Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author's Note: I started this story a while back, after Bridging the Gulf aired. Then I put it aside, working on other fics that I started (cough) months ago. I didn't want to post another unfinished story. Even still, I couldn't shake this one and I actually finished it! Go figure. I hope you enjoy.

Summary: Harm has lost all hope and feels it's time to move on. However, a trip back to the place that started it all could change his mind. . .Harm's POV set after Bridging the Gulf

Return to Red Rock

by e-dog

Part One

JAG Headquarters

Falls Church, Virginia

It's getting so much more difficult to continue on with my life here at JAG. I literally feel like an alien roaming the halls asking the people of earth to take me to their leader. I haven't spoken to Mac in over a week, because frankly, I'm not sure I know how to approach her anymore. Furthermore, Cresswell has got her so damn busy with the Bugme Reincarnate, I rarely get to see her.

I also think she's avoiding me. I'm not sure why, but I think she is. A part of me wants to find her, sit her down and talk. I want to know why our friendship has morphed into this unknown specimen that even a microscope couldn't decipher. I tap my pen on the desk, trying to distract myself. Trying to keep my thoughts from ruling my emotions. Mac isn't the only person in my life whose current behavior befuddles me.

My other relationships are slowly wilting away as well. Mattie is so busy rebuilding her relationship with her father, I can't seem to reach her by phone or by e-mail. My blow up with Sturgis on the carrier has put us in an unpleasant place. We can't seem to get through the day without scowling at each other. And come to think of it, I haven't been keeping up on the Roberts clan at all! It's moments like these I realize, I don't know anybody anymore. Even Jenn is starting to keep her distance. Can't say I blame her either. Our little arrangement with Mattie and the apartments has probably scared her away for good.

I know it seems like I don't want things to get better, but I really do. I want my life to resemble what it used to be nine years ago, when I was younger, happier, more determined. . .back when I was falling hard for a certain Marine Major.

I guess I just don't have the energy anymore. Nothing about my job, about being a lawyer is inspiring me to fight for a better tomorrow. The General seems to think a younger staff is what he needs around here and who am I to argue? I'm obviously too old and too inexperienced to make a better judgment. I snort in disgust at that last thought. Too old? Too inexperienced? Get real.

Maybe coming back a year ago was a bad idea. Maybe it's time I just move on.

She taps lightly, hoping not to startle me, but she still does. It's a rare occasion to see her standing in my doorway and I have to say her timing is impeccable as usual. Every time ruminations of leaving JAG enter my mind, she shows up. Sometimes, I think she's the reason I'm still here. Hell. Who am I kidding? She is the reason I'm still here.

"Hey, Colonel. . .," I say, remaining formal. I'm unsure of how to continue. She looks so unreachable. I fiddle with my pen, waiting on her to say something. Anything.

"I think I need a vacation," she starts off. I cock my eyebrow. I can already tell this is going to be fun. (Note the sarcasm)

"Yeah?" I say, not sure where she's going with this. Then I make my first mistake and say, "I could use one too. . ."

She jumps on that immediately, "I was thinking about going out to Arizona, but. . ."


"Harm. . .," she says my name slowly, almost cautiously. I don't like the way she's saying my name or that apprehensive look in her eyes. My heart beats faster as I wonder, what could she possibly want? It's obvious she's put much thought into what she's about to ask me because she seems slightly flustered. Finally she asks me, "Would you go with me? Out to Red Rock? I don't want to travel alone and I'm not sure who else I should ask to go with me. . ."

Many months ago, she told me, "Let me come to you."

Then on Christmas Eve she expressed how she was thankful we were both alive.

Either I'm reaching or this request to travel to Arizona is her way of asking me back into her life.

Whether she is or not, I find that the word "yes" has left my lips faster than my brain can formulate the response. She steps back, her face taking on that somewhat dazed expression. Probably shocked to hear me so excited about a trip she has yet to explain to me. I stumble over my words as I try to amend, "I mean, sure Mac. I would love to go, but you know Cresswell. . ."

"Well, we can ask for leave together," she suggests, like it's no big deal. It's obvious her relationship with Cresswell is much better than it was earlier this year. However, I'm still not all that comfortable around the man. For a Marine, he's way too calm and that irks me. Sometimes, his demeanor astounds me so much, I have to wonder if I did something wrong. Maybe I should put this another way. . .

"Mac, he already thinks there's something. . .you know," I try to imply the obvious, then add, "Asking for leave at the same time. . .Don't you think he's going to get suspicious?"

Her eyes squint in confusion. She's not catching my drift. Or maybe she does understand and is just playing dumb to get her way. I sigh and decide to backpeddle. If I go with her to Red Rock, it could and/or will result in some alone time. And that alone time could and/or will result in bringing up "the talk" that we're always avoiding. Lastly, "the talk" could and/or will result in some unwanted heartache, headaches and a dressing down from a Marine (Mac) when a Navy Commander (Me) has pissed said Marine off.

Frankly, I would like to keep avoiding that.

I shrug showing indifference and say, "Anyway, I doubt he'll let you go. He's made you Vukovic's new teacher."

I clearly hit a nerve with that comment and instantly regret bringing it up. Strike one, Rabb. Strike one.

She folds her arms defiantly and seethes, "Vukovic is the reason why I need the vacation. You know what, you're probably right. I'm stuck here."

"Mac, wait," I say and rise from my chair. I'm relieved when she stops and waits for me to reach her. I go to shut my door, but not before I catch a glimpse of the new resident hot-shot. Anger boils in me, mostly because now he's another thorn in Mac's side. Secondly, I get the feeling Cresswell is trying to replace me with. . .him. The thought makes me gag. I finally shut the door and focus on her. "If you need a vacation, you should take it. . . No, you should demand it."

Her mouth slowly curls into a tiny, mischievous grin. For a moment, her eyes light up and I see a glimpse of the Mac I met nine years ago. There's a fire there that I had thought burned out years ago. She nods in agreement, "For once, you're right. I desperately need to do this."

"Then do it," I say triumphantly. To be honest, I'm happy that my opinion still has such an impact on her life. I'm also glad to see she's not avoiding me, as I had previously conceived.

"You're still coming, then?" she asks timidly.

This time, I falter. The resounding yes doesn't come to me as quickly as it did before. I slowly start to see that fire I ignited in her is dying down. I'm so tired of disappointing her, that I say in one quick breath, "Yes, I would love to go."

I don't mention Cresswell or Vukovic nor do I show any reservation in my decision to travel with her. She gives me a genuine and relieved smile and I shudder at the happiness radiating from her. It's finally dawning on me that she really wants me to go. Sarah Mackenzie has just asked me to get on a plane to Arizona and spend some time alone with her. Boy, wasn't I an idiot for trying to backpeddle earlier!

I open the door for her and she exits my office. I stand in the doorway, watching her maneuver cleverly through the maze of desks, successfully avoiding any contact with Vukovic.

A smile threatens to attack my face as I wonder what this trip to Arizona will entail. I can only imagine it will be a trip to remember.

End Part One