Tangled Up In You

Chapter One

By LizD

Written Summer 2003

Spoilers – Through the End of Season 8

Tangled Up In You

Chapter One

1923 EST

Rabb Residence

Harm was tearing down the glass block that was the divider for his bathroom. He was completely focused on the job at hand. Shirtless, covered in sweat, dirt and probably glass shards from the block that didn't fare well during the demolition; he was a man determined. The room – nay apartment – had been completely destroyed. The floor has been torn up, the kitchen island was gone, and all the furniture and appliances were out of the apartment. It looks as if a bomb had gone off. The only thing intact and pushed off to a safe distance was the stereo, which was cranked to ear splitting decibels.

Sarah MacKenzie, still in the uniform of the day, forced her way through the stairwell door (nearly blocked by several hastily packed boxes) to the open door of Rabb's apartment. She was amazed at the chaos that she found. She watched him unnoticed for a moment and was forced to acknowledge the distance and mess that had come between them. It had been nearly four weeks since the day Harm showed up and freed her from Sadik. Nearly four weeks since they had destroyed the weapons and crashed the plane in the mountains of Paraguay. Nearly four weeks since they spent a very uncomfortable night silently praying for a way home but outwardly keeping up a brave front for the other. Nearly four weeks since they were extracted and returned to the United States with Clayton Webb and Victor Galindez. Nearly four weeks since the admiral compelled Harm to take some time off to consider his options. It had been longer than that since the last time Harm and Mac actually had a conversation that had full sentences and was deeper than a paper cut.

Needless to say, Harm did not hear her call his name. He was not expecting her; in fact she was the last person he expected to see standing in the deconstruction of his life, although he might argue that she caused it. Well maybe not caused it, but it was as a result of her. He had never been one to take too much of the blame on himself, well at least not when it concern affairs of the heart.

Mac called his name again, but the music was too loud. She fought her way carefully through the debris to turn it off. Harm did not notice; he was so intent on the task at hand. She needed to yell again.

"HEY! HARM!" Her voice cracked with frustration.

He stopped what he was doing. He looked up and noticed her standing there. For a moment he looked confused, like he didn't recognize her. His breathing was labored, and there was sweat dripping into his eyes. He attempted to wipe it away and focus on this intruder.

"Harm?" She offered, "It's me. Mac?"

"Mac." He came to his senses. "What are you doing here?" He was not happy to see her.

"What are YOU doing here?" She countered.

"I live here." He surveyed the mess quickly. "Doing a little renovation."

"Looks like a complete over haul to me. I thought you liked the place the way it was."

He looked at her for a moment; he was not sure how much he wanted to say to her. He was not sure he wanted to discuss his motives behind this need for change. All he really knew was that change was what he must do, and not being a passive person by nature, he had taken the bull by the horns. He was determined to make his own future and leave everything else behind - everything.

"Harm?"

"I did, but --- making it a little bigger."

"I see."

"I'd invite you in, but as you can see it is a bit of a mess."

"There is less rubble in downtown Baghdad." She tried to joke, but the playful part of their relationship was not there.

Harm attempted a smile, but there was something forced and unnatural about it. "So what can I do for you?" He said in a business like fashion.

"No, nothing." She was off balance.

Things had not been right between them before she went on the mission with Webb. She had thought that they would discuss that whole Singer mess when she got back. It occurred to her on the flight to Paraguay that she was angry with him and that was what prompted her to go. She was not angry that he was arrested, but that he was keeping things from her. She had thought that they were getting closer, closer to a place that she wanted to be with him. But when she found out that he had been investigating Singer, had asked Manetti to do it, she was more than hurt. She was confused. How could she hope to have a relationship with a man who kept something like that from her? It also made her question Harm's desire to have a relationship with her. They had gone back to the beginning all right.

And then Paraguay happened. She never expected that mission to turn south so quickly and decisively. She never expected to be so out of control. She never expected to be so scared. She never expected Webb to disclose so much about his feelings for her. She never expected to return any of those feelings. She never expected Harm to show up to save her – though that was the one thing she was not surprised by.

She knew his coming to find her cost him dearly; not only financially and career wise, but personally. How do you apologize for that? How do you show gratitude to a man – who you are still angry with, who confuses you, who can't get his own message straight – who has given up everything to make sure you live? How do you say 'thank you' and go back to the way things were?

"Mac?"

"I just came by to see how you were." That was weak even I her own ears.

When they got back to the U.S., Webb needed her. His recovery was very slow. He was in intensive care for a week and was just released from the hospital earlier that day. Mac was very supportive and Harm did not stick around to watch.

"So why are you here?" His mask, his guard, his bravado was up. There will be nothing getting through those defenses.

"I thought maybe we could talk." She smiled nervously. "You know, talk."

"About?" There was so much distance between them, and that distance was full of a lot more debris than the apartment.

She was at a loss for words. He was going to pretend like nothing was different between them. He was going to say that saving her life was nothing, no big deal; he would have done it for anyone.

"Well, saving my life for one. Have I told you how much I appre--."

"More than once." He cut her off. "It was no big deal." He flashed her a fake smile. "You know me Mac, always looking for the next damsel in distress."

She nodded but felt the sting all the way down to her toes. He was not going to make this easy for her. "This looks like a pretty big project." She changed the subject.

"Yeah, well…" He was at a loss for something to say. "I have some time on my hands these days."

"Have you talked to the admiral about returning to JAG?"

"Nope."

"Do you want me to talk to him?" She offered before she thought about how he might take it wrong.

"I don't need you to run interference for me, Mac." He snapped. "I can take care of myself."

The angry force behind those words slapped her in the face. Another woman would have broken down, but not Mac. She came back with just as much force.

"So what ARE you going to do?" She demanded.

She found her anger again. She never asked him to save her life. She never asked him for anything other than to tell her how he felt about her, which was the one thing he could never do. Was it her fault that he was in this mess – literally and figuratively? Was it her fault that he may have destroyed his career for her? No. No it was not. But it sure felt that way.

"So what are you going to do?" She asked again.

"At the moment, I'm renovating."

"About your career?"

"Officially I still have 30 days on the books before my resignation kicks in. If I decide that I want to stay in, I suppose I could find a post somewhere."

"Somewhere?" It occurred to her that she could lose him by his own choice. "Not at JAG."

"Think I wore out that welcome." He said a little too sincerely. "Besides it is time for something different."

"Different?"

"Yes, different. JAG is not the only career in the Navy and the Navy is not the only place to make a career."

"Would you really quit? Resign?"

"Sure why not." He fixed her with a look that was cold and mean. "Nothing keeping me there." He looked away. It was too mean. "I could do anything. I could go anywhere." He finished with a severe dose of sarcasm, "It's just a job, and I have had more than enough adventure."

Again Mac felt the slap of his words. She did not know if she should be angry or hurt. She decided to ignore it and bring the whole conversation back to the surface. "So where do you sleep in all this mess?"

"At a friend's."

"A friend?"

Almost on cue, the elevator door opened revealing a very sexy woman. She was a tall leggy blonde with a perfect body, hair and make up wearing a dress so short and cut so low it begged the question, "Why put anything on at all?" She could be on the cover of Vogue or Cosmopolitan or Seventeen (she was a little young). She was everything that Mac was not, including dumb as a post.

"Harmsy." She said afraid to step off the elevator for fear that one of her spike heels would be caught in the wreckage. "Are you ready to go?"

"Yeah." He said putting down his tools and slipping on his dirty T-shirt.

Mac looked at this piece of fluff, sizing her up, and the woman did the same.

Harm reluctantly introduced them, but there was no shame in his voice. "Bambi Muenster – Sarah MacKenzie. Mac – Bambi."

The women nodded a hello.

"Am I interrupting something Harmsy?" Bambi asked coyly, feeling no threat at all from a uniformed Mac.

"Mac just stopped by to say hello." He explained. "She was just on her way out."

Mac looked back at him and was appalled as his lack of sensitivity toward her. "On my way out? When was I ever in?" She sighed. "Sorry to have bothered you."

"No, not at all." He said with mock sincerity. "Come by anytime."

"Good luck with the renovations."

Bambi giggled. "He may never be done. Harmsy here keeps changing the plans. Don'tcha?"

Mac turned her head and rolled her eyes. If this was the type of woman he wanted – so be it. "I know all about Commander Rabb and his changes of heart." She warned.

The three people felt a definite chill in the air. Bambi stepped back away from the door of the elevator to let Mac in. Mac shook her head and nodded to the stairs. She looked back over her shoulder to catch Harm quickly glancing away. He had been watching her, but did not want her to see. She shook her head and went down the stairs without another word. Harm watched in a pained silence. He knew he hurt her, that was clearly his agenda and Bambi's appearance was just icing on the cake.

He slowly shut down all the lights and equipment he had been using, but really he was waiting until he was sure Mac was gone. It was a shock to see her and it was more of a shock to know just how much she still affected him. There were two conflicting voices in his head. One said, "How could she?" and the other, just as loudly said, "You only have yourself to blame." His own voice said, "Move on."

1048 EST

JAG Headquarters

Falls Church, Virginia

Two and a Half Weeks Later

Rabb's office was closed and locked, as it had been since the day he left. No one spoke of it, but clearly the admiral was holding his place. Mac was back to work and had been working over time since they were down one attorney. Her level of frustration was high and had increased since the night she visited Rabb. Every time she walked by his office, her stomach tightened and she hated herself for that. Now, of all things, she needed some files that were kept in there. And she needed to ask Harriet to let her in. How was she going to be able to avoid a conversation about him now?

"Harriet," she said in a command type voice as she stood with her hand on the knob, "Do you have the key?"

Harriet nodded, and pulled the key from her draw and opened the door for her. "When you are finished, ma'am. Just lock it behind you."

"Thank you Harriet." That was easier than she thought. Of course Harriet and Bud and the whole JAG staff knew the story. They all knew that Rabb, the resident hero, gave up his commission to save her life, and to show her gratitude she chose Clayton Webb. Well that was what they thought and she was not about to set the record straight with any of them. Rabb walked on water as far as they were concerned and she must be evil incarnate, or the most ungrateful woman alive. She found a modicum of comfort in the truth, at least the truth as she saw it.

She entered the office and pulled the files she thought she needed. There were too many, so she sat at the desk to flip through them. The office still felt like his, even though all his personal belongings were gone. She still expected him to walk through the door at any moment.

"Hey, Mac."

She looked up and for a moment she saw him, Harmon Rabb, clear as day, tall and smiling and looking at her with bright and shiny eyes that she wanted to believe said something more than his words. She blinked and realized it was Sturgis.

"You look like you've seen a ghost." Sturgis said.

"I guess I did." She smiled sadly.

"Looking up those files for the Garner case?"

"Yes."

"Find what you are looking for?" He teased. Sturgis enjoyed sparing with Mac.

"Not yet, but I will."

"See you in court, counselor."

"That you will."

Sturgis was about to leave, but changed his mind when he saw the sad expression wash over her face. He came in, closed the door and sat down in front of her. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not sure there is anything to talk about."

"Sure there is." Sturgis was gentle with her when it came to Harm. After her disclosure a year or more ago, Sturgis felt like he needed to be supportive.

"Have you seen him?" Mac asked weakly.

"Yes, he is in a difficult place right now." He defended his friend. "The renovation is probably what is keeping him sane or out of jail."

"Will he come back to JAG?"

"I don't know and I don't know if that is what will be best for him." He chose his words carefully. "It maybe time for him to try something else."

"I feel responsible for this."

"You aren't."

Mac shook her head; that was not the answer she was looking for. She wanted someone to openly blame her so she could defend herself.

"May I ask you a question?" Sturgis said.

Mac nodded slightly.

Sturgis proceeded carefully. "You told me you loved him."

"I do . . . I did . . . I still do – I suppose." She exhaled, "But it is not that simple."

"Cause of Webb?" Sturgis offered.

"There is nothing between Clay and me." Mac said sharply. "There never was. We got very close and he wanted more, but it was not going to happen."

"Then I am confused, why –."

"Why does everyone think there is?" She finished his question for him. "Why did Harm walk away? You know Harm better than I do." She shrugged. "You know how much he hates to lose. And true to form, Harm took himself out of the game before he was sure of the score - again."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning he saw me kiss Clay and made up his mind. To save face or his ego or whatever you men call it, he pulled away again. Leave before he got left."

"Aren't you familiar with that tactic?" Sturgis pressed.

"I like to think I invented it, but it was inherited." She shook her head and looked down at the files on the desk. "Anyway it doesn't matter now; he had found Bambi."

Sturgis almost laughed. "Bambi is the daughter of a very old friend. He is not interested in her."

"She looks pretty interested in him."

"You are going to let petty jealousy get in the way of you two actually having a chance?"

"A chance at what?" She nearly cried. "Harm and I have been missing opportunities since the day we met. We had serious trust issues and countless other issues that we have over come. The timing was never right. It still isn't." She exhaled forcefully. "It was not meant to be and that is the end of that story. I am not going to put anymore energy into it."

"Can you do that?" Sturgis asked sincerely.

"I have no choice. He had made it very clear that he wants nothing to do with me personally and probably professionally. He did not want to discuss what happened or say that it meant more than it did. He helped a friend as he would have helped you, or Bud or the admiral." She ran her hand through her hair. "I am just one of the boys. Actually worse than that, he called me a damsel in distress."

Sturgis felt her pain. "Like I said he is in a bad place at the moment."

"And there is nothing I can do about it."

"I didn't say that."

"I could transfer to the other side of the world, that would make him happy."

"No it wouldn't and it wouldn't do much for you either."

"Maybe I should anyway."

"Maybe you should tell him how you feel." Sturgis challenged.

Mac smirked. "That would depend on the time of day, which way the wind is blowing and whether or not I have eaten."

Sturgis got up and headed for the door. She was being argumentative. She had a right. He paused before opening it. "You owe it to yourself and to him."

"Have you given this advice to him?"

"Repeatedly."

"Has he admitted to you that he has feelings for me – beyond friendship?"

"I have never asked him directly." Sturgis smiled. "One of you needs to be the bigger person."

"And it might as well be me, right? To save his poor ego?" She shook her head. "I am sick to death of everyone making me out to be the villain. I didn't do anything wrong."

"That is hardly the point, all I am saying is that you will regret not telling him how you feel."

"I may regret telling him more."

"Your call Colonel." He nodded, "See you in court."

She nodded.

2215 EST

Rabb Apartment

Three Days Later

Bud knocked on the open door and pushed it open. Harm was on the other side of the room rebuilding the glass block wall to the bathroom. Bud didn't notice a difference at all between the last one he had and this one. To be honest there was very little difference. The room was calm, quiet and cleaned up compared to the last time we saw it.

"Commander?"

"Hey, Bud. Come on in. Have a beer." Harm nodded to the refrigerator. He actually seemed in very good spirits.

"It's pretty late, sir."

"Harriet has you on a pretty short leash these days, huh?"

"No sir."

"Then have a beer, grab me one too."

"The place looks …"

"Exactly the same Bud. Don't try to be nice. I tore it down and built it up exactly the way it was. I may change the paint."

Bud opened a beer and handed it to Harm. "So it was a waste of time?" He opened a second one for him self.

"Not entirely." He took a long hit on the beer. "I fixed a couple of the things that I did wrong last time. I guess it was an exercise."

"A lot of hard work."

"That it was. So how are you doing, haven't seen you in a couple of weeks? How's Harriet feeling?"

"She is great and feels great. The baby is due around Christmas time."

"Wonderful. I am happy for you two. Give Harriet my best."

"I will sir. She wants you to come by next week for dinner."

"Love to. So what brings you by, Bud?"

"I have a letter from the admiral." Bud looked over at where the phone used to be. It had been pulled out of the wall and smashed. "He said he couldn't get you on the phone."

"Yeah, well, had a little accident with the phone." The phone was broken in a fit of rage; that was obvious. But if Harm had to say why he was so angry and why the phone needed to be taught a lesson, he would not have a good answer. The fact that it happened after he got a message from Mac might have had something to do with it, but Harm would not admit that. "I'll go pick up a new one tomorrow."

Harm pulled himself up, stretched out his legs and his back and groaned. "Getting to old for this Bud." He finished his beer and took the letter. "Let's see what the ol' admiral had to say." He opened the letter and read.

Bud waited. He knew what the letter said, or at least he thought he had a pretty good idea. Rabb's leave was up in 8 days. That admiral wanted to know what his intentions were. Harm folded it and looked worried. Clearly he had not made up his mind about what to do or rather what he wanted to do.

"Good news sir?" Bud said cheerfully even though Harm's expression was not 'good.'

"Hard to say. I have a command performance tomorrow at 0900."

"I should let you go. That is going to come awful early."

"Yeah, thanks for dropping it by."

"Sure thing." Bud started to leave, but couldn't stop himself from asking what he was dying to know. "Sir, are you coming back to JAG?"

Bud's little boy honesty had always taken Harm off guard. Bud was no longer the innocent naïve man of so many years ago. Life had knocked him around quite a bit, but some how he had never lost the good-natured straightforwardness that Harm admired. Harm respected him for so many things but mostly for knowing what he wanted in life and going after it. "I don't know, Bud. I really don't know."

"What would stop you?" He countered. "I mean you do want to come back, don't your sir?"

"Not sure of that either Bud." He offered Bud a friendly smile. "It may not be up to me. The admiral has the last word. If I decide to stay in, there is no guarantee that the admiral will let me stay in Washington."

"But you do want to stay, right?"

"Yeah." Harm nodded as if he were trying out the answer on himself first to see how it fits. "Yeah, I suppose I do."

"Good, well good night, sir."

"Good night, Bud."

Bud walked to the door and looked down at the phone again. He looked back at his friend "Sir, Harm, I know that you will say that this is none of my business and you might be right, you usually are."

"Say what you have to say, Lieutenant."

"You are not right this time." He paused to be sure that Harm was not going to take him out at the knees before he continued. "She looks as miserable as you do." Another famous Bud pause. "You two need to talk."

"Bud --" He tried to get his ire up, but either the lateness of the hour or the resolve in Bud face kept him reigned in.

"You two need to talk." Bud repeated. "And for my money? You should go first. The sooner the better." Bud waited for a reply, but nothing came, just an earnest stare. "Ok, well goodnight then, sir."

"Thank you Bud."

Bud nodded slightly and left.

Harm crossed the room to close the door after him. He slid down the door until he was sitting on the floor, the best seat in the house. He looked over at the heap of phone and answering machine near the pile of debris that needed to be taken out. He reached out to inspect it to see if there was any hope for repair. None at all. When he dropped it back on the pile, the message played back. It was Mac's voice - sad and soft. "Harm? It's Mac. Please pick up. We need to talk. Sooner or later we'll have to. Harm? Fine … I guess later it is." The date and time stamp was from three days ago at lunchtime. Shortly after Mac had had the conversation with Sturgis.

It seemed like a nice message; one he should have returned rather than shooting the messenger. So why? If I had to venture a guess it would be because he did not want to hear what she had to say. He did not want to hear that he jeopardized his life and his career so that she could be with another man, to hear again that they could be nothing more than friends, good friends. It was too little for so much. Was he mad at Mac? A little, yes. Why did she always do that? Always? . . . twice. Why can't she love him? Kiss him? Want him? Please – Mic Brumby and Clayton Webb? He was better for her than they were. Was he mad at himself? Oh yeah. And to punish himself he tore up his apartment and rebuilt it exactly the way it was. Such a waste of time, money and effort.

But Bud did say that she was not happy. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe he should talk to her. Maybe she won't give him the "friends" speech that men have been getting for eons and hating.

Harm took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He checked his watch. It was not that late. He got up and jogged out of the apartment down the street and to a pay phone on the corner. He dropped the change and dialed. It rang once, twice, three times and then the answering machine picked up. "Hi, Mac here. Please leave a mess-." He hung up. If she was not home at 10:45 at night, there was only one place she could be. He balled his fist up and thought about hitting the phone. He thought better of it. Why add injury to insult? Why continue to take out aggression on communications equipment? "Its time to move on, Rabb." He said to himself. He looked back toward his apartment, shook his head and ran off in the opposite direction – into the night.

Across Town In Mac's Apartment

She came out of the bathroom at the sound of her own voice. She had been blow-drying her hair. She waited and listened for the caller to leave a message. Nothing came. She checked the caller ID; the number was blocked. It could have been him, but more likely it was a wrong number. She shook her head and smiled. "Damn you." She picked up the phone and dialed. She let it ring six or seven times before she hung up. Now he'd turned the answering machine off. Fine.

0847 EST

JAG Headquarters

Falls Church, Virginia

The Next Morning

Mac did not sleep well and was a little on edge. She got to work early and saw that Rabb's office was open and someone was cleaning it. That could mean one of two things, he was coming back or he wasn't, but whichever it was there would be no more waiting. Why did she care so much? There was nothing between them, he had made sure of that. Hell, he had gone out of his way to make sure of that. Why did she care about what he would think? Did she really want to straighten things out with someone who obviously didn't want to work things out with her? Why did she feel like she was in high school hoping that she could catch a glimpse of him in study hall? This was stupid. She resolved that if he came in that day, the next or never, that she was done. She respected him as a person, grateful to him as a friend, but that was all. If it were only that easy. She needed coffee.

Rabb stepped off the elevator and looked around. It was strange being back there, being back in uniform and seeing the hustle and bustle that used to be so familiar. He had been gone for only six-seven weeks, but it felt like a lifetime. There were several people who greeted him, but none of his close friends were there. Not Harriet or Bud. Not the Gunny or Tiner. Not Sturgis or Jennifer. Not Mac. His late night run netted him two skinned knees, a gash on his arm that probably required stitches and some clear headed thinking. He decided that if he were given the opportunity he would like to rejoin the staff at JAG. He wanted to stay in Washington and he wanted to stay in the Navy. He liked his life before and would really like to get it back. As for Mac, well she was with Webb now. Another missed opportunity but that was no reason to hold it against her. It was not her fault, really. He should have spoken a long time ago. It may not have made any difference in the end, but at least the anticipation and the wondering would have been over. She had always been a good friend and a trusted partner, there was no reason why that can't be enough for Harm.

Bud came off the elevator with an armload of files. He called to his friend, welcoming him back. Harm turned toward the sound of his name, and returned the greeting. Harriet and Mac were coming back to the bullpen from the kitchen each with two cups of coffee in their hands. They were chatting away about the baby and laughing. Hearing Mac's laugh Harm couldn't help but turn toward it. She had not seen him, but he saw her. God she was beautiful when she smiled. She was coming right at him. Before anything could be done, Harm lifted his arms to prevent it, but to no avail. Mac slammed slap into him spilling the two cups of coffee down his fresh-from-the-dry-cleaners uniform.

"Harm!" Her surprise at seeing him was obvious and her embarrassment at the mess was almost comical.

"Morning, Mac." He gave her a smile. "Usually take my coffee internally, but thanks anyway."

"Oh God, I'm sorry." She protested. She was so nervous.

"It's all right. I am sure I deserved that." He looked down at the puddle of coffee he was standing in and shook out his left foot.

At that moment, the admiral stepped off the elevator. "Commander? Colonel?"

Everyone in the office came to attention at the sound of his voice.

"As you were." He scanned the commander up and down and looked to the colonel. "Well, I am glad you two have found a way to communicate. Commander, wring yourself out and be in my office in five minutes."

"Aye sir."

The admiral continued on to his office. People went back to work, and a yeoman came to clean up the mess. Harm looked back at Mac who was mouthing the words, "I'm sorry." He gave her a weak smile to let her know that it was not a big deal. Mac watched him head off to the bathroom.

Sturgis, who had watched the whole episode from the doorway, stepped up to Mac. "That is one way to break the ice."

"Scalding him with hot coffee?"

"He's right, he deserved it." Sturgis walked away and Mac headed to her office. She didn't need anymore coffee that morning.

86 Minutes Later

Mac's Office

Mac was trying to focus on the file in front of her and prepare for opening arguments. She had to be in court that afternoon. Of course the prep was unnecessary and almost fruitless. She prepared until she was blue in the face the night before. She was understandably distracted since Harm was in the office discussing his future at JAG. The incident with the coffee was par for her day thus far. The case had to be postponed until this afternoon because the jail couldn't get her client there until after lunch time (the judge was less than pleased), her landlord called to say that the water heater in the apartment above hers "exploded" and her ceiling caved in, and her mechanic called to say that he was not sure what was wrong with the car, but it would be at least $500 to look at it. If it were any other day she would have gone home, crawled into bed and pulled the covers up. But it was not any other day.

She wanted to be there now that she knew that a decision would be made about Harm. He would have to talk to her, wouldn't he? He wouldn't just leave and not say anything at all, or would he? How bad had things really gotten between them? What if he decided to leave the Navy? He could. It might make it easier for them to talk about a relationship. On the other hand, it might mean that they would never have to deal with it. That was not a bad idea either. God knows with each of their track records the odds of something good coming out of a more serious relationship were very long. On the other hand –

Harm knocked on Mac's open door and called her name softly. She didn't hear him. He knocked again and she looked up. Her head was so full with the "what ifs" she was not sure what to do with the reality. He didn't look any different. He looked a little sad and a little tired, but he did not look like a man that was going to walk out of her life without looking back.

"Hi." She said weakly.

"Hi." He returned. "Do you have a minute?"

"I am getting ready for a case this afternoon." She said by way of explanation of what she was doing and in no way implying that she did not have a minute.

"We can do this another time."

"No, no. Please." She protested. "I was more than ready this morning, spent all night working on it. But it got postponed."

The 'working all night' comment was not lost on Harm, but he didn't quite believe her. "If you're sure?"

"Sure. Yes."

"Can we take a walk? I'll buy you some coffee."

She smiled and looked down at his uniform, which still bore the stain. Too bad they were his whites and not his blues. "Sure."

Break to the Tables Outside JAG Headquarters

Moments later Harm brought two cups of coffee over to where she was waiting. Her coffee was just the way she liked it. They sat in a nervous silence for a moment.

"How did your meeting go with the admiral?" She started safely.

"Very well." Harm looked past her. "He has agreed to let me come back. He of course never filed my resignation and put in for my 60 days before I left. Even so, there will be a letter of reprimand in my file and on my next fit rep … well lets just say that I got off easy."

"He is a good man."

"Yes he is. A wise man too."

"Oh?"

"Disappointing him is something I do regularly, but not usually without merit."

They sat quietly for a moment. Harm looked back at her to see what kind of expression she had. He couldn't read it.

"You start Monday?" She asked.

"Yes."

"It will be good to have you back."

"I can imagine the work load has been heavier than normal." The chit-chat was killing him.

"That's not what I meant."

"I know." He smiled that smile. "So you don't have any issues with me rejoining JAG?"

"None at all, as I said it will be good to have you back."

"Right." He took a cleansing breath. "Look, I have been a little unreachable of late. I owe you an apology for that. I wasn't calling anyone back. I guess I needed sometime to see things from a better angle."

Here it was. What she had been waiting for. She took a deep breath. "Have you?" She paused. "Seen things from a better angle?"

"I have." He could barely make eye contact. What he was about to say was decisive. "I think you know how important your friendship is to me."

"As yours is to me."

"I have not been a good friend to you." He went on.

"I wouldn't say that."

"I would and I apologize."

She thought about arguing but changed her mind. "Accepted."

Harm looked past her again as he said, "This whole mess has made me realize that I was expecting something that could never . . . was never meant to be … " He looked back at her. "… between us. It nearly cost us both our lives and could have destroyed the trust and faith we have worked so hard to build over the years."

Mac was stunned. She did not know how to respond. He had a resolve that she had seen before. She had been on the receiving end of this conversation (or NON conversation) before.

He continued speaking quickly. "Trying to change the past or the reality of the present is a waste of time. Things are what they are and there are reasons for them. I may not like them. I may not even agree that they should be that way. There is no way to control feelings or changes in feelings." He paused for a moment. "Beating your head against the wall is painful, stupid and unproductive." He gave her a weak smile. "It is also a sure way of ruining what is right in front of you. So the best thing to do is to accept what is right in front of you, not look back, not pretend that there was something more than there was, stow the regrets and move onward."

He waited for her to respond.

Something in her snapped. How dare he make platitudes for their relationship? How dare he imply that what they were to each other – what they could be to each other was not worth fighting for? How dare he try to explain what she was feeling? The Arrogance! The sheer unadulterated arrogance! How dare he? She needed to leave and leave right then. "Is there anything else?"

"I was speaking for both of us Mac." He explained. "I want us to get back to where we were – friends, trusted friends."

She stood up. She smiled a little, well smirked actually. "Harm, do me a favor, don't speak for me. And don't presume to know what I am thinking or feeling. And never assume your know what it is I want." Her ire was building with each word she spoke.

"Mac – wait -."

"No, Harm. I am not waiting anymore." She started to walk away, but then turned back. "Do you want to know what really amazes me about you? You hunt for the truth like a bloodhound. If there is something you want to know, you will beat every bush, and turn over ever rock until you find it. No holds barred. You do that with everything in life – everything except your feelings. You will go to the ends of the earth for truth, justice and the American way, but not for yourself and certainly not for me."

"What do you call Paraguay?" He defended.

"It is real easy for you to put your life on the line." She challenged. "What about your heart?"

"Mac."

"You can't do it. I have asked myself a hundred times why that is. Not with Annie or Jordan or even Renee. I flattered myself into thinking that that was about me; that someday it would turn around. That someday you would open up to me, and me alone." She looked deeply into his face and did not find what she was looking for. "That someday is never going to come. The truth is, you just don't care enough. You just don't want to know enough; enough to find out; enough to put yourself out there; enough to do a damn thing about it."

"Mac."

"Well, sorry sailor, this ship had sailed. We will never go back to the way we were. I won't have it. Our association will be strictly professional on an as needed basis. That is all. I don't want your friendship and I don't want your care, concern or goddamn knight-in-shining-armor antics."

She stormed off with him staring at after her in amazement. Before he had a chance to understand what happened she stormed back. Now she was mad.

"For the record and since you'll never ask; I loved you. I have loved you since pretty close to the day we met, when I could get through that over inflated macho conceited arrogance of yours. I would have done anything for you. After that mess with Mic and we agreed to start again, I would have waited until the moon turned green. All you had to do was open your mouth once. How hard is that? And when you look back on this, on the us that might have been, and you will, remember that. All you had to do was say something … anything. But no more." She clapped her hand that finished the conversation. "Now I am done." She turned on her heel and walked purposefully away.

Her anger, her vehemence, her vitriol was startling. Like the moments before death a multitude of moments, missed moments flashed before Harm's eyes. His heart started to become heavy. What if she was right? What if he could have had her if only he would have put himself out there? What was it about Mac that made him not do what he had always done? He wanted more from Mac than you have ever wanted with any of those other women, including Diane. And that scared the hell out of him.

"That didn't go so well." Came a voice from behind Rabb. It was Sturgis. "Don't just sit there, man, go after her."

As if it was the command he was waiting for, Harm got up and followed after Mac.

Ground Floor JAG Headquarters

He caught up with her just inside the doors.

"Mac!" He called to her. "Mac, wait a minute."

If the halls were not full of people that she knew and worked with, Mac would have continued walking. As it was she stopped but did not turn around. Harm got in front of her and was about to speak; he saw the fire in her eyes and the resolve on her face and words failed him.

"Good Morning, commander." Came a call from someone who Harm couldn't place at the moment. "Back to work I see."

Harm nodded. They need to get out of the hallway. He reached down and grabbed her forearm to lead her into a near by conference room, she pulled it forcibly away.

"With me Colonel!" He said with a command that usually did not work on her. "Do you want to do this out here?" He threatened. She relented. He opened the door to the conference room; it was empty. He allowed her to walk in front of him, which she did and put as much distance between them as she could.

"Why didn't you tell me all this before?" He accused, as if his misreading of her feelings was not his fault.

"To what end? To stroke your ego?" She dared him to speak. "You have enough women throwing themselves at you, I didn't want to be just another Rabb groupie."

"How is it wrong for me not to say anything but all right for you?"

"You knew."

"How? How would I know?" He was frustrated. "I think we need a little reality check here Colonel."

Just then a group of yeomen and other junior officers walked into the room. They were surprised that the room was not empty. They came to attention quickly and waited to be released. A young yeoman looked to Mac, "I'm sorry. Did you need this room ma'am? We reserved it for our study group."

"No, yeoman. It is all yours."

Mac started to walk out, but Harm caught her hand, and took her through the back door to the law library. It took him a moment to find a small study room that was not in use. He pushed her gently through the door, and closed and locked it behind him.

"Where were we?"

"I was just leaving." She started for the door, but he blocked her way.

"A reality check." He said. "How was I supposed to know? You have done nothing but keep me at bay for the last two years."

"Can't imagine why?"

"We both know why, marine."

"Don't you dare bring up my history!"

"I am not like the other men in your life, Mac. You could have told me."

"To what end?"

"To a different end than this!"

"You can't give me what I want."

"Now who is making assumptions?"

"I don't want to be your friend anymore Harm. It hurts too damn much. You dangle carrots; you make remarks that could be taken one of a hundred ways. I sometimes catch you looking at me and I go weak in the knees. But then nothing. With you it was all about anticipation, expectation and hope. A person can't live like that, not forever. Every night can't be Christmas Eve. I want the morning to come. I deserve to have someone in my life, clearly it is not you, but with you skirting around the outside, it won't be anyone else."

"So you pick Webb?"

"Webb? There is nothing between Clayton and me. You would know that if you ever saw passed your hurt ego and opened your eyes."

"Then why --."

"Why did I kiss him? You could have asked me this months ago, but no. You chose to make up your own mind about that too." She shook her head. "This is pointless. The bottom line is, you and I were never meant to be." She moved past him to the door and fumbled with the lock. She got the door open and he pushed it closed, preventing her from leaving and turned her around. Her back was against the door and he was looming over her. Damn every inch of his 6' 4".

She didn't look at him. He put his hand under her chin and tilted her head back until she looked him in the eyes. "Tell me."

She brushed his hand away. "I kissed him because I thought he was dying and the man saved me from a fate worse than death. I would have survived Sadik, but I would have wished that I hadn't. He would have tortured and raped me slowly right in front of Clay."

"You never should have been down there in the first place."

"That was not your call to make."

"I don't understand."

She laughed. "That's an understatement."

"I don't understand how you can kiss him but not –"

"Not you?" She looked him straight in the eye. "That is the one thing I thought you would have understood. You are the one who is always so careful not to say too much, or get too close." He shook his head. "Kissing you would mean – would have meant something completely different."

Harm looked down into her face. Her resolve and determination to walk away from him were still clearly evident. He couldn't let her go. With a desire that had been pent up for years, he pulled her to him and kissed her.

She pushed him back and pulled away. "It is not going to work, Harm. It is too late."

"I love you, Sarah."

She looked away and pushed him back.

"I love you Sarah." He repeated.

She shook her head.

He took released her and let her leave if she must.

As soon as she was free to go, she was unsure it she wanted to leave.

"Sarah, please."

She looked up into his face. For the first time, she believed that she saw what she had been looking for: he was in love with her – he knew it, she knew it, he knew that she knew and she knew that he knew. "Tell me what I am supposed to say to make you stay."

"A lawyer without an argument." She touched his cheek. "I have to go. I have to be in court in ninety-six minutes."

"Sarah."

"No, Harm." She smiled sadly. "I won't let you break my heart again." She walked out.