Tidal By Slippin' Mickeys red_phile@yahoo.com

Category: Harm/Mac

Setting: Season Eight, technically. But I make few allusions.

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Chicago was the impetus. Love jump-started by wind.

Note: This is my very first foray into JAG fanfiction. This is chapter one in a story that I haven't seen the ending of. I'm relatively new to the JAG fandom, and I do hope to stay a while. As this is currently a work in progress, changes could occur at any time. If you like what you read, please let me know! If you don't like what you read, please let me know. But be kind. This fandom is new and I don't know anybody. ;)

CHAPTER ONE

When the moon circles the Earth, it pulls with it the ocean.

She used to lay in bed and think about it-how the world can be your compass. Moss growing on one side of a tree, the North Star, sunsets on the horizon. And even if you can't see it, you know the moon is above you when the tide is high.

She felt that with him. When he was near, her blood would sing, rising to meet him whenever he passed. Standing in the doorway of her office, she can feel him even now, her skin prickling and flushing on the high tide of love.

_____________________________________________________

"You know, you could save yourself a step if you just poured the sugar packets directly into your mouth."

Mac tapped the stirring straw on the edge of her coffee mug and ignored him.

"You're here early," she said, looking up from her desk to greet him.

He had his cover tucked under one arm a large manila envelope in his other hand. He scratched his chin with its corner absently.

"Didn't want to miss a cuppa from the first pot. If you get here after eight, the coffee's already weak."

"Better not let Tiner here you say that," she said, blowing across the surface of her mug, "he's trying to market his blend."

"The Law School Special Espresso?" Harm asked, sidling up to her desk.

"I don't have the heart to tell him it's been around for years."

"Still not strong enough," he said.

She took a demure sip and looked at him through her lashes. "And I almost don't have the heart to tell you that I'm still making it."

"Huh," Harm said, narrowing his eyes at her, "then I guess I just like it when *you* make it."

He dropped the envelope on her desk and backed out of her office, flashing teeth.

_____________________________________________________

She was the reason he kept a digital clock in his office and a bottle of sparkling cider in his fridge.

She was five feet ten of haughty self assurance, and not only could she pull off jarhead green, but she could make it look good.

He couldn't count how many languages she'd sworn at him in, but he could remember the shape her lips took every time she did.

She was the reason he'd learned how to cook triple meat-cheese lasagna, and she was also the reason he breathed.

_____________________________________________________

For two people whose first week spent in each other's company involved being held at gunpoint, eluding federal agents and a hostage situation, they were surprisingly normal. What's more, they were healthy, employed, had all of their teeth and most of their integrity.

Granted, they had enough issues to start their own magazine, but there was something to be said for the fortitude it took to be as well-adjusted as they were.

It was probably that fortitude that kept them from getting involved, and also why everyone else assumed they eventually would.

____________________________________________________

They were a half an hour into what Mac referred to as the Mile High Trivia Hour.

"The first flight attendants were actually registered nurses," he said, shifting in his seat and giving her a sideways look. They both knew he could do better.

"Betsy Ross was a born with a full set of teeth," she countered, letting it go.

"Michigan has more lighthouses than any state in the Union."

"There are 115 ridges around the edge of a quarter."

"Most American cars honk in the key of 'F'."

"You win," she said, conceding. Her attention usually waned when he got on the subject of planes or cars, and she wanted to head him off at the pass.

He smiled victoriously and watched as the sun's last rays panned across her face.

Their plane was turning south for its final approach into Chicago, and she turned to the window to watch as the ground rose slowly to meet them.

"Do you think they'll recover the body?" She asked after a moment, turning to him.

His countenance turned grim. "At this time of year?" He asked for the sake of it and then shook his head.

She nodded silently and then unfolded his long pea coat from around herself, handing it carefully back to him. He took it without a word and pulled his leg from the aisle so the flight attendant could get through.

Civilian commercial flight was old hat for them and they knew how each other worked. She was always cold on planes, and he never fit in them. He always let her borrow his coat when the weather necessitated his bringing it, and he didn't push as hard for an exit row when it didn't.

"I hate these," she returned, and he didn't answer. She knew he hated them, too.

An investigation into the purported death of a seaman taking part in a rescue exercise in Lake Michigan conducted dually with the US Coast Guard awaited them upon landing. The fact that the Coast Guard was involved made the situation sticky, so the admiral had sent them to aide in the investigation.

The little boy in the seat in front them stood up in his chair and stared at Harm over the back of the seat as his mother was fiddling to stow her purse for landing. A three-year-old look of impressed awe met him, the boy immediately taken with the uniform. When he shifted his gaze to Mac, he gave a squeak of fright and ducked down, just as his mother turned to berate him.

Oddly embarrassed and a little hurt, Mac stole a glance at Harm who looked at his fingernails, pretending not to notice.

_____________________________________________________

The brittle November wind whipped at them as they walked out the automatic door just this side of baggage claim. Mac considered the names Chicago went by; the Second City, the Third Coast, wondering how many they'd gone through before they'd found one that was apt.

He looked so heroic in his uniform, with his coat billowing out behind him and his cover tilted into the wind. She tried to picture a little boy lost, fatherless and alone in a world that wasn't as sympathetic to servicemen and their families. She felt a pang of something between pity and pride and stepped off the curb to follow him. If heroes were made in such ways, then perhaps the world didn't need them.

_____________________________________________________

For once, the investigation was going well.

They were at a small Italian restaurant off of Navy Pier, huddled together at a small table in the corner, leaning toward each other, quiet and familiar.

"I just think it's ironic and unfortunate," Mac was saying, "that a man was lost during the very exercise that would be sent to save him."

"Irony is rife with misfortune, Mac," Harm said, "otherwise they'd call it something else."

Mac rolled her eyes and Harm took a different tack. He liked playing the devil's advocate with her, and she was getting hip to his tactics.

"The Navy needs to-"

She cut him off.

"Don't start," she said, not without humor, spearing an asparagus from his plate.

He shot her a smile, knowing he'd been caught.

The laugh lines around his eyes were gradually reaching out toward his temples which were barely but visibly now flecked with gray. She felt a pang of affection toward him- her loping hero, tall and tragic, wizened and incomplete. He struck chords in her that rang resonant and deep and she desperately wanted to reach across the table and smooth his cowlick.

His long legs touched hers under the table and she reached for her water instead.

_____________________________________________________

Some people made fun of the fact that the United States Navy kept a port on the Great Lakes, but Harm wasn't one of them.

The waves hitting the piles of the pier were big and choppy, and the sky overhead dark gray and ominous. He was reminded of a nasty fall day in his first year out of the Academy, attending a funeral of a former classmate in Detroit at the Maritime Sailors Cathedral. Ian Douglas had been lost during a rescue exercise, his death's circumstances eerily similar to those of the death they were now investigating. The church's bell rang that day-would chime once for every man lost on the Lakes-and it would chime again when their investigation was complete and Petty Officer Albert Williams death made official.

He looked down at Mac beside him and remembered when he'd been lost at sea himself, how his first thought had been of her. The cold from that day touched him through the many layers of his warm, dry uniform and he paused to collect himself.

Mac sensed his delay and turned to him.

"Harm?" She asked, checking herself mid-step. "You okay?"

His eyes flashed to her unadorned left hand, carrying their bag of Italian left-overs.

"Yeah," he said, catching up to her, "I'm good."

____________________________________________________

A flare of energy always passed through him whenever he saw her out of uniform, testing his galvanic skin response. He wondered sometimes if Clayton Webb and his spy satellites could pick up on it.

Their investigation had been wrapped up in four days, and they weren't scheduled to head back to Washington until tomorrow afternoon.

She was standing outside waiting for him, leaning against a railing facing the other direction.

When she turned to him, he started.

"When did you start smoking?" He asked, incredulous.

The smoke from her cigarette drifted up from her hand, white and thick in the cold. A gust of wind came in and took it suddenly. The end of the cigarette glowed red.

"I didn't," she said to him, ignoring the look on his face and taking a snappy drag. His face wore an expression of jaundiced shock as a yellow streetlamp came on above them. "I was talking with a lieutenant out here while I was waiting for you. He offered me one."

"And you took it?"

"I was cold." She took another hit and looked at him through the smoke, daring him to have a problem with it.

He surprised her by reaching across and taking the cigarette from her fingers. He raised his eyebrows at her, before raising it to his own lips, waiting for her okay.

She nodded at him and he took a deep drag, holding her eyes with his own as he blew the smoke out between them.

She wondered how his lips would taste now, smoky and bitter like ash.

He dropped the burning cigarette to the pavement and ground it out with his foot.

"Let's go," he said, twisting his foot on the ashes and walking away.

She licked her lips and followed, smacking the taste of smoke against her tongue. She already knew from experience, he would taste like nothing but sin.

_____________________________________________________

They were going to have a baby together.

She remembered this as they walked and realized that they only had a year to go before D day. Her stomach flopped and then fell in her gut when she remembered the small child on the plane. Between the two of them, the only good parenting example they had was Harm's mother, and she tried not to sweat the genes.

She could see a little boy with her feathered wit and his rapscallion smile. He would probably be born breech-misbehaving from the womb.

A year. Less, really.

She hadn't had sex in a really long time.

____________________________________________________

"You ever visited Chicago before, Mac?" He asked her as they walked down the platform from the El.

"Sure I have, Harm."

"No, I know you've been here, but I mean have you *visited*."

"Can't say as I've ever had the pleasure," she said derisively.

"Then you gotta see this."

He took her to a rooftop on the main building of the Naval Training Center. The door screeched as he turned the handle and he had to shove it twice with his hip just to get it open. They took a step through, each scattering stones.

He took her elbow delicately and led her to the other side.

Lake Michigan spread out before them, navy blue and endless, whitecaps snapping up from it as the wind blew in.

"It's beautiful up here," Mac said, "though probably nicer in the summer." She leaned into him affably, not meaning any offense.

"I like it now," he said looking out over the churning water, "it seems more. dangerous."

Mac didn't say anything, but she could see how. He was like a magnet to jeopardy.

He reached a hand out after a moment and pointed northeast over the water.

"Two hundred," he said.

"What?"

"There are over two hundred planes that went down out there," he said, "during training missions in World War II."

"It's a hell of a profession you went after," she said, picturing him climbing down out of a fighter.

"Yeah," he said, flirting his eyebrows at her, ".dangerous."

Mac wondered if maybe she wasn't more like him than she thought. After all, he was drawn to danger, and she was drawn to him.

____________________________________________________

She was riding horses.

There was a herd thundering all around her and the horse she was riding, jet-black and steely, was accelerating through a field at night, going ever faster. The moon's light was bright, shining down on them and pushing shadows all around.

She galloped to the front of the herd and they splashed through a river, coming to an abrupt halt on the shore. Harm stood there, wearing a Marine drill sergeant uniform.

"I thought I heard you coming," he said, and then disappeared through the trees behind him.

When Mac looked down, she was sitting in the driver's seat of a Humvee. She looked to her passenger seat and Harm was sitting there, this time in khakis, a white polo shirt and a leather bomber jacket.

"How did I get here?" She asked him.

He looked at her like she was stupid. "You came pushing sixteen horses," he said.

Mac came awake slowly, the low thread count sheets scratching her cheek. She blew out a breath and rolled over. A bizarre dream, no doubt, and Harm had been in it. She was a little disappointed-she'd had better where he was concerned.

A knock came on her door and she rolled out of bed and walked to it in her t-shirt and Navy shorts (that somewhere along the way she'd stolen from him), not bothering to put on a robe.

"Morning," Harm said as she opened the door, "I brought you breakfast."

He offered a paper bag from Starbuck's and she just caught him running his eyes over her bare legs as she turned back into the room.

"Thanks, Harm," she said, setting the bag carefully down on the table next to the door. She then pointed at one of the two chairs pushed up against it. He was still standing in the open doorway.

"Come in and have a seat," she continued on into the bathroom. "I've got to brush my teeth."

When she emerged, he was sitting at the table, his long spindly legs sticking out into her room like sprawling branches from a timbered tree.

She threw on a corp. sweatshirt and sat down across from him, crinkling the bag open and pulling out an oversize blueberry muffin.

"My favorite," she said.

"I know," he returned, finally meeting her eyes.

She took a big bite and sighed blissfully.

"I had a dream about you last night," she said with her mouth full.

"Yellow light, Colonel," he said softly, trying to hold back a smile. She pelted him in the head with the crumpled up pastry bag. "What was I doing? In your dream, I mean."

"Waiting for me, I think," she answered.

He folded his hands in his lap and studied them, sobered.

"Is that where we are now?" He asked quietly, pressing his lips together and flitting his eyes to hers.

She swallowed the muffin hard, wishing she had some water. It was doughy and heavy going down.

She opened and closed her mouth several times before she finally spoke, leaning forward on her elbows. "Don't start a conversation you aren't prepared to finish," she said.

He looked at her a minute with his head bent, a curious expression on his face.

"Mac," he said, seriously, "This conversation. I've been waiting for you."

She leaned back, looking at him. She was fairly certain any time she'd brought it up, he pushed back, drop and chaff, you're shoes are untied-walking away.

"In my own way. And you've been waiting for me," he continued, leaning forward so that his pant cuffs drifted up his shins, revealing black socks and the dark skin of his shin. "And we've never been in the same place at one time."

"Are we there now?" She asked him, crumbling off bits of muffin but not eating them.

"I'm there," he said, reaching across tentatively to run a fingertip over her arm on the table, "Are you?"

The skin of her arm shivered under him, and she resisted the urge to pull it back.

They were good at arguing. Seeing the polar opposite sides of things, and she automatically wanted to prosecute, defend, tangle with him. They rarely played for the same team, yet they were partners.

Funny how that worked.

He pulled his arm back and leaned back in the chair, considering her muliebral features. Wide eyes and dark hair, she reminded him of rich cocoa. He licked his lips.

"Our flight's at three," he said, "what time is it right now?"

"Three minutes to eight," she said, not moving.

"Tell you what," he said, standing. "I'll be back here in 35 minutes. Wear shoes you can walk in."

He paused as he passed by her, heading for the door. He reached down and linked their pinkies together, squeezing. The door shut behind him with a resonant snick.

___________________________________________________

They walked along the deserted beach in silence, stepping around jetsam and driftwood, the sand cold and firm beneath them.

"You asked me once if I would have left Renee for you," he finally says.

She remembers.

"You never answered," she said lightly.

"I did answer."

That stopped her. The sand depressed as she twisted slowly to face him.

"I would have," he said, looking right into her eyes, "left her, I mean. But you walked away."

"It seems one of us is always walking away," she said, her hands in her pockets.

He shifted his shoulders up, hiking his jacket higher around his neck. The breeze had died down from the day before, but coming off of the lake it was bitingly cold. Harm could see her breath.

"We usually have somewhere to go," he answered her, quirking a smile with the side of his mouth.

"Is that why you brought me out here?" Mac asked, "To make sure I couldn't go anywhere?"

He laughed. "Something like that," he said.

They had driven outside of the city, north. There was nothing here but sand and water and smokestacks in the distance.

They held eyes for a moment and then turned slowly to face the water. Their arms touched but their hands stayed ensconced in fabric.

"Why now?" Mac asked him.

"I guess." He blew out a breath of steam, watching it dissipate into nothing.

The waves lapped at the shore several yards in front of them. Harm's eyes were drawn toward a piece of flotsam rolling in the soft wake just to the right of them. He held up a finger to Mac, intending to answer her question. He trotted down to the water's edge and retrieved it without much effort.

It was an old glass coke bottle, thick and greenish glass, corked at the top. There was a rolled up note inside and drips of condensation. A message in a bottle.

He walked back up to where Mac was standing, holding it in front of him considering it.

"I guess it's a little like this," he said, handing it to her. She took it gingerly, a precious herald that wasn't meant for her. She cocked her head to the side, waiting for him to continue.

"If this were floating in the ocean," he went on, touching a fingertip to the cork, "it would be pulled by the waves and the tide. Currents and jet streams and all of the other forces that move the oceans as they do. But these waves," he turned and looked toward the lake, "they're not affected by the moon. The lake doesn't have currents or tides. The wind is the only factor affecting their movement. Here, if there's no wind, there are no waves. This bottle would stay in one place, floating lonesome until a gale came along to push it."

Mac nodded at him, trying to pull together the analogy.

He took a breath and turned to her. "I've been floating lonesome, myself," he said, "I guess I just needed the wind at my back."

Mac would like Chicago for the rest of her days. The Windy City blustered fierce, but it blew love into her life.

END CHAPTER ONE