Title: When First We Practice

Author: Soleil

Spoilers: Let's be on the safe side and say absolutely everything is fair game...

Author's Notes: Okay, so this story comes from a comment Kip made about handling Catherine Bell's pregnancy. He said that the audience would feel cheated if they had suddenly announced that Harm and Mac had secretly gotten married... See where I'm going?

Title comes from Sir Walter Scott: "Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive."

She rested her head against the hand holding the telephone receiver. He wasn't coming home again tonight. The excuses were the same: he had to work late; it was more convenient to stay in the city rather than fight the traffic. The words were empty, carrying no more weight than the air it took to expel them. It was almost as if she could hear the words he wasn't saying. Wouldn't say, regardless of how bad things were between them. 'I don't trust you. I can't look at you.' She heard them anyway. She heard them because they danced around her head when she looked at him.

They spent most their time away from each other. Taking cases and assignments that required long hours and longer distances. Around the house, contact was limited to accidental brushes and deliberately asexual touches. It was just a matter of time before one of them cracked under the weight of the air in the house.

It was just a matter of four minutes from when she hung up the phone before she realized that she couldn't live like this, whatever this was. She had phone calls to make and a suitcase to pack. And then, hopefully, with lots of luck and persuading, she was leaving home.

A summer breeze picked at the corner of the note. Lifting the paper until there was enough space to work its way under the square. The breeze pushed at until the note swayed gently to the floor. The white contrasted sharply with the dark grain of the wood. Content in its spot, safe from the breeze, the note would rest there for another three days before he returned home and read it.

He would read it three times before the black ink formed words that made sense to him. He wouldn't crumple it or even tear it up. But he'd throw it out before pouring himself a glass of water. He would tell himself that he knew the day was coming, that maybe he was a little relieved, but none of that would be true. It would still be a shock and disappointment and it would still hurt like hell.