||JAG story, drama,
angst, romance (H/M)
words, 167 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
||Through mid-season 8
||GS, some language
||In no way do I see all
gays as stereotypical. Edwin and Allen are based on two
relatives of mine – one from each side of the family – whom I
love dearly. Remember, in this story these are two 'gentlemen of
a certain age' who 'came out' when being gay was much more of a
handicap than it is today.
The tall, auburn-haired woman walked briskly from the jet-bridge into
the terminal at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, dragging her wheeled
carry-on bag behind her. The late October weather was much colder than
the Indian Summer she had left behind in Washington. It made her glad
she'd decided to put the liner in the Burberry trench coat she carried
over her arm. Likely she'd need the extra warmth in the evening.
She was exhausted. If this trip hadn't been for a very special occasion,
she would have skipped it. The 25th anniversary of two people who had
been instrumental in making her what she was today wasn't something she
could in good conscience ignore. She marveled at any couple who could
stay together that long. Her own marriage had lasted all of six weeks,
at least as far as them living under the same roof went.
She'd requested Friday and Monday leave for the weekend event months
before, and had told the Admiral that it was extremely important to her.
Fortunately, he hadn't pried. While she didn't think he was homophobic,
telling him she was attending a 25th 'wedding' anniversary for two
people named Edwin and Allen might not have gone over that well.
At least there was light at the end of the tunnel back at JAG. Well,
maybe. Harm was coming back on Monday, though with the need to process
in and accomplish the reams of personnel paperwork the military thrived
on, it would probably be Wednesday or Thursday before he was actually on
board to accomplish anything. Unfortunately, his replacement, Carolyn
Imes, had ended up causing more work than she accomplished in the two
months since she had transferred back from Naples.
It had come as a shock to all of them to find out someone they had
worked with for so long and saw as an extremely competent attorney had
never passed the bar. Mac saw a grain of logic in the woman's contention
that it wasn't a necessary for her to have both graduated from law
school and passed the bar. However, she knew very well that the change
in regulation in 1991 had rendered that argument moot. It wouldn't get
them far in court, though hopefully it would keep Commander Imes from
anything more than dismissal.
That wouldn't alleviate the overturning of every conviction in the past
12 years where she had defended. It was a nightmare, one that was likely
going to fall directly into Harm's lap. It would be automatically
assumed that every defendant whose case she lost had inadequate counsel.
Ironically, any case she got a conviction on as prosecutor stood.
Fortunately, most of her cases in Europe had fallen in that category.
As she neared the end of the concourse, she saw Edwin waiting for her.
As usual, he was animated and happy to see her. After a big hug and a
European style kiss on each cheek, he held her away from him for a quick
study. His grip was tight on each shoulder. "My dear, what have you been
doing! You look dreadful!"
"Thanks, Edwin, I love you too!" she replied tartly. She knew she needed
a haircut, color, a manicure. Lately, time for anything more than clean
and presentable had been wanting.
"You know you're always stunning, Sarah! But you look exhausted." There
was concern evident in the older man's face. He loved this woman like
the daughter he never had.
"Work, work and more work. I haven't been out of the office before 2100
any night that I've been in DC in months. And I've been away a lot more
than I've been home." She took a deep breath. "The times when I've been
away have been even worse." In thinking about what she just said, one
particular South American hell came to mind. Definitely worse.
"What's the matter, is the government short of lawyers?" He gave a
chuckle. "Somehow, I can't imagine that!"
They left the relative warmth of the terminal, heading to the parking
lot. She wasn't surprised to see Edwin stop at a new Hummer. He was
always on board for the newest trends, and if 'macho big-boy toys' were
what was hot, he'd have one. Fortunately, he had both the aplomb to
carry off almost anything, the chutzpah to carry off anything he really
shouldn't, and the money to satisfy any hankering he might have.
"No, not the government, but the military is." She climbed in the front
seat gratefully. It was good to get away, even if for less than 72
hours. It literally was the first break she had since a short visit to
Chloe during the holiday season the year before. All work and no play
was making Sarah a very, very dull and tired girl.
"Does war raise your crime rate?" he asked with a trace of humor.
"No, not in the way you mean. But a lot of JAGs have had to deploy to
deal with the ROEs. Mostly, it's the more junior ones who are actually
in the field and with battle groups."
He nodded for her to go on. While he'd never been able to figure out
what someone with Sarah's potential was doing in the military, he found
her stories fascinating.
"That leaves us short-staffed at headquarters, and at the base level
too. We've all had to pitch in and do some things we're not used to
doing. I actually wrote some wills, powers of attorney and temporary
child guardianship papers for deploying reservists last week because
legal assistance was swamped and they had to be done that day. The unit
was shipping out in 24 hours."
She took a deep breathe, a small smile breaking through at the memory of
no less a personage than AJ Chegwidden interrupting court. They really
were that shorthanded, and the case had been a relatively simple DDO.
Unfortunately involving a Lieutenant Colonel and a Colonel, in front the
entire command staff, which made if far more important than a PO
disobeying an Ensign.
"The trial judge granted a continuance and started helping out too, as
well as the other three attorneys involved." The smile got bigger as she
remembered the look on some of the junior enlisted Marines faces when
they realized Admiral Morris, the Navy's chief judge, and Admiral
Chegwidden, the JAG, were writing up instructions on who should get
their car and stereo if the worst happened. Actually, both seemed to
enjoy it, especially Morris. He said he hadn't done any hands-on
non-judicial legal work in over ten years.
"So, what about your love life?" He looked at her over his right
shoulder as he put the gargantuan car in gear and drove out of the
"Geez, Edwin, a world's record!" She shook her head with a short laugh.
"I've been off the plane for exactly 16 minutes. You must be getting
"Dodging the question, counselor?" He raised one eyebrow in a way that
reminded her of someone else. Somehow on a British gentleman of 'certain
years' as he referred to himself, it was nowhere near as sexy as when a
certain sailor did it.
"No need. I have no love life." She gave a deep sigh. "Right now, I have
no life outside of the office."
"Sarah, Sarah, Sarah! You know exactly who I'm talking about, so fess
up, darling. I want to hear about the latest with tall, dark and
To her old friend's utter surprise and shock, Sarah Caroline MacKenzie,
for the first time in the almost 20 years he had known her, burst into
University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus
Professor Allen Duchamp's office
"Miss MacKenzie, thank you for coming in on such short notice." A tall,
distinguished looking man of about 50 motioned to the leather chair in
front of his desk. He'd recently been appointed a department head, and
had moved to roomier quarters in the building
that held most of the social science faculty offices.
In any photo spread, he would be earmarked "college professor" complete
with worn jeans, button down shirt and tweed jacket with suede elbow
patches. On some men, the look would be ridiculous, but it appeared to
be made for him.
The slightly built young woman, dressed in what he considered the worst
of student fashion, seemed to fumble with her backpack, shuffle her feet
and try to sink into the floor all at the same time. She mumbled
something that might have been a greeting, or it could have been her
laundry list. Speaking up was not one of this student's
strong suits. She was still standing a few moments later.
"Have a seat. I have something I'd like to discuss with you."
Sarah sat, her long straight hair obscuring her face. She seldom looked
up, almost never looked anyone in the eye, and an intelligible sentence
out of her mouth was something he didn't recall ever hearing. The
painfully shy exterior, however, was deceiving. It hid a mind as sharp
as a steel trap, and an intellect that it would be a
shame to waste.
"One of my graduate students has transferred to another university,
she's following her husband whose job has taken him east. There's an
opening in my Eastern European political study group next semester. You
seem to have quite a grasp of the situation in the region. I was
wondering if you'd like to take the empty spot."
While it was not all that unusual for professors to offer openings in
graduate seminars to promising undergraduate students, they normally
were seniors. This student had almost two more years to go to complete
her degree, but showed a promise that was hard to quantify. Or, she
could, if she could ever be convinced to open her mouth to utter more
"Me?" The sound came out as a squeak.
"Yes, Miss MacKenzie, you. Is that such a surprise?" He gave her a
charming smile, completely lost on her since she was focused on the
front of his desk instead of his face.
She lifted her chin, and for the first time he could ever recall, she
looked at him while she spoke. "Uh huh."
"For god's sake, Sarah! WHY?" He'd been her faculty adviser, simply
through the luck of the draw, since she declared herself a political
science major with minors in Russian studies and Slavic languages the
year before. Her GPA was 3.9, and she worked two or three jobs besides.
Yet he'd never in his life met someone with so little self-confidence.
"Why what?" She was back to mumbling and looking down again.
"Why wouldn't I offer it to you?" He stood up and began to pace his
office. "You have a quick mind, you’re likely smarter than most of the
grad students in there."
She looked down at her feet and gave a slight shrug of her shoulders.
"I'd, I'd like to do it, if I can fit it in."
"Why couldn't you?" He knew none of the other classes in the department
would conflict, and she could certainly take her pick of electives she
needed to fill out her degree from other departments. This was an
opportunity few would refuse, especially if they had their eye on grad
school. A stellar performance in a seminar like this, where he called in
speakers and panelists he knew from his former days as a career FSO
which had culminated in an ambassadorship, albeit to a small country,
would be a feather in the cap of any grad school applicant.
"Most of the seminars meet at night or on Saturdays." Since many grad
students worked as teaching assistants for the basic freshman and
sophomore courses in their fields of study, and others worked at
full-time jobs, most of the actual course work was late in the day or on
weekends to accommodate their schedules.
"This one meet on Thursday evenings from seven to ten." His tone
conveyed his confusion.
"That's one of my best nights." At least that's what he thought she
said. It was hard to tell from behind the curtain of hair. "You know, at
"Sarah, you mean to tell me you're going to pass up the chance to take
an seminar like this because of your work schedule at a DINER?"
"You wouldn't understand." At least that's what he thought she said. She
slowly got out of the chair, and reached for her backpack. The defeat in
the set of her shoulders was telling.
She jumped at the loud tenor of his voice, dropping back down with a
look of sheer terror on her face.
The normally placid professor took a deep breath. Years on the
diplomatic circuit had honed his emotions. He almost never lost his
temper, but felt the waste of intelligence in someone like her was next
to criminal. "I apologize, Sarah. I shouldn't have raised my
She continued to study her feet.
"Look, why don't you try and rearrange something? Maybe you can work
"I already do." She took a deep breathe. "It's well, that's where the,
you know, the people who do most of the university services eat.
Thursday is payday for most of them, the, well, the tips are better."
This last came out in a rush.
This was the single longest statement he'd ever heard the young woman in
front of him utter. "And you need the money."
"Yes." She was back to mumbling.
While the fact that her military father had always declared Minnesota as
his home of record allowed her to attend the university as a state
resident, the tuition and living expenses were still her complete
responsibility. Thank God it was much cheaper than if she had attended a
private university, or an out-of-state one.
Uncle Matt had offered to help, but she felt she already owed him too
much. No way would she ever ask her father for a thing, and she
preferred to forget her short, abortive marriage to Chris, not that he
would be able to help her out from behind bars anyway. Indeed, she kept
Chris a deep, dark secret. He was one reason she had chosen to get far
away from Arizona. If he got out of prison, Minnesota would be the last
place he'd think to look for her.
"Sarah, let's do this. I'll keep the space open for you, and we'll see
what can be worked out somehow." Allen was calm now, and had his
thinking cap on.
She nodded her head, leaving the office with the same slump in her
shoulders with which she had entered. He had a feeling that it was more
in defeat than anything else. However he wasn't one to surrender that
easily. As she closed the door to his office, he reached for his phone
On the way to Edwin and Allen's home
Pulling off the highway into a parking lot, Edwin stopped the car,
turned off the ignition and took the sobbing woman beside him into his
arms. "Sarah, sweetie!" He held her as her tears soaked his new cashmere
jacket, not even caring about the wear and tear on his lapels. Being a
fashionista from before anyone even knew what one was, this was very
un-Edwin like behavior.
In the next 15 minutes, he somehow got a convoluted story about South
America, terrorists, diamonds and the sailor he knew damned well she'd
been in love with for years out of her. He had no idea what one had to
do with the other, but assumed he'd get the whole story eventually.
As best he could fit together, someone, she couldn't/wouldn't say who,
which was damning in and of itself, needed her language skills in South
America. The intelligence agencies had plenty of Russian speakers, since
they continued to recruit them long after it was clear they were looking
at the wrong enemy. It was pretty easy to deduce her skills in Farsi and
Arabic were what was wanted. The fact that she was a beautiful woman
likely didn't hurt the equation either. Men had been underestimating
beautiful women at their peril for centuries.
Somehow, in the midst of this, tall, dark and gorgeous had gotten fired,
or kicked out of the Navy, or something of the sort. Edwin doubted he
left voluntarily, since from what he knew of the man he'd likely had
gold braid on his diapers and bled navy blue. Sarah seemed to think it
was all her fault, and that TD&G hated her for it. Or maybe that he
hated her for something else, that, along with many other parts of the
story, wasn't intelligible between her sobs.
While he wasn't all that clear on the details, what she told him, and
more so what she didn't tell him, had classified government spook-job
written all over it. Now, since he knew sailor-boy was a pilot and a
lawyer, how he got involved was a bit of a mystery.
When Allen had worked for the 'real' State Department, there had been
enough CIA types cavorting around in the early years of their
relationship that their antics just pretty much jumped up and bit you in
the ass if you knew what to look and listen for. The tough-as-nails
Marine was obviously in total meltdown, and just as obviously, it had
been coming for a long, long time.
While he would love to have the whole story immediately he knew he'd get
it eventually. If not from her, Allen still had his sources and a very
high security clearance. While all intelligence agencies worked on a
'need-to-know' basis, once operations were over there was still an old
boys network that gossiped more than women in a hair salon.
He still worked with several think-tanks in Washington and New York as a
consultant, even more in the post-9/11 world than he had done
previously. With the Balkan situation having proved to be a boot camp
for more than one jihadi, his expertise in the area was still in demand
many years after he left State. Working for private think-tanks and as a
government consultant proved far more lucrative than working for the
government outright. It also gave a much greater measure of freedom to
express what one really thought. Since they were paying through the nose
for it, the powers that be also seemed to pay a little more attention to
Finally, after what seemed to be an hour but was really only about 20
minutes, she began to slow down. The deep, wrenching sobs were replaced
by hiccups and sniffles. She tried to pull away, but he was stronger
than he looked, and held her for another few minutes while she regained
her composure. Knowing this woman the way he did, he was actually
flattered that she had broken down in front of him. There were only a
very few people in the world that she was willing to expose her
vulnerable side to.
"Dear God, what I wouldn't give to be able to take you to a bar and pour
a couple of tots of brandy down your gullet!"
As compassionate as he was capable of being to those he loved, in this
case, Edwin was truly shocked. He and Allen knew the 'real' Sarah, the
deeply insecure little girl that lived inside the strong woman, but he
had never seen that child come out like this before. Even in her worst
days, the Sarah he knew had simply done what she had to do without any
condemnation of the bad breaks life had thrown at her. He took it as a
sign of how bad things really were for her. She'd been holding together
with a gossamer thread, and it appeared that the thread had finally
After wiping her face with the last of a packet of Kleenex from her
purse, she managed to get a little better control of herself.
"Not going happen, Edwin. I tried that once over a man, sort of, and it
doesn't work very well." Her two Minnesota mentors were members of the
select group that knew the story of her alcoholism and recovery. She'd
even shared, long after the fact, her fall from grace, as she described
it, in the wake of Dalton's murder and her stalker.
"I know, I know." He reached out and patted her thigh. "Well, we'll just
have to go home, have tea and you can tell me all about it. Hopefully
without the tears this time." He patted her hand, put the car in gear
and headed off in his original direction.
It wasn't long before they reached the impressive restored Victorian
home in Lake Calhoun. She remembered the first time she'd seen it,
decked out in its Christmas best.
Her beat-up old car looked out of place in the circular brick paved
driveway of the large Queen Anne-style home. The house was decked out
with white lights on the bushes and trees, with floodlights illuminating
the wreaths on the double doors and windows. Aside from beautiful
brocade bows adorning them, the wreaths were plain evergreen, no glitter
or glitz. Although she didn't know exactly how, the young woman knew the
place exuded style and taste in its simplicity.
Sarah mounted the steps and rang the bell, surprised to be admitted by a
young man in a shirt, bow tie and vest who offered to take her coat.
This did not appear to be the simple Christmas party for a few students
and faculty members she had expected. All at once, she felt even more
self conscious than she had when she left her small, shabby apartment.
The student area of the Twin Cities was light-years from this exclusive
After surrendering her winter parka, she looked around the huge foyer in
awe. The ceiling was at least 25 feet high, with an elaborate sweeping
staircase rising to the second floor. Once again, she didn't know how
she knew but sensed that the home was decorated with style, taste, and a
very generous pocketbook. Nothing was ostentatious, but it was obvious
everything was the best that money could buy.
The antiques that abounded were real, the Persian carpets too. Those at
least she had some knowledge of. She didn't know what defined 'mansion'
but this home had to be pretty close. Obviously the professor had an
income other than his university salary, since she doubted that academia
was this lucrative.
Sarah began to wander through the rooms, each decorated with the same
elegant simplicity. A bar had been set up in the corner of the living
room, and she requested a diet cola. Somehow, just quickly looking
around at how the other people in the room were attired, she knew her
flowered rayon dress with a ruffled neck was all wrong. Although she had
thought it was beautiful when she tried it on in the discount store
where she did most of her shopping, in the refined setting of this room,
she knew it looked cheap and gaudy.
She saw Professor Duchamp across the room, standing with a man she
thought was a Congressman from the local area. A US Congressman, not a
state legislator. She'd seen his face on the local news. Come to think
of it, a woman across the room looked like the anchorwoman of one of the
major network's local stations.
Ever since the invitation had arrived, she'd wondered why on earth
Professor Duchamp would invite her to a party at his home. It was
described on the invitation as a holiday open house from 6 to 9 pm,
which she correctly interpreted as meaning cocktail party. What she had
no idea of was why she was there.
She decided to wander around and look for a place to hide until she
could politely make her excuses and leave. Assuming that she didn't need
to stay more than thirty minutes to avoid abject rudeness, she didn't
feel the need to refill her drink before wandering off. After looking in
a few more rooms, she came to a deserted solarium toward the back of the
house. It must be lovely in the summer, but now seemed rather sad and
forlorn. The room was filled with wicker furniture with burgundy and
blue paisley cushions and large potted plants. The glass walls looked
out onto a large yard and garden, now covered with snow, and a stand of
trees about 50 yards away.
Sarah sat on the wicker chair closest to the window, watching the snow
fall slowly to the ground. Lost in her thoughts, she was startled when
the lights were suddenly turned on. She began to rise.
"No, no, don't get up! You just looked so sad and lonely sitting there
in the dark.” The man thought for a moment. "The French have a lovely
word for that mood, 'trieste.' French can be so much more expressive
than English. Too bad I don't speak it."
She was glad her glass had been almost empty, since her jerky motions
would have likely spilled her drink if it hadn't been. "I, ah, I wasn't
hiding," she choked out in a trembling voice.
"Of course you were, my dear. And that's fine, Sarah. I told Allen that
inviting you here was a mistake, but he insisted."
She looked at the man, puzzled. Although his words sounded harsh, they'd
been said with no hint of animosity, and he looked kind. Strange, but
kind. Well, at least his clothes were strange. He was wearing a velvet
jacket, a shirt that looked like it was silk, a scarf around his neck
and plaid, well, tartan trousers. It certainly wasn't an outfit the men
she'd grown up around would have been caught dead in, but on the
slightly built stranger with the British accent, it looked fine.
Elegant, even. Although she wasn't too sure about the shoes. They looked
like they were velvet too, and had a crest or something embroidered on
"I should go. I was only going to stay a few minutes, but I didn't want
to be rude and go right away, but I ...."
"Slow down, my dear! You're wondering who I am, aren't you?"
She nodded her head in the affirmative.
"Never nod, it's ill bred. Speak up." He took a breath. "I'm Edwin. If
life were different, I'd be Allen's Mrs., but since it's not, well, you
get the idea." He waved his hand in an expressive way.
"You mean, Professor Duchamp is..."
"Gay? Queer as a three-pound note." Edwin said this in a matter of fact
tone, as though anyone who thought ill of the situation was the one who
had a problem.
Perhaps because of her military background, she'd always assumed
homosexual men were, well, like Edwin. Professor Duchamp was tall,
well-built, with steel grey hair, and look manly.
She started to nod, then thought better of it and replied, "Yes. No. I
mean, I wouldn't know, but...."
Edwin chuckled. "You can't always tell the book by its cover. It's
important to remember that, Miss MacKenzie."
"I'm sorry, I..." Sarah was flustered, but didn't feel this man was
making fun of her. She just didn't quite know how to respond.
"Oh, you've got nothing to be sorry for. Sit, please. Allen invited you
so you and I could have a chat."
Her look was questioning.
"I hear you need a more flexible job."
"It would make life easier." She sounded as though she thought
simplifying her life might be a sin.
"I need a research assistant, and if you're half as smart as Allen says
you are, you'll fill the bill quite nicely."
Minnesota, Present Day
15 minutes later the Hummer deposited them in front of the same house,
still done in its cream, beige, taupe and cocoa color scheme, with just
the tiniest touches of lavender and mauve on some of the gingerbread
trim. Edwin claimed he yearned to give the house a bolder paint job, but
felt the grey Minnesota winters would be too stark a contrast. His
rallying cry was, "If only Allen would get a job teaching at Berkeley!"
They all knew it was an empty plea, he fit in perfectly with the art
scene in the smaller city, and Northwest had a direct flight that had
him in London in less than nine hours when he needed to oversee the
business interests he still maintained there.
They immediately started up the staircase, Sarah letting Edwin be the
gentleman and carry her bag. He would have insisted anyway. He
invariable, even at their first almost disastrous meeting, had treated
her like a lady. He also demanded she act like one, and
accept being treated as no less from anyone else.
After placing her suitcase on the luggage rack in the room she always
stayed in, he turned to her. "Now, you have 15 minutes to freshen up and
get into something more comfortable. Where did you get that suit by the
way? Much too severe for you!"
Sarah glanced down at the navy pin-striped pantsuit she was wearing. "I
bought it at Barney's the last time we were in New York. You loved it
"Sarah, that was three years ago! Besides, I never expected you to wear
it with a navy cashmere sweater under it! MUCH too monotone for you, my
"Edwin dear, three years old or not, I've only had about four occasions
to wear this, it cost me over $1200, and YOU told me it was a classic!"
Indeed, the soft wool flannel and cashmere blend fabric could be worn in
any weather other than the steamy summers they got in DC. She just
hadn't had much occasion for civilian business clothes in the past few
"Well, it is! But the way you're wearing it is just DULL!" He paused. "I
did not teach you to be dull!" He couldn't believe she'd teamed a navy
crew sweater with the suit, with pearls and pearl earrings as her only
accessories. She looked like a lawyer. A conservative and plain one at
"No, you didn't. I just haven't had much occasion to shop lately." Even
the purchase of shoes, her one big vice, had been on hold lately. She
just hadn't had much drive to go shopping, not to mention no time.
Although, she admitted to herself, in the past she had been busy but had
made time for herself doing things she enjoyed. She wondered when the
last time was that she had done so, and found she couldn't remember.
Probably the weekend she had spent with Chloe last Christmas.
"Well, get comfy and come down to the kitchen. We'll have tea and catch
up before Allen gets home and starts to talk to you about the state of
Allen and Edwin were, on the surface at least, proof that opposites did
attract. Allen with his learned concerns about the state of the world,
still called upon by think-tanks and occasionally the government for his
expertise in Eastern European affairs. Edwin had all the flamboyance of
someone who existed in the world of art and fashion. How the two of them
had come to live together so amiably for so many years was a mystery to
many, but Sarah felt that it came down to their core values being the
They were at heart family men, loyal to a fault to those they considered
part of their circle. In all the time they had known her, the only time
either of them had ever expressed anger toward her was in the wake of
Chris Ragle's death. Not for her actions, but for her inactions in not
coming to them for help in the first place. Had things been different in
their younger years, she had no doubt they would have adopted a couple
of children and made great Dads. Since the times had denied them that
right, they had taken several older 'orphans of the storm' under their
wings, herself among them.
Once she had changed into jeans and a white button-down shirt, she
joined Edwin in the kitchen. He'd laid out a teapot along with some
small sandwiches and a plate of delicate cookies she recognized as from
a small bakery in the upscale part of town. If he had gone to this much
trouble, she knew he'd been gunning for her before she got off the
plane. The man was perceptive to a fault and had likely not bought her
replies of 'nothing' when he enquired what was wrong in their last few
"Bringing out the big guns, are you?" she remarked ironically.
"You really didn't think I believed you, did you?"
She let out a huge sigh. "I know better than to underestimate you, I
guess. What gave it away?"
"Well, aside from you sounding basically depressed all summer, you
hardly ever mentioned Commander Fabulous. So, that meant either you
found someone else, he did, or you two were on the outs. Since you would
have dished about a new love, I knew it was number two or three. You
usually don't shut up about him. Even when you were supposed to marry
what's his name, you talked about the other one all the time."
She looked at him in surprise. "Do I? I mean, talk about Harm all the
"Well, maybe not all the time, but often enough for me to notice the
lack. So, without the tears this time, tell me what the bloody hell
An hour later, she had given him most of the explanation for the rift
between her and her former partner, at least the part she understood.
"Sweetie, what I don't understand is why you're dating this other guy?"
Mac thought for a moment. "It's not really dating. It's more, well, we
have dinner together sometimes."
"Most people call that dating." Obviously there were things about the
heterosexual world he obviously didn't understand.
"If that were dating, then Harm and I have been dating for years." She
shook her head in the negative, with a small smile on her face to
indicate how ridiculous an idea she considered that.
Edwin continued to give her "the look," and she shook her head to
indicate she didn't agree with his assessment.
"We never dated." She paused again. "With Clay it's not romantic, at
least not on my part. Not that it was romantic with Harm." she hastened
Edwin raised an eyebrow questioningly, but let her continue.
"I guess, well, he, Clay, said he needed me. It was kind of nice to feel
needed. And wanted."
She said this in a small, questioning voice, as if this was the first
time she'd thought it through. "And there's some other stuff I can't
If she'd given any actual thought to the matter, it was that anything,
even the sometimes dreary formal charity events Webb dragged her to, was
preferable to sitting alone in her apartment waiting for Harm to return
one of her phone calls. Then there was the on-going search for Sadik,
and at least by seeing Webb, she was kept in the loop more than she
would have been otherwise. The Agency had a "don't call us, we'll call
you" policy, no matter who you were and how much you might have helped
them in the past.
She hadn't realized until seeing Harm the other day how badly his
complete dismissal of her from his life had cut. She'd thought no matter
what, even if they had both married other people, they would still
remain friends. Indeed, she still wasn't really clear on why
Harm had been so angry at her, she just knew that he was. Frankly, she
thought she'd given him what he wanted: 'them' back on a basis where
there would never be any expectations of anything else other than close
"Ah, the needy, wounded hero routine. I wonder how many women have
gotten suckered in by that one, and five years later woken up to wonder
‘How in hell did I end up with this guy’?"
"That's not going to happen. I, well, he's barely gotten back to work.
We don't see each other all that often, though Harm seems to think I
jumped into bed with Clay the moment we left the continental US."
"Edwin! No, God, as usual, I live like a nun, but I have the reputation
of a whore, at least as far as Harm is concerned!" Her voice rose an
octave, and she was getting upset again. There was obviously a lot going
on that she hadn't dealt with in any meaningful
"Sarah, what on earth do you mean!" Knowing how carefully Mac screened
the men she got involved with these days, this statement truly shocked
Dammit! His kind tone was her undoing. She was in tears again, and it
wasn't what she wanted. She could face the fact that Harm saw her as
fundamentally flawed in her own head, but admitting it to someone else,
someone she loved and respected, that was something else.
"He makes these comments ..." The whole story came pouring out, going
back to the remark she had inadvertently overheard him making to Sturgis
over two years before. His comments about her making a move as soon as a
man showed interest, his remark about her sleeping her way into law
school, every hurtful thing he'd ever said found its way out of her
mouth, while she tried to choke back the tears that came unbidden.
"I don't know what it is! Other women, one in particular that I managed
to save his worthless ass over can actually act like sluts and that's
fine ... Christ, I'm not going to judge her! But ... "
"Sarah, calm down! You've had some bad breaks with the men in your life,
yes. And I know you’re really very picky about who you see ... "
"Yeah, the stupid jerk doesn't know how many I turn down or just ignore
signals from before I decided I'm finally so damned lonely that ... "
She took the proffered handkerchief from her host.
"God, Edwin! I've slept with six men in my entire life, I'm 36 years
old, and he thinks that makes me a ... " It was pretty obvious this
subject was upsetting her even more than she already was. Having been
privy to the story of Joe MacKenzie’s diatribes and tirades against his
daughter's morals, he had a pretty good idea why questioning, even
obliquely, her good name would have Sarah overreacting.
"I don't think he thinks any such thing, Sarah." He said this quietly
"Then why does he say what he does?" Those who only knew the gung ho
Marine attorney would have never recognized the whipped puppy voice as
coming from the same woman.
"I don't know. But I don't think it's because he thinks you're immoral.
He doesn't sound like the kind of person who makes those judgments."
Actually, Edwin had a pretty good idea of why TD&G said the things he
did, he was gay, not stupid. It had far more to do with a green-eyed
monster than the conclusion Sarah had jumped to. However he also knew
anything he said right then to defend the guy would fall on deaf ears.
"Right! That's why he's never made so much as a pass at me, ever. Well,
almost." She sniffed loudly. "But that didn't count."
"What doesn't count?" Edwin was absently patting her hand. Thank God so
many people in the fashion world were drama queens, he'd had more
practice at this than he cared to remember. He could do this blindfolded
and with earplugs. He just never thought he'd see this particular person
this close to a meltdown. It had been well over a year since she joined
him for a quick theatre weekend in New York when he'd been there on
business. It didn't seem like that year had treated his darling girl
"At my, well, Mic’s and my engagement party. He ... we, " He encouraged
her to go on. "He kissed me."
"People kiss the bride to be at engagement parties all the time, " Edwin
"Ah, this ... this wasn't that kind of kiss, Edwin." She reacted with a
look that could only be called starry-eyed to the memory. "This was a
‘knock-your-socks-off’ kind of kiss."
"Wait a minute. " He held up a hand. "Mr. Truth, Justice and the
American Way KISSED you, not like a well wisher, but like, well, a
suitor, at your engagement party?"
She nodded her head.
"Well, what the bloody hell happened? I know you finally gave Boomerang
Boy the boot, but why didn't you and ....." He could see she was about
ready to start blubbering again, so, being a smart man, stuck a
particularly decadent chocolate cookie in her mouth.
Allen had been undergoing rehab from a recent heart attack at the time
of her aborted wedding, so the two had been unable to make the trip to
Washington. She'd had her doubts about introducing them to MIc, though
she never would have thought twice about letting them meet Harm. That in
and of itself should have given her pause about
the relationship with the Australian officer.
It had taken her a year or more to forgive herself for being the doormat
she had allowed herself to become in her relationship with Mic. She'd
felt so guilty for not loving him the way he wanted her to that she had
allowed every other facet of their life together to be written on his
terms alone. Looking back, she barely recognized that woman as herself.
"Oh, Edwin, we managed to screw it up! We always do!"
Just then the back door opened, and Allen entered the kitchen. He came
over to give Edwin a affectionate buss on the cheek, then came around
the counter to take Sarah into a bear hug.
"Well, Colonel, we thought you fell off the world there for a while!"
They usually managed to get together once or twice a year when he came
to Washington on business, but during the last 18 months, he'd been
there only when she'd been out of town.
"Excuse me for a minute, you two. I'm going to make a couple of phone
calls, then we can decide where we want to have dinner tonight."
As Edwin left the kitchen, the two began a discussion of the political
climate in the Middle East in the wake of the Iraq war. It had always
been thus, Edwin got the personal details, Allen the professional. They
made a good team in more ways than one.
Aboard NW Flight 1234
The weekend had been fun, though exhausting in its own way. Mac reclined
her first class seat, glad that she had decided to use some of her
frequent flier miles for the luxury. It was seldom enough she got the
chance to indulge, even though she probably had enough miles to get a
few round trip tickets to the moon. Most of the time her
bookings were so last minute that she couldn't get an upgrade.
At least she looked better than she had when she left Washington on
Friday. She'd had Edwin book her an appointment with her old hairdresser
Vincenzo – born Vinnie Kaswalski in Newark, but hey, Miliao sold more
and pricier haircuts – since she knew she'd need to be out of the house
on Saturday while the caterers and such worked
their magic. Instead, after taking a look at her, he booked her in for a
She had to admit, the day of pampering at the day spa was a treat, one
she hadn't indulged in since she didn't remember when. When the heck had
life become such a chore that she couldn't even take time to get a
decent haircut? She admitted to the appalled Vinnie that she had
actually taken to hacking at the ends with manicure scissors to keep her
hair 'in regs.' Time just was not on her side any more; it was just one
more day, one more problem it seemed.
In some ways, even after her short break, Mac dreaded the return to
Washington. She knew that Harm was going back on active duty today,
although she was sure he wouldn't be anywhere near the office until
Wednesday at the earliest. She was pretty sure the Admiral was going to
'finesse' his time away, so it wouldn't end up costing him career-wise.
Harm hadn't exactly applied for reinstatement in the usual manner, a
process that could take months to go through channels. Still, the Navy
had a paperwork mill to grind through, and getting his records in order
at the Washington Navy Yard would be a two day task. She needed the
buffer of tomorrow in the office before she faced him on Wednesday.
He called her after he decided to accept the Admiral's offer, just a
kind of 'head's up,' nothing more. Right now, she didn't know how they
were going to react to one another. She figured she'd try to keep it
professional, and take her lead from him. However, whenever she planned
anything with Harm in the picture, things had a way of going out of
control quickly. She'd just have to wait and see.
She and the anniversary couple had gone out to dinner on Friday night at
a local country club they belonged to. Allen was the golfer, though
Edwin did play a mean game of tennis. Though the club was one of the
most traditional and staid in the city, the ladies enjoyed Edwin's
fashion savvy and gossip enough so that even these neo-conservatives
turned a blind eye to their status as a non-traditional couple. Having
one of the first 'name' hairdressers of the '60's as a member got you
lots of perks for your charity fashion shows and dinner dances.
Saturday, Edwin had banished her to the tender mercies of Vinnie, and
she had to admit, by the time the party rolled around, she felt and
looked a lot better. Although she did antagonize her host when he
realized she was wearing her mess dress instead of an evening gown. It
was simply a matter of not enough time to shop. The last time she
attended a black tie function had been the Surface Warfare ball, and
she'd borrowed that dress from a friend. She knew anything in her closet
would have been – in her host's view – hopelessly out of date. Edwin hid
his shock, but told her not to be surprised if some of their friends
thought she was a drag queen in military mode.
It had been a fabulous party, the house was made for entertaining. She'd
even met the senior Senator from Minnesota, who served on the military
affairs committee. He recognized her – well, her face, not her name –
from some work she'd done with Bobbi Latham when the two committees met
jointly a year or so before. They'd had a great conversation about his
orchids, apparently a passion along with his five grandchildren. Allen
and Edwin had an interesting and eclectic group of friends, culled from
all walks of life.
Once she relaxed and gotten over her storm of tears, she'd enjoyed
herself. Hopefully, now that they would soon be back close to full staff
at the office, she might be able to indulge in a break more often in the
future. After her initial day there, she hadn't had time to really talk
to either of her hosts in depth, though just before she left, Edwin had
told her to think about what she wanted and needed to make her happy,
and in his words, "Bugger everyone else." A great sentiment, though
likely easier said than done.
At least with Harm coming back, there would be no need to break in a new
senior attorney. That had been one of the primary reasons Carolyn Imes
had gotten Harm's old job, she knew how they worked at headquarters.
Unlike the two junior attorneys who replaced Manetti and Singer, both
still semi-clueless about headquarters procedures
two and four months after coming aboard. She wasn’t sure if it was
stubbornness or just stupidity, but she was about to ask the Admiral to
find someone else, which was her prerogative as chief of staff. Neither
seemed to be up to the workload.
As much as everyone had hated Loren, at least she got her job done on
time and without complaining about overwork. These two seemed to think
they had signed on for 8-5 Monday through Friday. Okay, that was the
official duty day, but none of the attorneys assigned to headquarters
ever worked just that on a daily basis. One of them had even reminded
her that he had a wife, child and a life outside of headquarters. She
was sure he hadn't signed on for a career in the Navy, indeed had only
another eight months to go to pay back for law school, but he could at
least make an attempt to be a team player until that date came around.
Even in the civilian law world, a recommendation from THE Jag was
nothing to sneeze at, but Lieutenant Gillespie didn't seem to care.
Fine, let him not care writing wills in legal services somewhere, not
taking up a headquarters slot and not producing.
Mac knew that some of her bad mood was fear-based. Even though she and
Harm had sort of buried the hatchet, she was still leery about seeing
him on a daily basis once again. In the six months they had been apart,
aside from the phone calls, which she had rationed to one a week, less
the weeks she had been out of the country completely, she had done her
best to put him out of her mind and her heart.
It had worked, or so she thought. She could look at a picture of the two
of them and not cry, she could hear a silly song he liked on the radio
and not get choked up. She thought she was getting it together. Until
the night she had to ask him for help with Imes case reviews.
When she left the apartment in the wake of Catherine Gale's arrival, her
heart was in her throat. She barely managed to drive far enough away to
be out of view from his windows before she broke down. How long had they
been going out? Since the Angel Shark? Had all the closeness she thought
the two of them had been feeling before the Singer debacle blew up in
her face been only in her imagination?
She'd never doubted Harm's innocence, although she did for a minute
consider he might have been, or thought he might be, the father. She
knew he didn't like Loren, but on TDYs in strange places, odder things
had happened. When it came down to it, he was a guy, with the same
drives as every other one, well, except with her.
What upset her more than anything was his not telling her what he
suspected, especially when she figured out that he thought Sergei might
have been the baby's father. It had taken about 20 minutes of solid "Why
would he?" conjecture on her part to figure out that he was protecting
They'd been doing well, she thought at least, and still to this day had
no idea why he shut her out. She'd been turned away the one time she'd
attempted to visit him at the brig, and told that by orders of the CNO,
he was to have no visitors other than counsel. Since he didn't call, she
assumed he either was restricted from making phone calls, or didn't want
to talk to her. The former was probably illegal, as likely was the
restriction on visits. His attorney blew her off when she brought the
subject up. Her hands had been tied.
Coupled with his contempt for her when he got to Paraguay and his lack
of response to her phone calls over the past months, she assumed that
maybe she had far more of a stake in their relationship than he did. To
her, he was a necessary as air, even though she had come to the
conclusion she would have to learn to live without him. It seemed the
same couldn't be said on his part. She’d given him what she thought he
wanted in Paraguay, and did her best to get on with her life. It hadn't
worked yet, but she was still trying.
"Is that all?" Mac facetiously asked Harriet as she handed her a stack
of pink message slips half an inch thick. God knows what was on her
voice mail at this rate.
"No, Ma'am, this one came in this morning. Although they called on
Friday too." Harriet had that intrigued look on her face as she added a
few more message slips to the pile in Mac's hand.
"Just pile it on, I'll sort through them when I get in my office.
Hopefully some of them aren't urgent." Sometimes taking a few days off
just wasn't worth it. You ended up working overtime before you left to
clear your desk, then double time when you got back to make up for what
happened while you were gone.
"The one that just came in? It's from ‘District Magazine’." Harriet
sounded excited enough to make Mac suspicious. Very suspicious.
She was familiar with the publication, had even read it a time or two.
It coupled articles about what was currently 'in' around Washington with
fashion spreads, upscale real estate listings and restaurant reviews.
Occasionally they profiled someone interesting.
"Probably trying to sell me a subscription, Harriet." None of the cases
she was working were really high profile, certainly not the sort to
elicit their interest. Even the last really high profile case she'd
done, Mustaffa Attif's prosecution, hadn't had publicity, at least not
personal publicity. The names of the attorneys and the tribunal judges
were kept out of the press. There hadn't been a military gag order or
anything, just a 'gentleman's agreement' that the names wouldn't be
"No, I don't think so, Ma'am. It was their features editor who called."
Harriet, bless her little heart, was fishing. Mac's radar went up
"Well, I'll put them on the list. I have no idea what they want to talk
to me about." She balanced her cover on top of the stack of files she
was carrying and headed toward her office to dump them before she went
and fixed some coffee.
The morning went by slowly, but there had been plenty to keep her
occupied. Many of the calls she managed to palm off on one of the
paralegal assistants, who should have taken care of them as they came
in. Unfortunately, most of them wouldn't say "I'm calling for your
attorney" unless the attorney specifically told them to. By 1415, she'd
caught up enough to take a break, and headed down to the cafeteria for a
sandwich before they closed.
Deciding to bring it back to her desk rather than eat in the now almost
deserted room, she caught the elevator just as the door was closing.
"Well, I see nothing's changed. Still eating dead cow."
God, he just about took her breath away. She would have been ready for
him tomorrow, but not now, not like this. The roast beef and cheese
sandwich, fortunately wrapped in plastic, fell out of her hand.
"Harm! What are you doing here?" She bent down to retrieve her lunch,
just as he attempted to do the same. Fortunately, they managed to not
"I work here again, remember?" The trademark smile was in place.
"I, ah, " She coughed, then sputtered a little. "I figured you'd have at
least two days full of paperwork at personnel."
"I managed to break loose early. Since I'd been working for the Agency,
they just faxed my clearances over, so I didn't have to update all that
stuff." His gaze was fixed on her face. He'd missed this place. Hell, as
much as he didn't want to admit it, he'd missed
"Yeah, well, that would save some time, I guess." God, she couldn't
believe how ridiculous she sounded.
"Have you been busy?" He motioned with his chin to the sandwich in her
hand. "Late lunch."
"Since the Imes debacle, more so than before, and that was bad enough.
It'll be good to have you back, especially since you know your way
around already." She paused. "I mean, not that it wouldn't be good for
you to be back anyway."
"I know what you mean, Mac." Back where he wanted to be, he was prepared
to be magnanimous about some things. He didn't know where the two of
them really stood, but he was determined to try and take it easy this
time. Life, especially life with Sarah MacKenzie, had a way of biting
him in the ass when he least expected it.
In the bullpen, he was greeted like a returning hero by Bud, who
obviously wanted to bask in his mentor's return. She gave them both a
brief smile and nod, and headed toward the sanctuary of her office.
Unwrapping the sandwich, she glanced at the stack of messages on her
desk. A new one had appeared from Harriet, that stupid magazine again.
She might as well find out what they wanted.
"This is Colonel Sarah MacKenzie. I have a message to call a Ms.
Iverson." She found herself listening to the ubiquitous Muzak while the
assistant fetched the editor.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Iverson. What can I do for you?" She wanted to get
this over with, she had other, more important things to get on with. Not
to mention, since things had been calm for the last week around here,
that meant something was bound to break sooner or later, probably
Mac listened to the woman's pitch for a few minutes, shocked.
"You've got to be kidding." This was about the last thing she expected.
The woman droned on a little more. "Okay, you're not kidding."
"This would have to be cleared with the Marine Corps PAO at the
Pentagon, and I don't think they'd be very ... oh." She took a deep
breath. "General Krusa-Dossin loves the idea?" She rested her head in
her hand. "Well, if she loves the idea, then I guess I don't have a lot
of choice." In normal circumstances, Lieutenant Colonels didn't say 'no'
to Brigadier Generals. It wasn't considered a good career move.
"Next Friday? Let me check my court calendar." She surfed through her
computer file, and the date book she kept as a back-up on her desk.
"That should be fine."
Admiral Chegwidden outranked the Marine Public Affairs director by one
star, but she knew in her heart he wasn't going to save her. Although
ultimately in command of all Navy and Marine JAG officers, he tried to
walk a fine line with his Marine JAGs. When the Corps requested one for
something or other, only a very compelling reason would cause him to
deny the request. She had a feeling 'I don't wanna' wasn't going to cut
it. Well, she'd done worse in her career.
"Yes, I know where it is." She bent down to get some aspirin out of her
desk drawer and swallowed them with the cold, now bitter coffee left in
her cup. "I'll be there." She replaced her phone receiver in the cradle,
then walked over to her doorway.
In as calm a voice as she could muster, she called out, "Harriet, could
I see you in my office for a moment?"
Harriet had been back on the job for only two days from her maternity
leave. Since she hadn't had much involvement in anything in the office
in over two months, she had a feeling that she knew why the Colonel
wanted to see her. She was undoubtedly busted. At least the Colonel
didn't sound too upset, but then again, she didn't sound overjoyed
"Harriet, the next time you're having a conversation with one of the
other Moms at little AJ's daycare, please leave my name out of it!" Mac
decided getting right to the point was the way to go. A good offense was
better than a good defense, especially with the way Harriet could bob
"Well, ma'am, you see, I was showing her pictures of AJ as a baby, it
was right before Jimmy was born." Mac nodded for her to go on. "One of
them was the one of you holding him, you were in uniform, he had on his
little sailor suit?"
Mac nodded that she remembered the picture in question. It had been
taken when AJ was about a year old, shortly after she'd been promoted.
"Well, she said she really wanted a military officer for the article and
photo spread, but since they were focusing on women in their thirties
and forties, most of the ones she ran into were married, or in her
words, not suitable, so when she saw your picture, and I told her you
were single, she got really excited and then I told her that she'd need
to contact the Pentagon about it and well it just kind of ... " Mac knew
she wasn't going to get contrition out of Harriet, even if she was
babbling, out of breath and sounded nervous.
"Never mind, Harriet. It's all for a good cause. Navy/Marine Relief will
get $2500 out of it, and it's just one day. But it's not the kind of
thing I'm really comfortable with."
"I'm sorry, ma'am, it just got of control. Maybe it was hormones or
"Right, Harriet, hormones. Or something. Okay." She waved Harriet out of
her office, and got back to the pile of work on her desk.
The next week passed by quickly. Things were busy at work, so what else
was new? As she had predicted, poor Harm got the brunt of the cases the
Imes matter generated to review.
She felt sorry for him, but on the other hand, a good portion of the
cases were his to begin with. He had always read poor Caroline pretty
well, and had an impressive won/loss record against her when he
Later in the week, Harm asked her to take on the case of a homeless
elderly veteran. While swamped herself, she finally gave in. Those puppy
dog eyes always worked, as he well knew.
In gratitude for her help, the Admiral had given her all of Singer's
cases against Imes to review. He'd made it clear without saying so that
no one was supposed to help Harm out with his backlog, and apparently
the matter of Terrance Mattingly was to be considered in the same vein.
Of course, the fact that the Admiral had gotten the case resolved
himself had no bearing on the matter. Oh, well, what were a few more
hours lost sleep? After the last few months, she figured she was only
five or six years behind.
She had a dinner date with Webb, or what she thought was one. It turned
out to be a wine-tasting and auction to benefit a children's charity his
mother supported. While being perfectly happy to support a good cause,
she couldn't help but wonder what he had been thinking when he invited
She spent most of the evening trying to get out of 'just tasting' one
rare vintage or another. When she broached the matter with him, his only
comment was, "You said it didn't bother you when other people drank."
And he thought Harm was oblivious!
She decided against trying to explain the difference between not being
bothered if a friend ordered a drink, and being at an event that
completely revolved around alcohol.
If he didn't get it, explaining it wasn't going to make it any clearer.