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Chapter 17:

"All are needed by each one; nothing is fair or good alone."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson.

2325 Zulu
4 February 2004
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia

AJ groaned and hung up the phone. "Great, just great," he muttered as he reached for his coat and cover. "One of my officers is in the hospital while his partner is terrorizing the staff."

He sighed as he hurried out of his office and towards his car. "Now I have to go chew her out for protecting him," he grumbled. "Hell, I don't *want* to chew her out for that; if she's protecting him, he must need it."

AJ climbed in his car, started it and headed towards the freeway. It usually took forty-five minutes to get to Bethesda, but if he hurried, he'd make it in thirty minutes or less.

AJ gunned the engine and sped up until he was going far above the speed limit. "I'm getting too old for this," he grumbled as he pushed hard on the accelerator. "I want to retire," he said out loud. He shook his head, then flipped the radio on.

AJ grimaced and pushed the accelerator again, coaxing more speed out of his car. He knew better than to think he could just turn in his walking papers. He had too much to do before then. Maybe, if he were lucky, he could retire in the spring. By then, perhaps, he could work out something for Rabb and Mackenzie and fix the problems in his office.

He'd hate to lose a lawyer of Rabb's caliber, but there *was* the option of sending him to learn how to drive a ship. It'd be good for his career, but he wasn't sure if it'd be good for both of them as a couple. AJ shrugged mentally. There was still time to work things out; Harm probably needed time to heal.

He knew his top officers better than they would suspect. He'd seen them bury their problems far too often until too much just leaked out, or they exploded, whichever came first. AJ swore to himself that he'd make sure that Harm got the time, space, and help that he needed. The Captain deserved that much.

Harm was the closest thing he'd ever had to a son. AJ was thankful for the loan of him, and during the time Harm had been missing, he'd found himself going to the Wall. It was there that he could thank Lieutenant Rabb for the son of his heart, and beg for his safe return.

Now that Harm was home, AJ knew that there would be issues from his captivity and inevitable torture to deal with and he had to let him know that he would be there if his officer needed him. He smiled as he saw the exit for the Naval Hospital. While he wasn't looking forward to berating Mac for protecting Harm, at least he could see with his own eyes that the Captain was okay.


2345 Zulu
4 February 2004
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland


Lieutenant Brown stole quietly into the room and checked her sleeping patient's chart. He was due for another dose of a specialized, experimental drug in half an hour, and she had to check the dosage on his chart. She smiled as she saw both her patient and his fierce protector curled up together on the bed. Technically, she should wake the Colonel up and get her to leave, but they just looked so *cute* asleep in each other's arms that she didn't have the heart to wake either one of them.

She checked the chart and walked quietly out of the room. Lieutenant Brown jumped back as she saw a man with admiral's insignia stride towards her. "Sir," she said as she snapped to attention.

"Lieutenant," he said. "Is this Captain Rabb's room?"

"Yes sir, but the Captain is asleep right now."

"I'll be careful not to disturb him, Lieutenant. I'm assuming that Colonel Mackenzie is in there, too?" AJ said with a smile.

"Yes, sir, but--"

"As you were, Lieutenant," AJ said, as he went into the room. A huge grin spread over his face as he saw his two best officers curled up together, dead to the world. He suppressed a chuckle as he noticed how *protectively* Mac was holding Harm. Even in sleep, her body language proclaimed how she would protect the man from all comers.

AJ walked over and laid his hand on Mac's shoulder. He hated to wake her, but he needed to know the Captain's condition, and he was too tired to go hunting for the doctor. "Colonel?" He said in a whisper as he gave her a gentle shake.

Mac opened her eyes and rubbed them blearily. "Sir!" She gasped as she tried to untangle herself to come to attention.

"Take your time, Colonel," AJ said.

"Aye, sir," she said. Mac extracted herself from the bed and came to attention beside it.

"At ease, Colonel. Walk with me so that we don't wake Captain Rabb," he ordered.

"But sir--"

"What did I just order you to do, *Colonel*?" he asked, his voice dangerously soft.

"Aye, sir," she said, then followed him out the door.

AJ waited until they were a few feet from the door before he let loose the lecture that he knew he had to give her." "Marine, you may *now* tell me just why I got a call right before leaving the office today that you've been terrorizing the staff here?"

"Sir, with all due respect, I would rather do this in the Captain's room; he gets agitated when--"

"I said *now*, Colonel Mackenzie."

"Yes, sir." He watched as she bit her lip and then took a deep breath before answering. "They were making Captain Rabb cry," she answered finally. "To be frank, sir--Harm is a mess right now."

"Explain, Colonel."

"Physically, well, he's been better. He'll heal, Admiral. But I think that Sadik and his goons really must've hurt him, sir. He's... clingy. And I'm the only one who he willingly lets touch him."

"That doesn't sound like the Harmon Rabb I know," AJ observed gruffly.

"Me, either, sir," she said, then opened her mouth to say more.

"Sarah," Harm's voice called pleadingly from his room. "Mac, please don't leave me!"

"Admiral, please?" she said.

AJ nodded then followed her back to the room and inside it. He watched as she hurried over to the bed and kissed the Captain on the cheek. "I'm here, Harm. I'm not leaving."

"Not dead?" he asked.

"No, flyboy. I'm not dead. Butch and Sundance remember? We're going out together in a blaze of glory." Mac laid her hand on his cheek.

"Uh huh. I 'member." A smile stole over his face and he cuddled into her touch. "Love you, ninja girl."

"Sleep now, sailor," she said with a smile.

"'Kay," he said.

AJ shifted from foot to foot, feeling like he was intruding on their private moment. "Colonel Mackenzie," he said, his voice still soft.

Mac snapped to attention as best as she could without removing her hand from Harm. "Yes, *sir*," she said.

"I got a call from Jack Olsen on the way over here, and he told me that there is still a threat from the remnants of Sadik's organization. To make matters worse, they've been linked to Al Qaeda. You will *not* terrorize the staff anymore, understand?"

"Aye, aye sir," she answered.

"I'm going to get a couple of Marine guards for outside his door, and I want you to stay here with him 24/7 until he gets released; we can do without you for a few days at HQ. I'll reassign your cases, but I want you back as soon as the Captain is mobile enough to go home." AJ knew that he'd be hearing a lot more from the Captain if he took his security blanket away, and Mac seemed to be it.

"Yes, sir," she said with a grin. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"


"As soon as Harm is released, I'm asking for some personal leave, sir," she said. "I have over sixty days on the books, because I haven't taken a vacation in years."

"Care to enlighten me as to why, Colonel?" AJ asked.

"JAG can do without me for a while, sir. Harm can't. Either I get leave or I'll resign, Admiral. I'm taking Harm to Belleville to his grandmother's farm."

"And what about medical care for him, Colonel?" AJ asked.

"Belleville isn't too far from Pittsburgh," she answered. "I checked, and the VA hospital there doesn't have any problems with taking care of him. Mrs. Rabb said that she'd love to have us, and I think it's important to let Harm have a nice quiet place to recover."

"Glad to see you've thought this through," AJ said gruffly. He smiled inside, glad that things were finally on track with his two favorite officers. "I'll expect weekly reports on his progress; as soon as he's able, I'll need to discuss career options with both of you."

"Career options?" Mac said.

AJ could see the panic on her face. "With his promotion comes a command billet, Mac," he said gently. "I'm coming up with some options that have the chance of keeping the two of you together."

"Thank you sir," she said.

"Now, how is he really?" AJ asked. He *needed* to know that his almost-son would be okay.

"He's only really been awake once or twice, Admiral," Mac answered, turning to look as her sleeping partner.

"Wasn't he--"

"No, sir. He's been having nightmares, but that wasn't really awake. I think it's the combination of drugs he's on right now, sir."

"How often have these been happening?" AJ asked.

Mac ran a tired hand through her hair. "I'm not sure," she admitted. "He's roused a few times, but it hasn't taken much to get him to go back to sleep."

"Do you think--I mean, could we wake him up? I just need to know that Harm is actually okay," AJ said nervously.

"Let me do it, sir," she said quietly. "I don't think he'd respond well to having anyone else wake him up." Mac leaned over Harm then glanced back at AJ. "You didn’t see this," she warned.

AJ's mouth twitched into a smile. "Understood."

Mac leaned down, pressed her lips to Harm's, and kissed him thoroughly. "Wake up, flyboy," she whispered as she broke off the kiss. She stroked his cheek, then kissed him again. "The Admiral is here, Harm. Wake up."

Harm opened his eyes groggily. "Wha? C'mere, Sundance. Let's go back to sleep." He sat up slightly, put one arm around her, and buried his face in her hair.

"C'mon, Harm," she murmured. "The Admiral wants to see you."

Harm stiffened. "Don't want to see him," he said.

"C'mon, Harm," Mac said. "He just wants to say hello."

Harm sighed. "Okay... 's long as you stay."

Mac reached out, took his hand, and gave it a squeeze. "Always." She helped him sit up and lean back against the hospital bed.

AJ cleared his throat and tried to hide his blushes. "Harm," he said with a nod.

"Admiral," Harm said as he inched closer to Mac.

AJ noticed and tried not to smile. It was a new use of Mac for Harm--she was now a shield. "Are you okay, son?" he asked.

"I will be." Harm said as he snaked an arm around Mac's waist and looked at the Admiral.

AJ read the look as a dare to say something about the obvious change in his officers' relationship. He kept his smile to himself; it wouldn't be a problem at the office until they decided to get married. He thought he knew the two of them well enough to know that they'd be getting married soon now that they'd finally gotten their heads out of their sixes. "That's good, Harm," he said. "Mac says that she's taking you to Belleville."

"Yes, sir." Harm said. AJ watched as he moved still closer to Mac. "My grandmother is getting older, sir, and she has been telling me that I need to come and visit for a while."

"Very good, Harm. I would, however, like to see you in JAG before you take off for Pennsylvania," AJ said with a smile. "I have a few things that need to be taken care of, and then you'll be on medical leave until you're cleared for duty."

"Yes, sir," Harm murmured.

"Colonel, I'm charging you to look after this sailor, is that clear?" AJ said.

"Aye, aye, sir," Mac answered.

"Take care of yourself, Harm." With that AJ turned and walked out of the room. He was satisfied that Mac would look after Harm. Eventually there would be healing but he'd seen the same look in comrades' eyes that he'd seen in Harm's. It was the look of a man who had seen too much in a short period of time; a man who had suffered too much.

With time, love, and faith it would go away and return to them a slightly different Harmon Rabb. The officer he'd come to think of as almost his son would be different from the one he'd known before; no one could pass through a crucible unscathed. AJ knew that the past year had been one hell after another for Harm and he was determined to do whatever it took to help the man to come all the way home.


Chapter 18:
Monsters and Sticks

“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority; the test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”
--Ralph W. Sockman

2415 Zulu
4 February 2004
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland


Harm played with Mac's fingers idly. "I'm bored," he complained with a sigh.

"Harm, you've only been awake for a few hours today, how can you be bored?" Mac asked as she turned another page.

"Easy. You're reading a case file, I hate television, and I don't have anything to do," he said.

"I could leave and go find you a book to read," Mac offered.

Harm wrapped an arm around her. "Nope. I'm not *that* bored," he said with a tiny smile.

Mac had felt him stiffen slightly at her words, and knew that he was trying to pretend that everything was fine... again. It was part of her flyboy's MO; if he couldn't deal with something, he'd hide it and pretend that everything was okay. "The hospital staff won't let me stay here forever, Harm," she pointed out softly. "And you won't be in any shape to go home until tomorrow at the earliest or day after tomorrow."

"We can order 'em to let you stay," Harm said with a grin.

"And they're doctors, so they can trump our orders--after they get mad, they'll sic the Admiral on us." Mac pointed out.

Harm hugged her to him. "So? I'm in the hospital here, so he has to be nice to me right now."

"Not true, stickboy. He's an *admiral* and he can revoke our leave and haul our sixes back in to work so that he can chew us out." Mac tried to keep a straight face, but didn't quite succeed.

Harm sighed and leaned his cheek against her shoulder. "I hate hospitals," he muttered.

Mac leaned over and kissed him on the crown of his head. "I know," she answered.

Before they could say anything more, a blond whirlwind came into the room. "Uncle Harm!" the little boy called.

"Hey, AJ," Harm said. "Want to come over here, buddy?" he invited.

"In a minute." Little AJ pulled a sharp, pointy stick out and started looking in corners and in the closet. "I'm gonna poke your monsters so that they go away, Uncle Harm."

Mac chuckled. "Are there really monsters in here, AJ?" she asked.

He nodded. "Uh huh. They give Uncle Harm bad dreams and make him sad." Little AJ stuck his lip out in a pout. "I don't want you to be sad, Uncle Harm. So I'm gonna make 'em leave so you won't be sad any more."

"AJ, there aren't any monsters in here--" Harm began.

Little AJ dived under the bed, and they could hear him poking at something. He emerged a few minutes later. "They're gone now, Uncle Harm. There were five of 'em under the bed."

Before Harm could say anything to deny it, Mac elbowed him lightly in his uninjured side. "Thanks, kiddo," he said finally. "Want to come up here?"

Mac looked at Harm closely, but this time, there were no signs of him flinching away. A huge smile stole over her face--he was still damaged, but her sailor was on his way back. She suspected it had to do with the fact that the antidote had started to counteract the remainder of the drug in his system more than anything else. That at least gave him a semblance of control.

Little AJ considered the question. "Okay. I've got a present for you," he offered.

Mac leaned down, picked the child up, and set him on the bed. "There you go, little one."

Little AJ shot her an indignant look. "I'm *not* little, Aunt Mac. I'm *big*." He reached around Harm and gave him a big hug. "I love you, Uncle Harm."

Harm hugged the child back. "I missed you, junior flyboy."

Little AJ grinned. "I'm gonna fly planes just like you, Uncle Harm. When can we go flying again?"

"As soon as I'm better, AJ. I promise."

Little AJ gave Harm a wet, sloppy kiss on the cheek. "Cool. Can we leave Jimmy at home? I don't like that one. He cries all the time, and Mommy and Daddy don't pay much 'tention to me anymore."

Mac ruffled Little AJ's hair. "I'll come with, too so that both of us can spend time with you, ok sweetie?"

Little AJ snuggled into Harm's lap. "Ok. Aunt Mac and Uncle Harm, can I come and live with you? I don't like home. Mommy and Daddy are too busy at work and with *Jimmy*."

Harriet and Bud hurried in, breathless. "Sir, Ma'am, we hope that Little AJ isn't bothering you," Harriet gasped.

"He got away from us, sir," Bud chimed in.

Harm shrunk back into his pillows and used both Mac and Little AJ as his shields. Mac noticed and gave his hand a brief squeeze. "It's okay," she answered. "I figured that you couldn't be that far behind this little guy."

"Are you okay, Commander?" Harriet asked anxiously.

"I'll be fine, Harriet," he answered, his voice monotone.

Mac winced slightly; it was the same tone of voice that he used to use before he'd gotten his vision corrected when people asked why he didn't fly anymore. She reached over and rubbed his arm. "After I can spring him, I'm taking him to Pennsylvania for a while to recover," she said quietly.

"Uncle Harm, where's Pencil-pennsly--pennsyl..."

"Pennsylvania?" Harriet supplied.

"Uh-huh, that." Little AJ said with a grin.

Harm hugged the child gently. "That's where my grandma lives," he said with a smile. "She has a big farm up there, and your Aunt Mac and I are going to visit her. Maybe, if I'm good and you're good, my grandma and your mommy will let you come up to the farm for a weekend."

Little AJ kissed Harm on the cheek. "Really?" He asked, getting excited. "Mommy, can I go visit Uncle Harm at his grandma's house?"

"We'll see, sweetie," Harried said.

A cloud passed over Little AJ's face, and his shoulders slumped. "Okay," he said with a sigh.

"Sir, have they said anything about when you'll be able to come home?" Bud asked. "We miss you terribly at JAG." He set the baby carrier he was holding on the floor.

"No, they haven't, Bud," Mac said, answering for him. "With Harm's injuries, I'm not sure when they'll release him--they couldn't even put a real cast on his broken leg."

"Why?" Harriet asked, looking concerned.

"Because I've got some cuts that aren't healed down there that the bandages have to be changed on," Harm answered, his voice still wooden. "It's splinted, and with the bones broken in two places, they need to monitor it, anyway."

Harm turned his head, burying his face in Mac's shoulder. She let go of his hand in favor of putting her arm around him. "Guys, I hate to cut this short, but the nurse should be here soon with Harm's medication, and it knocks him out."

"Sir--Harm, would you like to see the baby before we go?" Bud asked uncertainly.

"Sure, Bud," he answered.

Harriet leaned over, pulled the baby out of the carrier, and came over. She held the baby out and Mac took him. Harm smiled at Jimmy and brushed a finger over his tiny hand. The baby latched on to his finger and yawned. "He looks like you, Harriet," Harm observed.

"He's being good right now, Uncle Harm. And he's not smelly, 'cause he hasn't pooped his diaper yet. *I* wanted a sister; sisters aren't smelly and loud like stupid brothers." Little AJ wrinkled up his face and looked at the baby.

"AJ!" Harriet admonished.

"'S true," Little AJ said as he stuck his lower lip out and started to pout. "Babies are dumb." He looked hopefully at Harriet. "Can we trade him for an older sister?"

"AJ Roberts! No we *can't* and we *wouldn't* even if we *could*," Bud said. "I think it's time we went home and put you to bed. I don't want to hear anything more about trading in your baby brother, is that clear?"

"Yes, sir," Little AJ said, his lip still stuck out in a pout.

"Will we see the two of you before you leave?" Harriet asked quietly.

Mac nodded. "The Admiral wants to see us in his office before we go," she said.

Harriet took the baby back, settled him in his carrier, and motioned to Little AJ. "Come on, sailor. March."

"Yes, ma'am," Little AJ said. He slid down from the bed and glanced back at Harm and Mac. "I wanna stay here," he whined.

"Tough, kiddo; we're going home." Bud said as he picked up the baby carrier. "Sir, Ma'am, if there's anything you need, just call."

"We'll be happy to help," Harriet said.

"Thanks, guys," Mac said, her attention already going back to Harm.

Harriet and Bud left, pulling a half-protesting AJ after them. "I'm tired," Harm said softly. "I want to go home and sleep in my own bed, and not be in this stupid hospital bed anymore; it's too cramped in here."

"If I got out you'd have more space," Mac said.

Harm wrapped his arms around her again. "Nope. I want more space to spread out *with* you, Sarah."

Mac smiled. "Red light, Captain." She leaned in and kissed him softly. "At least, red light until you're physically and emotionally up to it."

Harm gave her a playful leer that belied the pain that she could see in his eyes. "Oh, you'd be surprised how 'up' to it I can be."

"Harm," Mac murmured. "I'm serious. I want to wait until I don't have to worry about irritating some of your cuts or hurting your leg again."

"I know--I just... want things back they way they were!" he burst out.

Mac brushed her lips against his. "I know, Harm. But you and I both know that we can't go back. Get some sleep, and I'm right here if you need me, okay? I'm going to find out when they'll let me spring you."

"Don't leave, Sarah," Harm murmured. "I came so close to losing you forever," he said with a sigh.

"No, you didn't, Butch," she said. "I promised you once that you'd never lose me, and I meant it."

They sat together for a few minutes, and Mac started running her fingers through his hair again. "That feels good," he murmured.

"I know," she said softly. She tilted her head towards the door. "There's the nurse. Are you going to let her give you the medication, flyboy, or are you going to be difficult?"

"Don't stop, and I'll let her," he said.

Mac didn't answer, she just kissed him on the forehead. The nurse came in with two syringes and injected them into his IV shunt. "What were those?" Mac asked.

"One is the last dose of antidote to whatever they gave him, and the other is a sedative," the nurse answered. "It shouldn't take too long in his condition for it to take effect."

"Getting sleepy, Harm?" she asked.

"Yeah. Need you, Sarah. Always have. 'Member that kiss on the pier? I *let* you believe I was kissing Diane. Wasn't, you know. I was kissing *you*." Harm yawned. "Wanted to. Wanted to do it on the Watertown after you read the riot act to the submariners, too."

"I thought you were laughing at me," she said.

"Nope. You looked sexy as hell. Gorgeous. You are, you know. Always are." Harm yawned again and his eyes started to close. "Tired."

"I know, Harm." Mac kissed him lightly. "Maybe Little AJ really killed the monsters," she murmured.

A soft snore was her answer.

She looked up at the nurse. "Thank you, Lieutenant."

"You're welcome, ma'am." The nurse left the room and Mac started examining Harm's face.

"I think you're getting better, Harm," she whispered. "As long as you can tease me, I know that the Harm I fell in love with is in there somewhere. Sweet dreams; we'll find a bigger bed as soon as I can convince the doctor to let you out of here."


Chapter 19:
Stormy Weather

"In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."
--Oscar Wilde, "Lady Windermere’s Fan"

1250 Zulu
5 February 2004
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia


Jennifer hung up her overcoat, pulled out her chair, and started to sit down. "Ouch," she said as she moved away from the desk. She moved back and frowned. "Little AJ! What are you doing under there?"

"You yelled at me," he said reproachfully.

"Well, you startled me, AJ," she said. "That's what happens when you bite people."

Little AJ stuck out his lip in a pout. "I don't wanna be here; I want Uncle Harm."

Harriet walked in. "AJ! That's where you went. Is everything okay, Jennifer?"

"Everything is fine, Lieutenant. If I might ask, what's Little AJ doing here?" Coates asked.

"She yelled at me," Little AJ protested again.

"It's just a small misunderstanding," Coates explained.

Harriet sighed. "AJ's school is out for a teacher workday, and his babysitter has jury duty. Normally, I'd stay at home with him, but my end of the month reports are already late, and I have to get them in."

"I might be able to watch him," Jennifer offered.

"Thanks, Jen, but I'll manage. Between my work schedule, Bud's investigations, and the new baby, things have been pretty hectic lately. Little AJ's been acting out." Harriet gave Little AJ a stern look. "Go sit at Mommy's desk," she ordered.

"I don't *want* to. I wanna see Uncle Harm!" Little AJ stamped his foot.

"Tough." Harriet leaned down to his level. "Sweetie, Uncle Harm is resting right now, because he's sick. Mommy has to work. Go wait at my desk until I get there."

Little AJ slumped. "Yes, Mommy," he said with a sigh as he left the office.

"Have you see Comm, um, Captain Rabb yet, Jennifer?" Harriet asked.

"No, I haven't," she said. "Between my roommate problems and what's been going on here, I haven't had time to go to Bethesda. If the Admiral's meeting with the SecNav goes well, I'm thinking of asking if I can take the time during lunch to head up there."

"Good luck," Harriet said with a wry smile. "In my experience, the Admiral's meetings with the SecNav rarely go well."

"I know," Jennifer said. "I'd better talk to him and remind him that he needs to be there by 0930. With the Captain being in the hospital, and the Colonel out taking care of him, it might have slipped the Admiral's mind." She walked over to the door and knocked on it.

"Enter," came the Admiral's voice from the other side of it.

Jennifer took a deep breath and started to go inside. At least working in a place like JAG Headquarters, she'd never be bored.


1430 Zulu
5 February 2004
SecNav'S Office
Washington, DC


Sheffield picked up his coffee cup and took a sip. "Glad you could be here, AJ," he said with a ghost of a smile.

"I'm here as ordered, sir," AJ said stiffly as he felt sweat gather between his shoulder blades. Shit. Meeting with this man was the last thing he needed or wanted to do right now. He'd rather be anywhere and doing anything other than meeting with the man who was responsible for hurting one of his best officers. He remembered the way Harm seemed to cling to Mac, and the only way the man he knew would *ever* let someone see him like that would be if he was emotionally shattered. Unfortunately, he had to answer to Sheffield, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.

Sheffield handed AJ a file. "Athens Bar Association has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court charging the President, the Secretary of Defense, myself, and others with war crimes and crimes against humanity." He paused and gestured towards his leather couch. "Have a seat."

AJ accepted the file, sat down, and put on his reading glasses. "The Iraq incursion?" he questioned as he started to read the file. He paused for a minute to try and digest the sheaf of papers in front of him. "Blatant violations of the Geneva Conventions, United Nations charter, and international treaties, specifically bombing a residential area and destroying a hospital in the town of Tikifa." He looked at the SecNav, puzzled.

Sheffield took another sip of his coffee, then sat the cup and saucer on the armrest of his chair. "Tikifa, yeah. A platoon from First Marine Division was pinned down by enemy fire, most of it coming from a hospital that Iraqi forces had taken over." He paused and straightened his tie. "We launched an air strike from the Enterprise and, uh, destroyed the hospital."

AJ tossed the file on the coffee table and crossed his arms over his chest. "Collateral damage," he observed.

Sheffield nodded. "Thirty-two civilians dead, eighteen of them killed in the hospital."

AJ reached up, pulled off his glasses, folded them, and put them in his pocket. "More civilians were killed in Afghanistan, including children," he observed.

Sheffield shrugged. "Well, we had international support for that one, therefore no war crime."

AJ leaned forward and rested his elbows on his thighs. "If they want a war crimes trial, tell them to go to Saddam Hussein's," he said. He leaned back and folded his arms across his chest again. "Mr. Secretary, this complaint is meaningless. We withdrew from the 1998 Treaty of Rome. The United States does not recognize the International Criminal Court."

Sheffield smiled. "Not at present," he said smoothly, "But there might be a policy shift."

AJ frowned. "Along what lines?" he asked.

Sheffield smiled wider and settled back into his chair. "Americans are asking why we're spending billions of dollars on schools and hospitals in Iraq when we could be spending the money right here at home."

AJ shrugged. "Waging peace is costly. What's that got to do with the ICC?"

Sheffield took a sip of his coffee. "We can't reconstruct Iraq by ourselves. The President needs more backing from the UN, and he's willing to make certain concessions to get it."

AJ leaned forward again. "Like recognizing the court's authority?" he asked.

Sheffield picked up his coffee cup and fiddled with it. "Well, let's say the President is looking for ways to reach out to the international community," he said.

AJ frowned. "Well, he could have picked genetically modified wheat or the ozone layer. This is a hell of a case to reach out on."

Sheffield put the cup and saucer down and straightened his tie again. "Well, in point of fact, I picked the case." He shifted slightly in his seat. "It was my idea to go to the Hague and answer the war crimes charges." He smiled and pushed his glasses up. "It's high profile and the potential rewards are *enormous*."

AJ's scowl deepened. "And so is the risk. You're going to be on foreign soil, you could be found guilty--"

"Well, we'll just have to make sure that doesn't happen, AJ, won't we?" Sheffield leaned back in his chair with a satisfied grin.

"There are no guarantees, Mr. Secretary," AJ pointed out.

"I'll need your two best lawyers in international law and the rules of engagement to defend me, AJ. I believe that would be Captain Rabb and Lieutenant Colonel Mackenzie. From the file, you should know that we have to fly out in a few days, so I need you to get them ready." Sheffield steepled his fingers in front of his face.

"They're unavailable," AJ said, settling back in his seat. He'd seen it coming and was grateful that he'd already signed Mac's papers for emergency family leave. He figured that since Harm was technically her next-of-kin, he counted. "I'll recall Captain Krennick from San Diego and send Commander Turner as her co-council. Hell, I'll send Major Pierce along too as a junior attorney."

"Not acceptable, AJ. I want Rabb and Mackenzie." Sheffield frowned.

"You can't have them, sir. Rabb is still hospitalized, and Mackenzie is on emergency family leave. She has over sixty days of leave on the books, anyway, and I refuse to pull her off of it."

"AJ, this could mean your career," Sheffield reminded him gently.

"Sir, I'm sure that the CNO will agree with me--pulling Captain Rabb out of the hospital, a man who isn't currently fit for active duty, to defend you wouldn't be good PR for the Navy. Neither would pulling someone off emergency leave." AJ shrugged. "We're going to get enough bad press from this anyway."

Sheffield smiled craftily. "The press need never find out."

AJ smiled sweetly. "Do you know who Rabb's stepfather is?" he asked.

Sheffield waved his hand. "Should it matter?"

"Captain Rabb's stepfather is Frank Burnett, VP over at Chrysler. I called him last night to let him know that his stepson was safe, and Mr. Burnett won't exactly be *happy* that you want him to leave the country when he can't stand by himself." AJ leaned back and smiled wolfishly. "He has contacts and friends higher up the food chain than you, sir, and it wouldn't do to antagonize him."

"Are you threatening me, AJ?" Sheffield asked.

"No, sir. Just making clear the consequences of your actions, sir." AJ said stiffly. "I'll recall Krennick; she and Commander Turner will defend you."

"Dismissed, Admiral," Sheffield said.

"Yes, sir." AJ stood and walked quickly towards the door.

"We'll see about that." AJ heard Sheffield mutter as he left the room. AJ sighed and shook his head. He doubted that the CNO would cave under Sheffield's demands; it wasn't as if he were trying to foist incompetent lawyers off on the man. Normally, he would have sent Rabb and Mackenzie in a heartbeat, but it just wasn't feasible. Rabb was in no shape to try cases, and he knew that unless Harm was okay, Mackenzie would be a wreck, too.


1645 Zulu
5 February 2004
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia


Little AJ snuck into the Admiral's office and came to attention in front of the desk. He knew he wasn't supposed to be there, but since Uncle Harm was gone, Uncle Admiral AJ was the best choice to answer his questions. After all, his uncles knew *everything*. They knew more than Mommy and Daddy.

Little AJ almost smiled when AJ noticed him. "At ease, sailor--have a seat."

Little AJ climbed up into one of the leather chairs. "Uncle Admiral AJ?"

He smiled. "What can I do for you, sailor?" he asked.

"I'm hungry," he said with a frown.

AJ reached into his desk and pulled out a tin of cookies. He took one, then held the tin out to his namesake. Little AJ took a couple of cookies and grinned. "What do you say, AJ?" he asked.

"Thank you, sir," the child said obediently.

"Do you think you can be quiet while I get some work done?" AJ asked.

Little AJ nodded and was quiet for a few minutes. "Uncle Admiral AJ?" he said finally.

"What is it, AJ?" he asked.

"What's acting out?"

AJ put his pen down and examined the child in front of him. "Acting out is when you do things you know you shouldn't because you're upset about something and you don't talk about it. Is something bothering you, sailor?"

"Mommy says that I've been acting out," Little AJ said with a pout. "Mommy and Daddy are *always* working or taking care of *Jimmy*, and I get stuck with the dumb babysitter. I hate her. Uncle Harm is scared and sad, and I don't like that."

AJ got up, walked over to the chair beside Little AJ, sat down, and held out his arms. "Want to come over here?" he offered.

Little AJ nodded, slid out of his chair, and climbed into AJ's lap. He cuddled close, content that he was being held by somebody that loved him. "Uncle Harm hurts," he said. "I poked his monsters with my stick yesterday and made them go away, but they'll come back. Monsters are like that."

AJ hugged the child. "Sailor, how about I take Jimmy for a while and talk your dad into taking you to the park--would you like that?"

"Uh huh. But what about Uncle Harm?" Little AJ's lip started to wobble, and his eyes filled with tears. "I don't want Uncle Harm to hurt."

AJ rubbed his namesake's back. "It's okay, sailor. Your Uncle Harm is almost tough enough to be a SEAL--he'll be all right, I promise. Now, what are the monsters?"

Little AJ sniffed and wiped his face on the scratchy gold braid on the cuffs of his jacket. "Bad things. I poked five of 'em yesterday. They make Uncle Harm sad and scared. They make him have bad dreams."

"I've got some of those," AJ said with a smile. "Don't worry, little sailor. His monsters will leave if we love him enough." He grabbed a tissue out of the box on his desk, wiped away the child's tears and held it to his nose. "Blow," he ordered.

Little AJ obeyed. "Okay. So we just have to tell Uncle Harm that we love him?"

AJ nodded. "We have to let him know that we're here if he needs us. Now, I've got some things for you to play with in my bottom desk drawer--would you go look for them?"

A smile lit up Little AJ's face. He slid down from the Admiral's lap and hurried over to the desk. After a few minutes of searching, he pulled out a Ziploc™ baggie filled with toy cars. "Are these for me, Uncle AJ?"

"Of course they are," AJ said with a smile. "Why don't you go play with them over by the fireplace? After I get some work done, I might even join you."

"Thank you!" he said with a dazzling smile.

AJ lifted an eyebrow and looked at him.

"Sir," the child finished obediently before taking his prizes to the designated area to play. His uncles were the coolest people in the world. He wanted to either be like Uncle Harm or Uncle AJ when he grew up; he wasn't sure which. After all, flying airplanes was just as cool as being a SEAL.

Chapter 20:
Ever so Humble

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us look at the stars."
--Oscar Wilde

2445 Zulu
5 February 2004
North of Union Station
Washington, DC


"Is there anything else you want to take, flyboy?" Mac asked as she pulled open a dresser drawer.

Harm rubbed his hand across his eyes. "My oldest jeans are in the bottom," he said groggily. "Need 'em to muck out the barn in."

"Harm," Mac began. "You aren't going to be mucking out the barn anytime soon with that broken leg."

"I know," he said with a yawn. "But it'll heal, and *then* I'll want to help out with the chores. Grams can let her hired man have a vacation when I'm better."

Mac came over and pushed him gently back on to the bed. "If I have it my way, the most physical exercise you're getting in the foreseeable future is to walk from the bedroom to the couch and to the bathroom. Got that, mister?"

"M-a-a-ac," he protested.

"I bet your grandma will back me up, so you're going to be stuck with both of us fussing over you until you're better." Mac put her hands on her hips and gave him her best Marine glare. "And you're going to have to *like* it, too."

"Am not," he retorted.

Mac sighed and shook her head. Eight years of being his best friend had taught her that there was nothing he hated worse than being sick, and he tended to try and deny it when he was. She walked around the bed and took his hand. "Harm, we almost lost you, so I'm afraid that you're just going to have to suck it up, because I doubt that you're going to get out of sight of either of us."

"Okay," he said, leaning into her. "Can we leave tomorrow? I'm tired." Harm stifled another yawn.

Mac leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "I'm planning to, sailor. I just want to get everything packed so we can leave first thing in the morning."

"Okay," he said, settling back on his bed. Harm held up the blanket invitingly. "Come to bed?" he asked with a flyboy smile on his face. "I've dreamed of you here in my bed," he admitted.

Mac squeezed his hand. "And I bet those dreams were probably like the ones I've had with you in *my* bed," she said with a grin. "I'm going to go order us some dinner--you're going to stay put."

Harm patted the mattress beside him. "Please?" he said. "This is much more comfortable than that tiny little hospital bed."

Mac sighed. "All right, Harm, but just for a few minutes; I'm hungry." She climbed on to the bed and crawled over beside him. Harm put his arms around her and held her close.

Mac leaned slightly into his embrace. "I know it's only been a few days since we got the Starlight out of your system, Harm, but you're still having nightmares." She put her arm around his waist. "What did he *do* to you?"

Harm traces circles on the bare skin of her arm. "The first little while wasn't bad," he said finally. "China was worse."


Harm bit his lip. "I'd forgotten that I've never told you; the year before we became partners, I was kidnapped by the Chinese and tortured."

Mac hugged him, offering some silent support. "What happened?" she asked softly.

"Drugs, mostly," he admitted. "They made me think that my father was in the cell right below me. Sadik was no worse at the beginning."

Mac simply tightened her grip on him.

"He sent his goons in to give me professional beatings, and then told me that everybody I loved was dead because he'd killed them." Harm closed his eyes in remembered pain. "After he'd been pumping that stuff into me, I even started to believe him."

Harm looked at her, a haunted look in his eyes. "I still see the picture he painted for me every time I close my eyes. Everybody I care about gone, and he and his goons are torturing you to death."

"It didn't happen, Harmon," she murmured, then gave him a kiss on the cheek. "We're all safe, and Jack, Beth, and Webb sent that bastard to hell where he belongs."

"I can still see it," he said, his voice hoarse from unshed tears, "It's worse than the nightmares that made me come after you in Paraguay."

"I'm glad you came after me, Harm," she murmured. "What I said down there didn't help, either. I was terrified after you'd been taken that I'd lost you for good, and that I'd never have the chance to tell you that I was wrong."

Harm tightened his grip on her. "I thought I *had* lost you, but I *couldn't* tell him what he wanted to know." He looked at her with pain in his eyes. "If I lost you, I'd lose the best part of me with you, because it's been yours for a long time."

"It won't happen," Mac said firmly. "No more TAD assignments to the CIA; I'm getting too old to go play spy and barely escape one of Webb's cockamamie schemes."

"So you're not dating Webb?" Harm asked.

"I wouldn't be if he'd call me so that I can break up with him," she said with a smile. "He hasn't been returning my calls--I was only seeing him to find out how you were, anyway."

Mac turned slightly and planted a soft kiss on his chest. "I need to go order us something to eat."

Harm shook his head. "Stay?"

"Harm, I'm just going to be in the next room. I'll be right back, I promise." Mac slipped out of his embrace and off the bed, then leaned over and brushed a kiss across his lips much like the one they'd shared at the New Years Eve party a few years back.

Harm reached for his crutches. "I'm coming, too."

Mac put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "No, you're not, Harm. In case you've forgotten, you *still* have three cracked ribs, and you're *not* to use those crutches any more than absolutely necessary."

He shot her a pleading look. "Please?"

Mac smiled and went over to rummage in the bag she'd gotten from her apartment. "Nope, but I do have something for you; Chloe sent it to me last year."

"What is it?" Harm asked.

Mac pulled a reddish-brown bear dressed in BDUs out of the bag and handed it over. "Chloe says that it's a Sarah Mackenzie bear," she said with a grin. "It's wearing a bikini underneath the uniform."

Harm examined the bear in his hands. "Does Mac-the-bear have a partner?" he asked.

Mac's smile got wider as she reached in the bag and pulled out a bear dressed in dress whites. "How did you guess?" she asked.

"Because we're a matched set," he said with a broad smile.

"Chloe's grandma made the uniform for Harm-the-bear," she admitted. "He's got swim trunks on underneath." Mac handed him the toy.

Harm set it next to him and started unbuttoning Mac-the-bear's uniform shirt. "So if I pull the top of the bikini off, she'll be like you in Australia." Harm grinned broadly as he took the uniform off the bear.

Mac laughed. "Well, not quite; for one thing, I *was* wearing a top... the straps were tied behind my back."

"Uh huh," Harm looked unconvinced.

"I'll be right back, stickboy," she said. "You've lost too much weight, and you can't afford it." Mac leaned over and kissed him.

Harm reached up and ran his fingers through the silken strands of her dark hair. "Hurry back," he said when they broke off the kiss.

Mac nodded. "I promise," she said with a quick smile. "Pizza or Chinese? I'm betting that you're tired of that liquid diet they had you on."

"Pizza?" he requested.

"Okay." Mac turned and headed out of the room, leaving Harm to examine the soft, plushy toys.

He finished taking the uniform off of Mac-the-bear and set her on the bed before he picked up Harm-the-bear. He pulled off the dress whites, then set them side-by-side. "Mac-the-bear, meet Harm-the-bear," he murmured. "If you're lucky, Harm, you'll get to keep her forever."

Harm picked up Mac-the-bear and gave her a hug. "Not as good as hugging the real Sarah," he decided.

Mac came back into the room and started picking the discarded teddy bear clothes off the bed. "You should see the wardrobes these bears have," she said with a smile. "Chloe keeps sending me more clothes every few months--Mac-the-bear even has a wedding dress."

"Think Chloe is trying to send us a hint?" Harm asked with a grin.

"Well, let's see," Mac began with a smirk. "After she forgave me for Mic, she decided that you had to be the one for me again, and subtle she isn't."

Harm chuckled. "I remember a certain child informing me that you loved me--wish I'd listened."

"Oh, you listened all right." Mac smacked him lightly on the arm. "You just didn't believe it." She picked up the Harm bear and made it kiss the Mac bear. "I think I'll give these to our daughter."

"Our daughter?" he asked, a slow smile spreading over his face.

"We do have the baby deal coming due in the next few months," she reminded him. "As soon as you're better, I intend to hold you to it."

"I hope she looks like you," he said.

"I hope *he* looks like me, and that *she* looks like you," Mac corrected. "I want two."

"One with your looks and my brains and one with my looks and your brains?" he asked.

"You got it," she said. "They'll be perfect. I'm betting that with Rabb genes, they'll be wanting to fly from the cradle."

"That scares you, doesn't it?" he asked. "You've never liked it when I've left to fly."

Mac nodded. "Yes. But it's part of you, and I don't want to change that."

"I'll be careful," he promised. "And I'll teach our kids to fly smart if they decide they want to learn."

"That's all I ask."

Harm leaned over and brushed his lips across hers. "Thank you, Sarah."

Mac gently pushed him down to the surface of the bed. "Rest, Harm. Remember, we have to go to the office tomorrow before we leave for your promotion ceremony."

Harm settled back into his pillows. "Not sure how I'm going to get a uniform over the splints; they're bulkier than a cast would be."

Mac raised an eyebrow. "I know you've got some loose dress pants in that closet of yours that are a close match to your uniform pants," she said. "I'll find them and iron them and the rest of a uniform." Mac grinned. "You'll just have to deal with being squared away like a Marine."

Harm smiled. "I can deal with that."

"Rest, sailor," she murmured. "If you fall asleep, I'll wake you when dinner gets here." Mac curled up next to him and smiled as he put one arm around her. He still held Mac-the-bear in his other arm. 'He'll make a good dad,' she thought. She reached over and pulled the blankets up around him. Tomorrow, they'd be heading to the farm. She'd seen flashes of the old Harm from time to time, and in the quiet of the country, she was hoping that she could get all of him back.



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