Embracing the Dark
Part 1

Rating: PG-13 (language and sexual situations)
Pairing: Mac/Clay Harm/Mac
Classification: Angst, Romance, Shipper (ultimately)
Spoilers: My stories can contain spoilers of any episode already aired in the US, and spec about future episodes as well. This one takes place just after ATW2
Disclaimer: I don't own them. If I did, this show would be *very* different by now.
Archiving: Usual drill. Archived at myjagfanfic @ Yahoogroups; and other lists; http://jagficlady.125mb.com/index.html http://fnss.dynip.com/jag/ Anywhere else, please ask I like to know where my stories end up.
A/N: This was an idea that came up on a Harm list, believe it or not. Dark Harm. Harmon Rabb embracing his 'darker side', the part of himself that he keeps carefully locked away. I couldn't write that. I know there are undoubtedly some out there who could, I happen to *like* the character, and can't see him ever irredeemably dark or evil or becoming a Clark Palmer twin. So with a little help from some of my fellow Harm-ettes, I came up with this idea. Hope you like it. If you absolutely hate the idea of a "darker" slightly out of control Harm, struggling with his anger and the base nature in everyone, you might not want to read this.
Summary: After they return from Paraguay, Harm finds out that he's no longer in the Navy and has to figure out how he's going to go on without his career and the woman he loves. Trouble is, things that happened to him in the Chaco Boreal have repercussions that no one, especially Harm, expects.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

June 2003
CIA Headquarters
Langley, VA

"A cowboy?" Harm said to Harrison Kershaw in disbelief. "I'm not the one who was on an unauthorized mission, Kershaw. If it wasn't for me, Clayton Webb and Col. Mackenzie would be dead now - and Sadik Fahd would still have those damn Stinger missiles. So I figure that's probably worth the cost of a farmer's plane - and maybe even reimbursement for what I spent getting down there."

"How about a job instead?" Kershaw asked.

Harm shook his head. "Work for the CIA? No thanks. I don't particularly like the way you people do business. I'll work out of my apartment as a lawyer if I have to. Go to work for an airline - or maybe as a test pilot. Hell, I'd drive a cab before I'd work for the same people who were willing to stand by and let two people die and a terrorist get a hold of Stingers to use against American targets."

"I really believe that you would be an asset to the Company, Mr. Rabb," Kershaw insisted. "So does your sponsor."

He turned around as Catherine Gale entered the room. Looking her over, he said, "I should have known you were somewhere behind this, Catherine. Excuse me, but - I have other things to do with my time."

He pushed past Catherine and left the office, not even pausing beside the Memorial Wall as he usually did when he was here. As soon as he got into the Lexus, he dug the bottle of aspirin out of his pocket and took two, trying to remember when he'd taken the last two. Whenever it had been, they weren't helping.

Looking up, he saw Catherine coming across the parking lot toward his vehicle. "Are you okay, Harm?" she asked, her eyes filled with friendly concern.

"Sure. I'm just great, Catherine," he ground out. "I've lost my job, spent most of my savings on that trip to Paraguay - with nothing to show for it - and the best anyone can offer me is a job as damned spook."

"It'll pay the bills," she said. "There are no openings for an attorney, but maybe you could fly -"

"Thanks but - no thanks. I'd rather keep my soul, thank you."

She reached into the truck and placed a hand on his arm. "Harm, isn't there something I can do for you? You helped my mother -"

Harm looked into her eyes and found himself smiling. "As a matter of fact, yeah. There is something you can do for me. Have dinner with me tonight."

"I don't think that's a very good idea, Harm," she said, starting to pull her hand away. But Harm grabbed it, holding on and refusing to let it go.

"It's just dinner, Cathy," he said in a soft voice, using the nickname her brother had used for her. "What are you so afraid of?"

"I'm not looking for a rebound relationship, Harm. Or any relationship right now." She tugged at her hand again. "Let me go, Harm."

He released her and put his head back against the rest, closing his eyes for a minute. "Sorry. Not sure what came over me. I've had a headache for the last couple of days."

"Probably tension," Catherine suggested. "Have you seen a doctor since you returned?"

"I'm fine," he insisted. "You're right," he said, opening his eyes and turning the key. "It's just tension. Once I find a way to relieve it, it'll go away."

"If it gets worse, please go see a doctor -"

"I will," he promised as she stepped back from the car so that he could drive away, wondering why he'd lost it in Kershaw's office - and why on earth he'd asked Catherine to dinner. He wasn't looking to start a relationship. At the moment, the last thing he needed in his life was the complication of a woman. Especially not after the fiasco that had been Paraguay.

It was never enough for Mac. He wondered if anything he did would ever be enough. He'd quit his job - the only job he'd ever wanted, something he was damn good at, given it all up to save her life and how had she repaid him?

By kissing Clayton Webb. Oh, yeah, she'd *said* nothing was going on - and yes, she had chosen to stay with him instead of with Webb that night in Paraguay - but the next morning she'd been buttering Webb's toast like they were an old married couple. And then at the hospital yesterday, they hadn't even noticed when he left the room.

"Nothing going on my foot," Harm muttered aloud, his fingers gripping the steering wheel tightly as he came to a stop at the intersection and waited for the traffic to clear. A big semi rig was approaching, and for one minute, Harm considered gunning the engine and pulling out in front of him, putting an end to -

His foot was on the gas. It would be easy. And over pretty quickly if he was lucky. And if Harmon Rabb Jr. was anything, it was lucky. The front of the Lexus edged out slightly, as he watched the oncoming truck bear down on him, coming closer and closer -

Suddenly the truck driver blew his horn and swerved, narrowly missing Harm, who fell back into his seat, his emotions a curious mixture of relief and disappointment. An old man tapped on his window, a look of worry on his lined face.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"I'm fine," Harm said. "It - stalled. Couldn't get it move."

"Will it move now?" the man questioned.

Harm gave the truck some gas. "Yeah. Thanks."

"You look a little pale," the man observed, but he didn't mention the beads of perspiration that had formed on Harm's brow as he'd waited for the end.

"I'm fine. Just a - headache. Thanks again." He checked both directions and crossed the road, this time without incident. As soon as he could, however, he pulled over onto a side street and parked, leaning forward to rest his forehead against his hand on the steering wheel, waiting until the adrenalin rush was over and his heart rate was back to normal.

But the headache was still there, and he reached for the bottle of aspirin again, taking two more. He just needed sleep; that was all. He hadn't slept much the last few weeks - make that months. Since he'd been arrested for a murder that he hadn't committed.

And then Mac had taken off for Paraguay with Webb. His fingers tightened on the wheel as he sat up, his eyes narrowed. It was all Webb's fault. There had been a time not too long ago when he'd considered the man to be a friend. He'd known Webb almost as long as he'd known Mac, had taken shameless advantage of that friendship when he needed information that only the CIA could get for him. But at the moment, Harm was torn between hating Webb for taking Mac down there and almost getting her killed, and hatred toward himself for wishing that the man had died in Paraguay.

Putting the car into gear again, Harm turned toward Union Station. He'd go home and get some sleep. Maybe when he woke up, the headache would be gone and he'd be able to think more clearly.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Two weeks later
Georgetown Tavern Restaurant

Mac sat down at the table, looking around the room as Clay said. "I can't believe you've never been here before. It's only two blocks from your apartment."

"I thought it was just your typical bar," she said.

"It's a bar," Clay confirmed, nodding toward the other side of the building, visible through the large open doorway. "But the food's not bad. Now. We're here to celebrate my being released from the hospital, so what are we going to eat? I'm ready for something that's *not* hospital food." He reached for the menu that lay before him, and had trouble making his fingers work to pick it up. "Damn." Mac reached across the table and lifted it so that he was able to get a grip on it. "Thank you, Sarah," he told her with a small smile. "I don't know what I'd do if you weren't here."

"I am here," she assured him, studying him for a moment. "Are you sure that they didn't release you too early?"

"There wasn't much more they could do. The neurologist said that the tremors should go away with time and some occupational therapy. I'm hoping they'll release me completely so I can get back to work."

"Work? You're not still planning on going back out into the field, are you?"

"It's my job, Sarah," he reminded her, leaning forward and lowering his voice. "Sadik is still out there, planning who knows what. I have to stop him."

"Why you? The man almost killed you, Clay. Surely someone else -"

"That's exactly why I need to find him and stop him, Sarah." He opened his menu, as if the topic were closed. "The London Broil looks good."

Mac nodded, her appetite suddenly evaporated as she considered the idea of Clay confronting Sadik Fahd again, this time alone, without anyone for back up. Of course, she hadn't done such a good job of backing him up last time. If it hadn't been for Harm's arriving when he did, they'd probably both be dead.

After giving the waiter their orders, Mac started looking around the room again, noticing the dark beams and attempt to copy the atmosphere of a British tavern.

The sound of laughter coming from a far corner of the bar drew her attention. "Sounds like someone's having a good time," she observed.

Clay nodded, following the direction of her gaze. "There are some pool tables over there. It's a pretty popular nightspot for guys on the make."

"On the make?" Mac repeated.

"Not that I've ever done that," Clay assured her quickly. "But I've seen it happen a few times."

"I can't quite see you hustling pool to impress a woman anyway, Clay."

More laughter reached them from the corner and Mac glanced in that direction as the crowds parted just long enough for her to see the pool table. - An attractive, buxom blonde was bent over the table, and Harm was standing behind her, 'helping' her with the shot. Mac blinked in surprise at seeing him.

"Clay - is that -"

Clay turned to look and his expression darkened as he glanced at Mac's face. "It's Rabb," he confirmed in an abrupt tone.

Mac continued to watch as the blonde made the shot and turned to give Harm a long kiss that Harm seemed to enjoy quite a bit, if the way his hands slid over her hips was any indication. He picked up a bottle of beer from the edge of the table and took a long drink before moving behind the woman to help her with another shot. "I haven't seen him since right after we got back," she told Clay. She'd left some messages for him on his machine, wondering if he was okay, but he hadn't returned them.

"I heard that he turned down a job with the Company," Clay told her.

"Harm? Work for the CIA? I don't doubt that the turned it down," Mac said, and then saw Clay's expression. She reached over to put her hand on his arm. "Clay, I just meant that -"

"I know what you meant," he replied, placing his hand over hers. "And you're right. Harm wouldn't have been happy with the Company. Doesn't have the mindset for it."

Mac's eyes moved back over to where Harm was doing a bit more than helping the woman. His hands were wandering, finally settling on her hips as he pulled her back into his crotch area. She frowned, trying to understand what was going on. It wasn't like Harm to be that flagrantly demonstrative in public. He laughed and winked at the waitress who brought him another beer, ignoring the blonde for the moment as he openly flirted with the second woman. "Something's wrong, Clay," she told him. "That's not the way Harm acts."

"Maybe you didn't know him as well as you thought you did," Clay suggested, obviously not enjoying the evening.

"He's lighting a cigar," Mac noted. "Clay, he gave up cigars four years ago."

"Mac, are we going to spend all evening worrying about Harm? He's a big boy; he can take care of himself. If he wants to play pool, drink beer, or smoke a cigar, it's his right to do so."

"Come on, Rachel, we're getting out of here."

Mac turned to see a man grab the blonde's wrist. "The lady doesn't want to leave with you," Harm said into the sudden silence in the room as all eyes focused on the drama unfolding at the pool tables.

"She came with me, she'll leave with me," the man declared, getting into Harm's face, his entire body filled with challenge. "Just because you've paid her some attention and flirted a little with her, doesn't mean she belongs to you."

"She'll make up her own mind who she wants to leave with," Harm said. "And I doubt it'll be you."

"Look, I'm getting a little tired of your coming in here every night and walking off with someone else's woman."

Harm was leaning easily against the edge of the table, a bottle of beer in one hand and the pool cue in the other. To anyone else, he looked relaxed and at ease. But Mac could see the tightly coiled muscles, waiting to be released at the right moment. "Hey," he told Rachel's boyfriend, "it's not my fault if you guys aren't man enough to keep your women happy and they go looking for greener pastures."

The man's fist streaked toward Harm's chin, but Harm saw it coming and ducked, swinging the pool cue around and pushing his assailant back onto the table, using the cue across his throat to hold him there.

"Bad idea, pal," Harm said, and Mac felt a chill down her spine at the tone and the look on his face. "I'm tired of being Mr. Nice Guy. You make another move like that on me, and you'll end up on a liquid diet. Am I clear?"

The man's head moved in the affirmative and Harm released him, stepping back. "You ready to go, Rachel?" he asked the blonde, and she glanced nervously toward her boyfriend before nodding and moving to Harm's side. Harm slipped a proprietary arm around her shoulders. "See you around, pal," he told the man, who was still rubbing his throat. Harm and Rachel left the bar via a separate entrance.

"You might be right, Sarah," Clay finally said as the waiter brought their food and conversation began to fill the silence.

"Sorry about that," the waiter apologized. "Sometimes they have a little too much to drink -"

"The one who left with the blonde - Rachel? - has he been in here before?" Mac wanted to know.

"Just about every night over the last couple of weeks. Leaves with a different woman every time, too. Most of the regulars are a little jealous, I think. Why, you know him?"

"I thought I did. But I must have been mistaken."

"He told one of the waitresses that he used to be in the Navy and flew F-14s till his CO refused to let him go after someone he cared about and so he resigned his commission." He looked at the table. "Can I get either of you anything else?"

"Not at the moment," Clay answered when Mac remained silent. "Thank you."

"I didn't know that the Admiral refused to let him go."

"Why else did you think he resigned, Sarah?" Clay asked her.

"None of this makes sense, Clay. Harm's not the kind of man who does one-night stands. There has to be more to this."

"Sarah, leave it alone. It's possible that he's just letting go a little after all those years in the Navy." He picked up fork, but his hand was shaking so badly that it fell to the table. "Maybe it would have been a better idea to order in," he sighed. "For more than one reason."

Mac heard the softly spoken comment, but chose to ignore it. She knew that Clay was jealous of Harm, worrying that Mac would choose Harm over him. Truthfully, her relationship with Clay was something that Mac deliberately didn't think about too closely. He needed her. She owed him for what he'd done down there. She enjoyed being with him. He was attentive and cared about her. Beyond that, Mac didn't want to examine things too closely.

She watched as Clay tried again to pick up his fork and succeeded on the second attempt, his shaking manageable again. She gave him an encouraging smile as she turned her attention to the London Broil, deciding to worry later about what was going on with Harm.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
03:00 Hours Local
North of Union Station

Harm entered his apartment, dropping his keys onto the counter before picking up the bottle of aspirin sitting nearby. Opening the lid, he shook out several and swallowed them as he saw the blinking light on the answering machine. Moving over to the desk, he pressed the button. Two from Mac, wanting him to call her and let her know how things were going; one from Bud, inviting him over for dinner soon because Little AJ wanted to see him; and one from Sturgis, suggesting that they meet for lunch - or a game.

Harm erased the messages. Grabbing a beer out of the fridge and taking it into the bedroom with him, removing his clothes as he went. He'd think about calling Bud and Sturgis tomorrow - make some kind of excuse. But if Mac wanted to talk, she could call Webb. At the moment, he still wasn't in any frame of mind to talk to her calmly.

He'd given it all up and was reduced to hustling for whatever legal work he could find because she hadn't even been grateful enough to defend him to the Admiral. If the situation had been reversed and Mac had been the one having to leave after saving *his* six, he would have threatened to resign as well if Mac wasn't allowed to return.

Mac's only defense had been "He saved my life, Admiral," and then nothing. He shouldn't have been surprised, though. Not after the way they all abandoned him during the trial. He could see Bud not going to the jail because of orders. Even Sturgis. The man was so by the book sometimes it was scary. But the fact that Mac hadn't come to see him had hurt.

Finishing his beer, Harm dropped onto the bed and fell asleep, hoping that for once the nightmares would stay away . . .

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

They hadn't. But then, they never did. It was the same nightmare, over and over again: killing men to get to that building where he'd seen them take Mac - only he was too late. Instead of looking at him, her eyes were glassy with death, and Harm woke up screaming her name, and a headache that was double what it had been before.

Glancing at the clock on the nightstand, Harm saw that it was nearly seven am. He needed to get up and get dressed if he was going to meet with the Petty Officer that was being charged with dereliction of duty and who had asked for Harm's assistance.

He hadn't wanted the case, but funds were starting to dwindle -still no sign that the CIA was going to compensate him for cleaning up the mess that Webb had made down in Paraguay. Taking another handful of aspirin, Harm left the apartment and headed down to the Brig at the Navy Yards.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Petty Officer Noel Johnson smiled nervously at Harm when he entered the room. "Good morning, Petty Officer," Harm said, hiding the pain in his head behind a business-like mask.

"Sir. Thank you for agreeing to see me. You helped a friend of mine a few years ago, and he said that if I ever got into trouble, you were the one I should call. I was really worried when they told me that you'd left the Navy."

"Who told you that?"

"Um, Lt. Roberts. He did the investigation on my case. He's also the one who gave me your number to call."

Harm found himself smiling for the first time in a long time. He'd have to thank Bud for pointing Johnson in his direction. "Why don't you tell me what they're saying that you did, Petty Officer?"

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

The minute Harm got back out to the Lexus, he tossed down another round of aspirin, ignoring the warning in the back of his mind that he shouldn't be taking so many - that if he was, something had to be wrong. Except for the damn headache that wouldn't go away, he felt fine. Better than he had in ages, in fact. He didn't have to be calm, cool, collected Commander Rabb. He was Harmon Rabb, Attorney at Law. And that meant he could flirt with women like the young Ensign who had been on duty when he'd gone to get his Visitor's badge. Yeah, she was young - but he was looking forward to having dinner with her whenever he got around to calling the number he had gotten from her.

He put the current reason for his headache down to the need for him to go to JAG Headquarters and talk to Bud about Noel's case, see if they could come to an agreement instead of going to court. He could intimidate Bud easy enough, he decided, and almost took the coward's way out - calling him to ask if they could meet somewhere else.

But if he was going to be taking cases like this, he might as well get used to being back there as a civilian attorney, working against the same people that he'd served with and at one time had considered to be his family. At least he wouldn't have to spend too much time there.

At least, he *hoped* he wouldn't.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

"Sturgis, have you spoken to Harm lately?" Mac asked after they finished discussing their current case.

"No. I've left several messages for him, but he hasn't returned any of them. Any particular reason you're asking?" he wanted to know, giving her a look with which Mac was all too familiar. It was a look of disappointment, and she couldn't understand the reason for it.

"Clay and I were at the Georgetown Tavern last night, and, well - Harm was there playing pool and drinking."

"Man's got a right to enjoy himself, Mac," Sturgis pointed out.

"He picked up a blonde while he was there, Sturgis. The waiter told us that Harm's been in there almost every night and he's left with a different woman each time."

Sturgis looked thoughtful. "I have to admit that it doesn't *sound* like Harm, but - like I said -"

"Have you ever seen Harm lose his temper, Sturgis? Recently, I mean."

The man considered the question before answering. "Not that I can recall. He always seems to take things on a pretty even keel."

"Not last night." She told him about the altercation between Rachel's boyfriend and Harm. "That's *not* like Harm," she finished.

"No," he agreed. "But maybe he's just trying to get back into the dating scene, Mac. It's been - what? Two years since he and Renee broke up? Long time to be out of circulation. I wouldn't worry about him."

"I can't help but worry, Sturgis."

"I'm sure that Webb was delighted with your being so concerned about Harm while having dinner with him," Sturgis pointed out, and that look was back.

"No, he wasn't. But I'd still like to think that Harm's a friend, even after -"

"After?" Mac shook her head. "You know, Mac, I haven't wanted to pry and ask what happened down there, but maybe I should." Mac looked at him. "I don't mean the mission. I know that's classified. I'm talking about between you and Harm."

She sighed deeply. "I wish I knew, Sturgis. Things started out badly and went downhill from there." It was a question she'd asked herself a hundred times since their return. When had it gone wrong? When he'd seen her kiss Clay and gotten jealous? When she had left him alone after the crash and he'd shot at her when she'd found him? They'd been sniping at each other the entire time - saying things that they hadn't meant - on her part, anyway.

Harm's decision to table their 'discussion' had simply been the last straw somehow. She'd wanted to get things settled, but all he could do was keep on about her and Clay when she had *told* him there wasn't anything going on. That kiss he'd seen had been a combination 'thank you for going through so much for me' and a good bye in case he hadn't made it. But as usual, Harm had overreacted to seeing her with another man and Mac had overreacted to *his* overreaction.

And now, here they were - not even speaking to each other. "Speak of the devil -" she commented, nodding toward the bullpen as Harm appeared, wearing a dark suit and a visitor's badge.

Sturgis was out of her office without a word to greet his old friend with a smile. "Harm, old, buddy! How are you doing?" he asked.

"Not bad, Sturgis," Harm said, his eyes sliding past the open doorway into Mac's office and away again. "I've been meaning to return your calls, but -"

"No problem. You want to have lunch?" he suggested. "Maybe catch up on what's been going on?"

"Sure. You know where Bud is?" Harm asked, seeing that Bud's office was empty.

"He's in court. Should be finished any minute, though."

Glancing around, Harm noticed that Sturgis' nameplate was hanging over what had once been *his* office. "Didn't take you long, did it, buddy?" he asked, and Sturgis frowned before following Harm's gaze to the sign.

"Oh. It wasn't my idea, Harm. The Admiral ordered me to move my stuff into that office -"

"Doesn't surprise me in the least." He looked around, smiling as he caught sight of Harriet.

"Commander!" she squealed, rushing over to him as quickly as she could, considering her condition.

"It's Harm now, Harriet," he said, giving her a bright smile as he returned her hug. "How are you doing?"

"You should know by now, sir, not to ask me that question when I'm pregnant. My ankles are swollen, I feel like a blimp, and I'm thinking about moving my desk into the head."

"You look wonderful," he assured her, leaning closer. "Tiner was right, you know."

"About what?" she asked.

"Pregnant women are sexy as hell," he said, nearly whispering the words into her ear. "I hope Bud knows how lucky he is."

Harriet blinked and giggled as she blushed, thinking that he was joking. "I think he does, sir." But her eyes widened slightly as she saw the look on his face. It was a look she'd never seen - or expected to see directed toward her from this man. Desire, passion, lust -a powerful, erotic mix that probably got him just about any woman he wanted, she thought to herself. Even her, if things were different. She turned with obvious relief as she saw her husband appear. "Bud! Look who's here!"

"Commander," Bud said. "I mean Harm. It's good to see you."

Harm shook Bud's hand. "I'm here to see you, actually, Bud. About Petty Officer Johnson. Thank you for steering him in my direction."

"No problem, sir," Bud assured him. "Why don't we go into my office and we can discuss it?"

Harriet knocked on Mac's door, and Mac looked up from the paperwork that she'd been pretending to be buried in. "Yes, Harriet?"

"Did you notice that Commander Rabb - Harm is here, ma'am?"

"They probably heard you over on the Hill, Harriet," Mac said, smiling.

"He looks tired, ma'am," Harriet fretted. "And - different. Like he's - not the same person as he was."

"What do you mean?"

"I can't really - explain it, ma'am - he seems - he just told me that pregnant women are sexy," she burst out, speaking quickly.

"He did?"

"Yes, ma'am. And it wasn't a just something to say. He was serious. I could see it in his eyes. If I wasn't a happily married woman, -"

I guess it's a good thing for Bud that you are," Mac pointed out, but she was frowning. Harriet's phone rang, leaving Mac to contemplate what Harriet had told her. Something was definitely wrong with Harm. This wasn't at all like him. One-night stands, hitting on the wife of one of his best friends - the *pregnant* wife of one of his best friends.

She waited until she heard Bud's office door open and picked up a file folder, going out into the bullpen at the same time that Bud and Harm would be entering it. As a result, she nearly ran headlong into Harm. "Oh. Excuse me," she said, looking up at him as he placed a hand on her shoulder to steady her. "Hello, Harm."

"Colonel," he said, nodding, no hint of warmth in those cobalt blue eyes. Mac shivered slightly.

Over his shoulder, Mac saw the Admiral, returning from a meeting with the SecNav, and made a hasty retreat. "Excuse me. I have some calls to make -"

"Tell Webb I said hello," was Harm's only response as he turned and came face to face with AJ Chegwidden.

"Mr. Rabb. This is a surprise."

"AJ," Harm said, refusing to show any weakness to this man. "I had business with Bud."

"The Commander - Harm is representing Petty Officer Johnson, Admiral," Bud explained.

"Is that so?" AJ observed, folding his arms across his chest. "Decided to try private practice, Harm?"

"Didn't have a lot of options, AJ," Harm countered. "Since I didn't want to drive a cab or wrestle alligators. Don't need to worry about being a team player, either, since I'm my own boss."

AJ sucked in his lower lip as he stood there, waiting for Harm to continue. When he didn't, AJ said, "Are you finished?"

"No, I don't think I am."

"Then why don't we continue this in my office?" AJ suggested, and started to move in that direction, but Harm didn't budge.

"I'd rather do it here. I think everyone should know that you were willing to let Mac and Clayton Webb die than to let me go after them."

"That's enough, Rabb," AJ said, his eyes narrowing dangerously.

"What happened to the SEAL code, AJ?" Harm asked. "What happened to 'leave no man behind'? Or did they not count? I can understand your ordering everyone to stay away from me last spring - I screwed up. But the AJ Chegwidden that I came to respect and admire would *never* have refused my request to go and get one of our own back safely. Hell, he would have found a way to go *with* me if he could."

AJ didn't respond to the diatribe, merely turned on his heel and went into his office, closing the door behind him.

"I'll take a rain check on lunch, Sturgis, and I'll be in touch about the case, Bud," Harm said to the other man and left, taking the stairs instead of the elevator. In the dimly lit stairwell, he leaned against the wall, wondering where the *hell* all of that had come from, and why he'd said it.

God, his head hurt.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Mac, Sturgis, Bud and Harriet all exchanged concerned looks once Harm was gone. "What the hell happened down there, Mac?" he questioned. "Because whatever it was, he's changed. And not for the better." He turned and walked off.

"It's not your fault, ma'am," Bud tried to say, but Mac shook her head.

"I wish I could be sure of that, Bud." She glanced at the Admiral's office. "I'm going to go try and talk to the Admiral."

"Would you like some company?" Bud offered.

"No, thank you. I'm not even sure he'll see *me* right now." She entered the outer office.

"Is the Commander all right, ma'am?" Jen Coates asked, obviously concerned about him. "I've never seen him like that before."

"I'm not sure, to be honest, Jennifer. I need to see the Admiral."

"He told me that he wasn't to be disturbed, ma'am." She looked uncertain. "But if he asks, tell him that I was away from my desk for a minute and you slipped in under the radar."

Mac knocked on the door once and entered without waiting for him to respond. He was standing at the windows, staring out - a sure sign that he was troubled by the scene in the bullpen. "I told Coates that I didn't want to be disturbed," he said.

"She wasn't at her desk, sir," Mac lied. "Permission to speak freely, Admiral?"

"Might as well. My ability to control this office is shot to hell anyway, thanks to Rabb and his - temper tantrum."

"Was he right, sir? Did you refuse to let him go down there?"

AJ turned to look at her, exhaling before he indicated one of the chairs. "Sit down, Mac. When he first came to me, we didn't know you were in trouble. It was right after you and Webb had left, and he said that he needed to tell you something. Then he started saying that he had a feeling that something wrong. On his own, he contacted the CIA to try and locate you down there. Director Kershaw assured me that you and Webb would be fine. I had no reason not to believe that assurance."

Mac shook her head. "Admiral, I was on a *CIA* mission. You know what those are like. No back up. No secondary plan of action. If captured - you're expendable. I knew that going in, and I accepted the risks - but I think I also knew that if we were missing, you'd send someone down there to get us out."

AJ came to sit in the other chair, his hands linked between his knees. "Mac, if I could have, I would have. But I was under orders *not* to let *any* military personnel go down there."

"Is that why you forced him to resign?"

"No. Not totally. Mac, how many times has Harm threatened to resign?"

"Once - twice."

"Both times for people that he cared more about than anyone else. I was having trouble getting budget requests on the Hill because of Lindsay's hatchet job. If I had let my senior attorney take off that way, I couldn't have explained it to the satisfaction of anyone on the Hill. Even SecNav, as much as he thinks of Harm, wasn't pleased by his decision. He needed to realize that he couldn't just - walk away and expect to come back without some kind of repercussions to his future."

"He 'walked away' to save me, Admiral."

"I know. And did it get him what he went for?" AJ asked, meeting her eyes.

Unable to meet that steady gaze, Mac's eyes fell to her lap. "I guess not."

"Besides. He's right. I've lost the edge, Mac. There *was* a time when I would have gone down there with him, or sent him down there with my blessings to get you out and the bureaucrats be damned. Maybe I had the right idea last spring. Maybe it's time to step aside and let someone else take over."

"Admiral -"

"No," he assured her. "I'm not going to do it. Not yet, anyway." He looked toward the windows again. "What the hell happened down there, Mac?" he asked, unknowingly repeating Sturgis' question. "I've read the reports - I know the facts. I mean between you two. I had the feeling when he left that Harm was ready to open up."

"Apparently not," she said. "Everything was such a mess down there, sir. I wasn't even sure he was glad to see me when he saved me - he looked angry more than anything else."

AJ thought over the report that he'd read - that he'd demanded to be given as Mac's CO. "You were about to be tortured, weren't you?"

"Yes. Harm shot both of the men in the room with me when he came in, then we found the Gunny and Clay."

"Webb was severely injured?"

Mac recounted the events that led up to her and Harm's crash after taking out the Stinger missiles, and then told him that she hadn't been injured in the crash, but that Harm had been unconscious. "I waited twenty six minutes for him to wake up, and when he didn't, I decided that he needed medical attention. I knew I couldn't carry him, so I left a trail back to the road and went to find transportation."

"Wait a minute. You *left* him? Unconscious?"

"I didn't see that I had a choice, sir. If I hadn't, if there had been something serious wrong, then he would have died before help arrived. While I was gone, he woke up and followed the trail I left, coming out onto the road just as I was returning - and he took a couple of shots at the truck I was driving -"

"He shot at you?"

"I'm not sure he knew it was me. The truck had been used by Sadik's men, Harm knew that. He might have thought it was them, coming to find us."

"Did he act - normal at that point?"

"Normal? For Harm, that's hard to say," Mac said, trying to make a joke, but it fell flat. "He mentioned something about blurry vision -"

"The man had a concussion, Mac. From the sound of it, a serious one. I don't doubt that his vision was blurry. And he was up walking around," he said, shaking his head at Harm's apparent resiliency. "What was his mood?"

"Surly. Abrupt. Combative. But neither one of us was at our best - we both said things we probably shouldn't have said. Then and later. After I made contact with Maria Elena and Clay and Gunny arrived."

"Who did you stay with that night, Mac?" AJ asked.

"Harm. He'd suggested that something was 'going on' between Clay and me -"

"Because of the kiss?"

"Yes. I told him he was wrong, and then decided that Harm and I needed to talk."

"But you didn't," AJ guessed.

"No, sir. We started to, but - Harm decided that we needed to 'table' it until we were back here - and I didn't want to do that."

"Why not?"

"Because I was tired of the games, Admiral," she said. "Tired of his never being able to tell me - I asked him why he'd resigned and come after me - and all he could say was I 'You know the reason'."

"And that wasn't enough?"

"Admiral - right now, Clay needs me. He was severely tortured - almost died to keep Sadik from me."

"So you feel like you owe him?"

"It's more than that, sir," Mac insisted.

AJ's lips compressed. "Very well. Just don't forget that he's not the only one who almost gave up his life to save you."

Mac, sensing that the discussion was finished, rose to her feet. "Admiral. If Harm were to ask to come back -"

"Right now, Mac, I'm tempted to tell the guards downstairs that he's not allowed into the building. I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to maintain order around here after what just happened."

"Most of them understand what happened, sir. I don't think you'll have a problem."

"I hope not. Anything else?"

"Actually, yes, sir. I think there's something seriously wrong with Harm, but right now, I'm the last person he'll be willing to listen to."

"What do you mean?"

"Take what just happened for example. Have you ever known Harmon Rabb to go off on someone that way without provocation?"

"No," AJ admitted.

She told him about seeing Harm the night before at the Tavern, and about his attitude toward Sturgis and that he'd been openly flirting with Harriet. "I don't know what to do, sir."

"It could be PTSD," AJ suggested. "Nothing that a few hours with a good psychiatrist wouldn't help. Might not do you any harm to see one yourself, Mac. Considering everything you went through -"

"I'm fine, sir," Mac said quickly. "Right now, I'm concerned about Harm."

"I'd offer to go talk to him, but I'm not sure he'd listen to me, either," AJ said. "Maybe Sturgis or - Bud?"

"He and Sturgis were supposed to have lunch, but he cancelled."


** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

Harm downed the rest of the bottle of aspirin, making a mental note to stop by the drugstore on the way home to pick up another one. Even if he wanted to go back - he'd just burned every one of his bridges by confronting the Admiral in the middle of the bullpen.

"Way to go, Rabb," he muttered. "Maybe he was right after all. Maybe you are just a screw up." At least Bud had agreed to a decent plea bargain for Johnson, and that meant he wouldn't have to spend time at JAG in court, or risk running into AJ or Mac again.

He'd call Sturgis and Bud later, apologize for his outburst, he decided, turning back toward the Navy Yards to talk to his client about the deal that Bud had agreed to. The kid would be out of the Navy, but at least he wouldn't be looking at hard time.

To Part 2
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