This story is set during Adrift wherever it would be appropriate. Mac can't sleep and is compelled to visit Harm in the hospital in the middle of the night. This is their conversation. Obviously it's AU.

I don't own JAG, but if I did, I would have put in at least one scene with Harm in a bubble bath and Mac telling him he's beautiful. LOL!

Settling and Unsettling

by TR

Rated Mild

Mac stood silently next to Harm's hospital bed, and mentally checked the time. 0308. Thirty minutes previous the pull of him had taken her from her bed and propelled her in to where she now stood. She'd heard him cry out to her. Her own name echoing repeatedly in her ears. She'd gone to him, unable to resist, and unwilling to allow him to be frightened and alone.

Carefully she lowered herself to the side of the bed, and for long minutes just studied him. The rise and fall of his chest, the rasp and rattle of his breathing, the palor of his skin. He'd been through hell, and he was still the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. She slowly took one of his hands in hers. His skin was still cold. Feather light, she traced every vain and line on his skin. A familiar and terrible ache welled up inside her, and she replaced his hand to its original position. She was seconds away from heading for the door, when he spoke.

"Did you think you'd sneak away without saying goodbye?"

She turned to see him watching her. "I didn't want to wake you. Besides, you're the one who left without saying goodbye," she said, her eyebrow raised.

"Why goodbye..."

"...and not good luck." She finished for him, as had become their custom. "I should have said good luck this time."

"I could have used it," he said, shifting beneath the blanket.

"Are...are you alright?"

He shook his head, and winced at the move. She flinched in sympathy.

"Alright? Compared to what? I didn't die out there, thanks to you. So I'm doing better than I could be. Maybe my luck is holding."

"Yeah, this is definitely better than the alternative."

His eyes darkened, "Did they call?" he asked, gesturing in the direction of the nurses station.

"No, I uh...came on my own."

"...asking for you," he whispered.

"I know." Their connection crackled and sparked in the air between them. "What did you need?"

"Just you...I...didn't know where I was."

She gave him a small smile. "Well I'm here now. What can I do?"

He raised his arms. "Permission to hug..."

"Didn't I say that to you once? When I was stupid enough to leave?"

"Yes you did. I don't plan on leaving, but I should at least give you a proper thank you."

It took some doing, but she managed to maneuver around the various wires and tubes on his arms and chest. He wrapped his arms around her, breathing a long sigh of relief. "Thank you," he said.

"Any time," she whispered.

"Mac there's something I've been meaning to ask you. I know you'll tell me the truth."

She pulled back. "What is it?"

"Are you my girl who got away?"

Surprise lit in her eyes. "I...I don't think I can answer that."

On reflex he reached for her hand. Thoughtfully stroking her knuckles with the tip of his finger. "Am I REALLY involved with that woman?"

She frowned. "Renee'? Yes you are. You really don't remember?"

"Not a thing. It's like waking up in the twilight zone." His brow creased with confusion, and a hurt that Mac knew all too well.

"What is it Harm?" She asked, her voice soft.

He released her hand, and rubbed his forehead, trying to clear the haze of trauma and medication. "How could I be involved with her when I don't...when I feel...for you..." He dropped his hand in frustration. He couldn't keep a coherent thought in his head, any more than he could keep a handle on his troubled heart.

She knew enough to say nothing. Whatever feelings his ordeal had brought to the surface were raw and unchecked, and too much for either of them to handle.

"Mac," he whispered.

She squeezed his hand. "You should get some rest, Harm."

"No!" He exclaimed, taxing his voice into another coughing fit. She leaned close and stroked his back until he settled once again against the bed. "Stay. I need...Mac please..." He fell silent, trying to control his breathing. His lungs ached and burned with exhaustion.

"What do you need Harm?"

"To understand."

"Understand what?"

"What happened."

She reached up and softly laid her hand on his forehead, checking for fever. He was obviously more confused than he'd let on when she'd previously visited. Or maybe it was just the medication. "You were in an accident. I don't know all the details as yet, but you flew into a storm, and ended up having to punch out."

"No, that's not what I meant. I mean, with us. Mac I remember punching out. I remember all of it. Hitting the water, cutting the parachute from around my reaching out to me. I saw you there. Right before I was rescued. Right before I nearly gave up." He paused, trying to stay focused. "I know something went wrong."

"Your Tomcat was hit by lightning, or so they said."

"No. With us. Something went wrong with us."

"What do you mean? Nothing went wrong..."

"Then why are you marrying another man?"

She studied him for a long time. Seeing real vulnerability and confusion in his face. "Harm, perhaps you should tell me exactly what you're confused about."

"Tell me Mac."

"Tell you what?"

"Tell me what went wrong." His eyes held hers, until she looked away, sighing in understanding.

"I don't know exactly. A lot of little things. What do you remember?"

"Almost nothing after Australia."

Her face showed surprise. "Harm did you tell the doctor? That's over a year!"

"I didn't tell him yet. I know how long it's been. I know I was coming back for your wedding to Brumby." He shook his head. "I just...for the life of me can't remember why you're marrying him."

"You really don't remember anything after Australia?"

He had the grace to look embarrassed. "I do remember some things."

"Like what?"

"Kissing you."

Mac swallowed hard. Unsure whether to be grateful or disappointed that he remembered the night of her engagement party. "Do you remember anything else from that night?"

"Bits and pieces. Giving you my jacket. Touching your hand." He stopped and unsuccessfully tried to stifle a drug induced yawn. "Telling you I'd always love you."

He'd said it so casually that she wasn't at all sure he'd done it intentionally. Either way his words made her heart turn over in her chest. Hadn't this always been what she was looking for from him? Now that she had it, she had no idea what to do about it. If anything. "Is that all you remember from that night?"

He was rapidly losing his battle with consciousness, but he pushed forward, desperate to know. Desperate enough that he'd called to her in his sleep, begging for clarity. "Yes, but none of it gives me any answers. I remember you standing there in my jacket, looking at me like...Mac...tell me please. Why aren't we...together?" He asked, absently flicking his thumb over the stone on her engagement ring.

She shifted uncomfortably, unsure what to do. How much more turmoil would come from telling him what had happened and NOT happened between them? Probably not much more than there was now. Not if she kept it simple.

"Do you remember all of what happened in Australia?"

"I think so."

She sighed; he was going to make this easy. "Then you know why we're not together. I offered, you declined. That was it."

"There had to be more to it than that."

"There really wasn't Harm. You didn't declined my offer. Mic offered to give me what I needed. I didn't see a reason to turn him down. Not if you didn't..." She trailed off, and regrouped. "Not long after that you started dating Renee'."

"That doesn't make sense Mac."

"Why not? That's how it happened."

"Because I did want you." He told her, exhaustion preventing him from raising any defense. "Still want you."

She gave him a placating smile. It was all she could manage with the jumble of emotions that whirled and snapped inside her. "I think you're too tired to know anything for sure right now. You really need to get some rest."

"I won't rest until I have the answers."

Her voice rose slightly in frustration. "I don't have the answers Harm. I don't. For the life of me I can't figure out how we let this happen to us. Except for, I offered, you declined."

"Did you ever offer again?"

"No. Not with you dating Renee', and me with Mic."

"Did I ever offer again?"

"No, you were with Renee'."

He sighed and looked toward the wall. "I don't love her. I don't even remember being with her." He looked over and met her eyes again as a thought came to him. "If neither of us offered, then why do I remember kissing you?"

"Because you kissed me."

"And you kissed me."

"Yes I did."

"Where were Mic and Renee'?"

"Inside the house."

His eyebrows rose. "That's not like us Mac."

"No it's not."

"Then why were we..?"

Her shoulders slumped; he wasn't the only one feeling the effects of exhaustion. "Because we just couldn't take it anymore!"

He seemed to accept that answer. Knowing that being driven over edge was the only thing that would prompt either of them to act in such a fashion. "Do you love him?"

"That's a question you asked me that night."

"What did you say?"

"I didn't answer. Not really."

"Will you answer now?"

"I love Mic," she said slowly. "I do. He's a decent human being. I could live a lifetime with him, have kids with him, a house, you know the drill. And I could probably be reasonably happy."

"How come that doesn't sound convincing?"

"Maybe because I'm not that convinced. I could probably do it. I've spent the better part of a year believing that I could."

"What made you change your mind?"

"Almost losing you. I could have a life with Mic. I could. I know how to live without the things that I really want. I've done it since I was a kid. I know how to get by on what is available to me."

"Get by on what's available? That doesn't sound like love to me."

She shook her head. "Me either."

"So you don't love him?"

"I do, but I'm not in love with him. He...doesn't have my whole heart."

"Then why did you agree to marry him?"

"Is it better to get the short end of the stick, rather than no stick at all?" She frowned immediately at her own words. "Um...maybe I should rephrase that."

He waved it off with a small chuckle. "It's okay, I know what you mean. Mac, if you can have the life that you want with him, then I don't want to stand in your way. But if you can't..."

"It's not the life that I want Harm. But none of us get exactly what we want all the time, do we. I'll take the best I can get, even if it's not my ideal."

"What is it that you want?"

"I want you to remember, so that I don't have to rehash this with you."

"From the sounds of it, I'm not sure I do want to remember."

"I want you to."


"Because what I want won't matter at all, if you suddenly wake up one morning and remember that you love Renee'."

"I don't love Renee' Mac!" He told her, his breathing labored.

"Hey, take it easy," she said, running a soothing hand up and down his arm. "You have no way of knowing if you love her or not."

"Yes I do. It wasn't her face I saw when I was freezing to death in that ocean, it was yours." His eyelids dropped to half-mast. "If it's her that I love, then why do I ache for you?"

"Harm," she whispered, her arms itching to reach out and hold him, and never let go. "You're exhausted. Please get some sleep."

"Stay with me Mac." He tugged on her arm. Beckoning her to lie beside him. So many things prevented her from giving in. Not the least of which was the very real possibility that she may hurt him. Sensing her thoughts, he scooted over in the bed leaving just enough room for her to lie on her side next to him. "I need you," he whispered.

She couldn't deny him, regardless of the questions and turmoil plaguing her. She kicked off her shoes and lay down beside him. Her chin resting lightly on the top of his shoulder. He settled in, comforted by her presence.

"Mac?" He said, as he reached over and took her hand, lacing their fingers together.


"If you had the life you wanted, would it look like this?"

She closed her eyes, overwhelmed by emotion. "Yes Harm," she answered, unable to completely steady her voice. "It would look exactly like this."

He turned his head and kissed her hair. "Me too," he answered. Then finally gave in to sleep.

5 hours later

Mic and Renee' stood in the doorway of Harm's hospital room, wearing identical expressions of anger and relief.

"I guess that's it then, at least now we know," Mic said, as he watched Harm stir, and a still sleeping Mac quietly calm him with a comforting hand.

Renee' shook her head, "Do you think they ever really saw us?"

"No." Mic hung his head for a long moment, then turned and took Renee's hand. "Come on luv, I'm buying."

"Buying what?"

"Oh we'll figure it out when we get there."

She nodded, took one last look, and walked away. Knowing the life that she wanted couldn't be acquired here.

Good? Bad? Pox? Let me know.