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Dear Diary III
By LauraBF

Disclaimer:  If you think they belong to me, you’re sadly mistaken.  I borrowed them, hugged them, squeezed them, called them George, then gave them back like a good girl. Seriously, Harm, Mac, and the TV series JAG belong to Donald P. Bellisario, Belisaurius Productions, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Broadcasting Service Entertainment

Author's Note: Yes, I should be writing a paper.  It's due Tuesday, but I've been studying non-stop all weekend.  Another study break for me.  Occasionally, everybody needs somebody to talk to… even Harm. Spoilers for everything up to This Just In From Baghdad.

~*~*~*~

2455 LOCAL
9 NOVEMBER 2004
NORTH OF UNION STATION
WASHINGTON DC

Harm slumped in his favorite chair.  He'd just finished checking on Mattie, and tucked her in.  He allowed himself a small smile.  Looking at her, nobody would ever think that his tough little girl liked for him to tuck her in at night.  She'd taken to asking him to do it lately; probably for her own reassurance as much as his that she'd always be part of his life.  

Harm leaned heavily against the arm of the chair and rubbed his eyes.  He was tired; running all over the world took more out of him than it used to.  Part of him resented being ordered to; he had a feeling that his days with Mattie as his almost-daughter were numbered, and he didn't like spending time away from her.  His relationship with Mac was slightly better lately, though; she hadn't been needling him about past mistakes.

He'd seriously considered transferring out last year because of their fights in the courtroom.  If it weren't for the fact that it could cost him Mattie and it would scuttle what was left of his career, he would have.  Harm pushed himself up from his chair and shuffled over to his desk.  

There was a time he had someone to talk to when his life was falling apart, but that was a long time ago.  By his calculations, he'd been basically friendless for the past year and a half.  All he had left were semi-casual acquaintances, the daughter he was about to lose, and his other surrogate daughter, Jen, whom he couldn't really talk to, either.

The way he saw it, he had only one recourse left; the journal he'd sworn he'd never write in again after his counselor let him stop a few months after his ramp strike.  He figured that it was better than nothing; he needed to be able to vent somewhere.  Harm opened his bottom desk drawer and dug through it, looking for an old, suede-covered book.

Harm found it shoved in the very back of the drawer.  He pulled the slightly-grubby journal out, grabbed a pen from the top of his desk, walked over and flopped on the couch.  He opened the book, flipped to the last page, and started to write.

"I don't remember the last time I wrote in this old thing.  Actually, that's a lie, because I do.  I hated keeping this damn thing in the first place and as soon as that idiot counselor said I could stop, I did.  I never wanted to write in it again, but I always had someone to turn to before.  I don't anymore.  At least, not anyone close enough to talk to.  Maybe, if I'm lucky, Mac will be my friend again.  It seems like she's trying more than she did for the past year and a half.

"I suppose I could call Skates, but last I heard she was pregnant with her first child and happy in her new life.  I won't disrupt that for my own problems.  I can't.  It wouldn't be fair to dump on her right now.  Sturgis isn't my friend anymore.  I'm not sure how it happened; it must've been sometime during the Singer fiasco.  Sure, he gave my office back, but it almost feels like a bribe to me.

"Bud is too busy sucking up to our new boss, and he's a rank below me, anyway.  I think he and Harriet have enough to deal with right now.  It's not everyday that you try and take care of two little kids while dealing with a multiple-birth pregnancy.  Grandma Sarah would listen, but I don't want to burden her.  I mean, she's getting older, and if I told her what's going on, she'd only worry.  Mom is off in Italy somewhere, I think, looking for new artists.   That leaves just me and this damn book.

"I can see it coming.  Sooner or later, Mattie will go back to her father.  And, damn me, I helped it happen.  I pushed for it.  I know it's the best thing for both of them, but why does it have it hurt so much?  That seems to be the dominant theme in my life lately.  Do the right thing and get kicked in the teeth for your efforts.

"She told me a few weeks ago that she'd never stop needing me to be there.  I hope it's true.  I promised her that I'll always be there, and I'll keep that promise.  A part of me will always see her as my little girl.  No matter what happens, I refuse to allow her to feel guilty about it.  When she goes back to live with Tom, I'll support it.  As long as she knows that I love her, I guess it's okay.  It won't be the first time the woman in my life has stomped on my heart by doing what's best for her.  I should be used to it by now.

"Mom did it.  Diane did it when she died.  Mac's done it repeatedly.  Heck, even Kate, Annie, Jordan, and Renee did it.  Mattie's just the latest in a long list.  I should've learned by now that letting a woman in my life spells heartache.  Meg, Skates, and Beth are the exceptions.  But I was only friends with them; I never loved them except as a friend.

"Maybe after Mattie goes back to Tom and as soon as it wouldn't kill my career, I should request a transfer.  I could go to San Diego or something.  Start over.  Then again, that seems to be Mac's biggest fear right now; that the General could separate us.  I think he'll give her the benefit of the doubt.  After all, fifteen years is a long time.  Mac'll be okay.  She always is; just ask her.  If the Admiral has talked to him about me, I'm toast.  If Sturgis said anything, ditto.  I've been the black sheep around here for a year.  Frankly, I'm still a little shocked that the Admiral wanted me back.

"I hope that he's different from how the Admiral's been for the past few years.  Maybe then I'll have a chance.  I'm guessing that the General will get around to reading my service record sooner or later.  I just hope that it doesn't… upset him.  I know it's rather… colorful to say the least.  Maybe I should go learn to drive a ship or something.  But again, it might hurt Mac.  And seeing her in pain or causing her pain are the last things I want to do.

"I can't help it; I'm still in love with her.  Heaven knows I tried not to be last year, but it didn't work.  I'm convinced that nothing will ever come of it, so I have to content myself with the tiny corner of her heart that she lets me have as her friend.  I think I'm destined to be alone.  No family for me.  I guess I could go bar hopping to find company for the night, but I'm not that interested in casual sex; Kate cured me of what little interest I had in that a long time ago.

"I want a wife and kids.  Fat chance when the only wife I see in my dreams has big, chocolate-brown eyes and long brown hair.  And all the kids I can imagine look a hell of a lot like her.  Yup.  Mattie gone.  Mac barely my friend.  Maybe I should get a dog.  At least I'd have some company.  And dogs don't expect me to give them more than love, food, walks, and an occasional bath.  Dogs understand love without words.  Or maybe even a cat.  They're more independent and want even less from people than dogs do.   Besides, Mac never has had one as long as I've known her.  No bad memories with cats; I've never had one, either.  There was a time when I thought Mac loved me, but I couldn't tell her what she wanted to hear.  If there's one thing that life has taught me it's that love doesn't last."

"Harm?"  I look up to see that Mattie has let herself in with her key.   I stick my pen in my old journal and drop it on the coffee table. There are tearstains on her face, so I open my arms.

"What's the matter, Sweetheart?" I ask.  Mattie runs into my arms, climbs into my lap, curls up there, and clutches me tightly.  I wrap my arms around her and hug her close.

"You'll think I'm silly," she mumbles.

I kiss her on the forehead.  "No, I won't, Mats.  You can always tell me anything."  I loosen my grip slightly, grab a tissue, and wipe away some of her tears.  Mattie hardly ever lets me see her cry; she must be really upset.  I really hate it when she cries; it breaks my heart every time.  I'd like to keep her safe from all the sorrow in the world, but in the long run, it wouldn't do my little girl any good.

"I dreamed that you died," she admitted finally.  "Promise you won't leave me?"

"I promised last week," I remind her.  "I don't break my promises.  I'll be a part of your life no matter what, Kiddo.  I love you, remember?"  I brush her hair back from her face and rub her flannel-clad back gently.  "No matter what you decide, I'll always be there for you."

Mattie sighs and buries her face in my shirt.  We stay like that for a few minutes, and I allow myself to enjoy the feeling of having my almost-daughter in my arms.  I'm going to miss this.  I've gotten used to getting hugs on a semi-regular basis.  I'd almost forgotten what it feels like to have somebody touch me.  Humans can die without touch, you know.  We need to touch and be touched like we need air.

Skin-hunger, it's called.  The Russians ran experiments about it in their orphanages with babies.  All the babies who weren't touched died.  Failure to thrive.  I'm really, really going to miss her hugs when she leaves.  Her trust is a precious gift; she didn't trust me at first.  "Can I stay here tonight?" Mattie's tearful voice interrupts my musings.

I drop a kiss into her hair.  "Of course you can," I tell her.  "Does Jen know where you are?"

"Nuh uh," she answers, clutching me tighter.

"Mattie, she has to know; Jen'll be worried if you're not there.  Tell you what; I'll get some bedding to make up the couch for me to sleep on and then go tell her, okay?"  I give her another quick squeeze and then pull back slightly.  There's a tear hanging from her eyelashes, so I grab another tissue and wipe it away.

Mattie nods slowly and relaxes her grip on me, but her right hand is still holding a handful of my shirt.  "I'm sleeping on the couch," she insists softly.  "I won't let you sleep on it because you'll hurt your back; I just want to be close enough," her voice catches, and she stops.

"Close enough that if you wake up, you'll know where I am?" I finish her sentence.

She nods hesitantly and lets go of my shirt.  I hurry into my bedroom, pull bedding out of my closet, and go back to give it to Mattie.  She immediately starts making up the couch and I head towards the door.  "I'll be right back, Mattie," I say.

She gives me a pleading look and nods again.  Her big, tearful blue eyes make me want to melt.  Good thing she hasn't figured out what a marshmallow I can be when it comes to her; she'd be sure to exploit it.  That's my little girl.  

I grab my keys, hurry over to the girls' apartment, and let myself in.   Jennifer is asleep on the couch, so I grab some paper, scribble a note on it, and leave it where she can find it easily.  Locking the door behind me, I go back to my apartment and help Mattie finish making a bed on the couch.  I go and get some pillows for her and put them in place as she climbs into the temporary bed.

I tuck the blankets around her tightly and kiss her on the forehead.  "Good night, Mattie," I murmur.  I walk over and flip off the lights.  

"Harm?"

"What?"

"I love you," she says.  "I just wanted you to know--you're a good dad."

I walk over and caress her hair again.  "And you make a good daughter, Sweetheart.  Go to sleep."

"Aye, aye, sir," she mutters and rolls over, pulling the covers over her head.

I walk into my room and pull a pair of long pajama pants and a t-shirt out of the closet.  Usually, I'd just strip down to my boxers, but not with Mattie in the next room.  I never put a door on my bedroom, and it's just more comfortable if I'm wearing more clothes if she stays overnight.  I go in the bathroom and change, throwing my clothes into the hamper.  I climb into my own bed and pull the sheet up.  

I'll have to write more in that old journal; I'm not alone yet.  I still have Mattie.  I'll just have to store up every bittersweet memory of her being here for as long as she's still legally mine.  Mattie isn't happy about the choice she has to make.  To be honest, I've known that since last week when I found her in tears.  She still wants me in her life and I think I can live with that; she almost called me dad.  In my heart, that's what I'll always be--Mattie Grace's father.

Things may never be the way I'd like them with Mac, but at least I have this.  I know that somebody here loves and needs me; I guess it's enough.

End.

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