Disclaimer: JAG not mine.
Summary: After Harm is out sick for two days, Mac stops by his apartment to check up on him. Set after Bridging The Gulf.
Better Off In Bed
0640 Local Time
North of Union Station
A shrill ring went off, but the lump under the covers remained perfectly still. The ringing got louder, insisting that is was morning. It was time to start the coffee and take a shower. Finally, an arm shot out and smacked the alarm clock, shutting off the dreadful noise. Groggy eyes viewed the time. He groaned. It was time for work.
Ten minutes later, the alarm went off again. Just like before, he remained still until the noise was too much. Then his hand slammed down on the snooze button, ceasing the disturbance. In fact, he managed to have enough energy to turn off the alarm completely, then his head sank back down into his pillows. He wrapped the sheets around himself tighter, regaining the warmth he had lost in those few seconds of being exposed.
Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. couldn't move. He literally couldn't. There was no reason to get up. Going to work was too depressing. Mac was training Vukovic, so he rarely saw her. Mattie wasn't here. Sturgis despised him. Cresswell always seemed to have it out for him. Not to mention he had been accused of murder for the third time in his career! It seemed every time he went to work, something happened that wasn't supposed to happen.
It finally occurred to him that he was better off staying in bed.
"C'mon Harm, get up," his mind told him. It urged him to lurch towards the shower, cut the frigid water on and get ready. His uniform called from the closet, begging to be pressed and made presentable for work. Nonetheless, his body said no. Maybe he was sick. Yeah, that's it. Just like yesterday. With all the leave he had on the books, he could take ten sick days and still be alright. His last effort at moving required reaching over to the phone to call his boss.
He was calling in sick for the second day in a row.
1519 Local Time
Falls Church, Virginia
The day was nearly over. Only a couple of more hours and she would be successful in avoiding a certain Navy Lieutenant. Her eyes darted to and fro, to make sure the coast was clear. Make a man out of him, my ass, she thought to herself. It seemed like the whole world was playing some cosmic joke on her. With all the trials and tribulations of her life, someone decided to drop another self-centered, pompous, forthright pig in her lap. That pig had a name. It was Lieutenant Gregory Vukovic.
Lt. Colonel Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie strolled through the bullpen as quickly as her legs would allow. If she could just reach her office before. . .
"Colonel?" His voice stopped her cold, driving a stake through her heart. It surprised her she didn't just shrivel up and evaporate into thin air right then. She was disappointed in herself. She had been doing so well at trying to avoid him all day. She turned around to face Lt. Vukovic, who's eyes glowed with a mischievous glint. He told her in that smooth drawl of his, "Colonel, I realized I hadn't spoken to you all day."
"Really?" Mac said, playing dumb.
"Are you avoiding me?" he asked, his eyes catching hers.
Boy, aren't we a smart one?, she thought to herself.Mac chuckled uneasily and replied, "No, I've just been busy. Did you need me for something?"
"Actually, I wanted to speak to Commander Rabb," Gregory sighed and shrugged his shoulders. "But I haven't seen him today. He must still be out with the flu."
"The flu?" Mac repeated, unaware Harm was sick at all. It at this point she realized what little contact she'd had with Harm over the last couple of weeks. Originally, she thought he wasn't here because of his flying qualifications and that little mishap of "murder". Now he was sick? She pulled herself together and said, "Well, I'm sure he'll be in tomorrow."
"Yeah, sure, I guess," Gregory waved it off, then spotted Mayfield. The young Lt. made his move and started to pursue Mayfield, who was eagerly trying to get away. Mac rolled her eyes. Gregory had to know he was a nuisance, right?
She went straight for her office and picked up her phone. Her fingers dialed the familiar number and she waited. Four rings later, he picked up. His voice groggy and dispiriting. "H-Hello?"
"Hey," she said quietly. When he didn't respond she added, "It's Mac."
"I know it's you, what's up?" he asked, his voice sounding much clearer and more awake.
"I heard you were out with the flu," she said, twirling the phone cord. He didn't sound sick. Then his next response proved that he wasn't.
"Oh, uh. . .yeah, the flu. That's what I have," he mumbled. His voice then became incredibly rough and scratchy, "I think I've come down with some throat thing too."
"Harm? You're not sick, are you?" she asked the obvious.
"Sure I am," he said, forgetting to use his sick voice again. When he realized his mistake, he groaned at his own incompetence to pretend to be ill.
"Harm, how long have you been in bed?" Mac asked.
It seemed like a completely random question, but she knew a thing or two about wanting to stay in bed. Sometimes, she would just lay there. Wrapped up in her sheets and pillows, pretending to come down with some ailment so she could have a valid reason to sleep. It was a bad habit she was happy she dropped. Now Harm seemed to be catching this "bug."
"How long I've been bed?" he repeated. Now his "flu" made it impossible to form coherent sentences.
"Harm, answer me," she tried to insist calmly. She had to admit, this worried her.
"I dunno," he finally yawned. "I was home yesterday too. . .so I guess for two days."
"Two days?" she repeated alarmed at this news. "Harm, you haven't moved in two days?"
"Well, almost two days," he corrected her with another yawn. "The flying. . .the qualifications. . .wore me out. Tired."
Mac couldn't believe her ears. He claimed he was tired, but she knew better. Deep down, she felt that Harm was falling down an emotional spiral, that in the end, can be hard to climb out of. It took her nearly over a year to face her demons. She didn't want that happening to Harm. Without giving it a second thought she told him, "I'm coming over."
"For what? Company not good now!" He was alarmed at the suggestion. He almost sounded terrified. Then he chuckled and challenged her, "You're not coming."
"Harm," she called him in a warning tone.
"See ya tomorrow, Mac. I'll be in tomorrow," he told her but not in a convincing way at all. He hung up.
She sighed and set the phone in it's cradle. She sat down, deciding she might as well stay here and finish up her work. He didn't want her to stop by, so why should she?
A few minutes later, she found herself just sitting there. Her paperwork untouched. She couldn't concentrate. This was the last time she was going to just sit back and watch things happen. She wasn't there for Harm when he was charged with murder. Mostly because she was training "the pompous, forthright pig", but years ago she would've demanded to go out there and help him.
She gathered her things and locked her office door. She didn't bother to tell Cresswell she was leaving. She was done with court appearances today and no one here would need her.
1620 Local Time
North of Union Station
She quietly stuck her copy of Harm's apartment key in the door. She hadn't used it in forever. The poor thing had been collecting dust on her key chain for months. Unfortunately, in the past few years, there had never been a reason to enter his little abode unannounced. Discreetly, she swung his door open to reveal a semi dark living space. The one big window he had was covered with drapes blocking the rays from the sunset. His stove light was on giving a little illumination. It also indicated he had at least been out to the kitchen to get food. That relieved her somewhat.
Her eyes traveled across the room to his bedroom to find no light coming from that area at all. She shut the door behind her and put her stuff on the couch. She stepped out of her heels then tiptoed in her stocking feet over to the steps leading up to his room.
There he was. His sleeping form splayed across the cotton sheets. He looked uncomfortable. A part of her wanted to tuck him in and leave him alone to sleep. Another part wanted her to just leave without saying a word. The entire drive over here, she kept telling herself this was a bad idea. However, the mother in her couldn't stand to see him like this. That was the driving force that pushed her forward. She cut on one of his lamps so she could see. Harm was clad in just his boxers, his hair ruffled and socked feet sticking out over the side. She stifled a giggle at how adorable he looked.
She gently laid a hand on his shoulder, then turned him on his back. He stirred, but refused to open his eyes. She fixed the sheets so that they covered him properly. She sat on the edge for a moment, then decided she should leave. At least she could see with her own eyes that he was sleeping soundly. Maybe he was right. He was just tired. As she rose from the bed, he opened his eyes.
"Whoa," he mumbled, staring at her half awake. He rubbed his eyes and asked slowly, "Did I die?"
"What?" she asked, turning back around. Her expression was one of confusion at his question.
Harm blinked his eyes, then realized he wasn't dreaming. Mac was really here. He tugged on the sheets embarrassed, then noticed his bed was in a much better state than it was this morning. His eyes shifted up to meet hers and he smiled quirkily, "Uh. . .nothing. What are you doing here?"
"I came to drag you out of bed," she answered him with a soft smile. "But then I decided not to disturb you. I'm sorry I woke you."
"Oh," was his subtle response as he looked down at himself. He didn't seem to care how worn down he appeared. He shrugged, "Well, you didn't disturb me, Mac. I'm surprised you even came."
"Yeah?" she asked, sounding guilty. She came back over and sat down on the bed next to him. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you. You know, for the murder charges."
"It's okay. You were busy," he expressed indifference at her statement. Then he added with a bit of astonishment in his voice,"You're here now."
"Yes, I am. And you're awake," she said, standing up. Without warning, she yanked the covers off of him and ordered, "Now it's time to get up."
Harm immediately curled up at the rush of cold air. It wasn't really the cold that made him curl up so quickly. He was half naked after all. He looked at her incredulously, "Mac!"
"Are you blushing?" she asked, clearly amused.
"No!" Harm almost shouted as he felt his ears burning. He quickly jumped up, snatched the blankets back and covered himself again. She laughed at him and he squinched his eyes at her. "Laughing at me won't get me out of bed. Good night!"
"Harm, I'm serious," Mac persisted, subsiding her laughter for now. She grabbed the covers again, only this time, he was holding on tightly. She yanked on them, but he wouldn't let go. "Harm. . .Harm, stop acting like a child!"
"I'm not acting like a child," he argued, still maintaining his killer grip on the sheets.
"Harmon Rabb, if you don't get up right now," she warned, still pulling. Finally, she just gave up and placed her hands on her hips.
"I'm not getting out of bed," he told her defiantly, then laid back down with his back to her.
"Why?" she asked.
"I don't want to," was his lame response. He didn't want to turn and look at her. It had just dawned on him at how incredibly embarrassing this all was. She actually came over to drag him out of bed! He laid there, trying to ignore her. Maybe if he shut his eyes really tight and drifted off to sleep, she would just go home. When he felt her sit down on the bed again, he thought to himself, Fat chance.
"Harm?" she called gently this time. Was that concern in her voice? Worry? He slowly cranked his head to look over his shoulder at her. Oh yeah. She was worried. He could see it in her eyes. Understanding he couldn't snub her attempts at being kind, he turned his body this time so he could see her completely. She tilted her head to the side and asked, "Harm, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he answered, but the reply was bland and unconvincing. He knew it and so did she. To try and bolster his claim, he rose up on his elbows to show an effort at getting up. "Look, Mac. Really, I'm just tired."
"You've been in bed the last two days, I doubt you're tired," she remarked, then coaxed, "Please, get out of bed."
He paused. Get out of bed? As simple as that request sounded, it really was quite complicated. Getting up meant living. It meant taking a shower and preparing for the next day. It meant eating real food and interacting with people in the courtroom. It meant facing Mac and everyone else at the office despite how much he just wanted to never see them again. It wasn't that he hated them. He loved everyone he worked with, but he could tell he was a burden. If his love life wasn't complicated enough, he was now making friendships even harder to deal with. Sturgis was a prime example.
"I can't. Not right now," he finally admitted. In an even quieter voice he added, "I'm not ready."
She couldn't speak. She knew it. Harm was depressed. He had to be, right? This wasn't normal behavior. She should know! Her psychiatrist flat out told her it wasn't normal! Mac sighed, "I guess I can't force you out of bed."
"Thanks for understanding," he smiled weakly. Then he got the surprise of his life.
"Scoot over," she requested calmly. Like it was the most normal request in the world.
"What?" he asked, his eyes widening some.
"Scoot over," she repeated, pushing him to move. "You can stay in bed, but I'm worried about you. I'm not leaving until I'm convinced you're better."
"But there's nothing wrong. . ." She gave him one of those no-nonsense stares and he shut up. Harm slowly and reluctantly made room for Mac in his bed. "Uh, Mac. . .you don't have to stay."
"No, I want to," she smiled at him as she climbed in.
"Okay," he said dumbly. He watched her prop up a pillow and she leaned against it. He looked at her very confused as she let her hair down and set the clip on the night stand. Then she just sat there, turning to give him a soft smile. He forced a weak smile back and with difficulty, he laid down to try and sleep again. After a few minutes, he found that he couldn't fall asleep. Not with her in his bed too. He continued to lay there as he spoke up, "Uh, Mac?"
"Um, this is making me very uncomfortable."
"That was the point."
"Huh?" he turned around to look at her again. "You want me to feel uncomfortable?"
"Yep," she replied simply and winked at him.
Did she just wink at him? He turned back around and tried to sleep. She wanted him to feel so ill at ease, it would force him out of bed. Well, it wasn't going to work! This wouldn't be the first time he fell asleep with another woman in his bed. Only. . .this wasn't just any woman. This was Sarah Mackenzie. His partner and best friend of 9 years and counting. Sarah Mackenzie was in his bed.
Okay, he couldn't do this.
She watched him get up and smiled, "Three minutes. Not bad. I was only giving you two."
Harm rolled his eyes as he pulled a t-shirt out of his drawers. He threw it on and asked her, "Happy? I'm up! I've got clothes on!"
"No, you have a shirt on and boxers," she laughed.
He playfully glared at her, turned around and pulled some sweat pants out as well. Okay, it was pretty bad when Mac showed up to pull him out of bed. It was even worse when she climbed into bed next to him. Now he was dressing in front of her! Keep your cool, Rabb. Keep your cool.
"There," he said, throwing his hands up in defeat. "You win."
"You hungry?" she asked, finally getting up herself.
He shrugged, "Sort of. Although, I haven't had much of an appetite."
She gave him another one of those concerned stares. "I'll make you something."
"Okay, Mac, you've done enough. Really," Harm tried to turn her down gently. "You've stormed in here, embarrassed me out of bed. Look. I'm up and I'll eat something. You can go home."
She folded her arms across her chest, still not believing him. She sighed, "I'll just make you something to eat, then I'll leave, okay? Humor me?"
He could see she wasn't leaving. For the first time in a long time, Mac was here to rescue him. It still shocked him beyond belief, but he was also extremely happy she was here. There was just something about her. No matter what the circumstances, she was always there for him. And even if she wasn't, she was quick to make it up to him. He was a fool to think that 9 years of friendship had just vanished.
"Okay, fine," he smiled, then added shyly, "Thanks, Mac."
She smiled back, "You're welcome."
1719 Local Time
It felt good to laugh again. Especially at the expense of his best friend.
Mac wasn't exactly a cook. Her idea of making food consisted of: a butter knife, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly and two slices of wheat bread. Before eating, however, she had convinced him to shower first. So he did. He had to admit to himself that he was glad she stopped by. Otherwise, he would still be in bed wallowing in his own self pity. At least now he was clean and refreshed. He could worry about work tomorrow.
He entered the kitchen to be greeted by three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He remarked, "Mac, I'm not going to eat three PB&J sandwiches!"
"Who said you were eating all three?" she asked, an eyebrow rising slightly in amusement.
"Touche," he laughed.
They finished eating the sandwiches in silence. Earlier, he had teased her about making PB&J while she teased him on his eating habits. It was reminiscent of the banter they used to share, but naturally, it was too familiar. Almost to the point of uncomfortable. Eventually, the conversation fizzled out.
He played with the crumbs on his empty plate, not sure where to start. He had to explain his behavior to her sometime. He knew she was curious. He glanced up and sighed, "As you already know, I wasn't sick. . ."
"I kinda figured that out," she smiled.
"Yeah," he chuckled. "It's just. . .I, well. . .I don't know where to start, Mac."
"Start with what's comfortable?" she suggested, trying to help.
"Well, okay," he tried again, twiddling his thumbs. How should he say this? After another long pause he began, "I tried getting up this morning and found I had nothing to look forward to."
"Nothing?" she repeated, not sure how to respond to that.
"Well, not nothing, exactly," he amended. "It's the job, not the people. Well, it's some of the people. .. I just wanted a break, I guess."
He stopped talking, most likely believing that was a good enough explanation for his demeanor. It wasn't enough, but she could live with it. She was grateful to get this much out of him and she could tell he was getting extremely anxious. He was never good at talking about himself or his feelings. She wanted to push for more, but knew she had to let him work at his own pace. Maybe she was going to have to reveal some of herself if she wanted to get anything more out of him.
She nodded her head in agreement, "I could use a break too."
"Vukovic?" he perked up. He seemed happy they weren't talking about him anymore.
"How did you know?" she jeered and rolled her eyes. "He's a monster."
"He's young and inexperienced," Harm shrugged. "Weren't we all at some point?"
"Yeah, but we went to law school and passed the bar," Mac pointed out with another laugh. It was clear she doubted Vukovic had any law experience whatsoever. She sighed, "I don't understand what Cresswell sees in him."
Harm didn't reply to that. He merely nodded his head, rubbing his chin in thought. He glanced at the clock and said, "Wow. Hey, it's nearing 6 o'clock. Think you should head back home?"
"Are you kicking me out?" she asked, trying to keep the question unoffending but it still sounded like she was hurt.
"No, no, no!" he shook his head in the negative quickly. "You can stay as long as you want. I'm really glad you stopped by, Mac."
"Really," he confirmed. He reached across the table to envelope her hand in his. The gesture was meant to reassure her that he appreciated her help. In the end, he was only reassuring himself. He needed the human contact, even if it was as simple as holding her hand. She squeezed his hand lightly in return. He wasn't sure how long they sat that way. It didn't matter. He could hold her hand forever.
0458 Local Time
She opened her eyes. Her internal clock had woken her up. There was also the strange feeling that she wasn't in her bed. As she looked around, she realized that she definitely wasn't! She sat up quickly, then felt another warm body next to her. When that body snored loudly, she sighed and laid back down. Now she remembered. She was still at Harm's.
They had stayed up until midnight talking about nothing and everything. He seemed to open up more as the night went along, but he never revealed too much. That was just the way he was. Always protecting. Always locking a part of himself away. After all this time, she was finally used to it. She was finally ready to accept Harm for who he was. She didn't need to know everything about him in order to care about him. She didn't need to know everything about him in order to love him.
Even though he had mostly slept for the past two days, he was tired again. They both knew he should try and sleep. Get back to normal hours and wake up for work the next day. She could've driven back, but she didn't want to go. Instead, she pretended to express concerns about driving back so late by herself. He immediately went into "Harm protect Mac" mood and practically ordered that she stay the night and go back in the morning.
They shared his bed. Despite his claims that he was uncomfortable before, he fell asleep in 7 minutes flat. She knew she was there to support Harm, but it felt nice to have someone by her side as she slept. It was comfortable. Familiar. Relaxing. Right then, as she lay there with her eyes open, listening to him breathe, she felt refreshed. It was the best night's sleep she'd had in a long time.
As much as she wanted to stay, she sat up and tried to leave quietly. She had to head back and get ready for work herself.
"Where are you going?" he mumbled into his pillow.
"I have to go home," she whispered, slipping on her shoes.
"Oh, right. . .let me walk to the door," he offered, trying to get up.
"Harm, no, I'm fine," she walked over to him, urging that he lay back down.
"No, I insist," he said groggily. "You've been so kind. . .and stuff. . ."
He managed to stand up, but stumbled backwards due to his lackadaisical clumsiness. She saw him falling and grabbed his arm to keep him up. The second she did that, she realized how stupid that was. Harm was two times heavier than her. He ended up pulling them both back down on the bed and in the midst of their laughter, the thought of calling in sick crossed Harm's mind again. He didn't want to move. He just wanted to stay here and enjoy her company for the rest of the day.
Mac could see the thought coming from a mile away. She sat up and poked him, "No way, Harm. You're going to work."
"Aww, c'mon Mac," Harm leered and waggled his eyebrows suggestively. "Don't you think we're better off staying in bed?"
At first, her eyes widened in alarm at his proposition! Then a smile slowly crept across her face as she saw the grin on his. She rolled her eyes and joked, "Red light, Commander."
Harm laughed again at the traffic signal, which reminded him of a very good joke. He asked her playfully, "Have I ever told you how a Marine is like the Energizer Bunny?"
"Only a thousand times," she glanced at him sideways, showing she wasn't amused.
"Well, you see. A Marine is like the Energizer Bunny because they keep. . .," he continued on with the joke anyway, knowing it was going to agitate her.
"Okay, obviously, you're feeling better," she hit him with a pillow, listening to his laughter and watching his eyes dance in amusement. His demeanor was a complete 180 of yesterday and she was pleased to know she was the reason he more energized and jubilant. Her eyes fixated on that Rabb smile. It was pulling her in again and for a moment, she began to wonder if she would be better off staying in bed. . .