Disclaimer: I don't own JAG. If I did? NakedJAG on HBO. Oh, yeah. You want a spinoff? Forget NCIS. This would be pure gold.
A/N: I found this story while I was cleaning out my fanfic files. It's schmoopy and pointless, but it's finished, which is more than I can say for most of my work. Enjoy!
I run my fingers through my hair, nervous despite my repeated claims that I don't care where Harm takes me for my birthday. I really just want to spend some quality time with my partner, who I'm seeing less and less of as the Navy seems to erupt in cases of dereliction of duty and UA. It must be something in the water. No pun intended, of course. I'm not nervous about where he might take me, I'm nervous about spending a night alone with my partner. I'm not sure I've got the stamina to spend a night out with him and keep my hands to myself.
He told me last week to bring civvies and keep this evening open so he could 'take me somewhere fun' right after work. When I asked him what to wear, he was very vague. I settled for dark jeans and a white t-shirt, with the sky blue wool sweater he complemented last month. I realize how pathetic it is that I have my closet categorized by 'clothes Harm likes' and 'clothes he doesn't notice', especially given the fact that he probably just complements whatever I'm wearing when he wants to get on my good side, but I've noticed a definite trend toward the soft, wooly sweaters I myself am fond of.
"There's the birthday girl," his familiar voice calls. I turn to watch him stroll down the hall toward me, resplendent in faded jeans and a black, casual button-up shirt. He's the best looking man I've ever met, bar none. He turns his gorgeous flyboy grin on me and I feel my knees turn to jelly.
"Ready to go?"
I nod and he hits the button for the elevator, gesturing for me to precede him inside. Always the gentleman, that's Harm.
As we step onto the elevator, I take the opportunity to give my partner a once-over. I wonder if she knows how hard it is for me to keep my hands off her when she wears those fuzzy sweaters. It's hard for me to keep my hands off her all the time, actually, but she just looks so cuddly in those sweaters. Firmly resisting the urge to wrap her up in my arms and never let her go, I hit the button for the ground floor and whistle cheerily as the elevator hums to life. This night is going to be fun for both of us; we deserve it.
We pull into the parking lot of a familiar strip; Mike's Deli is two doors down from his parking spot. An interesting choice for my birthday, but I like Mike's. I'd go anywhere as long as it was Harm's idea, actually. I think I proved that in Russia.
With his arm around my waist it's hard to concentrate on anything but his gorgeous smile, but eventually I realize we're headed in the wrong direction to go to Mike's.
That smile nearly knocks me over.
"What's up, Mac?"
"Aren't you going the wrong way?" I ask, pointing over my shoulder to Mike's. He looks behind us and then back at me, the picture of wronged innocence.
"Ma-ac! Did you really think we were going to Mike's?"
I shrug. "You parked there."
"Closest spot we were going to get," he replies, gesturing to the next store front over. I merely stare for a moment, then shake my head. He must be joking.
"You're taking me to Chuck E Cheese?"
He gives me a proud smile. "It's your birthday."
"Harm, I'm thirty-two years old."
I have to think about that for a minute, and eventually I shrug. "Okay. Why not?" I've never actually been to Chuck E Cheese. My parents weren't big on birthdays; I'm not sure they even remembered when mine was. I never had a party, and I certainly never went to a kids' restaurant.
Harm opens the door for me again, and I step into the loudest, most crowded, happiest place I've ever been in my life. Kids are running every which way, darting from one game to another, shouting and laughing as their parents chat at the tables. Immediately I feel the pressures of the last week disappear, and from the relaxed smile on Harm's face it's having the same effect on him. He reaches for my hand and I let him take it, surprised, but it quickly becomes apparent that we could get separated in this ruckus without physical contact. I weave my fingers in between his and he smiles back at me, leading us over to one of the token machines. I'm tempted to protest when he puts a twenty in the machine; it seems a little extravagant. He gives me a warning look when I open my mouth and I close it again with a smile. If he wants to go all out, tonight I won't stop him.
Harm and I are standing in front of the Skee-ball game, and I'm giving it a dubious look.
"I have no idea how to do this."
He smiles and puts a token in the machine. The balls roll down to where we can pick them up, and he puts one in my hand. Standing behind me, he wraps one arm around my waist and guides my arm with the other.
"Nice and easy. It's just like bowling, but with a smaller ball."
"I've never been bowling," I admit, and his eyes widen.
I shake my head and he gives my waist a squeeze. "We can fix that. For now, let's win this thing."
I chuckle. "All right, show me." He moves away from me, taking another one of the balls and stepping up to the machine. He pulls his arm back and releases the ball at the lowest point of the swing, sending it up the ramp into the 50 point ring.
"Nice work, Navy."
"It's not so hard. C'mon, Marine, your turn." He puts his arm around me again, and I decide I really like this game. I try to imitate Harm's motions, but the ball goes into the gutter.
"That's okay. Here, try it again." This time I make it into the 10 point ring, and spin around triumphantly to throw my arms around him. He laughs and pulls me close, and I lock this moment in my memory. This is probably my best birthday to date.
Harm grabs another ball and gestures for me to try again. I give it a little more power, and the ball sinks into the 30 point ring. I get better and better as we keep playing, and after half an hour we've accumulated a long strip of tickets. I hear them call our number for pizza, and Harm tears off the tickets and leads the way back to the table area.
"So, what do you want to play next?" he asks around a mouthful of cheese pizza. I take a bite of my sausage and pepperoni and think about it. After a moment of silent deliberation, I point to the large play area.
"Do you think we'll fit in there?"
He glances over his shoulder at the maze of slides and tunnels, grinning. "You better believe it."
I chase after my partner but she's got too much of a head start, and she dives into the ball pit ahead of me.
I laugh at the sheer joy on her face. I've never seen her so happy. I judge the distance between me and the pit, then take a running start and launch myself in. I land squarely on Mac, knocking her down as she dissolves in giggles. I'm instantly aware of how close we are, my face inches from hers, and I have to forcibly restrain my instinct to pin her down and kiss her senseless. My advances would be not only inappropriate, but possibly unwelcome. She's never really said anything to lead me to believe she wants more than friendship between us. I want it, but what I want doesn't matter, not on her birthday. I'm determined for this to be her night to relax and have some hard-earned fun. I won't spoil it for her.
I roll sideways off of her into the pit. She promptly beans me with one of the balls, and we proceed to give new meaning to the term 'surface warfare'. I get in a few good shots, but the Corps carries the day. I should know better than to antagonize my marine near a pit full of projectiles.
The battle ends when she tackles me from behind, knocking me down into the pit again. This time she's sprawled across me, and our eyes lock. I can't help reaching out to brush the hair off her forehead, rubbing my thumb against her cheek as my fingers graze her jaw. Her smile fades, and her lips part slightly as she leans in, bringing her face down to mine. She has the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen. Her hands intertwine behind my neck, and suddenly her lips are on mine.
I kiss her gently at first, barely able to believe we're doing this, and then she nibbles lightly at my bottom lip. I groan and pull her closer, deepening the kiss as I tangle a hand in her hair. Her fingers are toying with the hair at the nape of my neck, and I wonder if she knows what she's doing to me. It would be so easy to just keep kissing her, to take her home with me and keep her forever...
I pull away, and she offers me a tentative smile. I return it with one of my own.
"Sarah," I murmur, and her smile disappears.
"I know," she says, blinking away tears as she sits up. "You didn't mean to." The hurt in her eyes cuts right to my heart.
"No," I tell her, reaching out to stroke her cheek. "I meant to."
Her whole face lights up.
"Oh, yeah, I did." Best minute and a half of my life. I sure as hell meant every second of it. I'm still not certain which boundaries I've broken, though, and damage control is always a good idea with Mac. "I'm sorry if I got carried away."
This man is a roller coaster ride. I've gone from as high as it gets to rock bottom and back again in less than ten seconds, and now I'm in that position where you're at the top of the track, looking down at the sheer drop ahead of you, and your stomach's in your throat and the sheer anticipation is the best feeling in the world.
"Don't say you're sorry," I breathe. "Say you'll do it again."
The unshielded desire in his eyes is enough to take my breath away.
"I'll do it again," he promises. "But not here." I look around, realizing we're still in the ball pit and there are three kids watching us with wide eyes. Concerned that we're single-handedly corrupting the youth of America, I hop out of the pit and give Harm a hand up.
"Come on, Navy. Let's hit the slides."
The slides are as much fun as they looked like they'd be. Harm goes down the long, straight one, and I head for one of the spiral ones. We tumble out of them at about the same time, and I have to laugh at my six-foot-tall partner coming out of the two-foot-tall hole.
"Can we do it again?" he begs, eyes sparkling. I laugh and give in, chasing him up the rope netting that leads to the top.
Mac sits down in the mouth of the slide, and I wrap my legs around her from behind before she has time to object. She squirms around to give me an amused smile, and I tighten my grip on her. It feels so right to have her in my arms.
She pushes off, and we pick up speed as we coast down the slide. We land in a heap at the bottom. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much, and I know I've never seen Mac have so much fun. As entrancing as her smiles and childish enthusiasm are, however, my mind keeps replaying our kiss in the ball pit and my promise to 'do it again'. I'm glad she's still interested in staying and playing, because if she weren't we'd already be back at my place and I'd be doing something I think she might regret tomorrow.
I can tell the moment she spots the Moon Walk; her eyes get wide and she's actually tugging on my hand, dragging me over.
"Harm, this is so cool!"
I groan. This won't be good for my back or my knees, and I think the ceiling in there is shorter than I am.
"Isn't there a height limit?"
The woman working the entrance hears me and smiles.
"Of course not, sir. This is where a kid can be a kid, remember? No matter how old he is."
Mac's laughing, and I heave a gusty sigh.
"I suppose," I concede, and we pull our sneakers off. Mac tests her footing cautiously, then jumps in and starts bouncing. I freeze as a new benefit to 'bouncing' becomes apparent; that loose sweater does nothing to conceal her admittedly generous anatomy, which is one of the reasons I like it so much. She stops, sensing my regard, and raises an eyebrow.
"You're not bouncing."
"It's more of a spectator sport for me," I reply, and instead of the 'red light' or elbow to the stomach I'm expecting, a horrified look crosses her face.
"Oh, Harm, I forgot about your knees. God, I'm so stupid. You shouldn't be doing this –"
I clap a hand over her mouth. "Stop right there," I warn. "Do me a favor and don't put yourself down like that again. I hate it when you do that." She frowns but nods warily, and I'm pretty sure she's just indulging me. She doesn't know I'm dead serious. I won't tolerate other people saying anything derogatory about her, and I won't have her saying derogatory things about herself. I know Mac's self-image isn't great, and I regret to say that at times I've unwittingly contributed to that, but I hate to hear her put herself down. She's too special for that.
"Besides, I'm not really doing it. I told you, I'm spectating." I grin at her. "And you absolutely should be doing this, Sarah. I wish you could have seen your face when you spotted this thing. You're happier than I've ever seen you. If I'd known all it would take was a trip to Chuck E Cheese, I'd have taken you years ago."
She gives me a little smile. "It's more the company than the location," she replies, and I can't resist dropping a kiss on the tip of her nose.
"You're wonderful," I tell her, and she beams. "Now get back to bouncing, Major. I was enjoying the show."
This time I do get my 'red light', but I laugh it off and she starts to bounce again. I'm almost glad my knees are shot to hell from one too many ejections; this really is a spectator sport.
When I'm finally dizzy from bouncing, Harm and I get out and put our shoes back on.
"I think I'm almost worn out," I admit, and he shakes his head.
"You have to cash in your tickets first," he reminds me.
I roll my eyes but don't complain. This night was the best present Harm could have given me, and I want a souvenir to remind me of it.
The kid at the prize counter tells us we've got a hundred and six tickets and points out the rows of prizes that correspond. I notice Harm immediately sets his sights on a model-building set of an F-14 that, from the sticker, is a hundred tickets. I tell the teen to grab it for us. Harm's ready to protest, but I shake my head.
"Harm, it's perfect. Just take it. You know, in some cultures you give presents on your birthday instead of getting them."
He gives me a little smile. "Be glad you don't live there, then," he replies, pulling something out of his jacket pocket. It's a black velvet jeweler's box, long and flat. My heart catches in my throat.
"Harm," I gasp, and he hands it to me.
"Happy birthday," he replies. I open the box carefully and gape at its contents. It's a bracelet, alternating emeralds and diamonds set in gold. The clasp, which I lift up to examine more closely, has the Marine Corps globe and anchor engraved on it.
"Oh my god," I breathe, fingering the bracelet lovingly. It's the most beautiful thing anyone's ever given me. "Harm, I can't take this."
"Sure you can," he replies, taking it out of the box and clasping it around my wrist. "See?"
His hand lingers on my arm, and we both admire the bracelet for a moment.
"Thank you," I whisper, and he reaches up to touch my cheek.
"No, thank you, Sarah. For being a part of my life." He tilts his head down toward mine, and I rise up eagerly to kiss him. The kiss lasts for a long moment, and then a polite cough interrupts us and I realize we're still corrupting the youth of our country when we turn to find the teen at the counter blushing fiercely.
"Here you go," he replies, and I take the box and the six spare tickets.
"What will you do with those?" Harm asks, indicating the tickets, and I smile.
"I'm saving them for next time," I reply airily.
"Oh, next time, huh?"
"Sure." I give him a sly look. "After all, we are going to do it again, aren't we?"
I can tell he knows what I mean; his eyes fill with love and desire.
"We sure are."