Title:Hard Landings and the Art of Alligator Wrestling (1/?) Author: manette Rating:PG-13 Spoilers:Everything that has happened through AMLC Summary:A Harm and Mac shipper story-of course.

Hard Landings and the Art of Alligator Wrestling

(Guideline number one: Engaging the creature in its own habitat while introducing the element of surprise is a useful technique.)

Mac's Apartment Seven O'clock-New Year's Eve

"Are you ready?" Harm pushed his way into Mac's apartment and turned to admire her dress. "You look beautiful."

"Ready for what?" His appearance at her door caught her completely off guard.

"It's New Year's Eve. We have a date." His grin was self assured, and he was enjoying her confusion.

"No we don't." Mac closed her front door and turned to face him.

"Sure we do." He bounced on his heels and stuck a bouquet of irises under her chin.

Mac pushed the flowers away from her face and repeated. "We don't have a date, and you know it."

"I better put these in water." Harm walked off into the kitchen while Mac trailed behind him.

"What are you doing here, Harm? Is this your idea of a joke?"

"It's not a joke. We have a date, Mac." He rummaged around under the sink until he found a clear glass vase. He filled it with water and stuck the bouquet into it. She blocked his path but he managed to squeeze past her as he carried the flowers back out into the living room. After he put the arrangement on the coffee table he turned to face her once more. The cocky grin was still in place. "I can't believe you forgot."

She crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot impatiently. "Okay. I'll play along. When exactly did we make this date?"

"Remember last year? We were supposed to go out on New Year's Eve." He started moving toward her with a predatory look in his eye.

"I remember." She stood her ground, not backing away as he closed the space between them.

"I was going to feed you chili and cornbread at Wilco's. Then I was going to take you dancing at Monty's and when midnight rolled around I was going to kiss your socks off." He leaned down so that his lips were only inches from hers. She leaned toward him as his deep voice wove a magical spell around her heart, but his next words jolted her back to reality.

"And then you stood me up at the last minute." He sounded indignant.

"Harm, I didn't stand you up. I got sent out of town on an investigation." She moved away from him needing to escape the pull she always felt toward him.

"Whatever-but you promised me a rain check to make up for it." His eyes danced as he realized she wasn't really unaffected by his closeness.

"Oh, I made good on that promise. You took me out to Wilco's when I got back." She seemed flustered and waved a hand dismissing the whole thing.

"That doesn't count." He advanced on her once more and she took a step backwards.

"And we went dancing with Sturgis and Bobbie at Monty's in February." She stuck her chin out as if that settled the matter.

"That doesn't count either." His eyes flirted shamelessly and he moved so close that she had to look up to see him.

"Why not?" Her voice had a breathless quality that could be blamed on the way his hands were running up and down her arms.

"I didn't get a kiss either time."

She arched an eyebrow and asked, "Whose fault was that?"

"You are a formidable woman, Ms. MacKenzie. I can't just go around trying to kiss you unless it is built into the proceedings-you know-like mistletoe at Christmas or midnight on New Year's Eve." He was enjoying himself at her expense and she decided to make an aggressive move.

"Well, we could throw caution to the wind, and I could kiss you now. Then we could call the whole thing even." She smiled invitingly and pulled him toward her.

"Now you're talking." He bent his head with every intention of taking her up on her offer but stopped a breath away from her mouth. "Wait a minute. We're not calling anything even." He pushed her away and looked at her accusingly. "You owe me a date and I am here to collect." He reached into the breast pocket of his suit, pulled out a little day planner and opened it to the month of December. Like a lawyer presenting irrefutable evidence he pointed to the thirty-first and waved it under her nose. "See-date with Mac-it's written in ink and it even has a heart around it. I have been looking forward to this all year long."

"You could have written that an hour ago, and you are so full of bullsh-"

He cut her off before she could finish and tried to look pathetic. "Come on, Mac. Have mercy on a poor lonely guy."

"And why would you just assume that I didn't already have plans?" She ignored his puppy dog eyes and resumed her defensive stance. Her arms went back across her chest and her foot took up its tapping.

"Oh, I assumed you had plans, but I decided to show up anyway. Where is Clay, by the way?" Puppy dog eyes were quickly replaced with a little macho posturing.

She ignored his question and asked incredulously, "So you expected Clay to be here, and you were still just going to barge in here big as life?"

"I believe I have the prior claim." Harm straightened to his full height and said stubbornly, "We had a deal, Mac-same time, next year-I believe those were your very words. And you never did tell me-where is Mr. Webb?"

"Not that it is any of your business, but he is out of town." She picked some imaginary lint off of her skirt and tried to act casual.

"That is a shame." He tried to look sorry, but didn't succeed. "Did I mention how beautiful you look?"

She blushed as his eyes swept over her body, but her tone was brusque as she said, "Save the flattery, Commander. It's not going to get you anywhere." She herded him toward the door and said, "I know it's hard to believe but I am not totally dependent on you or Webb for my social life, so you need to leave now so I can finish getting ready."

"Oh come on, Mac. You aren't really going to kick me out are you?"

"I'm sorry, Harm, but I have plans that can't be changed." She softened a bit more and added, "Maybe I could have a rain check for the rain check?"

"That could be arranged. And maybe I'll just take that kiss now as partial payment." He reached out and pulled her to him, searching her eyes for permission. He saw confusion and longing and then finally surrender. Her hands traveled up his arms and made their way around his neck. His hands went to her waist before his fingers fanned out across her back. His head dipped toward hers and he closed his eyes breathing in her exotic perfume. He could almost taste her lips. He could almost feel her mouth under his- and then just like in a bad dream the moment was shattered by the ringing of the doorbell.

Mac jerked away from him seemingly as startled as he was by the interruption. She looked out the peep hole and then flung the door open impatiently.

"Are you ready, Mac?" Clayton Webb pushed his way into her apartment and turned to admire her dress. "You look beautiful."

"What are you doing here, Clay? I thought you were out of town." Mac didn't seem happy to see him.

Harm moved to stand beside her and crossed his arms as he waited for the other man to answer.

Noticing Harm's presence for the first time, Webb's face clouded up as he said, "I've got a better question. What the hell are you doing here, Rabb?"

To Be Continued.