PAIRING & FANDOM: Mac/Kate Harper (West Wing)
CHALLENGE: Part of the 'Great American Lesbian Search'
DISCLAIMERS: I don't own anything (the characters or the song....) Not mine, no profit, just fun....
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I know nothing about Alabama, except that Fort Rucker does exist and is the US Army Helicopter Centre. I know nothing about Marine One, but it seems kinda plausible so please, go with me on this one?
SPOILERS/SEASON CONTEXT: Mac's a Lt Colonel working in D.C. at JAG still...but it's after Bartlett's second term has ended, so Kate's back in the Navy...
There was a song, thought Mac angrily as she tried desperately not to pace through the 'waiting room' at Fort Rucker Army Base in deepest Alabama (so deep she was almost in Florida which, when she was wearing her winter uniforms was not a good thing), which about summed up her mood...."Alabama's gotten me so upset..." was how it goes, and it was right. Alabama had gotten Mac so upset, but, if she was being objective, it wasn't exactly the State's fault.
Lieutenant Roberts was, it was universally acknowledged, a bit of a genius when it came to deciphering flight timetables and routing personnel around the country and world. There had been numerous occasions when he'd somehow managed to conjure routes out of seemingly thin air and get Mac from one side of the country to another when everyone else was saying it was impossible, and that was something Mac was particularly grateful for. He'd even done it this time, even if it was involving helicopter flights and ground time at Army bases...not the usual hang out for a Marine JAG officer. Fortunately, being a Colonel helped...
So, here she was, standing around on the tarmac at Fort Rucker, attracting discreet stares from the Army crews that were milling around as all try to fathomed exactly why a Marine Colonel was being 'expressed' through their base at 2am on a unseasonably hot sticky night, wearing her winter uniform, waiting for her next helicopter.
Needing to channel her impatience into something other than pacing, Mac began to pay attention to her surroundings, noticing the distinctive silhouettes of the helicopters sitting on the tarmac stretching out into the inky blackness as the floodlights receded. She also paid attention to her fellow transfers, thankful at least that, in the half light of the floodlights, her Marine Greens, from a distance, didn't look too different from the Army greens the majority of her fellow officers were wearing, unlike the Navy Commander who...
"Kate?" Mac called the name so quietly it was carried on a breath, unwilling to utter the thought any louder for fear of embarrassment. Even if it was Kate, it may not be...she was so like Clayton in that regard.
Hearing her first name, which was unusual when she was wearing this uniform, Kate Harper, sometime Commander of the United States Navy and former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Bartlett turned to see who was calling her.
"Mac?" she speculated, recognising the silhouette of a woman she could once identify by touch alone...
"Kate!" Enthusiastically, Mac started to stride towards the tall blonde Commander, before checking her first stride and resuming her course at a more seemly, 'Colonel's' pace. They both had reputations that, after a lifetime of careful construction, could still be knocked over with the lightest of contact from the wrong source.
"Mac..." Where once she would have whispered 'Sarah' as they lay together on the same pillow, Kate now had to force herself to remember to use the nickname that was shared with so many. It was just a relief that, by some miracle of fate, they were of equivalent rank...after everything they'd shared and done together, she really didn't think they'd be able to salute each other with a straight face.
"Commander..." announced Mac formally, extending her hand in greeting, as their rank and etiquette dictated, although the sparkle in her eye and quirk of her lips told Kate that the Marine's thoughts had mirrored her own exactly.
"Colonel..." greeted Kate, shaking the offered hand with a firm grasp before lightly grazing Mac's palm with her fingernails. It was a discreet gesture, easily dismissed or denied if the intervening years and ranks had changed things, but judging by the way Mac's smile just got wider and brighter, Kate was certain things hadn't.
"Fancy meeting you here..." teased Mac, reluctantly letting go of Kate's hand and forcing herself not to gaze longingly into those wonderful eyes that only revealed their true spectrum of emotions and opinions to a very select few...Kate Harper may now be a Commander and a international diplomat of some respect and standing, but, thought Mac, surveying her old friend with a caring critical eye, some things never changed...including, it seemed, her membership of that select few.
"Alabama huh? Has it gotten you upset?" teased Kate, quoting the song lyric Mac had been remembering earlier.
"It was you!" exclaimed Mac, suddenly remembering why it was that she could recall that lyrics to that particular Nina Simone song word for word despite not owning any of that lady's works.
"What was me?" asked Kate, amused at the accusation, but also greatly relieved that somehow they'd managed to pick up their conversation as if the recent decade had never happened.
"Mississippi Goddam...the song? It's the only Nina Simone song I know all the words to...you had it..." Mac trailed off as she remembered that long summer when her memories were not of the base she'd been posted to, nor the job she was doing, but instead, lying in a hammock with Kate, listening to Nina Simone songs and...
"I still do..." admitted Kate, recalling how the passionate song about civil rights was the only song Mac could ever recognise immediately, being of such a different musical colour and tone to the rest of the songs on that particular album.
"Really?" Mac was amazed...she couldn't remember what music she'd listened to from her own collection that summer.
"Only now it's on my IPOD..." explained Kate sheepishly, extracting the sleek player from her pocket.
"You always hated technology..." recalled Mac, remembering Kate's protestations about having to replace her beloved record player with a CD system.
"You always hated helicopters..." recalled Kate, remembering Mac's terror following her first exercises involving helicopters.
"I've learnt to like them..." admitted Mac, remembering all the times she'd been so relieved to hear the thump thump of a helicopter rotor as the cavalry arrived to rescue her.
"I've learnt to like technology..." admitted Kate, remembering all the times she'd managed to extricate herself from a difficult situation because she had the better gizmos in the field or the better satellites in space taking photographs...
"Learnt to like Michael?" asked Mac curiously, wondering if Kate would remember the silly code they'd developed when they'd attempted to keep in touch through far from private communication channels from various ships and bases around the world.
"No, still keen on William..." replied Kate, grinning when she saw Mac's confirming grin. Michael or Mark was their private euphemism for 'men', William or Walter for 'women', "...you?" asked Kate, wanting confirmation.
"Walter..." confirmed Mac, wondering if she was looking as much like a lovesick cadet as she felt.
"Ah...good to know..." Rarely a woman of many words in small talk situations, Kate quickly ran out of things to say, but Mac didn't mind...she was used to the blonde woman's sudden spurts of conversation.
"So, what brings you to Fort Rucker?" asked Mac, curious about the distinguished Commander's presence on the tarmac. Surely she was in transit too?
"Attempting to get to D.C. before Christmas...you?"
"Same...though I wish I could do it with fewer bases..." admitted Mac, consulting her inner clock and sighing when she realised how late it was.
"How long ago were we supposed to leave?" asked Kate, used to Mac's time keeping skills and assuming that, if they were both heading to D.C., they were probably routed on the same flight.
"Ah..." Before Kate could get much further, an Army Captain sprinted up to her.
"Ma'am?" he asked nervously, far more nervously than he would have been if he was talking to Mac, his nerves being derived from the fact that he was talking to the former Deputy National Security Advisor rather than a Navy Commander.
"We've laid on a chopper for you Ma'am..." he explained, not breaking from his at attention stance.
"Are there two seats on it?" asked Kate sharply, quickly inferring what was going on. Their original flight had been cancelled, but they were moving her out anyway. She wasn't the sort of person Base Commanders liked having hanging around on their bases for any longer than was strictly necessary.
"Two seats Ma'am?" If he was surprised he tried his best not to show it...he was under strict instructions from his C.O.: this woman had to be got off the base ASAP...they were to give her the damn helicopter if necessary....
"Colonel Mackenzie will be coming too..." decided Kate suddenly, not liking the idea of leaving Sarah in Alabama.
"Yes Ma'am...This way Ma'am?" And, with the courtesy traditional across all branches of service, he escorted the two ladies across the tarmac towards a powering up helicopter.
"I think I've discovered the one person more unpopular than a JAG investigator!" exclaimed Mac, amused at the service Kate was getting but also extremely grateful she was being swept along with it. Alabama was probably a lovely state, but her apartment in D.C. was nicer...
"I always was special..." teased Kate, before clamping her mouth shut. It was too easy to flirt with Sarah, always had been...
"I know..." began Sarah, before coming to exactly the same conclusion. With a quick scramble and sarcastic, "...gotta love the Navy hey Captain?" she'd managed to distract the Captain's curiosity away from the potentially personal focus of their banter and onto the traditional inter-service rivalry.
"HooRah Ma'am..." confirmed the Captain weakly, not wanting to disagree with the Marine Colonel...at least the Marines got stuck into the dirt, but not exactly wanting to disagree with Commander Harper either.
"Have a good flight Ma'am..." he announced, coming to a halt at the base of the steps up into the plush aircraft, which Kate immediately recognised.
"Thank you Captain..." she said, returning his salute and waiting until he'd disappeared into the darkness before smiling a relaxed smile Mac hadn't seen for years.
"Ready?" asked Kate, gesturing for Mac to precede her up the steps.
"For what?" asked Mac, knowing that Kate could, if she really wanted to, play the most spectacular practical jokes on people. Mac had learnt at a very early point in their relationship to stay on her guard...if only so as to be able to take notes for when she exacted her revenge....
"Marine One...they really wanted to get rid of me..." observed Kate, drawing Mac's attention to the specifics of the aircraft that was waiting for them.
"The Marine One?" asked Mac, amazed.
"There are several....but I'm guessing this one's been down here for a service..." explained Kate, gesturing for Mac to head up the stairs...
"Welcome aboard Commander..." greeted the steward as they entered the cabin, recognising her.
"Good to see you again Tom..." replied Kate, recognising the steward cum crew chief who she'd got to vaguely know in her time working and riding around the world for and with President Bartlett.
"Colonel, welcome to one of the Marine One's Ma'am..." he acknowledged formally, ushering Mac into the plush seating area and taking her cover and case from her.
"Thank you..." Mac was dumbstruck....how...why...wha...?
"What's happening Tom?" asked Kate sharply, as he took her cover and case.
"We were down for refit and service Ma'am...we were going to fly up to Andrews empty, but when we heard you were being bumped to the 6am flight into Georgia..."
"The crew's bedded down at the back Ma'am, the ground and flight crews are doing the refuellings..." explained Tom nervously as the engines changed in pitch slightly, signalling that everything was ready for departure.
"We'll be fine on our own Tom, go get some sleep..." instructed Kate firmly yet kindly, smiling at the Lieutenant who obediently came to attention before heading to his bunk at the back, leaving the two senior officers the entire cabin to themselves.
"So...what do you think?" asked Kate, collapsing into one of the seats and gesturing that Mac should be sitting down too.
"This is for real?" asked Mac, still in shock.
"Beats a limo to the Prom..." agreed Kate, looking around her at their comfortable settings before gingerly taking Sarah's hand once more.
"Is this ok?" she asked nervously.
"You know the rules..." warned Sarah softly, locking her eyes with Kate's which were suddenly clouded with emotions, but not moving her hand.
"There's no one going to move until we land to refuel...and they won't come in here..." explained Kate, knowing that the crew only entered the cabin in an emergency, being too used to having the President travelling with his Senior Staff.
"It's very ok..." confirmed Sarah, returning Kate's earlier gesture of running her fingernails lightly down Kate's palm.
"You live in D.C. now?" asked Kate softly, wishing she had the confidence and daring to do more than hold hands, but knowing that she wouldn't.
"Dinner?" asked Sarah shyly.
"Can you cook yet?" asked Kate teasingly, remembering earlier times together.
"My breakfasts have improved..." murmured Sarah, only for it to finish in a yawn. The gentle thumping of the engines and the lateness of the hour (or earliness of the morning) was lulling her into sleep, especially with the gentle caress of Kate's fingers on her hand.
"Is that an invitation?" asked Kate, not wanting to presume but suddenly finding herself eagerly hoping it was.
"Bring blueberries and I'll make you pancakes..." yawned Sarah once more, before deciding she needed to sleep.
"Night night squid..." the endearment, unsaid in that affectionate tone for so long, slipped out instinctually as Sarah automatically settled against the blonde's lean and long body, re-finding the comfortable place she'd spent so many hours nestled in, protected by the loving embrace of Kate...
"G'night marine..." Kate's response was just as heartfelt and just as instinctual, but Sarah never heard it. She was already asleep, snuggled up against Kate, her breathing lulled into a gentle pattern as the sound of the rotors ahead was replaced by the steady sound of her lover's heart....
Maybe Alabama hadn't gotten her so upset after all....