Disclaimer: I don't own JAG. If I did, Harm would spend all year in dress whites.
I look around at the bunks in the enlisted berthing area, but there's no movement and no noise save the soft snoring of Petty Officer Richards in the bunk across from mine. Harm's probably sleeping, but that's too bad for him. We need to have that talk, regardless of what he thinks, and I'm going to catch him now before we get off this deathtrap of a submarine and he has a chance to run further away than 200 feet. Wrapping my hands around the edge of his bunk, I swing myself up through the curtain and onto the mattress.
I can see instantly that he wasn't exaggerating; my poor flyboy really is too tall for this bunk. His knees are tucked halfway up to his chest, and I knock into them accidentally as I'm catching my balance. He jerks awake and I cover his mouth with my hand, nearly falling on top of him. All I need is for him to cry out, and then we'll be busted and we'll never have our chat. I take a moment to appreciate how nice it is to be this close to him without the two of us arguing, and then I remove my hand.
"Harm, be quiet." This entire conversation needs to be kept to a whisper; one more reason I wanted to hold it here. We can't degenerate to yelling at each other like five-year-olds, like we did last week in the middle of JAG Ops, without waking the whole berthing compartment. Neither of us is stupid or foolish enough to want to be caught in this position.
He nods, pressing a finger to his lips, and raises both eyebrows at me in that cute 'who, me?' look that I know so well. I'm not falling for it this time, though. We've got too much ground to cover. The two of us barely fit, so in the interest of space conservation I toss one leg over both of his and rest my head next to his on his pillow, snuggling up to his warm, muscular frame. Our faces are only inches apart, and it would be so easy to lean over and just...no. Talk. Now.
"Harm, I know you've been avoiding me and it's going to stop. I'm going to say my piece right now, and if you interrupt me before I'm done I'll gag you. When I'm done I'll let you talk, as best you can," I reach out to touch his throat, running my fingers over his bruises lightly, "and none of what gets said leaves this bunk. Fair?"
He nods again, and the look on his face is somewhere between amusement and apprehension.
"We've been having problems, and it's not just because our period of playing nice is up. There's a real issue here, and we need to deal with it or split up."
His eyes grow wide at that statement, but I'm dead serious.
"If we can't work this out before we get back to JAG Ops, I'm putting in for a transfer for JAG Pacific."
I clap my hand over his mouth, but forgive the interruption and his inattention to volume because he looks so panicked. Truth be told, I wasn't expecting such violent opposition. For all that he pushes me away 24/7, he sure seems to care an awful lot about whether I stay or go.
"Harm, the real problem between us is that you don't trust me. You crack jokes and say things to offend me so that I won't get too close to you, and when you have something to go on you don't share it with me. You could have been killed going to face down Hodge on your own. It was a damn stupid stunt and I don't think I've ever been so angry with you in all the time I've known you. When I sat down today and thought about it, I realized that it's just the latest in a line of stupid stunts you've pulled to keep me out of the loop. I don't know if it's because you don't think I'm capable or you just don't like working with me, but either way it's dangerous for both of us. Your stunt with Hodge could have gotten me killed because I didn't know he was the one who attacked you, and if I hadn't gotten there when I did he would have slit your throat. I'll take a transfer before I'll get the both of us killed over our respective egos."
I take a deep breath; my shoulders feel about twenty pounds lighter now that this is off of them, and Harm looks like I've just hit him with a two-by-four.
"So talk, flyboy. Your turn. Tell me why exactly you can't play nice with me, and we'll decide if it can be fixed or if that transfer request goes through tomorrow."
He's still gaping at me like I've told him I'm considering a transfer to Mars or the Air Force, but he recovers enough to reach out and pull my hand off his mouth, clenching it in his and resting our joined hands on his chest. I'm about to tell him that I need that hand returned to me in the same shape it was in when he grabbed it, and then he opens his mouth and says something unexpected.
"Don't leave me, Mac."
Weird. I thought he'd be helping me fill out the paperwork
for my transfer. Maybe he'll cooperate after all.
"I'm leaving unless we can figure out a plan where you and I can work together, Harm. You have to tell me why you don't trust me."
He rolls over onto his back, which is impressive considering our close quarters, and stares fixedly at the ceiling. Or bulkhead, or whatever you call the roof on a sub.
"This doesn't leave the bunk?"
Hmm. It's a secret, is it, flyboy? "No, it stays right here. Scout's honor."
He lets out a huge sigh, his gaze still on one of the rivets above his head.
"I don't want anything to happen to you."
"What?" I echo my thought out loud unconsciously, and he bites his bottom lip. Lord, he's cute when he does that.
"Mac, I've..." He trails off, and I swear he's blushing in the dim light. "I've kind of got a crush on you."
I can't breathe. I feel like he's just knocked the wind out of me. He's got what? His blush deepens, and now he's practically glowing red in the almost-dark of our little bunk.
"It's kind of a big crush, actually," he admits, and suddenly every part of me that's touching him is tingling. If I didn't know better, I'd say my entire left side was just exposed to a low-voltage shock.
"That's why I didn't bring you with me to confront Hodge. I didn't want you to get hurt. I knew if you came along you'd be right in the action; it might have been you he hit instead of me."
I think I've almost assimilated what he just told me, and I respond with the first thing that comes to mind.
"Why didn't you just tell me to stay out of the way, instead?"
If he keeps making that face, it'll freeze like that.
"Geez, Mac, I don't know." He gives me Harm smile #6 before he returns his gaze to the ceiling, and I feel the tug at my heartstrings that is my response to that particular number. It makes him look like a scared little kid, and all I want to do is hug him. "I didn't think you'd listen to me. You've made your feelings about dress whites and gold wings very clear. If I told you to stay back, you would have jumped right in just to prove me wrong."
He has a point. "Which brings us back to the trust issue, Harm. If I'd known all along why you were doing these things, I wouldn't have been so eager to prove to you that I'm capable. You do think I'm capable, right?"
He looks surprised that I'm asking. Good; I was right. He does think I can do my job. He's just been acting like an idiot because he likes me. He likes me. Oh boy.
"Of course I do. I would have told you to your face if I didn't think you were."
"Like you admit all your other feelings to my face?"
He makes a noise that could be classified as rude, closing his eyes and squeezing my hand.
"I didn't want you to break my heart," he admits, and my own heart skips a beat. What am I supposed to say to that?
"I'd never break your heart. You mean too much to me." That's the closest I'm going to come to admitting how I feel. Until he declares his undying love, anyway. I might never break his heart, but he's broken a few in his time and I don't want to be one of them. I'll settle for letting him know I'm open to the idea of becoming more than friends.
He reaches his free hand over to stroke my hair, still staring upwards, and I lean automatically into his touch. I love it when this man touches me. I bump into him in the hallway and reach for the same files at the same time he does just so that I can touch him and call it an accident. I wonder now if he's ever done the same thing.
"When I finally found you in that room and you weren't breathing –" His voice hitches and it takes a moment before he can complete his sentence. "I can't remember the last time I was so scared. That's why I didn't tell you I was going after Hodge. I didn't want him to get you."
"But he got me anyway, Harm, and if we'd been together he wouldn't have been able to take us both by surprise."
He sighs again, and my hand rises and falls with his chest. All this time, I thought he didn't trust me, maybe didn't even like me, and he was doing it so that I wouldn't get hurt? This man is wonderful. Frustrating, absolutely, but wonderful. And he likes me. That hasn't really sunk in yet.
"I know it. I didn't say I was acting rationally. That's why I've been such a jerk, too; making those jokes, saying those things. I didn't want you to get too close to me. You might have figured me out." He finally tilts his head back toward mine, and he's wearing Harm smile #3: his cute, bashful, I-was-wrong-will-you-forgive-me smile. I feel the corners of my own lips curl up in response, giving him the little grin I reserve for when he's done something dumb, like annoy the admiral or trip over my briefcase.
"I'm a Marine," I remind him. "I can take care of myself. I can take care of you, too, if it comes down to it."
"I promise I'll stop being such a jerk. I'll share everything with you from now on, and I'll keep my feelings to myself. Just please don't leave. You're the best partner I've ever had."
Such praise; at this rate, my smile is going to be permanent.
"I'll stay," I promise. "But only if you start treating me like an equal."
I scoot my head a little closer to his on the pillow, and I can feel him start to breathe faster.
"Yeah?" His voice is strained, and I don't think it's just his bruised larynx.
"Why didn't you ever ask me out, if you've got this huge crush on me?"
"I thought you'd break my nose." Oh, it's definitely not the larynx. I reach up with the hand he's not holding, tapping his nose lightly with my index finger.
"I think your nose is safe for now," I reply, and then my lips are on his. Just briefly, but it's enough to send a thrill through me, and when I pull away he's sucking wind like he's just run the Boston marathon.
He clears his throat. "When we get off this tub, you want to go catch a movie or something?"
"Why, Commander," I reply, smirking. "Are you asking me out?"
He grins back. This is the Harm smile I live for: #1, the famous 'flyboy' grin.
"I have it on good authority you won't break my nose for asking."
He's so sexy. "It's a date."
We merely look at each other for a long moment, and then I reach out to trace the contours of his face with my free hand. The little spirit of mischief that I usually keep tucked away is begging to be let out to play, and just this once I decide to indulge it.
"So, how long have you had this crush on me, huh?"
"You're never going to drop this, are you?"
"Nope." Duh. I run my fingers over the little scar on his cheek. I wonder how he got that; it was before my time.
That's not really a satisfactory answer, but it's not the question I really wanted answered anyway.
"Ever have any...fantasies about me?"
I hear him swallow in the near-darkness, and I'm hard-pressed to restrain a smirk. He has, or he wouldn't look so guilty. My mischievous side does a victory dance.
"Red light, Major," he replies.
"You can red light the major all you want," I tell him, tilting my head up to nip his earlobe lightly, "but Sarah doesn't pay attention to traffic signals."
He shivers and I grin; he's so much fun to tease.
"I've got a bit of a fantasy myself," I admit, and I can feel the temperature in his bunk jump at least ten degrees.
"Oh?" His voice is taut with excitement.
"Oh, yeah," I reply, shifting my position carefully to straddle him without whacking my head on the ceiling. This is harder than it looks, but I pull it off and catch Harm's gaze, his face mere inches from mine again.
"I'm a big fan of enclosed spaces," I whisper, moving my head down to nuzzle his neck. "Full-on contact. Sharing body heat." If he generates any more body heat than he is right now, they're going to have to turn the overhead sprinklers on.
"This is pretty enclosed," he replies in his hoarse whisper, and I wonder for the first time how his throat is holding up. "We've got a fair amount of...contact." His hands slide down to rest on the small of my back, and he runs his fingers back and forth across the little patch of skin that peeks out between the hem of my Corps-issue tank top and my boxer shorts. "And I'd say it's plenty warm in here."
Time to shut this down before we're both locked up for conduct unbecoming, which we will be if we get caught going at it in enlisted berthing.
"A little too warm," I tell him, sliding off of him and patting his arm in a friendly manner before reaching over to grasp the side of the bunk. "I think I'm going to go cool off."
I'm not expecting his next move, which is to pull me back down on top of him. He's caught me in my own trap. I can't make any noise, because then we'll be found out. He pins me to him, powerful arms holding me tight, and it's all I can do to keep breathing as he captures my mouth in a long, passionate kiss. When he pulls back, I blink stupidly at him. I didn't know he had it in him; way to go, flyboy.
"Something to remember me by while you're cooling off," he murmurs, and I'm tempted to wipe smile #8 off his face: the smug, cocky, look-at-me-I'm-so-great smirk. Instead, I give him a kiss to rival the one he's just given me, letting my hands roam under his shirt, up his well-muscled abs and across his broad chest, then grab the rail and slip out of his bunk in one smooth motion.
"Sweet dreams, flyboy," I offer over my shoulder, and he gives me a little groan of anguish before flopping back down onto his mattress. I glance around at the other bunks, but the compartment is silent. I leave in search of a cold shower, and when I return I look into his bunk to find him asleep, my favorite flyboy grin dancing across his lips.
"Sweet dreams," I repeat, knowing he can't hear me, and duck into my own bunk. I hope he has good dreams. I know I will.