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Chapter 13

0600
Thursday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania



Trish had risen early and made coffee. She took a cup outside with her and stood on the porch to watch the sun beginning to rise in the east. It was late October. The fall colors were at their peak. It was going to be a crisp cool day. They didn’t have those in California. She loved this place but did not come here very often since she and Frank had married.

She felt that her first husband still lived here. It was overwhelming at times, even now. She could never share this with Frank. He was a good man and she knew that he loved her. She had loved him in return, but never in the way she loved Harmon Rabb Senior. When Harm went to find his father, and when he found that he had a brother in Russia, she had told Harm she had been able to find some closure where his father was concerned. She thought she had. She and Frank had gone to Europe; he had wined her and dined her and courted her all over again. She looked at the 4 carat diamond on her left hand. It was beautiful, and Frank had given it with a full heart. She wished she could give her whole heart but Harmon still lived there. It seemed that lately her mind turned to him more and more.

She walked down the stone walkway and began the walk down the long drive. Oscar followed, prancing around her heels and waiting for her to throw anything so he could chase it. She remembered she used to dream of meeting Harmon on this drive. In her dreams he had come home to her and little Harm and he would never leave again. Oscar barked, trying to draw her into playing his favorite game, so she threw a stick and he bounded after it. The wind was picking up and she headed back to the house. The leaves blew up and Trish could have sworn she heard her name being spoken. She looked up at the house, thinking that Frank had gotten up and was calling her. There was no one … and then she heard it again.

‘Trisha…” Trish drew a breath in sharply. She looked around her, searching for the place from which the name had come. Only Harmon had called her Trisha, and not all the time…it was a pet name that he only used when they were alone. She saw no one and shook herself, feeling her hair standing up on the back of her neck. She had spent too much time walking down memory lane. She decided it was time to go inside.

 

0900
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland

 

Mac was feeling a lot better today. She was still sore at her incision site but she was able to do more and more on her own. She was independently getting around in her room. She needed very little help from nursing staff with her personal care. The only problems were pain when she had been on her feet for too long and getting in and out of her bed. She was looking forward to getting out of this hospital and out to Pennsylvania for awhile.

She had had visitors this morning very early. Captain Morrison had brought Dr. Mark Ahrens from Johns Hopkins to discuss his role in the testing and research being done on her tumor sample. He was enthusiastic but professional. He and the captain appeared to disagree but did not say so. Dr. Ahrens asked her to participate in a study, which he assured her would only entail a bit of additional blood work when she saw Captain Morrison.

She asked the captain point blank about how he felt about Dr. Ahrens’ theory that her tumor may not have been malignant but a phosphaturic mesenchymal tumor.

He answered, “I intend to proceed as we had previously planned. If you are willing to participate in this study and the tumor is found to be a benign but rare type of tumor, then we all win. Our goal is to remove your risk of reoccurrence and possibly allow you to have a family in the future.”

Mac understood, and though she wished she could hear a definitive yes or no, she accepted things as they were now. She had a chance, and that was more than she thought she had 3 days ago.

She gingerly got out of her bed and put on her robe. She decided to take a walk to the end of the hall and get out of this room. There was an open waiting room there and a wall of windows with a nice view. She walked along the hallway near the rail on the wall. She did not hold on but would touch it now and again to steady herself. She was not sure if it was medication or weakness, but she was definitely not 100 percent yet. She did not notice as she passed a hallway which fed into the larger one that a man stood watching her.

She got to the waiting area and sat carefully down on one of the chairs near the window. The man had moved down the smaller hallway and was about to step into the larger hall and toward Mac.

“Colonel Mackenzie,” a corpsman called to Mac. She looked up, and the man who had been following her disappeared. “We need to get your vitals and also get another blood sample for Johns Hopkins.” Mac stood and returned to her room.

 

1400
Thursday
JAG Headquarters

 

Harm was completing yet another case review from the stack on his desk. He placed the case file on the stack on the opposite side of his desk and shook his head in aggravation. ‘We need more junior officers around here to do this scut work,’ he thought.

Petty Officer Coates came to his open door and knocked. “Commander Rabb?”

“Yes, Petty Officer,”

“It’s Mrs. Burnett on line 3,”

‘Thanks, Coates that will be all.” He pushed the button and answered, “Hi, Mom. Where are you?”

She told him they had checked into the Willard. She asked if she and Frank could meet him in his apartment about 1630 and he agreed. Sturgis knew that his mother and Frank were in town so he was going to secure early.

Sturgis could be a pain, but Harm knew he was going out of his way to make this difficult situation easier while getting as much work done as possible. Every i dotted, every t crossed on Sturgis’s watch. His grandmother was right; he had always been CO material. Harm was also going to be able to get out of the office at 1300 tomorrow so he could get Mac to Pennsylvania. Sturgis was alright, really. He just couldn’t resist giving him a hard time once in a while.

 

1700
Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station

 

Mattie sat on the couch, watching Harm going back and forth to get his mother and her husband drinks. He was nervously asking about the trip so far, how Frank’s golf game was going, how things were at the gallery in La Jolla. She had never seen him so uncomfortable. His mother seemed like an ok lady. She had been very nice to her so far. They both seemed crazy about Harm. He seemed to hate it. Why was he so uncomfortable? He was almost as bad as she had been around her father before they had reconciled. He wasn’t sarcastic as she had been, but it was clear to anyone watching him that he would rather be anywhere but here right now.

She decided to give him a break, and his mother seemed to have the same idea.

“So, young lady, how do you like Washington, D.C.?” Trish asked.

“I like it a lot. I miss Grace Aviation. I’m sure Harm told you. I had – or my Mom and I had – a crop dusting business.”

Harm shifted on his feet and suddenly found his shoes very interesting.

“No,” Trish answered. “Why don’t you tell me about it?” Mattie began to tell her about Grace Aviation, and as she did, Harm seemed to relax.

Harm thought, ‘Thank you, Mattie.’

She was being charming and engaging, and his mother and Frank were totally smitten. They had wanted grandchildren for so long that Mattie must have seemed a godsend. He had a lot to explain to his mother and there was no good time or place to do it. Mattie sat there and said it all effortlessly.

She explained how Harm had tried to help her. She even included Mac’s role in his ability to get custody of her. She mentioned Mac’s illness, how much she had enjoyed having her around lately. By the time Mattie was finished, Harm had nearly nothing to explain.

To Mattie it was all simple, the facts of her life right now. It was as though she knew he couldn’t handle this right now and she just stepped up. In the space of about 20 minutes the tension level in the room had dropped considerably.

“You must be proud of her, Harm. She is quite a little lady,” Trish said and Harm agreed.

“Hey,” Mattie said. “Are we going to Bethesda now?”

Trish looked at Harm, hoping he would invite them along. She had never met Mac, but she knew that Mac was *the one* for Harm. She had known it for a long time.

“Would you like to come, Mom? It’s nearly time for dinner.” He wasn’t sure yet that he wanted her to come.

“Oh we had a late lunch and we’d love to,” Trish answered.

Frank spoke up. “If you two don’t mind, I think I’ll go back to the hotel for a while.”

Trish looked from Frank to Harm, and Mattie said to Trish, “Cool… you can ride back with us and we can drop you off.”

‘I like this girl,’ Trish thought.

She and Frank said their goodbyes. She knew Frank was trying to give her and Harm some one on one time. He was such a good man. So much more than she felt she deserved at times.

 

1830
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland

 

Harm had been surprised and pleased to see Mac appearing stronger and having less pain than she was yesterday. He had been concerned that the trip to Pennsylvania would be too much for her, but he wasn’t worried at all now. She had been up and was walking toward the waiting area at the end of the hall. After he introduced Trish to Mac, they all joined her with Harm taking her hand and placing his arm around her shoulders.

The gesture was not lost on Trish, and she thought, ‘finally.’ She saw on his face what she had been hoping for so long. He was in love. He had always been so closed off. It was difficult to know how he felt about anything, but now the love was written there for anyone to see. Trish looked at Mattie and thought that this young lady must have had something to do with Harm’s ability to open his heart. Trish instinctively reached over and patted Mattie’s back as they walked to the waiting area.

They sat down, with Harm helping Mac ease into her chair. Mattie kept the conversation going between all the adults until the initial awkwardness passed. They seemed to fall into easy conversation after that. Mac had asked Harm to get the small pillow she had to help her brace her abdomen when she coughed or laughed. Mattie was in rare form tonight so she thought Harm should get it as a precaution. Harm started down the hallway – and then he saw him.

Harm stepped closer to him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here?” Webb did not answer. Harm looked at him squarely in the eye and said, “Never come near my family again.”

“Does that include Sarah?” Webb asked.

“You know it does,” Harm was, barely controlling his anger. This man who had caused such pain in both their lives was standing this close to 3 of the four women he loved most in the world.

“I think Sarah should speak for herself.”

“He is speaking for me,” Mac said, startling them both. “Webb, go and fare well. I mean that in the truest sense of the word. I wish you no ill will, but never come near us again.” She placed her hand on the back of Harm’s arm. “The time for us….the time for the 3 of us to be friends is over. Get on with your life…the life you have chosen. I have certainly chosen mine.”

“Sarah…” Webb said.

Mac stepped closer to him and her hand went up to stop him. “I realize that Harm and I are the closest thing you have ever had to friends…or anything else. Your friendship has cost us both dearly, and I know I can speak for both of us when I say…we’re done.”

Webb looked at her, trying to decide whether to believe her or not. “I love you, Sarah.”

Mac looked down then back up at him. “You don’t even know me, Webb. I’m not as tough as you think and I do need someone. I need someone who knows me and loves me anyway, flaws and all.”

Webb looked at her, shaking his head.

Mac continued, “Look, I believe you are dedicated to your work and your country. I admire and respect that, but being in your life for anyone can be nearly fatal. And I love my life, so I want no part of that anymore.

Harm had been leaning back against the wall. He then stood near Mac and placed his hand on her shoulder. Webb looked at both of them and then nodded, saying nothing. He turned and walked away without a backward glance.

Harm stood in front of her and took her hand. He looked into her eyes and tried to read her expression. He said, “Okay?’ She nodded and they both started back toward her room.

Mattie and Trish had missed the entire exchange and they joined them a few minutes later. “Hey, what happened to you guys?” Mattie asked.

“Oh, I was a little more tired than I thought so I decided to come back and lie down,” Mac answered.

“I was just coming to get you,” Harm said.

They stayed about another half an hour before leaving to allow Mac to get some sleep and get ready for tomorrow. Mattie and Trish left and gave Harm and Mac a bit of privacy. Harm sat carefully on the side of the bed. “Is this okay?” he asked. She nodded. He leaned forward carefully and kissed her lightly on the lips. “I miss you, you know,”

“I miss you too,” she answered. She kissed him then, deeply, ending the kiss with a little nibble to his bottom lip.

“I think you’re starting to feel a lot better now,” Harm said, smiling.

“I think I am, too.”

 

2000
Harm’s SUV
Capital Beltway
Washington D.C.

 

“Mom, what do you say I drop Mattie off at the apartment and you and I grab a cup of coffee somewhere?”

Trish was so surprised she didn’t speak for a few seconds. “That would be great, Harm. I’d love it!...Starbucks?” she asked.

“Starbucks is fine.”

Mattie sat in the backseat, smiling to herself. She felt entirely responsible for the ease of conversation between them. Once you got Harm talking, you could get by with just about anything.

‘Would this be a good time to ask for the credit card so Jen and I can shop after I get home from school?’ She wondered.

Harm glanced at Mattie in the rearview mirror and asked, “What are you up to, Mattie?” Mattie decided maybe this was *not *a good time.

 

0900
Thursday
Starbucks
E Street
Washington D.C

 

Harm and his mother sat down at a small table near a window. Trish looked at her son across the table. He was beginning to show some signs of age, though in her eyes he was as handsome as his father had always been. She did not get to see her husband at that age. Harm shifted in his seat, a little uncomfortable under her gaze.

“I’m sorry, Harm. I was thinking about your father.”

“What were you thinking about him?”

She told him and then said, “I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. I don’t know why.”

Harm looked at her sympathetically. He understood that she still felt guilty and that he was responsible for that. He reached across the table and gave his mothers hand a squeeze.

“You okay, Mom?”

“Oh, I’m fine. I have been wondering, though, why you have stayed away so much the last couple of years. It’s silly, every time you become distant; I still think you’re angry at me for giving up on your father.”

“I’m sorry, Mom, and it wasn’t about that at all. It has been a really crazy time for me. I don’t even know where to start.”

He shifted in his seat so that he was not facing her but looking out into the night and the traffic passing.

“Son, you know you can tell me anything. I’m not a fragile as you think,”

Harm looked down into his coffee cup. “Mom, I got into some trouble spring before last. It took me about 6 months to straighten it out, and even then I was still having a difficult time.”

Trish looked at him and he immediately looked down.

She said, “Let’s walk, son. Maybe that will help you get this out.”

They walked down E street toward the Mall. Trish took Harm’s offered arm and encouraged him to continue. He told her about Singer, about his mistaken idea that her baby was Sergei’s. Trish thought ‘Harm, trying to rescue another Rabb.’ He told her of his arrest and the admiral’s order for all his friends to stay away.

“Son, why didn’t you call us?” Trish was incredulous.

“I couldn’t, Mom. I couldn’t stand the thought of you seeing me in a place like that. I went from JAG’s fair haired boy to the brig in an afternoon. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Trish thought for a long time, trying to take it all in; thinking that the reason she wasn’t told was that Harm didn’t trust her to handle it well. He was still trying to protect her.

“Go on, Harm,” she asked.

“The issue was resolved with the help of the same NCIS officer who arrested me, if you can believe that,” he said with a lopsided grin.

He told her about Paraguay and his resignation. He left out the whole Mac and Webb fiasco. No need to dredge that up. He wanted her to think well of Mac, and they were all a little crazy back then.

“When I wasn’t able to return to the Navy, I flew some missions for the Company,”

Trish stopped short and said, “The CIA?” Harm answered in the affirmative. Trish was stunned. She knew she wouldn’t have taken that one well at the time. She said honestly, “Well, son, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t know about that.”

Harm chuckled a bit. “Seriously, Mom, you understand now that it wasn’t you or anything about the past. I just felt ashamed of the mess my life was in at the time. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time with you until I had it straightened out.”

“*Is* it straightened out. Harm?”

“I think I’m working things out pretty well. Mattie has helped a lot,”

“Oh, Harm, she is a wonderful girl.”

“She is that,” he said. He decided not to go into the custody thing with her now, either. He didn’t want her to worry and he honestly didn’t know how things would end up. Mattie did not seem to be willing to give her father or him up and that was fine with him. Harm smiled to himself and said, “and then there’s Mac.”

Trish squeezed his arm a bit and repeated what he said. Harm was getting tongue tied again. Trish laughed a little and said, “Oh, honey, you don’t have to explain anything to me. It’s written all over your face and I couldn’t be happier. I hope things work out for both of you……It’s time.”

Harm patted her hand tucked into the crook of his arm. “Yes, it is.”

They were standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial. There was a beautiful and solemn aura to this place. It was like standing in front of a holy place. A place to be reverent and reflective. They both looked across the street at the Vietnam Memorial. Neither spoke but stepped off of the curb toward the Wall. In a few moments they were in front of the name of Harm’s father and Trish’s husband. Harmon Rabb Sr

Trish seemed to forget Harm was with her. She walked to the spot where his name was, took off her glove and flattened her palm over his name. She pressed it down as though she were trying to absorb it into her hand. ‘Harmon,” she whispered. She let herself go back for a moment – just a moment when he was here with her, with them. Did he always keep a place for her in his heart; did she become a distant dream? She still had him tucked away in that secret place in her heart. She could pull him out of that place when she felt strong enough to be able to close him back off again. She didn’t seem to be able to do that anymore.

“Mom?” Harm said.

Trish’s heart still railed against the unfairness of it all.

“Mom?” he said again.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. “Lost in thought.”

She shivered slightly and Harm again offered his arm. “Let’s get you out of this night air. It’s cooling off pretty quickly at night now.”

Trish nodded and took her son’s arm. They walked back to Harm’s SUV, and he took her back to the Willard.

“It’s been great seeing you, Mom,”

Trish smiled and touched his cheek. “It has been great, hasn’t it? Take care of yourself.” She rested her hand on his arm and looked into his face. “I love you, son.”

“I love you too, Mom.” She started to go to the elevators, and then turned to say, “Keep us posted on how Mac’s doing and let us know if there is anything for us to do.”

“I will, Mom. Tell Frank it was great to see him and have a great time in Europe." With that they parted, Harm going to his apartment and Trish to her hotel and Frank.

 

0700
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia

 

Harm had come in early. He wanted to be sure all his case files were in order and ready for Coates to get to Sturgis. He wanted to be sure he could walk in here Monday ready for work and for whatever was coming up. McBurney and Coleman were due back today. They should be at staff call He was glad to have been with Mac but he was also ready to get back *in the thick of it,* as Sturgis had said. Bud would be with the CNO’s office Monday. A new JAG. ‘My luck, it will be a Marine,’ he thought, and then he decided the idea was too ridiculous. If Gunny got back on board then he would be almost surrounded by Marines. He shook his head, thinking, ‘that’s not possible.’

 

1400
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland

 

Mac had been anxious to get out of the hospital. The nearer the time for discharge, the more anxious she became. She had brought a larger skirt for her class A’s so that she would be comfortable. She looked at herself in the mirror. She was relieved to be back in uniform, if only for a little while. Captain Morrison had come through at about 0630 to prepare her for discharge. There were no staples, and her stitches would dissolve so need for stitch removal. He seemed pleased with her progress. “Colonel, do you have any questions for me before you go?” he had asked. She did not; between her visit with Cmdr McCool and the information she had gotten from he and Dr. Ahrens she had all the information she could handle right now.

Harm knocked on her door to her room and she stepped out of the bathroom.

“Hey, Marine,” he said. “Ready to go?” Mac smiled and nodded.

The corpsman came in then with a wheelchair and Harm said, “Madame, your chariot waits.”

Mac looked at the wheelchair and then out the open door where people in uniform were passing. She realized then she would not be standing but riding. She would not receive nor give any salute. A uniform in a wheelchair. She swayed on her feet slightly. The thought almost made her sick. This was stupid; she was going to be fine. Her pride was getting to her, she knew. She knew it was unreasonable. How many young men and women had she seen who would never get up again?

“Mac….are you alright?” Harm said as he walked swiftly toward her.

“It’s nothing,” she said. “Let’s just get out of here.”

Harm got her sea bag, and the corpsman wheeled her down stairs. A couple of sailors passing saluted Harm. They did not even see her. It was as though when she sat down in that chair she was invisible.

‘Hurry, hurry,’ Mac thought. They were downstairs and Harm had pulled his SUV in front where it would only be a few steps and she’d be in the vehicle and out of there.

Harm knew something was eating at her. He just wasn’t sure what. He smiled at her and placed his hand over hers. She returned his smile weakly and he asked her, “Okay?”

She whispered, “Okay…let’s go.” With that they were off.

They were well out of Washington when Mac asked, “Harm, do you mind if we stop somewhere so I can get into something more comfortable?”

“Sure, Mac, I’m sorry. I didn’t even think about how uncomfortable you must be.”

He didn’t know the half of it, she thought. He stopped and allowed her to change. He changed as well. Mac was relieved. They were just Harm and Mac again. They were on their way to leaving it all behind.

“Mac, something’s up – do you want to talk about it?’

“Not yet. I just want to get to Pennsylvania. Tell me about how your mom is doing,” she said.

He told her about going to Starbucks and their walk to the Wall. She smiled, glad for him. She had not been the only one he had closed himself off from.

“Your mother seems really nice, Harm. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.”

They hit a small bump in the road. Mac winced, and Harm asked, “When was the last time you took anything for pain?”

Mac thought and it had been about 0700 that morning. She took some of the prescription she had filled before she left the hospital. She had put the seat in the reclining position and held Harm’s hand in both of hers for a few moments.

She had begun to get drowsy and talked aloud, and Harm wondered if she were speaking to him or just thinking out loud.

“Trish and Sarah are both such affectionate people. It just comes easily to them…natural.” She chuckled ruefully and said, “When Dad died and I went to tell my mother he was dead, I had to ask her to hold me.” She shook her head sadly. “Deanna Mackenzie was no earth mother...that was for sure,” she said as she dropped off to sleep.

Harm was dumbfounded. ‘My God, what kind of person has to be told to embrace their own child?’ he thought. How could he have known Mac for so long and not known this?

She wouldn’t let him in, he knew, but he hadn’t realized how much she had suffered and how many more things were missing from her life before he ever met her. He understood now why his grandmother had gotten under her skin so quickly. He thought it had been because they were so much alike, and they were; but it was more than that.

Sarah Rabb gave her unconditional acceptance and affection that she had never had in her life. His eyes stung with unshed tears. He shook it off and focused on the road, listening to Mac’s even breathing. She was going to be alright. He was going to make sure of that.

 

1830
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania

 

It was dusk when Harm pulled up in front of his grandmother’s house. Mac looked through the window and could see Sarah Rabb standing in the doorway. Her silver gray hair about her shoulders made her look like an angel standing there. She came immediately out the door to help Harm get Mac inside. She took one of Mac’s arms and said, “Hello, Mac.”

Mac nodded and smiled her half smile. She had a huge lump in her throat. She didn’t understand why Sarah Rabb went straight to her heart, but she surely did. They connected in some way Mac could not define. She seemed to understand some of the things Mac felt without Mac having the discomfort of exposing her heart completely. Harm had been that way too. Mac had seen it as disinterest….she now understood that it was not. It had been a quiet understanding.

She guided Mac to her own bedroom downstairs. “Oh, Mrs. Rabb, I couldn’t,” Mac said.

“Nonsense,” Mrs. Rabb said. “I’ll move you back upstairs after you recover a little more. What happened to calling me Sarah?”

“Sarah…I usually get around better than this. I think the ride was a little tougher on my incision than I thought it would be,” Mac said.

She lay down on the bed on top of the covers. Her incision was starting to throb. It was nearly time for her pain medication. She hated that she needed it at all but understood now that that would lessen as she healed. She also knew Sarah understood her fears in that regard and that she would be as vigilant as Mac would be.

Harm went to get the rest of her bags from the SUV, and Mrs. Rabb came in with a glass of water and her pain medication. Mac leaned up enough to take the medicine and drink some of the water. She was clearly in pain and Mrs. Rabb helped ease her back on the bed. She took an extra pillow she had placed on the stool near the bed and put it in Mac’s arms and another carefully placed between Mac’s knees. She helped Mac turn onto her right side. Mac was surprised that this positioning helped alleviate the pain somewhat. She drew a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. She took in the scent of the clean sheets and the subtle scent of apples, cinnamon and vanilla.

The lump once again formed in her throat and tears stung her eyes and nose. She didn’t seem to be able to help it. She had been on an emotional rollercoaster all week. She felt so safe here. It was as though she could hand all of the worries that plagued her to Sarah Rabb without saying a word. She placed her hand over her mouth and sobbed quietly, trying to hold it in.

Sarah noticed and pulled the small stool close to her bedside and sat down. She brushed the hair from her face and placed her hand on her back.

“It’s alright, Mac, you can rest now.”

Mac began to cry harder and it hurt her incision. Mrs. Rabb gently pressed the pillow on her abdomen closer to Mac and said, “Hold the pillow tighter and take deep breaths. It’s okay.”

Mac drew a breath and let it out slowly and began to relax and compose herself.

Mrs. Rabb’s hand was on her shoulder and Mac placed her hand over it. “Thank you,” she said.

“Not at all. Get some rest and I’ll pull something together for dinner for you two.”

Harm had come in during this time and had seen the exchange between his grandmother and Mac. He sat Mac’s bags down outside the door and walked back out to the front porch.

He walked over to the rail, placed is hands on it and braced his arms, crying silently. He wanted to help but he knew in this matter he could not. He now understood what Mac had meant when she said that some of the things she had blamed him for were not his fault. “Baby, baby…” He spoke under his breath. He just wanted to hold her. She was hurting, he knew, and holding her now was not a good idea.

Mrs. Rabb had come to his side and placed her hand on his back. “Harmon, are you alright?”

Harm nodded the affirmative.

“This has been tough on you both, I know.” She patted him a little and asked, “Hey, would you mind checking that back door on the barn? I can’t remember if I closed it or not….when you’re finished, just come on in the kitchen. I’ve got some *decaf* coffee on and well get something together for dinner for you and Mac.”

Harm did as he was asked, knowing that she was giving him a chance to pull himself together. He had always loved her and trusted her wisdom. Today he trusted it just a little bit more.

 

Chapter 14


0200
Saturday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania

 

Mac woke slowly, feeling too warm and tangled in her blanket and pillows. Her incision was still sore but the throbbing had stopped. The house was dark. No moon tonight. Mac’s eyes adjusted to the dark, and she turned very slowly on the bed to see Harm lying on top of the covers. He was scooted as far as he could go on the other side of the bed. His back was to Mac.

Mac reached across the bed and lightly touched his back between his shoulder blades. He said “Mac?” and sat up quickly on the edge of the bed. “Are you okay?”

Mac chuckled a little “I’m okay – relax, Harm. Why did you let me sleep so long?”

Harm rubbed his face with both hands and drew in a deep breath, trying to wake up fully.

“You were resting so well I didn’t have the heart to wake you. Do you need anything?”

Harm heard her stomach growl about that time and they both laughed a little. “That answers my question.”

They went into the kitchen, and Harm warmed some soup his grandmother had made and made her a sandwich. Mac watched Harm moving around the kitchen silently. It was still so hard to believe they were here, together.

“You still look so sleepy, Mac,” Harm said, chuckling lightly.

“I’m groggy from that stupid medicine. I can’t wait until I don’t need it anymore,”

“Be patient, Mac, you’re doing great.”

Mac sighed. “I know I sound unreasonable. I just want my life back. I didn’t realize how proud a person I was till this afternoon. That ride down to your car in the wheelchair nearly killed me. Those two sailors who saluted as they passed you didn’t even see me. It was as though I was invisible.”

“Mac,” he said, placing his hand over hers.

“It was almost as though I wasn’t a Marine anymore. I feel like I’m not filling my uniform. I don’t know, It’s hard to explain to someone who has never…” Mac stopped speaking, feeling foolish when she remembered all the injuries Harm had endured and that most of the time he was alone. “Oh, God, Harm, I’m sorry. I know you’ve been through a lot too.”

“Mac, I want you to tell me what’s on your mind. You’re going through something here, something I’ve never been through, and I want to be there for you. Yes, I have been through a lot, but I had you when I went down in that F-14. And I had my grandmother and my mother after the ramp strike,”

“How can you say I was there for you – I was still with Mic then. And I damn near ruined your life getting into that mess in Paraguay,”

“Mac, you and I were connected, you found me. If you hadn’t I would be dead. I lived to fight another day.”

“Yeah… you fought with me,” she said.

Harm raised his eyebrows and they both laughed. Mac winced a bit in pain. Harm went to get her medicine and she reluctantly took it.

“Mac, we're done rehashing the past. We’re here right now together and that is all that matters to me, okay?” he said. Mac nodded in the affirmative.

Mac wasn’t sleepy yet but she noticed how tired Harm looked. “You need to hit the rack, sailor.”

“I’m okay,” he said yawning.

“Okay, look, I’m wide awake now so why don’t you go lay down and I’ll come get you if I need you,”

“I’m not leaving you, Mac.”

Mac thought ‘stubborn man.’

“At least go lay down on my bed and I’ll sit out in here and do a little reading till I get sleepy. I also want you to stretch out, Harm. You were scrunched so far over on the bed I thought you were going to fall off,” she said laughingly.

“I didn’t want to hurt you. I was afraid I’d bump into you and hurt your incision.”

“Oh, Harmon, don’t worry. I don’t think you could get close enough to hurt me with all the pillows stuffed around me,” she said smiling slyly. He looked at her with sleepy eyes and smiled. She kissed his cheek. “Go lie down; you’re just a few steps away.”

‘Okay, don’t stay up too long. I want to spend as much time as I can with you this weekend before I have to go back.” He turned and kissed her lightly on the lips, holding himself away from her, still fearing he would hurt her. He ached to hold her close. He wanted his Mac back too. He walked down the short hall and into Mac’s room.

Mac sat down with one of Mrs. Rabb’s Agatha Christie novels, and before she got to the second page she heard Harm snoring softly.

 

0630
Saturday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania

 

Mrs. Rabb came down stairs to find Mac sleeping in the chair by the fireplace, a book in her lap. She crept into the kitchen and started the coffee. She walked back to the doorway and Mac began to stir. “Hello, young lady,” Mrs. Rabb said.

“Hello…Sorry I knocked out on you both last night. My pain medicine has that effect on me, I’m afraid,”

‘It’s alright, Mac. Over the next week or so you’ll need it less and less. You’ll be your old self in no time,” she said.

Mac took the book and quilt from her lap and slowly and gingerly got up from the chair. Sleeping in a sitting position was not a good idea, she found. Her incision pulled and made it difficult to stand straight up. She went to the restroom to freshen up for the day while Mrs. Rabb started breakfast.

When Mac came back into the kitchen, Harm and Mrs. Rabb were waiting for her. Harm noticed that she was slightly bent over, “You shouldn’t have slept in that chair, Mac.”

She frowned, “I know, I know, I just fell asleep so quickly.” Harm went to get her medicine and Mac said, “No, it’s not time. I just need to stay up right for a while and I’ll walk around a bit after breakfast and it should feel better.”

Harm frowned at her, and Mrs. Rabb said, “She’ll be okay, Harm. She needs a good meal with plenty of protein and she also needs to get moving as much as possible.”

Harm smiled at his grandmother. “It’s been a while since you had a patient, hasn’t it?”

“Yes it’s been a long time, not counting you, it’s been since 1985.” Mac looked at them both curiously. “I started in patient care in 1943. I was what was then called a rehabilitation aide. We were nurses trained by the doctors to deal with all the orthopedic injuries caused by the war. We were really the first American physical therapists. I didn’t get a license to practice physical therapy until 1968. I did what was called ‘grandfathering’ in. I was allowed to take the state board exam and got my license. I don’t believe it is permitted now. It wasn’t as lucrative a profession back then as it is now. I loved it though.”

“Grandma worked at the VA hospital in Altoona not long after my dad was born,” Harm said. Mac was amazed. She always sensed her strength but did not realize just how much she had accomplished in her lifetime.

Mrs. Rabb’s face became solemn for a moment, “The first year back here was very tough. I had just lost David. He never saw our Harmon. It was another time in my life that I would not have gotten through if it had not been for Mary and Andrew Rabb. Mary helped me with the baby. I’m ashamed to say that the first months I did only what was necessary. I took care of my child but I did not cuddle him. I left him to Mary.”

Mac said, “The first year back here? Where were you?”

“We were at Pearl. I followed David out there. He was so angry with me. I had completed my nurses training. It was only 6 months back then. I got myself orders to Pearl and off I went. David Rabb wasn’t going anywhere without me.”

She smiled to herself, lost in thought. “We were married two weeks after I got there. We had to wait for permission from his CO. We had about 3 months and then he got his orders to the Hornet. The mission was top secret. I only knew they were going to be flying Army bombers off the deck of a carrier. And that’s how I lost him – when we bombed Tokyo in retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I wanted to be a field nurse after that, but when I found I was pregnant I was sent back home. I went to work at the VA hospital after Harmon was born.”

While they ate breakfast they talked more about Harm’s grandfather, with Mrs. Rabb recalling the happier times of their lives together. Mac asked Mrs. Rabb if she and Harm could look through the box of photos she had shown her the week before.

She consented but said, “Only after you and I go for a bit of a walk. You really do need to get some exercise this morning and probably again before lunch. I’ll just place it in the middle of the bed and you can stretch out. I’ve got my rocking chair in there and if you’ll show the picture, I’ll tell the story.”

“Sounds great. Do you already know all the stories, Harm?”

“I know some of them. Grandma will surprise me now and then with something I didn’t know. I like hearing them anyway.”

With that they stood, and Mac and Mrs. Rabb put on their jackets and went for their walk down the drive. The sky was blue-gray and the fallen leaves on the green grass were a beautiful yellow-orange contrast. The colors were different from when she first came here but no less beautiful to Mac. She had truly come to love this place in the short time she had known about it.

Harm cleaned up the kitchen and took a shower while they were out. He started a fire in the fireplace and stretched out on the couch. Mac and Mrs. Rabb walked up and down the drive twice. By the time Mac finished walking, her incision was sore but she could remain upright without feeling the pulling she felt before. The air was cool and bracing. She felt exhilarated afterward. Being away from the hospital, doctors and nurses made her feel more normal.

Harm met them at the door when they walked in. “How did it go?”

Mac’s cheeks were a tawny pink and she smiled beautifully. “It’s cool out there, but it was nice to be outside after all that time in the hospital.”

“Let’s get something warm to drink and we’ll get started on those pictures.”

Mrs. Rabb said, ‘Mac, do you need anything for pain?”

“Nope, not yet. I’m afraid I’ll fall asleep and I don’t want to miss anything,”

They settled in the bedroom. Harm’s grandmother was in her chair on Mac’s side of the bed. Mac was propped up on pillows reclining on top of her covers with a quilt thrown over her legs. The large photo box sat on the middle of the bed, and Harm was sitting on the other side on the edge of the bed, facing them both. He opened the box, and on top of one of the stacks Mac saw a picture that caught her eye. She picked up the stack and slipped the photo out of the ribbon. It was a picture of Harm Sr. holding out both arms to a pudgy little boy.

“Oh, Harm, look at you!” she said laughingly. “Those cheeks!”

The little boy in the picture had a determined look, eyes that Mac recognized immediately were fixed on his goal. She gave the picture to Mrs. Rabb, and she chuckled.

“That was when Harm was 11 months old. He and Trish had come to spend a few days. We all had a wonderful time.”

The next picture was curious to Mac. It appeared to be Harm Sr. and Harm Jr. walking down her drive. They both had their backs to the camera. They looked nearly identical, little Harm dressed exactly like his father from head to toe. She handed the picture to Mrs. Rabb.

“I know, it’s a little strange. They were facing away from the camera, but you see, as I said before, they have the Rabb stature. They look like my David in this way, and it struck me when I saw it and that made the picture precious to me. My David never got to see either of them but he left his mark on them both.”

She nodded toward Harm and said, “He was five years old. He turned 6 that following October. They all came for a long visit before Harmon’s last deployment.”

Mac looked at Harm. She handed the picture to him and asked “Do you remember this?” Harm nodded in the affirmative. Mac saw love and pain and pride in his eyes. He never stopped missing his father; he probably never would.

The phone rang, startling them all. Mrs. Rabb got up to answer it. Mac said, “Harm, I forgot your birthday. October 25th. I can’t believe I did that. I didn’t get you anything.”

Harm smiled a sly smile “Oh, I got my birthday present last weekend….a little early.”

Mac thought for a moment. They’d had a very nice Friday and Saturday night on Tilghman Island. She blushed and laughed a little. “Oh… don’t make me laugh,” she said.

Mrs. Rabb came in and told Harm that Sturgis was calling. Harm looked at Mac with raised eyebrows and thought, ‘If he’s calling something must be up.’

Harm rose and walked to the living room to answer the phone. “Hey Sturgis…”

“Sorry to do this, Harm, but I’m going to need you back in Washington first thing and be ready to catch a flight out of Andrews by 1600 tomorrow. I’ll brief you further when you get back to Washington. I want you here at JAG no later than noon. A senior DOD advisor has gotten himself killed in Baghdad and we’ve got a Marine accused of involuntary manslaughter.”

Harm said, “I’ll be there.”

Sturgis added, “Harm, I’m sorry about this. There is just no other way. The SecNav is all over my six and you are the most experienced attorney I have. I’ll be sending Major McBurney over with you.”

“Not a problem. I appreciate all you did this last week to make it easier for me, Sturgis. See you tomorrow.”

He hung up and looked at Mac. He had to leave her and he didn’t want to. He never wanted to give her a reason to doubt him. He walked back into the bedroom and looked directly at Mac.

“I have to leave first thing in the morning. I have to catch a flight out of Andrews tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to Baghdad.”

Harm tried to read Mac’s reaction in her face. “Harm…” she said. Mrs. Rabb had left the room to get Mac’s medicine.

Harm didn’t let her finish. “I hate leaving you now. I promised I’d be here for you and now I feel as though I’m leaving you to handle this alone.”

“I’m not alone, Harm, not anymore. I was more alone at this time last year in an office full of people and you just down the hall. We are together now, Harm, aren’t we?”

Harm’s gaze softened as he looked at her. “Yes.”

“I’m going to be fine. I’m here with your grandmother. I’ve never been so fussed over in my life and enjoyed it so well.”

Harm walked over to her and kissed her forehead.

“I wouldn’t be much of a Marine if I didn’t understand when you had to deploy, Harm. I’ll be okay.”

Harm pulled the stool close to her side of the bed, sat down and looked at her. Mac could see his wheels turning; she said, “Stop worrying. I’m feeling stronger all the time. I may have been reading more into Captain Morrison’s statement than I should but I really feel hopeful for the first time in a long time. I can face this.”

“We can face this,” Harm said.

Mac and Harm spent the rest of their day together, nearly every moment. She did have her walk before and after lunch. She went with Harm this time.

“I don’t know why it is, but when I’m walking up this drive I have the most peaceful feeling of coming home. I feel it more here than any other place I know,” Harm said.

Mac looked at him and smiled. “I feel at home here, too.” Harm leaned down and kissed her cheek. They went back inside and sat in front of the fire. The box of pictures sat on a coffee table near the couch.

Mac picked up the box and opened it. “I don’t know why I’m so drawn to the pictures in this box.” She noticed a newer picture on the bottom of the box. She lifted it out, and it was a picture of Harm and herself taken the day of Bud and Harriet’s wedding.

“You were so beautiful that day, Mac.”

“You didn’t look too shabby yourself, Sailor.”

Mrs. Rabb walked into the room and looked over their shoulders at the picture. “Oh yes, that was the first look Trish or I had of you. All I had heard from Trish is that you were ‘quite the girl’. I was so surprised that he had sent a picture that had anyone else in it….”

Mac smiled wryly at Harm and then chuckled a bit. Harm grinned sheepishly. “Hey, it was a good picture….of both of us.”

“I’m *honored*, Harm,” Mac teased.

They had a wonderful dinner. Out of the blue Mrs. Rabb had pulled out all the stops. She had roasted a turkey breast, made old fashioned dressing and even managed a pumpkin pie. Mac had never tasted anything so wonderful.

“This is great, Sarah. Harm, you’d better eat up; those MREs are waiting for you when you get to Baghdad,” she said laughingly.

“Hey, I could send you some and let you share in my experience while I’m gone,”

“That’s okay… I’ll just let you tell me about them in your e-mails,” Mac said, smiling; she had brought her laptop and now she was even more glad she had, since Harm was going overseas.

They all walked after dinner twice up and down the drive. Mac felt so much better now than she had when she first arrived. They spent the evening going through the picture box, and Mrs. Rabb gave them little stories about first one picture, then another. Mrs. Rabb rose from her chair and picked up a bundle of letters from the box. She handed them to Harm and said, “You should have these.”

Harm recognized the handwriting immediately as letters from his father. “I don’t want to take these from you, Grandma.”

“Nonsense, I know them all by heart by now, Harmon,” Mrs. Rabb said. “I think you should have them.” And with that Mrs. Rabb went to bed.

Mac began to show signs of sleepiness not long after, and Harm said, “Okay, Marine, it’s time you hit the rack.”

“I don’t want to go to sleep yet. I don’t want to miss a minute with you,”

“Come on, I’ll go with you and talk to you till you fall asleep,” Harm said.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Mac smiled mischievously “The last time you did that we didn’t get much sleep at all.”

Harm laughed, “Hey, I’ll be good, scout’s honor.”

He raised his hand in a scout pledge. Mac finally consented. She got ready for bed and took her pain medicine. She had only needed one dose today, bedsides her bedtime dose, so she was very pleased with herself. She lay on her side in the bed and Harm started to take his place clear over on the opposite edge of the bed.

“Harm, please don’t stay all the way over there. Come and spoon with me….” The look in her eyes almosted pleaded with him.

“Mac, I don’t want to hurt you,” Harm said.

“You’ll hurt me if you stay so far away.” Mac lay back down and Harm carefully slipped in behind her, lying on top of the covers. She still fit him like a glove. She held her pillow to her abdomen but she was nestled into his arms using his arm and her pillow to rest her head on.

“That’s it. Now I’m home,” Mac said. Harm closed his arm around her and she kissed his forearm. ‘I love you, Harm,”

He kissed her hair, “I love you, too.” Harm closed his eyes and held in the tears he felt stinging there. Mac felt him holding them in but said nothing. Harm needed to be able to go. She knew it would bother him to think she knew he was having this difficult of a time. He still wanted to be strong for her, so she decided that she would be strong for him now too.

 

0400
Sunday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania

 

Mac woke at 0400 exactly. Harm was still wrapped around her and he had shifted his weight more on his back and brought her with him. Her head resting entirely on his arm and his head back on the pillow but rolled toward her. He was breathing softly into her ear and down her neck.

‘What I wouldn’t give to be feeling better now,’ she thought. “Harm.” He roused slightly and rolled them both to their sides and nuzzled her neck, breathing her name. “It’s after 0400, Harm. You have to get going,”

Harm didn’t want to let her go; she was so warm. “Five more minutes, Mac…Five more minutes won’t make any difference.”

Mac smiled, loving the way he held her, she would miss him greatly. They had both slept a full 8 hours. She was glad for Harm’s sake. It would be a long trip over and not a lot of opportunity for a good night’s sleep once he got there. She lay there trying to memorize the way his body felt tucked in behind her. She wanted to remember the sound of his breathing and the low husky sound of his voice when he was sleepy. God, she hated being left behind. She wanted to go too. Be there for him, help him with the case, and make sure he got back here in one piece.

Just then Harm took a deep breath and said, “Okay, I’m up. I can hear you thinking all the way over here.”

“Oh, really, what am I thinking?” she asked.

“That I better get my six in gear or I’ll have to deal with Sturgis, and I do not want to deal with Sturgis and a trip to Iraq on the same day.”

Harm got up to get ready to leave, and after he had left the room Mac got up very carefully from the bed. She raised her eyebrows and thought, ‘Not too bad.’ She was sore but did not need anything for pain. She made her way to the kitchen to make coffee after freshening up a little. Mrs. Rabb came downstairs and made her way to the cupboard. She took down 3 cups and a container which held her pastries. “Oh, those aren’t what I think they are, are they?” Mac asked.

Mrs. Rabb smiled as she filled the cups with coffee. “Help yourself, Mac,” Mrs. Rabb filled an insulated cup and placed an apple fritter in a Ziploc for Harm’s trip back.

Harm came into the room just then, leaving his bag by the door. Mrs. Rabb made her way directly to him. She said, “I’ll say my goodbye now, Harmon.” She patted his shoulder and kissed his cheek. “I’ll take good care of Mac. You just get back here as soon as you can, alright?”

“I will, Grandma, and don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

She smiled at him and placed her hand on his cheek. “I don’t have any doubt that you will be, Harmon.” And with that she left the room.

Mac stood at the kitchen sink in her pajamas and robe. She said, “What a picture I must make for you to take with you to Iraq.”

Harm walked over to her and took her hand and kissed her forehead. “You look beautiful to me.”

Mac looked at him, and she saw that soft look on his face that melted her heart. She wanted him to miss her. She wanted him to remember that the ‘well’ Mac was still in here waiting for her body to heal so she could be with him as his partner, his friend or anything else for that matter. Especially the anything else. She reached up and ran the tips of her fingers lightly through his hair and down the nape of his neck. She leaned in and kissed him with all the love and passion she could muster. She loved him; she didn’t want him to forget it.

If she only knew what she did to him when she did that. Just the touch of her fingers in his hair… He held her by her shoulders and pulled her as close to him as he could without hurting her. There was such desperation in her kiss; she was afraid he would forget her, he could feel it. ‘I won’t forget you, Mac,’ he thought. When they broke the kiss he said,

“I’ll miss you.” He kissed her again lightly and said, “If we don’t stop this, I’ll never get out of here.”

“I know,” Mac said and they both walked toward the door. Mac picked up the cup and Ziploc his grandmother had prepared for him. She walked him out to the SUV and waited for him to load up and get in. He rolled the window down. It was cool but Mac wanted every second.

She leaned in and kissed him goodbye. They both said “I love you” at the same time. They both laughed softly, and then Mac backed away from the vehicle. Harm started the engine and Mac continued to back away, and then she turned to walk up to the house. Harm turned the vehicle around and drove down the drive.

Mac turned to look as she went in the front door. It was predawn and she could see the taillights of his SUV as he was leaving. She watched until he was out of sight.

 

0830
Sunday
Interstate 76 West
Somewhere near the Maryland state line

 

Harm dialed Jen and Mattie’s apartment. They talked about his assignment and hammered out details of managing Mattie. Tom would be available to help while Mattie was off for teacher conferences. He would also be attending Mattie’s parent teacher conference. Jen would cover Mattie’s basketball practice.

“Hey, tell Mattie when she gets in tonight that I’m sorry about this,” Harm said.

Jen answered, “She is doing a lot better with the separations now, sir. She seems to be doing very well with her life as it is now.”

“Yeah I think so too…and Jen –”

Coates interrupted him. “I know, sir, what would you do without me?”

He laughed. “Hey… enough of that, having the colonel reading my mind is enough. I can’t be that be that much of an open book, can I?”

“Not at all, sir. By the way, how is the colonel doing?”

“She’s great and I left her in good hands,” They ended the call, and with Mattie handled temporarily, he focused on getting back to JAG and the case at hand.

 

1800
Sunday
Somewhere over the Atlantic

 

Harm settled back in his seat. He would be flying commercial to Germany, so he still had some time to get a little rest before taking a C-130 for the rest of the journey into Iraq. He wasn’t even sure of what stops would be made until he reached his final destination. Baghdad. He missed Mac already, but he had to admit his adrenaline was pumping. He was ready to get started doing what he did.

This was the other place in the world where he belonged. Home wasn’t always a place, though Belleville was that; it was being in uniform and doing his job. It connected him to his father and grandfather. It was as real as any place with a zip code

Major Mike McBurney sat across the aisle opposite Harm with headphones on, listening to something entirely too loud. ‘God… to be 28,’ Harm thought. He considered that for a moment and decided, ‘No thanks’.

McBurney was accomplished, no doubt: a tour in Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion headquarters, 5th Marines. His fit reps were glowing. He was definitely on the fast track. He’d damn near landed him in Leavenworth, although he knew now his own stubbornness and stupidity had helped McBurney a great deal. He was an arrogant SOB though; he had to admit too that he reminded him a bit of himself at a much younger age. ‘God…I’m getting old,’ he thought with a lopsided grin.

McBurney picked that moment to look at him, lifted the earpieces away from his ears and said, “Sir? Did you say something?”

Harm was a bit embarrassed and said, “No…by the way, what are you listening to?”

He handed him the cover of his ‘Los Lonely Boys’ CD. “Their sound is bit like Santana or Stevie Ray Vaughan.”

Harm looked at the CD and gave McBurney a smirk. “My ward has this CD and while its good there is no comparison to Vaughan. ‘Heaven’ compared to ‘Texas Flood’? Hmmpf.”

Mc Burney took the CD back and shrugged. ‘Whatever’. He replaced his headphones and leaned his head back on the seat. ‘Commander Rabb is a purist….big surprise,’ he thought.

 

0430
Baghdad time
Tuesday
Green zone
Baghdad, Iraq

 

Harm and McBurney checked into their quarters. They decided to get some rack time before they started interviews later today at 1000. They had come in during the night, but Harm could still see the huge difference in Baghdad since the last time he had been there in 95’.

Saddam was gone and the smell of fear was out of the air. The eerie quiet that falls over a place when the slightest indiscretion could be punished by death or dismemberment, where whole families disappeared in the night never to be seen again, was gone.

The atmosphere was nowhere near peaceful, though. He saw nearly no one out on their ride from the airport due to curfews. It was not completely quiet. Something unsettled hung in the air. The Marines pulling escort duty to get them to the green zone were hyper vigilant. You had to respect them…all the Marine jokes go away when you see the level of readiness and professionalism they demonstrated, and most of the Marines on this escort were younger than McBurney.

They had been given a small office for interviews. They decided to start at the top and work their way down. First was Marine Major Matt Anderson. When he was asked to give his take on the story, he said,

“We were asked to bring Mr. Kanin along with us on patrol.”

“By whom?” Harm asked.

The major answered, “General Watson, sir. We attempted to give Mr. Kanin a bit of training in how he should proceed if he were to accompany us. The word from senior enlisted was that he was less than cooperative. We met on one occasion.”

When he was asked what, if anything, he did about the senior enlisted concerns about Kanin’s level of cooperation, the major reported that he was not aware until after the incident. They spoke with a Staff Sergeant Timothy Mallory and Corporal Mike Salazaar. They all supported the major’s report that Kanin had been difficult. It was nearly 1700 Baghdad time. They still needed to interview Sergeant Brendan Walters, the person apparently bearing the brunt of this.

They were to report to General Watson once they had completed their interviews and made their recommendations. Their interview would take place tomorrow at 0800. Rabb and McBurney settled into their makeshift office and discussed the interviews. “This can’t be as open and shut as it looks,” Harm said.

“So they’re all lying, sir?” McBurney said, clearly taking some offense.

“No, Major, that is not what I meant at all. We just don’t have the whole picture. It can’t be this simple, and the SecNav wouldn’t be involved if this didn’t go a little deeper than we have been able to assess today.”

Because Harm was the senior officer on the case, he instructed Major McBurney to have a preliminary report ready by 0630 the next morning and he was dismissed.

Harm had settled in at his desk and was e-mailing Coates to get some junior officers going on getting him some more background on Mr. Kanin. He also got an update on how Mattie was doing. Coates had been a God send once again.

Mattie and her father were going to take a long weekend in Blacksburg after her teacher conference. He had not heard anymore from her or Tom about their reopening Grace Aviation. He knew, though, that it was just a matter of time. Harm would also able to get an update on her progress at school. Her home room teacher had been kind enough to offer to e-mail a summary after their conference.

Harm had been at his computer for some time when he decided to get a little more coffee. It was definitely Marine coffee. One step above the SEAL coffee the admiral had made for Master Chief Boesch when he paid a visit to JAG. ‘What was it with these guys, anyway,’ he thought, shaking his head. He returned to his computer. He noticed that he had an e-mail; thinking that it was something on Kanin, he opened it. It was from Mac. It read:

“Hey sailor….just thought I’d drop you a line and let you know I’m thinking about you. Your grandmother is walking my legs off. LOL. I think I’ve covered this farm 10 times. I’m feeling better. I miss you though. I miss my spooning partner (smile) I know you’re really busy and I won’t be mad if I don’t hear form you. Just hurry and get that case over with so you can get back here, sailor. I’m badly in need of your company (big wide grin).
I love you
Mac

Harm had only sent one e mail as soon as he got in. Short and sweet and to the point:

Hey…I made it over here in one piece. Very different from my last visit. Miss you.
Love, Harm

He felt bad that he hadn’t sent more but he also knew Mac understood. He wanted no room for error. He wanted the hell out of here and back to her ASAP. He was focused only on this investigation, and getting to the bottom of what appeared to be a more complicated case than he had imagined.

Mac crept into his thoughts, though; but then she always did. The problem now was that he didn’t have to fantasize about her. The real thing was a hell of a lot harder to push out of his mind. He would never lie down in bed at night without wanting to hold her. He’d never hear rain on the roof and not remember her soft sexy laughter at their private joke about what he thought she *ought to know.*

He sent her a quick e-mail and told her just that. He smiled, thinking of her and then decided that was as far as he should go if he wanted to get anything else done tonight.

 

Chapter 15

0800
Green zone
Naval Brig 
Baghdad, Iraq

 

Sergeant Brendan Walden was brought to the small room used for attorney/client conferences. He had a bandage over his right eye, and his left arm was in a cast and rested in a sling. He had numerous healing cuts on both hands and some on his face. The sergeant stood at attention and said “Sirs.” Harm told him to stand at ease and then to be seated.

Major McBurney said, “How were you injured, Sergeant?”

Harm looked quickly at McBurney as the sergeant replied. “During the ambush in which Mr. Kanin was killed.”

Harm said, “We’d like you to tell us exactly what happened as you saw it.”

The sergeant told them that Mr. Kanin, the DOD ‘advisor,’ was to accompany them on their patrol on the day in question. It was explained to the advisor respectfully that he had to complete a training session in addition to the briefing he received from the senior DOD officials when he arrived. He reported that Mr. Kanin was less than cooperative.

“Permission to speak freely, sir?” the sergeant asked. Permission was granted.

“Sirs, this was a mistake from the beginning. We are always prepared, we train everyday and we wouldn’t allow ourselves to become complacent.  Mr. Kanin had a hostile attitude toward all of us. He seemed to feel we didn’t know anything and stated that he thought we ‘obviously’ didn’t know what we were doing or the job would be done. I couldn’t believe he was from the DOD. He just walked away from us. Said he would see for himself how this ‘mess’ was going. I followed him with the rest staying on the planned course. I saw the insurgents on the rooftop but by the time I got to him it was too late.”

Harm and the major finished up the interview, informing the sergeant when asked that he would be apprised of their findings soon.

 

1100
Wednesday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania

 

Mac and Mrs. Rabb walked up the drive, finishing up her morning exercise. She continued to feel stronger every day. She did not feel 100% but she was definitely improving.

She was now one week and one day post surgery. October would soon be over and she looked forward to having Harm back as soon as this weekend.

Mrs. Rabb asked, “Had enough for now, Mac?”

Mac said she was okay but that she was ready for some rest.

They went into the kitchen and sat down, each with a cup of coffee. “You’re looking better, Mac.”

“I’m feeling better. I wish I could just get back to work so I can feel like me again. It’s strange how greedy we are with our lives. Before my surgery I just wanted to live, for my tumor not to have spread. As I begin to feel better I want more – I want my life back. I want it all. I want the doctors to tell me I’m cured.”

“One step at a time,” Mrs. Rabb reassured her.

Just then the phone rang and Mrs. Rabb answered it. It was Sturgis for Mac. “Mac, how are you?” he said.

“I’m fine, getting better all the time. What’s up, Sturgis?’

“Two things. One, we have a new JAG starting Monday the 1st of November, and second, a bit of bad news, I’m afraid. I’m passing this on in case Harm doesn’t get time to let you know. He is going to have to stay in Baghdad for at least another 3 weeks.”

Mac was silent; she was disappointed but changes like this were par for the course for them in many situations. “Thanks for the call, Sturgis. Who is the new JAG, anyway?”

Sturgis answered, “General Gordon Creswell, USMC.”

Mac was stunned into silence. “Mac?” Sturgis asked.

“I’m here, Sturgis.”

“He wants to see you when you come in for your follow up at Bethesda. I’ll transfer you to Coates to set something up.” Mac set up her appointment for the following Tuesday immediately following her appointment.

Mac told Mrs. Rabb that she wanted to lie down for a while. She had moved back up to the guest room now. She went to the room and shut the door. She went to the window and looked out on the gray sky and felt as bleak as the sky looked. Suddenly every bad moment of her past had followed her to this peaceful place. Would she ever stop paying for that foolish choice? General Gordon Creswell had been a very close friend of John Farrow’s. The man who was responsible for helping her get where she was today. A man whose military career was destroyed and it was because of her.

 

2200
Wednesday
Green Zone
Baghdad, Iraq

 

“What?’ Harm said into the phone on his desk. He had just come into their small makeshift office to gather some additional information for his report.  

Sturgis was calling with Harm’s new assignment. “Sorry, buddy, you are needed there for at least another 3 weeks. You and Major McBurney will both be staying. We’ve got a bit of a situation there. It seems a British news magazine on the BBZ) has some footage of a Marine lt. colonel dressing down a junior enlisted man. There was a bit of chest thumping and I don’t mean the lt. colonel’s. The SecNav wants you involved because you’re – ”

“—the most experienced,” they both said at once. “Great,” Harm said.

“I took the liberty of letting Mac know,” Sturgis said. Harm thanked him and Sturgis told him about the new JAG starting the following Monday.

“So you’ll be Chief of Staff starting Monday,” Harm said.

“Yes, and I have to say I’m more than ready to hand this off to the general.”

They ended the call. Harm walked back toward his quarters. He passed Major McBurney’s quarters on the way and told him about their extended time here. The major appeared unfazed. There was something about this kid that rubbed him the wrong way and he could not put his finger on it. It may have been his speaking out of turn this morning with Sergeant Walden.  Harm was lead counsel after all. He had headphones on again.

He looked at Harm and said, “Hoobastank.” Harm could hear ‘The Reason’ playing on the headphones from across the room.

“I know who it is, major. Goodnight.” ‘I know what it is,’ he thought with a sarcastic smile. ‘He’s a smartass.’

Harm got back to his quarters and began getting things arranged for the next 3 weeks. Mattie was the priority. He spoke with Coates and Tom, and left a message for Mattie. He hadn’t had an extended deployment like this since he was given her guardianship. He was once again leaning heavily on Coates. He didn’t like the idea but didn’t feel he had a choice. Mom and Frank were out of the country, and there was just no one else. ‘Mac,’ he thought. How would she get back for her follow up? He needed to talk to her and he didn’t want to let her know about this by e-mail.

 

1530
Wednesday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania

 

Mrs. Rabb answered the phone. “Harmon! How are you? Yes I’ll get her. What time is it there, anyway? You sound tired … After midnight?...” She knocked on Mac’s door.

Mac left her laptop on which she had been typing an e-mail to Harm. Mrs. Rabb said, “It’s Harm.” Mac sighed with relief; she really needed to hear his voice. Sunday seemed a million years ago. Mrs. Rabb said her goodbye and gave the phone to Mac.

“Hey, Sailor,” she said with a smile.

“Hey, yourself.”

“I wasn’t sure I’d get to talk to you for a while. This is great.”

Harm did not want to have to tell her that he wouldn’t be home as soon as he’d planned. He wouldn’t be there for her. “Mac, you may not think its great when I tell you this….I … uh; I’ve been extended here for at least another 3 weeks.”

“Its okay, Harm. Sturgis told me earlier, and I know this happens so stop worrying about what I’m thinking.” She meant to reassure him, though she had already been counting the days until he returned.

Harm had spoken with Jack Keeter, and when he heard the bind they were both in he offered to get Mac back to D.C.  Mac didn’t mind. ‘Thank God.’ He knew she couldn’t be feeling too well. She never tolerated being managed before. Harm had heard the disappointment in her voice though and it reminded him of another time when he had let her down. He would never forget the expression on her face. It still pained him to think about it.

“Yeah, but now of all times. Unavoidable circumstances or not, I’m still not there for you now… This has happened before. I don’t want you to think you can’t count on me.”

Mac laughed softly, “Harm, I’ll never think that again. I want you with me but I do understand.” Mac heard Harm let out a breath he seemed to have been holding. “If you’re referring to that time when Mic left and Renee’s father died, don’t go there. You were doing the decent thing, Harm. Looking back, though I needed you, I wouldn’t have very much respect for you if you had turned your back on her then. I wouldn’t have trusted you.”

Harm sat on the side of his rack, “I’m so glad you understand and it is so good to hear your voice.” He lay down and rolled to his back.

Mac could hear him. “Getting comfortable there, flyboy?”

“Yeah, as comfortable as I can get without you… I miss you, you know?”

Mac thought he sounded so tired. She didn’t have the heart to talk about the concerns she had about Creswell. It would wait. He had enough to deal with. “I wish I were there to help.”

Harm could hear the smile in her voice. He cradled the phone on his ear. “Oh, so do I, Mac,” he smiled slyly. “So do I.”

She decided to change the subject. “How is the case going?”

“It’s going okay. We’ve definitely got a few loose ends but I think I’ll have it wrapped up soon,” Harm said.

“How are you and the new kid on the block getting along?”

“Kid is right. He’s an arrogant pain in the ass,” he sounded completely irritated with him.

“Boys, boys … play nice,” she said, chuckling.

“Yeah, I know. We have to get through this. He’s extended too. This next case sounds like another political hot potato. I feel like the pc policeman, putting out fires.”

“Gee, sounds like a lot of fun,” Mac teased. “Sure wish I were there for that one.”

Harm laughed. “Yeah yeah, your time is coming, and don’t expect any sympathy from me, Marine.” It seemed as though it had been such a long time since he laughed. A lot of the tension of the past 4 days started to leave him. “God, I love to hear you laugh. I haven’t even asked you how you are doing?”

“I’m feeling better. We’re over a week out and I really do feel a lot stronger. I don’t feel like myself yet. I won’t till I start outrunning you again.”

Harm huffed. “You never out ran me Mac …We tied remember?”

Mac laughed at him and said, “Keep dreaming, flyboy.”

Harm chuckled as he repeated a challenge made long ago. “Oh you don’t want to be in my dreams, Colonel.”

Mac laughed out loud and said, “Oh, yes I do.” 

“What, no red light, Marine?” he said.

“You’ll just have to come home and find out, won’t you?”

“I fully intend to.”

They ended the call soon after and they both got the lift they needed.

 

1300
Friday
Green zone
Baghdad, Iraq

 

Major Mike McBurney knocked on the open door of Harm’s quarters. “General Watson would like to see us ASAP’”

Harm looked up and nodded. He had been expecting this. After doing a little digging Harm was able to find out that this was not the first time that Mr. Kanin had some difficulty with military personnel trying to accompany him on any mission. When his preliminary report was given to General Watson, the involuntary manslaughter charges against Sergeant Walden were dropped. He was awarded a non-judicial punishment. However, scuttlebutt was that Mr. Kanin was well connected in Washington and to the House Armed Services Committee. So Harm assumed that this was what the meeting with the general would be about.

Harm knocked and General Watson told him and McBurney to enter. They came to attention after entering the room.

“Commander Rabb, Major McBurney,” the general nodded toward them. “Stand at ease. We will have a conference call in a few moments with the SecNav and Congressman Bolton. I will warn you both that the congressman is not happy about our findings in this matter.”

He buzzed his yeoman and told him to put the call through.  “Commander Rabb, since you are lead counsel in this matter, we will primarily address our questions to you. Congressman Bolton of the House Armed Services Committee is also present and may also ask some questions. Shall we proceed?”

Harm and McBurney both answered, “Yes, sir.”

The general walked from behind his desk and around to the back of the room. Harm and McBurney stood near the speaker phone. They each answered the Secretary and the congressman in turn, supporting their argument that Mr. Kanin had a documented history of leaving military personnel who were accompanying him on a number of occasions in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

Congressman Bolton seemed to be more and more angry with every question answered. He said, “I don’t suppose Mr. Kanin’s political affiliation has anything to do with what your findings were.”

Harm and McBurney looked at each other and Harm said to the SecNav, “Permission to speak freely, sir?”
The congressman started to speak again, but Secretary Sheffield said “Granted” loudly and peered at the congressman over his spectacles.

“In answer to your question, congressman, I am not aware of what Mr. Kanin’s political affiliation is. As far as what I may or may not believe politically is not important, I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States and duly elected officials who represent the nation as a whole. My decisions must and always have been apolitical.”

Congressman Bolton interrupted and said, “Someone is responsible for this.”

Harm answered him, “Sir, we cannot charge a man who was in fact trying to save Mr. Kanin and was wounded in the process. Mr. Kanin refused to be protected or guided by anyone. He is responsible for his own death, not Sergeant Walden.”

The congressman started to speak again, but the SecNav cut him off. “That will be all, gentlemen.” With that he signed off.

The congressman walked up to the SecNav and said, “This is not over, Sheffield.” The Secretary knew that it was not. He also understood that Commander Rabb had made a very powerful enemy.

The general, out of sight of Harm and McBurney, had been smiling. “Thank you, Commander, Major. That will be all.”

Both men came to attention and said “Yes, Sir.”

McBurney followed Harm down the hallway toward their quarters. ‘He has more balls than I thought,’ he raised his eyebrows and thought maybe it was a good thing they wouldn’t be in Washington for awhile.

 

1630
Friday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania

 

Mac was returning from her walk. Mrs. Rabb could see her from the kitchen window. She knew Mac had been brooding for a couple of days now. She appeared to be getting stronger but quieter. Mrs. Rabb had no doubt she was ready to be on her own. She had gradually backed away from Mac over the last couple of days, giving her what she thought she needed – some space to work this change in her life through.

They had been lucky today. It was a beautiful sunny day and it had gotten into the 60’s. The air smelled of burning leaves. Fall was still in her glory. Mac thought it was her favorite time of year. She came in the door and there was coffee brewing.

“Smells great.”

Mrs. Rabb invited her into the kitchen and made her a cup. She sat down with her and asked, “How are you today, Mac?”

She said that she was feeling better. She knew Mrs. Rabb could see a difference in how she had been. She was closing herself off again. She needed to talk this out and she knew Harm wasn’t an option, not now. “I’ve had a lot on my mind. I guess you can tell.”

“You have gotten quieter.” Mac sighed and struggled for the words to begin. Mrs. Rabb said, “Mac, if you don’t feel comfortable talking about it, don’t do it. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable with me.”

“No, it’s okay, I need to talk about this. I have had a lot on my mind since I talked with Sturgis. I have made a few mistakes in my past. Those mistakes seem to be following me. I...”

Mrs. Rabb interrupted her, wanting to put her at ease. “Remember, Mac, you don’t have to give me details.”

“I know – it’s just this. The new JAG knows some things about my personal life … some things that happened many years ago when I wasn’t making very good decisions. I am not concerned about my work at JAG. I know I’ve done a good job there. But the general may hold my past against me. Harm knows everything there is to know about me. I haven’t discussed this with him, though. I think he has enough to deal with right now. I just want to leave this behind me and it just keeps coming up in my face when I least expect it.”

Mrs. Rabb thought for a long moment. “Mac, you have to make a choice. You can leave the past behind and move on, or you can live in the past and be miserable.”

She looked up quickly at Mrs. Rabb.

“I’m sorry to sound so blunt, Mac, but happiness truly is a choice. Sometimes circumstances just are what they are. The difference is how you handle them. I know it sounds simple, Mac, but it really isn’t complicated. You chose to change your life a long time ago. You built a career and overcame your alcoholism; did you choose to be happy, too?”

Mac smiled at Mrs. Rabb, and she covered her hand with hers. Mac said, “I never really thought about it.” 

Mrs. Rabb said, “Mac, both of our parents made choices that could have ruined our lives. I had the luck to find the Rabbs and then my David.  I lost him, but I was able to come back here to those wonderful people and make a home for my baby and me.”

Mac shook her head. It was a different time. Things were so much different then.

Mrs. Rabb seemed to sense what she was thinking and said, “Circumstances may not be exactly the same, but they are similar enough. I have lived without a husband since I was 19 years old but I was not always alone. I didn’t marry because in my time if a woman married she was very limited in what she did. A career was almost out of the question. That choice caused a lot of talk at work and at home.  If I had let what some people thought about me stop me, I’d never have done anything. David’s parents were wonderful; they helped make it all possible. I was able to have a meaningful career and raise my son. You’ve made some good choices too, Mac. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Thank you, Sarah,” Mac said. They both stood and Mrs. Rabb refilled their cups. The sun was starting to set and they decided to walk out to the porch and watch it. It was only a little after 5 but it was getting dark.

They quietly watched the sunset and Mrs. Rabb asked, “Have you talked to Harmon about this yet?”

Mac answered “No, not yet. He has enough on his mind.”

Mrs. Rabb thought for a while, “I don’t want to overstep, Mac, but I will say this. You both obviously have what it takes to make each other happy, but part of being a couple is bearing each other’s burdens. I have no doubt he is under a lot of pressure.”

Mac spoke up, “I know I probably need to talk to him about it, but I want to be sure I have this straight in my own mind before I do that. I don’t want him to worry anymore about me than he already does.”

Mrs. Rabb raised her eyebrows and considered what she said. She walked over to her and hugged her. “Do what you think is best.” She leaned back and looked at her. “You know, you are looking better, Mac. I think I’ve put a least a couple of pounds on you since you’ve been here.”

They both laughed and went back in the house.

 

2230
Friday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania

 

Mac slowly paced the room. Harm had told her he would call tonight. It would be nearly 0700 Saturday morning there. She walked to the bureau that held the pictures of his parents and grandparents. She felt as though she knew all of them. Harm’s grandfather David, and even Harm senior. She had felt she known Harm’s dad for a long time, since Harm had told her so much about him. She studied the picture of him and Trish. She thought, ‘Oh, Harm, I want this too.’ To be pregnant with Harm’s child, with his arms around her, laughing, looking forward to the future.

Just then the phone rang and Mac picked it up quickly. “Hey, you’re getting fast, Marine,” Harm said, laughing.

“I didn’t want to wake your grandmother,” Mac answered. “Don’t get cocky, Navy.”

Harm laughed again. “Oh, come on, Mac, you know you miss me.”

Mac shook her head, smiling. “Hey, stop rubbing it in. You sound good this time. Did you get your beauty sleep, Harmon?”

Harm told her he how he was doing and that he was feeling pretty good, all things considered.

“Getting along any better with McBurney?”

“Well, let’s just say we’re not getting on each other’s nerves as much, but the day is young.”

Mac laughed and thought that he was sounding more and more like an old salt dealing with a boot camp, and she told him so.

“Hey, I’m not that old,” Harm said, sounding wounded.

“Oh, I was just kidding, Sailor....don’t be so sensitive.”

Harm told her all about his encounter with Congressman Bolton the day before.

“Sounds like you’re just making new friends everywhere, Harm,” Mac teased.

“Yeah, I know. I couldn’t believe the nerve of that congressman, though. ‘Political affiliation.’ What was that? I haven’t had to deal with that since… I don’t know when.”

Mac remembered. “It was around the time you made commander.”

“Oh yeah, the Washington Globe, how could I forget?”

Mac told him about her day. She told him about the talk she had with his grandmother. The new JAG was a big concern for her and she was going to have to face it. It loomed too large for Harm not to know about it.

“Mac, that’s ancient history.”

Mac was quiet for a moment. “It was a huge mistake, Harm. Even if we didn’t see each other until I was no longer in his chain of command. I just feel responsible for ruining his career – and he really did help me, Harm. I might not have gotten into law school without his recommendation. You said it yourself.”

Harm cringed; he remembered what he had said. It was one of a number of conversations with Mac he would love to take back.

“You want the truth, Mac? I acted like an ass and I know it. I wanted you to want me and I didn’t think you gave me a second thought. I knew how to get under your skin and I did. I’m sorry.”  

Mac said, “Yeah, like my comment about Sergei and Mattie last spring. Words that I would love to take back if I could.” They were both silent for a moment. Then Mac said,

“You know, Harm, if we get as busy doing the right things in this relationship as we did the wrong things, we might just be unstoppable.”

They both laughed at that, and Harm said,

“I want you to do something for me, Mac.”

He made his very detailed request and she agreed. They talked for a few minutes more. She heard McBurney come in and he said, “Well, I have to go...”

Mac smiled and decided to give him a hard time just one more time before she hung up. In her sexiest voice she murmured into the phone,

“Baby, I love you,” and then laughed, her laugh eliciting an automatic blush from Harm.

‘Oh, he was going to get her for that.’ Harm couldn’t keep the smile from his face.

“Ah....you too.” He heard her laughing as he hung up the phone.

McBurney looked at Harm and said, “Colonel MacKenzie?”

Harm stood and busied himself with some papers on the table. “Are you ready to get started?”

Harm had asked her if she had brought her walkman with her. She had. He told her to get a CD he had left in the room he had slept in when he was there the last time. He hadn’t left the cover; it was on the dresser.

She looked at the CD. *Stevie Ray Vaughan* He had told her to listen to the fourth song. It was called ‘Pride and Joy.’ She put on her head phones. She heard blues guitar… of course. Mac thought, ‘definitely *Harm* music.’

Then she heard the words: “she’s my sweet little thing, she’s my pride and joy, she’s my sweet little baby I’m her little lover boy’ She started laughing out loud. She covered her mouth so she wouldn’t wake Mrs. Rabb. She thought ‘God, I love that man.’ She literally laughed until she cried.

 

 

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Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12
 
 
   

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