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Classification Romance (H/M)
Length Approximately 18,000 words, 57 pages (8.5x11")
Spoilers Through Season 9
Rating GS
Summary Harm and Mac talk with a little nudge from Mattie. Their relationship changes or does it?

Part 1 Part 2

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Jen and Mattie’s
North of Union Station

 

Harm leaned against the wall just inside the door, arms crossed over his chest and ankles crossed as he watched Mac, Jen and Mattie devour popcorn and engage in silly girl talk. He watched them smiling and shook his head in amazement.

“Ladies, if you promise not to stuff yourselves on that popcorn, I’ll fix us some dinner,” offered Harm.

“Harm, this is dinner,” laughed Mattie as she looked up at him from her seat on the floor.

“No...that’s a snack. Broiled chicken, salad, glazed carrots, baked potato...that’s dinner.”

“Really?” asked Jen.

“Yes really...Mac...want to help me out here?”

“I suppose...actually he is a pretty good cook and he isn’t offering meatless meatloaf or tofu lasagna so it might be worth going light on the popcorn and giving him a chance.” Mac looked at Harm and grinned. “Do I need to come help or can I stay here and indulge in girl talk for a few minutes?”

Harm shook his head, “By all means...enjoy your chick chat. Dinner should be ready in an hour.” Harm left and heard the burst of laughter as he closed the door. For an instant he felt a flash of anger and realized he was annoyed. He wasn’t sure why he felt such an intense anger over Mac choosing ‘chick chat’ over him. He placed pots and pans on the counter with more force than usual and his chopping seemed to be a little louder than normal.

In the other apartment, Mac kicked off her shoes and grinned at Jen and Mattie who had gotten very quiet after the burst of laughter when Harm left.

“Ma’am, what did we do to upset the Commander?” Jen asked.

Mattie piped up, “I swear that man has mood swings at times...one minute things seem fine and then some little thing will be said or something happen and he gets quiet and sullen...but he’s not usually mad or anything...just moody.”

Mac listened to Mattie’s words with interest. “What kind of things make him get moody, Mattie?”

“Oh I don’t know...let’s see... the other day we were goofing around and he thought we should get focused on what we were suppose to be doing - he had some files to read and I had homework to do - and I said something like, ‘Oh sure...suck the joy out of life’ and he got all moody and weird on me. Then another time we were at the hanger and we were joking around about me flying and he was working on a part for the plane. A piece broke off and I said something like, ‘Figures you’d break it instead of fixing it.’ He suddenly got really serious and agitated. Eventually he came up with an excuse to leave. I was just kidding with him. Usually he laughs or gives it right back.”

Mac sat there hearing some of her own words coming from Mattie and suddenly she knew what was happening. “I think it has something to do with me, girls. Look...I’m going to go talk to him and help him fix dinner. Why don’t you come over in half an hour or so and help get the table set and stuff? Hopefully, if I’m right he won’t be moody by the time you get there.”

“Okay.” Jen and Mattie answered as they watched Mac pick up her shoes and carry them in her hand to the door.

After Mac left, Jen turned to Mattie, “Think it will work?”

“Maybe...they couldn’t have walked into this better if we had set it up intentionally.” Mattie grinned. “Besides...I don’t even think Mac realizes she was set up.”

“Did Harm really say those things?”

“Oh yeah...he’s said other stuff too. I didn’t want to say too much, just enough to get Mac thinking...and it worked. If you could have heard Mac when she testified in court, you wouldn’t be worrying if we were doing the right thing.”

“I just need to be sure and I think you’ve just confirmed what I’ve thought for two years...those two are in love ”

 

Harm’s Apartment

 

“Hey Sailor...what can I do to help?” asked Mac as she joined Harm in his apartment.

“Nothing...run out of chick chat already?”

“No...just wanted to spend time with you...make sure you didn’t sneak in any tofu,” Mac kidded.

Harm gave her a look of indignation and turned to put the seasoned chicken into the oven. The potatoes were already in so he turned back to the salad. His chopping was less emotional now and Mac, helping herself to another knife, went to work preparing the veggies for the salad along side of him.

“Harm? Why did you seem so upset when you left the girls’ apartment...was it because we were kidding with you, the popcorn, or because we were bonding and you felt a little left out?”

Harm looked at Mac in amazement. She just summed up his emotions in one fell swoop that had taken him fifteen minutes to sort out for himself. He sighed, turned to Mac and in a soft voice said, “Yes...all of it I guess - well except the popcorn...”

“Harm, we weren’t laughing at you. You’ve made us feel good and you gave us a reason to be joyful...it felt good. And yes, we were bonding...I thought that was part of why you invited me to come over?”

“I did... I do want you to get to know Mattie. I think it will be good for both of you.”

“But...” Mac prompted.

Harm exhaled and his movements got choppy as he tossed the salad and found things to occupy his time. Again Mac, jumped in to help him out.

“But you were hoping that we could reconnect too, weren’t you?”

“Yeah...”

“And when I stayed with the girls, you thought I’d come to be with them, and you felt used?”

“Maybe a little...”

“Oh Harm...I’m sorry.”

“For what Mac?”

“For lots of things...hurting you, doubting you...lying to you...”

“Lying? When did you lie to me, Mac?”

“When I told you that you have a way of sucking the joy out of life...when I told you that you break everything you touch...and other things...”

“Like what other things?”

“...when I said never...”

Harm’s head came up then and he looked at Mac. He studied her face and thought about what she was saying. “Have you ever lied to me about your relationship with Webb?”

“No...”

“Oh.”

“Harm...repeat back to me what I’ve told you about my relationship with Webb...not what you think you’ve seen or heard or know...what I’ve actually said.”

“You said you were dating him...”

“No. I said I had a date with him.”

“You said you were having dinner with him...” Mac nodded and Harm continued. “You said that you were friends...that you shared an experience that brought you closer...that Webb was in love with you...I saw you kiss him Mac...”

“Remember you need to think about what I said...not what you saw, heard or thought...”

“You said you weren’t with Webb...”

“Right. Anything else?” Mac asked him.

“No- I don’t think so.”

“Tell me then-using your investigative skills- if that adds up to me being involved with Webb or not.”

“I guess not....”

“Harm, I have stronger feelings for you as my friend, than I do for Webb as someone that I’ve been out on a date with...I’ll admit I was hoping that I could see him in a new way. It would be easier to feel what I feel for you for someone else...” Mac stopped realizing what she had said. She glanced at Harm, who was waiting for her to continue. She realized then that even with her slip, he didn’t get it.

“I hope eventually to find someone that feels as strongly about me as I do them...instead of this one-sided stuff. I tried to convince myself with Brumby that it would work...I know now that it wouldn’t have lasted.” Mac stopped and studied Harm again. She was truly amazed that he didn’t seem to get what she was trying to tell him.

“Knock, knock...dinner ready?” asked Mattie.

“Just about...Set the table?” asked Harm.

“Sure. Harm?”

Mac frantically tried to get Mattie’s attention and shake her head no.

Harm was responding to Mattie, “What?”

“This had better be good, because I just spent the last twenty minutes trying to convince Jen you were a good cook.”

Mac breathed a sigh of relief and exchanged glances with Mattie and Jen.

Dinner went off without a hitch. They laughed and talked and sounded like a family, each sharing something from their day. When they had finished, Mattie and Jen took charge of clearing the table and doing the dishes.

Mac and Harm took their tea and sat on the couch listening to the girls and talking.

“What you thinking about Harm?” asked Mac.

“That I’m pretty lucky to have all three of you in my life. Mattie is helping me to think things through; Jen is almost like having a kid sister - she respects me enough to look up to me but knows me well enough not to let me take myself to seriously; and you - you’ve challenged me to rethink almost every thought I’ve had since I met you...”

“Are you telling me that you disagree with everything I say and do?”

“No.” Harm sighed, not sure how to express the feelings inside him. “Mac...I’m saying that you help me see other sides to issues and when I think I’ve got something figured out, you show me an angle or side I hadn’t considered.”

“Is that good or bad Harm?”

“I guess it depends. Professionally it’s made me a better investigator and litigator...a better officer. Personally it makes me question myself and what I thought I knew about me, my life and what I want from it...I don’t trust myself to have the big picture or the right picture or a complete picture because I think I have things figured out and you seem to have a different view or angle on the situation.”

“Does this have to do with the ‘never’ comment I made?”

“Some...I guess it is more to do with that instruction manual I asked you for and your comment that you didn’t want much but that I hadn’t figured it out.”

“You’re still trying?” Mac couldn’t keep the amazement out of her voice.

“Yeah, Mac...you said I didn’t fight you and maybe it didn’t look like I did but I guess that I fought with myself first as to whether or not I should fight you on it...then I tried to figure out if there was even a chance.”

“What did you decide?” Mac’s voice was barely above a whisper.

“That maybe if I could find common ground with my best friend again, she’d help me figure it out?” Harm grinned at Mac.

“I’ve told you that smile is nice but it is not going to get you everything you want.”

“And what do you think I want?”

“The answers without asking the questions?”

“There was a time I would have to say you’d be right...but now I think I’m getting to where I can at least ask the questions.”

“Really? Why the change?”

“Well, I’ve been sitting back watching and wondering and thinking and now that I’m approaching this as an investigation I have to ask questions.”

“Aahhh...using professional, analytical strategies in your personal life, huh?”

“Hey, it’s worth a try. The other way wasn’t working for me.”

Harm and Mac shared a smile as Mattie suddenly landed in the space on the couch between them. “What are you two in such a deep discussion about?”

“Friendship...”

“Really? I thought maybe you two would be talking about something more interesting than that.”

“Mattie...”

“What? I’m just picking Harm...”

“Fine...just remember the first time you bring someone home...”

“Alright...never mind. I’m out of here. Homework’s calling... Night Colonel Mackenzie.”

“Night Mattie...and call me Mac.”

“Okay Mac...see you.”

“Night Mattie, Jen.”

“Night Commander...thanks for dinner.” Jen followed Mattie back to there new apartment.

Once it was quiet again, Harm looked at Mac and asked, “I hadn’t planned to have a conversation like this tonight, but it seems to be going okay. Do you want to keep talking, change the subject or do you have to leave?”

“I think maybe we should stay with it a little more...good question by the way.” Mac smiled at Harm.

“Why’s that?”

“You just showed me you aren’t making assumptions about what I want; you cared enough about me to ask what I wanted and you gave enough choices that it didn’t feel like an ultimatum. I’ve done that to you too often, haven’t I?” Mac asked.

“Sometimes...it’s not so much that I feel like I’ve been given an ultimatum, as I haven’t been given a chance to think it through and answer in a way that isn’t misleading.”

“Harm, I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time about Mattie...I mean not telling me about her. I guess I just felt like that was something we might have done together in the past...”

“You felt left out?”

“Yeah...”

“Mac?”

“Yeah?”

“I wanted to tell you, but it never seemed like the time or place and all of a sudden I ran out of time so I had to go to your place and ask.”

“And I tried to make it about the way you treated me when it wasn’t that at all...”

Harm stopped Mac before she could parcel out any more blame. “Mac, you came through big time when it counted and I should have known you would...its just I was afraid you wouldn’t want to because even our friendship seemed strained.”

“I know Harm...we’ve both hurt each other too many times to count and sometimes not even intentionally. I’d really like to forgive and learn from our mistakes.”

“I would too...I just...I mean...Mac...”

“Go ahead Harm...I’ll listen and give you time.”

Harm smiled a little and then said, “You know how you’ve said that sometimes an addict has to just give up the thing they want most for the greater good and to get and maintain control?”

“Yeah...” Mac acknowledged and questioned him at the same time from the tone of her voice.

“I guess in away you’d become my addiction and when you said never I couldn’t separate out ‘us’ from friendship...those two things are so deeply entwined-for me- that I didn’t think I could separate them.”

“Is that why you didn’t return my calls?”

“Yeah...I wanted so much more than ‘friendship’ but it hurt too much to be just a friend. I couldn’t watch you with anyone after having tried it with Brumby. I know what I want Mac, but I can’t always say it.”

“I know...but I think you’re doing pretty good tonight.”

Again they shared shy smiles.

“Mac, I just want to know one thing...have you thought about the ‘never’ comment since you made it?”

“Yes...”

“Do you think if you had it to do all over again you’d still say never?”

Mac just sat and stared at Harm with her heart pounding in her throat. She hoped he wouldn’t be angry but knew she owed him the truth. “Harm, I probably would say it again, but knowing what I know now, I would probably tell you that I was wrong...that I had misjudged many things and that even though it’s been said, I hope that something proves me wrong.”

“So if I was to try to prove you wrong, I might have a chance of changing your opinion?”

“Yes...I mean you are a strong litigator and as Bud says you are a master at impassioned pleas...”

Harm slid closer to Mac then and smiled. Lowering his voice to a soft very seductive pitch he spoke to Mac in a voice little more than a whisper. “Then you best be prepared Marine...I am going to begin a campaign to prove to you how much I want you to be a part of my life and it’s not just because I think you will be good for Mattie. You’re good for me, too...and I think we can be good for you.”

Mac swallowed hard. It had been a long time since she had heard Harm speak softly like this, and never with the passion she heard this time in his words. She felt her face get warm from the words and warmer still when she sensed him leaning even closer to her.

“Nothing to say?” Harm smiled and enjoyed watching Mac absorb his intent.

“Ummm...I think I need to leave...”

Harm stood up and reach a hand out to Mac. “I’ll walk you to your car.”

“You don’t have to...”

“I want to.”

Harm helped Mac into her coat. He started to open the door and as she stepped forward, he closed it again and leaned close to her brushing his lips against hers. Then he opened the door and held it for her. He kept one hand on her back and they went down to her car, parked across the street. She unlocked it and got in. He held the door opened while she got in and started the engine. Harm bent down and leaned in brushing her lips again with his.

“Just remember to keep a few evenings a week open for us, okay?”

Mac just nodded. Her lips parted just a little and Harm leaned in to give her one more kiss...this one lasted just a little longer than the others did. This time when he pulled back he shut her door and stepped back.

Crossing his arms across his chest to stay warm, he watched Sarah Mackenzie drive away.

“Okay, Mac...I’ve declared my intentions. What are you going to do about it?”

Harm smiled to himself and jogged back up to his apartment to get warm and to rethink this evening’s turn of events. He had invited Mac over so he and Mattie could thank her for helping them and as an excuse to spend time with her. He hadn’t planned on the talk or letting her know what he was planning. He had figured it would take a few more visits to get to this point. But when she had let slip that she felt something special and something strong for him...he played it cool. She had been nervous about letting that slip and so as not to scare her off, he let her think he hadn’t caught on to her slip. He had decided to move his plans forward. Tonight he had let her know he was ready to fight for her...for them. Tonight his confidence was back and his hope for a family that included Mac had returned. Soon he would ask her out on a real date and make sure she knew his kisses were for her and her alone. The dance may have gone on for way too long, but Mac was one girl that was destined to be his best friend for life. He was going to make it happen.

 

Chapter 2

 

Harm stood at the window of his apartment watching the street below. Last night he had watched Sarah Mackenzie drive away after he had planted the seeds of his intent in her mind. He heard a soft knock on his door and went to answer it.

“Mattie ” Harm immediately noticed the tension in Mattie’s face. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing - I just wanted to talk for a minute if it’s okay,” she said.

“Come on in...” Harm led her to the table and pulled out a chair for her. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“Well, I did something tonight and I’m not sure I should have and I just wanted to make sure you weren’t mad at me.”

“Mattie...” Harm spoke softly and signed. “Tell me what you did.”

“I called Colonel Mackenzie and told her I was worried about you.”

“Why didn’t you come to me? Why are you worried about me?”

“Well, it just seems like you really miss Mac. When she’s around you just seem happier. Anyway, I told her I thought you needed an adult to talk to and she said she’d try to stop over later. Jen found out and ordered me to come talk to you before she got here.”

“Mattie, I’m fine. There’s nothing for you to worry about. I think it’s sweet of you to try to fix something you see as a problem, but I’m afraid that it’s too late for that.”

“Harm Don’t give up on Mac. She misses you too.”

“And how do you know that?”

“I watched her watch you leave the church Christmas Eve. I saw her hurry over here last night when she thought you were upset. And I see how you look at each other.”

“Pretty smart kid aren’t you?”

“Sometimes...” Mattie smiled at her guardian.

“Look...I’m not mad at you, but I would rather you didn’t try to get Mac and I together because...”

“Don’t you dare tell me you don’t care for her ”

“Mattie?” Harm softly warned her to hear him out with his tone.

“Sorry.”

“Okay, I do care about Mac and I am hoping I can get her to rethink her decision to give up on us. I do have a plan and part of it does involve you...but not all of it.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“So fill me in...”

“No. I will tell you that I think you and Mac will be good for each other and I have no problem with you calling and talking to Mac and I hope that Mac will join us for dinner and maybe some outings at times. Okay?”

“More than okay, Harm. It’s great ”

Looking out the window again, Harm saw her car pull up outside. He turned to Mattie. “Mac is going to be knocking on that door any second. You are going to invite her in and then you are going to level with her.”

“Harm, I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think I should just thank her for coming by and then leave. I promise I won’t do it again.”

“Maybe...”

{Knock, knock...”Harm you home?”}

Mattie skipped to the door and answered it. “Hi Mac. Come on in. I’ll catch you later. Bye Harm ” Mattie was out the door and away shutting the door behind her faster than either Harm or Mac could comprehend.

“I will get that girl...Hey Mac.”

“Hi Harm. She’s a good kid. She’s worried about you, you know?”

“So she just told me...I’m fine Mac.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. You don’t seem so sure.”

“Well, Mattie is a pretty perceptive kid. She says she’s worried; you’re standing by the window when I arrive...and you’re still there. And um...last night...” Mac’s voice trailed off.

“What about last night? I thought we had a good talk for once...and made some steps toward some action too.”

“I guess...”

“Mac, I saw you blush and you didn’t pull away when I went for the third kiss.”

“I didn’t blush ”

“Oh...you must have just gotten warm and that’s why your face turned red after I kissed you.”

Mac started looking around nervously. Harm watched her for a minute and then afraid she would bolt on him, he reached for her hand and moved closer to her.

“Mac...look at me, please.” Slowly her head came up and she let her eyes meet his. “If I kiss you again are you going to slap my face or something?”

Mac shook her head no and swallowed, her lips parting slightly waiting for Harm’s lips to touch hers. As his face got closer her eyes closed. She waited for his lips to touch hers again. Instead, she felt them on her eye lids. First the right one, then the left. Then the tip of her nose. She felt his hands slide from her hands to her wrists. His lips touched her cheeks one at a time and then her chin. She waited again as she felt him pull her arms around his waist and then put his around her, pulling her closer.

Finally his lips touched hers. She couldn’t stop her tongue from darting out to moisten her lips. She didn’t see him watch her tongue and missed his eyes flash with passion as he watched her mouth. With a groan, Harm held her tight and allowed himself the pleasure of taking her beautiful seductive mouth in a kiss filled with desire. Their kiss deepened, both mouths opened; tongues dueled and explored. Slowly they parted, gasping for air. Their hearts were racing and their breathing was coming hard and fast as if they had just sprinted across the finish line.

Harm rested his forehead against Mac’s and murmured, “Wow, Marine...that was something.”

Taking a deep shaky breath, Mac smiled, “Guess we don’t need mistletoe, porches or tragedy after all...”

“Think that was a one-time thing?” Harm asked with his big grin.

“Maybe...probably should check that out, don’t you think?” Mac whispered as she wrapped her arms tightly around Harm’s waist and raised herself on tiptoe to meet him halfway.

Harm enfolded her in his arms partially lifting her off her feet as he lowered his head for another kiss. This time when the kiss ended they continued to hold each other and nibble on one another’s lips with quick little kisses.

“Mac...do you...think...we are...moving...too...fast?” Harm asked quietly between kisses.

“Not yet...” Mac slid herself back down his body and rested her head against his chest as she smiled and said, “But taking care of your little problem would be...”

“Little problem?” Harm asked puzzled, thinking to himself, ‘she can’t mean what I think she does can she?’

“Oh, I’m sorry...do you have something in your pocket?” Mac asked innocently grinning from ear to ear.

“Mac ” Harm was surprised at her open teasing and flirting. This was something that they hadn’t allowed themselves to do before. Harm felt himself blush and he thought to himself, ‘God she did notice...kissing doesn’t usually do this to me this quickly...the woman is potent.’

“Mac, you’ve got to help me here by behaving...I think you’d better unhand me, woman.” Harm smiled so she would know he was teasing her too, although part of him thought it best if they kept a little more distance between them.

Reluctantly Harm and Mac separated and Harm went to the kitchen while Mac sat on the stool by the island.

“Coffee?” Harm asked.

“Have any hot chocolate?”

“Sure...good idea...hot chocolate coming up.” Harm busied himself in the kitchen fixing their hot chocolate while Mac watched him. He sat her mug in front of her with a flourish while she appreciated the little extra touches Harm had gone to in an effort to make it something special. The mug of hot chocolate was topped with whipped cream and a sprig of mint.

“Want to sit here, the table or the couch?” Harm asked.

“Couch?” Mac suggested.

Harm took her mug over and set it on the end table for her before taking a seat on the opposite end and turning to face her.

“Mac, I think we need to talk about this latest development, don’t you?”

“Probably...but if you don’t want to it’s okay...for now at least.”

“Let’s try it...we seem to be on a roll lately.”

“You surprised me last night and tonight...”

“Because I kissed you?”

“Partly...but because you didn’t back away from me afterward.”

“I did stop it...”

“...So we didn’t go too far too fast. It was smart, Harm. And you didn’t walk away or turn your back, ignore it or change the subject.”

“I do it when I’m feeling unsure...”

“And I see such a confident, arrogant man at work that I could not believe that was why you backed off...out of embarrassment. It just didn’t add up.”

“Mac, why is it so hard to believe that I’m shy...you even called me a prude before...”

“And you denied it.”

“Yes, I did...but I guess I am.”

“Why?”

“You’ll probably kill me for saying this, but it was one good thing that came out of my relationship with Renee...she actually asked my mother why I was so shy.”

“She didn’t ”

“Yeah...they decided that because of losing my father at an early age, I didn’t see them hugging and kissing. By the time Frank came along I was at an age where it was ‘disgusting’ to see people their age ‘making out’. It’s not the making out I had an issue with - it was that it was in public. Anyway, because I was shy and didn’t like public kissing, I didn’t experiment much in high school and then at the Academy dating was limited and usually highly chaperoned. By the time I got out I hid the fact I was shy by acting brash and cocky and waiting until I was alone with the girl. Then I’d try to act as if I knew what I was doing...once I got to know the girl and relaxed with her, it was fine...but I’ve usually ended up with fairly aggressive women because I’m never sure how to make the first move.”

“You did great last night and tonight...how come?”

“It took me eight years to work up the courage, Mac.”

“Wow. Harm, I swear you will never cease to amaze me.”

“I hope that’s okay with you.”

“It is. Harm, if you and Mattie aren’t busy tomorrow night, why don’t the two of you come to my place for dinner and a movie?”

“School night Mac...”

“Since when is Friday considered a school night, Harmon?”

“Oh, yeah...tomorrow is Friday isn’t it?”

“Yes. What do you say?”

“I’d like that. What do you want me to bring?”

“Just you and Mattie...”

“May I ask what’s on the menu?”

“Sure...but I’m not telling ”

“Maaaacc...”

“You’ll like it, I promise,” Mac laughed at his expression. “Trust me?”

“You know I do...it’s your sense of humor that worries me.”

Mac rolled her eyes at Harm and stood up to go. “It’s getting late.”

“I’ll walk you down to your car.”

“Harm, stop. I am capable of walking myself to my car. You can watch from your window.”

“I know Mac, but...”

“Harm?”

“Yes?”

“If you are worried, watch from your window...” she walked up to him and pointed her finger into his chest to make her point.

“Alright...” he reached for her then and whispered in a soft sexy voice, “But I get to kiss you goodnight here then.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other...” Mac’s words stopped when Harm’s lips covered hers. This time, her toes curled and she clung to him so she could stay upright.

When the kiss ended, she stepped away without a word and Harm helped her into her coat. She reached for the door and Harm leaned over to give her a quick kiss and a smile.

“See you tomorrow Marine.”

Mac just smiled and nodded. She didn’t think she could speak if her life depended on it. He was one sexy sailor and she was slowly coming to understand that he truly wasn’t aware of his power over the opposite sex. She hoped that she was the last women to discover that about him as well. Now she knew why Kate and Jordan said little about him and Annie ran from him. He was a powerful force and a woman would have to be equally as powerful to stay with him.

She smiled and waved up at the window where he stood watching as she pulled away. Never hadn’t last long after all. She hoped that if they ever tried forever it would last longer - much longer. Mac suddenly had a feeling that she understood why Harm was so cautious. He needed to be sure she was as ready and willing to make the kind of commitment he was before he forged ahead. For some reason, he has decided she was. Suddenly she remembered her slip from the night before. Maybe he had caught it. Mac smiled. It seemed that Harm was ‘her flyboy’ again.

It was going to be a good thing they had a chaperone for dinner tomorrow night. Now that she was on to him, she wanted to see if she could have a little fun.

Mac was smiling when she climbed into bed. She fell asleep dreaming of the future and the fun she would have rattling his cage.

 

Chapter 3

 

Mac had been given an eggplant recipe she adored. Anytime she found a recipe that would appeal to both of them, she made it several times in small portions so that she could get it just right. She feared she would never have a chance to try this one out on Harm, but thanks to Mattie and his resolve to work things out, she was getting her chance.

The salad was ready and chilled. The eggplant was baking in its cheese sauce. The rolls were ready to pop in the oven when she heard them arrive. She had even made her best brownies and Harm’s recipe for fudge sauce for their brownie sundae dessert. And in case Mattie didn’t like eggplant, there was fresh hamburger that could perform back-up duty.

Mac heard them and slipped the rolls into the oven before she went to answer the door. She heard Harm’s typical knock but still peeked out to be sure it was them. Taking a deep breath to relax and calm her suddenly racing heart, she opened the door and greeted her guests with a smile.

“Right on time...nice work Mattie.”

“Thanks, but I didn’t have to do much to get him moving tonight.”

Harm rolled his eyes and shook his head. “I’m not always late.”

Mac and Mattie shared a smile, both refraining from laughing aloud. Harm and Mattie slipped their coats off and hung them up.

“Dinner is just about ready if you want to have a seat, I’ll bring it out.”

“Mac, you don’t have to wait on us. What can we do to help?”

“Sit down while I bring out dinner and then you can serve it up, okay?”

“Alright...” Harm acquiesced.

Mac had to smile. It was another piece of evidence to support the ‘Harm really has changed’ theory that his friends had noticed since his return to JAG.

Harm sat facing toward the kitchen door with Mattie across from him. Mac brought out the salads and water pitcher on a tray. Mattie helped move the items from the tray to the table. Next Mac brought out a warming tray and a basket of oven fresh rolls. Finally, she returned with the casserole dish with the browned cheese topping and set it on the warming tray by Harm.

“Mac, this smells great.”

“What is it, Mac? Lasagna?”

“No...but it’s on that idea. Try some and then I’ll tell you about it if you want.”

Harm served Mattie while Mac settled into her seat. Before Mac’s plate was filled, Mattie sampled her dinner.

“This is good...it’s eggplant, isn’t it?”

“Very good Mattie. You like it?”

“Yeah...my mom use to make this sometimes. It was one of her favorites.” Mattie’s voice seemed a little sad. Mac and Harm watched her for a second. Mattie looked up at them both and smiled. “I never thought I’d have this again after I lost her. Thanks, Mac.”

“I’m glad you like it.”

“What would you have done if she hadn’t, Marine?” Harm teasingly challenged.

“Cooked her up some hamburger that I got just in case...”

“In case you ruined dinner?”

“No...in case you made me mad and I wanted to punish you by serving red meat,” Mac laughed.

“No ganging up on me you two,” Harm laughed, shaking his head at the idea.

“But it’s so much fun Harm,” giggled Mattie as she caught Mac’s wink to her.

They laughed and shared more stories over dinner. Together Mac and Harm told Mattie about Chloe. Mac explained that she had called Chloe and told her all about Mattie and now Chloe was begging to come down to meet her. Mattie agreed it sounded like they could have fun together. Harm groaned at the thought and tried to hide a smile thinking how happy they would all be chick chatting, doing their hair and nails. All the things he figured teenage girls loved to do - and Mac.

Mattie and Harm insisted on helping Mac to clean up. They decided to eat dessert later.

“So what’s Petty Officer Coates doing this evening?” asked Mac.

“I think she was going to get together with a few of her friends, but she sounded upset when she came home.”

“Upset?” asked Mac and Harm together.

“Yeah. She said something about looking forward to an evening alone and not having to worry about doing or saying the wrong thing.”

“Think we should call her?” asked Harm.

“Let me,” suggested Mac.

Harm agreed and Mac dialed Jen’s number. She answered on the fourth ring, just beating the answering machine.

“Jen, this is Mac. Mattie said you seemed upset when you got home. Everything okay?”

“Yes, Ma’am...It was just a rough day at the office.”

“The admiral?”

“Yeah.”

“Harm and I noticed this morning that he seemed a bit crankier than we’ve seen him for awhile.”

“Ma’am, it’s worse than when Commander Rabb was gone. I think there’s trouble with him and Dr. Cavanaugh.”

“Why’s that Jen?”

“She tried to call several times and she sounded like she had been crying. He refused every call and really snapped at me when I offered to get her on the line for him.”

“You’re right. It doesn’t sound good. Try not to take it personally, Jen.”

“No Ma’am.”

“Do you want to come over with Mattie, Harm and me? There’s plenty of food left over.”

“Thanks, Ma’am, but I’m enjoying the quiet...don’t get me wrong, I adore spending time with Mattie. She’s a great kid, but it’s nice to have a few minutes alone too.”

“I know what you mean. Take care and call if you want to talk, okay?”

“Thanks, Ma’am...Mac.”

Mac hung up and turned to look at Mattie and Harm as they sat on the couch looking at one of her photo albums.

Harm looked up and she came to join them. “She okay?”

“Yes...It seems things in the admiral’s world are not so good right now and Jen has been on the wrong side of the Admiral’s temper...just for trying to help.”

Harm grimaced. “I know how that feels...”

“Harm, I thought you and the admiral got past things.”

“I think we have. Actually I wasn’t thinking about him.”

Harm and Mac held eye contact as they silently communicated. No words were exchanged, but Mac knew that Harm was talking about how he felt when he had tried to help her in Paraguay and she had not thanked him; in fact she had put him down for everything he tried to do. With sudden clarity Mac realized that the chasm that had developed between them had been mostly her fault and that Harm had just reacted to her. She knew too that Paraguay would not be completely behind them until they had talked about it at least one more time. Tonight they wouldn’t go there, but soon she would make it up to him. Their talks lately were productive and healing. She hoped that this one would be as well.

“So, are we going to watch a movie or play games?” Mac asked changing the subject and drawing Mattie in.

“What movies you got?”

“Sound of Music, Runaway Bride and Code 11-14.”

“I’ve seen Runaway Bride and I’m not sure I’m up for a musical. What’s that Code one?”

Mac read off the label, “A suspense action movie starring David James Elliott, Terry Farrell and Nanci Chambers originally made for television and delayed in airing due to the events of September 11. FBI agent Curt Novak and his family return from a trip to Australia only to encounter a serial killer on their flight. It’s up to Novak to stop him before he kills again. This time it could be his family in danger.”

“Let’s watch that one He’s such a major babe for an older guy. The girls at school even have his picture in their lockers and a couple of the teachers have his picture on their computer wallpaper.” Mattie went on, “Besides, if we don’t want Harm complaining all night about chick flicks and chick chat we better go with the action thriller.”

Mac smiled, “He is easy on the eye. Good choice Mattie. Any complaints Harm?”

“No...no, what ever you want.” Harm rolled his eyes at the reason the two females in his life settled on the thriller movie. Although he didn’t care about the male lead, he recognized the name of one of the female leads and knew he would have his own ‘eye candy’, as the women called it.

They settled in together on the couch, Mattie between Harm and Mac. Toward the end of the movie when the action grew and the suspense reached its height, Mattie held on to Harm and Mac’s hands as tightly as she could. She then hid her face in Harm’s chest as he had draped his arm behind her on the couch.

Harm looked down at her and smiled as he touched Mac’s shoulder with his hand that rested near her on the back of the couch. She looked over at Mattie snuggled into him and glanced toward her hands. Harm looked and smiled when he saw she was holding on to both of them.

“Mattie? You okay?” Harm gently asked.

“Yes....oops sorry,” Mattie realized how hard she was holding their hands as she sat up again looking at Harm and Mac.

“It’s almost over. You going to watch the rest?”

“Yeah...ssshhhh....”

Mac and Harm grinned as they all turned back to the movie. Mattie slipped her hands back into Harm and Mac’s but didn’t grip them tightly this time.

When the movie ended Harm looked down at Mattie. She was leaning against him, her eyes closed. Harm wiggled his fingers against Mac’s shoulder where they had rested throughout the movie. Mac looked over and smiled.

“Someone’s tired by the looks,” Mac said. “Coffee or tea, Harm?”

“Tea would be good.” Harm eased Mattie on to the couch as he carefully stood up to follow Mac into the kitchen.

“Mac,” he whispered once there, “I’m trying to figure out if she is really asleep or trying to give us time alone. What do you think?”

Mac smiled and peeked out at Mattie. “I think she’s trying to give us time alone. Do you mind?”

“No. Do you?”

“It’s kind of cute...reminds me of things that Chloe has done.”

“Yeah, the two of them together could be trouble.”

“You know Harm, I think the thing that amazes me is that sometimes Mattie seems so much older than fifteen and then she’ll do or say something and I realize that she is so much more of a little girl than I was at that age. Don’t let her grow up too fast, Harm. Let her enjoy what little childhood she has left.”

“I’m trying Mac.”

“I know you are. And thanks for sharing her with me.”

Mac handed Harm his tea and they quietly returned to the dining room table.

“Harm, did you want some dessert? I almost forgot about it.”

“No. How about joining us for dinner tomorrow night and bringing it over?” Harm waggled his eyebrows at Mac while giving her his best grin.

“What else is on the menu?” Mac asked returning his smile.

“Boiled potatoes, carrots, onions and ...” Harm paused for effect, “pot roast.”

“You are making a pot roast?”

“Yes. My grandmother’s favorite recipe in fact.”

“Harm, are you actually going to eat it?”

“Yes. Mac, I will eat red meat once in awhile. It’s not my first choice and I don’t think it is healthy to eat it all the time, however, my grandmother made the best pot roast and I never passed it up. Hopefully mine will come out as good.”

“Then I’ll be there.”

“Thanks...Mac?”

“Yeah...”

“I had a great time tonight.”

“Me too, flyboy.”

“So tomorrow night’s a date?”

“Is it?”

“Of sorts...although I think one of these times we should actually go out.”

“That would be nice. What time should I come over?”

“We’ve been trying to eat around 1800, but we’ll be around all afternoon, so come over anytime.” Harm stood up as Mac nodded her understanding.

Together they started talking to Mattie. Harm put his hand on her shoulder and continued speaking softly to her.

“Mattie, come on kiddo. Let’s get you home so you can crawl into your own bed. Mattie?...Come on Mattie.”

Slowly she started to move and blink her eyes open. She sat up quickly and asked, “Movie’s over?”

“Yes...what’s the last thing you remember?”

“They were all sitting in the bottom of the plane and he put the hatch back on...”

“Well you didn’t miss much. I’ll fill you in tomorrow.”

“Did you guys have dessert without me?”

“No. Mac’s coming over for dinner tomorrow night and we’ll have it then.” Harm explained with a smile. “You really fell asleep didn’t you?”

“Yes. I didn’t sleep much last night. I had a report I had to finish so I stayed up late working on it...It’s okay, Harm. I had it done and handed it in when I walked into class.”

“Let’s go, okay?”

“Okay. Harm, can I go start the car? Let it warm up a little?”

“It won’t take long...it’s not as cold tonight anyway.”

“I know but I want to...please?”

Mac stood and watched as Mattie got what she wanted. She already had Harm wrapped around her little finger when it came to the little things. He’d be a pushover if he ever had children of his own.

Harm handed her the keys and she dashed out the door putting her coat on as she went. “Thanks Mac...see you tomorrow.”

“Night, Mattie,” Mac laughed as she watched Harm’s face.

Slowly she approached him, moving into his personal space as she went closer and closer to him. When she was as close as she could get without actually touching him she looked up into his face and whispered, “I was really hoping to kiss the chocolate sauce off your lips after dessert tonight. Guess that has to wait until tomorrow night now, huh?”

Harm gulped. “There might be a bit of cheese left from dinner lingering there?” he offered.

“Nah...rather have sweet, sticky fudge sauce...” Mac licked her lips and closed her eyes.

Harm felt the rush of heat course through him and he swiftly moved to plant a kiss on her lips. When he lifted his head he whispered to a stunned Mac, “I’ll make sure I get fudge sauce in lots of places tomorrow night.” With that he quickly brushed her lips with his again and trotted down the hall to catch up to Mattie whistling “Anchors Aweigh.”

Mac stood in her apartment and burst out laughing. Maybe tomorrow night she’d be whistling the Marine’s Hymn when she left him. Mac wrapped her arms around herself and danced around her apartment. She hadn’t rattled his cage tonight after all, but as long as they were happy she didn’t care. And Mac was as happy as she had been in years...maybe in her life. The fun was back in their relationship.

 

Chapter 4

 

1645 Local
North of Union Station
Harm’s Loft

 

The dinner was cooking and it was a matter of waiting until it was done and they were ready to eat. Mattie and Harm were sitting at the table while they worked on her math homework. Mattie was trying to keep up with advanced math after having missed the first half of the school year. Harm spent time every weekend trying to help her get caught up. He usually helped her most evenings by reviewing her work and going over any that she had wrong. So far it was working and she was keeping up. She had taken her first test Friday and was sure she had passed.

This was the scene Mac found when she arrived that afternoon at Harm’s. She had knocked on the door and heard him call come in. She opened the door and watched as the two sat with their heads bent and books, papers, calculators, pencils, protractors, compasses and rulers spread out before them. Harm intently watched as Mattie worked step by step through the complex problem before her.

Quietly, Mac had hung up her coat, put the dessert items away in the kitchen. That done, she stood behind, but between, Harm and Mattie, watching them work. Eight minutes later, Mattie put the pencil down and looked up at Harm expectantly. He met her gaze and smiled.

“Excellent Mattie That was one of the most complex problems I’ve seen and you did it without any problems on the first try.

“Shows what a good teacher you are Harm,” Mattie smiled and then looked at Mac. “Hi Mac...sorry we were ignoring you.”

“That’s okay. I like watching you two together...even if you were doing math,” Mac smiled.

“Hi Mac...did you remember dessert?”

“Yes. All put away for now.”

“Hey, we should have dessert first so we’ll have room for it ” Mattie suggested.

“No way...I slaved over dinner and it will get eaten before dessert.” Harm announced.

“Oh come on, Harm, “ pleaded Mac. “We could have some now and then more later if we wanted,” she suggested.

“I like that idea, Mac. Come on Harm...we can just eat dinner a little later.” Mattie pleaded.

Mac watched Harm. She knew he would crumble eventually if Mattie played her cards right. Trouble was, Harm had learned a few knew tricks as well. He would not look Mattie in the eye. He shook his head no, stood up and turned so he wasn’t facing them.

Mattie however, tried another tactic. She danced around in front of him and hugged his arm, “Come on Harm...just a little. I worked hard on that math and I finished my reports this week...just a taste. Please?”

“No Mattie...what if Child Services did a spot check and they found us eating dessert before dinner?”

“Harm...they aren’t going to make a spot check on a Saturday afternoon and if they see us eating homemade brownies and smell pot roast cooking with all the veggies and stuff, they are going to see how well you make sure I’m taken care of. And I can show them my homework - and my laundry is done and put away.” Mattie hesitated just a second before she reached up and took Harm’s face between her hands and made him look at her. “Please Harm?”

Harm rolled his eyes and then looked to Mac for support. What he saw, however, was the final straw. Mac had slowly and carefully moved over to the kitchen counter and dipped her finger into the fudge sauce and was sucking and licking it off her finger as Harm looked at her. Heat coursed through him as he watched her tongue wrap itself around her finger and her lips nibble the sauce from her long slender finger. For good measure she ran her tongue over her lips and said, “It really is awfully hard to resist Harm...a little wouldn’t hurt, would it?”

“All right...” Harm capitulated with a groan. He had to find something to do because he knew watching Mac eat her brownie sundae would be more than he could handle after their little exchange the night before. “While you two indulge, I’ve got to run an errand. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Not going to join us?” asked Mac.

“Not this serving...later,” Harm smiled. He needed to get out of here for a few minutes and he had forgotten to pick up a few things at the store, so he decided now would be a good time to get some air and some sparkling juice...and maybe regain control of his hormones.

Mac and Mattie laughed as Harm grabbed his jacket and keys and waved to them. They went ahead and made their little brownie sundaes. They split a brownie and each took just one scoop of ice cream and trickled some sauce on after they heated it up in the microwave.

Together they indulged in the early dessert and Mac told Mattie about how Harm had made his fudge sauce and brought it over for Chloe and her the first time.
“He knew I had been through a lot that day at JAG and he wanted me to join him for take out. I told him I couldn’t because Chloe was coming over for the weekend and besides if I didn’t have Chloe I’d be heading for the chocolate ice cream, fudge brownies and fudge sauce to drown my blues in. Anyway, he told me to have fun and if I needed anything to call. About three hours later he shows up at my door with a big container of still warm fudge sauce he had made and some warm brownies and a half gallon of chocolate and vanilla ice cream.”

“That’s just so Harm...taking care of people he cares about. He just seems to know when to do those kind of things that make you feel special and loved. My Mom was like that.” Mattie smiled and went on. “I told him he was like my Mom on the inside.”

“He get all flustered and brush it off?”

“No, actually he said he thought he’d like my Mom. You’re a lot like her too, Mac.”

“Really? How?”

“Well, if something needs to be done, you do it. You love to do things just for the fun of it...like this dessert before dinner. You show how much you care for people in the smile you give them.”

“You are very perceptive for a kid. You know Mattie, when I was about your age, my mother left my father and me. He drank and he was abusive and she couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t have someone to care for me that knew what I was going through and I grew up fast. I learned to say and do things to protect myself emotionally and physically. I made some bad choices and started following in my father’s footsteps.”

“You drank?”

“Yes...until one night a friend died in an accident and I was badly hurt. My uncle, my mother’s brother, came along and decided I needed a little boot camp. He stayed with me while I sobered up and he helped me to see that I could make better choices. He felt terrible that he hadn’t been aware of what was going on and that things had gotten so bad. I ended up joining the Marine Corps.

It helped me but I never healed or was able to forgive my father until I met Harm. He showed me that there were people other than my uncle I could trust. He made me realize that if I didn’t forgive my father it would be a burden for me my whole life. He was on his death bed when I finally was able to forgive him. I saw my mother again at the same time. I realized that the warm caring person I had always thought she had been turned out to be was my wishful thinking.”

“What happened?”

“I forgave her too. I realized that I could either be what they had each become or I could be what they had started out to be...two loving caring people that made mistakes and couldn’t get past it. I made better choices, I had gotten an education and I had the good fortune to be partnered with Harm.”

“And sometimes he drives you crazy?”

“Yeah, but I do it to him, too.”

“You guys have been through a lot together.”

“He’s my best friend, Mattie...and I did some things that almost ended that...but once again, Harm wouldn’t give up.”

“Do you think you and he will get married some day?”

“Wow, Mattie, you get right at it don’t you?”

“Yeah...how else can I learn and understand what’s going on?”

“I don’t know, Mattie. I’m not sure he feels that way about me. We care about each other and will always be there for each other - if we know we are needed...but as for marriage...I don’t know.”

“But my mother use to say that the best thing about being married to my dad was she got to have her best friend by her side. She would have stood by him if she hadn’t died.” Mattie wiped a tear away and tried to stem the other tears that wanted to follow.

Mac gave her the space to get control as she picked up their dishes and took care of them. Mattie soon joined her.

“We better get the table set and cheer up before Harm gets back. He’ll have a fit if he thinks I’m upset.”

Mac smiled, “I’m sorry if I did upset you.”

“You didn’t...I get teary- eyed sometimes when I think about what could have been...it doesn’t usually last long. So what can we do to bust Harm’s chops when he gets back?” Mattie grinned.

Mac smiled, pleased at the girl’s ability to bounce back. It felt good to know that she could contribute to Mattie’s healing by sharing her own story...and the fun of teasing Harm.

By the time Harm returned from his errands, the table was set but Mac and Mattie were lounging on the couch holding their stomachs groaning.

“Oh no...what did you guys do?”

“I think I made the sundaes too big Harm...my stomach is so full,” groaned Mac.

“Me too...” Mattie groaned as Mac had.

“Alright...do you want something for your stomach aches?”

“No...but my mother use to rub my stomach when I had a stomach ache. Maybe you should rub our stomachs.”

“How much did you two eat?”

“Three servings, “ Mattie groaned.

Harm looked to Mac and caught her hiding a grin. He knew something was up. “Okay, I’ll rub your stomachs in a minute, but I’ve got something in the kitchen that should help...my grandmother swore by it when we over ate.”

Mattie and Mac exchanged glances and Mattie said, “I don’t think I really need anything, Harm.”

“It won’t take a minute...let’s see baking soda and warm water I think it was.”

Mac couldn’t help it. She watched Mattie’s face and burst out laughing. “We’re just teasing Harm. You didn’t really think I’d let Mattie eat that much before dinner - which smells wonderful by the way.”

“Not nice to play tricks you know. Next time if Mattie is really sick I might not believe her now.”

“Harm, I won’t do it again...but you should have seen your face. It was like you didn’t know who to go to at first.”

“Well, you both seemed to be in distress...but Mac gave it away.”

“I did not...”

“Yes, you did...I caught your lip curling up...”

“Watch him Mattie. He’s very observant about things like that...”

“Well, at times I am...but sometimes when I need clues like that the most, I can’t figure them out.” Harm commented as he turned and went to the kitchen to serve dinner.

“Mattie, is Jen around?”

“I don’t think so. Why?”

“I was going to suggest she join us.”

“Actually I think she is baby sitting for Bud and Harriet tonight.” Mac said.

“Really? That’s good that Bud and Harriet are going to go out.”

“You know, we haven’t done much together at JAG lately.”

“True. We’ve all been so busy. No one has had the time to plan anything extra.”

“May be we should plan something - introduce Mattie and make it a family thing.”

“Good idea, Mac. When and where should we do this?”

“I can ask Harriet if she’d like to do it at her place. That way the kids can go to bed if they need to...she has the space and we can all bring something.”

“She’s a genius, Mattie,” Harm smiled at his ward and then asked, “What do you think? You up for meeting the JAG family?”

“The grumpy one going to be there?” Mattie asked.

“Admiral Chegwidden,” Harm explained to Mac. “He and Mattie didn’t exactly hit it off when they met.”

“Oh...He has been a bit grumpy. His coming will probably depend on whether or not he and Meredith get over this bump in the road.” Mac stated.

“What if we did a sliding party or a skating party?” asked Mattie.

“You know, that’s a great idea. There’s a great hill behind Harriet and Bud’s,” Mac enthused

They planned the party while they ate dinner. The date and time would depend on Harriet and Bud’s schedule. Once Mac knew that, she thought she’d see if Chloe could come down for a weekend. Mattie was thrilled with the idea. After dinner and the planning, Mac went out to the kitchen to fix brownie sundaes again. Mattie and Mac each had another small one like they had before dinner. Mac made Harm a full size one.

They sat in the living room - Harm and Mac on the couch and Mattie in the chair. She finished hers first and excused herself saying there was a show on TV that she wanted to watch. She hugged Mac and Harm and planted a kiss on Harm’s cheek.

“Night. I love you guys.”

“Love you too.” Harm answered. Mac watched him as Mattie left and shut the door behind her.

“You are her hero, Harm.”

Harm shrugged it off, “She loves you too.”

“Maybe...she certainly found her way into my heart.”

“I’ll have to ask her how she did it.” Harm’s voice was so soft and low she almost didn’t hear him.

Mac smiled and thought, ‘You don’t have to...you’re already there.’ Instead of saying it she said, “Mattie’s a smart girl.”

Harm smiled at Mac and took another spoonful of his sundae. He licked his lips and though about Mac’s maneuver with the fudge sauce on her finger earlier. “By the way, Marine...that was not nice to tease me like that when you knew I couldn’t do a thing about it.”

“What are you talking about Harm?”

“The fudge sauce on your finger?”

“Oh that...what was wrong with that?”

“Mac...didn’t you do that on purpose?”

“What...this?” And she dipped her finger into the sauce in her bowl and began to suck and lick it off her finger.

“Maaccc...” Harm set his bowl aside and reached for her wrist...pulling her hand to his mouth.

Mac watched as her heart raced while Harm took her finger into her mouth and cleaned the rest of the sweet residue away. His tongue tickled and teased the palm of her hand and when she gasped from the sensation, Harm released her hand and looked into her face. He saw the same passion there that he felt coursing through his own body.

Again he whispered her name, “Mac...”

Somehow she ended up in his arms. Their mouths fused together as their tongues danced and darted, sending the flames of their passion higher.

When they broke apart some time later, Mac was in his lap, his hand on her breast and they were both glassy-eyed with passion.

“Mac, right now I want to take you to my bed and make hot passionate love all night long, but I’m not sure that either of us is ready for that step yet.”

“I know...I want you too, Harm...but we do still have some things to talk about.” Mac pulled away and sat back on her end of the couch.

“Yeah...Paraguay is just laying there waiting for us to forget about it before it bites us.”

“I don’t want that to happen, Harm. I realized the other night that I had not handled things quite the way I would have wanted to and everything got out of focus down there.”

“What do you mean Mac?”

“By the time you got there to save me, I had already decided that I was not a good friend or a smart Marine. I insisted on doing things my way which led to Webb and me being caught and Webb being tortured. He protected me and I had to listen to him scream in pain. I was scared and alone and I wanted you to come charging in to save me. I needed you to hold me and yet after what I said to you before I left your apartment I didn’t think I had that right...that you would only say, ‘I told you so.’ So I made myself mad at you to give myself whatever I was going to need to fight my way out of there. Sort of like what you had done with me when I got stabbed and didn’t think I could go on.”

“That makes sense.”

“Yeah, but then you showed up and instead of taking me in your arms, you cut me loose and got back to business. You did the right thing, but I had convinced myself I was mad at you and I couldn’t let it go. And when I saw how bad off Webb was, I wanted to shut him up so I kissed him good-bye. When I turned around and saw the look on your face, I knew I had hurt you and instead of trying to explain it I let you believe what you wanted to believe.”

“After we crashed...”

“I didn’t take into account that you had hit your head. I just had this driving need to take action - to regain control. I guess my true nature showed through from fear like it does when I drink. I got mean...took it out on the people that meant the most to me.”

“Mac you are not a mean person.”

“No? But you said yourself that I’m a mean drunk and drinking does not change who we are, just allows us to say things we think and feel without filtering it as we would normally.”

“So all those things you said, you really meant...you were telling me what you think and feel but don’t normally say?”

“No ”

“Mac, we’ve been doing better talking things out...but I guess you’ve lost me tonight. Maybe we should wait. What do you think?”

“Let me try one more time, okay?”

Harm nodded his agreement.

“Last night when we were talking about the Admiral taking it out on Coates when she just wanted to help, it suddenly hit me. You were there to help me and yet I lashed out at you. I didn’t want anyone to see how much I was hurting and I knew if I didn’t keep you at a distance that you would see it. I knew we still had work to do and I braced my protective walls by keeping you at a distance. For everything I said, you of course reacted. That in turn fed my ability to hold you at arm’s length.”

“Mac, when you said that you really needed very little, did you really want me to hold you and tell you how worried I had been and how glad that I was to get there in time?”

Mac nodded with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. Her flyboy got it...several months too late to avoid the pain and suffering they had both suffered, but he got it.

“Come here, Mac.”

Mac scooted closer to him and he gathered her in his arms and held her and rocked her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and let her tears fall onto his shoulder. It was a time for the two friends to heal. Harm tried to give her the comfort she had always wanted and he had been to afraid to give or too blind to see. Tears escaped his eyes as well.

Yet that night in his loft apartment Harm and Mac healed the hurt they had inflicted on one another over the years. They held on tight to one another, while their heart beats synchronized and the pain left them.

 

Part 1 Part 2
 
 
   

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