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Classification Romance (H/M)
Length Approximately 51,000 words; 112 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
 
Spoilers Everything up to “People Vs. SecNav”
Rating GS
Summary After the events of “A Merry Little Christmas”, Harm and Mac work on repairing their friendship. And maybe finding something more.

 

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

 

 

Christmas Day
North of Union Station
1230 EST



Harm and Mattie flopped on the couch, exhausted but satisfied. It had taken them the entire morning, but they had managed to give his lonely bachelor pad a cheery holiday glow. Lights were strung around the door and windows. Harm had gone into storage and dug out a small but sturdy artificial tree for them to decorate. Unfortunately, there were no presents under the tree. Neither he nor Mattie had thought they’d be spending Christmas together this year. And no matter how many times Mattie reassured him that she had gotten the only thing she wanted for Christmas, he couldn’t help but feel guilty that there were no brightly wrapped packages with her name on them. After everything she’d been through the past year, she deserved it. He felt so bad about it, in fact, that he had decided to do penance by taking her shopping tomorrow. If braving the after Christmas department store sales didn’t prove his devotion, nothing would.

After a few moments of silently admiring their handiwork, Mattie turned to him and smiled. “Now that we’ve decorated, it’s time to eat.”

“Sure,” Harm said agreeably, “I went shopping day before yesterday and stocked up. How about I make us some vegetable lasagna?”

“Vegetable lasagna?” Mattie’s face was a mixture of disbelief and disgust. “Harm, it’s Christmas. You don’t eat vegetable lasagna for Christmas.”

“Is that so?” Harm asked. “Well, we don’t have a turkey, so what do YOU suggest we eat?”

“Pizza,” she stated emphatically.

“Pizza?” He said incredulously, “Pizza isn’t a traditional Christmas meal any more than lasagna.”

“Maybe not. But it’s tradition for us,” she retorted, before adding, “Besides, it’s quicker.”

“Yeah, but lasagna’s healthier. And we could make it our own Christmas meal tradition,” he argued.

Mattie rolled her eyes. “Harm, I’m hungry now!” She sighed dramatically before offering a compromise. “Look, why don’t we order pizza for lunch and you can make your vegetable lasagna for dinner. That way we both get what we want.”

“Fine,” he sighed, raising his arms in defeat. He shook his head ruefully. Raising a teenager was going to be an interesting experience. He stood up, then turned and dragged Mattie up off the couch. Shoving her gently towards the phone, he said, “You order the pizza and I’ll start cooking the lasagna.”

“What’s the number?” she asked as he started pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator. He started to respond when there was a knock at the door. He hadn’t been expecting anyone, and he felt a small tug of fear in his gut. Had something happened? Had Mr. Johnson changed his mind? Scenes of Mattie being dragged away from him started to run through his head. Looking over at Mattie, Harm could see his own fears reflected on her face. He forced himself not to panic and flashed her a reassuring smile. Setting the food on the counter, he strode to the door, careful not to let Mattie see his fear. Opening the door, he was stunned to see Mac standing in front of him, her arms laden with bags.

Harm just stood there gaping until Mattie’s voice floated across the room. “Harm, who’s here?” He could feel her anxiety from across the room and it snapped him back to reality. He stepped back, opening the door wide enough for the two women to see each other. Mattie’s face brightened instantly. Grinning, she stepped forward. “Mac!”

“Merry Christmas, Mattie.” Mac responded, flashing Mattie a brilliant smile of her own. She turned to Harm and the smile slipped a little. Her voice was softer and almost shy as she wished him a merry Christmas. When he didn’t answer, the smile slipped away completely and she flushed in embarrassment.

“I’m sorry,” she said, a hint of hurt making it’s way into her voice. She unconsciously began to back away as she rushed to excuse herself, “I should have called first. I’m interrupting. I didn’t mean to disturb your Christmas. I’ll come back later,” she said and turned to go.

“No!” Two different voices rang out. Startled, Mac whirled back around. Her grip on her packages slipped and Harm darted forward to steady her. Mattie came up next to him and he hurriedly began handing her things from Mac’s arms. Together, they managed to quickly and efficiently get a rather dazed Mac and her bags safely inside the apartment. Shutting the door behind them, he turned to her as Mattie began to set the things on the counter. He saw that she was about to protest and cut her off. He placed a gentle finger against her lips and tried to ignore the electric current that ran up his arm at the touch. Letting his hand drop and pushing away all inappropriate thoughts, he hastened to explain his silence.

“You’re not interrupting at all, Mac,” he explained. “I just wasn’t expecting to see you today. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone actually. When Mattie and I heard you knock, I think we were both a little afraid that something had gone wrong.”

Instead of comforting her, Harm could tell that that had only made her feel worse. He hurried on before she could start apologizing again. “It’s okay, Mac. Really. I was just a little startled.” He hesitated before saying softly,” I’m glad you’re here.”

He could almost see the tension dropping between them at his words. She looked at him and said tentatively, “You’re sure you don’t mind?”

“I’m sure,” he responded, flashing her one of his best flyboy grins, “Merry Christmas, Mac.”

Her answering smile lit up her face. He could see more than a little relief in that smile and he realized how much courage it must have taken her to come here after the way he’d treated her lately. He felt a stab of remorse. He had said some pretty nasty things to her. And instead of throwing them back in his face, she had come forward and done everything she could to help him. If it weren’t for her, he and Mattie would both be suffering through this Christmas in misery. He had forgotten to thank her last night, and now that she was here, he decided the best way to thank her was to include her in the happiness that she had helped to create. With that in mind, he stepped behind her and began helping her off with her jacket.

“So what’s in all those bags, Marine?” he asked curiously as he moved to hang up her coat.

“Well, I figured that with as crazy as things were the past few weeks, you might not have had time to go shopping for stuff, so I brought some dinner over.” She took a moment to look at all the decorations. “You certainly got the decorating done. It looks wonderful.”

“Yeah, and we only had to get up at the crack of dawn to get it all put up,” Mattie said sarcastically before turning to the bags on the counter. “Are these all food?”

Mac shook her head. “Just that middle one,” she said, pointing to the brown paper bag in the middle. She moved to help Mattie unload it. “I hope it’s okay. It’s just what I was going to eat myself; I wasn’t sure what you liked.”

As she talked, Mac was pulling the lid off a small roasting pan. Nestled inside was a fair sized turkey with stuffing. Mattie began opening the other containers. In addition to mashed potatoes and vegetables, Harm could see, not to mention smell, warm apple pie. He looked at her in amazement. “You made all this?”

“I can cook, Harm,” she said defensively, “I just don’t like to do it very often.”

“Oh, it’s not that, Mac,” he hurried to explain, “It’s just that, well, this is a lot to make for one person. Even for you.”

“Funny,” she rolled her eyes. “I was going to use the rest for leftovers. Which I can still do if you’d rather not eat it.”

“Oh no,” Mattie interjected, “This is great. We were going to be pathetic and order a pizza. This is much better. Right, Harm?”

“Much better,” he agreed with a smile. “Thanks, Mac.” He turned to Mattie, “Why don’t you start getting plates down for the three of us. You remember where they are?”

She rolled her eyes. “Yes, Harm. I remember where they are. You just showed me five hours ago.”

“Just checking,” he said, raising his hands defensively. He turned to Mac. “Why don’t you put the pie in the oven to keep it warm?”

“Sure,” she nodded. She picked up the pie and he got down three glasses. Seeing this, Mac asked quietly, “Are you sure you want me to stay, Harm? I mean; this is your first Christmas together. I don’t want to intrude on that.“

“You’re not intruding,” he insisted. He turned to Mattie, “She’s not intruding, is she Mattie?”

“Nope,” Mattie grinned. She walked over and linked her arm with Mac’s, leading her to the table. “Consider yourself the honored guest at Harm and Mattie’s first official Christmas together.”

“Honored guest?” she asked in amusement, even as she let Mattie seat her at the table.

“That’s right,” Harm chimed in. She turned to look at him and he continued, “After all, if it weren’t for you, there wouldn’t be a Harm and Mattie’s first Christmas.”

“I didn’t do that much, really,” she blushed.

“Yes, you did,” Harm and Mattie said simultaneously. They grinned at each other. Harm continued, carrying over three glasses of sparkling apple cider, “So stop arguing and just sit back and enjoy.” He started to move back to bring the food but Mattie waved him off.

“I’ve got it, Harm,” she said as she moved back to the counter. He shook his head in amazement. It was remarkable to see the change in her just these past twenty-four hours. For the first time since he’d met her, she was allowing herself to let go of all of her worries and responsibilities and just be a normal teenage girl.

Harm turned to Mac and found her watching him as he watched Mattie. He tried to read her face and figure out what she was thinking, but all of her walls were firmly in place. He sighed to himself. He should have known he couldn’t just invite her dinner and assume all would be well.

Taking a deep breath, Harm reached out and placed his hand atop hers on the table. He tried not to be hurt when she flinched. After all, it had been a long time since he had touched her with any kind of intimacy. Even the intimacy of friends. It would take a lot of time and effort for them to reach that place again. But for the first time since she had said ‘never’, Harm found himself willing to try. With that in mind, he squeezed her hand.

“Mac,” he said softly so that Mattie wouldn’t overhear, “I know we have a lot to talk about. A lot of stuff to deal with. But just for today, can we put that aside? Can we just let it go and enjoy this Christmas together?”

Her eyes were glistening with tears by the time he was finished and all she could do was nod her head in agreement. Squeezing her hand once again, he was heartened to feel her own hand tighten around his. He let go when Mattie returned to the table and helped her set down the food. It only took a couple of minutes for them to get everything ready and start eating.

“Mm, this is good,” Mattie mumbled around her mashed potatoes.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Harm said.

“Sorry,” she responded automatically, but he saw her roll her eyes in Mac’s direction.

Mac managed to stifle a grin long enough to ask Mattie, “Better than pizza?”

“Definitely,” Mattie made a show of swallowing before asking Mac, “So if you were just planning on dropping the food off for us, what were you going to do for food? Since I know you weren’t going to spend it with that Webb guy.”

Harm stiffened at the sound of Webb’s name. He didn’t want to talk about or even think about the spook today. On the other hand, he was curious to know how Mattie was so sure that Mac wouldn’t be spending Christmas with him. So apparently was Mac. She arched her eyebrow and asked, “How did you know I wasn’t going to spend it with Webb.” Harm couldn’t help but feel hopeful at the phrasing of her question. She said ‘did’, which implied that Mattie was right. And this was the second time she called him Webb instead of Clay. He waited for Mattie’s response.

“I eavesdropped on your conversation last night,” Mattie responded unrepentantly. “You told him you were going to be late and he obviously said something because you sounded all irritated. That’s when you said you would still be there but only if he kept his promise not to bug you today.”

If Mac was affected at hearing her private conversation with Webb aired in front of Harm, she hid it well. She merely looked at Mattie and said, “I don’t recall ever using the phrase ‘bug me’.”

Mattie grinned, “I paraphrased.”

“I noticed that,” Mac smiled and shook her head. “But you did get the gist of the conversation. We made a deal at Thanksgiving that I would let him take me to his mother’s Christmas Eve party and he would leave me alone on Christmas day to play Scrooge if that’s what I desired.”

Harm’s curiosity got the better of him and he asked, “Why would he think you’d be playing Scrooge today?”

For the first time since they started this conversation, Mac looked uncomfortable. She hesitated and Harm had the feeling that she was trying to figure a way out of answering. Seeing both of them staring at her expectantly, she sighed and admitted. “Because he called on Thanksgiving and found out that I was spending the day alone.”

“What?” Harm asked in shock. He had assumed that she had gone over to the Roberts just like always. “Why didn’t you go to Bud and Harriet’s, Mac?”

She gave him one of her patented, ‘don’t be an idiot’ looks. “Because Harriet’s parents were in town to spend their first Thanksgiving with Jimmy.”

Harm nodded in understanding. “Enough said.” Harriet’s father was nice enough, but you couldn’t pay him enough to spend time with her mother. Still, that didn’t explain why she was alone that day. He said as much to her.

“Where was I supposed to go, Harm?” she asked, starting to sound exasperated. “The Admiral and Meredith went out of town, not that spending the day with my C.O. would have been high on my list anyway. I couldn’t go visit Chloe because she was spending the holiday with friends. And you were with Mattie. Although at the time, I didn’t know where you were.”

That last part was said with no resentment, but Harm still felt guilty. As tense as things were between them, he would have invited her along if he’d known she was going to spend the day alone. Now wasn’t the time to get into that discussion, though, so he tried to deflect it. “What about Sturgis?”

“Spend my Thanksgiving with the man who called me a sanctimonious prig? No thanks,” she said, rolling her eyes. “And I categorically refuse to discuss that particular topic any further. In fact, can we just drop this whole thing?”

Harm didn’t want to drop it. He wanted to know what was going on. He especially wanted to know when, where, and why Sturgis called her a prig. But knowing that pushing her would only agitate her more, he backed off. Besides, if he pushed he might end up finding out why she didn’t spend the day with Webb, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. He decided to play along.

“Fair enough,” he smiled, trying to lighten the mood, “but you still have to answer Mattie’s question.”

“Which question?” she asked.

“What were you going to eat if you weren’t planning on staying?”

Mac blushed and mumbled something under her breath too softly for either Harm or Mattie to hear. Leaning in, Mattie asked, “What was that?”

“I was going to order a pizza,” she muttered as her face turned even redder. Mattie and Harm burst out laughing. Mac tried giving them her best Marine death glare, but it was marred by the grin pulling at the corners of her mouth. Finally giving up, she joined them in their laughter as they began to eat.

It took them almost two hours to finish up their meal; they spent as much time talking as they did eating. They did manage to work out some of the problems brought on by Harm’s guardianship of Mattie. Mac had agreed to watch Mattie anytime Harm was called out of town on a case. He would ask Coates to take care of her if Mac was going to be gone as well. He was also going to contact the high school Mattie would be attending and see what was needed to get her enrolled. Harm still wasn’t sure what he was going to do about their living situation, though. He knew that he couldn’t sleep on the couch forever, but it was going to be hard to find someplace suitable in addition to making house payments. He was determined to make sure that Mattie didn’t lose the house her mother left her. But he couldn’t move out there, it just wasn’t practical. Any money he saved would be spent on the commute. So he had to find someplace that was close by and inexpensive. Fortunately, he had a little time to figure something out. If it came down to it, Mac had offered up her spare room as temporary living quarters. It wasn’t a solution, but it was a start.

They finally finished eating and had just started clearing the table before moving over to the sofa, when Mattie noticed the other two bags sitting on the counter.

“Mac?” she asked curiously as she placed her dishes in the sink, “what’s in those other bags?”

“Knowing Mac, probably more food,” Harm smirked.

Mac glared at him. “Funny, sailor. This one here,” she said, lifting up the smaller of the two bags, “is your Christmas present, which I’m not so sure you’re going to get anymore.”

Harm’s playful mood vanished at her words. The small part of him that was thrilled that she had thought to get him a Christmas present was overwhelmed by the much larger part of him that felt like a complete jerk for not having one for her. He couldn’t say he hadn’t thought of it, he had. It was just that he hadn’t been able to come up with something he felt was appropriate. They were in such a precarious place that everything he thought of was either too impersonal or too intimate. So rather than give her something and risk her misinterpreting the sentiment behind it, he had opted not to get her anything. He had assumed she would do the same thing. He was obviously wrong. And now he felt guilty, and also a little curious to know what she had found for him.

“Harm?” her gentle voice broke him out of his musings. She smiled at him, “I was just kidding. You still get your present.”

“It’s not that, Mac,” he said, unable to return her humor, “It’s just that.... I’m sorry, but I don’t have anything for you.”

A flicker of hurt crossed her face but she didn’t seem surprised. She had figured that he wouldn’t have anything for her.

“It’s okay, Harm,” she said reassuringly. Her smile was a little sad, but it was sincere. “I didn’t expect you to. We didn’t exactly plan this.” Her face was a little sheepish as she held out the bag for him, “This was actually supposed to be your birthday present.”

He wasn’t sure if that made him feel better or worse. Unsure of what to say, he settled for a simple thank you. Wanting to get past the awkward point that they had reached, he gestured to the larger bag she still held. “What’s that one?”

The tension dissipated and she smiled widely. “This one’s for Mattie.” Turning to Mattie, she held out the bag, “Merry Christmas.”

“For me?” she squeaked. Harm would have laughed at the stunned look on Mattie’s face if he hadn’t felt the same way. He shook his head in awe. After all of the hurt they had inflicted on each other this past year, all of the nasty things he had said recently, Mac still cared enough to try and make this a real Christmas for him and Mattie. Her actions were forcing Harm to accept something he had been trying to deny since Paraguay. Despite everything that happened, despite the hurt and resentment, Sarah Mackenzie was still the best friend he’d ever had. Nothing would ever change that.

Harm realized that Mattie had yet to take the bag Mac was holding out. He could see a hint of fear in her eyes. She was having a hard time reconciling her ‘people are jerks’ philosophy with Mac’s actions of the past few days. She had been the same with Harm in the beginning; he hoped that she would end up trusting Mac as much as she now trusted him. Determined to help her along, he plucked the bag out of Mac’s outstretched hand. With the presents in one hand, he grabbed Mattie’s arm with the other and led her over to the couch. He motioned Mac over to sit on her other side before plopping the bag in her lap.

“Open,” he commanded. She glanced at Mac uncertainly, and then Harm. Seeing encouraging smiles on both faces, she finally let go of her fear. Smiling, she peered into the bag.

“Um, Mac,” she asked in confusion, “Which one’s mine?”

“All of them,” Mac smiled, before adding, “Don’t get too excited, though. They’re not much really. I mean; I didn’t know what you would like, so it’s nothing really special. I hope you like it. If you don’t, I can take it back and we can go shopping for something else-“

“Mac!” Harm and Mattie interrupted her ramblings. “I’m sure it will be great,” Mattie added. She reached in and pulled out the first present. Tearing off the paper, she revealed a large collage frame.

“I thought you could put that on the wall of your new room,” Mac explained, “You can fill some of the holes with pictures you already have, to remind you of home. And you can put new pictures in the other holes to...well, to remind you of home.” When Mattie didn’t say anything, Mac got nervous. “You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to, Mattie. It was just one idea. You can put anything you want in there. Or if you don’t like it, I can take it back and get something diff-“

Mac’s voice cut off when Mattie shoved the frame into Harm’s hands before flinging herself at Mac.

“It’s perfect,” she said before resting her head on Mac’s shoulder and bursting into tears. Mac reacted instinctively, wrapping her arms around Mattie and stroking her hair. Harm scooted over and rubbed his hand soothingly over her back. He wasn’t really surprised at Mattie’s outburst. As mature and responsible as she was, she was still a fifteen-year-old girl and this had been an emotional and intense few weeks for her. He would have been worried if she hadn’t been affected.

It took a few minutes for Mattie to calm down, and when she did Harm and Mac could sense her embarrassment. By unspoken agreement, they both ignored the outburst. Harm reached into the bag and pulled out a smaller, flat package. Realizing that it was another frame, he handed it to Mattie with a wry grin. “I’m sensing a theme here.”

“Shut up, Harm,” Mac told him playfully, “I was working against the clock here.”

“I didn’t say it was a bad theme,” he said defensively.

“Whatever,” she said, rolling her eyes at him. She turned to Mattie, “Why don’t you open that before I have to hurt your guardian. ‘Kay, Mattie?”

“No problem,” Mattie replied, her good humor restored by Harm and Mac’s banter. She opened it and revealed another frame. This one was wooden, and had the word ‘family’ written across the bottom. Mattie immediately got choked up again. “Thanks,” she said quietly.

“You’re welcome,” Mac responded simply. “You’ve got one more thing to open, though. I figured you could use some help filling up all of those holes.”

Mattie looked at her curiously before pulling out the last package. Tearing off the paper, she revealed four disposable cameras.

“Cool!” she exclaimed excitedly and immediately opened one of the boxes. Taking a moment to advance the camera, she promptly turned to Mac and snapped her first picture. After effectively blinding her, Mattie turned the camera on a laughing Harm and caught him. As the two blinked rapidly, she announced gleefully, “You have to open your present now, Harm. So I can take your picture.”

“Just as soon as I’m able to see again,” Harm groused. He continued to rub his eyes and blink until the spot in front of his eyes was manageable. Looking over at Mac, he asked, “Are you okay, Marine?”

“Yeah,” she said, gazing at him owlishly. “But Mattie’s right. You need to open your present now.”

“Why?”

“Because I need to get going,” she cut off their immediate protests, “I’ve got a lot of work to get done before tomorrow. That’s one of the reasons I was just going to drop this stuff off. As it is, if I don’t leave within the next ten minutes, I’m going to be up all night.”

“Are you sure?” Harm asked. When she nodded, he picked his bag off the floor, “Well, then I guess I better open my present.”

Pulling out the brightly wrapped package, Harm turned it over a couple of times. It felt like a book of some kind. Or maybe an album. Curious, he pulled off the paper and found that it was indeed a photo album. It had a bi-plane on the cover, and Harmon Rabb, Jr. written elegantly on the bottom. He looked over at Mac. Her entire body was tense and she was biting her lip. Not understanding her nervousness, but now wary of what was inside, he opened the front cover. His baby picture was plastered on the first page, along with the facts of his birth. Date, time, weight and height; all the basics. He started flipping the pages.

It was a scrapbook, he realized. Harm remembered when Chloe had come to visit last January. Scrap booking was her newest passion and she had spent hours telling them all about it. Obviously, Mac had paid attention. There were pictures from every major event in his life, and some not so major events. Interspersed with them were newspaper clippings, birth and graduation announcements, and little anecdotes written out in Mac’s flowing handwriting.

Staring at the most thoughtful gift he’d ever received, Harm wished for a moment that he were a fifteen-year-old girl so that he could lay his head on Mac’s shoulder and burst into tears. He couldn’t begin to imagine the time and effort this must have taken. She had to have contacted his mother; no one else had some of these pictures. Looking more closely, he realized that she must have contacted other people as well. Keeter, maybe. And Skates. And the newspaper clippings looked authentic; she had either found the originals somewhere or had paid to have them reproduced. Either way, it would have cost her more than a little money.

“How-“ his voice caught in his throat. Clearing it a couple of times, he tried again. “How did you do this?”

“It wasn’t really that hard,” she said softly, still unsure of his reaction, “It just took some time. I had to get a hold of a few people for some of the pictures and things, but once I had all of it, it was just a matter of putting it together.” She bit her lip again, before asking hesitantly, “Do you like it?”

“Do I like it?” Harm asked incredulously. He shook his head. “Of all the dumb questions you’ve asked me over the years, that is by far the dumbest.” He reached out and grabbed hold of her hands. Squeezing tightly, he said forcefully, “I don’t like it, Mac. I love it.”

Mac’ eyes filled with tears. “Really?”

“Really,” he said. Releasing one of her hands, he gestured to the book, “Mac, this is amazing. The time and effort alone make it the best present I’ve ever gotten. It’s-I don’t have words to describe how much this means to me.” Giving in to his emotions for a moment, he pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. “Thank you,” he whispered in her ear.

He heard her sniffle and knew she was trying not to cry. He laid his cheek on her hair and just held her. For a moment, they forgot about Paraguay. About Clayton Webb and Catherine Gale and the CIA and all of the other things that had pulled them apart. They were just Harm and Mac, best friends sharing a simple Christmas together. For a moment, they were just a family.

“Um, guys?” Mattie’s hesitant voice brought them both back to reality. Pulling away, Harm gently wiped a tear from Mac’s cheek before releasing her and turning to face Mattie.

“Sorry about that,” he said sheepishly.

“Why?” Mattie asked. “You’re supposed to get all emotional when someone gives you a good present. And Mac gives REALLY good presents.” Mac blushed at the praise, and Harm and Mattie both laughed. Mattie continued, “I just wanted you to stop so you didn’t squish the book.”

Harm looked down and realized that the book was in pretty serious danger of being squished. Closing it reverently, he set it on the coffee table and turned back to Mac. He wanted to say something, but he had no idea what. His emotions were churning, tumbling over each other so fast that he couldn’t hold onto one long enough to identify it. All he could do was look at her helplessly, “Mac-“

“It’s okay,” she hastened to reassure him. Harm could see her taking a step back from her emotions. As much as he wanted to protest, he knew that it was the best thing to do. Now was not the time to start this, especially not while Mattie was here. He nodded, smiling a little in understanding. She looked at him gratefully. Standing up, she said, “I really do need to get going.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, pushing aside the stab of disappointment and getting up as well. He watched as Mattie darted around him to hug Mac again, and smiled. He didn’t think he had to worry about finding a positive female influence in Mattie’s life. Mac had rapidly moved up the short list of people who didn’t suck, and Harm couldn’t be happier. When Mattie stepped back, Harm moved to the door and helped Mac on with her coat. She smiled at him, a little awkwardness creeping in.
“So I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Actually, no,” Harm apologized, “I called the Admiral early this morning and got emergency leave. I won’t be back until the fifth.”

“Oh,” she said, disappointed, “okay. Well then I’ll see you then, I guess.”

“Yeah,” he agreed as she picked up her purse and opened the door, “Mac,” he said and she turned around, “I know that thank you doesn’t even begin to cover it, but thank you. For everything. The hearing and last night and everything today; I couldn’t have done it without you. I owe you, Ninja girl.”

She flushed at the seldom-used nickname. “I didn’t really do all that much, Harm.”

“You did, too!” Mattie interjected indignantly. She came up to stand beside Harm. Wrapping one arm around his waist, “You helped me and Harm make this the best first Christmas ever! So stop saying you didn’t do anything and just say ‘you’re welcome’,” she ordered.

Mac shook her head and smiled. Reaching out, she tugged gently on a strand of Mattie’s hair, “You’re welcome.”

“That’s better,” Mattie said firmly.

“Well, I’d better go before it gets too late,” she said again. She stepped into the hall and wrapped her scarf around her neck. “See you on the fifth.”

“Okay,” Harm smiled at her, “Merry Christmas, Mac.”

“Merry Christmas, Harm,” she responded sincerely. She turned to Mattie, “Merry Christmas, Mattie.”

“Merry Christmas, Mac,” Mattie said, “Drive careful!”

Mac nodded and moved to the elevator. She stepped inside, and gave a little wave before the doors closed. Harm and Mattie just stood there a minute, staring out the open door.

“So, Harm,” Mattie asked contemplatively, “Mac’s the one you lost your job over, right?”

“Yeah,” Harm replied, looking down at her.

“The one who said there was never going to be anything between you.” Mattie continued.

“Yeah,” Harm said cautiously, sensing danger.
“The one who didn’t care about you or what was happening in your life anymore,” she said as she moved to the couch.

“Mm hmm,” He walked over and stood next to her.

Mattie reached down and picked the scrapbook up off the table. “The one who’s moved on,” she said thoughtfully as she ran her fingers over the plane on the cover.

“That’s right.”

“Mm,” she murmured. She glanced up at him and then back at the book before placing it in his hands.

“You do realize that you are a complete idiot, right?” she asked him matter-of-factly.

He started to respond, saw the book, and sighed.

“Yeah, I know.”

“Just checking.” Mattie sat down on the couch and looked up. “But you’re going to do whatever it takes to fix this, right?”

Harm sighed again. “It’s not that simple, Mattie. A lot has happened this past year. We both said and did a lot of hurtful things. And our relationship has always been complicated. Even more so lately. And now that I’m back at JAG, it just adds to that.” Mattie didn’t respond and he felt himself getting defensive, “It’s complicated, Mattie. And just because she still wants to be my friend doesn’t mean that she thinks there’s going to be an us. She’s with Webb now. And-“ Harm knew there were more reasons, better reasons, than the ones he just gave her, but he’d be damned if he could remember what they were.

“And what?” Mattie asked; her arms crossed over her chest and a challenge clear in her voice.

He glared at her for a moment before flopping down next to her on the couch.

“And I’m going to do whatever it takes to fix this,” he said grudgingly.

“Good!” Mattie flashed him a beaming smile, “That’s what I wanted to hear.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek before bouncing up, “I’m gonna go read now. We can come up with a plan tomorrow while we’re shopping.”

“We?!” Harm asked, feeling the panic rising.

She turned and looked over her shoulder. “Of course, we. You weren’t getting anywhere on your own.” She smiled at him as she reached the bedroom and delivered her parting shot.

“You know, Harm, if we’re going to be a family, you’re going to have to start trusting me.”

Harm watched her move into the bedroom and shook his head. “I’m doomed.”

 

 

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