2,000 words, 5 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
“Goodbyes”, “Boomerang”, “Legacy”
some language, violence
admit it – ending “Country” the way I did was pretty cruel. But
hey, at least I didn’t leave you hanging for long. I really
didn’t want any shipper stuff to take over that story’s plot,
but when I got the idea for this follow-up, it was just too much
fun to pass up. So hopefully this works for all concerned: the
true-blue shippers get their gratification, and the
non-believers can simply sit this one out. Enjoy …
sequel to “For Love or Country”. Just what was in that
Falls Church, Virginia
She knew she was in trouble from the very first line.
It wasn’t as if she’d expected a joke or anything. The look in his eyes
when he’d given her that unassuming envelope had left no room for doubt.
For once in his life, Harmon Rabb was actively expressing what he felt,
not simply reacting to what happened around him. But the magnitude of
this confession could be captured in that tiny signal: he’d called her
by her given name.
Mac closed the door to her office and shut her blinds before settling
back into her chair. More than anything she could currently remember,
this deserved her undivided attention.
This is ridiculous. As I write this, you’re a grand total of two floors
away. I could walk up there and say all this to you in person. But I’m
fairly sure I’d screw it up, considering my mind is somewhat occupied
with this crazy mission tomorrow night. Actually, I’d probably screw it
up regardless. Besides, if you’re smart – at least, smarter than me,
which is pretty much a given – you’re already asleep.
At the same time, I can’t risk you never knowing the things I’m about to
say. Or write, I mean. Christ, if I were this inarticulate in the
courtroom, I never would have made it through law school. But I’m
determined not to do five million revisions of this. Not only would it
take all night, it would seem less honest somehow. So I’m just going to
keep writing until it all makes sense, or until I fall asleep at my
desk, whichever comes first.
All right, I did have a point here somewhere, so here goes. In the last
few weeks, since I’ve really gotten to know Sergei, I think my outlook
on a lot of things has changed. I’ve always been pretty reluctant to
open up, even to my closest friends – I’m sure you know that better than
anyone. But with Sergei, it was different. It may just be the fact that
after thirty-seven years, I had to learn how to be a brother in a matter
of days. Then again, once he was here, I was really surprised at how
normal it all felt. I guess some of it comes naturally. We understood
each other, never made judgments, and just knew that we’d always be
there for each other, no matter what. I was even more surprised when I
realized that Sergei wasn’t the only person like that in my life. I’ve
had that kind of trust and support for five years, and I took it for
granted for far too long. For that, I am deeply sorry.
The most important thing to come out of all this madness is actually
very simple. I learned that I could love someone, completely and
unconditionally, without even realizing it. I know it could end up
hurting me, but I don’t care. I guess my brother showed me how to let
go. I’m not afraid of it anymore, and so I’m not afraid to say this.
I don’t know when it was that I first fell in love with you, Sarah, but
right now I can’t even imagine a time when it wasn’t true. I think each
of the storms we’ve weathered has made me fall a little harder, a little
further. God, that makes no sense – but you’ll probably get it anyway,
won’t you? Maybe that’s the whole point. You understand things about me
that no one else ever could. You make everything so much clearer, and
brighter – you pull me through the days that make me want to give up and
run away. I don’t think you have any idea how incredible you are, or how
many times I’ve wanted to ignore the regs and all the other baggage
we’ve got between us. But things never seem to work out in real life as
well as they do in my head, and now all I can do is apologize.
I’m sorry for so many things, Sarah. I’m sorry about the way I left two
years ago. I knew I had to do it, for my own peace of mind. But every
time I closed my eyes, I saw you standing there crying, and I wished I’d
been able to make you understand. I’m sorry about practically everything
that happened in Australia, and everything that resulted. I couldn’t say
what you wanted me to say that night – I just wasn’t ready – but I could
have done more to explain, so that you wouldn’t have been so hurt.
Sometimes I feel like an expert at hurting people I love, and that’s a
big part of why it took me so long to admit all this to myself. I wanted
so badly to keep myself off that long list of people who’d hurt you. But
now, of course, I’ve managed to do it yet again.
More than anything, I’m sorry that you have to find out about all this
in a stupid letter. If you’re reading this at all, it’s because I’ve
hurt you by not coming back. I wanted to be able to tell you everything,
even if you don’t feel the same way. I promised myself that I’d do it in
person once all this is over, but I guess that wasn’t enough to get me
through. I hope you’ll be able to forgive me for leaving you this way.
All that’s left to say is this: please don’t hurt yourself any worse by
dwelling on what might have been. I don’t regret a single moment I ever
spent with you. I only wish there could have been more. Take care,
Love always – Harm.
By the time she’d read it through for the third time,
her tears were blurring the script. For a while, she just sat very
still, too stunned to do much of anything. Then, abruptly, she stood up
from her desk and brushed the moisture from her eyes. If he could
suddenly be enlightened and speak his mind, then damn it, so could she.
“Gunny, is the commander in his office?”
In the bullpen, Gunnery Sergeant Galindez straightened. “I think he went
outside, ma’am … are you all right?”
“Fine, thank you,” she replied distractedly, already halfway to the
door. Realizing she’d forgotten her cover, and choosing not to care, she
strode quickly out to the courtyard. Getting written up for a breach of
uniform protocol was hardly foremost among her concerns.
When she came around the side of the building, he was there, standing
next to the small fountain. He’d forgotten his cover as well, and didn’t
seem to notice the brisk air whipping through his khaki blouse. Feeling
her gaze on him, he turned, and for a long moment, they just stared at
“This doesn’t count,” she said flatly, gesturing with the letter in her
hand. “You have to be able to look me in the eye and say it. I – I need
you to say it.”
He nodded slowly, seeing the conflict in her graceful features. “Do you
mind if I skip to the important part?”
“You had damn well better.”
“All right.” With a deep breath, he faced her squarely. “I love you. I
love you even more now than when I wrote that letter. If you want me to,
I’ll not only let go, I’ll dive in headfirst. I don’t care what it
After five years of miscommunication and missed opportunities, the
simple honesty of that declaration was astounding. Her defenses were
rapidly eroding, but she forced herself to maintain control.
“Mac,” he begged. “Please say something.”
She arched one eyebrow and folded her arms. “‘Mac’?” she echoed. “The
letter I read was addressed to Sarah.”
A hint of his mesmerizing smile shone through in his eyes. “Sarah,” he
said quietly. “Just tell me what I have to do.”
“Nothing. It’s my turn.”
In four steps, she crossed the courtyard to him, and the sheer force of
her kiss nearly knocked him over backward. Instinctively he wrapped his
uninjured arm around her and drew her close, relief and joy washing over
him in equal parts. At long last, somehow, they’d made it.
Finally, she regained some of her composure and looked up at him.
“Sailor, if I’d had to read all of that in the intended context, I would
have killed you again.”
“I would have deserved it,” he admitted. “Can I make it up to you?”
“I’d sure like to see you try.” She leaned in to kiss him again, but he
pulled back slightly.
“Time out. I just laid my heart out for you to trample. Don’t I get some
small concession in return?”
“God, you’re demanding, aren’t you?”
“But you love me anyway, right?”
The almost-childlike hope in his eyes made her laugh. “Yeah, I do,” she
said softly. “I love you, Harm.”
“Thank God.” And he kissed her again, effectively blocking out the rest
of the world – including the two officers walking out of the building
toward their respective cars.
Bud Roberts’s eyes grew huge as he spotted his two mentors and friends
locked in a powerful embrace, not entirely out of sight. His original
reaction, delight, was immediately replaced by panic. If he could see
them, then so could … “Admiral! Sir, I just remembered – ”
“It can wait, Lieutenant,” Admiral Chegwidden remarked calmly, his gaze
also on the couple.
“But, sir, I – ”
“We’ll deal with it on Monday, Lieutenant,” the JAG repeated in a lower
tone. “But if you happen to see your son’s godparents this weekend,
kindly remind them what the better part of valor is.”
The admiral watched him hurry away, shaking his head. And to think he’d
almost given up on those two …
Bud climbed into his minivan and went straight for his cell phone.
“Honey, you’ll never believe what I just saw …”