Hgeocities.com/jaghavenarchives/CLK_NegotRelation3.htmlgeocities.com/jaghavenarchives/CLK_NegotRelation3.htmldelayedx2rJ)OKtext/htmlpQ̠")b.HThu, 23 Feb 2006 22:54:27 GMT Mozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *1rJ) CLK_NegotRelation3

Negotiating Relationships - Part 3

By: CLK


Chapter 14

Harms apartment
Same time

Why would you think that? Mac was astonished at Harms last statement.

Maybe thats a poor choice of words. Feeling awkward standing at the counter, Lets sit down a minute. Harm reached for Macs arm and guided her towards the living room.

Harm, what happened? Mac was getting concerned for Coates.

Who ever Jen was with kept insisting he could stay longer, and she kept repeating it was late he needed to go. If hed told her one more time that he wouldnt mind another drink, I was going to make my presence known regardless of how embarrassing it might have been to Jennifer.

Harm that hardly constitutes forcing yourself on someone.

Mattie told me at breakfast yesterday that Jen had only been out with this guy twice, and they were going out for dinner last night.  You know as well as I do that Jen doesnt seem to do a lot of dating.  I just dont want this guy taking advantage of any loneliness on her part and pressuring her into something she doesnt really want to do.  Obviously upset, Harm kept his voice low.

At that comment Mac couldnt hold back a small chuckle.

Are we talking about the same Jennifer Coates?  Harm, I cant picture anyone talking her into anything she doesnt want to do.  Shes well over twenty-one and has most likely been around the block a time or two.  Or have you forgotten how you two met?

No, I remember.  But theres a big difference between hustling someone and being seduced. Harm smiled a little at the memory of Jen and Tiny.

So now its not forced, its a seduction? Mac was trying really hard not to laugh in Harms face.  He was definitely in over protective father mode.  All that was missing was for him to pull out his side arm and polish it in front of Jens new suitor.

Mac, it was only a third date, Harm insisted, incredulous that Mac wasnt sharing his concerns.

Harmon Rabb, you are still a prude! Mac couldnt hold back the smile anymore.

I am not. I just dont want her hurt and I cant very well just sit back and ignore it after all shes done for me and Mattie, Harm replied, slightly defensive.

Taking a minute to contemplate everything Harm had said, Mac considered the situation and how obviously upset Harm was.  If he indeed wound up with long term custody of Mattie, the young girl might never have a love life unless Harm learned to loosen up a little. At least learn the difference between wishful persistence and unwelcome advances.

What do you think of this: invite Mattie, Jen, and her new friend over for dinner.  This way you can meet him, and judge for yourself whats really going on.  In the meantime, Ill have a little chat with Jen and see if theres anything to your concerns. Mac waited for what she said to sink in.

Taking hold of her hand, he smiled broadly. Thanks, Mac.  Thats a great idea. Harm knew hed gotten along well for almost 40 years without Mac, but he also was beginning to accept that he wouldnt ever be able to survive without her again.


JAG Headquarters
Sarah MacKenzies office
Next morning

Good morning, Colonel.  You wanted to see me? Jen stood at attention in front of Macs desk.

At ease. Yes, as a matter of fact I did.  Why dont you take a seat. Mac waved to the chair at Jens side.

Despite Jens military training, to anyone who knew her, her unease was easily readable in her eyes.

Mattie has brought to Harms attention that youve been dating someone. Mac smiled trying to reassure the young Petty Officer.

Yes, maam, but I havent had him over with Mattie home.  Weve only just met and I would never do anything that the Commander might consider inappropriate around Mattie. She meant every word shed said.

I know Jen. We both do. Thats not why Ive asked you here. Mac could see Jens shoulders relax a bit.

Wed like to invite both of you over for dinner.  I thought it might be a good opportunity for Harm to meet him, if you dont mind.  I also thought it might help relieve some of his fatherly paranoia. Mac smiled thinking of how concerned Harm was for Jen.  There were worse things that could happen to a girl than having Harmon Rabb take you under his wing.

I wouldnt call the commander paranoid, maam, Jen smiled shyly.

Hmm. Jen might think differently had she heard last nights conversation. Mac mused to herself.

Want to tell me about him? Mac smiled broadly, hoping Jen was relaxed enough for a little girl talk.

Grinning happily, Jen shrugged her shoulders and leaned forward on her seat.

Well, maam, his name is Robert. Everyone calls him Bobby.

The first thing to cross Macs mind was how dangerous could someone named Bobby be?

Hes petty officer Calvos older brother.  Hes 28 and a CPA, hes never been married, and hes awfully sweet maam. Jennifer blushed slightly at the last thought.  Of course, after only three dates its hard to tell, but he seems different maam, reallynice.  Know what I mean?

Yeah, I think I do. Mac smiled truly pleased Jen had found someone to keep company with.

Last night, when he brought me home after dinner and discovered that Mattie wasnt there and we were alone, he was still the perfect gentleman.  He stayed for a cup of tea and didnt even try to kiss me until he was at the door leaving. Jen looked down and flushed several shades of red.

Nice kiss, huh? Mac couldnt resist commenting.  It wasnt really a question.

Yes, maam. Jen was still blushing.

He teased me a bit about coming in for another cup of tea, but it was late and probably not a good idea.

He wasnt forcing himself in any way, was he? I mean changing his mind about wanting to stay after all.  Mac was glad to have the open door to ask the question and hoped Jen didnt find it too intrusive.

Oh, no, maam. He really was very sweet.  He would never, I mean if he wanted to, hes had plenty of other opportunities towell, you know.  He hasnt though.  Hes been really respectful.  I didnt think there were anymore men like that out there.  Most guys Ive known think one dinner entitles them to anything they want.  Bobby didnt even kiss me until our second date, and that was a small peck. Jen grinned again. She wasnt used to being treated this way.  She liked it.

At first I suspected, Mary, I mean Petty Officer Calvo, warned him to behave, but its just his nature maam.  Hes a really nice guy, sort of like the commander.

"In that case, how does Friday night sound?" Mac asked.

"Ill check with Bobby maam.  Will that be all?" Jen asked, standing up.

"Yes, dismissed," Mac replied just as her phone rang.

"Colonel MacKenzie."

"Hey, beautiful." Harms voice carried through the phone, low and sexy.

"Morning," she practically cooed.

"Had a chance to talk to Jen yet?" Harm had been distracted all through court this morning wondering about Jen.

"Yup, shes going to check with Bobby about Friday night."

"Bobby, huh?"

"Yeah, according to Jen, hes a young you." Mac giggled into the phone. "Except hes a CPA." Definitely safer than falling in love with a sometimes fighter jock, Mac smiled to herself.

"Well see," Harm replied, the thought of a younger him wasnt necessarily all that reassuring. 

Chapter 15


Harms apartment
Friday night
1810 hours

Will you please stop pacing, Mac asked almost dizzy from watching Harm.

Im not pacing. Im organizing, Harm explained, returning to the kitchen from the bedroom, taking a beer out of the fridge.

Looks like pacing to me, Mattie offered from her spot next to Mac in the living room.

Harm glared at the two. Fine, have it your way.  Ill sit in here with you. He took a few steps over to the easy chair and sat down heavily.

Harm, please dont make this guy feel like hes facing the inquisition. Mac leaned slightly forward in her seat.

Im not. Harm took a sip of his beer.

Standing up, Mac took a deep breath and moved over to sit on the arm of the chair Harm was in.

Harm, Ive been through a lot with you.  Ive seen you face all sorts of odds and trust me when I tell you, youre scaring me. Mac smiled softly, placing her hand on his arm.

This guy is not going to be another Ted Bundy.  Just relax. Okay? Mac didnt think it would work, but she had to try for Jens sake.

Within seconds Jen knocked at the front door.  Harm got up to answer and paused to reach for Macs hand, pulling her alongside him.  Smiling broadly at her, You always have been my voice of reason.

Mattie decided to stay in her spot on the sofa.  After all, the poor guy didnt need a welcoming committee. She watched as Harm reached for the door.  All the tension and nervousness that had been clearly evident only moments ago, washed away the instant the door was open wide.  Confidence and authority were beaming from every pore.  Considering the transformation before her, Mattie realized this must be what happens whenever he steps into a courtroom or climbs into a tomcat.  Only the stellar officer is in attendance.

Hey Bobby, nice to see you again. Mattie called from her seat, amused by Bobbys immediate look of relief at finding a friendly face.

Hi Mattie. Bobby waved, following Jen over to the sofa by Mattie.

Can I get you two something to drink? Mac offered.

Ill have a beer maam, Jen answered first, hoping to make Bobby more comfortable.

Me too, maam, Bobby accepted.

Have you been in the military? Harm questioned.

No, sir.  I was raised in Texas.  If I ever assumed any adults name was something other than sir or maam Id find myself on the wrong end of my grand daddys switch quickly, the young man smiled.

Harm chuckled at the honest response.

Where in Texas? Mac inquired as she handed him his beer.

Frisco.  It used to be a small town just north of Dallas, he replied taking a sip of his beer.

Used to be? Harm questioned.

Dallas has been growing at an insane pass over the last twenty years.  What used to be cow pasture is now either freeways or shopping malls, Bobby replied wistfully.

You miss the small town feel? Harm continued.

Yes, sir.  It will always be home but its not quite the same anymore.

Dinner conversation continued much along the same lines for the rest of the evening.  Harm discovered what Jen and Mac had reported was indeed true.  Bobby was a clean cut, well educated, polite man.  Hed graduated from Southern Methodist University at the top of his class.  Shortly after his sister was stationed here in Washington, hed been courted by one of the larger DC accounting firms and decided the change would be good for him.  He had seriously been considering returning to the slower pace of Dallas when his sister introduced him to Jennifer.

Shortly after dessert Mattie excused herself.  As was the truth with most 16-year-olds, spending the evening with her pseudo parents was not anywhere near as entertaining as spending the evening on the computer with friends.

It was almost midnight when Bobby stood up to leave.

Thank you, for a lovely evening.  It was a pleasure finally meeting both of you. Bobby smiled sincerely at his hosts.

Same here. Harm offered his hand to Bobby.

Well have to do it again, Mac suggested.

Yes, maam, Bobby and Jen replied in unison, before smiling at their choral response.

Let me walk you out, Jen offered quietly before turning to Harm and Mac. Goodnight, sir, maam. Thank you. She smiled and followed Bobby out the door.

So, can you put away the shot gun? Mac asked leaning against the now closed door.

Yes, mother, Harm chuckled, taking a spot on the sofa and tapping the seat next to him.

Once Mac had made herself comfortable beside Harm, he placed his arm around her, pulling her close.

You know, I wasnt exaggerating Mac.  You always have been my voice of reason.  You were always the one with the plan when I was running off half cocked.  It was true back in Russia searching for my father and it was true here tonight. Harm looked down at her beautiful brown eyes.

I once told you what I wanted most was to never lose you.  As sincere as I was then, I mean it even more now.  I couldnt stand to live another day if you werent by my side. Not blinking, Harm continued staring into her eyes.

A thousand thoughts were flashing through his mind.  He didnt want to be dating Sarah MacKenzie.  He didnt just want to make love to her.  He wanted her for always.  He wanted to do what the fortune cookie had encouraged him to do all those months ago, he wanted to take the road not taken.  He wanted to fulfill his hearts desire and make Sarah MacKenzie his wife. 

Mac was torn between telling him how she felt and reacting to the magnetic pull his lips had on her.  Before she could make up her mind one way or the other, the sound of a knock on the door made its way through to them.

Gently shifting her weight off of him so Harm could stand up, he went to see why someone had so rudely interrupted them.

May I come in, sir? Jen stood timidly at the door.

Of course. Harm stepped aside. 

I was just wondering Colonel if maybe you had a minute, Id like to talk to you. Jen called on her military discipline to hide her nervousness.

Of course Jen. Mac shifted to one side of the sofa allowing Jen plenty of room to join her.

I was thinking in private, maam. Jen glanced at Harm. Sorry, sir. No offense intended. Just girl talk.

Must be some girl talk if it cant wait til morning, Harm thought.  He made a conscious effort not to jump to any negative conclusions.  Sure, Ill go see if Matties still up, maybe we can catch something interesting on TV.  Standing behind Jen, Harm shrugged his shoulders at Mac before closing the door behind him.

Whats up Jen? Mac inquired, pointing for Jen to sit down beside her.

Well, maam, Jen started

Okay, first rule, if were going to be having the kind of talk I think were going to have, in my boyfriends apartment Mac had to stop herself from choking.  This was probably the first time she could recall referring to Harm as her boyfriend. The thought sent shivers down her spine.  Grabbing her thoughts, she continued, Youd better drop the maam.

Yes, maMac. Jens lips twitched at her not so smooth save.  I think its pretty obvious, I really like Bobby.

Mac nodded.

This is the fifth time weve been out in about two weeks, hes a nice man whos probably had lots of nice girlfriends.  I dont know what to do maam.

Mac smiled ignoring the slip.

I, I dont want to mess this up. Jen stopped wringing her fingers and looked up at Mac.

Why would you mess it up? Youre a nice girl, Jen.  Youve got wonderful qualities and youre very attractive.  Harm and I have been amazed that this is the first time weve noticed a man paying any attention to you.

Well, like you said maMac, Im not bad looking.  There are lots of men who have asked me out.  Most arent too willing for a second date if they dont get what they want on a first date.  Needless to say, I havent had many second dates lately.  Id even given up on first dates, till Bobby.

Harm would be the first to tell you, any of those guys werent worth the first date. Mac wasnt sure where this conversation was going.

Jen what are you really wanting to ask me? Mac realized that maybe Jen was going to need a little coaxing.

Im scared maam.  I really really like him.  And Im veryattracted to him.  Its been a long time since Ive...been with anyone. Jen looked back down at her hands. I dont want to be too easy and I dont want to play too hard to get.  What do I do, maam? Jen looked up at Mac, the fear and love in her eyes fighting each other.

Oh, Jen.  I cant tell you something like that, Mac sighed softly.  Has he tried anything, I mean has he made some kind of move on you? Mac couldnt believe her choice of words.

No.  Hes been the perfect gentleman.  Hasnt even tried for second base, she giggled girlishly.

Then why are you so worried? Mac was still a little confused.

Hes coming over for dinner tomorrow night and Mattie is spending the night at Susans.  Itll be the first time were alone for any real length of time, Jen said, biting her lower lip.

I see.  All I can say is follow your heart.  Youre a big girl. Im sure youve been down this road before.  If youve made mistakes, learn from them.  Dont be guided by fear.  Whether its fear making you do something or fear stopping you from doing something.  Dont let fear cloud what your heart tells you. 

The sound of Macs words hit her like a ton of bricks.  Do as I say, not as I do.  What a hypocrite.  Mac had let fear rule so much of the last eight years of her relationship with Harm.  Despite all the progress they had made, she was still allowing fear to rule her heart. It was time she followed her own advice.

Chapter 16

Harms apartment
Same night

Sending Jen back to her own apartment reassured, Mac took the time til Harm returned to ponder her own statements.  Without looking at her watch she knew it was after 1:00 am.  Her little chat with Jen hadnt seemed very long, but theyd talked for over an hour.  Mac needed to think.  Was she postponing the inevitable out of fear or was she really building a solid foundation that would last forever. 

Gathering up her things, Mac met Harm at the door. 

Its late, I really should be going home.

I fell asleep on their sofa.  Jen had to wake me up, Harm snickered.

Let me walk you downstairs. Harm pulled the door closed behind him.  Is everything alright? He asked trying to keep his worry from showing.

Yes. Mac smiled at him.  Jen really likes this guy and she just doesnt want to make any mistakes.  The only problem is shes not asking the person with the best track record for advice. Mac rolled her eyes.

Experience is worth its weight in gold.  Whether good or bad, everyone can learn from it. Already by Macs car, Harm leaned down and kissed her gently on the lips.  It took everything in him not to tell her he loved her.  Soon.

Goodnight, they echoed.  Harm stood on the curb until Macs taillights faded in the distance.  How could he have waited so long tell this woman how he felt? Shaking his head, he made his way back to his apartment.

Saturday morning Harm had appeared at Macs for their morning Jog with a single peach rose.

I dont know what the color means, but its beauty reminded me of you, Harm grinned, handing her the flower. Gently, he raised his finger to wipe the single tear that fell down her cheek.  The idea wasnt to make you cry, he smiled.

Thank you, she answered, sniffing the rose tenderly.

Sunday Jen and Bobby joined Harm and Mac after their run for a picnic in the park.  Despite the age gap, Harm and Bobby seemed to have a lot in common, including Bobbys grandfather was a WWII fighter pilot, now retired and living in Wichita Falls.

After playing an amusing game of flag football, ladies against the men, the ladies sent the men in search of ice cream as their spoils.

Harm, youve known Jen a long time havent you? Bobby asked casually as they walked across the park.

Not by most peoples standards, but Ive known her a few years.

Weve spent a lot of time talking.  Shes told me all about her father, her youth, her arrests. Bobby chuckled at the picture he had conjured up of Jen in a Santa suit.

She seems to feel she owes you a lot, and to hear her side of it, shes right. Trying to gage Harms reaction, either this man was extremely humble or Jen was exaggerating considerably.  Bobby suspected Harm really didnt believe hed done that much for Jen.

I didnt do anything more than anyone else would have done.  Colonel MacKenzie was as much an influence on Jen as I might have been. Harm felt Jen gave him too much credit.  She was the one who turned her life around.

Walking a little further in silence, Bobby turned to Harm again.

Did Jen ever mention the men in her life? Bobbys eyes scanned the horizon for the ice cream vendor.

No. Harm wasnt comfortable with where this was going. Its none of my business.

Dont get me wrong.  Im not looking for gossip. He paused searching for the right words.

She seems to be afraid of something, I was wondering if, having grown up on the streets and all, if maybe something or someoneunpleasant happened to her. He turned his head to look carefully at Harms expression.

I honestly wouldnt know. Im sorry. Harm returned the mans gaze.  He was pleased to see honest concern in Bobbys eyes.

I just dont want to her to think I dont want her, but I dont want to come on too strong if she needs space.  Bobby was searching the distance again.

Whatever youre doing, she seems happy. Harm followed Bobbys gaze spotting the Italian ice vendor.

You really think so? Bobby smiled hopefully.

Yeah, I do.

JAG Headquarters
Monday afternoon.
1400 hours

Looking up at the knock on her door, Mac smiled from ear to ear when she saw Harm leaning against her doorway with a cup of Starbucks coffee in each hand.

I come bearing gifts, Harm grinned.

If thats Hawaiian Mocha, accepted.  Mac raised one eyebrow, playfully.

It is, Harm smiled, looking very satisfied with himself.

How did the interview go? Mac asked taking the lid off her coffee.

About as expected.  This case seems pretty cut and dry.  I can probably talk my client into taking a plea. Harm was enthralled watching Mac blow on her coffee.

Stepping back into the hallway, Id better get going if I want to get out of here at a decent time tonight.  Are we still on at my place tonight?  Harm inquired quickly.

Yup. Mac had looked back at her computer screen.

Oh, it will just be the two of us. Mattie has Alateen tonight.

Nodding her head, Got it, see you later. Mac looked up for just a minute to catch Harms departing smile and went back to work.

Harms apartment
1735 hours

Putting the two pizzas in the oven to warm, Harm wondered who could be knocking at his door.

Why didnt you use your key? Harm questioned as Mac pushed past him.

Couldnt find it, she mumbled, dropping her briefcase and cover on the floor and taking a seat on a barstool.

Mac had a hollowed look in her eyes that worried Harm.  Quickly, he moved over to where she was.

Whats wrong, has something happened? 

Dropping her forehead in her hand. Its Lieutenant Buckman.

Harm didnt understand.

I was almost ready to leave when the admiral called me into his office. It had been a long time since Mac had really wanted a drink.  It seems Lieutenant Buckman finally snapped.  The police found him trying to toss a couple of guns into the lake.  Mac straightened up to look at Harm.

He shot his mother and the two neighbors she ran to for refuge, then shot himself before the police could arrest him.  Theyre all dead.  Mac collapsed against Harm.

At a loss for words, Harm immediately gathered her into his arms before gently guiding her over to the sofa.

Its my fault.  If hed done brig time, theyd be alive.  Mac tightened her grip on Harm. 

Its not your fault Mac.  You didnt put the gun in his hand or pull the trigger.  Thats why he was in counseling.

I could have locked him away.  I had him dead to rights. Sighing deeply, Hold me, she pleaded, despite his already firm embrace.

Mac, there was no way you could have known. Harm smoothed his hands up and down her back trying to reassure her.

Pulling away from him, I should have stopped him. Three innocent people, Mac sighed. She really needed a drink.  Looking into Harms eyes, she saw the sympathy, the compassion, and maybe even the love. Without any conscious thought she pressed herself up against him capturing his lips hungrily in hers.

Before he could think, Harm was engulfed in the searing embrace.  Mac was desperately teasing his lips, begging for entrance.  Too quickly he found himself under her attack. Mac was fervently leaving a trail of fiery kisses along his lips, his jaw, past his ear, down his neck.  He was being consumed by Sarah MacKenzie, the fire in her touch was matched only by the desire burning in him. 

Overwhelmed by the surging passions induced by Macs heated caresses, Harm was almost frozen in place, all his senses overloading.  Mac continued her path of searing wet kisses down the front of his neck, her hands roaming across his chest, down his abdomen.  Her left hand circled up to his shirt and began undoing the buttons, her other hand grazed down his front tugging at his belt, her lips never separating from his hot skin. 

When he felt his belt click loose, a lightening bolt of reality brought him to his senses.  Harm grabbed for Macs hands with the reflexes of a fighter pilot.  Forcing himself to calm down, Harm searched for his voice.

Mac, stop, he gasped, his breathing labored, his desire still soaring.

She continued her oral assault despite Harms firm grip on her arms.

MAC. Letting go of her arms, Harm pushed her away as gently as he could. NO. He leaned his head forward trying to meet her eyes.

Dropping her head slightly, I need you. Please. She tried to reach for Harms zipper before his hands stopped her again.

Not now, not like this. Harm wanted her so badly, but he would never be able to live with the regret in her eyes when she woke up with him the next morning as though he were a bad hangover.

Lifting her face to meet Harms gaze, the flood of pain came bursting through as she fell sobbing into Harms arms. What have I done? She was crying for three dead souls and the man whose love shed almost taken advantage of.

Your job. As far as Harm was concerned, that was the only issue to be dealt with tonight. 

Harm held Mac until she was cried out.  Finally she changed out of her uniform, had a cup of tea and curled back into Harms arms for the rest of the night.  It was only the second time in the little over two months theyd been dating that they had slept in the same place.  Next time Harm hoped it would be for the right reasons.

A/N: Domestic abuse can only escalate. The outcome of this particular case is not an exaggerated figment of my imagination.  I repeat myself at the risk of nagging.  If you are, or know someone in an abusive relationship, dont ignore it.  You can also help by considering a battered womens shelter for your next donation of unwanted goods.

Chapter 17

Mac called upon the discipline of her Marine Corps training to get through the next few days, and the love of a good man to get through the rest.  Slowly Mac began to reconcile her heart and her head that she had truly done what she thought would be in everyones best interest. It would be a long while before she would be really okay, but she was getting there.

Harms apartment
Thursday night
2100 hours

That was a great game Mattie, Mac repeated, coming in the front door.

I cant believe we blew them away, Mattie grinned. We havent been able to beat Oakdale all year! Mattie was beaming with excitement.

Just goes to show you, in sports, nothing is a sure bet, Harm added, hanging his keys on the wall and locking the door.

Walking over to the sink, Mattie poured herself a glass of water and drank the entire glass in one very long gulp.

Hey, there champ. What are you part camel? Harms eyes were wide as saucers watching Mattie drinking.

I wish, then I wouldnt be so thirsty after the games. Mattie set the glass down in the sink.  I need to get going, Ive still got some homework to finish, she huffed, wrinkling her nose.

I guess Ill see you in the morning. Harm gave her a quick hug.  His eyes followed her walking out the door.

Youre really going to miss her if she has to go back to her dad. Mac watched Harms gaze frozen on the closed door.

Yeah, she really changed my life, Harm sighed, before joining Mac in the living room.

Turning on the stereo, he took something off the shelf.

I picked this up for you the other day. Harm handed her the CD.

Cyndi Lauper, Mac exclaimed enthusiastically.

I noticed every time her new rendition of Walk On By comes on the radio, you raise the volume, Harm smiled bashfully.

Leaning across the couch to reach him, Mac kissed him soundly, square on the mouth.  Scooting over, Harm returned the kiss with ardor.  Stopping for air, Harm grinned at Mac.

This reminds me, how would you like to go out to dinner Saturday night? I know weve made it a habit to stay in but I thought it might be nice not to have to do dishes.

I think thats a great idea.  We could use a night out, thank you. Mac knew full well that Harm was trying to help her get over the rough week.  She loved him all the more for it.

Macs apartment
Saturday Morning
0630

Well, Ill be. Youre on time, Mac said, opening her mouth wide to feign total astonishment.

Comedienne, he teased back, kissing her softly on the cheek. 

Just let me turn off the coffee pot, finish tying my shoes, and well be ready to go, Mac smiled.

No hurry. Harm picked up her newspaper.

Did Mattie mind you wont be home for dinner tonight? Mac asked from the kitchen.

No, shell probably be at Susans again. Harm was still looking at the paper.

Again? Mac asked, with a frown as she sat down next to Harm.

Yeah, she spent last night at Susans and my guess is shell stay over again.  I have no idea what is so wonderful about Susans. Harm put the paper down.

Might have something to do with Susans brother James, Mac said, tying one shoe.

Noticing the look of horror on Harms face.  Relax.  Hes in college and most definitely not interested in his kid sisters friends.  They probably just enjoy spying on him. Mac rolled her eyes remembering what it was like to be young.

Okay, ready to go? she asked, both her shoes tied.

Lets go. Harm extended his arm indicating for Mac to lead the way.

Do you know how things are going with Jen and Bobby.  I meant to ask Jen myself, but things were a little tough this week, Mac asked locking the door behind her.

Well, no one has said anything to me, but if Bobbys car being parked outside the building at 0600 is any indication, Id say all is well, Harm smiled mischievously.

Really? Mac looked honestly surprised.

Now whos a prude? Harm mocked.

No, its not that. Mac looked away solemnly.  Why could Jen let go of her fears and she couldnt?

You dont think somethings wrong do you? Harm was beginning to get concerned.

No, not at all.  I think its great. Smiling in earnest for her friends happiness, Really, great.


Caf Napoli
Georgetown
1805 hours

Although it had been a while since their first visit here, the hostess obviously still remembered them.  Of course, Mac had learned years ago that most women found Harm hard to forget.

Tonight Harm and Mac were given a small table for two on the veranda.  It was a lovely spring night, perfect weather for dining outdoors.

Beautiful flowers and good food, youre spoiling me Rabb. Mac smiled over the edge of her menu, momentarily distracted by the memory of the roses delivered to her house that afternoon.

Not possible, Harm grinned behind his menu.

Did Mattie stay at Susans again tonight? Mac asked setting her menu down beside her.

Yes, I knew she would.  If shes not at Susans than shes at Marias.  Either way the three of them are always together.  Theyre like the three musketeers, Harm smiled, placing his menu on top of Macs.

Does Maria have an older brother too? Mac inquired grinning.

No, she does not, Harm enunciated carefully.  She probably just chases after Susans brother, he laughed.

Glad youre not taking this brother thing too seriously. Mac moved her hand forward reaching for Harms.

A good friend of mine explained to me, thats what teenage girls do. Harm squeezed her hand.

Dinner out was just what Mac needed to put the week behind her.  She loved how attentive Harm was being. She was a self-sufficient marine, but she was learning to like not having to stand on her own all the time.  The dinner had been exquisite.  Both delighted in pleasant conversation, good food, and the company of someone they loved. 

Harms apartment
2100 hours

Missing the privacy of their normal Saturday night routine, Harm and Mac went back to his place for an after dinner cup of coffee.

Still want coffee, or would you rather have tea or some sparkling cider?  Harm asked, fishing matches out of the drawer.

Its still early, I think the cider might be nice. Mac watched as he lit the large candle on the kitchen table.

Mmm, I love how that candle smells, she sniffed.

Ill have to remember that the next time Im shopping for cologne, he teased.

Youre incorrigible. Shaking her head Mac walked over to the CDs. Did you ever get the rest of your collection back from Mattie?

Not all of it.  Ive been getting them back a few at a time. I believe we still have the sounds of the seventies though. Harm bit back his amusement.

How about Anita Baker? Mac called out, pulling the CD off the shelf.

Sounds great. Harms soft whisper next to her ear sent an involuntary shiver up Macs spine. 

Handing her a glass, he placed a soft kiss on the side of her neck. I love the way you smell.

Its not me, its the candle, she teased.  Turning on him quickly, she kissed the tip of his nose and sauntered over to the sofa.

Following in step behind her, Harm placed his glass on the coffee table.

May I have the honor of this dance, madam?  Harm bowed at the waist, extending his arm in invitation.

Id be delighted, Mac replied in her best British accent. Moving into his arms, they slowly began to dance around the small space.

Did you notice Bobbys car is still downstairs? he asked softly.

Yes, is it in the same spot?

Mm Hmm.

Guess theyve found paradise in DC, Mac giggled.

Harm looked down into her eyes.  So have we. 

Mac slowly turned her face up, meeting him halfway.  Delicately their lips met in a gentle caress. Too soon their lips parted, the original intent of a mere show of affection accomplished.  Seamlessly, Mac slipped her head into the nook of Harms shoulder as he brought his chin to rest partly against the top of her head. 

They danced this way through several songs, barely swaying, enjoying the warm cocoon of each others company. 

Totally at home in Harms arms, Mac mindlessly began drawing circles on his back, gently following the curve of his shoulder blades back and forth.  Her fingers were igniting sparks throughout Harms body like a fast growing brush fire on a dry summers day.

Harm had carefully planned every event in their day.  It was no coincidence that much of his music was still at Matties or the large cranberry candle was burning on the table.  He had wanted to make tonights dinner something just as special as their first date had been.  He wanted Mac to know how he felt in his heart and he needed to let her know before he became any more aroused at her touch.

Mac, Sarah.  Harm didnt want to just blurt it out, but his brain was directly attached to the tingling fire pulsing through his veins. 

At the sound of her given name, Mac stiffened slightly.  Much to his relief, her hand stopped doodling on his back.

I just wanted you to know that I meant what I said earlier.  Every day since weve been together has truly been another day in paradise. Feeling like a lyric from the sounds of the seventies, Harm let out a small chuckle. 

Thinking the same thing, Mac relaxed again in his arms.

I didnt mean that to sound like a clich, he whispered in her ear.

You didnt. I feel the same way, she replied, her voice low and raspy with desire.

Searching her face, Harm momentarily stopped swaying.  Meeting her lips briefly in only a hint of kiss. Harm breathed onto her moist lips, I love you.

Mac felt his breath reach the tips of her toes.  Like oxygen fanning a flame, his words fanned the embers of her growing passion.  At the feel of his lips lovingly against hers, his tongue requesting entrance with its delicate caress, her lips parted shamelessly with a will of their own. 

This was more than she could stand.  The man she loved with all her heart had just said he loved her.  Her knees were beginning to buckle underneath her. 

Harm could feel Macs heart pounding rapidly beneath him, the roundness of her breasts pressing against him.  Her hands were once again drawing circles along his back, sending shivers up his spine.  Every cell in his body was on fire with want for her.  Deepening the kiss, he pulled her closer than he thought humanly possible, devouring the taste of her until the need for air became too heavy to refuse. Dragging his lips away from her mouth, he began nibbling down her neck. 

Her lips finally free to speak, Mac whispered into Harms ear.  I love you.

Gasping at the sound, fueled by her words, his lips came crashing against hers once again.  Anything that might have resembled delicately slow vanished at the knowledge she loved him.  Their tongues mingled somewhere between a vicious duel and graceful dance. 

The feel of Harms fingers wandering through her hair, across her neck, down her shoulder, was slowly chiseling away at any remnant of fear that may have lingered in the back of her mind.  Every ounce of her being ached for him.  Pressing and pulling him closer, she could feel his arousal strong against her, her desire pooling heavily low to her core.

Breaking away, breathless, Harm softly kissed her lips, her eyes, her cheek. His lips hovering once again over hers, he heaved a deep sigh. Please.

Yes. Her lips closed the distance, continuing the age old dance.

Yes, was the most beautiful sound in the world to Harms ears.  Not only did she love him, she was ready to let him show her just how much he loved her.

Chapter 17.5

Harms apartment
Same time

Dipping to one side, He reached under her legs and raised her off the floor into his arms.   Her arms firmly around his neck, their lips blending together as one, Harm carried her into his room. Carefully setting her down on the bed, he nuzzled up beside her, his hands eager to explore her sensitive skin, his lips recapturing the warmth of her kiss.  He had always envisioned their first time together as long and slow, but for the first time in his life he wasnt sure he could find the willpower to slow things down.

In a tender frenzy of passion, the two hastily rid each other of all layers of clothing. Somewhere in their heated haze of desire they were aware of buttons popping and fabric flying. Finally freed from his self-imposed rules, Harm kneaded and caressed every inch of exposed skin, intoxicated by its feel. He was virtually overwhelmed by a desperate need to be one with Sarah, his Sarah. The feel of her soft skin under his fingertips sent sparkles of warmth to his very soul. Never had he loved anyone with such intensity. He was totally lost in his love for her.

Breathe, Mac reminded herself.  Harms skillful touch had her writhing with pleasures shed never known possible.  Shed never wanted more desperately to be joined with a man in her life.  Every sensitive part of her body ached with desire. She needed to be one with Harmon Rabb as much as she needed air to breathe. 

When he could hold back no more, Harm leaned into Macs ear and breathed, I love you. With those three fateful little words, Harm slid deep inside her. Her hips unable to remain still urged him on.  His slow and steady strokes took on a faster pace.  Her legs wrapped around him pulling him closer, deeper.  Unable to hold back, his name escaped her lips with every exquisite thrust.  Her body coiling tightly around him, Harm thrilled at every sound she made, her head thrown back in ecstasy, her chest arching high, her soft breasts too close to resist.  Leaning over, he lightly licked the tip of one nipple. Mac gasped for air, her insides clutching him in an even tighter grasp.  Harm could take no more, with one final stroke he emptied everything he had into Sarah MacKenzie, his love, his heart, his soul.  Never again would either belong to anyone else.

Chapter 18

Their hearts and souls had been seared together as one for all eternity, and now the morning sun peered through the front windows, a rude reminder of the end of a glorious night.

Shifting to block the rays of light, Harm smiled contentedly at the warmth of Sarahs soft body snuggled against his own.

Morning, handsome, Mac purred, stretching with the flexibility of a kitten.

I love you. Harm said, lightly kissing her forehead.

Grinning, Mac threw her leg over Harm, then climbed over to straddle him.

I love you too. She kissed him back. Studying his face, what are you thinking? Mac asked.

Nothing.

Dont hand me that.  Youve got that same shit eating grin on your face Ive seen too many times before.

I was thinking last night was better than anything I could ever have dreamed up.  Harm rolled his eyes playfully.

Yeah, it was wasnt it? She leaned down for another kiss.

Consumed by her kiss, Harm wrapped his arms around her, his body immediately reacting to Macs nearness.

Running her hands along Harms chest, almost melting at the feel of his strong arms around her, Mac was startled when he suddenly froze.

Squirming out from under her, Harm quickly sat up. Closing his eyes a moment and taking a deep breath, he looked intensely at Mac.

Whats the matter? she asked, almost panicked.

I just realized, I was so absorbed in finally making love to you last night that I never gave a second thought to using protection.

Macs hand flew up to her mouth, her eyes opening wide as saucers. Oh God, neither did I.

I take it, youre not on anything are you? He took hold of her free hand in his.

She shook her head no.

Well, I havent been with anyone since my last physical, so there arent any worries there, he reported, reaching over and pulling Mac back into his embrace.

I just had my physical, she whispered, settling against him.

Then that just leaves one thing. Harm kissed the top of Macs head.

Your looks. Her panicked look of horror was instantly replaced by a broad grin.

Maybe, your looks. Harm smiled back.  Taking a minute to let everything sink in.  Would that be so awful?

Your looks, or my looks? Mac teased.

Maac.  You know, we do have an anniversary coming up. Harm started lightly rubbing her arm.

Mm, five years, she acknowledged.  Its not very likely, she added.

What?

That Im pregnant after one night. Mac leaned more heavily on Harm, almost saddened by the reality.

I suppose not, but it only takes once, Harm shrugged.

I know, but the odds arent in our favor.

Youd be okay with it if you were?

Yeah, I think so. Mac nodded, her eyes twinkling.

I think this is all Ive ever wanted.  To wake up to you every morning and tuck in children with your looks and my brains every night. Harms voice was so low it almost cracked.

Me too, Mac agreed her voice barely audible.

Pulling away to reach in his nightstand, Harm opened the drawer, then turned back to face Mac.

I had originally planned this for another time, another place.  In light of this conversation, I dont know that I could wait for the perfect setting.  Harm opened his hand displaying a small dark velvet box.

Macs heart lurched to her throat at the prospect of what might be inside the box.

I hope you know I love you with everything I am. Would you allow me the pleasure of proving that to you every day for the rest of my life? Sarah, will you marry me? Harm flipped the box open, the light immediately reflecting off the diamond solitaire, dancing colorfully on the walls around them.

A single tear slipped down her cheek.  Yes. If youll let me do the same. Mac threw her arms around Harm, quietly repeating in his ear, Yes. Yes. Yes.

Pulling back from her embrace, Harm took the ring out of the box and reached for Macs left hand.

Allow me.  Smiling at each other, Harm slid the ring onto her finger.

Using a condom this time, Harm and Mac made love over and over until Macs stomach loudly demanded food.

Harms Kitchen
Two hours later

Eggs are almost ready, are you going to be much longer? Harm called to Mac from the kitchen.

No, she answered, walking towards him, drying her hair with a towel.

Mmm. Smells good, flyboy.  Mac closed her eyes taking in a long whiff.

The sound of someone knocking on the door brought Mac out of aroma heaven.

Ill get it, she grinned at Harm, stealing a piece of bacon for the trip.

Oh, hi, Jen. Mac was a little surprised.  Usually Jennifer and Mattie, if she was home, slept in until almost lunchtime on Sundays.

Turning back to the kitchen, ready to steal another slice of bacon, Mac asked, Want some breakfast?

No, thanks. We went to IHOP for pancakes. Jen was facing Mac, but smiling at Bobby. I was surprised to see your car back so early from running, Jen commented, changing her mind and reaching for a strip of bacon.

Will you two cut that out!  I know I dont eat it, but Id like some left when the eggs are done. Harm shook his head dismayed.

Sorry, Commander, Jennifer shrugged, taking a bite of the bacon.

We decided to skip our run this morning. Mac too was facing Jen but grinning at Harm, playing mindlessly with her new ring.

So what brings you by? Mac asked, turning her full attention to Jennifer.

This. Jen stuck her left hand out in front of Mac.

Congratulations! Mac gasped, giving Jen a hearty embrace. You too! Mac added, turning to hug Bobby.

Moving the frying pan over to one side.  Harm approached the newly formed huddle.

Isnt this a little sudden? Harm had unintentionally slipped into father mode.

Were planning a long engagement, sir, Jen answered softly.

Once I told her my intentions, it didnt make any sense to wait. Bobby tried to explain.

What, you want them to wait eight years like we did? Mac smacked Harm playfully with her left hand having forgotten about her own new jewelry.

Oh, my God! Colonel! Jen screamed, spotting the shiny new ring.

While the two women oohed and aahed at each others rings, Bobby walked over to Harm.  Did you really wait eight years to propose? he asked sincerely.

Its complicated, Harm answered out of one side of his mouth.

I bet! Bobby laughed out loud.


                                     
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