"I don't know what would have happened if Clay hadn't died," Mac said as she sat in her apartment, talking to Harm. He stood up from the chair and moved to the window. "We never talked about kids or the future, really. I guess, being in the CIA, he didn't look too far ahead." She noticed that he didn't seem to be paying attention to her. "Harm?"
"I can't do this anymore, Mac."
"What do you mean?" she asked, looking up into those blue-green eyes that reminded her alternately of a safe harbor and a storm-tossed sea.
"Just what I said. I'm tired of being the one you run to whenever a relationship ends. And before you say it, yes, I told you to come to me when Mic left -"
"And I found you with Renee," she reminded him. "You turned me away to stand out in the rain while you comforted her."
"Her father had just died, Mac. What was I supposed to do? Toss her out, tell her it was over? I *was* still technically seeing her at that point, remember? I fully intended to break it off with her when she returned from the funeral. And I *thought* you'd be here when I got back so that we could talk. But *you* ran away. And when I followed you, tried to talk about us, you threw Mic's so-called 'sacrifice' in my face and didn't even wait for me to answer you question."
"So called sacrifice? Harm, he gave up his career. He moved -"
"Yeah. And the minute things went south - he went right back to it. He didn't 'resign' his commission, Mac. He 'reserved' it. Kept it on hold as a back up plan in case things didn't' work out."
"And you did the same thing -" she said. "You expected to walk right back into your career when we got back -"
"Only because things hadn't gone as I'd hoped they would," Harm countered. "Like you said, the Navy was all I had. If I couldn't have you, I figured I'd have that, at least. The point is, I *tried* to talk to you after Mic left. You closed down the discussion then just like you did in Paraguay."
"*You* tabled that discussion, Harm, not me."
"Because we were in the middle of a mission," he told her. "I needed to focus on that so that we could get out of there with our skin. I fully intended to finish that discussion while we were on the way home - to get things settled. But you not only slammed the door, you locked it and threw away the key."
"I don't -"
"*Never*?" he questioned, and saw her pale. "One word. It was *never* going to work out between us, I believe is what you said. That we both wanted to be on top. Well, I let you be on top, Mac. I stepped away and left the ball in your court. I wasn't going to fight that. I was raised to understand that when a woman says 'no' or 'never', then that's what she means."
"But I -" Mac began, and swallowed heavily before continuing as Harm's eyes locked on her like a laser. "I didn't mean it. I really *did* think you'd argue with me about it, tell me that I was wrong and then convince me that I was."
"Mac, how many cases of sexual harassment have you handled as a JAG lawyer?" Harm asked. "How many times have you heard a woman say that she told a man 'no' or that he was 'never' to come near her again and when that man ignored her, she charged him with harassing her?"
Mac blinked, suddenly realizing what she had said. *Exactly* what she had said at that cabstand in Cuidad del Este - and, more importantly, how Harm had *heard* it. "Harm, I - I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking clearly. I'd just been through hell. Listening to Clay's screams while they tortured him - an airplane crash -"
"From which *I* was suffering a concussion," Harm pointed out.
"You were able to get to the road okay," she said.
"And I told you that my vision was blurred when you stopped the truck and got out of it," Harm reminded her. "You know, you said that I hadn't seemed happy to see you when I entered that room and found you strapped to that table."
"You didn't. You barely looked at me."
"Because if I had, I'd have lost my focus on the mission and we would have all ended up dead," Harm explained. "And instead of a 'thank you, Harm', I got to see you kissing Clayton Webb - the man who got you *into* the trouble to start with."
"I wasn't sure I'd see him again, Harm," Mac insisted. "He could have died on the way to the hospital."
"So you kissed him, basically the same thing you did with Dalton Lowne?" Harm suggested in an arch tone.
Mac's eyes widened as she realized he was right. "Oh my God," she breathed. "That *is* what I did, isn't it?"
"Yeah. It is."
"I never said 'thank you'?"
"Not that I heard. But I didn't do it for your thanks, Mac. I could have lived without it."
"But I still should have said it," Mac agreed. "Why *did* you resign your commission and go all the way down there, Harm?" she asked. "I asked then, but you never really answered."
"Because I figured you knew the reason. Because it's the same reason I'll always be your friend, but I won't be your whipping boy anymore." He turned to look directly at her. "The same reason that I'm telling you that it ends here and now. Because I care about you."
"Like you *care* about Sergei?" Mac asked. "You were ready to resign for him. You risked your career to stay in the Middle East when Bud was injured -"
"No. What I feel for you is nothing like what I feel for Sergei or Bud," he told her. "I love you," he said at last, and Mac felt her hope soaring - only to crash back to earth in flames upon hearing what he said next. "And that's why I'm cutting you loose. For the sake of my own sanity. I can't keep riding on this merry-go-round with you. I can't trust that you won't end up lying to me about how you feel just like you've lied to others and yourself before."
"But Harm -" She reached out a hand, trying to capture his, but he pulled away, putting the width of the room between them.
"No. I can't do this, Mac. I've always been the one you could come to - the one who would forgive anything. I asked you to wait in Sydney - and the next thing I knew, you were wearing Brumby's ring. I asked you to wait that night on the Admiral's porch - and you ran away."
"And how long was I supposed to wait, Harm?" she asked.
"Longer than a few days," he answered.
"We weren't engaged. If you'd said something -"
"Mac, you were wearing another moan's ring. I don't give a damn if it was on your little toe, it was *still* intended by him to claim you as his. I wasn't going to come between you and him if you thought he would make you happy. Don't you see? That's been the only thing I've wanted all along, for you to be happy. I thought marrying Brumby was what you wanted. And then in Paraguay - after I tabled the discussion, suddenly you were back fussing over Webb -"
"Harm, I chose to stay with *you* that night, remember? Not Clay."
"Keeping your options open," he reminded her, his jaw tight. "If I'd said the right words, then you wouldn't have worried about Webb anymore. But since I didn't react the way you wanted me to, suddenly your attention was on him again -" He shook his head. "So I came back here, figured I'd cut my losses - that the Admiral would take me back. But he didn't, and I lost it all. You, the Navy."
"You didn't lose me, Harm," Mac insisted. "I *did* call -"
"Yeah. And not one of those times did I hear anything about your 'not meaning it'. Mac, do you remember when we went to the hospital later that day to see Webb?"
"Yes," she nodded. "You told him that you were still out of the Navy."
"And then what happened?" Harm asked, crossing his arms over his chest as he waited for her to think back.
"It's been such a long time, Harm - over a year -"
"Let me refresh your memory. Not two minutes after Webb found out that I was out of the Navy, you asked him if there was anything you could do for him, and he called you over and whispered something in your ear - and you *giggled* about it and kept your head near his." He saw her face pale again. "You didn't even know I'd left the room. So I say again: I'd lost you and my career."
"I thought we could remain friends," she said. "The 'never' wasn't about our friendship, just a relationship -"
"And at that point in my life, Mac, even friendship with you was more than I could handle. I needed to make a clean break - and so I did. No contact with anyone from JAG. It was easier to move on that way. It didn't - hurt quite as much. Except for the hole in my heart that was left when I cut you and everyone else I cared about out of my life."
Mac took a deep breath. "But things are - different now," she insisted. "You're back in the Navy. We're friends again. There's no one standing between us -"
"For how long?" he asked. "How long until you find someone else you'd rather be with and I'm left alone again to wait until it falls apart and you come back? I don't have a revolving door on my heart, Mac. I can't keep watching you go with other men, expecting me to be here to pick up the pieces when things go wrong."
"So what are you saying?" Mac asked. "That you don't want to be my friend anymore? That you're going back on your promise to- to be there for me?" His other promise was a moot point anyway. Or practically so. The chances of her becoming pregnant were very slim at this point.
"No. I'll be your friend. I'll be here for you for the medical problems. But you're going to have to learn how to handle the other things on your own."
"I've already decided to go back and get more counseling," Mac told him.
"Good. I'm glad to hear it. Once you've done that - and if you figure things out - let me know and then we'll talk about the future. Until then, we're friends. And if you can't deal with that, then I'll get a transfer to another duty station to finish out my time."
"Now who's trying to run away?" Mac countered.
"I'm not running anywhere. I'm here. The only reason I'd leave is if you tell me that I should - because you can't handle being in the same office, working together every day - and just being friends. Because *I* can't handle being the one you talk to about Webb or the others. I'm too close to it. I can't be objective anymore. I won't be your crutch anymore, Mac. I have personal problems of my own that I'm dealing with - and you haven't offered to help me through any of them. And I haven't asked you to because I know you're not in a good place right now. I need to find a way to get past losing Mattie and other things before I can do anything else. I can't be your crutch and your lover - no matter how much I wish I could." He picked up his jacket. "Like I said, give me a call once you've figured things out and worked through whatever issues you have. Maybe then we can move forward instead of continually repeating the same mistakes over and over again."
Mac stood there as the door closed behind him, staring at it, tears in her eyes as the enormity of what she'd done finally appeared to her. She'd managed to drive away the one thing that had been her anchor. The one steady bulwark in her adult life - and she'd managed to screw it up. Just like everything else in her life.
In the hallway outside, Harm took a deep breath. The ball was in Mac's court now. All he could do was wait.