Embracing the Dark
Part 2

Disclaimers in Part 1

Harm had barely gotten home that evening when there was a knock on the door. Peering through the peephole, Harm saw that it was Sturgis and opened the door. "Hello, Sturgis. Come on in." He turned and moved toward the living room, the beer he'd opened earlier still in his hand. "You want something to drink?"

"I'll get some water," Sturgis said, heading to the refrigerator.

"I was going to call you this evening to - apologize for the way I acted today. Didn't mean to run out on lunch that way."

"That's *all* you were going to apologize for?" Sturgis asked, sitting down in the chair as Harm dropped onto the sofa.

"Guess I - left a mess back there, didn't I?" Harm said, unable to stop the grin from appearing.

"You sound pleased about it."

"Maybe I am. Maybe I've decided it's time to stop being people's doormat, Sturgis. Tired of putting what everyone else wants ahead of what *I* want." He took a long drink from the bottle, feeling the other man's dark eyes watching him.

"And what *do* you want, Harm? Working the private sector's not for you."

"I don't know. I have a few clients. It's paying the bills."

"Barely. Harm, I really think that if you asked -"

"You mean go crawling back? No thank you. I didn't do anything wrong, Sturgis. If I *hadn't* gone, then Mac would be dead. I *know* that. And a terrorist would have -" he broke off, remembering at the last minute that the mission was 'classified'. Harm wondered occasionally what Mac and Webb found to discuss, since he couldn't talk about work at all - and then he'd decide that he didn't want to think about what they talked about. If they talked at all.

"You're in love with her, aren't you?" Sturgis questioned.

"Doesn't matter if I am," Harm hedged. "She's involved in another relationship."

"I don't know how involved she is. She's pretty worried about you. Told me you hadn't returned any of *her* calls, either."

Harm stared at his old friend, wondering if maybe he was right. If Mac was worried, then maybe things weren't all champagne and caviar with Webb after all. Or maybe they were and she was just feeling guilty about how she hadn't stood up for him with the Admiral.

Finally, he shook his head. "Doesn't matter. She'd be calling you, or Bud or anyone under the circumstances. She's in love with Webb."

"Mac's probably going to drop kick my butt from here to Pensacola and back for this, Harm, but there's something you need to know."

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

*She told me she was in love with you.*

Sturgis' words repeated themselves over and over in Harm's head once his friend had finally left. "Then she's got a damn strange way of showing it," Harm muttered savagely, pushing off the sofa to find the aspirin bottle. His head was hurting so badly that he couldn't see straight - the little arrows on the cap and bottle refused to line up, frustrated the already frustrated man and he threw the bottle across the room.

"Damn it!!!!" he yelled at the bottle, at Mac, at himself - at the vagaries of Fate, who seemed determined to keep playing this stupid game with them. When she was ready, he wasn't; and when *he* was ready, Mac had someone else. It never seemed to fail. Sinking onto the bar stool, Harm buried his head in his hands, willing the pain to stop . . .

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

Mac curled up on the sofa with her take out dinner, a file folder open beside her to read while she ate. When a knock came at the door, she frowned, wondering if Clay's plans might have changed. Glancing through the security hole, her frown deepened as she opened the door.

"Harm. This is a surprise," she said, noticing the way he was leaning against the doorframe. Harm *never* 'leaned'. And there was something about the look in his eyes that sent a shiver of warning down her spine.

"Can't an old friend just 'drop in'?" Harm asked, leaning forward to glance toward the bedroom. "Or am I interrupting something?"

"No. I mean, yes, you're welcome to drop in, and no, you're not interrupting anything but my dinner," she finished, waving a hand in the direction of the coffee table, where the Styrofoam tray was clearly visible. He gave her that smile that always turned her knees into jello, and Mac tightened her grip on the doorknob. "Come in."

"Thanks," he said, sauntering into the room with the grace of a cat. "Webb's not around, I take it?"


"He's not back at work already, is he?"

"Not yet. He's supposed to start back on limited duty next week. He's having dinner with his mother tonight."

"And you weren't invited?" Harm questioned, looking surprised by the news.

"Apparently not, since I'm here alone and he's there." She watched him prowl around the room. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"Whatever you've got's fine."

Mac went into the kitchen, retrieving a bottle of water for him and sat down on the sofa again once he took it. "How is life in the private sector?" she asked conversationally as she picked up her dinner once again.

He lifted his shoulders in a noncommittal gesture. "You know what it's like."

"I was part of a huge firm," she pointed out. "You're out there on your own."

"Yeah," he agreed, looking down at the bottle of water, watching the condensation drip down the side and onto his fingers. "On my own."

Seeing the look on his face, the food in Mac's mouth might as well have been sawdust and her appetite fled. Closing the tray, she placed it on the coffee table, sitting forward. "Harm, talk to me."

He sat heavily in a chair. "Nothing to talk about."

"Something's wrong, Harm," she insisted. "You're not acting like yourself."

"What do you mean?" he asked, finally looking at her with those incredible eyes of his.

"Today at JAG. You were flirting with Harriet -"

"She's an attractive woman who needs to be reminded of that occasionally," he explained with a shrug of his shoulders. "And since I'm not bound by rules and regs anymore, I decided it might be nice to let her know that Bud isn't the only man who thinks she's sexy."

"What about the Admiral?" she asked, and saw his face darken with anger that he apparently hadn't gotten out of his system yet.

"Don't defend what he did, Mac," Harm said. "He was willing to let you die down there. Everything I said was the truth."

"He had his reasons for what he did, Harm," Mac tried to explain in a quiet voice, but Harm rose to his feet, pacing the room like a caged tiger.

"Excuses you mean. And I can't think of *any* excuse for what he did. If he didn't want me back, fine. I didn't turn in the resignation with the intent of picking it up when I returned - but dammit, Mac, I saved two lives down there, had a hand in getting rid of those Stinger missiles and instead of being treated like I'd accomplished something, I got punished. He didn't have to do it the way he did. And you -" he turned to look at her. "You didn't even try to defend me!"

"I did," she insisted, standing as well now.

"'He saved my life, Admiral'," Harm quoted with a sneer on his face. "Some defense. I've seen better from you in court when you *knew* your client was guilty as sin, Mac."

"What did you expect me to do?" she asked. "Threaten to turn in *my* resignation?"

"I did it for you," he replied, and suddenly his hands reached out to pull her close against his body. "All for you, Sarah," he told her, lowering his lips to hers in a bruising, punishing kiss as he ground his hips against her lightly clad body, his hands sliding down to cup her hips.

Mac struggled against the kiss and the embrace, knowing that if she didn't, she'd be lost - and that couldn't happen. Not right now. There was still something almost frightening about the look in his eyes. This wasn't out of love - he wanted to punish her for hurting him. "Harm, let me go," she said, trying to free herself.

"You don't want me to do that, Sarah," he insisted. "I should have done this a long time ago. Made you forget Dalton and Farrow and Mic -"

She went still. "Let. Me. Go."

His arms relaxed, but his hands grabbed her face before she could move away, framing it and holding her close so that he could drop more kisses onto it. "You know you want it, Sarah, honey."

"Is this how you've been getting those women to go out with you?" Mac asked, and Harm released her, frowning. "By manhandling them?"


"We saw you last night at the Georgetown Tavern," she told him. "The waiter said that you're a regular - leave with a different woman every night."

Harm grinned. "Yeah. Don't have much trouble reeling them in there," he confirmed. "You said 'we'."

"Clay and I. We were there having dinner," she explained. "Harm, this isn't like you. You're not the type to -"

"Maybe I just don't want to be alone," he said, the anger back again. "Did you ever consider that? Maybe having someone with me keeps the nightmares at bay. Nightmares of almost losing you down there -" He laughed, but it wasn't a pleasant sound. "But I did lose you. To someone I never thought was in the game. To the damned spook who got you *into* that in the first place!"

"Harm, I knew going in that it was a dangerous mission," Mac insisted. "I can take care of myself -"

"Oh, yeah. Like you were 'taking care of yourself' strapped to that damn table?!" he countered. "If I hadn't come in when I did, you'd be - dead, Mac," he told her, his voice breaking slightly. "I was so angry when I went in there and realized what had been about to happen - and then you kissed the man who'd put you there -"

"I wasn't sure I'd ever see him again, Harm. He'd just been tortured nearly to death to keep Sadik from getting to me. It's my fault we were there at all. I'm the one who insisted on going after Gunny when he was captured. It wasn't all Clay's fault."

"But if he hadn't dragged you down there, you wouldn't have had to rescue Gunny," Harm pointed out, calm now.

It was that calmness that unnerved Mac. His mood swings were frightening. One minute he was rational and calm, like now, the next he was angry and combative. And that look was still there in his eyes. "Harm, you need help. You need to see someone, talk to them about -"

"Help?" he asked, and before she realized it, his arms were around her again, just like before, pulling her so close that she could feel every muscle, every hard plane on his body. "The only help I need is you, Sarah," he murmured, burying his face in her neck, his lips finding the sensitive cord there, drawing an involuntary moan from Mac's throat. "You like that, don't you, Sarah?" he said, doing it again as he backed her toward the sofa. "You like being touched and caressed -" his fingers dug into her hips. "I know you want me. I want you."

They fell onto the sofa, his weight pressing her into the cushions, and Mac looked up into his eyes, seeing the anger that was still there, still driving him, and she began to struggle again. "Harm, no," she said, pushing at his shoulders as his knee parted her legs and pressed against her, his hands sliding under her tee shirt in search of her breasts before his lips came down on hers once more.

"Harm, please!" Mac begged, not wanting to hurt him. A tear escaped to run down the side of her face, and she saw Harm's eyes follow its progress, saw the horror appear in them as he realized what he'd been about to do.

"Oh my God," he whispered as he pushed his body away from hers, muttering, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," over and over again. He was gone before Mac could collect herself enough to follow him. By the time she reached the sidewalk, all she could see was the taillights of his Lexus as he turned the corner.

Rushing back upstairs, Mac changed out of the running shorts and tee shirt she was wearing into something more appropriate for street wear, grabbing her keys and leaving the apartment as she opened her cell phone to call the Admiral.

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

Harm staggered into the apartment and sank onto the sofa, not bothering to turn on any lights. They just hurt his eyes, anyway. He sat there, his hands to his head, rocking slowly. His head felt as if it were going to explode any minute. Lowering his hands, he remembered what he'd been about to do to Mac. To *Mac* of all people.

It had to stop. It had to. He couldn't handle much more of this. It was getting worse. The aspirin wasn't helping. His eyes fell on the locked metal box on the bookshelf, knowing that there was one way that he could take away the pain.

Standing up, he took a few steps toward the bookcase and the answer to his problems when another pain tore through his head, causing him to cry out and collapse to his knees on the floor, pressing the heels of his hands against his head . . .

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

Mac didn't bother to knock on the door. She knew he was here - his car was parked outside. The lights weren't on, but with the dim light from the hallway, she saw Harm kneeling on the floor, bent forward, his hands on his head. "Harm!" she cried out, moving to his side, all memory of what had happened earlier in her apartment forgotten as she knelt at his side. "Harm?"

"Make it stop," he was muttering. "Make it stop. Have to make it stop."

"We'll make it stop, Harm," Mac promised, pulling him into her arms.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "Didn't mean to -"

"I know," she told him. "What's wrong, Harm?" she asked.

"My head," he said in a quiet voice, pulling away to press his hands to his temples once more. "Hurts. All the time." He squeezed his eyes closed. "Just want it to stop," he said, slowly rising to his feet, his eyes fixed on something across the room.

Mac stood as well, moving with him, seeing how unsteady he was on his feet. "Harm, sit down -" When she saw him reach for the metal box, Mac realized what he meant by 'making it stop', and pulled him back. "Harm, no!"

He blinked at her, as if trying to focus on her face. "Mac?"

"Yes. I'm here, Harm," she said, quickly leading him away from the bookcase over to the sofa. "How long have you been having these headaches?" she asked once they were sitting down.

"Forever," he said, grabbing at this head again. "Since - Paraguay. The - the plane crash."

"Ohmigod," Mac breathed, realizing that he'd been injured far worse than he'd let on - and all she had done was to make angry jokes at his expense. "Why didn't say something?"

"I did," he told her. "Make it stop!" he cried again. "Make it stop." His eyes were on that damned box again, and Mac moved to kneel before him, taking his face into her hands, forcing him to look at *her* instead of the box containing his weapon.

"Harm, that's *not* the answer." She pulled out her cell phone as it started to ring. "Hello?"

"Did you find him, Mac?" AJ asked.

"Yes, sir. At his apartment. He's in pretty bad shape, sir."

"Any idea of what's wrong?"

"He says he's had headaches since Paraguay, Admiral -" she saw Harm's eyes open when he realized who she was talking to.

"That was over two weeks ago," AJ pointed out. "Get him to the hospital, Mac. Now. I should have thought of this before."

"What, sir?"

"He's got all the symptoms. Mood swings, blinding headaches - he could have an aneurysm, Mac.. He needs medical attention ASAP. I'll meet you there."

"Aye aye, sir," Mac agreed, hanging up. "Come on, Harm. Let's go."

"Go?" he asked, squinting as he looked at her. "Where?"

"The hospital. You need medical care now."

"No. No hospital. I'll be fine. Just - need some more aspirin."

Mac looked at the counter, seeing the bottle of aspirin there - but when she went to get it, she discovered that it was empty. "There's none here, Harm."

"Meant to - get more," he told her.

"How many of these have you been taking, Harm?" she asked.

"Don't know. I've lost track. They helped - at first. Took more and more -"

"Dammit, Harm. If whatever's wrong in your head doesn't kill you, *these* things will. Come on," she said, standing up and holding out her hand to him.


"I told you: the hospital." When he just sat there, Mac put her hands on her hips. "Now, Sailor. And that's an order."

"Not in the Navy," he muttered, but he rose slowly from the sofa, his eyes still narrowed against the pain.

Mac was concerned by the way he leaned on her on they went down to the curb. Deciding that he'd be more comfortable in his car, Mac was glad that she'd picked up his keys because of the apartment key on their way out. Opening the passenger side door, she said, "Get in."

"You always been this bossy?" he asked, and she found herself smiling - until he grabbed his head moaning once more.

Mac leaned over to fasten his seatbelt before starting the engine and turning toward Bethesda.

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

True to his word, AJ was waiting outside of the emergency entrance. He was already opening the passenger door before she completely stopped. "How is he?" he asked Mac.

"I'm still here," Harm said through the pain. "Damn!" his hands grabbed his head and he suddenly slumped in the seat, and would have fallen out of the car if it hadn't been for AJ.

"We need help here!" AJ yelled over his shoulder. "Hang in there, Harm," he said, glancing back again, relieved to see two people with a gurney moving toward him. He helped them move Harm out of the car and onto the gurney, then moved beside Mac into the hospital following them as they started checking vitals and shooting questions at them about his condition.

After confirming that Harm had suffered a major concussion two weeks previously, the doctor called a neurologist down for a consultation, leaving Mac and AJ to pace the waiting area near the examination room.

"This is my fault, Admiral," Mac said quietly. "I should have been paying closer attention to what was going on. I didn't realize he'd been seriously hurt in that crash. Once he woke up, he walked out on his own -"

"You said he mentioned blurred vision?"

"Yes. And I joked about it. Said I thought he'd always seen me that way." She sat down in one of the chairs, her head bowed. "But he drove back to Ciudad del Este without any real problems - except that his attention seemed - unfocused."

"I don't doubt it. After all of the bumps he's taken on the head over the years, I guess I should have seen this coming. They accumulate over time if they're severe enough."

"I guess I always thought he was too hard-headed for it to be a problem." This time they did smile at the attempted humor.

"If it's anyone's fault, it's mine," AJ decided. "I should have taken him back - trying to prove a point after everything he'd been through over the last six months probably wasn't the best timing in the world."

"Do you think he'll be okay, Admiral?" Mac asked, her eyes on the double doors that led into the emergency examination area.

"You remember when he was trapped in that ship that was taking on water, Mac?"

"Yeah. You saved his life."

"I said then that he's too stubborn to give up. I still believe that."

"I wish I was that certain," Mac sighed, running her fingers through her hair. "You know what he was trying to do when I got to his apartment?"


"He was on the floor - but he had been going to get his weapon out of the box that he keeps it locked in."


"He said he -" she took a deep breath. "That he just wanted to the pain to stop."

AJ frowned. "You said he'd been to see you and left because of something that happened?"

Mac decided to keep her own counsel regarding the events that had taken place between herself and Harm earlier, and said, "We argued, sir," she lied. "He lost his temper, and -"

"Good lord. He threatened you with physical violence?"

"He wasn't himself, Admiral," Mac pointed out. "Right now, I'm just as worried about how he's going to live with the things he's done these last weeks if he does come out of this okay."

They both stood up as the doors opened and the nurses wheeled the gurney down the corridor. The doctors turned in their direction. "Dr. Milton," he said. "You're - Admiral Chegwidden?"

"Yes. This is Lt. Col. Mackenzie."


"How is he, doctor?" Mac asked him, hoping her voice wasn't shaking as much as she thought it was.

"He's a pretty sick man, ma'am. I've sent him upstairs for an MRI. We'll know more once that's done. Dr. Vogel sent for Mr. Rabb's records - I must say, he's been a candidate for something like this for some time, considering all of the head traumas that he's endured."

"I was just telling the Colonel that," AJ confirmed. "Any idea what's going to happen?"

"It will depend on what we find in the scan, Admiral. You said that he's been having serious mood swings over the last week?"

"Yes," Mac confirmed. "He's been acting totally out of character. It's almost like he's a different person."

"This type of injury can sometimes- remove the controls that we keep in place. Without those controls, he 'let go', as it were. I noticed that he's no longer in the Navy?"

"A temporary condition, if things work out," AJ informed the doctor.

Mac was surprised to hear AJ say that, and looked at him. "Admiral?"

"We'll discuss it later, Colonel," he told her.

"Is he still unconscious?" Mac wanted to know.

"No. He regained consciousness, but he's in considerable pain. Do you have any idea what he's been taking for it?"

"Aspirin. I have no idea how much, but I think it must have been a lot."

"Probably. We're doing a standard tox-screen on him. If the two of you would like to come upstairs with me, you can speak to him before the scan, if you'd like."

"Thank you," Mac said, leading the way out of the room.

"After we see him, I need to make some calls."

"Are you going to call his mother?"

"Don't you think I should?" AJ questioned, and it was the doctor who answered.

"It might be a good idea, Admiral. These kinds of things can be tricky. I've seen patients go for years with the headaches and mood swings and be able to function. Others -" he shook his head as they got onto the elevator. "Others aren't so lucky. The blood clot breaks loose and causes a stroke, or the aneurysm blows. If that happens -"

Mac felt herself start to shake again as she considered the results of those events. AJ's hand on her back steadied her and she gave him a grateful smile as they left the elevator and moved into the prep area for the MRI.

Dr. Milton spoke to one of the technicians, and they moved to work around Mac as she stepped up to the man laying on the gurney. "Hey, there, flyboy," she said.

"Mac. You're here?"

"Yeah. I wanted to say thank you, Harm. For -"

"Didn't do it for thanks," he said, closing his eyes, his facial muscles tense as he fought against the pain.

"I know why you did it," she assured him. "And we're going to talk about it after you get better, okay?"

"What about - Webb?"

Mac blinked. She'd forgotten about Clay. "We're just friends, Harm," she said, bending to give him a kiss on his forehead before stepping back to let AJ move forward.


"Admiral." He could see that Harm was confused that he was there. "Hang in there, son. You and Mac aren't the only ones who are going to have a long talk once you're better. If you want to come back, I think I can make the arrangements. But it's up to you."

"Come - back? After -" he stopped, closing his eyes again before opening them. "After what happened?"

"You weren't yourself, Harm."

"We need to get him in there, sir," the young tech said.

"We'll be waiting when you come out," AJ assured the younger man, placing a hand on his shoulder before stepping back. They watched as Harm was transferred onto the sliding 'bed' that would place him inside of the cylinder-like equipment for the MRI. "How long will it be until you know something, Doctor?" he asked Dr. Milton.

"Pretty quickly. The images are just about real time - if you two want to wait - there's a waiting room directly across the outer hallway. If you'll excuse me -"

"I think I'll wait until we have a firmer grasp of what's going on before I call his mother," AJ decided.

"What about Bud and Harriet?"

"What time is it?" AJ asked, pulling back his shirtsleeve, only to hear Mac respond automatically.

"Twenty-three fourteen."

"You're sure about that?"

"What does your watch say?"

"Twenty-three fifteen."

"It's fast," she said, pacing the room with her arms wrapped tightly around her body. "Why are hospitals always so cold?" she wondered.

"I think it's an unwritten law," AJ suggested with a half-grin as he sat down at the telephone in the corner of the room and dialed the Roberts' number. "Bud, I hope I didn't wake you -"

"No, sir," Bud said quickly. "Is there a problem, Admiral?"

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

Sturgis and Bud arrived about the same time, just as the doctor came from the MRI room. "He needs immediate surgery to repair an aneurysm," he explained to the group. Pointing to his own head, he continued, "A blood vessel in this area of the brain has ballooned and if it's not repaired, it could break open, killing him almost instantly."

"What are the dangers?" AJ wanted to know.

"Mr. Rabb's very lucky, Admiral. The location of the weakened section is in an area easily accessed without much chance of impacting surrounding tissue. However, any surgery involving the brain always contains a risk. I'd like one of you with him when I explain this to him so that I'll know that he understands those risks before going into surgery."

"I'll go," Mac said, and handed her cell phone to AJ. "Could you - go outside and turn it on? I have a feeling that Clay's probably tried to call several times -"

"What should I tell him?" AJ asked her.

"Tell him the truth."

"And that would be?"

"That Harm needs me to be with him right now."

AJ nodded, watching her walk down the corridor beside the doctor. "I'll be outside for a few minutes, gentlemen," he informed Bud and Sturgis.

Bud and Sturgis paced around the room in silence for a couple of minutes, both uncomfortable with the other. Finally, Bud said, "Do you think he's going to be okay, sir?"

"Hard to say, Lieutenant," Sturgis said. "But if I was putting money down, I'd bet on Harm. That man's nearly indestructible."

"Nearly," Bud repeated. "Commander Turner, I know you and I haven't been getting along, but -"

"Right now, Bud, my only concern is Harm. Nothing else really seems that important, does it?"

Bud saw the look on the man's face and nodded in understanding. "No, sir. It doesn't. Excuse me - I need to call Harriet and let her know what's going on."

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

"There could be some memory loss as well. Short and/or long term. We won't know for sure until after the operation is finished and you've recovered, Mr. Rabb."

"I understand," Harm said in a tired voice.

"What about flying?" Mac asked, and saw Dr. Milton's confusion.

"He's an aviator. And a private pilot. Will he still be able to fly after you do this?"

"Mac," Harm said, squeezing her fingers. "That's not important -"

"Yes it is," she insisted. "Well, doctor?"

"There's no way of knowing that, either, Colonel. But I can tell you that he'll never fly again if he doesn't get this repaired now."

"You think I should do it?" Harm asked, looking at Mac.

"It's your decision, Harm," she said.

"Do you want me to?" he asked, rephrasing the question.

"Yes," she said. "We still have a conversation to finish, remember?"

"I just hope that I remember after."

"I'll remind you," she assured him, dropping a kiss onto his lips. "The Admiral's going to call your mother, Harm."

"No. Don't want to - worry her. Wait til - after."

"Harm -"


"Okay. We'll wait," she told him.

"Mac - Sarah. I need to tell you -"

"No," she said, covering his lips with her finger. "No. Not now. They need to get you ready now, Harm. I have to go."

"Be here - when I wake up?"

"I'll be here."

She kissed his hand before releasing it so that they could take him into the next room to prep him for the surgery.

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

Mac was standing beside the window looking out without really seeing anything when she heard a familiar voice. "How are you doing?"

She turned to see Clayton Webb standing there, hands in his pockets, looking decidedly uncomfortable. "Worried," she answered. "What are you doing here, Clay? The Admiral said -"

"That I told him I'd call you tomorrow. I decided not to put it off. Has there been any word?"

"Nothing for the last few hours. They were sending reports out, but -"

"Probably means they're doing their jobs and can't get away at the moment. I'm sure he'll be fine, Sarah. Harm's one of the strongest men I've ever known. He'd have to be to keep you at arm's length for all these years."

"Clay -"

"You don't have to say it, Sarah. I've always known that you and I weren't meant to be. Harm had a claim on your heart from the first minute you set eyes on each other - and I was only fooling myself to try and believe otherwise."

"Clay, I hope we -"

He took her hand. "We're friends," he confirmed. "And I hope that - one day - Harm will consider me a friend again as well. But if he ever does anything to make you unhappy, Sarah, he'll have to answer to me."

Mac smiled at him. "Thank you, Clay."

"Has anyone called his mother?"

"The Admiral called her about the time that Harm went into surgery. He didn't want us to call until after, but we thought she should know. She's trying to get the first flight back east."

AJ arrived, carrying a cup of coffee for Mac. "Webb," he nodded, his disapproval of the man's being there clearly evident in his expression.


"Thank you, Admiral," Mac said, taking the coffee. "Clay just dropped by to see how Harm was doing."

"Indeed? We don't have any news yet," AJ told the man. "If you'll excuse me, I need to make a phone call."

"That man doesn't like me," Clay told Mac. "Guess I can't really blame him, though, after everything that's happened."

"It wasn't all your fault, Clay," Mac reminded him.

"No, but some of it was. I also came by to tell you that - I have to go out of town."

Mac frowned, concerned. "Clay, you're not ready to go back into the field yet -"

"I'm glad you're worried, but that's not what's going on. I have to go check on some things in our Los Angeles office. I should be back in a couple of days. Keep me informed about Harm's condition."

"I will." She leaned closer to him, giving him a kiss on his cheek. "Thank you for coming by."

He glanced behind him, seeing the unfriendly glares of Sturgis and Bud. "Guess I'll run the gauntlet again on the way out. I'll call."

She nodded, watching him as he said goodbye to the men standing in the doorway. Bud's response was friendlier than Sturgis' but both men seemed glad that he was leaving. Both of them were loyal to Harm - they'd both known him longer than they'd known Clay - or her, for that matter. And she noticed that they seemed to actually be getting along for a change.

That in itself was a miracle.

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

The sun was starting to rise over the city when Dr. Milton appeared in the doorway. Trish and Frank Burnett were both waiting with Mac and AJ - Sturgis and Bud having gone home to get ready for duty. Milton looked tired, but Mac could see in his eyes that he was satisfied with the job he'd done, and released the breath she'd unconsciously been holding.

"How is he, doctor?" Trish asked.

"You are -"

"Patricia Rabb Burnett," she explained. "He's my son."

"He came through surgery like a champ. He'll be in recovery for some time - and I doubt he'll wake up much before this afternoon. Even then, he'll likely be pretty groggy and out of it."

"You took care of the aneurysm?" AJ asked.

"We did. And we were lucky you brought him in, Colonel Mackenzie. Much longer, he wouldn't have made it. It was ready to blow out."

Mac glanced at AJ, silently thanking him for telling her to get Harm to the hospital ASAP. "How long until we know whether he's okay from the surgery?" Mac asked.

"That could be a little longer. We're going to have to take this one day at a time."

"Is there anyway I could sit with him?" she asked. "I promised him that I'd be there when he woke up -"

"I think we can 'bend the rules' a bit," Dr. Milton nodded. "Mrs. Burnett? If you'd like to see him -"

"Please," Trish nodded, giving her husband's hand a squeeze before she and Mac followed the doctor down the corridor and into recovery.

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

Two weeks later, Harm left the hospital with a clean bill of health - and only bits of memories from those two weeks immediately after he and Mac had returned from Paraguay. He was also back in the Navy, as a Commander, thanks to AJ's request to the SecNav to reinstate Harm's commission with no loss of time on his record. Officially, he had been on 'emergency leave' - and AJ managed, somehow, to get him the back pay for those weeks that he'd been away.

Entering his apartment, Harm started toward the sofa, but Mac grabbed his arm and turned him toward the bedroom instead. "You're supposed to rest," she reminded him.

"Mac, I've *been* resting for two weeks," he pointed out. "And I can rest on the sofa as easily as I can in bed."

"The doctor said in *bed*," she reminded him, her fingers moving to the buttons of his shirt to unfasten them.

"Uh, Mac - what are you doing?"

"You can't rest in your street clothes," she said, concentrating on the buttons, ignoring the expanse of skin that was being revealed with each one's opening.

"I can undress myself," he told her, and Mac looking up at him, her eyes dancing.

"But it's more fun if *I* do it," she replied, sliding the material off of his shoulders before dropping her fingers to the top button on his jeans. At that point, Harm's hands closed over hers.

"Mac, I think I can handle it from here."

"You sure about that?" When his cheeks and ear turned a bright red, Mac laughed softly and turned back toward the kitchen. "What do you want to drink with your medication?" she asked.

"Water's fine."

Mac took a bottle of water out of the fridge, glad that she'd had the foresight to come over yesterday and stock everything after his being in the hospital for two weeks. Trish had returned to California at her son's insistence. He'd told her that he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, and that if he needed anyone, he could call Mac.

Taking two of the pills out of the bottle she'd picked up at the hospital pharmacy, she carried them and the water back to the bedroom, finding Harm lying beneath the covers, probably wearing only his boxers.

"Here you go."

He grimaced, but took the pills. "Thanks. You don't have to stay, Mac -"

"I know. But I want to." She hadn't pressured him about the 'talk' that they were supposed to have - mostly because she wasn't sure exactly how much of the weeks before his surgery that he remembered. He'd recalled the mess with Singer's murder, most of what happened in Paraguay - until right after the crash -, and AJ having put through his resignation, but after that, things were, as Harm had explained - "spotty".

"Harm -" she said, playing with the comforter on the bed. "Uh -"

"What is it Mac?"

"What *do* you remember about - those two weeks?"

He looked frustrated. "It's all like some - movie in my head, you know? Little flashes of things I think I should remember, but - they move back out of reach the minute I try to grab on and look at them." He sighed. "I seem to remember yelling at the Admiral about something - and -" he glanced at her, then away.


"Something to do with you, but it's - vague." He looked worried. "Did I - hurt you, Mac? I remember saying 'I'm sorry' over and over again -"

"It wasn't anything serous, Harm," she assured him. "You weren't yourself. I feel like I should have known something was wrong -"

"Hey," he said, reaching out to take her hand in his. "You and the Admiral probably saved my life."

"Speaking of saving lives, Harm, I never thanked you for saving mine -"

"I didn't do it for -" he stopped. "I said that before, didn't I?" he asked, and Mac nodded.

"Just before they took you in to do the MRI."

"And you said -" he squinted, trying to pull the memory out of the others, and then shook his head, frustrated again.

"I said I knew why you did it," Mac told him, reaching up to run her hand over his head. They had managed to keep from shaving all of his hair off - only a patch in the back.

"Do you?"

"Yeah. It took me awhile to figure it out, but I know."

His fingers threaded through hers as he pulled her onto the bed with him until she was lying beside him, her head resting against his shoulder, his arm around her. "I'm sorry," he apologized.

Mac looked up at him. "For what?"

"I don't know. I just feel like I need to apologize."

"Then I need to apologize too. I said some things in Paraguay that I shouldn't have said. I should have realized you were seriously injured, but I was too caught up in my own problems to see it."

"Why don't we put the past where it belongs, Mac?" he suggested. "*In* the past. And start over."

"I think we tried that once," she recalled. "But I like the idea."

"Good. Now. As much as I hate to admit it, those damn pills are making me sleepy." When Mac started to move away, Harm's hold on her tightened. "Where are you going?"

"I just thought -"


She smiled and settled down at his side, knowing that she didn't want to leave anyway.

"Thank you," he said, and a moment later she realized that he was already asleep.

Turning in his arms, she looked up at his face. Even now, she could see the lines that those two weeks had put there. A part of her hoped that he never remembered everything that happened. She knew that Harm wouldn't be able to live with some of the things he'd said and done. But if he did remember, she'd be there for him, helping him through it.

"This time, Harmon Rabb, we're going to get it right," she promised, before closing her eyes and letting herself fall asleep as well.

The End

Back Home Harm/Mac E-Mail