Title: More Than Life
Disclaimer: No profit being made, only for pleasure, these characters belong to DPB, etc
Category: H/M drama/romance
Author's Note: This is my first fanfiction so any feedback would be greatly appreciated (the good, the bad and the ugly). Thanks to Rising Sun and Rachel for the beta reading!
"Commander, you're client is guilty and my case against him is airtight. What makes you think I would be remotely interested in a deal?" Mac asked.
"Mac, c'mon. It's his first offense and he's had excellent reviews from his CO. He made a mistake. Cut him some slack." Harm attempted to cajole her with a quick grin.
"Harm stop trying to wheedle me with that smile. Petty Officer Reznick solicited sex from an undercover police officer. The Charleston authorities had him dead to rights and he was lucky they agreed to let the Navy handle it."
"But Mac, there is no need to waste the court's time with this. Punitive letter of reprimand is fair."
"Harm, soliciting prostitutes is a huge problem in the military, especially sailors after a long deployment. Slaps on the wrist are a thing of the past." Mac was getting exasperated with Harm. He knew how she felt about this issue and was deliberately pushing her.
He was so infuriating. What was even more infuriating was that damned smile he kept flashing, making her forget to be annoyed.
"Mac-" Harm was about to try again when Clayton Webb strode into the room.
"Ah, I see nothing has changed around here. The Colonel looks ready to wring your neck, Commander Rabb. And you are trying to win her over with a wink and a smile." Clay said with a smirk.
"Clay, how nice to see you again," Harm's voice was dripping with sarcasm. "What do you want?"
"Rabb, Rabb, Rabb - What makes you think I want anything?"
"When have you not wanted something?"
"Enough you two. Clay I thought you were in Afghanistan?" Mac asked.
"I was until this mess between Israel and Palestine reached epic proportions. I was recalled here when the President decided to try and get them to play nice."
"I repeat - what brings you to JAG?" Harm could sense this was not just a social call.
"Can't a guy come visit old friends when he's back in town?"
"If he had any friends, yes. Doesn't explain you though. What do you want with us?"
Harm was always initially distrustful of Clay, after the string of misadventures he had led them on. But deep down he counted the CIA agent among his friends. It was Clay, after all, that got his brother Sergei out of the Chechen POW camp and brought him to the U.S. In fact, Clay was one of his most loyal friends - not as loyal as Mac, but close.
"I don't want anything with you Harm. I came to see the Colonel, you just happen to be here." Clay said with what Mac always called his "secret agent smile".
"Well then, Clayton, what can I do for you?" Mac answered with a smile of her own. She had always liked Clay, despite the trouble that seemed to follow him. She, like Harm, recognized that deep down he was always there when either of them needed him.
"Whatever it is Mac, say no," Harm muttered cryptically.
Ignoring him, Clay continued, "I have to attend a party tomorrow night in honor of the new peace talks. There is some suspicion that some of the Palestinian delegation are not who they say they are. We're afraid they may be ex-Taliban, intent on disrupting the peace talks. We've had trouble getting a positive i.d. on these guys, most of them have several aliases. I'm going to try and get up close to them, determine who they really are.
"What do you need with Mac?" Harm pulled himself to his full 6'4", a move that would have intimidated many a man, but not Clayton Webb.
"Well, Rabb, that's really none of your business."
"I'm making it my business, Webb. Mac's my friend and I don't want you dragging her into something."
"ENOUGH! Both of you. I'm a big girl and I'd appreciate you not discussing me like I'm not in the room. Harm, shut it. Webb what do you want?"
"Mac, it's simple. I heard you sent that Australian packing and were currently available. I need a date for the party tomorrow-"
Harm interrupted, "You mean you need her to watch your back."
"HARM" Mac and Clay both said at the same time.
"Like I was saying," Clay continued with a pointed look at Harm, "I need a date for the dinner tomorrow night and would like the pleasure of your company."
With a smile, Mac said, "What's the catch?"
"No catch Mac. Unless you're involved with someone ." Clay kept his eyes on Mac, not wavering for even a millisecond, but the subtext of the question was obvious. He was really asking if she was involved with Harm, and it couldn't have been plainer to Mac had he been staring directly at Rabb.
Thankfully, Mac thought, Harm seemed to be oblivious as she answered. "No, Clay I am not involved with anyone. But why me? Aren't there a dozen socialites vying for your attention down at your mother's country club?"
"Mac, can't you just accept that I'd like to have a beautiful and intelligent woman such as yourself on my arm?"
"It's getting deep in here." Harm muttered loud enough for them both to hear.
"Clay - be straight with me," Mac tried to be stern but Clay had taken on an innocent look that caused laughter to rise in the back of her throat.
"Okay, here's the deal I promise. I don't expect there to be trouble, really. Security is tighter than it's ever been before. But in the off chance anything happens, I want to have a date that can handle herself in a - situation. That's all. And the list of dateable women who can do that is very short, with you at the top of the list, Colonel. That's the whole truth I swear."
"Webb, you are not dragging Mac -"
"Harm! I said keep quiet. Clay, are you sure you're being up front with me? All I have to do is keep my eyes open and be your adoring arm ornamentation?" Mac was actually intrigued. She felt her life had become altogether too mundane and a diplomatic soiree with Clay sounded like fun, despite the possibility of a run-in with terrorists.
"That's all. I swear."
"Then I'm in. What should I wear?"
"Don't worry about that. I'll have a dress sent over tonight. I'll be by to pick you up tomorrow at eight." Clay was smiling by this point. Not only had he totally pissed Rabb off - his secret joy - he had a date with the gorgeous Marine Lt. Colonel.
"See you then." Mac smiled in return. The boring Friday night she had feared spending with Jingo now had promise.
With that, Clay nodded at Mac and gave Harm a mock salute, as he exited her office.
"Can I speak now?" Harm asked in a voice that did nothing to conceal his annoyance.
"Sure," Mac tried not to smile because she knew Harm was upset.
"I don't like this at all Mac. Anything involving Clayton Webb is trouble. You know that. Don't tell me you have a thing for him." He was pointing his index finger at her now, using his best cross-examination voice.
"Harm, Clay's one of the good guys. And no, I don't have a "thing" for Clay. It sounds like fun. Besides, you heard him - there's almost no chance there will be trouble. And I can take care of myself thank you very much."
"I still think it's a bad idea. Who will be watching your back while Clay's taking pictures with his watch or talking into his sleeve, playing his spook games?"
Trying to placate him, Mac put her hand on his arm, "Harm. I'll be fine. Stop worrying. Now, let's talk about your hopeless Petty Officer some more."
Several hours later, Harm still hadn't shaken the feeling that Clay was dragging Mac into something dangerous. He trusted Clay for the most part, so far he had never let them down when it counted. But he was famous for leaving out important details, and equally famous for things going wrong when he had sworn they wouldn't.
So it was with this nagging sense of impending danger that Harm requested a meeting with the Admiral. He knew Mac would kill him for butting in, but if she wouldn't listen to him then he had to do something.
As he approached the Admiral's office, Petty Officer Tiner rose and said, " Go on in sir. He's expecting you."
"Thank you Tiner," Harm said as he opened the Admiral's door.
Shutting the door behind him, Harm walked to the Admiral's desk.
"Sir, I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me. I have a concern regarding Col. Mackenzie, and well, it's been eating at me all day. I hope you can help sir."
"I'll certainly try Commander. Is the Colonel unwell?
"No sir, nothing like that. You see, Clayton Webb, came by here today."
"Webb." It came out as a grunt from the Admiral. He was leery of Agent Webb, much like Harm.
"Yes. And he uh, asked the Colonel to be his date to a diplomatic party tomorrow night and-"
Before Harm could get any further the Admiral interrupted with a snort. "Rabb, just because you don't approve of Col. Mackenzie's choices in men - not that I blame you - I really don't think her dating Webb is any of my business or yours."
"It's not that Admiral, really" Harm felt like an idiot. He needed the Admiral's help and instead he sounded like a jealous teenager.
"You see, Webb is afraid there may be some trouble with some of the Palestinian envoy and asked Mac because, as he put it 'he needs a date who can look out for herself in a situation'. Admiral, this is a formal event, attire provided by Webb - meaning that she won't have a place to hide a weapon even if she wanted to."
"Commander, I can't exactly order Col. Mackenzie not to go on a date with him. You've shared your concerns with her, I take it?"
"Yes sir, but of course she didn't listen. I think she thinks I'm jealous."
"Hmph. Imagine that."
"Nothing Commander. But what is it you think I can do? I doubt I could talk her out of going any easier than you did."
"Actually sir, instead of talking her out of going, I was thinking maybe you could arrange for someone else to be there, to you know, watch her six. I just have a really bad feeling about the whole set up."
"Let me guess, you're free tomorrow night?"
"Yes sir. Actually I am."
"Tell you what Rabb, I'll see if I can wrangle an invitation with your name on it. But you'll be there as a representative of this office so you'd better be invisible. I'll let you know tomorrow if I've had any luck."
"Thank you Admiral. I really appreciate this."
After Harm left the room, AJ Chegwidden sat at his desk rubbing the bridge of his nose. Why he gave in to Rabb and Mackenzie every time one of them wanted to do something foolish and the other wanted to "watch the other's six", he didn't know. But, this time he thought Harm was actually making sense. Clayton Webb was a magnet for trouble and he didn't want Mac involved. Rabb may have pulled some stunts in his time but whenever it involved Mac, he seemed to have his head in the right place. The jealousy comment made him smile to himself as he recalled he conversation.
Of course Rabb's jealous. That arrogant Aussie is finally out of the picture and now she's going on a date with Webb. Well Commander, one of these days you'll have to fish or cut bait.
Pressing the intercom button he said, "Tiner, get me Admiral Anderson's secretary on the phone."
The Next Afternoon
It was getting close to the end of the day and Harm was nervous. He hadn't heard anything from the Admiral and it appeared Mac was still going on her "date" with Webb. Over coffee that morning he had again tried to talk her out of it. Thinking back on the conversation, he continued the destruction of the pen that he was chewing.
"Mac, I really think this thing with Webb is a mistake. Think of all the times he's gotten us in trouble. He's nearly gotten you killed before."
"Harm, really. Webb has always been a good friend to both of us, and you know it. This is not one of his god-forsaken missions. It's a party at the Imperial Hotel with a hundred other people and who knows how many Secret Service agents and Marine guards."
"Mac, Webb's harmless outings are never harmless. There's always more to the story with him. He's been responsible for more than one catastrophe involving you."
"Harm, if we're keeping score here between who's put me into more dangerous situations or who's almost gotten me killed the most times then don't point your finger at Webb. That dubious honor belongs to you and you only."
With that, she had left him standing by the coffee pot. He had to admit she was right. He was the one she followed into a war zone in taxi. He's the one she went to Siberia with in a gypsy wagon - after ejecting from a stolen MIG. He's the one she followed to - hell, this list could go one forever. Basically, because of him, Sarah Mackenzie had probably used up more than nine lives. And knowing Mac, she'd use up nine more for him if he needed her.
Harm threw the pen in the trash. She was by far the most loyal and true friend he had ever had. Sure there was Sturgis, Bud, even Webb - though trusting him to look after Mac was another story. Both men would do anything for Harm if he asked, but that was the key difference. He didn't have to ask Mac - she just did. Now he was going to do the looking after. He had let her down too many times before - dammit, he almost let her marry Brumby. This time, whether it was welcomed or not, he was going to be there when she needed him.
Straightening his uniform, Harm stood and would have headed for the Admiral's office if not for the ringing of the phone.
I'll be by to pick it up in a few minutes.
No, I'll thank the Admiral myself.
"My brother Harmon, if this is such a fancy party why do you not take a date?" Sergei asked.
"I'm not going just for the social aspect, Sergei. I told you this is business." Harm answered, as he straightened his uniform in front of the mirror.
"Ah, yes. Business. Business that involves the beautiful Col. MacKenzie?" Sergei said with a smile.
"If you're asking if Mac will be there, then yes." Harm thanked God every night that his brother was safe with him but sometimes he wouldn't mind a little less togetherness. Harm's loft was big but not big enough to avoid his younger brother's prying eyes.
"Then why don't you go with each other to this 'business'?"
"Because she has a date, that's why, Sergeant Nosy." Harm was still in front of the mirror struggling with his tie. For some reason it would not straighten. At the mention of Mac, his fingers just got clumsier.
"A date? With who?" Sergei couldn't believe it. Mac had been tutoring him a few nights a week for his English class and he considered her a friend. She had never mentioned a boyfriend or even any recent dates.
"Mr. Webb?!" Sergei's eyebrows almost popped off of his head, a gesture reminiscent of his older brother. "You cannot be serious. Mr. Webb is a friend, yes but not the right kind for the Colonel."
"It's complicated Sergei. Don't you have an exam to study for?"
"I was studying, until you started saying curse words at your tie in front of the mirror. And don't change the subject. You will not allow any more dates between the Colonel and Mr. Webb will you?"
Harm finished with his tie and turned to face his brother. Sergei was wise beyond his twenty-two years, he had seen too much as a soldier in the Russian army not to grow up quickly. But he was still naïve when it came to relationships and American women.
"It's not up to me who Mac goes out with, Sergei. As her friend, I can give an opinion but that's it. Besides, according to Mac, this is a favor for Webb. Not a real date, more like she's his cover at the party."
Sergei laughed openly at him at this. "You my brother are deluded, I believe is the word. No man goes on a date with Colonel Sarah MacKenzie just as a cover. Sure, Mr. Webb may have business to attend to but an evening with the Colonel - that is strictly pleasure. I may be a dumb Russian soldier, but I am smarter than my American brother this time."
Harm just rolled his eyes and headed out the door to the sound of Sergei's laughter. As he rode the lift down to the ground floor, he thought over what Sergei had said. He supposed it shouldn't matter who Mac saw romantically but it did. He hated the thought of her with someone else. Not that he thought he stood much of a chance with her, they had let that idea go a long time ago. Hadn't they? Things between them were so good again, he had his best friend back. Sure, that kiss under the mistletoe a few months ago felt . But it should feel good to kiss your best friend. Shouldn't it? Granted, you probably shouldn't have wanted to do it again every time you saw her for the next week but that was a detail he could conveniently forget.
Harm had wandered the perimeter of the party for at least a half hour, checking the security situation, which was even tighter than he had imagined. He'd shown his JAG I.D. badge several times just to get inside. He wanted to find Mac right away but his rational side told him to hang back - he didn't want her to think he had followed her there. Granted, he had done just that, but he knew she was going to give him a hard time about it. But that was a risk he would take to make sure she was safe - he still had that nagging sense that something was going to go wrong. Finally he caught sight of her at the bar sans Webb and decided to make his presence known.
"So, how did you manage to ditch double-o-seven?" He said as he walked up behind her at the bar.
Startled, Mac whirled to find Harm standing about a foot behind her grinning.
"You! Harm what are you doing here?"
Harm's grin was suddenly frozen on his face as he got his first good look at Mac in her evening dress. Clay certainly knew how to pick clothes for her. The dress was a pewter color, with a shimmering overlay of silver that hugged her curves in all the right places. The neckline plunged between the swell of her more than ample cleavage, and there was a slit that reached mid-thigh. Her hair was curled and styled away from her face, showing off the enormous diamonds in her ears and the diamond choker at her throat. All Harm could think was, Sweet Jesus, over and over again.
"Harm. Harm. Earth to Rabb. See something you like Sailor?" Her last comment brought Harm back to his senses and he realized Mac was laughing at him.
"Sorry Mac. I just - wasn't expecting, I mean, your dress, it's, you look. Wow." He finished lamely. Great, now he sounded like Bud.
Taking her soda from the bartender, Mac grabbed Harm's arm and led him to a nearby corner.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, trying to sound miffed but his unexpected reaction to her in her evening dress was making her giddy.
Regaining his composure by not allowing his eyes to drift below the diamond choker, Harm answered, "The Admiral got an invitation and couldn't make it so he sent me as a representative of JAG."
Mac eyed him suspiciously, "Are you sure that's it? You didn't come here to spy on my date with Clay?"
Harm rolled his eyes, "Of course not." He hoped he sounded more convincing than he felt.
"Good." She was hoping now that she sounded convincing. When she had heard his voice behind her, her heart nearly leapt from her chest. At the sight of him in his dress blues, she had felt that familiar weakening in her knees.
Of course Harm wasn't jealous of she and Clay, those times were long past them. Right? After all, they had both called a cease-fire and were just friends. Weren't they?
Interrupting her thoughts was a voice behind them, "Rabb, did you come to monopolize my date?"
"No Webb. Like I just explained to Mac, the Admiral got an invitation and couldn't make it so he sent me as a representative of JAG."
"Then why do I feel like my prom date's dad just showed up at the gym?"
Putting his arm around Mac's waist, Clay said, "Then if you don't mind, I'd like a dance with the most stunning woman in the room." Leaning closer to Harm, he whispered to them both, "I think we've had a hit on one of the guests. He's an American Muslim that was born in Palestine. We think he's a radical that wants to sabotage the peace accord. Right now he's dancing with his wife and I want to get close to him, to see if he's who I think he is. Keep your eyes open both of you, you might as well make yourself useful Rabb." Then in a normal voice he added, "Do tell Commander, why no date?"
"All the good ones are taken Clay," he answered with a wink as Clay led Mac to the dance floor.
Once Clay and Mac were dancing - too close in Harm's opinion - he grabbed a glass of champagne and watched them surreptitiously. Apparently, Webb was a closet comedian because Mac kept laughing.
Damn. How did I end up watching my two best friends have the time of their lives while I'm miserable? She really is the most stunning woman in the room.
Meanwhile, Mac and Clay were having a heart to heart chat.
"Mac, why do you put up with him?"
"Who? Harm? What do you mean?"
"Don't who Harm, me. He is so jealous of every man that looks your way he can't see straight. Why don't you two just get together and get it over with?"
"Clay, Harm and I are friends. Just friends. You know that."
"I know that's the official story but c'mon, it's me."
"Seriously, Clay. Harm and I are really just friends. We've considered the alternative once or twice and decided that our pasts and our careers are just two big of an obstacle. And I enjoy what we have now."
"Mac, he's crazy about you - it's written all over his face. And his jaw will be sore for a week after the way it hit the floor when he saw you tonight. Don't tell me you don't feel the same. You can't say that tutoring Sergei every night and having dinner with the Rabb boys is just a good deed on your part. You're as crazy for him as he is for you."
Mac just rolled her eyes at Clay, not wanting him to know the truth of his words.
"Clay, I tutor Sergei two or three times a week, don't read anything into that. He needs someone who can explain things in Russian and Harm's Russian is terrible. I'll concede that there is an attraction between Harm and I, but not something we plan to pursue. Now let's drop this line of questioning and you can tell me some more funny spy stories."
Halfway through the next song, Harm realized that Clay was trying to catch his eye. He apparently wanted Harm to cut in and he was happy to oblige.
Walking up to them on the dance floor, Harm said, "Something up Webb?" with a smile to hide his words.
Smiling back, Clay answered, "Al-Baksari just snuck out and I think he's up to no good. I need to alert the men I've got in place. You two just dance and keep your eyes open". With that Clay hurried from the room.
They both felt awkward all of a sudden.
"I guess we should look like we're enjoying this," Mac said, tilting her eyes up to meet his.
Harm felt himself getting lost in her big brown eyes and could only pull her closer and nod, to avoid betraying his feelings.
"Harm" she said into his shoulder where she was resting her cheek.
"Yeah Mac?" he whispered into her temple, fighting the urge to press a soft kiss there.
"Can you see what's going on? I can only see the band and the buffet line."
"There are two agents at every door, trying not to look like agents. And Webb just headed by the rear exit door with four Marine guards. Apparently they're still looking for this Al-Baksari fellow."
Harm unconsciously pulled her tighter, worried that there may be trouble.
"Listen Mac, I don't have a weapon and neither do you so if something goes down I can't protect you."
"How do you know I don't have a weapon?" She couldn't resist asking impishly.
Harm had to grin at that.
"Funny Mac. There's hardly room for you in that dress, let alone a weapon."
"Harm, I'm a Marine. I AM a lethal weapon, so I'll protect you if something goes down."
To himself, Harm was thinking, You're lethal alright.
To Mac he said, "Spare me the 'I'm a Marine speech' just this once okay. If all hell breaks loose, hit the deck and don't be a hero, deal?"
"Only if -
Mac never finished her sentence as the sound of an explosion rocked the building. Harm and Mac barely had time to react before chaos erupted.
Amid the screaming mass of people heading for the exits, Harm managed to drag Mac to a corner of the ballroom.
"What was that?" she had to yell for him to hear.
"Sounds like trouble. I'm going to find Clay. You head for the nearest exit."
"Oh no you don't. Not without me."
"Harm - face it. You go anywhere, I'm right behind you."
Knowing it was useless to argue with her when she used that tone, he grabbed her hand and headed in the direction of the explosion.
The guests were being ushered out the front exits by security, smoke was beginning to fill the ballroom but no one seemed to be hurt.
Harm and Mac made their way through the crowd and ran into Clay in the hallway, looking a little worse for the wear.
"Clay, are you okay? What happened?"
"You two get out of here. Al-Baksari just blew himself up as well as the kitchen. We managed to corner him there, which at least avoided casualties in the ballroom. But he mentioned another bomb so we're evacuating and bringing in the bomb squad. It's possible there are others that were in on it with Al-Baksari so we're doing a sweep of the building. I'm serious, you two get out."
"Clay, are you sure there was another bomb?" Harm really wanted to get Mac out of the building, but he didn't want to leave his friend or any civilians behind.
"No, I'm not. But right before he ran into the kitchen and blew himself and the puffed pastries all to hell he was screaming about Allah and another bomb." Webb was covered in dust and had a small cut over his eyebrow.
"We're not leaving without you Clay." Mac was not about to leave Clay behind. Especially not with Palestinian radicals on the loose and an as yet undetected bomb.
"Rabb, talk some sense into her. You two need to get as far away from the building as possible."
"Mac, Clay's right. I'll walk you out then come back for him."
"Harm I said no. I'm not leaving either of you here. Period."
Harm's frustration and concern for her were reaching the boiling point. He wanted to stay and help Clay but he had to get her to safety.
Why wouldn't she stop being a damn jarhead for two minutes and do the safe thing and get the hell out of the building?
He grabbed both of her arms and spun her around to face him.
"Dammit Mac! You have to get the hell out of here. Stop with the 'Marines never leave their men' and walk out that door, go across the street and don't look back. Clay has a job to do and I'm going to stick to his six I promise. But I can't do it with you here. All I can think about is you being safe. Please. Go." Harm's voice had lowered to a ragged whisper and he was leaning his forehead against hers. His sea blue eyes were trying to say the words his mouth could not as he implored her to leave.
"We're a team, Harm. You and me. Always." Mac whispered back.
Before Harm could continue to argue with her, some of the armed guards came pounding down the hallway shouting, "They found the bomb, thirty seconds left on the timer! Everyone clear the area immediately - get as far away from the building as possible! Move it people!"
Webb, Harm, and Mac were carried along with the tide of Marines and other personnel as they exited the building. Harm half dragged, half carried Mac through the lobby of the Imperial, her dress and heels making running difficult. Webb was somewhere behind them they hoped.
Time seemed to move in slow motion for Harm. It was like a dream where no matter how fast you try to move, your limbs just won't obey.
Mac could feel the seconds ticking by on her internal clock. Her limited knowledge of explosives told her they needed to be at least across the street when the bomb went off, the lobby walls were all glass and an explosion would send glass shards in every direction like shrapnel.
Finally they reached the street and were just beginning to cross when it exploded. The force knocked Mac to the ground and Harm threw himself on top of her, hoping to take the brunt of the falling debris.
The next few seconds felt like an eternity. An eerie silence followed the blast, soon interrupted by the wail of sirens and shouting.
Mac couldn't move. She was pinned beneath Harm on the asphalt, her cheek pressed against the yellow line to be exact. "Harm. Harm I can't move. Harm can you hear me? Oh my God, Harm are you okay?"
Terrified that he was hurt, Mac managed to roll from under him and that's when she heard him groan.
"I'm here sweetheart. Tell me where you're hurt."
"I'm not I don't think. A little stunned maybe. Just covered in glass."
Did she just call me 'sweetheart'?
Mac, oblivious to her term of endearment, continued to check him for injuries.
Harm could do nothing but stare at her. Despite the dirt and scratches from the pavement, her ripped dress, and her hair in disarray - she was the most beautiful site he'd ever seen.
Satisfied that Harm was unharmed, Mac said, "Let's get out of the road and see if we can find Clay."
Harm stood then lent Mac a hand up. They were brushing themselves off when Webb approached.
"Are you both okay?" he asked.
"I've had better dates." Mac answered with a weary smile.
Clay answered sardonically, "So have I Colonel, believe me. Listen, you two go on home, I'll be here for the rest of the night that's for sure. At least we evacuated all of the guests in time and I believe the Marines and the bomb squad escaped with only minor injuries. Mac I'll make this up to you sometime I promise. Harm, do you mind giving the Colonel a ride home?"
"No problem Webb. Take care of yourself."
"Yes, Clay. That cut over your eye needs attention. And I won't hold this against you I promise. Just don't expect another date." Mac added.
Webb said goodnight then hurried to check on his men and make sure the situation was under control.
Harm put his coat around Mac's shoulders and led her to his car. He kept his arm around her shoulders and she unconsciously reached up and took his hand.
As soon as Harm started the car, he reached over and took her hand in his again. He just had to touch her, to know she was okay and right there with him. They drove to Mac's apartment in silence, both shaken from the night's events and each saying a silent prayer of thanks for the other's safety.
Harm parked the car and walked around to open the passenger door for Mac, an unusually chivalrous move even for a gentleman such as Harm. He held out his hand to help her out of the SUV, and silently led her by the hand to her apartment door. As she looked in her evening bag for her keys she said in a low voice, "Wanna come in for a cup of coffee? We both could probably use some unwinding after tonight."
"Sure", Harm answered in an equally low voice. With the turmoil that was going on in his head and heart, he wasn't sure he could trust his voice to say more.
Once inside the apartment, Mac turned to him and said, "Would you mind putting the coffee on? I'd like to jump in the shower for a second and get cleaned up. You're welcome to do the same when I get out. Oh yeah, you might want to call the Admiral and your brother, to let them know everything's okay."
Harm didn't answer, he simply nodded and headed towards the kitchen.
True to her word, Mac was finished in the shower before the coffee was done. She emerged with her hair still damp and clothed in her USMC long sleeved t-shirt and knit pajama pants.
Harm looked up at the sound of her flip-flops and she said, "Go get cleaned up, but don't go barefoot. I was still shaking glass from my dress when I changed. I'll vacuum in there tomorrow. If you want to change clothes completely, there's a box of Mic's things in the top of my closet. He said not to bother sending it to him at sea so I've just been keeping it there."
Harm just gave her a funny look at the mention of Mic but made no comment. "Thanks Mac. I'll be right back."
Mac's eyes followed his retreating back. Whatever was going on in that head of his he must not be quite ready to share. As she reached for the mugs, she noticed for the first time how badly her hands were trembling. Geez Marine, get a grip. You and Harm have been in worse situations before, don't fall apart now. Her mind wandered back to some of their escapades and she smiled in spite of herself. But for some reason tonight had seemed different. The fact that he showed up to spy on her and Webb - Admiral's invitation her ass - then their argument over her leaving him behind. He had seemed so desperate, so terrified. In fact, that was the first time he had ever physically grabbed her, and his voice was so harsh, completely unlike anything she'd ever seen from him.
She heard the shower stop and then in a few minutes Harm emerged from the bedroom, wearing his uniform pants and undershirt, having opted to avoid the "Brumby box" in her closet.
Handing him a steaming mug she asked, "Feel better?" and in return received a nod as he continued to avoid her eyes and keep silent.
After they both took several long swallows of the soothing liquid, Mac decided to try and get him to open up.
"Harm, you've hardly spoken since we got into the car earlier. Are you sure you're okay, you didn't hit your head on the pavement did you?"
"Nah, heads okay. I just - I just don't really feel like talking."
"Then let's have a seat on the couch and relax by the fire. We both could use it, I'm sure."
After several minutes of silence, Mac decided to try again.
"Harm, I don't think I've said it yet so thanks."
"For what?" He was staring at the fire, avoiding her gaze.
"For dragging me out of there. I don't think that dress or those heels were designed for a quick getaway. Leave it to Webb to come up with that outfit." She chuckled slightly, remembering Harm's initial reaction to the dress in question. Too bad it was completely ruined.
"Leave it to Webb to almost get you killed," he replied with anger that surprised her.
Placing a hand on her his arm, Mac said, "Harm, this is not Clay's fault. Don't be angry at-"
Before she could continue, Harm slammed his mug down on the table and jumped to his feet.
"Don't be angry?! Mac, if I hadn't begged the Admiral for an invitation" Mac bit back a smile at his unwitting admission "you might not would have made it out alive. Because we both know you would have followed Clay all over that hotel and likely gotten yourself blown to bits." Harm was now pacing in front of the fire.
Running a hand rakishly through his hair, Harm continued.
"You would have pulled that Semper Fi crap on Clay and he would have let you follow him right up to the bomb. He would have caved to the argument about you being a trained professional and neither one of you would have made it out alive. Don't you get it?"
That last sentence seemed to take the wind out of Harm's sails and he came back to the couch and sank down wearily. Mac knew there was more he wanted to say so she just sat quietly, waiting for him to finish.
She was expecting him to continue the lecture, expecting him to berate her for going in the first place and she knew there would be an 'I told you so' in there somewhere. So his next words almost caused her to drop her coffee mug.
"Do you remember the conversation we had on the Admiral's porch at your engagement party?" He didn't wait for her answer before continuing, of course she remembered.
"Remember when you told me I needed to let go of my lifeline before it becomes a noose? And remember back to Sydney even, when I said I couldn't let go?"
Mac nodded as her heart began to pound. Those were conversations she tried desperately not to remember, despite hearing them in her mind every night before she fell asleep.
Why would he bring them up now, after all this time?
"Ever since that first conversation on the ferry I've been trying to figure it out. I keep asking myself what it is that I can't let go of. What it is that's holding me back. I thought it was our positions at JAG but when did we either one let our careers get in the way of what we thought was right? For a long time I just thought it was me. That I've locked my heart up inside of me so tight that no one will ever be able to reach it. That night at the Admiral's, I realized that my heart was far from being locked away. If it had been, then it wouldn't have hurt so bad to celebrate you being with another man."
"Harm, we don't have to talk about all that now. It's in the past and dwelling on it probably isn't good for either of us. We've both been through a lot since then."
At her protest, Harm turned to face her for the first time. Taking her mug from her hands, he sat it on the table and took both of her hands in his. The intensity of his gaze not only frightened her, it was boring a hole into her heart. She could see fear and truth there, and something else, something she was unable to identify.
"It's you Sarah." He whispered.
"What's me Harm?" She whispered back.
"You're my lifeline. It's you I can't let go of."
"What?" Mac felt the room begin to swirl around them, with she and Harm in the center, in a calm spot like the eye of a hurricane.
"I didn't plan to say this, I'm not even sure I knew this until tonight, so please just listen and don't interrupt. I'm sure I'm going to fumble this," here Harm took a deep breath and plunged ahead, "but you are the one thing I can never let go of. You're the other half that makes me whole. That's why I was there tonight. Not to protect you, as you might think from my actions, but to protect myself. I don't just love you with my whole heart, or want you more than I've ever physically wanted a woman: I need you. God, Sarah, I need you." His last words were little more than a whisper but they resounded like a shout in Mac's heart.
For a second, Mac just stared at Harm in silence. Several times she opened her mouth to speak but words eluded her and she closed it again.
Something akin to terror gripped Harm as Mac remained silent. He watched her struggle through a myriad of emotions and as each flickered across her face he searched for a response he could live with. He kept telling himself that no matter what she said, he would take it like a man and respond as a friend.
But finally the suspense and sheer curiosity took over and he said, "Mac? Please say something. Anything."
Mac withdrew her hands from Harm's and he felt his world slipping away with that gesture. Despite his desire to take her response with a brave face, he was unable to meet her eyes.
Staring down at his now empty hands he waited.
"Harm," she said softly. "Look at me."
When he didn't comply immediately, she placed a hand on either side of his face and lifted it herself.
The look of pure love and acceptance he saw staring back at him took Harm's breath away.
"I hope that was your way of telling me you love me, Sailor. Because if it's not, then you've really gotten yourself in a mess this time. Harmon Rabb, I've been waiting my whole life for you. Every second that I have known you has given me reason to love you more, no matter how many wrong turns we've taken. More than anything - more than life itself - I want to spend the rest of my time here on this earth loving you."
Drawing Harm's head down to hers, Mac placed her lips firmly but tenderly on Harm's. Although not the first time their lips had met, it was a new beginning to a lifetime of kisses not meant as goodbye