Title: The Thin Line

Author: Jackie

Summary: (Sequel to "Fully Engaged" read that first) As Harm and Mac struggle with day to day life, an enemy plans the ultimate revenge.

"I walk The Thin Line for you.
Do just what you say to.
With fear as my friend,
I'll walk the thin line one more time for you."
Queensryche "The Thin Line" from the LP Empire.

Part 1 – Alive and Well

August 5, 2005
1620 Local
Burnette Residence
La Jolla, California

Nothing had changed since the last time Harm had visited his parents house and yet, everything was different. Maybe it was because he was different? No one could deny that after the hell he'd been through, things had changed. He gazed out of the taxi window and to the large house where he'd grown up. Throughout the years the place seemed to call him back more and more often and he refused that feeling because he didn't want to hear his parents, mainly, his mother, bickering about his life and how he'll never settle down. But now, as he opened the door and stood motionless in front of his home, he knew it would be different and different was good.

"Sir, your bags." The cabbie said, placing his and Mac's bags next to Harm.

Reaching into his pocket, Harm pulled out money for the fare and a generous tip for the man. "Thanks." He glanced over at Mac who was standing just to his right, giving him time to be lost in his thoughts. It was odd though, that she hadn't immediately gushed about their local or the grandeur of the home as his previous friends had. It was then that he realized, she'd been here before. "You've been here, haven't you?"

She looked up at the house and nodded. "Yea, a few times. . .After you went missing. . . C'mon sailor, let's go surprise your folks." Mac grabbed her bag and headed towards the front door then turned back noting that Harm hadn't moved. He was standing there, with an odd expression on his face, staring at the house. It was starting to worry her, had this been a bad idea? "Harm?"

Somehow, standing outside, he'd managed to fly through years of memories. God, he was horrible with Trish and Frank through the years. Often he wouldn't call, he never went over for holidays and the hell he'd put them through when he was a child. . .It was mind boggling that still, they cared and helped him out so much. "We should have called." He said with a flyboy grin as he picked up his bag and walked up next to Mac. "I mean, I am all for giving people surprises, but. . ."

"I think your mom deserves to see you in person and I am not going to deny her that right. Neither are you, Harmon Rabb Jr." She said with a mock-scold then rang the doorbell. With a deep breath, Mac prepared herself for the onslaught of emotions that she was about to go through. Since Harm's disappearance, Mac and Trish kept in contact very frequently, both needing someone who was close to him. She'd traveled four times to La Jolla, once for a small service the Burnett's had. And the other three times just so that she'd have someone to talk to. What unnerved Mac was how willing Trish was to put Harm to rest. Frank, on the other hand, he still believed. During a late night discussion, when Trish had headed off early to bed, he'd confessed to Mac of a certain 'feeling' he had that Harm was still alive. That he would come home.

Frank arrived at the door first. Opening it, he noticed Mac and his brow furled in confusion. "Mac? Trish didn't tell me you were coming is. . .is something. . .wrong?" The man literally did a double take as his eyes fell upon his stepson who was standing to the side with a silly expression. "Oh my God. . .Trish. . .Trish get out here, quick." He threw himself at Harm, hugging him with a force that made it clear that Frank thought of him as his own. "Jesus, you are alive. . .You're alive." He stepped back slightly, took a look at Harm then hugged him again. "We've missed you so much, son. . ."

"Frank, what is it? Mac! How are you . .Is something wrong?" Trish glanced at Mac, happy that she'd made the trek out, though confused as to why she were here without calling. "Oh God. . .Har-harm?" She caught the sight of her husband and son, the image seeming too surreal for a mother who, only months prior, buried her son. "No, this can't be. . .This is a dream. . .or a nightmare."

Harm stepped up to his mother and wrapped his arms around her. "Mom, it's me. . .I'm alive."

Trish shook from the happy sobs that escaped her. Her arms tightened around her son, holding him as if her life depended on it, and it did. To say that the past months were difficult on Trish was an understatement. She suffered again, the same way she suffered when Harm Sr. went down, but this was different and far worse. A mother was not supposed to be burying her baby. No matter how much she resigned to the fact that Harm's job was potentially dangerous, it had all been too much to handle. The only thing that made it all bearable was the consolation that father and son would reunite in Heaven. "But, how? Everyone thought you were dead. . ." She trailed off a moment and glanced at Mac. "Everyone but Mac. . . I'm sorry for not believing you."

Mac shook her head. "I had my doubts as well from time to time, Trish."

Trish took both of her sons hand, pulling him into the house while Frank helped Mac with the suitcases. She enveloped Harm in another tight hug. "You need to tell us everything." She walked him through the entryway and towards the living room, her hand not leaving his arm for fear that he might disappear and this was just another cruel nightmare. She sat Harm down on one sofa and slid next to him, her hand wrapping around his as she studied him. "You look defeated, Harmon."

"It was. . .difficult." He said with a nod. Difficult would have probably been easier for him to bare. The whole thing with Temir could be summated with one word: Hell. He was living in pure Hell. Frank joined the two, sitting down across from mother and son. Mac stayed off to one side, leaving the family a bit of privacy over a story that she already knew. "There isn't a lot of detail I can get into." Creswell knew, Bud and Sturgis knew, but that was because of their involvement. Still, there were details which the only person privy to had been Mac and he prayed that those would not come back to haunt him. "Most of it is classified."

Mac sighed, if there was a word she loathed, it was definitely, 'classified.' She hated everything that came attached to that word. She hated the world of secrecy and betrayal. Now she hoped that they never had to use it again; that they would never be used again.

"CIA classified, FBI classified, or something else?" Frank rambled off as he glanced at his wife who seemed to be having a difficult time digesting all of this information.

"The first." Harm pointed out and shook his head. "I can't get into it, I really can't. . .but suffice to say that Mac had a lot to do with keeping me alive." He glanced at his partner, his lover, friend and soul mate, their eyes locked in that silent conversation that they seemed to always have. "She kept me safe."

Trish stood, making her way around the sofas and over to Mac who she hugged tightly. "Thank you, Sarah. . . Thank you for bringing him home."

"I wouldn't have it any other way." For the first time ever, Mac truly felt at home and at peace. She loved Harm's family almost as much as she loved Harm. The Burnett's were wonderful people, caring, loving, the elusive family she'd longed for all her life. A family she hoped to eventually be part of.

The group discussed some aspects of what Harm had missed, like the introduction of the Washington National's baseball team. "Wow, and they're actually doing well?"

Frank, who'd kept up on sports, nodded enthusiastically. "Yep, they're in second place in their division."

"Oh and I bought another gallery." Trish added proudly. "It's about a ten minute drive from the other one, much bigger too. It will accommodate the larger exhibits."

They continued on with somewhat mundane conversation, but this time, it wasn't so usual. For Harm it was like if he'd missed a huge chunk of his life. Mac had also talked about the Roberts' twins and how little AJ and Jimmy seemed to grow like weeds. How he'd be so surprised at how big the twins already were. Mac was their godmother, leaving Mike to be their godfather since Harm was not present. He hated that he'd missed so much, but he couldn't go back in time, as much as he wished it, he wasn't Superman. The conversation came to a quick end when Mac's stomach began to rumble.

One of the few things that Harm always seemed to mention to Trish was Mac's insatiable appetite and how it fascinated him. He'd told his mother that he continually teased Mac about her eating habits and she, in turn, would tease him about his. It was no surprise when, ten minutes later, she was standing over the grill with a big bottle of steak sauce.

Harm and Frank walked outside each carrying some of the condiments that the women had asked for. The decision had been made to grill dinner rather than head off to some impersonal restaurant. "Aren't we supposed to do that?" Harm said, pointing between himself, Frank, and the grill. "Because, grilling is a manly right of passage."

"Uh huh. You gonna grill up my big, fat, juicy steak, veggieboy?" Mac made a point of biting back a chuckle at the perturbed look on his face.

With a dramatic sigh, Harm leaned up against the railing and stared out towards the ocean. "Am I ever going to get you to eat healthier?"

"Nope, and by the way, didn't you tell me, not too long ago, that after everything that happened you'd eat a Beltway Burger?" She doused the steaks then flipped them over to get the other side.

The thought of Beltway Burgers might have watered his mouth when he was forced to eat that disgusting gruel. But, out in the real world, he wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole. "Yes, but that was a momentary lapse of reasoning." Harm stood behind her, trying to steal the sauce away from her, his body brushing against hers intimately.

But, Mac wasn't going to let him sway her. Instead, she turned and pointed the fork at him. "I'm trying to cook here, so get flyboy." She chuckled when Harm raised his hands up in surrender. "Besides what would your folks think?" She threw saucily with a wink.

"Mmm. . .That I am a needy heterosexual male with a very good looking girlfriend?" He offered with in a very low voice then placed a kiss on her lips before running inside.

Trish and Frank and been standing by, watching the sight with an adoration that they wouldn't have thought possible. As a mother of an only child, she was never one to like any of Harm's girlfriends much, except for Mac. Even after the younger woman had mentioned her tainted past, Trish had wished that the Marine and her son would have been together and much more than just partners. "Honey, why don't you and Harm find something to do, I'll help Mac with dinner." With a sweet kiss, she sent her husband away and then handed Mac a few patties of veggie burgers, laughing when Mac cringed. "I love my boys, I do. . .but I really wish Frank hadn't gotten Harm into this health food craze."

"Oh, have you tried Harm's meatless meatloaf?" Mac said with a giggle, she'll never forget that as long as she lived. It was jus too much fun to tease Harm about.

The older woman cringed. "He didn't cook that for you did he?"

Mac nodded. "No offense, you raised a great guy, but. . .Ugh, it was terrible."

"Remind me to kill Frank." Trish answered and both women started laughing. "I knew there was a reason you and I got along so well."

Harm was leaning against a window, staring out at his girlfriend and mother with a funny expression. "How long do you think it'll be before she starts taking out the embarrassing baby pictures?"

"Oh, she already has." Frank smirked while he cracked open two beers. He handed one to Harm then patted him on the back. "Thought you could use one."

"Thanks Frank."

"So, you still sticking to the healthier eating?"

Taking a swig of beer, he glanced out at the two women and smiled. He liked that scene, a lot. Most of the other girls his mom loathed, she even had a bit of problems with Diane. "Occasionally. . .I still have an affinity for hot dogs, pepperoni pizza, I do eat chicken. But, steaks and all of that. . .Nooo." Mac met his gaze and wiggled her fingers at him before blowing a kiss. He 'caught' it in mid air then blew one back. It was all cheesy, completely and totally cheesy, but he didn't care. "They're getting along very well."

Beer in hand, Frank slid onto the sofa and took a deep breath. "Yes. In a way Sarah's been a godsend for your mother. And I think your mother has been one for her. . ." He was thankful Mac had been in their lives. Realistically, he knew Trish could survive, dealing with the loss of Harm Sr, had made her stronger, harder. He knew his wife always tried to slightly detach herself from Harm and his chosen profession. True, he was just a lawyer, one that barely flew. But just the thoughts of him flying even for a moment unnerved her. "I never stopped believing you were gone Harm. . .I think I finally realized what you went through in regards to your father." Actually, it was much worse, because as a five year old you only remember certain things, the rest of the pain was manufactured. For Frank though, Harm was his son, it didn't matter what blood ran through his veins. And for a parent, there was nothing worse than losing a child.

Harm sighed and took a long gulp of his beer feeling every bit the annoying teenage child. There were times he was kind with Frank, others that he could have killed the man for winning his mother's affections. "I could have made it easier for you though. . .I know I've told you this before, but. . .thank you for sticking it out. I know life with me was hell."

"Hell would have been easier than dealing with you. . .but it wasn't all bad."

"Yea, we did have some father, son moments." Harm thought back to their camping trips, skiing trips and even his attempts to each Frank how to surf. "I do think of you as a father. . .it's just that, when you came into our lives. . ."

"You felt your mother was betraying your father. . ." He supplied with a grimace. "I'll never forget the word you used. . . 'adulteress'. . .I was tempted to tie you up in your room the day of the wedding." Frank had been a trooper through it all, sticking it out despite the young boy who was vehement to allow his mother to move on. It was surprising that Harm behaved during the wedding and knew it had to do because Sarah Rabb was keeping an eye on her grandson. "But you behaved."

"She begged me to. . .as much as I was angry with her, Grams told me that, out of all people, she should be the angriest one, seeing as dad was her son. . .She said that if she were able to give you two her blessings, I should too."

"It got easier from there. . .Didn't it?" Well, it semi got better, Harm was used any opportunity he could to stir up trouble. "Then again there was that time you got mad at your mother and decided to run away."

"Oh God." Harm laughed, bringing his hand up to cover his face. "How far did you let me get?"

"Four blocks, wasn't it?" Frank added, laughing himself at something that, back then, had been nothing to laugh about. He'd seen Harm sneaking out of the house at 3am and let him, but followed closely behind in his car. Harm had gotten nearly four blocks away from the house, before he found a place to hide in the bushes. Frank had parked his car, and walked over to find a thirteen year old Harm, crying. "I remember you telling me that you stopped when you realized you couldn't just hitchhike to grams house."

Harm nodded, he should have known better back then, but an argument with his mother about his real father just made him snap. "Am I the reason why you never tried to have a baby?"

Frank frowned, always knowing that question would one day come up. He'd been prepared to answer it, but it was still a painful subject. "We tried. . .it just wasn't in the cards." It was around the time when Harm turned fourteen and it wasn't planned, but it was welcomed. Trish knew her son would be protective of the baby and it would probably bring the family closer. But, just as Frank said, it wasn't in the cards. "Trish miscarried. . ."

"Was it me?" The words come out of Harm's mouth even before he had a chance to sensor them.

"No." But the look of remorse in Harm's eyes told Frank that his son didn't believe him. "Believe me it wasn't. . . I wouldn't lie to you, son."

Nevertheless, things suddenly made sense, how his mother became that much more overprotective of him and all he could do was act like a jerk. "Was that why she got even more attached to me?"

"Yes. . .Look, don't let her know that I told you. . ." Frank stood, and moved to the other sofa and Harm joined him on the other side. "So, how serious are you with Mac?"

Harm raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Are we that obvious?"

"Apart from the way you intimately walked up behind her, then kissed her on the lips." Frank began with an amused chuckle. "Nah, not at all."

Harm chuckled. "I don't know how serious we are, but I know how serious I want to be." If he had it his way, they would go back in time, before he had that stupid idea to rejoin a squadron. Their relationship had grown so much in such a short period of time. But, he was too selfish to see how he'd hurt her when he left. Until he came back and things just seemed to be moving on without him, as if he'd never existed. But the worst came months later when, because of a stupid mistake of his, he lost her altogether. With a sigh, Harm looked away from his stepfather and glanced out the window to the woman that held all hopes for him having a normal life. If he had it his way, they'd be married by now with a couple of cute kids, maybe even a dog. "I've tried not to think about it so much." He said slightly dejected and finished off the rest of the beer.

"Tried not to think about it so?" Frank loved his stepson but, sometimes, the man could be so obtuse with women. He'd seen it happen again and again. The string of girlfriends who were only good for one thing and then the ones he actually cared about but dared not to get too close to. Then, there was Mac, a woman Frank knew had jumbled all of the control Harm had. At first, he considered it to be a good, old fashioned dose of infatuation, but when his stepson would get this certain look in his eyes, Frank knew it was love. "Why not? It's not like the two of you don't know each other. Christ, son, she followed you to a war zone, she helped you discover the truth about your father. How much more convincing do you need?"

Harm shuffled slightly, this wasn't exactly a conversation that was high on his list. "I want to be with her, forever if possible. . . But before we complicate things, I want to keep it simple . . spend time with her, with no pressure. .. Plus, marriage means one of us, maybe even both of us changing billets. . .We're just starting to move in the same direction, I don't want to throw anything in and jumble it up, you know?"

Frank understood all of that, it was the same fears he had when asking Trish to marry him. "You know I got the same 'cold feet' when I married Trish. We did good together, I was afraid that a ring would just mess things up. . .but we worked out." He said with a grin, then stood and walked over to Harm. "Don't wait too long, son, or else I think your mother will ask Sarah for you." With a chuckle he patted Harm on the back and headed out to the patio with the women...

... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
So what do we think? Good, Bad? Sucks horribly? ;)

It's an estimated 16 chappies. That is subject to change I have about 5 written out completely, the rest are outlined meaning, I know what will happened, I just need to write it out. Depending on the lenght some chapters will get cut or put together. ;)

Enjoy gang!