Through a Glass, Darkly
Disclaimer: Hey TPTB, want my pocket lint collection for them? I can also offer a nice stack of "Calvin and Hobbes" comic collections, chocolate, and one of my duplicate copies of the Lois and Clark comic book! ;) Seriously, Harm, Mac, and the TV series JAG belong to Donald P. Bellisario, Belisaurius Productions, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Broadcasting Service Entertainment.
Author's Note: This started out as a what if, and has been growing on me--what if Harm had never been captured on camera and become a full-fledged CIA agent? Then what if Sadik suddenly resurfaced, complete with a vendetta against Harm? This is also my attempt to explain AJ's inexplicable behavior. Bonus points if you can spot the show, episode, and season that I stole, um borrowed, the title from. Spoilers up to season nine's Touchdown with a slightly different ending for Harm. Other spoilers through season nine. My thanks to my super-secret beta reader and Ann, both of whom have assured me that the concept isn't too angsty. Knowing me, you'd better hang on anyway. ;)
Sun and Shadow
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
--1 Corinthians 13:12
20 May 2003
Falls Church, Virginia
Admiral AJ Chegwidden stared at the letter of resignation in his hand. He had followed the SecNav's orders, and now one of his best officers had gone haring off to South America in search of another. He wasn't sure why the SecNav had engineered this mess, but he was sure that he probably wouldn't like the outcome.
"Admiral?" Tiner's voice came over the intercom.
"What is it, Tiner?" he said irritably.
"The SecNav's on line one."
"I've got it," he said brusquely, and picked up the phone. "What can I do for you, sir?"
"Admiral, has Commander Rabb resigned as expected?"
"Yes, sir. I'm planning on holding his papers until he gets back. With any luck, he'll be back before his terminal leave is over; I need all of the O-5s I can get." AJ picked up Harm's resignation and looked it over.
"Admiral, you are to bring Rabb's resignation, service record, and paperwork over to my office, is that clear?"
"Yes, sir. May I ask why?"
"No, you may not, Admiral; it's need to know. Have them hand delivered over here by the close of business today. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir." After a few pleasantries, he hung up, and called Tiner in. "Tiner, I need the Commander's service record."
"Yes, sir," came the response over the intercom. A few minutes later, he came in, carrying a large file. Tiner laid the file on his desk. "Might I know why you need the Commander's file, sir?"
"The Commander resigned, Tiner. His time with us is over, and his record needs to be closed out."
"But sir--Commander Rabb has done so much for so many people--"
AJ looked up at his earnest face and frowned. "Be that as it may, Commander Rabb *made* his decision, now it's up to him to live with it. This discussion is *closed*, Tiner."
"Yes, *sir*," Tiner said, coming to attention.
"Now, I need Commander Turner in here to watch the shop for me. Will you find him for me, please?"
"Yes, sir," he repeated.
"Dismissed." AJ put Rabb's resignation in the file, then looked up just in time to see Tiner leave his office, shooting a furtive look back at him. He sighed, he wasn't sure what the SecNav had in mind for Harm, but it probably wasn't a good thing. If Rabb survived Paraguay, he had a feeling that his favorite officer was in for a world of hurt.
20 May 2003
Sheffield flipped through Commander Rabb's service record and smiled. "Thank you, AJ," he said.
"It's all there, resignation and everything." AJ said woodenly.
Sheffield pulled out a single sheet of paper, examined it, then ripped it in half. "You mean this?"
"What'd you do *that* for?" AJ asked.
"Mr. Rabb has just been called up," Sheffield said with a smile. "Officially, he won't be Navy anymore, unofficially, he'll be working for me via Kershaw."
"Sir, and you're telling me this *because*?"
"Because I think that he wasn't living up to his full potential as a JAG. He'll be much better off working for me; I'll send him out for some special training, then assign him to the Company air wing. From there, who knows?" Sheffield leaned back in his chair and shrugged. "He has too many talents that have been wasted working for you, AJ, and *I* intend to use them."
"With all due respect, *sir*, you'd better be careful with him, or so help me--"
"Are you *threatening* me, AJ?"
"More like promising *sir*." AJ said stiffly. "Rabb hasn't been on the top of his game this last year because a lot of things went to hell in a handbasket. I *don't* want to see him more messed up than he already is."
"That's not your concern, anymore." Sheffield said with a tiny smile on his face.
AJ brought his fist down on the desk. "Let me straighten something out for you, Mr. Secretary. Rabb is one of *my* people, and I refuse to abandon him--there was enough of that last year. It's bad enough that Colonel Mackenzie is TAD to the CIA, and I can't officially sanction her rescue."
Sheffield smiled, reminding AJ of a snake. "You *will* cut Rabb off, AJ, or I can have your little family reassigned. Commander Turner would do well on a carrier, Lieutenant Sims can be sent to where she's officially assigned, Colonel Mackenzie can either be assigned a position as a line JAG, or I can send her permanently TAD to the CIA or the NSA, and I'm sure that Lieutenant Roberts will do well in a civilian law firm." He flashed another snake-like smile. "Tiner need not return to Headquarters after OCS."
"But that would scuttle *all* of their careers," AJ sputtered.
"Just think, AJ, is one man worth the destruction of so many lives?"
AJ looked down at his feet and sighed. He knew when he was beaten, and there didn't seem to be anything he could do to rectify the situation. "This *isn't* over, *sir*; I intend to get him back on my staff as soon as I can."
"Just keep telling yourself that, AJ, and I'm sure you'll be fine." Sheffield smiled and leaned forward on his desk. "When he comes and asks for his job back, tell him to go wrestle alligators or something. He needs to not *want* to come back to JAG."
"Yes, *sir*," AJ said stiffly, turning to leave. Worry for Harm and anger at him for placing himself in the situation raged through him in equal measures. Slowly, the anger began to take over, mingling with the worry until they became one. AJ hurried out to his car, determined to pull what strings he had to keep *his* Commander where he belonged.
23 October 2003
North of Union Station
Harm flipped another card towards his baseball cap and grimaced as it missed. This was what his life had been reduced to. It had been five and a half months since the beginning of his tenure at the Company, but he hadn't managed to get himself killed yet. More's the pity. He was to leave for another mission in the morning, and this time, perhaps he'd get lucky.
The most important person in his life had said never, so there wasn't a chance to make anything work out between them; friendship just wasn't enough anymore. Harm flipped another card at the hat and missed. He'd briefly considered suicide, but he couldn't hurt his mother, Frank, and Grandma Sarah that way, so he'd given up on the idea.
Being killed in the line of duty was another matter entirely. Suicide would waste his death, but if he died serving the greater good Sometimes how you used your death was just as important as how you used your life.
He only had about a year and a half before he got his twenty, anyway. After that he could retire, but he wasn't sure what he'd do with his life after that. Better that he died before his employment with the Company was up. At least then, he wouldn't have to face the fact that his entire life had been a waste of effort.
Harm sighed, tossed the remainder of the deck of cards back on the table, then headed towards his bedroom, shedding clothes along the way. He had a mission in the morning, and he knew that he needed to at least *attempt* to sleep between now and then.
24 October 2003
Captain Johnson paced back and forth on the bridge, hoping that this damnfool plan of Rabb's would work. He glanced at his watch and noticed that they were fast approaching deadline before he remembered the slight problem he had on board. "Sh*t," he muttered. "Ensign, I need you to get that news crew and escort them to the mess. They're to be held incommunicado until tomorrow afternoon, and *no* word of the identities of the pilots of the airplane are to be released, is that clear?"
Ensign Smith saluted. "Yes, sir," he said, then left.
Captain Johnson motioned to his XO. "Commander, I need you to arrange temporary quarters for our guests, and send Rabb and O'Neill up here as soon as they get off that plane."
"Yes, sir," the Commander saluted, and left to take care of the situation.
"We're almost there, Skipper," the Air Boss's voice came over the comm.
"Hurry it up, Air Boss. After Rabb lands that thing, we're gonna have to scuttle it so that the press doesn't figure out what happened tonight."
Captain Johnson watched as the last few planes were launched, just in time for Rabb to barely land the crippled airplane on his deck. A few minutes later, Rabb and O'Neill walked onto the bridge, flanked by his protocol officer. "Thank you, sir," Rabb said.
He simply nodded. "Glad you were able to land that bucket of bolts. We've got a slight problem until we can get all of you out on the COD; there are some reporters aboard, and we can't let them know what you've just done."
"Yes, sir," the two pilots said in unison.
"The way I see it, I've got two options; I can convince the CAG here to lend you a ride out of here, which I'm not inclined to do, or we can rustle up some spare uniforms and hide you in plain sight." The captain leaned back against the wall and smirked.
"You could do that, sir," Harm answered neutrally.
Captain Johnson could see him fighting the instinct to tell him that neither of them was Navy anymore, and shouldn't be wearing the uniform. "Damn straight, I can. Damn Captain's privilege."
"Aye, aye, sir," they answered.
"I see you haven't lost the instincts," he said dryly, motioning to another junior officer. "Lieutenant, find some uniforms for these two, and talk to the XO to find out if they've got a berth." He looked at Harm and Beth and grinned. "Hope you don't mind being enlisted until we can get rid of the reporters, but it can't be helped."
"Not a problem, sir," Harm answered. "Sir? We need to report in as soon as possible. Would it be possible to get a ship-to-shore call on a secure line?"
"Get down to communications, and we'll make it happen--dismissed."
"Aye, aye, sir," Harm and Beth said. They suppressed the urge to salute, and headed out the door.
Captain Johnson smiled; if Rabb was still Navy, he would've had to put him in for a commendation for that last trick. It wasn't every day that such a large bird landed on a carrier; it'd been a superior piece of flying to manage it. It was just as well that he'd resigned; the man seemed to land in trouble every time he climbed into a cockpit.
20 October 2003
Mac stared at the phone. "C'mon, Harm, *call* me," she muttered. She reached for the phone, and dialed the familiar number. She listened to it ring until the machine picked up, then set it back in its cradle.
It hadn't been so long ago that she'd told Bud that she didn't miss Harm at all, but it wasn't true. His absence was a nagging, constant ache. Oh, after some time, working without him had gotten easier, but she still found herself wanting to call him or just drop in his apartment to talk.
It was worse than the time he'd spent in the brig. At least then, she'd known he was safe. Hell, she'd even started pseudo-dating Webb, just so she could pump him for information about Harm.
She still wasn't too happy about the way Spook-boy had interrupted them in Paraguay; if he hadn't, their relationship might be in a completely different place than it was now. Mac frowned, something just didn't feel right. It was almost as if Harm was in trouble, and needed her to watch his six.
Their parting hadn't been all that great, and Harm had been downright *nasty*, but he was still her best friend, dammit, and he *needed* her. Mac reached for the phone and dialed his number again. Sooner or later, he'd *have* to answer, and then she'd know for sure that he was okay.
Into The Woods
"In vino veritas."
--In wine, truth.
26 October 2003
North of Union Station
Harm leaned back against the couch and rubbed his eyes. They'd managed to escape the reporters, so his CIA position was safe... until he managed to end his career serving his country. That, he thought, was only a matter of time. He was tired because he hadn't slept in over 48 hours. They'd kept him busy acting like an enlisted man, complete with scut work, and he'd been short on sleep before that.
Harm reached for his guitar, then changed his mind, got up, and wandered towards the fridge. He opened the door and stared at the almost non-existent contents. A yellow box of baking soda, a month old carton of Chinese take-out, bottles of water, a clear plastic container that was full of a blue, fuzzy substance, and some brown, slimy carrots were all that greeted him. It looked like a great night for take-out, that is, if he even bothered to eat.
Harm shut the door, and rifled through the cabinets until he found an unopened box of crackers. It was faster than take out, and it meant that he could go to bed sooner. Maybe this time, he wouldn't wake up. There was always that hope. He walked back into the living room, flopped onto the couch, and opened his box of saltines. It wasn't much, but eating right wasn't high on his list of priorities. What did it matter when he could get killed on his next mission?
He pulled out a package of the crackers, but just as he was about to open the white plastic, he heard a knock on the door. Harm shrugged, tossed the crackers on the coffee table, and got up to answer the door. He unlocked it, and pulled it open. "Hey Beth," he said, his voice dull with exhaustion.
Beth half-smiled and held up a twelve pack of beer. "I come bearing gifts," she said. "Harm, I know it's a lot to ask, but my place is being fumigated, and I was wondering if I could crash on your couch tonight."
Harm opened the door wider and motioned her inside. "Sure... but you can have the bed; I'll take the couch."
Beth walked inside and set the beer on the table. "No way," she began. "I'm *not* kicking you out of your bed."
Harm looked like he was going to argue, then shrugged, giving up. It just wasn't worth fighting over. "So what's the beer for?" he asked before he flopped down in his favorite chair.
Beth grinned. "Well, it's been a rough couple of days, and I could use a drink." She tore open the cardboard, pulled out two cans, and handed him one. "I figured that you probably could, too, and I didn't want to come empty handed, so here I am."
"But why a twelve pack?" Harm asked, then popped the top on his can and took a long swallow.
Beth shrugged. "I'm not trying to get you drunk and seduce you, if that's what you think, sailor."
Harm winced at the nickname, then rolled his eyes. "I'm not a sailor anymore, Beth," he reminded her. "And you'd *never* try and seduce me, because I'm not your type."
Beth grinned. "What? Tall, dark, and handsome not good enough?"
Harm drank another long swallow of beer. "I know you've got the same taste as I do in women," he pointed out dryly.
Beth got serious and smiled. "Yeah. You've just seemed so down lately that I wanted to help. We haven't exactly been sitting around knitting, you know."
Harm started to drink more beer, grimaced as he noticed it was empty, and set the empty can down on the table. "I know. We've been... busy lately."
Beth tossed him another can and leaned back on the couch. "You've been even busier than I have. When was the last time you had a whole weekend off, Harm?"
Harm shrugged, opened the can, and took another swallow. The cold liquid felt good going down his throat, and he had some good company to drink with. "I'm not sure... maybe before I left JAG." He shrugged before continuing. "It's not like I've really got anybody to spend down time with."
Beth looked at him, startled. "What about Colonel Mackenzie? The two of you seemed... close."
Harm just shrugged and nodded at the blinking light of the answering machine. "Those are probably from her. Mac's got her own life, and I'm not included in it."
"But weren't the two of you best friends?"
"That was when I was at JAG," he reminded her. Harm tipped the can up for another healthy swallow. It occurred to him that he was drinking far too fast, but he didn't really care. "Now that I don't work there, I just don't have much in common with her or any of my former friends anymore."
"I find that hard to believe, Harm."
"It's true enough." Harm got up and grabbed his guitar from the stand before walking back over and plopping down in the chair. He cradled the instrument against him, stroked the smooth wood, then began to fiddle with the tuning pegs so that he wouldn't have to look at his partner.
"Got anything to eat?" Beth asked, abruptly changing the subject.
He rolled his eyes at her, and nodded at the box of saltines on the table. "Help yourself, I find that I'm not hungry anymore." Harm chugged the rest of his beer, and began to play simple chords, hoping to be able to ignore Beth long enough to keep from saying things that he'd rather not have out.
Instead of reaching for the crackers, Beth grabbed the phone and started to dial. "Hello, yes, I'd like to order a vegetarian pizza."
Harm blocked out his partner's voice, reached for another beer, put down the guitar, and got up to check his messages. He pushed the button and frowned as Mac's voice came on. What she'd said to him in Paraguay still hurt, and the Admiral's words afterwards had only increased the agony. Between the two of them, they'd essentially managed to kill him. All that was left was to bury the remains... and the Company was good for that.
Harm's frown deepened as the Admiral's voice came on. "Harm? If you're home, pick up, son. We're all worried about you. You've got the number." He hit the delete button and erased all the messages. Why wouldn't they let him bury himself in peace? He sat back down, popped open the can, and took another drink. Maybe if he was lucky, he could drink enough to blur his raw edges. Maybe he could... forget.
Beth hung up the phone, then resettled herself on the couch with one leg underneath her. "Okay, Harm, what's the matter?" she asked. "I haven't seen you really smile in *months*, and I'd be a lousy partner if I didn't worry."
Harm shook his head and drank some more beer. "Nothing," he murmured. "At least nothing you can help with."
25 October 2003
Falls Church, VA
Mac shuffled through yet another case file. Since the discovery of Caroline Imes's record falsifications, they'd been extremely busy going through her case files. It didn't help that her court martial made them even more short handed, either. There simply weren't enough lawyers at headquarters to handle all of the pending cases at the moment.
If only the admiral had let Harm come back! At least then, they'd have someone else to help with the backlog. She'd heard Coates begging the admiral to reconsider, and had finally advised the girl to stop before she scuttled her own career. Mac looked up when Bud knocked on her door. "What can I help you with, Bud?" she asked.
"Do you have the Jackson casefile, ma'am?" he asked, walking in. "I'm to review that one, and I can't find it. I thought that some of those cases might've gotten mixed up."
Mac sifted through the stack of files on her desk and pulled it out. "Here you go, Bud," she said with a smile.
"Thank you, Colonel," he said, then headed out the door.
"Bud--" her voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Have you heard from Harm lately?"
"Yes, ma'am. Harriet called to say that we got a package from him in the mail this morning. It was a present for the baby... Harriet said that it had a nice card with it."
Mac leaned forward. "Did it say how he's doing?" she asked as she played with her Marine Corps ring.
"No, ma'am," Bud answered. "It just said congratulations about Jimmy, and it had a really cute stuffed plane in it." He grinned. "I think Harriet had a talk to him about how train sets aren't appropriate for newborns."
"Thank you, Bud," she said quietly.
"I know you said that you didn't miss him, ma'am, but you really do, don't you?"
"He's been my best friend for eight years," she said, smiling crookedly. "What do you think?"
"Just what I thought, Colonel," Bud said. "I'll tell him to call you the next time he calls to talk to little AJ."
"He does that?" Mac asked. "I didn't think that he was keeping in touch with any of us."
"Yes, he does, ma'am. But he doesn't talk to Harriet or me, just AJ. He says that just because he's away doesn't mean that his godson doesn't need to speak to him every once in a while."
"No problem, Colonel." Bud left, carrying the thick file with him.
Mac tried to concentrate on her file again, but the words swam before her eyes. She *had* said never in Paraguay because it was right. It wasn't like he had tried to fight for a relationship with her. However, she still wanted to be his best friend, and the feeling kept coming that he needed her. Somehow, she'd make things work out, there had to be a way.
26 October 2003
North of Union Station
Beth threw her napkin in the pizza box and looked at Harm. He'd only eaten half a slice of pizza, and he looked to be dropping some weight. "Harm," she said, "finish your pizza."
"Huh?" He looked at her, then at the pizza in his hand and ate it. Harm reached for another slice and ate it slowly, washing it down with more beer.
Beth got up, walked behind him, and began to rub his shoulders. "What happened to get you to work for our mutual employer, Harm?" she asked softly.
Harm finished the last of his fourth beer, rubbed his eyes, and looked at her. "Webb FUBAR'd another mission," he said finally. "Only this time, he almost got Mac killed."
Beth started stroking his hair as if he were a small child. "What happened after that?" she said as she tried to encourage him to tell her everything. She had figured that between his exhaustion and the alcohol, she could get him to talk about it, and perhaps find a way to help him. He was her partner, and that made it her responsibility to keep him healthy.
"The Admiral wouldn't let me go, so I had to resign to go save her." Harm's eyes started to close in remembered pain. "I *couldn't* let her die, because I hadn't told her, and I *can't* lose her, too."
"Tell her what?"
"As long as she's alive," he whispered, not hearing, "I can probably be okay."
"What did you need to tell her, Harm?" Beth prodded.
His eyes started to close as the alcohol caught up to him. "That I love her," came the answer as his eyes drifted shut.
Beth started to smile. She'd figured that he'd been in love with his JAG partner, but it was nice to hear confirmation. "What happened?" she asked.
"She said *never*," he mumbled. "Doesn't love me 'cause I'm not good enough. Never good enough. Don't deserve it, I guess."
"That's not true," she said gently.
"Yes, 'tis. Ev'rybody I love leaves 'cause I'm not good enough," he whispered, his eyes sagging shut. "Dad left, Mom married Frank... Diane left... Sarah doesn't care, so she lef' too." He trailed off as his head slowly came to rest on the back of the chair.
Beth caressed his hair gently, suddenly feeling very protective of him. Her mouth tightened as she thought of the Colonel. She almost wished she could deck the woman for that. How could she have been so insensitive? She sighed and reached down to tug gently on Harm's arm. "C'mon, Harm, let's get you to bed to sleep it off."
Harm got up and followed her as she tugged on his arm to guide him. He seemed more than half-asleep as she got him upstairs and sitting on his bed. Beth untied his shoes and pulled both them and socks off. As if on autopilot, he pulled off his t-shirt and jeans before collapsing completely. She pulled blankets over him and kissed him on the cheek. "For what it's worth, Harm, *I* care what happens to you because you're my partner and my friend."
Beth walked out of his bedroom and into the living room to start picking up. She glanced back over her shoulder and smiled. "I don't envy the hangover you'll have in the morning," she murmured, then she finished her self-appointed task. She made up her bed on the couch, turned off the lights, and lay down. She wasn't sure how she could help, but something had to be done before he managed to get himself killed and she'd figure out a way to fix things.
Dark and Deep
"We always have a choice
Or at least I think we do
We can always use our voice
I thought this to be true
"We can live in fear
Extend ourselves to love
We can fall below
Or lift ourselves above
"Fear can stop you lovin'
Love can stop your fear
Fear can stop you lovin'
But it's not always that clear"
-- Morcheeba, "Fear and Love"
27 October 2003
North of Union Station
Harm rolled over and groaned. His head hurt, his mouth tasted like the inside of a dirty sock, and he *really* had to go. He threw back the covers, climbed out of bed, and shuffled to the bathroom. He emptied his bladder with a sigh of relief, washed out his mouth, and rummaged in the medicine cabinet for some Tylenol (tm).
Harm found the medication, swallowed a couple, and headed back to bed. He fell asleep quickly, only to be woken up a few hours later by racket coming from the direction of his kitchen. He grabbed his robe, threw it on, stumbled out into the living room, and into the kitchen. "Beth?" he said groggily, "what are you doing here?"
Beth turned, pulled some milk and eggs out of the fridge, and deposited the items on the counter. "You said I could stay on your couch because my apartment is being fumigated, remember?"
Harm yawned and rubbed his hand over his face. "Oh, yeah, right. You came over with beer last night."
"Uh huh." Beth broke an egg in the pan and gestured towards the table. "Sit down, and I'll have breakfast ready in a few; then you can go back to bed." She picked up a spatula and pointed it at him. "You, my friend, are in dire need of more sleep."
Harm shuffled over to the table and sat down. Part of him wanted to argue, but it felt damn good to have somebody take care of him for once. He rested his head on one hand and watched her cook. "So why are you cooking?" he asked finally.
"You've lost weight, Harm," Beth said softly. "My guess is that you haven't been eating, and *somebody* needs to make sure that you do." She stirred the contents of the pan for a moment before she turned towards him. "I've no wish to break in a new partner for a while, so it's up to me to make sure that you're okay."
Harm drew circles on the table with one finger. "I *am* okay," he protested.
"Suuure," Beth said. She pulled the pan off the stove, dumped the contents on a plate, added toast, then walked over and placed it in front of him. "That's why you're so miserable that you haven't been taking care of yourself." She grabbed a glass out of the cupboard, opened a new carton of orange juice, filled the glass, and put it next to the plate. "Eat," she ordered.
Harm poked the pile of scrambled eggs on his plate and frowned before he took a bite. "I haven't been hungry lately," he admitted hesitantly."
"Why is that?" she asked.
"Paraguay," he admitted with a grimace. "I realized that Mac was *right*. I've got nothing "
"No, she wasn't," Beth insisted. "Mac is an idiot. If I were straight, and a guy like you did what you did for her, I sure as hell wouldn't treat him that badly." She patted him on the shoulder. "You've got me, Harm, and I'm no fair weather friend to desert you when you get into trouble; I swear I won't."
"She never really did--until I ended up in the brig for something I didn't do. I wonder... if I'd ended up in Leavenworth, would she have come then?" Harm laughed humorlessly. "I guess we'll never know, because it seems like I'm destined to stay alone, and I'm damn tired of it! Why do I *always* have to be the lone hero? Can't I ever be allowed to have what I want the most?"
Beth leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "No, you're not 'destined' for that. Remember how I said that if you called her, you'd know if it was over?"
Wordlessly, Harm nodded.
"I could be wrong," she offered. "It seems to me that she was pretty on edge in Paraguay; maybe she didn't really mean it. You *are* entitled to be happy, perhaps you just need to reach for it. Talk to her, Harm, make her listen to how *you* feel."
Harm took a deep breath and nodded. "I'll think about it. Maybe after our next mission." He glanced at the clock. "Speaking of which, don't we need to get going?"
Beth shook her head, and headed over to the stove to cook her own breakfast. "I talked to the boss this morning, and we've got a few days off. You're *not* allowed to sub for anyone, either, because you need sleep. Now eat your breakfast and go back to *bed*."
Harm sighed and picked up his fork. "Yes, Mommy."
Beth rolled her eyes and grinned mischievously. "Well, kiddo, it's a dirty job, but *somebody* has to do it."
Harm grabbed a towel off the back of a chair, balled it up, and threw it at her. Beth caught the towel and stuck her tongue out at him. He chuckled, shook his head, and started to eat. Maybe things weren't as bad as he had thought. No matter what the JAG crew thought of him, he still had *one* friend in his corner, and it was a good feeling to know that *somebody* still cared.
15 November 2003
AJ Chedwiggen's office
Falls Church, VA
AJ picked up a file and winced as he heard shouting coming from the bullpen... again. In the eight months that Rabb had been gone, he'd heard more fighting and more strife in his offices than ever before. He grimaced and realized once more how *good* the commander had been for the morale at Headquarters. The hole he left due to the SecNav's orders just couldn't be filled. He'd found replacements for Singer and Imes, but he didn't have anyone who could fit into Harm's shoes.
Part of him didn't want to because replacing Harm would be admitting defeat. He *needed* the other half of his best team back; Mac wasn't happy without him around and she was making everyone aware of that fact. As time passed, the likelihood of getting him back faded. After so long, it was unlikely that he could pry Rabb away from the Company and have a whole man.
AJ had worked enough covert ops with them to know that working long term with agencies like the CIA could easily steal parts of a man's soul. He hadn't found anything he could do about that, but there might be something he could do to fix Rabb's personal life. He pushed the intercom button. "Coates, I need Colonel Mackenzie."
"Yes, sir, I'll go get her."
AJ leaned back in his leather chair, and sighed. It had to work. When Mac had come back, she'd acted as if nothing untoward had happened, and treated Rabb's sacrifice as if it meant nothing. *Somebody* had to talk some sense into her, had to make her see what she'd done to the man who'd given up absolutely everything he had left for her. Since nobody else was stepping up to do it, he guessed it was up to him.
AJ looked up as Mac walked in and came to attention in front of his desk. "Colonel Mackenzie, reporting as ordered, sir."
"At ease, Colonel. Take a seat."
"What is it you needed to see me about, sir?" she asked.
"First of all, Mac, I'm not talking to you as your CO, but I *will* order you to stay put until I've finished if I have to." AJ leaned forward and clasped his hands together.
"Have you heard from Harm lately, Mac?"
"No, sir." Mac said, looking subdued.
"Considering what I've heard about Paraguay, I'm not surprised," AJ returned ruefully.
Mac's head snapped up and she glared at him. "What *have* you heard, sir?"
"I got an email from Gunny after all of you got back that filled me in on just about everything," AJ folded his arms over his chest and looked at Mac. He knew his people, and she was reacting exactly as he thought she would.
"He didn't *have* to come after us," she muttered. "Gunny could've rescued us all by himself."
AJ shook his head. "You don't know, do you, Mac? Gunny was waiting for Harm to show up; Webb had told him that he should be waiting for him as backup."
Mac's eyes widened. "You mean they were going to just *leave* us there?"
AJ shrugged. "That's the Company for you; you screw up, you die. Mac, I'm not even going to go into the number of men Harm had to kill, some with his bare hands even, but have you *really* thought about what he did?" AJ sighed and started fiddling with a pen from his desk. "I asked him what he'd give up to keep you, and he's proven that. My question for you is what are *you* willing to give up to get him back?"
Mac sputtered as if she didn't know what to say.
"I've been his CO and friend for longer than I've known you, and he has problems saying what he feels. *Think* about what you know about him Mac. You two have been best friends for eight *years*."
"On and off," she muttered.
"*Everyone* he's ever said those words to that you want so much has either died or left him, so he doesn't say them." He swiveled his chair around to face her more fully. "He's already proven that he loves you, Mac; what in hell more could you want?"
"The words?" Mac whispered.
"The words you want will come eventually, Mac, but you have to let him in and let him know how *you* feel." AJ looked at her earnestly. "Have you ever come out and told him how you feel? Have you ever said, 'I love you, Harm'?"
Mac twisted her hands in her lap, a blush rising in her cheeks. "Sort of... well, no. I think he thought I was propositioning him for a one night stand or something."
AJ leveled a glare at her. "Mac, *fix* this. Go camp out on his doorstep until he shows up or something, but get your act together! He's not in my chain of command anymore, so when the two of you get married, there won't be those problems."
"Don't you mean, 'if', sir?"
"No, Colonel, I mean *when*. I've rarely seen what the two of you have, and if both of you ever get your heads out of your sixes, I'll expect a wedding invitation. Harm did it, so now we're just waiting on you."
"Are you *sure*, sir?"
"He wouldn't have gone to Paraguay and thrown his career away for anyone else, Mac. Now, go try and talk to him, *that's* an order."
Mac stood and snapped to attention. "Yes, *sir*."
"Dismissed." AJ watched as Mac left his office, then sighed. He hoped it wasn't too late; those two needed each other. He dismissed his officers' love lives from his mind and reached for some paperwork. He had things to take care of.
Before I Sleep
"All warfare is based on deception. We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors."
--Sun Tzu, The Art of War (fl. 400-320 BC)
3 November 2003
"Harm, Beth, I've got an assignment for both of you." Blaisdell teed off and glanced over at the aviators.
"What is it, sir?" Harm asked.
"Sadik has resurfaced," Blaisdell said.
"I knew he was still out there," Harm muttered. Beth put her hand on his shoulder.
"For the record, we didn't expect it to be this fast; it's only been six months since Paraguay, after all."
Harm nodded. "So our mission is to stop him?"
"In a way. Your report said that he never saw your face; is this correct?"
"As far as I know, sir," Harm responded as he stuffed his hands into his pockets.
"Good. The two of you are to infiltrate his organization. You're in this because you're one of the few that can recognize him; Webb isn't up to this kind of work yet."
"Do we know where, sir?" Beth asked. "Usually, the two of us are just aviators..."
"You have approximately four hours to get packed before your plane leaves." Blaisdell turned to face them, his face serious. "This may be a long term assignment. Sadik must be stopped--we've received word that he's planning on blowing up several major universities that have high concentrations of exchange students here in the US. Webb and *his* new partner will be by with the tickets and give you everything we have before you leave for the airport."
"Yes, sir," the duo answered, then turned to leave. They walked to the car and got inside without saying a word. Only when they had started to drive back to Harm's place, did Beth venture to speak.
"I still don't get why they tapped me," she grumbled.
Harm smiled for the first time in what felt like forever. "Because you're my partner--we now go together like peanut butter and jelly."
Beth made a face. "I never liked that kind of sandwich. Couldn't it be something cooler, like Superman and Lois Lane? Batman and Robin? Hell, Burt and Ernie?"
Harm laughed. "Well, Lois was in love with Superman, I've already been partnered with Robin, and we both know how *that* worked out I guess Burt and Ernie are possibilities, but are you *sure* you want to be a muppet?"
Beth rolled her eyes. "Good point. Hmm... perhaps the Lone Ranger and Tonto? I'll have to think about it."
"How about Peter Parker and Mary Jane?" Harm suggested with a smirk.
"They got married," Beth said, then punched him lightly on the arm.
"Hey! That's not fair. I'm driving here," Harm said indignantly. "How about the Cisko Kid and Pancho or the Green Hornet and Kato?"
"I think I like the Green Hornet and Kato," Beth said thoughtfully.
"As long as I get to be the Green Hornet," Harm teased. "I'm older than you, so it's only fair."
Beth stuck her tongue out at him. "Fine. Now, what was that about Webb having a *partner* now?"
Harm shrugged. "Maybe they got sick of FUBAR'd assignments and assigned some poor sap to keep him out of trouble."
"Webb needs to go back to spook school," she muttered. "You're probably right. I've heard rumors of a new guy that's on loan from the NSA..."
"I suppose it's possible." Harm turned on the radio, and the two sat in silence, contemplating the new assignment that had the possibility of easily going south if they didn't hurry. There were too many easy targets that could kill not only thousands of students but had the possibility of taking cities with them as well.
30 October 2003
Deputy Director Kershaw smiled at his guest as they waited for Webb. He didn't know the man personally, but his record was excellent. Perhaps he could get Webb to actually listen for once, since he'd been a contemporary of Neville Webb.
Kershaw looked up as Webb entered. "Director, you wanted to see me?" Webb said.
Kershaw motioned to the other chair in front of his desk. "Have a seat, Agent Webb."
Webb sat down, shot a puzzled look at the unidentified man, then turned towards Kershaw. "What is this about?" he asked.
"Agent Webb, this is your new partner, Agent Jack Olsen from the NSA."
Webb glanced at the older man next to him, then glared at Kershaw. "Partner? I don't work with *partners*; I work *alone*!"
"You work with a partner, or you fly a desk," Kershaw said with a wave of his hand. "Jack Olsen *is* your partner, whether you like it or not." He stood up and walked around the desk. "I'll leave the two of you together to work things out; I have to go check on a project."
"I don't need a partner," Webb insisted.
"Nice to know you think that, kid. If it weren't for who your old man was, you'd have ended up behind a desk or as a star on the Company's wall a long time ago." Jack leaned back in his chair and put his feet on the director's desk. "I don't work with partners, but I agreed, because I owe your dad. Neville and I worked together more than once, and he saved my life."
Webb got up and started to pace, dismissing Jack's words with a flap of his wrist. "I don't need you," he said.
Jack smiled indulgently and ran a hand through his graying dark hair. "Well, kid, I've been working for the NSA since you were in diapers, and you've got more FUBAR'd missions than I do to your credit. I've never had to have JAG officers pull me out of tight spots, and you make a habit out of it." He stood and stretched out to his full height.
"I'm not a kid," Webb said, irritated.
"Yes, you are," Jack smiled, his brown eyes twinkling with mischief. "My son isn't that much younger than you are."
Webb rolled his eyes and moved away from the man. "I've been involved in several successful missions," he began.
"In which you almost managed to get all of your allies killed, and the Company refuses to give you backing unless you've got a baby-sitter." Jack smiled charmingly, stood up, and leaned against the deputy director's desk. "That's *me*, kid. Now you can accept your role as junior partner who's got a lot to learn, or you can choose to ride a desk, or we can send you back to training with the recruits. It's your decision."
Webb stuck his hands in his pockets. "I guess you're my partner," he said grudgingly.
"Well then, *you*, boy, have a lot to learn. Your first lesson is that whatever I say goes; you follow *my* orders."
"Yes, sir," Webb said stiffly.
"Now, if you'll come with me, the first thing we need to do is look over your latest case to see where you went wrong." Jack picked up a file from the desk and started flipping through it. "The way I see it, your planning was only half-cocked, nobody knew exactly what the hell was going on, and you just didn't blend in well enough." He put the file down on the pile, picked it up, and started walking.
Webb groaned inwardly and followed, wondering what he'd ever done to Kershaw to get superspy as his babysitter. It was humiliating enough to be babysat like a screw up, but having Jack Olsen do it was even worse. He'd only read about some of the man's cases, but Olsen was worse than Rabb; most of the time, he could do no wrong on the job. At this rate, he'd never get his old position back.
16 November 2003
North of Union Station
Mac knocked on the door, waited, and then started pounding on it. When no one answered, she fished out her keys, unlocked the door, and slipped inside. "Harm?" she called.
No one answered. Mac looked around the apartment, taking in its unlived-in look. It looked as if it had been unoccupied for quite some time. There was a fine layer of dust covering things, as if the owner hadn't been around to clean. The answering machine light was blinking, probably with all the messages she'd left in the past few weeks.
Mac walked into Harm's bedroom and checked the closet. Damn. His seabag was gone, and heaven only knew when he'd come back. She walked back into the living room and smiled when she saw a blank legal pad on the desk. There was one thing that she could do to let him know that she still cared.
Mac walked over and sat down in the desk chair before grabbing the legal pad and a pen. She took a deep breath and started to write what she thought might be the most important document of her life.
"Dear Harm," she wrote.
"I've recently received a Chegwidden wake-up call, and I've discovered a few things that we need to talk about. The first thing I need to say is that I'm sorry. Yeah, I know you never thought you'd hear that from me, because I've said that apologies are signs of weakness, but it needed to be said. I'm sorry I didn't realize how thoroughly concussed you were after the plane crash in Paraguay, and I'm sorry I said never.
"Flyboy, the Admiral made me realize that I've never exactly said how I feel about you, and I've never made what I want clear. I've never really said this and meant it before, so I'm not too good at it, but here we go. I love you. I want my best friend back, and I want us to reach for something more, something better. And as for what I want, well, I want us to make good on our deal. Before that, I'd like to marry you, so I can tell all the blonde bimbos of the world to keep their mitts off of you because you're mine.
"Yes, I know it's possessive of me, but I'm hoping that you still love me enough to want to stake a claim of your own. Sailor, come back to me. I'd camp out on your doorstep if I thought it would help. It wasn't until after you stopped talking to me and the rest of the JAG crew that I realized how much I need you in my life. I love you, Harm. I miss you.
Mac thought about it for a few minutes, then signed the note with, "your Sarah." He rarely used her first name unless he was completely serious about something, and by using it now, perhaps he'd realize how much she meant what she was writing.
Mac ripped the page from the legal pad, folded it, wrote his name on it, and laid it in plain sight on the desk. "Hurry home, Harm," she murmured to the empty apartment
In her hurry to leave, Mac jostled the desk, knocking over a tall stack of bills. Not noticing, she left, locking the door behind her. The bills fell on top of her note, completely obscuring the yellow paper.
"If you've a story, make sure it's a whole one, with details close to hand. It's the difference between a successful lie and getting caught."
--Tamora Pierce, Workbook for a Young Spy
3 November 2003
North of Union Station
Harm stuck one last shirt in his seabag and zipped it up. He hauled it out to the living room and dumped it by the couch before going to the fridge to get a bottle of water. He grabbed the drink and twisted off the cap as he heard a knock on the door. "It's open," he called.
Beth walked in and dumped her own seabag next to his. "You ready?" she asked.
"I guess," Harm said as he walked over to the couch and flopped on it. "I hoped that I'd seen the last of this guy back in Paraguay."
"It stinks, doesn't it?" Beth asked. "I mean, you thought he was out of your life for good, and now we're being sent after him to stop him from blowing up a bunch of college kids."
"Yeah," he said with a sigh. "I thought that the SOB wouldn't be coming back to bite me in the ass. I mean, Mac and I destroyed his weapons stash, and I figured it'd take him a long time to rebuild it."
Before Beth could answer, a knock sounded at the door. Harm got up to answer it. "Webb," he said with a tense nod.
"Rabb," Webb answered back. "This is my new senior partner, Jack Olsen," he nodded towards the graying man behind him.
"My condolences, Olsen," Harm said, extending his hand towards the agent. "I'm sorry you're the poor SOB that got pulled to babysit the FUBAR King here."
"Hey," Webb protested, "That's not--"
"Nice to meet you too, Rabb. I hear that you keep rescuing this screw-up's sorry ass." Olsen ignored Webb and shook Harm's hand.
"Unfortunate side effect. I only went to save Mac... too bad our relationship and my career ended up being blown to hell as a result. Come on in." Harm motioned for Olsen to take a seat and briefly considered shutting the door in Webb's face.
Olsen took a seat on the couch and winced. "Ouch. If it helps, I know the feeling; my family was collateral damage from my career." He pulled out two file folders and handed one to Harm and the other to Beth. "Sadik is planning an attack on most of the major universities on the East Coast."
Beth examined the list and let out a slow whistle. "West Point, the Naval Academy, Harvard, MIT, Yale, Duke, Georgia Tech... this is a long list."
Webb nodded. "Yes."
Olsen shot him a look that clearly said to shut up, then took up the thread. "Georgia Tech even has an inactive nuclear reactor on campus; blowing that up would probably take most of Atlanta with it."
"We have two tickets for you to go to Colombia, under assumed identities, of course, because we have intel that he's hiding there." Webb pulled a packet out of his briefcase and handed it to Beth.
"He's also stockpiling weapons, including some old Russian MiGs, and the pilots to fly them. Word is that he's sending them to either kamikaze or drop bombs. You two are to get in there, destroy the stockpiles, kill Sadik Fahd, and get out." Olsen quirked a smile. "I'll make sure that the kid here doesn't intervene."
"Thanks," Beth said with a grimace. "We might actually stand a chance of surviving if you do."
"Wait just a second--" Webb began.
"Don't you know, Webb? You own the Company record of surviving the most FUBAR'd missions." Harm dropped down on the couch and leaned back.
"Rabb is right," Olsen said with a smirk. "He has a better record than you do and he'd only been TAD to the Company a few times before seven months ago."
Harm glanced over at Jack. "Jack, if you've got a girlfriend, keep Webb away from her."
Webb grimaced and leaned back against the door. "What do you mean, girlfriend, Rabb? Last I heard, Mac was just your friend."
"I wouldn't have gone haring off to Paraguay unless it was for her, Webb. But you knew that, didn't you? You wouldn't have told Gunny to expect me if you didn't think otherwise." Harm fixed Webb with a glare. "You hurt her, there won't be a place on earth that I can't find you to make sure you pay--and *that's* a promise."
Webb rolled his eyes. "Like you were actually going to say anything after all these years. I gave you time, Rabb."
Harm folded his arms over his chest and glowered at the spook. "Suuure. You waited until she was vulnerable and at her lowest point to say anything, and you walked in on us just before I was about to kiss her to make sure that nothing would happen."
Before Webb could answer back, Beth jumped in between them. "Hold it, boys."
"Webb, you're even slimier than I was led to believe. From now on, kid, you're going to be too busy to romance Rabb's girl," Olsen said with a smirk. He grinned at Harm. "I like you, Rabb; you remind me of a very young Jack Olsen."
"I never wanted to be a spook," Harm muttered, still shooting dark looks at Webb.
"Neither did I," Jack admitted. "But it was the family business, and I'm good at it--I made damn sure to keep my son out of it." He handed Beth a card. "We'll get out of your hair; your plane leaves in an hour, and that's my secure cell phone number if you need anything, including rescue."
"But that's not--"
"I'm *NSA*, not CIA, kid. I can save Rabb if I want to, and you *owe* him for saving your skin so many times."
Webb stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Whatever," he mumbled, heading towards the door.
"Thanks, Jack," Harm said with a smile. "Maybe you can teach Webb here some things so that he survives to become an old spy."
Jack grinned. "That, I believe, is the reason why I'm his babysitter. See you on the other side, Rabb." He got up and sauntered out the door, pulling Webb with him.
"Well, Hammer, old buddy," Beth said. "That was certainly interesting." She picked up her kit and headed towards the door. "Let's get going; the sooner we leave, the sooner you can talk to Mac."
"Yes, ma'am," Harm said, picking up his seabag and following her. "Since Olsen will be keeping Webb busy, I might actually have a chance to talk to her."
"That's the idea, sailor," Beth said. "Let's go."
Harm nodded and locked the door behind them. Together, they left the building, climbed into Harm's Lexus and headed for the airport. If they were lucky, they might be able to be back within the week, but he wasn't counting on it. The words 'lucky' and 'CIA operation' rarely seemed to go together, and this assignment probably wouldn't be any different. At least they had the chance to save the lives of thousands of civilians. No matter what happened, this mission had the potential to make a difference, and that was what really mattered.
6 November 2003
Sheffield leaned forward on his desk, looked at Kershaw and steeped his fingers. "So how is Rabb working out?"
"Just fine," Kershaw replied with a smile. "He's a gifted pilot, and he makes a better field agent than most."
Sheffield graced Kershaw with a smug smile. "I know," he said. "I've seen his unedited files; with the time he spent in Vietnam and Laos as a teenager, he's suited for this kind of work."
Kershaw leaned back in his chair, his smile mirroring Sheffield's. "Why do you think that Webb tapped him for so many missions?" he asked.
"I'd wondered," Sheffield said. "I'm thinking that we can send him to Quantico for some sniper training."
"A man who can move as quietly as Rabb does through thick undergrowth could be useful as a sniper," Kershaw mused.
"Exactly. Now, when is Rabb expected back?"
Kershaw sat up and smiled again. "If everything goes well, next month. If not..." he shrugged.
"Keep me informed?"
"Only of Rabb's return," Kershaw said curtly. "The rest is need to know."
Sheffield flipped his hand towards the other man. "I know, I know. My security clearance isn't high enough to know about all the ongoing CIA ops."
"Right. Now if you'll excuse me--" Kershaw stood up and smoothed down his suit.
Sheffield stood up and offered the other man his hand. They shook, then he sank back into the embrace of his leather chair as Kershaw left the office. The more he thought about it, the better he liked the idea of training Rabb as a sniper. Perhaps they could send him for SEAL training after that. He had a feeling that the man would prove useful to have under his command.
After all, there were more places for a man with as... flexible talents as the commander than the CIA. Perhaps he should reassign him to Naval Intelligence after he got back. He was sure that Rabb could cause enough damage to the other side to justify it, when properly controlled, of course.
9 December 2003
Falls Church, Virginia
Mac walked into the bullpen, scanning the room for her prey. Her mouth curved into a smile as she found her intended target. "Bud," she said, coming up to him. "Have you heard from Harm lately?"
Bud shook his head. "I'm sorry, Colonel, but I haven't--Harriet mentioned that he started calling during the day quite some time ago, you could ask her."
"Thanks, Bud," Mac said, then walked quickly towards her office. She picked up the phone, called Harriet, and made arrangements to meet somewhere for lunch. Perhaps he'd called to talk to little AJ. She had all but been haunting his building, but so far, he hadn't been home since she left the note.
Mac looked up as Coates poked her head into the room. "Ma'am, the Admiral wants to see you."
"I'll be there in a minute, Petty Officer," Mac answered. She stood up and hurried to the Admiral's office. "Colonel Mackenzie reporting as ordered, sir," she said, bracing to attention.
The admiral leaned forward, his elbows resting on his blotter. "At ease, Mac--have a seat."
Mac sat in one of the chair in front of his desk and folded her hands in her lap. AJ picked up a folder and handed it to her. "Mac, the investigation on this one was handled by NCIS, and the accused has retained civilian council. General Sherridan murdered his wife and child two weeks ago, and he was found standing over the bodies. You're to prosecute, and I want you to nail his ass to the wall. Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir," she replied automatically.
"Have you managed to contact Harm yet?" he asked, softening his voice.
Mac shook her head. "No, sir. Harm hasn't been home at all in the past month or so."
"Do you know of anyone else he's still talking to?" he asked.
"Bud said that he sometimes calls to talk to Little AJ, sir, but he doesn't know if he's called lately. I'm meeting Harriet for lunch today to find out, and I'm going to dinner with Webb to pump him for information, sir." Mac bit the inside of her cheek and tried not to show how worried she was.
"Thank you, Colonel. Dismissed."
Mac stood up, braced to attention, and left his office. Coates stopped her on the way out the door. "Ma'am, Beth O'Neil is waiting for you on line two."
"Thank you, Petty Officer, I'll take it in my office." Mac hurried back to her office, picked up the phone, and punched line two. "Lt. Colonel Sarah Mackenzie," she said briskly.
"Colonel, this is Beth O'Neil, Harm's partner. I wanted to know if you'd heard from him."
Mac drew in a deep breath, trying to quell the sudden surge of fear that rose within her. "No, I haven't. What's the problem?"
"Harm is missing. Three days ago, we came back here, and the next morning, his room was a mess, and he was gone. I've tried everything, ma'am, but he's just... vanished. I was hoping that, maybe..."
Mac's legs gave out, and she collapsed into her chair. She heard Beth's voice in the background saying her rank but she didn't pay attention. Her last words to Harm echoed in her ears, and if he didn't survive, she'd never get to apologize. She'd never get to tell him the truth; that he was the *most* important person in her life.
"When able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near."
--Sun Tzu, The Art of War (fl. 400-320 BC)
18 November 2003
Harm sauntered into their temporary quarters and set his bag down. "Honey, I'm home," he called, smirking.
Beth came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. "Honestly, David, do you *have* to be so corny?" she rolled her eyes.
Harm winked and moved further in the house. "Me, corny? Surely you jest, Lynn." He leaned in and made a show of kissing her.
Beth reached for his hand as the kiss ended and they walked into the kitchen. She turned on the water, handed him a potato, and picked up another to scrub. "Find anything out, sailor?"
Harm shook his head. "They're still being cautious. I guess we burned him badly enough last time that he's being more thorough than ever before."
Beth wiped her mouth on her t-shirt. "No offense, but why'd you have to kiss me? I know we're supposed to use our cover names, but..."
Harm grinned. "I guess I forgot to tell you--the foyer is bugged; video and sound. I talked to Jack as soon as I found them, and he says that it's better to leave them there so that they don't know that we're on to them."
Beth groaned. "Remind me to never end up playing a live-in girlfriend again. Mac can do it after we get you two together."
Harm's entire body stiffened. "Who says *that'll* ever happen," he muttered.
Beth flicked water at him and grinned. "*I* do. Remember, Harm, you *promised* me that you'd talk to her when we get back, and I've got a feeling that she didn't mean what she said back in Paraguay."
Harm concentrated on getting every speck of dirt off of the potato as if his life depended on it. "I'll believe that if I can ever convince her to marry me," he grumbled. "And that's as likely to happen as Mac actually *enjoying* a ride in a Tomcat."
Beth leaned against the sink and looked at him curiously. "What do you mean?" she asked.
A tiny smile flitted over Harm's face. "The one and only time she rode in one, she got sick."
"Couldn't take the Gs?"
"The two of you are gonna have some interesting kids; they'll either be natural pilots, or they'll get seasickness every time they step on a ship."
"Hey!" Harm protested. "She's not *that* bad; I've never once seen Mac get seasick."
Beth poked him in the side and grinned. "See? You still love her, and I'm betting that she loves you back. If she's held on this long, those feelings aren't gonna disappear overnight."
"Thanks," he said. "I think we need to go put on another show for our suspicious quarry."
"Well, *David*, I think that we'd better cook dinner first."
"Yes, honey." Harm answered, rolling his eyes.
"We're supposed to meet up with our backup tomorrow at the safe house," she reminded him.
A smirk crossed his face. "Sounds like fun," he said. "We can help Jack give Webb a hard time again."
"Never was there one so deserving," she said with a wink. "One of these days, I'll have to get my girlfriend to paint a target on his back--she's an artist, so I'm sure she'll oblige."
Harm snickered. "I'd pay to see *that*"
Beth grinned. "Wait 'til it gets warmer... My apartment complex has a pool, and I'm sure we can convince Webb to come for a party and fall asleep by it... You can bring Mac with to watch."
"I look forward to it."
"You'd better. C'mon sailor, we've got dinner to cook." With that, Beth turned toward her pile of vegetables and started chopping.
Harm finished washing the rest of the vegetables and turned off the water. Perhaps Beth was right; perhaps Mac hadn't meant it. Perhaps Mac still cared and he actually had a chance. He grabbed a frying pan, put it on the heat, and splashed a bit of oil into it.
It was as if Beth had showed him that he still had a chance for his dreams. He still had time to gain what had become his greatest desire over the last few years; a family with Sarah as his wife and the mother of his children. Thanks to Beth, he had more hope than he had thought he would ever have again that he could make things work between himself and the woman he loved.
Their deal would be coming due soon, and perhaps he could convince her to both love and marry him to complete it. The baby part could come afterwards, but he wanted more than just a baby with her; Harm wanted Sarah to be his home, his wife, his everything. Despite everything, it was what he'd wanted the most for years--he just had been too afraid, and he also hadn't quite figured out how to go about it. His feelings for her were deeper than the feelings he'd had for anyone else, including Diane. If he lost her, he didn't know how he'd manage to survive. If Beth was right, then he'd be able to obtain his greatest wish...
18 November 2003
Jack read the final page of the report, then threw it in the fire. "Analysis, Webb?"
"Rabb and O'Neil will be able to take out Sadik soon, because the SOB is buying the cover story," Webb replied, leaning back against the plain, wooden wall.
Jack rested his elbows on his thighs and leaned forward, his blue eyes staring into the fire. "Very good, kid. Now, what would be their best course of action?"
Webb rubbed his hand over his eyes. "Stay put, do nothing suspicious, raise no questions."
Jack shifted his weight in his chair. "And should Rabb kill someone on the suspicion that he's ratting him out?"
Webb sighed. "No. A spy you know is always better than a spy you don't know."
Jack grinned and mockingly handed Webb a chocolate bar. "You're learning, kid. Now if you can just remember to keep backup on hand, and to stick with simple lies seeded with truth that are easy to prove, you might survive to make some little Webbs for the Company to turn into better spies."
Webb groaned and rolled his eyes in disgust. "What did I ever do to get a babysitter like *him*?" he mumbled.
Jack simply grinned and leaned back in his chair. "You messed up one too many times, so they had to call me in kid, because they didn't want to tell your mother that her only son had managed to get dead."
"I know, I know," he said.
"You'd better, kiddo. You're going to learn your lessons *right* this time and you're not gonna screw up as badly as you have in the past." Jack glanced at him and grinned. "So what did your messages from the office say?"
"Mac wants to talk to me again," Webb said with a groan.
"And what did you tell her?" Jack prodded.
"That I wanted to be friends, and of course I'd give her any news of Harm that wasn't classified."
"Good boy." Jack put his feet up on a low stool. "You shouldn't be playing on a girl's sympathies to get a date, kiddo. Especially when you know that a friend of yours is in love with her."
"Yes, sir," he said. "It won't happen again."
"It had better not. You lose control, you die. It's about time you learned that, kid. If you have a relationship, keep it out of this business as much as you can; distractions will also get you killed." Jack stood up, stretched, and put his hand on Webb's shoulder. "Find yourself a nice girl who's in a profession like teaching or something and settle down in the suburbs somewhere."
"It didn't work for you, *Jack*."
"No, it didn't, because I let the job get in the way of what was really important. I still regret that. But at least I had the sense not to go after a girl who had the skills to come after me and kick my ass if I pissed her off." Jack walked over, leaned against the mantle, and stared into the fire. "I didn't try and throw a wrench into it when probably the two best friends I've got are finally getting around to admitting that they've been in love for years, either."
"I've been attracted to her for years," Webb murmured. "I'd have to be dead not to be--and I'm not sure why I did it."
"Figure it out. I saw the pictures in his apartment, and I'm surprised that she doesn't know; he loves her." Jack walked over and flopped back on his chair. "That man would do *anything* for her. Hell, I think he'd walk on water or drown trying."
Webb chuckled sadly. "He almost did, once."
"What do you mean?" Jack asked.
"Well, a few years back, she was engaged to this Australian sailor." A smile flitted across his face. "Mic Brumby was a Harmon Rabb-substitute if I ever did see one, and an inferior one at that." Webb went on to tell the story, and Jack listened with one ear as he tried to figure out how he would ever manage to get Webb up to snuff. He was just getting too old for this kind of shit.
It was long past time he took up a training position at Langley, Parris Island, West Point, or even at the Naval Academy. He'd heard of positions opening up in all of them, and he was ready to take one. With his long and distinguished record, one of them would take him, and then maybe he could get down to the business of getting to know his son. He'd started in the military, after all, and had only resigned his commission to join the NSA.
Perhaps there was even hope that he could try and patch things up with his ex-wife now that his career wouldn't be a problem. After all, they'd stayed in touch, and he still loved her. Stranger things had happened, that was for sure.
6 December 2003
Harm leaned back against the bed and turned another page absently. He'd hoped to be back in Washington by now, but the operation had stretched on and on without signs of ending. Just when they thought that Sadik trusted them, he always started to back off, forcing them to revise their plans. He supposed he shouldn't be so impatient with it, because these types of deep cover operations could go on for years but damnit, he wanted to go home.
Beth had been pushing him towards talking to Mac for weeks, and it was high time he did it. If he couldn't have anything more, he at least wanted her friendship. There was a Mac-shaped hole in him that needed to be filled. The months away from her had only proven to him, once more, how much he needed her in his life. Working for the CIA wasn't *that* bad, but at the same time, he hated it because Mac wasn't there.
With a sigh of disgust he threw the paperback down on his bed; he hadn't really been reading it, anyway. Maybe he should've returned her calls. Paraguay hadn't entirely been her fault, he had contributed to the demise of their relationship, too. He just hoped that Mac would assist him in the resurrection process, and he had a feeling that it would require lots of groveling on his part. At least, that was the way it had worked in his last relationship.
Harm laid his head against the wall and closed his eyes. It had been a long week, and he was tired. He smiled as images of Mac began to parade around his eyelids. Perhaps soon he'd have a chance to tell her the truth, marry her, and find out where the infamous tattoo was located. He'd had several fantasies over the years of playing find-the-artwork on her... with a quiet sigh, he started to drift to sleep.
As soon as Harm's breathing evened out, three men in form-fitting, charcoal-gray outfits slipped out of the closet and walked soundlessly up to the bed. One pulled out a soft white cloth and a vial and dumped the substance on it. He pocketed the vial and held the cloth over Harm's mouth and nose. The other two men began meticulously searching the room, leaving destruction behind them. When Harm's breathing finally deepened, the first man gestured to the other two. Silently, they picked up the package they had come after, walked out the door, and vanished into the night.
Unreality of Time
"Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas. . . . The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time."
--Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
Harm came awake slowly, his head pounding. The inside of his mouth tasted like a dirty sock, and his stomach roiled in nausea. He attempted to look around, but the complete absence of light prevented him from seeing anything. Light didn't exist where he was. He felt around him, trying to discover where he was being held. The floor was packed dirt, with a ceiling that was too low for him to stand upright and a pile of slightly moldy straw was under him. He started to shiver as the cold seeped through the earthen walls and made its way into his bare skin. Luckily, he'd been wearing pajama bottoms when he'd been taken; they were doing a decent job of protecting his skin from the prickly straw.
Harm frowned and felt for his watch. He hadn't taken it off before he lay down, so he should still have it. Gone. It was gone, so time no longer existed in his new reality. He felt the area around him once more and found a scratchy blanket near him. Snippets of Stryker's almost-forgotten advice flitted through his mind. 'If they get you, kid, lie. Tell the tallest tales you can think of, because anybody can be broken by pain. By the time that they finally get the truth out of you, they won't recognize it anymore because you've lied so much.'
"Yes, sir, Colonel," Harm muttered. He didn't know where the hell he was, but it was obvious to him that his cover had been blown. He just hoped that Beth was okay--whoever was holding him must have put her in another hole nearby. He curled up as tightly as he could in the corner and covered himself with the itchy blanket. They'd have to come for him sooner or later. He'd find out exactly how his cage opened then, and he could start planning his first duty--escape.
Harm knew that he was privy to far too much classified information to let whoever had him get any of it, so he was determined not to tell them anything that he knew. He grimaced, and hoped that whoever had him would be impatient; he was CIA now, and there was no hope of rescue... especially since they probably didn't know where he was or who had taken him. Hell, *he* didn't even have that information yet.
Harm leaned back against the cold wall and closed his eyes. Mac. He started to smile as he called up old memories of the good times between them. It was probably a good thing that he'd resigned--otherwise, she'd be with him and would probably have ended up hurt. At least she had Webb to comfort her. The knowledge that she had the inept spy was bittersweet; on one hand, he might try and be there for her, but on the other hand, Webb had a penchant for almost getting her killed. He looked up as he heard the grating of a key in a lock. Slowly, a door opened out of the wall and two large men entered.
Without speaking, the men jerked his arms and legs forward and tied them tightly with wire that cut into his skin. They grabbed hold of him and dragged him out into the light beyond his door, making him blink furiously to dispel the spots in front of his eyes. They pulled him down a hall, pushed him into a room, lifted him onto a table, and strapped him down.
Harm didn't say anything, because he knew that if he started talking now, it would set a bad precedent for later. His eyes widened in recognition when the man he'd last seen leaving Paraguay by train walked into the room. "Commander Harmon Rabb, Junior, United States Navy," Sadik said with a smile. "You have a lot to pay for."
7 December 2003
Beth knocked on Harm's door. "Morning, Harm, ya decent?" She walked in and looked around the ransacked room. "Oh, shit," she muttered. "Harm?" She walked into the bathroom, but it was empty. Quickly, she made a circuit around the house hoping to find him. Empty. She was currently the sole occupant, and considering the state of Harm's room, it was possible that their cover was blown, and Sadik had taken him.
Beth took a deep breath before heading into her room to get the SAT phone. Luckily, they'd hidden it with her, otherwise whoever had taken Harm would have found it. Quickly, she dialed the number for their backup's secure line and waited.
"Jack, this is Beth," she said.
"Beth, where's the fire?" he asked. "Our check-in isn't until day after tomorrow."
"I know, but Harm's room has been ransacked, and he's gone."
"Shit," was the response. "We're lucky that they didn't take both of you--very sloppy on their part."
"I guess. Suggestions?" Beth really didn't know what to do next; in this operation, she was the rookie, and Harm was the experienced agent.
"Get out, and meet us at the rendezvous point." Jack answered immediately. "I'll do some reconnaissance, and find out who has him; there are bound to be rumors among Sadik's men, if the SOB took him. I'm the only one that he hasn't seen, and I can disguise myself more effectively than you can."
"Thanks, Jack," Beth said, glad that someone else could take over the mess she found herself in.
"Be careful, Beth, and we'll see you in an hour."
Beth hung up, grabbed the essential equipment, and hurried out the door. They *had* to rescue Harm; leaving him behind was unthinkable.
Sadik loomed over Harm and smiled. "Hassim, Mohammad, you may begin." The two hulking brutes that had carried him in began to administer a thorough and professional beating. He clenched his jaw and refused to show how much it hurt--he'd seen this kind of thing before; the blows were meant to cause the most pain possible without inflicting permanent damage.
It seemed like forever before Sadik's thugs finished their work. With a gesture, Sadik dismissed them, then leaned over Harm's prone body. Bruises were beginning to form, the dusky black and blue marks stood out against his pale skin in the dark room. "So, a simple beating has no effect," he began conversationally. "I suppose I shall have to resort to more... imaginative means of settling your debt."
Harm watched the terrorist in stony silence. He knew better than to say anything; it would only encourage the man. "I know where young AJ Roberts and his brother, Jimmy, go to daycare."
Harm closed his eyes. He knew that Sadik had to be lying. It was standard to threaten loved ones to get results. "And that woman you saved--Sarah, her name was? I know where she lives, and so do my lieutenants. She's beautiful, yes? Perhaps not so much in a little while. Perhaps not so much after we finish with her. Her heritage makes her one of us, you know." Sadik smiled and smacked one of Harm's bruises. "She can easily belong to us if we wish."
Harm shivered as much as his restraints would allow, but still said nothing.
"Your mother owns an art gallery in La Jolla, California... She and your stepfather live in a very nice house due to his substantial salary. It's too bad that the wiring is going bad. It would be such a shame if it burned down one night while they were sleeping."
Harm bit his lip and still refused to speak.
"Now, Commander Harmon Rabb, Junior, tell me, what were you doing in Leticia? Why did you come to Columbia?"
Harm shook his head slightly.
"No? Your grandmother lives all alone on a farm in Bealsville, Pennsylvania, and old people are *so* frail."
Sadik smiled and ran his hand up Harm's bare arm. "There are always Renee Peterson's children, all three of your godsons, and what was the name of the little girl you saved? Oh, yes... Darlyn Lewis. By the time I finish, Commander Harmon Rabb, you will have told me everything you ever learned, and you will have paid me back in full; one piece of flesh at a time."
Harm shivered again. He would die here. He knew that. At least his presence would keep the terrorist busy. Perhaps busy enough to not kill the students. At least his death would serve a purpose.
Two different guards walked back in the room and stood, waiting for their orders. "Hang him up in the other room, and wait for my orders." Sadik watched as they dragged Harm to yet another room and hung him from his wire-bound wrists.
Harm closed his eyes and focused on happy memories as the wire cut deeply into his wrists. Dimly, he heard Sadik start speaking. "We were in a hurry with Clayton Webb, but I think I shall not hurry with you. You, my dear Commander, will be with us for a very long time."
9 December 2003
Falls Church, Virginia
Mac walked into Coates's office. "Coates, is the admiral free?" she said softly.
Coates smiled, then hit the intercom button. "Sir, Colonel Mackenzie is here to see you."
"Send her in," was the immediate response.
"He'll see you now, ma'am," Coates said cheerfully.
"Thank you, Petty Officer." Mac drew on every bit of military discipline she had to keep from falling apart, then turned, walked into the admiral's office, and came to attention in front of his desk.
"At ease, Colonel." The admiral paused long enough for her to relax, then gestured towards one of the chairs. "Have a seat. Now, what is it you wanted to see me about?"
Mac drew in a deep breath. "I just got off the phone with Beth O'Neil, Harm's CIA partner," she said, her voice shaking. "Harm has been... taken."
The admiral's hands closed around the sides of his desk. "Please explain, Colonel," his voice barely audible.
"She said that he went to bed, and the next morning, his room had been ransacked, and he was missing." Mac clasped her hands together, barely noticing when her knuckles turned white. "That was three *days* ago, sir. Ms. O'Neil called to see if I'd heard from him; she said that they were hoping that he'd been able to get away."
"Do we even know where they were?" he asked.
Mac shook her head. "No, sir. She said it was classified. Admiral, I have some contacts within the Company, and I'm sure I can find out where they were." She bit her lip, wanting nothing more than to rush to Harm's rescue. "I was hoping that you'd let me take leave to go find him, sir."
The admiral shook his head. "I'm sorry, Mac, but I just can't let you do that. Rabb is *CIA* now, and as much as I want to, I can't let an active duty officer run off to save a CIA agent."
"Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"Sir, if you hadn't cut Harm loose and chewed him out like that, he wouldn't *be* in this position now." Mac reached up and shoved her hair behind her ear. "If I'd been there to watch his six, *none* of this would be happening, and we all know the CIA's non-existent track record for rescuing operatives when things go south."
"I was under orders, Mac," he said gently. The admiral got up, walked around his desk, and patted her shoulder awkwardly.
"Under *orders*, sir? But *why*?"
The admiral dropped into the other chair. "The SecNav wanted Harm to use in special operations, and that's all I know."
"The SecNav, sir?" she questioned. "Does that mean that Harm is still Navy, and we can try to rescue him?"
"The rescuing part, no, and as for the other, I'm not sure," he admitted. "I'm sorry, Mac, but we're now playing a waiting game. If his partner and her back-up are looking for him, then we'll just have to hope for the best."
"I'm sorry, Mac," he said. "Take the rest of the day off, and *don't* go haring off to find him. I'll see if I can find out what's being done."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." Mac stood up, came to attention, then left the room, and headed towards her office. She wanted Harm back. It was even worse this time, because now he was *missing*. How many lives could he use up before death finally caught up to him? How many times could he survive these kind of situations?
Mac grabbed her things and headed out to her car. She needed time to drive and think; perhaps she could figure out *some* way to help without disobeying orders.
Through Dangers Untold
"No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave."
-- Calvin Coolidge
Harm drew in a shuddering breath, and curled himself into a tighter ball in his corner. He didn't know how long it had been since he'd been taken, but he'd been keeping track of how many times he'd fallen asleep. If that was any indication of how many days it had been, then Sadik had been keeping him for almost a month. After so much time, he found the complete darkness of his cell almost comforting. At least he was left alone in there.
Pain and darkness were his constant companions. Sadik seemed to take a perverse pleasure in telling him that everyone he loved was dead. Sometimes, Harm even believed him. Every time Sadik's men came for him, there was fresh mental torture or physical punishment on the agenda.
Harm looked up as the door opened, and dim light trickled into the lightless room. He half expected the thugs that he privately called Larry and Moe. Those two were usually the ones who came to take him to Sadik for more interrogations. A plate containing thin gruel, a hunk of dry bread, and a bucket of water was pushed inside, and the door closed again.
Harm moved slowly towards the plate, ignoring the twinges from the half-healed cuts on his back as he reached for the food and water. He picked up the plate and carefully began to chew the dry, hard bread, cognizant of the two or three loose teeth that Larry and Moe had given him. He dipped the bread in the unappetizing mush. The watery gruel helped to soften it a little, but if he bit it wrong, it still made his teeth hurt. He was getting to the point where he'd almost kill for a Beltway Burger. He'd sworn to himself more than once that if he ever got home, he'd never tease Mac about her diet again. *Anything* was better than this. He finished his meal, carefully scraping as much of the tasteless mush from the dish as possible before drinking as much water from the bucket as he could hold.
Harm leaned back against the wall for a few minutes and wished that he were home. He sighed deeply, and, ignoring the pain from his injuries, started doing pushups. There wasn't much he could do by way of exercise, but he had to keep himself ready to run. They'd been careful so far, but it was only a matter of time before one of them slipped up and gave him the opportunity. He grimaced as the scabs on his wrists broke open--every time Larry and Moe came for him, they wrapped wire around them, breaking open the wounds so that they never actually got a chance to heal.
Harm looked away as the door opened, and let his eyes adjust gradually to the light. He'd tried fighting Larry and Moe about the restraints, but he'd learned his lesson after they'd beaten him so badly that it had taken three days, by his calculations, to be able to move without excruciating pain.
Submissively, he allowed them to bind his wrists with wire again; wincing as the old cuts reopened from the tightly wrapped bonds. Larry and Moe dragged him down to the interrogation room, and strapped him down to the table yet again before leaving the room. Harm relaxed as much as he could against the cold surface; knowing that the rounds of questioning would begin soon.
Sadik walked into the room, carrying a small bundle of cloth. Harm watched as the terrorist opened it and pulled out a syringe filled with a milky white liquid. "This, my dear Commander, is called starlight," he said conversationally. "I'd hoped to have it earlier, but my... contacts were delayed."
He smiled at Harm, then started to flick the syringe to get the air bubbles out of it. "I would think, my silent companion, that you would want to know what this little concoction does. Commander, this lovely cocktail causes extreme pain as it makes you relive every horrible thing that has ever happened to you." Sadik's smile grew wider. "You *will* break your silence, Harmon Rabb. You will tell me *all* of the secrets that you have ever been privy to."
Harm shivered, and tried to move away, but the straps stopped him. "You're wrong," he said, his voice rusty from disuse. "I'm not Navy anymore; I switched branches of service and did a retred as a Recon Marine."
Sadik gave him an amused look. "You insult my intelligence, Commander." He stepped forward and started tying a tourniquet around Harm's arm. "My information is better than *that*."
"What? Don't think I've got the training?" Harm asked, trying to stall.
Sadik jabbed the needle in his arm and pushed down the plunger. "You *will* talk, Commander. If you don't manage..." he shrugged. "I have other sources of information, but you will suffer greatly for what you did to me and to the cause." He yanked the syringe out of Harm's arm, and tossed it to the side, smiling. "Have fun." He walked over and sat down to watch.
Harm closed his eyes, wincing as liquid fire began to flow through him, while some of his worst memories paraded before his eyes. Sadik called for the guards. "Toss him back in his cell," he said, gesturing towards Harm. "Perhaps starlight will make him more... compliant."
The two burly men undid Harm's restraints, pulled him off the table, and hauled him back to his cell. They threw him inside, and shut the door. Harm clenched his hands into fists, then blacked out from the excruciating pain that tore through his body.
1 December 2003
Conference Room, Pentagon
"Our next candidate for promotion is Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. He's been recommended for accelerated promotion by his last CO, Admiral Chegwidden, the SecNav, and also the CNO. Gentlemen, please consider the file in front of you." Admiral Miller sat down, and pulled the commander's file closer to him. One of the captains let out a low whistle.
"Top of his class at the academy, Top Gun, *and* a JAG with three DFCs and a silver star? Admiral, how has this one managed to see so much combat in a noncom position?"
"According to his last CO, Commander Rabb manages to attract trouble without much effort." Admiral Miller allowed himself a small smile. "It seems they decided to make use of his... talent, so he's currently TAD to the CIA, where he earned that third DFC last month when he saved the lives of a dozen or so civilians by landing a C-130 on a carrier."
"Understandable," another officer said. "But Rabb's name is written all over a lot of the major cases in the past few years; he's even *authored* some of the case law that JAGs use. Is there any indication *why* he's been sent to the spooks? Wouldn't he be of better use to JAG?"
"SecNav's orders," Miller said with a grimace. "Admiral Chegwidden would give his eyeteeth to get Rabb back. Are there any more questions or concerns?" His question was met with a resounding silence. "Good. Let's put it to a vote, gentlemen."
The room was quiet for a few minutes as the officers sitting on the promotion board considered the service record of the man in front of them. There were a few black marks, true, but it was the record of a man who did his duty with honor and served his country to the best of his ability with an initiative that would serve him well in a command post.
His medals spoke of heroism, but the rest of his service record spoke of an unwavering devotion to the principles they all lived by and a dedication to truth and justice. It wasn't what he had received that spoke of his service; it was the sacrifices that all of them knew that he had made for honor, duty, and country that best epitomized it.
A contemplative silence settled over the room as the embers of the promotion review board each came to a decision and voted. "And the votes are in," Admiral Miller's voice rang out quietly. "It's unanimous. Captain Rabb will be receiving notice after the undercover mission he's currently on. Now, moving right along..."
Rabb's file was closed for now, with his new promotion assured. It was simply too bad that he didn't even realize that he was still Navy, but of the people who really knew him and the Navy at large, only the SecNav, Kershaw, and the CNO really knew the truth about that.
9 December 2003
Falls Church, Virginia
Coates walked quietly towards Lieutenant Roberts's office. She had news that she knew that they'd want to hear. While it was true that the Admiral might make an announcement, in the eight months that Commander Rabb had been gone, much of the staff had rotated out. There were some that remembered him, but none that cared about him as the Roberts and Commander Turner did.
Coates stopped next to Harriet's desk. "Lieutenant Roberts," she began quietly, "I have news about the Commander."
Harriet looked up in surprise. "Is he all right?" she asked with concern.
"I don't know, ma'am," she replied. "What I do know, I'd like to tell you, Commander Turner, and Lieutenant Roberts at the same time." Coates hesitated, "Since the two of them are in Lieutenant Roberts's office, I was wondering if you could come with me?"
Harriet nodded. "Sure," she said as she put down her work and stood.
The two of them walked over to Bud's office, then Coates knocked on the doorframe. "Enter," Bud's voice said.
"Sirs, Ma'am, I overheard news about Commander Rabb."
Sturgis put down his case file and looked at her, his eyes darkening with concern. "What is it, Coates?" he asked. "I haven't heard from him in *months*."
"Is he hurt or something?" Bud asked.
"Or something," Coates murmured. "Commander Rabb is missing... he was taken three days ago, and they think it was Sadik Fahd."
Harriet's eyes widened. "Isn't that the man who Commander Rabb had to save Colonel Mackenzie from and who almost tortured Agent Webb to death?"
Coated nodded. "Yes, ma'am."
"Goodness," Harriet caught the back of one of the chairs for support.
Sturgis cleared his throat. "I'll tell my father, so he can get Harm on the prayer chain. I'm sure that Harm can use all the prayers he can get."
"Are they going to mount a rescue operation?" Bud asked.
Coates bit her lip before answering. "I heard the admiral say that he's CIA now, so we can't do anything."
Tears began to trickle down Harriet's face. "I can only imagine what he's going through," she murmured.
Bud walked over and put his arm around his wife. "That's not *fair*," he said. "All of us *owe* Commander Rabb for *something*."
"Do they even know where he is?" Sturgis asked.
Coates shook her head. "No, Commander Rabb's new partner called Colonel Mackenzie to see if she'd heard from him, because they can't find him."
Silence reigned in the office, only broken by the occasional sound of Harriet catching a breath as she tried to quell her tears. She straightened up and accepted Bud's handkerchief with a nod of thanks. "Colonel Mackenzie must be devastated," she said softly.
"But she says that she doesn't miss him at all," Sturgis pointed out.
Bud gave him a skeptical look. "She keeps pumping Harriet and me for information because he's been calling Little AJ."
"You didn't see her when she went to see the Admiral, sir. The Colonel wasn't happy at all about the Commander having gone missing." Jen fiddled with the cuff of her blues. "She looked awful--as if her last hope had been taken away."
"As if she'd lost her best friend?" Harriet asked.
Jen nodded. "Yes, ma'am. I owe both Colonel Mackenzie and Commander Rabb--maybe you and I should try and talk to her?" she asked tentatively.
"I think that's a good idea, Petty Officer," Harriet said with a smile.
"We want to help, too," Bud said.
Sturgis nodded, agreeing with him. "We're her friends, too."
"No offense guys," Harriet began, "but you're..."
"I think that the Lieutenant is trying to say is that you're *men*, sirs, and, well..." Coates trailed off.
"Colonel Mackenzie doesn't need all of us barging in on her at once," Harriet pointed out. "And I think that she'd be better off with Jen and me right now."
"Oh, all right," Bud grumbled. "Why don't you invite her for dinner?" he asked. "Some time with AJ and Jimmy might be good for her." Harriet nodded and barely noticed as Sturgis added his assent before turning towards the door.
Coates and Harriet headed towards Mac's office, determined to help their friend. Their hands were tied with bringing him home, but at least they could comfort the one left behind. As they walked, Coates wondered briefly how you could truly comfort someone who had just lost half of herself.
Shadows of the Past
"...a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces. Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone? O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this most weary unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When? O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again."
--- Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
Harm opened his eyes to darkness again, then closed them as voices and images crashed over him once more.
"I *hate* you, Daddy," five-year-old Harmon Rabb screamed, tears running down his face. "I hope I *never* see you again!"
"I'll be okay, Harm," Lt. Joseph Young whispered. "Dying's not so bad, I swear it isn't."
"But Joe," Lt. Harmon Rabb laid his hand on his friend's wasted shoulder. "You *promised* me you'd fight this."
They came and kept coming, images, voices, and memories too fast to stop. They churned together, ran together, and followed each other in quick succession:
Two men in chaplain's uniforms stood in front of his open door, talking to his mother. "We regret to inform you that Lieutenant Harmon Rabb Sr. was shot down over Vietnam, and is now officially classified as Missing in Action."
The body bag unzipped to reveal Diane, her face lifeless and her chest smeared with blood. "You'll be assisting with this case, Commander."
Death. Death surrounded him, mocking him with its existence in his memories. Voices triggered other memories, all mocking him with pain. Life was pain. Death was freedom:
Gunfire. Sixteen-year-old Harm turned back to see his sweetheart crumple to the ground, red liquid spreading over her chest. He turned to run to her, but Stryker grabbed his arm. "That's suicide, son," the man said gruffly, tugging on the teenager's arm. "Let's get the hell out of here."
Pain. Pain was his friend, because it held back death. As long as he hurt, he was alive, and he could find a way to make it back to Her. Wherever She was, it was always safe.
A flash of light called his attention to her right hand. Engaged. She had accepted Bugme's proposal.
He couldn't see. The carrier deck was blurry, impossible to land on. Too low! They were too low! There was no way he could avoid crashing into it.
Pain. Pain and more pain brought Harm fully awake. The drug was leaving his system, but he knew that the relief would only be temporary. In his moments of lucidity, he realized that this was the end of the line. Joey had been right; death didn't look so bad. Perhaps he was interpreting what his late friend had said, but at this point, an end to the pain and torment would be welcome.
Larry and Moe kept his hands bound all the time now and had even started to tether his ankles. He'd been moved to another, smaller cell, so the gouges that he'd carved in the wall were now inaccessible. Time had no meaning. Neither day nor night truly existed.
The only real thing was pain. The only memories that gave him comfort when under the influence of Starlight were the ones of Mac. Good or bad, memories of Her made him feel better in this hellhole. Sometimes, he almost thought that She was with him, soothing away some of the pain.
Harm looked in the direction of the door as he heard the telltale creak that preceded its opening. Dim light trickled through the cracks as the third man that he liked to call Curly slipped through. Larry and Moe followed him. Before Harm could force his sluggish body to react, Larry and Moe grabbed him and looped more wire around his bonds before winding it around a metal loop set high in the wall.
The position made his cuts break open once more as Curly approached him. The dirty little man pulled out a syringe, swiftly jabbed it into Harm's stomach, then depressed the plunger. Sadik walked in and motioned to the three stooges to leave the room. "So, Commander. Are you enjoying your stay with us?"
Harm replied by spitting at Sadik. He really didn't have much spit to spare, so the projectile fell far short of the odious man.
"That wasn't very nice, Commander," Sadik said with a smirk. He walked closer and punched Harm in the stomach, following that with another punch to the face that made Harm's head come in contact with the wall. For a few minutes, he saw stars and could barely hear Sadik's words.
"It's only a matter of time... you *will* tell me every bit of classified information that you know before I let this be over." Sadik reached up and yanked on Harm's wrists, making the wire that bound them cut into his flesh deeply.
Harm felt the now familiar sensation of the drug taking over, and almost welcomed the painful memories it brought. At least, in his memories, *She* was there. He could open his eyes and almost see her, feel her gentle touch and hear her whispering to him that it would be okay, and that She would keep him safe. "My Sarah," he murmured, then fell into oblivion.
20 December 2003
Falls Church, Virginia
Mac hesitated before knocking on the door. It had almost become routine for her to show up there on the weekends lately, but she still felt reluctant to intrude. She took a deep breath and waited for the answer. With Harm missing, she had started to rely heavily on Harriet and Bud just to keep her sane. Clay had been out of the country for a little over the month, so she really didn't have any other friends to turn to.
Mac pasted a smile on her face as the door opened. "Hi, Harriet," she said softly.
"Colonel," Harriet said with a smile. "C'mon in." She opened the door wider and gestured to her.
Mac went in the house and followed Harriet into the living room where she was stopped by a blond whirlwind barreling into her legs. "Aunt Mac!" he said happily. "I hoped that you'd comed."
"Hey, kiddo," Mac said, mussing the child's hair.
Little AJ grabbed her hand and pulled her over to the couch. "Aunt Mac, why are you sad?" he asked, his little face creased in a frown.
Mac sat down and held out her arms towards the little boy. AJ climbed into her lap and gave her a big hug. "Can I get you anything, ma'am?" Harriet asked before Mac could answer Little AJ's question.
"Thanks, Harriet, but no." Mac hugged Little AJ. "Where's Bud?"
"Oh, he and Commander Turner are playing basketball." Harriet answered. "They've been working on mending their friendship, and since Harm isn't here right now..." Before Harriet could finish her thought, a thin wail could be heard coming from the second floor. "That's Jimmy--I'll be right back, ma'am."
"Aunt Mac, why are you sad?" Little AJ asked again. "Is it because Uncle Harm's gone away like Daddy does sometimes?"
Mac was quiet for a moment, and she dropped a kiss on the top of Little AJ's head before she said anything. "Sweetheart, you know how Uncle Harm hasn't called you in a while?"
"Uh huh, but he said that he had to go play pretend, and it might be until Santa comes afore he can call me again." Little AJ smiled at Mac and gave her a hug.
"AJ, baby, something happened to Uncle Harm--the bad guys took him away." Mac bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from breaking down.
Little AJ slid off her lap and held out his hand. "C'mon, Aunt Mac," he said. "I've got somethin' I wanna show you."
Wordlessly, Mac stood, took Little AJ's hand, and let him lead her upstairs to his room. They walked inside, and Little AJ released her hand before pulling a chair over to a wall. He climbed up on it, and pulled a picture off a hook, then got down. "You can sit on my bed, Aunt Mac," he offered with a smile.
Mac sat down and held out her arms to Little AJ. "What's that, sweetheart?" she asked.
Little AJ walked into her embrace, then showed her the picture. "It's me an' Uncle Harm. Before he went away, he took me flying." A joyous smile lit up the little boy's face. "It was just him an' me, without the *baby*." The child's face twisted into an expression of disgust.
"You look like you two had fun," Mac commented.
"We *did*. Aunt Mac, Uncle Harm told me that he had to go stop a very *bad* man, and that he'd come home, 'cause the bad guys aren't allowed to win." Little AJ looked at her earnestly. "He'll come home, Aunt Mac, because he *promised* that we could go flying again."
"And Harm always keeps his promises," Mac whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "Baby, sometimes as much as we want to keep promises, other people do things that make it impossible."
"I know." Little AJ said calmly. "Uncle Harm could get hurt like Daddy did. It just means that I have to ask God to bring Uncle Harm home safe."
Mac bit her lip. "But God doesn't always answer prayers," she murmured.
Little AJ grinned. "Me and Bobby was talking about it. He said that his mommy said God *always* answers prayers, but sometimes, He just says no." A fleeting look of disgust crossed his face. "I know that's true, 'cause I got *Jimmy* when I asked God for a baby *sister*."
Mac laughed a little, and hugged AJ closer. "And why did you want a sister instead of Jimmy?"
"A'cause maybe a sister wouldn't cry all the time, and Bobby's sister doesn't steal his trains and his brother *does*."
"But I thought you said that girls are gross," Mac said with a smile.
"Girls *are* icky," Little AJ agreed.
"Then how come you like me so much, huh, kiddo?"
"You're *not* a girl, you're *Aunt Mac*, just like Mommy ain't no girl, neither."
Mac started tickling him. "I am *so* a girl," she said teasingly.
"Not!" the child shrieked.
"Am, *so*," she said, tickling him even more. Little AJ squirmed out of her grasp as Harriet walked in the room.
"Mommy," Little AJ said breathlessly, "can I go into the backyard to play?"
"Sure, sweetie, but stay in the backyard, okay?"
"Okay, Mommy." Little AJ hurried out of the room, leaving Harriet and Mac alone.
"AJ drag you up here?"
"Yeah, he wanted me to see this," Mac handed the framed photograph to Harriet.
Harriet looked at the picture and smiled. "That was a good day," she said. "Harm let me tag along; it was Little AJ's first flight, and I just wanted to make sure that he'd be okay."
"Did he talk to you about anything?" Mac asked.
"No," Harriet reached up and pushed some hair behind her ear. "He's kept in touch with AJ, but he hasn't talked to Bud or me." She laid her hand on Mac's arm. "I'm sorry, Colonel, but the most contact that Harm has had with me is the present he sent for Jimmy."
"That was what Bud said a few weeks ago," Mac murmured. "I miss him," she said finally.
"I know you do, ma'am," Harriet murmured.
Mac went on, heedless of what Harriet was saying. "It's funny, y'know? He came after me in Paraguay after I ditched him. I know Harm--I asked him what he'd give up for me once, and he's more than proven that." She played with her ring for a few minutes before continuing. "He came to rescue me and offered everything--and I told him that a relationship between us would never work."
"You did?" Harried asked, shocked.
Mac nodded. "To be fair, it was his fault, too; we seem to have a singular talent for pissing each other off."
Harriet smiled. "I seem to remember some spectacular fights between the two of you."
"Yeah... we're always doing that and I don't even know why, really."
"We all know how you and the Commander feel about each other, ma'am," Harriet said.
"Why, it's easy to see--the way he looks at you when you're not watching, ma'am. Commander Rabb loves you."
Mac chuckled humorlessly. "Why is it that people keep telling me that? Why am I the only one who can't see it?"
"Maybe it's because you and Harm have lived practically in each other's back pockets for the better part of eight years, and you've gotten too used to blocking out your feelings to see his?" Harriet grimaced. "I'm not sure if that makes any sense."
"So what you're saying is that I'm so blinded by what I feel that I can't see what he feels for me?" Mac asked.
"That pretty much sums it up, ma'am," Harriet said. "I'm not the only one who sees how... wistful he looks when you're around. I think he's scared that things wouldn't work out, and then he'd lose you."
Mac laughed softly. "I think I need an instruction manual. He once said that what he wanted most was to never lose me, and now I may have lost him permanently."
Harriet hesitated for a few minutes before voicing her thoughts. "Ma'am? Do you remember when the Commander crashed his plane trying to get back in time for your wedding?"
"How could I forget?" Mac asked quietly. "It was one of the worst moments of my life, but this is much, much worse, because we're stuck in limbo, and we can't get out of it."
"Ma'am, you found the Commander in the middle of the Atlantic that night." Harriet took a deep breath. "Do you think you could do it again? I mean, he's even more lost now than he was then."
Mac grimaced. "I don't know, Harriet, but I can try; this is inexact at best." Mac closed her eyes and concentrated. She'd always been subconsciously aware of Harm's whereabouts, so it was a matter of 'finding' him and trying to see where he was being held.
Mac took a deep breath and focused completely on her sailor. Finally, after much effort, she found him, but she couldn't see where he was. "I found him," she murmured as she opened her eyes. "But it doesn't do us any good, because it's too dark where he is to see anything."
"I'm sorry, ma'am," Harriet said. "It was a long shot--"
"Harriet, I *found* him," Mac interrupted. "I don't know where he's being held, but he's alive and he's in pain." Her face clouded over. "Whoever found him has been hurting him, and we have to find him soon." She hugged the picture of Harm and Little AJ to her chest and let her hair fall forward, obscuring her face. Wherever he was, she needed her sailor home with her where he belonged.
Worst Case Scenario
"When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly."
26 DECEMBER 2003
Jack stared at the site through a set of high-powered binoculars, searching for any sign of Sadik. Beth was currently asleep in the camouflaged shelter behind him, and Webb couldn't seem to stop his incessant pacing long enough to do anything *useful*. "Stop it, Webb," he snapped.
"Stop *what*?" Webb continued to pace, the dirt and gravel rolling beneath his expensive sneakers.
"Stop pacing," Jack hissed. "You're going to give away our position."
Webb dropped to the ground. "What the hell do you think you are? A recon marine?"
Jack grinned. "Yes," he said blandly. "At least, I was before the NSA recruited me."
Webb rolled his eyes. "Great. Just *great*. I'm on what amounts to a training op in the Colombian jungle with a man who's not only a superspy, but a semper fi do or die recon marine trying to rescue a man who can out sneak the best sniper that's ever been in the service."
"Can it, Webb. You can whine later; I have to find out if this is really where they're holding Harm." Jack adjusted the focus on the binoculars.
"Can we please do *something* else than just *sitting* here?" Webb asked.
"Let me guess," Jack began. "You want to rush in there, shoot up the place, and then try to locate Harm, right?"
"Sounds good to me."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Now *that* is a prime example of why you're the FUBAR king; you get people killed that way. We're going to find out if Sadik is here, because where he is, they'll be holding Harm. We need to know *exactly* how things are being guarded and how the place is run."
"I'm sick of doing *nothing*," Webb grumbled.
"Tough, kiddo. I've got one of ours sneaking in tomorrow as kitchen help so we can find out the exact layout of the compound. *After* we get all the intel we can, *then* we'll call the sweeper and cleaner teams that I've got on standby and get Harm out." Jack turned around to glare at him. "Is that *clear*, kid?"
"Yeah. So are you using Gunnery Sergeant Galindez as our inside man?"
Jack looked at Webb as if he were crazy. "Are you *kidding*? In case you've forgotten, Sadik has *seen* the Gunny. I tapped Sanchez for this mission."
"But Sanchez doesn't have the experience--"
"Wrong Sanchez," Jack said laconically. "What? You think that the Company only has one Sanchez on the payroll?"
"I didn't think--"
"That's your problem, Webb. You don't do *enough* thinking. After this mission is complete, I may have to recommend you for a desk job or that you *never* end up leading an op again." Jack grimaced. "You're dangerous, kiddo, because you don't plan enough and you get our people killed. How you've managed to survive this long is a mystery to me."
"You military types have no appreciation for creativity," Webb grumbled.
"In our line of work, planning comes *before* creativity, and in case you haven't noticed, lots of the field agents that our Intel community hires are either military or ex-military."
Webb rolled his eyes. "I know, I know, you military types--"
"Shut up, kid. If you're not going to grab that extra set of binoculars and look for Sadik, go take a nap or something." Jack heard the scuffing of feet as Webb retreated and continued to survey Sadik's hideout. The small compound was surrounded by a high fence topped with razor wire. Luckily, the position they'd picked was high enough to see over the wall, and fifty feet of jungle had been cleared on all three sides of the compound.
Jack could see several buildings behind the fence, including some that had been dug into the hill on the fourth side of it. He'd bet anything that Sadik would keep a prisoner in one of those underground rooms, where rescue would be difficult. If Harm was really inside, it would be a hell of a job to get him out.
Jack sighed and hunkered down to wait. Scuttlebutt said that Sadik's prisoner was still alive because they were trying to extract information, but such things could change quickly. He only hoped that the ex-Navy pilot could withstand whatever methods the terrorist used for long enough to extract him.
13 January 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
AJ paged through the report he'd just gotten from Jack Olsen and smiled. Technically, it wasn't something he was supposed to have, but Jack owed him a favor. He'd managed to convince him to get him updates on the search for the Commander. He sighed as he got to the end of the short document. So far, there had been little progress. They'd managed to locate a compound that the terrorist supposedly operated out of, but Sadik had yet to show himself.
Jack had other operatives looking, but so far, he'd come up dry. AJ leaned back in his chair and sighed before reaching for a stack of personnel files. He couldn't truly replace Harm, but he'd have to find somebody who might be up for the job.
He started looking through the new files, hoping for a miracle. There simply weren't any attorneys in the service that were up to Rabb's standard. AJ's eyes lit on a file that he'd somehow managed to overlook. He opened it and examined the contents. He grimaced. This one *might* end up being as good as Rabb--in a few years. Major Elizabeth Pierce, USMC. According to her record, she was an average pilot and her case record showed that she had promise.
AJ sighed. Unfortunately, she was the best candidate he currently had available for the position. "Coates!" he called.
"Yes, sir?" Coates poked her head in the door.
He held the file out to her. "I need you to draft some orders; Major Pierce is to report here on Monday to start her new assignment."
Coates came in and took the file from him. "Aye, aye sir," she said, coming to attention. He watched as she left his office. He pulled his glasses off his face and rubbed the bridge of his nose. There were times that he really hated his job and this was one of them. His heart was rebelling against replacing Harm, but the SecNav was breathing down his neck, and he really didn't have a choice.
A small blond head poked into his office before a little boy dressed in Class A's followed. Little AJ marched to the front of his desk and came to attention. A tolerant smile stole over AJ's face. "At ease, sailor."
"Hi, Uncle Admiral AJ," the little boy said before clambering into one of the large, leather chairs.
"What can I do for you, sailor?" he asked with a smile.
Little AJ looked at him hopefully. "Can I have a treat?"
AJ grinned, reached in his desk, pulled out a package of cookies, and offered some to the child. Little AJ took two cookies, then bit into one.
"What do you say, sailor?" AJ asked.
"Thank you, Uncle Admiral AJ," he said. Little AJ chewed thoughtfully on the cookie and swallowed. "Aunt Mac is getting more sad," he said finally.
"Why do you think that is, sailor?" AJ asked.
"Because Uncle Harm is lost," Little AJ answered immediately. "Mommy says that Aunt Mac tried to find him, but that it's too dark where he is for her to see."
"Did you know that your Aunt Mac found Uncle Harm once?" AJ asked.
"Uh huh. Mommy says that it's 'cause Aunt Mac loves Uncle Harm an' that they're soulmates, so she always knows where he is." Little AJ ate another bite of cookie. "Sir, why doesn't Uncle Harm just ask a policeman how to get home? I miss him, and he makes Aunt Mac happy."
AJ sighed. "Sailor, there aren't any policemen where he is for Uncle Harm to ask."
"Is that 'cause--" Little AJ's head snapped up, and he slid out of the chair. He hurried over to the fireplace, and stared into the flames. "Uncle Harm!" His small hand reached towards someone that AJ couldn't see.
AJ got up and hurried over to the child. "What is it, sailor?" he asked, gentling his normally rough voice.
Tears started to run down Little AJ's face. "The bad men have him," he whispered. "The bad men are *hurting* Uncle Harm, real *bad*."
AJ gathered the child up in his arms and began to rub his back awkwardly. "Shh. It's okay, AJ. A friend of mine is going to try and rescue him."
Little AJ rubbed his face against the admiral's jacket. "Really?" he whispered.
"I promise. My friend Jack and I are going to try and get Uncle Harm home."
"Thank you," the boy whispered before wiggling out of the Admiral's embrace. "Can I go see Mommy now?" he asked, coming to attention.
"Dismissed, sailor," AJ said with a smile.
"Aye, aye sir," he said. Before Little AJ could leave the office, shouts started coming from the bullpen. AJ got up from his crouch and hurried out the door. Harriet was holding people back as Coates tried to revive his chief of staff.
"What's going on here, people?" he said.
"The Colonel, sir, she just collapsed," Bud answered as he fanned her with a file.
AJ hurried over and knelt down beside the unconscious woman. "Everyone get back. Lieutenant Sims, call 911 and get the paramedics over here."
AJ didn't bother to watch as his staff began to obey his instructions. "Colonel Mackenzie," he said as he shook her shoulder gently. "Mac, wake up, please. You've got a lot of worried people who want to know if you're okay."
Coates placed a cool, damp cloth on the Colonel's forehead. "She was talking to me, sir, when she grabbed her stomach, then her head, and keeled over."
"Do you know what could have caused it?" he asked.
"No, sir. I've seen something similar happen, but it was always after someone'd had the crap beat out of them, sir."
Lieutenant Sims hurried over. "The ambulance is on its way." She paused, then continued. "Sir, the Colonel has been trying to find the Commander every day; she says that she can find him, but that she doesn't know where they're keeping him. She mentioned something about trying to keep the link open between them."
"That could explain it, sir," Bud said. "That's often the way in some sci-fi, so considering the Colonel's... gifts, it's possible."
"Sometimes, Colonel, I wish that whatever genes gave you this peculiar ability would've skipped a generation." AJ sighed. "Lieutenant Sims, I'm sure that you have other duties to take care of; I'll stay with the Colonel. Lieutenant Roberts, I need you to go downstairs to wait for the ambulance. Petty Officer, don't you still have orders to draft?"
"Aye, sir," the three of them said in unison, then headed off.
AJ reached for the Colonel's hand. "Mac, we need you to wake up; we can't do without you, too, and Harm will need you if they can pull it off," he whispered.
He waited with her until the ambulance came. He wanted to go with her, but there was simply too much to do, so he sent Coates with instead. It was time to set up another appointment with the SecNav; something more had to be done to get Rabb home.
Darkest Before Dawn
"I am weary of it all, where is the sense in all this pain and joy?"
--Goethe "Wanderer's Song at Night"
Harm struggled against the drug, trying desperately to fight the effects. He was getting to where he measured time by the constant injections, and he knew he was losing ground. Each successive shot seemed to have a greater effect, as if the drug residue was building up in his bloodstream. He swallowed hard as another wave of memories crashed over him.
Mac stood in front of the cab and looked at him. "Things are never going to work out between us," she said.
"Why not?" he asked desperately. He'd come all this way to save her and try and tell her how he felt; things *had* to work with them, or there truly was no justice left in the universe.
"Because we both want to be on top. And that's physically--and emotionally--impossible."
That had been, possibly, the worst day of his life, because she'd taken his hope away. Pain. It almost felt good to feel it; at least it was something.
"I, Patricia Reed Rabb take you, Franklin Jeffrey Burnett..."
Thirteen-year-old Harmon Rabb blocked out the sound of his mom betraying him and his dad and sighed. He'd failed. He was supposed to be the man of the house and make her happy, but she was marrying that... that used car salesman.
Failure. He was no good for anybody. Death would be preferable to where he was now. Maybe they'd let him see his father again in whatever might follow. Maybe his dad wouldn't hate him for all the mistakes he'd made. In his world, if he screwed up, people he cared about died:
Harm woke in a white hospital room and looked around. "Mace?" he croaked. "Mace, are you okay?"
"Darling, I'm sorry," his mother's face came into view. "Mace didn't make it."
He'd screwed the pooch then. It didn't matter that the board of inquiry said differently, it was the truth. He *always* managed to mess things up in one way or another. He never got anything one hundred percent right:
"You need to find something to allow that independence. Drive a cab, wrestle an alligator. I don't know."
With the Admiral's words, he knew that he'd messed up again. JAG was better off without him. Mac was better off without him. Hell, he'd be willing to bet what was left of his life savings that the Admiral was happier now that he was gone.
A single tear rolled down his cheek as the monitor beside the bed in the sterile environment flat lined. Joe was gone. They'd discovered the Lieutenant's leukemia a little while before his own ramp strike, and it had gone into remission long enough for Joe to come and visit during his own recovery. One of his best friends had just died a senseless death.
It was inevitable. Anyone who got close to him either left or died. He deserved to be alone, just like he always had been. He had very few memories of being loved for who he was, without restrictions. Sometimes he thought that he was one of the people wandering the earth that didn't deserve to have anybody really love him.
Sixteen-year-old Harmon Rabb watched from his vantage point as Stryker attempted to sneak into the encampment. They'd heard that POW records were being kept there, and they had to try and get a look. His eyes widened as he saw a Vietnamese solider walk directly for the Colonel. He aimed his AK-47, took a deep breath, and pulled the trigger. The man soundlessly crumpled to the ground, a single bullet wound in his forehead...
Death. He brought nothing but death and pain to those around him. Harm opened his eyes as the drug gave him a temporary break. He shivered as the door opened and Larry and Moe skulked in. Without a word, the two men hung him from the hook again, then took turns working him over before leaving.
Sadik walked in, tapping the air out of another syringe. Curly followed, wheeling a metal cart over the hard-packed dirt. Harm bit his lip as he noticed the battery and cables on it.
"Commander, I am losing my patience," Sadik sneered. "You have enjoyed my hospitality for far too long without giving me *anything* in return." He lunged forward, stuck the needle in Harm's stomach, and depressed the plunger. "Let us see if Starlight and what you rescued your friends from will make you talk." He reached for the stripped wires and sparked them together.
Harm closed his eyes and focused on the one person who could keep him sane and whole. She was the key to everything he wanted. At this point, rescue was unlikely, so his dreams were all he would ever have of Her.
31 January 2004
Jack smeared the black makeup on his face, making sure that all areas of his skin were covered. He looked over at Webb and grimaced, because the boy had forgotten to cover his neck and behind his ears. "Kid, c'mere," he said. "You missed some spots."
Webb breathed out a long-suffering sigh and came over. Jack smeared the white areas with the grease paint, then checked for any more bare spots. "You're good," he said. "Have you blacked out all of the shiny metal bits on your person?"
"Yes," Webb answered sullenly. "Where did you learn this shit, anyway? They don't teach this at Langley."
Jack grinned. "They probably should. I had a buddy in the Marines who taught me." He took a deep breath to avoid laughing before he continued. "He had an... interesting civilian life; his parents made their living doing this kind of thing, and it almost broke their hearts when he went straight."
"And people say I have strange friends," Webb muttered.
"Gather around, people," Jack said, shining his flashlight on a patch of cleared ground. He picked up a stick and started drawing as Beth and the others joined him. "This is the compound," he said, pointing at his rough drawing. "For security reasons, this information was not forwarded before. It's only guarded by ten men, and most of the help goes home at night. Our inside contact, Sanchez, has already disabled the electricity to the fence." He circled an area on his map. "This is where it's been cut open. We should have no problems taking out the guards, but our goal is this building right *here*." He circled a building at the back of the compound. "Five men are inside; Sadik, three of his lieutenants, and our prisoner."
Beth pulled a picture out of her pocket and tossed it on the map. "This is the latest picture of Harmon Rabb," she murmured.
"That's right," Jack said with a nod. "Eliminate Sadik and his people, but you are not, under any circumstances to shoot that one. Our mission here is to destroy the weapon caches and eliminate the terrorists, but I'm expanding it to include rescuing one of our own. Is that clear?"
Nods and murmurs of 'yes, sir' passed around the group.
Jack pointed towards another building. "Sanchez says that the weapons are being kept *there*. I want everybody in and out quickly, no casualties on our side. As soon as we're out, I've got a cleaner team on standby to take care of our mess." He started drawing x's on the map. "Where these x's are, you'll find a guard. Eliminate them." Webb, Beth, and the sweepers took a good look at the map.
Jack pulled on a dark gray knit hat, picked up the picture, and wiped out the map. "As soon as the rest of the mission is complete, get out and we'll meet up at the extraction point. Beth, Webb, and Michaels, you're with me; we're going after Rabb."
Michaels separated himself from the other sweepers and came over to stand next to him. "We're going after Sadik and his lieutenants," he reminded them. "I want the rest of you to take out the guards, then go straight to the weapons cache."
He was met with a murmured response of 'yes, sirs'. "Let's go."
The group made their way soundlessly down the hillside before dropping to their stomachs to belly crawl to the camouflaged hole in the fence. As he crawled, he hoped that they'd be able to make it to Harm, complete the mission, and get him out. If they ran into problems, he did have back up waiting for his call, but he'd rather just get it over with. He bit the inside of his cheek as they reached the fence. It was going to be a long night.
30 January 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Mac sighed and pulled another set of paperwork toward her. It seemed as if her life was a never-ending stack of it these days. Clay hadn't been returning her calls, and Harm was still missing. Since her collapse, she'd narrowed their link, but she was constantly aware of what was happening to him--Harm was still in pain.
Mac immediately stood at the sound of her CO's voice, and came to attention. "Sir," she answered. He'd started coming around her office to check on her after she'd been released from Bethesda two weeks before. Even now, it felt odd for him to come to her workspace instead of having her come see him.
"As you were, Mac," he said.
"Yes, sir," she replied, then sat back down. "What can I help you with, sir?"
"I'm here as your friend, Mac," the Admiral said quietly. "I need to know how you're holding up, and if you've managed to get a lock on Commander Rabb's position."
"No, sir," she murmured. "It's still too dark where he is."
AJ sat down on the chair in front of her desk. "Mac," he began hesitantly. "Can you tell how he's doing?"
Mac's eyes unfocused as she followed her link to him. A small crease appeared on her forehead, and she gasped. "He's in pain, sir." She bit her lip. "They're *hurting* him, Admiral, and it feels like they have been for quite some time." She looked at him, her brown eyes fast filling with unshed tears. "Is *anything* being done, sir? With as much as he's hurting, he could be dead soon," her voice got softer until she ended with a whisper.
AJ got up, closed the door, then turned around to face her. "Jack Olsen is in charge of the operation, and he's been keeping me updated."
"Please, Admiral--have they *found* him?" The knuckles on her hands started to turn white from the pressure she was exerting on the desk.
"Yes," was the short response. "Jack says that they'll be moving in soon, and he swore to me by all that's holy that he'd get the Commander out."
"Thank you, sir," she murmured, tears stinging her eyes.
AJ walked over and laid his hand on her shoulder. "Jack'll get him out, Mac, I promise."
"Yes, but what condition will he be in, Admiral?" Mac asked as she shut her eyes tight and put her face in her hands.
"I don't know," he admitted. "Can you tell what they've done to him?"
Mac shook her head. "No, sir. I only know that he's hurting badly."
AJ squeezed her shoulder. "It'll be all right, Mac. Jack said that, depending on how badly he's hurt, they'll airlift him directly to Bethesda and notify us when he can have visitors."
"Thank you, sir," she whispered.
"Go home and get some sleep, Colonel," he said, then left her office.
Mac sighed and rubbed her hand over her face. She never slept well, but lately she hadn't been sleeping at all. Without even looking in a mirror, she knew about the dark circles under her eyes that no amount of makeup could hide. She grimaced, gathered her things together, grabbed her cover, and left the office. It went against the grain to wait, but it looked like it was the only thing she could do until she could see her sailor again.
Shave and a Haircut
"We do what we must, and call it by the best names."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Harm let his chin drop forward on his chest. He was tired of pain, tired of everything. He didn't know how long Sadik had been tormenting him, but he had managed not to say anything of importance. He allowed a half-smile to spread over his face. Sadik would not win; he would die before he said anything about the classified information he was privy to.
'Death before dishonor', the thought floated through his head. He couldn't remember where it came from, but it was true. He would die before he dishonored his name or betrayed his country. In his situation, death looked like a good option. Death... In death the pain, the guilt, and the fear would all leave him. And if what religious scholars claimed was true, his father, Gym, Diane, Joe, and all of his fallen comrades would be waiting for him on the other side. He hoped it was true, because he had a feeling that he was not long for this world.
Harm slumped against his bonds and blinked groggily. Sleep was his best temporary escape. What was it that Wordsworth had said? Ah... 'our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting'... Perhaps death was the same. Perhaps he could lose his unpleasant memories in death. He sighed deeply. Soon, he was sure, he would find out.
His eyes started to drift shut as his mind and body began to give into the sleep that he craved. It was quiet in his lightless cell; and for the moment, his memories weren't assaulting him. He had almost become accustomed to the silence and darkness where he now resided. Forays into the light meant pain, but the darkness was safe. The only other safe place was with Her, and he was sure that She was far from there.
He jerked his head up as he heard loud noises coming from behind the location of the door. Harm cried out as the door was kicked open, sending blinding white light into his sensitive eyes. Gentle hands pulled him down and carefully took off as much of the wire binding his limbs as they could. Dazzled by the light as he was, he couldn't really see his rescuer, but he was grateful to whoever had come to get him out.
"Harm," a familiar voice said. "It's okay, we're here to complete the mission and rescue you."
Harm blinked, trying to clear the spots from his eyes. "So, Commander," the oily voice of Sadik Fahd assaulted his ears. "Your *friends* have arrived to rescue you."
Harm heard a gun go off near him, and the voice of the terrorist was silenced. "Is that the last one?" He recognized the voice as that of Jack Olsen.
"Yes. I pocketed a vial of drugs that Fahd left out; he might have used it on Harm." Beth answered.
Harm tried to walk, but his legs wouldn't cooperate with him, so he allowed Beth and Jack to half-carry, half-drag him out of the building that had been his prison. More footsteps sounded behind him.
"Are you in one piece, Webb?" Jack asked.
"Yes. Sadik's lieutenants are gone; Michaels got all of them." Webb answered.
"Good job, Michaels," Jack said.
"Thank you, sir; let's get the hell out of here."
A soft chuckle was the man's answer, and it was the last thing Harm remembered for a long time.
1 February 2004
Enroute to National Naval Medical Center
AKA. Bethesda Naval Hospital
Beth smoothed Harm's filthy hair back from his forehead and grimaced. He looked *horrible*. His complexion was pasty gray, and she could see evidence of repeated beatings. As if that weren't bad enough, the medics had discovered track marks along his arms and on his abdomen, and he had some deep, infected cuts that were oozing blood and pus.
The medic started cleaning the cuts as best as he could before covering them with bandages. He swore softly as he got to Harm's wrists; it looked as if some of the wire that had bound them for the past two months had become embedded in his skin. "Do you have any idea what he was injected with?" the man asked.
Beth reached in her pocket and pulled out one of the vials that she'd stolen. "I found this near where they were keeping him."
"Let me see that," Jack demanded. He took a close look at the vial. "Shit. It's starlight."
"What's starlight?" the medic asked.
"Classified," was Jack's quick answer. "I'll have to call in some favors to get the antidote... I'll tell you later, Beth."
She nodded as he pulled out a SAT phone and started dialing. "Webb," he began, as he listened to the phone ring. "Make yourself useful and try and stop some of Rabb's bleeding."
Webb rolled his eyes. "If I'd wanted to be a doctor, I would've gone to medical school instead of the Company."
"Kid, get your sorry six in gear before I dump you out of this airplane," Jack growled.
"You wouldn't..." Webb said.
"Watch me," Jack said. "The man saved your life more than once, you started dating *his* girl afterwards, and the *least* you can do is help the man out when he's bleeding all over the place, *kid*."
Webb rolled his eyes before grabbing some gauze to dab gingerly at some of Harm's smaller wounds. The more extensive injuries had bandages on them, so only the smaller ones remained. "I *still* don't see the point," he grumbled. "We have medics, and none of these are particularly life-threatening."
Beth used a damp cloth to clean some of the dirt from Harm's face. "Do it because you're a decent human being," she said dryly. "Oh, wait. I forgot," she glared at him. "You're *not*."
"That's a bit harsh, Beth," Jack said. "He may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but Porter instilled *some* ethics in him."
"Thanks, guys. Just keep on talking about me like I'm not here," Webb grumbled.
Beth smiled at him, then watched the medic start to bandage Harm's wrists and ankles. "Thanks, we *will*."
Jack smiled and reached for a roll of gauze. "Let me help," he murmured before he started to wind the material around one of Harm's lacerated ankles.
The medic pushed Webb out of the way to reach a large cut that he'd previously missed. "See?" Beth said, raising an eyebrow. "I always did think that he was practically useless."
"Beth--" Jack began warningly.
"Okay, okay," she said with a sigh. "Sorry, Webb. I'm just worried about my partner..."
"It's okay," he gave her a weak smile. "I kind of know how it works, and I'm worried about him for Mac's sake."
"Only for Mac?" Beth asked. "I thought that the two of you were friends not so long ago."
"We were--that is, as much as I *have* friends," he admitted. "But Jack made me think about it, and I'm not sure if Harm can forgive me for what I did. It wasn't fair to Mac, and it wasn't fair to him," Webb paused. "I haven't really been a very good friend lately."
Jack grinned. "The boy can learn!" he joked.
Webb walked over and slapped Jack on the back. "Never thought I'd get used to having a partner," he admitted. "I'm almost forty, Jack; if you'd just stop calling me 'kid', I might actually get to *like* having you around to watch my back."
"Ja-a-ack," Webb groaned.
"If you insist, *Clay*, I won't call you that anymore, but I'll still be riding your six until you get things right, deal?" Jack held out his hand.
"Deal." Webb grabbed the proffered hand in a firm clasp and shook it.
Harm's eyes fluttered open. "Mac?" he whispered hoarsely. "Sarah?"
Beth leaned over him and smoothed his dirty, tangled hair back from his face. "We'll get her for you Harm, just as soon as we get to Bethesda, I promise."
"*My* Sarah," Harm mumbled. "Thought you were *dead*..." His eyes drifted shut.
Jack grimaced. "It's the starlight. The sooner as we get it out of his system, the better."
"What do you mean?" Beth asked, worried.
"Well, the cat's out of the bag, now, so I might as well tell you. It accesses the part of the brain that stores memory, and the more powerful the memory, the more likely it is to surface," he explained. "Which means that the most painful ones come out first, and long term use makes them start acting like hallucinations."
"Shit," Webb muttered. "No wonder he's a mess."
Jack nodded. Explaining the rest could wait until later; it was more important to get Harm home and taken care of.
3 February 2004
Kershaw smiled and leaned back in his chair. "Your officer has been rescued, but I'm afraid that I can't use him anymore."
Sheffield leaned back in his chair and shrugged. "I figured as much. I found out about the same time you did, Kershaw, and I've been getting updates on his medical condition."
Kershaw crossed his arms. "Any permanent damage?"
Sheffield shook his head. "The doctors say no, but they also said that he's in for a long recovery," he said with a sigh. "I wanted him for special ops, but we just saw how *that* turned out."
Kershaw inclined his head in agreement. "He got himself captured like a damn rookie."
"Yeah. He's too old to send back to flying, and in the shape he's in, it could take a while before he could do that anyway." Sheffield leaned back in his chair and grimaced.
"Didn't Chegwidden want him back?" Kershaw asked. "Even *I've* heard scuttlebutt to that effect."
Sheffield nodded. "He's tried to pull every string he can to get Rabb back, but I've been blocking him." He pushed his glasses up on his face and pulled a file towards him. "Chegwidden's been shortstaffed on senior attorneys since the Imes fiasco."
"There you go, then." Kershaw said with a smile. "Now, you mentioned wanting a CIA agent assigned to this office. I'm sure we can come to some sort of *arrangement*."
Sheffield's smile mirrored Kershaw's. "What about Clayton Webb?" he asked.
"You don't want him, believe me." Kershaw grimaced. "The man is the biggest screw-up in the Company, and it's a miracle that he hasn't managed to get himself killed."
"I thought he had a good record..."
Kershaw favored Sheffield with a sardonic smile. "His most successful operations only succeeded because he pulled in JAG officers; we're having him retrained now."
Sheffield nodded thoughtfully. "So who do you recommend?"
"Jeffrey Murphy," Kershaw said immediately. "He's got a solid record, he's ex-Navy, and he's looking for something a little less risky than going after terrorists."
"Perfect. After the mess that Rabb got into, I think we'll stick a little closer to home... and have him undercover within the Navy."
Kershaw stood up. "I'll have his paperwork to you tomorrow and he'll report on Monday."
Sheffield stood and shook the deputy director's hand. "Thank you," he said with a smile.
"Not a problem," Kershaw turned and walked out of the room.
Sheffield sat back down, pulled a transfer form towards him, and started filling it out. He'd let AJ deal with letting Rabb know of his official status as soon as his assistant fixed the computer systems to show where Rabb had been for the past eight months.
At least *now* Chegwidden would stop bothering him about Rabb as well as a new senior attorney. He grinned, pleased with the fact that he was now killing *three* birds with one stone. Rabb was too much of a maverick, anyway, and he was well rid of him.
"NOW this is the Law of the Jungle-as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back-
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack."
--Rudyard Kipling, "The Jungle Book"
4 February 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Mac folded her arms over her chest and smiled. "Face it, Sturgis, your client is *guilty*; take the plea bargain now, and save him from ten years of hard labor."
"Now, Mac, my client says that he's *innocent*, and I believe him." Sturgis leaned back in his chair and smiled. "He doesn't want a plea bargain, and we're going to trial."
"Can't say I didn't warn you." Mac's smile turned into a predatory grin. "I'm going to kick your ass in court tomorrow, Sturgis," she informed him.
Sturgis steeped his fingers, leaned forward in the chair, and smiled. "You can try," he said.
"I'm a Marine, Sturgis--we don't try; we *succeed*."
Sturgis simply smiled. "According to Harm, that's what you always say."
Mac's face clouded over, and she bit her lip. "I can't feel him right now, Sturgis," she murmured.
A puzzled look spread over Sturgis's face. "What do you mean, Mac?"
"Ever since I 'found' him in wherever he was being held," she said slowly, attempting to explain. "I've kept the... connection between us open." Mac looked at him, pain darkening her eyes to almost black. "Where he usually is in my head is so *blank*; it's like he's unconscious or... dead." She looked terrified at the thought.
Sturgis sat up straight. "Mac," he began quietly, "scuttlebutt says that a rescue was being planned--most likely, he's under anesthesia or something."
Mac started to answer, but the phone rang, cutting her off. She held up one finger, then picked up the phone. "Mackenzie," she said.
"Colonel, we got him out, and we're at Bethesda."
"Beth, is that you?"
"Yes, ma'am. Harm keeps asking for you, Colonel. He's in surgery again right now; they have to extract some wire from his wrists and ankles, and I was hoping that you could get here."
Mac bit her lip. She knew that he must've been unconscious before they took him in surgery--she still held Harm's medical power of attorney, but right now it didn't matter. Harm needed her, and she'd be there for him. "I'll be there as soon as I can, Beth," she said. "I'll call you when I get close to the hospital."
"Thanks, Colonel," Beth said. "Please, hurry; he needs you here with him."
Mac heard a dial tone as the woman hung up. "Sturgis, something's come up; can we get into this later?"
"Sure, Mac," Sturgis said.
Mac stood and hurried out the door towards the Admiral's office. "Thanks," she called over her shoulder.
She hurried into Coates's domain. "Petty Officer, is the Admiral free?"
"Let me check," Coates said with a smile before she knocked on the Admiral's door. "Sir? Colonel Mackenzie needs to see you."
"Send her in, Coates."
"Yes, sir." Coates held open the door for Mac and gestured her to go inside.
"Thanks, Coates," Mac said with a smile. She walked into the Admiral's lair and came to attention in front of his desk.
"At ease, Mac--what can I do for you?"
"I just got a call from Beth O'Neil, sir," Mac said, fighting the urge to pace.
"Harm's partner in the CIA?"
"Yes, sir--Harm is at Bethesda, and he's been asking for me. Permission to go there, sir?" Mac locked her arms behind her back to stop herself from fidgeting.
The Admiral pulled a file out and held it out to her. "I need you to take a look at this first, Colonel. It seems that my pleas for another senior lawyer have finally been heard."
Mac accepted the file and looked through it, willing her hands not to shake. "We have him back, sir?" she asked, incredulous.
"Yes, Colonel." AJ allowed himself a wry smile. "It seems that he was too much for the SecNav to handle, so we get him again."
A smile lit up her face. "Sir, permission to go to Bethesda to debrief Commander Rabb."
AJ chuckled and gestured towards the file. "You didn't look at that very closely, Colonel. It's *Captain* Rabb, now. Apparently he impressed the higher ups, and they put him in for early promotion. And you're not going to debrief Rabb. You don't have court today, do you, Colonel?"
"No, sir," she answered.
"Then permission granted to go to Bethesda; I believe one of ours is asking for you."
Mac put the file down on his desk and snapped to attention. "Aye, aye, sir," she said, her smile widening.
"Mac, I want you to stay with him as long as they'll let you today, but I need you in here first thing tomorrow to give me a progress report. Is that clear?" AJ clasped his hands in front of him.
"I'm sure his friends would like to visit him--dismissed."
"Yes, sir." Mac turned, hurried out of the office, and through the bullpen. She grabbed her belongings and hurried towards the elevator; she was determined to be there for her flyboy if he really needed her.
4 February 2004
National Naval Medical Center
Beth paced back and forth in the waiting room. Harm had been in the OR for over an hour for what was supposed to be a minor procedure. She'd even had time to go call Mac for him, so that she'd be there when he woke up. She winced as she remembered his reaction when he'd woken up the first time; Harm had flinched away from all of them, including her.
Beth threw herself into one of the hard chairs to wait for word from the doctors. Both Jack and Webb had been forced to leave to go to Langley for debriefing, so she was waiting alone. By her calculations, it would take approximately forty-five minutes for Mackenzie to arrive in between having to get permission and traffic. She hoped that it would be fast enough for the Colonel to be there when he woke up, because he had been asking for her continually.
She sighed and stuffed her hands into her pockets as she slumped down on the hard plastic chair. He had to be okay. At any rate, she'd make sure that Mac wouldn't hurt him again. Harm had saved her skin more than once in their short partnership, and she owed him that.
Beth looked up as a Marine-green clad figure ran into the waiting room. "Is Harm okay?" the woman asked as she slid to a stop on the polished floor. "Is he out of surgery yet?"
Beth raised an eyebrow. "And you would care because?"
"Because it's *Harm*," Mac started to explain.
"Oh, yesss," Beth cut in. "This is the same guy who saved your ass in Paraguay, so you threw him over for *Webb*." She stood up and stalked over to stand near Mac. "I'm going to give you some rules here, Colonel. I refuse to let you hurt him again. I only called because Harm is a mess, and he's asking for you. Hurt him, and I swear by all that's holy that you'll be sorry." Beth crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her.
Mac glared back. "So what exactly is Harm to *you*, Beth?"
"My *partner*," Beth spat out. "The man has saved my life, and he saved my career once; I owe him." Beth raised an eyebrow. "I don't know if you've heard of this concept, Colonel, but partners take care of each other--just like you haven't done for him. He's been calling for you since we got him out. If you hurt him, what's been done to Harm will be a pale shadow compared to what *I* do to you. Is that *clear*?"
"Crystal," Mac murmured. "I'm only here for him, Beth; I've been sick with worry for him." She walked over and sat down in one of the hard plastic chairs.
Beth walked over and sat in one nearby. "If you don't hurt him, it's okay with me. I think he's needed you there since before he became my partner."
"That makes two of us," Mac whispered. "I know he's hurting, Beth," she said as she clenched her hands together.
The two women sat together in silence for a few long minutes. "How much do you know about his condition?" Beth asked finally.
"I know that Sadik was torturing him, and that he's in a lot of pain," Mac's voice petered out to a whisper.
"How do you know that?" Beth asked. "The mission that we were on was *classified*."
"I just... know," Mac said with a shrug. "I can't really explain it, but when it comes to Harm, sometimes I... know things without being told."
"Shame you can't see how he feels," Beth muttered. "Tell me something, Colonel--just how do you feel about my partner, and what are your intentions concerning him?"
Mac grinned. "What next, O'Neil? Are you going to ask if I'm planning on making an honest man out of him?"
"I might," Beth said with a smirk. "But now that you mention it, are your intentions towards him honorable, or are you going to run off with that smarmy son-of-a-bitch Webb?"
"Webb and I... never really got started," Mac admitted. "I was seeing him because he had information about Harm." She twisted her OCS ring around her finger. "It depends on Harm, really. I'll be here for him until he's okay again, and we'll see what happens from there."
"Not good enough, Colonel. Tell me, just how do you feel about my partner?" Beth demanded.
"It's--complicated. Harm is my best friend, my partner, and I... love him." Mac looked at Beth with a challenge in her eyes. "I want to have babies with Harm and grow old with him; is that good enough?"
Beth nodded, satisfied at last. "As long as you know that, and keep it in mind, then I'm okay with it."
Before Mac could say anything, a short, balding, chunky man wearing scrubs and a pristine white lab coat walked in. "Are you here for Harmon Rabb?" he asked in a soft voice.
Mac stood up. "Is he okay, doctor?" she asked quickly.
"Yes, he came through surgery fine, and we've just transferred him up to a room," the man said with a smile. "He should be coming out of the anesthesia any minute now, the man he came in with said that it shouldn't cause any reactions, and we've got him hooked up to a broad spectrum antibiotic."
"Where is he?" Mac asked.
"Room 515," he answered. Mac turned and hurried away, while Beth stayed to talk. She pushed the call button for the elevator and switched impatiently back and forth from foot to foot until it arrived.
Mac stepped inside and pushed the button for the fifth floor repeatedly until the doors closed and it started up. Barely waiting for the doors to open wide enough, she hurried out and down the hall and went into his room.
One occupant lay silently in the bed by a window, the sun bathing his still form in golden light. Mac walked over quickly and stood by the side of the bed. She winced as she noticed his battered condition before leaning over and brushing his hair back from his face. She'd never seen it as long as it had grown during his captivity, and there was something *wrong* with it.
For as long as she'd known him, he'd kept it cut short. "Wake up, Harm," she murmured. "I'm here for you, as long as you need me." Mac leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "I promise, Harm; you're safe with me."
Safe at Home
"What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?"
4 February 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Admiral Chegwidden dug around in his desk, searching for aspirin. As happy as he was that Harm had been retrieved and returned to JAG, the man's recent promotion gave him a whole new set of headaches. With the rank of captain came a command post, and while he had a few slots opening up, they'd take him far away from Washington.
He supposed he was lucky, though. As long as Rabb was on medical leave, there'd be an excuse to keep him in Washington. It wasn't like he could send the man to take command of Naples or Pearl when he was having problems with the Hell that Sadik had put him through.
AJ pushed the button to call Coates into his office. She came in quickly and came to attention in front of his desk. "Yes, sir?"
"Coates, I need you to get Lieutenants Sims and Roberts and Commander Turner and bring them in here; I need to see all of you, because I've received word about Captain Rabb."
"*Captain* Rabb, sir?" Coates questioned.
AJ nodded and suppressed a smile. "We'll have to take care of his promotion ceremony when he feels better--didn't I just order you to go get some of my officers?"
Coates snapped to attention. "Yes, sir. On my way, sir."
The petty officer gave him a sharp nod before she hurried out of his office. AJ leaned back in his chair and frowned as he again considered the problem of Rabb's promotion. Both the CO at Naples and the CO at Pearl were getting out, but he was sure that there'd have to be two positions open in the vicinity. This time, he hoped that the Colonel and the Captain would get it right.
He *had* ordered the Colonel to fix things between them and he thought that the fact that Rabb was asking for her was a good sign. The one thing he'd never regret was throwing the two of them together. They made one hell of a working pair; he had a feeling that they'd make a better pair in life.
AJ looked up when his officers and his yeoman entered and came to attention in front of him. "At ease, people."
The four of them automatically relaxed slightly. AJ stood and walked around his desk. "I wanted to tell you four before scuttlebutt made this common knowledge. Commander Rabb has not only been rescued, but also received a promotion to Captain. He's currently at Bethesda undergoing treatment; either the Colonel or I will let you know when he can receive visitors."
"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Lieutenant Sims asked.
"Go ahead," he said.
"Sir? Do we know anything about his condition? Will Harm be all right?" she asked.
"I don't know, Lieutenant," he admitted. "Last word I got, he was in surgery. Colonel Mackenzie will be reporting his condition to me as soon as she finds out anything."
"Is there any way we can find out, sir?" Lieutenant Roberts asked.
Before AJ could answer, Sturgis spoke up. "Sir, permission to secure early today. I don't have any cases going to trial today, and I can easily finish my work at home after I see Harm." Sturgis held himself more stiffly than he usually did, and AJ could see that the Commander was worried. "He's my oldest friend, sir. I'd be derelict in my duty to him if I didn't go and see if he's okay."
Coates was next. "Please, sir, is the Captain okay? We really want to know."
AJ sighed and ran his hand over his face. "Sturgis, you can secure at 1200 hours to go see him. He isn't conscious yet, so I suggest that the rest of you wait until he's awake, but I won't stop you if you want to swing by the hospital," he said with a grimace. "We need to start taking care of our own again," he muttered.
"Dismissed," he said before any of them could offer any other remarks.
The four of them came to attention, then filed out of his office. AJ sat down in his chair with a thump. He needed to get his house in order. More and more he'd been thinking of retirement, but he couldn't go in that direction unless his JAG family was functional again.
4 February 2004
National Naval Medical Center
Mac smoothed Harm's hair out of the way, then leaned down to brush her lips gently against his. "I know it's hard, Harm," she whispered. "I swear that I won't let that bastard hurt you anymore. If by some miracle he managed to survive, I'll kill him myself for what he did to you."
Mac picked up his bandaged hand, mindful of the IV in that arm, and placed a feather-light kiss on his damaged knuckles. "Wake up, flyboy--I need you to open those eyes of yours so that I know you're still with me. If you decide to die on me, Navy, I'll haul you back from the dead so that I can kill you myself for being *stupid*."
She drew in a deep breath and felt the air go past her now-raw throat and into her lungs. "I bet you didn't get the note I left you, did you, squid?"
"I guess I'll have to tell you what was in it, and we can laugh over it later. Harm, I love you. I'm sorry about what I said in Paraguay; I was wrong. Just open those beautiful gray-green eyes of yours and I'll forgive every nasty thing you ever said to me, I swear it. C'mon, flyboy. I need to see you smile at me."
Mac had continued along the same vein as she had been for what seemed like hours. She'd been alternately threatening and bribing Harm to wake up almost ever since she'd gotten to his room and pulled off her uniform jacket. Her throat was sore, and her mouth was dry, but there was a lot she had to tell him, and she figured that she might as well say it while he couldn't talk back.
She knew it was unfair, but she had missed him more than she had had thought possible and she needed to tell him some things. Mac figured that she could always say it again when he was awake and coherent, but there was something tempting about a captive audience.
Harm's hand tightened almost imperceptibly around hers and his eyes cracked open. His free hand came up and ripped the IV out of his arm before he disentangled his other hand, grabbed her, pulled her close, and buried his face in her stomach. "Mine," he insisted in a hoarse voice.
"For as long as you need me," she promised.
"Forever," he mumbled against her uniform blouse.
"I'm here, Harm," she promised as she ran her hand through his longish hair.
"Thought you were dead. *He* said you were, but I c'uld feel you. Then I knew you weren't; but you went 'way."
To her horror, Mac could feel slow, wet tears as they soaked into her blouse. He'd always seemed so strong to her; Harm crying wasn't something she was familiar with. "Shh," she whispered. "I could feel you too, Harm. You weren't alone, and you aren't now."
"Don't g'way," his voice said, slurred by weariness. "*Never* g'way. Need you."
"I won't," she promised again.
"Stay with me?" he asked, pleading.
Mac answered without words as she kicked off her shoes and climbed onto the bed with him. She kissed him on the forehead and stroked his hair, uncertain of where she could touch him without causing pain. "Always," she said finally.
Harm adjusted his grip on her before reburying his face in her shoulder. "*Mine*," he said again. "*My* Sarah, *my* Mac, *my* Marine."
"Yes," was her simple answer. "Shh," she whispered. "Rest, flyboy. I'll still be here when you wake up."
"Promise?" he asked, his voice sounding like a lost little boy.
"I promise," she answered. Mac continued stroking his hair until his breathing evened out. "You're safe with me, Harm," she murmured before she looked up and noticed the doctor standing near the door with Beth behind him.
"Commander, will he be okay?" she asked quietly, not wanting to wake him up.
The doctor walked in, picked up the dangling IV, then came over to look at Harm's arm. "I'll have to get a nurse to reinsert the IV; it contains a broad spectrum antibiotic to kill what infections he has and to prevent more; he was covered in dirt for a long time before any of his injuries got treated." He glanced at her briefly. "We're lucky that most of his cuts didn't go septic."
He pushed the call button and moments later, a nurse came in, followed by Beth. "Lieutenant, this patient needs a new IV shunt."
"Yes, sir," she said, reaching for the necessary supplies. She broke open the packaging efficiently, and reached for Harm's arm.
Harm's eyes flew open, and he pulled away from her cool hands. "*No*," he whispered hoarsely.
"We'll have to get the restraints," the doctor decided.
"NO," Harm yelled as loud as he could manage. "No chains."
Mac glared at the doctor and started stroking Harm's hair again. "It's okay, Harm. I won't let him do it." She kissed him on the forehead, then moved to his cheeks and nose, feathering soft kisses on his face. "Let them put the IV in, flyboy," she murmured. "They only want to help, and I need you whole."
Harm gave an almost imperceptible nod and let the nurse insert the needle. The lieutenant moved around the bed and bandaged his other arm before turning to the doctor. "Will that be all, sir?"
He nodded. "Dismissed."
Mac continued stroking Harm's hair as she turned towards the doctor. "You will *not* restrain him, *Lieutenant Commander*. If I have to pull rank on you, I will, but you will not do *anything* to send this man back to the hellhole he's been in for the past few months." She gave the man her best death glare before turning her full attention back to Harm.
The doctor turned and started to leave the room, but Mac's voice kept him from leaving. "Did I say you could leave yet, Lieutenant Commander Stone? I believe I *asked* for the Captain's condition, and you have yet to give it to me."
The doctor turned around and consulted his clipboard. "The captain has numerous contusions, cuts, four cracked ribs, a broken leg and ankle, and he required surgery to remove bits of wire from around his wrists and ankles. Several of his cuts were infected, but we cleaned them out, and the antibiotic should help with that."
"Is there anything else?" Mac asked.
"Most of the infected cuts were on his back and legs," the doctor admitted. "And he's also suffering from dehydration and he needs some decent meals. We're fighting a drug of unknown origin that was injected repeatedly into his bloodstream."
Mac raised an eyebrow and looked at Beth. "The drug in question is classified, but Jack is working on getting the antidote to clear the rest of it and any lingering residue from his blood."
The doctor reached up and scratched his balding head absently. "Everything should heal, we're pumping fluids into him through an IV, and a psychologist will be arranged for him as soon as he's mobile enough to go upstairs."
Beth broke in. "Will he be able to fly again?" she asked.
"You'd have to ask a flight surgeon, but as long as the drug has no lasting effects, and as long as he's faithful about his physical therapy, I don't see why not," he said.
"Dismissed, Commander," Mac said.
Mac could feel Beth's eyes on the two of them, but she ignored it in favor of giving Harm a hug. He hadn't spoken since his outburst, and she needed to know that he was okay.
Finally, Harm looked at her and smiled weakly. It wasn't much of a smile, as his smiles went, but it was *her* smile. "Have I ever mentioned how much I love it when you go semper-fi, kick-ass Marine on somebody?" he murmured.
"No," Mac answered as she reached behind herself for the cup of ice chips that she'd left there earlier. She was surprised when Beth handed it to her. "Thanks," she muttered. "Open up, Harm," she said gently. "If you're going to talk, you need some moisture."
"Looks like I didn't need to threaten you after all," Beth said.
Harm almost choked on his ice. "Threatened her?" What did you *do*, Beth?"
Mac just hugged him a little tighter, careful of the cuts on his back. He scooted closer to her, as if to let her shield him from his partner.
"Need to know," Beth replied, reaching out to grasp his free hand.
Harm pulled away from Beth and looked up at Mac. "She threatened me with death, dismemberment, and unspecified torture if I hurt you," Mac said with a grin. She leaned down closer to him. "I can think of a lot of things I'd like to do with you, Harmon Rabb, but they'll have to wait until you're better and we don't have an audience." She kissed him on the nose. "I love you, flyboy; you're stuck with me now."
"Good," was his only answer. He leaned against her and his eyes started to drift shut.
Mac knew better than to think he was asleep, so she kept stroking his hair, using her lightest, most gentle touch.
"He loves you, you know," Beth said softly.
Mac nodded. "I figured that out a while ago; how did you find out?"
Beth gave her a wry smile. "I got him really drunk," she admitted.
"Ah," she answered, distracted by Harm. "You're safe Harm," she whispered over and over in a litany.
Beth set something down on a chair. "I brought your seabag; I thought you'd like to change into something more comfortable."
Mac nodded again, her attention focused entirely on her sailor. He had come back to her, and she'd be damned if he'd slip away again. Maybe 'squid' wasn't a good nickname for him; 'eel' seemed to fit better. She'd promised that she'd stay, and she would; forever if he'd let her.
"Our friends should be companions who inspire us, who help us rise to our best."
--Joseph B. Wirthlin
4 February 2004
National Naval Medical Center
Harm drifted halfway between sleep and awake, content with the fact that She was there. Part of him said that he had to be careful, be cautious. Part of him said that she was just another starlight-induced hallucination. Most of him, however, was convinced that she was really there, because he could feel her soft hand running through his hair.
Safety. Peace. Love. The feelings overwhelmed him, and he knew that as long as she was there, everything would be okay. He was safe in her arms. Mac was home. Her presence meant that he was where he belonged. 'Noooooo!' part of him cried out when he felt her leave. Harm opened his eyes and searched the small room for her. She wasn't there. "Mac?" he called, his voice scratchy from disuse.
"I'm changing clothes, flyboy," her voice said from the bathroom. "I'll be out in a minute."
Harm closed his eyes and sighed in relief. She hadn't left. She had kept her promise. He was still safe. Home. That's where this was. He knew he was in the hospital, but they'd be at her apartment or his soon enough. Being in a set of rooms with her with him was sufficient.
Harm pushed himself up in his hospital bed and listened to the rustling of cloth that came from the bathroom. He smiled as he started to think thoughts that he wasn't physically ready for yet about himself, his Marine, and a very big bed. He smiled as he imagined her pregnant with his baby--after all, the end of their deal was in a few months.
Half the fun would be making the baby, he thought with a grin. Lost to his own dreams and plans for their future, he didn't notice Sturgis's hesitant steps into the room.
"Harm?" he said, his deep voice echoing in the antiseptic environment.
Harm could feel his heart start to beat faster, and his breath rasped in his throat. He used his good foot to scoot to the side of the bed furthest away from his old friend and wished that he could get out of bed to go hide in a safe corner. "Mac?" he called.
Mac came out of the bathroom, straightening one of *his* old T-shirts. "I'm here, sailor," she said as she came over to sit on the side of his bed.
Harm moved closer to her, using her body to shield him from Sturgis. He snaked his untethered arm around her and drew comfort from her presence. "Hey Sturg," he said.
Sturgis walked forward and laid his hand on Harm's shoulder. "Hey, Harm--" he began
"Don't touch me," Harm said as he flinched away from the hand on his shoulder.
"Sorry, buddy. I won't do it again unless you say it's okay." Sturgis said as he withdrew his hand and locked both of them behind his back.
"Okay," Harm said, inching closer to Mac as if he wanted to crawl into her skin.
Mac started stroking his hair again, and he relaxed under her gentle ministrations.
"I just needed to find out how you're doing, Harm," Sturgis said.
"He'll be okay," Mac said, glancing up from him briefly.
From her posture, Harm knew that she was warning Sturgis about pressing him about anything. "Yeah," he said, agreeing with her.
Sturgis settled in the chair beside the bed. "I need to apologize for the way I treated you last year, Harm; I knew you could never have killed Singer. I want you to know how much I missed having you around to trounce in basketball."
"It's all right," Harm murmured, tightening his hold on Mac.
"Mac? Can I talk to you outside?" Sturgis asked.
Mac looked down at Harm and shook her head. "Sorry, Commander, but I'm not leaving Harm alone," she said slowly. "Anything you need to say to me you can say in front of Harm."
Sturgis sighed. "All right, but I don't want to upset you, buddy. Harriet and Bud are planning on bringing the boys by, and both Coates and the Admiral will probably come to visit too. You scared the shit out of us when you were taken, and we all need to know that you're okay."
Harm stiffened again and buried his face into Mac's side. Mac leaned down and kissed his cheek, then whispered in his ear that she'd be there for him. Muscle by muscle, Harm relaxed. "We'll get through it, Sturgis," Mac said.
Sturgis nodded. "I'll be back, buddy; I just wanted to see for myself that you're mostly in one piece. I'm gonna let you get some rest."
"Bye, Sturgis," Mac said absently, most of her attention focused on Harm.
"Bye Harm, Mac," Sturgis said before he strode out of the room.
"I can tell them not to come yet," Mac offered.
Harm looked up at her and shook his head. "No," he said. "I might as well get this over with and I'd like to see Little AJ, anyway."
Mac nodded. "Whatever you say, sailor, just as long as you promise to never scare me like that again."
Harm felt the tears build up in his eyes and bit his lip, hoping to distract himself from the feelings that came with the old nickname. "I'm not a sailor anymore, Mac," he pointed out.
Mac could see a tear glistening on his eyelashes before it escaped to run down his cheek. She brushed it away and smiled. "Yes, you are, Harm. The SecNav was sneaky and kept you in the Navy. He ordered the Admiral to process your resignation, then intercepted it and had you reassigned to his office." She leaned down and brushed a soft kiss against his lips.
"Why?" Harm asked, hurt, anger, and fear building inside of him.
"I don't know; but I do know that you were promoted recently, *Captain* Rabb."
"Captain?" he questioned.
"Yeah," she said as a silly grin spread over her face. "You also managed to pick up a third DFC along the way. I'm proud of you, flyboy." Mac leaned down and kissed him again. "As soon as you're feeling better, we'll have the ceremonies."
Harm shook his head and buried his face in her stomach again. It was simply too hard to believe. He closed his eyes, savoring her presence. It was then that the memories hit him:
"They're all *dead* Commander Harmon Rabb, Junior. How does it feel to know that *you* are responsible for the deaths of everyone you've ever loved? The barren woman you saved was especially lovely. We drew out her death so that we could hear her scream." Sadik paced in front of him, sliding from foot to foot in an almost snake-like manner. Harm shivered on the metal table, desperately trying not to believe the odious man.
He shivered and drew closer to Mac. It was the drug; it had to be. He didn't want to consider anything else.
Ten year-old Harmon Rabb closed his eyes and hid from the sight of Tom Boone kissing his mother. His father hadn't been gone for very long, and she was already giving up. Disgusted, he turned and ran out the back door to the treehouse that he'd built himself the previous summer. He climbed up in it and hid away in a corner. He was a failure, and his father's wingman was a traitor.
Harm came out of it with the feeling of Mac running her fingers through his hair. "Shhh," she whispered. "You're with me; I won't let him hurt you."
He tightened his grasp on her and leaned into her warm body. This was home. It was where he belonged.
4 February 2004
Jack paced back and forth in the briefing room, desperate to escape its small confines. "When are you going to let me out of here, Blaisdell?" he demanded, as he turned to face the table.
"You know the drill, Jack," Blaisdell reminded him. "You don't leave here until you've been fully debriefed, and that's not until I say so."
"Dammit, Allen, I've told you *everything* I know. If I remember anything else, it'll be in my report." Jack sat down in the sturdy metal chair beside the matching table with a thud and scowled at the man in front of him. "Now, what about the antidote to starlight?"
"It stays in the vault," Blaisdell said cheerfully. "Don't get me wrong, I like Rabb, but he's now a liability."
"One of our own is in a hospital bed right now, and he has more starlight running through his system than anyone else has managed to survive." Jack said in a low, dangerous voice. "You know as well as I do that long term use of that infernal drug can lead to--"
"Death," Blaisdell admitted with a smile. "Rabb is a security risk. We don't know what he told Sadik, and we can't afford to have leaks; especially now."
"Let me get this straight," Jack said with a snarl. "You're just going to sit there and let a good man possibly die just in case he *might* have told a bunch of terrorists something?"
"You know the score, Jack," Blaisdell reminded him. "Sadik may be dead, but his organization isn't."
"Yes, but I also know that Rabb told Sadik jack shit." He crossed his arms over his chest and scowled.
"How?" Blaisdell asked.
"The bastard kept electronic tapes of all the time that Rabb spent in there. Webb found the files and copied them to a zip disk."
"And you're sure that Rabb said nothing?" Blaisdell asked.
Jack rolled his eyes. "Of course I am. Our FUBAR king *finally* did something right. It's a moment for posterity," he said sarcastically.
"Aren't you being a little too hard on Neville Webb's kid?" Blaisdell asked.
Jack shook his head. "He's only managed not to screw up one mission, and he wasn't in charge. My advice is to give him a desk job; the man's hazardous to everybody around him as a field agent. Now, about the starlight antidote--"
"Denied. He could still blab; we don't know what kind of programming Sadik and his goons subjected him to. He'd be an easy snatch-and-grab right now for the remnants of Sadik's organization. We've got some unconfirmed intel that some of them are here in the US."
Jack pounded his fist on the table in exasperation, then pulled a disk out of his jacket pocket. "Yes we *do*. Rabb didn't crack, and here's a copy of his time spent as a prisoner. He withstood the mind games, the emotional torture, the beatings, and *everything* that *bastard* did to him--we got Rabb out in time."
Blaisdell took the zip disk and tucked it in his pocket. "What about the original, and how many other copies of this are there?"
"I have the original; you get it when I find out that Rabb is okay." Jack snapped.
"That still doesn't change the fact that some of them are still out there," Blaisdell pointed out. "The starlight antidote stays where it is."
Jack stood up, put his hands on the table, and leaned towards Blaisdell. "I don't think you understand where I'm coming from," he said silkily. "The minute you assigned us on an operation together, Rabb became one of *mine*. *I do not leave my people behind*. Got that? I will go rogue if I have to, but Rabb *will* get the help he needs."
Blaisdell smiled. "You've just given me the excuse I've always wanted to lock you in one of the holding cells, Jack. Want to dig yourself in deeper?"
Jack smiled. "Maybe I won't be forced to go rogue, old friend. Maybe a certain supervisor I know will give up the antidote in exchange for Tijuana remaining classified from his wife."
"You wouldn't *dare*," Blaisdell gasped.
"Wanna bet your marriage on it?" Jack asked with a wolfish grin.
Blaisdell sighed. "No, I don't," he admitted. "The antidote is yours, but we'll be watching Rabb to make sure he doesn't betray us, and to make sure that nobody gets their hands on him. His career with the Company is over, anyway."
Jack shrugged. "I expected that. With his skills, he'll be able to rebuild his life--as long as you bozos don't kill him. Oh, and you might want to start looking for a leak. Sadik got his hands on starlight *somehow*, and we both know that most of it is locked up."
"Do I get your help?" Blaisdell asked.
"I'm NSA, remember? That's a CIA internal matter; none of my business." Jack said with a smile.
Blaisdell sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. "You'll have your antidote in an hour."
"Thank you," Jack said, then smiled as he sat down and leaned back in his chair. "Always good to save a guy like Rabb; people with his sense of honor are hard to find."
4 February 2004
National Naval Medical Center
Mac leaned on her elbow as she watched her sailor sleep. Every once in a while, she leaned over and stroked his hair and face until he calmed. She'd seen him sleep before, but she'd never seen him as restless as he was since they'd found him.
"No! Not Mac, not Sarah!" Harm cried out in his sleep.
"Shhh, I'm here, flyboy," Mac whispered in his ear.
Every time he closed his eyes and fell asleep, she had seen him return to a world of nightmares. It was as if his worst memories were assaulting him, and his mind kept coming up with new and terrifying scenarios in which everything went wrong. It scared the hell out of her and made her worry for him. How could he escape with his sanity intact?
Mac wrapped her arms around him and hugged him gently. Perhaps he could feel her presence. Perhaps just having her near would help convince his unconscious mind that she wasn't dead.
Mac leaned her cheek against his hair and closed her eyes. She'd keep him safe; anyone who tried to hurt Harm would have to get through her first. She wasn't a Marine for nothing.
She was glad that she finally knew how he felt, but right now it was more important to be Mac, his best friend, and not Sarah, his girlfriend. She knew better than to think that he'd bounce back like Superman even Clark Kent had to spend time recovering emotionally once in a while.
Mac pressed a kiss into his hair. If he was Clark Kent, then she had to be Lois Lane. Lois wasn't just Clark's wife; she was his best friend. Harm's actions had made it clear to her that he needed his best friend as well as time and space to recover. Clark had always returned to the farm; maybe, just maybe...
Mac closed her eyes and started planning. It could work. In fact, considering his history, it might help him recover. She yawned as the days without sleep started to catch up to her. She hugged Harm tighter and smiled. Somehow, she'd find a way to get the cocky flyboy she remembered back or she'd die trying.
Living and Dying
"Keep true, never be ashamed of doing right; decide on what you think is right and stick to it."
4 February 2004
"Daddy, can I have a chocolate shake?" Little AJ asked excitedly.
Bud laughed, feeling lighthearted for the first time since he'd heard that Harm was missing. "Sure, buddy. Now that Uncle Harm's home, I think it's time to celebrate."
"Now Bud, Harm may be home, but we don't know how what he went through has affected him..." Harriet trailed off as she tried to feed baby Jimmy a bottle.
Bud smiled as he placed their order and paid for it. Little AJ reached up for his treat. "Uncle Harm hurts," he said. "Uncle Harm is scared because monsters live in the dark places."
Bud crouched down to Little AJ's level as best as he could. "What do you mean, kiddo?"
"Every time Uncle Harm closes his eyes, the monsters come to eat him," Little AJ said, trying to explain what he knew in his limited vocabulary. "They scare him," he said. "I'm gonna go scare Uncle Harm's monsters away," he finished with a winning smile.
Bud chuckled and ruffled Little AJ's hair. "I'm sure you will, AJ," he said, then stood up. Bud reached over, grabbed the full tray, and led them over to an empty table. He put the tray down and reached for the baby. "I'll take him, honey," he said with a smile.
Harriet handed the baby to her husband. "I'll get a booster seat for Little AJ," she said, then walked over to the stack of them.
Bud cradled his son and finished feeding him the bottle before he put a cloth diaper on his shoulder, held the baby to it, and burped him. Little AJ bounced around happily as Harriet returned, put the booster chair into the booth, and motioned him over. Carefully, the child slid his chocolate shake on the table and climbed into the booster seat.
It didn't take long before they all had their meals arranged in front of them. Little AJ drove the toy car that he'd gotten from his kids' meal around. "Uncle Harm has bad dreams," he volunteered, breaking the silence brought on by full mouths.
"Sweetie, what do you mean by 'monsters'?" Harriet finally asked.
Little AJ shrugged. "Monsters, Mommy. Badder than the ones that live in my closet and under my bed. I'm gonna make 'em go 'way. I'm gonna poke 'em with my stick so that they leave Uncle Harm alone."
"But what *are* the monsters, sweetheart?" Harriet persisted.
"Bad stuff," Little AJ said. "They don't like being poked; that'll make 'em run away." He turned back to his dinner and trailed a french fry through his ketchup before using it to paint the top of his discarded hamburger bun. He pulled his straw out of the remains of his half-melted chocolate shake and put chocolate spots on top of the ketchup.
"AJ, don't play with your food," Bud said, trying to look stern.
"Okay, Daddy. I'm done." Little AJ grinned and held up a ketchup-smeared hand. "See?"
Harriet grabbed some napkins and wiped the ketchup off of his hands as best as she could. She stood up and pulled Little AJ out of the booth. "I'm taking AJ to the bathroom to get the rest of this off him," she said with a smile. "Will you be okay with Jimmy?"
"Sure, honey; just hurry back so that we can see if the Commander is okay." Bud adjusted the blanket around the baby and kissed him on the forehead.
"Okay Jimbo, I know that you've been being real good tonight, but I need you to do me a favor."
The baby opened his eyes and blew a spit bubble at his dad.
"Just don't cry while we're visiting your Uncle Harm, okay?"
Jimmy yawned and closed his eyes.
"I know that you've got colic, so you haven't been too happy lately, but *please* don't start fussing while we're in there, okay?"
The baby squirmed a bit and nestled up to his dad.
Bud sighed and started gathering up the food wrappers with one hand. He knew that there wasn't much of a chance of the baby being happy during their visit, but he hoped that the short car ride would help. He dumped the trash on the tray, wiped his hand on a napkin, and tucked the blanket more tightly around the baby. At least his friend was home and safe. At this point, it was more than he could have hoped for.
4 February 2004
National Naval Medical Center
Mac sat on the bed beside Harm and flipped through a case file. Unable to concentrate, she closed the file and glanced over at Harm. He'd finally settled into a deep sleep a few hours before, but he was still restless in his brief periods of REM sleep.
She stuck the file on the bedside table, then resumed stroking Harm's hair. Part of her was still having problems believing that he was home and safe. She knew that there'd probably be a lot of issues to work through, but what mattered was the fact that she had him back.
Mac leaned over and placed a lingering kiss on his cheek. He was home, and he was with her. Everything else would just be the details of helping him recover some balance, and working towards a future together. A wide smile spread over her face. Perhaps they could start on the baby deal early. However, that depended on him. She wouldn't start something deeper unless he was okay first. It just wouldn't be right otherwise.
Harm started tossing and turning. "No! No! NO! Mac, you *can't* marry him. Not Bugme! Don't you understand? No!"
"Shhh. I'm not marrying him, Harm," Mac whispered. She leaned in to give him a hug. "I swear, I won't marry anybody unless it's you."
"*My* Sarah, Bugme. She's not yours. *Mine*."
Ordinarily, she might have been offended, but if Harm needed to say that, she didn't mind. She leaned down and planted another gentle kiss on his cheekbone. "That's right, Harm. I'm yours. Forever if you'll let me be."
Harm sighed and rolled closer to her. "Love you, Sarah. Always have."
"I know, flyboy," she said.
"Always will." Harm's breathing evened out and his restless movements stopped.
"It's you and me against the world, Butch," she whispered into his ear. "If I can help it, you're never getting out of my sight again--see what trouble you get into without me there to watch your six?"
Mac looked up as another nurse came into the room, then started stroking her flyboy's cheek before moving down to his arm. "Ma'am, you've been here for hours--don't you think it's time that you left to go get something to eat?"
Mac looked up long enough to notice the insignia on the nurse's collar. "No, Lieutenant. I'm not leaving."
"But ma'am, you *can't* just stay here!" The nurse tucked a loose strand of blonde hair behind her ear.
Mac gave Harm's hand a squeeze before she let go and stood up. "Snap to, Lieutenant."
Obediently, the nurse came to attention. "My name is Lt. Colonel Sarah Mackenzie, and you *can* not and *will* not presume to give me orders. Is that *clear*, *Lieutenant*?"
The nurse gulped. "I'm sorry, ma'am," she said, her voice trembling. "It won't happen again."
"It had *better* not," Mac said as she glared at the nurse. "Now, unless there's another reason you're here besides to get me to leave, you're dismissed."
"I-I-I-I'm here to take his vitals, ma'am," the nurse stammered.
"Go ahead," Mac said. She slid her hand into Harm's and got back onto the bed. Harm flinched away from the Lieutenant's touch, but quieted when Mac resumed running her free hand through his hair.
The nurse finished quickly and left the room, shooting nervous glances back at Mac. "She's gone, Harm." Mac murmured. "It's okay; I'm the only one here."
Harm's only answer was to move even closer to her. Mac sighed and leaned back in the bed. "You'll be okay, flyboy," she said. "I'll help, and as soon as you're better, maybe we can start working out a future together; you're never getting rid of me, my stubborn squid."
Harm opened his eyes slowly. "Mac?" he said, his voice hesitant.
"I'm here, Harm," she answered.
"You're not a dream?" he asked. "He was wrong; you're not dead. You *can't* be. But I dreamed you were with me so many times..."
"I'm not a dream, sailor," Mac said as his arms came around her and he hugged her tightly. "I'm not going to leave you, I promise."
"Don't make a promise you can't keep," he said, echoing her words from years before.
"I haven't, yet," she murmured. Mac wrapped her arms around him. "I *feel* real, don't I, stickboy?"
"Yes," he looked almost lost, as if he were afraid that she'd evaporate on him. "But you felt real *before*, and then you disappeared."
Mac looked at him, and wanted nothing more than to kiss away his hurts. She hated to see him look so... broken. Sure, he needed his friend, but it was the fastest way she could think of to convince him that he wasn't dreaming.
Mac leaned down and brushed her lips against his, softly at first, then she increased the pressure. She opened her mouth and stroked her tongue across his lips, requesting entrance. With a groan, Harm opened his mouth. Mac explored the new territory and tangled her tongue with his. Moments later, she broke it off for air, then started peppering tiny kisses all over his face.
Harm flopped back against the pillow. "Now I *know* I'm dreaming," he said as a huge smile spread over his face. "You only kiss me in my dreams; I hope I never wake up."
Mac laid her hand on his chest. "You're not asleep, sailor. I promised that I'd be here, and I'm staying."
Harm smiled, tried to sit up, and winced. "Easy, Harm--you're not healed yet," Mac said with a tiny frown. "The medication that Jack brought should be helping clear the starlight, but you still need to be careful."
"Aye, aye ma'am," he said, the smile still hovering around his lips.
"How are you feeling?" she asked, worried. She knew that if he had his way, he'd pretend to be fine for her, and expend what little energy he had doing it.
"I... don't know," he admitted. "But I don't like my dreams; they're worse than usual."
Mac reached for his hand and squeezed it. "Jack said that it might have that effect; he said that the drug kind of breaks down your mental barriers." Mac gave him a sad smile and reached over to caress his cheek. "I'm thinking of asking the Admiral for some of my leave time so that I can stay with you."
"You don't have to do that, Mac," he said.
"Yes I do--you'd do the same for me." She pulled his unresisting form in for a hug. "I love you, Harmon Rabb. Get used to it."
"Yes, ma'am," he said as a yawn caught him. "Tired..."
"I know," she said.
Harm leaned back against the bed, and used her as a pillow. "Love you, too, you know."
Mac watched as he blinked and his breathing started to slow. She hugged him tightly as his eyelids closed once more and he drifted off to sleep. "I'm taking you to Beallsville, Harm," she whispered. "I refuse to let you go faster than you should and get sick, and I figure that between your Grandma and I, we can keep you from doing too much."
Mac smiled at her sleeping sailor. Together, anything was possible, and he'd be okay; as long as she was there to watch his six.
"All are needed by each one; nothing is fair or good alone."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson.
4 February 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
AJ groaned and hung up the phone. "Great, just great," he muttered as he reached for his coat and cover. "One of my officers is in the hospital while his partner is terrorizing the staff."
He sighed as he hurried out of his office and towards his car. "Now I have to go chew her out for protecting him," he grumbled. "Hell, I don't *want* to chew her out for that; if she's protecting him, he must need it."
AJ climbed in his car, started it and headed towards the freeway. It usually took forty-five minutes to get to Bethesda, but if he hurried, he'd make it in thirty minutes or less.
AJ gunned the engine and sped up until he was going far above the speed limit. "I'm getting too old for this," he grumbled as he pushed hard on the accelerator. "I want to retire," he said out loud. He shook his head, then flipped the radio on.
AJ grimaced and pushed the accelerator again, coaxing more speed out of his car. He knew better than to think he could just turn in his walking papers. He had too much to do before then. Maybe, if he were lucky, he could retire in the spring. By then, perhaps, he could work out something for Rabb and Mackenzie and fix the problems in his office.
He'd hate to lose a lawyer of Rabb's caliber, but there *was* the option of sending him to learn how to drive a ship. It'd be good for his career, but he wasn't sure if it'd be good for both of them as a couple. AJ shrugged mentally. There was still time to work things out; Harm probably needed time to heal.
He knew his top officers better than they would suspect. He'd seen them bury their problems far too often until too much just leaked out, or they exploded, whichever came first. AJ swore to himself that he'd make sure that Harm got the time, space, and help that he needed. The Captain deserved that much.
Harm was the closest thing he'd ever had to a son. AJ was thankful for the loan of him, and during the time Harm had been missing, he'd found himself going to the Wall. It was there that he could thank Lieutenant Rabb for the son of his heart, and beg for his safe return.
Now that Harm was home, AJ knew that there would be issues from his captivity and inevitable torture to deal with and he had to let him know that he would be there if his officer needed him. He smiled as he saw the exit for the Naval Hospital. While he wasn't looking forward to berating Mac for protecting Harm, at least he could see with his own eyes that the Captain was okay.
4 February 2004
National Naval Medical Center
Lieutenant Brown stole quietly into the room and checked her sleeping patient's chart. He was due for another dose of a specialized, experimental drug in half an hour, and she had to check the dosage on his chart. She smiled as she saw both her patient and his fierce protector curled up together on the bed. Technically, she should wake the Colonel up and get her to leave, but they just looked so *cute* asleep in each other's arms that she didn't have the heart to wake either one of them.
She checked the chart and walked quietly out of the room. Lieutenant Brown jumped back as she saw a man with admiral's insignia stride towards her. "Sir," she said as she snapped to attention.
"Lieutenant," he said. "Is this Captain Rabb's room?"
"Yes sir, but the Captain is asleep right now."
"I'll be careful not to disturb him, Lieutenant. I'm assuming that Colonel Mackenzie is in there, too?" AJ said with a smile.
"Yes, sir, but--"
"As you were, Lieutenant," AJ said, as he went into the room. A huge grin spread over his face as he saw his two best officers curled up together, dead to the world. He suppressed a chuckle as he noticed how *protectively* Mac was holding Harm. Even in sleep, her body language proclaimed how she would protect the man from all comers.
AJ walked over and laid his hand on Mac's shoulder. He hated to wake her, but he needed to know the Captain's condition, and he was too tired to go hunting for the doctor. "Colonel?" He said in a whisper as he gave her a gentle shake.
Mac opened her eyes and rubbed them blearily. "Sir!" She gasped as she tried to untangle herself to come to attention.
"Take your time, Colonel," AJ said.
"Aye, sir," she said. Mac extracted herself from the bed and came to attention beside it.
"At ease, Colonel. Walk with me so that we don't wake Captain Rabb," he ordered.
"What did I just order you to do, *Colonel*?" he asked, his voice dangerously soft.
"Aye, sir," she said, then followed him out the door.
AJ waited until they were a few feet from the door before he let loose the lecture that he knew he had to give her." "Marine, you may *now* tell me just why I got a call right before leaving the office today that you've been terrorizing the staff here?"
"Sir, with all due respect, I would rather do this in the Captain's room; he gets agitated when--"
"I said *now*, Colonel Mackenzie."
"Yes, sir." He watched as she bit her lip and then took a deep breath before answering. "They were making Captain Rabb cry," she answered finally. "To be frank, sir--Harm is a mess right now."
"Physically, well, he's been better. He'll heal, Admiral. But I think that Sadik and his goons really must've hurt him, sir. He's... clingy. And I'm the only one who he willingly lets touch him."
"That doesn't sound like the Harmon Rabb I know," AJ observed gruffly.
"Me, either, sir," she said, then opened her mouth to say more.
"Sarah," Harm's voice called pleadingly from his room. "Mac, please don't leave me!"
"Admiral, please?" she said.
AJ nodded then followed her back to the room and inside it. He watched as she hurried over to the bed and kissed the Captain on the cheek. "I'm here, Harm. I'm not leaving."
"Not dead?" he asked.
"No, flyboy. I'm not dead. Butch and Sundance remember? We're going out together in a blaze of glory." Mac laid her hand on his cheek.
"Uh huh. I 'member." A smile stole over his face and he cuddled into her touch. "Love you, ninja girl."
"Sleep now, sailor," she said with a smile.
"'Kay," he said.
AJ shifted from foot to foot, feeling like he was intruding on their private moment. "Colonel Mackenzie," he said, his voice still soft.
Mac snapped to attention as best as she could without removing her hand from Harm. "Yes, *sir*," she said.
"I got a call from Jack Olsen on the way over here, and he told me that there is still a threat from the remnants of Sadik's organization. To make matters worse, they've been linked to Al Qaeda. You will *not* terrorize the staff anymore, understand?"
"Aye, aye sir," she answered.
"I'm going to get a couple of Marine guards for outside his door, and I want you to stay here with him 24/7 until he gets released; we can do without you for a few days at HQ. I'll reassign your cases, but I want you back as soon as the Captain is mobile enough to go home." AJ knew that he'd be hearing a lot more from the Captain if he took his security blanket away, and Mac seemed to be it.
"Yes, sir," she said with a grin. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"As soon as Harm is released, I'm asking for some personal leave, sir," she said. "I have over sixty days on the books, because I haven't taken a vacation in years."
"Care to enlighten me as to why, Colonel?" AJ asked.
"JAG can do without me for a while, sir. Harm can't. Either I get leave or I'll resign, Admiral. I'm taking Harm to Beallsville to his grandmother's farm."
"And what about medical care for him, Colonel?" AJ asked.
"Beallsville isn't too far from Pittsburgh," she answered. "I checked, and the VA hospital there doesn't have any problems with taking care of him. Mrs. Rabb said that she'd love to have us, and I think it's important to let Harm have a nice quiet place to recover."
"Glad to see you've thought this through," AJ said gruffly. He smiled inside, glad that things were finally on track with his two favorite officers. "I'll expect weekly reports on his progress; as soon as he's able, I'll need to discuss career options with both of you."
"Career options?" Mac said.
AJ could see the panic on her face. "With his promotion comes a command billet, Mac," he said gently. "I'm coming up with some options that have the chance of keeping the two of you together."
"Thank you sir," she said.
"Now, how is he really?" AJ asked. He *needed* to know that his almost-son would be okay.
"He's only really been awake once or twice, Admiral," Mac answered, turning to look as her sleeping partner.
"No, sir. He's been having nightmares, but that wasn't really awake. I think it's the combination of drugs he's on right now, sir."
"How often have these been happening?" AJ asked.
Mac ran a tired hand through her hair. "I'm not sure," she admitted. "He's roused a few times, but it hasn't taken much to get him to go back to sleep."
"Do you think--I mean, could we wake him up? I just need to know that Harm is actually okay," AJ said nervously.
"Let me do it, sir," she said quietly. "I don't think he'd respond well to having anyone else wake him up." Mac leaned over Harm then glanced back at AJ. "You didn't see this," she warned.
AJ's mouth twitched into a smile. "Understood."
Mac leaned down, pressed her lips to Harm's, and kissed him thoroughly. "Wake up, flyboy," she whispered as she broke off the kiss. She stroked his cheek, then kissed him again. "The admiral is here, Harm. Wake up."
Harm opened his eyes groggily. "Wha? C'mere, Sundance. Let's go back to sleep." He sat up slightly, put one arm around her, and buried his face in her hair.
"C'mon, Harm," she murmured. "The Admiral wants to see you."
Harm stiffened. "Don't want to see him," he said.
"C'mon, Harm," Mac said. "He just wants to say hello."
Harm sighed. "Okay... 's long as you stay."
Mac reached out, took his hand, and gave it a squeeze. "Always." She helped him sit up and lean back against the hospital bed.
AJ cleared his throat and tried to hide his blushes. "Harm," he said with a nod.
"Admiral," Harm said as he inched closer to Mac.
AJ noticed and tried not to smile. It was a new use of Mac for Harm--she was now a shield. "Are you okay, son?" he asked.
"I will be." Harm said as he snaked an arm around Mac's waist and looked at the Admiral.
AJ read the look as a dare to say something about the obvious change in his officers' relationship. He kept his smile to himself; it wouldn't be a problem at the office until they decided to get married. He thought he knew the two of them well enough to know that they'd be getting married soon now that they'd finally gotten their heads out of their sixes. "That's good, Harm," he said. "Mac says that she's taking you to Beallsville."
"Yes, sir." Harm said. AJ watched as he moved still closer to Mac. "My grandmother is getting older, sir, and she has been telling me that I need to come and visit for a while."
"Very good, Harm. I would, however, like to see you in JAG before you take off for Pennsylvania," AJ said with a smile. "I have a few things that need to be taken care of, and then you'll be on medical leave until you're cleared for duty."
"Yes, sir," Harm murmured.
"Colonel, I'm charging you to look after this sailor, is that clear?" AJ said.
"Aye, aye, sir," Mac answered.
"Take care of yourself, Harm." With that AJ turned and walked out of the room. He was satisfied that Mac would look after Harm. Eventually there would be healing but he'd seen the same look in comrades' eyes that he'd seen in Harm's. It was the look of a man who had seen too much in a short period of time; a man who had suffered too much.
With time, love, and faith it would go away and return to them a slightly different Harmon Rabb. The officer he'd come to think of as almost his son would be different from the one he'd known before; no one could pass through a crucible unscathed. AJ knew that the past year had been one hell after another for Harm and he was determined to do whatever it took to help the man to come all the way home.
Monsters and Sticks
"The test of courage comes when we are in the minority; the test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority."
--Ralph W. Sockman
4 February 2004
National Naval Medical Center
Harm played with Mac's fingers idly. "I'm bored," he complained with a sigh.
"Harm, you've only been awake for a few hours today, how can you be bored?" Mac asked as she turned another page.
"Easy. You're reading a case file, I hate television, and I don't have anything to do," he said.
"I could leave and go find you a book to read," Mac offered.
Harm wrapped an arm around her. "Nope. I'm not *that* bored," he said with a tiny smile.
Mac had felt him stiffen slightly at her words, and knew that he was trying to pretend that everything was fine... again. It was part of her flyboy's MO; if he couldn't deal with something, he'd hide it and pretend that everything was okay. "The hospital staff won't let me stay here forever, Harm," she pointed out softly. "And you won't be in any shape to go home until tomorrow at the earliest or day after tomorrow."
"We can order 'em to let you stay," Harm said with a grin.
"And they're doctors, so they can trump our orders--after they get mad, they'll sic the admiral on us." Mac pointed out.
Harm hugged her to him. "So? I'm in the hospital here, so he has to be nice to me right now."
"Not true, stickboy. He's an *admiral* and he can revoke our leave and haul our sixes back in to work so that he can chew us out." Mac tried to keep a straight face, but didn't quite succeed.
Harm sighed and leaned his cheek against her shoulder. "I hate hospitals," he muttered.
Mac leaned over and kissed him on the crown of his head. "I know," she answered.
Before they could say anything more, a blond whirlwind came into the room. "Uncle Harm!" the little boy called.
"Hey, AJ," Harm said. "Want to come over here, buddy?" he invited.
"In a minute." Little AJ pulled a sharp, pointy stick out and started looking in corners and in the closet. "I'm gonna poke your monsters so that they go away, Uncle Harm."
Mac chuckled. "Are there really monsters in here, AJ?" she asked.
He nodded. "Uh huh. They give Uncle Harm bad dreams and make him sad." Little AJ stuck his lip out in a pout. "I don't want you to be sad, Uncle Harm. So I'm gonna make 'em leave so you won't be sad any more."
"AJ, there aren't any monsters in here--" Harm began.
Little AJ dived under the bed, and they could hear him poking at something. He emerged a few minutes later. "They're gone now, Uncle Harm. There were five of 'em under the bed."
Before Harm could say anything to deny it, Mac elbowed him lightly in his uninjured side. "Thanks, kiddo," he said finally. "Want to come up here?"
Mac looked at Harm closely, but this time, there were no signs of him flinching away. A huge smile stole over her face--he was still damaged, but her sailor was on his way back. She suspected it had to do with the fact that the antidote had started to counteract the remainder of the drug in his system more than anything else. That at least gave him a semblance of control.
Little AJ considered the question. "Okay. I've got a present for you," he offered.
Mac leaned down, picked the child up, and set him on the bed. "There you go, little one."
Little AJ shot her an indignant look. "I'm *not* little, Aunt Mac. I'm *big*." He reached around Harm and gave him a big hug. "I love you, Uncle Harm."
Harm hugged the child back. "I missed you, junior flyboy."
Little AJ grinned. "I'm gonna fly planes just like you, Uncle Harm. When can we go flying again?"
"As soon as I'm better, AJ. I promise."
Little AJ gave Harm a wet, sloppy kiss on the cheek. "Cool. Can we leave Jimmy at home? I don't like that one. He cries all the time, and Mommy and Daddy don't pay much 'tention to me anymore."
Mac ruffled Little AJ's hair. "I'll come with, too so that both of us can spend time with you, ok sweetie?"
Little AJ snuggled into Harm's lap. "Ok. Aunt Mac and Uncle Harm, can I come and live with you? I don't like home. Mommy and Daddy are too busy at work and with *Jimmy*."
Harriet and Bud hurried in, breathless. "Sir, Ma'am, we hope that Little AJ isn't bothering you," Harriet gasped.
"He got away from us, sir," Bud chimed in.
Harm shrunk back into his pillows and used both Mac and Little AJ as his shields. Mac noticed and gave his hand a brief squeeze. "It's okay," she answered. "I figured that you couldn't be that far behind this little guy."
"Are you okay, Commander?" Harriet asked anxiously.
"I'll be fine, Harriet," he answered, his voice monotone.
Mac winced slightly; it was the same tone of voice that he used to use before he'd gotten his vision corrected when people asked why he didn't fly anymore. She reached over and rubbed his arm. "After I can spring him, I'm taking him to Pennsylvania for a while to recover," she said quietly.
"Uncle Harm, where's Pencil-pennsly--pennsyl..."
"Pennsylvania?" Harriet supplied.
"Uh-huh, that." Little AJ said with a grin.
Harm hugged the child gently. "That's where my grandma lives," he said with a smile. "She has a big farm up there, and your Aunt Mac and I are going to visit her. Maybe, if I'm good and you're good, my grandma and your mommy will let you come up to the farm for a weekend."
Little AJ kissed Harm on the cheek. "Really?" He asked, getting excited. "Mommy, can I go visit Uncle Harm at his grandma's house?"
"We'll see, sweetie," Harried said.
A cloud passed over Little AJ's face, and his shoulders slumped. "Okay," he said with a sigh.
"Sir, have they said anything about when you'll be able to come home?" Bud asked. "We miss you terribly at JAG." He set the baby carrier he was holding on the floor.
"No, they haven't, Bud," Mac said, answering for him. "With Harm's injuries, I'm not sure when they'll release him--they couldn't even put a real cast on his broken leg."
"Why?" Harriet asked, looking concerned.
"Because I've got some cuts that aren't healed down there that the bandages have to be changed on," Harm answered, his voice still wooden. "It's splinted, and with the bones broken in two places, they need to monitor it, anyway."
Harm turned his head, burying his face in Mac's shoulder. She let go of his hand in favor of putting her arm around him. "Guys, I hate to cut this short, but the nurse should be here soon with Harm's medication, and it knocks him out."
"Sir--Harm, would you like to see the baby before we go?" Bud asked uncertainly.
"Sure, Bud," he answered.
Harriet leaned over, pulled the baby out of the carrier, and came over. She held the baby out and Mac took him. Harm smiled at Jimmy and brushed a finger over his tiny hand. The baby latched on to his finger and yawned. "He looks like you, Harriet," Harm observed.
"He's being good right now, Uncle Harm. And he's not smelly, 'cause he hasn't pooped his diaper yet. *I* wanted a sister; sisters aren't smelly and loud like stupid brothers." Little AJ wrinkled up his face and looked at the baby.
"AJ!" Harriet admonished.
"'S true," Little AJ said as he stuck his lower lip out and started to pout. "Babies are dumb." He looked hopefully at Harriet. "Can we trade him for an older sister?"
"AJ Roberts! No we *can't* and we *wouldn't* even if we *could*," Bud said. "I think it's time we went home and put you to bed. I don't want to hear anything more about trading in your baby brother, is that clear?"
"Yes, sir," Little AJ said, his lip still stuck out in a pout.
"Will we see the two of you before you leave?" Harriet asked quietly.
Mac nodded. "The Admiral wants to see us in his office before we go," she said.
Harriet took the baby back, settled him in his carrier, and motioned to Little AJ. "Come on, sailor. March."
"Yes, ma'am," Little AJ said. He slid down from the bed and glanced back at Harm and Mac. "I wanna stay here," he whined.
"Tough, kiddo; we're going home." Bud said as he picked up the baby carrier. "Sir, Ma'am, if there's anything you need, just call."
"We'll be happy to help," Harriet said.
"Thanks, guys," Mac said, her attention already going back to Harm.
Harriet and Bud left, pulling a half-protesting AJ after them. "I'm tired," Harm said softly. "I want to go home and sleep in my own bed, and not be in this stupid hospital bed anymore; it's too cramped in here."
"If I got out you'd have more space," Mac said.
Harm wrapped his arms around her again. "Nope. I want more space to spread out *with* you, Sarah."
Mac smiled. "Red light, Captain." She leaned in and kissed him softly. "At least, red light until you're physically and emotionally up to it."
Harm gave her a playful leer that belied the pain that she could see in his eyes. "Oh, you'd be surprised how 'up' to it I can be."
"Harm," Mac murmured. "I'm serious. I want to wait until I don't have to worry about irritating some of your cuts or hurting your leg again."
"I know--I just... want things back they way they were!" he burst out.
Mac brushed her lips against his. "I know, Harm. But you and I both know that we can't go back. Get some sleep, and I'm right here if you need me, okay? I'm going to find out when they'll let me spring you."
"Don't leave, Sarah," Harm murmured. "I came so close to losing you forever," he said with a sigh.
"No, you didn't, Butch," she said. "I promised you once that you'd never lose me, and I meant it."
They sat together for a few minutes, and Mac started running her fingers through his hair again. "That feels good," he murmured.
"I know," she said softly. She tilted her head towards the door. "There's the nurse. Are you going to let her give you the medication, flyboy, or are you going to be difficult?"
"Don't stop, and I'll let her," he said.
Mac didn't answer, she just kissed him on the forehead. The nurse came in with two syringes and injected them into his IV shunt. "What were those?" Mac asked.
"One is the last dose of antidote to whatever they gave him, and the other is a sedative," the nurse answered. "It shouldn't take too long in his condition for it to take effect."
"Getting sleepy, Harm?" she asked.
"Yeah. Need you, Sarah. Always have. 'Member that kiss on the pier? I *let* you believe I was kissing Diane. Wasn't, you know. I was kissing *you*." Harm yawned. "Wanted to. Wanted to do it on the Watertown after you read the riot act to the submariners, too."
"I thought you were laughing at me," she said.
"Nope. You looked sexy as hell. Gorgeous. You are, you know. Always are." Harm yawned again and his eyes started to close. "Tired."
"I know, Harm." Mac kissed him lightly. "Maybe Little AJ really killed the monsters," she murmured.
A soft snore was her answer.
She looked up at the nurse. "Thank you, Lieutenant."
"You're welcome, ma'am." The nurse left the room and Mac started examining Harm's face.
"I think you're getting better, Harm," she whispered. "As long as you can tease me, I know that the Harm I fell in love with is in there somewhere. Sweet dreams; we'll find a bigger bed as soon as I can convince the doctor to let you out of here."
Ever so Humble
"We are all in the gutter, but some of us look at the stars."
5 February 2004
North of Union Station
"Is there anything else you want to take, flyboy?" Mac asked as she pulled open a dresser drawer.
Harm rubbed his hand across his eyes. "My oldest jeans are in the bottom," he said groggily. "Need 'em to muck out the barn in."
"Harm," Mac began. "You aren't going to be mucking out the barn anytime soon with that broken leg."
"I know," he said with a yawn. "But it'll heal, and *then* I'll want to help out with the chores. Grams can let her hired man have a vacation when I'm better."
Mac came over and pushed him gently back on to the bed. "If I have it my way, the most physical exercise you're getting in the foreseeable future is to walk from the bedroom to the couch and to the bathroom. Got that, mister?"
"M-a-a-ac," he protested.
"I bet your grandma will back me up, so you're going to be stuck with both of us fussing over you until you're better." Mac put her hands on her hips and gave him her best Marine glare. "And you're going to have to *like* it, too."
"Am not," he retorted.
Mac sighed and shook her head. Eight years of being his best friend had taught her that there was nothing he hated worse than being sick, and he tended to try and deny it when he was. She walked around the bed and took his hand. "Harm, we almost lost you, so I'm afraid that you're just going to have to suck it up, because I doubt that you're going to get out of sight of either of us."
"Okay," he said, leaning into her. "Can we leave tomorrow? I'm tired." Harm stifled another yawn.
Mac leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "I'm planning to, sailor. I just want to get everything packed so we can leave first thing in the morning."
"Okay," he said, settling back on his bed. Harm held up the blanket invitingly. "Come to bed?" he asked with a flyboy smile on his face. "I've dreamed of you here in my bed," he admitted.
Mac squeezed his hand. "And I bet those dreams were probably like the ones I've had with you in *my* bed," she said with a grin. "I'm going to go order us some dinner--you're going to stay put."
Harm patted the mattress beside him. "Please?" he said. "This is much more comfortable than that tiny little hospital bed."
Mac sighed. "All right, Harm, but just for a few minutes; I'm hungry." She climbed on to the bed and crawled over beside him. Harm put his arms around her and held her close.
Mac leaned slightly into his embrace. "I know it's only been a few days since we got the starlight out of your system, Harm, but you're still having nightmares." She put her arm around his waist. "What did he *do* to you?"
Harm traces circles on the bare skin of her arm. "The first little while wasn't bad," he said finally. "China was worse."
Harm bit his lip. "I'd forgotten that I've never told you; the year before we became partners, I was kidnapped by the Chinese and tortured."
Mac hugged him, offering some silent support. "What happened?" she asked softly.
"Drugs, mostly," he admitted. "They made me think that my father was in the cell right below me. Sadik was no worse at the beginning."
Mac simply tightened her grip on him.
"He sent his goons in to give me professional beatings, and then told me that everybody I loved was dead because he'd killed them." Harm closed his eyes in remembered pain. "After he'd been pumping that stuff into me, I even started to believe him."
Harm looked at her, a haunted look in his eyes. "I still see the picture he painted for me every time I close my eyes. Everybody I care about gone, and he and his goons are torturing you to death."
"It didn't happen, Harmon," she murmured, then gave him a kiss on the cheek. "We're all safe, and Jack, Beth, and Webb sent that bastard to hell where he belongs."
"I can still see it," he said, his voice hoarse from unshed tears, "It's worse than the nightmares that made me come after you in Paraguay."
"I'm glad you came after me, Harm," she murmured. "What I said down there didn't help, either. I was terrified after you'd been taken that I'd lost you for good, and that I'd never have the chance to tell you that I was wrong."
Harm tightened his grip on her. "I thought I *had* lost you, but I *couldn't* tell him what he wanted to know." He looked at her with pain in his eyes. "If I lost you, I'd lose the best part of me with you, because it's been yours for a long time."
"It won't happen," Mac said firmly. "No more TAD assignments to the CIA; I'm getting too old to go play spy and barely escape one of Webb's cockamamie schemes."
"So you're not dating Webb?" Harm asked.
"I wouldn't be if he'd call me so that I can break up with him," she said with a smile. "He hasn't been returning my calls--I was only seeing him to find out how you were, anyway."
Mac turned slightly and planted a soft kiss on his chest. "I need to go order us something to eat."
Harm shook his head. "Stay?"
"Harm, I'm just going to be in the next room. I'll be right back, I promise." Mac slipped out of his embrace and off the bed, then leaned over and brushed a kiss across his lips much like the one they'd shared at the New Years Eve party a few years back.
Harm reached for his crutches. "I'm coming, too."
Mac put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "No, you're not, Harm. In case you've forgotten, you *still* have three cracked ribs, and you're *not* to use those crutches any more than absolutely necessary."
He shot her a pleading look. "Please?"
Mac smiled and went over to rummage in the bag she'd gotten from her apartment. "Nope, but I do have something for you; Chloe sent it to me last year."
"What is it?" Harm asked.
Mac pulled a reddish-brown bear dressed in BDUs out of the bag and handed it over. "Chloe says that it's a Sarah Mackenzie bear," she said with a grin. "It's wearing a bikini underneath the uniform."
Harm examined the bear in his hands. "Does Mac-the-bear have a partner?" he asked.
Mac's smile got wider as she reached in the bag and pulled out a bear dressed in dress whites. "How did you guess?" she asked.
"Because we're a matched set," he said with a broad smile.
"Chloe's grandma made the uniform for Harm-the-bear," she admitted. "He's got swim trunks on underneath." Mac handed him the toy.
Harm set it next to him and started unbuttoning Mac-the-bear's uniform shirt. "So if I pull the top of the bikini off, she'll be like you in Australia." Harm grinned broadly as he took the uniform off the bear.
Mac laughed. "Well, not quite; for one thing, I *was* wearing a top... the straps were tied behind my back."
"Uh huh," Harm looked unconvinced.
"I'll be right back, stickboy," she said. "You've lost too much weight, and you can't afford it." Mac leaned over and kissed him.
Harm reached up and ran his fingers through the silken strands of her dark hair. "Hurry back," he said when they broke off the kiss.
Mac nodded. "I promise," she said with a quick smile. "Pizza or Chinese? I'm betting that you're tired of that liquid diet they had you on."
"Pizza?" he requested.
"Okay." Mac turned and headed out of the room, leaving Harm to examine the soft, plushy toys.
He finished taking the uniform off of Mac-the-bear and set her on the bed before he picked up Harm-the-bear. He pulled off the dress whites, then set them side-by-side. "Mac-the-bear, meet Harm-the-bear," he murmured. "If you're lucky, Harm, you'll get to keep her forever."
Harm picked up Mac-the-bear and gave her a hug. "Not as good as hugging the real Sarah," he decided.
Mac came back into the room and started picking the discarded teddy bear clothes off the bed. "You should see the wardrobes these bears have," she said with a smile. "Chloe keeps sending me more clothes every few months--Mac-the-bear even has a wedding dress."
"Think Chloe is trying to send us a hint?" Harm asked with a grin.
"Well, let's see," Mac began with a smirk. "After she forgave me for Mic, she decided that you had to be the one for me again, and subtle she isn't."
Harm chuckled. "I remember a certain child informing me that you loved me--wish I'd listened."
"Oh, you listened all right." Mac smacked him lightly on the arm. "You just didn't believe it." She picked up the Harm bear and made it kiss the Mac bear. "I think I'll give these to our daughter."
"Our daughter?" he asked, a slow smile spreading over his face.
"We do have the baby deal coming due in the next few months," she reminded him. "As soon as you're better, I intend to hold you to it."
"I hope she looks like you," he said.
"I hope *he* looks like me, and that *she* looks like you," Mac corrected. "I want two."
"One with your looks and my brains and one with my looks and your brains?" he asked.
"You got it," she said. "They'll be perfect. I'm betting that with Rabb genes, they'll be wanting to fly from the cradle."
"That scares you, doesn't it?" he asked. "You've never liked it when I've left to fly."
Mac nodded. "Yes. But it's part of you, and I don't want to change that."
"I'll be careful," he promised. "And I'll teach our kids to fly smart if they decide they want to learn."
"That's all I ask."
Harm leaned over and brushed his lips across hers. "Thank you, Sarah."
Mac gently pushed him down to the surface of the bed. "Rest, Harm. Remember, we have to go to the office tomorrow before we leave for your promotion ceremony."
Harm settled back into his pillows. "Not sure how I'm going to get a uniform over the splints; they're bulkier than a cast would be."
Mac raised an eyebrow. "I know you've got some loose dress pants in that closet of yours that are a close match to your uniform pants," she said. "I'll find them and iron them and the rest of a uniform." Mac grinned. "You'll just have to deal with being squared away like a Marine."
Harm smiled. "I can deal with that."
"Rest, sailor," she murmured. "If you fall asleep, I'll wake you when dinner gets here." Mac curled up next to him and smiled as he put one arm around her. He still held Mac-the-bear in his other arm. 'He'll make a good dad,' she thought. She reached over and pulled the blankets up around him. Tomorrow, they'd be heading to the farm. She'd seen flashes of the old Harm from time to time, and in the quiet of the country, she was hoping that she could get all of him back.
"Courage is acting in spite of fear."
--Howard W. Hunter
6 February 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Mac pulled Harm's Lexus into the parking lot and parked it in her usual spot. She got out of it, hurried around to the other side, pulled out the crutches, and handed them to Harm as he opened the door. "Be careful, Harm," she murmured as he carefully got out of the vehicle.
Harm leaned on his crutches and grimaced. "I've used crutches before, Colonel," he said testily.
"I know you have, sailor, but you didn't have three cracked ribs the last time you had to," she snapped.
Harm shook his head and took a step, carefully keeping his broken leg off the ground. "I'm sorry, Mac," he said. "I really don't want to be here."
"I know, Harm," she murmured. "I promise to try and keep this as short as I can."
"I want to get out of here." Harm stumped forward on his crutches. "I don't want Marine guards waiting outside Gram's house like they were at my apartment and the hospital room, either. I'm *not* some sort of precious possession to be coddled and guarded," he said with a growl.
"Stop right there, Harmon," Mac commanded. "Let me get one thing straight; *you* are the most important thing in the world to me right now, and there are a hell of a lot of people here who care about you. If I have to convince the Admiral to assign guards to you forever to keep some lunatic with a vendetta from coming after you, I will. Got that?"
Harm stopped at her tirade and listened with a bowed head. "Yes, ma'am," he said softly. He knew better than to argue when she was in this kind of mood. All it ever led to were bitter fights, and he didn't have the energy for one at the moment.
Mac steadied him as he propelled himself forward. He showed his ID to the guards at the front desk and followed her to the elevator. A few minutes later, they walked into the bullpen. "Captain on deck," came the call.
The entire staff came to attention as Harm and Mac went by. Admiral Chegwidden came out of his office, a small smile flitting about his lips. "Attention to orders," he said. "Rabb, you're out of uniform."
Harm started to wobble slightly on his crutches. "Sir," he said respectfully as he tried to come to attention.
"At ease, *Captain*," AJ said with a grin. "Coates! Get the Captain a chair, please, before he falls over."
"Aye, sir," came Jen's reply. She grabbed a desk chair and slid it up behind him. "Here you go, sir."
"Thank you, Coates," Harm said as he carefully lowered himself into the chair. From the look on the Admiral's face, he knew it would only land him in hot water to protest the special treatment. He wished that they wouldn't make such a fuss, but he guessed it was so people could see that his time with the CIA hadn't killed him off after all.
AJ stepped forward, motioned for Harm to hold his right hand up, and administered the oath. Harm put his brain on autopilot, refusing to let what was happening register. AJ smiled as they finished. "Son, since your mother couldn't be here, and I'm sure as hell not doing it, Colonel, will you do the honors?"
"Gladly, Admiral," Mac said with a grin. She laid Harm's new uniform coat on the nearest desk and came closer.
"Gently, Marine," Harm murmured.
A mischievous smile stole over her face as she leaned in and captured his lips in a kiss. She teased his lips apart and slipped her tongue in his mouth, completely ignoring the fact that it could probably get them in serious trouble. At Harriet's gasp, they broke off the kiss just in time to see her lean heavily against Bud.
As Harm caught sight of Sturgis's broad smirk, he felt his ears grow hot, and he was sure that he was turning bright red.
AJ cleared his throat. "Well, next time, I guess I should specify *where* the kiss is to be administered," he said gruffly, his eyes suspiciously bright.
"Congratulations, sir," Coates said with a smile. "We've missed you around here."
"There's one more matter we have to take care of before you leave town," AJ said. "Captain Rabb, you are hereby awarded your third distinguished flying cross for going above and beyond the call of duty when you landed a damaged C-130 without brakes on the deck of a carrier, thus saving the lives of all aboard." He pinned a medal on the front of Harm's jacket and motioned to Mac. "On the cheek this time, Colonel."
"Aye, sir," she said with a grin, then leaned down to kiss Harm on the cheek.
"The time and place of the Captain's wetdown will be after he returns from leave. Dismissed, people. Rabb and Mackenzie, I need you to come with me."
"Aye, sir," they said. Wordlessly accepting the crutches that Mac handed him , Harm struggled up from his chair,.
"I've got Secretary Sheffield in my office," AJ explained softly. "He didn't believe me when I told him that you're in no condition to fly to the Netherlands to defend him, or I would have put this off entirely until you're fit for duty. It was a near thing to convince him to come here instead of ordering us there."
"We'll be okay, sir," Mac answered. She put her hand on Harm's shoulder to lend him support. Harm flashed her a brief grateful glance then concentrated on the floor in front of him. With this lovely bit of news, he was wishing that one of Bud's Star Trek fantasies would come true so that Scotty could beam him anywhere but there.
The three of them walked into the admiral's office, and Mac closed the door behind them. "Captain Rabb, just the man I wanted to see," Sheffield said with a grin.
"Rabb, Mackenzie, have a seat," AJ ordered quietly.
Before they reached the chairs, Sheffield came over and made as if to clap Harm on the back. Harm flinched back, overbalanced, and almost fell before Mac reached out to steady him. He hadn't quite gotten used to moving around on crutches again, and the last time he'd had to do it, he'd at least been able to use his damaged leg for support.
"Don't touch me," he said harshly.
Sheffield shot him a startled look as Harm moved closer to Mac. He could handle being around people, but he still didn't like being touched. "Is there a problem, *Captain*?" Sheffield asked.
Harm simply moved as close to Mac as he could. "The Captain is on medical leave for good reason," AJ said calmly. "He needs some time to recover from his recent ordeal, and arrangements have been made for him to receive medical treatment at the VA medical center in Pittsburgh starting Monday."
"Psychiatric?" Sheffield asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
"One of the Company's shrinks came to see him in the hospital," Mac said softly. "She said that he'll be okay, given the time and space to recover."
"Fine then," Sheffield said. "If he'll be okay, then he can still fly to the Hague."
Harm moved even closer to Mac, knowing instinctively that she would protect him. Before Mac could say anything, AJ spoke up. "No, sir." He handed the SecNav a sheet of paper. "This is from Rabb's doctor; with that leg, he has to stay stateside until it heals. And this is from the CIA shrink," he said, handing the SecNav another sheet of paper. "It says that his fiancée needs to stay with him for the duration of his recovery."
AJ allowed himself a small smile. "She apparently decided that the Captain and the Colonel are engaged."
Sheffield threw the papers on AJ's desk in disgust. "Fine. Colonel Mackenzie, since you are *not* the Captain's fiancée, then *you* can come to the International Criminal Court with me."
"Respectfully, sir, Harm is family. He's listed as next-of-kin on my paperwork just as I'm listed on his. If you order me to go, I'll resign." Mac folded her arms over her chest and glared at him.
"Before you say anything, I *won't* lose my best officers by ordering them to do something I know they won't do," AJ said. "I've already assigned you two competent lawyers, sir. The CNO is backing me up; Rabb and Mackenzie are off limits."
"Fine," Sheffield snapped, then turned, stomped out the door, and slammed it behind him.
"I'm sorry, son," AJ said. "I didn't want to subject either of you to that, but he was insistent."
Mac answered for both of them. "It's all right, sir. We understand."
"No, it's not," AJ said. "You shouldn't have to put up with that. The two of you are officially on leave." He handed them some papers and smiled. "The only orders I have for you are to keep me updated and to leave a number with Petty Officer Coates where I can contact you."
"Aye, aye sir," they answered together.
"I don't want to see you around here until your doctor clears you for duty, son." AJ smiled at both of them. "I may need you back sooner, Colonel, but you officially have six week's leave. Dismissed."
Mac came to attention and gave AJ a sharp nod, reaching out to steady Harm as he did the same. They left as quickly as Harm could, stopping at Jen's desk to give her the telephone number at the Rabb farm.
Before they could pick Harm's coat up from the bullpen, Harriet stopped them. "Get well soon, sir--we miss you around here."
Bud was right behind her. "Congratulations, sir. We'll talk about sending Little AJ out to see you."
"Thanks, Bud, Harriet." Harm murmured. "Grams will be glad to have him, and so will we."
"Tell Sturgis where he can reach us," Mac said. "You can get the number from Jennifer."
"Aye, ma'am," Harriet answered.
"We'll let you get going; I bet you have a long drive ahead of you." Bud said. He picked up Harm's new jacket and handed it to Mac.
She took it with a smile and the two of them headed towards the elevator. It wasn't long before they were climbing into the car. Mac made sure that Harm was comfortable before she stowed his crutches in the back. "Are you sure that you don't want to try stretching your leg across one of the back seats?" she asked quietly.
Harm shook his head. "I'm too tall, Mac. It wouldn't work."
She nodded, climbed in, and started the car. Harm turned and looked out the window, unwilling to talk, even to Mac. Now that he didn't have the pressure of a lot of people around him, things were better, but it troubled him to feel so uneasy around people who had been his friends.
The only problem was, he wasn't too sure he trusted them at the moment. Hell, the only people he knew he trusted right now were Sarah, Grams, and Little AJ, and he felt almost reluctant to let them close. He was a target. Getting close to him might be hazardous to their health.
Harm closed his eyes, hoping that it would keep Mac from trying to talk to him. He almost smiled as he felt her hand grasp his and give it a squeeze. It felt so good for her to touch him. It was one of the few things that *was* good in his life at the moment. Selfishly, he decided that he wanted her to stay and forget about the danger.
Harm didn't want anybody else to touch him but Sarah. He'd let Little AJ and Grams, but nobody else was allowed. Mac's touch was the only thing that soothed the nightmares, the only thing that kept him from the darkness. He sighed as she let go of his hand long enough to turn the radio to a soft jazz station. As she took his hand back, he let himself be soothed by the soft music and her warm touch. It wasn't long before he drifted back to sleep.
"For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand."
--William Butler Yeats "The Stolen Child"
6 February 2004
Mac glanced over at Harm and smiled. He looked so *innocent* in his sleep. She hadn't minded the quiet car ride at all; it had given her time to think. He'd only roused once, just long enough to drink a few swallows of her coke to wash down some painkillers and the gel cap from of the antidote. She pulled onto the graveled lane and drove carefully up to the house before killing the engine and getting out of the car to stretch.
Mac walked around the car, opened the passenger side door, and laid her hand on Harm's shoulder. "Wake up, Harm. We're here."
Before Harm could open his eyes, Mac heard the sound of a screen door swinging open. She turned and watched as an elderly woman stepped out of the house and hurried down the steps. "Mrs. Rabb?" she asked, as the woman approached her.
The woman nodded. "Call me Grams," she said as she tucked a strand of thick, white hair behind her ear that had escaped from her bun.
"Yes, ma'am," Mac answered.
Grams walked around the side of the car and sighed softly as she caught sight of Harm. "What did they do to you, baby?" she whispered.
Harm opened his eyes, looked at her, and smiled. "I missed you, Grams," he said hoarsely.
Grams held out her hand. "Come on, sweetheart. It's time I put you to bed."
"But Grams," he said, "I just *got* here."
"Harmon Rabb, Junior," she scolded. "You come home with a broken leg, broken ribs, and cuts and bruises all over you; then expect me to let you stay up? You know better than that." Grams kissed him on the cheek. "I talked to your doctor, dear. He said that you need *rest*, so you *will* go to bed."
"Yes, ma'am," he answered, as he swung his legs out of the car.
"I wish *I* could get him to do stuff that easily," Mac observed with a smile.
Grams smiled, her blue eyes twinkling. "Sarah, I've been putting my grandson to bed since before he could walk. He got used to obeying me a long time ago. He does it now, and he'll do it when he's an admiral."
Mac got his crutches out of the back and handed them to him. "Lucky you," she said with a wink. "It takes him forever to agree to do anything I want him to do."
Harm opened his mouth, but Grams stopped him. "Hush, baby. I've got the double bed in the back room made up for you so that you don't have to climb the stairs. We're going to elevate that leg, and I'll bring in something for you to eat."
"Yes, ma'am," he said with a sigh.
"And then I can show Sarah your baby pictures," Grams said with a wide smile. She turned to Mac. "I have the *cutest* picture of him on a bear rug..."
"Grandma!" he protested.
"Harmon, be thankful your mother isn't here. She's got pictures of you from that time in Miramar when you decided that clothes weren't any fun. He was three," she explained, turning to Mac.
Harm moved a little ahead of them, and Mac could hear him muttering about being doomed. She tried to choke back her laughter but was unsuccessful in stopping a monumental case of the giggles.
Grams reached for Mac's hand, picked it up, and patted it. "That wasn't the last time, either, Sarah. I called to talk to his mother once, he was five, I think, and he answered the phone." She smiled in fond reminisce. "He talked to me for a while, then told me that he had to go take off all his clothes and run around the house." She laughed softly. "The next thing I heard was Trish calling his name and ordering him to get his clothes back on."
Mac chuckled. "So you're going to give me more blackmail material?" she asked.
"Of course, honey. That's what grandmas are for; to spoil their grandchildren and then give the love of their lives a steady stream of blackmail material on them." Grams reached out to steady Harm as they walked up the stairs to the wrap-around porch.
Mac opened the door and held it open for Harm and Grams, while Grams ushered him inside. "Follow me, Sarah," she called with a smile. "I'll show you the room I've put both you and my baby in."
Grams stood on her tiptoes and kissed Harm on the cheek. "I knew that you wouldn't want to be without her, Harmon."
Harm turned bright red. "Thanks, Grams," he muttered.
Mac hid a grin behind her hand and followed him into the ground floor room that Grams had prepared. "Sit down before you fall down, Harm," she ordered, pointing towards the wide bed.
Harm shot her a dirty look, but obeyed when his grandmother reinforced the order.
Grams pushed him down on the bed gently, then unbuttoned and pulled off his Class-A Jacket. "Come on, sweetheart. Let's get you comfortable," she said.
"Grams!" Harm protested. "I can undress myself!"
"Go ahead, Harmon," she said with a smile. "I'll go get lunch." Grams walked out, leaving Harm and Mac alone.
"I hate it when she does that," Harm groused. "She *knows* I hate being called 'baby' and stuff like that."
Mac grinned. "I bet she's doing it on purpose so that you behave."
Harm groaned and finished unbuttoning his shirt. Without being asked, Mac helped him take it off then knelt down to untie his shoe. "Thanks, Mac," he said as he unbuckled his belt.
"Need help to get those over the splints, Harm?" she asked.
He nodded and ducked his hand. "Yeah," he admitted. "I still get dizzy when I bend over that far."
Mac carefully worked his pant leg over his splint and helped him lie down. Wordlessly, she grabbed some throw pillows and propped his leg up before covering him with a blanket. "Better, stickboy?" she asked.
"Thanks, Sarah," he murmured.
Mac climbed in next to him and reached for his hand. "*Much* more comfortable than the hospital," she said teasingly.
Whatever Harm was about to say was interrupted by a massive yawn. Mac reached over and started stroking his hair. "I hate painkillers," he grumbled. "Damn things make me sleepy."
"You need the sleep, Harm." Mac said softly.
"I'll sleep if you'll stay," he bargained.
Mac kissed him on the cheek. "I don't have anywhere I'd rather be," she said.
Harm sighed and inched closer to her. "Good," he said, his eyes starting to close from the medication kicking in. "Want you here to hold me."
Mac lay down beside him and threw her arm across his chest. "For as long as you want me to, squid."
She watched as Harm's eyes closed and he fell asleep. She leaned over and kissed him again. With both herself and Grandma Sarah, she was sure that they could get Harm back to a semblance of his old self in no time.
10 February 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Little AJ clapped pillows to his ears as the baby started screaming... again. Uncle Admiral AJ had given his daddy the day off, and predictably, he was spending it with the *baby*. He grimaced in disgust. Babies were icky. All they ever did was eat, poop, and cry, but grown-ups still thought that babies were *wonderful*. He didn't see what they were good for.
"Shut up, *baby*," he yelled, throwing his pillows on the floor. Little AJ marched out of his room and headed over to the baby's room. His daddy was asleep in the chair next to the baby's bed, and Jimmy was screaming as usual. "Why can't you be good?" he asked.
Little AJ dragged over a step-stool, climbed on it, and picked Jimmy up. "Stop crying, *baby*," he said, clutching Jimmy tightly as he climbed down from the stool.
Jimmy kept screaming and his little face started to turn as red as a tomato.
Little AJ held Jimmy out in front of him and glared at the small face. "Shut up!" He wrapped his arm around the baby and turned him upside down. He didn't want to *hurt* the dumb baby; the kid *was* his brother. Bobby had said that his baby sister stopped crying when she got turned upside down when *his* daddy was playing with her, so maybe it would make Jimmy stop.
"You're a dumb baby, and you need to *stop* crying. You're noisy and I don't like you much." Little AJ turned his brother right side up.
Jimmy stuffed his tiny fist into his mouth and hiccupped. He regarded Little AJ for a moment, then started howling again. At the sound of Jimmy beginning his wailing anew, Bud woke up. He grabbed the baby from Little AJ and held him tight. "AJ! You know better than to try and pick him up by yourself; he could have gotten hurt!" Bud scolded.
"Dumb baby," Little AJ said. "He never stops crying. I hate him."
"AJ! That's enough. Go to your room, and we'll talk about this later." Bud freed one hand and shooed the child out of the room.
"They don't love me," Little AJ stuck his lip out in a pout. "They just love Jimmy." He shuffled down the hall and went into his room. "Maybe if I went away, *then* they'd love me again."
Little AJ bit his bottom lip and reminded himself that big boys didn't cry. Grandpa Roberts said so. He went over to his closet and pulled out the suitcase he used to visit Grandma and Grandpa Sims. He opened it and stuck some clothes and the toy F-14 that his Uncle Harm had given him inside.
"Uncle Harm and Aunt Mac love me," he said softly. "I can go find them in Penn-pennsylvania." He pulled on his jacket, zipped up the small suitcase, picked it up, and sneaked out of his room. Carefully, he looked around and left the house. Outside were adventure and a journey to people who loved him. He was sure that Uncle Harm's farm couldn't be too far away. After all, Aunt Mac had been going to drive them there.
And if she could drive them there, then he could surely walk and find them. Little AJ started down the block in the direction that his mom usually used to drive to work. Eventually, he'd find it. Besides, there was a creek down this way. Maybe he wouldn't go to Penn-pennslyvania after all. Maybe he'd just go live at the creek.
A smile passed over his face. There were *frogs* in the creek. Frogs and some minnows. A boy could have a lot of fun playing there. Especially when there wasn't anybody at home to yell when he messed up his clothes.
Little AJ sped up and hurried to the creek. He'd stay there until he figured out which direction the farm was. After a few minutes of hard walking, he reached the creek. He grinned as he sat down and pulled off his shoes and socks. He shivered briefly as his feet hit the cold, slippery mud and laughed when it squished between his toes.
Little AJ picked up his stuff, got into the creek and waded across. The water was freezing, but he figured that it would warm up soon. There were woods on the other side to hide in, and he was sure that they'd never find him. As far as he was concerned, that was good, because he never wanted to see that stupid baby again.
"In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost."
--Dante Alighieri (1265 - 1321), "The Divine Comedy"
10 February 2004
Harm glanced back up at the house before using his crutches to get away as fast as he could. He was sick of them *hovering* over him. He was a grown man and he could take care of himself, dammit! He hurried to the far side of the farmyard, making for the swing that had been hanging under his favorite tree for as long as he could remember.
He stumbled a little on the high roots, but managed to steady himself while he brushed the snow away, and then levered himself into the swing and propped his crutches within easy reach of it. Harm briefly considered climbing the old tree, but there weren't any leaves to hide behind and it'd make his broken bones hurt too much.
He sighed and stuffed his hands into his coat pockets. It was a nice idea, but in his current condition, it just wasn't feasible. Besides, the way Mac had been protecting him, she'd probably overreact and call the fire department out to get him down.
Harm hated the way she treated him now. It was as if she thought he'd break if she looked at him wrong. Mac kept assuring him that she wouldn't ever leave, and he didnt need it. In fact, it was getting on his nerves. He loved her. Heaven knew that he'd tried not to, but it was an irrevocable fact. The only problem was, she was driving him up the wall.
So what if he still had nightmares about Colombia? He'd dealt with his Paraguay-induced nightmares by himself, and he could damn well deal with the memories of Colombia alone, too. That was just life. Harm figured if you didn't get kicked in the teeth every once in a while, then something had to be wrong.
He used his good foot to start the swing in motion. The fact that his grandmother had been subtly and not-so-subtly pushing them together hadn't helped, either. She'd dropped the sweetness-and-light routine to start behaving like herself, but he could see that she was angling for a great-grandchild. Maybe it would have been better if he'd gone home to California.
Then again, his mom had been saying for years that he ought to marry Mac. She'd probably be worse than Grams. Harm looked up when he heard the crunch of footsteps coming towards him. "Mac," he said with a tight nod.
"Harm, it's freezing out here," Mac said, rubbing her hands together. "Come inside before you get sick."
"Go away, Mac," Harm said. "I'm *fine*, and I don't need you hovering over me like I'm an invalid or something."
"Harm," Mac began.
"What part of 'leave me alone' do you not understand, Marine? I handled my ramp strike, China, my crash into the Atlantic, and a whole lot of other crap by myself. Hell, I even handled Paraguay and you telling me that we were through before we ever really got started alone. I can handle this." Harm started making the swing go faster.
"I just want to help, Harm. I worry about you," Mac said softly.
"You don't have to," he said curtly. "I'm a big boy. I don't need anybody to take care of me." Harm felt a twinge of guilt as Mac drew back, hurt. She probably was still hanging around because she felt guilty, anyway. It wasn't like she'd still be there for him after he was healed, anyway. She'd leave, too. They all left. It was the one constant in his life; he had only himself to rely on.
"If you feel that way, I'll go, but I'm sending Grams out to get you," she snapped. "I *won't* leave you out here to freeze!"
"Fine," he said. "Send her; I don't care."
"If you come back in, you can sit in front of the fire in the living room; both Grams and I will leave you alone," Mac promised.
"All right," Harm capitulated with a scowl. He grabbed his crutches and started to make his way through the snow up to the house. Sooner or later, Mac would leave, and he'd rather that it be on his terms. Nobody ever wanted to hang around him for long.
10 February 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Harriet dropped the phone into its cradle and ran towards the Admiral's office. She nodded to Jen and burst through the door. "Sir, I'm got to secure immediately; Little AJ is missing!"
AJ shoved his chair back and grabbed his coat. "Where was he last seen?" he asked as he pulled it on and reached for his cover.
"Sir, you don't have to come with me," Harriet said, then turned and hurried towards the door.
"That's my namesake that's missing, Lieutenant, of course I do." AJ followed her out the door. "Hold my calls and reschedule my appointments, Petty Officer," he ordered.
Barely registering Coates' answer, AJ followed Harriet out to the parking lot and motioned for her to get into his car. The silent ride to the Roberts's house seemed as if it took forever.
It was Harriet who spoke first. "Thank you, sir," she said finally.
"Don't mention it, Lieutenant. We just have to find Little AJ. Now *where*, exactly, was he last seen?" AJ turned into the driveway and cut the engine.
"Bud sent him to his room, sir, because he'd picked up the baby, and it looked like he was going to drop him." Harriet slid out of the car and slammed the door shut.
"Then you go talk to Bud, and I'll start checking the neighborhood," AJ ordered. "Is there anyplace he likes to go?"
Harriet paused from her flight up to the house. "Yes sir; his favorite place is the creek at the end of the block." She pointed out the direction and started running towards the door.
AJ nodded. "I'll check there first." He turned and hurried down the street in the right direction. If anything happened to that child, he knew that Harriet and Bud would never forgive themselves.
AJ reached the end of the block, closed his eyes, and listened hard for the sound of running water. Hearing it, he set off into the woods and crossed the creek. He smiled as he caught sight of small footprints on the muddy ground and started following them farther into the woods.
He followed the footprints for a little while, then found the other trail that Little AJ had left in his wake. It wasn't hard to follow the freshly-broken branches that the child had left behind him, and it wasn't long before he found Little AJ curled up in a nest of leaves, fast asleep.
AJ picked the boy up and made his way out of the woods and back up the block. Just as he reached the driveway, Bud and Harriet met him coming the other way. "Admiral, thank goodness you've found him!" Harriet said.
Little AJ chose that moment to wake up. "Am I in Penn-penn-Pennsylvania yet?" he asked sleepily.
Bud reached out and took him from the Admiral. "Thank you, sir," he said softly before turning his attention to his son. "AJ, why did you run away?" he demanded.
"Because you love the dumb baby more'n you love me," Little AJ said with a pout.
"No we don't, sweetie," Harriet said.
"Then how come you never pay 'tention to me no more?" Little AJ asked.
"I'll leave the two of you to it," AJ said. He looked at the child sternly. "You are not to run away again, sailor. And that's an order."
Little AJ stuck his lip out farther. "I wanna go see Uncle Harm and Aunt Mac. They love me. I runned away to go see them, and I'll do it again."
AJ crossed his arms over his chest. "No, you won't, sailor. If you did that, you'd be disobeying a direct order, and then you'd get into big trouble."
Little AJ thought for a minute. "That would mean no TV?" he asked.
"Worse," AJ said, biting back a smile.
Little AJ slumped against Bud's chest. "Okay. I won't run away no more. But I still wanna see Aunt Mac and Uncle Harm, 'cause they still love me. Mommy and Daddy don't."
"I think that this is something the two of you have to work out with him. Harriet, you can have the rest of the day, and I'll see you both bright and early tomorrow." AJ gave the trio a sharp nod and headed back towards his car. "I'll get Coates to bring your car by, Harriet."
"Don't worry about it, sir. I'll go in with Bud," Harriet said.
AJ acknowledged her with a wave of his hand, climbed in his car, and drove off.
"We'll always love you, AJ," Bud said. "But right now, you're in trouble for running off like that."
"We were worried sick!" Harriet picked little AJ up and walked towards the house, Bud following behind her.
"We're going to have to have a talk about running away, and I think that you won't be able to go to visit Uncle Harm after all." Bud said.
"But I WANNA see Uncle Harm," Little AJ exclaimed.
"Tough, kiddo," Harriet said. "We were going to let you, but that was before you ran away. Now, I'm taking you upstairs and giving you a bath because you're filthy."
Tears began to stream down Little AJ's face. "NofairnofairnofairNOFAIR!" he yelled.
"Yes it is, AJ," Bud said. "You can yell and cry all you like, but that won't change the fact that you're staying home. You ran away; it's the consequence of what you did wrong."
Little AJ's screaming grew exponentially with each minute that passed. Harriet and Bud hurried into the house, closed the door, and headed upstairs. "AJ, it looks like you're going straight to bed after your bath," Harriet set him down outside the bathroom and started stripping off his muddy clothes.
AJ continued to scream, balled up his fists, and stamped his feet. But went into the bathroom and turned on the water. "I think that's a good idea, sweetheart." Before he could say anything more, the baby started crying, adding to the general din.
Harriet and Bud exchanged a look. It was going to be one of those nights when a bottle of Tylenol was their best friend.
10 February 2004
Webb sat as his desk and started searching through yet another database for a sign of Sadik's organization. He hadn't come up with much so far, and he was under orders to keep looking until they found something. He sighed. If he'd known beforehand that his time with Jack would be the last mission he'd ever go on, he might've tried harder.
Scuttlebutt had it that if he survived the last encounter with Sadik's remaining goons, he'd be flying a desk for the rest of his career. Maybe it was time to get out. Perhaps he should start to consider settling down; he could start courting Mac seriously, Jack be damned.
Sure, Rabb loved her, but he'd waited too long. Mac had been dating him, not Harmon Rabb, Jr. She was worth a few broken noses. He jerked out of his reverie as intercom buzzed.
"What is it, Laurie?"
"Colonel Mackenzie's on line one, sir."
"Thanks, I've got it." Webb picked up the phone and pressed the blinking button. "Hey, Mac!"
"Hi, Webb. I know I should probably do this in person, but you've been so hard to catch lately--"
"Mac, what's wrong? Please, Sarah, don't do anything rash "
"This isn't rash, Webb. We're not working. We haven't really been for a long time, and I think it's time we stopped kidding ourselves."
"Sarah, what are you saying? I love you."
"Webb, stop. We're over. I'm not sure we really ever started."
"I'm sorry, Webb. I think this is the best thing for both of us, but I'd still like to be friends."
Stunned, Webb dropped the phone back into its cradle and buried his face in his hands. He pressed the intercom button. "Hold my calls unless it's an emergency, Laurie. I need some time."
Maybe Jack was right; he needed to find a nice schoolteacher to raise more little Webbs with. Military types obviously weren't working.
Missing the Mark
"Maybe there's a God above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
And it's not a cry you can hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
--Rufus Wainwright "Broken Hallelujah"
15 February 2004
Grandma Sarah sat down in her squashy armchair and watched her grandson play his guitar. He'd been ignoring her and Mac for three days and he'd only spoken when one of them asked him a direct question. Physically, he was better; his cuts had almost healed and his bones were knitting nicely. Conversely, his nightmares had gotten worse until he was barely sleeping.
"Harm," she murmured, "please play something a little more cheerful, sweetie?"
Harm looked at her, glared, shook his head and turned his attention back towards his guitar.
Grandma Sarah sighed, closed her eyes, and leaned back against the back of the armchair. She knew that she couldn't stop him, and the honey-darling-sweetheart routine wasn't working, either. "Harm," she tried again. "Won't you talk to me? You were like this after your ramp strike and after you got back from Vietnam, and you know it'll help if you talk, Harmon."
"I don't want to, Grandma," he said gruffly. "If I talk, it'll be real." Harm strummed the guitar lightly. "And if Sarah knows, she'll leave just like everybody else."
Mac walked into the room, drying her wet hands on a dishtowel. "If I know what, Harm?" she asked quietly.
Grandma Sarah, sensing a fight brewing, stood up and headed towards the kitchen. "I'll just be out back gathering eggs if you two need me," she called.
"If I know *what*, Harm?" Mac repeated.
Harm shook his head, clutched the guitar closer to his torso, and strummed a chord.
Mac laid her hand on his to stop motion. "I've been being patient, Harmon, and you haven't told me a damn thing. You're using that guitar as a shield, and it's about time you *said* something."
Harm put the guitar down on the couch beside him, grabbed his crutches, stood up and moved away from her. "What do you want me to say, *Sarah*?" he asked harshly. "If I remember correctly, you already *know* what happened to me, because you were questioning me when I was still drugged."
"You can't escape that easily, Harmon Rabb." Mac put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "Get your *ass* over here and sit down, sailor. It's obvious that I've been being nice for *way* too long."
Harm scowled and didn't make an effort to move. "If you feel that way, *Sarah*, get the hell out of here and leave me alone!"
Mac crossed her arms over her chest. "Get your ass in the chair or I'll throw it in, *now*," she scowled and used her best DI voice.
Grudgingly, Harm stumped over and lowered himself into the armchair. "You're only here because you feel sorry for me," he said with a frown. "You're gonna leave anyway, so you might as well do it now."
"What makes you think *that*?" Mac asked as she strode over and threw herself on the chair next to his.
"Everybody leaves when they find out how screwed up I am," he said finally.
"I promised I wouldn't. Remember, *Harmon*? Why have you suddenly decided that my word is no good?" Mac arched an eyebrow and glared at him again as he attempted to get up. She stood, took his crutches and put them out of his reach before resuming her seat.
Harm made a fist and slammed it down on the arm of the chair. "I don't want to talk about it, *damnit*! Especially not with *you*."
"Talk, *Harmlet*," she demanded, crossing her arms over her chest. "I want to know why you're shutting me out. I sleep in the same bed, remember? I *know* that you're not sleeping, and I know about your nightmares. Spill it, sailor."
"Why did you say never, Sarah?" he asked quietly. "Our five year deal was almost up, and then I would've asked you for forever."
Mac took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "I didn't mean it, Harm. I was a wreck in Paraguay, and it took a good friend of ours to point out how much I hurt you." She opened her eyed and looked at him. "I'm sorry, now *please* get your head out of your six and tell me what the hell is wrong? Why do you think that I'd break a promise to you?"
"Because promises never matter," he mumbled. "Everybody leaves. My father left. My mom left. Diane left. Renee, Annie, and Jordan left. They all promised that they wouldn't, but they did, anyway." Harm turned away. "You've left before, too. You left with Mic, and then with Webb."
"And you left to fly," Mac countered. "We've both left, Harm. And we've both come back. This time, you're stuck with me for good, flyboy. I'm not leaving and if you don't like it, tough."
Harm was silent for a few minutes as he traced a pattern on the fabric of the chair with one finger. "Okay," he said finally. "I'm sorry."
Mac got up, walked over, and gave him a hug. "I'm here, Harm. I'm not leaving you. In fact, if I have it my way, I'll be dragging you down the aisle as soon as you're better."
Harm didn't answer. Instead, he pulled her into his lap and hugged her tightly. For the first time in days, he felt safe again. He felt whole.
"I'm taking you back to the counselor," Mac murmured.
Harm simply nodded. He didn't like going to see a shrink, but he guessed that he'd have to if he wanted to keep his Sarah. He smiled at her as she leaned down to kiss him. As her lips brushed his, he closed his eyes and thought that he'd finally found heaven.
15 February 2004
Porter Webb's House
Great Falls, Virginia
Webb lounged in the deckchair next to his mother's indoor pool and sulked. He'd found out through his contacts that Jack and Beth were being sent to round up the rest of Sadik's thugs, and he was stuck behind a desk. Kershaw had even informed him that he was being taken off field op status permanently.
Webb sighed, picked up the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels beside him and took a healthy swig. The whiskey burned as it went down his throat and warmed his stomach for a few minutes. Sure, he knew that drinking himself senseless wasn't a real solution, but it was better than the cold, empty feeling he'd had ever since being handed over to Jack for more training.
He tipped back the bottle and drank more as he thought about the reason he'd been retrained in the first place. Sarah and Rabb. It was *their* fault. He should've taken a trained operative along to Paraguay instead of the beautiful Marine. Instead, he'd let his hormones pick, and he'd ended up all but thrown out on his ass. He stared moodily into the pool and then drank another swallow.
If Harm hadn't come after them, everything still would've worked out. Maybe without Harmon "Superman" Rabb around, Sarah would have married *him*. Webb sneered elegantly at the bottle, took a slug, and wished that Harm hadn't survived his little adventure in Colombia. Without that boy scout around, he would've had a chance.
Maybe Sarah would be kish-kishng him instead of that pilot of hers. Maybe if that sap hadn't come after them, he wouldn't be flyn' a desk. Webb upended the bottle and drank the last of the whisky. It had gone faster than it should have. He reached out and picked up another bottle with an unsteady hand.
Webb unscrewed the top and cursed as some of his precious elixir splashed on his bare chest. It was only is thid bottle, damnit. So what if he hadn't bothered to eat and he'd been drinking the day before, too? He grumbled under his breath as he wiped ineffectually at the spilled liquor on his torso.
Webb gave up momentarily in favor of putting the bottle neck to his lips and taking a long pull. He came up for air and smiled as he noticed that it was still three-fourths full. He drank from it again before he set it on the table next to him--or tried to. He missed the table and dropped the bottle instead. It broke on the rough cement surface, sending glass shards and whiskey all over.
"Damn," he muttered as he pushed himself unsteadily out of the chair. "It was my last bottle." He shrugged fatalistically. He could always get his mother's butler to get him more. He glanced down at himself and wrinkled his nose in disgust. He *had* to get the smell of whiskey off his skin.
Webb smiled as he saw the pool. Perfect. Now if only the room would stop moving, he could make it over there. He swayed on his feet and wobbled and weaved his way over to the edge of the pool. He jumped in quickly, not noticing that he was standing next to the shallow end of the pool.
Webb hit the water with a monumental splash, which was a far cry from his usual neat entry. He lost track of where he was in the water and cracked his head on the bottom, knocking himself unconscious. With a quiet ripple, he bobbed to the surface, his face down in the water and blood streaming from a lump on his temple.
Unfortunately, his mother was out of town, so he wasn't found until the poolman came to clean out the pool the next day. At least he'd died in country so that they had a body to bury.
15 February 2004
International Criminal Court
The Hague, Netherlands
Sturgis shifted slightly in his chair. It had been a long few weeks, and the court battle hadn't been easy. Especially with Captain Krennick as lead council. Sure, she was a good lawyer, but he'd heard rumors about what she'd tried to do to Harm. Who hadn't? It wasn't exactly like she'd been discreet about the way she'd propositioned his old friend.
The Navy could be like a small town sometimes, and with situations like the one she'd created for Harm, word spread. All of the guys knew to keep their distance and lie low when she was around. That is, unless they *wanted* what she was offering; a one-way ticket out of the service.
He tried to focus on what the head judge was saying, but his recalcitrant mind insisted on ducking out and thinking about the last time he'd seen his friend. It was great that Harm had gotten an early promotion, but Sturgis knew it meant a transfer out of HQ, and Harm hadn't looked like he was in good shape for that.
Sturgis hoped that Mac would be able to help; if anybody deserved happiness, those two did. He yanked his mind back to the task at hand as the judge uttered the words they'd been both waiting for and dreading. "Will the defendant stand please?"
The four of them stood up and awaited the verdict.
"This court finds the Secretary of the Navy of the United States not guilty of all charges. However, considerable damage *was* done to the town, and the hospital was destroyed. This court finds that reparations in the amount of six million dollars must be paid to the town of Tikifa to rebuild their hospital and recompense them for the civilian deaths. This court is dismissed." The head judge banged his gavel on the desk.
"Thank you, Captain Krennick, Commander Turner, and Major Pierce. I see my faith in the three of you was justified." Sheffield smiled and held out his hand to each of them in turn to shake.
"Just doing our duty, sir," Sturgis said, not sure if he wanted to shake the man's hand. There was something oily about the SecNav that rubbed him the wrong way. At least they'd survived the case, and tomorrow, he and Major Pierce would be on their way back home.
He looked over at the major and smiled slightly. She seemed to be in awe of their client; if she stayed in JAG, he had a feeling that she'd get over it quickly. Sturgis felt a headache building, so he pinched the bridge of his nose before he picked up his cover and his briefcase.
"Pleasure working with you, Captain," he said pleasantly and gave the blonde-haired woman a nod.
"Likewise. How's Commander Rabb doing these days, anyway? Is he married yet?" she asked with a lecherous smile.
"He's fine, ma'am. After he recovers from some injuries, he'll be getting his own command," Sturgis offered. "He's also engaged to a Marine."
Krennick picked up her purse, cover, and briefcase before answering. "I didn't think Marines were his type," she said. "His loss." She smiled at Sturgis before turning and walking out the door.
Sturgis let out the breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding and turned to Major Pierce. "Let's get the hell out of here and get home, Major."
"Aye sir," she said respectfully and the two of them left.
"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good and that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything. That power and money mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil and I want you to remember this, that love ... true love never dies."
16 February 2004
Jack took the safety off of his weapon and nodded towards his group. They'd managed to insert an agent on the inside ages ago; it turned out that Van Dyne was good for more than his knowledge of diamonds. With a grunt of effort, they broke open the door and swarmed the group of terrorists inside.
Within minutes, all of the terrorists had been rounded up, cuffed, and made ready to haul off to prison. Jack knew that his current bosses wouldn't have minded if they'd simply eliminated the threats, but he didn't like the idea of mass murder, no matter how guilty the victims were.
"Is that all of them, Beth?" he called, trying to make sure.
"That's the last of 'em, Jack," Beth answered as she helped herd the stragglers out of the building. "So, I guess that means that we can get the hell out of here?"
"Yeah. Have you heard from Harm or Mac lately?" he asked.
"Mac says that he's getting better," she responded with a grin. "I threatened her into keeping me updated."
Jack rolled his eyes. "I'm betting she's doing it because she wants to. She's a Marine, Beth. She could probably break you in half without breaking a sweat."
"Sorry, *Gunny*," Beth said. She poked him in the ribs teasingly. "I forgot that you *were* a Marine."
"No such thing as an ex-Marine, *Commander*," he said with a half smile. "Just my luck," he grumbled good-naturedly. "I get stuck with a ex-squid flygirl as a partner for my last month before retirement."
Beth smirked at him. "Tell you what. You stop digging me about my checkered past, and I won't go talking to old friends of yours to get non-classified dirt to tell your son."
"And just how are you going to find these old friends of mine, Beth?" he asked.
"I'm a spook, remember? I know guys who can find out *anything* for me." Beth walked quickly towards the car.
"Yeah, well I've been a spook longer than you, and I can blackmail them into not talking," he called as he hurried to catch up.
"If I don't get to them first!" was her response.
Jack shook his head and chuckled softly. He'd almost miss Webb; he could tell that Beth would keep him on his toes.
16 March 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Harm fingered the velvet box in his pocket as he struggled to catch up to Mac. He was mostly healed, but after so long without real exercise, he still needed to rebuild his endurance. "Mac, wait up," he called.
Mac turned around and smiled at him. "Hurry up, squid," she called. "The Admiral is waiting for us."
"Maac," he protested. "We're ten minutes early! With that internal clock of yours, we can't really be late."
"If you don't hurry we can be," she retorted. "We have seven minutes and fifty-six seconds to get up there."
Harm finally caught up to her. "Are you *ever* gonna tell me how you do that?"
Mac laughed and put her hand on his shoulder. "A girl's gotta keep *some* secrets, flyboy."
Harm groaned, shook his head, and followed her inside. The ride in the elevator was spent in a companionable silence. They'd had fights in the past month, but the time spent together had only served to bring them closer together. For the first time in what seemed years, they were comfortable around each other, and content with each other's company.
He touched the box in his pocket again and smiled. He knew how she felt about him, and it was well past time for him to do something about it. He couldn't help but think that if he'd been smarter, he would've done it years ago. Before the doors could open, a sudden impulse hit him to get it over with. "Mac," he began. "You know how I feel about you, right?"
The door opened before she could answer. "Not here, Harm," she murmured. "Later, okay?"
Harm choked back a groan. "All right," he said, disappointed.
The duo hurried towards the Admiral's office. "Colonel, Captain," Coates said with a smile. "The Admiral has been waiting, so you can go on in."
"Thanks, Jen," Harm said with a smile. They went in and came to attention in front of AJ's desk.
"Mackenzie and Rabb reporting as ordered, *sir*," Mac said.
"At ease. Take a seat, Colonel, Captain." AJ said, gesturing towards the armchairs in front of his desk.
He waited until they'd settled into the chairs. "So Captain, before I give you your options, are there any plans to... formalize things between you and my chief of staff?"
"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Harm asked before Mac could say anything.
Harm slid out of his chair, onto one knee, and pulled the box out of his pocket. He opened the box, pulled out a ring, and reached for her hand. "You know how I feel about you, Mac," he said. "And I'm pretty sure that I know how you feel about me. Sarah, I never want to be without you again. Marry me?"
"Harm!" Mac hissed. "Why here? Why now?"
"I did ask him, Colonel," AJ said blandly. "Now what's your answer?"
"C'mon, Sarah. I figured that the only way to keep either one of us from running was to have a witness; who better than the Judge Advocate General of the whole damn Navy?"
"Damn straight," AJ muttered. "Answer the man, Colonel. That's an order."
Mac took a deep breath. "Yes," she answered finally.
A full-blown flyboy smile spread over Harm's face as he slid the sparkling engagement ring on her finger then got up.
AJ leaned back in his chair. "Go ahead and kiss her Captain. Just this once, you have my permission to do it in uniform inside JAG, but don't let me catch you doing it again."
Harm's grin got wider. "Aye, sir," he answered, then bent down to kiss her. Because of their location, Harm deliberately kept the kiss short and sweet. He broke off the kiss and then sat back down.
Mac looked at him, smiled, then turned to face the Admiral. "Sir, I believe you said that you were working on some options for us?"
AJ rested his elbows on his desk and leaned forward. "Originally I'd planned on sending one of you over to the judiciary and having you assigned TAD back to JAG when they didn't have enough for you to do, but your promotion, Harm, put a kink in that plan."
"Sorry, sir," Harm said, his smile still in place.
AJ picked up a list from the top of his desk. "It leaves us with fewer options. First, I could send you to learn to drive a ship, Harm, and keep Mac here as my chief of staff. You spend six months of every year deployed, and it'd be good for your career. Our second option is that I send you to Naples or Pearl, both of which will be needing new commanders soon, Mac goes to the judiciary over there, and the two of you stay together. Both of your careers remain on track, and you'd still be a candidate for this chair someday if you want it. Both of you get more experience this way; you both need it if you're going to stay."
Harm and Mac exchanged a glance. "I don't like the thought of you not being here for six months at a time, Harm," Mac said slowly.
Harm nodded. "When we have kids that would get old real fast," he said. "Sir, option two sounds good."
"Good," AJ said with a nod. "Coates has some work for you; new cases for you, Mac, and some Freedom of Information Act requests for you, Harm."
Harm and Mac stood up and came to attention. "Thank you, sir," Mac said.
"Harm, I talked to your doctor, and he told me that you still need to take it easy and build up your strength. Next week, I'll let you work on some cases until your transfer goes through. You'll be in Sturgis's old office for now since you're not going to be here with us much longer. Don't forget your follow-up doctor's appointment this afternoon, and I expect a wedding invitation from both of you. Dismissed."
They left together and gathered their files from Coates. "Think the Admiral'll let us leave early?" Harm asked.
"I doubt it," Mac said with a smile. "But we can try."
"Meet me for lunch?"
"Sure. As long as you're buying."
Harm laughed and headed towards his office. Suddenly, the morning didn't look like it would be so bad after all.
16 March 2004
North of Union Station
Harm leaned back against the couch and watched Mac through half-lidded eyes. She was concentrating on her newest case and wasn't really paying much attention to him. "You're beautiful, Sarah. You know that, right?"
"Uh huh," she answered absently.
"The doctor gave me a clean bill of health this afternoon," he tried again.
"That's good," she said, still not paying much attention.
"When I was still pulling sea duty, I saw a two-headed duck with two pairs of legs. One set was on its back, and the other where it was supposed to be."
"That's nice, Harm," she answered.
He studied her and decided that if he wanted anything more than "that's nice," he'd have to take matters in his own hands. He sat up, pulled her to him, and kissed her. Carefully he coaxed her mouth open and slipped his tongue inside to explore. It was a kiss that was completely opposite of the one in the Admiral's office, and what he'd wanted to give her earlier that day.
Mac dropped the file she was holding on the coffee table and wound her arms around his neck. After several seconds, they broke off the kiss. "What was that for?" she asked, breathless.
"Have I mentioned lately that I love you?" he asked, his eyes twinkling mischievously.
"Oh, not in the past eight hours or so," she said with a smile.
"Well I do," he said. "And I was just thinking that after all we've been through to get here, we deserve a... celebration."
"Hm. Well, we could go out and get some... dessert," she said. "Or, we could make our own now that you're feeling better."
Harm's eyes darkened. "I think I like the thought about making our own," he said huskily.
Mac leaned in and kissed him. "Works for me," she said in between kisses.
Harm stood up and headed towards the bedroom, exchanging kisses all the way. For years, he'd searched for someone to love and a place to call home. Funny that it'd been right in front of him all along.