Title: A Picture Begets A Thousand Words

By: LizD Previously Posted as Shipless

Spoiler: Post Automatic For The People

Author's Note: Written during the torture that was Season 10.

Disclaimer: Not Disrespect intended, with love and thanks

X x X x X x X x X x X x X x X x

1515 Local

JAG Headquarters

Falls Church, VA

Mac entered Harm's office to return a file that she had borrowed that morning and noticed it right away. He was not there. He was still in court, had been since 0900 and hadn't seen it arrive. Mac's curiosity was up and stepped closer to get a better look.

It was a package wrapped in brown paper addressed to Harm with a return address from California. The package was a little more than 3' x 3' x 3". It had to be some sort of picture. It could be from his mother, but the return address was not her gallery, it was from someone named M. Ransford and the handwriting was clearly female.

"Excuse me, colonel." Came Jennifer's voice from the doorway. "The general wishes to see you."

Mac turned with a start as if she had been caught doing something wrong, smiled defensively and left. Jennifer stepped back to let her exit, looked back at the package and smiled.

Mac was sent to Quantico on a case. She would not be back for the rest of the day.

0918 Local

JAG Headquarters

Falls Church, VA

The next morning, Harm was quickly collecting his files into his briefcase. He was late for court and knew that the judge was not going to be happy. He was losing his case and being late didn't help the matter.

"Hi." Mac voice came from the door. "You're late."

"Thanks for the news flash." He dismissed with a slight smile and breezed past her.

She called after him. "Free for lunch?"

"Doubt it." He tossed over his shoulder and rushed on to court.

Mac turned back to scan his office. The package was still there and unopened but it had been moved to a corner by the door. He was probably hoping not to forget to take it home with him that night. Since he hadn't opened it he must know what was inside. Could he have bought it when he was out there and had it shipped to him? That didn't sound like something Harm would do. On the other hand, if he didn't buy it, and someone just sent it to him, wouldn't he want to open it to see what it was? Where was his curiosity?

She tried to shake these intrigue off. She was due at Quantico in an hour and probably wouldn't have made it back for lunch either, but she would have rescheduled had Harm's answer been different.

1925 Local

Rabb Residence

North Of Union Station

Harm struggled to unlock his door. His cell phone was ringing, but his hands were full. He dropped the package by the door along with his briefcase, in time to hear the phone beep that he had missed the call but had a message. He checked the caller ID. It was Mac, but she was supposed to be in Norfolk or somewhere, he could not remember. His head was still on the beating Bud had given him in court that day. Bud Roberts, of all people, was kicking his ass. When the student becomes the master…

Harm decided not to call Mac back right away – she probably just wanted to razz him about court. He could take it, and would love to take it from her, but he needed a shower and some food first. He hadn't eaten all day. He was about to call for pizza when his landline rang.

"Rabb." He barked.

"Hi." Mac's voice was a little uneasy at his gruffness. "Was going to leave you a message."

"Let me get a pen."

"Funny … you can do stand up if this Navy thing doesn't work out."

"You just left a message on my cell." Clearly he was not going to get to order his pizza so he went over to the fridge to forage for food.

"Did you listen to it?"

"Haven't had a chance … why don't you tell me what it said." He found some old carrots that would do.

"What are you eating?" She laughed as he crunched into the phone.

"The only thing edible in my refrigerator."

"Is that your dinner?"

"Was about to call for pizza." He sighed. "Haven't eaten all day."

"I was going to take you out … and not for pizza … but I can get it to go."

"You were going to take me out to dinner?" He asked. "Why?"

"Thought you could use it."

"Talked to our boy Bud, did you?" He shook his head and took another bite of carrot and opened a well-earned beer.

"He seemed pretty pleased with himself." She confirmed.

"I am sure he is."

"I'm very close to the restaurant. I'll be there in half an hour – forty-five minutes, can you last that long or will you pass out?"

"I am showering off this day, but I will be ready by time you get here."

"You sure you want company?"

"Yeah." He said confidently. "Thanks, Mac."

"What are friends for?"

She ended the call and Harm looked puzzled. She had some other agenda going on, but at the moment he didn't care. He was tired, needed a shower, was going to get better food than pizza and some good company to share it with. The day was not a total loss.

Forty-Nine Minutes Later

Mac knocked on his door. He was freshly showered and had changed into his sweats. He turned up the heat knowing that Mac would be cold. She always complained about being cold in his apartment.

"Hey." He opened the door with a bright smile. "Thank you for this."

"You don't know what I got you."

"Has got to be better than the pizza and the company will surely be better … prettier to look at anyway." He grinned.

"You seem in better spirits."

"Hot water and a couple of beers will do that for me." He was sorry he made the 'beers' comment after he said it, but Mac was a big girl. He had already switched to water.

"You set the table?"

"I did." He went to the fridge to get her a drink. "What are you drinking … I have water, water and some very nice water?"

"Hmm … sounds like someone needs time to get to the market." She was unpacking the dinners and serving them up on the dishes he had put out.

"When this case is over."

"Today wasn't it?"

"No … I have one more day to redeem myself."

"And?"

"And I still have a few tricks up my sleeve." He came over with their water and sat down.

"Thought you might." She smiled at him.

"Does Bud?"

"I think Bud thinks he's got this one wrapped up." She said honestly.

"Good … need him over confident."

"Don't think that over confidence will effect Bud … he learned from the master."

"Is that a compliment of some kind?" He took the offered plate and was clearly happy with the choices she had made.

"Of some kind." She joined him at the table and noticed that the package was still unopened and leaning against the wall in his bedroom. She started thinking about ways to bring it up.

The conversation took on more of a businesslike bent that Mac had wanted it to, but clearly Harm's head was still in court. She wondered if she should – or if she could - just let her curiosity sit for a day or two. Not likely.

After dinner, when the dishes were cleaned up they had adjourned to the living room. As casually as Mac could she broached the subject of the package.

"What's that?" She nodded over to the package leaning against the wall.

Harm followed her line of sight and realized that he had not put it away. "It is a 'thank you' present." He said in distant manner.

"A Thank You?"

"Yeah, that F-14 crash in California? Well, I was able to secure a pretty sizable settlement for the daughter of the man who died, I believe that is her 'thank you'."

"You believe, you don't know?"

Harm knew exactly what that picture represented and he was unclear how he was going to handle it, hence the reason it was still unopened. The picture was more to enforce Megan's last words to him 'don't forget about me.' Truth to tell, he did not like how forward Megan was being – brazen was the word that came to mind. In the week since he had last seen Megan, she had called him twice. Once to thank him again and to tell him that she was quitting her job, and opening up an art program in the town where her father lived and that was thanks to him as well. She was full of questions and was asking for any advice he could give her – legally or otherwise. She was worried that her ex-husband might try to take the money, how to handle the taxes, what it would take to open the foundation etc. Reluctantly he gave her some legal advise but told her that he did not know the laws in California and it would be better if she were to find a lawyer out there to advise her, maybe even an accountant. To get her off that subject he mentioned that his mother own a gallery in La Jolla and was compelled to say that his mother would give her a call, maybe even show her father's work.

During the first conversation he was considerate and supportive, it was the least he could do as a human being. After all, the woman was going through a divorce, her father had just died and she was giving up the life she knew to start something completely different. It was expected – being the kind of woman she was - that she would be a little desperate and hanging on to the first man that showed her a little kindness. It struck him hard how different Mac and Megan were, but he put on his friendly face anyway – the one that had gotten him in to sticky situations in the past.

However, the second conversation did not go so well. She started questioning him about 'his brunette' and why she wasn't 'his yet.' Harm gave very short, curt and precise responses. He had gotten off the phone quickly and made no noises like he was going to return the call and left no opening for her to call him back. He thought that she would have gotten the message – two days later the painting had shown up. The message was not received. Harm scolded himself. He needed to learn to be clearer with people and particularly with women – leaving it open to interpretation had nearly lost him Mac on several occasions and had gotten him women that he didn't want on others.

"So?" Mac pressed.

"So what?" He had been lost in his thoughts.

"So aren't you going to open it?"

"Not now." He dismissed hoping that Mac would let it go.

She didn't. "So tell me about this woman."

"Who? Megan Ransford?" He asked innocently.

"Megan … she has a name." Mac said dryly. "Just how grateful was she?"

"I don't want to talk about Megan"

"Why not?" Her eyes flashed like a jealous female.

It is hard to tell what exactly set Harm off. It could have been the day in court and that he was still trying to stay in his prosecutorial mode. Or it could have been the fact that Megan was pulling from one end and Mac was pushing at the other. It could have been because Harm had expected that after Christmas, after the accident, after Mac's admission that she had been pushing him away and apology, that they would have taken the next steps toward a relationship or at least have opened a line of dialogue on the subject. Nothing like that had happened. And now Mac was acting like a jealous woman? He had to put an end to that. Regardless, Harm was been pushed too far at that moment and he was going to get some answers to his questions – like the good investigator, prosecutor, lawyer he was.

He fixed her with a stare. "To talk about Megan, we would have to first talk about you."

"Me?"

"Us more specifically."

Mac realized she had pushed too hard. "Oh."

Harm reminded himself that he needed to be clear – honest and clear. "Megan is an attractive, single woman who is in a lot of pain. She is dealing with the death of her father – a father she had only recently reconciled with. She is in the middle of a divorce and making a career change. I can assume that she was attracted to me, but I am not interested in her. Why? Because I am still waiting to see what will happen with us."

"Harm." Mac wanted to end the conversation. It had gone from zero to 200 mph in thirty seconds.

"Mac, you shouldn't be jealous of another -."

"Who said I was jealous?" She said defensively.

Harm was annoyed. Mac was still pushing him away. "Would you be jealous if I told you that she kissed me?"

Mac felt her breath catch in her throat. "No."

"Would you be jealous if I told you that that kiss made me think?"

"Think about what?"

"About us."

"Kissing another woman made you think about us?"

"She kissed me … it wasn't my idea … but I am not dead, you know."

"I know."

Harm got up and moved away. Mac was giving him nothing and didn't appear to want to talk about a future for them. He ran his hands through his hair. He studied her for a moment and then blurted out, "It isn't ever going to happen for us, is it?"

Mac had so many feelings spinning inside of her but the only one that she recognized and could align with was the one that got her to end the conversation. "Harm, I don't think now --."

"Answer the question." He snapped.

"I don't know." She was scared, and hurt and defending herself the only way she knew.

"Do you love me, Mac?"

"What?"

"Do you love me … are you in love with me?"

The question was so direct and so out of the blue it snapped the panic out of Mac. "Yes … yes Harm I love you … probably always have and will always … but I don't know … I don't believe that we have a future together … at least not the kind of future that I think you want … not one that involves children."

Harm was hit with the reality of her statement – yet again – but needed clarification. "Is that because you are concerned about not being able to have children or is that because of me – of us."

"I don't know." She nearly cried.

"Do you think you will ever know?"

She looked down. "I don't know … and that is the biggest problem … I can't figure out why it hasn't happened for us already … why I am so resistant." She looked up at him. "Why it feels like such a battle … a battle that I will lose if I give in … but I have to assume there is a reason."

"Amazing" was all he said.

"What?"

"A year ago you stood up in court and said that I was the KIND of man that you would want to have children with … why am I only the KIND of man and not THE man?"

"I don't know."

"Why does any future for us depend on children?"

"I don't know."

"Is that baby deal the only thing that ever really held us together?"

"I don't know."

"Why haven't you told me that there is no chance for me … why are you letting me just string along?"

"I don't know."

His questions and her responses were getting them nowhere. Harm was at his wits end. "Now here is the real question Mac … are you even asking yourself why any more? Do you want to know? Do you want to find out?"

Mac looked away. She could not answer. She could not tell him that it was so much easier the last few months when he was not pressing her for anything, when it seemed like he was getting on with his life with Alicia or whomever. Yes, she was disappointed and hurt by seeing that woman so comfortable in Harm's apartment, in his life, but honestly she could never see herself as that comfortable with him. How could she tell him that he brought up defensive feelings in her, that being with him was a struggle for power and control, that it was easier to be alone than to struggle to find all those answers that had eluded her for nine years?

"No, you don't." He answered for her. "It has been too long, too much water under the bridge … too much … whatever."

"Harm, I --."

"Don't say you are sorry Mac … don't … please."

"Harm?"

He shook his head and looked away. "I guess that is it then."

"What?"

"I can't wait for you any more Mac."

"What?" She couldn't believe that he was just shutting down on her.

"I can't wait and hope and stand by patiently thinking that you will find the answers to the questions that you are no longer asking. It makes me look and feel like a fool." He stepped away. "I don't blame you … I am more at fault than you are … but it doesn't matter any more."

"What doesn't?"

"It doesn't matter that I love you … that I have and would have walked through fire for you … it doesn't matter that a future was too much to hope for … that I have missed my chance with you and that I will forever be sorry. All that matters is that we move forward with our lives individually and try to maintain the friendship that we have tortured over the years."

"Harm."

"I am sorry Mac. I am sorry that I have put you in this position. I should have spoken my feelings a long time ago and maybe everything would have been different."

Mac was at a loss for words. How did a simple question about a stupid picture bring them to the point of ruination?

Harm shook his head – he was pretty amazed at the direction the conversation had taken too. "Do you want to know the only thing I regret … the one point in time that I held back and should have not let you define and direct the situation?"

She wanted to take issue with that description but felt the conversation drawing to a close and needed to be out of there. Her voice had failed her. She just shook her head.

"At the end of the Jag-a-thon."

She was still confused.

"I let you say that 'we could never work things out'. What I was thinking was that we never actually tried. I shouldn't have agreed to go back to the beginning – to going back to being friends. I should have told you there and then that I was in love with you and that your friendship would never be enough."

Mac's heart sank.

"But I didn't … in all the mistakes that I made over the years … that will be the one I regret."

"Harm."

"I am sorry Mac."

"Harm."

"Please … don't say anything else … there is nothing else to say … thank you for dinner … but could you go? … I need to be alone."

Mac got up slowly. She was getting exactly what she wanted – Harm ending his 'pursuit' of her and agreeing to a friendship – nothing more. But she could not help but think that that was wrong too.

"Harm." She started. "You are the best person I have ever known … I want you to be happy. No one deserves it more than you do."

"Yeah … you too." His voice was cracking. He needed her gone.

"Harm?"

"Go home, Mac. I have a case to prepare for in the morning. Need to show Bud Roberts who is the teacher and who is the student." He pulled a fake smile out to mask his hurt. "We will be fine."

"We will be." She nodded and left.

Harm stood with his back against the door for a long time, until his cell phone ringing pulled him out of his thoughts. He didn't recognize the number but the area code was California. He let it go to voice mail. He picked up the package and stuffed it into the back of his closet. He needed another shower and then it would be a long night with the files. Pulling rabbits out of his hat was not magic; it required a lot of hard work.