La Jolla, California
Sunday, May 30, 2004
2251 Hours (local)
The weekend had been wonderfully relaxing for Mac and she was not looking forward to leaving the next evening. She had once again opted for a late flight out and was scheduled to arrive back on the east coast in time for work in the morning. Mac had taken the time to catch up on some sleep and spend time with Harm. Despite the hours they had spent in each other’s company, they had not discussed the serious topic that lied between them, what Harm was going to do when he returned to D.C., and what had occurred before he departed for San Diego the previous December.
It was a beautiful night outside, warm, breezy, and the moon was somewhere between a quarter- and half-full. Mac had been inside, engaged in a discussion with Trish, when she got up to attend to something. Mac had decided to step outside for some fresh air for a few minutes. She was thinking about taking a warm bath and going to bed, but she wanted to spend a few minutes outside, just breathing in the fresh, ocean air while she still had the opportunity.
Crossing the deck, a bottle of water in her hands, she leaned against the railing and looked out to sea. A few stars dotted the sky and the moon was like a broad smile. She had been standing for a few minutes when she heard someone behind her clear his throat. Mac nearly jumped out of her skin and spun around to see Harm stretched out in a lounge chair.
“Sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“I didn’t even know you were there,” Mac answered, waiting for her heart rate to slow.
“Where did you think I was?” he asked, genuinely puzzled. He had been sitting out on the deck, enjoying the evening, when she had come out. Thinking she had come out to join him, after several minutes, he was wondering why she hadn’t spoken.
“I don’t know,” she said, laughing lightly. “Inside somewhere. Reading maybe?” She shrugged her shoulders. “I really had no idea you were out here.”
Harm smiled. “Explains why you didn’t talk to me. I thought you were just being mean.”
Mac smiled as she walked across the deck and took a seat in the chair next to him, facing him. The wind was blowing her hair about and she was trying to keep it out of her face, but she was losing miserably.
“So, what are you doing out here?” he asked.
“I could ask you the same thing.”
“I asked you first.”
Mac nodded. “Just thinking, enjoying the night. You?”
“Same.” Harm looked away and gazed back out at the ocean.
“Dare I ask what you were thinking about?” Mac asked, her voice full of hesitation.
“You can ask, but I won’t necessarily answer.”
For a moment, Mac just looked at Harm. He was thinner than he had been back in December, but part of that probably stemmed from the weeks in the hospital and inactivity. The lines in his face were deeper and his eyes were clouded with worry. The months apart had changed him, and how much of that was because of the accident, Mac would probably never know. “How much do you want to tell me?”
“Ideally, all of it. How much we could get through before it all gets messed up, that’s the real question.”
“I see,” Mac said, nodding. Harm was still looking out into the sea, as if it held the answers. “That is a tough one.”
Harm nodded and turned to look at Mac. “There are a lot of things I don’t remember since I came out here. The doctor says it’s because of the injury. But I do remember everything that happened before I left JAG. Even though I don’t always want to remember.”
Mac sighed, breaking the gaze, and looked down at her feet. “It wasn’t all your fault, you know? I’m responsible for it, too.”
“If I came back to JAG,” he began, his voice deadly serious, “what would happen between us?”
“I don’t know,” Mac responded honestly as she shook her head. “I think part of it would depend on what happens now and in the time before you get back.” She really wanted to believe that things would be calmer between them, that they could at least be friends again.
“And the other part?”
“That would depend on what we want to happen,” she responded, looking back up to meet his gaze.
Harm nodded and returned his eyes to the sea.
“I should have said this a while ago, months back, but I’m sorry.”
Puzzled, Harm asked, “For what?”
“Some of the things I said before you left.”
“I wasn’t exactly Prince Charming myself.”
“No,” Mac conceded, “but I crossed the line. I know how much your father and your brother mean to you and I had no right to say what I said, to insult them. I apologize.”
Harm returned his gaze to Mac, a small smile touching his lips. “Apology accepted.” He paused for a moment, thinking about another change in his life. “I’m going to be an uncle.”
“Sergei is going to be a dad?”
“Yeah,” Harm nodded, his smile growing. “His wife is pregnant.”
“Congratulations,” Mac said, returning his smile.
Harm snorted, “The kid makes me feel like an old man!”
“You still want kids?” she asked him suddenly, her tone serious.
Harm only nodded, looking into Mac’s eyes, seeking something, searching for her feelings on the subject.
“There’s still time for that,” she assured him.
“Sorry for breaking the promise,” he said sadly.
Mac looked taken aback.
“I never forgot, Mac.”
“Neither did I.”
Harm looked away as he asked his next question. “What are we going to do about it?”
Mac pondered this for a moment and took a swallow of water from her bottle. “Well, I see two options. One, we could just forget about it.” Grinning, she went on, “Normally, since you backed out of the deal, I’d ask for monetary compensation, but you can’t put a price on a life. You would have been a part of the child’s life anyway, so asking for money wouldn’t be very fair. And I don’t believe backing out of the deal was your idea.”
“Not like that,” Harm responded, his voice light with humor. “The other option?” he asked more seriously, daring to look at Mac, a flicker of hope in his eyes.
She smiled reassuringly. “We give it some time, see where we go from here. We’ll see what happens when you get back to JAG, see what we want to do.”
“Another year?” Harm asked, smiling, his hand extended toward Mac.
“Another year,” Mac responded, accepting his hand and shaking it.
For a few minutes, the only sound between them was the crashing of the waves on the beach, each of them thinking of the extended timeline on their promise and what it could mean. It was Harm that broke the silence. “You know what I regret the most about the last few years?”
“What?” Mac asked, genuinely curious.
Harm sat up straight, turned and planted his feet on the deck, facing Mac, his knees only a few inches from hers. He grabbed his can of caffeine-free diet Coke from the small table between the two lounge chairs and took a drink before answering. “Last fall.”
Mac looked at him with an eyebrow raised. “It wasn’t all bad.”
“No, but a lot of it was. What should have been the best part was the worst.”
“And that was?”
“Working with you on a case, like old times,” Harm raised his eyes and met her gaze.
“Harm,” Mac began, sighing heavily. She wasn’t really sure of where to begin. “It wasn’t all you. I could have handled the situation better. If I had said something, the whole thing wouldn’t have happened at all.”
“I made the choice to do it, Mac.”
Mac didn’t know what to say to that.
Harm was finally taking responsibility for his actions, not being goaded into it by her. “I wish things hadn’t gone like they did. If I could do it all over again, I would. Right back to when we came back from Paraguay.”
Mac was surprised. “Why that far back?”
“I made some assumptions that I later learned weren’t correct.”
“Such as?” Mac asked, urging him to go on, wondering to what he could be referring.
“When we were in Paraguay, I heard you and Webb talking about sharing toothbrushes and enjoying the better part of your time down there, and then you kissed him. I just assumed that there was something more between you, that something had happened while you guys were down there. And even when we got back home, I thought something was going on between you two. I know we spent a lot of time together, but I also knew that you were spending a lot of time with him, and I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know where I, where we, stood. It wasn’t until much later, after things started falling apart, that I knew for sure that there was nothing between you and Webb.”
“When, exactly, did you realize this?” Mac asked, suddenly understanding, looking back at the Denise affair with a new perspective.
“After Denise.” Harm looked down at his feet and took a deep breath before going on. “That night at my apartment, when I made you dinner and you had helped me on a case and we ended up just fooling around…” he trailed off.
“Yeah,” Mac responded weakly. Memories of that night still made her heart hurt with all the conflicting emotions that surrounded it. “I remember.”
“As we were playing around, I started thinking that maybe I had been wrong all along and that there was nothing between you and Webb. You weren’t acting like someone who was attached. And then before you left, when we stopped, I was completely confused again. I honestly thought that Webb was why you were leaving. I didn’t know Denise had anything to do with it.”
“Oh, Harm…” Mac whispered, her heart breaking for him. She hadn’t been aware that the whole Denise affair actually begun the previous spring, even if Denise was not yet in their lives. “I’m so sorry.”
Harm shook his head. “I think we’re both to blame.”
Mac nodded. “I think there is some truth to that.”
“After that, after I found out that you knew what had happened with Denise, and how you reacted to it, I really began to believe there was nothing between you and Webb, and that perhaps there never had been. But it was that argument at your apartment, that’s when I really knew that there was nothing between you and him.”
Mac sighed and took another drink of water, trying to collect her thoughts. It was true that she had spent a good deal of time with Clay. She both blamed him and owed him a lot for the events of Paraguay. He really didn’t have anybody, so it seemed natural to Mac that she spend time with him while he was recovering in the hospital, rather than just leaving him alone. They had endured a lot together and she never thought about how Harm would interpret it. The more Clay recovered and talked of getting his job back at Langley, the more Mac was reminded of who he was, no matter how well he treated her. “How come you never asked me if there was anything between Clay and I?”
Harm shrugged his shoulders. “If there was, I didn’t want to know about it. I didn’t want to think about you and him, together. It wasn’t my place to know.”
Mac nodded. It was slowly making sense to her, why things had happened the way they did the previous year. “If you had known that there was nothing between us, what would you have done?”
“That’s hard to say, Mac.” For a moment, their gazes met. “I’d like to say that after Paraguay, after coming so close to losing you, after giving up everything I had for you, I would have worked to pursue a relationship with you. But I don’t know. It has always been easier said than done.”
“But because you thought I was with Clay, you didn’t?”
Harm shook his head. “I was happy with whatever time you were willing to give to me.”
Behind them, the sliding glass door opened and Trish poked her head out. “You kids okay out here?”
“Yes, mom,” Harm responded.
Trish smiled. “Just checking on you. Frank and I are heading up to bed, so be sure to lock up when you come in.”
“We will,” Mac responded, turning around to look at the older woman.
“Goodnight,” she called.
“Goodnight,” both Harm and Mac called at once.
After a minute of silence, Mac asked, “Harm, why did you do it?”
“Do what?” he asked, thinking he knew what she wanted to know, but he didn’t want another misunderstanding.
“Sleep with Denise?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“No,” Mac admitted. “I don’t want to know; I need to know.”
Harm sighed, taking a drink of his soda before he spoke. “I’ve thought a lot about this. More after it happened than I ever did before. And really, had I known she was married, or had you and I been in a committed relationship, I wouldn’t have done it. That much I do know. Waking up next to her that morning, was one of the most awkward experiences of my life. I think I started to realize right then, before I found out about her husband, before I knew that you had seen us the night before, before the entire office knew that I had a one-night stand, before everything, that I had made a mistake. But it was already too late.”
“I’m getting there. Afterwards, I couldn’t remember why I did it. That morning, I kept asking myself, ‘what the hell have I done?’ And in the months since then, in the aftermath of everything, I’ve been able to realize that a lot of things drove me to do it. I was lonely. Our friendship was going pretty good, but at the time, I thought you were with Webb. I wanted to know why it was okay for you to have someone, but not me. At the same time, I was frustrated with things between us. We were getting closer, but real or imagined, Webb was between us. I did find Denise attractive. I just wanted to feel for one night, like a man, like someone still found me attractive and still wanted to be with me.”
"Harm, you’ve always been attractive,” Mac said softly.
Harm smiled, “Thanks. But mostly, and I am ashamed to admit this, it was about you. It came down to the fact that I didn’t have you and I didn’t think I ever would. I had lost you. Webb had come out of nowhere and stolen you away, even though I let go and gave up everything. And I used the opportunity with Denise to get back at you, to remind you that I could find someone, too. Never mind the fact that you weren’t supposed to know about it, but it was a mental thing. I needed…” he paused for a moment, searching for the right phrase, “to be able to hold something over you, whether you knew about it or not.”
For a moment, Mac was silent, digesting the information. He had done it to feel attractive, something Mac could certainly understand. And he had done it to hold something over her, which Mac could also understand, after all, she had done almost the same thing with Mic Brumby. But Mac also heard what Harm didn’t say, what he didn’t need to say; it was meant to wake her up, draw her attention to him.
“Mac?” Harm asked tentatively, afraid that she was really angry with him.
Her response was completely unexpected. She started laughing.
“Are you okay?” he asked, almost leery.
Mac nodded. She tried to talk as she laughed. “You know how we sometimes get clients who act so dumb and immature, like they are still in high school?”
“We’re no better.” She was still laughing. “When did we get so vindictive with the people that we care the most about? When did we decide that being petty and mean and trying to make each other jealous was the way to go?” Despite her laughter, she was serious with her questions.
"I’m afraid I’m not following you.”
Mac shook her head and managed to stop laughing. “In Australia, after the whole ferry fiasco, I took Mic’s ring, in part to make you jealous.”
“Oh my God,” Harm said, realization dawning on him. “I did the same thing with Denise.” He started chuckling.
Mac started laughing again. “This is like a high school drama!”
“Or a soap opera!”
After a minute, the laugher died off. “Why do we do this?” Harm asked.
“I don’t know. I always thought saying something like, ‘you want to go to the movies with me?’ was supposed to be easier.”
“And a lot less painful.”
Mac nodded. “But at least I understand it now. Why you did what you did.”
“And I now understand why you reacted the way you did. I truly get why you were hurt by what I did.” Another few minutes of silence passed while they both looked off into the ocean, knowing the answers weren’t out there, but right in front of them. Finally, Harm asked, “Why didn’t you try to find where I was?”
“You didn’t want me to know. I respected your decision. Besides, deep down, I knew you were right. We needed the time apart.”
“I know. But I didn’t expect you to let me go that easily, to not track me down.”
“I think the time did us good. It was hard, not going to the Admiral and asking him, but… It was what you wanted. Who am I to not allow you your space?”
“I’m glad you came, though, when my mom called you.”
“I wasn’t about to leave you alone. For all I knew,” she paused, “you could have died and I never would have even had the chance to say goodbye. Or apologize to you. I couldn’t have lived without that.”
“It meant a lot to my mom that you were there.”
Harm nodded. “It did.”
There were tears in Mac’s eyes. “You had me scared. I honestly thought you weren’t going to make it.” Her eyes were overflowing, thinking of a life without him, the tears escaping and spilling onto her cheeks.
“Hey,” Harm said, reaching up unsteadily to brush the tears away with his thumb. The movement wasn’t as graceful as it had once been, but the emotion behind it was just as strong. “I’m here.”
“I know,” Mac sniffled. “And I am damn glad that you are. It just hits me sometimes how close I came to losing you.”
Harm smiled to her, “I know.”
Mac pulled her head away and wiped at her tears, the flow having ceased. “Do you know when the doctors are going to let you come back east?”
“I could go now, but I would still have to be under the care of a neurologist, so I might as well stay here. And I have been told to relax and gradually increase my activity level, and we all know that if I was at home, I’d be trying to stick my nose into JAG business all the time, not relaxing.”
Mac laughed lightly. “That’s true.”
“Besides, this is a good chance for me to spend some time with my mom. And work on my tan,” he joked.
“I’m jealous,” Mac teased.
“But I do want to come back.”
“And when you do, what are you going to do?” she asked, curious. At times, he seemed so unsure about his future, but Mac believed he knew what he wanted to do; it was more of a question of being able to do it.
“I’ll try to stay at JAG. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it, but I’ll certainly try.”
Mac smiled. “I think we would all like to have you back.”
“That’s good to know.”
“And what about us?” Mac asked, meeting his gaze, her eyes filled with a hope that had been nearly extinguished almost six months earlier.
“I’d like to see where we can go from here. If you want to…”
“I’d like to give it a try,” she said softly.
Harm smiled, drained the rest of his can and got to his feet. He walked around her chair and moved towards the door, Mac following him with her gaze. Stretching his hand out, he asked, “You coming?”
Mac rose to her feet and followed him inside. In the hallway between their rooms, Mac pulled Harm into a hug. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. And thank you.”
“For everything,” he echoed.
And for many long minutes, they remained in each other’s embrace, content, before they parted ways for the night.
San Diego International Airport
San Diego, California
Monday, May 31, 2004
1826 Hours (local)
Harm stepped out of Frank’s car with Mac and helped her unload her bags from the trunk. Leaning into the window, she said her goodbyes to Frank, thanking him for letting her stay for a few days. Moving towards the doors together, they stopped outside, dropping Mac’s bags to the ground. For a moment, neither of them said anything.
“So,” Harm began.
“Yeah. I have to go.”
“I know,” Harm responded. “I don’t want you to go, Mac.” He had really enjoyed having her out for a few days, seeing her smile and hearing her laugh. Knowing he was going to miss her company and the stories about JAG and everybody back home was enough to bring him down. For a few days, she had been able to make him forget about his problem.
“I have to, though,” she stated simply, resigned to the fact that she had to leave.
Harm moved forward and pulled her into a hug. “It was nice having you out here.”
“It was nice being here. I’m glad you are doing so much better.” Mac knew she would never be able to voice just how much of a relief it was to be with Harm, to spend time with him, just knowing he really was alive.
“You and me both.” Harm was quiet for a moment before he spoke again, “I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you,” Mac said quietly. “JAG isn’t the same without you.”
“I can imagine,” Harm chuckled. “You be careful out there.”
“You take care of yourself.”
“Are you going to come back out?” he asked.
“We’ll have to see. It depends on when you come back east.”
“I guess.” For a moment, Harm squeezed her tighter, never wanting to let her go, before releasing her.
Mac backed out of his embrace and picked up her bags. “I need to go.”
“Get some sleep on the flight.”
“And tell everyone back at JAG I said ‘hi.’”
“Will do.” Mac started walking away.
A few feet from the door, Harm called her name. “Mac?”
She turned around.
“Do you remember what I said the night I left?”
“I think so,” Mac nodded. She was thinking about the three little words they had finally managed to say to each other, three little words that meant so much, three words that were really much too small to describe the emotion.
Smiling, Harm said, “It still stands.”
Mac nodded, smiling in return. “The same goes for you.”
“I’ll see you when you get back,” he said.
“Not if you come home first,” Mac teased.
Once she had slipped through the doors, Harm returned to the car with Frank for the ride back to La Jolla, his life already feeling emptier with her absence.
On the plane, Mac watched the clouds as they obscured the land below. The visit with Harm had been good and some of the air between them had been cleared. Leaning back in her seat, Mac sighed contentedly as she closed her eyes. They had taken steps over the weekend towards repairing the damage they had done, taken steps forward into a future, a future where she and Harm were together. Smiling, she fell into a light sleep as the miles slipped by thousands of feet beneath her.