"I still think I should go back out and get him."
For at least the dozenth time since they'd reached the gate, Harm pivoted towards the entrance as if to run out of the airport and retrieve his recalcitrant younger brother. Just as abruptly, he changed course and resumed pacing before his partner.
Mac looked up at him, frowning worriedly at the dark circles beneath his over-bright eyes. "Harm, he's a grown man," she answered reasonably. "He's made his decision."
"A 'grown man'?" With a huff, he dropped into the seat beside her, shooting her an incredulous glance. "He can't be more than 19, Mac! He's just a kid."
"He's a decorated officer in the Russian Army," she countered calmly, leaning back against the bench. "He's an honorable soldier in a tainted war. <And> he's just as pig-headed as his big brother."
That comment earned her a bleary, half-hearted glare, more muted a response than she'd been hoping for. Indignant bluster aside, her flyboy was obviously exhausted.
Mac rested her palm lightly on his forearm, rubbing soothing strokes along his wrist with her thumb.
"When was the last time you got a good night's sleep?"
He sighed and scrubbed a hand roughly through his hair. "I don't know," he admitted, defeated, disappointed, and disgusted with himself. "I think I'm still jet-lagged from the flight over."
With a small chuckle, she shook her head. "Well, out flight's been delayed another four hours. Why don't you try to take a little nap?"
Harm shifted restlessly from one side to the other, slouched to drape his arms along the back of the bench, then straightened and crossed his left ankle over the opposite knee, carelessly invading his partner's personal space. Growling in frustration, he plowed through his hair again. "I can't get comfortable, that's why!"
Undeterred, Mac soothed the taut thigh that had landed across her own, banishing a measure of the tension humming through his muscles with a gentle, caring hand.
"You're just overtired, Harm. Just take a breath and try to relax, okay?"
Nodding, he met her eyes only briefly before lowering his own in chagrin. It was a silent apology, acknowledged just as secretly with a squeeze of understanding fingers.
"You're right," he agreed in a more subdued tone. "I know you're right, but -"
Pausing to heave a giant sigh, he slid down the bench and swung his legs up, lying back so that his head rested squarely in her lap. Though startled for a moment, Mac promptly took advantage of the opportunity to smooth the short, dark hair recently ravaged by thoughtless fingers.
"I just don't understand why he didn't want to come with us." His voice was as forlorn and confused as a little boy's.
Sarah smiled fondly down into his eyes and continued stroking his scalp rhythmically. "It's not because he doesn't love you," she assured him softly. "But this is his home. He friends are here, his mother. His duty. He couldn't just get up and leave. You wouldn't have."
At least, she hoped he wouldn't. Given his behavior the past year and a half, she wasn't as sure of that as she might once have been. Still, if she said it with enough conviction, she may be able to convince both of them.
"No, I guess not. Maybe someday . . ." He nestled closer, settling in, and she felt some of the strain ease from his body. "You think he's got a girlfriend?"
She allowed herself an inward laugh as Harm's eyes drifted closed. "I'll bet he does. He'd be a good catch for some young Russian girl. He's handsome, polite, intelligent -" Mischievous blue eyes popped open, latched onto hers, then drifted halfway closed as a smug grin transformed his face.
"You said he was just like me."
She tugged gently on his earlobe in admonishment. "I said he was <stubborn> just like you."
"You said 'pigheaded.'"
"I take the Fifth."
He chuckled, low and happy, lifted a hand to cover hers where it lay on his chest. He seemed not even to notice the casual gesture; every nerve in her arm suddenly sparked to life at the contact. One slender thumb ran languidly along the base of his collarbone, the other through the soft hair at his temple. She fixed him with a scolding glare that glowed with suppressed mirth.
"Close your eyes," she instructed firmly.
Obediently, his lids snapped shut.
"Now start counting some sheep, flyboy."
He was still for a few minutes, and Mac was almost ready to believe he had followed orders for once and fallen asleep. Then his eyes popped open, blinked, struggled against fatigue to remain at half-mast.
"You drove to Chechnya in a taxi to come get me." As though the realization had just come to him, his voice was little more than a hushed rumble of awe.
"Shh, we'll talk about it later," she replied, unwilling to delve too deeply into her actions and the motivation behind them at the moment.
"Alexei told me you changed a tire."
Because his eyes had drifted closed again, she answered. "I'm not just a pretty face, you know." He continued as though he hadn't heard her. "So, what were you wearing?"
What? What the hell did that have to do . . .
She rolled her eyes with equal parts exasperation and amusement as the purpose of his question dawned on her. Only Harm could find the image of a woman pumping a tire jack a sexy one.
"<Good night,> flyboy," she said, in a tone that booked no argument.
Unabashed, he gave a sleepy little snicker and squirmed even further into her lap. Mac sighed, resigned to his utterly irredeemable shamelessness. As she watched with the patience of a long-time companion, his breathing deepened, steadied, and she softened, acclimating her body to the new position. She was satisfied her partner was finally out when he stirred, the corners of his mouth kicking up in a tiny, serene smile.
"My Sarah changing a tire in the middle of a heavy artillery zone . . ."
Her heart bumped erratically at the quiet words, even as she told herself he was mostly asleep and didn't know what he was saying. He couldn't possibly have meant to call her 'his' . . . 'His Sarah . . .' No matter how lovely that sounded, how warmly it flooded her insides . . . Did he really think of her as his . . ?
With control borne of long practice, she reigned her errant dreams back to the furthest recesses of her mind, where they holed up, bright and wistful, amidst resolutely logical surroundings.
"Maybe someday, Harm," she whispered somberly. "I hope, someday."
He snored lightly in response. He did so, she knew, only when he slept on his back. Her finger ran almost imperceptibly over his lower lip and down his chin. The motion was a familiar caress of a face she knew as well as her own; brown eyes ached with longing as they gazed at the man she was desperate to know completely.
Maybe someday . . . she hoped, someday.
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