words; 327 pages (8 ½” x 11”)
||Through Season 9
The Anchorage Bar & Grill
Staff Sergeant Mallory ambled unsteadily out of the seedy little bar and
headed for his car. He'd had enough beer and shots to create a pleasant
euphoria. He would take the back roads to his house, no sense in making
himself a target for some ticket-happy cop. Reaching the beat-up Honda
Civic, Mallory fumbled in his pocket for the keys.
Surprised, he turned around to see a tall, dark-haired woman standing
about five feet away. It was hard to make out details in dark. It would
have been hard even if he hadn't been three sheets to the wind. He
blinked a couple of times, "Yeah, do I know you?"
A sense of confusion permeated the alcoholic haze as he braced himself
against the car. He wasn't in uniform, how did she know he was a
Sergeant? The confusion turned to annoyance, damn hookers showed up
everywhere. "Listen sweetheart, it's late, I'm tired and I'm broke. Try
She didn't say anything, just stared at him. Irritated now, he pushed
himself upright, "What are you? Deaf? Beat it!" She still didn't move
and his temper, never good, began to flare. Scowling, he took a step
towards her, fists clenched. If there was one thing that pissed him off,
it was some goddamn, miserable whore not doing what she was told.
Mallory froze when she pulled a pistol out of her coat pocket and
leveled it at him. His eyes widened and a moment later, the slug hit him
in the forehead. The Sergeant was dead before he hit the ground. The
woman stepped up to the body, her hand reaching into the other pocket.
She fingered a globe and eagle insignia, "Semper fi, you bastard."
Turning away, she disappeared into the darkness.
Mac walked into her apartment and then headed for the bathroom and a hot
shower. Running was usually therapeutic for her but lately, it was more
of a stopgap measure. She dragged a hand through her hair and then
turned on the water. Stripping out of her sweat-drenched clothes, she
gratefully eased into the steaming shower. Life had gone to hell in
handbasket in the last year. Why in the world had she ever let herself
pursue a relationship with Harm? Never had she met anyone who could
cause her such joy and such pain. When it came to her physical
well-being, he willingly did whatever it took to keep her safe.
Emotionally, however, he could and had been devastating. Mac closed her
eyes, letting the water stream over her. The problem, of course, (and
despite her words in Paraguay) was that she still loved the big jerk.
Paraguay. It had wound up costing her almost everything but her life.
What she wouldn't give to have those days back, to have said no to Clay
when he asked for her help... But then Clay, and probably Gunny as well,
would have died down there. Sadik Fahd would have had 100 Stinger
missiles with which to kill Americans. No, her duty had been clear.
Webb, whatever his motivation, had been right about stopping Sadik. It
hadn't really surprised her to discover that the CIA operative had been
skating on the fringes of a legitimate mission. Years of working with
Harm had made that a familiar territory. Sometimes you just did what you
had to do, higher powers be damned.
Harm... Goddammit to hell, never would she have imagined that the
outcome of that mission would be her telling him to forget about their
relationship. Looking back, she barely recognized herself. She'd been so
off-balance and things had spiraled out of control.
It hadn't been that she hadn't realized how dangerous the mission was
going to be. It seemed like Clay had pointed it out to her at every turn
and God only knew how often these things went sour. She'd thought she
was ready for whatever might happen down there. Unfortunately, there was
no way she'd been prepared to listen to Webb's screams for hours on end.
It had taken all her resolve to stay with their cover story but she
hadn't been acting when she'd gotten on her knees to beg that son of a
bitch to stop torturing Clay. Terror, guilt, frustration, helplessness,
anger - all melded together into an unimaginable weight.
Later, when Sadik had shoved that knife into her pregnancy suit, she'd
been appalled to find herself grateful to the bastard for not killing
her right then. She hadn't been ready to die just yet, hadn't accepted
that that might be her fate. Had she known on some subconscious level
that Harm would appear to the save the day? Or was it just something she
had grown to expect over the years? Either way, he had shown up when she
needed him most and then things had gone haywire. One minute, he's
blowing holes in Sadik's goons and freeing her from that miserable
little shed and the next, he was all business, wanting to know about the
missiles. Running on adrenaline and stress, she had followed Harm's
lead, telling him what she had managed to overhear about the whereabouts
of the Stingers. Keeping things on a professional level was a damn sight
easier than dealing with personal issues. Hell, the two of them had had
years of practice.
If ever she had needed proof that Murphy ruled the Universe, Paraguay
was the clincher. It couldn't have come at a worse stage in their
relationship. She and Harm were both primed for misunderstandings.
Things hadn't been quite the same between them since that bizarre
incident in the Blue Ridge. They barely had time to recover from that
when the shocking murder of Lauren Singer and Harm's arrest occurred.
Although she knew with a surety that went right down to her toes that he
hadn't committed the murder; in all fairness, his odd behavior from the
moment they heard about Lauren had had her investigative alarm bells
ringing. NCIS obviously had felt the same, throwing him in the brig
It had been horribly frustrating when the Admiral had ordered them all
to back off. She'd gone to talk to Chegwidden privately later. It'd
helped a little to find that he was as mystified as she was about Harm's
actions. Unfortunately, she also discovered that his hands were tied
about the isolation of his senior attorney. The SecNav had been adamant
that the "integrity" of the JAG corps not be compromised. It didn't make
any sense until one filtered it through the Looking Glass of Washington
politicking. Mac found the whole situation ludicrous.
After her interview with Gibbs, she was ready to concede that Harm's
solitary confinement had saved his life. If she could have gotten to him
just then, she would have surely strangled him. Why hadn't he talked to
her about his suspicions of Singer and Sergei? Why hadn't he trusted
her? The distance between them widened once again while she juggled
worry over his trial with the anger and hurt. After he was exonerated,
she let the resentment fester until the night before she left on the
mission. Her parting shot at Harm had been undeserved even if there was
some truth in it. Mac regretted the words almost as soon as she'd said
them but her stupid pride had kept her back stiff and her feet moving -
right into the perdition of Paraguay.
With her rescue by Harm, the surreal quality of her life increased
tenfold. Everything around her was changing so fast that it was almost
impossible to keep up. Moving from unimaginable feelings of guilt and
fear over Clay to the horror of watching the Robinsons executed to the
tightly held terror while being shackled to the table to the amazing
relief of seeing Harm and the shock of finding Victor still alive. The
worst was her absolute lack of control. Although she hadn't said so to
Harm, he wasn't the only one with that particular fear. The difference
was that he expected death and she had experienced worse.
Unfortunately, the relief of being rescued by Harm had been decidedly
short-lived. It was nipped in the bud by the abrupt change in his
attitude. It suddenly felt like she was the weak and bumbling 'Bimbo in
Distress' that he, the Hero, was forever rescuing. She hadn't liked it
but events were moving so quickly right then that she hadn't made the
correlation about Harm's change of demeanor. Later at the hotel when she
had time to think about it, it became obvious. The turning point had
come when she'd kissed Clay. Harm had been behind her and right after
that, the professional mask had dropped into place. And he'd been angry
- his affronted attitude and sarcastic manner had grated on her already
raw nerves. How dare he be offended? Webb had gone through a physical
hell to keep the same thing from happening to her and Harm was jealous
that the ordeal had made her and Clay closer? Dammit, it wasn't like
they'd been on an extended date! Every time she thought about it, she
couldn't decide whether to cry or swear.
Saying good bye to Clay at the hacienda had been wrenching, he'd been so
badly hurt. It was her fault, really. She was the one who had insisted
on rescuing Victor. Webb, despite his heartless agent facade, cared
enough about her to go along and he'd paid for it dearly. Mac sighed and
leaned against the shower wall, closing her eyes. She didn't think she'd
ever absolve herself of the guilt she felt. The man had been a bloody
wreck and he'd laid there and apologized - apologized! - for getting
into her into such a mess. Not one word of recrimination for her
pigheaded 'Marines don't leave their own behind' philosophy that had led
to their capture. She was fairly sure that Clay hadn't expected to
survive long enough to reach medical care or he probably never would
have told her of his feelings.
Things had gone downhill pretty quickly between her and Harm after
Victor had left with Clay. Against all common sense and past
experiences, she had once again climbed into the cockpit of a plane with
him. To be honest, it had been the only way to find and destroy the
Stinger missiles but, dear God, when was she ever going to experience an
uneventful landing with the man? Okay, leaving an unconscious Harm to
find transportation had been a mistake. She knew better than that. All
she could say in her defense was that she hadn't been thinking all that
clearly either. Hell, she'd barely been thinking at all. Her mind had
decided to take some time off for a euphoric high after having survived
two life or death situations in less than a day (three, if you counted
Harm trying to blow her brains out when she came back with the truck).
It had been the weirdest feeling. There she was: bruised, exhausted,
filthy, dealing with enough stress to power the city of Detroit and her
head was telling her that dancing a little jig would be entirely
appropriate. Undoubtedly, she was more flippant about their situation
than she needed to be but she couldn't seem to help herself. At first,
it seemed like Harm was answering in kind but then she began picking up
an edge in his comments. Before she knew it, her remarks were becoming
more cutting and things just escalated.
They might have still been able to work it out when they finally reached
the hotel if Webb and Gunny hadn't shown up. As relieved as she'd been
to find that Clay was still alive, Mac could have wished for a little
more time alone with her pigheaded aviator. She'd been floored when Harm
told Clay that he had resigned in order to come down to Paraguay. Why
hadn't he told her? Instead, he'd brought up some cock and bull story
about getting married! He had been more concerned with tweaking her for
a reaction than the fact that he had given up the most important aspect
of his life in order to rescue her. What the hell was he thinking!? That
Harm had been forced to do such a thing was a scenario that had never
even occurred to her. It seemed like every moment she was being knocked
further off-kilter, trapped in some real-life Twilight Zone. Had
everyone gone nuts? The Admiral was a SEAL, goddammit, he KNEW you
didn't leave people behind. Her shock readily turned to anger -
Chegwidden would have left her fate in the hands of the CIA? He might as
well have shot her himself.
Although it hadn't occurred to her while it was happening, now it struck
her as the height of irony that someone with her time sense could have
had such incredibly poor timing. Trying to get Harm to talk about what
was left of their relationship while they were both reeling had all the
portents of the Titanic leaving her home port. Still, she had persisted
and look what it had gotten her: He'd been obsessed with the notion that
she and Clay were a couple, dismissing her disavowal of any feelings
beyond friendship on her side. It had hurt to learn that he thought so
little of her and when he asked to table the discussion for a later
date, she hadn't fought it. The next day it seemed that Harm was still
angry, belittling her input like she was some sort of incompetent
civilian and not an experienced Marine officer. It had taken Clay's
reprimand to get him to listen to her at all. God only knew what Victor
had thought of whole thing. He'd wisely kept his mouth shut most of the
While he didn't come right out and accuse her of cheating on him, Harm's
unsubtle hints that she had slept with Clay during the mission only
added fuel to the fire. That wasn't even taking into account the slur
against her professionalism. It hadn't helped that Webb had egged on
Harm's jealousy and it did nothing for her temper to discover that he
had bought into it without bothering to suspect Clay's motives. Dammit,
why was Harm always so ready to assume that she would immediately jump
in the sack with whatever man she happened to be friends with? He'd done
it with Mic, conveniently forgetting that the first time she had
actually gone on a date with Brumby had been after Harm's return from
flying and after he'd blown off her invitation to dinner. To discover
later that Harm had blown her off for a date with Renee Peterson had
been particularly galling.
Mac shook her head as she turned off the water in the shower and grabbed
a towel. It had been terribly naive of her to believe that once she and
Harm became a couple that all their problems would disappear. They were
still the same two mule-headed people who didn't communicate as well as
Falls Church, VA
Mac looked up from her computer to see a woman standing in her doorway.
Her courteous response died in her throat and she visibly tensed at the
sight of the NCIS ID badge. She still hadn't forgiven those agents for
the hell they put Harm through. Warily, she leaned back in her chair,
"May I help you?"
Kate Todd did her best to keep her surprise off her face at the Marine
Colonel's reaction. Goddammit, how many JAG HQ officers had Gibbs pissed
off? No wonder Tony didn't bitch and moan when she got this case and not
him. Stiffening her spine, she pasted a polite smile on her face, walked
in and offered her hand, "Special Agent Kate Todd with NCIS, Colonel,
and I do hope you can help."
Mac shook her hand and gestured towards a chair, "Have a seat, Agent
Well, it wasn't much but it was a start. Kate opened up her case and
pulled out photographs, "Do you know this man or the woman?"
Mac studied the pictures carefully. She hadn't seen the man before.
There was something vaguely familiar about the woman but no names came
to mind. She handed it back to Kate, "I don't think so. Should I?"
Kate regarded the JAG officer for a long moment. There had been...
something, recognition perhaps?... before the Colonel had answered. She
leaned forward to take the photographs back, "Are you sure? For a
moment, it looked like you knew them." MacKenzie's expression grew
stonier, something Kate hadn't thought would be possible. She wondered
fleetingly if the woman ever played poker. Still, sometimes a lack of
reaction was as good as an overreaction. What was she concealing?
According to her information, the Colonel had a connection with the late
Vincent Mallory. Granted, it was somewhat oblique but Kate wasn't
willing to leave any stone unturned - not when she was working for
Mac glared at the NCIS agent, "I didn't." She gestured towards the
stacks of files on her desk, " Is that all? I have quite a bit of work
to do." The sooner she could get this woman out of her office, the
better. Dammit, seeing a man dead from a head wound was bringing back
unwelcome memories of Paraguay. At least this man still had his face,
something that couldn't be said of those two missionaries Sadik
executed. Right now, Mac couldn't tell if the familiarity she was
feeling was because of method of death or if the woman just reminded her
of Carla Robinson. She couldn't concentrate with Agent Todd staring at
her and now her mind was dragging up the sounds of Clay's screams.
Narrowing her eyes, Kate returned the photographs to her case and stood
up, "Fine, Colonel MacKenzie. Sorry to have wasted your time." Standing
up, she strode out of the office feeling irritated at the lack of
cooperation. Dammit, Gibbs had probably gone too easy on the JAG
officers if the Colonel thought there was some sort of percentage in
playing dumb. When she got back to the office, she would take a more
thorough look into MacKenzie's personnel file and find out just what
type of weasel lawyer she was dealing with. If the Colonel tended to
play fast and loose with the truth there was bound to be something she
could use for leverage.
Mac sat straight-backed until Todd had cleared the bullpen before
slumping a little to massage her forehead. Nothing like a visit from
NCIS to bring on a headache. Pulling open a drawer, she started
rummaging for the bottle of Ibuprofen and then jumped at the sound of
Harm's tight voice, "What did NCIS want?"
Falls Church, VA
Mac looked up to see Harm standing in her doorway, either unaware or
unrepentant for startling her. She sighed quietly. Finding a way back to
their relationship was like walking through a minefield. Since she had
been the one who had ended it, it was obviously up to her to make the
first move. The problem was that she had been trying for the last eight
months or so. There were times when she thought they were making
progress. At least they were on cordial speaking terms... most of the
time, anyway. Then he would turn around and say something hurtful. It
seemed like whenever Harm thought she was being intractable, overzealous
or just plain bitchy about something, he'd throw her past in her face.
Mac didn't think it was a coincidence that it seemed to be happening
In her more charitable moments, she would allow that he probably didn't
mean anything deeper than a comment on her behavior and that he wasn't
deliberately hitting her where it would hurt the most. Before Paraguay
though, he had kept the comments between the two of them. It had been
bad enough when he alluded to her alcoholism during court but his
sarcastic barb later in the bullpen about her quitting cold turkey -
twice - had really stung. She wasn't proud of that particular moment in
her life, that she'd been so weak. Apparently, Harm thought as little of
her for her lapse as she did, despite how he'd acted at the time. That
notion was reinforced when she had to practically drag a half-hearted
apology out of him. ...Oh hell, sometimes she wondered why she was
beating her head against the wall. She knew she was no prize.
She blinked and felt herself blush, suddenly realizing that she'd been
staring wordlessly at him for the last 22 seconds, "Ummm... what?"
Harm stared at her, his initial (and admittedly, irrational) irritation
forgotten. She'd looked so lost there for a moment. With everything that
had happened between them and despite his best efforts to banish Mac
from his heart, he found that he still loved her. It was driving him
crazy. He had every right to be mad as hell and he had found that it was
rather easy to become annoyed with her. Reason seemed to have very
little to do with it. Hell, it wasn't Mac's fault if NCIS came calling.
All of this because of Paraguay. Everything he'd done, all he'd given up
and she'd dumped him - for Clayton Webb of all people! When Chegwidden
had drop-kicked him out of the Navy, it had been easy to blame her for
that too. Although, to be fair, if it hadn't been for that chain of
events, he would never have met Mattie. And, despite their argument, it
was Mac who had made it possible for he and Mattie to be together. He
hadn't expected her to appear in court and, even now, he felt a little
twinge of guilt for thinking that she'd shown up just to shoot down his
chances. How had they gotten so far apart that he'd even suspect her of
such a thing? If their positions were reversed, he would never torpedo
Mac. Harm cleared his throat, realizing she was waiting for him to say
something. In a milder tone he asked, "Why was NCIS here?"
Mac shrugged a little uncomfortably. "I'm not sure. A Marine sergeant
was murdered and, for some reason, Agent Todd thought I might know him."
Her voice trailed off, there was that niggling feeling of familiarity
again. Somewhere, somehow, she must have crossed these people's path. It
couldn't have been for any mentionable period of time. She seldom forgot
someone once she encountered them - a trait that was both a curse and a
Harm's voice intruded once again, forcing her back to the present. "I...
umm... I don't know." This was going to bug the hell out of her until
her subconscious coughed up the info. Mac sat back with a sigh and
attempted a slight smile, "So, how's Mattie doing at the new school?"
"She's getting there - slowly," Harm smiled indulgently. "It's been an
adjustment going from being her own boss to just being a teenager
"She's a bright kid, she'll be fine," Mac's smile grew a little more
genuine. She liked the young woman and Mattie was a safe subject for the
two of them.
"Yeah," Harm agreed. The silence that followed began to feel awkward as
the two stared at each other. Finally, Harm began backing out of the
door. He stopped halfway and took a deep breath, "Are you doing anything
for dinner tonight?" His face fell at the look on Mac's face, "Never
mind, maybe another time." He turned around to leave, not wanting to
hear her say she had a date with Webb - again.
"Harm, wait," Mac stood up, trying to halt his retreat. He stopped and
looked at her, she could almost see the shield of nonchalance drop into
place. She spread her hands, "I'm sorry, I've already made plans for
this evening. How about tomorrow?"
He gave a noncommittal shrug. Dammit, two could play this game, "I'll
have to check my calendar. Let me get back to you."
With that, he strode back to his office. Mac sighed in frustration. Of
all the times when she didn't have anything to do, he had to go and pick
this night. It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that he thought
she was going out with Clay again. It wasn't that great a leap of logic.
She had been meeting Clay for dinner about once every week or two,
depending upon his schedule. She felt closer to Webb since Paraguay and
it helped to talk to him when memories became overwhelming. Long
explanations weren't necessary between them, for which she was eternally
grateful. This had been one subject she couldn't talk to Harm about -
even if he had returned any of her phone calls - and she had needed to
talk to someone.
Unfortunately, it seemed like the few times Harm made an overture, he
picked a night when she was getting together with Clay. That wasn't
actually the case for this particular night but she wasn't about to go
chasing after the man just to explain herself. It would only lead to a
fight. He still believed she was romantically involved with Clay and
she'd been unable to convince him otherwise. Mac sighed, maybe she just
should have asked Harm earlier if he wanted to go with her. The
invitation had said she could bring a guest. She shook her head, their
relationship was so up and down right now, she hadn't been willing to
chance it. Dropping back into her chair, Mac pulled out the ibuprofen.
It was going to be another lovely day.
Gibbs stopped at Kate's desk, "Well?"
She looked up from her computer with a frustrated expression, "Nothing.
Aside from the fact that it was a .38 slug and the shooter was no more
than six feet away, there wasn't much evidence at the scene. No
footprints, no shell casing, no witnesses - just one dead Staff
Sergeant. Abby says that the double striations on the slug show that a
silencer was used which explains why no one heard anything. Of course,
in that part of town, people don't rush out to find who's shooting at
who. According to Ducky, it happened around 2 a.m. - give or take -
which means he was shot right after he left the bar. Still had his
wallet and the car was there, so robbery wasn't a motive."
"Found anybody who'd want to kill him?" Gibbs folded his arms.
Kate grimaced, "His ex-wife. Judging from various reports, Sergeant
Mallory liked to use her for a punching bag. She never pressed charges
and the most he'd gotten was 'counseling'."
"Have you talked to her yet?"
"Haven't been able to find her," Kate leaned back with a scowl. "She
filed the divorce papers and disappeared. I thought I had a line with a
JAG lawyer but she clammed up. Said she didn't recognize Mallory or his
wife from the pictures I showed her."
"Who was the JAG?"
"The HQ Chief of Staff, a Lt. Colonel MacKenzie."
Gibbs' eyebrows rose, "No kidding, Sarah MacKenzie?"
She looked at him in surprise, "You know her?"
He shrugged, "Met her once while we were investigating the murder of
that JAG lieutenant last year."
Kate nodded to herself, Gibbs must have really outdone himself if the
JAG lawyers were still pissed about seeing anyone from NCIS. "Was she a
"No, not her. Her partner, Cdr. Harmon Rabb, JAG's Golden Boy. Got all
the way to trial before we figured out that he'd been framed." Gibbs'
face remained impassive but he wasn't particularly pleased with himself
about that case. Rabb was an irritating, arrogant son of a bitch and had
clearly been withholding information but NCIS... he... had nearly
screwed the pooch on that one.
While no one had said anything, it was fairly obvious that MacKenzie and
Rabb were involved. Gibbs had checked into MacKenzie's background and
whereabouts, as well. This wouldn't be the first time a woman had helped
in getting rid of the 'other woman'. Her service and personnel records
were almost as outlandish as Rabb's. No wonder they were attracted to
each other. He'd been surprised that the Marine Colonel was unaware that
Rabb had been investigating the identity of unborn baby's father. From
the brief flash of emotion before she regained her professional
demeanor, he was willing to bet MacKenzie probably had a few unkind
words to say when she next saw the Commander.
"I guess she made quite an impression?" Kate offered, gritting her teeth
just a little. Why couldn't the Marine Colonel have been some dowdy,
mouse-haired old frump?
Gibbs gave a lop-sided half-smile, "She's been pretty impressive; her
and Rabb, both. The two of them seem to be the CIA's favorite secret
weapon. Remember when Admiral Jacobs of NIS was discovered to have been
running an illegal covert operation? He was killed when they closed in
on him. MacKenzie was the one that brought the whole thing down."
Kate glanced over at her computer screen, "I guess that explains all the
classified areas in her records." She looked back up at Gibbs, "Any idea
why she'd stonewall me about Mallory?"
Gibbs shrugged again and turned away, "Nope, but I'm sure you'll figure
out how to get her to talk. Soon."
Mac walked into the restaurant and stopped for a moment. A quiet word
with the hostess pointed her in the right direction and she made her way
to the banquet room in the back. She stood quietly in the doorway for a
moment until one of the men at the main table noticed her. Smiling, he
strode over and enveloped her in a hug, "Sarah! You came."
Mac grinned back at him, "You know I wouldn't miss this if I could help
it." She glanced at the table, nodding a greeting to the rest of the
people, "When's she getting here?"
"Any time now, Michael's bringing her." He turned back, leading her to
the table, "You remember Angie, don't you?"
"Of course, how are you, Angie?"
"Getting bigger with every passing moment. This baby can't get here soon
enough," Angie sighed dramatically and then directed a mock scowl at her
husband. "James Fine! Where are your manners? Get the lady a seat."
"Yes'm." Mac let her face become impassive as the DC police lieutenant
pulled out a chair, adjusted it carefully and then bowed deeply, "Would
Her Colonelship care to rest her nether regions on this exquisite
example of American craftsmanship?" After hearing about the Dzuricks,
James had taken to teasing her about her short stint as royalty. Mac
reciprocated by playing the insufferable aristocrat to the hilt. It
wasn't often that she felt comfortable enough to act silly in front of
others but James was hard to resist. The rules were simple enough -
first one to smile, lost.
Putting on a suitably haughty look, Mac swept up to the proffered chair
and rolled her eyes downward. Stretching out her arm and extending a
trembling forefinger, she raised an eyebrow at the big man and did her
best Nora Desmond voice, "There's a speck."
James clapped both hands to the sides of his face, looking properly
horrified. He started to speak when Emma Fine's voice made them both
jump, "Will you two stop?!"
The rest of the table began to laugh and James turned to them with a
bow. In his rich baritone voice, he intoned solemnly, "Thank you. Our
next performance will be at 9 pm so please reserve your tickets now. All
proceeds will benefit the 'It's A Fine Thirst' Beer Fund."
"James!" Emma gave her unrepentant son one more glare as she hugged Mac.
She leaned down and gave Angie a kiss before straightening up again.
Hooking a hand through Mac's elbow, she turned the brunette towards a
tall, slender young man. "Sarah, I'm so glad you came. I don't think
you've met my youngest son, Michael. He's a Seaman on the Enterprise.
Michael, this is Sarah MacKenzie. She's a Lt. Colonel with the Navy
Michael's eyes widened just a little before he popped to attention. Mac
waved a hand at him, "Stand easy, we're not in uniform. May I call you
"Ma'am, yes, ma'am." Michael relaxed only slightly. His mother had
mentioned Sarah in a few of her letters. He knew she was a lawyer and
had been doing some pro bono work for the shelter residents but the fact
that she was a field-grade Marine officer apparently hadn't been
important enough for Momma to note - until now.
James and Emma's middle son, Charles, walked up just then and stopped on
either side of their mother. James gestured towards the tables, "C'mon
Momma, it's time to get your birthday celebration underway." Mac found
her seat with some of the members of the Orphan Brigade. She'd met a
number of them during her association with Emma, as well as her work at
the Baylor shelter. The other 'Orphans' often volunteered their time
down there. Chantra and Ellie grinned at her as she sat down next to
them. This pair had been two of Emma's more spectacular successes.
Chantra Stivens now ran her own advertising specialty firm and Ellie
Nichols was a high-powered real estate agent. Mac liked them both.
Chantra was always willing to provide or hunt down some sort of
employment for the shelter women and Ellie kept her eyes open for
affordable housing. Mac, with the Admiral's blessing, provided pro bono
legal work when time allowed.
"Sarah! How have you been? We haven't seen you in ages!" Chantra gave
her arm a squeeze.
"Military stuff is keeping you hopping, isn't it?" Ellie chimed in,
"How's your to-die-for Commander?" At Mac's suddenly closed look, Ellie
and Chantra glanced at each other in surprise.
Chantra took the lead, "Oh honey, what's that man gone and done now?"
Mac sighed a little, the two women meant well. Perhaps she could keep
this brief, the last thing she wanted was to bring up more memories of
Paraguay. It weighed on her too much as it was. "This was my fault. I
broke off our relationship."
Ellie and Chantra leaned back, folding their arms in identical poses.
Ellie tilted her head, "Uh-huh... just out of the blue, you told Mr.
Perfect to take a hike. Girl, your head ain't on that crooked."
When Mac didn't answer right away, Chantra narrowed her eyes, "Was it
Mac snorted, in spite of herself. She did not want to discuss this right
now. Ellie glanced at Chantra and leaned in again, "There wasn't, was
there?" She would never have pegged Sarah for the cheating type but
then, she hadn't been right about that miserable bastard she'd married
"No." Mac grimaced, "He thought there was someone else. I got angry and
screwed everything up. ... Look, can we drop this for now? I'd like to
not think about it for one night."
"Sure, honey," Chantra gave Ellie a sideways look and patted Mac's hand.
They would get together later to discuss this latest development.
Speculating on the escapades of the beautiful Marine Colonel and her
dashing Navy Commander was more fun than any soap opera. "So, have I
told you that my daughter got accepted to MIT? After she graduates, she
wants to work for NASA."
Mac smiled, grateful to no longer be the topic of conversation, "That's
wonderful. You must be so proud of her."
The evening went along smoothly after that. Each of Emma's sons got up
and talked a little about their mother. It was funny and endearing at
the same time. After dinner, everyone began mingling and Mac finally
relaxed. She found herself in a group with James, Michael, some of
Emma's coworkers and several of the Orphans. They began comparing some
of the more outrageous war stories of Emma and the unfortunate
bureaucrats that she crossed swords with over the years. Mac couldn't
remember the last time she had laughed so much.
"Sarah," Emma appeared and touched Mac on the elbow. She smiled at the
others, "Would you excuse us a moment?" Leading Mac towards another,
smaller group, Emma glanced over at the dark-haired Marine officer.
Something was eating at the younger woman. Although she seemed to be
enjoying herself tonight, in her unguarded moments she looked...
unsettled. Emma filed a mental note to get together with Sarah for a
quiet dinner. It had been months since they'd last met, for the most
part due to Sarah's unrelenting schedule. She'd broach the subject
later. Right now, however, they had reached their destination. Emma
smiled, placing a hand on Mac's shoulder, "Congresswoman Elbert, I'd
like you to meet Lt. Colonel Sarah MacKenzie. Sarah, this is Michelle
Elbert, our newest champion in Congress. She's spearheading a campaign
to help stop violence against women."
Michelle Elbert smiled as she shook Mac's hand, "Actually, I'm
conducting an inquiry and trying to bring the issue more fully in front
of the public eye. Emma said you were a JAG lawyer, I thought, perhaps,
you could help with the military side. From what I understand, the
services don't take spousal abuse as seriously as the civilian
Mac started to reply and then stopped. That was it. That was where she'd
seen the woman. Tia Mallory had fled to the Baylor shelter and Emma had
contacted Mac when she learned that Tia's husband was a Marine. That had
been about five months ago. Mrs. Mallory had refused to press any sort
of charges or even cooperate if Mac decided to file. All she wanted was
out. Out of the marriage and out of the state as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, there were no children involved, so there were no custody
issues. Without any way to bring Mallory up on charges, Mac had settled
for filing the divorce papers for Tia. Now, Sergeant Mallory was dead
and, apparently, NCIS was focusing their attention on the ex-wife.
"Sarah?" Both Emma and the Congresswoman spoke at nearly the same time.
Mac blinked and then gave a slightly chagrined smile, "Oh, I beg your
pardon, Congresswoman. I've been making myself crazy trying to remember
something all day and you just jogged my memory."
"Well, that's not exactly what I envisioned in my role as a public
servant but, hey, glad to be of service." Michelle Elbert grinned, "So
Colonel, think you can help me deal with the military on abuse?"
Mac tilted her head a little, "I suppose that depends, Congresswoman."
Elbert raised a questioning eyebrow and Mac continued, "It would depend
on my CO giving me time to look into this... " She held up a hand when
the Congresswoman started to speak, "and it would also depend upon
whether this will be even-handed in regard to the services and civilian
policies. I will not participate in a game of Capitol Hill
military-bashing just to advance your career."
She watched calmly as the Congresswoman indignantly drew herself up.
Michelle Elbert glared at the woman in front of her for several long
seconds before finally relaxing. She shook her head ruefully, "We are
going to have an interesting relationship, Colonel." This time she held
up a hand when Mac opened her mouth, "Providing, of course, your CO
approves. Would you object to my asking the JAG for your help?"
"No," Mac shook her head, "It's an issue that does need to be
addressed." She frowned slightly, "The problem will be time. With the
current state of affairs with the military, our office has been
inundated. Admiral Chegwidden might say no just because he can't spare
"Understood, Colonel. I hope we will be able to work together. There are
people out there who need help and I intend for them to be heard."
Michelle grinned at Mac and then over at Emma, "Well, that takes care of
the official stuff." She rubbed her hands together as her eyes took on a
devilish gleam, "Now let me tell you about Emma and a certain city
manager who tried to funnel money away from the shelters... "
The rest of the evening went quickly and all too soon, Mac was
retrieving her coat and saying good night to everyone. It took another
thirty minutes to make the rounds but at last, she was standing at the
door with just Emma beside her. She gave the older woman a hug, "Happy
birthday, Emma, and thanks for inviting me. I had a wonderful time."
Emma nodded, "I'm glad. We don't see each other hardly enough anymore.
Would you mind getting together for lunch or dinner sometime in the next
week? I've missed talking to you."
"I've missed you, too. Everything's been so hectic lately." Mac frowned
slightly, "Let me know what your schedule is like. I wouldn't want to
keep you up on a night that you're working."
"Sounds like a plan. You be careful going home now, hear?"
"Yes ma'am." Mac chuckled, "I'll talk to you soon." She turned and
Emma watched until she disappeared out the door and then jumped when her
oldest son's voice sounded right behind her, "Did you find out what's
bothering our favorite Marine?"
"James!" Emma whirled around, her hand on her chest, "I will not reach
my next birthday if you keep sneaking up on me like that!"
"Sorry, Momma," James said contritely. He leaned over and gave her a
peck on the cheek, "So, did you find out what's wrong with Mac?"
Emma shook her head, looking towards the door again, "No, but I intend
to... and soon."
Falls Church, VA
Mac stared at her phone, debating with herself. She'd come in a little
earlier than usual and pulled up the files on Tia and Vincent Mallory.
Now she was beginning to think that she had deliberately tried to forget
about the couple. It had been way too close to her own life and had
started her on a useless round of 'what ifs'. Even as she found herself
dwelling on such unwelcome memories, some small part of her wondered why
it was affecting her so strongly. It wasn't like she hadn't handled
these types of cases before. While she was more sensitive about them,
she could usually distance herself enough to work. Ordinarily, she might
have broached the subject with Harm. He'd always been good about pulling
her off these destructive paths but this had happened when he was off
with the CIA and still too angry to return any of her calls. She had
sucked it up and moved on, adding it to the other burdens that were
fraying her nerves at a glacial pace.
Taking a deep breath, she picked up the phone and dialed the number from
the card Special Agent Todd had left with her. After a couple of rings,
she heard, "NCIS, Todd speaking."
"Agent Todd, this is Col. MacKenzie. Those photographs you showed me,
they were the Mallorys, weren't they?... Yes... yes, I do think we need
to get together." She paused for a moment, reviewing her calendar, "How
about 1430 today? I have court this morning. All right. Where? That's
fine. I'll see you then." Mac hung up and sat back in her chair for a
few moments. She was almost certain it hadn't been Tia who had killed
Vincent Mallory. One could never tell but it just didn't feel right. It
took either a lot of anger or a complete lack of emotions to shoot
someone right between the eyes as Mallory had been. No matter how awful
her father had been, she'd never contemplated killing him in cold blood.
What she had done was run as fast and as far as she could. It had taken
Joe MacKenzie on his deathbed and Harm's considerable powers of
persuasion to get her back anywhere near the man.
Uttering a soft groan, Mac leaned forward to put her face in her hands;
goddammit, she was doing it again. This was not about her.
"Late night, last night?"
Mac jerked her head up to see Sturgis standing in her doorway. They
hadn't been on the best of terms lately - he'd been prickly and
defensive and she'd been abrupt and short-tempered. Her problem had been
Paraguay. Sturgis' problem had been Bobbie choosing her career over him.
That had coincided with his inadequate counsel hearing that Bud had
tanked. Being found wanting in both his personal and professional life
had been a serious blow to his self esteem. Sturgis' answer had been to
drive himself harder, as well as take a harder line with almost
everything and everyone around him. While Mac could certainly understand
zealousness, it was the uncharacteristic lack of any sort of compassion
that surprised and annoyed her. His callous cross of the Recon Marine
who couldn't kill a defenseless child had truly sparked her ire. He had
destroyed the young man's confidence to the point where her client
refused to contest the court martial. Deciding punishment had been a
lose/lose situation. If she'd gotten the young Marine discharged, his
failure, guilt and self-doubt would have probably followed him all his
life. She kept him in knowing there was a good chance he'd wind up back
in Iraq. She could only pray that he wouldn't get himself killed trying
to redeem himself.
She had told Sturgis that she thought his tactics cowardly and not long
afterward, he'd called her a sanctimonious prig. That was where their
relationship stayed. They maintained a professional attitude towards
each other but that was about it. Now he was standing in her doorway.
Was his question a true inquiry or just something he threw out to get
her attention? She looked at him for another moment and then sighed,
propping an elbow on her desk and resting her chin, "More like old
memories. What can I do for you, Sturgis?"
Sturgis frowned slightly. He now knew her well enough to know that if
Mac was dwelling on old memories, chances were it wasn't anything good.
He wasn't happy with the coolness in their friendship but he had mixed
feelings about what to do. He had been angry with Mac on several levels
(not the least of which was her treatment of Harm), but he was more
angry with himself.
It seemed like his world had turned inside out. All his life, he felt he
had to be perfect. He was studious, serious and played by the rules
because that's what Chaplain Turner's son should do. When he'd first met
Harm at the Academy, he hadn't been sure what to think about the tall,
young man. Rabb was serious and completely focused on his goal of
becoming an aviator and while Sturgis admired his drive, he could tell
there was another, wilder side. He and Harm discovered that they shared
a common family history of military service - it became one more stone
in the foundation of their budding friendship. Before he knew it,
Sturgis had found himself numbered among the tight little core of
friends that surrounded Harmon Rabb, Jr.
Harm had been a puzzle. Sturgis quickly discovered that his new friend
had a deadly sense of humor and the wherewithal to pull off some amazing
pranks. He wasn't the crazy, damn-the-consequences man that Jack Keeter
was but he had managed his fair share of scrapes and he'd dragged
Sturgis right along with him. Looking back, Sturgis could only shake his
head at some of the antics that Harm talked him into. It had been a
liberating experience for a minister's son. After graduation, they'd
gone their separate ways. Harm and Keeter took to the air, Diane had put
her analytical talents to good use by becoming a cryptologist and
Sturgis headed for the deep blue.
Life has a funny way of kicking you in the teeth at times. Who knew that
years down the road, it would put he and Harm in the same designator of
the service and ultimately in the same office? Had someone told him at
the graduation ceremony that he and Rabb would wind up as lawyers and
that Diane was slated for an untimely and brutal death, he would have
disgraced his father by flattening the bearer of such a tale.
He used to think that it was tough being a minister's only child,
especially the son of the illustrious and well-respected Chaplain
Turner. How unfair it seemed, to have had every action he took weighed
against the high moral standards of his father. Not that Harm had had an
easy time with his dad declared MIA but his behavior wasn't constantly
compared to whatever his father might have or had done. If he'd had a
nickel for every time he'd heard, "When your father was your age... "
Sturgis figured he could have retired at an early age.
Then he'd met Sarah MacKenzie. She bore an uncanny resemblance to Diane
but appearance was the only thing they'd had in common... that and
Harmon Rabb, Jr. He'd been surprised after first meeting her that Harm
had insisted the two of them were only friends and colleagues. He hadn't
been surprised when Harm had put his foot in his mouth with that crack
about the Colonel's boyfriends. If they'd been kids, Harm would have
been the one putting snakes in Mac's locker. It had taken him a while to
get a clearer picture of the Marine Chief of Staff. If Harm was a
puzzle, then Mac was an enigma.
To call her stubborn would be like calling the sun hot and, at first, he
had attributed her zealousness to typical overcompensation by a woman in
a decidedly male world. Eventually, he realized it was closer to the
truth to say that she had little patience or compassion for people who
blamed everything but themselves for their own choice of actions;
especially if those actions had led to injury or death of another. She'd
taken a hard line with those idiotic dueling cadets until they had
admitted what they had done had been childish and dangerous. It hadn't
been until that debacle with Jacobs that he'd learned of her upbringing.
It had shocked him that the elegantly beautiful Marine had had such a
hellish childhood even as it explained her aggressive and occasionally
belligerent attitude towards abuse cases.
Every now and then, he'd ponder what he might have been like if he'd had
the life that Sarah MacKenzie had had. Would he have survived and made
something of himself as she had done? There were so many people in
similar circumstances that had let life overwhelm them. Did he have that
iron core deep inside that would have allowed him to triumph? He just
didn't know and, on some level, it galled him. Mac had gone through the
crucible at an early age and come out stronger for it. While he was not
a man given to vacillation, he also wasn't going to delude himself. The
only other person he knew who could match the steel-willed Colonel was
Sturgis gave himself a mental shake. Truthfully, what went on between
Harm and Mac was none of his business - a fact that he kept reiterating
to himself to, apparently, little avail. Just like his Academy days,
Sturgis had found himself swept up in strong currents of Harm's life...
He held up a file folder for Mac to see, "The Nebrino file you were
looking for, Colonel."
Mac nodded, holding out a hand, "Thank you." She kept a firm grip on her
disappointment. So his inquiry had been merely a device to get her
attention rather than a tentative offer to start reconstructing their
friendship. She had made a few overtures herself and been rebuffed.
Nothing cutting, Sturgis wasn't that kind of man, but more like his
responses had stayed strictly on the professional level. She accepted
the file and dropped it in the stack on her desk. Expecting him to
leave, Mac was surprised to look up and find an uncertain looking
Sturgis still standing there. Concern colored her tone as she gazed at
the handsome submariner, "Sturgis, are you all right?"
He smiled a trifle sheepishly, "I was about to ask you that. Are you
okay?" He watched her carefully, unsure of how she would respond. After
all, he'd been keeping her at arm's length for the better part of two
Mac swallowed her first automatic response of 'fine'. Sturgis was making
an effort and she didn't want to shut him down despite her aversion to
coming out from behind her professional facade. Leaning back in her
chair, she fiddled with a pen and sighed a little, "No, not really."
Sturgis lowered himself into one of her chairs, "Want to talk about it?"
He watched her gaze dart nervously about the room before settling on
him. She gave him a rueful smile, "I don't think there's enough time
left in this century to cover everything."
"How about hitting the highlights?" Sturgis winced slightly at her soft,
incredulous snort, "Sorry, poor choice of words."
Mac looked up at the ceiling for a moment, "How about we just stick to
the latest and greatest?" She glanced down to see Sturgis nod and took a
deep breath, "Yesterday NCIS came calling." She shook her head at the
surprised and wary look on Sturgis' face, "Nothing to do with JAG and at
first, or so I thought, nothing to do with me either. A Marine sergeant
was murdered two days ago. Agent Todd came by with photographs, thinking
I would know the victim. She also had pictures of his ex-wife."
"They think it was the ex-wife? Why talk to... ? Ahhh, " Sturgis raised
an eyebrow, "They can't find her and they think you know where she is."
Mac nodded, "Except that I didn't remember either of them and that's
what I told Agent Todd." She leaned forward to rest her elbows on the
desk, "There was this annoying sense of familiarity but I couldn't pin
it down. At least, not until yesterday evening when I was talking to
Congresswoman Elbert. Then I remembered how I'd met the ex-wife."
Sturgis gave her a puzzled look, "You know Congresswoman Elbert?"
"Not until last night. It was Emma Fine's 60th birthday and her boys
threw a party at Martinelli's. The Congresswoman was there and Emma
introduced us. Anyway, I came in this morning and looked up the file.
Staff Sergeant Mallory liked to get drunk and then go home and beat his
wife. Tia Mallory finally had enough and ran to the Baylor shelter where
she met Emma... "
"... and Emma got her in touch with you." Sturgis finished. "Do you know
where she is?" He could see where this type of case would make Mac a bit
touchy but she'd handled them before. Why was this one bothering her?
She shook her head, "I don't think so. She refused to press charges or
let me do something about him. All I could do was file the divorce
papers for her. Tia moved out of state almost immediately - told me she
had a friend in Philadelphia who could put her up for a while."
"But you think she was lying." Sturgis made it more of a statement than
Mac shrugged, staring down at her hands, "Educated guess. Tia was
terrified that her husband would find her and she didn't trust the court
system to be able to keep her safe. Can't say I blame her for that."
They were both silent for a moment. Sturgis cleared his throat, he would
try to broach this as carefully as possible, "This doesn't sound too
different from other abuse cases you've handled."
"I know," Mac raised both hands a little and then let them drop back in
her lap. She let her gaze travel around the room again, a frustrated
look on her face, "Honestly, I know that but it got to me then and it's
getting to me now. I keep seeing... " Her voice trailed off and she
shook her head and gave Sturgis a small smile, "I'll be fine. I have an
appointment to see Agent Todd at 1430 and that will be that. I won't
have to think about the Robinsons again."
"Who are the Robinsons?" Sturgis gave her a confused look.
"What?" Mac stared at him in surprise. How did he know about them?
"You said 'the Robinsons'. Who are they?"
"I did?" Mac rubbed her forehead, "They were... it's not important. I
meant to say the Mallorys." She stood up and he got up as well, "I
appreciate your concern, Sturgis, but I'm afraid I need to get going.
I've got court in thirteen minutes."
Mac grabbed her briefcase and headed out of her office. Sturgis waited
for her at the doorway. Somehow he got the feeling that Mac had just let
him see the tip of the iceberg. He'd hadn't actually thought about it
before but she really had jumped right back into the office routine
almost immediately after returning from Paraguay. Only once had she
mentioned any sort of aftermath and that had been when he wasn't truly
listening. He'd uncharitably blown it off as a typically female
emotional reaction to the use of coercion. He'd been far too focused on
nailing that traitorous son of a bitch. Now he was remembering something
she probably hadn't meant to let slip: that she could still hear Webb's
screams. What the hell had happened down there? "If you feel like you
need to talk, my door's open, Mac." She gave him a quick smile and a
nod, then walked out of the bullpen. He watched her leave and then
turned back to his office, feeling somewhat encouraged. It seemed that
they were both ready to renew their friendship.
He had just entered his office when he heard Harm's voice behind him,
"So I guess you two have kissed and made up?"
Turning around, he saw Harm standing at the door. Sturgis waved him to a
chair as he headed for his own, "Have a seat, Harm." He waited until
they were both settled, "What can I do for you?"
Harm shifted a little in his chair. He really didn't have anything
important that he needed to talk about to Sturgis, he'd seen the two of
them and hadn't been able to resist making a comment. Trying to appear
casual, he waved a hand, "Nothing official, I was just wondering if
you'd have time for a little one-on-one this Friday. Mattie's going to a
concert with some friends from school."
Sturgis grinned, "And you need some way to work off all that parental
anxiety?" He reached for his day planner, "Let me check and see what
time Varese is back in town. I'm pretty sure it's a late flight."
Harm absently drummed his fingers on the armrest before lightly clearing
his throat. "You and Mac are back to best buddies again?" he ventured in
as offhanded a manner as he could.
Sturgis gave him a pointed look, "I was never her 'best buddy' but yeah,
we're getting back to where we were. You should give it a try."
Harm gave a snort of disgust, "I've tried, she always off with Webb."
"Always?" Sturgis raised an eyebrow. "I didn't think Webb was in town
"Often enough," Harm growled. A note of righteous indignation crept into
his tone, "I even tried last night for all the good it did." He mimicked
Mac's voice, "I'm sorry, I already have plans for this evening."
"She told you she was going out with Webb?" Sturgis frowned, his
recently regained rapport with Mac was going to suffer if she was
yanking Harm around.
"Not in so many words," Harm admitted, "But every other time it's been
Webb, so who else would she be going out with?" Damn, he hadn't thought
of that. Was Mac dating? Had she completely given up on their
relationship? He hadn't been oblivious to her attempts to reconcile but
he had been leery about jumping back into the fire. That and he wasn't
adverse to a little payback. Maybe it was a bit petty but, dammit, he
was only human after all and his ego had taken a huge hit.
"She went to Emma Fine's 60th birthday party - alone, it sounded like.
Didn't she tell you?" From the look on Harm's face, Sturgis could guess
what had happened, "You took off before she could explain, didn't you?"
"Well, every other time I've asked she's been out with Webb. Why
wouldn't I think that she was going on a date with him again?" Harm said
defensively. He decided he'd put off kicking himself until he was safely
back in his office.
"No reason not to," Sturgis kept his tone sympathetic. He knew that Harm
had been the injured party in the Paraguay fiasco but he was beginning
to realize that he'd never actually heard Mac's side of it. She'd been
firmly entrenched in her professional mode when she got back and he
hadn't pried. Partly, that was because he was empathizing with Harm.
Rabb had saved her life and in return, she'd dumped him for Webb. That
had been pretty damn callous, as far as he was concerned. Mostly,
however, it had been that he'd been too wrapped up in his own
misfortunes to pay much attention to the ever-ongoing saga of Harm and
Harm hadn't given him that many details but it seemed like the two had
once again danced between the raindrops, coming out virtually unscathed.
Now, he was beginning to wonder if that was true at all and just how
badly Paraguay and these past months had affected the Marine Colonel.
Harm was pretty easy to sum up, he'd lost two things that had mattered
most to him - Mac and his career. The hurt and anger were obvious and,
just as obviously, a lot of it was directed at Mac. What the hell had
happened down there? Looking at it a bit more objectively, he now
realized it couldn't have been as one-sided as he originally thought.
Mac was hardly impetuous or flighty. There had to be a serious reason
(at least for her, anyway) to have broken up with Harm.
He couldn't blame Mac for Harm getting booted out of the Navy. Rabb was
a big boy and when all was said and done, he HAD resigned and in a
blatantly in-your-face way with the Admiral. While Sturgis had a hard
time understanding Chegwidden's inaction with Mac's disappearance, he'd
have thought twice before pissing on the Admiral's shoes. At any rate,
Sturgis was fairly certain that Mac would have easily made the same
sacrifice had their positions been reversed. He re-focused his attention
when Harm stood up.
"We're good for Friday night, then? Around 1730?" At Sturgis' nod, he
gave a quick grin, "Thanks, man." Turning around, he headed back to his
small cubbyhole of an office. He'd have to talk to Mac again. Hopefully,
she wasn't ticked about his abrupt departure yesterday. Deep down, he
just knew Mac and Webb could never work in the long run. Mac had too
much integrity to put up with the moral and ethical compromises that
Webb made on a daily basis. He'd assumed when the break-up occurred,
that Mac would come to him as she always did. Now, after talking to
Sturgis, he realized that he'd been dangerously complacent. What if she
got tired of attempting to patch things up between them? While it
certainly helped assuage his pride to have Mac chasing after him, he
wasn't about to make the stupid mistake of causing her to give up. It
was time he took a more decisive hand in reconciling with her.