Part Nine

Early August

San Diego

"I'm pregnant." Mac said flatly.

The air left Harm's body and he struggled to not let the strength in his legs fail him. Pretty much everything blanked in his mind, except for the echo of Mac's word: pregnant.

Kate picked up the classifieds that Harm had been looking at. "Guess that means you'll be looking for a two bedroom."

Harm snapped his attention back to Kate. "Kate -." He nearly shouted. He was not in control of his voice but he knew he needed to get her out of there.

Mac stepped back. "We can do this another time."

Harm turned back to her and grabbed for her arm. "Come in, Mac." He pulled Mac into the apartment and cleared a path for Kate's speedy exit. "Kate…"

"I'm going." As she stepped passed him, she said, "Harm, don't screw this up." Her voice was low. She wasn't intending for Mac to hear, but wasn't really trying to hide it either. "You have been waiting for this for a long time."

Harm didn't quite hear her, but Mac did and wondered what exactly he had been waiting for.

Harm closed the door. Mac stood in the middle of the room surrounded by boxes and luggage that would remain packed until he found a place to live. She looked very uncomfortable knowing that she had a hand in his transfer and the state that he was in at the moment. She didn't belong there. She didn't fit into his life. She should have called. She should have given this news to him in a letter, or an e-mail. Two days ago that sounded cruel and rude. At that moment, it seemed like telling him face-to-face was just plain wrong.

Harm leaned against the door. He had still not said anything. He looked over at her standing in the mess that was now his life. How appropriate that Mac still held the center position. Would they be able to clean up? Was there anything left to save? Or was this about learning how to live with what they had done? How had it all gotten so out of whack? He shook his head and looked away.

"Why don't we talk later?" Mac suggested.

"Mac." He looked up at her his voice tense and edgy. "Can you just give me a moment? … that is all I'm asking, just give me a moment - PLEASE."

Mac was too nervous to stay silent. "I thought you should know … I'm not expecting anything."

At that he shot a look at her. "No, of course not." He barked. "You never wanted anything I had to give."

Mac looked down. She hadn't meant for him to take it like that. What she meant was that she was not expecting him to marry her, to change his life for her (as if a child would not have some impact). She was fully prepared to raise the baby on her own with as much or as little involvement from him as he wanted to give. She just thought that he needed to know.

Harm shook his head. He didn't want to fight. He never wanted to fight with her, but it seemed like that was all they were ever really good at. He exhaled the breath he was holding and wiped his face with his hands.

"I'm sorry." He said evenly. "Please, sit down."

Mac looked behind her at the 'living room area,' there really was no place to sit. Harm went over and cleared a place for her on the government-issue couch. He did the same for himself on the chair that sat caddy corner.

"Please … sit … can I get you anything? Coffee? Water? … Milk?"

Mac shook her head and sat down.

After a moment he asked, "Are you alright?"

"Yes."

"I mean, you and the baby … you're alright … the endometriosis..."

"We're fine … we are both healthy."

"Good." He wrung his hands. "Good." His mind was sill not working; it still hadn't registered anything about what he was feeling about the new development. "Guess the doctors were wrong, huh?"

"Wrong?"

"They said you might have difficultly conceiving."

"Yeah, well … I guess less than five percent is still a chance."

He looked up at her. He needed something; he had no idea what to think or even what to think about. "Can I ask you how you are feeling about this?"

Mac had of course been thinking of little else since she got the news, but had yet to really figure out what she was feeling. She was no more prepared to discuss this topic even after sitting with for a few days.

"I assume you are happy." He continued.

"Happy?" That was the one feeling she had not gotten around to addressing. She laughed a little. "Hadn't really thought about 'happy.' I'm scared. I'm nervous. I'm hopeful. I'm confused." She took a breath. "I think I'm still in shock."

Harm nodded. He could honestly say that he knew a little bit about scared, nervous, and confused. And he knew shock. He hadn't gotten to hopeful yet.

"I've been wanting a baby for so long and was just getting used to the idea that it wasn't going to happen," she continued. "To finally be faced with the prospect is a little overwhelming … it came out of left field … I guess I'm happy." She looked down and said softly. "In all the time I had thought about how … well, this wasn't what came to mind."

He had to agree with that. Whenever he had thought about having a baby with Mac in the past, it had always been after they were married and in a solid relationship. Eight months before, the prospect of a solid relationship looked so bleak and the hope of marriage and a baby was so unrealistic that he had given up the idea altogether.

"How long have you known?"

"Less than a week … found out last Tuesday."

"Who else knows?"

"I told Harriett and I'm sure she told Bud, but no one else."

Harm got up and paced the room. He still wasn't sure what he wanted and more importantly he didn't know what she wanted from him. Why was she there?

"Why are you here?" He heard himself say. He hadn't intended to be so blunt.

"What?"

"Why are you here? … Why did you fly 3000 miles to give me this news? … Why didn't you call? … Or send an e-mail?"

She couldn't believe he was asking her this. "I thought this was the kind of news that you should get in person."

"Why?"

"Why? Because there are things that need to be discussed."

"That's what I'm asking … what's on your agenda … what are the topics that you see as needing to be discussed?"

"The baby." She stated obviously.

"The baby?" He waved her off. He stood and stepped away from her. "Please Mac, you know that I will do whatever it takes. That child will not grow up fatherless."

"You said you didn't want children … you said that you didn't want to be a father."

"I've said a lot of things Mac … most of them I meant at the time … but the bottom line is that regardless of what I want or what I said … I will not let a child of mine grow up without a father … nor would I abandon the mother."

"Fine." She was annoyed that their child would be reduced to an obligation and stood up to leave. "Good … well we hit the high points … the rest of it can be worked as we go."

He stepped back as if to let her leave if she wanted to. "You have more on your agenda than that … you didn't fly out here to hear me say what you already knew."

She turned back and glared at him. "What are you looking for Harm? What are you expecting from me?"

He laughed a little. "Me expecting? That is pretty funny. I gave up expecting anything from you a long time ago … but you clearly want something from me … I want to know what it is."

"I should have called." She put her hand on the doorknob about to walk out.

"Mac … Tell me what you want." He demanded.

"I want to leave."

"No you don't … you want me to beg you to stay … but I won't do that."

"Good … I'm leaving."

"You're a piece of work… a real piece of work." He said loudly. "You call yourself a marine … you pride yourself on hitting situations head on … your training … your rules …but you are a scared little girl waiting for someone to come in and rescue you from your life."

"You think you know me?" She spit back at him. "You think you have any right to judge me?"

"I've a lot of right, Mac. You have been jerking me around for years." He leaned on the back of the chair. "As for judging you …"

"I've been jerking you around? Me? You think I've been -."

"Mac, I laid it all on the table for you …"

"When? When exactly did you LAY IT ON THE TABLE, Hammer? WHAT exactly was laid on the table?"

"You want a list?"

"Yeah … I want a list … I want to know what you think you did and what you think you said. Because to the best of my recollection you … you never said a damn thing."

"I told you I would be there for you … whatever it took … I told you that it didn't matter how, it just mattered that it was you and me and I told you I loved you --."

"Once … you told me you loved me ONCE."

"That is not true … you knew how I felt."

"How was I supposed to know? … I still don't know … I don't even recognize you any more … KATE PIKE, Harm? What were you thinking?"

"Leave Kate out of this … this is about you and me."

"Harm, she will destroy your career."

"You think you have the corner on that market, colonel?" He threw sarcastically back at her.

She stepped back, she felt the hit even if it were only in words.

"So tell me Mac, why are you here? … what did you think was going to happen when you showed up on my doorstep … pregnant with my child?" Harm's challenging tone was loud and clear. He was baiting her.

"I wasn't thinking."

"You must have had some fantasy … some imagined scenario worked out in your head. Did you think I would fall to my knees in front of you and beg you to take me back? … back … hell, I was never IN your life."

"What do you expect me to say, Harm?"

"I expect you to finally tell me what you want … what you think …how you feel … I can't guess anymore."

"When have you ever tried?"

"The two years you were with Brumby I tried to figure out what you saw in him, what he did for you… the two years after Brumby, I watched and waited as you toyed with our friendship … that whole time with Webb … what were you trying to accomplish there, I will never understand … Over and over again, you kept choosing other men, and keeping me just out of reach, but not too far away. You wouldn't let me in … but you wouldn't let me go."

She made no move to dispute his accusations or stop him from talking.

"Then … THEN … when I finally throw in the towel and walk away … then you plan that seduction which - as it turns out - will bind us together forever."

"Are you saying that I planned this? That I wanted this?" Her eyes flamed. "Are you accusing me of TRAPPING you?"

"All I'm saying is that you would never let me in -."

"You never wanted in … you never asked to be part of my life …

"That is wrong."

"…and you threw as much between us as I did." She shook her head and glanced away. She could think of no examples except his constant sarcasm and caustic remarks. She was wrong about him not asking to be a part of her life, but she could not acknowledge that, it would hurt her case. "And then it was over … like a switch you just turned off."

"Not off Mac … never off."

"You moved on."

"I had to Mac … I had to for my own sanity." He explained. "I wanted things from you that you would never give me."

"Like a child … well isn't that ironic." She snapped at him.

He stopped for a moment to really appreciate what was being said. "We are talking in circles." He sighed.

"That isn't new for us either." Mac was still angry.

Harm's voice got soft. "Don't you think we FINALLY have a good reason to stop?"

She leaned against the closed door exhaled. "I do."

"So let's stop."

She looked away but nodded.

"Mac." He called to her. He sat down on the couch, motioning her to sit in the chair. "Let's talk."

She came over and sat down. "Harm none of this was planned … not that night … not this … certainly not your transfer." She blurted out.

"Well, let's take those one at a time – shall we?"

She really didn't like where this was headed. She was going to have to sincerely apologize and accept the mistakes she made. He wasn't innocent, but she had more than 50 percent to apologize for.

Harm went on. "Let's start with the transfer. I can assume that you did not know you were pregnant the last time we saw each other."

"No." She looked up at him, "But clearly I was being ruled by my hormones."

"No doubt. Did you honestly think that Jennifer and I were …?"

"Harm, I didn't know what to think – you were acting so … so … I don't know … different. Chasing everyone in a skirt. I didn't recognize you."

Harm had barely recognized himself over the last several months. He had been doing a hell of a job convincing him self that that was the life he wanted – free, easy, non-committed. But if truth were told, it was like a steady diet of candy. Tasty for a while, but no substance – nothing he could really sink his teeth into, nothing that would really satisfy his hunger.

"I won't apologize for that, Mac." He said defensively.

"I don't need an apology, I need to understand – who are you? You have always been driven by your emotions, you have always been the kind to follow any obsession wherever it led you -."

"Not any obsession … you stopped me dead in my tracks."

"Me?"

He said too much. Harm switched the topic back to the transfer. "What did you say to Creswell?"

"Nothing … I didn't have an opportunity. He told me that he would no longer tolerate the animosity between us, suggested that it was personal in nature and that I take a week off to contemplate my future."

"You left town."

"I went to Vermont. I had no idea that he was going to transfer you. I thought I would get back, and everything would be the same – when I came back I was going to talk to you. I had done some of thinking while I was away … but I was sick mostly. Slept a lot." She laughed. "I soon found out why."

"What were you going to talk to me about?"

"Does it really matter now?"

"Yes – very much." He pressed.

Mac took a deep breath. "I'm not really sure."

"Mac, this is crunch time … this is it … this will make us or break us … don't hedge your bets … don't hold back … tell me the truth … or as much of it as you know."

She studied him for a moment. He was right. This was the time for as honest a conversation as both of them could muster – egos, justifications and blame should not be a part of it. She took a deep breath, got up so she could pace the room and started talking. "What I was thinking about the most was how opposite everything was."

He sat back on the couch and watched her. "Opposite?"

"Before Webb … before Mic … before all of that … hell, during all of that … all I ever wanted was for you to tell me how you felt, to actually state your intentions." She smiled. "The whole 'actions speak louder than words' was just a bit too ambiguous for me. I needed to hear the words." She chuckled to herself at the ridiculousness of it all.

"What?"

"It just sounds so stupid … so wrong. All the other men in my life had told me that they loved me. They had stated their intentions. Some had been pretty specific too. But none of them were as consistent as you were. None of them would have see me through the darkest times – as you had and had promised to do." She turned to him. "You asked what 'fantasy' I had coming out here … well how about this one … I knew that if I came to you and told you that I was pregnant that you would never ask, or care if the baby was yours or not. I knew that you would … step up, even if it weren't your obligation. You have always been there for me Harm, even when I've made some really big mistakes. Even when I pushed you away."

He smiled weakly. "Is this your way of telling me that the baby is not mine?"

"The baby is yours." She said.

He nodded. He knew it was, but she opened the door to have the question asked. "So what is opposite?"

"Since Christmas, you have told me you love me, told me you care about me, told me – in words – that you would always be there for me … but then you … all those other women. I couldn't reconcile it in my own head. How could you love me and be with someone else? I finally got you to tell me what you felt, but then you were gone."

"I wasn't that simple Mac."

"I know … but you still left."

"I didn't leave, I just didn't … couldn't wait anymore."

"How could you?" It was a real question, not a rhetorical accusation. It was a reiteration of the one she asked before: how could he love her and be with someone else – hell, many someone elses.

"I don't know how to respond to that – one didn't have anything to do with the other."

"Harm." She didn't like that answer.

"Mac, It is not like I slept with all of them … I just had a lot of dates."

She waited for more.

"It's true Mac … I didn't fall in love with someone else … I don't think I loved any of them." He thought that should be enough to let her understand how he could date and flirt and even sleep with other women, yet still love her. "Sex is not love." He stated reiterating his feelings the morning after their night together.

After a moment she helped him and helped herself to understand. "You have always had a better ability to separate things in your life – professional and personal. But I just don't understand how you can separate one side of your personal with another."

"Mac, I would like to say that … that all of that … wasn't about you, but it was."

"It was?"

"I had to change my thinking, I had to change my goals. I had to change the way I thought about my life – because of you. Because you wouldn't have me."

"Why? Why couldn't you just give me some more time?"

"Because it wouldn't have made any difference."

"How can you say that?"

"Mac as long as I was standing there waiting for you, you would never look to me. I was the back up, I was the safe back up."

"That's not true."

"That's how it felt. Even now you just said that you knew I would always be there for you … but you never actually said how you felt about me. How YOU feel … not what you thought or what you knew, but how you felt."

"Harm … What do you want me to say? … Do you want me to say that I made a mistake? That I never should have pushed you away any of the thousand times I did?"

"Is that what you feel?"

"Yes … yes …" she cried out. "I'm sorry … I was scared … confused … you didn't make it any easier for me."

He nodded. That was one thing – one of the faults he took on himself. In the past he was always CHALLENGING Mac to love him … to want to be with him. He never really opened the door and just let her walk in on her own. Hell, he probably never opened the door and honestly invited her in … at least not until the night she told him about the endometriosis. He would have again on Christmas if she hadn't shot him down so quickly. "Mac, when did you decide that you wanted a relationship with me?"

"Who says that I have?" She snapped defensively and was immediately sorry.

"Mac, that seduction that you planned that night was pretty clear."

"How can you accuse me of that?"

"That dress … the way you responded to me while we were dancing … the way you looked at me across the room … the way you kissed me … Mac, that was not spontaneous … you had plans. Not that I saw it that way that night. Hell, that night I thought I was in control."

"You have been thinking about that a lot."

"Yeah … yeah I've … spent a lot of lonely nights thinking about that night."

She nodded to the bed. "Lonely whats?"

He shook his head and leaned back on the couch. "You won't believe this … but last night was the first time since that night with us."

"Should I believe it?"

"Yes, you should also know … that was because of you too."

"Don't blame me for your indiscretions with women … and definitely not Kate Pike."

"Kate is a good friend."

"I can see that."

"No, no you don't. Kate doesn't want anything from me. We both know the other, and we both know why it would never work for us. We knew it from the start, which is why we were able to … well you know."

"So you are saying you can have sex with her because you don't ... what exactly?"

"I'm not sure this is such a great topic of conversation."

"No, I want to hear this – sounds like you have given this a great deal of thought too."

"Let's put it in context, Mac. You and I slept together once and it destroyed our friendship, for Kate and I … it is just another aspect – it's all about expectations."

"If you wanted nothing more than sex from me, why did you --?"

"Why didn't I take you up on your offer in Sydney Harbor?" He cut her off.

That brought it around to a place that Mac was not ready for.

"That's what you were offering me that night, right Mac? Sex … you wanted me to take you to bed. What was it you said … 'we were not in Washington, we were not even on the same continent'?"

Mac shook her head.

"Come on Mac … what would have happened that night if I had taken you up on your offer? It would have been great … that I know … What were you expecting to happen, Mac? Just one night … to scratch an itch?"

"Harm-."

"What exactly were you offering? What were you thinking? Were you hoping that once we did it that I would promise you the moon? Or were you trying to trick me into a relationship by using sex? Or did you just want one night."

"It was not like that Harm."

"Then tell me what it was like … we may not have been in Washington, but we might as well have been. We were both working, our colleagues were there and so was our boss. Did you think that we would never go back to Washington? What would have happened when we did go back? You accused me of not being able to let go … what did you think I was hanging on to?"

"Your feelings … your emotions … your …"

"My job … our friendship … my respect for you."

Mac was taken aback.

"Mac I didn't sleep with you that night because it would have meant more than a one night stand and we weren't ready for more. We were both tentatively involved with other people. To start something with you because the moon was full, the stars were out and you were eager and irresistible -."

"You resisted."

"It would have been a mistake. It was wrong for you to ask. I wanted more from you than one night or even an affair, but I wasn't ready for that either."

"Why didn't you just say that?"

"I thought I had … I said NOT YET … not NOT EVER… you even asked me."

"Asked you?"

"You accused me of only being 'that way' with you … and I told you that it was only you … I even agreed when you suggested that you should be flattered. I wanted you Mac … turning you down was not easy … but I wanted you in ways that wouldn't have been achieved through one night of sex … in fact that would have pretty much ruined it."

She was hurt in so many ways and was beating herself up mostly. "Harm – I need to ask you … and this will have a bearing on how I think back on this in the future."

Her voice was cracking and she showed signs of trembling. Harm vowed to himself that he would give her an honest answer to whatever she asked. "Ok."

She swallowed hard and crossed her arms tightly across her chest. "You keep referring to … sex. Sex with me, sex with Kate … sex with whomever … I really need to know now … was that night -?"

"No."

"No what?" She was holding her emotions in check and forcing her eyes to stay dry.

He got up and crossed over to where she was standing. He put his hands on her arms and waited for her to look up at him. "No, Sarah. It was not just sex. We made love that night … the kind of love I hoped we would make if we ever had the chance." He smiled slightly. "We created a child that night Mac … against the odds, we created a life. That is love."

She allowed him to pull her close and hold her. They both needed the physical contact.

After a long moment, he whispered, "I'm sorry Mac. I'm sorry I ever made you doubt."

"That is not what you thought that night … or at least not the next morning." She leaned away from him and he let her go.

"I don't remember exactly what I thought … but I didn't think you wanted a relationship with me. It was only in hindsight that I figured that out, when you wouldn't accept my friendship."

She shook her head.

"We never got a chance to work through – honestly – work through what the expectations were or what the revised expectations were the morning after."

"It was pretty clear to me what your expectations were, Harm."

He closed his eyes and shook his head. If only she had stayed in bed five more minutes, she would never have heard him. Who knows what would have happened, but she would not have attacked him and he would not have defended himself. It could have turned out so differently if she had only stayed in bed … or if he had just stood Lana up. "You were never meant to hear that conversation."

"What would you have done if I told you that I wanted you in my life?"

"Is that what you wanted?"

"Answer the question … What would you have done with all your women, Harm?"

"You answer mine."

"Yes … I woke that morning and I fully expect that our days of being estranged were over." She laughed. "You said something along the lines of one night not fixing our problems, but I honestly believed that one night of making love – particularly that night -- was enough to get us over some major hurdles."

"I screwed it all up." He shook his head sadly. "After all these years, we still can't read each other."

"After all these years were are still willing to think the worst."

"I don't want to … I want to understand." He said sincerely.

"The first thing you need to understand is that that night was pretty intense for me."

"The result certainly bares that out."

"I'm not talking about the baby … I'm talking about how raw and real I was with you … I guess you didn't see."

"I saw." He nodded. That was the part he could not forgive himself for. He knew how much that night had cost her. He knew how much she had risked. It scared him. It scared him and he needed to get away. "I saw and I didn't respect it." He looked over at her. "I'm sorry."

They were silent for a moment.

"What are we going to do, Harm?"

"Tell me what you want."

"We are back to that, are we?" She said in exasperation.

"You told me that you loved me … that you always had and you always would." He said.

"When did I say that?" She knew she did, but had some how convinced herself that he must not have heard her.

"That night … you said it just before you fell asleep."

She didn't deny it.

"Did you mean it?"

She nodded weakly.

"Do you not want to love me?"

She looked back up at him. "What?"

"Would it be easier if you didn't?"

"I don't know … My feelings for you and our history scare me. We have misread every sign, gone out of our way to protect our egos at the cost of … our friendship."

"Have we really lost everything?"

"Two weeks ago I would have thought so." She said. "Two weeks ago, I would have taken most of the blame on myself. But now … now … " She looked up at him. "Now I don't want to believe it."

He stepped up to her and took her hands in his. "Then don't believe it Mac … don't believe it."

"What are you suggesting?"

"I'm suggesting that we make it work … try to make it work … we have every reason in the world to try."

"The baby?"

He smiled. "Wow … a baby … a little girl with my looks and your brains." He squeezed her hands.

She was about to point out that it could be a little boy.

"No … not just because of the baby … but because this is what we should have done years ago. I love you, Mac."

She shook her head.

"Don't fight it anymore Mac … you came all the way out here for this."

"You are sure of that?"

"You aren't?"

Mac shrugged. She was still unclear.

"Make a decision Marine … damn Jarhead … this is why they say women should not be allowed in combat. They can't make a decision."

Her eyes flared. "Marry me!" She demanded.

"What?"

"Marry me … how's that for making a decision."

"Or giving an order." He smiled.

"What do you say?"

"I say … yes. Yes, I will marry you."

She smiled. "Really?"

"Change your mind … Did you think I wouldn't take you up on your … order?"

"No, I just thought there were be more discussion."

"Mac … we have a lot to discuss and we have a lot to work out … hell we even have old hatchets to bury, and logistics to iron out but as long as we know that it is a process to get through …"

"… And that we will be together on the other side." She finished.

"I don't care if it takes the rest of our lives."

"It may take that long.

"I know … that is fine with me."

"OK." She smiled softly.

"OK." He squeezed her hand again. "So now what?" He could barely contain his smile.

"Now?" She looked a little tentative, like she had something to say but didn't want to say it.

He studied her for a moment. "You need to eat, don't you?"

"I could use a little som'thin' som'thin'." She said coyly embarrassed that her physical needs could interrupt this discussion.

"You know that old saying about eating for two is a myth." He said playfully brushing some strands of hair away from her face.

"You worried about me getting fat?"

"You could use a few pounds, but … well … not too many."

"You going to monitor my diet?"

"Sarah, I will monitor everything there is about you – now that you will let me."

"Harm." She warned. "I don't need a caretaker. I can take care of myself."

"You don't have to anymore … you have someone who will watch over you now."

She liked the sound of that. Not the care taking part, but the part that made her believe she was no longer alone in the world.

He nodded. "We are going to be great Mac … the hard part is over."

"Yeah." She smiled. For the first time she actually felt that the hard part was over and that they would be great.

"Let's go … will take you to a great place for brunch … all you can eat."

"Sounds good."

He wrapped his arm around her and led her to the door. Just before they exited he looked down into her face. "I do love you Sarah … and not just because of the baby."

"I know … and I know we would have found our way to each other some how with or without this child."

"You think?"

"I do. I love you, Harm. I always have and I always will."

He wrapped his arm around her, leaned down and kissed her.

She pulled herself to him and held on for dear life. "Don't let go." She whispered.

"Not a chance." He whispered back.

Both their eyes were wet and both voices were cracking. They were finally allowing themselves to FEEL and not think. The moment was interrupted by Mac stomach growling. They each laughed easily. He kissed her.

"Get dressed." She told him.

He did quickly and as he was leading her out, he looked back into his apartment before he closed the door. It wasn't that much of a mess and with the two of them working together … it would be straightened out in short order. He smiled. Life was finally taking the turn that felt right. He closed the door behind him. They would deal with the mess after they ate.

THE END of THE BEGINNING