Disclaimer: If you think they're mine, you're sadly
mistaken. I borrowed them, hugged them, squeezed them, and called
them George and then gave them back like a good girl. Seriously, Harm,
Mac, and the TV series JAG belong to Donald P. Bellisario, Belisaurius
Productions, Paramount Pictures, and Columbia Broadcasting Service
Author’s Note: Okay, so maybe I’m crazy. But the law in North
Carolina really does exist, and I wanted to throw a monkey wrench in
the context of Season Ten at Harm and Mac. So far, this takes
into account all episodes up to season ten’s One Big Boat, but may or
may not contain spoilers except for the facts that Mattie isn’t living
with Harm anymore and General Cresswell is the new CO. Also takes into
account spoilers about Cresswell, since we really don't know him
well. Bonus points to whoever can spot where the title of Chapter
1 came from. This story is meant to fit in the season ten timeline between One Big Boat and Camp Delta.
What Bwings Us Togewer
"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended
up where I intended to be."
Three years ago…
18 DECEMBER 2001
COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT
RALIEGH, NORTH CAROLINA
Harm and Mac came in the door with a blur of snow flurries.
They’d left Washington earlier that day to investigate charges of
misconduct at Camp Lejeune, but had been stopped by a freak
snowstorm. So far, it looked like they’d be trapped overnight.
Harm hit the bell on the counter, which brought out the night
clerk. “Two rooms, please?” He requested with a smile.
“I’d like to do that, sir, but we’ve only got one room left,” the clerk
said, checking the register.
Mac shivered. “We’ll take it,” she said, handing over her credit
card. Harm looked at her, surprised. “Harm, all the other
hotels and motels in town are filled up; we shared in Russia, and we
can share here.”
“Didn’t they think that we were a couple in Russia?” Harm asked, giving
her a taste of his flyboy grin.
Mac nodded, smiling. “Guess we can’t completely start over...”
She grabbed the register and signed them in.
“We’ve got a lot of history,” Harm agreed.
“You’re my best friend, Harm; sharing quarters with you isn’t really a
hardship.” Mac turned towards him and smiled softly.
Harm reached out and caught her hand. “I’ll always be your
friend, Mac.” He clasped it loosely, enjoying the way her small
fingers felt in his. “After all this time, I’m not sure what I’d
do without you.”
Mac gave him one of her blinding smiles. “Ditto, sailor.”
The night clerk interrupted them. “Room 501,” he said, handing
Harm the key.
Harm accepted it and turned to walk towards the stairs, tugging Mac
with him. “I guess we’re stuck here for the night. I’ll
call the Admiral as soon as we get upstairs; I think that the regular
phones are more likely to work than my cell is right now.”
“Harm?” Mac asked.
“Did we just have a Hallmark moment?”
“As close as we ever get,” Harm said with a laugh.
“I thought so.” Mac stopped for a minute, and then pulled him
down to place a soft kiss on his cheek. They started going again
and headed for their room, hoping that the snowstorm would clear up in
The night clerk turned the register around, fingered the wad of cash in
his pocket and smiled. He was being paid well to do this by an old
friend. It only took a few minutes to make the changes, and who
did it hurt, anyway? They looked like a good couple, they looked
like they were in love, and they were sharing a room, after
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
General Cresswell slit open the envelope that had been delivered by
courier a few minutes earlier and pulled out the papers. It only
took a few moments to scan them and find out what they were
about. He picked up the envelope, intending to slide them back
inside before he sent his yeomen after the offending officers, but it
was still heavy, and something was sliding around inside. He
upended it and photographs of his chief of staff slid out. One
eyebrow rose as he looked over the pictures. He hit the intercom
button. "Petty Officer Coates, please tell Lt. Colonel Mackenzie
and Commander Rabb to come and see me."
"Yes, sir!" was the response.
Minutes later, there was a knock on his door. "Come in," he
called, trying to remain calm.
The two senior attorneys came to attention in front of his desk.
"Commander Rabb and Lt. Colonel Mackenzie reporting as ordered, sir,"
"Stand at ease," Cresswell said in a deceptively calm voice. He
held out the paperwork he'd pulled out first, which included a North
Carolina Marriage Certificate, dated almost three years back. "Explain
this, please. Permission to speak freely."
Mac reached out and took the paperwork. Her eyes widened when she
saw the names on it. "Sir, I-I-I don't know how this happened…"
Harm took the paperwork and looked it over. "General Cresswell, I
don't know what kind of prank this is, but I am not now, nor have I
ever been married to Colonel Mackenzie; I've never found a woman who'd
put up with me long enough to marry me." Rabb sounded slightly bitter.
Briefly, Cresswell wondered what had happened to put that tone in the
Commander's voice. It sounded as if the man had gotten his heart
broken one too many times. He dismissed it; unless it was
specifically against the UCMJ, as this case was, the Commander's
personal relationships weren't really his business. "So both of
you are denying it?" he asked.
"Yes, we are!" Mac exclaimed. "There's no way I ever married
*him*, nor would I! I think I'd remember it if I did!"
Rabb winced, and Cresswell felt a brief flash of sympathy for
him. "Sir, three years ago we were just getting to be friends
again," he said softly. "Friends is all I've ever been with the
Colonel, and our friendship has been rocky for the majority of the last
"I see. What about these?" Cresswell asked, producing the
Mac looked at them and swallowed visibly. "That's Clayton Webb…
he was my last relationship. We broke it off a month or so ago."
Rabb placed the paperwork down on the desk. Cresswell looked at
it for a few minutes, weighing his options. Perhaps he should
talk to their previous commanding officer and find out if the paperwork
was real before he took action. "You do realize that if this is
legal, you might both be facing disciplinary action? And Colonel
Mackenzie, you also might be facing a court martial for adultery?"
Both officers paled at his words. "Yes, SIR," they answered in
"I'll assign someone to find out if the paperwork is real or an
elaborate fake. Dismissed."
"Aye, aye, sir," they said, then turned and walked out the door.
Cresswell stared at his latest challenge and briefly wondered why he'd
accepted the position of JAG.
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Mac grabbed Harm's arm, yanked him into her office, and shut the
door. "You have done a lot of underhanded things in you life,
Harmon Rabb, but this takes the cake!"
"Me?" Harm looked surprised. "I didn't do anything! I'm
just as shocked as you are!"
"You are the lowest life form ever to crawl the earth. Slime is
higher on the evolutionary scale than you are! If you think that
faking a marriage between us is going to fix the wreck you made of our
relationship, then you've got another thing coming!" Mac walked
behind her desk, leaned forward on it, and glared at him.
Harm looked at her, his face blank. "This isn't my fault, Mac,"
he said quietly.
"And I'm supposed to believe that the great Harmon Rabb doesn't go to
great lengths to get what he wants? Do I look like I fell off the
turnip truck yesterday?" Mac crossed her arms over her
chest. "You, Harmon, are the slimiest, smarmiest, most pathetic
creature I've ever seen. I *will* find out how you did this and
why, and then I will cut your body into tiny pieces just so I can feed
it to the sharks the next time the General sends me TAD to a ship!"
Harm opened the door and gave her a sad look. "When you're ready
to be rational about this, Marine, you know where to find me." He
strode across the bullpen to his new office and shut the door behind
him. He sighed as he flipped the lock closed, walked to his desk
and slumped down in his chair. He supposed he should be grateful
that Sturgis had given him his office back, but it had been easier to
hide in the tiny one, because it was so far away from the bullpen.
Harm allowed himself a few minutes to sit and think about the new
development before reaching for the nearest case file and opening
it. He didn't remember what they'd been doing on December 18,
2001, which was the date listed on the Marriage Certificate, but he'd
look it up soon. In the meantime, he had a case to prepare
for--that is, if the General let him continue with his duty.
Harm's jaw tightened imperceptibly. Mattie was gone and there was
no way in hell he'd let some sort of bureaucratic error take away what
was left of his career, too. He'd just have to investigate
and find out what had happened. He'd always seen himself married
to Mac, just not without his consent. He wanted to actually *ask*
her, dammit! He'd be the first to admit that he had problems
expressing his feelings in words, but Mattie had helped him with it,
and he'd been considering asking Mac out in the near future. Not
anymore. Mac had, once again, proven to him exactly how she felt,
and it wasn't a pretty picture.
At best, he was an acquaintance to be tolerated. At worst, an
enemy to be annihilated. Maybe it was time he gave
up. Maybe it was time for him to make a change and request a
transfer. Mac's current behavior was a far cry from what she had
said the previous week. Perhaps he should just give her what she
claimed not to want and separate himself from her. At least then
he wouldn't be subject to the constant assault that left his heart more
bruised and sore after each confrontation.
Harm shook off his reverie and forced himself to concentrate on the
case in front of him. There would be time to figure it out
later. Besides, he couldn't leave. He had promised Mac that
he'd always be there for her, and he couldn't break that promise.
He didn't have much left in his life; Mattie was gone, his career would
be completely over in a few years, and his time flying fighter jets was
even more limited than that. The way he saw it, the only things
he had left were his honor and his good name. To break his
promise now would destroy them, and would take his self-respect as well.
Six months, he promised himself. He'd give her six months to get
straightened out; then he'd request a transfer to the San Diego
office. He'd like to spend some time with his mom and stepdad
before it was too late; both of them were getting older and wouldn't be
around forever. If there was one thing that Mattie had taught
him, it was to seize every moment you could with the people you loved
because they wouldn't always be there.
The Third Man
"I have said nothing because there is nothing I can say that would
describe how I feel as perfectly as you deserve it."
RET'D ADM. CHEGWIDDEN'S HOUSE
AJ scratched behind Dammit's ears. "You miss her too, don't you,
girl?" he asked. Dammit licked his hand. "Maybe we should move to
Italy to be closer to her," he mused. It had only been a couple
of weeks since Francesca had gone back to her life in Italy, and he
missed her terribly. The summer had been wonderful, but the World
Series was over with, so he was at loose ends.
He'd never been good at liberty--maybe he should try going into
civilian practice for something to do. Then again, the thought of
defending guilty people for money gave him a sick feeling in the pit of
his stomach. "We need something to do, you and I, don't we,
girl?" he asked with a little smile.
Dammit didn't answer--the phone rang instead. Grateful for the
distraction, AJ gave her a final scratch behind the ears before getting
up and going into the house to answer it. "Chegwidden residence,"
he said gruffly.
"Admiral, this is General Cresswell," the voice on the other end of the
"My replacement. How can I help you, sir?" AJ asked. "I'm
sure that you'll like that billet--despite the headaches, they're a
fine group of officers."
"Rabb and Mackenzie," the General said.
"What have they done *now*?" AJ asked his voice broadcasting his
"Apparently this wasn't recent," Cresswell said dryly. "I've just
received documentation that they secretly got married three years ago
December eighteenth. Would you happen to know anything about
AJ stiffened. Sure, he'd grown apart from his JAG family since
Bud's accident, but he knew his former officers well enough to know
that they'd never flagrantly flout fraternization regulations like
that. They were too good of officers, and both of them had too
highly developed senses of honor to do it. "General," he began,
"Rabb and Mackenzie would never do that. Ever. I don't know
where your information came from, but someone obviously has their wires
"I'm having the legalities of the documents checked, but everything
looks right. They were married in Raleigh, North Carolina three
years ago next month," the General said in a calm voice.
AJ's eyes widened as he remembered who Mac had been blatantly seeing
for the past year. "Hell. If they're legal, she was dating
Clayton Webb last year--he works for the Company. Fraternization
will be the least of Colonel Mackenzie's worries if the documents are
"Admiral, you wouldn't happen to remember what they were doing around
that time--why they were in North Carolina alone together?" Cresswell
AJ bit his lip and thought hard. "Letssee... that would've been
right after the JAGathon, so it was probably the misconduct and
harassment case down at Camp Lejeune. I sent them to investigate
the accusations and, as I recall, they got caught in a freak snowstorm
and got snowed in. Those two make a mighty fine team when they're
"That's what I'm afraid of," AJ heard Cresswell mutter.
"General, I assure you that this is some kind of mistake; people have
been trying to get the two of them together for years and never managed
it. Rabb and Mackenzie are about as married as I am."
"I've been reading their files, Admiral," Cresswell said dryly.
"I'm well aware of what they did while under your command.
Hopefully, Mackenzie can be salvaged from all that time spent with
Naval officers; she's a damn fine Marine and it's time she remembered
"Now hold on a cotton pickin' minute here. Rabb may be a loose
cannon, but he's the best man to have at your back. General, both
of them are innocent and it's up to you to prove it! Good *day*!"
AJ slammed down the phone, took a deep breath to calm himself, picked
up the phone and started to dial a number he hadn't used in a long time.
"Harm? This is AJ Chegwidden. I just got a call from your
new CO, and it looks like you're up the creek without a paddle again,
son. Now there was a time when I was a damn good
investigator, and last time I checked I was still a lawyer. I
need something to do and it sounds like you need help--even a retired
old Admiral like me still likes some action now and then. Call me
and I'll help. Son, you've got yourself a lawyer." AJ hung
up the phone, walked over, and petted Dammit absently. Somebody
had to stand up for Harm and the Navy; this time he guessed it'd have
to be him.
Maybe this would help heal the breach that had developed in the past
few years without the boundaries that had existed when he was still the
man's CO. There was a time that Rabb was the son he'd never had
and never wanted… part of him missed that.
FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS
Clark Palmer smiled as he checked the balance on his Swiss Bank
Account. He'd been amassing funds under Harmon Rabb's name for
years; after he finally got his revenge, he could buy his own island
and retire in style--at least until he got bored enough to steal a few
The money was untraceable, and with the boy scout's name on the
account, there was no way for anyone to think it was his. First,
there was revenge. He had to discredit both Harmon Rabb and that
Marine Colonel partner of his. It was easy; he'd set the plan in
motion almost three years ago--all without leaving his cell.
It had the added bonus of ruining both of their careers. If he
were lucky, they'd even been sent to Leavenworth so that he could show
Harmon Rabb *exactly* what he thought of him! They stole his very
profitable business from him, so it was only fair that he take from
them everything that was important to them!
No more patriotic crap for Harmon Rabb and Sarah Mackenzie. No
more flag waving, no more heroism; they'd be branded just as they
really were--lawbreakers just like himself. Too bad he couldn't
get them on treason charges so that they'd be put to death. They
hadn't done anything serious enough to merit that. Palmer smirked
and laced his fingers behind is head.
It had only taken minor meddling to take advantage of an outdated North
Carolina marriage law. He'd even saved them the trouble of filing
the paperwork! The way they acted together was sickening
anyway. And since the changing of their CO, it was the perfect
time for him to act. That was why he'd sent out the proof.
His sources said that they weren't even the least bit grateful.
Oh, the ingratitude! They ought to be thankful to him for what
he'd done. Sure, their careers and lives were over, but he'd
managed to marry them when they'd never even managed to date!
All it had taken was to pay off the night clerk and buy up the other
hotel rooms in Raleigh during that snowstorm; his sources had told him
when they had been ordered to make the trip. The snowstorm had
been lucky; if it hadn't started snowing, he had someone else who
would've arranged an accident to hold them overnight...
Palmer sighed and contemplated ways to dig them deeper into the mire
than they were already. One could never be too careful when
plotting revenge. After all, wasn't the best revenge to not only
live well, but to strip your enemy of everything they loved? It
would only be a matter of time before he managed it...
Mattie set down her math textbook and sighed. It had only been a
few days, but she missed Harm. Not for the first time, she
wondered if she'd done the right thing. She thought back to the
conversation she'd had with Colonel Mackenzie and sighed. Mac was
wrong. She knew it. It didn't take a rocket scientist to
realize that he'd loved Colonel Mackenzie unconditionally for a long
What she'd really taught him was that it was okay to tell somebody how
he felt about them; it had taken a long time for him to tell her, after
all. Her dad would let her visit him on the weekends, but what if
it wasn't enough? What if Mac didn't live up to her promise?
Who would take care of Harm then? Whether he admitted it or not,
Harm needed somebody to take care of him. He got into trouble too
much to not have somebody there for him. Now that she was in
Blacksburg, who would do it? Mattie glanced at the clock, then
picked up the phone. She needed to make sure he was okay.
No matter who she was living with, Harm was her dad, too.
Mattie dialed the familiar number and waited for him to pick up.
"Harm?" she said quietly.
"Mats?" he asked. "What's the matter, sweetheart?"
Mattie didn't like the way he sounded. From his voice alone, it
was if somebody had ripped his heart out and stomped on it. "I
just... missed you. And I wanted to know how you are."
"I'm fine, kiddo," he answered. "There's just some stuff going on
that I have to deal with; grown-up stuff that you don't need to worry
She liked the sound of that even less. "Harm, you know I'm just
gonna worry anyway, so why don't you tell me what's wrong."
"Mattie, you need time to get settled in; you've just moved back to
your old home and your old school. I don't want you worrying
about me when you've got much more important stuff to do."
Mattie bit her lip. Stubborn. He was more stubborn than
anyone she knew--including herself. Telling her not to worry made
her worry more. "Harm, there's not much stuff in my life more
important that you are," she said quietly. "I'll worry anyway
because I love you."
"I know, sweetheart, but you don't have to worry. Promise me you'll
behave and do your best in school? You can always call me for
help with your homework if you need it." Harm's voice still
sounded strained to her.
"I promise," she said, crossing her fingers behind her back.
"Harm, I've got some homework--can I call you later, around bedtime?"
"Sure you can!" he said. "Love you, sweetheart."
"Love you, too, Harm," she answered, then hung up the phone. Harm
was in trouble; she knew it. He wouldn't sound so messed up if he
wasn't. And since she was all he had, it was up to her to find
out what was wrong and be there for him.
She scooted off the bed and hurried downstairs to the living
room. "Dad!" she called.
"What is it, Mattie?" Tom asked, looking up from the TV show he was
"I need to go to Falls Church tomorrow," she said, putting her hands on
"Mathilda Grace Johnson," Tom began, "you are *not* going to the JAG
offices to see Harmon Rabb. You're supposed to be living with me
now, which means that you're not his concern anymore!"
Mattie's eyes flashed fire and she balled her hands into fists.
"Harm was there for me when nobody else was," she said through gritted
teeth. "He's my dad just as much as you are and he *needs*
me. If it weren't for him, I would've ended up as a statistic!
I'm going to JAG Headquarters tomorrow whether you like it or not!"
Mattie stormed out of the living room and up the stairs to her bedroom,
slamming the door behind her. She loved Harm. She trusted
him, and she was willing to bet that she knew him better than
anyone. Pert of her still felt guilty for sneaking looks into his
journal lately, but she *had* to know how he felt.
Mattie flung herself on her bed, picked up a picture of herself and
Harm from the bedside table, and ran her finger over his face.
"I'm coming, Harm," she said, steel still in her voice. "And
whoever danced the Flamenco on your heart is gonna answer to me!" she
Mac stared disgustedly at the case file in front of her, then pushed it
away. She was still angry about what Harm had done. Sure it
tanked his career again, but after leaving for a six-month stint
playing spy, it was pretty much over anyway. One more black mark
wouldn't make much of a difference to him; he'd never get a promotion
to Captain, anyway.
No, it was *her* career that he'd ruined. He was just being petty
and vindictive because he knew how much Cresswell scared her!
He'd sure bided his time for revenge, but he'd finally gotten it.
Once again, she had to clean up his mess and rebuild her life.
A niggling little voice in the back of her head told her that she was
being unfair, but she dismissed it quickly. She'd find out how
and *exactly* why he'd done it and then he'd be sorry. The voice
whispered again how he'd been behaving towards her--how he'd been
trying to take care of her since she told him about her illness, but
she wasn't listening. As usual, Harmon Rabb had somehow managed
to do something to screw up her life.
But he'd never meant to screw up her life before. He'd never
pushed her for anything and she was almost ashamed to admit that he
never really even asked her for help when he needed it. The
request last Christmas had been unusual to say the least.
Usually, it was Harm helping her and catching her when she fell.
And if she looked at the gradual decline in their relationship, it
wasn't *all* his fault. She had contributed as well. Mac
took a deep breath and started tracing patterns on her afghan.
She'd said every nasty, snarky thing that came to mind last year in an
attempt to provoke a reaction, any reaction, from him. She'd been
wrong too. And Harm had tried to apologize. She
hadn't. She didn't even remember the last time she'd apologized
Maybe it was time she turned over a new leaf. Harm had been her
rock and she really wasn't sure what she'd do without him. The
last thing she wanted was to be separated from him--and their best
chance for finding out what happened was to work together. They'd
always been a better team than adversaries.
She'd convicted him without evidence. There wasn't any to say
that Harm *had* done it, and she didn't think she should place complete
blame for their predicament without finding proof. Together, they
might be able to investigate--if the General let them, that is.
Two sets of TAD paperwork had come across her desk that day--Meg Austin
and Kate Pike.
Mac bit her lip. If she didn't want to lose him completely, she
needed to apologize. She hated to do it, but she had a feeling
that it was past time she did. Mac stood up, grabbed her keys and
coat, shoved her feet into slippers and left before she lost her
nerve. Apologizing went against the grain; it's why she hadn't
done it in years. But she couldn't keep hurting him and expect
him to remain her best friend.
Mac hurried downstairs, jumped in her car, and headed to Harm's
apartment. He'd already been hurting because of Mattie leaving,
and she'd kicked him where it hurt. Her eyes started to fill with
tears as she remembered the hurt look on his face when she'd
attacked. She just hoped that it wasn't beyond repair.
Luckily, she hit all the traffic lights just right, and managed to make
it there in record time. She parked the car and hurried
upstairs. Mac knocked on his door and waited impatiently for him
to open it, still trying not to cry.
The door swung open, revealing Harm standing there, wearing old blue
jeans and a faded Annapolis t-shirt. "Mac?" he said
quietly. "Are you okay?"
Mac swallowed, hard, before she answered. "Harm, I'm... sorry for
what I said yesterday. It is too late?" She looked up at him
through large, tear-filled brown eyes. "Are we still friends?"
Harm reached out and pulled her gently inside, then opened his
arms. "C'mere," he murmured.
Mac went into them and laid her ear against his chest, comforted by the
sound of his heartbeat. She rubbed her cheek against the soft
cotton of his shirt, amazed at how it felt. It was as if a
missing piece of herself was back into place. "I'm sorry, Harm,"
"Even when I'm mad as hell at you, I'm still your friend, Ninja Girl."
Harm said, hugging her a bit tighter. "That's never gonna change."
Mac looked up at him, surprised by the use of that old nickname.
She didn't remember the last time he'd used it. They days of
'Ninja Girl' and 'Flyboy' seemed so far away. She wrapped her
arms around him and hugged him back. Maybe they weren't so far
away after all. The two of them stood in silence, each lending
support to the other and becoming stronger in the process.
"The world breaks all of us... but if we are lucky, some of us become
stronger at the broken places."
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Harm hurried into the room, laid his briefcase on the table, and slid
into his seat. He was on time... barely. There'd been
scuttlebutt running around HQ that two new lawyers were coming to
investigate his and Mac's situation. It wouldn't do for him to be
late and make a bad impression; he couldn't afford any more black marks
on his record if he wanted to stay past his twenty.
He looked around the table, and then started in recognition when he
noticed two of his ex-partners sitting on the other side. A huge
grin spread over his face. Meg and Kate were the new
lawyers? It seemed like forever since he'd last seen either of
them; maybe after the investigation, they could spend some time hanging
out and catching up.
He should probably call the Admiral and answer him sometime soon, as
well. He just hadn’t been able to figure out why his old CO was
offering to help. It wasn’t as if they had a good relationship
anymore. Hell, it was all they’d been able to do in the last year
to achieve an uneasy truce.
He wasn’t sure what to say to the man. How could he trust him not
to scuttle whatever was left of his career? AJ *had* told him to
go wrestle alligators and to stop being Peter Pan the year
before. It wasn’t really about forgiveness—-it was about trusting
someone again who’d done some things to him that were
untrustworthy. He just wasn’t sure he could risk that.
Harm tried to catch Meg’s eye, but she avoided his gaze. He
sincerely hoped that they’d get to the bottom of what had happened so
that he could get on with what was left of his life. Mattie
hadn’t been gone long, but he missed her horribly. She still
lived in a corner of his heart, and he knew that she’d always be his
little girl there.
While the baby deal was now forever cancelled, he was thankful that Mac
would at least let him be friends; he didn’t think that he could
survive without her at least there for him somehow. She’d twitted
him about the missed phone calls in the past year, but what she didn’t
know was how many times he’d replayed them—and how he didn’t answer for
fear she’d tell him that she and Webb were getting married or something
equally as bad.
Harm pulled some files and a legal pad out of his briefcase and
arranged them on the table in front of him and waited for the General
to come in. Briefly, he wished for how it had been a few years
ago; he missed the joking, the laughter, and the camaraderie that used
to characterize the JAG office. He opened a case file and started
looking through it. His reports were ready, the case should be
settled soon, and he’d be able to handle any other cases the General
threw his way.
So immersed was he in the file, that he barely noticed when Mac,
Sturgis, and Bud, respectively, came in and took their seats. He
did, however, pay attention enough to immediately stand up and come to
attention when the General entered the room.
"At ease," General Cresswell said, then took his seat.
Without preamble, he launched into introductions. "Lieutenant
Commander Austin and Commander Pike are here to investigate the current
situation involving Colonel Mackenzie's and Commander Rabb's alleged
marriage. I expect all of you to extend them every courtesy and
to cooperate with them."
It was only because he was standing next to the General that Harm heard
his next remark. "If any Marines were free, I would've given the
case to them." Cresswell muttered before rapidly assigning the
rest of the cases.
Harm stoically accepted his share of the work, and bit the inside of
his cheek to keep from saying something he'd regret if he managed to
keep his job. The reason why the Admiral had contacted him was
beginning to seem abundantly clear. It wasn't that AJ
particularly wanted to defend him--he wanted to defend the Navy.
He supposed he should be grateful; if it went to court martial, he'd
need a lawyer, but he wasn't really in the mood to be grateful about
As soon as Cresswell dismissed them, Harm grabbed his files and hurried
towards the refuge of his office. He entered, not really noticing
the man standing in the corner, dumped his pile of folders on his desk,
then slumped down in his desk chair.
"Son, I hear you've somehow landed in a mess not of your own making,"
his former CO's soft voice filled the room.
Nine years of habit took over as Harm immediately stood and came to
attention. "Sir," he said.
"I'm not your CO anymore, Harm," AJ said. He slid into one of the
chairs in front of Harm's desk. "I am, however, an old friend who
is in the position to help get you out of the situation you find
Harm sat down and eyed AJ warily. "I swear, sir, I don't know how
this happened," he said.
"I know, Son," AJ said. "You've got too much honor and integrity
to blatantly flout regulations like that without a life-or-death
situation; your new CO is just too blind to see it. However, I'm
*not* and I'm going to defend you and prove that you and Mac never got
Harm looked down at his desk, unsure what to think of this new
development. A show of faith from the Admiral was the last thing
he'd expected after the past few years and he didn't know how to
react. "Thank you, sir," he said finally.
"AJ. Call me AJ." The Admiral got up, walked closer, and
clapped Harm on the shoulder. "I'm going to talk to a few people
and see what's going on with the investigation. Hang tight,
Son. We'll get you out of this."
Harm looked up and silently watched AJ leave his office. There
wasn't a way he could refuse. He didn't really have the money to
hire his own counsel even if he wanted to without talking to Frank, and
that was something he didn't want to do. He slumped back in his
chair before picking up a different case file. With his two
ex-partners questioning him, it looked like it'd be a long day.
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Meg knocked on the door frame to Colonel Mackenzie's office.
"Colonel?" she called.
"Come in," was the response.
Kate entered first. "Colonel," she began without preamble.
"The last time I was here, you and Harm were just good friends.
Is that still true?"
Meg settled herself in a chair and waited expectantly for an
answer. She and Kate had been teamed up for three months and were
used to running interrogations together. With her girl-next-door
looks and southern charm, she was a natural for the good cop role,
while Kate's more abrasive personality did well as the aggressor.
"Yes, it's true. Though I can't say we've exactly been friends as
of late." The Colonel clasped her hands together in front of her
on her desk. "I guess you could say that our friendship has been
on the rocks lately."
"Why is that, Ma'am?" Meg asked softly.
Colonel Mackenzie drew in a deep breath. "Since Lieutenant
Commander Roberts lost his leg two years ago, this office has kind of
been in upheaval." She looked down at the desk. "Between
Harm's imprisonment, trial, resigning, coming back, becoming the
guardian for a teenager, and the Admiral retiring, we're just getting
our friendship back." She looked Kate straight in the eye.
"Things have changed since you were temporarily assigned here,
"Did you and Harm have a... marital spat?" Kate asked. She put
both hands on the desk and leaned forward.
"We've never had that kind of relationship." Mac answered. "Harm
is the best friend I've ever had and the one person I can count on to
always be there for me when I need him."
"Does that include *all* your... needs, Colonel?" Kate asked.
Meg bit the inside of her lip to keep from laughing. She'd seen
Kate try that ploy quite a bit. It was usually effective, but
obviously worked more against men to get them to spill their guts.
Of course, Meg noticed that it wasn't really having the same effect on
Colonel Mackenzie. Mac simply leaned back in her chair and arched
an eyebrow. “If you're asking if Harm and I have ever had a
sexual relationship, the answer is no,” she said evenly.
“Ma'am, can you please tell us where you were on December 18, 2001?”
Meg asked before Kate could antagonize the Colonel further.
“I've been expecting that question since I found out about the marriage
that Harm and I are supposedly in,” Mac murmured. “Harm and I
were on our way to Camp Lejeune when a snowstorm stranded us in
“So you were in Raleigh and decided that what the hell, you might as
well marry Commander Rabb,” Kate said dryly.
“No,” the Colonel said. “All the hotels except for one were full,
and we got the last room there.” She paused for a few minutes, then
looked Meg in the eye. “They only had one room left, so we took
it, but I swear nothing happened. It was a suite, so Harm slept
on the couch and I got the bed.”
“If that's true, *Colonel,* then how do you explain *this*?” Kate
tossed a marriage certificate down on the desk, then crossed her arms
over her chest.
Meg wasn't entirely convinced that they hadn't flouted regulations and
gotten married, but she had to admit that it was out of character for
the man she'd been partnered with a decade before to do such a
thing. He'd disobey orders if he had to, but he was always up
front about it. Subterfuge just didn't suit him.
“I can't,” Mac said flatly. She picked up the certificate and
examined it. “Harm and I went on the Camp Lejeune the next day
for the investigation and headed home afterwards.” She paused and
looked more closely at the certificate. “I can, however, tell you
one thing--these aren't our signatures on the marriage certificate.”
“How would you know it's not the Commander's signature?” Meg asked.
Mac dropped the document as if it were dirty and surreptitiously wiped
her hands on her skirt. Meg took careful note of it and listened
intently to what the Colonel said next. “I've been his best
friend and sometime partner for nine years, Commander Austin,” she
said. “I've seen his signature hundreds of times, and this isn't
“Are you *sure*?” Kate asked.
“Positive,” was Mac's reply.
“Thank you, Ma'am,” Meg said. “We'll be conducting interviews
with the rest of the staff if you remember anything else.”
Meg stood up and all but pushed Kate out the door. “What'd you do
*that* for?” Kate demanded.
“Kate, do you think that *Harm* would ever secretly flout regulations
like that? It takes *two* people to get married.”
“I don't know,” Kate admitted. “I guess we'll just have to find
“That's what we're here for,” Meg replied. She hurried across the
bullpen to Bud Roberts's office. They'd get to the bottom of what
happened; Harm didn't deserve to have his name dragged through the
mud. And if he was innocent, then so was the Colonel, and she
didn't deserve it either.
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Mattie waved at the guard, signed in, and pushed the button to call for
the elevator. Her father hadn't been hadn't been at all happy
that she was going to see Harm. In fact, he'd forbidden her to
go, so she'd been forced to sneak out to come to JAG
Headquarters. Nobody would stop her from her surrogate father
when he obviously needed her help.
As far as she was concerned, he needed her now just as much as he'd
needed her after he'd temporarily lost his hearing. Mattie tapped her
foot impatiently and rushed out of the elevator when the doors
opened. She brushed past Admiral Chegwidden, accidentally
knocking him to the floor, and muttered a hasty apology as she pushed
open the door and headed into Harm's office.
He had his back turned towards the door, so she snuck up behind him and
gave him a hug. "Harm," she said softly.
Harm turned around, surprise on his face. "Mattie! What are
you doing here?" he asked. "Shouldn't you be in school?"
"You need me," she said bluntly. "Something is wrong, and I'm not
leaving until you let me help." Harm's actions belied his words
as he returned the hug, pulling her close to him. He dropped a
kiss into her hair and she smiled. "I made Mac promise to take
care of you," she muttered. "Not even a week and she's already
"Circumstances are... extraordinary, Kiddo," Harm said as he gave her a
"Harm, from what I've seen, that's the biggest lie you've ever told
me. Now spill. What's going on that has you so
miserable?" Mattie pulled back and glared at him.
Harm sighed. "The long and short of it is that everybody thinks
that I've been married to Mac for three years without telling anybody."
After almost a year of living with Harm, Mattie knew at least a little
about military law. "And that's illegal, isn't it? Since
you and Mac are in the same chain of command? But you're *not*
married to Mac! She wouldn't even talk to us for months after she
helped you get me." Mattie gave him another hug. "What a
Harm closed his eyes and returned the hug. "Yeah, Mats," he said
softly. "It sure is."
Mattie and Harm both looked towards the door as they heard someone
clear their throat. Cresswell looked at the pair.
"Commander Rabb, is this something I should be worried about?" he asked
"You must be the new boss," Mattie said, stepping out of Harm's
embrace. "Commander Rabb is my..." she hesitated for a
second. "Dad," she finished.
"Mattie," Harm said warningly.
"It's true," she insisted, cutting him off. Mattie turned back
towards him and gave him a smile. "I may be living with my father
now, but you're still the man who was my dad when I needed one."
"Mattie was my ward last year, sir," Harm supplied.
"Was, Commander?" Cresswell questioned.
"I decided to give my father another chance," Mattie explained.
"So far, Harm is a whole lot better at being a dad than my original
one." She shrugged. "Anybody can be a father, but to find a dad
Cresswell favored her with a sharp glance. "Young lady, next time
you need to see the Commander, please refrain from doing it during
Mattie smiled inwardly as she figured out *exactly* what to say to
him. She gave Cresswell her most innocent look. "But sir,
the Commander is helping me get an appointment to the Academy so that I
can be a Marine pilot someday."
"I see, so you want to be a Marine pilot, young lady?" Cresswell asked.
"Yes, sir!" she said with a big smile. "Harm has been teaching me
to fly, and he says I'm a natural." Mattie glanced back and
noticed that Harm was trying not to choke at her words. Sure it
was a lie… but not by much. She wanted to be a *Navy* pilot, but
Harm's boss didn't need to know that. She clasped her hands
behind her back to hide the fact that the fingers of her left hand were
Cresswell raised an eyebrow. "Not in government equipment, I
"No, sir," was the answer. "I own an antique biplane."
"Carry on," Cresswell said with a sharp nod, then left the office.
Harm strode across the room and shut the door behind the General.
"Mattie! I can't believe you just did that!"
Mattie grinned and flopped into one of his chairs. It felt good
to have him scolding her again. "Yes, you can," she said
impudently. "It worked, didn't it?"
"Mats, we talked about lying before..."
"Yes, we did. That wasn't lying, that was sucking up," Mattie
said brightly. "And for the record, I wanna fly Navy or I'm not
going military. Besides, it didn't count because I had my fingers
Harm simply shook his head and sighed. "Mattie does your father
know where you are?"
"I told him. I stopped by your place on the way over and dropped
off my stuff. I'm staying until this gets fixed, because I'm
*not* leaving you alone." Mattie crossed her arms over her chest
and gave him a stubborn look.
"What about school?" Harm asked.
Mattie shrugged. "I've been gone for less than a week, and my new
school doesn't have my records yet. I can go back to school here with
Harm rubbed his temples as if he had a headache coming on. "I
guess I'd better start house hunting again," he muttered. "Mats,
you've always got a home with me, you know that, right?"
Mattie stood up, walked over, and gave Harm a kiss on the cheek.
"I know. That's why you're my dad." She smiled at his as
his arms came up around her again to give her a hug. Now that she
was back, Harm wouldn't have to face the current mess alone.
In Darkest Night
"We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."
--Charles de Lint
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
"Sir!" Jen stopped as she noticed AJ on the floor. "Are you
okay, sir? Can I help you get up?"
"Coates," AJ acknowledged. "I think I can manage on my own." He
started to get up, but changed his mind as his hip gave him a bad
twinge. "Maybe you *can* help me after all, Petty Officer," he
said with a wince.
Coates set the pile of folders she'd been carrying on a nearby desk and
helped him up. "What happened, sir?' she asked.
"It's AJ now, remember?" he asked. "An overeager teenager
accidentally knocked me down on her way to the Commander's office," he
said wryly. "I doubt she's forgiven me yet for being, 'that mean
old man who fired Harm.'" AJ dusted off his pants. "I'll
hand it to the Commander, he seems to collect the feisty ones."
Jen gave him a confused look. "But sir," she began. "Mattie
went to live with her biological father. She moved out almost a
"I suggest you take it up with her, Coates--it looks like she's come
back." He finished dusting himself off and gave Jen a
half-smile. "If you'll excuse me, Jennifer, I need to go have a
word with the Colonel."
"Yes, sir," Jen said, picking up her stack of files.
AJ watched as she headed towards Commander Rabb's office, then he
turned and walked briskly across the bullpen and knocked on Mac's
door. "Come in," was the immediate response.
"Colonel Mackenzie," he said as he walked into the office and shut the
Mac turned around. AJ could see surprise written all over her
face. "Admiral! What are you doing here?" she asked.
AJ sat down in one of her chairs and crossed his arms. "I got a
call from your new CO claiming that you and Commander Rabb snuck off on
an investigation on my watch and got married." He allowed a small
smile to cross his face. "Since I know that neither one of
you would do that and Cresswell seems intent on blaming the Commander
for it, I decided to see if the two of you could use an old, retired
Navy lawyer to defend both of you."
Mac had a guarded look on her face. "Sir, I appreciate the offer,
but... given our past history of going against the regs, how can you be
AJ's smile got bigger. "I was your CO for eight years, Mac.
The two of you have put everything on the line before for each other,
but you've never hidden it when you've disobeyed orders or regs for
various reasons. I don't think the two of you could actually
conceal it if you got married."
"Sir, you wouldn't have done anything like this last year," she
murmured. "Last year, you hung both of us out to dry."
AJ sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. "No, I wouldn't
have," he admitted. "And I did. Not only was I still your CO, but I was
also burned out from playing politics and being forced to betray my
principles for the sake of my job. I did a lot of things I'm not
proud of, Colonel, but I'm attempting to fix some of that now."
He looked up at her and let his hands come to rest on his thighs.
"Sometimes a man just has to mend fences that he's torn down, and I
guess it's my turn."
Mac looked down at her desk. "Thank you, sir," she said
finally. "I'll accept if you take both of us together.
You're right--we didn't do it. Our only crime is being stranded
in a snowstorm in North Carolina." She gave him a brief
smile. "I don't know where this trumped-up marriage came from."
"You're welcome, Colonel," he said as he stood up. "I'd better go
find the investigators before they come looking for me; I know they
will sooner or later, and I'd rather it be here than at home." He
shook Mac's hand and turned towards the door. "You know where to
He barely heard Mac's acknowledgement as he left her office and crossed
the bullpen to where Kate Pike and Meg Austin were standing. He
doubted that they'd been assigned there in the short time he'd been
gone, so that only left one option open--they were the ones sent to
investigate the case.
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Cresswell grimaced as he looked at the file. He'd need to send
senior officers to investigate, and the only ones free were Rabb and
Mackenzie. With their relationship being scrutinized, it was
probably a good thing that the vessel the two officers involved in the
incident were stationed on was currently in Norfolk, but he wasn't sure
if he really wanted them out of his sight until everything was settled.
He hated to see a fine Marine's career ruined over something like a
fraternization and an adultery charge, but unless the investigation
turned up something, he'd have no choice but to charge both of
them. He reached for the intercom and pressed the button.
"Petty Officer Coates, please ask Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie
to report to my office--and tell Commander Rabb's daughter that I'll be
happy to talk to her about the Marines after we finish."
"Yes, sir," came the muffled response.
It seemed like hours, but was in reality only a few minutes until the
Commander and the Colonel knocked on his door. "Enter," he called.
Without a word, the officers came to attention in front of his
desk. "At ease." Cresswell folded his hands in front of him
before continuing. "I've got a short investigation for the two of
you--I need to know if you can handle this professionally or not?"
"We can, sir," Mac answered immediately. The commander nodded his
"Normally, this investigation would go to junior officers.
Lieutenant Meecham is accused of striking a superior officer."
Cresswell handed Rabb and Mackenzie copies of the file. "He
doesn't deny it, but he claims that it was self-defense and religious
persecution." He leaned forward, his hands flat on the desk. "I
don't need to tell you how sensitive a case of this nature is--I need
you to go down to Norfolk and find out *exactly* what happened."
Rabb and Mackenzie came to attention again. "Yes, *Sir*," they
"Dismissed." Cresswell watched as the left, then settled into his
own thoughts. From the Lieutenant's file, it was entirely
possible that his claims of religious persecution were true.
From his own experience, Cresswell knew that military life could
sometimes be a... cultural experience for everyone, but especially the
LDS servicemen. They tended to stand out more than most and
almost always drew fire for their religion. Even without reading
the file, he would have suspected that Meecham was a Mormon. His
time at Brigham Young University had made it so that he recognized the
names of some of the families that went back to pioneer days, and
'Meecham' was one of them.
Heaven knew that he'd put up with a lot of razzing about it in the
early days. Most people in the Church were used to it,
though. He suspected that there had to be a lot more to it than a
few snide comments about polygamists to make the Lieutenant lose his
temper. After all, Russia wasn't exactly the easiest mission to
serve in and that was where Lieutenant Meecham had gone. When all
was said and done, there *was* such a thing as righteous anger...
He didn't know Rabb and Mackenzie well--but he was willing to give them
the benefit of the doubt. It was entirely possible that their
'marriage' was a mistake, anyway. For both cases, it was a matter
of letting the investigations run their course.
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Meg studied her notes, then glanced over at Kate. "We're gonna
have to go to Raleigh to get any further on this."
Kate shifted in her chair and nodded. "I know. Everyone
here thinks that they didn't do it, and I really don't think that Harm
could. A casual fling, yes, but not a secret marriage."
Meg smiled. "He doesn't have it in him to keep up a lie for that
long." She took a deep breath. "I was his partner for a
year and I've never known him to lie. He avoids the subject, yes,
but he doesn't lie."
"I think I cured him of casual flings, anyway," Kate muttered. "I
don't know Colonel Mackenzie well, but from what I've heard, she might
be able to do it."
"Oh?" Meg tilted her head quizzically.
"The Colonel kept the fact that she was married a secret for the first
few years she was at JAG," Kate said dryly. "I've seen her
service record--she even had an affair with her immediate commanding
officer while she was still married to a--," she consulted her
notes. "Chris Ragle."
"But if Harm is innocent--" Meg began.
"Then so is Colonel Mackenzie," Kate said. "It *still* wouldn't
surprise me if she was somehow behind it."
"I only know her by reputation, but I think she would have *told* him
if she did something like that," Meg argued. "I kept in touch
with Harm after I transferred out, and she used to be all he talked
about. For the past few years, though, he hasn't mentioned her
much at all." She grimaced. "Did you notice the way she was
looking at him during staff call?"
Kate nodded. "Whether or not the charges are true, Mackenzie is
in love with Harm; she was looking at him like he was the only man on
earth. Think Harm knows?"
Meg shook her head. "Harm's oblivious, I think. I had a big
crush on him for the first few months of our partnership--he always
treated me like I was his kid sister."
Kate favored Meg with a wolfish grin. "He never treated *me* like
that. The way that man looks in dress whites should be outlawed."
Meg fiddled with her wedding ring and smiled. "I know what you
Kate stood up and absently brushed invisible wrinkles out of her
uniform absently. "We'd better get down to the motor pool and
requisition a car if we want to get to Raleigh before dark."
Meg nodded and stood up. "Think that any of the same staff will
be there after three years?"
"I hope so," Kate said. "We can at least get the hotel records
before we go to Lejeune to find out more about the case they were on."
The two women left the small office they'd been using and headed
downstairs, determined to clear their friend if they could.
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Mattie looked up from her Math homework as she watched Harm enter the
room. He had a file tucked under his arm and a sheepish
expression on his face. "Mats, I've got an investigation in
Norfolk, so would you be okay if I asked Jen to stay with you while I'm
Mattie dropped her pencil, stood up, hurried around the desk, and
hugged him. "I understand better now than I used to," she said,
then kissed him on the cheek. "I'm not saying that moving back
here is permanent, but I do know that I want to be just like you when I
Harm hugged her back, and Mattie could see that he was holding back
tears. "Mats, without you here, my life is pretty empty. Do
me a favor and be *better* than me when you're my age?" He kissed her
on the forehead. "Find somebody to love who loves you back and
start your own family."
Mattie hugged him again before releasing him reluctantly. "I'm
guessing that you have to get ready to go," she said. "And I've
got somebody to see before you take me home, so I'll be right back."
Harm set the casefile on his desk. "All right, but you're *going*
to go to school tomorrow, and for as long as you're home."
Mattie shot him an impish grin. "Aye, aye *sir*," she said.
"And if you need help with your homework--"
"Call you like I do *every* night, because my father was never good
with that kind of thing," Mattie supplied.
"Are you happy back in Blacksburg, kiddo?" Harm asked.
Mattie bit her lip. "Most of the time, but I miss you. I
love you, Harm. You know that, don't you?"
"Yeah, I do." Harm pulled her into another hug.
Mattie hugged him back, relishing the safe feeling she got in her dad's
arms. "Harm, have you thought about transferring out and leaving
here or something?" she asked quietly. It had been on her mind
ever since she'd left. For the past year, it seemed to her that
he was only hanging around Washington because she was there.
Harm was quiet for a few minutes before answering. "Sometimes,"
he admitted. "But I won't abandon you, Mathilda. I don't
abandon the people I love."
"Good, because I still need you," she looked at him seriously.
Harm gave her a bone crunching hug, his eyes bright with unshed
tears. She'd never seriously given him that title before, but it
seemed right. In all the ways that mattered, he *was* her
dad. He released her and she gave him a bright smile. "I'd
better hurry so that I'm ready to leave when you are," she said,
turning towards the door.
Just as she was about to leave the room, Jen hurried up. "Mattie,
General Cresswell would like to talk to you about the academy before
Harm and Colonel Mackenzie leave."
"Jen, would you please tell him that I'll be right there?" Mattie
asked, her eyes pleading.
"Sure," Jen answered with a smile. "But don't keep him waiting
for too long--he's a little harder to read than the Admiral was, and
I'm still never sure what he's going to do next."
Mattie nodded. "Okay. I just need to have a quick word with
somebody, and I'll be there."
"Mathilda--" Harm said warningly.
"Jen, I'm not sure if I'll have to stay in Norfolk overnight..." Harm
"And you'd like to ask me if Mattie can stay in my spare room for the
night. Commander, she can stay here for the day, and I'll take
her home with me so that you and Mac can leave straight from
here." Jen flashed him a smile. "I'll also make sure she
gets to school."
"Thanks, Jen," Harm said. It was the last thing Mattie heard as
she left the room and made a beeline for Colonel Mackenzie's
office. She bit the inside of her lip and a slow anger roiled in
her stomach. She'd asked the Colonel to take care of Harm, and
right after she left, *this* happened. She needed to have *words*
with the Colonel before going to talk to Harm's new boss.
She knocked on the door and entered without bothering to wait for a
reply. "You promised to look out for him," she said with a glare
at Colonel Mackenzie.
"I know what happened when the two of you got accused. I know
that neither of you had anything to do with it, and I know you started
yelling at him." Mattie crossed her arms over her chest and glared at
"Mattie--" Mac tried to talk again, but Mattie interrupted.
"Harm thinks that he's gonna spend the rest of his life alone except
for me, did you know that? He won't leave here. He says
it's because of me but I know better; it's more than that. It's
you. He lov--" She cut herself off abruptly. "Forget I said
that. Harm'd be pissed if he knew I said anything." Mattie
put her hands on her hips. "Harm's a good guy. He doesn't
deserve to spend the rest of his life alone. And it's up to you
if that happens."
She flounced out of the room and headed towards the General's
office. She knew she shouldn't have spilled the beans, but it
felt good. Harm needed somebody to speak for him because she
didn't think he'd do it for himself, so she'd do it for him right
now. He was, after all, her dad.
Mattie went into Jen's office and started to knock on the General's
door. "Mattie," Jen said, making her turn around.
"Yeah, Jen?" she asked.
"I'm taking you home, okay? That way Harm and the Colonel can
leave for Norfolk quickly so that you can talk to General Cresswell."
Mattie bit her lip and nodded. Sometimes she really hated the
fact that his job took him away from her, but it wasn't like she could
really complain at this point because she'd abandoned him in favor of
her father. She took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
"Enter," was the response.
Mattie pushed the door open and went inside. She was here for him
at the moment, and that was what mattered.
“The human heart at whatever age, opens only to the heart that opens in
ENROUTE TO NORFOLK
Harm glanced over at Mac, concerned by her behavior. They'd been
driving for almost three hours, and she had yet to say anything to him
past 'Hello, Harm.' He drew in a deep breath, let out and decided
to try talking to her. "Mac?" he ventured. "Are you okay?"
He was met with a few more minutes of silence before she said
anything. "I guess," she said. Mac picked invisible lint
off her skirt. "Harm?" she said finally. "Why are you still
Harm glanced at her and frowned. "What do you mean? I
promised I'd be here for you, and I don't break my word."
Mac glanced at him then looked away so quickly that he thought he'd
imagined it. She stared at her uniform skirt and continued to
pick off invisible lint. “I've been pushing you away since before the
whole Singer mess,” she began softly. “I've done my best to
undermine you, been mean about every case we've tried, flaunted my
relationship with Clay because I knew it would hurt you... Why are you
still here, Harm?”
Harm looked at her, a terrible hope filled him, but he still couldn't
quite bring himself to say the words. “Do you have to ask?” he
“Yes,” she said. “I've known you for nine years, Harmon, and I
still don't know how you feel about me. Am I your buddy, your
best friend, your sister, or something more? Tell me, Harm!”
Harm drove on for a few minutes, trying to force himself to say
it. Somehow it had been much easier to admit how he felt about
Mac to Mattie. “I love you, okay?” he said finally. “I've
loved you for so damn long that I don't remember what it's like not to
“I love you, too,” Mac whispered.
Harm barely heard her, so he wasn't sure what to think. Now that
he'd finally said it, he wanted to shout it from the rooftops.
Hell, he'd take out Sarah and sky write “Harmon Rabb Loves Sarah
Mackenzie” over Washington if he thought it'd help his cause. It
wasn't exactly a secret, anyway. Sometimes he felt that it was
tattooed on his forehead for everybody to see.
“What did you say, Sarah?” he asked gently.
“I love you... but I'm not ready,” she said slowly. “It's just
His heart ached at her words as he wondered if there would ever be a
time when both of them were ready at the same time. Still, she'd just
admitted that she loved him, and it went a long way towards soothing
his bruised and battered heart. “Can we be friends again?” he
asked wistfully. “It's been a long time since we were best
friends and I've missed you.”
Harm grimaced as he noticed that she was still picking at imaginary
lint. He reached out to still her restless hand, but before he
could return his hand to the wheel, Mac grabbed it and laced her
fingers through his. “We could rebuild what we had.” She
suggested, her voice husky with unshed tears. “And maybe work
towards something more along the way?”
“I'd like that,” he answered. Part of his mind was already
planning how to slowly and gently win her over to his side. He
wanted to marry her; since he'd met her, he just couldn't see his
future without a brown-haired, brown-eyed wife named Sarah
Mackenzie. He knew that they were somehow technically married,
but a man wanted to ask the lady himself and marry her for real, not
because some piece of paper in a bureaucrat's office said it was so.
Mac kissed the back of his hand, and then wrapped her free one around
their joined hands. “Good,” she said. “I meant what I said,
Harm. I never want us to be separated again.”
He shot her a flyboy grin. “I'm glad, because you and I being
together for the rest of our lives just happens to be something I want
to discuss at some later date... when you're ready.”
“Whatever happened to friendship first?” Mac asked, a smile hovering
around the corners of her mouth.
“Just stating my intentions, Colonel,” he said with a mischievous
twinkle in his eyes. “I thought you'd like to know that I don't
ever intend to let you walk out of my life again... when you're ready
to accept my offer.”
“Does that mean I can tell Alicia and any other blonde who comes on to
you to back off?” Mac asked, her grin widening.
Harm shot her a mock-shocked look. “And we're only friends?”
“Well, we did say that we're working on something more,” Mac
reasoned. “And that means that you're taken!”
“As long as you're taken, too, that's fine with me,” Harm answered
quietly. “And at some future date, I want to go on an exploratory
mission to find a certain beautiful Marine's tattoo...”
“Only if you're very, very good.” Mac said with a wicked grin.
“What if I'm very, very bad?” Harm asked, leering playfully at her.
“That could work, too,” she answered. “But if we start acting
differently during the investigation--”
“They'll think we're hiding that we actually did get married three
years ago,” he finished.
“Part of me wishes that we did,” Mac admitted. “It would have
saved us a lot of heartache.”
“You never would have gone to Paraguay or dated Webb,” he said quietly.
“And how would you know that?” she asked.
Harm shot her a dazzling smile. “Because that wouldn't have been
a pregnancy suit you were wearing. Even Webb isn't foolhardy
enough to take a woman in that condition on an op.” His smile got
wider. “And as soon as we found out about the endometriosis, not
only would I have been there, but we could've tried for another baby to
Mac groaned, freed one hand, and smacked him lightly on the
shoulder. “What is this, a plan to keep me barefoot and pregnant?”
Harm gave her another playful leer. “Sure, why not?”
He could see Mac hesitating for a few minutes. “Harm—there's
something I haven't told you,” she said slowly.
Harm gave her hand a squeeze. “What is it, Sarah?” he
asked. “I'm not going anywhere.”
She looked down at their joined hands. “The doctors say that
there's a less than five percent chance that I'll be able to have a
baby,” she admitted.
“Then we still have a four percent chance,” he said. “We can go
the fertility clinic route and try all their options, too. If, at
some future date, we decide that we want children and can't have them
the natural way, we can always adopt.”
“And if that doesn't work?” Mac asked softly.
“Then we have each other... and a teenager that I picked up along the
way. We'll--storm that beach when we get to it.”
“Thank you, Butch,” was Mac's murmured reply.
“Anytime, Sundance.” Harm smiled at her, then turned his attention back
to the road. They were almost to Norfolk, and he knew that they
needed to refocus their attention on the coming investigation. He
glanced over at his partner, and watched as she leaned back against the
seat. “Butch and Sundance ride again,” he whispered.
“Always and forever, Harm,” Mac said.
He carefully moved into the correct lane, and got off the
freeway. The sooner they got the investigation finished, the
sooner they could get back to regaining what they had lost and working
out their tangled relationship.
COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT
RALIEGH, NORTH CAROLINA
Meg and Kate pulled into the parking lot in their Navy-issued
car. Kate parked it carefully and looked at her partner.
"Ready?" she asked dryly.
"Sure anyone here will remember?" Meg asked, pushing a strand of hair
behind her ear.
Kate raised a delicate eyebrow. "Oh they'll remember," she
purred. "I'll make sure of that."
Meg rolled her eyes. "Kate, you don't have to pull that act with
Kate gave Meg her most innocent look, which, being who she was, wasn't
very. "Me? Try and pull some sort of act?"
Meg just looked at her, and the two women started to laugh.
"Okay, okay, I'll behave--unless there's someone in there whose mind I
can mess with." Kate grinned and reached for her purse and briefcase.
Meg and Kate got out of the car, pausing as Meg grabbed her own
baggage, and hurried up to the door. "Let me handle the
questioning, okay?" Meg whispered.
"Unless it's someone that we can use my… talents on, I'm fine with it."
Meg suppressed a smile as they approached the front desk. "Excuse
me," she said with a winning smile.
"Yes?" The man behind the desk looked the two of them up and
down. "How can I help y'all?"
"I'm Commander Pike, and this is my partner, Lt. Commander Austin, and
we're here on a JAG investigation," Kate explained.
"What does JAG want with us?" the young man asked.
"We need to see both your paper and computer records from December
2001," Meg said. "Do you think it would be possible to do that?"
He gulped. "Um, I'll need to ask my manager." He picked up
the phone and spoke into it for several minutes.
An older woman came toward the desk a few minutes after that.
"Jason said that you needed to ask about some records?" she
asked. "I'm the manager, Debbie Carson."
"We're trying to retrace the steps of a couple of our officers on
December 18, 2001," Meg explained. "They said that they stopped
here, and we just need to confirm that. Would it be possible to
see both your paper records and your computer records from that day?"
"Normally, that would require a subpoena," Debbie said slowly.
"Do the officers involved know you're here?"
"Yes, ma'am," Meg answered with a smile. "We don't think that
they did what they're accused of and now we have to prove it."
"Might I know what they're being investigate for?" Debbie asked.
"Ms. Carson, we can't discuss an ongoing investigation--I'm sure you
understand," Kate said.
Debbie nodded, moved behind the desk, and pulled up the file.
"December 18, 2001? And who are you looking for?"
"Yes, ma'am. Harmon Rabb and Sarah Mackenzie," Meg supplied.
"Here it is," Debbie turned the screen around to show them. "They
got the last suite. In fact it was the last room in the
hotel. It says here that they requested extra bedding to make up
the couch as well."
"Can we get a copy of that?" Kate asked.
"Sure, honey, no problem." Debbie hit the print button and handed
her a copy a few seconds later.
"We also need to see any paper records that you have, and the clerk who
checked them in wouldn't still happen to be here, would they, ma'am?"
"With the job market being what it has been after 9/11, yes, he is,"
Debbie said. "He doesn't come in until four, though, so y'all
will have to wait. His name is Jim." She gave the two Navy
lawyers a nervous smile. "If you'll just follow me, I'll take you
to the records storage."
They followed her down the lushly carpeted hallway and into a door
marked "For Employees Only." She pulled a set of keys out of her
pocket, unlocked a nondescript door, and hustled them inside.
"The year is written on the boxes and the months are separated," she
said. "Now if y'all don't need anything else?"
"This is fine, thanks," Meg said with another smile. Debbie
excused herself quietly as Meg and Kate eyed the pile of boxes with
"Let's hope they're not as dusty as they look," Kate grumbled.
Meg walked over and started examining the boxes. "At least
whoever puts these things away is organized," she pointed out.
"These two boxes seem to be about 2001."
Kate sighed and helped Meg move the boxes on top of the desired ones
until they got to them. After a few minutes of poking around
inside, she pulled out a register. "Here's the register they
should be in," she said with a sneeze.
Meg took the dusty register as Kate started digging around in her purse
for a tissue. "I *hate* dust*," she muttered.
Meg flipped through the register. "Here it is." She frowned
and looked closer. "Kate, do you see what I see?"
Kate peered over Meg's shoulder. "Aside from the fact that it
says 'Mr. and Mrs. Harmon Rabb,' it's been altered." She said dryly.
Meg's frown deepened. "It doesn't look like they knew what they
were doing, either," she said. "And I don't know *why* they'd
alter a hotel register to say that Harm and the Colonel are married,
"Why don't we find out if we can borrow it and get out of this dust?"
Kate suggested. "We'll find out why later."
Meg nodded. "Sure," she said.
Quickly, they put the files back where they'd been and hurried back to
the front desk. It didn't take long to convince Debbie to let
them keep the register. They still had a while to wait, so they
settled down in the lobby, hoping that their quarry would come to work
Damned if you do...
"Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an intelligible stone: and that is where we start."
--T. S. Eliot, from "Four Quartets: Little Gidding"
GENERAL CRESSWELL'S OFFICE
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Mattie knocked timidly on the General's door. She didn't know
Harm's new boss at all, but if he were like the Admiral, she wasn't
sure that she wanted to. "Come," she heard Cresswell's voice say.
Mattie pushed open the door, walked in, and stood quietly beside the
chairs, waiting for him to notice her. She wasn't in the
military, but she knew better than to just sit down without being
invited. She'd learned enough from living with Harm and Jen for
Cresswell looked up from the file he'd been reading and smiled.
"I go by Mattie, sir," she said nervously.
"Please, sit," he said, motioning to a chair. "You look to be
around my daughter, Katie's age."
Mattie sat down and bit her lip. She'd come to support Harm, and
without him there, she wasn't sure how exactly to proceed. She
felt braver with him with her. "I'm fifteen, sir."
"So is she," he said meditatively. "Perhaps I should arrange for
the two of you to meet."
"I-I think I'd like that, sir," she said. "It might be nice to
have somebody to talk to besides Susan who understands what it's like
for your Dad to be gone all the time." Mattie hesitated for a few
minutes. "Especially when he's almost all I've got."
Cresswell's eyebrow lifted at the last remark, but he didn't say
anything about it. "So how did you end up in his care, Mattie?"
Mattie looked down at the carpet for a few minutes before
answering. She'd barely told Harm how she'd ended up alone--maybe
telling his boss how he'd rescued her might make it easier for
him. "My father abandoned me after my mom was killed in an
accident," she began softly. "He left me with relatives who
wanted a free babysitter. When I refused, they dumped me on my
aunt and uncle--Uncle Greg kept looking at me like I was a Big Mac and
he was starving, so I ran away." She stopped for a few minutes,
fighting not to cry.
"I went back home and started running my Mom's business--Grace
Aviation. Harm found me there when he came down to fly his plane, and
it didn't take him long to figure out that I was alone." Mattie
looked at him for a minute before continuing. "He offered to
become my guardian and took me in--he's been a better dad than my
Cresswell regarded the teenager for a few minutes. "And you're
now living with your biological father?" he asked gently.
Mattie bristled. She felt as if she were being cross-examined. "I
thought he needed me more, but that was before this mess came up.
The Colonel was barely speaking to him the entire time I was living
with Harm, and I *know* he needs me." She shot the General a fierce
look. "*I* love him, and anybody who hurts him is gonna have to
answer to *me.* I want to be just like him when I grow up--he's my
Cresswell's mouth quirked into a slight smile. "I thought you
wanted to be a *Marine* aviator?"
"I want to go to the Academy, sir," Mattie said slowly. "I can
decide which branch of service later. Most people would've turned
me in to Social Services. Harm didn't. He saved me,
sir. And I know where I stand with him; that's more than I can
say with my real father."
"So will you be staying with the Commander?" Cresswell asked.
"I'm not sure," Mattie admitted. "I haven't given my father much
of a chance. He didn't want me to come here, but I *had*
to. Harm taught me that you don't leave people behind.
That's how he ended up at Grace Aviation in the first place; he refused
to abandon Colonel Mackenzie and her boyfriend and let them die.
I thought my father needed me, but now I'm not so sure I made the right
Mattie bit her lip. "How do you choose between two dads?
Both of them love me, but my father abandoned me. I chose, but I
don't know if I did the right thing."
"Well, young lady," he said with a ghost of a smile. "I wish I
could tell you what to do, but I try not to meddle in the lives of my
people. I will, however, tell you what I'd tell my Katie--spend
some time thinking about it and do what your heart tells you to do."
Mattie looked at him and smiled. Harm's new boss was better than
that mean old Admiral. "Thank you, sir," she said quietly.
"Now, if you'd like to know anything about military life, and having a
career in the Marines, I'll be happy to help. Why do you want to
go to the Academy, Mattie?" Cresswell asked.
"Because, sir, all I've ever wanted to do was to fly," Mattie said,
lighting up. "And I want to be one of the best pilots there are,
and everybody knows that those are Navy and Marine pilots. Harm
says that he wants me to have a better life than he does," she
said. "He wants me to have a family of my own by the time I'm his
age." She smiled mischievously. "I want to be CAG on a
carrier by then."
Cresswell smiled. "Good to know that you know what you
want. I'll talk to the Commander about letting you and Katie
meet. I have a feeling that the meeting will be--profitable--for
the both of you. And when you need a recommendation for the
Academy, I'll be happy to give you one."
Mattie grinned. "Thank you, sir," she said.
"Now, don't you have people waiting for you?" he asked gently.
"Yes, sir, I do." Mattie stood up and held out her hand for him
to shake. "Thank you, sir." Solemnly, she shook his hand,
then turned and left his office. It hadn't been as bad as she'd
feared. Harm's new boss was a softy under the gruff
exterior. She was certain that with her there to support her dad,
everything would work out okay.
NS NORFOLK BRIG
Harm looked at Lieutenant Meecham and grimaced. Something about
this whole situation didn't sit right; the Lieutenant didn't have
anything in his record that indicated that he might do something like
that. In fact, from what he could see, Meecham was a stand-up
guy, much like Benjamin Neeley, his roommate during his first semester
at the Academy, had been.
Harm jerked his attention back to Mac. "Lieutenant, did you
strike Commander Saunders?" she asked.
"Yes, Ma'am," Lieutenant Meecham answered. "I shouldn't have hit
him, Colonel, Commander, but in my own defense, he deserved it."
Harm raised an eyebrow at that. "Can you tell us what happened,
Lieutenant?" he asked.
"Sir, Ma'am, I don't make a habit of hitting people that annoy me, but
Commander Saunders went too far," Meecham began.
"Could have fooled me," Mac remarked softly.
"Ma'am, I'm used to a certain amount of ribbing because of my
religion," he explained, leaning forward. "It comes with the
territory--I mean, I don't drink or smoke or cuss, and that kind of
makes a guy stand out. I learned to laugh at it a long time ago."
He twisted his CTR ring around a finger and gave them a slight
smile. "I even collect Mormon jokes. Commander Saunders
started with the usual stuff, like: 'How many wives you have back on
shore?' but he didn't stop with that." Meecham shot Harm and Mac
a pleading look.
"I *couldn't* let it go by when he said he was gonna reenact the Haun's
Mill Massacre at my house with my wife and daughter!"
"Haun's Mill Massacre?" Mac questioned.
Before Meecham could say anything, Harm answered. "In 1838, a
group of Missouri Militia attacked the small Mormon community of Haun's
Mill--they killed sixteen men, a ten-year-old boy, and injured thirteen
women and children."
"Not many people know that, Sir," Meecham said.
Harm smiled slightly. "My roommate plebe year at the Academy was
LDS and he was studying church history in Institute."
"So after he said that, you hit him?" Mac asked.
"No, Ma'am," Meecham said slowly. "I wanted to. I told him
to stop, or I'd have to report that he was handing out death threats."
"So *when*, exactly, did you deck him, Lieutenant?" Harm asked.
"After he said that instead of just killing them, he'd reenact the
actions of the Militia after the Extermination Order was issued,"
Meecham said softly. "My ancestors were there--driven out of
Missouri by the government while the Militia raped and killed the women
and children who were unlucky enough to get in the way." He gave
them a pleading look. "What else could I do, Sir, Ma'am? My
little girl is only two years old!"
Harm could tell that Mac was getting frustrated by this whole thing, so
he took pity on her and answered. "In 1838, the governor of
Missouri--I forget what his name was--issued an Extermination
Order. Basically, it made it legal to kill a Mormon," he said.
Meecham nodded. "It remained on the books until 1976," he added.
"So *that's* when you struck him?" Mac asked.
"Yes, Ma'am." Meecham looked a bit distressed. "I know there are
better ways to deal with something like that, but, Sir, when he
threatened to rape and kill my family, I just lost it."
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Harm said quietly.
"Ma'am," he began, giving Mac a pleading look. "Is there a chance
that I could get out of here? I haven't seen my wife and daughter
in six months."
Mac exchanged a glance with Harm. "We'll see, Lieutenant," she
They stood up, and Harm offered his hand to Meecham. "We'll do
our best, Lieutenant," he promised.
"Thank you, Sir, Ma'am," the Lieutenant said with a respectful nod.
Harm and Mac made their way out of the interrogation room. "Do
you think he's telling the truth?" Mac asked.
Harm took a deep breath. "Probably. Most LDS guys I've
known are real straight arrows."
"You never told me that one of your Academy roommates was LDS," Mac
Harm shrugged. "There's a lot of stuff that you don't know about
me; it's never come up. Ben was a nice guy." He paused for
a few minutes, trying to choose his words carefully. "He and his
friends taught me how to have fun again; remember, I hadn't been back
from Vietnam for very long…" he trailed off.
Mac reached over, grabbed his hand, and gave it a short, comforting
squeeze. "I'm glad he was there for you, then," she said softly,
releasing his hand. "What happened to him?"
Harm gave her a half smile. "Last I heard, he was married with
three kids and serving on a carrier somewhere."
Mac consulted her notes. "I guess we should go talk to Commander
"Yeah," Harm agreed. "If Meecham was telling the truth, I think
we can recommend that he get a reprimand--and Saunders should be facing
"The last thing we need is for a story like this to get out," Mac
said. "It'd be a huge black eye for the Navy."
"Definitely. There's no room for that kind of behavior," he said.
They waited patiently until the Marine guard unlocked the door and let
them out of the brig, then walked outside. "According to the
file, Saunders should still be aboard the Patrick Henry."
"Let's get going," Harm said.
Together, the two of them climbed into the waiting car and drove down
to the docks in silence. They parked, got out, and walked up the
gangplank. "Permission to come aboard?" Mac asked.
"Granted," was the response. A young man wearing Lt. Commander's
stripes appeared. "How can I help JAG today?" he asked.
"I'm Commander Rabb, and this is my partner, Colonel Mackenzie," Harm
"We're here to interview Commander Saunders," Mac said. "You
wouldn't happen to know where we could find him, would you?"
The Lt. Commander checked a list. "He's confined to quarters,
Ma'am," he answered. "I know him, so if you'll give me a few
minutes, I'll take you to him."
Harm regarded as he turned over the watch, and exchanged a look with
Mac before turning to follow him. Hopefully, the interview
wouldn't take long, so that they could make their recommendations and
go home. While it was nice that he and Mac had worked out some of
their problems, Mattie was waiting for him at home, and he didn't want
to leave her alone.
After a few minutes of walking and stepping over kneeknockers, they
stopped in front of a hatch. "Here we are, Sir, Ma'am."
"Thank you, Commander," Harm said with a nod.
Mac knocked on the door. "Commander Saunders?" she called. When
nobody answered, she tried again. "Commander *Saunders*?" she
said, more forcefully this time.
"Just a minute," came an answer in a sleepy voice.
Harm and Mac exchanged a look and settled down to wait.
"If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find
that we have lost the future."
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Mattie squinched up her face as she contemplated her English
homework. She'd promised Harm that she'd go to school while she
was there, so she figured that starting on the homework she'd been
given the week before was a good start. She supposed she was
lucky that she hadn't been gone long enough for her school records to
be transferred, but it didn't feel that way. She would much
rather stay with Harm without having to actually do nasty things like
Mattie knew better than to think she could get away with that.
Harm was much better about checking up on her about schoolwork than Tom
had ever been. Harm was better at a lot of things, she reflected
wryly. She sighed and looked at her book again.
Shakespeare. She grimaced. She needed Harm to explain it.
Mattie looked up when she heard a knock on the door. "Um, hi,"
she said when she saw the Admiral poke his head into the office.
"Mathilda," he said with a nod. "It occurred to me that we didn't
get off on the right foot. Since we're both here and concerned
for Commander Rabb's welfare, it seems to me that we ought to rectify
Mattie looked at him suspiciously from the safety of being behind
Harm's desk. "And how do I know you have his best interests in mind?"
she demanded. "Last time I really saw you, you were pretty mean
to him. Harm deserves better!"
AJ was silent for a few minutes and he walked into Harm's office,
closed the door, and sat down in one of the chairs in front of the
desk. "Perhaps he does, Mathilda, but in my defense, I had no
choice." He drew in a deep breath. "I'm not his CO
anymore--I have a choice now. I won't let him be sandbagged
because I know he and the Colonel didn't get married."
Mattie examined him through narrowed eyes. Harm had told her that
the Admiral was usually a fair man, an honorable man, and didn't lie
about things. Harm had never lied to her, so she decided that it
must be true. "Fair enough," she said slowly. "As long as
you're trying to make sure that he doesn't get blamed, I'll call a
AJ glanced over the desk. "What are you reading, young lady?"
Mattie grimaced. "Shakespeare. Harm usually explains this stuff
to me, because I don't get it--the language is too weird."
AJ stood up and walked over. "Let me see," he ordered absently,
pulling his reading glasses out and examining the book. "Ah,
Julius Caesar. 'Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your
ear. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him...' Perhaps I
can help until the Commander gets back."
Mattie smiled for the first time at him. "Thank you, Sir," she
said. "I hope he gets home soon..." She looked at the
literature book again.
"He will." AJ said simply, then got a chair to pull up next to
her. He sat down and looked at the book. "Now, what exactly
is your assignment?" he asked.
"I'm supposed to have ten pages read by tomorrow," she said. "But
I just don't understand it!"
AJ pulled the book to him and began to read it out loud and explain
what it meant. As Mattie listened, she decided that Harm's cranky
old boss wasn't so bad after all. Especially if you had to
understand what Shakespeare was talking about.
OUTSIDE COMMANDER SAUNDERS'S QUARTERS
Mac sighed and resumed pacing back and forth. "What's taking him
so long?" she asked, obviously frustrated.
Harm crossed his arms over his chest. "Power down, Marine," he
said. "The Commander will find out soon that it's not
particularly smart to keep the JAGs who are investigating your case
The hatch opened slowly, revealing a slightly rumpled man. He was
balding, and if Harm had been pressed to describe him, he would've had
to say that he was average. He was the kind of man who was so
ordinary looking that he could blend in anywhere. In other words,
by virtue of his ordinariness, he was the CIA's dream agent.
Witnesses would never be able to describe him, because of his
looks. He had no distinguishing features at all. The man
gaped at them for a few seconds. "JAG? Why is JAG
investigating? It's a simple assault case! He attacked me, not
the other way around."
"Come with us, Commander," Mac ordered. She stressed his rank as
if to say that if he didn't cooperate, he wouldn't be keeping it, or
other vital bodily organs, much longer.
Obediently, the commander fell in behind them as they walked to the
Officer's Wardroom. It was empty at this time of day--perfect for
conducting an interview with a suspect. Silently, Harm and Mac
exchanged a look that said everything about how they would handle
Commander Saunders. Years of working together had made them
experts in knowing which strategy would be effective when dealing with
an officer like him.
"Have a seat." Harm said, gesturing towards one of the chairs with his
cover before he dropped it on the table.
Commander Saunders sat down and frowned as he stared at the table
top. Harm dropped into a seat, folding his long legs under the
table. Mac locked her arms behind her back and slowly walked back
and forth in front of their suspect. Nervously, Saunders fidgeted
as if he were trying to find a comfortable spot on the chair before he
"Commander," Harm said quietly. "Would you please tell us what
happened around the time of the alleged assault?" He suppressed a
smile as he noticed the way the commander was chewing on his bottom
lip. He flicked a quick glance over to Mac--she was eyeing the
officer's disheveled appearance.
"I, um, was, um," Saunders stuttered. "M-m-minding m-m-my own
business when Lieutenant Meecham attacked me out of nowhere," he
finished. Saunders looked up at Mac pleadingly, as if he expected
her to take pity on him.
"Are you sure, Commander?" Mac asked, using the same tone as she had
"Lieutenant Meecham told us that you threatened his family, Commander,"
Harm said. He was doing his best to seem as if he were the calm,
cool one who might believe the Commander's story. In reality, the
thought of any Naval officer behaving in such a way made him want to
deck said officer. He wouldn't do it, of course. He didn't
want to end up in the brig. But that wouldn't stop him from
Commander Saunders straightened. "He's a Mormon," he said with a
scowl. "People like that don't belong here. And I didn't
say anything that any decent, sane person wouldn't say to a damn
Harm glanced in the personnel file he was holding. "From this, I
see that you're from Missouri," he said, his voice getting softer.
Saunders crossed his arms over his chest. "That's right," he said with
a grin. "Born and bred."
"My guess is," Mac began, "that you know about the history you used to
threaten him because of where you're from."
Saunder's face creased into another scowl and he didn't talk.
"Tell us what happened that night, Commander," Harm said softly.
Saunders shrugged. "Nothing much. I admit that I was
razzing the Lieutenant, but it wasn't too bad. Next thing I knew,
he was swinging at me."
"Are there any witnesses, Commander?" Mac asked, coming to a stop in
front of the man and staring down at him.
"Ensign Craig and Lieutenant Kelly were there," he answered. "So
were Petty Officers Thomas and Brown."
"Do you always choose public places to dress down people in your
command?" Harm asked with an uplifted eyebrow. He personally had
never reamed out a junior officer where there was an audience.
Looking at Commander Saunders, however, he could see that the man
wasn't exactly the brightest crayon in the box.
"No, sir, I don't," Saunders admitted. "But I don't want people
like him in my command.
Harm and Mac exchanged a glance. It was a miracle that Commander
Idiot had managed to even become a Commander. "Thank you,
Commander," Mac said. "We'll be in touch."
Commander Saunders gave the two of them an uncertain look.
"You're *dismissed*, Commander," Harm said.
Saunders got up and walked out the hatch. As it swung shut behind
him, Mac gave Harm a mischievous look. "Naval officers like that
make me glad I'm a Marine," she said as she wrinkled her nose at him.
Harm shot her a half smile. "And some Marine officers we've
investigated or prosecuted make me glad I'm in the Navy."
"Squid!" she said slapping him lightly on the arm.
"Jarhead!" he retorted reaching over to grab her hand. He gave it
a short squeeze before dropping it and giving her a full-fledged happy
flyboy smile. "I've missed this," he said.
"What?" Mac asked.
"Teasing you," Harm said. "We haven't been this easy with each
other in years."
Mac was silent for a few minutes. "I think somewhere along the
line," she began, "we just stopped listening to each other and lost
sight of our friendship."
"I'm glad we found it again," Harm said.
"So am I--promise me that no matter what happens we'll always be
friends?" Mac asked.
Harm turned and began to walk slowly down the corridor. "We
always have been--I promise."
"Thank you," was Mac's quiet response.
"Commander Saunders is guilty," Harm said.
"I know." Mac lengthened her stride to keep pace with Harm. "I
think that Lieutenant Meecham was telling the truth."
Harm nodded and tucked his cover under his arm. "I know. We
just have to prove it." Together, they walked down the corridor to the
enlisted mess. They needed to find their witnesses to verify the
Lieutenant's story. If it were true, Harm knew that he'd be
recommending that the Commander receive the harsher punishment of the
two officers. There simply wasn't room for that kind of prejudice
in the Navy.
COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT
RALIEGH, NORTH CAROLINA
Kate sighed and tapped her fingertips against her thigh. They'd been
waiting for what seemed to be forever. She sighed softly, noticed what
her fingers were doing, and ruthlessly stopped the motion. She'd
learned to stand at attention for hours on end--it wasn't like she
couldn't *handle* waiting for a potential witness to show up.
Irritably, she wished she'd brought something to read; she needed a
distraction. They still had another twenty-five minutes to wait
until he was supposed to show--and that was only if he was on
time. In her experience, peons like their quarry weren't always
the most dependable people. Especially after they'd been at a
place for a while; the tendency was for people to become complacent and
Her father had done that kind of thing--and then been a little
disdainful when she had joined the Navy. Sure, it had started as
a way to pay her way through school and law school, but it had become
her career. She'd had the opportunity to get out years ago, but
she had discovered that she kind of liked the life.
She suppressed another sigh, and looked around the hotel lobby for
something to do. Nothing. She supposed she could go into
their overpriced gift shop, but the idea didn't appeal to her.
She glanced over at Meg to discover that her erstwhile partner had her
nose buried in a copy of the Navy Times.
Meg glanced at her from behind the paper. "Bored?" she asked.
"Yes!" she said, her gray eyes snapping with irritation.
Meg grinned. "You wouldn't happen to like to see my other copy of
the Times, would you?" She reached into her briefcase and pulled it out.
Unmindful of how it would look, Kate snatched the newspaper from her
partner's hand and opened it up. Ignoring Meg's soft giggle, she
started reading. It didn't seem long before their witness arrived
and Meg nudged her lightly in the side. "What?" she asked crossly.
"He's here," Meg nodded at the counter.
Kate folded her paper and stood up. "Fine. Let's go find
out what he knows." She walked toward the counter, putting a
little more sway in her hips than was strictly necessary to make sure
that he was looking at her. She'd long since learned that her
sexuality could be used as a weapon, and she was determined to use it.
"Hello, Jim," she said, deliberately making her voice huskier as she
looked at his nametag.
"Um, uh, hi," he said.
Kate watched as he started to sweat. "My name is Commander Kate
Pike, and this is my partner--"
"Lieutenant Commander Meg Austin," Meg interrupted and held out her
She watched as he gulped again. "We're from the Judge Advocate
General's office and we need to ask you some questions."
Jim ran his hand nervously over his balding head and bit his lip.
"About what?" he asked. "I didn't do nothin' illegal to make the
Navy mad at me, did I?"
"Well, Jim, why would you think you'd done anything wrong?" Meg asked
"Because I was a seaman in your Navy when I was young," he clasped his
hands together and started twisting his fingers. "Ev'rybody knows
that you JAGs only show up when somebody's in trouble."
Kate leaned forward on the counter and gave him a shark-like
smile. "You're not in trouble," the pitch of her voice dropped
another level. "But you have information that might help us get
some fine officers out of trouble."
"Oh, *officers*," he said with disgust. "Never did like
officers. Full of themselves, mostly. Haven't seen any
'round here in ages."
"This was during that big blizzard a few years back--December 18, 2001
to be exact," Meg said.
Jim creased his forehead and frowned. "I think so. A Marine
lady and a Navy guy?"
Kate nodded. "Yes. Tell us what you know, *Jim*."
Jim settled back on his stool. "I was watchin' for 'em," he
admitted. "Guy I know asked me to. 'Sides, it's not usual
to see Navy and Marines travelin' together."
"Why were you supposed to watch of them?" Meg asked.
"Paid me real good to change the register to make it look like they
were married," he admitted. "Seemed harmless enough, so I did
it." He gave them a broad smile. "'Sides, they looked real happy
Kate and Meg exchanged a glance. "Anything else you can tell us?"
Jim shook his head. "Nuthin' else," he said.
"Thank you," Meg said, pulling a card out of her purse. "If you
remember anything else, would you please give us a call?" She
scribbled the number for JAG Headquarters on the back of the card and
handed it over.
"Thank you, ma'am," he said with a smile. "I'll do that."
The two officers turned and walked out of the lobby towards the Navy
car they'd requisitioned from the motor pool. "Why would anyone
pay to have a hotel register changed?" Meg asked Kate quietly.
"I don't know," Kate admitted. "But we find out who did it, and
we should be able to find out how Harm and Mac ended up married."
"When all's said and done, all roads lead to the same end.
So it's not so much which road you take, as how you take it."
--Charles de Lint
NORTH OF UNION STATION
Mattie curled comfortably into the corner of the couch, journal in
hand, waiting for Harm to get home. Jen had offered to let her
stay at her place, but she hadn't wanted to do that. She needed
to be there for Harm when he got home. It was the whole reason
she'd borrowed the truck to get her to Falls Church. Too bad that it
had decided not to start after she'd parked it at the loft that morning.
Mattie leaned forward and snagged her journal and a pen from the coffee
table. She thought that she'd finally solved her problem when
she'd chosen to go back to her father, but the current situation just
made her wonder if she'd made the right choice.
"Dear Diary," she wrote. "That still sounds weird to me.
Maybe I should just start writing instead. I'm back at Harm's
place because, after talking to him, I knew he needed me. I
thought I'd figured things out. My dad needed me. He
deserted me, and I couldn't desert him after he straightened himself
"I don't know how long Harm will need me here. I'm also not sure
that I ever want to leave. I mean, I've only been back here for
less than a day, but I know that Harm is much more reliable than my dad
is. Even when he was called out of town on a case, I could always
get in contact with him.
"This isn't fair! I chose, but part of me is whispering that I
chose the wrong dad! I know life isn't fair, but this just
sucks. Harm would never run away if things got tough. I
don't know if I can say that about Tom. Harm would fight for
me. Again, I'm not sure if dad would, or if he'd just ignore the
situation and hope it went away.
"A lot of people would tell me that I'm incredibly lucky to have two
dads that love me. I guess they're right. And I guess this
is sorta what kids with divorced parents go through. Part of me wishes
that Mom had never died, but another piece of me is, well, not exactly
happy, but I wouldn't have Harm if she were still here.
"Sure, my relationship with him isn't exactly the traditional
father/daughter one--for one thing biologically, I'm not his kid--but I
know he loves me. He's told me more than once that he sees me as
his little girl. I wish it were true. If it were, I
wouldn't be feeling so torn right now between both my dads.
Harm's a lot stronger than Tom is. I've heard stories about some
of the stuff he's done that would make your hair curl.
"My dad would've gone on a drinking binge after most of 'em. But
Harm's still sober. He refuses to do much of any drinking in
front of me, too. When dad was still drunk, he didn't have that
problem. And I almost feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to
drop; I'm waiting for him to start drinking again.
"I know I hurt Harm when I requested to live with my dad again.
But he still loves me and wants me with him. I guess he really
wasn't trying to get rid of me last spring. I was happy here, but
I feel like I need to give Tom a chance to be my dad again. Is it
possible to be dad-sick for a man you've known for only a year?
Because I've been missing Harm a lot the past few days."
Before Mattie could write anything more, she heard the rattling jingle
of keys being inserted into the lock. She closed her journal and
put it on the coffee table. The door swung open, and Harm walked
in. "Harm!" Mattie said, jumping up from her place on the
couch. She gave him a bear hug, surreptitiously checking him for
damage. He'd spent the day with *Mac,* after all, and the marine
wasn't on her list of favorite people at the moment.
"Hey, Mattie." Harm said with an easy smile as he returned the hug.
Mattie released him, grabbed his hand and pulled him over to the
couch. "Hungry?" she asked. "I ordered pizza for both of
us." She gave him a sideways look. "Good thing you didn't
change where you put the emergency pizza fund."
Harm tugged one of her curls playfully. "You haven't been gone
that long, kiddo. And I was flying quals and trying to keep busy
because you weren't here. Hadn't gotten around to doing anything
with it yet."
Mattie plopped down on the couch and watched as Harm shrugged out of
his overcoat and hung it and his cover up. "Harm," she began
hesitantly, "are you okay?" She had just about decided to talk to him
about her confusion, but she needed to know if he was all right before
she dumped her problems on him.
Harm sat down beside her and gave her a one-armed hug. "Yeah," he
smiled. "Mac and I are gonna be friends again." He was silent for
a few moments. "I've missed that."
Mattie snuggled into his side. "So what about the investigation?"
"Mats, we don't know anything yet--Meg and Kate are still looking into
it," he explained.
"I'm staying until it's over," she informed him. "I won't leave
Harm kissed the top of Mattie's head. "As long as you go to
school and we get permission from Tom, it's okay with me," he said as
he gave her a squeeze.
Mattie looked up at him and bit her lip. "Harm?"
"Yeah, Mattie?" he answered.
"Maybe I made a mistake going with my dad. Maybe I should've
stayed with you." She took a deep breath and tried to quell the
butterflies that were fluttering in her stomach.
Harm released her and turned so that he could see her. "What's
the matter?' he asked softly. "Is something wrong at your house?"
Mattie started playing with the sleeve of her blue sweatshirt.
"No-o-o-o-o-o, not exactly," she admitted. "I just don't
know! I mean, he's my dad, but I don't know if I can really
depend on him, and you're my dad too, and you need me and he needs me,
and I don't know what to do!" She paused to take a deep
breath. "If I stay with him, I'm betraying you, and if I stay
with you, I'm betraying him." She bit her lip and fell silent.
"You're not betraying me by wanting to live with your dad, Mattie,"
Harm said. "I knew when I finally got you that you might go back
to live with him." He offered her a small smile. "I will always
be here for you when you need me. It doesn't matter if I get
transferred to Outer Mongolia; I'll always have a place for you to run
to because you *are* my daughter."
A single tear escaped and rolled down her cheek. "Really?" she
"Yes," Harm answered. He smiled at her, then wiped the tear away
with gentle fingers. "My only regret is that you weren't mine
from the beginning of your life."
Mattie threw her arms around him and hugged him, hard. "You've
been here when I needed you," she said. "That's enough. I
love you, Dad."
"Good," was his simple answer. He hugged her back and laid his
cheek on her hair.
"So if Tom leaves again, or I decide that I'm better off with you, I
can come back?" she asked.
"Always," was his answer. "And I'll pay for your flying lessons,
if you still want them, and take you up in Sarah every weekend that
we've got good weather and I don't have duty."
Mattie buried her face in his jacket and let loose a slightly watery
sigh. She had two homes and one would always be wherever Harm
was. He was her dad just as much as Tom was, and she never wanted
to let go.
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Kate frowned as she studied the folder in front of her. "Did you
call and get the name of the guy who hired Jim to change the book?" she
Meg sighed and barely refrained from rolling her eyes; Kate had been
sitting with her when she called. "Yeah. He said that the
guy's name is Caleb Parker."
Kate raised an eyebrow. "Why do I get the feeling that 'Caleb
Parker' isn't this guy's real name?"
"I don't know," Meg said with a shrug. "Maybe because
what's-his-name didn't have *any* other information about him?"
Kate scowled. "Yes he did, remember? He gave us a
Meg snorted. "Some description. A tall, thin, white man
with dark hair and blue eyes. That fits what? About a
"We don't have much to go on, that's for sure," Kate said, her scowl
Meg took a step back and bumped into a solid, warm body. She
turned around and knocked the stack of papers the person was carrying
to the ground. "Excuse me," she looked up and smiled.
"Sorry about that Commander Roberts, I didn't mean to knock into
Bud leaned over and started to pick up the scattered papers. "My
fault, Commander," he said with a grin. "I should have been
watching where I was going."
Meg crouched down and started to help retrieve the files. She
stopped when she picked up an internet print out. "What's this?"
Bud glanced over and started to blush. "It's from a site about
dumb laws," he said, his face turning a deeper red.
"Dumb laws, huh?" Kate walked over and looked at the paper Meg was
holding. "Wait a minute--what's that about North Carolina
Meg read the sheet of paper again. "It says here that if a couple
signs into a hotel as a married couple, then they're married."
Kate and Meg exchanged a glance. "They were set up," Kate said.
Meg nodded and stood up. "That's obvious; what isn't is why."
Bud grabbed the last sheet of paper, straightened up, put the stack on
the desk, and dusted his hands off. "What do you know about who was
responsible?" he asked curiously.
Kate scowled again. "He was going by, 'Caleb Parker,' he's tall,
and thin with dark hair and blue eyes."
"Have you checked out Clark Palmer yet? He fits the description and
he's had it in for Commander Rabb for years." Bud neatened up the stack
of paper and settled it in the crook of his arm. "It's not much
of a stretch to think that he'd go after Colonel Mackenzie--she's been
the Commander's partner for a long time."
"Who's Clark Palmer?" Meg asked.
Bud shrugged. "He's an ex-DSD agent that the Commander put in
Leavenworth. He's tried to kill Commander Rabb more than once."
He looked at his watch. "If you two will excuse me, I've got a
meeting with a client." He flashed them a smile and headed
towards his office.
"It makes sense," Meg said slowly. "If this Clark Palmer hates
"He could have arranged this a long time ago and was just waiting for
the right time," Kate finished.
"Too bad we can't prove it," Meg said with a grimace. "The
contents of the envelope were clean; the only prints they found on them
belong to the General."
"What about the envelope?" Kate asked. "I haven't had a chance to
look over the report yet."
Meg shook her head. "It was postmarked in Phoenix," she
said. "There are too many different prints, and almost all of
them are smudged."
Kate pulled a sheet of paper out of a nearby folder. "The stamp
was self-adhesive, and there wasn't any DNA on the flap, either."
"I hate it when we can't prove who did something," Meg grumbled.
"So do I," Kate admitted. "But we can prove that Harm and Colonel
Mackenzie aren't responsible."
"I'll finish writing up the report," Meg said. "Then we can go
tell the General and go home."
Kate raised an eyebrow and smirked slightly. "What? Missing Steve
Meg crossed her arms over her chest. "I've gotten used to the big
hot water bottle," she said, wrinkling her nose. "It's hard to
sleep without him."
"I bet it's," Kate paused. "Hard to do other things without him
"Kate!" Meg protested as she felt heat rise to her face.
Kate shrugged and grinned. "My fiancé is waiting for me,
too," she reminded her. "And he was out of town when I left, too."
"Let's go get this done so we can clear Harm," Meg said. She
grabbed the case file and headed towards the conference room where
their laptops had been set up. While they couldn't prove who did
it, at least they'd cleared their old partner. Half a loaf was
much better than none. And once they saw the General, the
majority of the mess would be cleaned up without ruining two people's
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA
Mac hit the print button and waited impatiently as the printer started
up. She was glad that they'd gotten back and that the paperwork
was done, but she wanted the upcoming meeting with the General to be
over. She glanced across her desk to see Harm rubbing his eyes.
"Are you okay?" she asked, knowing that he'd taken Mattie back to her
father the night before.
Harm looked up at her, a tiny smile on his face. "I guess," he
said. "I knew that her coming back wasn't permanent."
Mac gave him a crooked smile. "She loves you, you know--the
chewing out she gave me last week was almost worthy of the Admiral."
Harm simply nodded. Mac pulled the sheets out of the printer tray
and neatened them up. "Let's ask Coates if the General can fit us
in," he suggested.
Mac nodded. "Yeah." She frowned slightly. "I'm going to
miss working together; we don't get the chance to do that very often
Harm shot her a big grin. "That's what comes with rank and
seniority. Maybe we should... work together tonight."
"Red light, Commander."
Harm pretended to be hurt. "Seriously, dinner tonight at my
place?" he asked.
"It all depends," Mac began. "On if we're cleared; you know as
well as I that spending time together outside of work is off-limits
unless the fraternization charges get dismissed."
Harm grimaced. "I know. Let's go see General Cresswell and find
out if he's got any new information for us." He stood up and turned
towards the door. Together, the two of them walked out of her
office, across the bullpen, and into Jen's office.
"Is the General free?" Mac asked.
"Sir, Ma'am," Jen said with a smile. She pressed down on the
intercom. "Sir, Colonel Mackenzie and Commander Rabb are here to
"Send them in," the General's voice said.
"He's waiting," she said, gesturing towards the door.
Harm walked to the door, opened it, and held it open for Mac.
They entered the office and came to attention in front of General
Cresswell looked up from the report he'd been reading. "At
Mac stepped forward and handed him a file containing the paperwork from
their investigation. "Sir, while Lieutenant Meecham did hit
Commander Saunders, Commander Saunders provoked him into it."
"We're recommending non-judicial punishment for Lieutenant Meecham and
that Commander Saunders at least face a Captain's Mast." Harm said.
"We have witnesses that will testify that he continually provoked the
Lieutenant, even offering death threats against his family because of
their religion." Mac explained.
Cresswell perused the file for a few minutes, then closed it and put it
on his desk. He gave the duo a sharp nod. "Good. Now,
there's the matter of the fraternization charges that the two of you
will *not* be facing. Commander Pike and Commander Austin have
proved sufficiently that the two of you were set up."
"Thank you, sir," Harm said.
"Don't thank me yet, Commander. I'll make sure that the false
marriage is taken care of and *then* you can thank me.
Harm and Mac came to attention then left the General's office.
Harm closed the door behind him and smiled at Mac. "So... dinner
at my place tonight?"
Mac's smile answered his. "Sure. 2130?"
"Sounds good to me," Harm responded. "I've got to go talk to
Sturgis about a plea bargain in the Peterson case." He turned and
started walking towards Sturgis's office.
"See you later," Mac said. Perhaps it was time for another talk,
she thought. Perhaps they could talk out a few things at dinner that
NORTH OF UNION STATION
Harm finished the conversation with AJ and hung up the phone.
He'd fixed the truck and, with Jen's help, taken Mattie home the night
before, giving her reassurances that he would always need her in his
life. It was still sort of weird to him that, despite wanting to
live with her father, she still loved him and thought of him as her dad.
He'd never really believed that he'd get to keep Mattie forever; in a
way, however, he supposed that he did. No matter who she lived
with, he was still her dad. Harm walked into the kitchen, pulled
on his lobster hot mitts, and stirred the sauce that was simmering on
the stove. Mac was coming over and could show up at any time.
"It's open," he called when he heard a knock on the door. He
heard the door open, then close, and the soft chuff of a bag hitting
Without turning around, he listened to her footsteps as she crossed the
apartment and stopped behind him. His eyes started to close as
her soft hand crept up to his shoulder. He'd told her once that
he always knew where she was; that was still true. "Mac," he said
Her hand squeezed his shoulder briefly. "Harm, um, can we wait
Harm put the lid on the spaghetti sauce, turned the heat off, and
turned around. "Sure," he said. "Mac, what's the matter?"
Mac's hand slid down his arm and grasped his lobster-covered
hand. "Nuthin', I just, kind of want to talk," she said softly.
"Okay," he said. Harm followed her lead as she gently tugged his
hand as she started towards the couch. They'd done a lot of
talking in the past week, and were well on their way to reacquiring the
friendship they'd once shared.
Mac sat down on the couch and patted the seat next to her. Harm
pulled off the lobster mitts, dropped them on the coffee table, and sat
down next to her. "Are you okay, Mac?" he asked. "I've
never known you to not want to eat."
"I'm *fine*," she said, giving him a small frown. "I've just been
thinking... I mean, now that our sham marriage has been taken care of,
well, I was thinking that it wouldn't be so bad to be married to you."
Harm grabbed her hand and gently tugged her close to him. He put
an arm around her and was gratified when she leaned into the
half-embrace. "No, it wouldn't be bad to be married to you," he
said, as he laid his cheek against her hair. "I think it'd be
amazing, in fact."
Mac leaned into him more, curling up on the couch next to him. "I
haven't been sleeping again lately," she said softly. "I've been
thinking of going back to see the shrink that the Admiral sent me to."
"If you'll think it'll help, Mac, then I think you should--"
"I'm going to ask her for something to help me sleep," Mac interrupted.
Harm tightened his hold on her. "I'll support you, Marine,
whatever you decide to do."
"I know," she said.
Harm kissed the top of her head, enjoying the way she felt in his
arms. He didn't know what would happen next, but with Mac in his
life, he knew that he could face it; they could face it--together.