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Adventures in Fatherhood
By LauraBF

Disclaimer:  If you think they're mine, you're sadly mistaken.  I borrowed them, hugged them, squeezed them, and called them George and then gave them back like a good girl. Seriously, Harm, Mac, Mattie, and the TV series JAG belong to Donald P. Bellisario, Belisaurius Productions, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Broadcasting Service Entertainment.

Author's Note: At dinner last night, it occurred to me that TPTB made us miss out on some of the joys that come with being a father of a teenager.  My dad went through it three times, so I don't see why Harm should be exempt! ;) So… Spoilers up to season nine, I guess, nothing specific, though.


1604 LOCAL
12 MARCH 2004

Harm absently reached for the phone and picked it up when it rang.  "Commander Rabb," he said.

"Mr. Rabb," the voice on the other end of the line said.  "This is Gretchen Brown--your daughter's volleyball coach--"

"How can I help you, Ms. Brown?" Harm asked.

"Mr. Rabb, Mathilda's period started today and I'm afraid that she doesn't have any… supplies that she can use with her, and the bathroom machines seem to be out.  I would very much appreciate it if you could drop something off; we have a game today, if you'll remember--"

Harm gulped.  Jen had always managed to take care of the girl stuff for him.  "Yes, Ma'am," he managed to say.  "I'll be there as soon as I can--tell Mattie to sit tight."

Hurriedly, he said goodbye, hung up the phone, and put his head in his hands.  He was a decorated fighter pilot.  He could handle going into a drug store and buying--that.   He'd managed to avoid it with Renee.  He hadn't done it for Jordan, Annie, or even Diane.  He'd been closer to Mac than he'd been with any other woman, and he'd never gone to the store for *those*.  Harm gulped in some air, took a deeper breath, and pushed back from his desk.  There was no use putting it off.  The sooner he got it over with, the better off he'd be.

Harm stood up, grabbed his coat and cover, and hurried to the Admiral's office.  He poked his head inside the door and smiled at Jen.  "Coates," he began, "tell the Admiral that I had to leave for a few minutes?  Mattie's had a minor emergency and I need to go take care of it."

Coates looked up from her computer.  "Anything I need to help with, Sir?" she asked.

Harm smiled.  He wished that he could just let her do it, but he'd been away so much lately that he felt that he should.  This was what he got for all but adopting a daughter.  "Thanks, Jen, but I can handle it," he said.  

"I'll let him know," she promised.

Harm gave her another smile, turned around and hurried out of the building.  There was a Walgreen's on the way to Mattie's school, so he could just zip in and out to get her supplies.  Simple, right?  He climbed in the car, started it, and raced out of the parking lot.  Mattie had an away game, so most likely she couldn't wait very long.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, he hit almost every light just as they turned green, so it didn't take him long to arrive at the drug store.  He pulled the 'Vette into a parking space, turned it off, and climbed out.  He rushed into the store and, looking at the signs above the aisles, found the correct one and walked down it.

He stared at the bewildering array of packages.  'What the hell am I supposed to get?' he wondered.   He started inching his way down the aisle, staring at one brightly-colored package after another, trying to figure out what Mattie needed.  It wasn't like he made a habit of poking in the bathroom cabinets in the apartment down the hall.

He breathed a sigh of relief as he spotted an older woman at the end of the aisle.  She was wearing a red Walgreen's smock, so he figured it'd be safe for him to, perhaps, get some help.  Surely he couldn't be the first father to walk into the store who didn't have a clue as to what to buy for their teenage daughter.

"Ma'am?" he said as he sidled up beside her.

The woman, who had "Barbara," written on her name tag, turned around and smiled at him.  "Wife, girlfriend, or daughter?" she asked, her smile widening into a grin.

Harm could feel the flush creeping up his face, and knew that he must be beet red by then.  "Um, daughter," he answered.

"They're terrifying at that age," she said.  "How old is she?"

"Fifteen," he said.

Barbara reached for a couple of packages and handed them to him.  "These should do," she said.  

He took them from her.  "Thank you, Ma'am," he said with a respectful nod.  He turned walked back down the aisle.  Harm bit his lip as it dawned on him exactly what he was carrying and began to inch the products further from his body.  It wasn't long before he was holding them straight out in front of him, his arms stiff, as if they were a nuclear bomb and were about to explode.

He all but ran to the register and dropped them on the counter.  Desperately, Harm began to scan the room for something to distract him as the cashier rang him up.  He pulled out a twenty and handed it over before she could ask for it, accepted his change and picked up the plastic bag containing the supplies with two fingers.  As he headed out of the store, he laughed uneasily at himself--he was acting as if they had cooties or something.  He glanced at the bag and decided that maybe they *did* have cooties.  After all, he'd never see the Admiral or Sturgis in a store buying such items.

He unlocked the car door, threw the package in the passenger seat, and slid into the car.  Harm started the engine.  'Thank goodness it was almost over with,' he thought.  He'd rather just let Mattie have his credit card and buy what she needed.  He gulped suddenly as it occurred to him that it could have been worse; she could have asked him to go with her to buy a bra.  He'd rather let another dirty nuke chase him than go into the lingerie section of a department store.

Harm stepped on the gas and drove to Mattie's school as fast as he could without getting stopped.  He screeched into a parking spot and parked.  He grabbed the package out of the seat and hurried into the school, still holding it with two fingers.  Since Mattie's coach had called, he signed in at the office and went across the hall to the gym.  He opened the door and went inside, frowning as he noticed Mattie sitting on a bench inside the door.  "Mattie?"

Mattie looked up.  Her eyes widened as she caught sight of him.  "Harm?" she said.  She stood up and walked the few steps to bridge the gap between them.  "I-I thought you'd send Jen," she said.  Her lower lip was trembling slightly and it made Harm's heart hurt.  He could tell that she had wanted to cry, but was suppressing it.

"Nope," he said with an easy grin.  Harm handed her the bag.  "I won't always be gone, Mats.  I signed up to bring you homework when you forget it, dry clothes when you fall into the mud--"

Mattie grinned.  "And other things that I forget?" she asked.

"Yup," was his response.  "Have fun at your game, kiddo--I'll see you at home."

As Harm walked towards the door, he stopped briefly to glance back at his little girl.  He suppressed a smile as he heard a high voice ask her who the hot guy was.  He shook his head, left the school, and climbed into his car with a sigh of relief.  He'd passed the trial by feminine products.  And, for the first time since his last out of town case, really been there when Mattie needed him.