Title: Until The End Of Time
Author: Jackie
Summary: Epilogue for 'The Torture Series' (Something For The Pain, Fully Engaged and The Thin Line.) Some relationships need to be made into a permanent thing. H/M Romance all the way!

Part 1 – Here, Now

September 30, 2005
2315 Zulu
San Diego, California

Mac sighed happily, breathing in the healing scent of the sea. They were both on medical leave, at least until they went to their respective review boards. As much as she loved Washington and how that city worked so efficiently, she wouldn't mind one bit being transferred to San Diego. For one thing, the warmth would do her some good. Every year, when DC turned into a winter wonderland, she tended to get some nasty colds and the last thing she wanted to do was give it to Harm. Ignoring her job completely, she considered Harm for a moment, it would be good for him to be back home, maybe be a little closer with his parents. There was no doubting that he loved his mother and step-father, but she believed he sometimes took them for granted. She'd give anything to be part of a family like Harm's, one that, despite all of his crazy gimmicks, still stood by his side.

Sighing again, she took a bit of her sandwich and gulped down some apple juice. "You seem to be doing that a lot." Harm said, sliding over another sandwich for her to devour. The day had been wonderful and sunny, most of it had been spent in the pool. Around the late afternoon, when Harm and Mac headed in to shower, Trish handed Harm a big, wicker basket with a conspiring grin. 'Harmon, I know what you are up to, make it memorable.' She winked at her son, who could only look at his mother in awe.

'How'd you know?'

Trish grinned wider. 'A mother knows these things. . . Frank and I won't be in until tomorrow, Chrysler is having some big wig party at the Hilton, so we'll just stay there. . .Don't burn down the place, sweetheart.' With that she kissed her son on the cheek and disappeared up the stairs, passing Mac who was freshly showered and on her way down. 'Mac, dear, Frank and I won't be here for dinner, so Harmon decided you two might want a picnic at the beach.' She said, loud enough for Harm to hear.

'He did, did he?' Mac noticed the look of mischief in the other woman's eyes. Though Harm had his occasional, romantic nuances, he still needed a little guidance. 'Thank you, Trish.' She whispered, then leaned in and accepted the older woman's great big bear hug.

'Have fun.'

Mac stared at him with a raised brow. "I've been doing what a lot? Eating?" She took another swallow and chuckled. "You know I have a healthy appetite."

Harm chuckled as well, Mac had more than just a 'healthy appetite.' Actually, considering most of the things she liked to eat, her appetite wasn't all that healthy. But, after his meatless meatloaf fracas, he'd decided to just let it be, it was best not to be on the receiving end this Marine's ire over their eating habits. "Yea, I know. . .I meant sighing. You've been sighing a lot."

"I just have a lot of things on my mind."

"Like?"

"Everything that happened, I keep wondering how long they'd been watching us. . .If maybe, maybe we were wrong and Palmer is still alive." She'd seen his body, the morgue had kept him on ice longer than they should have so that both Harm and Mac could ID the man, but still, with his unhealthy ability to become someone else, she couldn't help but feel apprehensive. "Then we have the super agents at our apartments. . .I keep having this fleeting image of Webb going through my underwear." She shivered slightly and Harm couldn't help but laugh. Gibbs and Webb were going to turn their apartment and JAG ops upside down to make sure they got all of the surveillance equipment. Bud and Sturgis promised to keep an eye on things.

Harm bit back a comment about Webb already seeing her in underwear and instead working on reassuring her. There were no doubt in his mind that Palmer was out of the picture. "It's over, Mac. . ." Studying her for a moment, he noticed a type of hesitation, there was more to it. "There's something else."

"Yea. . .I was thinking about us." Her worried appearance turned to one of delight as she turned to him with a bright and beautiful smile. Did she really tell him there would 'never be an us'? Somehow that seems like it was foreign, coming from a different person.

His stomach literally lurched. Though she was smiling, he couldn't help but feel apprehensive. So much was riding on that evening working out well. 'Breathe, Hammer, breathe.' She sensed that apprehension and laid a hand over his own. "Don't worry, Hammer, thinking about us is a good thing." She promised. "It's just nice to finally found what I was looking for."

"Oh yea, what's that?"

"A good job, a good man and these sandals are pretty comfy." She grinned at him, reached over and tugged him close to her. Mac kissed him slowly, then pulled back when a couple, a teenaged boy and girl, made it up the beach giving them catcalls. "Well that was embarrassing."

Harm just shook his head. "Oh, I don't know, it's kind of exhilarating." Taking a breath, he stared down at Mac and smiled. "How about we take a little walk?" He was stalling, he knew he was, but his nerves were starting to undo him as he remembered his mother's words. 'Make it memorable.' A beach, a romantic picnic, he figured that was pretty memorable, wasn't it? "Let's finish eating, take the stuff inside and we can walk off dinner. Later, if you're good, I might take you for some ice cream. There is this parlor about a ten minute drive away that makes their own waffle cones, it's divine."

A few minutes later, they were taking a stroll along the beach, walking hand in hand, enjoying the gorgeous sunset that California were famous for. "It's going to be difficult going back to our, soon to be, winter wonderland after our little vacation." Mac grinned up at Harm who, as they walked along seemed to have something on his mind. Actually, during their picnic, even through he was being caring and attentive, he was, occasionally somewhere else. "Harm?"

He glanced down on her, smiled slightly and just kept walking. It was difficult for him to get into the swing of things, part of him kept fearing that something else would jar them from the relationship. In just a few months they'd come too damned close to being separated permanently – there was nothing more permanent than death – and thought it wasn't either of their fault, he'd blamed himself. If he hadn't gone after the Bradenhurst Corp, if he hadn't flown for the CIA, if he'd acted sooner in regards to Mac. Then again, the only thing he really could blame himself over was not going after Mac sooner. The other things were, a bit out of his control.

The night before he'd spent the night curled up in bed considering things. He was trying to figure out when it was that he first fell for her. It worried him that he didn't know, that a man that believed in facts and figures couldn't pinpoint that exact day. He would have loved to say that he fell for her right off, but that wasn't true. Though his emotions ran deep for Mac, it was difficult for him to differentiate between her and Diane until the first time they kissed. After that, he noticed Mac more like a woman than a friend, something he was trying to hide as much as possible. Nothing good could come out of them getting together, it had failed with him and Kate, the change in their personal relationship also changed their working relationship. He didn't want that with Mac, he didn't want to lose their friendship. She seemed to be the only person who could understand him, despite weather or not she agreed, she did understand. So, he'd made what he thought was a personal sacrifice, to keep her at arms length and take what he could, denying himself the possibilities of something more. Little did he know that all he did was hurt her time and time again. True, she hurt him too, but he could no longer blame her.

And now that he looked back at all of the chances she'd provided for him on a silver platter, he felt like a total fool. God, did he wish they could go back in time to Sydney with the knowledge he had now. He would kiss her senseless right then and there. Hell, if really tempted, he would just drop her onto the deck and have his wicked way with her. That thought made him grin. – It's not that things had worked out badly, these last months had tested their relationship in indescribable ways, and yet, they were still together. But, he just wised that, somehow, they could have saved themselves some pain.

Everything, all of the disagreement, all of the tough times, and all of the banter and sweet moments led to this. "I'm really doing this." How many times had he thought about it? But, it never occurred to him that he would have the guts to just go ahead and ask.

"Did you say something?" Mac asked, suddenly concerned by the odd way he was behaving. Had those blows to his head, finally knocked the sense completely out of him?

Stopping, he glanced down at her. "I ah. . .Well. . ." Damn, he really was a wuss if a woman was scaring the crap out of him. Defeated, he let out a deep breath and shook his head. "Never mind, wasn't important." Ugh! Wasn't important! What the hell was he thinking?

Though he tried to continue walking, Mac tugged him to a stop, then turned him so she could look into his eyes. "What is it?" No answer, just more of that odd, distant look. "Harm, you're worrying me here."

There was a fear in his eyes, one that she'd never seen before. He was taking in shallow breaths, biting his lower lip in apprehension. "Not going to be a better time than this, is there?" He said, out loud to himself and all it did was worry Mac even more.

"A better time for what?" Mac stared down at his hand as he let go of hers then smoothed it over his pant pocket. "Harm? What are you. . ." Reaching into his pocket, he produced something which he held out in his hand. ". . .doing?"

He came down on one knee, opening up a red velvet box. The apprehension was still there and his voice caught slightly. "Marry me?" It came out as a whisper, but he wasn't too sure he could ask again if she didn't hear him. "Mac?"

She didn't answer him right away, she was too surprised that this was happening. Sure, she'd figured, eventually he'd propose but, it was, most of the time, the farthest thing from her mind. Marrying Harm resided somewhere in fantasy land. As she came out of her reverie she looked from the ring to Harm who looked about to pass out. "Yes. . .Yes." He slid the ring home and even before she had a chance to take a good look at it his arms wrapped her up. Moving him slightly, her lips four their way to his. She kissed him slowly, lovingly. Mac was certain that she loved him just a little more right now.

A photographer who was snapping pictures of a recently married couple in the sunset had captured shots of Harm on one knee and now the kiss and the embrace. When Harm and Mac parted he walked over to them and slid Harm his card. "I couldn't help taking pictures of the two of you. . .If you like, I'll have them ready tomorrow. If not, call me anyway, I'll make sure they are destroyed."

Harm glanced over at the young couple the photographer was shooting, the seemed so in love. Glancing down at Mac, he saw her shrug. "That would be fine, I'm Harmon Rabb, this is Sarah MacKenzie." He placed the card in this pocket and the photographer excused himself. Sighing deeply, he wrapped his arms around Mac and pulled her to him again. "I thought I was going to have a heart attack."

"Yea and give me one in the process." She chuckled, then placed her hands on his chest so she could look at the ring noticing it fit perfectly on her finger with the band. "It's perfect, Harm." He wiped away a tear that slid down her cheek and then she lay her head on his chest, loving the feel of him and that she could, simply just be.

Harm quickly found that he liked this version of them. The one where they weren't just partners, not just the Commander and the Colonel. Moments like this they were just Harmon and Sarah. And then it dawned on him, not that it hadn't before, but, this time, it really hit him. 'She said, YES!' Then again, did he really think she'd say 'no'? Well, his pessimist side wouldn't have thought that he could get this lucky. Mac was going to be his wife. Sighing happily, he pulled them apart then took her hand so they could keep on walking the beach. "I guess we are going to be really busy soon. . . and Harriet have to hunt for a dress." He'd never planned a wedding and though it was a woman's prerogative, he was already excited and was more than willing to help. "We need to figure out a date and location and. . ."

"Here, now." She said, cutting him off, smiling when Harm's excitement turned into one of confusion.

He'd figured that they would have a lot of fun arguing about the location and date and all of that other fun stuff. This completely blew him away. "Here? You want to get married here?" Woah, and there was one other thing. "Did you say now?"

Mac nodded. "Well, not NOW. . .but. . ." She trailed off, grinning widely. "We have at least a week and a half off, I am sure the General wouldn't mind extending that by a week. . .We can have Bud, Harriet, Jen, Creswell, and Sturgis come on over. . .I know Chloe would be more than happy to hop on a plane and spend a few days in California."

"Wow, and I was worried about you not wanting to marry me." He joked, poking her on the side. There really wasn't a reason why they couldn't just pull it off. "We could really do this couldn't we?" He gave her a quick kiss, God did he love his Marine. "Let's just enjoy the rest of the night, then we can negotiate any terms we might need to go over. Like where we're going to live." 'And who's not going back to work.' He thought with a very slight frown. He'd been used to seeing her day in, day out, any changes would be quite an adjustment.

Mac was thinking right along the same things, but she didn't voice that. Tonight was about celebration, they would worry about their jobs at another time. "Don't think this means you can get out of taking me for ice cream, squid. . . That term of our deal is non negotiable."

"Aye, aye, Ma'am." He slid his hand back into hers as they headed back to the house. One the way there, he couldn't help but chuckle at how his friends would react. Actually, he was a little nervous at how his mother would react. Little did he know, since she'd seen Harm and Mac together earlier that year, she and Frank had been planning for this moment, all they had to do was set a date.