Written November 2003
With Love and thanks to the cast, crew and creators of JAG.
"The only way I can leave you, Mac." His parting words.
"Harm, don't leave mad." She called after him.
"The only way I can leave you, Mac."
Was he MAD?
No, he wasn't MAD.
He might have been annoyed, vexed, cross, exasperated, bitter, offended, heated, irate, displeased, or resentful.
Yes, he might have been any of those things. But what he was not – he was NOT MAD.
Why did he feel that way? She wasn't his girlfriend. She wasn't his lover. Hell, she was nothing more than a person whose life had intersected his for the last eight years. Intersected? Hell, she crashed into it broadside. Tomorrow he could walk away and there would be nothing that ensured that their lives would ever intersect again. He had waited two years – more than two years – after that fiasco with Mic Brumby. Waiting for her to come around. Should he wait any longer? Nope. Not any more. He wasn't mad; he just wasn't going to wait it any more.
His state of un-maddenness forced him to make a decision; a decision that he would normally NOT make. He was going to do what men – most men – do when a woman has pissed them off for the last time (remember though, he was not MAD). He was going to go out, get drunk, pick-up another woman and get back in the game. Yep, that was the current plan.
Step One: He pulled into the parking lot of a known 'target rich' environment, strode into the room like the cock of the walk, sidled up to the bar, ordered three fingers of Jack, drained it and ordered another. He turned his attention to the room and surveyed the 'targets.' He locked in quickly. He had her in his sights: flowing blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes, brimming with youth, stupid as a stump (from what he could tell across the room – who knows she might have been a rocket scientist, but not with those fingernails), and clearly easy (read: interested in him). He got the 'eyes' from her. He returned them with his best 'come hither' smile.
Step Two: Send the lucky lady a drink. He did. He watched as the waitress approached to take the drink order. The giggle was a little too loud and a little too long. No matter. He saw her make 'the move': she sauntered to the ladies room with two of her companions, which of course gave him a perfect opportunity to appreciate her entire form – head to toe – and start to wonder about her when she was out of sight. She was thin, very thin, skinny as a rail one might say. She would probably break under pressure, but Harm could be gentle – if he had to be. Why her? Why her when the environment was to full of other likely candidates? She was so different from – well she was just different.
Step Three: She was back at her table and nodded her 'thank you' for the drink; which was followed by a hair flip and the lip pout. She was primed; he was ready. Time to meet her. He hadn't done this in a while; quite a long while, but it couldn't have changed much in ten years, could it? He swallowed hard and started to make his move. Go over, talk to her, flatter her and hang on her every word until it was time to "go."
"Sit down, Rabb." A voiced called from behind him.
He turned and no one was there. Hmm. That is strange. He thought he recognized the voice, but he couldn't place the name. He shook if off and turned his attention back to the lady in question. Again, he moved to get up –
"Don't do it, Rabb." The voice came again and was coupled with a firm hand on the shoulder pulling him back into the stool.
Again, Harm turned and no one was there. He caught his reflection in the mirror behind the bar. He looked pathetic and stupid and like a middle aged man about to start his crisis. That young woman had to be fifteen or twenty years younger than he was. What was he doing? Picking up a woman in a bar? He hadn't done that since – well, ever – well not ever, but not for fifteen or twenty years. And if memory serves it was not much fun then either.
"You ARE pathetic." The voice came again; he recognized it now and where it was coming from. It was his own, and it was coming from inside his head. "How can you make a play for her – this blonde piece of fluff? It is so shallow, so meaningless, so base. You don't even know her name and you are already planning breakfast. And what would happen tomorrow? And the next day? Is this the way you want to enter into a relationship or is she really just a one-night stand? Please – you don't treat women that way. You know better than that. You don't treat yourself that way, just cause you are MAD."
HE WAS NOT MAD!
Harm drained his glass. Nodded to the woman and walked out and walked home - alone.TIME: Unknown
Location: A Boat on a Storm Tossed Sea
"Put it down, Harm." She shouted. "Put down your weapon."
"Put yours down." He shouted back.
Harm and Mac were the only two left on a boat in a raging storm. They each hung on to the opposite rail of the sinking vessel with one hand and in the other they held a weapon. There was one lifeboat left. It was going to take the two of them working together, to un-secure it and lower it into the water. They could not accomplish that with weapons in their hand, nor holding on to their safe positions.
"Harm, we are going to die out here if you don't put down you weapon and help me with this."
"Can't do it, Mac."
"You don't trust me."
"It is not a matter of trust."
A giant swell hit the boat and drenched them both again. Mac choked a mouth full of seawater and Harm was nearly pushed over board.
"We can't stay here like this." She cried when she was able to find her breath.
"Agreed." He said. "Put down your weapon and come to me."
"You come to me."
"This is no time to argue with me."
"Then come here."
"Mac, I am stronger than you are."
"I can take care of myself."
"We are both going to die if you don't let go."
"If I give up this position I'll slip off the deck."
"I will catch you."
"You can't with a weapon in your hand."
"It is not a matter of trust. You can't guarantee me that you will not let me fall."
"What is your suggestion?"
"Edge over to the center of the rail. I will meet you and together we can get the lifeboat in the water."
Harm reviewed that suggestion. He shouldered his weapon and started edging toward her. His hold was not that good.
"Harm, lose the weapon."
"We may need it." He continued his movement.
His statement scared her and she looked around to see if there was any reason to believe that he was right. Would they need their weapons? Mac started edging toward him, but did not shoulder her weapon.
Another wave crashed into the hull. Mac lost her hold on the rail and was pushed sideways across the deck. Harm reached out his free arm to grab her. He caught her hand and prevented her from sliding overboard. He pulled her to the rail as another wave crashed into the boat. He lost his hold. Mac had regained hers. He slid to the edge of the deck and barely caught the rail. His weapon had slipped over his shoulder and was sliding away from him. He dove toward it and nearly had it in his grasp. The boat shifted and he slipped overboard. He was still hanging on to the edge, he was almost was able to re-secure his weapon.
"Harm!" She called after him.
"I think I can reach it."
"Harm forget the weapon." She leaned over the rail. "Take my hand."
"I can reach it." He said.
"HARM! Take my hand." She ordered.
A final wave crashed on deck. Harm was forced to let go by the sheer force of the wave and the rocking of the boat. He was lost. Mac tried to maintain, but with only one hand, she lost her grasp. She slipped over the edge of the deck and into the icy water below.
Mac woke with a shout. She was safe in her own bed.
1336 EST – JAG Headquarters – Falls Church, VA
Mac did not have court that day. Harm did. They had not seen each other, except a very distant, very quick glimpse in the hall.
Harm had gone home that night before and made a decision. Harm is nothing if not disciplined. When he made his mind up – it was done. Most of the time, particularly with Mac, he chose NOT to make up his mind. This time was different.
If he assumed that Mac was right; that there was never going to be anything more between them, then there was no reason to struggle any more. If there was nothing to win there, was no reason to compete. They had each proven worthy adversaries and of equal skill, now the battles just became exercises – some were won, and some were lost, but nothing was gleaned from each experience. There was nothing more they could learn from the other. Goading her, teasing her, ribbing her, provoking her in anyway – professional, personally, emotionally – was just not profitable, and it ceased to be fun. It was wasted effort, wasted time, and wasted energy. So he wasn't going to do it.
So what now? They worked together. There was potential for them to work very closely together – TADs were not unheard of. There were also the mutual friends, their godson and the office social gatherings to consider. Should he treat her strictly professionally? No, that would be a strain for everyone. Should he just declare 'no hard feelings' and be her friend? That seemed like the logical way to go.
But what kind of friend? To try to be her 'best' friend, to try to stay connected to her in a more intimate level without the intimacy, would get really murky. As a best friend he would care about her and expect to be cared about in ways that no one else in their lives would. He would have a concern for her safety and happiness. He would be forced to have an opinion or discuss what was in her future and whom that future would be with. As a best friend he would be expected to support her decisions – decisions about men and career. He couldn't do that; he could not take himself that far out of the equation and be that dispassionate about some one he felt so passionately about – particularly if that passion was not reciprocated – as she contended it wasn't.
He could continue to be the ex-best friend and spurned wannabe lover – but that role was getting old. He was getting too old to play it. He just looked petty and foolish. There were too many fingers pointing back at him. They each made mistakes. To keep those issues front and center was just silly. It wasn't helping either one of them move forward. It just kept them stuck in the past.
So all that was left was open to him was a casual friend. A casual friend you can have lunch with, dinner with, talk about the weather and other newsy events with – but not so close that you discuss feelings – personal feelings. That would be harder to pull off, but it was really the only thing to do. He just had to suck all the passion from his dealings with her. He had to drop the innuendo, the witty repartee, the double entredres. He had to stop goading her and allowing himself to be goaded. He wasn't sure how he was going to do that – but part of it had to be 'acting as if.' If you act as if something is true – then eventually it will be. Right?
Would he have to apologize? Yes, yes he would. Did he really believe he did anything wrong? No, no he didn't. But to make a clean break, to start on this new tact, he needed to apologize for what came before. That would be the first order of business. Be cool, be casual, be nice and suck it up and apologize.
The judge broke for lunch late. Mattoni's continuance netted nothing. The judge was not pleased and pushed on through until the point where they could turn the case over to the members. It was in the bag, which meant that Harm would have nothing hanging over him for the weekend. He planned on taking his bike out and riding until the wind in his face cleared the crap out of his head. The weekend could not come soon enough for him.
The inevitable encounter with Mac arrived. Well actually he pushed it. He went looking for her after court.
"Hey." He poked his head insider her office, making sure not to come in and sit down.
"Hey." She replied warily. She was in her office going over some case notes.
"Sorry about last night." He said earnestly but with no tone like he wanted to continue the conversation. "I am."
"OK." She nodded.
"I still owe you that dinner, are you up for it tonight or should we push it to next week?"
"I am headed out of town tomorrow and I may take Monday off, depending upon when the members return their decision."
"Yeah, gonna take the cruiser out. Let the wind in my hair – so to speak."
"Yeah." She was leery. Didn't know where this whole conversation was going.
"So should I make reservations for tonight or next week?"
She thought for a moment. "Next week."
"Good." He smiled nicely and excused himself.
JAG Headquarters, Falls Church, VA
The Next Three Weeks
What followed in the next few weeks was a major transformation in Harm. He was in a good mood with everyone. Not baiting or teasing anyone – even Turner. His arrogance quotient dropped measurably, but there was still a light in his eyes that enjoyed besting people. People noticed – a lot of people noticed. He and Mac were assigned a double murder investigation of two Petty Officers in Norfolk and had to spend a lot of time traveling back and forth, working through lunches and dinners. It got easier as time went on to 'just be nice.' Occasionally Mac would say something with a design and intent to rile him, and he would acknowledge the comment but not respond in kind. At first Mac was a little put off, but soon came to realize that this is what she had asked for. She had asked him to back off. He did. Be careful what you wish for colonel. For all intents and purposes everything was fine. It was not as much fun, and there really was no spark or fire – but it was fine.
Mac started getting an odd feeling that the people at the office thought that the change in Harm was brought on by her. People – the admiral included – assumed that our heroes had finally gotten together (biblically); and he had chilled out. It was just a feeling that she got. People would talk about Harm in a casual fashion with her. Harriet would ask when Harm was coming in or where he had gone to lunch. Bud would ask if he could bring them dinner even though they were actually working in separate offices. The admiral would treat them as a unit – but that could have been because of the case and for no other reason. Turner would feel that it was important that Mac know that he and Harm would be playing basketball after work or tell her the next day how many points he really won by. Little stuff like that. Things that people would talk to her about her 'boyfriend.' I guess it brought them into the Harm/Mac loop but still kept the 'don't ask, don't tell' understanding firmly in place. To be fair, Harm was getting the same treatment, but he did not see it for what it was – at least he didn't see it as a bad thing – unlike Mac.
1746 EST – JAG Headquarters – Falls Church, VA
Harriet entered Rabb's office with some files he had asked for.
"Thank you Harriett."
"Sir, what are you and the colonel doing on Friday?"
"Bud and I are having a party for Mikey. It's his birthday. Nothing fancy but the food will be good and the beer will be cold."
"Sounds like fun. I'll check with Mac."
"Great." The admiral bellowed from his office for Harriet. She got a little panicked.
She turned to walk out and Mac was standing in the doorway. "Excuse me Ma'am, the admiral is calling – ask the commander about Friday."
Mac was annoyed. She entered his office and controlled her voice. She did not want to close the door. "OK, enough is enough."
"She thinks that we are -."
"She thinks that we are – you know – together."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"She thinks that we are – together – involved – DATING."
"No she doesn't."
"Yes she does."
"You let her believe it."
"What possible difference could it make?"
"That kind of gossip gets around."
"So, you encouraged it."
"How did I do that?"
"By not setting her straight."
"She asked if we were free for dinner on Friday. I said I didn't know, but that I would check – how is that a -."
"She thinks we are together – you let her think that we as a couple would decided to attend or not."
"I don't want people to get the wrong impression. We work here Harm."
"I see." Harm was beginning to feel very slighted. Down right hurt.
"You must see that we will be the subject of gossip, rumors and innuendo."
"So you must know why you have to nip this kind of thing in the bud. We work here."
"You said that." He looked disgusted. "You are upset because they think we are - - -."
"This bothers you?"
"YES - It doesn't bother you?"
"Well I clearly don't find it as insultingly offensive as you do. I didn't realize how damaging both personally and professionally having your name linked with mine could be."
"I never said -."
"But in deference to you – I will set them straight." He walked out of his office up to the bullpen. "Excuse me, may I have everyone's attention?"
"Harm, don't do this." She touched his arm.
"No, colonel. You are quite right, this can't go on for another moment." He turned back to the group. "It has been brought to my attention that the PERSONAL relationship between Colonel MacKenzie and myself has become subject for the office gossip mill - again. I am requesting that the gossip stop right here and now. There is not now, nor has there ever been and I am confident in saying there never will be anything more than a platonic professional relationship between the Colonel and me."
There was dead silence.
Harm continued. "While some of you may find this hard to believe given the length of time we have known each other, the history of public animosity between us, and the apparent closeness we demonstrate on occasion, but trust me when I say that it is true. Colonel MacKenzie and I are in no way intimately involved and never will be."
Again, stunned embarrassment.
He turned to Mac. "Is there anything you would like to add, Colonel?"
She looked shamed and shook her head.
He turned back to the group. "Again I request that the rumors, speculation and gossip cease and desist immediately. Thank you all for your attention – please – as you were." He turned to Mac. The coldness in his eyes froze her to the bone. "There, that ought to set them straight - - - it certainly cleared up any confusion that I still had." He strode back down to his office and closed the door decisively.
Mac held the rage and the tears tightly in check. She glanced around the room, shook her head and averted her eyes. She retreated to her own office.
Minutes later, Coates stepped up to Harm's office. She knocked and waited, knocked and waited again. The third time she knocked he opened the door and started to walk past her.
"What can I do for you Coates?" He was still pissed off.
She whispered. "The admiral would like a word with you."
Harm rolled his eyes. "Thank you."
He tossed his brief case and cover back on his desk and went to the admiral's office. He knocked and entered.
"Reporting as ordered, sir."
"Rabb, what are you doing right now?"
"On my way to the law library, sir."
"Have a drink with me."
"Have a drink with me."
1810 EST – McMurphy's
"Harm, I am not your commanding officer at the moment."
"What is going on between you and the colonel?"
"Nothing – I thought I made that perfectly clear."
"Well, that is part of the reason why I asked you here – that announcement was probably the rudest display I have ever seen from you – and that is saying a lot."
"I may have overreacted."
"An understatement, commander."
"I was responding to a request from the colonel."
"She asked you to publicly embarrass her, yourself and the entire staff?"
"No sir, she asked me to correct the impression that we were more than friends."
"I see. That brings me to another point. Why aren't you?"
"Sir, I am not sure that - ."
"She is a beautiful woman."
"Admiral, I don't feel that -."
"She is smart, loyal with a good heart and can be fun at times, from what I hear. You have a lot in common."
"Well, sir. I think you hit the nail on the head. We have all too much in common."
"Pig headedness, egos to fill a football stadium and the unwillingness to be wrong."
"Among other things. It was decided that it would not work out between us."
"Did you have input in the decision?"
Harm thought for a moment. "My first reaction is to say 'no' but if I am being honest with you, I would have to say that I didn't argue it."
"Yet you are still acting like a spurned lover."
"That was not my intention when I came back to JAG." He defended. "And not for the past several weeks."
"No, that is true. The natives have been calm lately." He sat for a moment. "What happened in Paraguay?"
"You risk your career and your life and she ends up with Webb – now you are telling me it was nothing."
"Sir, the timing has never been right – and it never will be – and I think the colonel needs to take her share of that responsibility."
"I am confident she does."
"Since coming back to JAG I have made a very concerted effort to treat her as a colleague and as a friend with no animosity for – "
"I understand. So what happened this time?"
"I am not sure, sir. We were finding a friendship again."
"That little paintball event?"
"Yes sir. I thought things were fine. We actually were having fun – as friends."
"She is a woman sir. How the hell am I supposed to know? She went off on me for something I did – or didn't do – and I overreacted."
"Well, Harm." The admiral saw over his shoulder that Mac had arrived. He had asked Coates to send her over. "I think you two need to hash this out and put it to rest once and for all."
"I don't want to have to separate you – but I can't allow you two to disrupt the office anymore. This is not high school." The admiral stood as Mac approached. Harm looked over his shoulder and realized that he had been set up.
"Admiral, you wanted to see me?" Said Mac.
"Mac, as your friend and NOT your commanding officer, I would like you and the commander to find a way to work together without dragging the rest of us through the fall out." Mac looked at Harm. "If you both will excuse me."
Mac stood for a moment, not sure what she wanted to do. Harm stood, ordered her a soda water and directed her to a booth in the back. He followed with the drinks.
He sat for a moment, trying to find the right words. "I'm sorry, Mac. That was uncalled for."
"Do you take delight in embarrassing me?"
"No, it was no fun at all." He took a moment. Then looked at her directly. "So, what happened?"
"You tell me."
"I am talking about before that. We were fine – I thought."
Mac finally owned the portion of the incident that she played. "We were." She took a deep breath. "I am not sure. The boundaries have always been a little fuzzy with you and when I saw them graying out again – I guess I panicked – got mad."
"I don't know." She looked down. "No – I do know. I know exactly why. You stir up feelings in me that I know I am not supposed to have."
"What does that mean?"
"Having people assume something about me and you - ."
"Made you mad?"
"Harm, it will not work between us."
"You keep saying that, yet you are the one that keeps running us into the ditch."
"I know." She laughed. "Harm, by all rights we should be together – you can ask anyone."
"I don't get it then."
"I would be a fool not to be in love with you."
"Never thought of you as foolish." He grinned.
"You are smart, kind, generous and sexy as hell – when you want to be."
"Really – you think I am sexy?"
"When you are not being arrogant, pigheaded and an adolescent jerk."
"Which you must own I have not been recently."
"I have noticed." She paused.
"You don't seem pleased with the change."
"It was not real – it was not you – it was not us."
"It was kinda flat at that."
She smiled at him. "I know you Harm. I know you would walk through fire for me."
"I would and have."
"And I would do the same for you." She shook her head. "We work on paper, but some how we just don't in the real world."
"No, I think it is more than that. I think that sometimes it is better to leave well enough alone."
"I still don't get it."
"What is best about the two of us – our relationship is that we bring out the best -."
"And worst in each other. But we do that by being locked in this no holds barred eternal competition with each other – in a courtroom, on a battlefield, where ever. Even when we are on the same side we are competing."
"No holds barred?" He asked.
"Yes, that kind of competition does not work in -."
"The bedroom?" He grinned.
"A more intimate relationship."
"That old WHO's ON TOP argument."
"Yes. Too much damage can be inflicted – unrecoverable damage."
"Someone has to give and some one has to receive."
"Some one has to lead, and someone has to follow. Just because I am the girl, doesn't mean I want to follow – at least not all the time."
He had so many comebacks to that line, there was no way to pick just one. He let them all drop, "So what you are saying is that the competition is all that is good about us?"
"Not all – but 90. We can't take that away."
"-- As evidenced by the last couple of weeks."
"Can you honestly see us trying to make a life like Bud and Harriet?"
"Nothing wrong with that life."
"No, no there isn't. I envy them and I hope one day we each will have a little piece of what they have, but it won't be together. You can't be Bud and I can't be Harriett."
"How about if I'm Harriett and you're Bud." He laughed. "OK, I will stipulate on this one point."
"So – if we agree on this – can we also agree that this platonic, casual office friendship nonsense is just that – nonsense?"
"I miss you Harm. I miss the banter and the fights. I miss the challenge you used to represent."
"I do too." He laughed. "Being nice to you is really hard work with no pay off."
"Must have bit clean through your tongue." She smiled.
"I am not sure I can go back though, Mac." He looked at her sincerely.
"Because I am fighting the injustice of it all - and, I guessing that I will take it out on you."
"Mac, I would be a fool not to be in love with you too. And I am not a fool; I am just a man who wants it all. If you let me get back on that fence - - - I am going to want it all. Never taken well to being told I can't have what I want."
"I know that."
"Look Mac, you say we can't be together and there is a part of me that accepts that – for now. But you can't make me believe that I have to give up, let go or walk away. And watering down my feelings for you so we can have an 'acceptable' relationship is clearly not the answer. That would be worse than giving up the TOP position."
"I have said it before, Mac. I don't want to lose you."
"You don't have to worry about that."
"No, I do. I do worry. Someday you could fall in love with someone else – but there is nothing I can do about that now."
She looked down. She was not going to fall in love with someone else. Harm – for good and bad – was the man in her life and someday, somewhere, some how they would each put down their weapons, and rescue each other. But until then . . .
"So, what do we do?" She asked.
"Nothing – but maybe we should try to leave the admiral and others out of it."
"Keep it out of the office." He smiled a sly smile. "Barring the obvious way, maybe we need to find other ways to vent our --- "
"Aggression?" She stood up and reached her hand out to him. "Come on."
"Where are we going?"
"I saw that cruiser of yours – need to show you how it's really done."
"You don't stand a chance against me." He goaded.
"You know that I have done this before too."
Harm made a talking motion with his hand. "Yeah, yeah, yeah … put your money where you mouth is, marine."
"You still owe me a dinner."
"Double or nothing."
They started to walk out of the bar. When they got to the door, Mac held it open for him. They were framed in the doorway. Harm put his hand to her cheek and caressed it. He leaned down and gave her a soft kiss.
She smiled up at him. "That kind of distraction is not allowed, commander."
"No holds barred, marine."
They left arm in arm.