What It Takes
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the JAG characters. I don't own any product or label mentioned for the purposes of telling this story, Any similarities to situations or persons, living or dead are purely coincidental,
A/N: This is a missing scene story from Season 9 episode "Take It like a Man" that I've had going around in my brain since I saw the June dialogue lines.
A/N: This takes places after Mac leaves Webb's apartment, after their argument and his rejection of her.
Mac: I'm only a phone call away.
Mac was so angry as she left Webb's apartment that she hardly remembered getting into the elevator and out to her car. She gripped the steering wheel with one hand and jammed her key into the ignition with the other as Webb's words, spoken just a few moments before, rang in her ears.
"Oh yeah, that's right. I forgot. Harm. You use his unavailability to keep anyone who cares for you at arm's length."
"It's not true…" She said aloud, her words sounding too loud in her enclosed car. She glanced into her rear view mirror and saw her own eyes tearing.
"I'm getting out of here, or I really will need a shrink."
Mac drove out of the gated community that was Webb's neighborhood and ended up in DC near the Mall. She knew instinctively that it was nearly 11 pm that she had court in the morning, and she should just go home. She was on thin ice with both Admiral Chegwidden and Admiral Morris; she knew she'd better be the most squared away Marine at JAG tomorrow morning, or she was in more trouble than she cared to think about.
It was then that she noticed that she was sitting forward in her seat, her hands still gripping the steering wheel tightly. She was so wired; there was no way that she could go home yet. As she drove through the light traffic past the Jefferson Memorial and then the Lincoln Memorial, she made her way north, toward Union Station. When she brought her vehicle to a stop, she took in her surroundings and realized that she had driven directly to Harm's apartment. She glanced up at her rearview mirror and said aloud, "Pathetic."
She turned her vehicle around, hoping like everything that Harm wouldn't look out his window and see her there. But, as fate would have it, he was just stepping out of his building and was walking out to his Lexus. When he looked in her direction and recognized her car, he stopped short, his brow drawing down in question.
"Great." She didn't even know why she'd come by Harm's apartment so how was she going to explain to him?
She waited as he approached her car, on the passenger's side. He strode toward her, his expression open and untroubled. As she let down the window, he crouched down beside her Corvette, so that he was eye level with her.
"Hey…tiger, what are you doing out this late, we've got court in the morning."
Mac was looking straight ahead, out of her windshield, her hands still on her steering wheel. "I was too wound up to sleep, so I thought I'd drive around for awhile." She looked over at him then. "What are you doing going out this late? Got a hot date?" She tried to joke, hoping with everything in her that it wasn't true, strangely enough.
"Nah," He almost looked sad as he stood and stepped back from her vehicle. He turned away from her, looking into the lights of a car making its way down his street. "Believe it or not, I have to pick up a red scrunchie for Mattie, before tomorrow morning."
He was smiling again. "She has a volleyball game tomorrow and since it's an away game and she has to leave with the team, immediately after school, I have to get it for her tonight. She says if she doesn't have it, she's not in uniform."
Mac chuckled, in spite of her prior gloomy mood. "She didn't tell you until tonight?"
"Not until about 15 minutes ago, just before she fell asleep. She remembered and called me, in a panic."
"And, good Dad that you are, you're going to get it for her" She leaned in slightly, grinning at him."Harm, could you identify a scrunchie, if you saw one?"
He smiled, slightly embarrassed, "I have an idea, it's for her hair, so how hard could that be…but if you're interested," he raised his brows and looked at her hopefully, "I could always use some help finding it. It would certainly get me back home sooner. Why don't you park your car and take a ride with me? There has to be some kind of superstore open all night around here…somewhere."
For a split second, Mac thought she might turn him down, but the prospect of going home alone, after everything that had happened today, still held little charm for her.
She wanted to think about something as innocuous as a hair tie, instead of her client, Hal Strange or Sadiq, or the Admiral, or anything about Webb and the mistake she'd made where he was concerned. She agreed to go along and parked her Corvette in front of Harm's apartment and in minutes they were on their way.
They did find an open store, though it required a trip to Alexandria. Mac led Harm through the ladies department and found an entire aisle with more scrunchies than Mac had ever seen…but there was just one problem, they had every color in the rainbow, but red. Harm looked at his watch and then at Mac apologetically.
"I shouldn't have talked you into coming with me, it's nearly midnight."
"Don't worry about it, Harm, I'd be awake anyway."
For a moment, Harm seemed to be processing what she said and the reason behind Mac's being awake this late when she had court in the morning. "If Mattie weren't counting on me…"
Mac pressed her lips together, suppressing her smile, as she looked again at the rows of scrunchies. She'd seen Harm on a mission before, but this was a mission of a different kind. He was becoming totally flustered because he thought he was going to let Mattie down. Just then a tiny patch of red caught her eye.
Looking more closely, Mac saw the much sought after, red hair tie, stuffed in the back of one of the racks. She took it off the rack and held it up. "Harm."
Harm eyes went wide as he reached for it, "Mac…thank you." He gathered her into an affectionate and appreciative hug. Mac found that she was laughing, laughing at this six foot four, fighter jock-lawyer who had an ego the size of Texas, looking at a little red hair scrunchie, as though it were pure gold.
"What?" He released her, feigning cluelessness, knowing exactly why she was laughing. He didn't care, Mattie had what she needed for her game tomorrow and he was spending time with Mac, Harm couldn't have asked for more.
"Nothing, I'm just enjoying seeing your priorities shift. I never thought I'd see you this caught up in ladies accessories."
They walked along together, toward the registers in front of the store. "I'm afraid Mattie has me wrapped around her little finger, I think I'm surprised as you are that she could mean so much to me, but…" He shrugged his shoulders and slanted a glance at her, "there it is."
Mac tried to smile, but suddenly felt envious of him. He seemed to have found his center, his balance after the terrible year he'd had.
"You okay, Mac?" Harm leaned around in front of her so that he could see her face more fully.
She looked up at him, and started to answer, but they were at check out, and the things that were going on in her life were too personal to talk about there and besides, Mac wasn't sure how much she should tell him. She didn't feel sure of anything in her life anymore. Even the things she thought she had right turned out to be completely wrong.
They walked out to his Lexus in silence, the cool February air making them quicken their steps to the SUV. When they got into the vehicle Harm started the Lexus and asked again,
"Do you want to talk about it?" He reached out and touched her arm.
Mac looked up at him, wanting to talk to him, to tell him everything she'd been feeling these past weeks, hell…months. Then he gently turned her so that they were face to face. "What is it, Mac?"
"If you can't talk to me, talk to Webb. Don't hold everything in. I hate seeing you like this." He stroked her arm.
His words hit her, hard. Webb was the last person to help, he could barely help himself. Thinking about him and all that had happened over the last year, only pulled her further into an abyss that was dragging her down, turning her into someone she didn't recognize.
She looked up at him, her eyes searching his face, still afraid to open her heart. When she saw the genuine concern in his eyes, she saw her friend, the man who had always been there for her. Mac had missed him; she missed the implicit trust they'd always had in each other.
Her breath caught, and she went into his arms and clung to him, like a life preserver.
Harm was so surprised by her actions and the intensity of her emotion that he didn't react immediately. Then he carefully placed his arms around her and tried to comfort her.
It was a simple act, but the kindness of it, the steadfastness of his friendship, caused a rush of emotion that she could not quell, her body shuddered from the power of it as tears spilled from her eyes.
"I'm sorry..."She started raise her head, to look at him, but felt so foolish that she couldn't. "I just need…I just need." She couldn't put it all into words, instead she just held on, her check pressed into his chest, the sound of his strong heart steadying her, with every beat.
Harm held her to him, stroking her back, and then he whispered, "What ever you need, Mac… I'm here."
They sat there, in the nearly deserted parking lot for some time, before she suddenly released him and sat up, her back straight, turning away as she awkwardly wiped the tears from her face.
"I've been having a difficult time lately." She glanced at him, "as you've probably noticed…I'm not handling things very well." She wiped her eyes again, with the heels of her hands and drew in a deep breath and expelled it. "I can't talk to Webb; he doesn't seem to hear me. He's not doing very well either. So when I tell him what I'm feeling…he seems…dismissive…as though its nothing…that he's so far above it all….but things are so….screwed up…I can't…I can't tell…if he's right. I can't look at things the way he does, I don't think I want to."
She clasped her hands tightly in her lap and shook her head. "We can't seem to help each other at all; I thought that was what people who…care about each other were supposed to do. Aren't they?" She looked at him, her eyes swollen and glassy.
Harm nodded, but waited, knowing she had more to say.
"We fought...again, tonight." She looked away from him again, suddenly feeling uncomfortable, talking to him about her and Webb as a couple. "And I think I realized something, something I wasn't ready to accept, maybe until now. Clay doesn't have what it takes to make me happy, and I'm ashamed to say…I told him so, and it hurt him...I think." Fresh tears filled her eyes and she wiped them away. Her voice was thick with emotion as she continued, "It hurt because it was true and we both knew it. I've said a lot of things I regret over the past few days, to the Admiral…to you…I may not be the best person…but I've never intentionally hurt someone…someone that I… care about."
Harm nodded his understanding, but didn't quite meet her eyes. He knew now that this was about him too…about them
Harm looked up then, knowing what this confession was costing her. They both had their fair share of pride and he knew, all too well, what it was to feel ashamed of a mistake, of something he'd said that hurt someone, hurt Mac. His eyes slowly took in the features of her face and coming to rest at her eyes. He wanted to gather her back into his arms again, but knew that it would be too much, too soon. "Mac…you've been through a lot." The words sounded so benign, to him, that he nearly flinched, it wasn't what he meant to say…but what could he say, now?
Mac shook her head and held up her hand, as though she didn't want him to make excuses for her.
"I'm sorry for how difficult I've been in the past few days; none of it is your fault. I've can't eat I can't sleep; I'm on edge all the time. The Admiral is probably right; I need help, at least in the short term, to work out all that's happened in the past year. I'm complicating things for Webb, and he doesn't need that right now…"
"Hey, whatever is going on with Webb has nothing to do with you, Mac." Harm knew his tone had been too sharp, so he raised his hands, palms toward her, in acknowledgment. "I know you care about him but, just…. think about this. Webb has been out on a limb for a long time. I think he reached out to you for help in Paraguay because he was in trouble then and you were the only one he felt he could trust, I get that, but …" Harm paused, thinking about how she'd nearly been tortured and killed. He looked away, hoping that she wouldn't see how angry it still made him. "The…problems…that resulted from that mission, for Webb, then and now, are not your fault."
Mac shook her head, "I'm a Marine, have a responsibility to…"
"Look, I know you can handle yourself in any situation, but down there, you weren't with fellow Marines. Don't forget, I've had a little experience with the CIA. It wasn't the kind of mission that you were used to, you weren't with trusted colleagues, you were with Webb, a completely unstable Webb, in my opinion." His hand had been resting on Macs arm, when image of her, strapped to that table in Sadiq's makeshift prison, filled his mind's eye. His grip tightened, so much so that Mac looked down at his hand. He released her, his eyes hooded; he was embarrassed, knowing he couldn't hide everything he still felt from her. Harm shifted in his seat, turning so that he was looking out of his windshield.
If Mac had noticed anything out of the ordinary, for him, Harm didn't see it. "You're not the only one who has nightmares and trouble sleeping, Mac. Hell, I probably should have talked to someone when I came back, too."
"Yeah, well…you're not losing control during cross examination and telling the Admiral off about his personal life."
"You told the Admiral off….about his personal life?" His expression was incredulous, then he shook his head with a lopsided grin. "No, I guess you've got me there. You're lucky you still have your head."
Mac laughed at his comment, her face still stained with tears. "Yeah, the Admiral said nearly the same thing to me, in so many words."
They were both laughing now, relieved to breaking the tension in the small enclosed space of the interior of the SUV. They were facing each other, leaning in close. Mac was nearly back in his arms again, when suddenly, she sat back in her seat and tapping his arm where it rested on the back of her seat.
"We'd better get back, sailor, it's nearly one." She wasn't going to complicate this situation further. It was good to be with Harm, even better to be laughing with him, but too much in her life was unsettled.
Harm looked at his watch, confirming the time Mac always seemed to know. "We're going to both be dead tomorrow."
Mac smirked, "That may be…but I'm going to win," safely slipping back into their collegial banter.
"Hmmm, we'll see."
As they exited the parking lot, she drew in a deep breath, feeling as though she were all cried out but somehow, better. The circumstances of her life were no different but, at least, she wasn't going through this alone.
When Harm parked his SUV in front of his apartment, they silently slipped out of the Lexus and Mac started to walk toward her car.
"See you in court." She gave him a sly smile.
"Hey Mac." Harm spoke up, wanting to prolong his time with her, for just a moment longer. "Thanks for your help tonight; I'd still be searching for that elusive scrunchie, if you hadn't come along with me."
Mac tossed her answer over her shoulder. "No problem, it was my pleasure." She turned around to face him, still stepping backward toward her car, tucking her hands into the pockets of her jeans. "Thank you…. for listening." She dropped her gaze shyly.
Harm caught up with her, standing directly in front of her. "I'm just a phone call away, Mac. Anytime." He hoped that Mac understood that he meant it, his remark wasn't offhand, he wanted her in his life, and it didn't matter how. He wanted the closeness they shared tonight, back.
"I'll keep that in mind." She hugged him then and as they parted, she kissed him lightly on the cheek. "Night."
"Goodnight." He said the word softly, studying her as she started to walk back to her car.
Suddenly they were both startled by the sound of Webb's voice, coming from the other side of the lot.
"Well…well...well, fancy meeting you here?"
Webb began to walk toward them, his uneven gait leaving no doubt that he was very drunk.
Both Harm and Mac were silent.
"What, the white knight has nothing to say?" He smirked at Harm, and then turned to Mac. "And you, Sarah…you have nothing to say to me?"
Harm answered for them both. "We'd try to reason with you, if you were sober, but it would be a waste of time. What the hell are you doing here anyway, Webb?"
"Don't try to distract me, Rabb." He focused his bleary eyes on Mac. "What are you doing here?"
"Stop it." Mac stepped toward Webb and reached for his arm, which he awkwardly slung out to the side, nearly knocking himself off balance, to avoid her touch.
"I knew you'd come here, then I drove over… I saw your car….I knew all I had to do was wait." His lips were curled in a sneer as he looked at her.
"Don't do this, Clay. I was just helping Harm find something for Mattie, for school." Her eyes automatically looked to Harm and then quickly back at Webb. "You've got the wrong idea."
"What idea would that be…Sarah? It's nearly 2 am. I'm sure that whatever you were doing had nothing to do with Mattie." Clayton Webb's mocking look suddenly turned contemptuous, as he lurched toward Mac and Harm; close enough so that they could both smell the sickening sweet Cana that he'd been drinking since Mac left his apartment.
"What do you think I am….a fool? You were trying to tear my clothes off before you left my apartment…and when I confronted you about the real reason you were there and why you wouldn't really let me in, you told me….I didn't have what it took to make you happy…."
"Stop this, Clay." This was going from embarrassing to humiliating, fast.
Webb crossed his arms in front of him, teetering on his feet. "So….did Harm make you happy to…"
He didn't finish his sentence because Harm closed Webb's mouth with his fist, just under his chin. Webb crumpled to the ground at Mac's feet.
As soon as Webb fell backward, Harm regretted hitting him. Webb had been completely out of line but given all he'd been through physically, and all Webb had done for him in the past, it felt wrong on so many levels. He looked at Mac, her face coloring, and her eyes downcast. What Webb was doing was killing Mac, he could feel it.
"I'm sorry, Mac." She didn't need this tonight either, Harm knew her too well. She take this on, she'd feel responsible.
She shook her head, but still didn't look up at him; she started to stoop down to help Webb up. Harm gently grasped her arm, stopping her and causing Mac to look up at him. "I'll get him back to his place, just go home." She had dealt with enough drunks in her life; he couldn't stand by and watch her deal with another.
Harm helped Webb to his feet and was guiding him toward his SUV.
"I should take him." She started toward them seeing that Webb was awake now.
"Don't argue with me." The determined look in Harm's eyes told her she wasn't going to win this one.
Webb looked up at Harm as though they were once again friends, as though the events of Paraguay had never happened.
"Why do women like to argue? Never…ever understand them."
Harm shook his head, deciding that he was going to humor him. "I don't know."
"I don't know…either. Time to go back, I gotta go home."
"Just cooperate, Webb, and you'll get there."
Mac opened the backseat door of Harm's Lexus, "Thanks, Harm."
"That's was friends are for…right?" He looked over his shoulder at Mac, then helped Webb into his backseat.
Mac nodded wordlessly, so relieved that her knees were weak. She was so glad Harm was there, he'd stopped Webb from hurting her with his words, but he was going to make sure Webb got home safely. In spite of the ass he'd made of himself tonight, Harm was still his friend. A good man.
Webb was still rambling, agreeing with Harm. "Yes…That's what friends are for. Someone said once that you two were the closest …thing ….I had ….to friends."
Webb's speech slowed, as he spoke, as though he was considering the weight of his words. He was beginning to realize the truth of what he'd said. Another truth occurred to him, as well. Whatever he and Mac had between them wasn't strong enough to sustain the kind of relationship that would make them both happy. Her words to him earlier that night reached through the alcohol induced fog in his brain.
"You don't have what it takes to make me happy."
He turned and looked at Mac, his eyes glassy and red. "Goodnight, Sarah." There was no sharpness or sarcasm in his tone of voice, and it seemed to Mac that he was saying more than goodnight, he was saying, goodbye.
Harm had gotten into his SUV and had started the engine; Webb tapped the back off Harm's seat, signaling his 'chauffer. "Home, James."
"We're on our way." Harm looked at him in the rearview mirror as Webb's head lolled back onto the head rest.
Harm turned to look at Mac; her lips pressed tightly together, her arms wrapped around her own body. He could see that she still had a long way to go before she could put the past year behind her.
"It's going to be alright, Mac."
Mac nodded and mouthed the words 'thank you' and he acknowledged her words, with an almost imperceptible nod before he raised the window of his car door and pulled away.
Her heart began to feel lighter and she felt relieved. And she was beginning to feel something more, could it be? Was it happiness she felt? Perhaps not, but she had a strong feeling that happiness wasn't far away. Mac knew that there was a light at the end of this long dark tunnel.
Harm looked at her as he turned onto the street. She raised her hand in goodbye, as she watched the man who had always had what it took to make her happy, drive away…along with the man who never did.