Author's note: Thanks to Gail and Jerie for their comments.
He leans in for the kiss. A gentle pressure, petal soft skin against skin. Her eyes are closed, her body arching towards him. The sounds on the street outside, the spices and flavors of Ciudad del Este, all seem so far away at this very moment. His hands on her face, her fingers on his chest; he thinks this first touch as something more than friends will be forever burned on his skin. His leg over her hips, drawing her close, as she wraps her arms around him. He is only aware of her breathing, his breathing, the way they move together fluidly and instinctively. He slips a hand beneath her tank top, pushing up the material to cup one breast. And as he kisses her again, between breaths, he whispers her name over and over again.
Harm woke with a jerk.
The rain danced against the window panes in a light gentle rhythm.
He was back in Washington D.C.
In his bed.
He shifted his position in bed, trying to untangle the sheets from around his legs. His skin was hot, sweaty. He turned to look at his alarm clock; 1:45 in the morning. Ten hours since he'd come in from the airport, and more than twenty-four since they'd left Ciudad del Este. In the cab, from the hotel to Alejo Garcia Airport, they hadn't spoken. Mac had kept her attention on the scenery passing by. At one point, he had considered reaching for her hand but the way she'd turned away from him caused him to think again.
They hadn't spoken much on the forty minute flight to Asuncion. Mac seemed engrossed in American Airlines' flight magazine, finding more of interest in Debra Messing's New York than in the man who had given up everything to come find her. Harm drank coffee. Two cups, a lot for the short trip, but his mouth felt dry, and he needed an excuse to account for his trembling hands. From Asuncion to Sao Paolo, Mac had worked the crossword puzzle and he leaned his head against the window, watching the clouds below blur. They'd stopped for a snack in the Sao Paolo airport; Mac ordered something with a lot of eggs and meat, he chose yogurt. After the first spoon, he'd pushed the dish away. There was nothing wrong with Mac's appetite though; she'd cleaned her plate thoroughly. The final leg of their trip back to Dulles, Mac had slept while he had watched movie after movie on the little television monitor embedded in the back of the seat in front of him. All romantic fluff comedies: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back.
At Dulles, Mac had collected her baggage, declined his offer to see her home, and fluttered her fingers at him. Very casual, very light. "You are planning to see the Admiral tomorrow, aren't you?" When he'd nodded, she'd continued on. "I'll see you tomorrow then," she had said. "Good night, Harm." He'd stood there, watched her hail a cab, and then, he'd gotten into his own, feeling suddenly very tired, very drained.
Despite all of the activity of the past few days, he was unbelievably alert, energized. He sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. Walking out into the living room, he aimed straight for the window. The street below was empty and rain had started to pool in the potholes left by winter's frost heaves; he knew it would be months, if not years, before road maintenance came around to fill these. Pressing his head against the cool pane of glass, he watched the water slap at the pavement.
"We will never work out. Because we both want to be on top and emotionally and physically, that's impossible."
He placed his palms flat against the window, frustration knotting itself in his stomach.
He had resigned his commission, had gone all the way to Paraguay to find her, and there was only one reason why he would do that. And she knew it. She fucking knew it. And still, as Mac had said, after eight years, this was how they ended up. And then she'd used that word -- 'never' -- with all of its connotations of finality, of shutting the door forever.
Harm turned away from the window, his gaze falling on his guitar case. He hadn't played since the night Mac had come to his apartment to tell him she was going to Paraguay with Webb. He remembered everything about the night; the way she'd looked in the elegant black dress, the swell of her stomach beneath her breasts, the diamonds at her neck. Like so many times before, she'd taken his breath away, had stopped his heart completely and instead of saying the right thing, he'd pushed her further away. What was it about Mac that took away all coherent thought? How was it he could always find just the right words in the court room to convince the members of his clients guilt or innocence (as the case might be) and not be able to articulate when it came to Mac?
Harm slumped on the sofa, rubbing his hand over his eyes. He had slept fitfully on the flight from Sao Paulo; it was impossible to get comfortable, and Mac had curled herself away from him, not resting on his shoulder as she had done on past long flights. God. They could be sitting inches away from each other and yet still be miles apart. It was ridiculous to expect real life to follow a movie formula, but by all account, if this had indeed been a Hollywood production, he and Mac would have found their way to each other. After fighting terrorists, after all of those shared and intimate moments, a movie would have given them their happily ever after ending.
After a moment, he got up. He hated sitting still. Hated waiting. It was precisely for that reason he had tracked Mac down, had gone after her, counting on her to interpret his actions into the words he knew she wanted to hear. Instinctively, even then, he'd known it'd be too late if he waited for her to come home. As he'd asked the Admiral for permission to go TAD, he'd been aware he'd missed his chances with Mac, aware he was close to losing her. Perhaps forever. So he'd acted. He thought it would be enough to show up in Ciudad del Este. He thought she'd understand that. He shouldn't have assumed. What, he thought, would ever be enough?
He picked up the phone, intending to call Mac, but then remembered their nearly 20-hour journey back to D.C. Mac's body language made it clear she had no intention of talking; she had effectively tabled the conversations 'about us' forever.
But not if he had anything to do about it.
If there was one consistent quality about Harmon Rabb Jr., it was that he was consistently single-minded and focused. When he wanted something, he wouldn't stop until he got it. And so, if it meant going after Mac, surrendering control to her as he had never done before with another woman – not even Jordan, whom he had loved – he would do that. And he could only make her see – make her listen - in person.
He rummaged through his closet, roughly pushing his uniforms aside to find a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He didn't bother checking the mirror to see what he looked like. It was 2 am. No one looked good at that time of the night and after all, this wasn't about making first impressions on Mac. Too late for that.
He was sure he could drive to Georgetown with his eyes closed; his heart had mapped the route and internally, it had become a part of him. So many times, he'd found himself at Mac's door, seeking his best friend, looking for her counsel. The few times he doubted himself, he knew Mac would show him the way. His grip tightened on the steering wheel as his mouth worked over three words, practicing the flow and shape of the syllables until they no longer sounded foreign to him.
The rain fell harder as he neared Mac's apartment. Water splashed up against his windshield and he leaned forward, squinting to see. Visibility was poor; what irony it would be, if he survived Sadik and his men only to become road kill on the streets of Washington, D.C.
The car slipped slightly, skidding on the wet roads.
He steered to the left, his fingers gripping the wheel tightly as he regained control.
The street lights blurred in front of him; halos of white circled in a softer yellow. He blinked, trying to clear his vision.
He parked in front of Mac's building and took the steps to the door three at a time. His shirt was damp from the rain and he'd never felt more awake -- more alive -- in his life. He punched the buzzer to Mac's apartment and then, out of impatience, hit the buttons for the several other apartments. The front door finally buzzed open and he let himself in.
His wet sneakers squeaked as he made his way down the carpeted hallway. He could hear the sounds of a party. Laughter, music, and then a door opened. A giggling woman, drink in hand, emerged into the hallway. She had short brown hair, spiked and edged with gold highlights. Black dress clinging to every curve of her body, her feet jammed into spiked high-heels. She smiled languidly at Harm as he approached.
"Mary!" A man -- dressed in jeans and a silky shirt -- followed the woman out into the hall, grabbing her by the waist, spinning her around and then pushing her up against the wall. The woman laughed again as her skirt inched up.
Harm averted his eyes as he passed them. He took the stairs at the end of the hall, climbing to the second floor. The hallway here was quiet. No sounds from the party on the first floor filtered up.
He rapped on Mac's door gently. And then, a minute later, more loudly.
"Mac! It's me!"
He knocked again.
A few more minutes passed and still, no response. Where the hell was she?
In frustration, Harm pulled out his cell phone and punched in Mac's number. The answering machine came on: "You've reached 202-555-8382. I can't come to the phone, leave a message and I'll get back to you." He tried her cell phone next, and got her voice mail again: "You've reached Sarah MacKenzie. Leave a message and I'll call you back."
Taking a deep breath, he said, "Mac, it's me. I'm right outside. Open the door if you're there -- we need to talk." He paused. Waiting. The door remained closed. "I guess you're not home. I'll see you tomorrow. 'Night."
He left slowly, measuring his steps carefully. He imagined Mac screening her phone calls, listening to the messages he left both on her cell phone and land line, and then calling him back. But his cell phone remained quiet. As he entered the first floor, he noticed Mary and her boyfriend had left the hallway, either to find a room or return to their party.
Outside, the rain showers had lightened into a gentle sprinkling. He got into his car, took one last look at Mac's building and then put the key in the ignition, his tires splashing up water as he drove away.
~ the end
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