by ScoobieD

ADVANCE \d 4Summary: Harm makes a bet with Mac that he just can't lose.

ADVANCE \d 4Disclaimer: How about a serious one this time? I don't own the characters or the premise. They belong to Bellasarius Productions, Paramount and CBS. There is no intent on my part to profit by this exercise.

ADVANCE \d 4Feedback of any sort is always welcome at

ADVANCE \d 4______________________________________________________________________________

ADVANCE \d 4"Interested in making a little wager on that, Major?" Harm asked teasingly.

ADVANCE \d 4Mac considered his offer. They were talking about Harm's imminent request to Admiral Chegwidden for tomorrow afternoon off. The Admiral had been in an ugly mood of late, and Mac felt Harm's chances were slim. Still, she wouldn't commit until she had some details. "What did you have in mind?"

ADVANCE \d 4"Well, if the Admiral turns me down, I'll treat you to dinner at the restaurant of your choosing."

ADVANCE \d 4So far so good. "And if he approves your request?"

ADVANCE \d 4"If he approves my request, then you write my appeal brief in the Foster case. It's due Monday."

ADVANCE \d 4Mac weighed his offer. She knew enough about the Foster case so that writing the brief wouldn't be that difficult. She was pretty sure the Admiral would never go for it. And dinner in a nice restaurant with Harm paying sounded kind of nice. "All right," she agreed. "You're on."

ADVANCE \d 4He extended his hand, and they shook solemnly.

ADVANCE \d 4Harm stood up. "So I guess you won't be wishing me luck then?"

ADVANCE \d 4"Not a chance. Let me know what he says. I'll be thinking about where I want to go for dinner," she said with a playful grin.

ADVANCE \d 4He simply smiled at her smugness and left her office.

ADVANCE \d 4Mac opened the file topmost on her messy desk and began perusing it, hoping to remember what it was doing here. She almost had it when she was interrupted moments later by Harriet Sims.

ADVANCE \d 4"Excuse me, ma'am."

ADVANCE \d 4"What can I do for you, Harriet?"

ADVANCE \d 4"Have you seen the Commander?" Harriet asked.

ADVANCE \d 4"He's in with the Admiral. I expect to see him shortly, though. Can I give him a message?"

ADVANCE \d 4"If you don't mind, ma'am, you could tell him I've arranged transportation for him tomorrow afternoon."

ADVANCE \d 4Bells began ringing in Mac's head. "Tomorrow afternoon? Where's Harm going tomorrow afternoon?"

ADVANCE \d 4"He's interviewing Admiral Nason at Quantico."

ADVANCE \d 4"Oh, he is, is he?" Now the wheels were turning, too. What was he up to? He'd made a bet with her that he could convince the Admiral to let him have the afternoon off when he was already planning to be out of the office on business. Why would he do that? What could possibly be his motivation?

ADVANCE \d 4Harriet was watching her curiously. "Is something wrong, ma'am?"

ADVANCE \d 4"What? No! On second thought, Harriet, please discuss this directly with Harm." If she was going to figure this out, she needed to play along.

ADVANCE \d 4Harriet looked confused. "All right, ma'am," she said. "I'll do that."

ADVANCE \d 4"Thanks, Harriet," Mac said, smiling confidently to prove to Harriet that she hadn't lost her mind.

ADVANCE \d 4Minutes after Harriet left, Harm returned.

ADVANCE \d 4"Well?" Mac asked.

ADVANCE \d 4"Let's just say you won't be seeing me here tomorrow afternoon," he said.

ADVANCE \d 4Very clever, Mac thought. He hadn't outright lied. "So you convinced him, huh?" she asked. "What's your secret?"

ADVANCE \d 4Harm shrugged noncommitally. "The Foster file is at my place. When do you want to start on it?"

ADVANCE \d 4Mac pretended to pout about losing the bet. "Can't you bring it in here?"

ADVANCE \d 4"There's boxes of the stuff, Mac. It'd be easier if you worked on it at my place."

ADVANCE \d 4Mac eyed him critically, seriously considering telling him she was on to him. But she'd never know what was going on if she did that. "Friday night?"

ADVANCE \d 4"Will that give you enough time?"

ADVANCE \d 4"The issues aren't that complex. A couple of days should be plenty of time to draft, revise and finalize."

ADVANCE \d 4"All right," he said. "Friday night."

ADVANCE \d 4After Harm left, Mac sat thinking. What was he up to? He'd set her up to lose this "bet". Was his only motivation to get out of writing a brief? If that was the case, why didn't he just get one of the lieutenants to do it for him? Was this some elaborate scheme to spend time with her without having to come out and admit that's what he wanted? She had to admit that possibility pleased her, and she actually began to look forward to this weekend. It would take hours to write this brief, hours spent just her and Harm in his apartment. Sighing with pleasurable anticipation of the weekend, she went back to work.

ADVANCE \d 4______________________________________________________________________________

ADVANCE \d 4Friday night finally arrived. Mac appeared at Harm's door, legal pads and laptop computer in hand. "Hi."

ADVANCE \d 4"You look awfully cheerful for someone who lost a bet," he noted.

ADVANCE \d 4"The deed is done," Mac said with a smile. "No point in being miserable about it."

ADVANCE \d 4"Come on in," Harm invited. "Make yourself at home."

ADVANCE \d 4Mac noticed for the first time that Harm was wearing his coat. "You cold?"

ADVANCE \d 4"No. I'm going out. There's mineral water in the fridge. You know where the coffee is, right?"

ADVANCE \d 4"Yeah," Mac said, trying to hide her surprise, disappointment and embarrassment. "Yeah. I'll be fine."

ADVANCE \d 4"All right. I'll be back later." He left, smiling at her obvious discomfort.

ADVANCE \d 4"Boy, am I an idiot!" Mac muttered to herself. She hadn't felt this stupid in a long time. How could she have thought Harm had any motive but getting her to do his work? Had he ever given her any reason to think that he wanted to spend his personal time with her? No, she answered her own question, he hadn't. He had seemed to be very aware of what she'd been thinking when he'd left, and if the smirk on his face was any indication, he was enjoying himself immensely. Her shame knew no bounds.

ADVANCE \d 4Well, one thing was certain. She wasn't staying here now. She'd go through this stuff quickly, figure out what she needed, and take it home. She briefly entertained the idea of making him write his own damn brief, but if she did that, she'd have to explain why she was welshing on the bet. Then she'd have to explain why she'd gone through with it even knowing she'd been set up. She wasn't willing to go down that road. She'd write the brief and somehow find the strength to face Harm again on Monday.

ADVANCE \d 4Mac went through the boxes of stuff on and around Harm's desk. As quickly as she could, she identified the material she'd need. When she had it narrowed down to one box of stuff, she put her coat back on and threw her computer on top of the box. She picked up the box and went to the door. Holding the box against the wall, she opened the door. She almost dropped everything when she saw Harm standing there.

ADVANCE \d 4"Done already, Major?" he asked with a lift of his eyebrows.

ADVANCE \d 4"Uh . . . no. I was just going home."

ADVANCE \d 4Harm smiled. Flight. About what he'd expected. "Did you think I wouldn't feed you?" he held up a paper bag.

ADVANCE \d 4"You didn't say, and I . . . um . . . well . . ." she stopped, flustered.

ADVANCE \d 4"Can I come in?" he asked. She was blocking the door with the box.

ADVANCE \d 4"Oh, yes. Of course." She moved aside to let him pass, then followed him to the kitchen.

ADVANCE \d 4Harm put the bag on the counter, then turned and took the box she was carrying from her. Because she seemed rather helpless and lost, he then helped her off with her coat.

ADVANCE \d 4"What is this?" she asked when she finally found her voice.

ADVANCE \d 4"Chinese," he said, ignoring the bigger question.

ADVANCE \d 4He busied himself taking cartons out of the bag and setting the table. She watched him, dumbfounded. Once again, he'd managed to confound her perceptions.

ADVANCE \d 4They sat across from each other eating. Mac had gotten her groove back, and they talked amiably until the food disappeared.

ADVANCE \d 4"Guess I'd better get to work now," Mac said, wiping her mouth with a napkin.

ADVANCE \d 4"You didn't actually think I'd let you write this brief, did you?"

ADVANCE \d 4"A bet's a bet," Mac said. "You won fair and square."

ADVANCE \d 4Harm had the grace to look sheepish, but he made no confession. He couldn't risk blowing this yet.

ADVANCE \d 4"You make coffee," Mac said when it became obvious he wasn't going to come clean. "I'll get started."

ADVANCE \d 4Harm watched her return to the box, debating with himself whether he should tell her the truth. He finally decided silence was best, at least for now.

ADVANCE \d 4While Harm made coffee and cleaned up the kitchen, Mac outlined her position and began work on the introduction to the brief. She was working intently and didn't hear Harm come up behind her. He'd read what she'd written before she knew he was there.

ADVANCE \d 4"You left an "a" off of judicata," he told her.

ADVANCE \d 4She jumped slightly at the sound of his voice, then fixed the typo. "That's why we have spell check, now isn't it?"

ADVANCE \d 4"That's good. Nice introduction," he offered.

ADVANCE \d 4She was acutely aware of his presence just behind her. In fact, he was close enough to be touching her chair. "You gonna stand there the whole night?" she asked.

ADVANCE \d 4"Unless I get a better offer," he joked.

ADVANCE \d 4She was glad he couldn't see her face and the flush that spread over her cheeks. "Well, you're making me nervous, so go wait for a better offer somewhere else."

ADVANCE \d 4Harm chuckled and walked away. Mac worked diligently at the computer. When the coffee was ready, Harm brought her a cup. She didn't seem to notice, so he touched her hand, then pointed to the cup. She smiled her thanks and returned to her work, but it was a while before her hand stopped tingling where he'd touched her.

ADVANCE \d 4Harm watched her nimble fingers fly over the keys. He shivered when he imagined what those fingers would feel like dancing up his back and down his . . . He abandoned that train of thought and tried to find something more productive to do.

ADVANCE \d 4Hours had gone by before Mac finished the legal argument section of the brief. Her butt hurt from sitting for so long, and her neck and shoulders were stiff from sitting hunched over the books. She closed the book she was working on and rolled her head from side to side to loosen up the muscles. She felt rather than heard Harm walk up behind her. He began gently to knead her shoulders and neck. She thought maybe she should protest, but it felt too good. The electricity coursing from his fingers into her body went all the way to her toes.

ADVANCE \d 4"Oh, that feels really nice," she groaned, closing her eyes and leaning back.

ADVANCE \d 4Harm continued his ministrations until Mac was so relaxed she felt as though she might fall asleep.

ADVANCE \d 4"Let's see what you've got," he said.

ADVANCE \d 4It was a moment before Mac realized he meant the brief.

ADVANCE \d 4Harm went down on one knee beside her and began to read what she'd written. He appeared to be absorbed in his reading, but in truth, he was tuned in to the vibes of the woman sitting so close to him he could feel her breathing.

ADVANCE \d 4For Mac's part, she was having a problem figuring out what to do with her eyes. They wanted to stray to Harm's face and drink him in while he wasn't looking at her, but she didn't dare. What if she caught her staring?

ADVANCE \d 4"That's a good point," he said, pointing at a spot on the computer screen. "I hadn't thought of that."

ADVANCE \d 4Now she couldn't help it. She looked at him. He looked so deeply into her eyes she was sure he must be able to see the soles of her feet. Neither seemed able to speak as they stared and stared forever.

ADVANCE \d 4Tentatively, Harm took his hand from the computer screen and touched her cheek. She leaned into his touch, increasing the contact and closing her eyes. She opened them to find Harm moving closer to her. He stopped when their lips were almost touching.

ADVANCE \d 4"Mac, I . . ."

ADVANCE \d 4She stopped him by placing her lips gently on his. The kiss was hesitant and brief. When it was over, they parted slightly, searching each other's eyes for signs of encouragement or rejection.

ADVANCE \d 4"Harm," she whispered and "Sarah," he breathed.

ADVANCE \d 4Their lips met again, this time in a bruising, hungry kiss which lasted for eighteen seconds (Mac counted). Their arms went around each other and they clung together desperately. Harm pulled her out of the chair and brought her to her knees beside him.

ADVANCE \d 4When they broke apart to breathe, Harm said, "I'm sorry."

ADVANCE \d 4"For what?" Mac asked, kissing her way down his neck.

ADVANCE \d 4Harm pushed her away from him. "I have a confession to make. I didn't take the afternoon off Tuesday. I went out to Quantico."

ADVANCE \d 4Mac admired his courage for confessing at this crucial moment. "You set me up? You tricked me?" she asked.

ADVANCE \d 4He dropped his eyes. "Yes."

ADVANCE \d 4Mac couldn't hold the laughter in any longer, and it bubbled out. Harm looked up in surprise. "I have a confession of my own to make," she said. "I knew."

ADVANCE \d 4"You knew?"

ADVANCE \d 4"Yeah. Harriet told me."

ADVANCE \d 4"And you went along with it. Why?"

ADVANCE \d 4"I've always wanted to get into your briefs," she said, moving in to kiss him again. She pulled him sideways until they lay on the floor, side by side, letting the fire burning inside them merge and ignite the volcano.