"Courage is acting in spite of fear."
--Howard W. Hunter
6 February 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Mac pulled Harm's Lexus into the parking lot and parked it in her usual
spot. She got out of it, hurried around to the other side, pulled out
the crutches, and handed them to Harm as he opened the door. "Be
careful, Harm," she murmured as he carefully got out of the vehicle.
Harm leaned on his crutches and grimaced. "I've used crutches before,
Colonel," he said testily.
"I know you have, sailor, but you didn't have three cracked ribs the
last time you had to," she snapped.
Harm shook his head and took a step, carefully keeping his broken leg
off the ground. "I'm sorry, Mac," he said. "I really don't want to be
"I know, Harm," she murmured. "I promise to try and keep this as short
as I can."
"I want to get out of here." Harm stumped forward on his crutches. "I
don't want Marine guards waiting outside Gram's house like they were at
my apartment and the hospital room, either. I'm *not* some sort of
precious possession to be coddled and guarded," he said with a growl.
"Stop right there, Harmon," Mac commanded. "Let me get one thing
straight; *you* are the most important thing in the world to me right
now, and there are a hell of a lot of people here who care about you. If
I have to convince the Admiral to assign guards to you forever to keep
some lunatic with a vendetta from coming after you, I will. Got that?"
Harm stopped at her tirade and listened with a bowed head. "Yes, ma'am,"
he said softly. He knew better than to argue when she was in this kind
of mood. All it ever led to were bitter fights, and he didn't have the
energy for one at the moment.
Mac steadied him as he propelled himself forward. He showed his ID to
the guards at the front desk and followed her to the elevator. A few
minutes later, they walked into the bullpen. "Captain on deck," came the
The entire staff came to attention as Harm and Mac went by. Admiral
Chegwidden came out of his office, a small smile flitting about his
lips. "Attention to orders," he said. "Rabb, you're out of uniform."
Harm started to wobble slightly on his crutches. "Sir," he said
respectfully as he tried to come to attention.
"At ease, *Captain*," AJ said with a grin. "Coates! Get the Captain a
chair, please, before he falls over."
"Aye, sir," came Jen's reply. She grabbed a desk chair and slid it up
behind him. "Here you go, sir."
"Thank you, Coates," Harm said as he carefully lowered himself into the
chair. From the look on the Admiral's face, he knew it would only land
him in hot water to protest the special treatment. He wished that they
wouldn't make such a fuss, but he guessed it was so people could see
that his time with the CIA hadn't killed him off after all.
AJ stepped forward, motioned for Harm to hold his right hand up, and
administered the oath. Harm put his brain on autopilot, refusing to let
what was happening register. AJ smiled as they finished. "Son, since
your mother couldn't be here, and I'm sure as hell not doing it,
Colonel, will you do the honors?"
"Gladly, Admiral," Mac said with a grin. She laid Harm's new uniform
coat on the nearest desk and came closer.
"Gently, Marine," Harm murmured.
A mischievous smile stole over her face as she leaned in and captured
his lips in a kiss. She teased his lips apart and slipped her tongue in
his mouth, completely ignoring the fact that it could probably get them
in serious trouble. At Harriet's gasp, they broke off the kiss just in
time to see her lean heavily against Bud.
As Harm caught sight of Sturgis's broad smirk, he felt his ears grow
hot, and he was sure that he was turning bright red.
AJ cleared his throat. "Well, next time, I guess I should specify
*where* the kiss is to be administered," he said gruffly, his eyes
"Congratulations, sir," Coates said with a smile. "We've missed you
"There's one more matter we have to take care of before you leave town,"
AJ said. "Captain Rabb, you are hereby awarded your third distinguished
flying cross for landing a damaged C-130 without brakes on the deck of a
carrier, thus saving the lives of all aboard." He pinned a medal on the
front of Harm's jacket and motioned to Mac. "On the cheek this time,
"Aye, sir," she said with a grin, then leaned down to kiss Harm on the
"The time and place of the Captain's wet-down will be after he returns
from leave. Dismissed, people. Rabb and Mackenzie, I need you to come
"Aye, sir," they said. Wordlessly accepting the crutches that Mac handed
him, Harm struggled up from his chair.
"I've got Secretary Sheffield in my office," AJ explained softly. "He
didn't believe me when I told him that you're in no condition to fly to
the Netherlands to defend him, or I would have put this off entirely
until you're fit for duty. It was a near thing to convince him to come
here instead of ordering us there."
"We'll be okay, sir," Mac answered. She put her hand on Harm's shoulder
to lend him support. Harm flashed her a brief grateful glance then
concentrated on the floor in front of him. With this lovely bit of news,
he was wishing that one of Bud's Star Trek fantasies would come true so
that Scotty could beam him anywhere but there.
The three of them walked into the Admiral's office, and Mac closed the
door behind them. "Captain Rabb, just the man I wanted to see,"
Sheffield said with a grin.
"Rabb, Mackenzie, have a seat," AJ ordered quietly.
Before they reached the chairs, Sheffield came over and made as if to
clap Harm on the back. Harm flinched back, overbalanced, and almost fell
before Mac reached out to steady him. He hadn't quite gotten used to
moving around on crutches again, and the last time he'd had to do it,
he'd at least been able to use his damaged leg for support.
"Don't touch me," he said harshly.
Sheffield shot him a startled look as Harm moved closer to Mac. He could
handle being around people, but he still didn't like being touched. "Is
there a problem, *Captain*?" Sheffield asked.
Harm simply moved as close to Mac as he could. "The Captain is on
medical leave for good reason," AJ said calmly. "He needs some time to
recover from his recent ordeal, and arrangements have been made for him
to receive medical treatment at the VA medical center in Pittsburgh
"Psychiatric?" Sheffield asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
"One of the Company's shrinks came to see him in the hospital," Mac said
softly. "She said that he'll be okay, given the time and space to
"Fine then," Sheffield said. "If he'll be okay, then he can still fly to
Harm moved even closer to Mac, knowing instinctively that she would
protect him. Before Mac could say anything, AJ spoke up. "No, sir." He
handed the SecNav a sheet of paper. "This is from Rabb's doctor; with
that leg, he has to stay stateside until it heals. And this is from the
CIA shrink," he said, handing the SecNav another sheet of paper. "It
says that his fiancée needs to stay with him for the duration of his
AJ allowed himself a small smile. "She apparently decided that the
Captain and the Colonel are engaged."
Sheffield threw the papers on AJ's desk in disgust. "Fine. Colonel
Mackenzie, since you are *not* the Captain's fiancée, then *you* can
come to the International Criminal Court with me."
"Respectfully, sir, Harm is family. He's listed as next-of-kin on my
paperwork just as I'm listed on his. If you order me to go, I'll
resign." Mac folded her arms over her chest and glared at him.
"Before you say anything, I *won't* lose my best officers by ordering
them to do something I know they won't do," AJ said. "I've already
assigned you two competent lawyers, sir. The CNO is backing me up; Rabb
and Mackenzie are off limits."
"Fine," Sheffield snapped, then turned, stomped out the door, and
slammed it behind him.
"I'm sorry, son," AJ said. "I didn't want to subject either of you to
that, but he was insistent."
Mac answered for both of them. "It's all right, sir. We understand."
"No, it's not," AJ said. "You shouldn't have to put up with that. The
two of you are officially on leave." He handed them some papers and
smiled. "The only orders I have for you are to keep me updated and to
leave a number with Petty Officer Coates where I can contact you."
"Aye, aye sir," they answered together.
"I don't want to see you around here until your doctor clears you for
duty, son." AJ smiled at both of them. "I may need you back sooner,
Colonel, but you officially have six week's leave. Dismissed."
Mac came to attention and gave AJ a sharp nod, reaching out to steady
Harm as he did the same. They left as quickly as Harm could, stopping at
Jen's desk to give her the telephone number at the Rabb farm.
Before they could pick Harm's coat up from the bullpen, Harriet stopped
them. "Get well soon, sir--we miss you around here."
Bud was right behind her. "Congratulations, sir. We'll talk about
sending Little AJ out to see you."
"Thanks, Bud, Harriet." Harm murmured. "Grams will be glad to have him,
and so will we."
"Tell Sturgis where he can reach us," Mac said. "You can get the number
"Aye, ma'am," Harriet answered.
"We'll let you get going; I bet you have a long drive ahead of you." Bud
said. He picked up Harm's new jacket and handed it to Mac.
She took it with a smile and the two of them headed towards the
elevator. It wasn't long before they were climbing into the car. Mac
made sure that Harm was comfortable before she stowed his crutches in
the back. "Are you sure that you don't want to try stretching your leg
across one of the back seats?" she asked quietly.
Harm shook his head. "I'm too tall, Mac. It wouldn't work."
She nodded, climbed in, and started the car. Harm turned and looked out
the window, unwilling to talk, even to Mac. Now that he didn't have the
pressure of a lot of people around him, things were better, but it
troubled him to feel so uneasy around people who had been his friends.
The only problem was, he wasn't too sure he trusted them at the moment.
Hell, the only people he knew he trusted right now were Sarah, Grams,
and Little AJ, and he felt almost reluctant to let them close. He was a
target. Getting close to him might be hazardous to their health.
Harm closed his eyes, hoping that it would keep Mac from trying to talk
to him. He almost smiled as he felt her hand grasp his and give it a
squeeze. It felt so good for her to touch him. It was one of the few
things that *was* good in his life at the moment. Selfishly, he decided
that he wanted her to stay and forget about the danger.
Harm didn't want anybody else to touch him but Sarah. He'd let Little AJ
and Grams, but nobody else was allowed. Mac's touch was the only thing
that soothed the nightmares, the only thing that kept him from the
darkness. He sighed as she let go of his hand long enough to turn the
radio to a soft jazz station. As she took his hand back, he let himself
be soothed by the soft music and her warm touch. It wasn't long before
he drifted back to sleep.
"For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand."
--William Butler Yeats "The Stolen Child"
6 February 2004
Mac glanced over at Harm and smiled. He looked so *innocent* in his
sleep. She hadn't minded the quiet car ride at all; it had given her
time to think. He'd only roused once, just long enough to drink a few
swallows of her Coke to wash down some painkillers and the gel cap of
the antidote. She pulled onto the graveled lane and drove carefully up
to the house before killing the engine and getting out of the car to
Mac walked around the car, opened the passenger side door, and laid her
hand on Harm's shoulder. "Wake up, Harm. We're here."
Before Harm could open his eyes, Mac heard the sound of a screen door
swinging open. She turned and watched as an elderly woman stepped out of
the house and hurried down the steps. "Mrs. Rabb?" she asked, as the
woman approached her.
The woman nodded. "Call me Grams," she said as she tucked a strand of
thick, white hair behind her ear that had escaped from her bun.
"Yes, ma'am," Mac answered.
Grams walked around the side of the car and sighed softly as she caught
sight of Harm. "What did they do to you, baby?" she whispered.
Harm opened his eyes, looked at her, and smiled. "I missed you, Grams,"
he said hoarsely.
Grams held out her hand. "Come on, sweetheart. It's time I put you to
"But Grams," he said, "I just *got* here."
"Harmon Rabb, Junior," she scolded. "You come home with a broken leg,
broken ribs, and cuts and bruises all over you; then expect me to let
you stay up? You know better than that." Grams kissed him on the cheek.
"I talked to your doctor, dear. He said that you need *rest*, so you
*will* go to bed."
"Yes, ma'am," he answered, as he swung his legs out of the car.
"I wish *I* could get him to do stuff that easily," Mac observed with a
Grams smiled, her blue eyes twinkling. "Sarah, I've been putting my
grandson to bed since before he could walk. He got used to obeying me a
long time ago. He does it now, and he'll do it when he's an admiral."
Mac got his crutches out of the back and handed them to him. "Lucky
you," she said with a wink. "It takes him forever to agree to do
anything I want him to do."
Harm opened his mouth, but Grams stopped him. "Hush, baby. I've got the
double bed in the back room made up for you so that you don't have to
climb the stairs. We're going to elevate that leg, and I'll bring in
something for you to eat."
"Yes, ma'am," he said with a sigh.
"And then I can show Sarah your baby pictures," Grams said with a wide
smile. She turned to Mac. "I have the *cutest* picture of him on a bear
"Grandma!" he protested.
"Harmon, be thankful your mother isn't here. She's got pictures of you
from that time in Miramar when you decided that clothes weren't any fun.
He was three," she explained, turning to Mac.
Harm moved a little ahead of them, and Mac could hear him muttering
about being doomed. She tried to choke back her laughter but was
unsuccessful in stopping a monumental case of the giggles.
Grams reached for Mac's hand, picked it up, and patted it. "That wasn't
the last time, either, Sarah. I called to talk to his mother once, he
was five, I think, and he answered the phone." She smiled in fond
reminisce. "He talked to me for a while, then told me that he had to go
take off all his clothes and run around the house." She laughed softly.
"The next thing I heard was Trish calling his name and ordering him to
get his clothes back on."
Mac chuckled. "So you're going to give me more blackmail material?" she
"Of course, honey. That's what grandmas are for; to spoil their
grandchildren and then give the love of their lives a steady stream of
blackmail material on them." Grams reached out to steady Harm as they
walked up the stairs to the wrap-around porch.
Mac opened the door and held it open for Harm and Grams, while Grams
ushered him inside. "Follow me, Sarah," she called with a smile. "I'll
show you the room I've put both you and my baby in."
Grams stood on her tiptoes and kissed Harm on the cheek. "I knew that
you wouldn't want to be without her, Harmon."
Harm turned bright red. "Thanks, Grams," he muttered.
Mac hid a grin behind her hand and followed him into the ground floor
room that Grams had prepared. "Sit down before you fall down, Harm," she
ordered, pointing towards the wide bed.
Harm shot her a dirty look, but obeyed when his grandmother reinforced
Grams pushed him down on the bed gently, then unbuttoned and pulled off
his Class-A Jacket. "Come on, sweetheart. Let's get you comfortable,"
"Grams!" Harm protested. "I can undress myself!"
"Go ahead, Harmon," she said with a smile. "I'll go get lunch." Grams
walked out, leaving Harm and Mac alone.
"I hate it when she does that," Harm groused. "She *knows* I hate being
called 'baby' and stuff like that."
Mac grinned. "I bet she's doing it on purpose so that you behave."
Harm groaned and finished unbuttoning his shirt. Without being asked,
Mac helped him take it off then knelt down to untie his shoe. "Thanks,
Mac," he said as he unbuckled his belt.
"Need help to get those over the splints, Harm?" she asked.
He nodded and ducked his hand. "Yeah," he admitted. "I still get dizzy
when I bend over that far."
Mac carefully worked his pant leg over his splint and helped him lie
down. Wordlessly, she grabbed some throw pillows and propped his leg up
before covering him with a blanket. "Better, stickboy?" she asked.
"Thanks, Sarah," he murmured.
Mac climbed in next to him and reached for his hand. "*Much* more
comfortable than the hospital," she said teasingly.
Whatever Harm was about to say was interrupted by a massive yawn. Mac
reached over and started stroking his hair. "I hate painkillers," he
grumbled. "Damn things make me sleepy."
"You need the sleep, Harm." Mac said softly.
"I'll sleep if you'll stay," he bargained.
Mac kissed him on the cheek. "I don't have anywhere I'd rather be," she
Harm sighed and inched closer to her. "Good," he said, his eyes starting
to close from the medication kicking in. "Want you here to hold me."
Mac lay down beside him and threw her arm across his chest. "For as long
as you want me to, squid."
She watched as Harm's eyes closed and he fell asleep. She leaned over
and kissed him again. With both herself and Grandma Sarah, she was sure
that they could get Harm back to a semblance of his old self in no time.
10 February 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Little AJ clapped pillows to his ears as the baby started screaming...
again. Uncle Admiral AJ had given his daddy the day off, and
predictably, he was spending it with the *baby*. He grimaced in disgust.
Babies were icky. All they ever did was eat, poop, and cry, but
grown-ups still thought that babies were *wonderful*. He didn't see what
they were good for.
"Shut up, *baby*," he yelled, throwing his pillows on the floor. Little
AJ marched out of his room and headed over to the baby's room. His daddy
was asleep in the chair next to the baby's bed, and Jimmy was screaming
as usual. "Why can't you be good?" he asked.
Little AJ dragged over a step-stool, climbed on it, and picked Jimmy up.
"Stop crying, *baby*," he said, clutching Jimmy tightly as he climbed
down from the stool.
Jimmy kept screaming and his little face started to turn as red as a
Little AJ held Jimmy out in front of him and glared at the small face.
"Shut up!" He wrapped his arm around the baby and turned him upside
down. He didn't want to *hurt* the dumb baby; the kid *was* his brother.
Bobby had said that his baby sister stopped crying when she got turned
upside down when *his* daddy was playing with her, so maybe it would
make Jimmy stop.
"You're a dumb baby, and you need to *stop* crying. You're noisy and I
don't like you much." Little AJ turned his brother right side up.
Jimmy stuffed his tiny fist into his mouth and hiccupped. He regarded
Little AJ for a moment, then started howling again. At the sound of
Jimmy beginning his wailing anew, Bud woke up. He grabbed the baby from
Little AJ and held him tight. "AJ! You know better than to try and pick
him up by yourself; he could have gotten hurt!" Bud scolded.
"Dumb baby," Little AJ said. "He never stops crying. I hate him."
"AJ! That's enough. Go to your room, and we'll talk about this later."
Bud freed one hand and shooed the child out of the room.
"They don't love me," Little AJ stuck his lip out in a pout. "They just
love Jimmy." He shuffled down the hall and went into his room. "Maybe if
I went away, *then* they'd love me again."
Little AJ bit his bottom lip and reminded himself that big boys didn't
cry. Grandpa Roberts said so. He went over to his closet and pulled out
the suitcase he used to visit Grandma and Grandpa Sims. He opened it and
stuck some clothes and the toy F-14 that his Uncle Harm had given him
"Uncle Harm and Aunt Mac love me," he said softly. "I can go find them
in Penn-Pennsylvania." He pulled on his jacket, zipped up the small
suitcase, picked it up, and sneaked out of his room. Carefully, he
looked around and left the house. Outside were adventure and a journey
to people who loved him. He was sure that Uncle Harm's farm couldn't be
too far away. After all, Aunt Mac had been going to drive them there.
And if she could drive them there, then he could surely walk and find
them. Little AJ started down the block in the direction that his mom
usually used to drive to work. Eventually, he'd find it. Besides, there
was a creek down this way. Maybe he wouldn't go to Penn-Pennsylvania
after all. Maybe he'd just go live at the creek.
A smile passed over his face. There were *frogs* in the creek. Frogs and
some minnows. A boy could have a lot of fun playing there. Especially
when there wasn't anybody at home to yell when he messed up his clothes.
Little AJ sped up and hurried to the creek. He'd stay there until he
figured out which direction the farm was. After a few minutes of hard
walking, he reached the creek. He grinned as he sat down and pulled off
his shoes and socks. He shivered briefly as his feet hit the cold,
slippery mud and laughed when it squished between his toes.
Little AJ picked up his stuff, got into the creek and waded across. The
water was freezing, but he figured that it would warm up soon. There
were woods on the other side to hide in, and he was sure that they'd
never find him. As far as he was concerned, that was good, because he
never wanted to see that stupid baby again.
"In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark
wood where the straight way was lost."
--Dante Alighieri (1265 - 1321), "The Divine Comedy"
10 February 2004
Harm glanced back up at the house before using his crutches to get away
as fast as he could. He was sick of them *hovering* over him. He was a
grown man and he could take care of himself, dammit! He hurried to the
far side of the farmyard, making for the swing that had been hanging
under his favorite tree for as long as he could remember.
He stumbled a little on the high roots, but managed to steady himself
while he brushed the snow away, and then levered himself into the swing
and propped his crutches within easy reach of it. Harm briefly
considered climbing the old tree, but there weren't any leaves to hide
behind and it'd make his broken bones hurt too much.
He sighed and stuffed his hands into his coat pockets. It was a nice
idea, but in his current condition, it just wasn't feasible. Besides,
the way Mac had been protecting him, she'd probably overreact and call
the fire department out to get him down.
Harm hated the way she treated him now. It was as if she thought he'd
break if she looked at him wrong. Mac kept assuring him that she
wouldn't ever leave, and he didn’t need it. In fact, it was getting on
his nerves. He loved her. Heaven knew that he'd tried not to, but it was
an irrevocable fact. The only problem was, she was driving him up the
So what if he still had nightmares about Colombia? He'd dealt with his
Paraguay-induced nightmares by himself, and he could damn well deal with
the memories of Colombia alone, too. That was just life. Harm figured if
you didn't get kicked in the teeth every once in a while, then something
had to be wrong.
He used his good foot to start the swing in motion. The fact that his
grandmother had been subtly and not-so-subtly pushing them together
hadn't helped, either. She'd dropped the sweetness-and-light routine to
start behaving like herself, but he could see that she was angling for a
great-grandchild. Maybe it would have been better if he'd gone home to
Then again, his mom had been saying for years that he ought to marry
Mac. She'd probably be worse than Grams. Harm looked up when he heard
the crunch of footsteps coming towards him. "Mac," he said with a tight
"Harm, it's freezing out here," Mac said, rubbing her hands together.
"Come inside before you get sick."
"Go away, Mac," Harm said. "I'm *fine*, and I don't need you hovering
over me like I'm an invalid or something."
"Harm," Mac began.
"What part of 'leave me alone' do you not understand, Marine? I handled
my ramp strike, China, my crash into the Atlantic, and a whole lot of
other crap by myself. Hell, I even handled Paraguay and you telling me
that we were through before we ever really got started alone. I can
handle this." Harm started making the swing go faster.
"I just want to help, Harm. I worry about you," Mac said softly.
"You don't have to," he said curtly. "I'm a big boy. I don't need
anybody to take care of me." Harm felt a twinge of guilt as Mac drew
back, hurt. She probably was still hanging around because she felt
guilty, anyway. It wasn't like she'd still be there for him after he was
healed, anyway. She'd leave, too. They all left. It was the one constant
in his life; he had only himself to rely on.
"If you feel that way, I'll go, but I'm sending Grams out to get you,"
she snapped. "I *won't* leave you out here to freeze!"
"Fine," he said. "Send her; I don't care."
"If you come back in, you can sit in front of the fire in the living
room; both Grams and I will leave you alone," Mac promised.
"All right," Harm capitulated with a scowl. He grabbed his crutches and
started to make his way through the snow up to the house. Sooner or
later, Mac would leave, and he'd rather that it be on his terms. Nobody
ever wanted to hang around him for long.
10 February 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Harriet dropped the phone into its cradle and ran towards the Admiral's
office. She nodded to Jen and burst through the door. "Sir, I've got to
secure immediately; Little AJ is missing!"
AJ shoved his chair back and grabbed his coat. "Where was he last seen?"
he asked as he pulled it on and reached for his cover.
"Sir, you don't have to come with me," Harriet said, then turned and
hurried towards the door.
"That's my namesake that's missing, Lieutenant, of course I do." AJ
followed her out the door. "Hold my calls and reschedule my
appointments, Petty Officer," he ordered.
Barely registering Coates' answer, AJ followed Harriet out to the
parking lot and motioned for her to get into his car. The silent ride to
the Roberts's house seemed as if it took forever.
It was Harriet who spoke first. "Thank you, sir," she said finally.
"Don't mention it, Lieutenant. We just have to find Little AJ. Now
*where*, exactly, was he last seen?" AJ turned into the driveway and cut
"Bud sent him to his room, sir, because he'd picked up the baby, and it
looked like he was going to drop him." Harriet slid out of the car and
slammed the door shut.
"Then you go talk to Bud, and I'll start checking the neighborhood," AJ
ordered. "Is there anyplace he likes to go?"
Harriet paused from her flight up to the house. "Yes sir; his favorite
place is the creek at the end of the block." She pointed out the
direction and started running towards the door.
AJ nodded. "I'll check there first." He turned and hurried down the
street in the right direction. If anything happened to that child, he
knew that Harriet and Bud would never forgive themselves.
AJ reached the end of the block, closed his eyes, and listened hard for
the sound of running water. Hearing it, he set off into the woods and
crossed the creek. He smiled as he caught sight of small footprints on
the muddy ground and started following them farther into the woods.
He followed the footprints for a little while, then found the other
trail that Little AJ had left in his wake. It wasn't hard to follow the
freshly-broken branches that the child had left behind him, and it
wasn't long before he found Little AJ curled up in a nest of leaves,
AJ picked the boy up and made his way out of the woods and back up the
block. Just as he reached the driveway, Bud and Harriet met him coming
the other way. "Admiral, thank goodness you've found him!" Harriet said.
Little AJ chose that moment to wake up. "Am I in Penn-penn-Pennsylvania
yet?" he asked sleepily.
Bud reached out and took him from the Admiral. "Thank you, sir," he said
softly before turning his attention to his son. "AJ, why did you run
away?" he demanded.
"Because you love the dumb baby more'n you love me," Little AJ said with
"No we don't, sweetie," Harriet said.
"Then how come you never pay 'tention to me no more?" Little AJ asked.
"I'll leave the two of you to it," AJ said. He looked at the child
sternly. "You are not to run away again, sailor. And that's an order."
Little AJ stuck his lip out farther. "I wanna go see Uncle Harm and Aunt
Mac. They love me. I runned away to go see them, and I'll do it again."
AJ crossed his arms over his chest. "No, you won't, sailor. If you did
that, you'd be disobeying a direct order, and then you'd get into big
Little AJ thought for a minute. "That would mean no TV?" he asked.
"Worse," AJ said, biting back a smile.
Little AJ slumped against Bud's chest. "Okay. I won't run away no more.
But I still wanna see Aunt Mac and Uncle Harm, 'cause they still love
me. Mommy and Daddy don't."
"I think that this is something the two of you have to work out with
him. Harriet, you can have the rest of the day, and I'll see you both
bright and early tomorrow." AJ gave the trio a sharp nod and headed back
towards his car. "I'll get Coates to bring your car by, Harriet."
"Don't worry about it, sir. I'll go in with Bud," Harriet said.
AJ acknowledged her with a wave of his hand, climbed in his car, and
"We'll always love you, AJ," Bud said. "But right now, you're in trouble
for running off like that."
"We were worried sick!" Harriet picked little AJ up and walked towards
the house, Bud following behind her.
"We're going to have to have a talk about running away, and I think that
you won't be able to go to visit Uncle Harm after all." Bud said.
"But I WANNA see Uncle Harm," Little AJ exclaimed.
"Tough, kiddo," Harriet said. "We were going to let you, but that was
before you ran away. Now, I'm taking you upstairs and giving you a bath
because you're filthy."
Tears began to stream down Little AJ's face. "NofairnofairnofairNOFAIR!"
"Yes it is, AJ," Bud said. "You can yell and cry all you like, but that
won't change the fact that you're staying home. You ran away; it's the
consequence of what you did wrong."
Little AJ's screaming grew exponentially with each minute that passed.
Harriet and Bud hurried into the house, closed the door, and headed
upstairs. "AJ, it looks like you're going straight to bed after your
bath," Harriet set him down outside the bathroom and started stripping
off his muddy clothes.
AJ continued to scream, balled up his fists, and stamped his feet. Bud
went into the bathroom and turned on the water. "I think that's a good
idea, sweetheart." Before he could say anything more, the baby started
crying, adding to the general din.
Harriet and Bud exchanged a look. It was going to be one of those nights
when a bottle of Tylenol™ was their best friend.
10 February 2004
Webb sat as his desk and started searching through yet another database
for a sign of Sadik's organization. He hadn't come up with much so far,
and he was under orders to keep looking until they found something. He
sighed. If he'd known beforehand that his time with Jack would be the
last mission he'd ever go on, he might've tried harder.
Scuttlebutt had it that if he survived the last encounter with Sadik's
remaining goons, he'd be flying a desk for the rest of his career. Maybe
it was time to get out. Perhaps he should start to consider settling
down; he could start courting Mac seriously, Jack be damned.
Sure, Rabb loved her, but he'd waited too long. Mac had been dating him,
not Harmon Rabb, Jr. She was worth a few broken noses. He jerked out of
his reverie as intercom buzzed.
"What is it, Laurie?"
"Colonel Mackenzie's on line one, sir."
"Thanks, I've got it." Webb picked up the phone and pressed the blinking
button. "Hey, Mac!"
"Hi, Webb. I know I should probably do this in person, but you've been
so hard to catch lately--"
"Mac, what's wrong? Please, Sarah, don't do anything rash…"
"This isn't rash, Webb. We're not working. We haven't really been for a
long time, and I think it's time we stopped kidding ourselves."
"Sarah, what are you saying? I love you."
"Webb, stop. We're over. I'm not sure we really ever started."
"I'm sorry, Webb. I think this is the best thing for both of us, but I'd
still like to be friends."
Stunned, Webb dropped the phone back into its cradle and buried his face
in his hands. He pressed the intercom button. "Hold my calls unless it's
an emergency, Laurie. I need some time."
Maybe Jack was right; he needed to find a nice schoolteacher to raise
more little Webbs with. Military types obviously weren't working.
Missing the Mark
"Maybe there's a God above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
And it's not a cry you can hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah
--Rufus Wainwright "Broken Hallelujah"
15 February 2004
Grandma Sarah sat down in her squashy armchair and watched her grandson
play his guitar. He'd been ignoring her and Mac for three days and he'd
only spoken when one of them asked him a direct question. Physically, he
was better; his cuts had almost healed and his bones were knitting
nicely. Conversely, his nightmares had gotten worse until he was barely
"Harm," she murmured, "please play something a little more cheerful,
Harm looked at her, glared, shook his head and turned his attention back
towards his guitar.
Grandma Sarah sighed, closed her eyes, and leaned back against the back
of the armchair. She knew that she couldn't stop him, and the
honey-darling-sweetheart routine wasn't working, either. "Harm," she
tried again. "Won't you talk to me? You were like this after your ramp
strike and after you got back from Vietnam, and you know it'll help if
you talk, Harmon."
"I don't want to, Grandma," he said gruffly. "If I talk, it'll be real."
Harm strummed the guitar lightly. "And if Sarah knows, she'll leave just
like everybody else."
Mac walked into the room, drying her wet hands on a dishtowel. "If I
know what, Harm?" she asked quietly.
Grandma Sarah, sensing a fight brewing, stood up and headed towards the
kitchen. "I'll just be out back… gathering eggs if you two need me," she
"If I know *what*, Harm?" Mac repeated.
Harm shook his head, clutched the guitar closer to his torso, and
strummed a chord.
Mac laid her hand on his to stop motion. "I've been being patient,
Harmon, and you haven't told me a damn thing. You're using that guitar
as a shield, and it's about time you *said* something."
Harm put the guitar down on the couch beside him, grabbed his crutches,
stood up and moved away from her. "What do you want me to say, *Sarah*?"
he asked harshly. "If I remember correctly, you already *know* what
happened to me, because you were questioning me when I was still
"You can't escape that easily, Harmon Rabb." Mac put her hands on her
hips and glared at him. "Get your *ass* over here and sit down, sailor.
It's obvious that I've been being nice for *way* too long."
Harm scowled and didn't make an effort to move. "If you feel that way,
*Sarah*, get the hell out of here and leave me alone!"
Mac crossed her arms over her chest. "Get your ass in the chair or I'll
throw it in, *now*," she scowled and used her best DI voice.
Grudgingly, Harm stumped over and lowered himself into the armchair.
"You're only here because you feel sorry for me," he said with a frown.
"You're gonna leave anyway, so you might as well do it now."
"What makes you think *that*?" Mac asked as she strode over and threw
herself on the chair next to his.
"Everybody leaves when they find out how screwed up I am," he said
"I promised I wouldn't. Remember, *Harmon*? Why have you suddenly
decided that my word is no good?" Mac arched an eyebrow and glared at
him again as he attempted to get up. She stood, took his crutches and
put them out of his reach before resuming her seat.
Harm made a fist and slammed it down on the arm of the chair. "I don't
want to talk about it, *damnit*! Especially not with *you*."
"Talk, *Harmlet*," she demanded, crossing her arms over her chest. "I
want to know why you're shutting me out. I sleep in the same bed,
remember? I *know* that you're not sleeping, and I know about your
nightmares. Spill it, sailor."
"Why did you say never, Sarah?" he asked quietly. "Our five year deal
was almost up, and then I would've asked you for forever."
Mac took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "I didn't mean it, Harm. I
was a wreck in Paraguay, and it took a good friend of ours to point out
how much I hurt you." She opened her eyed and looked at him. "I'm sorry,
now *please* get your head out of your six and tell me what the hell is
wrong? Why do you think that I'd break a promise to you?"
"Because promises never matter," he mumbled. "Everybody leaves. My
father left. My mom left. Diane left. Renee, Annie, and Jordan left.
They all promised that they wouldn't, but they did, anyway." Harm turned
away. "You've left before, too. You left with Mic, and then with Webb."
"And you left to fly," Mac countered. "We've both left, Harm. And we've
both come back. This time, you're stuck with me for good, flyboy. I'm
not leaving and if you don't like it, tough."
Harm was silent for a few minutes as he traced a pattern on the fabric
of the chair with one finger. "Okay," he said finally. "I'm sorry."
Mac got up, walked over, and gave him a hug. "I'm here, Harm. I'm not
leaving you. In fact, if I have it my way, I'll be dragging you down the
aisle as soon as you're better."
Harm didn't answer. Instead, he pulled her into his lap and hugged her
tightly. For the first time in days, he felt safe again. He felt whole.
"I'm taking you back to the counselor," Mac murmured.
Harm simply nodded. He didn't like going to see a shrink, but he guessed
that he'd have to if he wanted to keep his Sarah. He smiled at her as
she leaned down to kiss him. As her lips brushed his, he closed his eyes
and thought that he'd finally found heaven.
15 February 2004
Porter Webb's House
Great Falls, Virginia
Webb lounged in the deckchair next to his mother's indoor pool and
sulked. He'd found out through his contacts that Jack and Beth were
being sent to round up the rest of Sadik's thugs, and he was stuck
behind a desk. Kershaw had even informed him that he was being taken off
field op status permanently.
Webb sighed, picked up the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels beside him
and took a healthy swig. The whiskey burned as it went down his throat
and warmed his stomach for a few minutes. Sure, he knew that drinking
himself senseless wasn't a real solution, but it was better than the
cold, empty feeling he'd had ever since being handed over to Jack for
He tipped back the bottle and drank more as he thought about the reason
he'd been retrained in the first place. Sarah and Rabb. It was *their*
fault. He should've taken a trained operative along to Paraguay instead
of the beautiful Marine. Instead, he'd let his hormones pick, and he'd
ended up all but thrown out on his ass. He stared moodily into the pool
and then drank another swallow.
If Harm hadn't come after them, everything still would've worked out.
Maybe without Harmon "Superman" Rabb around, Sarah would have married
*him*. Webb sneered elegantly at the bottle, took a slug, and wished
that Harm hadn't survived his little adventure in Colombia. Without that
boy scout around, he would've had a chance.
Maybe Sarah would be kish-kishng him instead of that pilot of hers.
Maybe if that sap hadn't come after them, he wouldn't be flyn' a desk.
Webb upended the bottle and drank the last of the whisky. It had gone
faster than it should have. He reached out and picked up another bottle
with an unsteady hand.
Webb unscrewed the top and cursed as some of his precious elixir
splashed on his bare chest. It was only is third bottle, damnit. So what
if he hadn't bothered to eat and he'd been drinking the day before, too?
He grumbled under his breath as he wiped ineffectually at the spilled
liquor on his torso.
Webb gave up momentarily in favor of putting the bottle neck to his lips
and taking a long pull. He came up for air and smiled as he noticed that
it was still three-fourths full. He drank from it again before he set it
on the table next to him--or tried to. He missed the table and dropped
the bottle instead. It broke on the rough cement surface, sending glass
shards and whiskey all over.
"Damn," he muttered as he pushed himself unsteadily out of the chair.
"It was my last bottle." He shrugged fatalistically. He could always get
his mother's butler to get him more. He glanced down at himself and
wrinkled his nose in disgust. He *had* to get the smell of whiskey off
Webb smiled as he saw the pool. Perfect. Now if only the room would stop
moving, he could make it over there. He swayed on his feet and wobbled
and weaved his way over to the edge of the pool. He jumped in quickly,
not noticing that he was standing next to the shallow end of the pool.
Webb hit the water with a monumental splash, which was a far cry from
his usual neat entry. He lost track of where he was in the water and
cracked his head on the bottom, knocking himself unconscious. With a
quiet ripple, he bobbed to the surface, his face down in the water and
blood streaming from a lump on his temple.
Unfortunately, his mother was out of town, so he wasn't found until the
pool man came to clean out the pool the next day. At least he'd died in
country so that they had a body to bury.
15 February 2004
International Criminal Court
The Hague, Netherlands
Sturgis shifted slightly in his chair. It had been a long few weeks, and
the court battle hadn't been easy. Especially with Captain Krennick as
lead council. Sure, she was a good lawyer, but he'd heard rumors about
what she'd tried to do to Harm. Who hadn't? It wasn't exactly like she'd
been discreet about the way she'd propositioned his old friend.
The Navy could be like a small town sometimes, and with situations like
the one she'd created for Harm, word spread. All of the guys knew to
keep their distance and lie low when she was around. That is, unless
they *wanted* what she was offering; a one-way ticket out of the
He tried to focus on what the head judge was saying, but his
recalcitrant mind insisted on ducking out and thinking about the last
time he'd seen his friend. It was great that Harm had gotten an early
promotion, but Sturgis knew it meant a transfer out of HQ, and Harm
hadn't looked like he was in good shape for that.
Sturgis hoped that Mac would be able to help; if anybody deserved
happiness, those two did. He yanked his mind back to the task at hand as
the judge uttered the words they'd been both waiting for and dreading.
"Will the defendant stand please?"
The four of them stood up and awaited the verdict.
"This court finds the Secretary of the Navy of the United States not
guilty of all charges. However, considerable damage *was* done to the
town, and the hospital was destroyed. This court finds that reparations
in the amount of six million dollars must be paid to the town of Tikifa
to rebuild their hospital and recompense them for the civilian deaths.
This court is dismissed." The head judge banged his gavel on the desk.
"Thank you, Captain Krennick, Commander Turner, and Major Pierce. I see
my faith in the three of you was justified." Sheffield smiled and held
out his hand to each of them in turn to shake.
"Just doing our duty, sir," Sturgis said, not sure if he wanted to shake
the man's hand. There was something oily about the SecNav that rubbed
him the wrong way. At least they'd survived the case, and tomorrow, he
and Major Pierce would be on their way back home.
He looked over at the major and smiled slightly. She seemed to be in awe
of their client; if she stayed in JAG, he had a feeling that she'd get
over it quickly. Sturgis felt a headache building, so he pinched the
bridge of his nose before he picked up his cover and his briefcase.
"Pleasure working with you, Captain," he said pleasantly and gave the
blonde-haired woman a nod.
"Likewise. How's Commander Rabb doing these days, anyway? Is he married
yet?" she asked with a lecherous smile.
"He's fine, ma'am. After he recovers from some injuries, he'll be
getting his own command," Sturgis offered. "He's also engaged to a
Krennick picked up her purse, cover, and briefcase before answering. "I
didn't think Marines were his type," she said. "His loss." She smiled at
Sturgis before turning and walking out the door.
Sturgis let out the breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding and
turned to Major Pierce. "Let's get the hell out of here and get home,
"Aye sir," she said respectfully and the two of them left.
"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a
man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good and
that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything. That power and money
mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil and I want you to
remember this, that love ... true love never dies."
16 February 2004
Jack took the safety off of his weapon and nodded towards his group.
They'd managed to insert an agent on the inside ages ago; it turned out
that Van Dyne was good for more than his knowledge of diamonds. With a
grunt of effort, they broke open the door and swarmed the group of
Within minutes, all of the terrorists had been rounded up, cuffed, and
made ready to haul off to prison. Jack knew that his current bosses
wouldn't have minded if they'd simply eliminated the threats, but he
didn't like the idea of mass murder, no matter how guilty the victims
"Is that all of them, Beth?" he called, trying to make sure.
"That's the last of 'em, Jack," Beth answered as she helped herd the
stragglers out of the building. "So, I guess that means that we can get
the hell out of here?"
"Yeah. Have you heard from Harm or Mac lately?" he asked.
"Mac says that he's getting better," she responded with a grin. "I
threatened her into keeping me updated."
Jack rolled his eyes. "I'm betting she's doing it because she wants to.
She's a Marine, Beth. She could probably break you in half without
breaking a sweat."
"Sorry, *Gunny*," Beth said. She poked him in the ribs teasingly. "I
forgot that you *were* a Marine."
"No such thing as an ex-Marine, *Commander*," he said with a half smile.
"Just my luck," he grumbled good-naturedly. "I get stuck with a ex-squid
flygirl as a partner for my last month before retirement."
Beth smirked at him. "Tell you what. You stop digging me about my
checkered past, and I won't go talking to old friends of yours to get
non-classified dirt to tell your son."
"And just how are you going to find these old friends of mine, Beth?" he
"I'm a spook, remember? I know guys who can find out *anything* for me."
Beth walked quickly towards the car.
"Yeah, well I've been a spook longer than you, and I can blackmail them
into not talking," he called as he hurried to catch up.
"If I don't get to them first!" was her response.
Jack shook his head and chuckled softly. He'd almost miss Webb; he could
tell that Beth would keep him on his toes.
16 March 2004
Falls Church, Virginia
Harm fingered the velvet box in his pocket as he struggled to catch up
to Mac. He was mostly healed, but after so long without real exercise,
he still needed to rebuild his endurance. "Mac, wait up," he called.
Mac turned around and smiled at him. "Hurry up, squid," she called. "The
Admiral is waiting for us."
"Maac," he protested. "We're ten minutes early! With that internal clock
of yours, we can't really be late."
"If you don't hurry we can be," she retorted. "We have seven minutes and
fifty-six seconds to get up there."
Harm finally caught up to her. "Are you *ever* gonna tell me how you do
Mac laughed and put her hand on his shoulder. "A girl's gotta keep
*some* secrets, flyboy."
Harm groaned, shook his head, and followed her inside. The ride in the
elevator was spent in a companionable silence. They'd had fights in the
past month, but the time spent together had only served to bring them
closer together. For the first time in what seemed years, they were
comfortable around each other, and content with each other's company.
He touched the box in his pocket again and smiled. He knew how she felt
about him, and it was well past time for him to do something about it.
He couldn't help but think that if he'd been smarter, he would've done
it years ago. Before the doors could open, a sudden impulse hit him to
get it over with. "Mac," he began. "You know how I feel about you,
The door opened before she could answer. "Not here, Harm," she murmured.
Harm choked back a groan. "All right," he said, disappointed.
The duo hurried towards the Admiral's office. "Colonel, Captain," Coates
said with a smile. "The Admiral has been waiting, so you can go on in."
"Thanks, Jen," Harm said with a smile. They went in and came to
attention in front of AJ's desk.
"Mackenzie and Rabb reporting as ordered, *sir*," Mac said.
"At ease. Take a seat, Colonel, Captain." AJ said, gesturing towards the
armchairs in front of his desk.
He waited until they'd settled into the chairs. "So Captain, before I
give you your options, are there any plans to... formalize things
between you and my chief of staff?"
"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Harm asked before Mac could say
Harm slid out of his chair, onto one knee, and pulled the box out of his
pocket. He opened the box, pulled out a ring, and reached for her hand.
"You know how I feel about you, Mac," he said. "And I'm pretty sure that
I know how you feel about me. Sarah, I never want to be without you
again. Marry me?"
"Harm!" Mac hissed. "Why here? Why now?"
"I did ask him, Colonel," AJ said blandly. "Now what's your answer?"
"C'mon, Sarah. I figured that the only way to keep either one of us from
running was to have a witness; who better than the Judge Advocate
General of the whole damn Navy?"
"Damn straight," AJ muttered. "Answer the man, Colonel. That's an
Mac took a deep breath. "Yes," she answered finally.
A full-blown flyboy smile spread over Harm's face as he slid the
sparkling engagement ring on her finger then got up.
AJ leaned back in his chair. "Go ahead and kiss her Captain. Just this
once, you have my permission to do it in uniform inside JAG, but don't
let me catch you doing it again."
Harm's grin got wider. "Aye, sir," he answered, then bent down to kiss
her. Because of their location, Harm deliberately kept the kiss short
and sweet. He broke off the kiss and then sat back down.
Mac looked at him, smiled, then turned to face the Admiral. "Sir, I
believe you said that you were working on some options for us?"
AJ rested his elbows on his desk and leaned forward. "Originally I'd
planned on sending one of you over to the judiciary and having you
assigned TAD back to JAG when they didn't have enough for you to do, but
your promotion, Harm, put a kink in that plan."
"Sorry, sir," Harm said, his smile still in place.
AJ picked up a list from the top of his desk. "It leaves us with fewer
options. First, I could send you to learn to drive a ship, Harm, and
keep Mac here as my chief of staff. You spend six months of every year
deployed, and it'd be good for your career. Our second option is that I
send you to Naples or Pearl, both of which will be needing new
commanders soon, Mac goes to the judiciary over there, and the two of
you stay together. Both of your careers remain on track, and you'd still
be a candidate for this chair someday if you want it. Both of you get
more experience this way; you both need it if you're going to stay."
Harm and Mac exchanged a glance. "I don't like the thought of you not
being here for six months at a time, Harm," Mac said slowly.
Harm nodded. "When we have kids that would get old real fast," he said.
"Sir, option two sounds good."
"Good," AJ said with a nod. "Coates has some work for you; new cases for
you, Mac, and some Freedom of Information Act requests for you, Harm."
Harm and Mac stood up and came to attention. "Thank you, sir," Mac said.
"Harm, I talked to your doctor, and he told me that you still need to
take it easy and build up your strength. Next week, I'll let you work on
some cases until your transfer goes through. You'll be in Sturgis's old
office for now since you're not going to be here with us much longer.
Don't forget your follow-up doctor's appointment this afternoon, and I
expect a wedding invitation from both of you. Dismissed."
They left together and gathered their files from Coates. "Think the
Admiral'll let us leave early?" Harm asked.
"I doubt it," Mac said with a smile. "But we can try."
"Meet me for lunch?"
"Sure. As long as you're buying."
Harm laughed and headed towards his office. Suddenly, the morning didn't
look like it would be so bad after all.
16 March 2004
North of Union Station
Harm leaned back against the couch and watched Mac through half-lidded
eyes. She was concentrating on her newest case and wasn’t really paying
much attention to him. "You're beautiful, Sarah. You know that, right?"
"Uh huh," she answered absently.
"The doctor gave me a clean bill of health this afternoon," he tried
"That's good," she said, still not paying much attention.
"When I was still pulling sea duty, I saw a two-headed duck with two
pairs of legs. One set was on its back, and the other where it was
supposed to be."
"That's nice, Harm," she answered.
He studied her and decided that if he wanted anything more than "that's
nice," he'd have to take matters in his own hands. He sat up, pulled her
to him, and kissed her. Carefully he coaxed her mouth open and slipped
his tongue inside to explore. It was a kiss that was completely opposite
of the one in the Admiral's office, and what he'd wanted to give her
earlier that day.
Mac dropped the file she was holding on the coffee table and wound her
arms around his neck. After several seconds, they broke off the kiss.
"What was that for?" she asked, breathless.
"Have I mentioned lately that I love you?" he asked, his eyes twinkling
"Oh, not in the past eight hours or so," she said with a smile.
"Well I do," he said. "And I was just thinking that after all we've been
through to get here, we deserve a... celebration."
"Hm. Well, we could go out and get some... dessert," she said. "Or, we
could make our own now that you're feeling better."
Harm's eyes darkened. "I think I like the thought about making our own,"
he said huskily.
Mac leaned in and kissed him. "Works for me," she said in between
Harm stood up and headed towards the bedroom, exchanging kisses all the
way. For years, he'd searched for someone to love and a place to call
home. Funny that it'd been right in front of him all along.