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Chapter 19


2346
Saturday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania

 

Mac lay quietly on her side, listening to Harm’s soft snoring. He was exhausted but Mac was wide awake. It seemed that she was unable to turn off all the thoughts in her head. This day had been both painful and heartwarming. Harm had not said very much to her all day, but she felt so connected to him that it didn’t seem necessary. She lay in the curve of his body; he was nestled snugly behind her, his arms encircling her. He shifted and moved closer to her. He said her name but it had been in his sleep. He was out, his arms heavy with sleep as he held her.

She lay there in his arms for a long while. She turned in his arms onto her stomach. He lay sleeping in the same position, his face in full view. Mac’s heart ached with love for him. She had yet another way to see him, another side to the many sides of Harmon Rabb. Mac finally knew for sure – she knew that he loved her. It was in the way he looked at her and in his touch. It was in the way she always came first in all the ways that really counted. When she finally understood that, he was more hers than he had ever been. She remembered Harm’s words at Trish’s funeral. ‘We’re so busy living our lives that we don’t see what is right in front of us.’ He didn’t say ‘I love you’ all the time, but he *did* say it, in a way she could not doubt ever again. Fear didn’t accompany the love she felt for him anymore, and so reassurance wasn’t necessary.

She leaned over and kissed his cheek lightly, and he smiled a small smile. Fear was something she had always battled, not in her job but in her personal life. Now it seemed foolish to invest that much time and energy into something so trivial. Staying alive, living her life long and happily with Harm, doing what she loved, without fear of the past. The future was all that mattered now.

Mac studied his face. He looked younger in sleep. He would hate that she thought this, but there was just no way around it. He was a beautiful man. His black lashes fanned thick over his skin. True, he was showing some age, but she loved every line on his face. His features were strong. His brow was relaxed in sleep with his proud profile and his full kissable lips. The thought made her mouth water. No lover had ever been able to reach her the way Harm had. She had never let anyone into her heart, not really. She had tried, with Mic and with Webb, but it never really seemed right. Harm was always there in her heart, although back then she would have died before she admitted it.

She still wanted a child that belonged to her and Harm biologically. She wanted it more than she ever had before. Meeting his grandmother and knowing what she did about his family made her want to weave herself into the fabric of his family and make it her own.
She by no means wanted to disappear and not bring the best of who she was with her.

‘Our children would definitely be ‘children of the world’,’ she thought. They would have a strong tradition of service on both sides. She remembered her paternal grandmother’s Iranian heritage and the Cherokee ancestry on her mother’s side. Then there was Harm’s family with its roots so deep in this country, for centuries really. Sarah Rabb’s good strong heart with all her determination and perseverance. What a heritage their children would have, conceived and raised in love. To Mac it would be like breaking a curse that had hovered over her and her family since before she was born. The drinking, the destructive behavior would be consigned to the past, where it belonged.

Harm stirred a little and he opened his eyes slightly. The moonlight shining in the window illuminated the room so that Mac could see his eyes go dark immediately.

“Mac.”

He reached to touch her cheek and pulled her close, rolled her to her back and immediately rolled on top of her. He kissed her neck with warm open-mouthed kisses, taking Mac’s breath away. She wasn’t sure he was completely awake, but he was definitely in control. He slid his hands down to her lower back and then pulled her body down and closer to him. Everything was moving fast, but Mac’s body reacted quickly as Harm began kissing her.

Mac came up for air. “Harm…”

He whispered, “Shhhh…” and as he plunged himself inside her, he smothered her reaction with a deep penetrating kiss. She wrapped herself around him and they made the sweetest, quietest and most intense love they had ever made. Afterward they lay side by side, both breathing deeply to catch their breath.

“Hey….why did you wake me up, anyway?” Harm whispered.

“Me?” Mac hit him with a pillow and they both stifled the laughter bubbling up inside them.

“Hey, knock it off – we’re going to wake someone up.”

They did eventually fall asleep. Harm woke with the sunrise and got up and crept to the bathroom to get cleaned up and dressed. He wasn’t ready to have his grandmother knock on the door to wake them for breakfast while he was still wrapped around Mac, naked.

…..He was *not* a prude, either.


0830
Sunday
Rabb Farm
Belleville, Pennsylvania



Harm and Frank stood on the porch drinking coffee. Harm had helped him load his luggage into the car and he was preparing to leave. He looked to the west side of the property where the cemetery lay. Harm knew he did not want to leave her here, but he would because she had asked him to.

“Time goes by so quickly when you’re not paying attention. It seems like only yesterday I met her. She was so young and beautiful and she needed me. There you were, an angry little boy, so protective of her but never realizing how badly you needed to be protected yourself. Trish used to say you were an old soul….” His voice began to break up.

“Frank –”

“It’s alright, Harm. I understand more than you know. Trish was a wonderful wife, and while you may not have been an easy child to raise, I have always been proud to call you my son.”

Harm shook his hand and they embraced.

“Take care of yourself, Frank.”

“I will” He could see the concern in Harm’s face. “I’m going to stay with my brother for a while. He has a place there in La Jolla. I won’t be alone, Harm.”

He walked down the path toward his rental car, a Crown Victoria of dark midnight blue. He opened the door and turned to Harm. “Stay in touch.”

“You know I will.”

Harm stood and watched him drive away. Mrs. Rabb and Mac walked out onto the porch.
“Do you think he’ll be okay?”

Mrs. Rabb took a drink of her coffee “You know I really do.”

“He’s a good man.” Mac walked up beside him and placed her hand in the middle of his back.

“Are you all ready to go?” Harm was ready to get back to Washington, and he also wanted Mac to have time to relax a little before she got back to JAG tomorrow.

They loaded Harm’s SUV and said their goodbyes to Mrs. Rabb. “Will you still be coming back around Christmas time?”

“That’s the plan.” He hugged his grandmother and kissed her cheek. “Thanks, grandma, for everything.”

“Anytime,” she said, smiling. Then she turned to Mac and hugged her and patted her back. “I’m so glad to see that you’re doing so much better.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Ra…Sarah.” She chuckled.

They got in and drove down the drive. Mrs. Rabb crossed her arms and thought, ‘If those two aren’t married before spring I’ll eat my hat.’ She turned and walked up the path toward the house. Just then a gust of wind blew across the yard and a hat, apparently lost by someone yesterday, was caught up in the wind and rolled across the path to her feet.

Mrs. Rabb looked down in surprise and then laughed out loud, clapping her hands.

“That was a good one,” she said aloud, “and nobody saw it.” She walked the rest of the way into the house, shaking her head and chuckling to herself.


1400
Sunday
Capital Beltway
Washington D.C.



Harm had been quiet once again for most of the trip. Mac had not wanted to press him to talk. They were alike in that they seemed to clam up even more when they felt pressured to open up. She had been looking at him, and Harm looked over at her and smiled. “Hey, sleepyhead. It’s about time you woke up and kept me company.”

“I didn’t get as much sleep as some people I know.”

“Now whose fault do you think that is?” Harm was chuckling. He was bracing himself; she was going to let him have it.

Mac was sleepy, but she gave his arm a good punch. The loss of sleep had been well worth it, she thought, smiling smugly.

“Penny for your thoughts.” He thought he did know, but he wanted to tease her a bit.

“I’m not telling.”

They were in front of Harm’s apartment very shortly. They both had to get ready for Monday. They had left in such a hurry that a lot of everyday things had been left undone: Laundry, getting Mattie squared away for the week. He and Mac worked together, and in a couple of hours they were ready to relax again.

“Are you going to stay with me, Mac?”

Mac had been debating this in her mind nearly all day. It had been over a month since she last stayed alone in her apartment. She felt fine; it wasn’t a matter of not being well or even vulnerability now. She just didn’t want to spend another night away from Harm.

“Do you really want me to?”

“Of course I do.”

“I’m just going to come out with it. I don’t want to spend another night without you, Harm.”

A slow wide smile spread across Harm’s face.

“I know we need to discuss the practicality of each of us maintaining an apartment, but I don’t want to go there now. I just want to be with you.”

“My thoughts exactly.” With that, Harm scooped her up into his arms and kissed her soundly.

They heard a knock at the door, and then Mattie came bounding in.
“Hey, you guys! What’s up?” She had the most mischievous look on her face..

They loosened their embrace but did not let go. “Hey yourself,” they both said at once.

“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” Mattie looked at them, raising her brows and trying unsuccessfully to look innocent.

“No, young lady, you’re not.” Harm was beginning to see that he was going to have to have a talk with her.


2230
Sunday
Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station



Mattie had just gone back to her apartment. They’d had a nice evening with her. Mattie turned her precocious meter down a notch. Harm was glad she had become a little more perceptive than she seemed to be before. She and her father were making real plans to reopen Grace Aviation. He expected that perhaps as soon as the semester ended she would be returning to Blacksburg. He also knew that she wanted to be with a new ‘friend’ she had made and was on the phone or on line with all the time these days: Kevin. Harm gave a silent prayer of thanks that he did not have to handle the ‘boy issue’ on his own and that Tom was doing the primary parenting on that one. *Whew.*

They were getting things ready for work in the morning when Harm noticed Mac watching him.

“What’s on your mind, Marine?”

“I was just thinking about how it’s going to be tomorrow, not being in the office with you all day.” Mac sat down on the side of Harm’s bed.

“It will be fine, Mac. You know you enjoyed sitting on the bench last year.”

“I did, but I’ll miss you.”

Harm sat down beside her. “I won’t give you a chance to miss me. We can still have lunch sometimes; we can still discuss cases, unless it’s a case that you’ll be presiding over.”

“That’s true, and I know this is all for the best. Maybe it’s just that things are changing so fast for us.”

“Mostly for the better, don’t you think, Mac?” Harm smiled his smile.

Yes, of course I do, where you and I are concerned. You have to admit, it’s been a pretty wild ride for the last month or so.”

Harm nodded; he still had trouble grasping the idea that he could not pick up the phone and call his mother in La Jolla.

“I know you’re bound to still be having a hard time dealing with this.”

“I’ll be okay, Mac.”

“I know you will, but I can worry about you if I want to, can’t I?”

Harm took her hand. “Just a little.” He kissed her cheek and got up to finish getting ready for bed.

Mac thought, ‘He’s not ready to talk about this yet.’ She hoped he wouldn’t bury everything and would trust her to listen and not judge. She definitely knew about losing a parent. She got up and slipped under the covers, turning off the lamp on her side of the bed.

Harm turned off the light in the bathroom and padded into the bedroom. Mac smiled at him, and he thought about how great it was not to be alone now. If he had anything to do with it he would never be without her again. He slipped into bed and they slipped into a now familiar position, spooning. Mac was right; this was home. Wide awake, Harm lay there thinking, trying to put some perspective on the last couple of weeks. He also listened for Mac’s breathing to even out. She was quiet, but he could tell she was awake too.

“I didn’t stay in touch with Mom the way I should have, Mac. I wasn’t as close to her as I should have been.”

“I was estranged from my father, so I know what that is. I don’t think that is what you were doing, Harm. I can honestly say that when he died I didn’t even know him.”

“I wish I had known how little time we had. I left a lot of things unsaid.”

“We all think we understand the natural order of things. None of us really thinks about what it would be like to outlive our parents. We all think we have time, and that is not always the case. You did what people our age do, Harm. We pull away, get lives of our own.” She turned in his arms to face him. “You weren’t a bad son, Harm. Please don’t believe you were.”

Harm propped his head on his hand. “We did have a really nice time the last time she was in Washington. We reconnected somehow, and Dad’s letters helped too.”

Mac kissed him lightly on the lips. He smiled at her and kissed her again. “You know, I haven’t even asked you anything about your last appointment with Captain Morrison and Commander Fletcher.”

“They seem pleased with my progress; they released me to return tomorrow, of course.”

“What is the story on the research at Johns Hopkins?” He traced her arm with the tips of his fingers

“Captain Morrison and Dr Ahrens are still of two different opinions. Dr Ahrens is convinced that I am totally cured. Captain Morrison refuses to say anything that will allow me to think he agrees with him at all. Watch and wait seems to be the plan.”

“He’s just being cautious, Mac. I’m glad he’s that way.”

“While I appreciate what he’s done for me, I get a little impatient to be getting on with my life. I just want to leave this ...illness behind me.”

“When do you go back?”

“Not until after the first of the year. My first round of blood work is pretty good. Some testing is still out. Apparently, I’m a star in research circles.” Mac smiled.

“Always knew it, Mac.” He kissed her.

“He started me on a mild birth control pill.” She said in a very matter of fact tone of voice.

Harm leaned up on his elbow. “What?” He hadn’t even thought they needed to think of pregnancy as a possibility because of Mac’s illness.

“He started me on birth control. What’s the matter?”

“When…I mean, what if we…”

Mac laughed and said, “Oh, Harm… I don’t think we have anything to worry about. I was on a medication to stop my ovulation all together before I had my surgery and for a while afterward. Then I was started on the pill a week before you came back.”

Harm lay back down again, but the look of panic had not left his face.

“Stop worrying, Harm. I mean, even if we were trying to have a baby, I’d only have a 50 percent chance of conceiving… I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” She smiled at him, trying to reassure him and lighten the mood. “My goodness, Harmon, you have a lot of confidence in yourself, don’t you?”

“What?”

“Oh baby..you must think you’re something else – think you’re that potent …do ya?” Mac arched her eyebrow and gave him a wry smile.

He laughed and rolled her on her back. “Knock it off, Mackenzie.”


1045
Monday
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia



Harm sat in his office going over his case file. Staff call had been interesting. General Creswell was familiar to everyone but him now. Well, he wouldn’t say familiar. Creswell was not an easy man to read. He had the feeling that the general had not made up his mind about him yet. He heard a commotion out in the hallway and a familiar but not so dear voice. He rose to look down the hallway. Big Bud Roberts…just great, just what he needed to make his morning complete. Bud was trying to tell him that he could not speak with him right now. The tension level in the office was definitely up a notch or two since General Creswell’s arrival.

“Can I help you, Master Chief?”

“Hmmpft, not likely, Commander.”

“I’m sorry, sir...” Bud said looking at Harm. “Look, Dad, we’ll talk about this at home tonight. I don’t have time to deal with this now. I have to be in court in 10 minutes.”

“Yeah, thanks a lot, son….for nothing.”

“What’s the problem here?” Harm was getting ready to have Big Bud thrown out on his ass.

Bud looked at Harm over his shoulder as he tried to dash toward the courtroom. “Dad thinks he’s going to be called up from inactive reserve . It seems the Navy wants to recall him to active duty because storekeepers who can do their jobs without a computer are rare these days and they need some to go to war.”

Harm could not keep the smile off of his face. He believed that the recall of some inactive reserves was necessary, but did the Navy deserve Big Bud?

“Step into my office, Master Chief. Let’s not have a scene here in the hallway. I don’t want Bud getting off on the wrong foot having to explain his father to our new commanding officer.”

They walked into his office and Harm sat down behind his desk. Big Bud leaned across his desk. “Listen, Commander, I did my time in the Navy. I did what was expected of me and then some.”

“And then some,” Harm repeated, nodding knowingly.

“And just for the record, I never EVER stole anything from the Navy in my life.”

“Really, then why did you as much as admit it to me? Don’t forget, I was the prosecutor. I saw the evidence. I spoke with your….associate.”

“So I’ve got friends in low places – that doesn’t make me a thief. He had as much to gain by lying as I did. I wasn’t worried about you telling Bud. I let you be his *savior* once again, anyway what was the point? I know your type, Commander. I wasn’t going to convince you no matter what I said. I know how you saw me. You’re like every other snot nosed ring knocker I’ve ever met. You already made your mind up about me a long time ago.”

“Take care, Master Chief – you’re skating on thin ice.”

“I’m not worried… I’ve been wanting to tell you just what I thought of you for a long time so before they activate my ass, I’m going to. I know what I am and I know what I’m not. I am proud of my career in the Navy; it’s the one thing in my life I did right. They didn’t hand out all that gold that I wore on my arm like candy. I earned it. I may have been a rotten father and a terrible husband but that is none of your damn business.”

“Don’t drag Bud into another one of your messes, Master Chief. He has a good career in the Navy in spite of you.”

“It may surprise you to know that in my 30 years in the Navy, I didn’t get one ding on my record. I made rate every time I was up for it.” Big Bud leaned close across the desk. “I’ll tell you something else. I served on the ‘Ti’ and I met your Dad. He was a good officer and had the respect of officers and enlisted. And you know what; he was twice the officer you’ll ever be...”

Harm stood quickly and Big Bud backed up. Mac knocked on the door at that same moment and opened it. If looks could kill Big Bud would be no more. She had not seen Harm this angry in a long time. “Oh – I’m sorry.”

Harm’s eyes never left Big Bud’s. “Not a problem, Mac. The Master Chief was just leaving.”

“Yeah, I’m leaving.” He walked toward the door and then turned back to face Harm. “Tell you what, Commander. I won’t tell you how to be a son if you think you can keep from telling me how to be a father, alright?” With that he left the office.

“What the hell is going on here, Harm? I thought you were going to deck him.”

Harm turned around and looked out the window. “Son of a bitch.”

“I came down to see if you could grab an early lunch with me.”

Harm turned and picked up his cover without looking at Mac. “Yeah, let’s go. I think I could use some air.”

They were out in the courtyard in front of JAG Headquarters. Mac stopped stood with her arms folded while Harm walked briskly ahead of her.. “Do you want to tell me what’s going on?”

Harm stopped abruptly and turned to look at Mac. “Big Bud came in today to see Bud. He’s raising hell because he thinks he’s going to be called up from inactive reserve. He was giving Bud a hard time about it, and he had to go to court, so I stepped in.”

Mac could not keep the smile from her face when she thought of Big Bud. “Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”

Mac’s smile was infectious, Harm looked at her and said, “Yeah, I suppose. I just let him get under my skin.”

“Come on sailor, buy me lunch. It’s getting cold out here.”


1700
Harm’s office
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia



Bud knocked on Harm’s open door.

“Enter.”

“Sir?”

“Have a seat, Bud.”

“I just wanted to apologize for my father’s behavior earlier today. He was out of line and he knows it.”

“He admitted it?” Harm was incredulous.

“As a matter of fact, he did.”

Harm didn’t answer him. What Big Bud had said still stung him.

“Look, sir, I know my father acts like a jackass a lot of the time, but we are getting along a lot better. He is what he is.”

“Don’t worry about it, Bud. I walked right into it. I know how he is.”

“You may not believe it, sir, but he is different than he was when you first met him, or when Mikey and I were growing up. He’s just worried that when he’s called up he won’t be able to handle it physically. He’s had some health problems, and the only thing he’s proud of is his Navy career. I think it would kill him if he had to go back in on any level and it was a matter of record that he was unequal to the job.”

Harm thought he was being too charitable, but he wouldn’t interfere. He was glad for Bud’s sake that they were getting along. Harm nodded.

“I have to get going sir; again, I’m sorry about this morning.”

“It’s okay, Bud. What do you plan on doing about him? I mean, about his being called up?”

“I’m just making sure Dad has his medical records updated, and Ill try and get him before a medical review board.”

“Well, good luck, Bud.”

“Thank you, sir.”

With that he left Harm’s office. Just then the phone rang. “Hey, sailor.”

“Hey yourself.”

“Are you ready to get out of here?”

Yes he was; he wanted to turn this whole day off and get home with Mac.


1710
Monday
General Creswell’s Office
JAG HQ


General Creswell stood at this window, looking out onto the parking lot. He saw Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie meet and then walk toward an SUV. The commander opened the door on the passenger’s side for the colonel. It was obvious to him that there was something going on there, but frankly he didn’t want to know. As long as they conducted themselves professionally, they had nothing to fear from him.

The general turned back toward his desk and smiled to himself. He didn’t think any of them knew quite how to take him and that was just fine with him. They all appeared to be a good crew, though a bit too familiar for his taste at times. He thought that his yeoman, Roberts and Turner were getting a handle on things. They were by the book sailors, but Rabb was another matter. He had not made up his mind about him yet. He opened his personnel file and shook his head. It was as if he were two different people. In the courtroom he was an outstanding attorney, but his record also had another side. He could be heroic to the point of recklessness. Heroism was one thing, but recklessness was quite another, and that would not be tolerated here.

He would see. He would give him the benefit of the doubt for now, but time would tell.


Chapter 20


0600
Friday
General Creswell’s office
JAG Headquarters
Falls, Church, Virginia



General Creswell sat at his desk with the phone to his ear. “I understand, sir. We will discuss the matter later this morning. ….Thank you, sir.”

The SecNav had made an early call this morning to express a concern regarding Commander Rabb. He informed him that certain people were independently pursuing an investigation into who was responsible for the explosion at Trafalgar Square. He did not accuse Commander Rabb, but he did say that those pursuing the information were known to be close friends of his. He had two concerns. First was the concern that the office of the JAG not be compromised by an independent investigation into a personal matter. The other concern was that Commander Rabb not be allowed to personally involve himself at all. “There are multiple American and British agencies handling this, General. While I sympathize with the Commander for his loss, I won’t have their investigation interfered with on any level.”


0900
Friday
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia


General Creswell finished up staff call and had just dismissed the staff when he asked Commander Rabb to see him in his office immediately following the meeting. After General Creswell had returned to his office, Harm followed and stood at attention as the general stepped behind his desk.

“At ease, Commander. It has come to my attention that you are actively pursuing the investigation into the explosion at Trafalgar Square.” He looked at Harm, waiting for him to answer.

“I have friends who are looking into it for me, sir.”

“It is one thing to be looking into the incident and another to actively pursue.”

“Sir, I…”

The general silenced him with a look. “I have been reviewing your personnel file with great interest, Commander. You have an excellent record in the courtroom, but you have a tendency to let your connections to family and friends lead you into compromising your career and at times your life. I want to make it clear to you that I will not tolerate that in this office. We are at war, Commander; we don’t have the luxury of pursuing personal interests….No matter how noble.”

Harm was quiet for a moment. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“You may.”

“Sir, I value my career in the Navy. It was not my intention at any time to compromise anything. When I pursued my father in Russia I was on leave. As for the accusation of murder, I have no excuse, sir. I took on something I never should have, and I won’t make that mistake again….When I resigned my commission last year, I felt that I had no choice. If I had not pursued them, Colonel Mackenzie and two CIA operatives would have died in the Chaco Boreal.”

The general raised his hand to silence him. This conversation was about to get personal, and they were not going there. “What have you learned from the situations that you just described?”

“I have a better perspective on what I can do on my own and when I need to ask for help. I also realize that I compromised myself and my career when I wouldn’t ask for help and allow things to be handled in the proper channels.”

“I will be direct, Commander. What you discuss with your friends and family regarding the incident at Trafalgar Square is purely a personal matter. What you do about what you learn is the business of this office. I want to make it clear that I will not tolerate reckless or compromising behavior from one of my senior officers. You serve on the staff of the Judge Advocate General of the United States Navy, Commander. Your conduct reflects on this office and the Navy itself. If you cannot conduct yourself with more discretion than you have in the past, in personal matters, then you will no longer serve this office. Are we clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You are dismissed,”

Harm came to attention and turned to walk out the door.

“Commander.”

“Yes, sir?”

“I am sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Harm turned and continued to walk out of the office. He closed the door and blew out a breath. ‘Whew.’ He and Coates looked at each other. Harm raised his eyebrows, and Coates gave him a slight smile as if to say ‘I know what you mean.’ Neither thought it was prudent to say anything. General Creswell seemed to have eyes in the back of his head and ears all over the office. Harm walked toward his office looking a little dazed.

Bud noticed him walking across the bullpen. ‘At least I’m not the only one he has that effect on,’ he thought.


1600
Friday
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia


Harm had just left the courtroom and was heading back to his office. A door to one of the other courtrooms opened slightly and he heard the words “Court is adjourned until 0900 Monday.”

He’d know that voice anywhere. He got a glimpse of Mac presiding over the courtroom.
He felt a surge of pride and a bit of awe. She had been through so much but you would never know by looking at her. Mac had changed a lot over the past month or so, but she was still every bit as squared away as she had always been. She was not an open book to everyone, but she had let him in. Finally. He smiled to himself and walked toward his office.


1930
Friday
Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station



Harm was finishing up his specialty and Mac’s favorite dish: linguini with clam sauce. He had steamed veggies and had set the table. Mac was getting freshened up. Harm smiled to himself…was she humming? Mattie had left for Blacksburg from school today. Something about a game she wanted to attend with Kevin. She said Tom was going as well, so Harm wasn’t worried about it.

Mac walked into the kitchen and glanced at the table. “This is nice, Harm.”

“Thank you. Help me get this on the table, would you?” He handed her the serving dish with the vegetables in it.

They sat down and began their dinner. “Oh, Harm. This is so good and I am so hungry today.”

“Glad you like it. I thought I’d make your favorite to celebrate the end of this long week.”

“It has been a long week. The case today was unbelievable. We have a sailor going to court-martial. She stole the identities of three officers in the clinic in which she served. It will take years to repair the damage she did in just a few months. I almost felt sorry for McBurney. He had nothing to go on. Commander Coleman had computer records and even an additional theft from an imaging clinic in Norfolk.”

“Sounds fun. I finished up today with Lt Wall. She didn’t lose her wings after all. Sturgis gave me a real run for my money but I pulled it off. She gave her father a ride; it was his dying wish. I don’t know how many people I’ve given a ride in my backseat. I can’t believe it even came to this.”

Mac looked at him and smiled. He went for the emotional appeal. ‘He always does,’ she thought. Poor Sturgis – all Harm’s flash and fire and there he probably was plodding along. She respected Sturgis, but she knew Harm. If it was an emotional issue he would win hands down. Mac took another bite of her linguini and said, “You know, Harm, you’re going to make someone a great wife someday.” She laughed when Harm narrowed his eyes at her.

“Is that a proposal, Mackenzie?”

Mac was quiet. Harm just smiled smugly, thinking she wouldn’t have a quick comeback to that. He picked up his glass of water. ‘Gotcha,’ he thought.

“What if it is?”

Harm nearly choked on his water. Mac picked up her plate and carried it to the sink. Harm composed himself and turned to look at her.

“Well?”

Harm got his second wind and thought, ‘okay, I’ll bite.’ He got up and brought his plate with him, a sly smile spreading across his face. He stood next to her, meeting her gaze. “Why, Ms. Mackenzie, this is so sudden.” Harm was beginning to enjoy this.

“So then you want a longer courtship, Harmon?” She arched her eyebrow, questioning.

“On second thought, I suppose this nearly 9 year dance we’ve been doing should count for something.”

They both laughed and finished clearing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Harm put on some music. Mac’s Sade CD filled the room with mellow and beautiful music. ‘Your love is king…I crown you with my heart...Your love is king…’

“Mmmm that’s just what the doctor ordered.” Mac swayed to the music and Harm caught her up in his arms. They slowly danced from the kitchen and into the living room. Harm wondered if she were serious. He had been thinking about how to ask her and how soon he should ask. He decided to ask her when she wanted to do this. That would tell him if she meant it. He would marry her tomorrow if he thought she would do it.

“So…” Harm pulled back from her embrace. “When are we going to do this, Mackenzie?” Harm looked into her eyes, trying to be sure he wasn’t reading something that was not there.

She smiled at him and kissed him lightly, looking directly into his eyes. “I’d do it right now, Harm, if I could.”

Harm stopped and brushed Mac’s hair back from her face. He studied her face, trying to take in every nuance. “You want to marry me, Mac?”

Mac was suddenly very serious “Yes, I do.”

“I thought you’d never ask.” They both laughed and pulled each other into a tight embrace. Harm’s heart felt as though it was in his throat. *God, she really is going to be mine* He swallowed hard. “I love you.”

Mac pulled back and looked at him. She touched his cheek. “Oh….I love you too.” Then she kissed him, lightly at first and then with a passion that carried them both deep into the night. They were on their way.


0730
Sunday
December 5
Georgetown


Harm and Mac walked arm in arm and in step. They had just finished dinner at their new favorite Japanese restaurant. Neither felt like going home just yet, so they decided to take a stroll. The night was very cool but there was no breeze so they were comfortable walking. A light snow had begun to fall; the snowflakes melted as soon as they fell on the pavement. It made the night seem magical. The whole weekend had been wonderful. It had just been Harm and Mac; they hadn’t really done anything special, except decide to get married.

They came upon a jewelry store and stopped to look into the windows. They looked at the beautiful wedding sets with what had to be at least 2 carat diamonds. Harm knew that it had to be special, something to last a lifetime. Anything she wanted, he thought. Mac wandered down further and stopped in front of the farthest window down. Harm watched her as she smiled and placed her hand on the window, leaning closer to the glass. Whatever she was looking at, Harm had the feeling that *this was it*. Harm walked up beside her and she turned toward him. Harm’s brow furrowed. She had been looking at a set of matching gold wedding bands; they were plain but 18 carat gold and about half an inch wide.

“This is what I want, Harm.”

“You don’t want a wedding set with an engagement ring?”

“No, I don’t think I do.”

Harm placed his arm around her shoulders. He leaned closer to her ear. “There’s a story here, I can feel it.”

“There is – I had almost forgotten until I saw these wedding bands. When I was younger, there was a couple who lived across from my dad and me at the trailer park. They were military too. They were younger than Mom and Dad. Their names were Glenna and Dennis Smith, he was just a corporal. Anyway, my mother had already left and they used to invite me over from time to time for dinner. She wore a ring like this. Her husband wore one just like it. They seemed so much in love, and he seemed so respectful of her. I wanted that. I don’t think I even believed love like that existed until I met those two.”

“Do you want that set…..for us?”

“Yes, I do.” She turned to him and smiled.

“Then that is what we’ll have.” He kissed her forehead. She looked up at him and he kissed her again.


1130
Monday
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia



Harm sat at his desk, a case file open in front of him. He heard a knock on his open door and he looked up. Clayton Webb stood looking at him.

“I’m not interested, Webb.”

“Not interested in who planted that car bomb in London?” He was sure he had him.

“I’m not interested in what you have to say. You’ve never done anything for me that you didn’t twist to your own advantage.”

“Harm….” Webb was trying to sound sincere…it made Harm’s stomach turn.

“You’ve used everything that ever meant anything to me to draw me into your ‘missions’ and left me with my ass hanging out.”

“What about Sergei?”

“What about him?”

“I did that because you were my friend and I wanted to help.” Webb continued to try to play on his emotions, it had always worked before.

“You’re right about one thing: I *was* your friend. And you’ll never convince me there wasn’t something in that for you. I don’t know what it was, but I would be willing to bet it wasn’t about me.”

“The Company –”

“The Company, my ass, Webb.” Harm had no patience for this man anymore, he had very nearly cost him everything, everything with Mac anyway.

Just then both men were startled by another voice in the room. AJ Chegwidden stood in the doorway. “He’s not with the Company…..are you, Webb?”

Webb looked at AJ and tried to decipher what he meant and how much he knew. He had that slightly crazy look in his eyes, a look he had seen before.

“What would you know about it?”

“Oh, I know a great deal, Webb. Harm, let’s you and I take a walk with Mr. Webb out to the courtyard…..shall we?”

When they reached the courtyard, AJ and Webb stood nearly toe to toe and Harm stayed slightly back.

AJ looked Webb directly in the eye. “I’m only going to say this once. Back the hell out of this, Webb. You want back in and the door is closed. I just spoke with Kershaw, your former boss’. You’re out and you know it.”

“I know you’ll want this inform….”

AJ cut him off. “I know what you know and I know why you’re here. You figure you’ll drop just enough information for your ‘friend’ here to get the scent and you’ll follow him where ever he leads you. Your days of using JAG staff for your own self promotion are over. I don’t have the SecNav breathing down my neck anymore and I don’t have to worry about propriety. I can nail your ass any time I want to.” AJ stepped a bit closer, and Webb backed up.

Harm stepped forward and placed a hand on AJ’s shoulder. “It’s time to go, Webb.”

Webb continued to back away from them. “This is not over.”

“Yeah….it is as far as you’re concerned.” Harm looked at him directly. “Let it go. This is not your concern and I don’t want your help.” With that Webb turned and walked away.

General Creswell had seen this exchange from the window of his office. He’d never met AJ Chegwidden, but he recognized him from pictures. He watched Harm nod back toward the building and AJ shake his head. They both sat on a stone bench. Creswell deduced that he must be one of the people asking around about the incident at Trafalgar for Rabb. He turned and stepped away from the window.

Another person observed from the window. She wondered when or if Harm was going to tell her about this. At least he had sent Webb away, which was obvious. It didn’t look as though this was about her, or AJ would not have been involved. This had to be about his mother’s death. ‘Oh no, please don’t start chasing ghosts again,’ she thought.

AJ leaned forward. “Harm, that bomb had components that could have come from at least half a dozen countries in the Middle East. The car was registered to a student, a British citizen, who had reported it stolen 2 hours before. She can account for her whereabouts; it isn’t thought that she knows anything.”

Harm sat looking across the courtyard, trying to take in what he had just said. The impulse to try and follow up with this student was strong. But he could not now, he knew.

“Look Harm, it could still be IRA or any other terror group right now. Britain is our strongest ally in the war on terror and the war in Iraq. Whatever can be done to erode support for the current administration can be expected. They have an election coming up soon. Hell, this could be homegrown. America isn’t the only country with people who want to take things in their own hands. That bombing in Spain cost us an ally – the terrorists won that round.”

Harm smiled without humor. “Do you know what this situation reminds me of? The tremors we felt before September 11th. We were too content to wait it out, blame it on other things rather than believe that a group of people could hate us enough to want to kill thousands.”

AJ frowned.

“You know, the first World Trade Center bombing, the embassies in Africa…the Cole.
What will they think if something on the scale of the train bombing in Spain happens? What makes people think it will stop if we don’t fight them?”

“It is a faceless, stateless enemy, Harm.”

“I hate that term.”

“I know, I do too. But it is accurate.”

Both men stood and shook hands. “Thank you, sir.”

“You’re welcome. If I hear anything else, I’ll let you know.” AJ started to walk away. He turned back toward Harm and said, “Don’t allow Webb to weasel his way in…”

Harm interrupted him. “I won’t.” AJ nodded, and with that the men parted.


1945
Monday
Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station


Mattie made dinner that night. She had said she had something she wanted to talk to Harm about. She made spaghetti with marinara sauce for Harm and a meat sauce for her and Mac. When they started to clear the table, Mac started to get her coat and leave.

“Where are you going?” Harm and Mattie both said at once.

“Well, I thought you might need to be alone. I don’t want to intrude.”

“You’re not intruding, Mac. You know everything Harm knows anyway.” Mattie smiled slyly and looked at Harm.

“Come on, Mac, let’s go sit down and see what Ms Matilda has on her mind.” Harm offered his hand and she took it. ‘I don’t know everything he knows’ she thought. They needed to talk about what she saw. It would not be tonight, though. Harm had enough to deal with right now. ‘Soon, Sailor’ she thought.

Mattie sat in the chair opposite them on the couch. “Well, I think you both may know what this is about.”

Harm did know... Mattie was going back to Blacksburg. He had known it was coming, and he knew it was best, but all of a sudden the thought of her going back pained him. Mac took his hand and closed her other hand over it. She did not look at him, looking instead at Mattie. It seemed to be instinctual now; she seemed to know when he needed that little bit of extra support.

“I think at the change of the semester, I’ll be going back to Blacksburg….My dad and I have talked about it. Dad thinks it would be better for me grade wise if I wait, and I suppose he’s right….Oh, not that I don’t want to be here, but I think I want a life back there now.”

Harm smiled at Mattie. She was a different girl than the one he’d met at Grace Aviation. Back then, she’d been a moody, brooding little girl, trying to be tough, breaking his heart when she would not allow herself to lean on anyone.

“Harm?”

“I’m sorry, Mats, I was just thinking about how different you are from when I first met you.”

“I’m not as big of a pain in the butt as I was before, right?” Mattie smiled mischievously.

“Oh, I didn’t say that.”

“Hey…” Mattie picked up a pillow and threw it at Harm. Mac had his hand so he didn’t block it well. It smacked him directly in the face knocking his head back on the couch.

Mattie stood. “Oh…Harm …I’m so...”

Harm looked directly at Mattie and slowly started to get up reaching for the pillow as he went.

“Mac…help me.”

“Hey don’t look at me; I’m just moral support here.”

Mattie ducked as a pillow flew across the room and turned to run; she grabbed a pillow on her way and turned and busted Harm in the stomach.

“Oooff…Hey!” He caught her and turned her around. “You may be faster, kiddo, but I have a longer reach.” He bent down to pick her up and threw her over his shoulder, and then dumped her back on the couch. Harm looked at her and smiled smugly. “Now let that be a lesson to you.” He then turned to walk back toward the kitchen. A pillow flew across the room, hitting Harm in the back of the head.

Mattie and Mac both laughed hysterically. Harm turned and looked at Mac. “Traitor.”


2230
Monday
Harm’s Apartment
North of Union Station



Mattie stayed until about 2100. Jen was out that evening with an old friend. Mattie could not recall her name. They played Scrabble, and Mac and Mattie were ganging up on Harm once again, making up words as they went.

They had gone to bed and slipped into their ‘spoon’. Mac smelled of her ‘Warm Vanilla Brown Sugar.’ The scent would always remind him of the night he came back to Pennsylvania to find her waiting for him. She had felt so good in his arms – he couldn’t have held back from her if his life had depended on it. He nuzzled her neck and kissed it.

“Are you sleepy, Mac?” he said hopefully.

Mac smiled to herself and turned slightly to look at him. “What did you have in mind, Sailor?”

He kissed her. “Oh, I could think of a few things…” He still could not get over the fact that he could be with her every night if he wanted to. His reactions were automatic; a touch, the sound of her voice, the scent of her skin drew him to her. He kissed her deeply.

“So, Mac, when are you going to make an honest man out of me?” Harm smiled as he spoke and leaned in to kiss her again.

“You’re not honest?” Mac teased and kissed him back

“You know what I mean, Mac – when do you want to get married?”

Mac turned around and faced him, lying on her side. “You know we really should let our COs know what were planning to do.”

“I know.... I have been trying to think of the best way to go about this. I think I’ll just put the request through, and then if the general has any questions or concerns we’ll discuss them. I don’t think he wants to know very much about any of us personally.”

Mac raised her eyebrows.

“I didn’t mean that in a negative way. Creswell is all business, and given the rollercoaster we’ve all been on over the last year I think it may be the best thing for all of us.”

“Well, I can put my request through to Admiral Morris and then see where we go from there. We will have to be sure you and I aren’t in the same courtroom after we’re married….my god…after we’re married. That sounds so unreal.”

“Second thoughts, Mac?” Harm furrowed his brow.

“Not on your life, Sailor. You’re in this for the long haul.”

“Oh… really...” Harm reached across Mac and turned off her light, plunging the entire apartment into darkness.

“Harm…stop it!” She was laughing.

“Hey… what was that you just said?….you’re in it fo…”

Harm didn’t get to finish his sentence.


Chapter 21

1500
Thursday
JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia


Gunnery Sergeant Victor Galindez pushed open the doors leading to the bullpen. He was looking for someone he knew. He saw General Creswell’s name printed neatly on the window of the JAG’s office. This was different. No Tiner, No Lt. Sims, someone else was in Commander Rabb’s office. Colonel Mackenzie was in the judiciary now. It would be like starting all over again. He didn’t care; he was home, back in uniform where he belonged.

Petty Officer Jennifer Coates stepped out of the outer office of the JAG.

“Petty Officer Coates.”

“What brings you here, Gunnery Sergeant?”

“I’m just checking in. I’ll begin my new duty station here tomorrow.”

“Great, glad to have you aboard.” Jennifer smiled and shook his hand, thinking, ‘Just what we need – another Marine.’

Harm stepped into the bullpen and saw Coates and Gunny talking. “Gunny! You’re back?’

“Yes sir. I start tomorrow.” Victor was grinning from ear to ear.

“Glad to hear it.”

“Excuse me, sirs. Better keep my nose to the grindstone.” Coates nodded toward Creswell’s office.

“That tough, huh?” They had a real squared away Marine, he knew.

Harm crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Not really. But he’s different, that’s for sure.”

Gunny stood a little taller. ‘Yes, I’m going to like it here,’ he thought.

“Hey, how did that case you and Alicia were working on pan out?”

“The Wainwright case? Well, he’s a free man now. Turns out the prosecutor involved in the case with held exculpatory evidence and that in addition to Teddy Lindsey for the defense… the poor guy didn’t have a chance.”

“That’s good news. Who was the prosecutor, anyway?”

“A now-Congressman Bolton. Who I’m under the impression doesn’t like JAGs much for some reason.”

“The congressman who is on the House Armed Services Committee?” ‘I can think of one reason,’ Harm thought.

“That’s the one.”

“Welcome back to JAG, Gunny.” Harm smiled slyly. They shook hands and parted.

Harm walked into his office, and as he sat down Petty Officer Coates buzzed in.
“Commander Rabb, Admiral Boone is on line 4 for you, sir.”

“Thank you, Petty Officer.”

Harm picked up the phone and punched the button. “Hello, sir.”

“Rabb…Just wanted to talk with you about what I’ve been able to find out about London.”

Harm sat back in his chair.

“I heard you had a visit from Mr. Webb Monday.”

“Yes, I did.”

“You haven’t let him get involved in this, have you?”

“No sir, Admir...AJ was here not long after he arrived. Apparently even the Company has had it with Webb.”

“I have it on good authority that even his mother is having a problem with him.”

“I didn’t know you had met her, sir.”

“Yes, we’ve met. It has been a while. I don’t know what it is, but there is something cold-blooded about that woman.”

Harm smiled at the thought of how just how cold blooded she could be…when provoked. ‘He doesn’t know the half of it.’

“You may already know if AJ talked with you. The components of the bomb came from all over the Middle East.”

“Yes, I heard.”

“There’s a lot of speculation, Rabb. It would not be wise to make any assumptions now about who did this.”

“I know.”

“Are you going to be alright waiting this out?”

“I think so. I’ve been warned by everyone who knows anything about it to let it be handled by the professionals. Even my new CO knows that I have friends looking into this, so if I want to keep my job I had better stay out of this. I don’t like feeling this helpless. I know just enough about both British and American agencies to make me wonder what is truly being done.”

“In other words, you know enough to make you dangerous.”

Harm smirked. “Yeah, that’s about right.”

“You doing alright, Harm?” Tom wouldn’t have said ‘about Trish’. Harm knew.

“Yeah, I’m okay. How about you?”

Tom Boone was a bit taken aback by the question. “I’m fine,” he said quickly.

There was a lot Harm didn’t know, a lot he’d never know. Trish had a special place in his heart. She was a good friend before Hammer went MIA, and she had come to mean more to him later. They had gone out a couple of times, as friends, a few years after Hammer was missing. She had no word from him, but he was still alive for her, and even if Tom wouldn’t have admitted then, he couldn’t believe he wasn’t out there somewhere too. He knew she could have been the one, but she had married that ‘used car salesman’ and that was the end of that.

“Sir?” It had gotten quiet on the line.

“Sorry about that.”

“It’s alright.”

“I also heard that you ruffled the feathers of a congressman on the House Armed Services Committee.”

“It wasn’t intentional, but yes I did.” Tom Boone was keeping is ear to the ground.

“Intentional or not, you need to remember that each party has their ‘boys’ in high ranking positions in all services. You need to be sure that you’re not one of them.”

“I know, sir. I remember what you said before. It’s about getting the job done, not about who is in power. Besides, I really don’t have to worry about positions of power for myself, not with my record.”

“You never know, Harm,” he said cryptically. “Hey, I’m getting out of here. I’ll let you know if I hear anything else. I guess I had better talk with AJ before I call you, so that I’m not giving you information you already know.”

“That’s fine, sir. It’s always good to hear from you.”

“Thanks.” He hesitated and then hung up.

Harm hung up his phone and he continued to look at it for a moment. Tom Boone seemed to live such a solitary life. He still couldn’t keep himself from calling him ‘sir,’ though he had been retired for some time. He was his father’s best friend. He was someone he respected more than most men he knew. He admired both him and AJ for their careers, the respect they had from their peers and subordinates. They were accomplished men of integrity. Anyone would want to emulate them; however, he dreaded their solitary lives.

He had never given up on a future with Mac completely, but as time passed he’d begun to wonder. For a while he’d thought that the best he could hope for was his career in the Navy (such as it was) and the possibility of helping Mattie grow up and get established on her own. Now he had Mac and a future. She just had to be okay. She was looking so much better. She seemed radiantly happy. He was too. He loved having her in his life.

“Hey Sailor…waiting for the phone to ring?” Mac stood in the doorway, smiling mischievously.

“What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be in court giving other good lawyers a hard time?” Harm smiled sheepishly. He was caught.

“We adjourned early and I wanted to see if you could secure early. I want to Christmas shop.”

“Aw, come on, Mac. The mall? I have court in the morning.” Harm knew he sounded whiny but he didn’t care. All he wanted was a nice hot shower, a good dinner and Mac, not necessarily in that order.

“You’ll be alright...you big baby…” Mac turned and stepped out the door. “Besides...I’ll make it up to you.” She raised her brows and laughed a little.

Harm’s smile spread slowly across his face. He might be convinced. “Promises, promises, Mackenzie.”

“I don’t make promises I can’t keep,” she said laughingly.

“Hey, I’ll meet you downstairs in about 20, okay?”

“Sounds good,” she said as she walked down the hall.


1830
Thursday
Roberts’s residence



Bud, Mikey and Big Bud sat in the den. Little AJ sat on the floor playing with his Legos.

“This stop loss business is a crock of sh–”

“Dad.” Bud looked over at little AJ.

Big Bud rolled his eyes. He knew Bud was a better father than he had been, but having to watch what he said got on his nerves.

Mikey spoke up. “Look, Dad. You knew you were inactive reserve when you retired. Everyone is, for 15 years.”

“You know, you’re sounding more like an officer everyday, Mikey. They should call up the draft, that’s what they should do.”

“Look, Dad, I’ve submitted your records to a medical board of review. We’ll just have to wait and see what they have to say.” Bud was trying to be the peacemaker this time.

Mikey chimed in again. “I’ll tell you right now, I would rather have an experienced enlisted man doing the job than some ‘Joe Blow’ who was drafted while bagging groceries at the Stop and Shop.”

“Alright, you two. We’re not battling this out here, tonight.”

“Unbelievable...you’d never think he was raised by an enlisted man.”

“Oh come on, Dad. I meant that as a compliment, not a put down. How did you get that from what I just said?”

“BUD!!!”

Bud’s head snapped up. It was Harriet calling from upstairs. He ran to the base of the stairs and looked up. Harriet was pale as a ghost and was holding on to the wall. She had blood on her clothing from her upper thighs down. “Something’s wrong, Bud…help me…”

Bud struggled up the steps and called to Mikey. “Call 911….Now!”


2340
Harms Apartment
North of Union Station



The phone startled Harm out of a deep sleep. Mac felt it and sat up.

“Rabb.”

“Sir?”

“Bud…”

Silence.

“Bud, what’s wrong?”

Mac was suddenly wide awake at the sound of alarm in Harm’s voice.

“Sir, Harriet…she…” Bud cleared his throat. He was trying to pull himself together.
“Harriet is in surgery. The babies, they’re here, but Harriet has had a lot of damage to her...well, she is in surgery now. The doctors say she’ll be fine…”

“Bud, we’re on our way.”

“No, sir, I couldn’t ask…I just wanted to know if you would inform General Creswell. I don’t think I would handle the conversation very professionally right now. I’ll talk to him first thing tomorrow. I’ll know more about what’s happening then.”

“I’ll do it, Bud, but we’re still on our way.”

Harm and Mac looked at each other and, without a word, dressed and started out to Bethesda.

As they pulled onto the Beltway, Harm opened his cellphone. He punched the familiar number.

“Chegwidden,” said the voice on the other end of the line.


0145
December 10th
Friday
National Naval Medical Center
Bethesda, Maryland



Harm and Mac swiftly made their way down the hallway toward the waiting room on the surgical deck. Bud was sitting on a bench pushed against the wall. He heard them approaching and stood.

“Bud?” Harm slowed his pace as he approached.

“Sir…I haven’t heard anything yet.”

Mac rested her hand on his arm. “She’s going to come out of this, Bud.”

Bud nodded. “She’s been through so much. I should have known that this would be too much for her, after all the difficulties in the past. We are lucky to have little AJ and Jimmy. We should never have had more.”

“Are the babies alright?” Mac asked.

Bud looked at her and with a distracted and hollow sound to his voice said, “Yes, I haven’t seen them yet.” Bud sat back down on the bench and leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees and bowing his head.

“That’s great, Bud.”

Harm and Mac sat down with Bud. “The doctor said that she had residual damage from the miscarriage and when we lost baby Sarah. The babies’ weight contributed to the hemorrhage.”

Mac looked at Harm over Bud’s back briefly. Harm understood her feelings about baby Sarah now. He knew it pained her to think of the loss of her namesake.

A corpsman entered the waiting area. “Commander Roberts?”

Bud’s head snapped up and he stood. “Your wife is in recovery, sir. Commander Fletcher will be in to see you shortly.”

“Is she alright?”

“She is resting comfortably, sir. Commander Fletcher will answer any other questions you may have, sir.”

“Thank you, Petty Officer.”

Bud heaved a sigh of relief. He didn’t know what he would have done if he had lost her.

Mac stood and offered to get Bud something to drink while he waited. She felt a little awkward and Harm seemed almost angry; not at her, but she wasn’t sure what he was feeling. He just seemed very distant all of a sudden.

Harm watched Mac walk down the hallway. ‘We are not going to go through this,’ he thought. It just wasn’t worth it to him. They had been so happy that he had forgotten the fear he’d felt when he thought he might lose her. Seeing Bud go through this tonight made him realize that nothing was worth that. They would adopt, raise foster kids, whatever. He would not take the slightest chance when it came to her life.

Commander Fletcher approached them. Harm and Bud both stood. “Commander Roberts?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Harm started to step away, but Bud stopped him and asked him to stay.

“Your wife is stable, Commander, and she will recover fully.”

Bud heaved a sigh of relief.

“However, due to the damage to her uterus she had to undergo a partial hysterectomy. It was the only way to get the hemorrhage under control. She had lost a lot of blood prior to her surgery. She required 2 units during surgery.”

Bud swallowed hard. “But she will be alright?”

“Yes, Commander, she will. She is asking for you, so I suggest you get down there and see her.” Commander Fletcher smiled.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Bud followed the commander down the hallway to see his wife, and Harm waited for Mac to return. She came a few minutes later carrying coffee in Styrofoam cups. Harm had been looking out the window, thinking about how to even begin to discuss what he was thinking with Mac. He turned and saw her coming and tried to smile.

Mac saw Harm turn toward her. To say he looked troubled would have been an understatement.

“Harm, is everything alright? Where is Bud?”

“He’s going to see Harriet. She’s going to recover – she’ll be fine.”

“Oh thank God.” She sat the cups down and walked up to stand next to Harm. He had turned to look out the windows again. It was obvious he wasn’t looking at anything.

“Hey, nice view, Sailor.” She tucked herself under his arm, and he pulled her into an embrace. She drew back and looked him in the eye. He looked away, avoiding her gaze.

“Harm, talk to me.”

He pulled her close again. “I just don’t ever want to lose you, Mac. Being here, seeing what Bud was going through tonight… I don’t want that to happen to us. Nothing is worth that.”

“I’m getting better all the time, Harm. There’s nothing more to worry about. Why are you so much more upset?” She drew back to look at him again and then she knew. “It’s about having children…isn’t it?”

Harm pulled her close again and nodded.

“We don’t have to even worry about that now. I won’t be able to even begin to try until next year. We’ll know so much more next year than we do now about how I’m doing.”

“Mac, I don’t want to take a chance, not with your life.”

“I love my life too, Harm, but I’m not going to make a decision like that this quickly.”
She looked at him with love and determination in her eyes.

“I just don’t want you to leave me out of the decision, Mac. I can’t be there for you if I don’t know what’s going on.”

“I know that, Harm. While we are on the subject of leaving someone out of things, when are you going to talk to me about Webb coming to JAG to talk to you? I know this is probably not the time or the place, Harm, but I can’t seem to find the right time. I wanted to talk to you about it that evening, but that was when Mattie told you about going back to Blacksburg.”

Harm stepped out of her embrace and sat down on the bench. “How did you know about it?”

“I happened to look out my window and see you, AJ and Webb having a very heated discussion….Look, Harm, I wasn’t spying on you.” She sat down beside him.

He looked at her. “I know you weren’t, Mac. I just want to know what happened. I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about it. I didn’t want to put that on you in addition to everything else we were going through.”

“That’s right, Harm…..We.”

“Webb showed up uninvited and was promptly sent his way with a little help from AJ. He and Tom Boone are looking into some things for me. Keeter said he would talk with some of his contacts. I haven’t heard from him yet. Look, Mac, I’ve been warned away from this by everyone from General Creswell to Admiral Boone.” He turned and leaned forward on his arms. “I’m not going to do anything stupid this time, Mac. I don’t want to take any chances with our future.” He sat back up and looked at her directly in the eye. “I don’t want you to either.”

They heard footsteps approaching. AJ Chegwidden walked purposefully toward them. They stood.

“Harriet?”

“She’s fine, sir.” Harm answered.

“Outstanding”

Bud came down the hallway and joined them. He looked much better than he did before. He was smiling.

“Hello, sir.” Bud shook AJ’s hand. “Come and see my daughters.”

They all followed Bud to the nursery and stood at the window. Bud knocked on the nursery door and had the lieutenant show the babies to their first visitors. They were small but very healthy. Their faces were round and red with shocks of black hair peeking out of their caps.

Bud was beaming, a complete change from his demeanor while in the waiting room earlier. AJ crossed his arms and leaned forward a bit, looking through the glass at the little girls.

“I guess it’s a night for miracles.”

Mac stood a little closer to Harm, and he drew her to him. “Do you believe in miracles, sir? she asked.

“Well I’ve been a skeptic in the past, I’ll admit, but I’m looking at two miracles right now.”

Mac nodded toward the babies. "Those two definitely qualify.”

“Mac, those two babies are just one miracle – the other is the fact that you two are on the same page on anything, let alone in a relationship.”

AJ smiled his wry smile. Harm and Mac both chuckled and Harm hugged Mac a little tighter. They couldn’t argue with that.

AJ shrugged and said, “Hell, maybe it’s a year for miracles. The Red Sox won.”
They all laughed and remembered AJ’s comment when he announced his retirement.

Bud came and stood beside AJ. “Have you two decided on names yet?”

“We have, Jennifer Bethany and Justice Brittany.”

“Oh, Bud, that’s great. Jen will be honored, I’m sure.” Mac knew Jen would be pleased.

“She saved my life, Colonel; I wouldn’t be here if it had not been for her. Harriet insisted and I agree.”

Mac yawned. It was nearly 0300. “We better get you home, Marine,” Harm said. “We have to be at staff call at 0830.”

“I’ll stay awhile with Bud.” AJ patted Bud on the back. With that Mac and Harm went home to catch a couple of hours sleep before they had to begin their day.

 

 

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