Disclaimer: Not mine.

Author's Note: This is the end and I wanted to say thanks for the feedback! You all rock!

Return to Red Rock

by e-dog

Part Six

The Hilton Hotel

Mesa, Arizona

Day 4

She was surprised at first, but she doesn't pull away.

She's returning the kiss, desperately trying to keep up with me. I'm shocked, relieved and completely confused as to why she's allowing me to take advantage of the situation like this. We're both disoriented and exhausted from the dancing, right? Yeah, that's right. That's a good excuse for this delirious action. Despite we're both plagued by the realization of our dilemma, we're still here making out like two high school teenagers after prom. Would it be wrong for me to say that I'm loving this?

Before I realize it, the kiss is over. She's pulled away and I'm lying here alone on the bed.

I experience a time lapse, I think. It's like I've fallen asleep (although I'm pretty sure my eyes stayed open) and can't remember the last few hours. A quick glance at the clock tells me four hours have passed. It's nearly 8 in the morning.

My eyes shift over to the closed door. I think she disappeared into the other room, but I'm not sure. After the kiss, it's kinda blurry, to be perfectly honest. I think I remember saying, "I'm sorry."

I think I remember her saying, "It's okay, Harm. . .no...I'm sorry, too."

Then she was gone. She was sorry? Sorry for what? Sorry she let her body respond to the exact same feelings that are coursing through me? Sorry she couldn't control herself and had to drag herself away? I'm not quite sure I understand. For me, that was the most emotional, mind-blowing, totally invigorating kiss I've ever taken part in.

It's also the first passionate kiss I've initiated with someone I desire that has ended with me still very much clothed and very much alone. I don't think I have to tell you what that does to a man's ego.

Another time lapse. My eyes finally snap open and I stare at the clock. Damn, it's nearly 11:30. I roll out of the bed, still wearing my attire from the night before. I pause and realize how icky I feel. The ickiness is the result of partying the night away for the first time in years. My natural sleep schedule is off and I suddenly notice some muscles aching that I weren't aware existed before last night. I need a long, hot shower and quick.

First, I search the entire room for her, but she's definitely taken off and that scares me. While I don't think she would just leave me here alone in Arizona, the thought still crosses my mind. No, it's time for more rational thought. Where would she go? I'm not familiar with this area. I don't know her usual hangouts. I droop my head, feeling ashamed for what I did. Why did I have to kiss her? Did I really think it would solve all of our problems? We weren't ready! Stupid, Harm. Just stupid.

Nevertheless. . .

She has to know how desperate I am, right? How crazy I am for her? I've never been good with words, but damn, my actions must speak louder! There was nothing ambiguous about my intentions this time around! Not to mention, she returned the kiss with just as much vigor. Does that mean she really does have feelings for me?

Once I'm shower fresh and in clean clothes, I head over to our bag of goodies and search for some cereal. I need to eat something considering we never stopped for dinner last night. I head to the mini fridge for milk, but I find a post-it note stuck to the front. It's her usual scrawl telling me where she ran off to.

I read it aloud, "I went out to Red Rock to clear my head. I'll be waiting."

Red Rock! Of course! Man, sometimes I wonder if my head is screwed on tight enough. Of course she would go out to Red Rock. A nervous smile explodes across my face for I'm not sure what to make of this. Does this mean she's not furious with me? Or does this mean I'm in store for a dressing down by an angry Lt. Colonel?

I find that I'm very eager to go find out.

Red Rock Mesa

Mesa, Arizona

Day 4

The heat is unbearable again, but the more time that passes, the less I care about it. Instead of walking, I'm driving the semi-long distance from the main road towards Red Rock. Unlike Mac, who enjoyed trekking this patch of land a few days ago, I'm not all about hiking across this fiery sand again. As I approach the massive rock, I spot a figure resting near the base. It must be her.

I look around, still having to squint even with sunglasses on. The sun is high in the sky, so there are very few shadows being cast for shade. I cast my eyes on her again, watching her rest on a blanket. She seems to be wistfully staring off into the distance. I can't help but wonder what's going through her head.

With one deep breath and a crack of my neck, I start to walk towards her. My heart is pounding in anticipation and fear. For the first time in a long time, I'm completely walking into a situation that I've set up without thinking of the consequences.

Okay, okay. Don't laugh at me. I seem to always walk into situations that I've set up without thinking of the consequences.

I think she hears me approach but she doesn't move to greet me. I take this as an ominous sign of my impending doom.

I bravely sit down next to her in the sand and stretch out my legs in front of me. I lean back, using my hands to support me and wait. I'm not sure what I'm waiting for, exactly.

I could be waiting on her to address my presence.

Or I could be waiting on a nuclear bomb to crash down on us and announce to the entire universe that Earth has died.

Either one would be satisfactory right about now. Anything is better than the silent treatment. I'm going back and forth on whether I should say anything about the kiss. If she wants to talk about it, she'll bring it up, right? No need to force it...at least, I don't think I should force it. I bite my lower lip, wondering if the rest of the trip will be this way. We only have one more full day here, then tomorrow we head back to our real lives. The last thing I wanted was for this vacation to end on a gloomy note.

"You never answered my question, last night," she finally speaks up, glancing over to me. I think I spy the hint of a smile before it disappears.

I keep my cool and say, "You never answered mine."

"So, we make a deal?" she proposes. "You answer my question and I answer yours?"

"Deal," I say softly, forcing myself to make eye contact with her. I take a deep breath and say without regret, "I want to leave JAG. I am leaving JAG."

"I see," she sighs, but I grab her hand and hold it tightly. She stares at me, slightly confused.

"But. . ., erm, Sarah," I fumble over my words.

For Pete's Sake, Rabb! Can't you say something romantic without sounding like a complete idiot? C'mon! I involuntarily tighten my grip around her fingers and I pray I'm not squeezing too firmly.

I forge on,"But I'm not leaving you. I want to move on, but I want you to move on with me."

"I see," she repeats, this time her response somewhat breathless. I can envision the wheels turning in her head. Now she knows how I feel. We've both expressed thoughts of leaving and I just confirmed mine.

"I mean it, Mac. No matter what happens to me, I don't ever want to leave you," I reiterate. She's still silent and I feel satisfaction washing through me. I've told you what I wanted. I want you to be with me and it doesn't matter to me how we stay together. As friends, as lovers, or even as something substantial and worthwhile. Did I do it? Did I finally sweep you off your feet, Sarah Mackenzie?

Our breaths seem to be caught in our throats as I wait on her to say something more. She gives me a shy smile and squeezes my hand. "I guess I should answer your question."

I would be lying if I say my heart didn't just deflate. That was not the answer I was expecting. Sure, I would've preferred that she jump up, kiss me senseless and proclaim,"I love you!". Naturally, my imagination is simply running away with me and I should be patient. In one night we went from confused best friends to even more confused saliva exchangers. Instead, I nod my head, telling her I'm ready for her answer.

"The new Harm, that I met last night," she starts, her voice very small and timid. "He ventured out onto a Salsa dance floor and embarrassed himself for me. He took time out to admire me for me and captured his favorite moments on film. He agreed to travel with me out to Red Rock, despite the reservations I could see in his eyes." She pauses, then smiles, "It's not that the old Harm wouldn't have done the same things...I just think the old Harm would've treated me more like his sister. . . ."

I sit there, listening to every word and drinking in the gratitude that I hear in her voice. It's a wonderful feeling, let me tell you.

She's paused again, the sunlight reflecting off her skin and it mimics the happiness that's growing inside her. Wow, did I do that? Did I make her feel that way? I think I did. I sure hope I did.

She seems to find it difficult to finish, so I help. Mostly because I'm anxious to hear the rest, "Last night, you started to say the new Harm made you do something. What was it?"

At this question, I get a radiant smile and eyes filled with tears, "He made me feel good about myself. That's a feeling I haven't felt in a long time."

I immediately wrap her in my arms and she doesn't fight me. I could always see it coming. Dalton, Mic, Webb. . .they all made her feel good temporarily. However, I was certain that through all those relationships, she still disliked the woman she had become. Those men dazzled her, wooed her and stamped a huge "She's Mine!" sign on her back, but I'm very sure they never made her feel good about herself.

I did that. I've always wanted to do that and now I have.

I whisper softly, "I'm glad the new Harm made you feel that way."

"Me too," she says back, getting her sniffles under control. Then she laughs into my shirt.

"What?" I ask.

"You don't have to keep referring to yourself in the third person," she chuckles and pulls out of my embrace.

I produce the best flyboy smile in the history of flyboy smiles and laugh. I can't stop gazing at her and I wipe away one lone tear that has escaped her eyes. My finger slowly traces the outlines of her face. I caress her cheek just like I used to in days of old. Back when she needed me to be her comforter. Back when we weren't shy about hugging one another for the sake of human contact. For the first time in years, it feels safe to touch her and I'm flooded with alleviation. I watch her hand join mine, holding my hand in place forcing me cup her face completely. I see her close her eyes and I sense the longing within her, but I also sense the regrets.

No, no. Not now. We're too close!

"We can't do this, Harm," she tells me, putting on a fearless face.

"Why?" I ask, because that's the only word I can utter. I think I feel my heart shattering again. This has to be hurting her too, right?

"For the same reasons we never tried before," she says, sounding exhausted. She slowly pulls back and gently sets my hand in my lap. Her hand holds mine for a few seconds longer before she reluctantly lets go. I'm in stupor right now. For the first time in years, I felt we were on the same wavelength and now another curve ball has been thrown at me. Before I realize it, she's standing and walking away. Damn it! So close. . .

I stand up and shout, "Wait! Mac, wait!"

She stops, her arms are folded and her posture displays her discomfort. She wants to run, but I can't let her do that again. Not this time.

"Mac," I say as I finally reach her. "There's nothing back there, you know?"

"Back where?" she asks, not following my train of thought. Hell, I'm not sure I'm following my train of thought either.

"You know...back there," I stall, then find the words I'm searching for. I point in some random direction and finish, "Back in Falls Church. There's nothing there."

"Harm," she laughs lightly, clearly amused. "Our jobs, our friends and our apartments are back there."

I look out at the open desert space and breathe in deeply the hot, musty air. More and more I'm beginning to like it here and I'm suddenly dreading tomorrow morning. Tomorrow morning is our flight back to D.C., giving us a day to regroup. Giving us a chance of preparation for our walk back into the JAG bullpen. At this point, I'm not sure I want to go back. In fact, I'm very sure I don't want to go back. At least not for another day.

I turn to her and say, "Our jobs? Our apartments? Is that all?"

"Is that all?" she repeats, now completely flabbergasted by my behavior. "Harm, I think the Arizona heat has finally gotten to you. . ."

"All I see in Falls Church are empty apartments devoid of all those things that make a home suitable to live in," I say, taking on this inspirational tone and attitude. "All I see our cluttered desks, rules, regulations and a Marine General who will kick our sixes if he ever finds out what happened here."

Mac seems to be paying attention to me now, but frowns at the mention of Cresswell. She raises an eyebrow and asks, "If he finds out what?"

"That his top two lawyers participated in some activity bordering fraternization," I smile sweetly and wink at her.

"I could always say you forced me," she jokes back, then adds smartly, "Which you did."

"I could always say you never pushed me away," I return and add just as curtly, "Which you didn't."

I smile widely and lean down to intimidate her. It doesn't work. I've only made myself nervous again, entering into a space that is mere inches from her face. I'm frozen in place, trying to keep myself from kissing her again. I'm trying to remain the gentleman, but. . .

"Harm," she warns me, her features softening and her voice barely audible. "We can't keep joking about this."

"I know," I whisper back, then lose it. Again. At this point, I don't know if I'm a complete moron or just drunk with love. Okay, everyone, place your bets! Is Harm a complete moron or drunk with love?

This time, I have a little more control. I've planted a soft kiss on her lips and I make sure not to get carried away. I pull back completely and look away, feeling guilty again. Why do I always have to mess up right when things are going good? Surprisingly, I feel her hand gently caress my arm. I look at her and she expresses softly, "Don't be ashamed. I'm not."

"I'm not ashamed," I tell her, which is a lie, because I was. However, now that she's okay with me kissing her again, I'm completely okay with what I just did. Now I can chalk my actions up to being drunk with love. (Now, who bet that I was a complete moron?)

I smile, but say with self-reproach, "We have to go back, don't we?"

"Yeah, we do," she sighs deeply. Then I watch as her face changes to an insightful, pondering expression and she says optimistically, "You're positive about leaving JAG, right Harm?"

I furrow my brow because I think I know where she's going with this. I place my hands on my hips, then tilt my head to side saying, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure."

She murmurs to herself, then taps her chin in thought as she proposes, "Maybe we can stay...for one more day. Talk about the future?"

"Yeah, maybe we can do that," I repeat softly. She offers her arm and I gladly hook my arm in hers. We head back to the car and I take another moment to view this magnificent landscape. This place that is hot as hell, yet the heat and atmosphere engulf you and make you do some crazy things. Things you never thought you had the courage to do. Things that can change your life forever.

Maybe we don't have to go back to Falls Church. Maybe for once, the stars have aligned perfectly above us, setting our universe in it's proper place. Maybe we can look back on photos of this trip and see genuine comradery and good times. We'll see how wonderful it was to take time out for ourselves, forcefully separating ourselves from an occupation that forbid us from having a future together.

Maybe, just maybe, we'll look back and see how easy it was to fall in love all over again. . .

And considering how many times I've fallen head over heels for Sarah Mackenzie, I have to say I'm an expert in the field by now.

The End