Disclaimer: Of course I don't own them.
A/N: I don't know what possessed me to write this, except maybe spending the entire day in front of a computer, trying to figure out a statistical software package while little parts of me died of sheer boredom and frustration. I'm going to post this before I change my mind, so go easy on me and indulge this silliness.
Harm saw a familiar figure standing in front of a shop window as he strolled the streets of Georgetown.
"Mac, hey!" He called. She turned at hearing her name, and rewarded him with a broad grin.
"Fancy meeting you here. What brings you out?"
"Shopping, actually." She gestured the store window next to them.
He glanced inside. It was a women's store, bearing a multitude of dresses and tops, some delicate, some daring. All feminine and flirty. Harm's curiosity was, to say the least, piqued.
"Shopping for anything in particular?" He asked, glancing from a particularly pleasing red dress to Mac.
She studied him for a moment, as though debating whether to answer. Finally she shrugged. "A dress."
"Got a hot date?" He teased, eyebrow cocked, wide grin in place. He thought he did a passable job of not sounding either envious or disappointed – the first for whoever would see her in one of those dresses, and the second because it wouldn't be him.
She scoffed, shaking her head, and leveled him a look he had often been on the receiving end of: the look that women, in his experience, often gave a man when he was being particularly... male.
"What?" He defended, unable to fathom what he could've said to merit that reaction.
"Do you really think the only reason I would buy a dress is to impress a man?"
She actually seemed rather offended, so he answered hastily, without really thinking. "No! I mean, it's not like you need to. Any guy would think he'd died and gone to heaven if a woman who looks like you opened the door when he showed up for a date." He realized what he said a moment after he said it, and immediately wished the ground would open up and swallow him whole. He opened his mouth to backpedal, "Well, I mean—"
She helpfully finished his thought for him. "Unless he was like a brother to me, right? Like you are." Now she was looking at him with skepticism and forced patience. Harm decided to change tracks.
He cleared his throat. "So then, what is the dress for?"
Again, she looked at him for a moment as though debating whether to answer. Finally, she sighed. "I've had a terrible week."
He frowned, not seeing the connection. "So?"
"So," She began reluctantly, "The dresses in this store almost always fit me like a glove, and make me feel ... good."
He didn't understand.
"I don't understand."
"Well, when you buy a particularly nice suit, or shirt, one that looks really good on you, it makes you feel good, right?"
Well, now that she mentioned it: No.
"No." His frown deepened. He really wasn't following her reasoning. "It's just clothes, Mac."
She looked at him, perplexed. "Really?" Her eyes traveled down his body, from his head to his toes and back. He tried not to squirm at the close inspection.
"So then" She asked, "How do you shop?"
"I go inside, I look at stuff, sometimes try it on, and if it fits I buy it."
"If it fits, you buy it," She repeated.
He nodded. "You women just complicate things."
"We women?" There was that look again.
And way to go tasting more shoe leather, Rabb.
"Sure," He decided to stick his statement through – after all, it was true. "I shop at one store, and only when they have a sale. They have a sale twice a year, so I shop twice a year."
"You're kidding." Her tone was injected with far more surprise than he thought the situation merited.
He looked down at his clothes – they seemed to fit just fine. What was the problem? "Well, I am rather tall," He said this because he didn't know what her reaction meant.
"You only shop twice a year?"
"Spring and Fall," He confirmed.
"Only at one store?"
"Yeah. Their stuff almost always fits," He repeated her words, and then reminded her, "I am rather tall. In fact, the store I shop at is having their bi-annual sale this weekend. That's where I was heading."
She considered him for a moment.
Again, he tried not to squirm under her minute inspection. This time of his face. He hoped he hadn't missed a spot shaving. "What?" He asked, when her scrutiny became too much.
"I'm trying to picture you shopping." It was a very strange thing to want to picture, he thought, but one easily resolved.
"Well, then. Just come with me. It's right around the corner."
"Sure," He shrugged, because it really was no big deal. She didn't seem convinced, so he added, "C'mon, Mac. You helped me pick out my car. What's a few clothes?"
Harm pulled a shirt over his head, thinking that this was a very novel experience. He'd never gone shopping with any one of the many girlfriends he'd had over the course of his life. It was worse than taking a girlfriend car shopping, to his mind. Tell a woman she can help you pick out clothes, and you might as well sign away your freedom, put a mortgage on a house, and take out a loan for the wedding.
So this was effectively the first time he was clothes shopping with a woman – with the exception of his mom but that hadn't happened since he was 15.
He was actually enjoying himself, much to his surprise.
At first, Mac's reaction to his shopping habits had been nothing short of amusing. She'd watched with barely concealed curiosity as he'd walked into the store, declined the salesman's offer for help, and just picked up a pair of jeans, a pair of pants, a sweater and a t-shirt.
"Is that all you're going to buy?" She'd been very skeptical. "For a whole year?"
"Of course not," He'd been surprised by her lack of reasoning. "I'm just going to try these on for size, and if they fit, I'll get a few of each."
"You're kidding me."
He still had no idea why she'd think he'd kid about such an inane thing. Frankly, he'd just wanted to get out of here as quickly as possible and have the rest of the day to himself. And perhaps persuade Mac to join him.
"Why would I kid?" He'd looked down at the jeans in his hands, which had been the target of her incredulous stare. "You don't like the jeans?" He'd put them down and picked up a darker pair. "Are these better?"
She'd kept looking at him like he was the one being weird. "What, Mac?"
"This is the strangest thing I've ever seen."
Surely it wasn't the strangest: she'd had psychic visions.
"The changing room is this way." He'd directed her to the back of the store, figuring if he tried to figure out what was perplexing her to such an extent he'd be here well into the next century. He'd gestured for her to have a seat on one of the plump couches, and had walked into one of the changing rooms.
He'd then pulled on the jeans, and ascertained that they felt just fine. He'd pulled on the t-shirt – it also felt fine – and had stepped out of the changing room in order to look at how they fit with the mirrors outside.
Mac had been flipping through a clothing rack when he'd stepped out. She'd turned and looked at him with a critical eye, while he'd looked at himself in the mirror with what he'd guessed was a slightly less critical eye than hers.
The jeans had been just the right size, and felt comfortable. They would do. The t-shirt – same size as he always wore – had been a bit tight on the chest, which had made him grin: that was courtesy of his new work-out regimen. His pecs looked pretty damn good. His biceps had also bulked up slightly. His grin had gone up a notch at the sight of it.
"See," Mac had said as she'd noticed his reaction, pulling him from his self-assessment. "The clothes do make you feel good."
He'd shaken his head at her. "It's not the clothes."
She'd given a very eloquent eye roll. "Your ego really does know no bounds." She'd then handed him a black shirt. "Here."
He'd taken it from her, "What's this?"
"I think the cut will look nice on you."
"The cut?" He'd asked, seeking clarification, but her attention had already moved to flipping through another rack of clothes. So he'd taken the shirt and gone back into the changing room.
That had been 40 minutes ago. Since then, she'd kept bringing him clothes and he'd kept trying them on. He had actually been about to put his foot down when he'd exited the changing room for only the second time and found her standing with an armful of clothes for him to try. No way was he going to try all that stuff on. Except that he'd quickly learned that trying on clothes for Mac had certain perks.
He now stepped out of the changing room, to a waiting Mac, all ready to benefit from said perks.
"Hmm," She cocked her head to the side as she walked up to him. She smoothed the light blue shirt over his chest, and he felt her warm hands through the shirt fabric – perk #1, and one that made him glad he'd been working out. Then she adjusted the collar, her slim fingers brushing along his neck – perk #2. She stepped back, and then tugged lightly on the hem of his shirt. Her knuckles slid against his belt – perk #3.
"I like the shirt on you," She decided.
He liked the shirt on him too, and he hadn't even looked at his reflection in the mirror yet.
"But the jeans..." She paused. "Turn around."
He did as she asked, and watched her reflection in the mirror as she checked out his six. Perk #4.
"I like the other ones better – the lighter ones." She told him. "These ones have strange back pockets and they don't sit right on your hips."
"Works for me." He wondered what it would take for her to adjust his pants as she did his shirt.
"Alright. I think that's the last of it," She looked around the changing area, nodding decisively.
He was actually disappointed the shopping excursion was over. He thought he might reconsider the frequency of his bi-annual shopping trips if Mac came along with him.
"I should go," She pulled him from his thoughts, "I only have a couple of hours to buy my dress before lunch."
A couple of hours? He thought incredulously. How could it take that long? How many of those dresses would she try on? And right then, a fantastic idea struck him.
"Great," He told her, heading back into his changing room, "I won't be long. I'll just change, pay for all this stuff, and then we can find you a dress."
"We?" She echoed dumbly.
"It's only fair." He turned to look at her, his best grin in place, "You helped me pick all this out."
"Um, Harm..." She looked around, and for the first time realized that of all the stuff he was buying, none of it was what he'd originally picked up when they'd entered the store. "I kind of took over, didn't I?" She said sheepishly. "I didn't mean to..."
He laughed. "Don't worry about it, Mac. I now know how the other half lives. And," He finally looked at himself in the mirror. He'd have to hand it to her: she had good taste. "This really is a great shirt."
"Seriously, you don't have to come shopping with me, Harm. Don't feel obliged to—"
"Who says I'd feel obliged? I'll only be a minute." He went to change before she could voice another protest. And then, because he was in a generous mood, he added, "And I'll buy you lunch when we're done. Consider it a thank you."
Harm sat on the large couch by the changing rooms, a pile of dresses by his side and the biggest damn smile in the history of mankind on his face.
This was the best day ever. If anyone had told him when he'd woken up this morning that he would spend his morning watching one of the most attractive women he knew – one who kept herself, he had to admit, in incredible shape – model a slew of dresses, he would've called that person crazy.
And yet, here he was.
It had been slightly awkward at first, admittedly more for Mac than for him. When they'd first entered the store, she'd hesitated, uncertainly browsing the dresses in the store she'd pointed out to him earlier in the morning, eyeing him with trepidation. He, on the other hand, was awed. Who knew these women's stores had so much stuff?
He didn't know a thing about dresses, except when one looked good on a woman, but he'd learned a lot since they'd entered the store. For example, a dress looked very different on a hanger than it did on a woman. It was quite different from buying a t-shirt. This, he'd learned when Mac had finally gone to the changing room, three dresses slung over her arm. The dresses had a rather modest look to them, or so he'd thought until she stepped out of the changing room wearing the first dress.
What Mac could do to modest was simply sinful.
She'd seemed a bit self-conscious and out of her element at his giving her the once over more than once. But that first dress deserved it. And at least he wasn't running his hands all over her to check the fit, temptation aside.
He'd thought that since the first one she'd tried on looked so phenomenal, she'd get it and they'd be done.
He should've known better, and was equally thankful he didn't. Because if that first dress turned modesty into sin, the second one would have Satan himself on his knees in obeisance to God that mortal eyes could witness the effect of cloth on a body like that.
His natural curiosity and fascination had been sparked by the realization, and Harm had walked around the store to select a few dresses – just to see what the effect would be. All in the name of science. At first, Mac had balked at trying on what he'd chosen, but he'd very rightly pointed out that what was good for the goose was right for the gander: he'd tried on everything she'd chosen for him. Mac was nothing if not a good sport, so she'd agreed.
The result is what had him sitting here one hour later, next to the pile of dresses they'd been working through, each dress miraculously looking even better than the last. It confirmed his suspicion that there was nothing that didn't look good on Mac.
She stepped out of the changing room. This dress reached her mid-thigh and Harm had to work very hard not to let his mouth hang open and start drooling. Mac was tugging the hem of the dress.
"Christ," She said, looking in the mirror. "I look terrible."
He would have to beg to differ.
"I could never go out like this in public." She stared at her reflection. "It's too short."
Was there really such a thing, he wondered.
"How many left, Harm?" She looked at him through the mirror.
"Six." There were actually eight, but he thought he shouldn't push his luck. Someone, somewhere would realize that he was getting more than his fair share.
"Seriously?" She was close to calling it a day, he could tell.
"Now, Mac," He said patiently. "You didn't hear me complain when you brought armful after armful of clothes for me to try on."
Mac sighed. "You are buying me lunch, right?"
"That was the deal." Okay, so he'd had to negotiate a bit for the best day of his life. Small price to pay.
"I will want dessert," She told him as she picked up three of the dresses from the pile lying next to him. "Cheesecake."
He watched as she walked back to the changing room, toned legs, slim waist, not to mention what that dress did for her six. Where did she put it?
Five minutes later – he'd also learned that it took her a lot longer to put on one dress than it did him pants, a shirt and a sweater – Mac emerged wearing the red dress he'd first seen in the shop window that morning.
Harm could not keep his jaw from dropping. Hopefully, he wasn't drooling.
"Wow, Mac. Uh. Woah."
She laughed, a trifle unnerved by his reaction.
He noticed this and tried to put them back on familiar ground. Whatever that meant these days.
"Seriously. With that dress, you'll have men lining up around the block to take you out on hot dates."
She laughed again, even more nervous, though trying to play it off. It occurred to him that maybe she just wasn't very good at taking compliments. And all this time he tripped over his words at the look on her face when he tried to say nice things to her, thinking he'd given away something. Maybe he should pay her more compliments, to get her into the habit of it.
"Forget dates," He continued, only half-teasing, "You'll have men lining up to whisk you away for the weekend, somewhere warm with beaches, to sweep you off your feet."
In fact, he thought as his eyes took in the sight before him, I already know one: The man you'll be travelling with is Navy, and you'll be sneaking off to the islands for the weekend.
"Sounds romantic," She sighed, looking at herself in the mirror. "I'd need to find a man first."
You wouldn't have to look very far, he answered. If only in his head.
She rubbed the fabric of the dress between her fingers, looking wistful.
"How about I take you out," He said, surprising himself. It was the dress, he justified.
Her head jerked up in surprise. It made him immediately renege on his recent vow to pay her more compliments without tripping up on his words and thoughts.
He said the first thing that came to mind. "We'll hit some hot club with you in that dress, and I'll be your wingman." Idiot, he thought. Why not buy a one-way ticket to hell instead.
She laughed out loud, much to his relief. "Women don't need wingmen, Harm." She was again wearing that look that women reserved for dense male moments.
And she made a good point. He was pretty sure she only had to enter the room for 90% of the guys in there to hone in on her, ditching anyone they had come along with. And wearing that dress...
"And I think I'll pass," She said, as these thoughts flitted through his head. "Picking up guys at clubs isn't how I want to spend my evening." She looked at herself in the mirror, and he watched her expression go from thoughtful, to pleased, to confident. Her smile was broad, sparkling with satisfaction. "Besides, I'm not buying this to impress a guy."
That would just be the completely unintended consequence she'd already achieved, he thought.
"I'm getting it because I've had a bad week and this dress makes me feel like I could conquer the world."
"I'm sure your Marine training would come in handy for that."
"Maybe just a little." She laughed. "It'd mostly be the dress."
She could conquer him any day, looking like that.
"I think we're done." He stated. "You should get that one."
"You said there were six dresses left."
"That one is made for you, Mac. Besides, you look like you could use lunch."
"Thank god." She heaved a sigh of relief as she re-entered the cubicle. "I'm starved."
"So," He asked from the other side of the door, while she changed. "Does the dress make up for your terrible week?"
"I think spending the morning with you more than makes up for it." Came her muffled reply.
It was a very sweet thing to say, he thought, warmed by her words.
"Me too, Mac." He said as she opened the door. She looked up at him, smiling brightly, and he returned the smile pretending it was him and not the dress that made her so happy in this moment.
He waited as she paid for her dress, and then took the bag from her.
"I can carry it, Harm. You have your own."
He ignored her. "Listen, Mac. Let's go out tonight. You can wear your dress and I'll wear that suit you helped me pick out." He glanced at her from the corner of his eye. "Consider it a thank you for helping me with my wardrobe overhaul."
"You're already thanking me with lunch."
"The lunch is a thanks for letting me watch you try on half the dresses in that store."
She smacked his arm, laughing. "You picked most of those!"
She thought he was joking. He'd have to rectify that, because he seriously didn't know how he'd handle it if she came into JAG one morning and told him she'd worn that red dress out on a date with some guy the night before. For all intents and purposes, that was his dress.
"Of course I picked most of those," He replied. "And you looked incredible in each and every one." He congratulated himself on his smooth delivery.
"Harm..." She trailed off uncomfortably.
He transferred all the bags to one hand, and took Mac's hand with the other.
"C'mon, MacKenzie." He was emboldened by the fact that she didn't pull her hand away. "It's a night out. Dinner, some dancing, you in that red dress, me in a tie."
"And then?" She weaved her fingers through his. He was liking how this felt.
"And then you can take me out of that suit if you like. Or I can drop you home and tell you I can't wait until the next time I get to see you." His grin widened at her discombobulation – very smooth, Rabb. "Your pick."
She didn't say anything for a moment, and he wondered if he'd overstepped the line. But then she smiled brightly, an appealing gleam in her eye, and his heart righted itself. "If you wear the blue shirt, I'll pick the first choice."
"You have yourself a deal." For the second time today, he was wearing the biggest grin in the history of mankind. And, if he played his cards right, he might just get to sneak off to the islands with her next weekend. He'd even throw in an offer to help her with her bikini shopping for the trip.