mac.
"No secrets, Harriet, I've no idea where that came from." Harm had no idea whether Mac had confided in Harriet about the baby deal or the endometriosis, but he didn't think she had.
Memorial Day weekend
Chesapeake Bay off Solomon's Island
"This was a fabulous idea!" Her hair whipping wildly in the wind, Mac carefully tacked back and forth in the 20 foot O'Day daysailer they'd rented. Harm had persuaded Mac to go down to Solomon's on the Maryland peninsula across from NAS Patuxent River for the holiday weekend. Surprisingly, Mac had readily agreed. "I haven't sailed since I was on Okinawa – I took lessons, got my certificate …did some diving and snorkeling too but I've never had any time, since then." They'd left DC at dawn and rented the boat at the Naval Recreation Center for some day sailing off the charming waterfront village where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay.
Loving the exuberant smile on her face, her laughter and the exhilaration in her voice, Harm braced himself behind her. "Hey, I love it! I love you!"
Grabbing at the tiller she'd nearly lost hold of, Mac turned halfway into Harm's chest her molten chocolate eyes suddenly a deep espresso, wide and staring. "I do, you know, Mac."
"Hey, hey, watch it," Harm's larger hand swiftly covered hers on the tiller.
"I love you," he repeated, his voice tender and intense. With the part of his brain that was working – the few molecules of thought he had left, he wanted to make it clear this just wasn't another putting mouth in gear before thinking 'I love you'…..
"I love you too ….I…I have forever." Her serious voice made it clear she was taking a chance that she rarely did…..
A short time later (use your imaginations).
"Harm? ….what time did you say we can check in at the B&B? I think I've sailed enough today …"
5th of July, Athens, Georgia
"Are you sure you're set?" Mac grinned at the "U. of Georgia" clad Chloe as they stood in front of stately Mell Hall. Harm was particularly pleased that it was an all-female dorm with solid security. After a somewhat heated discussion with Sturgis, he'd approved the first two weeks in July as leave.
"What's your problem?" Harm demanded. "I know you're paranoid about everything being 'perfect' when the new JAG takes over, but we don't know who or when. Mac and I are set to lose nearly 30 days leave this year, like last year and the year before, if we can't take some leave. We've both carried over the maximum 60 for years and I'm damned tired of losing leave every year. YOU took two weeks leave a few months ago and traveled with Verise." Harm had about had it with Sturgis' attitude.
"Okay, okay, but why can't you take turns so we can have some coverage here? Why do you both have to be gone at the same time?" Sturgis was totally overwhelmed by what he perceived to be his responsibilities as Acting JAG.
"Sturgis, we explained." Mac tried to keep a reasonable tone. "Chloe's father has gotten leave to drive her and her gear as far as DC but then he's got to fly out of Andrews back to Bahrain. We're going to borrow Harriet and Bud's minivan to take her and all of her stuff down to the University of Georgia, settle her into her dorm for the summer session and then fly to the Keys for a few days. We'll reverse it coming back." As Chief of Staff Mac had tried to be supportive of Sturgis' increasingly strident demands for reports, point papers, charts and graphs – bar and pie – all designed to impress whoever got the nod as the next JAG. Behind his back everyone had started muttering "OHS's coming" – 'Our Highness Sturgis' – whenever he was spotted with yet another stack of folders.
"If everything is done we'll never get any more lawyers or legalmen – we need at least two lawyers – three would be better – and at least two senior legalmen or one and a warrant…" Mac tried a conciliatory tone. "The case load is the lowest it's been in a long time. I'll tell you what, we'll take more with us and work on them on my laptop driving down and back. And, if something blows up, you call and we'll return on the next flight. Sturgis, Harm and I need a break…you know that once someone's the permanent JAG, no one will get leave for months."
Chloe at sixteen was a far different young lady than the flighty kid who'd crawled onto the elevator to hide, or the sullen pre-teen Mic had won over with champagne. After just a few months in rural Vermont, the young girl had begun to plan. Much as she loved her new-found grandparents and their horses, she missed the excitement of the Capital City and the scope and depth of the classes offered at her junior high school. Graduating at 16, editor in chief of her high school newspaper and co-editor of the yearbook, she was totally focused on what it would take for a successful career as a photo-journalist or foreign correspondent. Accepted at Syracuse, Columbia and Northwestern's Schools of Journalism, she'd decided on the U. of Georgia as offering the best scholarship and study-grant package at its journalism college, ranked # 3 in the nation.
"I'm gonna miss you guys." And she would, but she was eager to get on with her new 'adult' life. She'd hit it off with her "Georgia peach" roommate and was eagerly looking forward to the summer session classes and her first rotation on the Red & Black – UGA's independent student daily.
Mac hugged her hard. "We'll miss you too, but we'll try to get here for parents and family weekend in October and it'll be Thanksgiving and then Christmas before you know it."
"You guys work too hard. But I hope your fortune lives up to its cookie." Chloe giggled, referring to the fortune cookie Harm and Mac had shared at dinner the night before: "expect good things to happen at work." "But I don't understand why you both started choking," she mock-complained.
"It's …. uhhh…it's been a bit of a trying summer with Sturgis at the helm." Five days into his first real vacation in years, Harm could laugh about it. "Not to worry Chloe – we're going to 'work' at scuba diving and snorkeling for the next few days. Now that's gonna be a good thing." Harm and Mac were going to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the adjacent John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
"Okay, kiddo …time to get us to the airport. We'll see you in a week, pick up Harriet and Bud's van and head back to the 'OHS'." Mac was thrilled with the poised and focused young lady her 'little sister' had grown up to be, but she was even more thrilled to be on vacation with Harm. The diving and snorkeling were just an added bonus.
The 'OHS'?" Chloe questioned.
Mac chuckled ruefully rolling her eyes at her partner's comment and shooting him a telling glare. ""Our Highness Sturgis" she said quickly…he's taken his responsibilities as Acting JAG most seriously. C'mom, let's go."
"From the halls of Montezuma…." Mac's ringtone burst forth from the pocket of her white shorts, causing Harm and Chloe to both start laughing uncontrollably.
Sticking out her tongue at them, which made them laugh even more, Mac answered absently "H'lo?"
She was suddenly alert, her slender body visibly tensing, her arm waved frantically for quiet. "Harriet, what is it? What's happened? I can hardly hear you."
"Mac. Mac, O God, he's dead, my baby boy's dead." Between sobs, Harriet gasped out the story. Over the 4th of July weekend, she and Bud had made three trips to the ER at Bethesda. Attuned to what her body was telling her, she knew something was wrong with her 13 week twins' pregnancy. Unfortunately, the July 1st time period is the absolute worst days of the year to go to a teaching hospital. Newly graduated medical students are beginning their internships and newly graduated interns are beginning their residencies. The Bethesda ER was a disorganized madhouse and Harriet's repeated requests that her OB – or any OB on call – be summoned were ignored. A quick check and listen to the heartbeat; she was told "everything's fine" and sent home.
July 5th she'd finally gotten in to see her "regular" OB in the clinic. The ultrasound technician was summoned, and 40 minutes later, the Medical Corps Commander faced Harriet and Bud across his desk, with the OB-GYN Department Head standing behind him. "Commander, lieutenant, I am so very sorry, but 'Twin A' has died in utero." Launching into a clinical explanation between attempting words of sympathy and conciliation, CDR (Dr.) Kinard tried to explain that the fetus had undoubtedly already been dead when Harriet first went to the ER on July 1st and only one heartbeat was noted, according to the ER record. Drawing back from Bud's ferocious anger and Harriet's agonized pleas for "the truth" the physician knew he'd never convince them that they weren't the victims of a second incident of medical malpractice at Bethesda. Unbeknownst to Harriet and Bud, even though LCDR (Dr.) Gettis had been acquitted of UCMJ criminal charges in connection with the death of Baby Sarah, the incident was used in every medical ethics and legal medicine class at the Uniformed University of the Health Sciences as a teaching tool, referred to as "clear malpractice" by the legal presenters and "care below the standard of care" by the medical lecturers. Both emphasized that Gettis had been UA from the hospital during the incident, making sure to emphasize to the students that they would be (already were) military officers as well as doctors, subject to the UCMJ. .
"He wouldn't even call him a baby, just kept saying "Twin A" and telling me "it'd" be reabsorbed so I won't give birth to a "mass," Bud can't stop crying, my parents are in Alaska on a cruise and CDR Turner had a cow when we asked for leave…." Harriet gulped hard, trying to control herself. She'd been determined to do everything and anything to protect her precious twins, including regretfully resigning her commission – she was scheduled to begin terminal leave 1 August.
Having heard most of the story as Mac held the phone out, Harm and Chloe clung to her, all three of them crying. Chloe had no idea about Mac's fertility problems, but she loved the Sims/Roberts family and was always happy to babysit when she visited Mac so that the adults could go out.
"Harriet, we're on our way, we'll be there tonight. You hang in there and give Bud and AJ and Jimmy our love. We'll deal with Sturgis." A raised eyebrow, a jerk of the face, and Harm and Mac had held a whole conversation. There was no hesitation – their friends needed them more than they needed a vacation.
"No, no, this is your vacation," Harriet's tears continued to flow down her cheeks as she stood on her front porch so Bud and AJ wouldn't hear her. Jimmy was at a neighbor's.
"We're on our way. Tell Sturgis and Bud." Wiping her eyes with her shirt and motioning Harm to get in, Mac clambered into the driver's seat of Harriet and Bud's minivan, borrowed to transport Chloe and the large assortment of "stuff" no teenage girl off to college can possibly be without. They'd planned to rent their dive gear in Key Largo.
"Chloe we'll call you every couple of hours and when we get to Harriet and Bud's. You take care of yourself and try not to worry - Harriet would be the first to tell you to concentrate on your classes, the newspaper, and have fun." Waving as they moved from the curb, Harm and Mac set the van to northwards, to home. Maybe next year for a vacation.
Author's Note: I am assured by a physician that there was no medical malpractice in connection with the death of Harriet and Bud's unborn child, which I have implied occurred before she went to the ER. There is no intent to imply that there was; just that in their grief, Harriet and Bud would always feel that she hadn't been cared for properly. Also, I have exaggerated the confusion in the hospital during the early July "turnover" period. When I was SJA at Bethesda, staffing was increased and special care and precautions were taken to ensure appropriate care of the patients and supervision of the new interns and residents.