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Breaking off


February 10th, 1999 – 2100

 » The way Webb was killed is too sloppy for Palmer, I know the way he thinks. »

While speaking, Harm opened one of the drawers of the kitchen island and pulled out a weapon and ammunition. He began meticulously to load the revolver. Mac watched him, worrying.

 » Don’t get inside Palmer’s head, Harm, it’s not some place you want to be. »
 » Maybe it’s the only way to find him. »
 » What if he finds you first ? Webb was not the only one that Palmer had a grudge against. »
 » I’m not afraid of Palmer, Mac. »
 » Well, I am for you. »

Harm looked up and watched Mac carefully. Her voice had been trembling.

Since they had found out that Palmer was not in Leavenworth, the behavior of the young woman had changed. She was the same worrying and caring friend again as she had been when she had followed him to Russia and had kept him out of trouble.

After their conversation on Christmas Eve, Mac had managed to be both distant and friendly, always totally professional when they were working together, and at the same time warm and nice when they occasionally met in the bullpen or in the kitchen for some coffee. She was the same Mac he had met two years before, friendly but reserved, never one to be totally open, but available every time he needed her.

If it were not for the pain he sometimes felt when he watched her laughing with Brumby, or the memories his mind was playing at night in his dreams, Harm would have thought their love story from the past year had been a dream. Love story, what a grandiloquent expression ! Mac had told him it was just an affair, nothing more … And it looked like she had not changed her mind. She went on with her life, as if nothing had happened, just the way she had behaved a while back, when she asked Dalton to get away from her life, before he was murdered.

In the first days of February, Lieutenant Commander Jordan Parker crossed their road during an investigation they were having in Bethesda. Mac had pointed out to Harm how much the young psychiatrist seemed to enjoy his smile. He had this odd feeling that Mac was pushing him into Jordan’s arms, as if to force him to definitely turn the page.

And suddenly today he was reading anguish in Mac’s eyes. Webb’s sudden death had certainly made her more vulnerable. But he was not sure what to think about the fact that Mac vas so frankly telling him she was scared for him. Finally, he looked away from Mac’s face. He was not sure what he wanted to read in her eyes.

He went back to working on his weapon. Now was not the time to wonder about Mac’s feelings. Palmer was free somewhere out there and would probably try to get to him.

Mac had been studying Harm since the Admiral had told them about Webb’s death, the day before. She had noticed this glimmer she knew so well in her friend’s eyes, a glimmer meaning ‘It’s my fault, I should have … ‘ . Once again, Harm felt responsible for what happened, and Mac wanted to know why. He would not tell her unless she forced him . She had then refused to let him drive her back home when they landed at Andrews. She had insisted on coming with him, to discuss how they would proceed. And now she would not leave until she would know why Harm was taking all this to heart much more than she had expected.

 » You aren’t hiding something out from me, are you ?  »

Harm put the magazine he was holding on the table. He hesitated a while before slowly heading to his desk, to his answering machine. He pushed one button, and Webb’s panting voice sounded in the apartment.

 » Rabb, it’s Webb, I need to talk to you, it’s an emergency … Rabb, I know you’re there. You pick up !  »

And just when Harm’s voice answered, the call ended suddenly.

The look Harm gave to Mac broke her heart. Harm felt guilty, because he had been late to answer the call.

 » I didn’t want to pick up … I was with Jordan … »

His eyes seemed even more guilty, he barely dared to look at her now. Mac could do nothing for Webb, and she was convinced Harm could have done nothing too . But she had to keep her friend from feeling responsible for what had happened, every thing that had happened. He was once again on the verge of finding an excuse to stay away from life if she did not interfere.

 » Harm, stop now ! You had no idea what was up, and Webb dragged us so often into crazy missions that you were right to hesitate. This is not your fault, and even if you had answered his call, I doubt you could have done anything.  »
 » How do you know, Mac ? We don’t know when he died. It was 2300 when he called, maybe I had time to drive to Baltimore, I could have helped him … »
 » And you could have been killed too. You don’t know either, Harm. Stop believing you can avoid everything that is wrong in this world.  »
 » Not in the world, Mac. But I should be there when my friends need me. Webb needed me, and I betrayed him. And then I betrayed you …I did not think any longer about Webb that night …  »
 » What disturbs you so much, Harm ? The fact you could not save Webb, or the fact you spent the night with Jordan instead of trying to save him ? When will you really give up this millstone round your neck ? You are not responsible for anything else than your own life, Harm …  »

Without telling a word, Harm went back to the counter, he took the weapons and the magazines and put them in his holster. He put then the holster on under his jacket and came back to Mac, still at the same place, watching him.

 » You should go home, Mac, it’s late. I’ll drive you back.  »
 » No.  »
 » No ? »
 » I’m not leaving, there is no way I would leave you alone now.  »
 » I don’t need a baby-sitter, Mac.  »
 » Then consider me as your guardian angel. Remember, it’s always safer when I’m there to watch your back. I’m not leaving my partner alone tonight. I’m going to sleep on the couch, Harm, just give me a blanket, I will not bother you.  »

Frowning, Harm watched her hesitantly.

 » I believe it’s not a good idea, Mac.  »
 » And I know you are not able to think unbiased about the situation, Harm, and I will not allow you to jump into troubles. Go to sleep, it will be OK. »

Harm rolled his eyes and let out a frustrated sigh.

 » I presume I can’t say anything to change your mind.  »
 » Don’t even think about it. Just give me one of your t-shirts, a blanket and a pillow. Oh, Harm, don’t try to run off like the night when you were after Diane’s murderer. I know every trick you could put out …  »

February 11th, 1999 – 0130

Wrapped in the blanket, Mac stand at the window, aware of the minutes ticking by. She waited for this night to end, just like every other night when rest ran away from her.

The quiet breathing from Harm’s bedroom soothed her for a moment, and she had sunk into a perturbed sleep until a nightmare awoke her : she had envisioned Harm’s body lying in an ocean of blood, just near Webb’s body, and Palmer standing near them, sniggering. Mac knew she could not really protect Harm, at one moment or another she would have to loosen her watch. But the idea that he would die, just like the others, just like Webb now if she stopped watching him, was killing her.

She felt tears gliding along her cheeks and laughed sadly. If she was so certain she would bring him bad luck, why did she stay near him ? Why had she not requested a transfer somewhere , as far away as possible, Hawaii or Guam ? Why was she not able to rip him out of her heart ?

She shivered, she was chilled to the bone. She remembered the heating thermostat to be near the door. Harm would not mind if she put it up for the night. Slowly she made her way through the room, but she collided with the desk. The noise sounded through the silent apartment and Mac stopped short, looking up towards the bedroom.

Harm woke up with a start, alarmed.

 » Mac, you’re okay ?  »
 » I’m fine, Harm, I just wanted to push up the heating, it’s pretty cold here.  »

Harm pushed the blankets away and jumped out of the bed, his boxers barely hiding his body. He went down the two stairs, leading to the door, to her.

Mac froze and bit her lips. Gathering all her will power, she turned away from the silhouette leading to the door and went back near the window, silent and motionless.

How had she been able to turn him away, to deny her, deny them a few months or a few years happiness ? Why did she think their relationship was doomed to fail without even giving it a real try ? She had struggled so hard for him to give up on her, and she knew deep inside that she would never be able to give up on him. She was pitiful.

Silent tears flooded her cheeks, she heard Harm’s naked feet on the floor, he was going back to bed. She jumped as she felt his hand touch her shoulder and tensed, her whole will power focused on one thought : she did not want to burst into tears. She felt Harm’s warm and almost naked body near hers, and this warmth spread through her soul. She closed her eyes, trying to get in control of her body, or maybe just savoring the sensations the simple touch of Harm’s hand on her shoulder had evoked, in spite of the t-shirt and the blanket.

 » Mac, tell me what is wrong.  »
 » …  »
 » Mac, we agreed we would stay friends, remember … Speak to me, I know something is wrong, is it because of Webb ?  »
 » Because of Webb, and because of all the others, and because of …  »

She stopped short, biting her lips again, this time to keep herself from speaking too much.

Harm turned Mac around to face him. He put one finger under her chin and forced her to look up at him. But when he finally saw how much despair her eyes were showing, he forgot every thing he had in mind before.

 » Oh God, no, Sarah, don’t cry, speak to me … I can’t bear to see you like this …  »

Slowly, he wiped off the tears streaming on Mac’s face. He gently touched her cheek with the palm of his hand, trying to read from her eyes why she was so sad.

Mac lifted her hand and put it on Harm’s hand, closing her eyes to enjoy this contact ; she then turned slowly her face and dropped a light kiss in his palm.

Both hesitant and confused, she looked up at him. She knew it was foolish to think she could regain some self control, she would not try to push Harm away once more … It was beyond her strength.

From her dark eyes, which were no longer trying to hide anything, he read an endless commitment, an intense and desperate need which took his breath away. His eyes not leaving hers, he slowly lowered his head towards hers, until their breathings merged. She felt Harm’s soul on her lips, she longed for this so sweet touch she had missed too much.

She heard him whisper ‘Sarah … ‘ but he did not move. Mac’s hand moved up to the face of her former lover and she pulled him to her lips, melting in their kiss. Harm’s lips, at first moderate and innocent, awoke slowly and turned demanding. His tongue thrust eagerly into Mac’s mouth, a willing victim. He embraced her, huddling her against him, printing his desire in her body, unable to let her go, even if it would mean death for him. His hands pulled the blanket back, began their slow journey down her t-shirt, and settled on Mac’s breasts, finding comfort in these familiar gestures and sensations.

She totally let go in his arms, eyes closed, listening to the hot waves running through her body. She refused to pay attention to the tiny voice in her head, a voice telling her to wake up, to not let go, a voice reminding her that it would be even more difficult to get back into reality. Never mind, tomorrow did not exist. The only things important were these minutes she was right now sharing with Harm, moments more powerful than an eternity of loneliness.

Suddenly, Mac felt she was falling, Harm had just let her go and stepped back. He caught her wrist but stayed one step away from her, frowning, breathing heavily.

 » I’m sorry, Mac, I should not have …  »
 » Harm !  »

Slowly, Mac loosened Harm’s hand still around her wrist, she lifted it to her lips and dropped feather light kisses on his fingers, his palm, her lips half open, her tongue sweetly teasing him. She looked up to Harm, smiled almost shyly and stepped backwards towards the couch, pulling him with her. As she was about to fall back, Harm caught her in his arms, nestling her with tenderness. He headed towards his bedroom, smiled at her and whispered in her ear :

 » I don’t want you to be cold …  »
February 11th, 1999 – 0600

Mac was watching Harm as he peacefully slept near her, his chest moving slowly with every breath. Seconds fell one by one in her head, taking her to the moment when Harm would want explanations, a moment she was scared of. She wished she could stop time, instead of being so well aware of it. She wished they could lock themselves inside a cocoon, far away from the rest of the world, from other people, from reality, just the two of them, alone for eternity. She was anxious about Harm’s first reaction. She had given herself to him tonight so totally that he had to believe she had changed the rules of the game.

Deep inside, Mac had no idea where she stood. Nothing had really changed, unless the fact she was now sure she would never love a man more than she loved Harm. But she still was not ready to take the risk of losing every thing if their love failed.

She began slowly to move, trying to free her hand, captive of Harm’s one. When he had fallen-asleep, he had closed his arms around her, his left leg upon hers, taking her prisoner of his warmth and his love.

She had to leave before he woke up. She had no idea what to tell him, not until she would understand what she really wanted. And people thought Harm was complicated ! Why was she so afraid to let go and love him just as her heart longed to ? Because he is going to destroy you, and leave you, and let you alone just like your parents did, whispered a crying little girl hidden in the depth of her memories. No, Harm would never do that, answered Mac vehemently. Are you sure ? retorted the little girl.

She had to get over her fears if she really wanted to live a real love with a man, with Harm, one future day. She would explain to him, she would request his help … but not right now …

Finally she slowly got up, standing still, her heart pounding when Harm turned in the bed, but he did not awake. Stealthily she went to the living room, put on her uniform and closed the door without looking back.
February, 13th 1999 – 0230

At least, Jordan had fallen asleep, cuddled against Harm.

The doctor appointed by the hotel had not asked any questions. He had dressed the forehead of the naval officer covered with blood and had managed to not wonder about the gorgeous blonde just dressed in a diaphanous deshabillé. However, a steel-eyed giant had pulled out some badge from the Agency, and this was enough for him to forget all about it.

Harm watched Jordan, who was now part of his life against his will. She had arrived in his life at a bad moment, and she could have died because of him. She could have died, because one night he had tried to forget Mac in her arms, and she was the one Palmer had chosen to pull him into his trap.

How had Palmer managed to know about Jordan ? They had only dated twice the week before and on the evening when Webb had called, it was the first time they were spending the night together. Palmer had probably tracked him, taken information about him. Thanks God, he had not understood about Mac, probably because at the time Mac was part of his life, Palmer was not looking for a way to hurt Harm.

Harm was ashamed to feel relieved. Mac did not risk anything from Palmer, she was safe, and she had to stay safe … as long he would not have find this sonofabitch. He had to be sure Palmer would not understand she was the one Harm wanted to protect. But protecting Mac meant putting Jordan in danger … How could he even think about it ?

He watched the young and innocent woman, whose only fault was to have accepted the overtures he had made. She was sweet, very smart, funny, and beautiful. If things had been different, he probably would have really cared for her, maybe he could have been in love with her if Mac had not been in his life.

If Mac had not been in his life …

He remembered this terrible impression of loneliness and questioning he had felt when he woke up and found out Mac had run away. She was gone before they could speak, before he could tell her he was not about to give up on her, never, and he even did not want to try again.

And things had been crazy, it was impossible to discuss relationships at JAG and even if they had been willing to, they would not have found time even for a quick lunch . And yet, Mac did not look as if she really wanted to speak with him about the night they had spent together. Her whole behavior showed how reluctant she was. She was so different form the passionate and sensuous woman who had made love to him until he begged laughing for mercy.
Mac’s crystal-clear laughter just before dawn, the way she cuddled against him, as if to blend in him. He had fallen asleep happy, convinced that luck was back with him. He was convinced that once Palmer was arrested, they would finally be together and go on with their love story. Because he knew it now, it was a love story, and not an affair …

Jordan turned, reached for Harm and opened her eyes.

 » You can’t sleep ?  »
 » I will … Go back to sleep …  »
 » Harm, you did not tell me every thing, right ?  »
 » Shhh, Jordan, it’s late, you have to sleep.  »
 » I’m not a baby, Commander, I know what is good for me … Harm, you know you can speak to me, remember, it’s my job to listen to people, and I’m pretty good.  »

Harm smiled softly, took her in his arms and put a light kiss on her cheek.

« Don’t worry, every thing is fine, you’re safe with me. Every thing is going to be okay.  »


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