Summary: Just a little fluff involving our favorite TV couple. Too much info would spoil the story!
Disclaimer: As much as I wished I owned them, all characters are the property of Donald Bellisario and Belisarius Productions, et al.
Spoilers: Anything up through "The Four Percent Solution" is fair game.
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December 30, 2004
The sounds of clinking china from back in the kitchen wafted through the room, muted by the murmur of guests as the Thursday-evening dinner crowd enjoyed their meals. Sitting across from Harm in a two-top booth off to one side of the dining room, Mac speared the last piece of romaine with her fork and popped it in her mouth, chewing thoughtfully.
"Something on your mind, MacKenzie?" Harm asked, reaching for his water.
"No, not really," she smiled. "This was nice, Harm. Thanks for dinner."
"My pleasure. I'm just glad you're feeling better. I've been worried about you, you know."
"That makes two of us." For the first time in nearly a week, Mac grinned without any pain. The bruises she had sustained from the Navy car's airbag a week earlier had nearly faded, and the swelling was gone entirely. Letting out a heavy breathe, she set her fork down in the center of her plate. "Wow, I'm stuffed."
Harm chuckled, happy at how relaxed she seemed. In the days following her accident, there had been a subtle shift in Mac's demeanor that he couldn't quite put his finger on. She was certainly more at ease around him, more accepting somehow, and although neither of them had said it outright, he could feel them growing closer than they had in all of the years they'd known one another. It was as though the tension that had kept her tightly wound for the last few months had suddenly evaporated.
"I'm not surprised," he teased casually, "considering that you ate both loaves of bread before she brought our meals."
"Come on, Harm, I was just getting warmed up!" Their mutual laughter rang musically from the confines of the booth for a solid minute, before her face sobered. "Honestly, this is the first time I've felt like eating an entire meal since the accident. After existing on soup and crackers for a week, it's nice to have my appetite back."
"I'd say you got it back in spades. That salad was huge."
"You got the same thing I did," she pointed out.
"Same meal," he conceded, "but mine was about two-thirds the size. Didn't you hear me ask the waitress about the difference between the appetizer version and the regular version?"
"I got the bigger one so I could have leftovers tomorrow." The twinkle in Mac's eye made Harm acutely aware of how much he'd missed their good-natured banter over the past two years. "How was yours?" she asked, looking with mock-disdain at his smaller plate, which was as bare as hers.
"Too bad you don't have anything left to take home," he teased. "The dressing was good, although I could have done without all the garlic."
"Well, at least we won't have to worry about being attacked by vampires on the drive back to your place." She smirked at him saucily as the waitress approached, pre-empting any response he might have made.
"If you're all finished, I can get these out of your way." Expertly scooping up their used dishes, the server glanced between them. "Would either of you care for dessert or coffee?"
"Mac?" Harm turned to his companion, who, to his astonishment, didn't even ask for a dessert menu.
"Original cheesecake and coffee, black, please."
"Just a cup of decaf for me," he said, a befuddled expression crossing his face as the waitress confirmed their orders and departed. "Cheesecake? I thought you said you were stuffed."
She rolled her eyes. "I always have room for dessert," Mac reminded him. When would the man learn?
"Some things never change," he snorted, again filled with an inexplicable sense of elation. This was the Mac he'd been missing.
"Think about it, Harm, we're at the Cheesecake Factory," she persisted, dropping back into the seat and looking up at him from underneath lowered eyelashes. "You can't come here and NOT order cheesecake – that would be sacrilege! Besides, it's common for a couple to share dessert when they go out on a date. I'd be willing to bet that she's going to bring two forks."
Harm's eyebrow lifted in surprise at the word 'date'. Mulling that over, he said the first thing that came to mind: "But we didn't ask for two forks."
"Doesn't matter – she's going to bring them anyway."
As if by design, at that moment a runner appeared at their elbows with two cups of coffee, a slice of creamy-looking plain cheesecake, and… two forks.
"See?" she smiled coyly after the runner retreated.
"Okay, okay," Harm sighed, reaching for a fork, "you've made your point."
Together they dug into the confection, simply enjoying each other's company while the bustle of the restaurant buzzed beyond the confines of the booth. A few moments passed before Harm finally broke the silence.
"So this is what couples do, huh?" he asked, lazily licking the tines of his fork.
"Mm-hmmm." Savoring the sweet taste, Mac's lashes fluttered closed. Harm watched her intently.
"Then I guess this means we're a couple."
She paused, propping open one eye to meet his gaze as she swallowed. "I'd say so," she murmured breathily. Then, dropping her sights to what remained of the dessert on the table between them, she smiled thoughtfully and took another bite.
"Since you ordered this cheesecake, why is it that I seem to be eating all of the filling and you're just eating the crust?"
Glancing back up at him, Mac smiled softly. She couldn't remember the last time she'd had this much fun. "Because the crust is my favorite part," she admitted with a shrug. "There's nothing quite like a graham cracker crust."
"I'll have to remember that." And to her surprise, instead of complaining about how high in calories and fat the cake's filling probably was, Mr. Otherwise-Unbelievably-Health-Conscious actually reached for another spoonful. They fell into silence for another few moments.
"Harm?" Mac finally asked, tilting her head questioningly.
"What are you doing tomorrow night?"
Knowing that tomorrow was New Year's Eve, Harm twirled his fork in his fingers pensively. "Nothing that I'm aware of," he told her. "Why do you ask?"
"There's a new little Italian place right around the corner from my apartment," she said casually, her heart suddenly beating anxiously in her chest. She hoped she wasn't babbling. "If you're interested in joining me, I thought we might order in… you know, see if their cheesecake is any good. I promise I won't make you watch Regis Philbin."
A slow grin steadily spread across his features, flooding Mac with a profound sense of relief. "I'd like that," Harm winked at her. "I'll even bring a bottle of sparkling cider so we can ring in 2005 properly. But there's one condition."
"This time I get the crust."
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