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Classification Romance (H/M)
 
Length Approximately 4,000 words or 12 pages  (8 ½” x 11”)
 
Spoilers Everything up to and including ‘Standards of Conduct’
Rating GS
Author's Notes Reading 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.

 

 

May 2004
2328 ZULU
The Roberts’ Residence
VA

 

“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 warmly.

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 out.”

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 his SUV.

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 could.

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.”

“Coffee?”

“Yeah.”

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 right now...”

“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?”

“Of course.”

“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.

“Okay... Harm?”

“Hmmm?”

“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.

 

0912 ZULU
Mac’s apartment
Georgetown, D.C.

 

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 more.

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.

 

Same time
Harm’s apartment
North of Union Station
Washington, D.C.

 

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
1621 ZULU
JAG Headquarters
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 sting.

“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 again.

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?

 

2032 ZULU
Gynecological practice
Georgetown, D.C.

 

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 belly.

“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 their faces.

“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
2156 ZULU
JAG Headquarters
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 admiral’s office.

“Tiner,” Harm addressed the yeoman, “We need to speak to the admiral, please.”

“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 crystal-clear.

“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 calm.

“Sir, if I may...” Harm tried to explain, “This isn’t what you think it is.”

“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 mean...”

“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.”

“A what??”

“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, sir.”

“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, thoroughly confused.

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.

“I tried!!”

“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 those feelings?”

“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 softly.

“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.


The End

 
 
   

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