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Harm pushed the door open with his foot, dropping the suitcase just inside, and then closing it again before dropping the keys and his mail onto the bar. Going to the refrigerator, he pulled out a beer and opened it, glad to be home- and wondering when his next mission would start.
Lifting the beer to his lips, he moved toward the living room, and stopped as he noticed the light flashing on the answering machine. The counter revealed that he had several messages waiting, and hesitated a moment before pressing the "play" button. Taking his beer, he went to the bar and sat down as the first message began to play.
"It's me, old buddy," Sturgis said, and Harm managed a grin as he took another drink and sorted through the mail. At least he'd be able to pay the bills with what he was making at the Agency. "Guess you're not there. Give me a call when you get back. We'll have a drink or something. I'd like to hear about how your training went. Still can't believe you took that job. Anyway. Call me."
The machine revealed that the call had come in shortly after Harm had left for Guam on Friday morning.
The next message wasn't a message at all, and Harm paused as he lifted the bottle again. The line was open, he could hear noises in the background, but no one said anything. Then whoever it was hung up, and the machine clicked.
That one had come in late on Friday evening.
"It's Bud, sir. I just wanted to remind you that you're still invited to the baby's christening this afternoon- and to thank you for the gift you sent. Harriet's really hoping you'll be here, sir. Even with all that- JAG's not the same without you there. I miss having you around," Bud admitted, and Harm sat the beer onto the counter. "Are you trying to avoid me? You haven't returned any of mine or Harriet's calls. Anyway, she just wanted to me let you know that you're still our friend, even though you're not in the Navy anymore. That didn't come out right-" he heard Bud's deep, frustrated sigh, then, "Just wanted to let you know that we're here if you need to talk or anything. Bye."
That one had come in Saturday morning.
The fourth call was like the second- only this time, the background sounds were different. Muted. He thought he heard music playing - but no other sounds before the caller hung up and the machine confirmed that the call had come in late on Sunday night.
Wrong numbers, Harm told himself, dismissing the blank messages. He'd call Sturgis, let him know that he was okay but that he was too busy getting up to speed with this new job to meet for a drink.
As for Bud- He'd been away training when the baby had been born, and Bud had left a similar message on his machine then, letting Harm know that he was welcome to come see the new baby and attend the christening when it was arranged - Harm had sent a gift by messenger service, but hadn't returned the call.
His life in the Navy was over. It was something that he had to deal with- and staying in close contact with those with whom he'd spent most of the last nine years would only prolong the pain of losing something he'd worked so long to achieve. He still couldn't believe it some days. He still woke up late and thought that he was going to be late for duty and that the Admiral would have his six - only to remember that he wasn't part of that world anymore.
As much as he wanted to call Bud, let his friend know that he was okay, Harm knew that a clean break was probably the best way. The same with Sturgis.
He picked up an envelope, frowning as he felt something inside slide to the end. There was no return address, but Harm recognized the handwriting. Tearing the end of the envelope away, he tipped it down to the bar - and winced as a key hit the tile. He stared at it for a moment, and then picked it up.
It was a key to his apartment. The one he'd given Mac. He knew that because she had a tendency to 'color code' her keys. She had placed red fingernail polish on the key to her own apartment door, pink on the one to her car, - the blue polish on this one he'd laughed about- teasing her about using green fingernail polish. She had given him an exasperated look and told him that Chloe had left it during her last visit - but that the color reminded her of his eyes, so she'd know it was the key to his apartment.
And now she had given it - no, *mailed* it back. Guess that told him where they stood, didn't it? Maybe he needed to call her, let her know he'd gotten the key- and the message. His hand hovered over the telephone as he recalled Beth O'Neil's words.
"When you're ready to talk to her, then you'll know it's over."
Was he *really* ready for it to be over, he wondered. He picked up his beer again, deciding that the call could wait.
Because he wasn't ready. And he wanted to be. She probably wasn't at home anyway. Scuttlebutt had it that she and Webb had been seen around town together. Webb had returned to work- but so far, he hadn't crossed Harm's path- mostly because Harm had only been back from the Farm for less than a week- and then he'd gone on that mission to the Philippines. Blaisdell had told him to stay by the phone, that they might have something coming up pretty soon for him.
Thank goodness he hadn't pressed further about the invitation to become a field agent. It had been tempting- God knows the adrenaline rush had been great. But he knew what kind of things he'd be asked to do if he took the job. He wasn't a cold-blooded killer, no matter what he'd done in Paraguay. That had been to save Mac's life- not for any other reason.
The beer was empty, and he got another, his gaze fixed on the key that lay on the counter. It seemed that Mac was ready to move on- but then, it seemed like she was always ready to move on if someone was willing to say the right words. Hell, she'd run straight into Mic Brumby's arms after their talk in Sydney, hadn't she?
I guess their time together didn't count for much in Mac's eyes, he decided, taking a drink of the beer. She hadn't even cared enough to ask him if he was all right after the plane crash in Paraguay- or to thank him for giving up his career to save her life.
Maybe Mac had the right idea. A clean break. No need to talk about it- or fret over it. If she wanted to move on with Clayton Webb, then fine. It was her life to screw up, after all.
His gaze fell on the key to her apartment that was still on his key ring. Going to the desk, he pulled out an envelope and pen then wrote her address on it - and carried it over to the bar, where he removed her key from the others. He started to drop it into the envelope, but finally shook his head and crumpled the envelope in his hand, tossing it into the wastebasket across the room.
Returning his key through the mail might be Mac's style- but it wasn't his. He'd keep it- until the time was right. This wasn't the time. The wounds they had inflicted on each other in Paraguay were still too fresh- too new. Opening them up now wouldn't solve anything, in fact, it would probably only further irritate them.
What was that old saying that his grandmother was always quoting?
"Time heals all wounds." Yeah, that was it.
Harm took the key to Mac's apartment and carefully returned it to his key ring.
Time. That was the answer, he decided, running a hand over his face as he turned toward the bedroom. The thought of a long, hot shower and about ten hours sleep sounded pretty good at the moment.
He stopped as his Company issued cell phone began to ring. Heaving a deep sigh, Harm picked up his jacket and retrieved the phone. "Rabb."
"We have a situation, Rabb," Blaisdell said. "Get down here ASAP."
"On my way," Harm replied, giving his bed a look of regretful longing as he grabbed his jacket and keys to head out the door.