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Classification Drama, Romance (H/M)
Length Approximately 16,000 words, 36 pages (8 ½ x 11”)
Spoilers Everything up to mid season 9
Rating CF
Author's Notes In Memory of Greta Johannson
Summary This is a Harm and Mac fable—I don’t really believe in soul mates, but I believe in the magic of finding the right person. This is a story about thick and thin, love without guarantees and dumb luck.

 

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

 

 

Everything seemed to be going her way.

Mac walked out of the courtroom and entered her office with a satisfied sigh. She’d just beaten Sturgis on a big case even though up until the very end it looked like things would go against her client. She felt certain that Petty Officer Montgomery was innocent of the murder charges but she hadn’t been able to prove it. And then when all hope seemed lost, in an act of desperation she’d recalled a witness to the stand—Randolph Cromley—a timid little man who’s testimony kept tugging at the edges of her mind, and when questioned further he had crumbled before her very eyes and admitted to the crime. The last minute ‘pulling the rabbit out of the hat’ was Harm’s modus operandi—not hers, but lately her instincts had taken over and seemed to be guiding her in the right direction no matter what she did.

Since Harm’s return to JAG, her life had taken on a strange dreamlike quality where everyday things seemed a little easier. The grocery line she stood in always moved the fastest, rush hour traffic seemed to dissolve in her wake, parking places miraculously appeared just for her, and she hadn’t had to wait over five minutes for a table in a restaurant in ages. Her eyes sparkled, her teeth seemed whiter and bad hair days were a thing of the past. Strangest of all she’d beaten Harm in court twice in a row, and that in itself was some kind of miracle.

Seeing Harm everyday was both a blessing and a curse. She had finally come to terms with the fact that he didn’t love her, and she had promised herself that she would learn to live with it as long as he didn’t disappear from her life again. She sternly reminded herself of that promise as she sat down behind her desk. But she couldn’t stop caring about him any more than she could stop breathing, and they had at least made some inroads into repairing their friendship since she had helped him in his efforts to get custody of Mattie. He’d had her over for dinner a few times and included her occasionally on outings with Mattie, so for all intents and purposes they were getting along better than they had in months.

She didn’t know how to explain her good fortune in all of the other areas of her life. Maybe the universe felt sorry for her and the stars had aligned to ease her pain.

But she was worried about Harm. If her luck had changed for the better, his seemed to have deserted him almost entirely since he’d been back at JAG. Besides losing more cases than usual, he seemed accident prone, unorganized and downright forgetful. At first she just chalked it up to that fact that he had new priorities, and having Mattie in his life was going to be an adjustment—a welcome one—but an adjustment all the same. As time went by she started to realize that his relationship with Mattie was the only thing that seemed to be going right for him and his work at JAG continued to suffer. He’d been a little testy when she had mentioned it to him so she went back to pretending that nothing was wrong and just worried about how long it would be before the Admiral took notice and called him on the carpet. That was the last thing he needed right now.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Sturgis stuck his head in the door.

“I just wanted to say congratulations again, Colonel. I was totally convinced that Montgomery was guilty.” Sturgis smiled sincerely and moved on into her office.

Harm was right behind him. “It sounds like you did a great job in there, Mac. Not that I’m surprised. You’ve been on a real winning streak lately.” He smiled too and seemed genuinely proud of her.

She smiled back and tried to ignore the way her heart automatically leapt at the sight of him—even if he did look a little disheveled today. There was an ink stain on his normally immaculate shirt collar, his hair seemed to have developed a strange cowlick that was sticking straight up on his head, and he was sporting a big band aid on his chin. Why was it that it only made him better looking? The rumpled look just made her want to touch him—straighten him up a little, and run her fingers through his hair.

She dragged her eyes away from Harm and said modestly, “Thanks guys. I’ve been lucky lately.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Mac. But then again, how lucky do you have to be to beat Sturgis?” Harm winked at Mac while giving Sturgis a hard time. It almost felt like the old days—back before everything had gone to hell. Harm’s return had gone a long way to help heal the rifts around the office, but she didn’t think he really understood how much they needed him around.

The two men sat down in the chairs in front of her desk and Sturgis asked, “So what made you suspect Cromley?”

Mac knit her eyebrows together as she tried to explain. “I didn’t really. I just knew something was wrong with his earlier testimony, but I never expected him to confess. I was as surprised as you were.”

Harm laughed and added, “It sounds like something straight out of Perry Mason.”

“I was thinking it sounded more like something you would pull off, Harm.” Mac thought his ego could use a little inflating about now, but it seemed to have the opposite effect.

“Not recently.” He shook his head and seemed completely baffled by that fact.

“Things will turn around, Harm. You’ll see,” Sturgis said with conviction. “You are just having a run of bad luck.”

Harm snorted and dismissed the idea. “I’m not superstitious, and I think people make their own luck.”

“Well, maybe you should be superstitious, Harm. Don’t forget about that mirror you shot in Paraguay. That’s seven years bad luck right there.” Mac tried teasing him.

“And why were you shooting at a mirror?” Sturgis hadn’t asked many questions about their trip, and they hadn’t volunteered much, either.

“Oh, I wasn’t shooting at the mirror. I was shooting at Mac,” Harm said casually leaning back in his chair and letting his eyes meet hers.

They seemed lost in some silent communication before Sturgis interrupted, “This sounds like a fascinating story, but I’m starving. Why don’t we go grab some lunch, and I can hear all about it?”

“I suppose you expect me to buy since I won the case?” Mac stood up and was about to grab her purse when she noticed a new visitor standing in the doorway.

“Webb.” Harm acknowledged him and though he looked like he wanted to escape, he crossed his arms across his chest and stood rooted by Sturgis’s side.

“Rabb, Commander Turner,” Webb quickly greeted the two men and then ignored them as he barged over to Mac and said, “I need to talk to you, Sarah. Let me take you to lunch.”

“I already have plans, Clay. You should have called.” Mac only felt annoyed by his sudden appearance.

“I know and I’m sorry, but I’m on my way out of town. Please. It’s important.” He pleaded and glanced at the other two men for their support.

“Don’t worry about us, Mac,” Sturgis offered. “We’ll let you buy next time.”

Harm remained impassive refusing to influence her decision.

She didn’t look at Harm when she finally gave in. “Okay, Clay. Let’s go—sorry guys.” She grabbed her purse and her cover and stalked out of the office.

Her irritation had subsided by the time they reached the parking lot. She knew that she wasn’t really mad at Clay. If he’d left town without letting her know that would have bothered her too. That was the problem. She was finding that almost everything he did irritated her because he wasn’t Harm. He wasn’t even a good substitution. She had hoped for a while that she could feel something for Clay. They had developed a bond—a bond born of shared danger, a trust shaped from relying on each other under the direst circumstances, and because he said he cared she wanted to care too. That would have made things simple.

As it was, things remained simple. She loved Harm. She didn’t love Clay, but she owed him more than her irritation. Lunch was a start.

They went to a new tea room that had just opened a few blocks away. It offered dainty sandwiches and a resident crone who when the mood suited her would reveal the future to eager customers by gazing at tea leaves. Clay thought Mac would enjoy the place having experienced visions herself, but Mac wasn’t feeling all that hopeful about the future, so she just wanted to hear what Clay had to say and get back to work.

They were seated immediately even though the place was crowded and ordered chicken salad sandwiches and fruit plates. Mac nibbled on the small sandwich thinking that she was going to be hungry again in an hour. This wasn’t really her idea of a satisfying lunch, but she tried to conjure up a good mood for Clay’s sake.

“So you’re leaving town?” she asked as her eyes drifted around the place. The décor was a blend of gypsy lace and English cottage.

“Yes, I’m afraid I’ll be gone for a few months this time, and I won’t have a chance to contact you very often while I’m gone.” Clay seemed apologetic.

“Well, I understand. I’m just glad you’re well enough to get back out into the field. I know it’s where your heart is.” Mac meant it sincerely. He had nearly died as a result of the torture he’d endured, but the mental damage had been worse in some ways than the physical. He needed to prove to himself that he could still handle the job.

He grabbed her hand across the table and squeezed it. “Thanks for understanding, Sarah.”

She squeezed back and smiled.

They both concentrated on their food, but Mac’s attention was drawn to a little old woman sitting in a booth at the back of the room. She had to be the fortune teller that the place touted. She looked like anyone’s grandmother except for the yellow turban on her head. A black shawl over a teal polyester pant suit completed her outfit, and Mac was a little disappointed. She had seen better costumes at Halloween parties. The woman’s head kept darting around the room, and like a bird spotting something shiny, her eyes would light on Mac with a gleam and stare intently before darting away again. Mac didn’t need to have the gift of visions to know that she was going to be coming over to their table soon.

“Can we leave, Clay? The fortune teller is headed this way, and I’m really not in the mood.” Mac sounded petulant even to her own ears, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“Are you kidding?” He swung around to look at the old woman. “This is terrific. She doesn’t read for just anyone. You have to be chosen.”

“I don’t want to be chosen.” Mac could tell that he was too excited to care.

“It’ll be fun,” he insisted.

Mac sighed and settled back into her seat as the little woman descended on them. The future, it seemed, was at hand.

“I see a handsome man,” the old woman said without preamble.

Clay winked conspiratorially at Mac and preened a little.

The woman ignored Clay, grabbed Mac’s hand and continued in a trance like voice, “The two of you have faced the world together—taken great risks, and laughed in the face of danger.”

“It was nothing,” Clay said modestly.

The yellow turban on her head wobbled as she snapped out of her trance and glared at Clay. “I’m not talking about you, young man. You are going on a long journey, far, far away. Now be quiet so I can concentrate.”

Mac tried to reclaim her hand, but the woman was strong and held on even tighter. Closing her eyes, she started swaying back and forth. “I see great happiness and abiding love—you and this man are meant to be together.”

“That was lovely. Thank you,” Mac smiled and hoped the woman was finished. She’d learned this act herself in Russia. Next she would be telling her that she would have lots of fat babies and then expect to be given a big tip. She was ready to pay her just so she would let go of her hand.

But the woman wasn’t through. “Together you will have lots of fat babi--” Suddenly she stopped swaying and frowned. Sniffing the air as if she smelled something foul, she leaned closer to Mac and said, “Wait a minute. Something’s out of whack. Your aura is too big for you and it’s all baggy—like it doesn’t fit you—.” Her eyes widened and she took a step away from Mac, dropping her hand. “That’s because it’s his, isn’t it? You took it from him, and you didn’t give it back!”

“What are you talking about? I haven’t taken anything from anybody.” Mac said impatiently.

The fortune teller was swaying back and forth again, but this time she was moaning loudly so that other customers in the place stopped eating to watch her. Mac tried to sink down in her seat and looked over at Clay for help, but he just shrugged and grinned like he thought the whole thing was funny.

In a low eerie voice she intoned, “A shattered mirror on a truck reflects your face. Bad luck for him means good luck for you. One half of a whole, you walked away and cast the spell of NEVER, and now he’s lost and out of luck and only you can save him.”

Mac had heard more than enough. “I don’t know what you think you see, but it’s not my fault that he broke that silly mirror—he could have killed me, after all, and I didn’t cast any spell. I gave him his freedom which is what he wanted.” She had worked herself up into quite a state by this point.

“Calm down, Mac.” Clay reached across the table and tried to pat her arm. “Don’t take it so seriously.”

The old woman plopped down in the empty chair by Mac and said in a suddenly matter of fact voice, “Look, dearie, this is how it works. The two of you are undoubtedly soul mates—peas in a pod, two magnets irresistibly drawn together, lovers bound to each other for all time, destined, meant to be—and there is no way to change that. I take it he broke a mirror and obviously what happened is his luck jumped to you—the love of his life—for safe keeping. Normally in such a case you would be by his side to protect him. Instead you abandoned him—threw him to the wolves and left him without any defenses. Now he’s walking around with a dark cloud over his head—a mere shadow of his former self.”

“Is she talking about Harm?” Clay was a little slow picking up on the clues.

“You’re wrong. He doesn’t love me, but he has had terrible luck lately. And I didn’t abandon him. I would do anything to make things better for him.” Mac didn’t want to believe the woman’s nonsense, but all of her worries about Harm had been forced out into the open, and she answered as if the woman knew exactly what she was talking about.

“Are we talking about Harm?” Clay asked again.

They both ignored him. The fortune teller got up from the table and started backing away. “Only you can give him back his luck. Only you can save him.”

“But how?” Mac asked frantically. She stood too and pleaded, “Please wait. You have to help me.”

The woman turned and walked away, never looking back. Mac started to go after her, but stopped and shook her head in disgust. What was she doing? It was ridiculous to give this woman’s words another thought. Since she was already standing up she looked at Clay and said brightly, “Are you ready to go? I better get back to work.”

Clay threw some money down on the table and followed her out the front door. “So does this mean that you do love Rabb?”

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

After lunch with Sturgis, Harm closed himself up in his small office and tried to get caught up on his paperwork. He deliberately made himself think about Mac and Clay, sort of like poking his tongue at a sore tooth, and decided that no matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t be happy for them.

It might be small and petty but he just didn’t care. It felt good to be honest about it.

He yelped as he cut himself on a piece of paper in the file he was flipping through. Stupid paper cut. That was the third one in a week. He sucked on his finger and thought some more about Mac. She looked great lately. So good that he could hardly concentrate when she was around. She lit up every room she walked in to, and the way she smelled! He groaned just thinking about the last time she was leaning over him while they were working on a case together. She had caught him sniffing her, and he had to pretend to be coming down with a cold just so she wouldn’t kill him. She’d always seemed perfect to him, but now, though he didn't know how it was possible, she seemed even more perfect. He wouldn’t allow himself to believe that it was because she was in love with Clayton Webb--that his love had infused her with some magic glow. It was probably just his fevered imagination building her up and lusting after something he could never have. Maybe that was the reason he’d suddenly turned into a clumsy oaf. He spent too much time thinking about Mac instead of thinking about where he was going or what he was doing. He liked the idea of blaming her for his sudden rash of accidents. He was being petty again, and it still felt pretty good.

He was honestly glad to have her friendship back though. Nothing else in his life seemed very stable. Coming back to JAG hadn’t been the cure all he’d been hoping for. He was losing cases left and right—simple cases he would have never lost in the past. He seemed to have lost his magic touch in the courtroom and with every loss his confidence slipped a little more. At least with Mac’s help he did have Mattie in his life now, and that made up for a lot. But Mattie had agreed to start spending time with her father again, and Harm knew that it was important that she forgive him and see if they could salvage some kind of relationship. He also knew that if things with her father worked out she wouldn’t need him as much. It would hurt to lose her, but he would give her up in a minute if it was what she needed to heal the pain she’d lived with since her mother’s death. Mattie’s long term happiness was more important than any hole she might fill in his life.

That brought him right back to Mac and the yawning hole that he’d lived with since Paraguay. Keeping Mac at a friendly distance would be the smart thing to do. He vowed to do that at least until the next time she leaned across his desk to look at something. He took a deep breath and was certain that a hint of her perfume lingered in the air.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Mac tiptoed down the hallway that led to Harm’s office and was disappointed to see that his door was closed. She’d been hoping to catch a glimpse of him while he was working. She knew it was silly, but she thought if she could just watch him unobserved then all of the warnings about spells and bad luck would slip back into the realm of make believe, and she could stop feeling so guilty. When Clay dropped her off after lunch, she’d been afraid of a long drawn out goodbye scene, but he’d only acknowledged what had become clear to both of them in the past few weeks. They would never be more than friends—close friends who had helped each other through a rough time. And that was pretty special. He gave her a friendly kiss on the cheek and said he’d be in touch when he could, but before he left he told her to fix things with Harm. She told him he’d been spending too much time with fortune tellers and waved goodbye until his car was out of sight. Now she found herself with a closed door between her and what she needed most. Since she’d left the restaurant the need to see Harm had been overpowering. It was almost like a need to protect him—but she didn’t know what she could protect him from.

Before she could make the decision to stay or go the door swung open and she found herself face to face with Harm.

“Mac! I thought I heard someone out here.”

“Yeah, I just wanted to say I was sorry about lunch.”

“You got a better offer.” He shrugged and turned around leaving the door open so she could follow him inside. On his way around his desk he kicked the trash can over knocking papers everywhere.

She grinned as he muttered a few choice words under his breath and then crouched down beside him as he crawled around on his hands and knees picking up trash. “Oh yes, a very intriguing offer,” she said as she gathered up some of the scattered sheets.

“If this is about Clay, don’t bore me with the details.” He started picking up paper and cramming it back into the wastebasket at a furious pace.

“It has nothing to do with Clay.” She spotted a wadded up paper ball that had rolled under the desk and reached for it at the same time he did. Gasping at the unexpected wave of desire that coursed through her body when his hand touched hers, she turned to find him just inches away. His eyes were close enough to drown in and his mouth was close enough to kiss. She leaned toward him and sighed, “But you could get lucky.”

Her words whispered across his cheek and tickled his ear. “I could?” he asked huskily. He didn’t want to move. He didn’t want her to move. He wanted to stay underneath his desk with her and let the rest of the world pass them by.

He wanted to grab her and run his hands up and down her body. He wanted kiss her until she whimpered and begged him to kiss her some more. But instead he remembered where they were and who they were and came to his senses. Backing away, he banged his head on the edge of the desk but finally managed to clumsily get to his feet. He held out a hand to help her up, and she allowed him to pull her off the floor, too. Her hand felt like it belonged in his, and he held on to it for a little longer then necessary before dropping it and putting some space between them.

He cleared his throat and hurried to sit down behind his desk. She sat across from him and was openly staring at him as if she was seeing for the very first time.

“So, what’s this about an offer?” he asked brusquely.

Mac continued to watch him and then suddenly her eyes widened with an idea as she blurted out the words, “Feng Shui.”

“I beg your pardon?” Harm was unnerved by the way she was acting, and now she was babbling nonsense. Maybe he’d banged his head too hard on the desk.

“I should Feng Shui your office!” she declared triumphantly. She looked around at the small cramped space that he’d been banished to and rubbed her hands together in anticipation. He was still staring at her blankly so she explained further. “To get rid of your bad luck.” She smiled triumphantly and settled back in her chair.

He rubbed the back of his head and said indignantly, “I told you I don’t believe in bad luck, and I certainly don’t believe it has anything to do with my office.”

She seemed all excited about her sudden brainstorm. “We can rearrange the furniture, bring in a water element and what ever else it is you’re supposed to do to help the positive flow of energy.”

“Mac.” His flat tone made it abundantly clear that he was not impressed. “Since when have you been into that sort of thing?”

“I’ve just read about it in a few magazines, but it couldn’t hurt. Why not give it a try?” She seemed overly anxious for him to agree.

“Good grief. I lose a few cases, and everyone blows everything all out of proportion. You act like I’ve been cursed or something.”

She visibly paled at his words. “Or something,” she muttered under her breath.

“I appreciate the sudden concern for my welfare, Mac, but it’s not necessary. You don’t need to worry about me or my office. Why don’t you go Feng Shui something of Webb’s? I’m sure he would love it.”

“Clay’s gone, and why are you being so unreasonable?” She was getting huffy now.

“Unreasonable? Me? I am sitting here minding my own business when you come barging in here wanting to rearrange my-my-my energy,” he sputtered, getting a little indignant himself. He thought this was the strangest conversation they’d ever had.

“I was just trying to help,” she said looking misunderstood and put upon.

He softened a little as he looked at her pouty lips. Then she batted her eyes at him, and he blinked in return. How very un-Mac like of her. She never resorted to feminine wiles when they argued. It was utterly distracting, but he summoned up his resolve and said firmly, “I don’t need your help, Mac, and if that’s all, I have work to do.” He dismissed her by opening the file in front of him.

“Fine,” she said as she stood up and stalked to the door. “But don’t say I didn’t try.” And with a flounce of her hair she was gone leaving him aroused, bewildered and all alone in his office.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Mac stomped off down the hall and hurried to hide in her office. After that disastrous encounter with Harm, she needed time to regroup. She should have known not to go charging in to see him without a plan, but a plan for what? It wasn’t as if she was convinced that the fortune teller was right, but some part of her couldn’t just ignore the woman’s words either. What if it was true and she could help Harm? What if she was the only one who could help him? If that was the case she had to try. She owed him her life, and she couldn’t stand by while his fell apart.

On the other hand he said everyone was blowing everything out of proportion and maybe they were. This called for a little recon. She would secretly follow him for the next few days and carefully observe his every move. By this weekend she would have gathered enough evidence to decide on what course of action, if any, she needed to take.

Her ‘Harm’ radar drew her attention to the bullpen, and she looked up in time to see him heading toward the break room. He was saying something to someone across the way and never saw Harriet coming around the corner carrying two cups of coffee until it was too late. Mac winced as they collided and the coffee spilled all down the front of him. Harriet scrambled around apologizing like crazy, while Harm tried to reassure her that it wasn’t her fault.

Sighing, Mac grabbed a box of Kleenex from her desk and went out to help with the clean up. Harm tried to wave her off when she came at him with a tissue, but she ignored him and started blotting his coffee soaked jacket. Looking at him smugly she said, “The next time somebody offers to Feng Shui you, I guess you won’t be so quick to turn them down.”

He rolled his eyes, but otherwise stood docilely while she and Harriet fussed over him.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

In the next few days unbeknownst to him, Mac followed him around constantly. She was good. She was sneaky. And Harm had the worst luck of anyone she’d ever seen. She watched from a few cars back as a black cat ran in front of his Lexus causing him to swerve suddenly and crash into some trash cans. She ran stealthily behind him as he did his morning jog, only to watch him stumble and fall when a couple of squirrels chased each other into his path. When he stopped to get gas the pay at the pump feature was out of order. The ATM machine ate his credit card, the dry cleaners lost his uniforms and his barber cut an unfortunate hunk out of his hair. And that was just outside the office.

Now she was trying to discreetly follow him around the grocery store while he did his shopping. The store was crowded and the only cart available had been one of those with the one wobbly wheel that wouldn’t steer straight and it made an annoying thunk-thunk noise as he pushed it along. It made keeping track of him easier, and so far nothing unusual had happened. She was getting a little perturbed by all the women who seemed to think he needed help with his shopping though. Women of all ages, sizes and descriptions would engage him in conversation if he stopped anywhere close to them, helping him read labels, recommending one brand over another. It was amazing, but the produce section was the worst. Mac wanted to punch the blonde who made a point of leaning across Harm as she tried to reach a honeydew melon. She kept brushing up against him and giggling. He smiled back and offered to help her decide if her melons were ripe. It was disgusting and Mac was about to leave so she wouldn’t have to watch anymore when disaster struck. He was paying too much attention to Blondie’s melons and not enough attention to what he was grabbing when he distractedly picked up an apple from the pile beside him. It started an avalanche, and soon apples were rolling everywhere. Women magically appeared from all parts of the store to help him. They swarmed around him like so many Eve’s tempting him with apples, but offering him much more. Adam never had it so good.

Hunkered down on the pickles, relishes, and assorted condiment aisle she watched as he laughed and flirted, and suddenly she lost all heart to continue the mission. Harm didn’t need her to bring him luck. There would never be a shortage of women willing to take care of him if he needed it. She straightened up and was almost out the door when his voice stopped her.

“Where are you going, Mac?”

She turned and tried to act surprised to see him. “Oh hello, Harm.”

“You’ve been following me for two days now. Don’t you think it’s time you told me what’s going on?” He moved closer and crossed his arms across his chest in that stubborn way he had.

“I don’t know what you mean.” She was going to try to bluff her way out of this, but the gleam in his eye told her he wasn’t going to drop it.

“Let me make you dinner, and we can talk,” His voice was soft and coaxing, but his eyes still held a bit of challenge as they met hers.

“I am hungry,” she conceded as she gave in to the inevitable.

“Good.” He retrieved his cart, and she joined him in the check out line. “So,” he finally asked, “Give me a hint. What’s this all about?”

She didn’t know how to explain any of it in a way that would make sense to him. He was going to laugh and say she was crazy, and she was almost ready to agree with him. But that old woman’s words haunted her night and day.

‘Only you can save him.’

Her jealousy had almost caused her to walk away a few minutes ago, but then Harm had stopped her. Maybe that was the fates way of reminding her that she was his only chance. Summoning all her courage she took a deep breath and plunged ahead. “You know that thing I said about there never being an ‘us’? There’s just one problem.”

Something in his expression tightened, and his eyes glittered as he asked, “Only one?”

“Can we table this until we get to your place?” Her voice sounded brittle and her eyes pleaded with him to drop it.

“Sure—sure,” he answered quickly. The last thing he wanted was to scare her away, but before the night was over he was determined to get some answers to a few questions.

They finished checking out, and then she followed him out to his car. As he finished putting the bags in the back of his Lexus he turned to her and said, “I’ll follow you this time.”

She smiled nervously and with a quick nod walked across the parking lot and got into her car. He pulled out onto the road right behind her but soon lost sight of her Corvette as he managed to catch every red light on the way to his apartment. He didn’t mind. It gave him time to think about how strange Mac had been acting the past few days. She hovered over him while they were at the office and tried to secretly follow him around the rest of the time. Even though he didn’t know why she was doing it, part of him was enjoying the fact that he had her attention.

He started to confront her the very first day when he spotted her lurking behind a potted palm in the lobby of his bank, and then again when she hid herself behind a newspaper, a floppy hat, and a pair of sunglasses a few tables away from him while he was eating lunch, but something stopped him,. He couldn’t imagine why she was spying on him, but it felt oddly comforting to have her close by, so he decided to play along until she was ready to tell him what was going on. But then tonight when he saw her leaving the grocery store he bolted after her without thinking. She surprised him by accepting his invitation for dinner so easily. That worried him more than anything else. She was too compliant, and she didn’t even seem upset that he’d known she’d been tailing him. That would usually have gotten some kind of rise from her, but tonight she hadn’t reacted at all.

The fact that she brought up Paraguay scared him to death, especially the part about ‘us’. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to rehash that all over again. They had just regained some semblance of friendship, and a discussion like that was bound to blow up in their faces again. Then again they’d never really had that discussion so maybe it was past due.

He almost wished Mattie wasn’t spending the weekend with her father, because her presence would have kept things from getting too personal. On the other hand he’d known that this was inevitable from the moment he’d agreed to return to JAG and work with Mac again. He didn’t want to keep making the same mistakes with her he’d made in the past, so the only thing he knew for sure was that he was going to listen to what she had to say with an open mind and an open heart.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Mac, you are completely out of your mind.”

“I know it sounds crazy, Harm, but I am starting to believe it’s true.” She’d blurted out a rambling story about Clay and fortune tellers at lunch and bad luck, and now she was pacing around his apartment while he fixed dinner.

He just stared at her incredulously. “You honestly believe that you’ve stolen my good luck.”

“Well, I wouldn’t use the word ‘stolen’.” She moved to sit on a stool at the bar and fiddled with the salt shaker on the counter in front of her.

“What word would you use?” He stirred the pasta that was boiling on the stove, and then reached over and grabbed the salt away from her spilling some in the process.

“Accidentally acquired?” She gathered the spilled salt into a little pile as she watched him season the pasta.

“That’s two words,” he informed her sarcastically.

“Harm, that’s not the point. The point is that I am responsible for all the bad things that have been happening to you, and so it’s up to me to fix it.” She picked up some spilled salt with her fingertips and held it out to him until he took it.

Without being told he threw the grains of salt over his shoulder and then scoffed, “And you got all of this from a fortune teller.”

“She knew that you’d broken a mirror. She said my aura was big and baggy and didn’t fit me because it was yours not mine. How do you explain all of that?”

Harm put down his spoon and sighed. “Explain what, Mac? Do you hear yourself? I think you are feeling guilty about what happened in Paraguay, and it’s manifesting itself in this crazy need to fix things for me.”

Her eyes narrowed, and he was almost certain that he’d said the wrong thing. “And just what exactly should I be feeling guilty about?” Her voice was soft and tight and it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

Something inside him cracked open and the words were out before he had a chance to take them under advisement. “You should feel guilty for kissing Webb and not me.”

“I should feel guilty for kissing Webb?” She stood up from the barstool.

He nodded and added, “Even Gunny got a hug.”

“You mean I shouldn’t feel guilty that you gave up your career, and risked your life to find me? I shouldn’t feel guilty that the Admiral wouldn’t take you back?” Her voice was getting louder with every question. “I shouldn’t feel guilty about you going to work for the CIA, or getting fired from that job, too, or the fact that you ended up being a crop duster? Those are the things I’m responsible for—” She walked around the island and was practically yelling in his face. He turned to face her and she asked quieter now, “But I should feel guilty about kissing Webb?”

“And not me,” he repeated. All at once she was in his arms kissing him with a frenzy that had him stumbling back against the sink. He wrapped his arms around her and planted himself so that he could absorb her assault and then answered her kiss for kiss. They went at each other with a vengeance that told of pain and loneliness and need. They tried to settle old scores and invent new ones. And when they finally retreated behind gentleness they felt raw and wounded by what they’d revealed to each other.

When she pulled out of his arms he let her go. Emotions were arcing around the room, swirling in her eyes, teeming in the pit of his stomach, and touching her was too much for him to endure at that moment. He watched as she retreated to the far side of the room to gaze out the window.

And he wondered about the cost of following her.

But in the end he couldn’t stay away, so he walked up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. She leaned back into him and said hesitantly, “Well, that didn’t solve much.” She seemed embarrassed.

“Was it supposed to?” he asked. He turned her around to face him and said raggedly, “You’re not responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world.”

“Just my little messed up corner of it,” she murmured mockingly.

“Let it go, Mac. You’ve moved on with Clay. I have my job back at JAG and new responsibilities with Mattie. I’m going to be just fine.”

She laughed and said breezily, “Clay’s gone on a journey far, far away. He’s moved on, too. So, it seems everyone has moved on with their lives except me. I’m stuck, Harm. I’m stuck right where we left off in Paraguay and that damned fortune teller only told me what I already knew. I screwed up your life, and I can’t fix it. Maybe this is all just misplaced guilt, but I can’t stop feeling responsible just because you tell me to.”

She looked miserable, and he didn’t know how much of that was about Clay and how much was about him. He just knew that he needed to comfort her. Without a word, he wrapped her in his arms and rocked her back and forth, wondering what he was going to do about this woman. The hissing, spitting sound of boiling water broke through his reverie and he yelped and rushed across the room when he realized he’d forgotten to set the timer for the pasta. It was a big soggy overcooked mess, and he dumped the whole thing down the disposal, and then turned to Mac and said with a sigh, “Dinner’s ruined. I suppose that’s more proof of your bad luck theory?”

Mac looked like she was going to cry but waved a hand at the sink and said bravely, “It doesn’t matter, Harm. We can just order pizza.”

Harm studied her for a minute before grabbing her hand and starting for the door. “I’ve got a better idea.”

She allowed him to drag her along and asked, “You want to eat out?”

“No.” He pushed the button for the elevator, and chucked her under the chin. “I think it’s time I had my fortune told.”

 

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