Title: Declaration

Disclaimer: They're not mine.  I'm not making any money.

Warnings: I am Webbie, and I'm intrigued by the chemistry between Mac and Webb.  So be warned:  by the end of this story, we've sailed into Webb/Mac-friendly waters.

*****

Well, it's getting late.  Another year is nearly over.

It's been an odd year.  I'm not quite sure what to make of it.  Of course, I suppose I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to sit here and wax philosophical about these past twelve months in the first place.  Not long ago, I very nearly became a star on the wall of the CIA headquarters. 

And God knows my mother doesn't need to have two people she loves on that wall.

Glancing at the clock, I let out a long breath.  I do a quick inventory of everything I'll need tonight.  The champagne is on ice.  The pasta is tender and ready to serve.  The appropriate CDs are laid out.  It seems that everything is in order for Sarah's arrival.  She should be here in a few minutes.

My relationship with Sarah is perhaps the oddest development of the year.  I've been carrying the proverbial torch for her for some time now, but have always been careful not to let her know.  I probably would never have told her about my feelings if it hadn't been for our near-death experience in Paraguay.  I saw my life slipping away from me, and I didn't want to leave this world with regrets.  So, I spilled out the contents of my heart.

To be honest, I didn't think the relationship would progress once Sarah and I returned home.  I had hoped it would, but I certainly hadn't assumed.  I have no idea where our rapport will lead us now.  Perhaps we will emerge from this time in our lives as close friends.  Perhaps we will become much more.  I'm hoping for the latter.  But whatever happens between us, I'm thankful for the time we've had.

Actually, I've been very lucky with relationships overall.  A decade ago, I had no one in my life but Mother.  That all changed when I found myself working with AJ and his merry band of men for the first time.  I had been the mastermind of ill-fated operation during which the Declaration of Independence was stolen.  By Sarah's uncle, no less. Little did I know all those years ago that I was meeting the people would become the best friends I ever had.  Of course, I don't think I'd ever say that to them.  Rabb and Roberts would probably get all warm and fuzzy on me. 

So much has changed since I first met them.  Roberts is married with two sons now.  He and his wife have had a lot to deal with the past few years.  They lost a daughter, and Roberts lost a leg in the Afghan desert.  He never should have been there in the first place.  People like me are supposed to do the fighting so people like him can live their lives in relative peace.  Of course, he wasn't actually fighting.  He was just trying to help someone.  And still he became a victim of war and weapons.

AJ is about to become an old married man himself.  A few years ago, I never would have believed he and I would be friends.  However, now, AJ is one of the most necessary people in my life.  He understands something about me that Rabb and the others do not.  AJ understands what it means to have the burden of responsibility fall on his shoulders.  He understands what it is to weigh an impossible situation and try to come up with the solution that will save the most lives, even when that solution is unpopular.  In short, AJ understands the reality of my life.

That's something Rabb can't seem to wrap his mind around.  He sees the world in black and white.  He doesn't seem to get that not everyone shares his sense of apple pie morality, and that the bad guys aren't always going to cooperate with us.  I appreciate that about him.  At the same time, however, Rabb's lack of pragmatism makes him a walking headache.  He's like Captain America himself—full of idealism and passion, but living in a world of cynics and battle-worn soldiers.

Of course, my relationship with Rabb is in flux right now.  My growing closeness with Sarah has inflicted a lot of damage to Rabb's and my already stormy friendship. He's always had a tendency to blame me for the problems of the world.  Now, he seems perpetually mad at me.  I hope our bond is strong enough to weather this.

The doorbell jars me back to reality, so I move to the front door and let my guest in.  "Sarah," I smile.  "You look beautiful as usual."

Sarah steps through the doorway and pulls off her coat.  She breaks into a grin. "Flattery at this time of night?  Please continue."

I laugh lightly, wrap my arms around her, kiss her cheek, and then take a step back.  "Mmm.  You smell good."

She takes my arm and guides me over to the couch. "Thank you," she says, sitting down beside me.  "You know, I've been thinking a lot about the changes in our relationship."

I cock my head at her, wondering where this conversation is leading. Perhaps she's already had enough of me, and has chosen to end our relationship.

Placing a small, silver package into my hand, she says, "Here.  This is just a little something I picked up."

I frown at the package.  "What is it?" 

"Clay, it's customary to open the gift to find out what's in it."   

Smiling, I tear open the paper and remove a wooden picture frame. 

"Turn it over," she says.

I turn the frame over, and then start to laugh.  A framed copy of the Declaration of Independence.  Only Sarah would think of this.

"It's supposed to be symbolic," she grins.

Shaking my head, I embrace her.  "Thank you, Sarah.  I was actually just thinking about that first case."

She nods.  "Yeah.  Yeah, I've been thinking about it a lot.  About where that first meeting has brought us."

"Really?"  I say.  I want to ask her what, if any conclusions she's reached about us, but I don't want to pressure her.  That wouldn't be fair.  Besides, God knows I haven't reached any iron-clad pronouncements about our relationship myself.

Taking my hand in hers, she says, "Clay, I know we were both feeling a lot of intense emotions in Paraguay.  And I don't know how much of what you said there was the result of the situation, and how much you meant."

I start to speak, but she presses a finger on my lips.

"Let me finish, Clay," she says.  "I came into this relationship with you not intending to take it any farther than friendship.  But the more I get to know you, to really know you…" She licks her lips.  "The more I get to know you, the more I fall in love you."

Sarah takes her finger away from my lips, but I couldn't speak if I wanted to. 

She gazes at me for a moment, and then says, "Say something."

Still unable to form a coherent thought, I lean forward and place a kiss on her cheek, and then one on her lips. 

Finally, I glance at the clock and realize we've crossed the threshold into another year.  "So," I finally say, my voice unsteady, "I think this is going to be a good year."