Getting Through It



Rating: R (sexual situations/language)

Disclaimer: I don’t own JAG or its characters. DPB, Belisarius Productions, Paramount Pictures, and CBS Television do own them, and even if I did own them, I wouldn’t have time to play with them.

Spoilers: Everything up to and including “A Merry Little Christmas.” It took me a year to write this, having suffered a great deal of writer’s block with this (and a serious lack of time). Just ignore everything else that has happened since “A Merry Little Christmas” on the show, since this goes along such a different track, it’s almost AU.

Category: Harm/Mac, eventually. Mac/Webb, at first (none of that includes the sexual situations, though, I promise).

AN: This story covers a large period of time, several years, so watch the dates. While there is no jumping back and forth, only going forward, there are large jumps in time. This came to me in a series of short clips and flashes, not as one scene always leading directly into another. I’d apologize for some of the jumpiness and the short scenes, but that’s how I saw it, so that’s how I wrote it, so I won’t apologize.

Feedback: Always welcome and appreciated. Can be sent to c.digges@verizon.net.

********

Mac’s Apartment
Georgetown
Washington, D.C.
Saturday, May 22, 2004
1128 Hours (local)

Staring down at the small object in her hands, she couldn’t believe her eyes. She wasn’t sure she wanted to believe what she was seeing. Closing her eyes, she wished the vision away, hoping that when she reopened her eyes, the sight would be different. It wasn’t. Sighing heavily, she blinked back the tears that were forming in her eyes. She knew it was coming, but she didn’t want it, not like this.

“Sarah, are you coming?” his voice called from her living room.

Depositing the object in the trashcan beside the toilet, she rose to her feet and exited the bathroom. “Coming,” she called as she moved through the bedroom, pausing to pick her purse and a wrapped box up off the dresser. Greeting him with a soft smile, she allowed him to wrap his arm around her waist as he led her to the door.

“You got everything?” he asked.

“Sure do,” she nodded.

Smiling down at her he said, “Let’s go.” Pulling the apartment door open, he guided her in front of him and pulled the door shut behind him, locking it with his key.

The trip to the Roberts’ residence was silent. He watched her pick at her fingernails, a habit she only displayed when she was extremely nervous. Her hair remained tucked behind her ears, but she kept running her fingers through it, untucking it and retucking it. As he saw her twist her Marine Corps ring around her finger for the hundredth time, he broke the heavy silence and asked, “Are you nervous?”

“No,” she said quietly, continuing to gaze out the window.

“Anything on your mind?” he tried again.

Shaking her head, she turned and met his gaze, asking, “What makes you think that?”

“You haven’t said a word since we left the apartment. And you keep toying with your ring, your nails, your hair…” he trailed off, returning his attention to the road.

“No,” she answered, returning her gaze to the passing scenery. “Nothing on my mind,” she said as she absently twisted the ring once more.

“It’s him, isn’t it?”

“AJ?” she asked.

“No. Rabb.”

“No,” she answered, perhaps too quickly. “Don’t worry about it, Clay. I guess I’m just a little tired, that’s all.”

Sighing heavily, he said, “You’d feel better if you told them.”

“It’s none of their business.”

“You wouldn’t have to hide it anymore. I’d like for you to tell them. I don’t like things the way they are.”

“I will tell them,” she reassured him softly.

“Today?” he asked, glancing at her.

“No,” she shook her head. “It’s AJ’s day.”

“It’s his fifth birthday, Sarah, he’s not going to care.”

“I don’t want Bud and Harriet to feel like I’m trying to ruin his day,” she explained.

Pursing his lips, Clay drove in angry silence for a few minutes. “But you’ll tell them?”

“I will.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

Letting it go, Clay let her sit in silence and drove the rest of the way out to Rosslyn.

-----

Roberts’ Residence
Rosslyn, Virginia
Saturday, May 22, 2004
1417 Hours (local)

Taking a seat on the steps next to her, Harm said, “He’s having fun out there, isn’t he?”

Watching her godson run around the backyard, laughing and squealing with his friends from daycare, Mac had to agree. They had played pin the tail on the donkey earlier, with scotch tape instead of pins, and a short time ago the cake had been cut and the presents had been opened. All of the kids were hyped up on sugar and playing some game that only they knew the rules to. “He’s having a blast,” Mac said quietly.

“Are you having fun?” he asked.

Mac turned to study him. “I am. Are you?”

Nodding, he answered, “Yeah. It’s always fun to watch little kids. They have so much energy and everything is so innocent and fun.”

“You know, I wish I had half of their energy,” Mac admitted.

“Somebody could make a fortune by bottling up the energy and selling it.”

Smiling, Mac laughed lightly, “You might be on to something, Harm.”

“I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of that. But if I ever figure out how to do it, I’ll be sure to give you some.”

“Thanks,” Mac responded, her eyes once more following the group of children. “Mattie’s doing okay?” she asked.

“She is. The whole apartment with Jennifer has worked out great. She has the right balance of parental guidance and freedom,” he answered.

“I’m sure it must have been quite a change for her to go from living on her own to having you.”

“I think it was, but she handled it pretty well after we established some boundaries,” Harm admitted. “We have to be in court early next month for the six-month hearing.”

Glancing at him, warmth shining in her eyes, “If you need someone to come in and speak on your behalf again, I’d be more than happy to do so.”

Meeting her gaze, he smiled, answering, “Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.” He broke the gaze by turning around and looking towards Clay, who was speaking with the Admiral. Nodding in his direction, Harm said, “I’m surprised you brought him with you.”

“Why?” Mac asked, following his gaze.

“I wasn’t even sure you were still seeing him. You haven’t mentioned him for a while.”

Shrugging her shoulders, Mac said, “I guess. He just… hasn’t come up.”

“Hmm…” Harm was unsure of what to say.

“He wanted to come. When Harriet invited me, she told me it was fine to bring somebody.”

Not wanting a misunderstanding, Harm said, “I don’t think it’s wrong that he’s here, I’m just surprised.”

Clay glanced across the yard and caught Mac’s eye, giving her a smile.

Returning his smile, Mac took a sip from the cup of lemonade in her hands.

Harm looked away from the scene and glanced towards Harriet, who was bouncing Jimmy on her hip, talking to Jennifer and Mattie. Mattie was playing with one of Jimmy’s toys, dancing it in front of him, trying to get him to smile, having only minimal success. Shaking his head, he said quietly, “I can’t believe that it’s been five years.”

Tensing, Mac nodded stiffly, swallowing the lump in her throat. “They have flown by.”

“A lot has happened, though,” he added. Stealing a quick glance at Mac, he noticed the tension in her posture. Realizing the turn their conversation had taken, he couldn’t help the tension that slipped into his voice as he asked, “Have you been thinking about it?”

Nodding, she answered, “Yeah. I don’t guess it matters anymore.” Glancing in Clay’s direction, she couldn’t help the sadness she felt inside. He didn’t even know half of it.

Knowing she was referring to her current relationship with Webb, he said, “I guess you’re right.”

Tilting her head slightly to the side, Mac watched Harm as she said, “And you hate it when I’m right.”

“Not always,” he admitted. Mumbling, he added, “But I do this time.”

Although she said nothing, Mac had to agree with him. Still watching him, she asked softly, “You would have gone through with it, wouldn’t you?”

For a moment, his only answer was a slight nod. “I gave you my word, Mac, and I don’t go back on that.”

Mac wanted to apologize, but she couldn’t. This mess wasn’t entirely her fault. Any repairing of this disaster, however, was now out of the question. Not knowing what else to say, Mac said quietly, “I never should have doubted you on that.”

Turning his attention to Mac, he asked, “You doubted me?”

Sighing, Mac said, “Not just you, but me, too.”

“Oh,” was Harm’s short reply. Unable to stop the words before they flew from his lips, he asked, “Is that why you’re with Webb?”

Turning further so that her complete gaze fell on Harm, there was fire in her eyes. “Is that what you think?”

Shrugging his shoulders, Harm answered helplessly, “I don’t know, Mac. I don’t know what to believe anymore where you and Webb are concerned.”

The anger in her eyes quickly diminished. He had a point. Over the last few months, Mac had not disclosed much about her personal life to Harm. At times, she had only been one step away from outright lying to him. Rising to her feet, Mac moved to end the conversation by walking away.

“Mac,” Harm called after her.

Turning around, squinting her eyes in the sunlight, Mac answered, “Yeah?”

“What is going on between you and Webb?”

Shaking her head, Mac looked down at her feet and gave him the only honest answer she could, “You don’t want to know, Harm.” Once again Mac moved away from him, and this time, Harm let her go.

As she moved across the lawn, Clay watched her approach. When she reached his side, he wrapped one arm around her waist and pulled her close. Kissing her briefly on her lips, he smiled to her and asked, “Everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Mac smiled softly. “Harm and I were just talking.”

“It looked like a pretty serious discussion,” Clay remarked, glancing quickly at Harm before returning his gaze to Mac.

“Just talking about a case,” Mac returned, her smile widening.

The Admiral watched the exchange and turned to look at Harm. Like him, Harm was watching the exchange, though the Admiral was sure he couldn’t hear what was being said. The Admiral also knew that at the moment, Harm and Mac weren’t working any cases together, either on the same side or as opposing counsel.

“Do you and he ever stop talking shop?” Clay asked, teasing her.

“No,” Mac said, shaking her head. Her eyes were dancing with laughter. “Unlike you, we are allowed to talk about what we do.”

“Cute, MacKenzie,” Clay said, laughing lightly and pulling her closer, kissing the top of her head.

Across the yard, Harm was sitting on the steps of the back porch, watching Mac and Clay. He was so focused on the scene in front of him that he was startled when Mattie sat down next to him. “Remind me never to have kids!”

Jumping slightly, Harm looked at her. “And why is that?”

“They are just too much work!” Mattie exclaimed, leaning back and propping herself up on her elbows.

“Keep that attitude for a few more years,” Harm warned, his lips curving up into a smile.

“Don’t worry, Harm, I plan to keep that attitude for the rest of my life.”

“You’ll change your mind,” he responded quietly, his gaze once more turning to Mac. The Admiral had moved away only to be replaced by Harriet and Jimmy.

Leaning forward once more, Mattie looked at Harm as she asked, “Why didn’t you ever have kids?”

“Never found the right woman, I guess,” he responded absently, still gazing at Mac.

Following his gaze, Mattie smiled to herself. Jennifer had told her stories about Harm and Mac, and Mattie was just as sure as Jennifer that Harm had found the right woman, he just didn’t have her. And why that was, neither of them knew.

Across the lawn, Harriet had handed Jimmy over to Mac, who was smiling at the baby and receiving a smile in return. Harm couldn’t help but to be jealous of Clay as he watched Mac and Jimmy with adoration.

“She looks good with a kid,” Mattie said, noticing Mac’s ease with Jimmy. Although Mattie could elicit smiles and giggles, she didn’t feel very comfortable around Jimmy. AJ was more her speed.

“Not my place,” Harm said sadly.

Looking at Harm once more, this time with sadness in her eyes, Mattie asked, “But you wish it was?”

Turning to look at Mattie for a moment, he saw the sadness in her eyes. Looking back towards Mac, he said, “It doesn’t matter.” Rising to his feet, he moved away, choosing to join Bud and the Admiral and their conversation.

Harriet had left Mac and Clay with Jimmy for a minute while she ran inside. “I think they’re still mad at me,” Clay said as he smiled at Jimmy.

“Who?” Mac asked.

Looking around at the adults from JAG that had gathered to help the Roberts’ with the party, Clay answered, “Everybody from JAG.”

Sighing heavily, Mac said, “It’s been a year, Clay. They’re over it. In fact, I’ll bet most of them have forgotten about the whole Paraguay incident.”

“Then why do I feel like I’m being exiled?”

“You’re just paranoid,” Mac said, smiling brightly up to him. “I think it comes with your job.”

“I’m serious, Sarah.”

Her smile fading, Mac said, “So am I. Look, if anybody still holds a grudge against you, it’s their problem, not yours. Just enjoy the day.”

This time, it was Clay that sighed. “Never mind.” Glancing towards the house, he said, “I’ll be back in a minute. I’ve got to run inside real quick.”

Mac just watched him go and said to Jimmy, “I guess it’s just you and me now, huh?”

Jimmy found this to be hilarious and giggled loudly.

“Whatever you said to him, he sure liked it, Ma’am,” Harriet said as she approached Mac.

“Wish I knew why,” Mac said. Tickling Jimmy’s stomach, Mac added, “At least I can make one man laugh.”

Smiling, Harriet said, “I’m sure it’s more than one, Ma’am.”

“These days, I’m not so sure.”

“Are you and Clay having problems?” Harriet asked.

Shaking her head, Mac said, “Not really. We just seem to have hit a rough patch.”

“You’ll get through it,” Harriet assured her.

Kissing Jimmy’s head, Mac handed him back over to Harriet. “I know we will. These things happen.”

Smiling at her son, Harriet told Mac, “It’s the bad times that make us appreciate the good times.”

-----

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Thursday, July 8, 2004
1624 Hours (local)

While sitting in Mac’s office working on the Acker court martial, the phone rang suddenly, interrupting the conversation. “Hold on,” Mac said to Harm as she held up her hand. Glancing at the caller ID on the phone, she knew who it was and knew she had better take the call. “Let me get this.” Picking up the phone, she said, “Hey, Clay.”

Clay’s voice spoke through the phone, “Have I told you before how weird it is to have you greet me like that on the phone, Sarah?”

“Yes,” Mac grinned. “Why do you think I do it?”

Clay’s sigh carried through the phone line very clearly.

“So, where are you going this time?” Mac asked, her voice serious.

“You know I can’t tell you,” he answered.

“And you know I have to ask. How long?”

“Hopefully no more than three weeks,” he said sadly.

Mac frowned, her eyes averted from Harm. “That’s a long time. You usually don’t have to leave for that long now that you’re back at Langley.”

“I know, Sarah, and I don’t want to go, but I have to. You know how it is.”

Sighing, Mac said, “I know. I just wish you didn’t have to leave so often. When do you go?”

“I’ve got my jacket on and one foot out the door.”

“Call me when you can.”

“I will,” he promised. “I love you.”

“Love you, too,” she echoed. “Take care, Clay.”

“You, too,” he said as he ended the phone call.

Replacing the phone in the cradle, Mac slowly looked up at Harm, fighting the tears threatening to fall. Damn these emotions!

“Everything okay?” Harm asked, concerned.

Closing her eyes, Mac nodded.

“Is he leaving?”

“Yeah,” Mac spoke. “And he can’t tell me where he’s going or when he’ll be back. Just like always.”

Biting his tongue, Harm had to fight to not say, ‘That’s what you get for getting involved with a spook.’ Glancing at his watch, he decided on another tactic. “How about we finish this later?”

Reopening her eyes, Mac said, “That sounds good. I do have more that I want to get done before I head out of here for the day.”

“My place, around 1900? I’m cooking for Mattie and Jennifer tonight. Join us.”

Smiling weakly, Mac nodded, saying, “That sounds good.”

Rising from his chair, Harm offered her a large grin. “I’ll see you there.” Opening the door, he stepped out into the bullpen, turning back to say, “And don’t worry about Webb. He’ll be fine.”

-----

Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station
Washington, D.C.
Thursday, July 8, 2004
1902 Hours (local)

“You’re late,” Harm smiled as he opened the door.

“Sorry,” Mac said as she stepped into the apartment. Whatever Harm was cooking smelled delicious.

Shutting the door behind her, Harm noticed immediately the lack of the smile she usually wore when he cooked. Her lack of eye contact with him made her seem unsure about being there at all. She was wearing a loose-fitting, lightweight button-down shirt that hung down just past the waist of her jeans, not at all the stylish woman she usually was when in civilian clothes. And her late arrival concerned him. If Mac could be counted on for one thing, it was being on time. If she wasn’t on time, she had a good excuse. This time, there was nothing. “Is everything okay?” he asked for the second time that day.

“Umm… Yeah,” Mac answered as she looked around the apartment. “Jennifer and Mattie here yet?”

“No. They’ll be here in a few minutes,” Harm answered as he moved towards the kitchen.

“Oh.” Mac hesitated before moving towards the barstools. “What are you cooking?”

“Lasagna, half-meat, half-vegetarian,” he answered as he turned on a light in the oven to check on the meal.

“You’ve learned,” Mac smiled.

“If you hadn’t taught me, Mattie would have. Between the two of you, I didn’t have a chance,” Harm smiled as he faced her. Turning around quickly, he opened the refrigerator, pulled out a bottle of water, and handed it to her.

“Thanks,” Mac said as she accepted the water. Opening it, she drank almost half of it before she closed the bottle.

“Thirsty?” Harm asked, his eyebrows raised.

Nodding, Mac said, “Yeah. I get thirsty when I get worried.”

“And what were you worried about?”

“I was afraid you were going to cook meatless meatloaf,” she grinned.

Harm couldn’t help but to smile again and laugh. “I hate to admit it, but Mattie agrees with you. She says the stuff is awful.”

“See?”

“I like it. I can’t figure out what is wrong with the rest of you,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.

Behind them, the door opened and Mattie and Jennifer entered the apartment, smiling and laughing. Spotting Mac, they both stopped for a moment, startled by her appearance. “Hey, Mac,” Mattie smiled as she moved towards the kitchen. “Harm didn’t tell us you were coming for dinner.”

“Didn’t know I had to,” Harm grinned.

Rolling her eyes, Mattie jumped up on the stool next to Mac. “How are things?”

Smiling in response to the vibrant young woman, Mac said, “Things are good. Enjoying your summer?”

Sighing, Mattie answered, “Not as much as I’d like to. That whole summer English class thing.”

Behind them, Jennifer laughed. “She complains about it every night, Ma’am. I’ve threatened to tape her mouth shut to get her to stop whining.”

“It wouldn’t work,” Harm spoke as he pulled the lasagna from the oven. “She talks too much. Her mouth muscles are strong. They could bust open the tape.”

Mac couldn’t help the laugher that erupted.

“Hey!” Mattie squealed. “It’s not my fault the school system has some crazy requirement I missed by coming in late.”

“I know,” Harm said. “We’re just teasing you.”

“You’re doing a great job in the class, Mattie,” Jennifer added. “But you do complain about it every night.”

“Can you blame her?” Mac asked. “It’s her summer vacation. She shouldn’t be in school.”

“Thank you,” Mattie said as she turned towards Mac.

Harm put an end to the conversation by saying, “Dinner’s ready.”

-----

Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station
Washington, D.C.
Thursday, July 8, 2004
2201 Hours (local)

Sighing heavily, Mac turned sideways and laid down on the couch, closing her eyes as she went and resting her hands on her stomach. “Are we done for the night?”

Glancing down at Mac, whose feet were now in his lap, he said, “I think so. You don’t look like you could handle any more.”

“No. I’m tired. This guy was an idiot for getting involved in this and I think we’ve done everything we can to help him.”

Leaning back into the cushions, he sighed and said, “I agree. I still think Bud and Sturgis are going to nail his six to the wall.”

“As long as we agree,” Mac said, turning her head to the side.

Looking at her from a slightly different angle, Harm noticed it. Reaching up to tickle her, he teased her by saying, “Putting on a little weight, are we?”

Jumping and squealing the moment his fingers touched her side, Mac nearly fell off the couch. Once on her feet, she glared down at him and said, “How dare you!”

Eyes wide with wonder, Harm raised his hands in a defensive gesture and said, “I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m sorry, Mac. You look fine-”

Sinking down beside him on the couch, Mac couldn’t stop the tears. “You noticed?”

“Noticed what?” Harm asked, genuinely confused.

Placing her head in her hands, Mac said, “You can see it. If you can, everyone else can…”

“See what, Mac?” Harm asked, now leaning forward and watching her closely. “What’s wrong?”

Picking her head up and looking at Harm, the tears rolled down her cheeks. “You’re right.”

“About…” he trailed off, thinking about the comment he had made that set this in motion. “Hey, it’ll be okay. It’ll come back off. Your metabolism changes as we age, you know that.”

Shaking her head, she whispered, “That’s not it.” Looking down at the floor, Mac spun her Marine Corps ring around her finger.

Studying her closely, Harm said, “I’m not following you, Mac.”

Wiping her tears, Mac said nothing.

Still watching her, Harm was puzzled by her behavior. She had never been one to show her emotions, to cry so openly in front of him. Whatever it was, it was big.

“We almost made it, you know?” she whispered.

“Made it to what?” he asked, his voice soft.

“Our deal.”

“Oh. Yeah, I guess we did,” Harm responded. That deal had become null and void on AJ’s birthday. Mac was with Webb when their five years was up.

Swallowing, Mac whispered, “Clay isn’t the only reason.”

Turning to Mac, he suddenly understood. “You’re pregnant?” he asked.

Mac nodded.

Sitting in a stunned silence for a few minutes, Harm struggled to organize his thoughts. “How far along?” he finally asked.

“Three or four months,” she answered tearfully.

“Are you happy about it?”

For a moment, Mac said nothing. Finally, she answered quietly, “I don’t know.”

Not knowing what else to do, Harm placed his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. Something about the pregnancy was obviously upsetting her. “What does Webb think?” he asked quietly.

Mac mumbled something Harm couldn’t hear.

“I’m sorry, Mac, I didn’t catch that.”

“He doesn’t know.”

Holding her tighter, Harm just let her cry in silence, not knowing what he could do to make this easier on her.

After a long while, Mac straightened and stood up. “I’ve got to go use the head,” she said quickly as she fled the room.

In the bathroom, Mac used the toilet and then splashed cool water on her face, which was now red and tear-streaked. How could she do this? How was she going to make it through this? Harm knew about the pregnancy now, but it wasn’t fair for her to ask for his help. Not after what she had done to him. Besides, she had Clay and Clay was supposed to be there for her. That’s what… husbands… did. Wasn’t it? Then why was she so unsure about telling him? Splashing more water on her face, Mac tried to calm down. Drying her face with Harm’s towel, she breathed in his scent and wished for different circumstances.

When Mac returned to the living room, Harm was sitting on the couch, holding a fresh bottle of water for her. “You want to talk about it?” he asked.

Mac shook her head before taking a few swallows of water. “I can’t ask you to, Harm. It wouldn’t be fair for me to put you in that position.”

“I’m asking, Mac. Talk to me.”

“I shouldn’t.” Sighing, she said calmly, “I appreciate it, Harm, but it’s between me and Clay.”

“Then why doesn’t he know about it?”

“I…” Mac stopped, not sure of the answer herself. “I’m going to tell him. When he gets back.”

“If there is anything I can do,” Harm offered, “let me know.”

Shaking her head, Mac said, “I should go.” Turning towards the door, she said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She was gone before he could say anything else.

-----

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Friday, July 9, 2004
0917 Hours (local)

Not even bothering to knock, Harm shut the door behind him as he entered Mac’s office and took a seat.

“What happened to knocking?” she asked as she looked up from her file.

“A minor formality I didn’t feel was necessary,” he retorted, grinning.

“So, what’s up?”

“I just wanted to let you know that my offer from last night still stands. If you need someone to talk to, I’m here,” he said, leaning back in the chair, crossing one leg over the other.

Sighing, Mac leaned back in her seat. “I do appreciate it, Harm, but I can’t drag you into this. I shouldn’t have said anything to you at all, at least not until I tell Clay.”

Watching her closely, he asked, “Have you decided what you are going to do?”

Looking down at her lap, Mac answered, “I don’t want to talk about it, Harm.”

“I know,” Harm answered calmly. “I’m worried about you.”

“I want this baby. Even if Clay doesn’t, I do,” she said softly.

Smiling slightly, Harm said, “If that’s what you really want, don’t let him talk you out of it.”

Looking up and meeting his eyes, she asked, “Are you all right with this?”

Shrugging his shoulders, he averted his eyes. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It does to me, Harm,” Mac insisted softly.

“Why?” he asked, still looking downward.

“Because you’re my friend. I need you.”

Looking up, he offered her a small smile and said, “Even if you don’t want to talk to me about it right now?”

Nodding, Mac relaxed a little. “Yeah. I just feel like I should tell my… Clay first.”

“But you know that I’m here for you, right?”

“I know. Thank you,” she responded softly.

Rising to his feet, he added, “Just let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”

Leaning forward towards her desk as he opened the door, Mac smiled and said, “Thanks, for everything.”

-----

Mac’s Apartment
Georgetown
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
2038 Hours (local)

“You’re what?!” he screeched.

Swallowing hard, Mac repeated, “I’m pregnant.”

Pacing in front of her, Clay yelled, “What about protection? Weren’t you on the pill?”

“Things happen, Clay. I wasn’t trying to… I didn’t want this…” she tried to calm him down.

Glaring at her, he said, “I don’t want a kid, Sarah. We never talked about this!”

“Clay, calm down, please,” she begged.

Taking a deep breath, Clay tried to calm himself. Quieter, he asked, “How long have you known?”

“Since May.”

“And you kept it from me?”

“I didn’t know how to tell you,” she pleaded, knowing it was a weak excuse. “I didn’t want you to be mad.”

Moving around her, Clay sat heavily on the couch. “What are you going to do?”

“We, Clay, you and me,” she said as she took a seat next to him. Picking up his hand, she squeezed it gently. “It’s our baby, Clay. Yours and mine.”

Turning to look at her, he glanced down at her stomach, slightly more round than it used to be. “It really is, isn’t it?”

Smiling slightly and nodding, she said, “It is.”

“I don’t know what to do, Sarah. I’ve never even thought about having a kid before. I never really wanted one. This is so unexpected…”

“I know,” she whispered. “I wasn’t prepared for it either.”

Gingerly, Clay placed his palm on Mac’s stomach. Slowly, a smile grew on his lips and he raised his eyes and met Mac’s, both of them expressing the same wonder at the life growing inside of her.

“I guess,” Clay began, “I guess we’ll figure it out as we go.”

-----

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
1013 Hours (local)

“I told him,” Mac said quietly as she sat down in one of the chairs in front of Harm’s desk.

Glancing up at Mac, he noticed that she had pulled the door shut behind her. “About the baby?” he asked, his gaze meeting hers.

Mac merely nodded.

“And what did he say?” Harm asked, leaning slightly forward, concerned.

“At first,” Mac spoke softly, “he was angry, upset. But once he calmed down, he was okay. Once he realized that this is a life that… we created, he was… happy.” Mac smiled slightly, her hands moving instinctively to her stomach.

Watching her, Harm could see her happiness. She seemed stronger, more assured of everything than she had been before telling Clay. Glancing down at his desk, he felt a strange mix of emotions swirling inside of him. He was happy for her, glad things looked like they were going to work out. However, he also knew that this was the end of them, a more permanent end than her words in Paraguay had been. Still looking down, he asked, “Have you decided what you are going to do?”

“We’re going to keep it,” she said firmly.

Looking up, Harm asked, “So, are you going to marry him, or…”

Swallowing hard, Mac looked away from Harm, towards a picture of the two of them taken many years earlier, the first time they went up in his biplane. “We’re already married,” she whispered.

Knowing what Mac was looking at, Harm continued to watch her. “What?” he whispered, his heart in his throat.

“We’re already married,” she repeated, her voice more firm, but still weaker than normal.

Leaning back in his chair, feeling dizzy, Harm found himself staring at a picture of him and Mattie on his desk. “When?”

“Right after Christmas.”

Swallowing, struggling to breath, Harm asked, “Why?”

Shaking her head, Mac was blinking back tears as she answered, “You had Mattie. You were so happy and I knew you had moved on. I was left with Clay, so I… I married him.”

Closing his eyes, Harm couldn’t look at her. “I…” he couldn’t find the words. “Why didn’t…” he tried again.

“I couldn’t tell you,” she said sadly. “I was afraid of what you would say…”

“Mac…” Harm whispered, opening his eyes. He was shocked by this latest turn in events.

Catching his gaze, Mac said, “I’m sorry, Harm.” Rising hurriedly from her seat, she rushed out of the office, across the bullpen, and towards the bathroom, desperate to stop the flood of tears that seemed determined to fall.

In his office, Harm leaned back in his chair, his head spinning and his stomach jumping. It was over for him, for them. She would go her way and he would go his.

-----

Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station
Washington, D.C.
Thursday, December 9, 2004
2107 Hours (local)

Settling down on the couch with a glass of milk, a few cookies on a plate, and a book, Harm was ready to relax for the rest of the evening. Jennifer and Mattie had been over earlier and they had enjoyed dinner together, laughing over the latest rumors circulating Mattie’s school. He was startled when the phone rang and he reached over to pick it up without glancing at the caller ID. “Rabb.”

“Harm.”

Her voice was weak and her breathing labored, but he knew who it was. “Mac! Are you okay?” They had gradually drifted apart as her pregnancy had advanced. She had become more wrapped up in her life with Webb and he had become immersed in Mattie’s life, the court processes, and looking for a house. Harm couldn’t remember the last time they had spent time together outside of work.

“I need you,” she breathed. “The baby’s coming!”

“Where’s Webb?”

“Out of town,” Mac responded just before letting out a moan. “Just come over here and take me to the hospital.”

“Call an ambulance,” Harm told her. “I’ll meet you at the hospital.”

“Don’t leave me alone,” she pleaded.

“I won’t, I promise,” Harm told her calmly. “Call an ambulance and I’ll meet you at the hospital. If the ambulance won’t come or if you think I can get there quicker, call me back.”

“Okay!” Mac said loudly before hanging up the phone.

Harm pulled the phone away from his ear and turned it off, staring at it in his hands for a minute before jumping into action.

-----

Georgetown University Hospital
Washington, D.C.
Thursday, December 9, 2004
2356 Hours (local)

The pain in his hand was excruciating, but he grinned and bore it. After the contraction passed, Mac loosened her grip and relaxed back into the pillows. “Sorry,” she smiled weakly as Harm pulled his hand away and rubbed at it with the other one.

“No problem. I keep waiting for you to break it so they can put it in a cast and then you can squeeze it all you want,” he grinned, half serious.

“Clay should be here,” Mac responded sadly, looking down at her hands, spinning the wedding band on her left hand around her finger.

Placing a hand on her head, Harm smoothed her hair down. “I know, Mac, and I’m sorry he’s not.”

“Not your fault,” she responded, reaching up with one hand to grab his hand on her head and pull it lower. “I’m just glad you’re here.”

Squeezing her hand gently, Harm said softly, “So am I.” He was surprised at how easy it was to admit it, but he was glad to be there, be there for her. He was also glad she had felt like she could call him in her time of need, that they were still close enough for that. He had come to accept the idea of not being a part of her life in recent months, but it still hurt. At this point in time, he wasn’t sure if being here now hurt more or eased the pain a little. It didn’t matter, because he wasn’t leaving.

-----

Georgetown University Hospital
Washington, D.C.
Friday, December 10, 2004
0815 Hours (local)

“She’s beautiful, Mac,” Harm said as he gazed at the tiny infant in Mac’s arms. She had finally given birth about an hour earlier and the baby had been declared healthy and turned over to her mother.

Her hair mussed and tangled, her face pale with exhaustion, Mac looked up at Harm, a gentle smile on her face. “She is, isn’t she?” Kissing the tiny infant’s forehead, she whispered, “Hi, Emma.”

Emma was born weighing eight pounds, four ounces, and was 21 inches long. She had a little brown hair on her head and big blue eyes that would probably change to brown in the coming months, given that both of her parents had brown eyes. And she had a good set of lungs, having already tested them shortly after her birth.

Harm felt himself melting at the scene. When Harriet had given birth in the Admiral’s office more than five years ago, he had been affected by that scene. But this was Mac and it hit him much harder, it made him realize just what he was missing, made him wish it was his child with Mac, not Webb’s. For a long time he stood over Mac and Emma, watching as Mac held the sleeping infant. He could see that she was already in love with the child, and Harm had to admit that he was, too. It saddened him to think that he would not be able to play a large part in her life.

Looking up, Mac noticed Harm gazing down at Emma. “You want to hold her?” she asked.

Shifting his weight, suddenly a little nervous, Harm replied, “You sure?”

“You’re not going to drop her, Harm. I trust you.”

“Okay,” he smiled. Stepping forward, he leaned low and stretched his arms out while Mac lifted hers and placed the baby in his arms. Cradling Emma to his chest, Harm’s heart melted even further. He had never held a baby so soon after birth. Even after AJ was born, the ambulance had arrived before Harm could hold him. She was so tiny and fragile, so light and helpless. No matter what happened between him and Mac, Harm knew he would love this little girl forever and he would do anything to protect her. Kissing her forehead, he repeated Mac’s earlier whisper and said, “Hi, Emma.”

Mac smiled up at the two of them. He looked good holding a child, and she suspected he would look even better if Emma were his, too.

Meeting Mac’s gaze, Harm smiled to her. “You’ve done good, Marine.”

“Thank you,” she said softly. She was tired, more tired than she had ever been in her life, but she wasn’t ready to sleep yet.

Behind them, Clay moved into the open door and said, “Sarah?”

Startled, Mac looked towards the door as Harm turned around. “Clay?”

“Harm called the Agency and they got the message to me. Is this…” he began, gesturing to Emma.

Smiling, Mac nodded.

Moving to Harm, Clay looked on in amazement. “It’s our baby.”

“It’s a girl,” Mac said from the bed. They had decided to wait for the birth to find out the sex of the baby.

“She’s precious,” Clay breathed.

Holding her out to Clay, Harm let him take the baby without being asked.

Once Clay had Emma in his arms, he moved closer to the bed, closer to Mac, keeping his eyes on the infant.

Deciding to leave the family alone, Harm backed out of the room, whispering a good-bye. He was having trouble keeping the tears from falling.

-----

Mac and Clay’s House
Fairfax, Virginia
Saturday, December 10, 2005
1304 Hours (local)

“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Emma, Happy Birthday to you…” Mac sang to her daughter, trying not to laugh as Emma reached for the cupcake with the lone candle that was just out of reach. “You want to blow the candle out?” Mac asked. Emma regarded her with her big brown eyes and an expression that seemed to say, ‘What are you talking about?’ Mac laughed and said, “That’s what I thought, baby girl.” Leaning down, Mac blew the candle out for her. Pulling the candle out of the cupcake, Mac pulled the wrapper off the cupcake and set it down in front of Emma. “Here you go.”

Emma immediately put her hand in the chocolate icing and brought the sticky substance to her mouth to try and lick it off.

Laughing, Mac smiled. She was going to cut it up into smaller pieces for her in a few minutes, but she wanted to see what Emma would do with it. Harriet had told her about how AJ and Jimmy had reacted to the cupcakes on their first birthdays, trying to eat them but not quite sure how to handle something so big. In the end, they only succeeded in creating large messes. Mac didn’t mind cleaning up, as long as Emma was having fun. Besides, Emma liked taking baths, and since Mac had removed her shirt before she started singing, a bath was the next thing on their list.

After eating one cupcake, laughing while Emma made a complete mess with her own, Mac cut Emma’s into smaller pieces and grabbed a second one for herself. “I’m sorry daddy couldn’t be here today,” she said sadly. “You know he wanted to, right?”

Emma responded by shoving a piece of cupcake into her mouth.

“Yeah, but he had to go out of town again, so it’s just you and me. He’ll be home in a few days, though,” Mac said, sounding hopeful. At least that’s what he had said. “And when he gets back, we’ll sing to you again and eat more cupcakes. How about that? And tomorrow everybody else is coming for a party, so we’ll have even more cupcakes and presents.”

Emma looked as if she didn’t care what Mac was saying. Shoving another piece of cupcake in, she ate it, smiling broadly, chocolate icing everywhere.

-----

Mac and Clay’s House
Fairfax, Virginia
Thursday, April 12, 2007
2212 Hours (local)

Sighing heavily, Mac leaned against the wall separating the kitchen from the living room. “Clay…” she began in a warning tone.

“I told you I was sorry, Sarah.”

“Sorry won’t cut it this time, Clay. I can’t live like this. This is the third time in the last three years! And who knows how many times before that!” she practically shouted. It was raining outside, pounding against the glass doors in the kitchen, the perfect weather to match her mood.

“It was the last time,” Clay pleaded. “Honest.”

“You said that last time!”

Sighing, Clay responded by saying, “This time I mean it.”

“And you didn’t mean it last time?’

“I did, I just…” Clay paused.

“You hid it better this time, I’ll give you that,” Mac said angrily, fighting the tears that were threatening to fall. “I had to hire a private investigator this time…”

“Sarah, I’m sorry,” he said softly. “Really, I am. I never meant to hurt you.”

“I know that,” Mac whispered. “But you did. Again. I can’t do this anymore, Clay. You have a problem and I can’t let you hurt me, or Emma, again. I think…” she paused, “I think it’s best if you go.”

“Sarah…”

Turning away from him, Mac said firmly, “Just go.” She didn’t want him to see the tears that were falling.

Clay was silent. The only sound in the room was the pounding of the rain against the glass, against the wood of the deck. “Can I tell her good-bye first?” he asked quietly.

“Don’t wake her,” Mac warned.

Moving past her, Clay headed towards the stairs. Mac watched him go, then followed. Standing outside Emma’s door, she watched as Clay sat on the bed and rubbed her small back. She had already kicked the covers off and her brown hair was fanned out across her pillow. Her deep breathing indicated that she was sleeping soundly. “I love you, little one,” Clay whispered. “Never forget that. I’ve got to go away, but I love you.” Kissing the top of her head, Clay rose from the bed, walked past Mac, and paused at the top of the stairs. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly.

“So am I,” Mac responded, her voice devoid of emotion. Her heart was breaking, but it wasn’t for her; she hadn’t loved Clay for quite some time. But her heart was breaking for the tiny child sleeping soundly in her bed, the child that had been born to two parents that loved her, but didn’t love each other. Mac watched as Clay descended the stairs, grabbed his jacket from the closet, and picked up the bag that he had brought in with him a few hours earlier. He had never even unpacked. He turned back once to look at Mac as he opened the front door, then he stepped out into the night.

Outside Emma’s room, Mac sank to the floor, sobbing. This was never what she wanted. After a few minutes, she calmed herself slightly, rose to her feet, and went downstairs. It had been a long time since she had felt this alone. Settling on the couch, the tears still coming, Mac picked up the phone and dialed a number she hadn’t dialed in a long time. When she heard his voice, she said, “Harm, I need you.”

He didn’t ask her any questions; only said the words she wanted, she needed, to hear. “I’m on my way.”

Thirty minutes later, he knocked on her front door. Opening it, he stood in the darkness, the rain falling in sheets behind him. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner, Mac, but the rain-” He fell silent when she launched herself at him, wrapping her arms around him, as if holding on for dear life. All he could do was hold her, not let her float away.

Finally, many minutes later, Mac pulled herself away and led him inside, closing the door behind them.

“You okay?” Harm asked softly.

Shaking her head as she moved into the light, allowing him to see her tears. “Clay’s gone, Harm.”

“He left?”

Turning away from him and wandering into the living room, she settled on the couch, pulling her knees close to her, leaving the question unanswered.

Moving into the living room behind her, he came to a sudden stop when he saw the color pictures spread out on the table before Mac. Moving closer, he could see Clayton Webb in each photograph with a woman, a woman that most definitely wasn’t Mac. In several pictures, Webb and the woman could be seen embracing in a very friendly and intimate way. Each picture had a date and time stamped on it, some taken as recently as the week before.

Sitting beside Mac on the couch, he pulled her into another comforting embrace. She didn’t need to answer his previous question; the answer was right in front of him.

“What am I going to do?” Mac whispered, her throat scratchy and dry from the crying.

“I don’t know,” Harm answered honestly, tightening his grip around her. “I don’t know. But you’ll make it.”

Mac’s only response was to burrow further into his arms and cry harder.

Harm did the only thing he could think of doing and held her tight, giving her the only comfort he knew he could provide.

-----

Mac and Clay’s House
Fairfax, Virginia
Friday, April 13, 2007
0631 Hours (local)

Emma was up early the next morning, as always. Padding into her mother’s room, she was disappointed to see the empty spot beside Mac, when she had expected to see her father. “Where daddy?” she asked as she crawled up inside the bed beside her mother, snuggling in under the covers.

Stretching out beside her daughter, Mac pulled her into a gentle hug, inhaling the child’s innocent scent. She couldn’t remember getting to bed the night before. The last thing she remembered was being on the couch, with Harm… Clay, Clay was… gone, this time for good. “He had to leave again,” Mac informed Emma, the words falling from her lips as they had many times over the last few years.

“Oh,” Emma responded, her small face frowning. “I didn’t say bye.”

“He came in and kissed you before he left,” Mac offered.

“Promise?” the little girl questioned, the letter R in the word coming out more like a W.

“Promise.”

Emma closed her eyes and hugged the white unicorn with the iridescent pink and purple horn, a gift from her father from one of his trips, close to her. “I miss my daddy,” she whispered.

“So do I,” Mac answered, her voice just as quiet as her daughter’s. Thinking to herself, she added, I miss the man your daddy used to be. After a few minutes of silence in which Mac’s eyes were closed and she willed herself to not cry, she looked down at Emma and asked, “You want breakfast?”

“Oh yeah!” Emma said, sitting up straight in the bed. “My tummy is hungry.” Once more, the R came out sounding like a W. At two and a half, Emma had a pretty strong vocabulary, but it wasn’t perfect. And this was their morning routine. Emma would get up and join Mac, and Clay if he was home, in bed for a few minutes before Mac would ask Emma about breakfast. Like her mother, Emma was always enthusiastic about eating.

Smiling at her daughter’s excitement, Mac rolled herself from the bed, got to her feet, pulled on a bathrobe and slipped her feet into a well-worn pair of slippers. Holding her hand out to Emma, she said, “Come on.”

Bounding out of bed with more energy than Mac would be able to muster if she had had a good night’s sleep, Emma grabbed her hand and led the way, her other hand tightly holding on to the railing.

As they worked their way down the steps, Mac asked, “What do you want this morning?”

“Cheerios!” Emma almost yelled.

Laughing lightly, Mac said, “But you had Cheerios yesterday.”

“I like Cheerios, Mommy. Love ‘em,” Emma insisted.

“I know you do, sweetie. But how about something else today? A muffin? Or that raisin bran with the nuts in it? You like that.” Unlike many kids her age, Emma wasn’t big on the cereal high in sugar. Every once in a while she would have a bowl of Froot Loops or Cap’n Crunch, but if given a choice she usually preferred Cheerios or some version of Raisin Bran. At times, Mac even wondered if Emma was her daughter.

“Mmmm… maybe…” Emma said, pondering the issue as they reached the bottom of the stairs.

Ruffling Emma’s hair, Mac smiled, calling Emma a “Goofy kid” as she did so.

Emma just smiled up at her mom, her brown eyes sparkling. As they walked through the living room to get to the kitchen, still hand in hand, both of them stopped at the sight in front of them. On the couch was Harm, sleeping, covered by a blanket he must have dragged out of the closet. “Mommy, why Harm sleepin’ on the sofa?”

“Harm came over last night to talk to Mommy. He was tired, so he stayed,” Mac responded quickly, ushering Emma out of the room. Trying to recall exactly how the night before had ended, Mac drew a blank. Had she fallen asleep on the couch with Harm only to have him carry her upstairs to bed? That was the only explanation she could come up with.

In the kitchen, Mac helped Emma up into her chair and gave her a cup of milk. Emma loved to drink milk and often had a cup while they debated the breakfast issue. “What you goin’ to have, Mommy?”

“I don’t know,” Mac mused, thinking about her options. Cereal didn’t seem too appetizing this morning. Nothing did, really.

“What about pancakes?” Harm asked from the doorway where he was leaning, wearing a rumpled t-shirt and jeans, his eyes still full of sleep.

“Yeah!” Emma cheered. “Pan-pakes!”

Startled, Mac eyed Harm. “I don’t know. I still have to shower, get Emma ready and take her to daycare. We usually don’t have time for pancakes during the week.”

“You go take your shower and Emma and I will make breakfast,” Harm smiled, turning to look at Emma. “I think we can handle it.”

“You’ll be late, Harm. You need to get home and get ready for work, too,” Mac pointed out.

“Nah,” Harm shrugged, moving further into the kitchen. “If I’m late, I’m late. That’s between me and the Admiral.”

Relenting, Mac gave him a soft smile. “Okay. Pancakes sound good. But I’m not helping you out with Admiral Williams. You’re on your own.”

“I can handle him,” Harm said, reaching into a cabinet for the electric skillet. He moved about the kitchen as if he had been cooking breakfast in it for years.

Mac snorted. Ever since Admiral Chegwidden had retired a few years earlier, it had been a battle of wills between the staff and their new commanding officer. Admiral Williams was a stubborn man and wanted things done his way, by the book, to the letter. He knew the JAG staff was capable of good things, but he rarely approved of the methods they used to get results. Especially Harm. He and Admiral Williams had butted heads on more than one occasion. Pushing herself out from the counter on which she had been leaning, she said, “Emma’s a big help, too, so have fun. I trust you.”

Harm smiled, glancing at Emma, who was also grinning. “We will. And the pancakes will be yummy, too.”

From the bottom of the steps, Mac called, “I have no doubt that they will be.” As she moved up the stairs, she couldn’t hear Harm’s response. Once in the bathroom off her bedroom, she hung her robe up and looked at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were bloodshot and she was still in the clothes she had been wearing the previous evening. She was lucky Emma hadn’t noticed when she had crawled into bed with her. Starting the shower up, Mac pulled her clothes off and got in. As the warm water washed over her, she found herself wishing that the water could wash away more than dirt, that it could wash away pain, anger, and mistakes. But it was only water and it could not do as much cleansing as she wished it could, and when she climbed out several minutes later, the only thing that felt cleaner was her skin. Her heart hurt just as much as before and her soul felt just as dirty and used.

Back downstairs in the kitchen, Emma was standing on a kitchen chair that had been pushed up next to the counter, watching Harm as the pancakes cooked on the skillet. “Are they ready to flip yet?” she asked excitedly.

Using the spatula, Harm lifted the edge of one of the cakes and looked. “Nope, not yet. Another minute, though.”

Emma turned around when Mac walked into the room. “Harm let me help, Mommy!” she squealed.

Approaching her daughter, Mac lifted her out of the chair and held her on her hip. “He did, did he? I’ll bet you were a big help.”

“Uh-huh,” Emma nodded proudly.

Turning the pancakes over one by one, Harm said, “I couldn’t have done it without her.”

Emma was still watching Harm with interest, so Mac set her back down and pulled two glasses and a cup down from the cabinets. Filling all three with orange juice, she placed them around the table. After pulling the appropriate silverware from a drawer and distributing it, she pulled the syrup out of the pantry and the butter out of the fridge and set them on the table as well. As Harm lifted the pancakes off the skillet onto a plate, Mac scooped Emma up and set her in her booster seat. “Ready to eat?”

“You bet!” Emma grinned. Gripping her cup of orange juice tightly, she drank a few swallows as she watched Mac butter and cut the pancake, and then add a little syrup. “More, mommy. I want more.”

“This is plenty,” Mac replied, looking sternly at her daughter.

“Please,” Emma begged.

Mac shook her head.

“Aww…” Emma pouted. Spearing a piece with her Blues Clues fork, she lifted the pancake to her mouth, her lips melting into a smile as she tasted Harm’s creation. “This is yummy!”

A few moments later when Harm and Mac got to sit down with their pancakes, she had to agree with Emma’s assessment. Shortly after breakfast was finished, Harm left to return to his house in Lorton while Mac got Emma ready for daycare.

-----

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Friday, April 13, 2007
0937 Hours (local)

Slipping into the bullpen, Harm tried to appear as if he had just returned from the library or the head, instead of coming in late. At least that’s how it appeared to Mac when she looked up from her work. He was doing a good job of it, too, until Mac turned her head to the side a little and saw Petty Officer Coates rushing from her desk to meet him. Harm made eye contact with Mac and nodded in the direction of the Admiral’s office. Offering him an apologetic grin, Mac returned to her paperwork.

Twenty minutes later, Harm entered her office without knocking and pulled the door shut behind him.

“I see you’re still alive,” Mac said, setting down her pen and leaning back in her chair.

“Yeah,” Harm grimaced. “It wasn’t pleasant, though. I thought that man was going to tear my head off.”

“You know he thinks we all got soft serving under Admiral Chegwidden. The two of them can’t stand each other.”

Rolling his eyes, Harm crossed one leg over the other, one hand resting on the raised ankle. “I’m thinking we should start a club. People Who Can’t Get Along With Admiral Andrew Williams Anonymous.”

Smiling softly, Mac nodded her agreement. “Hi, I’m Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie, and I can’t get along with Rear Admiral Andrew Williams.”

“Hi, Sarah,” Harm grinned. After a beat of silence, they both let out soft laughter.

When the laughter died down, Mac looked away from Harm and down at her lap, unsure of what to say to Harm.

“You going to be okay?” he asked gently.

“I think so,” she answered softly. Meeting his gaze once more, Mac smiled wryly as she said, “Our marriage was a sham, Harm. He was never there. Always away on some mission or other.”

“Was this…” Harm began, hesitant to ask the question. Mac had shared more personal information with him in the last twelve hours than she had in the last two years. He wasn’t eager to push his luck.

Answering the incomplete question, Mac shook her head. “No, it wasn’t the first time he’s done this. There were times before, times when he said he was on a mission, and maybe he was, but he was with someone else. I bought it for a while…” Mac shrugged her shoulders helplessly. “I had this feeling this time that he was doing it again, lying to me. You saw the pictures. I had to hire a private detective to get them, but…” Again, Mac lowered her gaze, blinking back tears.

Uncertain of what to say, Harm offered her the only words he could think of. “I’m sorry, Mac.”

“It’s not your fault,” Mac replied sadly. “I’m the idiot who got involved with him, who decided to marry him, who took his words as truth over and over again…”

“Don’t, Mac,” Harm pleaded. “Don’t beat yourself up over it. You had no way of knowing it would turn out like this.”

The bitter laughter that passed her lips startled Harm. She looked up at him, allowing him to see her tears. “No, seeing him so comfortable with all those women in Sydney all those years ago… Or trusting a man who lies for a living… A man who was willing to put me in danger… No, I had no way of knowing it would turn out like this.”

Harm didn’t want to agree with her, but he did. Deep down, he knew she was right. “He was good to you, though, wasn’t he?”

“Yeah, when he was around,” Mac said, her voice laced with bitterness. “I found out about a year ago that when I was in labor with Emma, and you were in there in the delivery room with me, he wasn’t on a mission. He was using the CIA as a cover, using them as an excuse to screw some cheap two-dollar whore!” Angry now, Mac rose to her feet, pushing her chair out, and stalked to her window.

Harm remembered that night well. It was one of the most amazing nights of his life, watching Mac give birth. He had called the Agency, assuming they knew how to get in touch with Webb, just to pass the message along. As much as he didn’t want to do it, as much as he wanted to go on allowing himself to pretend that Emma was his child with Mac, he couldn’t. He had to do the right thing. And now, what was the right thing?

“Mac…” Harm began softly as he rose to his feet.

“What am I going to do, Harm?” Mac asked, turning to look at him. “How am I going to tell Emma? Her heart is going to break. She adores Clay.” Shaking her head, she returned to gazing out the window.

The hurt look in her eyes was enough to break his heart. “I don’t have the answers, Mac. I wish I did. If I could do something, anything, to take away this pain, I would. But I can’t. You have to figure it out on your own.” Reaching out gently, he placed one of his hands on her upper arm and encouraged her to lean on him, not caring which of their co-workers saw them.

She went willingly. Allowing herself to be embraced by his arms, Mac mumbled, “Thanks.”

“I’m here for you, Mac. That’s the best I can do.”

“I know,” she sniffled. “As long as I have that…” she trailed off, letting the words hang in the air.

-----

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
0831 Hours (local)

Sitting down in a chair in front of Harm’s desk, Mac sighed as she said, “It’s done. I submitted the paperwork yesterday. Provided the judge agrees with my statement, the divorce papers will be drawn up and submitted to Clay for his signature.”

“No year of separation?”

“No,” Mac shook her head. “In certain circumstances, including extramarital affairs, if one party claims that there is no chance of reconciliation, the year of legal separation is not required.”

For a moment, Harm was silent. He hated to see Mac go through this, hated knowing she was hurting. “How’s Emma doing?”

“She’s…” Mac trailed off, thinking of how to phrase it. “She’s adjusting, but it isn’t easy for her. Clay’s been over on the weekends, packing up his stuff and spending time with her, and she cries when he leaves. Just like she does when she knows he’s leaving on a mission, except it’s not a mission this time. Daddy’s just leaving.”

“You know I’m here for you, Mac, you and Emma. If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.”

“I know,” Mac smiled softly at him. “You’ve done a lot already, just by being here for me.”

“I just wish there was something more…” Harm trailed.

“I know,” Mac nodded. “But this is my mess and I need to take care of it. I just thought I’d let you know about the divorce.”

Nodding, Harm said, “Thanks.”

Rising to her feet, Mac turned towards the door. “I’ve got court in 27 minutes, but I’ll see you in a bit.”

“Lunch?” Harm asked, his eyebrows raised.

Pondering his offer for a moment, Mac shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”

“I’ll even pay,” Harm grinned.

“Then I’m definitely in,” Mac said over her shoulder as she left his office.

-----

Mac and Clay’s House
Fairfax, Virginia
Saturday, July 14, 2007
1331 Hours (local)

He rang the doorbell, even though he still had a key. When she let him in, he was holding a folder of papers in his hand. Emma watched them from the top of the stairs, where neither of them could see her. She was supposed to be napping, or having “quiet time.” It wasn’t that Mac didn’t want Clay to see his daughter, because she did, but Mac didn’t want Emma around for what she knew was coming.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Clay asked loudly as Mac shut the door behind him.

“We’ve been through this, Clay.”

“Once I sign these… things,” he said as he thrust the papers at Mac, “it’s over. There’s no going back.”

“It’s been over for a while. You know it and I know it,” Mac began as she walked into the living room. “Just sign them, Clay, and let’s be done with it. Please.”

“Please, Sarah,” Clay started in a pleading tone as he stood in front of Mac. “Don’t do this. It’s not too late.”

Looking away from him, Mac asked, “Have you been drinking?”

“A little,” Clay admitted. “But, Sarah…”

“No. I gave you your chance. You…” Mac couldn’t form the words.

“I know,” Clay started, “and I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I never meant for this to happen. You’ve got to believe me.”

“I do. I just don’t trust you. I can’t be in this without trust. Please sign the papers, let both of us go.”

Looking from the papers in his hands to his wife, Clay pondered it. “You’re going to go to him, aren’t you?”

“Who?”

“Rabb.” He spat the name out like it left a dirty taste in his mouth.

Sighing, Mac took a few steps away. “Right now, I’m not interested in anybody.”

“You’ve always been interested in him,” Clay stated in an accusatory tone.

Turning back to face him, Mac couldn’t deny his accusation. She had always been interested in Harm. He’d always been there for her. But it wasn’t up to her alone as to whether or not things ever worked out between them. And now there was Emma…

Pulling a pen out of his pocket, Clay squatted beside the coffee table and prepared to sign the documents. “I hope he makes you happy.”

Nodding, Mac watched as Clay lowered the ink pen to the papers and scrawled out his name on the lines beneath those where her signatures had been for days. Straightening, he put the pen away and handed Mac the papers. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Turning away from her to head to the front door, Clay spotted Emma standing at the base of the steps, watching them, clutching her unicorn to her chest, tears falling from her eyes. She didn’t completely understand what was going on, but she knew enough. Running to her daddy, she wrapped her tiny arms around his legs, hugging him as tightly as she could. “Don’t go, Daddy,” she sobbed.

Bending low, Clay picked Emma up and hugged her. “I’ll still see you, sweetheart.”

“You still love me?” she asked, her eyes full of painful curiosity.

“Of course I do. It’s just that…” Clay hesitated, turning to look at Mac.

Mac was watching the scene in front of her, her heart breaking for Emma. She never wanted to put her through this, never make her hurt like this.

“Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other anymore. I’ll always love you. So will Mommy.”

“For ever and ever?” Emma asked.

“For ever and ever,” Clay answered. “I promise.”

Moving close to the pair, Mac stroked Emma’s cheek, gently pushing her auburn strands away. “Mommy, too.”

“‘Kay,” Emma sniffled. Looking at her parents, she asked, “Can we go to the park tomorrow?”

Mac and Clay turned to look at each other. “I think that’d be good,” Mac nodded. “All three of us.”

Nodding, Clay agreed. “All three of us.”

Smiling through her tears, Emma wrapped her arms around Clay’s neck, pulling herself close to him. “Love you, Mommy, Daddy.”

“Love you, too,” both of her parents responded, each of them meaning it with their whole heart.

-----

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
1735 Hours (local)

Standing outside Harm’s door, Mac gazed out the window at the pouring rain as she said, “I’m out of here. I’ve got to go pick Emma up from daycare.”

Glancing up from his work, Harm followed Mac’s gaze out the window. “Be careful out there.”

“I will,” Mac smiled softly. “People here don’t know how to drive in the rain.”

“Very true,” Harm nodded.

For a moment, it was silent as they watched the rain slide down the glass. “You okay?” Harm asked, breaking the silence, as he turned to look at Mac.

Shrugging, Mac looked down at her feet. “Yeah, I guess so. Tired. Emma has enough energy to run circles around me.”

“But other than that, you’re doing okay?”

“Yeah,” Mac looked up, meeting Harm’s gaze. “I am. He was never home, Harm, and even when he was… I’m not sure he was ever really here.”

Regarding her carefully for a minute, Harm set down his pen. “I was getting ready to leave in a few minutes. How about you, me, and Emma go out for dinner? You wouldn’t have to cook…”

“Nah,” Mac shook her head. “Thanks, but no thanks. Emma’s a lot of work in restaurants.”

“How about I come over then, cook dinner for you guys?”

“You don’t have to.”

“I want to,” Harm stated firmly. “Do you want me to?”

“Well…”

Harm thought she was going to turn him down. She did look exhausted, and he knew Emma was a bundle of energy. He wanted to do anything he could to help her out. “I want to do this, Mac. I want to cook for the two of you.”

“Okay,” she agreed weakly. “Come on over.” As much as she loved Harm’s cooking, she was reluctant to agree. She didn’t feel like entertaining, and she didn’t want him to come over because he felt like she needed help. She didn’t need help; she and Emma had managed just fine for the last several years as Clay tramped all over the world. But if he genuinely wanted to cook… Plus, she knew he missed Mattie since she had moved back down to Blacksburg a month earlier to attend Virginia Tech.

“Good,” Harm smiled, picking up the pen he had laid down. “Go get Emma. I’ll meet you there.”

Turning from his office, Mac made her way to the front doors, down the elevator, and stepped out of the building into the pouring rain. Somehow, it didn’t seem as cold as it had just a few minutes earlier from inside her own office.

-----

Mac’s House
Fairfax, Virginia
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
2029 Hours (local)

Dropping herself on to the couch, Mac leaned back into the cushions, resting her head.

“She is a handful,” Harm admitted. “Sorry about not having her in bed on time.”

“That’s okay,” Mac answered, turning her head to look at him as he sat next to her on the couch. “It happens. I’m not always good about getting her in bed on time, either. Plus, she had fun with you.”

“I got a little wetter than I planned…” he trailed off, grinning.

“She does love her baths. She loves to splash, and she’s not real good at keeping the water in the tub.”

“So I noticed,” Harm remarked, rolling his eyes. His t-shirt was completely soaked through, and his jeans weren’t much better. But the laughter of that little girl while she was in the tub was worth the dampness.

For a long while, Mac found herself staring at the blank TV screen, reliving the evening. Harm had met them at her house, arms full of groceries. He had cooked them a delicious meal, which Emma had swallowed almost as fast as her mother, then he had washed the dishes while Mac and Emma spent some time together. In the tub, Emma had wanted Harm to give her a bath, not Mac, so Mac had gone down the hall to pay some bills, listening to the squealing laughter of her daughter and Harm’s deeper laughter as it drifted out of the room. When it was bedtime, Emma wanted both of them to read her a story, a longer one, so they had sat on her bed, one on either side of her, and read her a Dr. Seuss book.

Shifting positions, Mac turned herself on the couch and leaned against Harm, feeling the dampness of his shirt as it soaked through hers.

“She looks like you, you know,” Harm said softly.

“She does?”

“Yeah. She has your eyes, your nose, your hair…”

“Clay has brown eyes and brown hair, too,” she pointed out.

“Nah,” Harm shook his head as he slipped his arm around Mac’s midsection. “His are a different color brown.”

Turning her head to look up at Harm, she asked, “Is it good that she looks like me?”

Meeting Mac’s gaze, Harm smiled softly as he said, “For now it is. I mean, when she’s fifteen, you might not like it so much…”

“Smart-alek,” Mac grinned.

“But it’s good,” Harm continued. “She’s beautiful, just like her mom.”

Breaking the gaze, Mac whispered, “Thanks.”

“Clay is a fool, Mac, for letting you get away, for throwing out what he had with you.”

Sighing, closing her eyes, Mac said, “I don’t want to talk about Clay. Not now.”

“Then what did you want to talk about?”

“Who says we have to talk about anything?”

Using his free hand to stroke her hair, longer than it had been a few years ago, Harm remained silent, content to keep the peace. After a few minutes, he felt Mac’s breathing deepen, the rising and falling of her rib cage beating out a steady rhythm. For the moment, there was no where else he’d rather be.

Some time later, Harm awakened as he felt a weight lift from his chest. Yawning, he opened his eyes to find Mac looking down at him. Somehow, he had slid a little lower into the couch, and now Mac was propping herself up, barely touching him. Where she had been pressed up next to him was so warm it burned.

“Guess I fell asleep,” Mac said, also yawning.

“You weren’t the only one,” Harm said as he pushed himself up straighter on the couch. “Emma will wear you out.”

“That she will.”

Watching Mac for another minute, Harm let out another yawn and said, “I should go.”

Pulling further away from him, Mac pushed herself up off the couch and stretched upward, her long sleeve shirt rising up to reveal a flash of skin.

Unable to resist, Harm reached out and let his fingers graze the bare skin, gently tickling her.

“Eek!” Mac squealed, jumping backwards, her hands moving quickly to her front to block the attack.

“Sorry,” Harm said. “I had to do it.”

“You are not sorry,” Mac smiled. “Crazy for doing that to a Marine, but not sorry.”

“You’re right, I’m not sorry,” Harm responded, grinning as he got to his feet. Moving to the front door, he said, “Thanks for letting me come over and cook.”

“It was a good dinner. I had fun. So did Emma. Thanks for your help,” Mac smiled.

“I had fun, too.” Stopping in front of the door, Harm turned to face her. “Anytime you want to do this again, I’m willing.”

“Thank you.”

Reaching up, Harm pushed a few strands of Mac’s hair out of her face, tucking it gently behind her ear. “I mean it, Mac. Anytime.” Without giving her a chance to respond, he bent low and kissed her gently, but firmly, on her lips.

She wasn’t startled; she had seen it coming. She had expected it earlier, when they were on the couch together. Unsure of what was happening between them, or even if she was ready for it, Mac was reluctant to push him away now. Allowing the kiss to linger, kissing him back to draw it out, she missed him when he moved away, unable to push him from her.

Smiling at her, he reached for the doorknob behind his back as he said, “Anytime, Mac. When you’re ready.” Opening the door and stepping outside, he pulled the door shut behind him, leaving Mac still standing in the foyer, watching him go.

She saw him through the windows as he stepped off the front porch and walked towards his SUV. Her skin had been on fire where he touched her, but it paled in comparison to the burning she was now feeling on her lips, and somewhere else deeper inside. One kiss was all it took to set her whole body on fire.

She locked the door behind him, turned off the lights, and went upstairs to go to bed. Lying in the darkness, she missed the warmth of his body beside her, and she didn’t sleep as well for the rest of the night as she had for the few hours he had been with her.

-----

Park near Mac’s House
Fairfax, Virginia
Saturday, October 27, 2007
1553 Hours (local)

They were sitting on a bench in the park, both of them keeping an eye on Emma as she ran around the playground, squealing with delight as she chased other kids around, and in turn, was chased by other kids. Her lilac windbreaker was unzipped, fluttering in the breeze as she ran, pausing every once in a while to look back at her mom and Harm. Once she was assured that everything was okay, she would continue running.

The sunlight was filtering through the red and gold leaves on the trees overhead, creating a dappled shade. It was unseasonably warm outside, given how late in October it was, and many people were outside, determined to make the best of it. Turning to look at Harm, Mac said, “Thanks for coming today. Emma loves having you around.”

“Thanks for inviting me,” Harm smiled, his eyes still on Emma as she climbed up the slide, forgoing the ladder and just running up the board. “You know I love spending time with you guys.”

Turning back to Emma, Mac nodded. “It was just such a nice day outside, I had to bring her out.”

“She seems to be enjoying it,” Harm gestured with his head. “Too bad it’s supposed to get colder on Tuesday, just before Halloween.”

“I know,” Mac sighed, leaning back on the bench, eyes on Emma. “She’s excited about it, going trick-or-treating.”

“Dressed up as a cat, right?”

“Yup. She picked it out. She’s so cute with her little kitty ears on, too,” Mac grinned, glowing with pride.

“I’ll bet she is. You know I expect to see pictures,” Harm turned to look at her.

“I know,” Mac nodded. “I’d take them anyway. And Clay wants some. He thought he would be able to make it home to go with us, but he doesn’t think it’ll happen now,” she said, a bit of sadness in her voice. Emma had really wanted to go trick-or-treating with both her and Clay, and she had been so disappointed the previous evening when Clay had called and said he probably wouldn’t make it.

“I thought he was supposed to have her this weekend,” Harm stated, the sentence coming out almost like a question.

“Did I tell you that?” Mac asked, turning to look at him. At his nod, she went on, “He was, but he got called out of town to go to Germany.”

“Oh,” Harm said. Sometimes he hated prying into Mac’s life like that. “Was Emma sad?”

“Yeah,” Mac shrugged. “But she knows by now that these things happen. Still, it hurts her every time. Clay tries to make up for it. He sends her gifts from wherever he is, if possible. This time he sent her a musical carousel. She loves it, as she loves all his gifts. Then she and I sit down with maps and a globe and I show her where he is and where we are, try to make her feel better about things, let her know that her daddy loves her.” Smiling wryly, Mac added, “She’s going to be a geography whiz by the time she starts studying it in school.”

“Not a bad thing,” Harm nodded. “It sounds like you’re making the best of it. Clay, too.”

“I know he loves her, Harm, I just wish he’d be here more often to show it.”

“I know, but you can’t control him, you can’t make him come home.”

“I never could,” Mac spat out, still feeling bitter about the reasons behind their divorce.

“Okay,” Harm said, leaning back on the bench to put his arm over Mac’s shoulder. “New subject. Do you have any plans for Thanksgiving yet?”

“Not really,” Mac shrugged, turning to look at him. “It’s still a month off.”

“You have to start planning early for these things,” Harm insisted, removing his arm from Mac’s shoulders and leaning forward, elbows resting on his knees. “If you guys aren’t doing anything, with Clay, I mean, and if you want to, come over to my place for dinner that day. Mattie and I were going to fly out to California and visit my mom and Frank, but they decided to go on a cruise. So it’ll be just me and Mattie and we’d love to have you.”

“We’ll see,” Mac nodded. “It depends on Clay, where he is and what he wants to do. But I’ll let you know.”

“Sounds fair.”

“Thanks, though,” Mac said softly, reaching over to grab Harm’s hand and squeeze it gently before letting it go. “How is Mattie doing?”

“She’s doing fine,” Harm smiled. “She loves it down there, and she’s even managed to run into some of her old friends from back when she lived down there. Plus, a lot of her friends from here go there, too. Tech is a popular destination. But she’s not calling on the phone so much anymore. She is looking forward to coming home for Thanksgiving, though.”

“And you are, too,” Mac added in a teasing tone.

Glancing quickly at Mac, Harm grinned and said, “Yeah, I am, too. I miss having her around, Mac.”

“So, she settled in okay?”

“Yeah. The first two weeks or so were rough, but after that…”

“You worry about her?”

“All the time.”

“She’s a good kid,” Mac assured him. “You did a good thing when you took her in.”

“Thanks,” Harm nodded.

“Is she still keeping in touch with her dad?”

“Yeah. They’re trying to work some things out, but it isn’t easy, for either one of them. Mattie understands what happened, but she has a hard time forgiving him.”

“At least she’s got the chance. No matter the outcome,” Mac said softly, “I think she’ll be better off. You’ve given her an opportunity I never had and I hope she’s able to appreciate it.”

“I think she does,” Harm nodded, “and hey, you didn’t turn out too bad,” he grinned.

Rolling her eyes, Mac smiled.

Emma came running over to them. “Come push me on the swing, Harm!” she demanded.

“What do you say?” Mac asked.

“Please,” Emma added in a begging tone, giving Harm her best pleading-puppy-dog look.

Glancing at Mac, he rose to his feet at her nod. “Let’s go, kiddo.”

Mac remained on the bench, a faint smile on her lips, content to watch them enjoy the autumn afternoon.

-----

Harm’s House
Lorton, Virginia
Thursday, November 22, 2007
1607 Hours (Local)

“At least she’s taking a nap,” Harm’s voice said from behind her.

“So is yours,” Mac turned to face him, smiling.

“Worse things have been known to happen than a teenager taking a nap,” Harm shrugged. “School’s been making her tired.”

Turning back to the scene in front of them, Mac said, “I can see that.”

“They’re cute, though, aren’t they?” Harm grinned.

Emma and Mattie were both lying on the bed in Mattie’s old bedroom, passed out. All four of them had stuffed their faces with turkey and other various dishes. Mac herself was feeling rather sleepy, but she was glad to see Emma napping. It would make her less of a nightmare to deal with later. “They are cute. They look like they have the right idea, too.”

“I’ve got to agree with you there,” Harm grinned. Stepping away from the scene, Harm moved from Mattie’s doorway to head down the stairs. He had bought the house about a year after Mattie first became his ward, after it became apparent that her dad was not going to sober up very quickly, that it was going to be a long, drawn out process. Mac was quick to follow Harm down the steps.

At the base of the stairs, Harm paused and said, “I’d suggest taking a walk, but I know you probably don’t want to leave Emma.”

“I know she’d be okay with Mattie,” Mac began, “but I don’t want to leave Emma here without telling Mattie, and I’m not waking her up.”

“Probably a wise move,” Harm smiled as he walked into the living room and plopped himself on the couch, propping his feet up on the coffee table.

Following him into the room, Mac sat beside him and said, “Thanks for dinner. It was delicious.”

“Thanks for the pies,” Harm added. “They were heavenly.”

“But don’t you dare ask me how fattening they were,” Mac warned. “You don’t want to know.”

“It’s Thanksgiving,” Harm grinned. “Calories and fat don’t count.”

“I like that theory, but I don’t think it applies,” Mac smiled, relaxing back into the couch.

“What do you have to worry about? You still look great.”

Snorting, Mac said, “It doesn’t come easy, Harm. The older I get, the more I have to work for it, especially after having Emma.”

“True for all of us, I think,” Harm assured her. “I know I’ve got to work harder for it than I used to.”

Looking down at Harm’s midsection, Mac poked him in the stomach. “Like you’ve ever had to work for those abs! They’ve always been perfect.”

Laughing, Harm caught Mac’s hand in his own. “Yeah, right.”

Joining Harm’s laughter, Mac closed her eyes and leaned up against Harm.

“What are you doing Saturday night?” Harm asked her, his voice heavy in the air.

“Nothing, probably.”

“Mattie’s home from school. She’d probably be more than happy to baby-sit, if you wanted to go to dinner.”

“With you?”

“Yeah, with me.”

Beneath her ear, Mac could hear Harm’s heart racing in his chest. She had the suspicion that this wouldn’t be just a friendly dinner to him. “You mean like a date?”

“Yeah. If that’s okay. If not then, we could-”

Cutting him off with her fingertips on his lips, Mac whispered, “I’d love to go out with you.”

For a moment, Harm was stunned by how easy it was, and by her answer. Not sure of what to say, Harm pulled Mac closer to him, pulled her face closer to his, and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.

Mac’s fingers, which had been pushed aside when Harm pulled her face closer to his, found their way to the back of his head and began playing with the tiny hairs there. Harm’s hands pulled her body close to his, pressing her waist to his.

When Harm opened his eyes, Mac’s eyes were open as well, a smile on her face. “What?” he asked, unable to hold back his own grin.

“If I get that just by agreeing to go out with you, maybe I should agree to doing things with you more often.”

“Maybe you should,” Harm agreed, pressing Mac’s head down into his chest.

They were both content to lie there, and even managed to take a nap themselves.

-----

Mac’s House
Fairfax, Virginia
Saturday, November 24, 2007
2301 Hours (local)

“I had a nice time tonight,” Mac smiled to Harm as they stood in front of her front door.

“So did I,” he said, reaching down to take her hand in his.

Breaking the gaze they had been holding, Mac looked down at her feet. “I don’t know what we’re doing, Harm, or where this is going. I don’t even know if I’m ready for it.”

“I know, Mac,” Harm said softly. “You know, when you first told me you were pregnant with Clay’s baby, I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I knew it was true, but I didn’t want to believe it. And then you told me about your marriage, and I… I knew it was over. I knew that you and I would never get a chance to work out this… thing… between us. It’s always been there, Mac, we both know it. And maybe it’s for the best that you didn’t tell me before you married Clay. Look what happened with Brumby.”

Mac had to laugh lightly at the memory. That one sure had gotten screwed up.

“But when you told me, a part of my heart broke. And I’m sorry you guys had problems and that he hurt you. And I’m sorry Emma got hurt, too. But I feel like this is our second chance, a chance to try and see what there is between us. I’m not going to let it get away. I don’t know where this is going or what is going to happen, but I do know what I would like to happen. And I know you might not be ready for it, and I’m willing to wait until you are ready, but I’m not going to leave you second-guessing what I want. I want you to know how I feel.”

Tears shimmering in her eyes, Mac looked up at Harm and met his gaze. “And how do you feel, Harm?”

Reaching up to brush her cheek with the back of his hand, gently pushing a few loose strands of hair aside, he said, “I care about you, Mac. I don’t ever want to see you get hurt again. I adore Emma, and I know that you guys are a package deal. I know Clay will always be a part of your life, and I’m okay with that. I love Emma and I want her to grow up in a world where anything is possible, where she knows that she’s loved. I want to be a part of your life, Mac, with Emma. I’m not going to walk away in a few years if things get bad. I’m not going to walk away from you for another woman, no matter how far apart we may be. I won’t ask you to give up your career or your dreams for me. I want to be there when you wake up in the morning, I want to be there when you fall asleep at night, and all the moments in between, when you laugh, when you cry, when you’re sick, and when you’re tired, all the time. Because I love you, Mac.”

Taking a step back, putting some space between them, Mac wiped at the tears on her cheeks. “That’s a lot to take in on a first date.”

“I don’t want there to be any confusion,” Harm shrugged. “I’m getting too old to play these games.”

Smiling, a few more tears spilling out of her eyes, Mac nodded. “I think we both are.” Silent for a moment, Mac chose her next words carefully. “Clay couldn’t get over you. He always believed I’d end up with you, or that you and I were having an affair. Even as he signed the divorce papers. I didn’t deny it then, when he said that I would go to you.”

“Mac, we can take this slow, just please don’t push it away,” Harm pleaded, reaching for her hands once more.

Stepping towards him, she tilted her head up to him. “I have no intention of doing so.” This time, she initiated the kiss, but Harm was quick to respond.

He pulled her body close to his, wanting to feel every inch of her. Tracing his tongue around the edges of her lips, he was rewarded when she opened her mouth and allowed his tongue to explore the warm recesses.

Groaning softly into his mouth, Mac was content to let him lead in this dance. Pulling away after a minute, Mac smiled and said, “We should go inside.”

Opening the door for her, he ushered her in.

Mattie was sitting at Mac’s kitchen table, reading for school. Looking up, she smiled when she saw their flushed faces. “I won’t even ask,” she grinned. “I know you had a good time.”

Neither Harm nor Mac denied it. Instead, Harm slipped his arm around Mac’s waist and pulled her close to him. “Pack your stuff up. We need to get home. We’ve got to get up early in the morning.” Leading Mac out of the kitchen, Harm helped her out of her coat and then the two of them slipped upstairs to check on Emma.

Emma was snuggled up under the covers, sound asleep. Stepping quietly into the room, Mac walked to Emma’s bed and kissed her goodnight. Standing in the doorway, Harm watched, a smile on his face.

Once back downstairs, Mattie slipped out the front door to get into Harm’s SUV, and give the other two a moment alone. Kissing Mac quickly on the lips, Harm said, “Goodnight, Mac. I’ll call you tomorrow when I get back from Blacksburg.”

“Goodnight, Harm. Drive carefully tomorrow. And tell Mattie thanks.”

“I think she’s pretty happy with the results,” Harm grinned.

“So am I,” Mac smiled.

As he opened the door, Harm said, “That makes three of us, then. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Once he was out the door, Mac watched the SUV as it backed down the driveway and out into the street. Looking out over the yard, Mac could see stars on the horizon. The night had been cold, but clear, and the stars had come out to shine. At that moment, it seemed to Mac like the stars had come out to shine just for them.

-----

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
1515 Hours (local)

“You got a minute, Mac?” Harm asked, standing in her doorway.

“For you, sure,” Mac smiled. She would be leaving in a few minutes to pick Emma up from daycare, but she could spare Harm a minute. As it was, she would be taking work home with her anyway. “What can I do for you?”

“For Christmas, is Clay still planning on not being there with you and Emma?”

“Yeah,” Mac frowned for a moment. “He hasn’t said that he’ll be on a mission this time, so it’s probably one of his personal conquests,” she said bitterly.

Harm considered responding, but bit his tongue. Instead he said, “Well, I was thinking, if you wanted to, you and Emma could come over on Christmas Eve and spend the night. Mattie will be home, but we can make room for the two of you. And I’d love to have you.”

Looking up at him, Mac considered his proposal. Smiling once more, she said, “You know, that sounds really good. Emma would love it; she just adores Mattie.”

“The feeling is completely mutual,” Harm assured her.

“We’ll come.”

“Good,” Harm grinned, relaxing against the doorframe. “I’m looking forward to it.”

“Me too,” Mac leaned back in her chair. “Heading home?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he nodded. “I’m at a good stopping point on the Dithers case, so I’m going to call it a night on that one. I’ve still got some stuff to do on the Burns case, though, so that’ll be coming home with me.”

“Me, too,” Mac nodded. “The Poole case is killing me, so I’ve got to work on it at home.”

“Anyway,” Harm started, pulling away from the wall, “how about I give you a call later so we can work things out for Christmas?”

“That’d be good,” Mac smiled, straightening the files on her desk. “Now you’ve really got me excited about Christmas, too.”

Eyes twinkling, Harm turned and said, “Goodnight, Mac. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Goodnight, Harm,” Mac called after him, smiling and shaking her head.

-----

Harm’s House
Lorton, Virginia
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
0107 Hours (local)

“Are we done?” Harm asked, looking around the room. The floor under the Christmas tree was completely covered in gifts, some wrapped and many not wrapped. Emma had a large pile of toys, a little slice of heaven for any three-year-old girl. Mattie also had a pile of stuff, mostly consisting of CDs, books, and clothes.

Stepping back from the tree after straightening the last of Emma’s gifts, Mac nodded her head, looking around at the mass of presents. “I think so,” she smiled. “And I think we’ll have some happy girls in the morning.”

“Me, too,” Harm agreed, stepping to stand beside Mac, draping one arm over her shoulders. “I’m really glad you came, Mac.”

“So am I. This has been fun.” Shaking her head, Mac sighed. “It’ll be nice for a change. I think it’s been only me and Emma for the last few years. Even with Clay around, he wasn’t around.”

“I know,” Harm said gently. “And I’m sorry for the way he treated you. You didn’t deserve it, and certainly Emma didn’t deserve it. But it’s been just me and Mattie for the last few years, too. We went to see my mom and Frank once, but other than that, it’s been just the two of us, so I’m really enjoying this.”

“But you know what? I don’t regret it,” Mac stated seriously. “All of Emma’s birthdays where it was just the two of us, or the Christmases we spent alone… I wouldn’t give them up for anything.” Earlier in the month, Mac had hosted a birthday party for Emma and several of her friends from daycare. Clay had managed to make it to the party. So had Harm. And other than a few tense moments, the adults had behaved as well as the three-year-olds. Looking up at Harm, she went on, “I love that little girl, and I’m really glad I’ve got her in my life.”

Looking down at Mac and hugging her close, Harm smiled as he said, “I know what you mean. It may not always be easy, but they’re worth it.” He hadn’t had an easy time of it with Mattie over the last few years, but they had managed. And even after all the arguments and the anxious hours he had spent waiting for her to come home, after the long and drawn out court processes to finally get her, he wouldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.

“Do you ever think that maybe we’re better for it? Waiting all this time to finally get to where we are?”

Nodding, Harm gazed at the tree. “Sometimes. I think they’ve made us better people. I think they’ve taught us to love unconditionally, that life might not always be pretty and perfect, but we still have responsibility, people who look up to us, who love us, and people who we love.”

Nodding, Mac added, “It’s been amazing to watch them grow up, to watch them learn… It reminds me that there is more to life than work and traffic.”

“Life goes on.”

“Yeah.”

For a moment, the house was silent as Harm and Mac hung on to each other, looking at the lives they had created for themselves while two girls slept upstairs.

“Shall we go to bed?” Harm asked gently.

Nodding, Mac turned to head upstairs. They had discussed it earlier, and rather than one of them sleeping on the couch, they had agreed to share Harm’s bed, and while neither of them expected sex, both of them hoped for it. Harm followed close behind, leaving the lights on the Christmas tree lit for this night only, knowing it would only be a few more hours before they came back down here.

After brushing their teeth and washing their faces, Harm and Mac slipped under the sheets of his bed, side by side, as if they had been doing so for years. Turning out the light, Harm turned his head to gaze at Mac, her face illuminated by the moonlight. He found her gazing at him, her brown eyes reflecting the moon. Reaching up to gently touch her face, he said, “Merry Christmas, Mac.” Quieter, he added, “I love you.”

“Merry Christmas, Harm,” Mac returned, a soft smile on her lips. “I love you, too.”

A smile touching his lips, he leaned forward and kissed Mac gently, allowing her to deepen it. When she did, she pressed herself closer to Harm, her body flush against his. Wrapping one arm around her, Harm held her close, content to have her by his side, but hoping for more. When he felt her throw one leg over him, he gently slipped his hand up under the tank top she was wearing, caressing the soft skin on her side.

Giggling lightly, Mac puller her lips away from his, smiling. “That tickles!”

“Does it?” Harm grinned, running his fingers lightly over her side once more.

Jumping slightly in his arms, Mac tried to look angry, but she couldn’t hide the upturning of her lips. “It most certainly does.”

“Well, I’m not sorry,” Harm stated plainly, his hands still on Mac’s midsection.

“Well, Santa might not be too nice to you if you keep that up.”

“I think he’s already been pretty good to me,” Harm shrugged, looking unconcerned. “I’ve already got you here, and you’re all I really want.”

“If that’s the case,” Mac grinned, leaning forward to kiss him again.

Moving his hand further upward, Harm traced the shape of Mac’s breasts, fuller now than they had been a few years earlier, not that he had been able to feel them then. Rubbing his thumb over her nipple, he moved down to kiss her throat.

Mac allowed Harm to go where he wanted, reveling in the attention he was lavishing on her. Her hands were exploring the hard muscles of his shoulders and back, enjoying every bit of her freedom to explore him.

Slowly, piece by piece, their clothes came off, following the barriers that had come down over the last few months. And as they explored each other’s body, and enjoyed the attention the other was giving, each of them knew that this was what the last few years had been leading up to. All the hardships between them, all the trials they had been through, both in the courtroom and out, and the soft, sweet moments between them, they had all been leading up to this moment, the moment where they finally let down all their walls and let each other in.

After their love-making, they fell asleep holding each other, feeling that this was quite possibly the best Christmas ever.

-----

Mac’s House
Fairfax, Virginia
Saturday, July 26, 2008
1607 Hours (local)

They sky outside was dark and threatening. It had been raining off and on all afternoon, and the weather was expected to go on like this for the next several days, with the occasional thunderstorm added for variety. Harm and Mac had been working on a few cases while Emma played with a few toys in the room with them. Mattie was at work, where she could be found much of the time now that she was home for the summer.

Looking up at Harm and Mac, Emma asked, “Mommy, are you ever going to marry Harm?”

Looking like a deer caught in the headlights, Mac asked, “What do you mean, Emma?”

“Everybody gets married. Miss Harriet and Mr. Bud are married. At school, Lucy’s mommy and daddy are married. On TV they get married. Mr. Frog and Miss Duck are married,” she said, referring to two of her stuffed animals upstairs. “Are you ever going to marry Harm?”

“Well,” Mac said, turning to look at Harm for a moment. “That isn’t only up to mommy. It’s up to Harm, too.”

“Do you want to marry my mommy?” Emma asked, her face as serious as could be.

Turning to look at Mac, Harm cocked his head. “I’d like to, if she’d have me.”

A smile tugging at her lips, Emma turned to look at her mom.

Mac wasn’t looking at Emma, but she was looking at Harm instead. “Are you serious?” she asked.

Holding up one finger, Harm said, “Hold on a minute.” He got up from the couch and raced up the stairs. Mac could hear his footsteps as they walked along the hall and into the bedroom, where they paused for a moment before heading back to the stairs and back down. When he came back into the room, he got down on one knee in front of Mac and pulled a ring out from behind his back. He asked simply, “Will you marry me, Mac?”

Smiling broadly, Mac nodded as she said, “Yes.”

Slipping the ring on to Mac’s finger, Harm smiled as he met her gaze. “Yes, Mac, I am serious.”

Behind them, Emma tapped Harm on his shoulder. “Harm? When you marry my mommy, can I call you daddy?”

Looking at Harm, Mac was glad to see his smile brighten still further when she didn’t think that was possible.

Standing up and hugging Emma tightly to him, Harm said, “Emma, you can call me daddy any time you want.”

Grinning, Emma laughed. “Now I have two daddies! I love you… daddy.”

“I love you, too, sweetheart,” Harm responded, setting Emma gently down on the ground, planting a kiss on her forehead before he straightened. Turning to Mac, he pulled her up from the couch and embraced her in a hug. Looking down over her shoulder at the smaller version of his fiancée, he found Emma looking up at him. Smiling, Harm winked at her.

-Fini

********

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