Title: Return To Me (Part 2 – Learning To Keep You)

Author: Jackie (Radiorox)

Summary: The worst type of enemy is the one that you underestimate. – Harm and Mac's relationship is taken to the breaking point when Vukovic exacts his revenge. - The Continuation of Return To Me.

SPECIAL THANKS TO WITCHY V for her wonderful beta skills. You rock! Page number 2,589,458,455? ;)

PART 1 – Intentions

1 Day Before Thanksgiving
1455 Local
Mac and Harm's House
San Diego, California

"Hmm. . .So much for having a quiet holiday season." Frustrated, Mac tossed the freshly faxed papers onto her desk and sighed deeply. "Great, this is just great." She pinched the bridge of her nose, already anticipating the headache that would soon develop. It wasn't the worst thing that could happen, but couldn't things be over and done with?

The last few months since Harm wrapped up the Patterson case had been chaotic. The case had been 'high profile' alright and Harm had spent a good deal of time making sure none of his employees or himself, would come out on camera. It would destroy future cases and possibly put one of them in danger. Despite the free press, he'd managed to bar their names off of everything. The DEA, who took over the case and promised to throw the book at Manda and Jarvis, pulled every string imaginable to keep things under wraps.

Leaning against the doorframe, Harm stood watching Mac's shoulders slump when she reached to grab a paper on her desk. Amidst the chaos that had encircled their professional lives for the last few months, he was surprised just how close Mac and he had become. That unmistakable, electric charge that was always between them only grew in intensity. Harm couldn't help but compare this relationship to others, only to find that there was nothing to compare. When, at other times, he would have considered begging the woman to break up with him, now he found that he wanted to be at home with Mac. He wanted her opinion on things. He wanted to listen to her day even when it was just as crazy as his. Somehow he'd become that lovesick guy everyone used to tease in high school. The one that knew he'd found the one. The one that couldn't take another breath if she wasn't at his side.

Was it frightening? Hell yes! He'd never felt like this before and that made the ability to fail so much more pronounced. Then, there were a million and one things that could go wrong, including his foot in the mouth syndrome and that reoccurring nightmare of having Mac meet an old flame with some tawdry tale.

"Argh!" Mac grunted and Harm wondered how to approach her. It was obvious her "Harm Radar" as she like to call it, was taking a break and sneaking up on a Marine was a bad, bad, bad idea.

He didn't want to scare her either but. Oh well, "What's up?" Much to his surprise, her body language didn't change. Mac didn't flinch, didn't jump, nothing. Did she even hear him? Tentatively, he stepped into their office and placed his hands on her shoulders. "You trying to ignore me, MacKenzie?" He teased and for his effort got a playful, yet stern look.

"And destroy my chances to snag a kiss from you every chance I get? Never!" She smiled up at Harm and then leaned into him as they shared a soft kiss. Sighing when they broke apart, she nodded towards the paperwork on her desk. "You need to take a look at that."

Ah, so this wasn't just 'work' related, it was something that involved him too? "You aren't going away are you? Or something? The General isn't shipping you back to DC, right?" From his position, just to the side of Mac, he took a glance at the paperwork. Nope, no change of billet, no change in position. Nothing to really worry about except a case of a Marine Master Sergeant Clarence Cisco. "You need help on a case or something?"

Mac shook her head. "Three for three sailor. . .Look down further, under his alias." She knew the moment Harm had found the particular detail she was aiming for, if his groan had anything to say about it. "I couldn't believe it myself until the pieces started fitting in."

Harm came around her and sat on the top side of the desk. "Wow, he got into the military with this many priors?"

"Apparently the judge believed he would go clean. . .and he did, until he met Patterson." The Master Sergeant was wanted in connection to a drug deal gone South. The authorities had never pieced the clues together, but Mac had a hunch. The fax solidified said hunch. Cisco wasn't a bad seed, always had been and always would be. His problems with the law didn't stop when he joined the Marines. It was a miracle that he made it as high as he did and was always suspected the man was bribing his way into a better pay grade. "Manda and Jarvis had a shipment coming in aboard a C-130 carrying Marines. . .Apparently she, somehow, bumped into Cisco, worked out a little deal and, because he was acting CO, he managed to stick five crates worth of pure blow onto the plane."

"A lot of people are going to get nailed here, Mac. . ." Cisco wasn't the one to bare the full brunt, so would the loading crew and anyone else who failed to check those crates for their content. For that matter, Cisco's commanding officer would probably be brought up on a charge or two. "How could anyone just. . .just LET him lead. . .This is sick."

Sighing, Mac glanced at the picture of Cisco and then placed it in a file folder. "What's sick is that he actually trained the recruits for about two years. . .Can you imagine what sort of crap they learned from him?" It disgusted her when people like this had any part in the military. True, some people did change, Jennifer Coates was a fine example, but others. . . "I will probably have to bring up Patterson and Jarvis."

"You'll need me to testify." He said flatly and wasn't looking forward to being in that particular section of the courtroom. "Although I'll hate every moment of it, I'll do it." He placed the paperwork inside the folder and then jumped off of the desk. "So where is Cisco at the moment?" Her laughter threw him off stride. "Okay?"

"He's on the Henry. . ."

"Vic's defending, isn't he?" He may have been three for three a moment ago, but now he was making all of those points up. Mac's silence spoke volumes.

"Maybe you should be second chair? I mean, you have your license here, it would be good practice."

He chuckled, as much as he missed the courtroom, certain things didn't work well together. "I can't be second chair if I am a witness. You're not afraid of him are you?" Harm baited her.

"No!" The quick response belied the answer. She wasn't afraid of him. Mac was terrified of what type of grudge Vic would harbor because of the current assignment. "I'm not afraid of him, alright. . . I am apprehensive, he's been known to do a lot of stupid shit and it will come back to me."

Sensing the conversation was going to be longer than anticipated, Harm leaned his hip against the desk. "Mac, maybe this will be good for him? Sometimes all you need is a little change to see what an ass you've been." He flashed her a flyboy grin and continued. "I learned my lesson." And I'm still learning he wanted to add, but chose to keep it under wraps.

Something about Vukovic ceased to convince her of any good intentions or any change in his way of thinking. The kid was like a dog with a bone. . .A rabid dog with a bone. "I can't put my finger on it, but something is up with him. . .Did you know he's in bed with the new SECNAV?"

"In bed? As in, having an unprofessional relationship? Or were you speaking metaphorically?"

"Metaphorically. . .Bud found papers in his office faxed from Hewitt's (SECNAV) office. They were pretty much insignificant, just a few publicity stunts, but. . .Why were they sent to him without my knowledge?" Though the SECNAV's had a habit of all playing by their own rules, the tended to make sure the commanding officers knew the game, this was just particularly odd. "I just don't trust him."

"And you're going up against him? Maybe it's not such a hot idea."

"I'm not worried about that. . .I can handle him in the courtroom."

Harm scoffed. "I don't want to know." Playfully he covered his ears with his hands and quickly became serious again. "Mac, what I am worried about is your objectivity."

Ouch, now that hurt. The last time he accused her of not being objective was during Farrow's trial. It had hurt then and is still stung now. "That's funny coming from you, Captain." She grabbed the file in one fluid motion and then walked to the corner where both of their briefcases sat. Opening hers, she stuffed the file inside and then turned to him. "You aren't that objective either, you know? So, both of us take a hard-line on things. . . I definitely have that right. . .In fact, it's part of my job to make sure that. . .that. .ss-SNAKE doesn't screw things up for those that actually want to do their service."

Taking a step back, Harm rose his hands up in surrender. "Babe, I know that. . .I know it's part of your job. I'm just worried about you." He quickly waved off her attempt to answer back. "Wait, hear me out. . .I'm worried about you and what this bullshit with Vic is doing to you. Not you as an officer, just. . .you. . .I've never seen you this vindictive before." Though she was right and Vic deserved everything he had coming and more, this obsession she had with nailing him to the wall had to end before it consumed her. "Just take it easy. . . I mean, according to that karma crap, he'll have it coming anyway."

Mac nodded, though she knew it wasn't going to be easy. At least with Vic so many miles away, there had been some levity. After the case was over, he'd go back out to sea and that would be the end of him for possibly a year, maybe longer. "I'll try to. . ." The doorbell cut her off. ". . .chill in regards to Vic." She said to an empty room as she could hear Harm sprinting down the steps. He was excited and had a right to be, Mattie was coming home to visit during the Thanksgiving break. Christmas was still up in the air and was rumored she was going skiing in Vermont with classmates.

"Kiddo!" Harm threw the door open and enveloped his daughter in his arms, hugging her for all she was worth. Though he'd become accustomed to the time apart, when she came home it was one of the most wonderful experiences of his life.

Mac leaned against the doorframe, watching the exchange with great amusement. She liked seeing this side of him and lamented the fact that she'd cheated them on having kids of their own. Maybe it was all for the best? She wasn't getting any younger and if the Fates knew that they were going to spend those five years apart, it was better not to have a child between them. Yes, she decided, it was for the best. "So you going to let the Midshipman in, Harm, or are you going to let her stand outside in the rain all day?" Once Mattie stepped inside, the two also shared a strong, bear type hug.

"Thanks for letting me crash here, Mac." Mattie glanced up at her father's girlfriend and grinned.

"Hey, you're a part of my life too, Mats. . .I want this to feel like it's your home." It was nice having a little youth hanging around the house, even if it was for a short time. Not that she and Harm were old, quite the contrary, the two acted more like hormone raging teenagers ninety-five percent of the time.

They had managed to sneak some rest and recovery time when Manda and Jarvis were taken into custody. It was a Godsend after spending nearly twenty four hours being questioned by Lord knows how many agents. Borrowing The Lady Patricia from Frank, Harm and Mac sailed off to the same spot they had been at before. It was lovely, but a storm brought them back to shore three days early. They hadn't had much time off since.

Mattie grinned. She'd always liked Mac for Harm though (from chatting with Jen) she knew the Marine had been the cause for her father's heartache. Hating every woman that came between her and Harm since they'd left Washington wasn't just a 'kid thing.' The women used Harm's vulnerability to get whatever they wanted from him. Susan had far been the worst, the woman was an absolute maniac and her involvement with them had caused a tear in Mattie's relationship with Harm that was nearly irreparable. She knew about Harm's scars, though he'd tried to hide them away. She also knew, that though he pretended to not care, his heart would always belong to Sarah MacKenzie. "I want to be a part of your life, Mac. . .I need a Marine on my team to gang up on Harm more often." She softly punched his arm and giggled when he gave a fake look of hurt.

"Great, a Middie and a Marine. . .Nice name for a comedy. Ooof!" This time he got punched by both of them. "Alright! I surrender! Sheesh!" Grabbing both Mac and Mattie, he wrapped his arms around them, squeezing a little too tight. "Ah, my girls. . .Now, get your six upstairs and change Mats, your old man is taking us out to dinner."

"You're not that old!" Both she and Mac affirmed at the same time. The three shared a good natured laugh before Mattie disappeared up the steps. With a sigh, Mac leaned into Harm, smiling when his arms came around her. "This is nice. . .It's going to be cool having her here."

"Mmm." Harm agreed, pushing her backwards towards the sofa.

Raising a brow, she questioned his motives. "What are you doing?" As an answer the only thing Mac got was a sly smile. "Haaaarm?" She drew out his name, trying to act serious but, before she knew it, the back of her legs touched the sofa and they were both tumbling onto it. Looking up, she saw Harm's lips coming close. "Wooah, no way, buddy." Managing to bring her arms between them, she pushed up, holding Harm just a mere two inches away. "We're so not making out with your daughter under this roof."

"Who said I wanted to 'make out'?" Harm's sly grin took a turn for the mischievous as he lowered himself to her. He stopped when Mac's eyes went wide as saucers.

For the life of her, Mac couldn't tell why she was suddenly whispering. "We are not going to have sex."

"Mattie's a big girl. . .Besides, don't you think our folks had sex when we were in the house?" Though the thought of that made him cringe. "It's normal."

But, Mac was still holding him back. "Yes, it's normal, but not in the living room with the kid right upstairs. Besides, she just got here. . ."

Sighing dramatically, Harm lifted himself up and sat at the end of the sofa. God, he loved making her uncomfortable in settings like these where it wouldn't seem like too much. Where it would be fun and carefree. "Mac, you're a prude. . .And alright, we'll wait a while. It'll give me time to formulate a good answer for all of the noise."

How the hell did he manage to pull half of her shirt up, Mac had no idea, but she was busy putting it back on when he hit her with that comment. "Noise?"

"Yup. Noise."

Alright, she'll bite. "What noise?"

"You."

Sitting up straight, she brought her arms across her chest. "Me? I don't make noise, Harm." She snorted, then stood up, offering a hand to pull him up as well.

"Ah, Yes you do." Well, it wasn't noise, it was sweet music to his ears, but he and Mac had been known to get a little. . .erm. . .loud. "I could try to mimic that throaty moan you do, but. . ."

Mattie's footsteps stopped that conversation. "Hey guys?" She glanced between her father and his girlfriend who were awkwardly standing in the middle of the living room, both with bright red faces. "Hmm, what cookie jar were you two sticking your hands into, huh?" The evening went on without incident. Dinner was lovely and the need to turn in early became evident as Mattie could barely sit through dessert without yawning.

0155 Zulu
USS Patrick Henry
Location Undisclosed

Fingers frantically glided over a computer keyboard, bringing to life what Vukovic thought was his best opening statement ever. He hit the 'enter' key with his index finger and then sat back to admire his work, "MacKenzie, you're going down." To say that he held a grudge was an understatement. While most officers were going home for the holidays, he was stuck on the damned ship with bonehead cases and a need for a stiff drink in the comfort of his own home. Having a good looking woman around wouldn't be a bad thing either. True, the legal man (woman) who was assigned to him had shown interest, but he wasn't about to piss off the Captain more than his presence already did.

A hard rap to the hatch nearly had the chair come out from under him. "Shit." Getting his bearings, he stood, opened and peaked to find a stoned faced MP standing in front of him. "Yes Sergeant?"

"I am sorry to disturb you, sir. Master Sergeant Cisco wishes to speak to you." The man barely blinked when he spoke and it was obvious to Vic that he was a little more than reluctant to disturb an officer because of some prisoner. "He said it was urgent." There was a hidden mock in the way the Sergeant spoke. This Marine wasn't proud that a prisoner the likes of Cisco wore such a sacred uniform. "He hasn't been eating, sir. . .Talk to him so he won't drop on you before the hearing." Furthermore, he couldn't understand why someone would request a case so vehemently as Vukovic had. He figured it was probably some Squid tactic to make nice with Marines.

Vic rolled his eyes. "It's always something isn't it?"

"You are his defense, sir. . .I suppose he has a right to ask for you. Even at this time." The Sergeant nodded and then made a perfect about face and disappeared down the corridor.

It took him nearly twenty minutes to get down to the bowels of the ship. Being so tired, he figured grabbing a cup or two of coffee would be a good idea. "Sergeant, you can go. . .I'll send for you when I am ready." From Cisco's posture, it was obvious this was a matter that needed privacy. The cell was opened, so he stepped inside and chose to sit on a metal chair right across from Cisco who was sitting on his bunk. "Here, Clarence, I brought you some coffee."

Cisco took the coffee, greedily drinking down half of it. "Thank you, sir. . .It's appreciated."

"The Sergeant says you haven't been eating. . .Is this true?" Vic studied the man with much curiosity. When Cisco was brought in, the man was like a caged lion. He was screaming obscenities, cursing the world, acting every bit the credent that Vic knew he was. Hoping to settle the man down, Vic had asked for the ship's chaplain to spend some time with the accused. "Sergeant? Answer me."

"Thank you for having the Padre speak to me, Commander. . .It was enlightening." His head was cast downwards in shame. That stony, uncaring look from before had disappeared. This was a man seeking forgiveness and not from his peers but from a higher power. "I was thinking. . ." Sighing, he lifted his head up. "Maybe. . .maybe we should stop this court thing. . .I'm guilty, no need to waste the tax payer's money to figure this out. . ."

"What?" Surprised would be a certain understatement. This wasn't the same man he'd interrogated two days ago. No, that man had criminal written all over him, this man. . .what the hell had the Padre done?

Cisco shook his head. "I mean. . .I need to be punished for what I did. . .for the sins I've committed, for the people I've tainted. . .for the lives I've taken." His words were genuine and true. "Speaking to Chaplain Adams did me good. . .When I was a boy I. . ."

If Vic's mouth were able to open any farther, his jaw would have hit the floor. "Are you nuts!"

"No, just hear me out."

"Hear you out?" Vic snorted. "I am not going to hear you out, Clarence. . .You're insane if you think you are just going to roll over."

"I need to be punished. . ." Cisco held up his hands, showing the other man the shiny cuffs as a sign that this form of punishment wasn't enough. When Vic responded with the same flabbergasted expression, he attempted to finish the story. "When I was younger, I wanted to be a priest. . .A lot of things didn't go my way and I fell into the wrong crowd."

Oh God, not another one of these loonies. This wouldn't be the first or last time a person suddenly wanted to 'repent' when faced with the reality of being locked away for good. "I had a rough childhood too, I know what it can do to people. . .That's why I want to help you out. . . You don't deserve to be locked up." He did have his own rough childhood, but Vic's, unlike the Sergeant's, was all his own doing. His parents were extremely well off and all he could do was cause trouble to the point that he wound up before a judge with two options – jail or the Navy. Vic had cleaned up somewhat, but that impulsive, vindictive and sick side never quite went away.

Cisco stood up, moving as close to Vic as possible. "God spoke to me. . .He said he would forgive me if I 'fessed up. . .And I need that. . .I don't want to live like this anymore. . .I need to be punished."

"God spoke to you?" Vic laughed hard. This was the most preposterous thing he'd ever heard a client say. "Sergeant, we need to win this case and you playing the 'God card' isn't going to help much." Taking out his notebook, he paged over to the questions he'd jotted down to practice with the man. "Now sit down and let's go over the questions I am going to ask along with the potential questions the prosecution will ask."

In the brief moments that he and Vukovic had gone over the case, it was clear that there would be a skit of sorts. They would prepare a series of tells and lies that could be used to destroy the prosecution. Before Cisco was willing to play. Now, he wasn't so sure. "I'll be lying, sir. .. Isn't that. . .that's not legal."

"It's called perjury and you suddenly have an attack of conscience? After the things you did?" The list of offences was long and distinguished. It was a miracle the man was even allowed into the service. "I need this win, Cisco, and I will do whatever it takes."

Deflated, the man finally sat down and looked away in shame. "I don't want to."

Something in Vic suddenly snapped and it was like being transported to fifteen years ago in the heyday of his misspent youth. He launched himself at the Sergeant, grabbing the man by the lapels and pinning him to the steel bars behind him. "Listen to me you idiot. . .Do you know who's prosecuting?"

Trying to fight off the Commander was futile with cuffs, not to mention that the other man was playing dirty by pinning a knee a bit too close to his groin. "Co-Co-lonel Ma-cKenzie?" He stuttered between sharp breaths of pain.

"That's right. . .There is nothing that MacKenzie hates more than a bad Marine. . .She will rip you limb from limb so badly that spending an eternity in Hell will seem more pleasant." Angrily, he shoved the man into the bars again and then stepped back. "You'll rot in a cell. . .spending the rest of your life alone. .. You'll die alone and that is something that not even God can stop if she wins."

Cisco rubbed on the part of his anatomy that Vic had tried to crush. He wasn't afraid of this man, God knew that if he didn't have these cuffs Vic would have a new orifice, but the idea of being confined alone. . . "Fine. . .But, I better win."

Vic nodded. "Winning is my intention, Clarence."