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Classification Vignette, Romance (H/M)
Length Approximately 12,000 words; 6 pages (8 ˝” x 11”)
Spoilers Everything up to and including “Crash”
Rating GS
Author's Notes This story is for my dear friend Lea. Semper fi!
Summary After the encounter with Mattie’s English teacher, Harm helps her pass her class. And sometimes “home”-work hits too close home – as Mac is bound to find out...



0235 ZULU
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, VA


Why couldn’t people realize in time what they needed you to do?

The bullpen lay deserted when the elevator doors opened in front of Mac. Trying to dry her hair with a towel and zip open the jacket of her jogging suit, she stormed through the dark room in the direction of her office, fuming. Petty Officer Gomez had known all day long he would need his lawyers to review Seaman Benet’s personnel file, but, as he had told her on the phone just now, he had ‘forgotten’ to tell them because he’d been ‘so busy rehearsing his statement’ for tomorrow's article 32. And, he had added in an apologetic tone, he was sure the colonel knew how such things tended to happen...

‘Damned sure I know,’ Mac thought as she fumbled for her office key. ‘We’re always having to set right in court what our clients screw up for lack of concentration!’

She’d practically jumped out of the shower and into her car in order to get here and grab the file. She was in for a long evening if what she’d gathered from the Petty Officer’s tale held up. She had tried to reach Harm, but he wasn’t home yet, and at first, his cell phone had been out of service and then, it had been set to voice mail.

Turning on the lights in her office, Mac rummaged through the drawers of her filing cabinets, only to find that the file in question wasn’t there. ‘Great...’ She frowned. Then she remembered that she had given it to Harm a week ago because he had needed it for some preliminary paperwork.

‘God, I hope he didn’t take it home with him...’ Rushing out of her office again, she quickly strode over to his door, not bothering to switch on the lights in the bullpen. The light coming from her office was enough to find the keyhole. Luckily, a little while ago, Harm and she had exchanged their spare office keys for situations like this one.

But just as she was about to insert her key into the hole, she noticed that his office door was ajar and that the faintest shimmer of light was coming out of the room, the source being his computer monitor.

Confused, she stepped into the dark room. “Harm?” A document was open on the screen. However, its author was nowhere near in sight. She walked back to the door and pushed it open, gazing into the dark bullpen. “Harm, you there?”

All of a sudden, she started when she heard his voice from the break room. The door was closed, and she hadn’t noticed that there was a little light creeping out from underneath it.

“Okay, that was a lot to digest, Mattie. Let’s see if I’ve got this right: the guy who called you was...” Harm’s voice, slightly exasperated, had lowered a little so the rest of his words were lost on Mac. ‘The joys of fatherhood,’ she thought, grinning, and decided he didn’t need to know she was here right now. She’d just look if he had kept the file in his office, and leave him to whatever it was he was doing here at this late hour. She’d call him later to discuss their strategy.

She switched on the lights in his office and thumbed through the files lying on the desk. After a few seconds of annoyed anxiety she had finally found what she had been looking for. Just to make sure the page she was especially interested in was in the folder, she sat down and opened it, picking up a few sheets Harm had left on his desk, in order to make room for the file. However, the folder and its contents immediately lost their interest when she cast a casual glance at one of the pages in her hands.

It was a photocopy of a Shakespeare sonnet, simply titled 116. Although the number didn’t ring a bell, as soon as she read the first verses, Mac recognized it – from one of Mic’s Valentine cards. The words had impressed her deeply back then. Somehow, finding this very piece of poetry on Harm’s desk caused a funny sensation in the pit of her stomach. Drawing a decided breath, she decided to ignore the feeling as her eyes quickly skimmed the lines.


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


Underneath the verses that had obviously been copied from a book, someone had typed an assignment.

Write an essay, trying to capture William Shakespeare’s thoughts and state of mind of when he wrote this sonnet. Choose first-person perspective. Try following Shakespeare’s train of thoughts as presented in the sonnet.

All over the page, there were comments and notes in Harm’s handwriting, arrows pointing to the words the particular ideas were referring to. In the corner up right, Mac read M. Grace. “Uh huh,” she made under her breath, smiling a little. ‘Daddy’s doing daughter’s homework... nice...’

She remembered that on the way back from their last abroad investigation, Harm had been uneasy about being delayed. When she had asked what he was worried about, he had told her that he had an appointment with Mattie’s English teacher who’d apparently threatened not to let Mattie pass her grade because of her absence from school during the first term. Curious, Mac let her gaze wander to the monitor, and just as she had expected, the open document wasn’t about Naval issues at all.

‘Rabb on Shakespeare,’ she mused, chuckling. ‘Sailor, you never cease to surprise me...’ The fact that Harm was right now in the break room just across the corridor faded into the background of her conscious. Intrigued, she began to read.

There is nothing coincidental about true love. Two minds tied to each other by the deepest of emotions is a matter of destiny. Whatever I might make up to deny the true nature of my feelings would not change anything about the universal truth that love is a power beyond my influence. This is the precise reason why I need to stop finding excuses for what I know is inside my heart. There are no impediments to the marriage of true minds.

Love is even more powerful than the force of my will, it cannot be changed or commanded. No matter how your situation may change, how your perspective on what you hoped for may be reversed completely as far as rationality is concerned – if your love was of an everlasting, universal kind, it will forever be unchanged. It will be the one unwavering focus in the giant blur of life passing by. The one constant to cling to in times when your heart undergoes trials and tribulations. I need to accept that the one I love will be the center of my life till death do us part. Indeed, love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.

Sadly true – sometimes, you do not know what love is really worth. You are bound to find out, but only when it is too late. It is in this very situation that love can hurt most: because you cannot stop loving. You do not have the power to let go of your lost dream. Thus, the most cherished of emotions can indeed bear out to the edge of doom – and there is nothing you can do about it.

I have known all this as a fundamental truth, inherent in the power love exercises over me. Whatever you may say to try and prove me wrong: you have never known love if you contradict to what I just pointed out. In my life, love has found more alteration than I would ever have thought it would survive – and yet, it has never altered. Nor will it ever do so.

A heavy lump had grown in Mac’s throat. All of a sudden, she felt sneaky and treacherous, robbing Harm of his privacy. She could feel that what she had just read wasn’t just Mattie’s homework. It was Harm dealing with what he kept locked up deep inside. The teacher might have an idea that Mattie hadn’t written this alone, but any help from her guardian might be limited to ideas and certain choices in wording. Never would she guess that the picture that had been drawn along the lines of a centuries-old poem was a replica of a real, existing situation.

But Mac knew it was. Of course, Harm had taken up the preset task and had tried to render Shakespeare’s thoughts the way they lay buried in his verses. Yet, there could have been many different ways to do it. The fact that Harm had chosen this precise path, told her more than she’d dreamed she’d ever hear from him. Truth be told, she probably wouldn’t have heard anything at all. But now the words were there, in front of her eyes.

“If this be error and upon me proved...” Mac, in a choked whisper, cited the sonnet to herself as if to make the importance of what she’d read more tangible still.

She jumped when, in the next second, the office door was yanked open. Harm stormed into the room, enraged, but stopped dead in his tracks when he saw who was breaking into his personal data. In the wink of an eye, the fury on his face made way for deep confusion.

“Mac?” he asked, his voice incredulous. “What are you doing here?”

She gulped and made a quick movement with her hand, clumsily pointing to the file lying on the desk in front of her. “Uh... I needed to get Seaman Benet’s personnel file,” she said a little breathlessly, trying a strained smile. “You know, Gomez called me about an hour ago and told me that Benet was probably lying,” she explained in a hurried rush of words, “You know, about where he...”

“Uh... yeah...” he made uneasily, cutting her off with a dismissive gesture and avoiding to look at her. “I’ll call you back as soon as I’m done here, okay? Mattie was so desperate about her homework, you know,” he said with a slight, crooked smile. “She’s good at writing business letters but she’s just not into literature. So I thought...”

The more he said the more the absurdity of the situation became evident. Mac felt the color rise in her cheeks. Two adults, trying to distract each other from what was in plain sight. Harm had opened up. She knew what he had written between the lines, and he knew that she knew. This game needed to be put to an end.

Mac took a deep breath. “Did you mean it?” she asked in a low voice, making him stop in mid-sentence.

“What?” he asked, not very intelligently, although she could see in his eyes that he knew exactly what she was talking about.

“Is this William Shakespeare, speaking for Mattie Grace, or is it Harmon Rabb, speaking for himself?” she ventured boldly. Attacking was still the better way of defending yourself. However, she didn’t have the strength to smile.

His shoulders slumped. “I think you know,” was all he answered.

Once again recoiling from the final step? Anger gave her voice a sharp edge when she retorted, “No, Harm, I don’t know. I never did. Not even in Paraguay. I may have a certain idea where some of the things you did came from, but there’s no way for me to be sure.” She became aware that her voice had lowered a good deal but she knew that if she tried to raise it, her threatening tears would become audible. So, when she continued, her words were barely more than a whisper. “I’ll be forever grateful for what you did. And there’s no way I could ever repay you. And yet...” She swallowed, but forced herself to push forward. “From what you’ve written, I... one might get the idea that... that maybe you wouldn’t want any other compensation than what I might be able to offer... if you’d just let me know that I needn’t be afraid of the plunge.” Again, she needed a second to steady herself. “So, which option is it?”

For a moment, he didn’t react, the expression on his face not far from being downright terrified. Then, he squared his shoulders and closed the distance, coming to stand behind her and laying his hands on her shoulders. “The latter,” he murmured.

Torn between fear and elation, Mac reached up and placed her trembling right hand on the one on her left shoulder, turning her head. His eyes met hers and for a few never-ending seconds she lost herself in his gaze, seeing the fear in it lessen as, by the by, caring and tenderness became evident on his expression.

“This is so perfect,” Mac finally spoke up, with a nod pointing to the open file on the monitor.

“But?” he prompted with a smile.

Finding it hard to stay earnest when all of a sudden her heart was starting to overflow with silent joy, Mac smirked back. “I think it may need a female touch to make it pass for Mattie’s,” she answered, her voice still very low.

“Do you?” he asked with raised eyebrows, his thumb caressing the back of her hand.

“Yeah, and I think you might want to simplify the language. Or Ms. Dragon’s gonna guess who’s behind all this.”

He nodded, still smiling. “You’re right,” he conceded. “Want to help me? With the ‘female touch’, I mean.”

“We’ll need to get together for our strategy anyway,” she answered, hearing how her happiness resounded in her voice, but not giving a damn. “I’m sure we could fit in a little Shakespeare.”

“So, how about I tell Jen that our trio family dinner’s going to be a family dinner in four?” he suggested.

“You sure I won’t disturb the three of you getting together?”

He kneeled down at her side so they were at eyelevel. “They’d better get used to it, I daresay... right?”

“Right,” was all she whispered before meeting him halfway. The kiss was short and tentative, and yet, when they parted, Mac could read in his eyes that what she’d always suspected to be in his heart was there for real – and it hadn’t changed one bit in all these years. True love indeed, not altering despite all alteration it had found.

Shakespeare had a point.

The End



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