"Then you need to know what the doctor said," Mac told him, and Harm felt his heart stop beating for a moment as he looked at her face. She looked so serious, so frightened. He covered her hands with his and waited for her to talk. He didn't pressure her, just sat there, waiting, even though his own worry and fear *for* her were eating him alive.
When she finally spoke, she was looking at their hands, not at him as she pulled one of hers out to capture his hand between hers. "I - It's possible that I might not be able to *have* children," she said in a quiet voice, her eyes lifting to his face, as if trying to catch his reaction before he had a chance to conceal it.
"I don't care about that right now, I just want to know what's wrong, with *you* Mac" he told her, and saw the relief in her eyes.
Mac took a deep breath. "Endometriosis. That's what's caused the back pain and - other things I've been experiencing."
Harm closed his eyes and released the breath he'd been holding. "Thank God. For a minute I was afraid -" he blinked, opening his eyes to look at her. "I was afraid it was cancer -"
"It's not that bad," she told him. "Except that I will impact my having children. And I know how much having a family means to you, Harm -"
He turned to face her. "Mac, I don't give a damn about whether or not we have any kids. As long as we're together, we're a family. We can always adopt - or - or become foster parents, there are all kinds of options. I said once that I didn't want to lose you. I meant it then, and I mean it now. I'm sorry about Clay - I know you wanted things to work out, but in another way, I'm not sorry that he's not part of the picture anymore. Because that means there's nothing standing in my way." He looked down at their intertwined fingers. "There's no one else in your life at the moment, is there?"
"N-no. Except you."
He lifted his eyes to find hers watching him. "Yeah. Except me," he agreed, leaning closer to her, only to stop as the door into the club opened and someone came out.
"There you are," Harriet said when she saw them, and then backed off, as if suddenly realizing that she might have just interrupted something. "Is everything okay?"
Harm retained his hold on Mac's hand as he stood up, pulling her gently with him. He was grateful for the interruption, aware that he was moving too fast, considering Clay's death. Mac needed time and space, without any pressure from him. "Yeah. We were just talking," he said, smiling as Harriet's eyes widened upon seeing their hands joined together.
"I was wondering - have either of you seen the Admiral? He's not inside -"
"He probably slipped away," Mac suggested. "Didn't want a scene."
Harriet sighed with regret. "You're right. Bud and Sturgis both said that they thought that's what he would do. It just seems - wrong, somehow. After all this time -" She looked at Harm and Mac again. "Are you sure everything's okay?"
"I'm just a little tired," Mac confided. "I really need to get home - I'm not feeling very well -" she took her cell phone out of her purse as Harriet returned to the party inside. "Yes, I need a cab -" Mac said into the telephone.
"I'll drive you home, Mac," Harm offered quickly, before she could finish the sentence.
She looked at him. "Just a moment," she told the dispatcher. "I don't want to put you out -"
"You won't be. I'll drive you home," he said again.
"Never mind. I have a ride," she said into the phone before closing it again.
Harm gave her a gentle smile, offering his arm. "Let's go Cinderella. Your pumpkin awaits."
On the way back to Mac's apartment, Harm called Mattie and let her know that he was going to be a little late. She assured him that it was okay, and that she had enjoyed dinner with her dad. Hanging up, he saw Mac watching him. "What?" he asked.
"You're good with her," she noted.
"I hope so. I've learned a lot from having her in my life." That thought led to the realization that she might not be in his life much longer, and he sighed.
Mac reached over to place her hand over his. "Just because she goes back to her father doesn't mean you won't be a part of her life anymore, Harm," she pointed out.
He managed to smile at her. "When did you learn to read my mind?" he asked.
"I wish. Maybe then I wouldn't have messed everything up so badly. And Clay wouldn't be -"
He'd been afraid of this, Harm thought, sighing and cursing himself for making that stupid comment to Sturgis three years ago. Grasping her hand with his fingers, he waited for her to look at him. "It wasn't your fault, Mac. It was his job. You had to have known something like that could happen. Nothing you did or didn't do would have made any difference."
"I can't believe that he lied to me."
"To protect you. To keep you from worrying."
"I wish I could believe that," Mac said, shaking her head. Moving in the seat, she winced, and Harm frowned.
"I'm a little uncomfortable. The doctor said that it could happen."
"Do you have anything to take for it?" he asked.
"I have a prescription, but I didn't take the time to get it filled -"
Harm looked around before turning into an all-night pharmacy. "Then we'll do it now," he declared.
He insisted on walking her up to her door, and for once Mac didn't fight him, for which he was grateful. There was no way in hell he was going to leave her alone at the moment - but he didn't want to fight with her about it. For once in his life, Harmon Rabb knew exactly what he wanted, and he wasn't about to back down.
"You want some coffee?" Mac asked as she unlocked the door, and Harm nearly sagged with relief upon hearing the question.
"Sure. But why don't I make it while you change?" he suggested, following her into the apartment.
"Everything's still in the same place," she assured him with a grateful smile before turning toward the bedroom. "Make yourself comfortable."
Harm took her at her word, removing his jacket, tie and cummerbund, laying them neatly over the back of a dining room chair before going into the kitchen to put the coffee on to brew. He could smell the faint odor of Webb's expensive aftershave even in the kitchen - and wondered if Mac could as well. He could afford to be magnanimous, he supposed. After all, Webb was dead - and it looked like things were finally moving in more or less the right direction for himself and Mac. But knowing that Webb had been here, with her -
Harm took a deep breath to restore his equilibrium, rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt while waiting for the coffee to finish. Finding two cups, he poured the coffee and put sugar and cream into Mac's before carrying them to the living room. "You okay in there?" he asked, worried that she wasn't out of the bedroom yet.
When she didn't respond, Harm put the coffee onto the table and moved cautiously toward the bedroom, worried that she might have fallen or fainted because of whatever they'd done to her at the hospital earlier. "Mac?"
She was sitting on the edge of the bed, wearing a knee-length tee shirt while holding something in her hands, her eyes on that item. Harm recognized the item as a dark tee shirt - too small to be one of his - Not that he would have left one here at Mac's apartment. "I found it under the edge of the bed," she explained. "I still can't believe he's really gone," Mac said in a shaky, quiet voice.
Very carefully, Harm sat on the side of the bed with her, keeping several inches between them. Giving her space. "Maybe he's not, Mac," he suggested. "I know you said that you 'feel it' - that he's dead. But I can't help but remember when he faked his death to complete a mission."
She looked up at him, and Harm's heart nearly broke completely at the look in her dark eyes. "I wish I could believe that," she said, and shook her head. "But I can't." Her fingers clenched around the dark fabric she held. "You were right about me."
"No, you were. Every man who gets involved with me dies or wishes he was dead. John's career went down the tubes because of me. Mic gave up his career and moved around the world because of me. Eddie, Chris, Dalton - now Clay. They're all dead."
"Not because they were involved with you," he pointed out. "John Farrow's career was over *before* he tried to help you. You never asked Brumby to give up his career and move. He did that on his own, knowing that you weren't ready to make a full commitment. Eddie was drinking. You didn't force him to get drunk or drive that night. Chris was going to kill you. It was your life or his. No one forced *him* to come back here and try to black mail you for money." He covered her hands with one of his. "Dalton was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was bad luck on his part that he got in Coster's way. Anyone that Coster felt was close to you would have been a target. But that was Coster's problem. Not *yours*."
"You didn't send him out on that mission," Harm pointed out. "He had a dangerous job. He knew what the risks were going in, Mac. At least - at least he was happy and had you in his life for awhile before it ended."
"I thought you said that you aren't sure he's dead?" she pointed out, but he saw the tiny glimmer of gratitude in her eyes, even while knowing that he wasn't convincing her that none of the deaths in her life were her fault.
"Have you talked to his mother? Porter's reaction to the news might be enough to confirm it one way or the other."
"I tried to call - but she's out of the country, according to the butler. Either that or she just isn't taking my calls."
Harm frowned. "Why would she do that?"
"Porter Webb and I don't exactly get along. She's not happy that Clay was spending so much time with me instead of with her whenever he was in town. I think she'd be that way with almost anyone Clay became involved with, though."
"So it's not personal."
"No." Mac's gaze fell to the dark fabric in her hands once more. "He really tried, you know. He was even cutting back on the drinking. When I was around, anyway. And I know that he lied to protect me, to keep me from worrying about him. If I'd kept getting those gifts, I probably wouldn't have known anything was wrong." Her sigh was loud in the quiet room. "If you're smart, Harm, you'll run as fast and far in the other direction before it's too late."
"I think it's already too late, Mac," Harm said, tilting his head to see her face. "And I'm not going anywhere," he promised. "Why don't you take a couple of those pills and get some rest?" he suggested, standing up and pulling the covers on the bed back for her.
"What about the coffee?" she asked, slipping between the covers.
Harm tucked her in. "It'll wait. Just like everything else until you're ready." His eyes met hers, letting her know that he wasn't just talking about the coffee. I'll go get the pills and some water."
He busied himself with finding the pain pills and getting a glass of water, taking both into her and making sure she took the medication before tucking her in again. "Get some rest," he said quietly, smoothing her dark hair.
Before he could pull his hand away, Mac grabbed it, causing him to stop and look down at her. "You'll be here?"
"Always," he said again, smiling gently. "Now sleep."
"You're too good to me sometimes," she said. "I don't deserve it."
"I happen to disagree. Close your eyes, Mac."
She did, and he remained where he was, watching over her, until he could tell that she was sleep. Only then did he move back into the living room. Picking up the now ice-cold cups of coffee, he carried them into the kitchen, emptying both into the sink and rinsing one of the cups. Refilling the other, he returned to the living room to sit down on the sofa, staring into the dark liquid.
His gaze fell on a stack of pamphlets lying on the coffee table, and he picked one up, discovering that it was about endometriosis. Probably something that Mac's doctor had given her to read. Opening it, he started reading about the condition. If he was going to help Mac through this, he needed as much information as he could get.
Sometime during the night, Harm fell asleep. His dreams were filled with memories of Webb, and Mac, and the time when Webb had faked his own death. But this time, instead of Jordan being in danger, it was Mac, and Harm and Clay ended up fighting over which of them was going to save her. Toward the end of the dream, Palmer turned into Sadik Fahd, and it was Mac who took him out while Harm and Clay stood by, still fighting over her until they saw what she was doing.
*"She's something else, isn't she?" Harm questioned with pride.*
*"She sure is," Clay agreed. "Certainly too good for either of us."*
He brushed aside the hand that fell on his chest, not wanting to wake up.
"Harm." This time the hand shook his shoulder. "Wake up."
He opened his eyes to find Mac's limpid brown eyes on his face. "Mac?" Sitting up, he glanced toward the window, seeing daylight outside. "What time is it?"
"Zero nine fifteen," she informed him.
"Guess your internal clock's still working," he said, running his hands over his face and through his hair before looking at her. "How are you feeling this morning?"
"A little better. Physically, anyway." She chewed on her lower lip for a moment. "You stayed."
"I said I would," he reminded her. "I didn't mean to fall asleep. I wanted to be awake in case you needed help -"
"You don't have to stay with me 24/7, Harm," Mac assured him. "I'm capable of taking care of myself, you know."
"I know that. But everyone needs a little TLC from time to time. I figured last night was your time. Do I smell coffee?"
"I made some fresh," she said, holding out a cup as she sat down beside him. "Here."
Harm took a drink of the coffee, letting the caffeine jolt his system.
"I see you found the information that Dr. Takashi gave me," Mac noted, indicating the pamphlets that were scattered over the table before them.
"I hope you don't mind that I read them," he said. "I wanted some insight into what you're facing."
"I don't mind," she assured him, fingering one of the brochures.
Harm sorted through them. "There are a couple of options from what I've seen. Medication, surgery -"
Mac took a deep breath. "They removed some of the tissue yesterday," she told him. "But Dr. Takashi wanted to wait until I made a decision before she did anymore."
"She told me that - I have the option to try and have a child before we do anything drastic. If I go with medication, I won't be able to do that. If I *do* have a child, then she would suggested a hysterectomy as soon as possible after, and then I wouldn't be able to have any more children. But she did say that if I chose that option, I can't afford to wait. It's now or never, in other words."
"I see. What are you going to do?"
"I want a baby. *Your* baby," she clarified.
"I want that too, Mac," Harm said, turning to look at her. "But I'm not sure you're ready to start another relationship. You're still grieving for Webb."
"I see. I guess it was a silly idea after all -" she began, moving as if to stand up.
Harm's hand shot out, stopping the movement, causing her to look at him. "No, Mac, it's not. I'm just not sure we're ready to take that step - I mean, I'm ready, but -" Seeing her disappointment, Harm put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into an embrace. "Come here," he said, holding her. "I'm not backing out, Mac," he promised. "I made you a promise, and we'll figure out a way to make it work." The memory of something he'd read the night before came to him. "In fact, I saw something last night -" he started digging through the pamphlets. "Here it is." He held it out to her.
Mac studied the title. "Artificial insemination?" she questioned, lifting her eyes to his. "You'd be - willing to do that?"
"It would give us both what we want," he pointed out. "You need space right now. I just need to know that you're okay. I should warn you, I don't intend to be a weekend father, Mac. If we agree to do this, it would mean buying a house together and sharing total responsibility. I'm not asking for a commitment from you - not yet, anyway," he amended, and smiled when he saw the surprise on her face at his words. "But I'll be there when you're ready to make it." He sat there, watching her carefully as she studied the pamphlet. "You don't have to do it if you don't want to, and it would be fine with me. Like I said last night, we can adopt."
"You really think we can do this?"
"Yeah. I do."
"Okay. We'll do it."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that. I'll call Dr. Takashi tomorrow and find out what we need to do."
*Three months later*
Harm looked up to see Mac's smiling face in his doorway. She seemed more at peace with herself these days. Clay's death still troubled her on occasion, but Harm hoped that the time that the two of them were spending together was helping her get over it. "Hey yourself. You look happy."
"I am." She came into the office, closing the door behind her before holding something out toward him. "I have something to show you," she explained.
"Here?" he teased.
"Look at it, Harm."
Harm took the white stick and suddenly his eyes widened. "Is this what I think it is?" She nodded. "You're -?"
"I think we need to get serious about finding a house," she told him.
Harm came around the desk and pulled Mac close, not caring if anyone else saw them. "Are you okay?"
"I feel fine. I'll make an appointment with Dr. Morgan this afternoon. Do you want to go with me?"
"I said I wanted to be there with you all the way, Mac," he reminded her. "Just try and stop me." He leaned closer, and then stopped, suddenly remembering his promise to give her space until she was ready. "Sorry," he apologized, pulling back, only to have Mac stop him.
"I'm ready, Harm," she said, placing his hand on her stomach. "I think this baby deserves to have his parents together, don't you?"
"His parents? What if it's a girl?"
"Doesn't matter," she assured him, "Dad."
Harm's arms tightened around her as his happiness overflowed. He'd lost Mattie to her father - closing one door as another was opening. And now he and Mac would walk though that door - together.