Author's note: A follow-up to "Secret Agent Man" and just before "The One That Got Away". Thanks to Gail for the beta.
It was late when Harm finally got in, close to midnight. He struggled with the key, and finally pushed the door to his apartment open, kicking his suitcase in front of him. He let the shoulder bag slide off his arm just inside the door. He would deal with the mess in the morning.
He flicked on a light switch, illuminating the lamp in the corner. Thank God for sixty watt frosted bulbs, he thought as he headed into the kitchen to get a glass of water; at the end of the day, harsh fluorescent light was hard on the eyes. And especially after one had just returned from an undercover mission half a world away -- a mission which included disarming a bomb in the nick of time, and then making a narrow getaway in a C-130 on a less than ideal runway.
"All in a day's work," he had joking told Beth O'Neil as they'd taken off from the Philippine jungles. She hadn't seemed as enthused about their unexpected game of cloak and dagger but Harm had made -- and ended -- a career dodging bullets and taking unnecessary risks. Signing on permanently to the kind of lifestyle had been a gut-choice, decided with the same devil-may-care attitude which had driven Mac crazy, had caused the Admiral to accept his resignation --
Harm took a long gulp of water, pushing all thoughts of JAG away. He was a CIA operative now, not a Navy lawyer. A new life, a new kind of excitement, and a part of him had to admit that while he had loved his time at JAG, he also now loved the adrenaline pounding away in his veins. Mac had once called him an "action hero." She'd meant the comment in jest, he was sure, but there were times when he did imagine himself larger than life. With no real sense of his own mortality -- Mac once asked him how long he intended to go on pushing his luck -- Harm could appreciate how his new career would satisfy his lust for adventure. A desk job, he thought with a wry grin, just wouldn't cut it any more.
As he put his glass on the counter, the blinking red light on his answering machine caught his eye. With a heavy sigh, he reached over and pressed play.
"Commander, this is Bud. I was just wondering how you were. The Colonel said you were in Langley, but you didn't leave any contact information, so I'm taking a chance you're still checking your messages."
"Commander, this is Bud. Harriet had the baby this morning. A boy. Six pounds, seven ounces, 18 inches. We're naming him James Kirk--" Harm allowed himself a small grin; how on earth had Harriet allowed that? "Uh, hope to hear from you."
"Harm, Sturgis here. Call me."
"Would you like to sell your house? I have a buyer lined up who would like to buy your property for cash --"
"Commander, this is Bud. I guess you're not checking your messages, but your phone is still working, so... we're having the baby's christening in two weeks. Harriet and I would love it if you could be there. Looking forward to hearing from you."
"Harm, it's me. Mac." A pause; he could almost hear -- see -- Mac taking in a sharp intake of air. "Where are you? The last I heard, you were in Langley, four months on probation while they were seeing what you were made of. But I didn't think being in the CIA meant an all-out communications blackout. So, um, give me a call when you get a chance. I'm worried about you."
Harm brushed a hand over his eyes as he walked away. He could still feel the dirt, danger and adrenaline of the Philippines in every inch of his sore body; even the hot, sticky humid smell of the jungle remained with him. There had been a moment when he'd closed his eyes and imagined he was in Paraguay, not the Philippines, with Mac and not with Beth. He resolutely pushed all thoughts of recent adventures -- and who he had them with -- away and headed into the bathroom for a well-deserved and very much needed shower.
The warm pressure of water felt good against his back and he turned slowly in the shower, lifting his face up towards the spray. He closed his eyes, letting the water run down his face. He pressed his hand against the shower wall, bracing himself against the exhaustion sapping his muscles. He always prided himself on his physical condition and in the last few years, he'd spent even more time working out, either with weights or jogging or playing basketball with Sturgis. But, he thought wryly, there was a point at which even his body had to surrender to fatigue. Unable to fight off the urge to sleep, he turned off the water and stepped out into the steamy bathroom.
Harm toweled off and put on a t-shirt and a loose pair of gray sweatpants. He didn't look at the closet as he walked by; there would be time enough in the weeks to come to get rid of his uniforms. He sat on the edge of his bed for a moment, his head bowed, his eyes closed.
Harm had always preferred sleeping in his own bed; it was the primary reason why he rarely spent the night at any of his girlfriends' places. Mac had once speculated he liked the ability to determine what happened in his own space, because "Face it, Harm, however much you like to live by the seat of your pants, at heart, you're really a control freak." He'd argued halfheartedly with Mac, mostly because at the time, he had known she was right. He had loved Jordan, but not enough to let her in completely and Renee, well, his feelings for Renee were a little more complicated. With Jordan, he felt as if he was getting in too deep, that he was losing the single-minded focus he needed to keep his life on track; somehow, it had never occurred to him to transfer his focus from his father to Jordan and later to Renee. Renee, however, had been a different story entirely. He would always regret leaving Jordan -- or was it the other way around? He imagined it was a matter of perspective – knowing he'd never quite told her exactly how he felt about her. However, to be fair, he had long ago admitted to himself his motivations for being with Renee had absolutely nothing to do with Renee.
Harm finally slipped beneath the sheets. They were cool, crisp, the indicator he'd washed them and remade the bed shortly before leaving for Langley. As he struggled to get comfortable, turning this way and that, looking for the perfect indent his body had made in the mattress, his sleepy gaze fell on the clock radio.
It was just after 1 in the morning.
He rolled onto his back, staring up at the ceiling. He had spent many sleepless nights during the time Mac had gone missing in Paraguay. Worst-case scenarios had run the gauntlet from her taken prisoner to discovering her bloodied body deep in the jungles. Night after night, he had tossed and turned until he had come to a simple conclusion: he would not simply wait to hear about Mac; he would determine her fate himself.
A part of him had always allowed for the possibility he'd have to do without her, that his mission to Paraguay would be too little too late. He shifted on to his side, curling into a fetal position, his left arm crossing his body to grab at the pillow.
He was home.
In the morning, Harm rolled out of bed. Muscles he had never realized he'd had before creaked with the slightest movement. Stiffly, he walked into the kitchen, and turned on the coffee maker. Two cups a day, one first thing in the morning to wake up, and the second later on in the morning at JAG, usually a break spent with Mac. He had a brief moment of nostalgia, recalling the toxic black sludge that passed as java at JAG, a brew usually under the purview of Harriet or Tiner. Mentally, Harm filed 'coffee' under the list of things he knew he would not miss about JAG. The other list of things -- the one of things he did miss -- was much longer.
He glanced at the answering machine one more time and then, with a slight hesitation, he pressed the play button. He listened to Bud's messages, jotted down some notes about the baby, and then deleted the message from the telemarketer. He scratched a note to call Sturgis and then came Mac's message. He leaned closer to the machine, his face barely inches away from it, as he listened. After her final words on the tape – "I'm worried about you" – he hit the rewind button and played it again. And again. And then, yet again. Each time he heard the message, Harm imagined another nuance to her voice. The pause in between her words, the faint raspy quality to her tone – he wondered if she had had a cold when she'd called -- the sniff towards the end of the message and the rise and fall in the volume of her voice. He strained to hear background noise, trying to figure out where she had been when she'd left the message. At home? At JAG? With Webb?
Harm finished off his coffee and was about to go check his front door for a copy of the newspaper when the phone rang again.
Harm leaned against the counter, crossing his arms against his chest as he cradled the phone between his ear and shoulder. "Good morning, sir."
"Enjoying your brief sojourn at home?"
"Yes, of course," Harm answered, wondering what his new boss had in store for him now.
"Have you made your decision?"
Just a brief pause and then Harm said softly, "I'm in."
On the other end, Blaisdell chuckled lightly. "I was almost afraid when you got back to DC, you'd give us a pass."
"Pass up an opportunity to fly again? No, sir," Harm said easily.
"So you're ready for another mission?"
"As long as it doesn't involve a jungle."
"Not this time, Rabb," Blaisdell said. "Can you get here by this afternoon?"
Harm stared at the clock. Just after seven. "Where is 'here', sir?"
"That's classified. Remember, you're in the CIA now. We do things on a 'need to know' basis."
"Thanks for the reminder."
"Get yourself to the United Airlines counter at Dulles by noon. You'll find a plane ticket waiting for you. Further instructions will await you when you arrive at your destination."
"See you this afternoon." A pause and then, Blaisdell continued, "And Rabb? You and Beth did well in the Philippines. You gave us some heart-stopping moments, but you pulled a rabbit out of a hat. Good work."
"Thank you, sir."
Harm hung up the phone. He took another look at the answering machine and then, with a heavy sigh, hit the delete button. Those messages -- those voices -- belonged to another lifetime and it was time to let those emotional attachments fade away; as Blaisdell had just reminded him, Harmon Rabb was in the CIA now.
~ the end
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