"I'm going to miss you," Mattie told Harm as they packed her things up for the move back to live with her dad.
Harm looked at her. "I'm going to miss you, too, kiddo," he replied. *More than you know* he added silently, quickly going back to what he'd been doing at the realization that even *he* hadn't realized how much until this moment.
"So. What's up with you and that professor lady?" she asked in deliberately off-hand fashion that didn't hide her curiosity from Harm.
"Alicia and I are just friends," he told her.
"Hmm. That's what you said about you and Mac. And then you told me that you loved her," Mattie reminded him.
"Yeah. I did, didn't I?" he mused.
"And that you and she were 'working on it', I think you said."
He glanced up from the box he'd just finished taping closed to find her standing there, her hands on her hips, staring at him expectantly. "Mattie, it's not that simple," he said at last.
"You love her. What could be more simple than that?" she asked, watching as he put the box onto the floor and found another empty one.
"But the question is: Is *she* in love with me?" Harm pointed out. "I don't think she is."
"She's not seeing anyone. That spy guy is dead -"
Harm concentrated on the books he was picking up. No, Webb wasn't dead. But he couldn't tell Mattie that. And that that was the reason he had kept his distance from Mac and started spending time with Alicia Montes. "Mac was in love with him, Mattie. You wouldn't expect your dad to have started seeing someone else right after your mom died, would you?"
"Knowing what I know now?" she asked. "No. I guess not. But it's been a few months -"
"When Mac's ready to move on, she knows where I am."
"And what if *she* thinks you and the professor are *more* than 'just friends'?" Mattie suggested.
Harm frowned. He hadn't thought of that. Maybe that would explain - he shook his head, denying that Mattie could be right. Mac was still waiting for Webb to be able to come out of hiding. For him to come home again. Just because he'd noticed her giving him sad looks for the last couple of months - that didn't mean - did it?
"Hey!" Mattie said, tossing a pillow at him, hitting him squarely in the face. "Wake up!"
Harm caught the pillow and tossed it back at her. "Hey yourself," he replied. "We'd better get this finished before your dad gets here. It's a long drive to Blacksburg."
"You're changing the subject," she accused.
Harm sighed. This wasn't a subject that he wanted to get into with Mattie. The fact that he couldn't be entirely truthful with her about the reason why he and Mac weren't together bothered him. Lying wasn't something that came easily to him - and it wasn't something that he wanted to do with Mattie at all. "There's just nothing more to say on the subject," he countered at last just as she lifted the pillow to throw it again.
"Have you at least *told* her how you feel?" Mattie asked, and Harm shook his head.
"Why not?! Sheesh, Harm. How's she supposed to know that you love her if you don't *tell* her?"
Harm lifted his eyes to meet hers. "Mac knows how I feel about her. But until she feels that she's - free - ready to get on with her life -"
"Free? She's *already* free, Harm. Yeah, her spook boyfriend is dead, and she's sad about it and needs some space, but -"
"Look, Mattie, there are things you're not aware of, okay? Things that affect the situation."
"Things you can't tell *me* about?" she questioned, frowning.
"Yeah. Matters of national security. Beyond that, Mattie -"
"I understand," she said, going back to her packing. "I still think you should tell her. Just to make *sure* she knows."
Harm picked up the box he'd sealed a moment ago. "She knows."
"She can't read your mind, Harm. Unless you tell her, she *can't* know for sure."
"I'm going to take this into the hall so that when your dad gets here, we won't have that far to carry them."
"You're running away," she accused as he left the room.
"I'm retiring from the field," he replied over his shoulder and felt the pillow hit his back.
"Well, I think that's it," Mattie told him as they surveyed the empty hallway, the last box at her feet to be carried down to be placed in the back of her dad's truck.
"Yeah," Harm agreed. "I guess so." He pulled her into his arms for along embrace, feeling her tightly held control. "I'm going to miss having you around."
"Not as much as I'll miss you," Mattie replied against his shoulder, her voice a little hoarse as she tried to keep from crying.
Pulling back from her, Harm met her watery gaze. "You know that if you ever need me - all you have to do is call, right?"
"I know." She drew back, using the bottom of her sleeves to wipe away the moisture in her eyes. "I guess we must have stirred up some dust or something," she suggested.
"Yeah," Harm agreed, blinking as the moisture because to pool in his own eyes. Down on the street, Tom Johnson blew the horn of the truck. "You'd better go."
"Yeah," she confirmed, bending to pick up the box.
"I'll pick you up at eleven on Saturday, okay?" Mattie nodded.
"Oh, just a minute. I have something for you." He went back into his apartment to get the envelope with Mattie's name on it. Returning to her, he dropped it into the box. "Read it later."
"I will. Thank you, Harm. I love you."
"Same here, kiddo," he replied, opening the elevator door for her and closing it again. "Take care."
She nodded again, still determined to hold it together.
Harm waited for the elevator to start down, and went back into his apartment to the window. On the street below, he saw the battered old pick up truck with Tom Johnson standing beside it. Mattie came out and handed him the box before going around to the passenger side of the truck. As she opened the door, she looked up and Harm saw the tears on her cheeks before she waved for the last time and got into the truck.
Harm waved as well, including Tom in that salute as Mattie's father looked up. He watched the truck go down the street until it was lost to his sight, only then realizing that there were tears on his own face. Going to the phone, he picked it up, wishing he could call Mac. But with everything going on in her life - and knowing that Webb was out there, somewhere alive - he didn't feel he had to right to bother on her with his problems.
He knew she was worried about Webb - about where he might be, if he was safe, and wished not for the first time that Simon hadn't come to deliver Webb's message to them about what was going on. Before that, he and Mac might have had a chance. Now - there was no way he could make a move with Webb's shadow still lingering over things.
He dialed a number and waited for someone to answer. "Hi . . . No reason. I just - thought maybe we could have dinner tonight. I'll cook something up - if you're not doing anything - I know that it's short notice -" he grinned sadly as she spoke. "Yeah. She just left." Picking up a framed photo of the two of them standing beside "Sarah" with huge smiles on their faces, Harm blinked back another tear. "I'll see you then."
He hung up the phone and went to the refrigerator, taking out the ingredients for a stir-fry, concentrating on his task in an effort to keep his mind off of Mattie's leaving.
"You've been quiet all evening," Alicia said as they drank coffee after dinner.
"I guess I haven't been very good company, have I?" he said apologetically. "I'm sorry. I guess I shouldn't have called -"
"Hey. If I hadn't wanted to be here, I wouldn't have said 'yes'," Alicia pointed out. "Why don't you talk about it?" she suggested. "I know you're upset about Mattie leaving -"
"Yeah. And it doesn't make sense, since I'm the one who got her to give her dad a second chance, but -"
"It still hurts," Alicia finished when he broke off. "That's understandable. You invested a lot of yourself in Mattie. More than you've ever invested in anyone, I suspect."
Harm managed a small grin. "Maybe. It was just - easier with her than with - others," he finished, just barely catching himself before he said Mac.
"And it's not as if you're never going to see her again. You have two weekends a month and a month in the summer. It could be worse."
"I know. I guess - I think maybe I feel as if my only chance at being a father just walked out the door."
"That's not necessarily true," Alicia insisted.
Harm shook his head, standing up to take their empty cups into the kitchen. "Look at the facts, Alicia. I'm over forty, unmarried. My chances of becoming a father -"
"You're not *that* old," she pointed out. "Plenty of men your age start families. I admit it's not something that you hear about every day, but it *does* happen. Once you find the right woman -"
"I thought I had," he said quietly, and immediately wished he could retract the words.
Alicia tilted her head to look at him, her green eyes sparkling like emeralds. "If I thought for one moment you meant me, Harmon Rabb, I'd be delighted. But I know you don't."
"Hey, it's okay," she assured him, waving her hand in his direction. "You were talking about Mac, weren't you?"
"Alicia, you didn't come over here to talk about Mac."
"I came over here to talk to you about your problems. About whatever's bothering you. And she's part of that."
"You want something to drink?" Harm asked. "More wine?"
"No, thank you. I'm fine. Are you in love with Mac, Harm?"
He took a deep breath before answering the question. "Yes." Before she could say anything else, he lifted a hand to stop her. "No, I haven't told her, and no, I'm not *going* to tell her."
"Well, that makes sense," Alicia shot back, shaking her head. "Why not?"
"You sound like Mattie," he sighed, sinking back onto the sofa.
"She's a bright girl," Alicia noted. "If you love her, then you should let her know about it."
Harm shook his head, looking at his hands. "It's complicated, Alicia. There are things between us that I can't overcome." He sat forward, rubbing his face with his hands. "Things that I can't talk about." Another deep breath as he linked his fingers together and rested his elbows on his knees. "I think it's too late for me and Mac to be anything other than friends."
"You can't know that, Harm. You're still unattached. So is she."
"Not totally." He looked at her. "You sound like you're trying to get rid of me. Dislike my company that much?"
Alicia smiled at him. "Not on your life. I just consider myself lucky that you think of me as a friend and can confide in me. Once Mac gets over her boyfriend's death -"
"That's just it. She won't." He saw Alicia frown. "Just leave it alone, Alicia. Please."
"Okay," she said. "I guess I'll just take my good fortune and not look too closely at it. You know, I think I will take that glass of wine if the offer's still good."
Harm turned to look at her. "You're a good friend, Alicia. I don't deserve -"
"You just let me make that decision, okay? Because I'm not going to hear anything else. Now. Wine?" she prompted. "And maybe I'll tell you about how one of my first year law students totally mangled a moot court today."
Harm laughed and rose from the sofa to pour two glasses of the wine they'd had with supper. Returning, he held it out to her. "Madame."
"Thank you, sir."
"So. Tell me about the moot court disaster."
Harm had two cups sitting on the counter and was considering what to make for Mattie's breakfast when he suddenly remembered that she wasn't here anymore. She wouldn't be over for Sunday breakfast. Deciding that he wasn't hungry, Harm went into the bedroom and dressed to go for a run in the hope that it would take his mind off of things.
But just as he came down the steps, there was a knock on the door, and he glanced through the peephole to find Mac standing there. Opening the door, he smiled. "Mac. What's wrong?"
"Does something have to be wrong for me to come over?" she asked him, and held up a sack. "Besides, I come bearing gifts." She looked past him. "I'm not interrupting something, am I? Maybe I should called -"
"No," Harm said as she started to turn away. "No. Come in. I'm just - surprised to see you."
"I figured you might be a little lonely, with Mattie leaving yesterday afternoon. I would have called last night, but I thought you might need some space before facing anyone."
That stopped Harm as he was about to pour the coffee. "As a matter of fact, I almost called you."
"Why didn't you?"
He shrugged. "Figured that you have enough on your mind without having me cry on your shoulder."
"That's what friends are for," she reminded him. "So who did you call instead?" she asked, her attention focused on the croissant on the plate in front of her.
He saw her hesitation before she picked up her cup. "Oh. You've been - seeing a lot of her, haven't you?"
"I guess I have."
"She seems like a nice person."
"She is. She's been a good friend over the last few months. Someone I could go to when I needed to just talk about things, get things out in the open."
Mac looked up at him hurt and something else in her eyes. "You couldn't talk to me?"
"I know how worried you are about Webb, Mac -"
"We broke up before he left the last time, Harm," Mac said quickly.
Harm stopped in the middle of lifting his cup to look at her. "What?"
Her eyes fell back to the counter. "I told him that it wasn't going to work out. I can't live that kind of life. That I need someone who's going to be there for me when I need them, not off in hiding or saving the world." She swallowed heavily, drawing Harm's attention to the line of her neck. "He said that he'd always known it wouldn't last. I think whatever we had was based on what we went through down in Paraguay. Once we both started to recover a little from that, we both saw things for what they were."
"That was - two months ago, Mac," he declared, feeling some anger that she hadn't told him about it at the time. If he'd known -
She nodded. "I came by to tell you about it -"
Harm thought back, trying to remember when that might have been. "I don't -"
"The night I came over and Alicia was here for dinner?" she prompted. Harm recalled that night. Alicia had sensed that something was troubling Mac, but Harm, hurting from his demon of anger at Webb for being alive and back with Mac, had told her that if Mac said she'd call the next day, she would.
"You said you'd call the next day and you didn't."
"I went home and thought about things. I wanted you to be happy. That if you found someone who could give you the things that I probably can't, I should just be happy for you and stay out the way. To just be your friend if that was all I could be. I thought you and Alicia were -"
"Like I said, she's a friend," he explained, his earlier anger fading. "Someone to have dinner with and talk to when I didn't want to trouble you with things."
"Does she know that?"
"Yeah. I don't think she'd mind it being more, but she's content with things as they are." He gave her an embarrassed grin. "She's been telling me that I needed to talk to you."
"You've discussed me with Alicia?"
"I needed someone to talk to. I didn't tell her about Webb," he assured her quickly. They sat there for a moment in silence before he asked, "So. Where are we now?"
"I don't know. I guess it - depends."
"How about we start over?" he suggested.
He held out his hand. "Harmon Rabb."
"Sarah Mackenzie," she told him, taking his hand to shake it as they'd done that day so long again in the Rose Garden. "My friends call me 'Mac'."
"But Sarah's such a beautiful name. In fact, my grandmother's name is Sarah."
"Is that so?"
He nodded, starting to enjoy the game. "I named my airplane after her."
"Airplane? You're a pilot?"
"So they tell me. It's a Stearman that I restored a few years ago. You like to fly?"
"I've been up a few times. Most of them weren't very good experiences."
"Maybe you need to try again."
"Maybe I will," she told him.
"So. Tell me, Sarah. What do you?"
"I'm an attorney. At JAG."
"Isn't that interesting? So am I. I can't quite picture you in a Navy uniform, though. I think Marine green would suit you much better."
"As a matter of fact, I happen to *be* a Marine. A Lt. Colonel."
"And what about you? What do you do when you're not up chasing clouds?"
"I'm a lawyer at JAG, too. Navy Commander."
"Isn't that a coincidence?" she said, clearly having trouble keeping a straight face.
"Small world," he agreed, and gave her broad smile as they both started to laugh.
By the time they recovered, tears were rolling down Mac's cheeks and Harm reached out to wipe them away - effectively stilling their laughter as a strange air of incipient anticipation filled the room. "Do you think we can do this, Harm?" she asked, still uncertain and afraid. "It's not fair to you, considering that I probably can't -"
"Mac, it's never been all about that for me. It's always been about having you as a part of my life."
"If you think things were complicated before -"
"I know. But we'll work it out. Being on the same page helps."
"You think we are? On the same page, I mean?" she asked hopefully, leaning into his hand, letting it cup her cheek.
"Oh, yeah," he assured her, giving her that flyboy grin. "I know we are."