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Chapter 6
Now Departing On Track Six
Where is the Emergency Cord on This Thing?


2135 ZULU - Thursday, April 29, 2004
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, VA

 


Jennifer Coates knocked on Mac’s door and waited to be acknowledged.

Mac had her nose buried in case files, as it had been all day, as it had been fifteen hours a day since she got back from the Seahawk. With the exception of her appointment with Dr. Madden, nature calling and the necessary break for sleep, she had remained in her office behind closed doors all week. She had barely spoken to anyone since the Admiral dropped the Brandon appeal in her lap on Monday morning - first thing – before her first cup of coffee. This was a very high profile case and she was to give regular reports to the Admiral of her progress. Opening arguments were May 3rd. She had been arriving early and leaving late, eating lunch in her office and taking no phone calls. She hadn’t spoken to anyone including Harm and no one approached her. She had assumed that it was so ordered by the Admiral and welcomed the isolation to get her work done.

As for Harm, she knew that something like a directive from the Admiral would not have kept him away if he were all that interested in talking to her. Since he hadn’t stopped by or he called, left a note or sent an e-mail, she assumed that he was avoiding her – more than likely because of Webb, well her relationship with Webb. Actually it was an EX-relationship with Webb, but Harm had no way of knowing that. She wasn’t about to rush to tell him. She didn’t want him to get the wrong idea as Webb originally did. Harm often got wrong ideas like that and she actually enjoyed the secret.

She was sleeping better at night. Every other footstep in the hall did not have the possibility of being Webb. She hadn’t realized it before but Webb actually didn’t relax her the way she thought he had. She had felt defensive and aggressive with him. Like he was trying to get her to do something that she didn’t want to do. As for missing the physical intimacy, Mac found that she relished her solitude more. She could think her own thoughts and do what she wanted when she wanted. Mac enjoyed being alone.

Jennifer knocked again.

“Enter.” Mac looked up and smiled, she was more than grateful for the interruption. “Yes, Petty Officer.”

“Colonel, the Admiral would like to see you.”

“Thank you.” Mac made a mark in her files and closed them up for confidentiality.

“Ma’am, have you spoken to the Commander?” Jennifer asked quickly before Mac was able to get out of her chair.

“Harm?” Mac thought that Jennifer would have had more opportunity to speak with Harm than she had. “No, I have been buried in this case for what seems like months.” She laughed easily. “Why?”

“You didn’t hear it from me, ma’am.” She looked a little worried. “But I think he could use a friend right now.”

“A friend?” Mac became concerned. It had not occurred to her that maybe something was wrong with him. Guess she was still too focused on her own continually emerging revelations that Gate Madden was helping with.

“You knew that he took some time off?” Jennifer continued.

“Time off? When?”

Jennifer looked back over her shoulder quickly to be sure no one was listening. “He and Mattie were both gone by the time I got home on Sunday.”

“Sunday?”

“And the Admiral didn’t tell me when he would be back.”

“They didn’t tell you where they were going, or why?” Mac asked.

Jennifer shrugged. “Mattie told me some stuff before, but it was in confidence, and -.”

“And what?” Mac pulled.

“I am not sure I believe her.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have caught Mattie in some … lies.”

“What kind of lies?”

“Not big ones, nothing really important, just … you know … teenage stuff.” She smiled nervously. “Saying that her homework was done, when it wasn’t. Saying that she got an A on a test when she actually got a C … you know, teenage stuff … to stay out of trouble. Anyway, I haven’t seen her since last week.” She looked back over her shoulder. “Then there is this whole thing with Aunt Em.”

“Right, Mattie’s aunt from Alaska.” Mac looked toward the Admiral’s office knowing that she should have been there already. “Have you met her?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Jennifer smiled. “She is great. I like her a lot, but Mattie runs hot and cold about her … I don’t know. I shouldn’t say anything. It is not my business.”

“I’ll give Harm a call.” Mac reassured her. “Thanks for the heads up.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Mac walked passed her.

“Ma’am, if there is anything I can do…?”

“You’ll be the first, Jennifer.”

“Thank you.”

 

2356 ZULU - Thursday, April 29, 2004
Grace Residence, Blacksburg, PA

 

Harm and Mattie were moving boxes from the garage to a moving van. They looked like they had been at it for hours. Both were covered in dirt, dust and sweat. Mattie paused after she placed the last one on the bed of the truck.

“Don’t they pay people to do this?” she laughed.

“I’m paying you.” He smiled back at her. “All the pizza you can eat.” He laughed. “It would have been cheaper to hire a couple of guys.”

Mattie sat down on the grass and watched as Harm arranged the last load of boxes in the truck, securing them into the optimum position.

“Harm?”

“Yeah.” He called out to her. “Hey, toss me a couple of those bungies, would you?”

“Harm, are you really all right with this?” She handed him the cords.

He looked back over his shoulder. “Am I all right with this? You are asking me that now?”

“You said it would never be too late to change my mind.”

He wiped his face and sat down on the edge of the trunk. “Yeah, well, I wish you would have changed your mind before we spent four days slaving away.” He smiled weakly.

“I haven’t changed my mind, I just want to know that you are Ok.”

He sighed and looked down. His mind went back to five days prior, when the decision was made.


~ ~ F ~ L ~ A ~ S ~ H ~ B ~ A ~ C ~ K ~ ~

 

1452 ZULU – Sunday, April 25, 2004
Rabb Residence

 

Harm had gotten Mattie calmed down after her declaration that she wanted to move to Alaska with Aunt Em; that she no longer thought that she and Harm would ‘work it out’. He calmed her down enough to allow them to go back and have breakfast and start the conversation again slowly. Clearly Mattie was reacting to something and Harm really wanted to understand what. There were too many inconsistencies but there were also too many emotions running close to the surface. Harm had to put his feelings away and focus on the child – the young adult he had taken the responsibility for. It was very difficult for him to do. If Mattie were a case he was working on, it would have been less of a problem. If she had been a marine or a sailor it would have been no problem at all, but she wasn’t. If Mattie were a woman – an adult woman – say someone like Mac – he would still not know what to do or say, but an adult would be more rational. But Mattie was a girl, a kid, full of raw emotion and that could erupt over nothing or over something. It was Harm’s job as the adult – as the parent – to sift through it all and help her. Poor Harm, he never dealt with women well. Kids? … forget about it.

Their conversation never got beyond the lies Mattie told to him. She did not explain them, rather did not explain them well. Probably no fault of Mattie’s, she undoubtedly didn’t know the real reasons she lied. But she apologized for them anyway and promised not to do it again. To show her commitment to this ‘new rule’ she confessed several other “misdirections” she had been feeding him like how well she was doing in school, her relationship with Conrad, and that she had actually only gone to one AlaTeen meeting.

‘It was for saps,’ she had claimed.

Harm took this all well, and let his lawyer’s mind manage the situation and put his emotions on hold. One thing was becoming painfully obvious to him, it was going to be a long row to hoe with Mattie and he no longer could take her at her word. That broke his heart and put a huge scare into him about his ability to be a good parent for her.

By the time they got back to the apartment Em was up and dressed, the bed had been stripped and remade and the apartment was clean. She was waiting for her turn at the discussion.

“We need to talk,” she stated as they walked in the door. “All three of us.”

Mattie shook her head. “I am all talked out.”

“Mattie, I really think -.” Harm started but Em interrupted.

“Mattie, you can take part of this discussion or we can tell you when happens when it is over.” Em was firm with her, firmer than Harm had ever been.

“Fine.” Mattie threw her hands in the air. “You decide my life and just tell me when to show up.” She slammed down the hall.

“Mattie.” Harm called after her.

“Let her go, Commander.” Em said. “If she can’t be mature enough to talk rationally, then she will get what she gets.”

“Em,” he glared back at her. “That is not the kind of relationship that Mattie and I are building.”

“I understand that, and look where your trust has gotten you.” She snapped back at him.

“Look, lady.” His ire was not back up. “You are the one she was trying to protect.”

“Really?” She smiled and leaned back against the island. “Just what lie did little Miss Mattie tell you?”

“She told me that you wanted her to skip school on Friday and that you were too drunk to drive out to Blacksburg.” He threw at her. “Do you have a drinking problem, Em?”

She smirked at him. “Well I have got to had it to her, that girl sure knows your buttons, doesn’t she?”

“You didn’t answer the question.”

“Please, Commander. Just what kind of idiot do you take me for?”

“I have no idea what kind you are – you are a stranger to me.”

“I’ve got news for you Rabb, so is Mattie.”

Harm shook his head. She was right; the things he was finding out about Mattie were not at all who he thought she was.

“Do you want to hear the truth, or are you not interested?” She offered.

Harm sat down and nodded for her to continue. “You left on Wednesday. Mattie called and had me pick her up from school. Said she was going to skip a meeting.”

“That was her Alateen meeting.” He explained.

“Right, well she skipped it. We went to dinner and she told me that Jennifer was going out of town and that you had asked if I would stay with her while you both were away.”

“You didn’t think that I would have called you myself?” He tried to find the hole in her logic.

“I called your cell several times, I couldn’t get through. Mattie said that that is often the case when you are ‘at sea.’” She said. “And after the last dinner we had, I thought maybe you --.”

“I what?” He demanded.

“Nothing.” She shook her head. “I thought maybe you were worried that things were moving too quickly between us.”

Harm looked away. They had had dinner several times and ‘it’ was moving in ‘that’ direction, but Harm was not ready to make a move for a variety of reasons. The most important being the impact it would have on Mattie should it not work out. For Em however, it was moving too slowly. It seemed like she was already getting tired of waiting. (Join the club, Em. Should I give you Mac’s number so you two could compare notes?)

“What about Blacksburg?” He asked avoiding the subject of a relationship with Em.

“Friday I was dealing with lawyers and bankers all day trying to re-secure Grace aviation. By time I got back to the apartment it was after 7:00 and Mattie didn’t want to go and to be honest I didn’t feel like driving back out there.”

“And last night?”

“I took her shopping for clothes during the day and last night we stayed home, played games.”

“And drank.” He corrected.

“Yes, Commander. I drank a couple of your beers.” She gave him look that challenged.

“A couple?” His brow went up in the way it does.

“Count them yourself. I was not drunk.” She walked toward the fridge to prove her point.

“You looked pretty out of it when I got home last night.”

“I had taken some allergy medicine.” She explained. “It knocked me out. I don’t even remember you coming in. Did we speak?”

“Yes.”

“Terrific.” She shook her head. “I hope I didn’t say anything too … rude.”

Harm shook his head in disbelief. “If you weren’t drunk, then why would Mattie …?” Harm looked toward the closed door.

“Why would she say that I was?” She got a broad smile on her face, “Commander, Mattie is jealous.”

“Jealous? Of what?”

“Not what, Harm.” She said carefully. “Who. And that who is you.”

“Me?” He was at a loss. “Why would … ?”

“Think about.” She started. “She is a young woman, coming into her own. She has been ignored or alone most of her life – my sister, god rest her soul, was not the most maternal person on the planet and her father is a waste of human flesh. That kid raised herself – and did a pretty good job so far.”

Harm still looked confused.

“Then one day into her life walks a very handsome, very nice, very SINGLE attentive man who wants to take care of her. He moves heaven and earth to do it, changes his whole life and she didn’t even have to ask. How could she help herself?”

“Help herself?”

“She fell in love with you.” She stated as if it were obvious. “Any woman would – you are her hero, her knight in shining armor, her fairy tale prince who came along and swept her off her feet.”

Harm shook his head. This was wrong.

She exhaled, not believing how dense he was being. “She has a crush on you, Commander.” She smiled weakly. “I can understand it.”

“I don’t think --.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Harm.” She sat down near him. “You are a nice guy that did a nice thing.”

Harm was still not buying this concept.

“Have you never had a woman fall in love with you because you saved them from a horrible fate?”

“No, not usually.” He flashed her his smile.

“Well, that smile and those baby blues will get you fifty percent of the population and your heroic nice guy tendencies should get you the rest.”

“I haven’t had much luck with women.” He stated.

“Apparently not.” She nodded. “Though I have no idea why.”

He tried a different tactic. “Let’s say – for a moment – that I buy this … scenario.” He looked like he wasn’t buying it at half the price. “What am I supposed to do?”

“I don’t know. But Mattie’s adolescent crush on you is the least of your problems.”

“Oh?”

“Look, Harm, she is lying to you about stupid stuff. What happens when she starts lying about big stuff?” She got very serious. “You don’t question her – about anything.”

“That is not true.” He defended.

“You are an innocent-until-proven-guilty type – Mattie will use that against you at every turn.”

“What makes you such an expert on Mattie?”

“I was Mattie, Harm.” She stated plainly. “The only person I had in my life that gave a damn whether I lived or died growing up was my sister.” She looked up at him. “And the two of us made every mistake in the book – twice – but we had each other.”

“So why did you leave her here?”

She exhaled and sat back. “I thought – wrongly – that Jake and Martha Johnson would be best for her. They are good, honest, hard-working, God-fearing, church-going people who don’t smoke, drink, swear or spit on sidewalks. They are salt of the earth, wholesome people … Donna Reed, Ozzie and Harriet, the Brady Bunch all rolled into one.”

Harm looked at her. She sounded like she had just called them devil worshippers.

“The Johnsons and the Graces were not … how do they say it?”

“Cut from the same cloth?” He offered.

“Exactly. Mattie is more Grace than Johnson and ran rampant over them and their children. When she left, I have to think they were relieved. It is not that they don’t love Mattie and want her to be raised well – it was just that she was too much to handle.”

Harm nodded, he was beginning to see the problems.

“Maybe even too much to handle for a single Navy Commander who spends a lot of his time away from home.”

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Maybe.” He looked up at her. “But I am not willing to give up.”

She smiled at him. “I didn’t expect you to.”

“It may not matter anyway - her father wants her back.” He added.

“Not any more.” She said coolly.

Harm cocked his head asking her to explain herself.

“Johnson checked himself out of the halfway house – he’s gone.”

Disappointment covered his face. “He fell off the wagon?”

“He didn’t fall, Harm. He jumped.” She looked disgusted. “Or should I say dove back into the bottle. Good riddance.”
 


~ ~ E ~ N ~ D ~ ~ ~ F ~ L ~ A ~ S ~ H ~ B ~ A ~ C ~ K ~ ~

 

“Hey.” Mattie called. “Earth to Harm – your phone is ringing.”

Harm pulled his phone out. “Rabb … Hey, Colonel, how’s the appeal coming?” He laughed. “I am surprised you even noticed I was gone. … Fine, fine, just needed to take some time off. …” He looked at Mattie. “She is right here, would you like to speak with her?”

Harm handed the phone to Mattie.

“Hi Mac. … No, yeah … I’m good, how are you? … I am trying, but you know Harm, trouble seems to follow him where ever he goes.”

Mattie moved off and Harm could no longer hear what she was saying. He looked back at the house and his face washed with sadness. Too many of the things he thought he would happen were slipping away from him: his brother, his career, Mac and now Mattie – his latest failed attempt at connecting to another living human being.

That Sunday, after Harm and Em had a heart to heart, Harm and Mattie did the same. With tears in her eyes and quaking in her voice, she told Harm that she thought it would be best for everyone if she moved to Alaska with Em.

“She needs me, Harm.” Mattie cried. “And I need her.”

Harm did not disagree nor did he tell her how much he needed her. She was right and her needs surpassed his. They agreed to stay in touch and Harm promised to come to Alaska before the end of summer. He also promised her that if she ever changed her mind or needed him in anyway, he would be there for her – in a heartbeat, no questions asked. Mattie made the same promise.

“Hey Harm.” She was standing next to him holding the phone out. “Mac says that she will call you later.”

He smiled and took the phone. “Did you tell her?”

“Yeah.” Mattie looked away. “Probably why she wants to call you later.”

Harm nodded. Mac was a good friend – it was all she would ever be, but she was a good friend.

 

0045 ZULU - Sunday, May 2, 2004
Rabb Residence

 


Harm let himself into his apartment and didn’t bother to turn on the lights. Mattie and Em would be somewhere over Ohio by then. He kept his goodbye to Mattie light and breezy, it was the way she wanted it. But as soon as she was out of sight, Harm lost all strength in his legs and needed to sit. He sat in his car in the airport for nearly an hour before he could trust himself to drive. He had experienced loss in his life – a lot of loss: his father, his brother, Diane, the series of women who walked away and of course Mac. But this time he truly believed he lost something he would never recover. He couldn’t really understand why – she was just a kid – but he wanted so much to help her and be there for her. He didn’t give her enough. That was his conclusion and what did that say about him?

He barely heard the knock at the door. He really didn’t want to speak to anyone. The knock came again louder.

“Sir? It’s Jennifer.” She called through the door.

He forced himself off the couch and over to the door.

“Jennifer.” He said as he opened the door trying to look unaffected.

“Is there anything I can do for you, sir?” She asked in that way of hers that said more than the words.

“You can not call me ‘sir’ when you are standing in my door way.” He smiled at her.

“Yes, sir.” She would never think of him as anything else.

“Come in.” He walked away from the door.

She entered and closed the door behind her. He offered her a beer, which she turned down.

“I know I have said this before, Jennifer.” He took a long hit of the beer he opened for himself. “I owe you more than I can ever repay for all you did for Mattie and me.”

“No you don’t, sir.”

“Well, I think I do.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I want you to know, that for as long as you want that apartment, half the rent will be paid.”

“That is not necessary sir.” She smiled. “I have found a roommate.”

“Really. That is great – I mean – is it great?”

“Yes. She will move in at the end of the month so I have thirty days to find out what all this ‘living alone’ talk is all about.”

He nodded and smiled. He had lived alone so long, he couldn’t remember ever not living alone.

“Sir, what do you want me to do with all that stuff?”

“What stuff?” He was confused and a little irritated that he would have to actually think.

“We don’t have to talk about it now, sir.”

“No, it is fine. What stuff?”

“The stuff you bought for Mattie. The furniture, the TV, the DVD … you know all that stuff that she couldn’t take with her.”

He nodded. There was a lot of Mattie left behind. “Do you want it?” He asked tentatively.

“I will use it, if that is what you mean, sir.”

“It is yours. A gift - whatever.”

“Sir, I couldn’t possibly ...”

“Jennifer, if you don’t stop calling me sir – I am going to kick your butt into next week.”

She nodded.

“You are a good friend, Jennifer; a godsend to Mattie and me. I couldn’t have even attempted this … this … this project if it weren’t for you. Please – a TV and a DVD are nothing – a drop in the bucket for what I owe you.”

“I am happy you think so – that I was able to help you sir – Harm.” She corrected. “I still feel indebted to you.”

“How about this, Jenn?” He smiled. “Let’s say we get rid of the tally board, and call each other friends, OK?”

She nodded tentatively. “Ok.”

“Ok.” He agreed.

She moved to the door, she didn’t want to over stay her welcome. “Sir – Harm?”

He nodded.

“What you did for Mattie was pretty amazing.”

He shrugged. Clearly he didn’t think so.

“You made a difference.” She said quickly knowing that he was going to brush it off. “You helped her believe in people again.” Jennifer was thinking of herself and wishing that someone like Harm had come into her life when she was fifteen. Mattie was headed for real trouble; luckily he did enter her life before any permanent damage could be done. He found Jennifer before it was too late too. “She is going to be OK.”

He nodded to show that he heard her. What Harm wasn’t saying was that he didn’t help Mattie to be the ‘hero’ – hell he hadn’t helped Jennifer to be the hero, or Mac for that matter. He did what he thought was right and gave very little thought to how he would appear or what it would net him. But that night – he felt very alone and unrewarded. None of his actions – his heroic stunts – were done with any kind of payback, but he gave some much, when was it his turn to receive? He shook those thoughts away.

“Thank you, Jenn.” He said after a moment.

“Ok then … well good night.”

“Good night, Jennifer.” He followed her to the door. “Thanks again.”

“Yes, sir.” She smiled at him. “Sorry, force of habit.” As Jennifer walked down the hall she tired to figure out how she was going to help Harm not see the hole in the donut.

 

2217 ZULU – Thursday, May 6, 2004
JAG HQ, Falls Church, Virginia

 


Harm was buried in work – tedious, mindless, boring work – but there was plenty of it. That Admiral made special effort to over load him and with the Colonel out of the office for the week it was easy to do.

A knock came to his doorframe.

“Come.” He said without looking up.

“Hey, you have time for dinner?” Mac said brightly.

He looked up into her smiling face. “Hey, yourself.” He leaned back in his chair. “The real question is, do you?”

“Seventy three minutes.” Mac was representing the US Government in the Brandon appeal. Brandon had hired a hotshot civilian attorney who was pulling out all the stops. Her second chair on the case was a green lieutenant who was more work than help.

“Well, I guess I need to seize the opportunity.” He stood up. “How’s it going anyway?”

“Winning some, losing some.”

He knew she was winning more than losing or else she wouldn’t be in such a good mood.

Jennifer appeared in the doorway. “Excuse me, Commander.” She said to Harm, then quickly turning her attention to Mac. “Colonel, it is nice to see you.”

“And to be seen Petty Officer.”

Jennifer looked back at Harm. “Commander, the Admiral would like to see you.”

“Thank you.” Harm nodded. Jennifer left. “Oh well.” He gave Mac an ‘I’m sorry’ look. “Guess we will have to continue our game of tag.”

Mac had called Harm several times since Mattie had left and Harm had returned each and every call (he didn’t make any unsolicited calls), but they had not yet had a chance to speak. It was a serious game of phone tag. Harm was OK with that. He was dealing with Mattie being gone and he was slowly accepting that Mattie’s leaving was not due to some major flaw in his character on his own. He knew that Mac meant well, but he really didn’t want to be coddled or ‘cheered’ up through this time. The Admiral had the right plan: work and lots of it.

“You don’t want me to wait?” She was disappointed.

“And cut into your seventy-two minutes of eating time – no, you go on.” He passed her to get to the hallway. “Maybe we can do a run or a quick lunch sometime over the weekend – you are taking breaks for exercise, food and sleep, aren’t you?”

“Barely – but a run sounds good.” She smiled. “Tomorrow?”

“I’ll call you.” He started to walk down the hall.

“Harm?” She called after him knowing that if he didn’t promise it wouldn’t happen.

He turned and smiled at her. “Tomorrow – 0600 – I’ll pick you up and we’ll go to that park you like.”

She smiled and nodded.

 

1218 ZULU – Friday, May 7, 2004
Coffee Shop near the MacKenzie Residence

 


Harm and Mac actually made their run. They talked mostly about the case as they ran and steered clear of all personal topics. Interestingly enough he had been doing a little background on the case she was working on and was able to give her a couple of things to think about. She was way too close to the case and really needed to step back and take a little perspective.

Harm came back to the table with two cups of coffee and the scone Mac ‘had to have.’

“Thank you.” She mumbled with a mouthful of scone.

“You need to eat something with protein.” He said with his new – and now useless – paternal tone.

She nodded and put down the scone. “How are you doing, Harm?”

“I’m … you know … good.” He smiled. “I heard from Mattie last night. She is loving the daylight in Alaska. Says that the sun doesn’t go down until 2200.”

“She won’t feel that way in a few months when it doesn’t come up at all.”

“I reminded her about that.”

She gave him a very meaningful look. “It was a nice thing you did, Harm.”

“For all the good it did.”

“I think it did a lot. She was alone and scared and you helped.”

“Yeah, you are probably right.” He didn’t believe it but needed to continue to give his well-wishing friends a little lip service.

“It was good for you too.” She smiled at him. “Though you may not think so right now.”

He smirked at her. “Better to have loved and lost, eh Colonel?” He shook his head. How many times could he love and lose without it jading him?

“Come on, Harm.” She cajoled. “This was a big step, really out of character for you.” She smiled.

“You think so?”

“Well, not out of character maybe, but not expected.”

“I suppose not.” He smiled and looked away. “Times change – people change.”

“Yes they do.” She was feeling herself being drawn to him in a familiar way. He smile was warm and inviting.

“So, how are you?” He asked clearly trying to change the subject. “What else is news?”

She went back to her scone, though her mind immediately went to her break up with Webb, which Harm had no knowledge of.

He grinned. “Crashing anymore F-14’s in your dreams?”

“No.” She shook her head. “In fact I haven’t been dreaming too much at all.”

“You look rested.” He actually thought she looked better than she had in nearly a year.

“It is this case.” She explained. “I am so tired when I get home I fall into bed and sleep until the alarm goes off.”

“You have an alarm clock?” He teased. “That is news.”

“This case is really taking it out of me.”

“Do you need some help with it?” He offered. “I know that your second is …”

“Useless. I am not sure he went to law school.”

“I have some time on my hands if you want bounce some ideas and arguments off me.” His offer was genuine and not arrogant.

“Would you?” She hadn’t wanted to ask because she thought he was dealing with too much.

“Of course. I’ll always have time for you, Mac.” Harm’s phone rang. “Hang on.” He pulled it out and saw the caller ID. “The Admiral.” He told her. “Rabb. … Yes, sir … right away, sir … Where? … Yes, sir.”

“What is going on?” Mac asked but before Harm could answer Mac’s phone rang. She nodded to show that it was the Admiral. “Yes, sir. … Yes, sir … immediately.” She hung up. “I wonder what that is all about.” She said.

“Not sure – but we have five minutes to get there.

“You can change at my place.” She said getting up from the table sorry that their conversation was interrupted.

 

1530 ZULU – Tuesday, May 11, 2004
JAG Headquarters
Fall Church, VA

 


Harm and Mac had been getting along so well in the past week it was refreshing to the entire office as well as to them. Mac had stopped the appeal and was in an uncharacteristically good mood. Harm was getting back into the life of a single man; more like his old self. There were a couple of group lunches, Chinese on Saturday and several opportunities for Harm and Mac to work and relax with each other alone – all very nice, all very casual, nothing earth shattering, nothing to write home about – but good, normal, friendly. Things were finally getting back on track.

The Admiral was leaving town again, this time for a week and had put Mac in charge. Harm had a case to investigate in Norfolk that was turning into a big deal, Sturgis and Bud were going up against each other on a murder case starting the next day, and Mac was given an administrative project. For all intents and purposes, the Admiral would not be missed for seven days. The only thing that interested them was that he would not tell them where he was going, but let them know it was not personal.

Harm, Mac, Sturgis and Bud left the Admiral’s office after a briefing. They were all laughing and teasing Mac about her ‘appointment.’

“Sarah.” Clayton Webb’s voice called to them through the office. “Rabb.” He stepped up to them.

“Clay.” Mac looked uncomfortable.

“Webb.” Harm looked between Webb and Mac and noticed that there was some distance between them. “When did you get back?” He asked feeling the need to be friendly.

“Back? I haven’t been away.” Webb looked over at Sarah. Webb had been in town the past two weeks or more but there was no longer a reason for him to ‘show up’ at JAG, her apartment or to call on a whim. Harm obviously didn’t know that, all he knew was that she had made no reference to Webb in anyway. “Sarah, are we still on for dinner?”

“Sure – well, wait. Call me.” She looked toward her office. “I have a client waiting. If you both will excuse me.” She left.

Clay looked back at Harm. “How’s she doing?” He asked like a friend asking another friend how a mutual friend was doing.

“Great.” Harm was unsure why he was being asked that question. “Keeping that appeal from happening was a pretty big coup.”

“Appeal?” Clearly Webb had no idea what had been going on with Mac for a couple of weeks. “Guess I have been out of the MacKenzie loop for a while.”

“Looks that way.” Harm confirmed.

“Keep an eye on her, would you Rabb?” He boldly asked.

“Mac can take care of herself.” Harm stated a little too harshly.

“Clayton Webb.” The Admiral’s voice interrupted them. “Thank you for coming.”

“Admiral, what can I do for you?”

The two men disappeared behind the Admiral’s door. Harm was left confused but with a building anger. Clearly Mac and Webb broke up and it had been some time ago, at least two weeks. In the past week, Harm and Mac had spent time together – off time together - running, working on cases, dinner – the subject had not come up. Harm never mentioned Webb because he assumed that Webb was out of town and didn’t want to remind Mac that she was a spy-widow. But as it turned out, she was free all those nights, all mornings because she was not seeing Webb anymore. Why hadn’t she told Harm? That was the question that nagged at him. The answer hit him like a slap in the face – a rude, cold, hurtful slap in the face.

“Fine.” Was the only audible remark he made but his eyes were dark and his fists were clenched. He turned to Coates, “Petty Officer, I am going to Norfolk. I should be back on Thursday.”

“I’ll inform the Admiral.” She stated. “And the Colonel.”

At Coates reminder that Mac was now in charge, Harm ire shot through the roof. “FINE.” He stormed out of the office.
 

 

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