Approximately 4,000 words or 12 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
Everything up to and including ‘Standards of Conduct’
the summary of SoC, I just thought about how our tongue-tied
heroes would actually approach the tricky subject of their deal
once AJ turned five. This is what I came up with.
The Roberts’ Residence
“Thank you so much for your help, ma’am, sir! I couldn’t have handled
this on my own.” Harriet gave Mac a quick hug and shared a hearty
handshake with Harm.
“You’re welcome, the pleasure was all ours, Harriet,” Mac replied
Harm nodded. “Actually, we’d like to thank you for letting us help. It
was fun.” He grinned and pointedly rubbed his elbow that, during the
“Battle of Maledusia” (USS Seahawk under Captain AJ Roberts and his crew
against the Maledusian rebels), had made all-too-hard contact with the
dining table, making him see stars.
Harriet’s face was apologetic. “I’m so sorry, sir. I told AJ to watch
Harm laughed it off. “It’s okay, Harriet. I was the leader of the
rebels. He had to overpower me, right?”
Laughing, all three waved their goodbyes and Mac and Harm went over to
As soon as the car’s doors were closed, they fell silent and the
strained tension that, during the last few weeks, had become their daily
companion, was back in full. Harm stared straight out into the street,
feeling he was beginning to sweat. The closer the fateful day of AJ’s
fifth birthday had come, the more uneasy he had begun to feel. He had
buried himself in his work, longing but not daring to talk to Mac about
the subject. She seemed to withdraw from him, avoiding him best as she
Their conversations – whenever they actually had one – were strictly
work-related. Did she want to back out, not knowing how to tell him? He
wouldn’t have been too surprised. After all, this deal had been a crazy
idea, born of the moment. Who else would have gone through with it? He
didn’t know of anyone who struck him as the type. Only himself. He
wanted to believe that Mac was still in on this, but he couldn’t be
sure. Or could he?
Risking a quick glance at her, he noticed the way she clutched her
purse, pressing her lips shut. This was definitely a bad sign. Harm took
a deep breath. ‘Ask her. Just ask.’ He couldn’t. He didn’t want to hear
her decline. Slowly, he let the air stream out of his lungs, hoping she
hadn’t noticed. They rode on in silence.
Eventually, he pulled up in front of her apartment building, got out,
rounded the car and opened the door for her. Mac climbed out, then
suddenly seemed to brace herself and, all her uneasiness showing in her
eyes, met his glance.
“We need to talk.”
The simple statement stung in Harm’s heart. She wanted to back out.
Still, he complied. “Okay.”
Falling silent again, they went up. Mac immediately vanished into the
kitchen. Harm, tense, sat down on the couch and waited until she came
back in with their mugs. Settling down beside him, she remained silent
for quite some time. Harm’s apprehension grew.
“Well?” he finally asked.
“What do we do about it?” she asked low, knowing he knew exactly what
she was talking about.
Harm’s heart rate accelerated. Maybe all hope wasn’t lost yet. “What
would you propose?” he returned the ball to her court.
“I don’t like the unnatural methods,” she said, staring into her cup.
“Then... uh... we do it the natural way?” he ventured, looking
everywhere but at her.
“Yeah... I’d say. After all, it’s just... uhm... a technicality...
technically,” she murmured, confused.
Harm’s euphoria vanished instantly. He sat thunderstruck. The fact that
she was actually taking him up on his offer, only to declare openly that
she considered sleeping with him a sheer necessity to have his baby,
made his breath catch. He had never considered this outcome. She didn’t
want him, she only wanted the child. But he had made the promise, he
wouldn’t back out now. Briefly squeezing his eyes shut at the searing
pain that had invaded his heart, he cleared his throat. “Uh... sure.
It’s the easiest way.”
He was so lost in his sudden heartache that he didn’t witness her
expression cloud at his answer. And he didn’t notice that her voice was
trembling ever so slightly when she spoke up again.
“So when... or where... how do we...”
Harm took a deep breath and willed his emotions down. “Did you do your
math?” he asked, almost matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, I did.”
“So when would be an appropriate time?”
“Actually... er... now.”
Oops. Another thing that he definitely hadn’t counted on. Confusedly
wiping his forehead and the back of his neck with his hand, he put on a
frowning smile, forcing himself to look at her. “So... I take it I’m
expected to stay?”
Mac got up and quickly made a few strides in the direction of the
kitchen, then turned, walked back to the couch, turned again, halted...
and again made eye contact. “Harm, if you’d rather not go into this
“No, it’s okay,” he said, trying to sound as neutral as possible.
“Better get it over with, right?” Looking down, he didn’t see her flinch
at his words.
“Yeah,” she whispered, resigned.
Harm rose and followed her to her bedroom, conflicting emotions raging
in his chest. When he entered, Mac was already undressing, with her back
turned to him. Silently, he followed suit, forcing himself not to look
at her, knowing that if he saw her the way he’d always wanted to see
her, this absurd situation would only get harder still.
“Harm?” he heard her quietly addressing him.
He didn’t turn around. “Yes?”
“We’ll still be friends after... this, right?”
“What if this doesn’t work at once?”
He swallowed. “If you still want to go for it, then we’ll try again. As
you said, it’s just a technicality. Between friends.” Still, he hadn’t
turned to face her.
“Could we turn out the lights?”
She didn’t even want to see him. The knife in Harm’s heart entered
another inch. She wanted the intimacy to stay as impersonal as it
possibly could. Well, so be it.
“Sure.” He switched off the lights and, trembling, settled down, taking
her in his arms. And suddenly he was grateful for the darkness. At least
she wouldn’t be able to see the tears in his eyes.
With a blurry vision, Mac got up to get herself a fresh box of Kleenex
tissues. With little breaks of fitful sleep, this had gone on for the
last few hours. No sobs, just silent tears, making her eyes redden ever
This was exactly what she had been afraid of. For weeks she had sensed
that Harm seemed to get increasingly uncomfortable about his promise.
More than once he had apparently fought to get his courage up and talk
to her but in the end, he had always drawn back. She had tried to give
him as much room as possible to come to terms with his feelings, trying
to create a distance for his sake, and yet he’d only become tenser
still. Finally, Mac had resolved to let go of her dreams. But knowing
that he kept his promises, she at least wanted this child he’d offered
her. If she didn’t have his love, she could at least hope for his
lifelong affection, being the mother of a child she knew he would love.
And she would love this child the way she’d never loved anything in this
world. Except him – but she’d eventually get over that.
Mac had managed to convince herself that she could indeed handle
sleeping with Harm like she could any awkward situation that came up.
Her discipline would get her through anything. But now she knew that she
had been deeply mistaken. She had expected him to just give in to his
physical attraction to her that she knew existed and – as he had put it
– ‘get it over with’. She had resolved to enjoy herself best as she
could and ignore whatever might lie beneath the surface. But then he had
surprised her with the way he had loved her. Every single gesture, every
caress had seemed so meaningful, so caring... she had gritted her teeth,
trying not to be fooled by her own wishful thinking. Her façade had held
up until he had left, giving her half a smile and a self-conscious “See
you on Monday.”
Then she had just silently retreated to her bedroom again, burying her
nose in the blanket that still smelled of him and letting her tears
flow. She only hoped that, once the pain would be over, she’d be able to
think of this night as some of the most beautiful hours of her life. No,
that wasn’t true... she suddenly realized. She only hoped that they’d
have to have another go. That their deal hadn’t been fulfilled yet.
North of Union Station
Harm hadn’t yet been able to convince himself to go to bed. He was
sitting on his couch, a book in his lap, staring at nothing definite.
How could you go to sleep when you’d just been given what you’d wanted
most, knowing that you’d had it but not had it at the same time. He was
clueless how he could face her again and just be friends with her – and
yet that was precisely what she wanted. So he’d try to do it, for her
and for their child.
At least he would be able to love that child the way he wasn’t allowed
to love Mac. Maybe fatherhood would somehow lessen the pain, like some
kind of a valve for his emotions. He heaved a sigh, yet another time
replaying in his mind what had happened a few hours ago. ‘God, I only
hope it worked.’ Frowning, he looked down. ‘No, actually I don’t – I
hope it will work eventually, only not just yet.’
Three weeks later
Falls Church, VA
Squaring her shoulders, Mac entered the bullpen and walked over to her
partner’s office. She had been away on an investigation for an entire
fortnight and after that had managed to avoid him for the following
week. But now she knew she had to speak to him. Hesitating briefly, she
gathered her courage and knocked.
“Enter.” He hadn’t looked up yet.
Mac stepped into the office and self-consciously cleared her throat.
Harm lifted his head and met her glance, quickly masking his uneasiness
at seeing her – but not quickly enough. Mac braced herself, ignoring the
“Hey, sailor.” She offered a small smile.
“Hey. How are you doing?” Harm was trying to put up a poker face, but
she could see through him. He was afraid. Of her?
“Uhm... fine, thanks.” Mac swallowed. “Listen, I... I’m pregnant.”
“Phew...” he made low, looking away, many conflicting emotions crossing
his features within a few seconds. “When did you find out?” he looked up
Mac studied the expression in his eyes – was that dread she was seeing?
Maybe this whole affair would turn out to be more than they could
handle. Feeling her resolve crumble, she yet forced herself to face the
situation professionally. “I did a test last night. I have an
appointment with my gynecologist at 1500 and... just wanted to ask you
if... uh... if you’d want to come along.”
For the fraction of a second, Harm’s eyes widened in shock. ‘He’s been
pushing the thought away,’ Mac told herself, trying to stay calm. ‘Why
was I ever so stupid as to enter into this whole mess?’
In the meantime, Harm had regained his composure. He tried a smile that
didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Yeah, actually I’d like to.”
Turning to leave, Mac sighed with relief. At least he had proven to her
once again that she could rely on him. “1415, my car,” she said and was
already out of the office.
“Congratulations, Marine,” Harm said softly to the empty room. His first
reaction was the sad acceptance of the fact that he couldn’t even hope
for a second night with her now. As to the news – he was shocked to
notice that all he felt was numbness. He rested his face in his hands,
sighing heavily. God, just what had they gotten themselves into?
Harm was holding on to Mac’s hand as if his life depended on it. This
was it, no denying, no turning back. He was staring at the black and
white monitor as was Mac who was lying on the leather stretcher while
the doctor moved the ultrasound back and forth across her still flat
“You see,” the doctor pointed his finger to a dot on the odd picture the
monitor was showing, “That’s junior. You can already see the placenta
forming,” he moved his finger, “Over here, and in a few weeks’ time
you’ll be able to make out some forms.” The gray-haired man, with a
gentle smile in the direction of the obviously confused parents-to-be,
switched off the ultrasound and motioned for Mac to get up.
Harm and Mac came to sit at the other side of the gynecologist’s desk.
Subconsciously, Harm again reached for Mac’s hand, but let go at once as
he felt her start. The doctor looked from one to the other, studying
“Well, Ms. Mackenzie,” he cautiously addressed Mac, “judging from your
reactions, I take it that this isn’t exactly a planned pregnancy?"
Mac swallowed, embarrassed. “Uh... no, in fact, it is. It’s just all...
a little overwhelming.”
The doctor accepted her explanation, not really looking convinced. As he
went on explaining all further examinations, Harm’s mind started to
drift, for the first time really focusing on the events the next few
months held in store. And all of a sudden, he began to feel more and
more lighthearted. Trying to keep his emotions and expressions in check,
as he feared that they might not be welcomed by Mac just yet, he still
couldn’t prevent a slight smile from lighting up his face.
The doctor looked up, met his glance and smiled back. “Apparently
someone just understood what exactly is happening here.”
Mac’s head spun around, the surprise in her eyes at seeing his reaction
making him wince. Had she really thought all this wouldn’t affect him?
But then, through all the doubts that lay between them, a little spark
of mutual understanding surfaced. Mac’s face, too, lit up to a slightly
uneasy, yet genuine smile. This time, she didn’t back away when Harm’s
fingers intertwined with hers.
“Congratulations, jarhead,” he said softly.
“To you too, squid,” she answered. “This is it.”
Six weeks later
Falls Church, VA
“You ready, Mac?” Harm’s head popped into her office. He smiled a little
tensely, one eyebrow up high.
Mac returned his uneasy grin in just the same way. She was immensely
glad that they’d at least managed to get past the initial strain. Their
friendship was not yet quite back to normal, but eventually, she felt,
they would get there. At least at the office they managed to be easy
around each other and occasionally they would even meet in private,
tentatively making a few plans for the future. They hadn’t yet had the
courage to bring up the topic of house-sharing, but they had already
begun figuring out solutions to the problems that could arise from them
being non-married parents. In short, she felt substantially more at ease
now, facing the future, than she had a few weeks ago.
“Yeah, I’m coming.” She placed a light hand on his arm as she walked
past him. “Let’s face the enemy.” Together they walked over to the
“Tiner,” Harm addressed the yeoman, “We need to speak to the admiral,
“Sure, sir.” Tiner switched on the intercom. “Sir, Col. Mackenzie and
Cmdr. Rabb would like to see you.”
“Send them in, Tiner,” Chegwidden’s voice came over the intercom.
Exchanging a small smile and both taking a deep breath, the officers
entered their CO’s sanctuary and came to attention in front of his desk.
Chegwidden looked up, just a little curious. “At ease, have a seat.”
Harm and Mac did as they were told, unsure how to approach the subject.
The admiral frowned. “Is there a problem?”
Harm cleared his throat. “Actually, yes, sir. I need to request a
transfer. There is an opening for a legal advisor at Pax River. I’d like
to have your blessing for my application, sir.”
AJ stared at him, then let his gaze wander to Mac, then back to Harm. He
couldn’t detect anything unusual between those two. Yet, to him, wanting
to avoid fraternization charges seemed the only logical explanation for
Harm’s wish for a transfer – and for the fact that Mac was present right
now. “Can I assume that you two finally figured out what’s between you?”
he asked warily.
To his honest surprise, he got two slightly pained expressions in
return, both Harm and Mac immediately trying to mask their emotions.
“Not really, sir,” Mac eventually answered, her voice hoarse.
“What exactly is going on here?” AJ’s pronunciation was pointed and
“We don’t have a personal relationship, sir,” Harm tried to explain
without really thinking about what he was saying, “We just wanted to
inform you that we’re expecting a child.”
AJ’s jaw dropped. For a few endless moments he stared at his wincing
senior team. Then his temper got the better of him. “SNAP TO!!” he
shouted, springing to his feet. Harm and Mac immediately came to
attention, staring right through him.
“Just what are you trying to tell me?” the admiral said, dangerously
“Sir, if I may...” Harm tried to explain, “This isn’t what you think it
“Isn’t it? Commander, would you stop telling me what I think?”
“I’m sorry sir, what I wanted to say was, uh... we had this planned, I
“Shut up, Rabb.” They could tell that their CO was about to explode.
“Colonel, if this isn’t a relationship and not... an accident, either,
so what the hell is this?”
Mac swallowed, keeping her eyes straight in front. “A five-year-old
agreement between me and the commander, sir.”
“When little AJ was born, Harm offered me to go halves on a kid if we
weren’t in a personal relationship five years from that day. I accepted,
“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MINDS?” AJ’s nose was about an inch from Mac’s. “I
would have expected such an offer to originate from the commander’s
brain but I’d never have thought you’d actually take him up on it! What
the devil were you thinking?”
“About my biological clock, sir,” Mac answered. Harm marveled at how she
managed to stay calm under Chegwidden’s scrutiny.
The admiral tore his eyes away from Mac and came eye to eye with Harm
instead. “I always thought you were a man of principle, Rabb,” he said
harshly, disappointment ringing in his words. “Did it never occur to you
that having a family might mean including love and marriage?”
Again, AJ was in for a surprise. Harm’s expression clouded. Still
staring right through his CO, he answered. “With all due respect, sir,
it did occur to me, but I eventually understood that the colonel had a
different idea of her future. I respected her wishes.”
AJ’s head swiveled around to stare at Mac – only to find her breaking
protocol by staring at Harm, open-mouthed. ‘Uh oh,’ he only thought,
Before the admiral could think of anything to say, Mac’s stupor had
turned to rage. “With all due respect, sir, that is not true! It was me
who let the commander off the hook, sensing that he obviously didn’t
want to enter a lifelong commitment!”
AJ’s head swiveled back. Harm had turned to face Mac, shaking with
pained anger. “With all due respect, sir, the colonel doesn’t know what
she’s talking about!”
Feeling like on a tennis court, AJ once again turned his head. By now,
Mac was so consumed by her rage that she didn’t even care that her CO
was present. “Oh, I know very well what I’m talking about. For weeks you
don’t talk to me, always burying yourself in your work, and we couldn’t
even exchange greetings without feeling uneasy! Just what did you want
me to think, Harm? Is this your idea of courtship or what??”
“Whoa, slow down, Mac,” Harm shouted back, the frown on his forehead
getting deeper than ever. “I’ll admit I was getting a little uneasy, but
that’s just understandable, right? Hell, I was close to getting all that
I ever wanted! Are you immune to adrenaline? If you’d looked a little
closer you’d have guessed that I was just trying not to let my
anticipation cloud my reason because I was THAT close to losing my
senses at the thought of being together with you! But did you ask what
this was about? No, you just let your ‘everyone-leaves-me’ routine come
out again and didn’t even care to give me the benefit of a doubt!!”
“Did YOU ever ask why I was drawing back?” Mac exclaimed, angry with
herself because she felt her tears rise.
“Hell, I can’t read your thoughts!”
“And I can’t read yours, Mac! How was I supposed to know that you wanted
more than friendship when you told me that sleeping with me would be
‘just a technicality’ – remember??”
At this, AJ decided he’d heard enough. “STAND DOWN, BOTH OF YOU!!” he
thundered. Harm and Mac immediately came to attention again, deeply
blushing, still panting agitatedly, but both suddenly realizing that
they might actually get what they had longed for, after all.
“Apparently, you’re utterly incapable of resolving this on your own.”
Again, AJ was using his dangerously calm voice that allowed no
opposition. “So, as your CO and your friend, I see myself forced to take
the initiative. First: Commander, your wish for transfer is granted.
I’ll speak with the authorities and will recommend you. Second: Do you
love the colonel?”
Harm squared his shoulders. “Yes, sir!” he shouted.
AJ, still with a grim expression, turned to Mac. “Colonel, do you return
“Sir, yes, sir!” Mac answered forcefully.
The admiral again faced Harm. “Commander, you will instantly ask the
colonel to marry you. That’s an order!”
A grin spread over Harm’s face. “Aye, aye, sir! Permission to speak to
the colonel, sir?“
AJ couldn’t help grinning himself, especially as he saw that Mac
desperately tried to will the corners of her mouth to stay in place.
“Granted. At ease.”
Harm instantly closed the distance and took Mac’s hands. “I’m so sorry,
Mac,” he said lovingly, overwhelmed by the realization that he was
finally allowed to let his emotions show. “Will you consider marrying me
all the same?”
Swallowing, Mac returned his smile, all uneasiness vanishing from her
face. “I won’t need to consider it. It’s all I ever wanted,” she replied
“I love you.” Harm’s voice was just a little shaky.
“I love you, too.”
Just as Harm leaned in and very tenderly kissed her, both not yet daring
to believe that, after all that they’d been through, they finally seemed
to get it right, the door to AJ’s office opened, revealing a very
concerned-looking Tiner and an obviously highly worried Harriet.
“Excuse the disturbance, sir,” Tiner began, “But we thought we heard a
fight and then suddenly we heard nothing and...”
“Oh my God!” Harriet exclaimed as she saw Harm and Mac who were still
engrossed in their kiss.
Tiner looked in the direction that she was wordlessly pointing in, his
jaw dropping. Utterly shaken, he looked at the admiral. “Sir, I don’t
understand...” his voice trailed off.
AJ’s smirk was as wide as they’d ever seen. “If babies can be born in
this office, people sure as hell can get engaged in here, too. And now
let’s leave them alone.” With that, he shooed Harriet and Tiner out of
the room and closed the door behind himself.
Just for once, he could actually leave early.