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Classification Angst, humor and romance (H/M) eventually
Length Approximately 91,000 words; 201 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
Spoilers Up to and including “Ready or Not”.
Rating IM15
Summary Mac’s temporary appointment to the judiciary and Harm’s prior severance from a case creates dissension between the two attorneys that requires an intervention.


Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9



~~ Burying the Hatchet ~~

1340 local (Saturday)
Roberts’ Housewarming Party

“Is that a ruling or an opinion?”

”Come on, Harm.  Can we just bury the hatchet for one day?”

”I'd love to, but I'd have to pull it out of my client's head where you left it.”

”We're not having this discussion.”

“Well, at least we agree on one thing,” Harm said sarcastically, as he strode out of the room, wanting to be anywhere she wasn’t at the moment.

Mac felt like she’d been punched. Harm’s comments knocked the air right out of her. Things between them had been great lately—then this. She had hoped that the housewarming party Bud and Harriet were having would be a stepping stone to another level in their relationship. But this stone became the ledge he pushed her off. He walked out of the room, smugly; seemingly happy he got the last word in. It was so unlike him, he was becoming someone she didn’t know anymore.

Setting her glass down on the dining room table, Mac left the room, seeking refuge in the kitchen. She began straightening things up—anything to keep her mind off what had just occurred between her and Harm.

Harriet followed Mac into the kitchen, watching her friend throw her energy into the dishes.

“Ma’am . . . . Mac . . . . Is there anything I can do? You seem a little, um, upset.”

Tossing the towel down on the counter, Mac turned to face Harriet, the remains of a few tears glistening on her cheek.

“Upset?” she gasped, barely able to get the word from her mouth. “I did nothing to warrant Harm’s callous comments. I was appointed judge—it’s my job; he thinks this is personal.” Mac was gesturing wildly, her face flushed with emotion. Harriet walked over and took her hand, leading Mac to the chairs at the kitchen table.

“What’s been going on between the two of you lately?” Harriet asked, not sure if she was ready to hear what Mac had to say. She didn’t want her fears confirmed. Harriet, being quite perceptive, had noticed the iciness in her friends’ relationship. Relationship—it was more like a lack there of. History was beginning to repeat itself. The tension between Harm and Mac was evident, just like it was when he returned from flying, and similarly after Mac returned from her TAD assignment to the Guadalcanal. Now, Mac’s temporary appointment to the judiciary was wrecking havoc as well as Harm’s inability to deal with it.

“I’m not sure if I want to talk about this Harriet, not here at your house-warming party.”

“You might feel better once you get it all out in the open.”

Mac took a deep breath, wondering truly if talking about it was going to make her feel better. This friendship/relationship was tying her up in knots. They had been moving towards a change for the better—their closeness was becoming the root of everything yet to come. Lunch together, dinner—even if it was just discussing cases—became relaxing, enjoyable moments. Although they weren’t calling it dating, sometimes it felt like it, deep in her heart; or maybe it was just wishful thinking on her part. But all that changed in one fell swoop as the Admiral gave her the assignment of presiding over a case that Harm was defending.

Looking at the concern on Harriet’s face, Mac decided that this wasn’t the time or the place to discuss the precariousness of whatever was going on with her and Harm.

“Harriet, I really can’t do this now—not here. Please understand.”

“I do understand, Mac,” Harriet said as she gently squeezed Mac’s hand. “Just give it time; things will get back to normal.”

“Normal. That’s hardly the word I’d use to describe this . . . .this . . .THING that’s going on between Harm and me,” Mac said, the irritation apparent in her voice.

“Have you tried to talk to him?”

“No!” she replied vehemently, “And, I’m not so sure that I want to anymore.” Mac said, pausing to regain her composure. “I think it’s time I went home, Harriet,” she said, rising from the table.

Harriet laid her hand gently on Mac’s arm, “Please don’t go. The party is just getting started.”

“Thanks for inviting me, but I just want to be alone right now.”

Harriet followed Mac as she left the kitchen to retrieve her purse and jacket from the foyer closet. Hugging her, Mac whispered, “I’m sorry” and quickly left, unseen by Harm.

15 minutes earlier
Roberts’ Den


Harm rarely swore—it was something he just didn’t do. Just another one of those self-inflicted rules he abided by. Today he was making an exception. He entered the den muttering a few selected four-letter words like a mad-man. Bud and Sturgis ended their conversation abruptly and regarded their friend carefully. Harm’s eyes were glowing like hot coals. Bud excused himself and immediately left the den, knowing that Sturgis was the only man capable of defusing this bomb.

“You look like hell, Harm. What’s up?” Sturgis queried.

“Nothing that a transfer won’t cure,” he mumbled distractedly. Realizing what he had just said, Harm looked up to see a confused Sturgis. “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

“It must be something to get you this irritated.”

Harm sighed, drank the remaining beer from his glass, and set it down on the end table with a thud.

“You want to know what it is. I’ll tell you. Mac is letting this judgeship go to her head. It’s a power trip for her,” Harm said bitterly.

“You don’t honestly believe that, do you?”

“Don’t you?” Harm was pacing the room in an attempt to cool down.

“No. This is new for her as well as the rest of the JAG team. We’re all adjusting to the temporary change.”

“Yeah, well you’re the prosecution. She’s on your side.”

“Harm, she’s the judge; she’s on no one’s side.”

“Yeah, right. Tell her that.”

“Mac is not the power-trip type. You should know that better than anyone.”

“I thought I did . . . . . but not anymore.” Harm paused, gathering his thoughts, not entirely sure he wanted to continue this conversation.

“If you want to talk about it . . . .” Sturgis offered, tentatively.

Harm laughed, “Talk? Yeah, that’s something I want to do right now. Actually, I would like to forget that it ever happened. Know what? I can’t,” he said, throwing his hands in the air dramatically.

“Harm, you and Mac have been friends for a long time. What makes this different than all the other times the both of you have disagreed?”

“We can’t seem to get past this one.”

“You mean you can’t get past it. I don’t even think you know why you’re angry. Actually, frustrated would be a more accurate description of you at the moment.”

Harm stood there, wondering where Sturgis was taking this conversation he didn’t want to have. Deciding he’d had enough, he grabbed his empty glass and headed from the den, saying, “I’m finished discussing this with you.”

Sturgis opened his mouth to add something, but Harm cut him off, “What goes on between Mac and me is no one’s business, including yours,” he continued, as he walked through the foyer and into the kitchen, placing his glass on the counter. He then sought out Bud and Harriet to say his good-byes, finding them in the dining room with the Admiral and Meredith. He hardly noticed Mac wasn’t there anymore.

“I’m leaving now, Bud. Thanks for a wonderful party, Harriet,” Harm said as he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

“Stay, at least for a little while,” Harriet said knowing Harm, just like Mac, would leave despite her efforts to dissuade him otherwise.

He didn’t like to make up excuses, but it was better than rehashing everything that transpired with Mac all over again. Not sure of what to say, Harm opted for a quick good-bye, see-you-on-Monday kind of statement and swiftly left the house. He got into his SUV and slammed the door, sitting there for a brief moment, reliving the bitter words he spewed at Mac. He pounded the steering wheel, “Shit.” Harm was too frustrated to think anymore. He turned the key in the ignition and sped off in the direction of his apartment, radio blaring to drown out his thoughts.

Sturgis watched his friend leave, just shaking his head wondering where this was all going. He walked into the dining room where the rest of the guests were gathered.

“Care to fill us in on the situation, Commander?” AJ calmly asked.

“What do you mean, sir?” Sturgis said, feigning ignorance. All eyes were on him, hoping to get some explanation for the swift departure of Harm. Sturgis took a drink from the glass he held, looking thoughtfully toward the door and then back at the gathered friends, waiting with bated breath for his response. He sighed and said, “Nothing to tell. He just needed to leave.”

~~ Tea and Sympathy ~~

Mac’s Apartment
1435 local time


The entire drive home Mac felt guilty for leaving the party just because Harm was being an ass. However as much as she wanted to stay for Bud and Harriet’s sake, she couldn’t bear another run-in with him. She didn’t want the chasm in her friendship with Harm and all the baggage it brought to ruin their friends’ party. Bud and Harriet deserved some happiness after all that has happened this year.

Happiness was fleeting in her life. As quickly as she found it, there was always something there to shoo it away. It seemed that it almost always involved Harm, in some respect. She should have known the smooth waters they encountered earlier in the year were just a precursor to an inevitable storm that fed on their insecurities; building in strength until it consumed them. They had always weathered these moments before. At least they eventually did. The difference this time was the umbrella of trust and faith they took refuge under was tattered and torn, offering very little in the way of a safe harbor.

Entering her apartment, Mac felt lost. It was like a part of her was missing, but she couldn’t place what it was. She took off her jacket and tossed it on the chair along with her purse, and set off toward the kitchen to make tea. Pulling the canister from its resting place in the cabinet, Mac selected a tea bag from inside. She topped off the kettle with water, placed it on the burner and quickly cranked the heat. She needed something to drive the chill from her desperately and real boiling water was the only way to make tea; microwaved water was, well, just microwaved water.

While the kettle was simmering, Mac retrieved her files from her briefcase and laid them out on the dining room table; consuming herself in work might be just the distraction needed right now. Picking up the file on the War Games trial, she thumbed through the documents, looking for the notes she collected. She skimmed over them, remembering the obvious tension and the sarcasm from Harm.

The comments she had written jarred her memory, but not in a good way. Mac remembered how Harm had just voiced his first objection of the trial with just enough of a hint of arrogance to make her bristle. If she didn’t know before, she most certainly knew now she was in for a ride. She had listened intently as Sturgis argued his rationale. After carefully absorbing Sturgis’ remarks, she clearly and calmly sided with reason and said “Overruled”. An indignant Harm stood immediately and said, “You’ve got to be kidding”. He belatedly added, “Your Honor” sarcastically, only after she gave him a distinct non-verbal “get-it-together-Rabb” look.

Sturgis completed his examination of the witness with a “Nothing further, your Honor”. Mac addressed Harm, asking if the defense wished to cross-examine the witness. Harm stood rigidly, his voice dripping with insolence, said “Not at this time, your Honor. I do reserve my right to question the witness at a later time.” The whole trial was beginning to take the shape of a nightmare.

The kettle was now hissing and whistling, calling for attention. It was enough to break Mac’s trance and snap her back to the present. She set the file back on the table amongst the others and padded off to the kitchen to tend to more pressing matters.

Mac quickly poured the boiling water over the chamomile tea bag to steep and returned to the files in the dining room. Deciding that she wasn’t in the mood to work anymore, she gathered all the folders and placed them back in the briefcase before heading to the bookshelf for another means of diversion.

Harm’s apartment
1455 local time


Harm’s drive home was likewise filled with the regret of deserting his friends’ housewarming party. He tried hard to forget the little scene in the dining room but it kept replaying in his head like a broken record, and the radio was doing nothing to help him silence these thoughts so he turned it off.

Maybe making an issue of it at Bud and Harriet’s wasn’t the way to handle things, he thought. “But, I had to get it off my chest,” Harm said aloud, not realizing he was talking to himself. “She needs to know where I stand; since she’s obviously not listening to what I’m saying in the courtroom—not that it had any impact today, either. Damn stubborn Jarhead. Wonder how she’ll feel when it’s my turn behind the bench; maybe it’ll become crystal clear to her then.”

Pulling up in front of his apartment, he turned the car off and sat there for a moment wondering what to do with the rest of his day, now that his schedule was clear. Any other time he’d call Mac and they’d find something to do together. No point in doing that, he thought, she’s probably plotting the demise of my case right now. Besides, I’d rather be alone anyway. No one to judge me, no one to tell me I’m handling things poorly. There is only one thing I can do that doesn’t require human interaction—go running.

He got out of his SUV and quickly entered the building. Once in his apartment, he checked the machine for messages, silently hoping that there might be one from Mac, for whatever reason. “No new messages.” The electronic voice told him what he already knew.

Changing his clothes, he grabbed his keys and left for the park to pour his frustrations into something physical.


~~ Close Encounters of the AJ Kind ~~

Admiral’s Office
0755 local (three weeks later, Thursday)


The trial was finished in little over two weeks, but the acrimony between the partners wore on like the cold, damp weather that held the city captive for most of autumn. AJ had hoped once the trial was over, Harm and Mac would get back to some semblance of a friendship, like it used to be. “Not this time”, AJ sighed quietly.

Thankfully for the JAG staff, Harm and Mac’s next assignment did not involve either one sitting on the bench. AJ didn’t have to put much thought into that one. What he believed would be an excellent opportunity for Mac to serve as judge, turned into an old-fashioned out-for-blood Redskins-Cowboys game, playoff spot on the line. He thought Harm would have behaved better under the circumstances. Who was he trying to kid, ever since he “severed” him as defense council for PO Moritz, Harm took everything personally.

Now, AJ was second-guessing the recent assignment he had given them. It was a simple case involving a Petty Officer charged with an Article 87. PO Douglas was scheduled to depart on the Iwo Jima, but having spent the previous night trying to “convince” his girlfriend to marry him, he overslept, missing the ship’s movement. It was a simple enough assignment. Harm was trial counsel, Mac defense. They could have settled. In fact, Mac said her client was open to any and all possibilities. Harm, on the other hand, had a point to prove and refused to discuss any settlement, bringing their disagreement into the court-room—Judge Sebring’s court-room.

AJ now sat in the solitude of his office with letter in hand from Sebring, outlining “conduct unbecoming” and “contempt” charges against both of them. He knew it would come to this, but how to handle it delicately was another story. The letter was preceded by a phone call from the judge yesterday, alerting him to the situation and the forthcoming formal letter. AJ had worked his magic and managed to persuade Sebring to allow him to handle the matter personally rather than make a public affair out of the whole issue. Sebring withdrew the charges, agreeing with AJ’s recommendation that the two receive professional counseling on keeping their personal differences outside the court-room.

Tossing the paper on the desk, AJ stood up and paced the office. He had warned them to keep things down to a dull roar, but yet again, their emotions took control and they were at each others throats in the court-room during pre-trial motions—PRE-TRIAL motions, nonetheless! AJ was exasperated and embarrassed. But, having had some time to mull the situation over, he was more calm and rational at this point. These were two of his finest officers, his best lawyers, yet they were “family” to him as well. So he chose to deal with them as family, rather than discipline them as officers.

Tiner had announced Rabb and Mackenzie 10 minutes ago, however, AJ wanted a few extra minutes to gather his thoughts and put them in a rational state of mind—a state that took him 14 hours to get to. Damn them for bringing this into the office, he thought. He wished they’d get their act together and resolve this anywhere but here. Hell, I’d let them have the office if I knew that would help, he thought briefly before dismissing it entirely from his mind.

AJ recalled his conversation with Meredith after the little incident at Bud and Harriet’s. He had known there was unmistakable electricity between the two for some time now, although it took him a while to see it. Meredith, on the other hand, noticed it almost immediately. She said that all of the passion they're displaying was coming from a non-work related source and as soon as they realize that they'll work it out. He jokingly said they were candidates for couple’s therapy. How was he to know that his perceptions were right on the mark?

A while back, he and Meredith had had dinner with another couple. The woman was an old college friend of hers, who just so happened to be a psychologist experienced in counseling couples. AJ smirked remembering the evening. He knew Meredith had had ulterior motives for it, she usually did. For as much as there was a quirkiness about her, she was quite intelligent and perceptive. And her friend, Maddie, who he had his “concerns” about, turned out to be a delightful, intuitive woman. He was quite thankful when Maddie said she didn’t like to discuss cases or analyze people outside the office.

He took her business card, just in case. He never thought he’d have to call her so soon—for Harm and Mac, nonetheless! He gave her very little information when he spoke to her, saying he was doing this for two friends. It was an intervention, of sorts. He was relieved when she understood the delicacy of the situation and left it at that. Now, it was up to him to get Harm and Mac to understand the need to do this.

Deciding he was composed, he asked Tiner to send them in. Mac entered the office first, followed by Harm, as Tiner swiftly closed the hatch. Tiner silently wished he could be a fly on the wall, but he knew that the less witnesses, the better. He gathered a handful of files from his desk and headed off in the safe direction of the copier.

Their expressionless faces hid the real story quite well. They snapped to attention upon entering the room. AJ gave his usual “as you were” and motioned for them to sit. He moved to his place behind the desk and seated himself comfortably. This may take a while, he thought, putting on his reading glasses and retrieving the letter from its place on the spotless desk.

Both officers were motionless as they watched AJ peruse the letter, most likely for his 20th time. Neither was sure where this would leave their careers, let alone their personal lives.

AJ drew a breath and, rather than read the now-dropped charges, said calmly, “I gather you know why I’ve called you both here.”

Harm attempted to speak, but with a wave of the Admiral’s hand was silenced without even another breath; his eyes fixed forward, not daring to meet AJ’s gaze.

In a calm, matter-of-fact voice, AJ continued, “First issue on the agenda, Lieutenant Commander Manetti and Commander Turner will be replacing you as trial counsel and defense counsel respectively. You will turn over your case files immediately upon conclusion of this meeting. Is that understood?”

“Yes, sir,” they responded in unison. That was the first they managed to accomplish together in nearly 3 weeks.

“Secondly, Judge Sebring has dropped the charges of conduct unbecoming and contempt in exchange for a resolution that I will address shortly.”

Harm and Mac jointly sighed, both inwardly grateful for the eleventh-hour leniency offered by Judge Sebring.

“Lastly”, AJ continued, “Since both of you have almost 60 days leave on the books, effective immediately, I am placing you both on 30 days leave.”

“Sir, if I may . . . . .” Mac asked tentatively, “why are we placed on leave if the charges have been dropped?”

“I’m getting to that, Colonel,” AJ said, the tone of his voice rising slightly in annoyance. He removed his glasses and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his eyes in an attempt to quell an impending headache the aspirin he took earlier didn’t chase away. Despite the throbbing in his temples, AJ struggled to keep his cool, “Please allow me to finish what I have to say before commenting; is that understood?” Why in the hell are they so thick-skulled, he asked himself, repressing the urge to rip them apart.

“Yes, sir,” was the response, again in unison.

The Admiral rose from his seat and walked around the desk, choosing to sit on its corner casually. He resembled more of a father about to chastise his belligerent teenagers than that of an Admiral infuriated by his officers.

“I am recommending, and Judge Sebring concurs, that you attend counseling to deal with your personal issues,” AJ began, until Harm interrupted him with a muttered “Unbelievable” that the Admiral picked up instantly.

“Do you have something to add, Commander?” the irritation in AJ’s voice apparent as he stood up in front of Harm.

“No, Sir,” Harm replied. Damn, he can probably hear what goes on at the guard shack too, he thought as he avoided looking anywhere but straight ahead.

“Good.” AJ hated reproaching them, but it was a necessary evil. He continued, “The counseling is for both of you—together.”

Both had confused looks on their face, but neither spoke nor glanced at the other; if either of them had anything to say, it was certainly lost in the deafening silence of the office.

“Look. Harm, Mac, you know I can’t force you to do this.”

Harm was fidgeting a little, trying very hard not to comment. His biggest problem besides the lack of a filter between the brain and the mouth, was understanding the rules of engagement where his mouth was concerned. Harm began, yet again, to question the Admiral’s motives, “But, Sir . . . surely there must be another alternative.”

“ALTERNATIVE? You want an alternative?” AJ bellowed. His face was red-hot angry, neck veins bulging. The thread that held his patience together had just snapped.

“I’ll give you an alternative. How about writing wills or reviewing junior enlisted lease problems for the rest of your career? Better yet, let’s take a look at the conduct unbecoming and contempt charges!” AJ’s voice was echoing off the walls of the office.

Mac watched as Harm cringed, filing the incident under ‘How to avoid getting the Admiral pissed off’. She sat there still and quiet during AJ’s tirade, thanking God for the ability to know when and how to keep her mouth shut.

Regrouping, AJ straightened his uniform and walked back around the desk. Maybe 30 days isn’t enough for me, he thought, rubbing the back of his neck. He made a mental note to take tomorrow off. “Dammit, I think I’ve earned it after today,” he mumbled out of Harm and Mac’s earshot.

AJ turned to face them, the color in his face returning to normal, although irritation was still apparent in his voice, “As I was saying, I believe you two might benefit from some professional help. There has been an unmistakable hostility between you two the past few weeks. If it were the War Games trial alone, I’d dismiss it. But it seems to be a culmination of many factors that I’d rather not pursue personally.”

“Sir?” Mac spoke tentatively, not wanting to push any more buttons. AJ nodded for her to continue. “So you are suggesting that we attend counseling?” quite sure she knew the answer to the question.

“Yes, Mac, I am. I think it is the only way we can resolve these . . . issues. I am not just suggesting it, I am requiring it.”

Yet again, Harm started to speak. AJ, reading his mind, said in a loud, commanding voice that had become the tone for this meeting “And, either one of you transferring out is without a doubt NOT an option. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir,” was the immediate reply, neither obviously not wanting to agitate the Admiral further with any other stray comments.

“Rather than have you both see a military psychologist, which I’m sure you’d also prefer to avoid, I am sending you to a psychologist in Alexandria. She is an acquaintance of Meredith’s from college, who comes highly recommended. Before you say anything about this selection, I would like to advise you that I checked her references out on my own and feel that she is a more than suitable choice for this matter. Since your calendars are cleared, I took the liberty of scheduling an appointment for both of you this Saturday at 1400 hours.” AJ handed them both a card with a name and address on it.

Eyeing the card, Mac responded the only way she could, “Yes, sir”. Harm, on the other hand said, “I can’t believe . . . . .” before AJ silenced him with a look that could strip paint from the walls. Regaining his composure, Harm replied, “Yes, sir,” as well, knowing that any more discussion on the subject would be dropped. He pocketed the card with a sigh.

AJ sat down, saying firmly, “Since I have nothing more, you are both dismissed.”

The officers stood immediately and said, “Aye, Aye”. Turning on their heels, they exited the office, Mac first. By now, Tiner was back at his desk. He breathed a sigh of relief seeing them leave. At least there wasn’t any blood shed, he thought.

“Tiner!” AJ shouted, “Where’s the damn aspirin?” The young PO nearly jumped clear out of his skin.

Mac paused in the hallway, wanting to say something to Harm about their situation. She knew they had no choice, but wanted to tell him she was relieved that they were actually doing something to resolve matters.

“Mac, don’t start,” was all he said, walking by her in huff, eager to grab his belongings and leave. Anywhere is better than here, he thought.

Mac was hurt. She truly hoped that the Admiral knew what he was doing, otherwise there would be a transfer in their future—hers. She returned to her office to lock the drawers of her desk and get her briefcase and cover. Once done, she pulled the door closed behind her softly.

The entire JAG ops was quiet, having heard only the bits and pieces of the Admiral’s diatribes that shook the windows. Everyone’s eyes were on their work. They saw Harm leave abruptly, now it was Mac’s turn. Watching her leave, Harriet longed to ask what transpired in the Admiral’s office but thought it was best to let it alone.


~~ Analyze What!? ~~

1355 local
Old Town Alexandria, VA


Judging by the address, Mac realized the office was located in Old Town Alexandria. Driving down King Street, it didn’t take her long to find a parking place directly across from the building, since Saturdays were usually not as busy here. Mac quickly deposited her change in the meter and walked across the cobblestone road to the brownstone building, collecting her thoughts before she entered. Searching the wall plaque, she located the name of the psychologist and proceeded to the second floor via the stairs. She walked down the hall and found the office easily. The name on the door read Madeline James, PhD, Clinical Psychologist.

Mac took a deep breath; it was now or never. Her heart raced as she opened the door slowly, scared to death of what this meeting would bring. She had never experienced “this” before, and in all actuality, had hoped she never would. It amazed her how one simple assignment resulted in turmoil that turned their lives upside down.

Mac was pleasantly surprised as she entered the room. It was not your typical “doctor’s” office with stark, white, walls and a linoleum floor. The office reminded her of a Victorian Tea Room. On the delicately wallpapered walls were two Thomas Kincaid prints depicting life in a bygone era, and a vine wreath entwined with eucalyptus, dried roses and gardenias. The only exception to the artwork and wreath was an old needlework sampler with a quotation sewn into the fabric:

“Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger. Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break.”    -- H.G. Wells

There were no fluorescent ceiling lights. Soft lighting came from one of two pewter lamps on the cherry end tables adorning each side of the small couch. The couch was actually an antique loveseat, with overstuffed cushions in a subtle ivory and rose-floral pattern. Draped across the back was a chenille throw in a deep rose hue. An oval coffee table sat directly in front of the loveseat with a box of tissues and a pewter dish filled with mints, its cherry wood identical to that of the end tables. The hardwood floor was covered only in the center by a simple floral, wool area rug, matching the rose-colored hues in the room.

Mac observed how the room was quite soothing visually and had a certain warmth about it. She thought it looked like someplace you would gather with old friends on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

A leather arm-chair sat in front of a huge cherry shelf that adorned the one wall. The unit was neatly arranged with leather-bound books on the top 3 shelves, paperbacks on the remaining two. Upon closer inspection, Mac noted that the books consisted of the works of Shakespeare, some Agatha Christie novels, as well as several well-worn dime-store romance novels. Mac laughed at the eclectic selection, wondering just who this friend of Meredith’s was.

The grandfather clock chimed twice, announcing the hour. Just as Mac was about to make herself comfortable, the door on the opposite side of the room opened, and a lovely woman in her late 40’s entered. She was of average height and build, with dark, auburn hair mixed with subtle hints of grey. She had pulled up most of it into a twist on her head, and secured it with a clip. She wore very little makeup, and a pair of smallish, wire-rimmed glasses. Her clothes were neat—consisting of a pair of tan corduroys topped off with a white shirt and spruce green cardigan. No penny loafers here, on her feet she wore fuzzy pink slippers, which Mac noticed immediately.

“You must be Sarah Mackenzie,” she said, extending her hand to Mac.

“Yes. Please, call me Mac. And, you are Dr. James?” Mac asked nervously.

“I am, and please, call me Maddie. Have a seat, Mac. I guess I’m not the picture of the typical psychologist,” indicating her choice of footwear. “A pair of comfortable shoes is everything!” she said, sitting down across from Mac.

Mac laughed a little. She started to feel more at ease with her surroundings and with the counselor they were being forced to see. Although how comfortable she would be once Harm arrived remained to be seen.

“I thought there was someone coming with you?”

“Yes, there is, but I’m sure he’s running late, as usual,” Mac remarked, just as the door flew open and Harm entered in a whirlwind.

“Uh . . . I’m sorry I’m late. I had a difficult time finding a . . .um, a parking place.”

Mac rolled her eyes, suspecting that Harm was probably driving around looking for a way out rather than a parking spot. This expression was not lost on Harm, who shot her an annoyed look. Their non-verbal behavior was well noted by Maddie, who wondered what the hell kind of bees’ nest she was getting into.

“You must be Harmon Rabb,” Maddie said, standing up from her seat and extending her hand in greeting, “I’m Dr. Madeline James; you can call me Maddie. I’m not very formal; I like to keep a casual environment. I find it facilitates open discussion and honesty.”

Harm shook her hand, “Pleased to meet you, Ma’am. And, it’s Harm,” he said with a reserved half-smile that Mac likened to a cat with it’s back arched, before the hissing and scratching began.

“Seeing as we are already four minutes behind in our session, let’s retreat to my office to begin. Shall we?” she said, opening the inner door to enter a more private room.

Mac stood up and maneuvered around the coffee table in an attempt to make her way to the other office. It was at the exact same moment that Harm likewise began to move in the same direction, both “meeting” at the end of the coffee table, toe to toe. Harm, being ever the gentleman, even in this situation, motioned for Mac to proceed ahead of him. With a nod of her head, she acknowledged him and continued on her way across the room and through the other door. Harm followed behind, close enough not to “get lost”, yet not too close.

The office they entered was decorated similarly to the outer room, with a sofa instead of a love-seat. The mate to the leather chair was also in here, as well as another set. The furniture was arranged in front of a fireplace, making the room cozy and intimate. A cherry, antique desk sat in front of two, floor-to-ceiling windows. Book cases lined the room, most likely filled with psychology journals and text books, Harm speculated. All the more to analyze us with, he thought.

Maddie walked over to her desk to retrieve a file and a yellow legal-type pad, not dissimilar to those they used in the court-room. She was already making her way to the leather-clad chair by time Harm and Mac entered the room.

“Please, make yourselves comfortable,” Maddie said, motioning to the couch. Mac immediately complied; Harm, on the other hand, made it known he’d rather stand right now; again using that “cat smile” that Mac was beginning to despise.

Sensing his uneasiness, Maddie began by offering them something to drink. They both declined. At that, she said, “Let’s begin. I’ll start by telling you what I expect you will get from these sessions. Then you can tell me what you want to get out of our time together.”

Mac nodded her agreement, accompanied by a quiet, “OK”. She turned her head to catch Harm’s reaction. He was leaning on the door frame with his arms crossed. He nodded his head likewise, however uttered no verbal agreement. What I’d like to get is out of here, Harm thought; the closer to the door, the quicker the exit.

“Good,” Maddie responded before delving into the business at hand. “First of all, I want you to come here with an open mind. Think of me as the mediator. The sessions generally last about forty-five minutes to an hour. We will always begin with a brief synopsis of what we covered before.”

Maddie watched them carefully as she talked. Mac seemed genuinely interested in what was being said. Harm seemed like he was being put out. She was getting a feeling he was going to be less than receptive to these sessions.

“Now I just have a few questions for both of you. It will lay some groundwork for our sessions and give me basic information. First, how long have you been married?”

Mac barely had the words “we’re not” out of her mouth before Harm started coughing violently from his “post” by the door. Mac was embarrassed and amused at the same time by her partner’s vocalizations.

“Are you OK, Harm?” a concerned Maddie asked, getting him a glass of water. All he could do was nod his head that he was fine. “Maybe you’re coming down with something?”

“He came down with something a long time ago—commitment-phobia,” Mac said to herself amusedly. Harm didn’t catch everything she said, only the last two words and nearly spilled the water Maddie had given him. He shot her a look that could have been taken as a threat any other time; except his face was beet red from coughing, causing him to bear a striking resemblance to “Bill the Cat” from the Opus cartoons, in Mac’s opinion. Finding humor was the only thing saving her from wanting to run screaming from the room.

Harm composed himself and took a long sip of water, as Maddie re-settled herself in her chair. She looked at both of them curiously.

“So the answer to my question of how long you have been married is . . . . . “

Since Harm was still in no shape to answer, Mac said, “We’re not married,” calmly, with ever the slightest hint of sadness that only another woman could detect.

“It’s OK to be divorced. Many couples reconcile and remarry each other . . . . . “

“Um, we were never married,” Mac continued, speaking for both of them since Harm was still sputtering.

“Alright . . . . . . Never married,” Maddie wrote on her tablet. “That’s OK too. Living together . . . . .” Maddie proceeded.

Harm finally had enough. In a somewhat raspy voice, he managed to utter loudly, “We are NOT a couple. We DON’T live together. We are co-workers, partners, and FRIENDS! Nothing more! Now, can we get on with things, PLEASE?”

The initial humor Mac found was gone. Harm’s indignant response was enough to make her want to leave—immediately—but she didn’t. His words were like knives to her heart. Keeping her emotions in check she turned to Harm and said, “Look. We HAVE to do this. Will you PLEASE sit down and shut up!”

Maddie watched as he awkwardly complied. Harm knew he was being an ass, but he didn’t think Mac would “call” him on it in front of someone they didn’t know. He moved to the couch and sat at the opposite end, away from Mac without uttering another word.

“Well, we’re off to an interesting start,” Maddie commented to no one in particular. Setting her pen down, she sat quietly for a moment, absorbing what had just transpired between Harm and Mac.

“So, you’re not married, were never married, and are not living together, did I get that right?”

Mac turned her head to look at Harm without saying anything, leaving it up to him to respond.

“Yes, that is correct,” he said matter-of-factly before taking a sip from his glass.

Maddie knew she’d have to ask her next question eventually. She thought for a moment before phrasing her words carefully, “How long have the two of you been together in a committed relationship?”

Mac replied to this one, “We aren’t together.” This time Harm picked up on the tone of Mac’s voice. It had a familiar ring to it—similar to “We’re getting too good at saying good-bye”. He wondered what the hell happened to bring them to this point.

Maddie sat there with her head swimming. Here was this “couple”—and she was using the phrase lightly—that had some type of connection between them. Not married, not living together, not committed to one another, yet sitting here in her office to be counseled as a couple. They had to be in some type of relationship, no matter how dysfunctional, to get them here. She had caught the little hint of sadness in Mac’s voice earlier when she answered the “married” question. She could tell that there was something going on beneath the surface, even if it didn’t involve a gold band and promises. But getting to that was like playing 20 questions. And with each question she asked, the more confusing it became.

Wanting an end to the 20 questions thing, Maddie decided it was best they jump right to lesson 2—why the hell are you here, rather than analyze a situation that read like “War and Peace” with extra chapters.

“I want you to tell me exactly what your relationship to each other is.”

Simultaneously they responded, “We’re best friends”.

The fuzzy picture suddenly became crystal clear. They were in love with each other and didn’t know how to say it, let alone show it. She smiled at the thought. No wonder AJ said his friends required an “intervention”. Well, there is only one “intervention” they need—I’ll just lock them in a room together and have them go at it for a few days and bang, zoom, cured! Maddie chuckled, causing her clients to quizzically look at her. She quickly refocused, saying, “Good. Something you both agree on. This is an excellent place to start. Now, I want to know why you both are here.”

Mac could almost hear Harm saying “because the Admiral told us to” like a grade-schooler sent to the principal’s office for bad behavior. She opened her mouth to give her opinion as to their presence, but Harm was already speaking.

“We’re here because we can’t get along,” was his solemn response to Maddie’s question.

Mac was taken aback. She thought for sure she’d be the one doing all the talking, while Harm sat there wasting the 45 minutes. Well, wonders never cease, she thought. Maybe there is a heart under those dress whites and gold wings, she murmured to herself.

“Mac, any comments?” Mac was still lost in thought when Maddie posed the question to her, catching her off guard.

“Um, it’s beginning to cause problems at work,” Mac said, remembering their little tirade in Sebring’s court-room.

“Beginning?” Harm was bristling at Mac’s comments. “Where the hell have you been? It’s been causing problems.”

Resisting the urge to strangle him, Mac glared at Harm. She silently took back her previous notion that he had a heart before raising her voice, “You mean YOU have been causing problems!” Mac struggled to maintain her self-control, which was diminishing by the second. “I am NOT the one who behaved like a . . . a . . . CHILD at Bud and Harriet’s, Harm! The world does not revolve around you!”

Harm chuckled sarcastically, “Well, you let your one-time stint as judge go to head!”

“You obviously resent me,” Mac said, even-toned.

“And you have no faith in me,” was the response from Harm, equally serious.

His statement made Mac catch her breath. She remembered a time when she used the exact same phrase with Harm after he said it was obvious that she resented him. Mac sat there on the couch, very still and very silent. This rift clearly didn’t just happen; maybe it’s been going on longer than we imagined, Mac thought to herself. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Harm rub his eyes, frustration evident on his face.

Maddie watched the two of them during their brief outburst. She made a few notes on her pad of paper, mainly observations. What surprised her most was how they acted like a couple, even though they denied being one. They were both quiet now, each still sitting in “their” corner of the couch—Mac fiddling with the hem of her sweater, Harm with his head propped up with his left hand on the arm of the couch. Neither would look in the direction of the other.

Harm was the first to break the uneasy silence of the room, “Is this about over for today?”

“Is there something more important for you to do than this, Harm?” Mac asked with just a hint of sarcasm. She paused, then laughed at her own thoughts before saying, “Oh, wait; you probably have a date, don’t you? Don’t keep her waiting because of this.”

Harm looked at Mac with quiet reserve. He thought it was sarcasm, but there was something else there he couldn’t put his finger on. Rather than start another argument with her, he kept silent.

Maddie, however, picked up on Mac’s underlying tone. Mac probably thought in the back of her mind that Harm would always find someone or something more important than her, she wrote on her notepad. She was as unsure of their relationship as Harm was. I’ve got my work cut out for me, Maddie thought. Checking her watch, she decided that this was enough for today.

“I think we can pick up on things on Monday. Is that agreeable?”

Harm and Mac both nodded in accord.

“Good. Then I’ll pencil you both in for 4 pm on Monday. And, I suggest that we meet Wednesday and Friday as well. We’ll set up those appointments on Monday. OK?”

Harm started to object, but just said, “Sure. That’s fine with me.”

Mac quietly added, “Fine with me.”

“Great. Now, before our next meeting, I want both of you to write down what you think your own strengths and weaknesses are. No need for a dissertation, just three key points for each. OK?”

Mac nodded her head and said, “OK.”

Harm sighed, a little too loudly because it caught Mac’s attention, as well as Maddie’s.

“Something wrong, Harm?” Maddie asked.

“Just getting a headache, that’s all.”

Mac eyed him curiously. She wondered if there was truly something wrong or was he just trying to weasel out of things. Knowing Harm as well as she did, she thought it was the latter. They had 14 minutes left according to her internal clock, plenty of time to find more things to disagree on. But, did she know him as well as she thought? Things didn’t go so smoothly today. What if it is all falling apart? What if he really doesn’t feel well? There has to be something else wrong.

Mac’s musings were cut short when Harm stood up to leave. She saw him smile at Maddie as he shook her hand. Except it wasn’t that “cat smile”, it was the Harm flyboy-charm smile that he used when it was convenient for him. Damn him for this, she thought. We’re trying to work through problems and he’s going to try to pick up the counselor.

Mac grabbed her purse and said, “I’ll see you on Monday at 1600 Maddie. Thanks.” With that, she opened the door into the waiting room and left. She never even said good-bye to Harm. Confused, he watched her leave, wondering what was bothering her that she left so abruptly. She’s probably angry that this session was less than perfect, he thought. She’ll get over it.

After saying his good-byes to Maddie, Harm left as well. He had plenty to think about now. And he had homework to do. Listing my qualities may take a while, he thought.

As he made his way to street level and the front door to the building, he saw Mac scamper across the street to her car. He pushed the door open, and attempted to call out to her, but she was too quick. Mac was behind the wheel and slamming the door before his words ever made it out. He watched her start the car and rev the engine before pulling away, wheels screeching. “What would I have said to her anyway? Something like, ‘Hey Mac, great session! I think we’ve got this hostility thing nailed, don’t you?’” Harm said to himself, before realizing that this talking out loud crap was going to get him a free ride to the hospital, complete with monogrammed white jacket.

After watching Mac’s car turn the corner, Harm turned and began walking up the street to his car. His stride was leisurely, since he had nothing else to do or anywhere else to be. There weren’t any cases to work on; he had tidied up his files this morning in preparation to give them to Manetti. Looking at his watch, he wondered what Sturgis was up to. He needed something to do to keep his mind off things. But, since Sturgis had become involved in Mac’s and his little circus by default, Harm wasn’t up to playing the “What the hell is your problem” game with him right now anyway.

Having arrived at his SUV, Harm checked his watch, noting that it was just before 1445. He unlocked the vehicle and slid in, inserting the key into the ignition. He sat there for a few minutes before deciding that going back home was probably the safest way to finish the day.



Maddie sat at her desk resting her forehead on the cool blotter. Her two newest clients had left after a rather interesting first session. It was going to be a roller coaster ride from hell for those two. It’d been a long time since she saw such a bevy of emotions swirling through the room like a tornado. The last time she had a session like this was 8 years ago with a couple from Maryland. The husband had a personality disorder that was driving his wife up the wall. Well, it was actually one of his four personalities that were causing the problem. She could live with the other three; it was the fourth one that was making her nuts, for lack of a better word. Maddie shook her head to rid herself of the memory. These two weren’t that over the edge, but they definitely need guidance to realize their problem.

She looked at the notes she had taken, trying to sum up everything from this initial session. After pondering for a moment on their meeting, she picked up her pen and wrote, “obviously in love with each other but too stubborn to do anything about it”. Maddie closed her file on Mackenzie and Rabb, and stood up from her desk. She locked the file away in her file cabinet and turned the lights out in the office. Walking into the waiting room, she went over to the book shelf and perused the shelves until she found what she was looking for—“The Bridges of Madison County”. Nothing like a good romance to warm the soul, she thought. Stuffing the book into her bag, she locked up the office and left for home.



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