Title: Silent Night
Written: Christmas 2003
Spoilers: Through Mid-Season Nine Sans Mattie
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
- - - 0136 EST, Shenandoah Valley near Bryce
Mac let herself into the lodge and stamped her boots quietly to get the snow off. It was late – very late and she did not want to wake anyone. It had been a miserable drive up the mountain; snowing like a crazy, worse because she was alone, but there was no way to cancel. The entire JAG family and their significant others would be there (Harriet had booked the entire lodge for them) and AJ would be so disappointed if his Godmother wasn't there to see him ski for the first time. A Christmas skiing with close friends sounded like a fun and romantic idea a few weeks prior. As it turned out, she would have preferred to spend the weekend alone in her apartment with Swiss Miss and "It's A Wonderful Life" for the 100th time that season.
Mac hadn't planned on being that late; in fact she had promised Harriet to be there to help set up. Webb bailed on her - again. It was the ninth or tenth time he had canceled in as many weeks. If she had wanted to spend her nights, weekends and major holidays by herself or stag at some group event, she would have kept her cap set for Harm; at least then she might have gotten a 'platonic bowl of pasta' out of it on occasion. Mac was not so petty as to break off a budding romance because he had to break a few dates. The real reason – the logical, rational, sane reason she ended it: she didn't love him. In the end, Webb was out – not that he was ever in – but officially and permanently as of that night Webb was a man of the past. She made that clear before she got off the phone with him which is why she was late – long call.
The drive made her forget Webb, the annoyance at the questions she would have to answer about his absence and the fact that she was AGAIN going stag to a group event. Instead she focused on Harm. She had originally expected that the weekend would showcase a Harm that would be snippish, petty and rude to her with Webb there or not. But something had changed with him – something different – and not in a good way. Ever since that last time they went head to head in court, he had been different like something had clicked off or on in him. When he apologized to her for that nasty hurtful remark he said in open court, he meant it. When he apologized a few more times, she knew it was eating away at him. Then there was the night he came by her house to ask for a favor – he never got around to saying what it was. She barbed back and him and was snotty. Webb and her grand "NO US" statement in Paraguay were the main topics of that fight. He flew into a quick snit, tossed another really nasty statement at her and left. She tried to remember the exact words; it was something about not wanted her to screw it up - AGAIN.
After he stormed out, she knew she had made a huge mistake. She apologized the next day, and he looked like he accepted it. He of course returned the apology, but that was all. There was something that had gone out in him. He lost the fight. At least he lost it with her. For that past week or more he had been nothing but civil – not mean, not angry, not petty. She wouldn't go so far as to say he was NICE, but he looked – dare she say it – humbled. What worried her the most about his lack of Harmness, was that she had finally pushed him beyond the point of return. The dance was over and she had lost him. It was the loss of Harm that made it so easy to lose Webb … losing Harm would be something she would never overcome.
When Harriet first invited Harm, he was reluctant to agree. He didn't yet feel like he was part of the JAG family again. When he heard that Webb would be joining the group he canceled – or made it look like he was going to cancel. Mac had to convince him to come for Little AJ's sake. It was one of the most painful conversations she had ever had with him. She did all the talking and the hurt and pain in his eyes broke her heart. It would have been easier if he had tossed out his typical jibs and jabs, but he barely said anything. In the end, he promised he would go. He was not going to bring any one with him (for whatever reason) so he would be the only person there without a "date." As things turned out, she would be there without a date too. She had no idea what to expect from Harm. She assumed he would keep his distance. If they were to talk at all, she would have to push it. She decided to give it a couple of days and then try to have a real discussion. Maybe they could find a way to at least be colleagues again.
She stamped her feet one more time to get all the snow off. The main room was dark except for the light from the fire and the Christmas tree. She pulled off her boots, coat and gloves and moved to warm herself by the fire.
"How was the drive?" Harm's voice caught her off guard. She turned to see him. He was slumped down in a very large over stuffed chair with a snifter of cognac in his hand. He looked wide-awake and pensive.
"Horrendous," she said. "What are you doing up?"
"Waiting for you," he said casually.
"Yeah, was going to give you another thirty minutes before I went out to find you."
"I'm glad you didn't have to," she shook the snow out of her hair.
"Me too," he stood up and motioned for her to take his seat. It was the closest to the fire. "Come on," he said gently. "Got some Hot Chocolate warming for you too," he took her hand and led her to the chair and covered her legs with a blanket.
In a moment he returned with the mug of chocolate. "Thank you," her voice was soft to match his gentleness.
He sat down on the coffee table, took a short sip out of his glass and returned to gazing at the fire.
She got a little uncomfortable, like she was supposed to make conversation. "When did you arrive?"
"About an hour – two ago," he spoke in brief sentences.
"You got a late start too?"
"Was seriously thinking about not coming at all," he turned to her, his eyes shone in the firelight. "But I promised I would."
She knew that he meant that he promised her, but – "AJ will be very glad you did."
"Yeah," he looked back at the fire.
"Clay cancelled on me – again," she had no idea why she started that line of conversation, but it felt like a big fat elephant in the middle of the room.
"I guessed as much."
"He is a good man, Harm." Now she was defending him?
"I know," he agreed.
She watched him for a moment. His eyes never left the flickering flames. "Clay and I are just friends," she explained.
At that he turned to her. He tried to read her expression and then he asked, "Is that enough for you?" Again his voice was gentle and kind.
"With Clay, yes."
He nodded and turned back to the fire.
Mac still felt compelled to make conversation. "Looks like we will have fresh powder tomorrow."
"And a lot of it," he confirmed.
She was still confused; he apparently didn't want to talk. She wasn't sure if he wanted her to leave or not. "Do you know which room is mine?"
"Top of the stairs – third door on your right. It's open."
She paused for another moment before getting up. "I think I am going to turn in, it was a very long drive."
"Ok. Good night," he dismissed her. "Sleep well."
"You staying up?"
"For a little while."
"OK. Well, goodnight. Thanks for the Hot Chocolate," she took another sip. "And for waiting up."
He turned his face to hers and smiled sadly.
When she got to the top of the stairs she looked back, he had moved back to the chair and was sipping his cognac.
Mac unpacked, changed and was trying to settle in, but she all of a sudden she didn't feel sleepy. The fact that Harm was still up drew her attention downstairs. What was he really doing up? Would he have really gone to look for her? That was a stupid question, of course he would have. She just couldn't read him anymore. ANYMORE? She never could.
She wrapped her robe tightly around her and put on her warm socks and went back down stairs. Harm had not moved.
"Any more chocolate?" she asked softly, in case he was asleep.
"Sure," he started to get up, but she put her hand on his shoulder to let him know to remain where he was. "I can get it. Anything?"
He shook his head.
When she got back from the kitchen she sat on the couch away from the fire. It was cold in that part of the room. A chill went through her and she shivered. "Brr," she said softly.
"Come here," he offered but made no move.
"I'm OK," she shivered again.
He moved over in the chair to make room for her. "Colonel … don't make me pull rank."
She considered for a moment, and then did.
He tucked the blanket around her and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. The chair was big enough for the two of them, but it would have been much more comfortable if they sat like lovers rather than estranged friends.
"Great fire," she said softly.
He sighed. She was not cooperating. He turned her so they fit better in the chair and pulled her back close to his chest wrapping his arms around her. That was how two people – two lovers should sit in the chair. "Sarah," his lips were close to her ear. "Let's not talk."
Now she understood. She relaxed into him. It was perfect. The fire. The Christmas tree. The snow falling. Being in the arms of someone you loved. The silence. It was perfect. The fact that it wasn't didn't matter. The fact that Harm and Mac had been at odds with each other for months – nay years, didn't matter. It was as if they were the last two people on earth and all that mattered was that they were in full physical contact. She could feel his chest rise and fall. She could smell the cognac on his breath. She could tell that he was completely relaxed with her in his arms. It was perfect or as close as it was going to get. Neither knew how long they stayed like that, but neither one made effort to move or speak.
She let her fingers caress his. His hands were rougher than she had imagined them to be. They weren't the hands of a man who did manual labor for a living, but he never shied away from doing a hard day's work. She traced a number of scars on his fingers and up to his wrist trying to imagine how each wound was inflicted. She imagined him as a little boy playing hard with his friends, or when he was recovering from the accident and working on Sarah. She imagined that at least one of them had to have an embarrassing story from his past probably involving a woman that he had never told her and probably never would. Then she imagined the gentleness of his touch. She remembered first shaking hands with him. It was firm and strong, but not over powering. She remembered times he had held her, helped her, bandaged her injuries. She remembered the electricity that shot through them when their hands touched the night of her engagement party. She brought the back of his hand to her face and rubbed it against her cheek. She imagined how his hands would feel on her. He slowly turned it over and caressed her face, his rough thumb outlining her lips as his long fingers traced under her chin. She nuzzled into his hand relishing the tenderness. The intimacy was almost too much for her; tears welled up in her eyes and spilled out on to his fingers. He turned her face up to his. Their eyes met in the firelight. Love, forgiveness and hope passed between them. Without a word their lips met softly, then parted. The resistance was gone; they had accepted their fate. The hard part was over.
They were about to seal their new understanding with a kiss when they heard a door open and close upstairs. Mac started to sit up, but Harm kept her where she was. Soon, they heard it again.
"Harriet checking on the boys," he breathed.
When all was still again, she turned completely to him. He kissed her again. A wave of desire washed over both of them. Harm was unsure how far he could pursue it – how far he should pursue it. Mac stood up. She reached her hand out to him and led him away from the fire and up the stairs to her room.
Before he entered, he kissed her with a tentative love and desire that he had held for her for years. It had never felt so right with anyone – ever, but he also knew that it could have been a little bit of the holiday blues that made him feel that way, or holiday spirits that lifted his inhibitions. As much as he wanted to follow through and knew that they would at some point, he decided that it was best to just kiss her goodnight and retire to his own room. It was too risky and maybe too soon to move in that direction. Everyone they knew was all around them and they hadn't really worked anything out – what they experienced was enough for one night. They had time … all the time in the world.
The door down the hall opened. Harm stepped back. Mac did not look as 'caught' as he would have expected her to look. The admiral came around the corner.
"Mac, I'm glad to see you arrived safely," he stated.
"Thank you, sir."
"Mac, I'm in my bathrobe and it is the middle of the night, I think it is alright if you call me AJ."
He shook his head. "Goodnight you two."
The admiral headed downstairs. Harm smiled at her sadly and shrugged. He pressed her hand again quickly and retreated down the hall. His was the opposite way from where the admiral had come. She watched after him until he was out of sight. Mac went into her room and closed the door. She turned out the lights, but had not climbed into bed. Moments later she heard the admiral pass her door. She waited. Her desire had not faded and she didn't believe Harm's had either. Somehow she knew that if they were going to take this next step (and she knew they would), she had to make the move. As silently as she could she opened her door and slipped out. She made her way down the darkened hall toward where she had seen Harm go. There were too many doors, what if she got the wrong one? She felt her heart pounding in her chest and thought it was loud enough to wake the whole lodge.
At the end of the hall there was a light coming from one of the closed doors. She stood outside for a moment worried that maybe it wasn't his; maybe someone else was up at that hour. The floor creaked under her weight. She panicked. What was she doing? She turned to head back to her room – it was not meant to be. The door opposite from where she was standing opened silently. She knew it was him – from his height, from his smell, from so many things that she instinctively knew about him. The fact that she could not see him didn't matter. He took her hand and pulled her into his room. His mouth was on hers in an instant. He was as hungry for her as she was for him but their passion was checked in the silence of the lodge.
"Mac?" he asked as if this were her last out, her last opportunity to change her mind though his searching hands and lips were not really making it easy for her to say no.
"Who is across the hall?" she said breathlessly.
"No one. No one in this wing at all."
That was all she needed to hear. She led him away from the door. He untied her robe and let it fall. They kissed and descended to the bed to answer all the unasked questions, to confirm all the unsaid feelings, to finally agree both physically and emotionally and to finally put to rest the need to be on top.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
- - - 0843 EST, Shenandoah Valley near Bryce
Mac awoke alone in her bed. She had slipped out of Harm's room before the snow covered dawn, before the rest of the house could stir, before Harm was awake. The few hours they spent together were more than she had ever fantasized about. Harm was a gentle, tender, generous lover. It was a softer side of him than she had ever known before. They were probably both a little reserved considering where they were and the holiday and the fact that is was the first time – but making love with him that night was the culmination of eight years of unspoken love. Accordingly, there were few words spoken and none of them were the words that she thought she had been waiting to hear. As she reflected on the experience, she realized that what she thought she wanted from him was so much less than he had to give. It was so much less than he gave. She had been making the mistake with Harm that she had made with all the other men she had known in her life – believing the words spoken and not trusting her own feelings.
The entire house was awake and full of life. She smelled coffee and breakfast cooking. People were talking and laughing. It was a very warm feeling. She wanted to stay in bed and just let the joy of the house surround her – she felt more alive that morning than she had in a very long time – but there was a little knock on the door.
"Auntie Mac?" AJ's voice called through the door. "Auntie Mac?"
"Come on in, honey," she said as she pulled her robe on.
AJ bounded into the room and she scooped him up.
"Merry Christmas to you little man. Are you ready to ski?"
Harriet came in. "AJ" She scolded. "I told you to let Auntie Mac sleep."
"It's OK Harriet. It's too beautiful a day to sleep away."
"Beautiful day?" Mac's bright smile took Harriet by surprise. "The storm has snowed us in. I guess it really came down last night, and another six inches in the last three hours alone. The state police don't think the roads will be open for a least a day or two."
"Then all the more reason to play," she put AJ down. "Go on, honey. Let me get dressed and we will build a snowman before hitting the slopes."
AJ cheered and ran from the room. Harriet looked puzzled and followed him. Something had clearly gotten into Mac.
A little while later, Mac came into the dining room. Nearly everyone was there: the admiral and Meredith, Mike Roberts and his roommate Kevin and his roommate's sister (aka Mike's Girlfriend) Cassie and her friend Tyanna, Tiner and his new girl, and Jennifer Coates and a young man who was clearly intimidated by the group, Sturgis and his lady friend Varese, and Bud, Harriet and the kids naturally. Harm was somewhere, she knew that, but didn't know where. She took an open seat at the table and poured herself some coffee. Chatting ensued: questions about the respective drives, the snow and the plans for the day etc. Harm entered from the kitchen with three plates in his hand. He dropped one down in front of the admiral and one in front of Meredith. The last one he placed in front of Mac – he evidently had heard her come down.
"Good morning, Colonel," his voice was friendly - friendlier than the others were aware of. "Sleep well?"
"Very well, thank you Commander," she smiled at Meredith, not wanting to meet Harm's eyes to give away anything. "Your famous pancakes I presume?"
"Infamous," the admiral corrected with his fork poised. After he took a bite, he nodded. "Not bad, Rabb."
"Thank you, sir."
Harm took a seat near Cassie. More chatting took place. It was a very nice group of people and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Mac stole glances in Harm's direction and even though he was not directly looking at her – some how she knew he was aware of everything she was doing and saying. Eventually it was time to head out to play in the snow. The admiral and Meredith agreed to clean up the breakfast dishes. Harm had slipped out some time in the commotion.
Heading up to Bryce to ski was out of the question; the snow was 3 feet deep on the roads. Other plans needed to be made: some had decided to cross country out the back of the lodge; others were talking about snow boarding or sledding. Mac had promised to make snowmen and angles with AJ so she was committed.
Sometime early afternoon, Mac had come back to the lodge to change her gloves, which had been soaked through. She stopped in the kitchen for some water. Harm came in behind her.
"Hey," he said. "Having fun?"
"AJ is loving the snow," she smiled back at him.
"Do you cross country?" he asked stepping closer to her.
"I do," she leaned into him and allowing him to rub her arms to warm her.
"Good, we leave in an hour," he claimed a quick kiss from her. "I know a great path that will take us by the lake and up the ridge with a view of the whole valley."
"Just you and me," he smiled sweetly and left.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
- - - 1325 EST, Shenandoah Valley near Bryce
They were able to slip away unnoticed. About two hours later Harm and Mac crested the ridge that looked down over the crater that formed the lake. It was a breathtaking sight. Harm unclipped his skis and leaned them against a tree. Mac followed suit. They sat on a log and kept talking a minimum. Neither wanted to disturb the natural beauty and the silence between them was becoming more profound than any words.
"It's beautiful," she said softly. "Thank you."
He turned her face to his; he was not looking at the view – rather not the scenic view. "Mac?"
She leaned in. Their cold lips brushed softly. "This is going to be complicated," she said.
"Will it only last the weekend?" she was afraid to ask.
"I was hoping for longer than that."
"Twenty or thirty years," he smiled slightly.
"Then it will get very complicated."
"I can live with a little complicated – for you I can live with very complicated," he assured her.
"Are you sure?"
"Never been more so."
He kissed her. "Yes, very much."
"Can I ask?"
"Do you have to?"
"Just because I am curious," she waited for him to give her a sign to go ahead and ask. "Why now?"
He shook his head as if to say he didn't know, but the truth was that he did know. He had known that he wanted her and wanted to be with her since long before Paraguay, it wasn't until recently that he realized that keeping her at a distance over something so stupid as Clayton Webb was to deny his feelings – even his hurt feelings. When she had asked him to come that weekend, he had made up his mind that he would talk to her whether or not Webb was there. He would try to win her back or at least reestablish their friendship.
"Because too much time has already been wasted," he explained briefly.
She nodded to accept that answer and then thought differently. "However - whatever we went through to get to last night -," she looked out over the vista. "To get us to right here and now was worth it."
The sound of two other skiers approaching ended the moment for them.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
- - - 1630 EST, Shenandoah Valley near Bryce
Harm came in through the kitchen after putting up the cross country gear. He needed something warm and knew that Harriet (or whomever had pulled KP duty that day) would keep fresh coffee going all day. There was a voice that pulled his attention out to the living room. A voice he didn't expect to hear. He took his cup and followed it. It was Webb. He was regaling the group with his harrowing tale of getting up the mountain which included the state police, two tow trucks and a helicopter. Mac was standing off to the side watching him, unimpressed. Her eyes locked with Harm's across the room. Nothing needed to be said or expressed. She didn't look sad or apologetic, embarrassed or worried. She was steady and firm – as if nothing had changed.
Webb was coming to the end of his story and Mac motioned for him to join her away from the group.
Harm watched as Mac, calmly and rationally told Webb whatever it was she told him. There was little or no outward reaction from him. He nodded slightly and never looked back over his shoulder at Harm. She made sure he understood her this time – made him say the words back to her.
The first time Harm and Webb had a chance to acknowledge each other was after Mac had walked away. Webb looked directly at him. There was no affect at all. He walked directly up to Harm and stuck out his hand. "Merry Christmas, Rabb."
"Merry Christmas, Webb." Harm shook his hand.
"Guess the best man won," he said snidely.
"You may not understand this … but it was never a contest --."
"Oh come off it," Webb retorted.
"And Sarah is not a prize to be won."
"I would have to agree with the last part … and because of that … because Sarah is so special … you will get no interference from me."
Harm smiled. He knew there was nothing that Webb could do to cause 'interference' … but he could try and it would only serve to make himself look like the fool.
"You are stuck with me for a couple of days … but I understand Harriet has a room for me … in another part of the lodge."
Harm nodded. "Enjoy your Christmas Clay." He walked away leaving Clayton Webb stunned. Who were these people who had taken over Rabb and MacKenzie's bodies? So different, so mature … so TOGETHER.
- - - 2336 EST, Christmas Eve
Harm was again sitting by the fire with the Admiral and Meredith. Mac had gone up earlier to read AJ a story and had not returned. Harm assumed she had gone to bed. Mike, Cassie, Kevin and Tyanna were playing cards in the dining room. They were loud and having a lot of fun. Tiner and his girl and Coates and her date were watching a movie. The house felt full of joy.
Harm finished his cognac and made his excuses and went upstairs. He walked by Mac's door, but it was dark. She must have gone to sleep. He smiled as he thought that she hadn't gotten much sleep the night before and he was glad that he was able to have been responsible for that.
He entered his room. It was cold in there. He reached over to turn on the light and find the heater.
"Thought you would never get here," Mac's voice came from the bed.
Harm couldn't help but smile. "Waiting for Santa?"
"I have been very good."
"Seems like you are being a little naughty," he sat down next to her. "You know that pretty close to everyone is awake."
"That is exactly why I am here," she pulled him down to her and kissed him. "Trying to get you alone."
"Can I ask you something?" he asked.
She nodded, but pulled him in for another kiss before letting him finish.
"What happens when we get caught?" he finished his thought.
"Honestly? I think they already know."
"And you are OK with that?" he asked.
"Harm, I am not ashamed of my feelings for you," she got a puzzled expression. "Are you?"
"No, just --."
"Just enjoying keeping them private. I don't want Bud, Harriet, Sturgis – the admiral – Webb … to think they have a piece of us."
"I agree." She cocked her head. "You are not worried about Webb are you?"
"No … not at all," he smiled. "There is something else," he had to know.
"What are your feelings for me?"
"You have to ask?" she tugged at his sweater. "I must be doing something wrong."
"No," he laughed. "You are doing everything more than right – but - -."
"What are you asking?"
"This is about more than being lonely at Christmas, isn't it?"
"You said it was," she confirmed.
"Sarah, you know I love you, don't you?"
"I had my suspicions," she smiled.
"Did you have doubts?"
"Don't – don't ever doubt it – never again."
"I think that is the nicest Christmas present I have ever gotten."
"Merry Christmas, Harm. I love you."
She reached over and turned out the light. Sheets rustled and clothes were shed and tossed to the floor. A roar of laughter came from downstairs. Harm and Mac laughed. Then silence took them. They no longer needed words.
Merry Christmas to All … and to ALL a good night.