Spoilers: Through "A Tangled Webb Part 2" and possibly the next eps
Archiving: Please ask first. I like to know where it's going.
Disclaimers: I don't own 'em, don't have any money, please don't sue me. I'll return them relatively unscathed.
Author's note: Okay. So sue me. I still haven't made up my mind about Clayton Webb. I hope you like what I've done. This would take place a few weeks after Harm joins the CIA and goes on a couple of missions.
Harm was exhausted. He'd been gone on this mission for nearly a week with precious little sack time. And then there had been ten more hours of intensive debriefing.
As he placed the key into the door of his loft, all he could think about was taking a long, hot shower and spending the next twelve - no, make that twenty-four hours- in bed. The only thing that he'd found himself grateful for was that staying so busy kept him from thinking about Mac- and the debacle that their 'relationship', if you could call it that, had become.
After he'd left - no, been thrown *out* of - JAG and the Navy, Harm had spoken with Mac only sporadically - and the last time had been cut short because she had been on her way to visit Webb in the hospital.
He supposed that now that he was home for a little while, he'd have to call Bud and Harriet, see if new baby had arrived yet. He pushed open the door and entered the loft, and stopped in his tracks as he saw Mac laying on the sofa, a blanket over her, sound asleep.
For one moment, Harm felt the protective barriers that he'd put in place beginning to crumble. God, she was beautiful. His fingers itched to touch her face, and he curled them into a fist to keep from following through with the impulse, forcing himself to remember that last conversation in Paraguay.
"This is never going to work," he heard her saying again. "The trouble with us is that we both want to be on top all the time and that is physically, and emotionally, impossible."
Harm had wanted to argue the point, to try and tell her that they could take turns being 'on top', whatever the hell that meant, but she had retreated behind her own walls, only speaking to him when necessary during the flight back to DC and the ride to their respective apartments.
He'd given it all up for her: his career, everything that meant anything to him, and hadn't even gotten a 'thank you' in return for his trouble. Instead, he'd been forced to stand on the sidelines, watching as she gave Webb a hug, and buttered Webb's toast like a dutiful wife.
Harm's backbone straightened. The walls were back in place, he decided, closing the door behind him and dropping his bag heavily on the floor to place his hands on his hips.
Mac jumped, awakened out of her sound sleep by the noise of the door slamming and the suitcase hitting the floor. "What-" Her dark eyes widened as she sat up and came to her feet. "Harm!" she cried, and crossed the room to throw her arms around him. "Thank God you're okay."
Harm gently pried her arms away and moved toward the kitchen. "What are you doing here, Mac?"
"I've been waiting for you. Clay said that no one had heard from you for a week -"
"Does Webb know that you've been camping out in my apartment?" Harm asked, glancing through the stack of mail that sat on the counter. He needed to call his mother, he supposed, let her know that he'd be out for a visit soon. He had a week or so coming, or so they had said. Certainly he'd earned it after what he'd been through.
"He must be more understanding than I gave him credit for," was Harm's response. "How did you get in, anyway?" he asked.
Mac was looking confused and more than a little uncertain as she stood there near the door. "My key," she explained.
"I'd like it back," he told her. "On second thought, never mind. I'll just change the locks." Tossing the rest of the mail aside, he stepped past Mac to pick up his suitcase. "Thanks for dropping by, but, I'm exhausted and I need a shower."
"Harm- we have to talk."
"I think we've said everything we have to say to each other in Paraguay, Mac." He opened the door and stood there, waiting for her to move. "Goodnight, Mac."
"What's happened to you, Harm? You're not the same-"
"No," Harm agreed. "I don't suppose I am. Good night, Mac," he said again, with a finality that she couldn't possibly ignore.
"Hey, you're the one who set the ground rules, remember?"
"I never said that we had to stop being friends," Mac countered, sounding angry now herself.
"Well maybe I've decided that I need to choose my *friends* a little more carefully," Harm replied coldly. "Where I come from, friends are grateful when someone saves their life." He released the door and ran a hand over his face, willing away the exhaustion that was closing in. "I can't really discuss this right now, Mac," he said. "I'll call you when I've had a chance to get some sleep, okay?"
"When?" Mac wanted to know.
"What's the matter?" he asked, "afraid I'll call and interrupt something important?"
"I just don't want to leave it open that way," Mac insisted. "I get the feeling that you're just saying that you'll call to get me to leave."
"Dammit, Mac, your timing-"
"Is lousy. I know. Seems that we both have that problem," she said in a quiet, sad voice. "Okay, I'll go. But if I don't hear from you in a couple of days, I'll be back."
"I'll call, Mac," he said, moderating his own voice back to a slightly more friendly tone. "Right now, all I can think about clearly is hitting the sack. I haven't slept more than a couple of hours in the last week or so."
"What happened?" she asked.
"That's classified," he responded.
She moved toward the door, pausing directly beside him. "Good night, then. Pleasant dreams."
At her words, Harm's chest felt as if it were suddenly being held in a vise, but he remained there, with that slight smile still fixed onto his face. "You too," he said, and then closed the door behind her.
His dreams had stopped being pleasant about the time he'd left JAG and gone to work for the CIA. During his waking hours, he managed to compartment that part of his life and what it entailed. But once freed by sleep, his mind seemed determined to remind him of the things he'd seen- and done, all in the name of duty.
Going to the cabinet below the sink, Harm pulled out a bottle of Scotch, and poured some into a glass, downing it in one gulp before he turned toward the bedroom and that hot shower that he'd been thinking about since he couldn't remember when.
Deep in the throes of a nightmare, Harm went through those last few minutes inside the terrorist compound in Syria, trying his best to change the outcome of the showdown with Sharil al Farad. He looked again into the frightened eyes of the ten-year-old boy that Farad had taken as a shield; saw the trust in those dark eyes. Harm lifted his weapon, hesitating, giving the terrorist an opening. Farad had taken a shot at Harm, and Harm had instinctively returned fire - Three shots. Bam! Bam! Bam!
"Bam! Bam! Bam!"
Harm sat up in bed, crying out. "NO!" as he woke to discover that the sound of gunfire had segued into someone knocking- no, banging at his door. Taking a deep breath to clear his mind of sleep, he glanced at the clock, verifying what the light coming in through the windows told him: it was almost four in the afternoon.
"Bam! Bam! Bam!"
"Just a minute!" Harm called out, grabbing a robe from the end of the bed and stuffing his arms into it as he moved toward the noise. Whoever had disturbed him had better have a good reason, he thought, looking through the peephole.
Recognizing who was outside, Harm considered ignoring him and going back to bed. But his visitor knocked again. "Harm! I know you're in there!"
Harm unlocked the door and opened it. "Webb. To what do I owe the pleasure?" he asked the smaller man.
"We need to talk, Harm," Clayton Webb said, pushing past Harm to enter the apartment without waiting for an invitation.
Harm's eyes narrowed, considering his options. He could throw Webb out, but since he wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep anyway, he might as well find out what the man thought was so important that he had come here. "Come in, Webb," he said, closing the door. The two men had crossed paths at Langley on occasion, and Harm had heard upon his return that Webb had returned to work on a 'limited basis', which meant strictly paperwork and intelligence analysis. Scuttlebutt was that he was only there to finish out his time as a result of his mucking up things in Paraguay, combined with the fact that he was still suffering ill effects from the torture he'd endured at Saddiq's hands.
Harm went to the counter and grabbed a couple of glasses, picking up the half-empty bottle of Scotch. "Drink?"
"Why not?" Webb said, not smiling.
Harm slid one of the glasses across the counter toward the other man before picking up his own. "You mentioned something about talking?"
"I thought you might need to talk about- what happened," Webb said, his fingers clenching around the glass without picking it up.
Harm lifted an eyebrow. "Where? In Paraguay?"
"No." His eyes met Harm's. "I read the after mission debriefing, Harm. Rough mission."
Shrugging, Harm took a drink of the Scotch, enjoying the burn as it went down his throat. "Just doing my job."
"But that's the point, isn't it? It wasn't your job. Your job was to fly that team in and out, not to get involved closing down that cell. You were ordered to return to DC -" Webb shook his head. "The Deputy Director was screaming for your head on a platter when he realized that you hadn't followed orders and was going after the team," he said.
"If I'd done that, then all four of those men would be dead now. There was no one else close enough to get in and out."
"Did you really use the cell's weapons cache as a diversionary explosion?" Webb asked.
"Seemed like a good idea at the time," Harm said, managing a smile. "Besides, it worked."
"And then the face down with Farad," Webb said quietly, and Harm poured another drink, knowing that Webb was watching him closely. "It wasn't your fault, Harm. Farad killed that boy. Not you."
"Tell that to his mother," Harm replied, looking into the glass in his hand.
"Harm, you almost single-handedly saved the lives of three operatives and shut down a terrorist cell with known ties to Al Queda, taking out their weapons cache and capturing a computer disk that, once decoded, might point the way to more cells. Some of them possibly in the US," Webb pointed out.
"There is that, I suppose," Harm agreed, tossing the Scotch down his throat again. "Must really be bothering you, Webb, that they're calling me the new 'Golden Boy'."
Webb shook his head. "You mean new 'loose cannon', don't you? Seriously? It doesn't bother me. I had my day in the sun. I've faced up to the fact that those days are all behind me." He chuckled, but Harm heard no mirth in the sound. "Not much choice, really. Hell, I'm the same age you are, Harm, and my career's ending- you're starting a whole new one." He picked up the glass, but his hand was shaking, and some of the liquid spilled out on the counter, forcing him to put it down again.
Harm refused to feel any sympathy for the man. He'd brought it all on himself, after all, by pursuing his insane plan to capture Saddiq and involving Mac in it. He pushed down any thought that he himself had used Webb over the years as his private information service, however. He believed that debt was more than repaid after Paraguay.
"Not one that I would have chosen," Harm replied.
Webb's eyes were on him again. "It gets easier, you know," he said. "The nightmares go away after awhile."
"Nightmares?" Harm repeated, laughing, knowing there wasn't any more humor than had been in Webb's laughter earlier. He topped off his glass again, nearly emptying the bottle this time.
"That's not going to help, either, Harm," Webb said, nodding toward the bottle. "Trust me. I know what I'm talking about."
Harm drained his glass, and then slammed it onto the counter. "Why exactly are you here, Webb?" he asked. "Did you just drop by to give me a 'pep talk' about my mental status? Because if that's the case, then you know where the door is-"
"I'm here about Sarah, Harm," Webb said, enunciating every word clearly, his eyes locked on Harm's face, searching, Harm knew, for a reaction.
Harm lifted is shoulders. "She's not my problem anymore, Webb."
"She did tell me the truth," Webb sighed. "She said that you had practically tossed her out on her ear when you came home and found her waiting for you."
"I wasn't in the mood for company," Harm told him. "That hasn't changed, as a matter of fact. So if you don't mind - I need to get a little more sack time."
"I'm going to ask Sarah to marry me tonight, Harm. I wanted to wait til you got back, give you a chance - but it's obvious that you no longer care about Sarah-"
Harm couldn't hide the tightening of his jaw, and finished the Scotch in his glass. "It doesn't bother you that the woman you want to marry spent the night in another man's apartment, waiting for him to come home?"
"I love Sarah, Harm." Webb's quiet voice seemed to fill the room. "And she'll say yes when I ask. And you want to know why?"
"Pity?" Harm suggested, knowing that it sounded harsh, but unable to stop the words. Why the hell hadn't he been able to do that with her, he wondered.
Webb nodded, acquiescing to Harm's suggestion. "That, and gratitude for going through what I did for her in Paraguay."
"Well, if you hadn't asked her to go down there, then you wouldn't have had to go through it, would you?" Harm pointed out. He frowned. "Where the hell did this 'thing' for Mac come from, anyway, Webb? I certainly never saw any sign that you were attracted to her except in the most basic way- and now suddenly you can't live without her."
"I don't know," Webb replied honestly. "I really don't. I've always admired Sarah. If nothing else than for putting up with you for the last eight years. She's strong, capable. One of a woman."
"Sounds a lot like your mother," Harm pointed out, finally finding another bottle of Scotch hidden at the back of a cabinet.
"She is. Maybe that's part of the attraction. I know that I have a reputation at Langley for being a 'mama's boy'," he conceded. "But what I feel for Sarah has *nothing* to do with my mother."
Harm refilled his glass. "And how does Mama Webb feel about adding Mac to the family?" he wondered. "All ready to welcome her with open arms?"
"I don't have to ask Mother's permission to get married," Webb claimed. "Hell, I'm nearly 40. She'll just be glad to have proof that I'm not gay."
"Now that's one thing I would never had thought about you, Webb," Harm confessed, finally finding some humor in the situation. "I've seen you at work with the opposite sex. Remember Australia?"
Webb managed a smile at the memory of that case. Then the smile faded. "We've lost the point of this conversation."
"What *is* the point, Webb?" Harm wondered. "I mean, you come in here, tell me that you're going to ask Mac to marry you, even thought you know she'll only agree out of some insane sense of obligation - what the hell do you expect me to do? Go running out and tell her what you've said? Convince her that she's making a terrible mistake and that if she agrees to marry you, she'll be miserable and unhappy?"
"Oh, I know better than that, Harm. You've had so many opportunities to tell Sarah how you feel, and you choked every time. I don't have any fear that you'll interfere with my plans for her."
"I get it now. This is all some scheme to convince me to come clean, to admit to Mac that I'm in love with her and convince her that she's better off with me instead of you."
"Do you?" Webb asked, and Harm froze, realizing that he'd said too much. Damn Clayton Webb, anyway. This was all his fault. If he hadn't lured Mac down to South America, - "Are you in love with Sarah, Harm?
"If I said yes, would it make any difference?"
"Not if you just tell me, no. Unless you tell her, unless you find the courage to say the words to Sarah, then I'm going to go through with my plans to propose marriage to her tonight."
Harm sneered. "You're something else, you know that, Webb? You'd really marry her, knowing that she's not in love with you?"
"You snooze, pal, you loose," Webb replied, and Harm clenched his fist to keep from punching the man in the face in an attempt to wipe the smug smile from it.
"I still don't know that Mac's in love with me, Webb. She made it pretty clear in Paraguay that -"
"You know, it never fails to amaze me that you keep passing flight physicals as blind as you are, Harm," Webb sighed.
"Why the hell do you think she was here last night waiting for you? Just like she's been here every night for the past week in the hope that you'd come home. Hell, she tried almost every trick in the book to find out where you were, threatened to resign *her* commission if she wasn't given *some* kind of information."
Harm went totally still, his glass almost to his mouth again. "She did?"
"She had the papers all typed up and everything. She didn't back down until I told her that you'd returned to Langley yesterday morning and was in debriefing and would be home sometime last night."
Harm sat heavily on one of the chairs at the table as he listened to Webb speak. "She was going to resign and come to find me?"
"Just like you came to find her. The Admiral told her that he would have to put the paperwork through just like he did yours - apparently the SecNav is keeping an eagle eye on the office since that business with Commander Lindsey last spring. He told Sarah that he hadn't planned on processing your resignation, but the SecNav paid him a visit and happened to see the papers, started asking questions, and at that point AJ had no choice but to file them with BUPERS."
"Webb- Clay, I-"
"You know, I don't think I ever thanked you for everything you did. Saving Sarah's life, mine. Hell, Gunny might have been able to get there to save her, but, I would have been a goner if you hadn't arrived when you did." Webb smiled crookedly. "Sarah should be getting off work before long," he pointed out. "She and I are supposed to meet at eight. You have a little over three hours to keep her from a loveless marriage. On her part, at least." He turned toward the door. "Don't screw it up, Harm. I won't give you another chance."
Harm sat there, hearing the door close behind Clayton Webb, his mind awhirl. Mac had threatened to resign her commission. For him. Glancing at his watch, he realized that the minutes were ticking away, and stood up, shaking off the effects of the Scotch he'd consumed.
He had to get to Mac before it was too late.
Harm drove to Mac's apartment and let himself in using the key she'd given him in exchange for one to his place. A frisson of guilt crawled down his spine as he recalled asking her to return that key last night.
She wasn't home, and he sat down on the sofa, waiting, trying to retain the courage that his little 'chat' with Clay had given him. He'd tell her as soon as she came in, he decided, not wanting to wait for them to start arguing or have another misunderstanding. Hell, he wouldn't blame her if she ordered him to leave, after the way he'd acted.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of a key in the lock, and lifted his head to watch as the doorknob turned, and the door itself opened, revealing a tired and dispirited looking Mac. All Harm wanted to do was gather her up in his arms and take away that defeated air.
But suddenly she looked up and saw him, and her expression became guarded, closed, painfully reminding him of other times. "Harm?"
"Hi, Mac," he said, trying to smile. "I know I said I'd call, but- I thought we should talk face to face," he said, moving toward her, each step feeling as if it were a mile. "There's something I need to tell you."
He was standing directly in front of her now, and she was looking up at him, her brown eyes filled with confusion and reflecting the fear that was probably in his eyes. "I need to tell you something, too," she told him. "Something I should have said a long time ago."
"I love you," they both said at the same time.
"I'm sorry it's taken me so long," Harm said, and Mac spoke as well.
"I wanted to thank you for-"
Suddenly Mac was in his arms, his lips on hers as he closed the door to the hallway.
In the hallway, Clayton Webb stood watching, a sad smile on his face as he turned and left the apartment building. Yes, he'd lost Sarah. But he had the feeling that she had never really *been* his to begin with. She was where she belonged now.
And that was as it should be.