McMurphy’s Bar and Grill
Mike and Faith sat at a table they were beginning to think of as theirs.
It had been a long week and they were ready for the weekend. Mike was
finally making good on his promise of a steak dinner if Faith went with
him to Commander Turner’s engagement party. They had finished their meal
and were lingering over coffee. They had an ease to their relationship
now. The discomfort Faith had seemed to feel at times when they were
alone had disappeared. She had allowed him to pick her up this time. He
had called for her on his cell phone from his car, though. He hadn’t
come up to the apartment.
“Did you enjoy your dinner?” He smiled at her.
“Yes, thank you. It was perfect. I think I’m getting addicted to the
steaks here.” If she were honest with herself she would say she was
beginning to count on his company as well.
Mike looked up to see Lieutenant Vukovic walk through the door. He
nodded but did not rise to greet him. He didn’t trust this guy.
Something about him seemed slimy; he just couldn’t put his finger on it.
Faith turned around to see where he was looking. The lieutenant had
already seated himself at the bar by the time she saw him. She looked
back at Mike. “You really don’t like him, do you?”
“I can’t say that I do.” He turned to look at Vukovic again. “I’d like
to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I have a really bad feeling
about this guy. The concerns you had in the beginning weren’t
unfounded.” He thought of telling her about his problems with him when
the lieutenant was his second chair but thought better of it.
Faith remembered their ‘conversation’ about him when he had first come
to JAG. “Yes, I remember.” She looked down into her coffee cup.
Mike looked at her, knowing what she was thinking about. “I really am
sorry about that, Faith.”
She looked up at him and smiled. “It’s all right. It seems like a
million years ago that we had that conversation about him. I was still
busy giving you my bad first impression.” She also knew that Michael’s
pride was a little wounded at the time; she had just beaten him badly in
court the week before.
Mike returned her smile. “You have improved with time, Commander.”
“Are you ready to go?” Mike didn’t want the evening to be over yet. “Why
don’t we walk down the block and get some dessert?”
“I really couldn’t eat another bite.” She waved him off.
“Well you could go with me while I have -my- dessert” He huffed,
“All right, counselor, since you gave such an eloquent argument.” She
stood and took her coat from the hook near their table.
Mike stood and casually took her coat from her, opening it for her to
slip into. He did it as though he had been doing this every day of his
life. Faith didn’t make more of it than it was. She thought Mike
probably did that for his mother or his sisters or any female friend he
happened to be out with. She was glad to be among his friends.
The gesture did not, however, go unnoticed by the lieutenant at the bar.
They left and walked the two blocks to a small bistro, where Faith
watched Mike eat an unbelievably rich piece of mocha espresso cake.
McMurphy’s Bar and Grill
Faith and Mike walked past the bar, heading to Mike’s car in the parking
lot. The evening had been perfect. Mike had taken her hand and placed it
in the crook of his arm and they walked in step. Spring was in the air.
The days and nights were getting warmer. The biting cold of winter was
becoming a distant memory.
“This has been fun.” Faith looked up at him.
“I agree, I’m having a pretty good time too.” He looked down and winked
“I still can’t believe you ate all of that cake as well as dinner.” She
shook her head slightly. “You don’t look as though you have ever
overeaten in your life.”
He turned to her and smiled slyly. “Why, thank you, Faith.”
She nudged him slightly. “You know what I mean.”
“No…I don’t think I do.” They had reached his car but he did not open
the door. He turned her to face him. “Care to explain?”
“All right, don’t try giving me a hard time, Michael. It never works out
she answered, looking at him smugly.
Mike decided it was time to change the subject. “I don’t want to go in.
It’s so nice outside.” Mike had been looking around and up at the
starlit sky. “It’s a beautiful night.” He looked at her.
“I know…” Faith felt the same way, but she was starting to get anxious
about getting home. The look he was giving her made her want to invite
him to her apartment or herself to his. She knew she wasn’t ready for
“Michael –” They both spoke at once and laughed sheepishly.
Faith began. “Michael, I did have a great time tonight. I would love to
invite you to my apartment… just for coffee, mind you.” She arched a
brow, teasing him. “I don’t want this evening to end, either. I don’t
know when I’ve had such a good time.”
Mike decided to help her finish this. “You’re not ready yet, I know.” He
wanted to ask what had happened. He wanted to help her if he could.
Instead, he impulsively reached for her hand and gave it a light
Faith was touched at how patient he was with her. Suddenly it didn’t
seem fair to shut him out. “I just need a little more time to work on
“I’d like to help, Faith, if you’ll let me.”
She nodded in answer to his invitation. It was time she trusted someone.
She stared at the pavement at her feet, trying to think of how to begin.
“Tell me what happened.” Her hand still in his, he gave it a shake,
trying to get her to look at him.
She looked up at him anxiously, “Let’s walk – maybe that will make it
Along the street there were storefronts with well lit bricked pavement
for about three blocks. They started down the street with Faith walking
beside him, her arms folded across her chest. Their steps on the
pavement seemed loud as she screwed up her courage to start.
“I don’t know where to begin.” She blew out a breath she had been
“You could begin with why it upset you so badly that I was in your
apartment.” He tried to keep his tone of voice even and not accusatory.
He wanted her to trust him; it was very important to him that she did.
“I…I’m just not sure I can…Some of it was my own fault… my own problem.”
She looked toward the street. The shame of that night crept into her
consciousness, making her want to draw into herself, even in memory.
“Then talk to me, Faith.”
Faith was silent for a few moments. “Well, you know that I had…a
“Faith…” He was getting the generic version again.
“All right…It was a long time ago, six years or so. I developed a …crush
on a man I worked with. He wasn’t in my chain of command. This was at
JAG San Diego. I…this is difficult.”
Mike knew he could give her an out, but he had to know. He wanted to
help. Faith was a great person behind that wall. He wanted her to be
happy. He waited quietly for her to begin.
“I had just made lieutenant – I and three others at JAG. So we had our
wetting down at…” She looked at him. “T.J’s, as a matter of fact.” Faith
continued and seemed to lose herself in her story. Her gait slowed and
it was as though she weren’t talking to Mike at all.
“I had a little too much to drink and Mark asked me to dance.” She
smiled without humor. “I nearly fell into his arms… I must have looked
like a fool…You know that dreamy naïve look someone gets when they see
only what they want to see? I must have looked that way…I was so wrong
Mike thought of asking her who this Mark was, but she continued before
she had a chance.
“We danced…he held me close and kissed me.” She touched her lips with
the tips of her fingers and then remembering herself, self consciously
brought her hands down and behind her back.
“I had never been kissed like that before. All I wanted was for the
night to go on forever.”
She paused and cleared her throat. Her voice was at a monotone. “We went
to my apartment…”
He reached for her elbow and stopped her. She looked at him with pain
and what Mike thought was fear in her eyes. “He didn’t hurt you, did
he?” He searched her face for a clue, so that she wouldn’t have to say
She looked down. “No, not in the way you mean.”
She looked away and began again, resuming their walk. “As I said, we
returned to my apartment…and we picked up where we’d left off at T.J.’s.
I was still dreamily falling into whatever I thought was happening. I
had never…but I thought – I thought there was something between us. He
said he had noticed me and had wanted to ask me out for a long time. I
was so naïve and stupid. I mistook that for lo… I was wrong.”
They approached the parking lot where Mike’s car was parked.
“Faith, you don’t have to say more. I’m almost sorry I pushed you about
this.” He walked her to the passenger side of the vehicle. He didn’t
know who this Mark guy was, but he wanted to break him in half.
Faith leaned back against the car door. She looked up at Mike, and
without saying a word, the look in her eyes told him she would continue.
She reached for his arm and gave it a light touch, trying to reassure
him that she would be okay. She looked away after that gesture, though,
still not able to look into his eyes and speak of something so intimate.
“It started out so…perfectly. I thought I knew what I was doing. I
thought that he…” She was silent for a moment. “Anyway, one thing led to
another and I…because I was so inexperienced…my body just didn’t react
as it should have.”
She shivered suddenly, folding her arms across her chest. It was not
from cold but from the way the situation still made her feel. Mike took
off his jacket and draped it loosely around her shoulders.
“Mark was less than kind…he seemed to take it as a personal affront. He
kept asking me what my problem was. He was throwing around the word
‘iceberg’ pretty freely. Needless to say, the evening ended quickly and
by Monday it was all over JAG that Lieutenant Coleman was an ‘iceberg.’”
Mike knew now that there was a lot more going on that night they were in
T.J.’s than he had realized. He was gladder than ever that he had helped
her put those ‘ladies’ in their place.
Faith looked back at him. “So…now you know. I know it was my own fault…I
didn’t really know this guy…I just had this dream of the person I
thought he was.”
Mike couldn’t stand to hear her blame herself anymore. “That was –not-
your fault, Faith. Don’t blame yourself because this guy was an ass.”
Faith nodded. “I know that with my head. In hindsight, I know I used it
as an excuse to block people out of my life. I’m just not very good at
Mike reached out to touch her arm and stroked it lightly with the palm
of his hand. “I don’t know about that. I think you and I are doing
pretty well with our interpersonal relationship.” He gave her a soft
Faith looked into his eyes and to her relief saw no judgment there. She
looked lower at his lips, suddenly wanting to kiss them so badly that
she leaned forward slightly.
Mike was standing just inches in front of her as she leaned against the
car. He reached out and gently grasped her waist with one hand and
pulled her nearer to him. This time it was about them. He wasn’t
thinking about friendship; he just wanted to show her how special he
thought she was. He tasted her lower lip then the top and opened her
mouth with his own. As he deepened the kiss, his hand slipped behind her
back, pulling her against him.
Faiths hands rested lightly on his chest. She was enjoying this but not
giving herself over to his kiss.
He broke the kiss and looking into her eyes and whispered, “There’s
nothing ‘cold’ about you, Faith.”
Suddenly Faith felt a surge of feminine power that she had never felt
before. She kissed him back, and as she gave herself over to the kiss,
she became the aggressor. She was holding a man in her arms that she
trusted. One she knew would never hurt her.
He slipped both arms around her waist, snaking them around behind her
with his hands coming to rest low on her back. She responded by pulling
his body to hers tightly. She trailed her hand up his chest and around
his neck. She held his mouth to hers, delving deeper, savoring his
flavor. She was hungry for this feeling – the feeling of being totally
lost in and connected to someone at the same time.
A low rumbling sound came from deep in his chest when she deepened the
kiss. He pushed her back against the car and gave her back everything
that she was giving him. He couldn’t get close enough as he pulled her
body up and into him.
They both seemed to remember themselves at the same time. They broke the
kiss. Faith suddenly felt self-conscious and started to slip out of his
“No…just hold on…a moment.” This moment had been too perfect. Mike
wasn’t going to let it end badly.
She gave him a questioning look.
“No backing away and hiding.” Mike was still slightly short of breath.
“Hang on, Faith…just let me…hold on.” He looked at her with a sappy
smile on his face. He was holding her loosely in his arms.
She looked at him and couldn’t help but return the smile. “That was…”
He finished her sentence. “Very nice.” He kissed her lightly on the
cheek and stepped back to open the car door for her.
They didn’t notice Lieutenant Vukovic standing in the shadows just
outside the entrance to McMurphy’s. Vukovic waited until they left the
parking lot to return to his car.
He thought, ‘You never know when something like this could come in
handy.’ He spoke aloud to himself, “Very nice indeed.”
Harm stood on the front porch drinking his coffee. He had gotten up
before anyone else just to have this moment. He loved this place. Oscar
sat at his feet, standing his watch with his favorite visitor. It was
still cool outside, but spring was well underway. The trees were budding
and the grass was greening up. In the distance he could hear what
sounded to him like a tractor. Spring was a busy time in the country; he
and Mac had noticed a lot of the fields they had seen on their way in
that had already been tilled and replanted.
The simple ease of this place grounded him. Mac had known he needed to
come back here for a while and he already felt better just being here.
It was going to be a clear day; the sun had risen giving off its
blinding yellow light to the east. The sky seemed bluer and the air
cleaner after the cold of winter. Harm walked down the steps and Oscar
followed. He reached down to scratch him behind his ears. Eight-year
old-Oscar was now a puppy again and jumped up, resting his paws on
Harm’s side. Harm picked up a stick and threw it, sending Oscar bounding
off down the drive.
Mrs. Rabb looked out of her kitchen window. She had heard Harm get up,
and had waited until he had gone outdoors to get up. She knew he needed
this time. Whatever worries or concerns he had about the new baby
coming, he seemed to have resolved them for the time being. She was so
glad for both his and Mac’s sake. Mac had come downstairs and poured
herself a cup of the ‘decaf’ she was drinking now. Harm had made it for
her before he left the house, knowing she wouldn’t be far behind him.
“Good morning, Sarah.” Mac stood next to her at the window. She saw Harm
walking down the drive. They both knew where he was going. Mac wanted to
go with him, but thought she might intrude on some quiet time Harm
“Go on, Mac, he’s been up and out for quite a while.” Mrs. Rabb nudged
her, and she started for the front door and the porch beyond it.
Harm drew in a deep breath, taking in the scent of the turned earth and
the farm. He started walking down the path to the gravel driveway. He
thought of his mother and father. He felt so close to them here; he
could not understand why, but when he walked this drive it was almost as
though he could see them both. Over the years, when he thought of his
father in his everyday life, he had trouble picturing him in his mind’s
eye. There were times lately when he was that way about his mother as
well, but when he walked here, he couldn’t picture one of them without
the other. The image was clear and there was no pain attached to the
He heard a sound behind him and looked back toward the house, where Mac
stood on the porch with her cup of coffee in hand. She was wearing jeans
and one of his sweatshirts from the Seahawk. Her face was freshly
scrubbed and her hair pulled back from her face. She looked about 15
“Hey, Sailor, do you mind if I tag along?” She had thought about letting
him take his walk alone this morning. She decided she wanted to be with
him this morning, in this place. Their lives had been so busy and
complicated – she just wanted to walk with him and just be.
Harm smiled at her. “Sure, come on.”
Mac sat her coffee cup on the rail of the porch and walked down the
drive to him. She slipped her arm around him and tucked herself under
his arm. They began to walk down the drive, automatically in step,
without missing a beat. Mac thought it was as though they were one
person walking down the drive.
“How long have you been up?” She looked up at him.
“About an hour.” He nodded toward Oscar, who was leading the way. “Oscar
and I watched the sun rise.” They had walked over to the family cemetery
and left the daffodils that he had brought with him on his mother’s
grave. Harm thought that he needed that time alone to remember her.
“I love this place.” She looked around her and at the canopy of trees
over them. Most of the trees had tiny green leaves sprouting,
contrasting beautifully against the blue of the sky. The trees made no
shade and the sun shone brightly through the branches.
“I do too. I didn’t spend as much time here as I could have when I was
younger, but I still feel like I did a lot of my growing up here.”
Mac gave his waist a slight squeeze. “Me too.” She looked up at him and
gave him a knowing look.
Harm pulled her closer and kissed her temple. He was so glad to be here
and to be with her. He’d had to go away to Fentress last week for his
“You know, I’m going to have to finish my F/A-18 carrier quals between
now and May, right?” He looked down at her, raising an eyebrow slightly.
“I know…you still miss it, don’t you?”
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.” They stepped onto the path along the
creek heading to Harm’s favorite place.
Mac let go of his waist and took his offered hand as she followed him
down the path. “I can tell.”
They walked along in silence for a few moments until he came to the rock
he liked to rest upon. He climbed up and held a hand out to Mac. She
stepped easily up and stood next to him.
“Are you going to tell me to let go of that lifeline before it becomes a
He gave her an indulgent look, before helping her sit down. He sat down
behind her, stretching both legs out on each side of her and enclosing
her in the circle of his arms.
She leaned back slightly, resting her head on his shoulder. “No.” She
took his both of his hands in hers and wrapped them around her waist.
“So much has changed since then. We’re both different people now. When I
said that I think I was still afraid I’d lose you. I thought back then
that it wasn’t possible for us to be anything but friends. I thought if
you were at JAG I could keep you in my life. A carrier and your love of
flying had taken you out of my life once, and I was afraid it would
“I don’t plan on carrier duty any time soon.” He let go of her hands and
placed both of his on her stomach. “I’ve got a new project in the works
right now.” Her low rise jeans allowed him to flatten his palm over the
soft swell of the lower part of her abdomen. He felt a slight flutter
under one of his hands. “Was that – ?”
Mac had felt the baby moving a few times during the past week, but
always by the time Harm had his hand on her stomach the baby would
still. “Yes… you finally felt it.”
“She’s going to be here before you know it.” He pulled her tighter into
his embrace with
a satisfied smile spreading slowly across his face.
“Did I say that?” Harm had been thinking of the baby as a girl; he
didn’t know why.
“So…you think it’s a girl?” She turned slightly so she could see his
“I do.” He grinned sheepishly.
Mac had been thinking the same thing. She really had wanted a girl
first, but with all the problems she had she would settle for healthy.
“So, Daddy… do you have a name in mind?” she teased.
“Yes, as a matter of fact I do.” He wasn’t sure how she would feel about
it. It was her baby too, after all. “Jacqueline Patricia.”
She loved it. They would name their daughter for their friend and his
mother. She chuckled a bit when she thought of Jack telling them on
their wedding day that they could name their first born child after him.
“I love it, Harm.”
“Are you sure? We can talk about other names. We don’t have to settle on
this one so soon.”
“It’s perfect. I love the way it sounds when I say it. Though, you know,
we could have a boy.” She raised an eyebrow at him.
“I don’t think so.” He pulled her closer to him and felt a happiness and
peace that he couldn’t describe. He buried his face in her neck and
breathed in the scent of her soap and shampoo. “Mmm… let’s just stay out
here all day.”
Mac turned to face him again, and he kissed her before she had a chance
to speak. After a long moment she broke the kiss.
“Hey, I thought you came out here to do your serious thinking.” She
grinned at him mischievously.
He kissed her lightly and looked into her eyes. “I’m
thinking…seriously.” He began to kiss her again, but they were startled
by Mattie calling them from the drive. She could see them plainly from
where she stood.
“Hey, when are you two going to start acting like old married people?”
Mac laughed. “Saved by the bell.”
“Grandma sent me to find you – she has breakfast ready.”
“Okay.” Harm sighed and backed away from Mac to stand up. He helped her
stand and then climbed down the rock. He held out a hand and she let him
help her down.
As Mac followed him down the path toward Mattie, she whispered so that
the teen could not hear her.
“You know, Harm, I’ve been feeling great, but I don’t think I’m up to
sex in the great outdoors.”
Harm stopped on the path and turned to kiss her cheek. “Come on,
Mac…where is your sense of adventure?”
“Oh, go on.” Mac turned him around by his arms and pushed him down the
path, laughing all the way.
Harm walked up the drive with a beautiful girl he loved tucked under
each arm. At that moment he felt like the luckiest man on earth.
Faith Coleman’s apartment
Faith stood at her kitchen sink. She had already had breakfast and been
for her morning run. She felt so good this morning. She couldn’t
remember when she had ever felt so happy. Last night had been wonderful.
Mike had brought her home and kissed her goodbye at her door. She’d been
afraid he would ask to come in … it might have been okay, but he chose
She still had a lot to work out; he seemed to know that without her
having to say anything. She knew she had to let other people in her
life, and that everything couldn’t hinge on his friendship. Michael had
just helped her renew her faith in human kindness. She had feelings for
him. She couldn’t deny it, and she didn’t want to anymore. She just
wasn’t sure where to go from here. She had never really had a long term
relationship with anyone. She didn’t want to make more of it than it
was, but she didn’t want to let this slip away, either. Michael was
already too special to her.
Time would tell, she supposed. She would just have to trust what she and
Michael had as friends to work this out.
Harm loaded the last of their things into the SUV. They had to be back
and ready to go Monday morning. Mac had been able to get an extra day,
but he hadn’t. Mattie wanted to get back that night anyway. Two days was
all she could take away from her computer and her friends. Harm hugged
“It was good to have you all here this weekend.” She kissed his cheek
and released him. She turned to hug Mattie next. “I especially enjoyed
this one.” She patted her back as she spoke.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to get back here. I promise it won’t be
three months between visits next time.”
“It’s all right. I understand, Harmon. Maybe I’ll come and see you next
time. I could try and talk Jack into bringing me to Washington again.”
Mrs. Rabb had enjoyed her last visit, though it had been short.
They were all loaded in the vehicle, and Mrs. Rabb stood beside the
driver’s side and spoke through Harm’s open window.
“Try and keep him out of trouble, Mac.” She winked at Mac and gave
Harm’s arm a pinch, eliciting a laugh from Mac and Mattie.
Harm put the vehicle into gear and as he was driving away said to his
grandmother, “Hey, I’ll give Jack a call. I’m sure he would love to
bring you down…as long as you don’t drive.”
It took Mrs. Rabb a second to register what he had said. “Oh! Harmon
Rabb.” He was already out of reach, though she could hear him laughing
all the way down the driveway. He honked his horn as he pulled out and
she waved goodbye to them all.
General Creswell’s office
Falls Church, Virginia
Harm and Faith had been summoned to the general’s office. They both sat
in front of his desk and waited as he read over a file that sat in front
of him on his desk. He spoke:
“Commander Rabb, I want you to head up a JAGMAN investigation of a fire
that occurred over the weekend in the family housing unit at Little
Creek. There are a few complicating factors. The first one is that a
Master Chief David Graham, a SEAL, was killed in that fire. Another is
that this is one of the men whose picture was published in all the major
newspapers interrogating a prisoner on the ground in Iraq. The last one
is that the surviving spouse has asked that the lead NCIS investigator
not be involved in this case.”
The general extended his hand, and Harm rose and took the file from it.
He sat back in his chair. Harm had heard about the pictures being
published; there had been talk about suing the newspapers involved. He
opened the file and read the name aloud. “Jethro Gibbs?” He looked at
Faith with raised eyebrows. He just figured that this was yet another
person that Gibbs had pissed off. He turned to look back at the general.
“Did she say why, sir?”
“Yes, she is his first wife.”
March 7, 2005
Washington Navy Yard
Agent Tim McGee sat down at his desk and turned on his computer. He
noticed something unusual in his peripheral vision. He turned to see
that a snapshot was taped to Gibbs’s computer terminal so he rose from
his seat to get a closer look. As he stepped toward Gibbs’s desk, Agents
Kate Todd and Tony Dinozzo walked into the office. They both noticed the
puzzled look on McGee’s face.
“What’s going on, McGee?” Kate watched as he turned his head slightly in
McGee got closer and got a clearer view. “Oh….” He stood up straight and
started to walk away. It was a picture of a much younger Leroy Jethro
Gibbs. Kate recognized him right away and stepped closer to get a better
The man in the picture was in bed. His arm was up trying to shield his
eyes. He was smiling a sleepy smile at whoever was taking the picture.
It was Gibbs, all right; Kate would know him anywhere. Forensics Agent
Abby Sciuto had come into the office unnoticed and looked over Kate’s
“Wow…nice six pack. Who’s the…oh God, that’s Gibbs!” Abby looked at
Kate; both women waggled their eyebrows and laughed. Gibbs was wrapped
in a sheet that rested low on his waist, revealing a tanned and very
well defined torso. Gibbs had been a true ‘lean mean fighting machine’
in his younger days.
“Is something funny, ladies?” Gibbs stood just outside the group that
had congregated around his computer. As he stepped into the group behind
his desk he saw the picture.
“What the hell?” He stepped around the desk, quickly dispersing the
other three NCIS agents. He stood closer and got a clearer look. He
opened his drawer and pulled out a pair of gloves. He put them on and
carefully removed the picture from the computer. Turning it over, he saw
that someone had written on the back of it. In the right hand corner,
the words ‘Summer 75’ had been written. The ink was fading but it was
clear enough to read. There was also a verse written in darker ink,
which appeared to have been written more recently. It read:
Who is this coming out of the wilderness?
Like pillars of smoke,
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
With all the merchant’s fragrant powders?
Behold it is Solomon’s couch,
With sixty valiant men around it,
Of the valiant of Israel.
They all hold swords,
Being expert at war.
Every man has his sword on his thigh
Because of fear in the night
Of the wood of Lebanon
Solomon the King
Made himself a palanquin.
Gibbs turned the picture over again. It had been taken nearly 30 years
ago. Only Dani would have this picture; though he certainly hadn’t kept
any of her. This was a picture taken in better times, when he and Dani
were both different people. He took an evidence bag out of his desk
drawer and dropped it in. He took a similar bag out of the breast pocket
of his jacket and handed them both to Abby.
“See if you can get prints from these.” He started to walk toward the
elevators. The clear bag revealed another picture and what looked like
verse written on the back. This one was of a young woman; Abby assumed
it was a photo of Gibbs’s first wife. It was already all over the office
that Gibbs had been taken off of a case involving his first wife. Her
husband, a Navy SEAL, had died in a fire, under suspicious
“Boss?” Tony knew that this had to have something to do with the
investigation at Little Creek. “Where are you going?”
“To Little Creek.” He looked back at Dinozzo and Kate and emphasized,
Kate immediately began to follow Gibbs toward the elevators “Gibbs,
Director Morrow gave me specific instructions to keep you out of this
“This isn’t just about a possible murder/arson on a naval base anymore,
Kate. This is personal now.” His clear blue gaze held a warning.
Kate stepped onto the elevator. As the doors closed, she leaned back on
the wall of the elevator. Gibbs turned to look at her but she was not
backing off. This time she was responsible for this investigation and
she would know whatever it was that he knew. There was a lot more to
those pictures than Gibbs had said.
“What’s the story on those pictures? Why is this personal now?” Kate
stopped the elevator and folded her arms across her chest.
Gibbs did not want anyone in the office to know this much about his
personal life, especially not this. He joked and complained about his
ex-wives all the time – they were all fair game as far as he was
concerned – but this was different. The first divorce had cut the
deepest, and now she had been thrown back into his life again.
“Look, Gibbs, I don’t want the information for office gossip. This is my
investigation and I want to know what you think this has to do with you
now.” Kate was getting exasperated.
He knew she was right, but it still pissed him off. “Who wanted me taken
off this case, anyway?”
Kate looked down and then back at him. “Mrs. Danielle Graham, for
reasons that should be obvious to you. Frankly, given your recent
comments about marriage and ex-wives in particular, I’m surprised you
want anything to do with this.”
Gibbs face hardened; she had no idea what she was talking about. “All
right, Agent Todd,
I found the picture I gave Abby taped to my front door last night. It is
a picture of my first wife. It was taken in the summer of 1975, as was
the one on my computer this morning. It also had a verse written on the
back of it.”
Gibbs turned and placed his hands on either side of Kate’s head and
glared at her, riveting her to the wall with his icy gaze.
“It read, ‘You are fair my love, and there is no spot on you….’”
He leaned in closer his lips just inches from her. “You have ravished my
heart, my sister my bride, you have ravished my heart with one look of
your eyes, with one link of your necklace.” He thought of Dani and what
they had once suddenly it hit him like a hammer.
At that same moment Kate had had enough.
She made a fist and slammed it backward on the wall. Gibbs was startled
and stepped back one step, still seemingly determined to do as he
pleased as far as the investigation was concerned and to keep his own
Kate, however, was not going to be deterred. Damn it, he was not going
to intimidate her. She had never worked for anyone like him. It was
turning into a real love-hate relationship. He was one of the sharpest
investigators she had ever worked with and he was also the most arrogant
and impatient. He was a game player to the Nth degree and he wasn’t
going to win this one.
“Stop it.” She said in an even and determined tone of voice. “I’m not
going to back off. Did you or your wife write those verses on the back
of the pictures?”
“No…At least I didn’t. I didn’t know that she still had them.”
Kate pushed the button to release the elevator. She was intrigued now.
“How did the pictures survive the fire?”
Gibbs looked at Kate, waiting for her to read what he was thinking.
“You think whoever is responsible for the fire is also responsible for
leaving the pictures.” She was getting better at reading him, though it
frustrated her at times that she had to.
“What do you think?” His expression was sarcastic and not a little
“You were ordered to leave the investigation to me, Gibbs. General
Creswell notified us this morning that there will also be a JAGMAN
investigation being conducted in tandem with ours. It seems that Master
Chief Graham may have been an international target. He and a fellow
SEAL’s photographs were taken while conducting an interrogation and
published in a number of newspapers. The wife has also not been cleared
as a suspect.”
Gibbs remembered the situation being discussed among his superiors. He
never put Dani’s husband into the mix. He vaguely remembered that she
had married a SEAL. He smirked; she’d probably done it out of spite. He
hadn’t seen her in over 20 years, but he would bet his life that Dani
wouldn’t kill anyone.
Gibbs exited the elevators walking toward the doors out of the building.
“Gibbs, don’t interfere with this….Where are you going?” Kate did not
want to go to Director Morrow, but she would to keep this case from
Gibbs stopped and turned to look at her knowing she would go to the
director. “I won’t go to Little Creek, Kate.” He turned to walk out of
the building. He wasn’t going to go…yet.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Harm and Faith pulled up in front of the residence. It was a beautiful
home just south of Rudee Inlet in the resort area of Virginia Beach.
They had been notified that Mrs. Graham was staying with her parents
until she was able to make other arrangements. They both looked at each
other, and then exited the car. Neither officer looked forward to having
to interview Mrs. Graham to eliminate her from suspicion in the death of
her husband. It had to be done, though, and Harm wanted to start here
while Gunny was following up some other leads for him. An elderly and
elegantly dressed woman answered the door.
“Can I help you?” The woman looked at them warily.
“I’m Commander Rabb, and this is Commander Coleman. We are from the JAG
Corps, ma’am. We’d like to speak with Danielle Graham, if she is
Another woman walked up behind the older one. She was a beautiful woman
with strawberry blond hair and striking green hazel eyes. Danielle
Graham showed little sign of her 48 years, with the exception of touches
of gray at her temples. She was not a frail person, though she gave off
an aura of sadness.
“I’m Danielle Graham.” She looked at the older woman. “Its okay, Mom,
I’m expecting them.” She looked at Harm and Faith. “Won’t you come in?”
Harm and Faith followed her into the foyer and then to what appeared to
be a formal living room.
“Can I get you anything?” Danielle Graham was being gracious, but her
grief was evident on her face. Her mother hovered just outside the room,
seeming reluctant to leave her alone with them. Harm and Faith declined
and Danielle looked at her mother.
“I’m okay, Mom – don’t worry.”
“We’re sorry to have to intrude at this time, ma’am, but we need to ask
you a few questions,” Harm began.
Harm reached into his breast pocket and took out copies of the two
photos that had been left at Gibbs’s home and office. “Do you recognize
these either of these pictures, ma’am?”
Danielle reached for the pictures and blanched. “How?” She paused.
“These are pictures of myself and my first husband; they were taken
about 30 years ago. What could this have to do with David being killed?”
“They were left in plain sight at Agent Gibbs’s home and at his office.
There may or may not be link, ma’am. Agent Gibbs has stated that he did
not have copies of these pictures and that you were the only one who
could have had them. Have you had any break-ins prior to the fire?”
Danielle thought for a moment. “We had some trouble last fall. A number
of homes in our housing subdivision were also hit, but we just thought
it was some kids’ pranks. Nothing of value was ever taken; they usually
just broke in and made a mess and got out.”
“Did you have these pictures in your home at the time, ma’am?”
“Yes.” It occurred to her just then that she had carried them around all
these years. “I think so. I had forgotten I had them” She looked at both
pictures. She barely recognized herself. She had been standing at the
kitchen sink and Jethro had crept up on her and snapped the picture. She
shook her head slightly.
“This was a lifetime ago.” She turned the picture over and read the
verse that had been copied on the back of each picture.
“Do you recognize the verse on the pictures?”
“I recognize the verse – it is from the Song of Solomon, but I didn’t
write this.” She handed the pictures back to Harm.
“Is there a particular reason you wanted Agent Gibbs removed from this
“I was told he would be leading the investigation over the weekend.
Nothing out of the ordinary was said or done; I just felt it would be
awkward. He is my ex-husband. I haven’t spoken to Jethro in over 20
Harm smirked and thought, ‘And I thought Harmon was bad.’ “Were you
aware of any threats being made to your husband or yourself in the last
few months, ma’am?”
“We were all concerned about the pictures of the interrogations in the
paper. Some of the members of the SEAL team intend to sue. We had
discussed it but hadn’t acted on it yet. We thought that since we lived
on base, we’d be safe. We were only supposed to be here another six
months, so we just didn’t think anyone could get to us there. There was
no specific threat made…no.”
Faith looked at Harm. “Sir, if I may?”
Faith continued. “The other break-ins that occurred in your
neighborhood: were they members of the SEAL team as well?”
“No, the other team members lived off base; a lot of the men don’t have
families.” Dani was suddenly having a difficult time believing that she
was never going to see her husband again. She still expected him to walk
through the door any minute, his booming laughter filling the room.
Harm asked, “Ma’am, why were you staying here instead of at your home?”
“My father had surgery early last week, so I came to stay with my mother
and help her take care of him.”
Harm continued to ask about the details of her weekend. It seemed
obvious to him that she had not been involved. She had been with her
mother or father the whole weekend.
Harm and Mac’s apartment
North of Union Station
Harm unlocked the door; the apartment was quiet and dark. Mac’s car was
outside so she had to be home. Harm looked toward the living room and
saw Mac stretched out on the couch. There was just enough light outside
to allow him to see her. He walked over to the couch and sat down on the
coffee table. Mac had a book open and lying across her stomach, holding
onto it in her sleep. He read the title and smiled and thought, ‘Typical
Mac…always prepared and studying motherhood.’
He stood again, leaving Mac to sleep, and took off his tie and uniform
jacket. He hung them up and opened the neck of his shirt, glancing at
Mac to see if she would wake. He got himself a bottle of water out of
the fridge and leaned back on the kitchen island, watching. He couldn’t
believe his coming in hadn’t caused her to wake. She hadn’t worked that
day, so she had been here waiting for him. He would never be able to
explain it; it was old fashioned, he knew, but he loved that she was
here when he came home.
Mac began to stir and turned her head to see him watching her. “Hey…how
long have you been here?” She sat up and placed her book on the coffee
table. She walked across the room and slipped her arms around his waist.
“I just got in; you looked so peaceful I didn’t have the heart to wake
you. Did you enjoy your day off?” He locked his arms around her, kissing
“Yes I did, but I don’t think I could take too much of this.” It had
been kind of fun to kick back for a while, but she wanted to be back at
work…making a difference. That was who she was.
“Reading up on motherhood, Mac?” He raised a brow and looked at her.
“Yeah…you know, I’ve been thinking…we are going to need to start
thinking about another place to live.” She leaned back and looked at
He knew they needed to move, but he still didn’t like to think of
leaving this place. “I know.”
“I don’t want to move either, Harm.” She leaned back and gave him a
lopsided smile. She had been reading about how to equip the nursery and
all the best things for the baby.
He hugged her to him more closely. “We have four and a half months, Mac.
I know we need to do more than think about this. We can look around, but
let’s not jump into something we really don’t want because the baby is
coming. We’ll find something…that’s just right for us.”
“Too bad we can’t move your grandmother’s house closer to Washington.”
When she thought of home now, she thought of the farm in Pennsylvania.
“I know I want something outside D.C., something in the direction of
Blacksburg. It’s a long drive there now, I know, but even if we take 25
miles off of the drive it would help. I don’t want to lose Mattie, Mac.”
“I don’t think you have to worry about that, Harm. We had a great
weekend last weekend.” Mattie was bubbling over with what was happening
in her life; her main focus was on getting her pilot’s license. It was
just a matter of time now.
“Mattie draws everyone she loves into her circle, and I think we’re
lucky to be included in that.”
“Are you tired, honey?” Mac leaned back and looked at him.
“Not really.” Harm raised his brows a bit, hopeful.
“Good…what are you making me for dinner?”
Faith had just finished her shower and was combing out her hair when the
phone rang. The name on the caller ID made her smile. It was Michael.
“Hey, how did it go with Commander Rabb?” Mike had been thinking about
her off and on all day.
“It wasn’t bad. He was pretty much all business. It’s a tough
assignment, really. I’m beginning to feel like a grief counselor.” Her
last two major assignments had involved the death of a spouse.
“I don’t envy you that part of it.”
They both spoke at once, then laughed at themselves.
Mike began, “I thought Commander Rabb might have been giving you a bit
of a hard time about…well, you know, about seeing us out at McMurphy’s.”
“I know, I thought he might too. It seems you’re the one he likes to rib
“Yeah, I guess he’s not as bad as I thought.”
“We didn’t meet on very good circumstances. You know what kind of first
impression I give, and you were trying to get him sent to Leavenworth.
So I think we are fortunate that he has a sense of humor at all when it
comes to us.”
“Yeah, I suppose that is true. I have to say when we were TAD to Iraq
last fall, my opinion of him changed. He is a lot more squared away than
I thought. He kids around about the Navy-Marine thing, but he really is
a fair man….I just wish he had another focus right now, since I seem to
be the one he wants to mess with.”
Faith laughed and agreed with him.
Mike changed the subject. “Hey, do you feel like a cup of coffee?” He
hadn’t seen her since Friday night. He hadn’t wanted to push her; he
wasn’t sure what he wanted out of this himself, but he wanted to see
“I just got out of the shower.” She hesitated, then dove in. “Why don’t
you come over? For a cup of coffee, I mean.” She blushed though she was
alone in the room.
Mike hadn’t expected that, but he liked the idea. “Yeah, I can do that.
Are you sure, Faith?”
“Yes, I am. I’ll see you in about half an hour?”
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Dani walked out onto the deck of her parents’ home. She had just helped
her father to bed and left her mother reading in the living room. It was
a warm night; warm for early spring, anyway. She stepped off of the deck
and walked onto the sand pathway that led over the dune to the beach.
The moon was full, so the night was not so dark. She needed to think and
just breathe. She still had trouble grasping the fact that David was
gone. He had been the anchor of her life for over 20 years. What would
she do without him? Both of her sons were on their way home from
different parts of the world, she needed them now.
She was used to living alone, but only because she’d known that he was
coming back. That had been what sustained her. She could bear anything,
because at the end of it all, she and David were together. What about
the boys? Right at this moment she didn’t know how she would support
them when she seemed so unable to even believe what had happened
herself. Aaron seemed to be the stronger of the two boys. Boys? They
were men now.
Her son Aaron was in Iraq; he was on his way home now. He had chosen the
military as a career, but had joined the Army. She had laughed and told
him he probably had only joined the Rangers to tweak his father’s nose.
The thought still made her smile.
Their youngest son Matt, had chosen the Navy, he was just one year
younger than his brother. He was aboard the USS Patrick Henry in the
She walked up the steps that bridged the dune and sat down on the top
step, facing out to sea. She folded her arms and rested her head on
them. Suddenly she thought of every cross word they had ever had, every
time she had lost her temper or been impatient.
She remembered how patient he had been with her in the beginning. She‘d
been so raw from her first marriage. She hadn’t trusted anyone, and he’d
borne the brunt of it. He had loved her through it all.
Suddenly she knew that no one would ever love her like he had, and she
felt the loss of it at a visceral level. She doubled over and cried so
hard she couldn’t catch her breath. She tried to take in big gulps of
air to calm herself. She hadn’t broken down in front of her mother and
father, or anyone for that matter. She thanked God she was alone.
She was not alone, though. Gibbs had parked his car in front of her
parents’ house and had seen her walk out of the back of the house. He
followed slowly behind her as she walked toward the beach. It was odd,
but in shadow she looked the same as she had when they were first
married. She wore boot cut jeans, she appeared to be barefoot and her
hair was long flowing down her back. Her oversized shirt billowed behind
her in the wind. They’d always fought about her stealing his shirts out
of his closet.
He knew he shouldn’t be there but he followed anyway. He reached the top
of the bridge to walk across when he saw her sitting at the top of the
steps, resting her head on her crossed arms. He started to walk toward
her when he heard her begin to cry. The sound stopped him cold, and
Gibbs knew he had no place there. This was not the time. He was grateful
that there was just enough wind to cover the sound of his retreating
steps. He remembered that sound, the heartbreaking sound of Dani when
she finally let herself cry.
Gibbs made his way quietly to his car and left without notice. He was
relieved that no one had seen him. There were a lot of unanswered
questions, but they couldn’t be answered tonight. It was going to be a
long drive home.
Gibbs leaned back on his work bench and sipped the bourbon from his cup.
Who the hell could be doing this? He knew that whoever had left the
pictures with the verses had to be involved in the arson at Little
Creek. This person had to know enough about him to link him to Dani. Her
name was not common knowledge to anyone he worked with. Someone was
digging deep in his past and he did not like it at all.
He thought again of Dani, of the sound of her crying for her husband. He
remembered the time she had cried for him – at the end, when she had
finally given up. In his mind’s eye he saw her as they stood outside the
courthouse ready to go their separate ways. It was the summer of ‘84.
“I wish you well, Jethro; I hope you find whatever it is you need to
make you happy. It sure wasn’t me.”
She had caught him out with someone else. It wasn’t the first time but
it had been the last.
“I know it doesn’t matter now, but it really didn’t mean anything.” He’d
meant to say that it wasn’t her fault, but it hadn’t come out that way.
“You know, I can accept everything but that. Don’t say it was nothing.
It changed everything.” She’d looked at him directly. “I know I’ll never
be the same again.”
She’d looked away gathering her courage. She’d still loved him but she
could not stay with him anymore.
“I used to think that women who tracked their husbands down like I did
that last time were pathetic. I had to, though; if I hadn’t I would have
taken you back. I couldn’t lie to myself if I saw it with my own eyes.”
“Dani…” He didn’t know what he was going to say – he just wanted her to
stop talking and for this conversation to be over.
She put her hand up. “No… there is nothing else to say.” Tears spilled
down her cheeks and she turned and started to walk away. She began to
run, leaving him behind and never looking back.
They had married very young; they‘d been only 18 years old. They had
been very happy in the beginning. He smiled when he thought of how he
used to tease her about wasting his money on living room furniture; they
hadn’t used it much that first year. They’d had a lot of potential for
happiness, but slowly, without their knowing, it had all slipped away.
He’d made a lot of mistakes, they both had. In spite of it all, he’d
thought that he would be with her forever, but looking back to that time
he’d seemed to be in a cycle of destruction and his marriage had gone
down with it. He had just come back from Lebanon when it all seemed to
fall apart. He had been there when the car bomb hit the Marine barracks
Gibbs sat his cup down on his workbench, and then it struck him. Both
verses on the back of the pictures mentioned Lebanon. He picked up his
phone and dialed a familiar number.
Falls Church, Virginia
Danielle Graham walked through the glass doors of the bullpen. Petty
Officer Jennifer Coates approached her.
“Can I help you, ma’am?”
“Yes, I’m looking for Commander Rabb.”
She was directed to Harm’s office where she knocked gently on the open
door. Looking up, Harm greeted her and asked her to sit down.
“Thank you. Mrs. Graham, for coming so quickly.”
“It’s all right. I’m in Washington to arrange my husband’s burial at
Harm picked up his phone and rang Faith’s office. “Commander Coleman,
Mrs. Graham has arrived. Could you join us, please?”
Faith was in his office almost immediately. She nodded toward Danielle.
“Ma’am.” Harm directed her to be seated.
Harm began, “We have some new information we would like to discuss with
you. NCIS forensics was able to determine that Master Chief Graham died
of smoke inhalation. He also sustained a blow to the back of his head,
in all likelihood rendering him unconscious.”
Danielle folded her arms across her chest and straightened her back,
steeling herself so that she could bear what she was hearing. Even
though she was deeply involved in the details of her husband’s funeral,
the reality was still difficult to grasp.
“At least he didn’t suffer.” Her voice was almost inaudible. She had
been haunted by what she thought he may have gone through.
Harm continued, “Forensics was also able to determine that an accelerant
was used to start the fire.”
Danielle slowly shook her head, trying to make sense of what she was
hearing…even though her husband had a dangerous job, she had never
thought that they were anything but safe here in their own home. “I
should have been home.” She knew there was nothing she could have done,
but she felt it just the same.
Faith spoke up. “Ma’am, if you had been, it is likely that you would be
dead as well.”
Danielle looked around quickly at Faith.
“I’m sorry, ma’am.” Faith colored a bit and looked at Harm.
“It’s all right, Commander, I know that’s true.” She gave her a broken
“Mrs. Graham, do you know if your husband had any problems with people
he worked with, either now or in the past?” Harm wanted to redirect the
“No, David got along with everyone. I was never privy to the details of
their missions, but I knew about his friendships with the other members
of his SEAL team. They were like brothers; I can’t imagine anyone from
the team doing anything to harm him.”
“We are still working with NCIS on this case, ma’am. We may have
questions in the future and we will keep you apprised of our progress.
This may take some time.”
Danielle nodded and rose from her chair. She shook hands with Faith and
then with Harm. “Thank you.”
Harm rose and followed her out of his office door. He watched her cross
the bullpen, and just as he turned to go back into his office, he saw
something in his peripheral vision.
Special Agent Gibbs stepped off of the elevator and approached Danielle.
She looked at him and he felt as though the wind had been knocked out of
him. She was still as beautiful as ever – a bit of gray at the crown of
her head blended beautifully with her golden auburn hair. He gave no
outward sign of his reaction; he never had.
“Dani?” She didn’t recognize him at first. Then he saw the recognition
light her face.
“Jethro?” She extended her hand and he took it.
“I’m sorry about your husband, Dani.” His expression was softer than
usual for Gibbs.
“Thank you and I hope you understand about my requesting that you not be
involved. It was just awkward…to tell the truth, I don’t know what I was
thinking.” She was still glad she had made the request; she just hadn’t
meant to cause a problem for him.
He straightened and the expression on his face hardened. He did
understand, but he was still not happy about it. “I understand.”
The elevator opened again and a young man in an Army uniform stepped off
of the elevator. His uniform bore the decoration and insignia of an Army
Ranger. His name plate read ‘Graham.’
“Mom?” He looked very much like his mother, except for his eye color, a
cool shade of blue.
“I’m sorry, son; I was just on my way down. Aaron, I’d like you to meet
Jethro Gibbs. Jethro, my son Aaron.”
The two men shook hands, the younger one giving the older man a harder
and more appraising look. Aaron had been told about his mother’s first
marriage and he knew Gibbs had been her first husband. He nodded to
Gibbs and gently but firmly placed his hand on her elbow.
“Are you ready, Mom?”
“Yes, son, I am.” She smiled at Gibbs. “It was good to see you, Jethro.”
“Nice meeting you, sir.” Aaron then turned and guided his mother toward
Gibbs nodded and turned to walk into the bullpen; he hadn’t noticed that
Harm had been watching this exchange. Harm had just returned to his desk
when Gibbs knocked on his door.
“Commander Rabb, a word with you?” He then turned to look at Faith as
though he were silently telling her to leave the room.
Harm looked at Faith and she stood. “Commander Coleman, you are
“Aye, aye, sir.” Faith left the room, but she knew that this had to be
about the case. When she had spoken with Special Agent Todd, she’d
warned her that Gibbs had not taken the news that he was off the
Harm sat down behind his desk and motioned for Gibbs to do the same.
“What can I do for you, Special Agent Gibbs?”
“This is about the case at Little Creek.” Gibbs did not sit down but
leaned against the bookcase near the door.
“It is my understanding that Special Agent Todd is leading the
“I’m not interfering with her investigation.” Gibbs looked away as he
was speaking; whether he was trying to be evasive or cryptic, Harm
“So you’re interfering with mine?” Harm gave him a sarcastic smile.
“Look, I have information that may help in this case – do you want it or
not?” He leaned forward to push off of the bookcase, stand and walk out
of the office.
Harm raised a hand. “What do you have?”
“The verse that was written on the backs of both of those pictures. They
both mention Lebanon. I was there in Beirut in October ‘83.” He leaned
back again and looked at Harm. “I believe whoever sent those pictures
may be linked in some way to that time.”
Harm frowned. “What makes you think this is about you and not about
Master Chief Graham?” He had to admit the pictures were part of the
puzzle, but Gibbs’s role in this still remained to be seen.
Gibbs was angry immediately. “Look…no other members of the SEAL team
have been threatened, Dani is the only one who had the pictures that
were sent to me, and her husband is dead, in an apparent arson. You’re
going to tell me this is not about me?”
Harm had heard enough. He stood and walked to his office door and closed
it. “Special Agent Gibbs, I’m going to tell you that we have not
completed this investigation. I’m going to give you the advice that
someone once gave me. Do you remember? About conducting an investigation
on my own, when it was personal?”
Harm leaned against his desk and crossed his arms. “If you have any
other information, Special Agent, I would like it now. Should you be
contacted in the future, I expect you to notify Special Agent Todd or
myself. Withholding information and acting on your own might be
misconstrued and land you in the brig. Are we clear?”
Gibbs glared at Harm; he turned, walked toward the door and opened it.
“Yeah…we’re clear.” He looked back at Harm.
“You’re too close to this, Gibbs, and you know it,” Harm warned.
Gibbs turned and kept walking toward the glass doors of the bullpen.
Harm knew what it was like to be involved in something so close to him
personally. He knew from experience how disastrous it could be. He also
knew that Gibbs knew better than this. It seemed that this time Gibbs
was running on emotion, as though this were close to his heart. Harm
didn’t know what surprised him more: that he was acting this way or that
anyone or anything got close to Gibbs’s heart.
Just as Special Agent Gibbs walked out of the bullpen, Mac was walking
in. She didn’t notice Gibbs because she had her eyes focused on Harm.
The look on her face caused Harm to freeze in place. Something was
wrong. She was pale, her expression a mask, something was not right at
“Harm, can I speak with you in your office?” She walked past him as he
stood near the doorway. He stepped inside and closed the door.
“What is it, Mac?” He stood in front of her as she slowly eased into the
“I’ve been hurting all day.” Mac placed her hand on her lower abdomen on
the left side.
“What do you mean? I mean...where?” Harm’s heart was in his throat. It
was as though all his fears about their having a baby were being
“My incision, the place where I had my surgery, it has been hurting all
day. I didn’t think it was anything at first – it just stung a bit after
I ran this morning, but now…” She looked up at Harm, her eyes filled
with fear. “Oh, Harm, what if I hurt the baby?”
Harm was already turning and picking up the phone to dial General
Creswell’s office. “Jen, I need to speak with the general, now.” He
turned back and reached for her hand, gently grasping it.
“I’ll get him, sir.” Jen heard the insistence in his voice. He didn’t
usually speak to her that way. She knew something had to be wrong. “I’ll
transfer you now, sir.”
Harm told the general that Mac needed to get to Bethesda right away and
that he was going with her. The general gave his permission without
“Keep us apprised, Commander.”
Faith had returned to Commander Rabb’s office to arrange tomorrow’s
meeting to discuss their investigation. She started to knock when Harm
opened the door.
“Commander Coleman, I will be out of the office the rest of the day and
possibly tomorrow.” Harm had his cover and was guiding Mac out of the
office. “I will be in touch with you tomorrow morning.”
Faith had sensed immediately that something was wrong. “Yes sir.” She
stepped back to allow them to pass.
It seemed everyone in the office knew. The air was filled with tension
and suddenly became very quiet. Mike walked to his office doorway and
looked at Faith. She walked over to him.
“I hope everything is okay.” Mike looked at her and raised his brows.
She nodded. “I do too.” It wouldn’t be fair if they were to lose this
child. They had been her ideal of the ‘happily ever after’ couple.
Because of them she believed happiness was possible, in spite of
National Naval Medical Center
Mac lay on the exam table with her head elevated. She had been examined
thoroughly, and the baby was being monitored; she could hear its heart
beating. Every beat reassured her that everything would be all right.
Harm walked into the room.
“Hey.” His expression much more relaxed than it had been when they
“Did you talk to Commander Fletcher?”
“Yes, she wants you to stay tonight.” Harm raised his brows, as though
he were trying the idea out on her.
“I think you should, Mac.” He knew she would be difficult about this.
“I know – I just hate the thought of it, though. It’s just the scar
tissue from my surgery, Harm.”
“I would feel a lot better if you would let them keep a close eye on
you.” He stood beside her and took her hand in both of his. “You gave us
both a pretty good scare today, you know?”
She knew he was right. Commander Fletcher had told them that the baby
was fine. Mac’s pain was not about the baby but about her incision. She
would have to exercise more conservatively and the doctor also wanted
Mac to stay home until the following Monday.
“Hey, I didn’t mean that it was your fault. I just want to be careful
now, that’s all.” Harm leaned in closer and kissed her on the cheek.
She sighed, resigning herself to staying at the hospital. “Oh, all
right… but you should go home. There is no sense in both of us being
stuck here all night.”
“No.” Harm’s look was loving but very firm.
Mac looked at him directly in the eye and gave him a sly smile. “You’re
really loving having the upper hand here, aren’t you, Flyboy?”
He returned her smile. “Yes, as a matter of fact I am…so no arguments. I
called Jen. She’s bringing me a change of clothes, and the general gave
me tomorrow off, so we’re all set.”
“Enjoy it while you can, Sailor, because when I get better you are in a
lot of trouble.” She reached for him and pulled him down closer so that
they were face to face.
“Promises, promises.” With that he kissed her softly on the lips. She
answered that with a sharp nip to his bottom lip.
“Hey…no biting.” He stepped back and chuckled.
Gunny sat in his truck, waiting for Jen to come downstairs. She had
called and let him know about Commander Rabb’s call. They had planned to
have dinner that night. He had offered to pick her up, drive her over
and then have a late dinner after. Jen walked out of her apartment
building toward him and as she did she passed a young man walking in.
The man turned to watch Jen as she passed him. A slow smile spread
across Gunny’s face. Jen was totally oblivious to the man’s attention.
Her focus was on him, returning his smile as she walked to the
passenger’s side of the vehicle and opened the door.
“Hey…what are you smiling about?” Jen got in and leaned across the seat
to kiss his cheek.
“Can’t I smile if I want to?” He knitted his brow but kept his smile in
place. The young man who had been watching got the message that Jen was
taken. He shrugged his shoulders and continued to walk into the
building. In a few moments, without even knowing it, Jen had made Gunny
feel 10 ten feet tall.
“Yes, of course you can…you just look like the cat that ate the canary.
What are you up to?”
Gunny put the truck into gear and began backing out of the parking
place. “Not a thing.”
One hour later…
Gunny and Jen had gone to Harm and Mac’s apartment and picked up changes
of clothes for both of them. Gunny was a little uncomfortable being
there, but Jen seemed to treat the place like a second home. They were
on their way in just a matter of minutes and now were approaching the
“I hope everything is okay for the colonel.” Gunny had always looked up
to Mac; she was the reason he’d come to JAG in the first place. He had
been a witness to the things that Harm and Mac had been through
together, the good and the bad. He just hoped all would be well in this
“The commander said that the baby was fine and that the colonel was too.
That’s enough for me.” Jennifer was determined to look at this in a
positive way. It was one of the things that Gunny liked about her. She
was direct and to the point and had more hope than someone with her
background would be expected to have.
They were in the building shortly thereafter. Harm heard Jennifer asking
for Colonel Rabb’s room number. He had told her what floor Mac would be
on but didn’t have the room number when he talked to her. He walked out
into the hallway.
“Jen?” He looked at the petty officer at the nurses’ station. “It’s
okay, Petty Officer, we’re expecting them.”
Gunny and Jen walked toward Harm and into the room. Mac was lying in the
hospital bed with her head elevated. Her eyes were closed; both Jen and
Gunny hesitated, not wanting to disturb the colonel.
“She’s not asleep, it’s all right,” Harm reassured them.
Gunny still felt ill at ease in a situation this intimate with a
superior officer. He didn’t think he would ever reach Jen’s comfort
level with the officers she worked for. Mac opened her eyes and turned
toward them, pulling up her sheet a bit more.
“Hello, Jen…Gunny. Thanks for helping us out with this. I tried to send
Harm home, but he’s not taking orders very well these days.” She gave
Harm an indulgent smile. “I hope you didn’t have to alter your plans for
“Not at all, ma’am. We were just going to grab a late dinner anyway.”
Jen was glad to be the one that the commander called on when he needed
help, no matter how small the task was. She still felt she owed him a
“It’s not a problem, ma’am.” Gunny was still very uncomfortable. He
wanted to finish this conversation and get the hell out of there. He
didn’t like seeing the colonel this way; there was something backward
about it. He was used to Colonel Mackenzie Rabb, the kick ass
no-nonsense Marine. This was not a natural state for her as far as he
was concerned and he just didn’t like it.
Jen could sense how Gunny was feeling, so she did cut the conversation
short and they left very shortly thereafter.
“Gunny and Jen, huh?” Mac smiled at Harm. He sat down on a stool beside
“Yeah, I think something is going on there, all right.” Harm was
thoughtful for a moment. “He’s a good guy, Mac. Jen could do a lot
worse.” He knew without a doubt if Gunny and Jen were to have a
permanent relationship that Jen would always be taken care of. He still
felt a responsibility toward her. He had accepted a long time ago that
he always would.
Mac shrugged her shoulders, “Yeah, I suppose so. They are complete
Harm raised his eyebrows, feigning a look of wonder. “Oh…really?”
Mac swatted at him, missing on purpose. “You know what I mean. Jen is so
outspoken, bordering on insubordination at times. Gunny is a by the book
Marine, totally squared away. On the outside, they don’t seem to have a
lot in common.”
Harm considered that statement. “I could think of a lot of things that I
know from personal experience. They are both loyal, dedicated to their
jobs and their friends. They are both brave on a lot of levels. They
both had things to overcome from their lives when they were young. They
joined the military and changed their lives, really.” He looked at Mac,
waiting for her to answer.
“Harmon Rabb…have you gone and gotten deep on me?” She smiled at him
Harm chuckled. “I wouldn’t go that far.” His smile faded when he
suddenly thought of Gunny literally saving his life when they were in
Iraq. He was the reason he was sitting there today. Harm reached over
and placed his hand on Mac’s stomach.
“Honey, what is it?” Mac placed her hand over his.
“I was just thinking…” He looked into her eyes then back at where his
hand was resting on her stomach.
“About when the gunny and I were in Iraq. He really did save my life
that day, Mac. I could have died that day and never…” He looked back up
at her again. He was running out of words, and he didn’t want to be too
emotional, not now.
“You’ve never really talked about that day, you know.”
“This isn’t the time.” ‘Please, Mac…don’t push,’ he thought.
She began to stroke the back of his hand where it lay on her stomach.
“Maybe not…but you need to talk about this. It doesn’t have to be with
“I’m not trying to shut you out, Mac. I just…”
“This was up close and personal…I do understand.”
Harm looked at her and saw patience and love in her eyes. He stood up
from the stool and then sat back down on the side of her bed.
“Is this okay?” He just wanted to get a little closer to her. He leaned
down and kissed her cheek and then her lips.
“It’s more than okay…though if you keep kissing me like that, I might
not let you leave.”
Her lips were just inches away from his.
“You know…that is the second threat I’ve gotten from you tonight. What
is up with that, Mrs. Rabb?”
Mac smiled at him. “Just trying to keep the Sailor in line…in my
Gunny and Jen approached his truck and he unlocked the door on the
passenger’s side of the vehicle. He had been quiet since they left the
colonel’s room. Jen stood in the open doorway of the vehicle.
“Victor?” She never really knew how to take the silences with him; they
came out of nowhere sometimes.
He stood in front of her and gazed intensely into her eyes.
“Are you okay? Did I stick my foot in my mouth again?” Jennifer waited
slightly unnerved by the look in his eyes.
“No.” Victor’s expression did not change.
Gunny had been thinking since he picked her up that it was time to tell
her how he felt about her. They had seen each other often in the time
since he returned from Iraq. To say he enjoyed being with her would be
an understatement. He couldn’t remember when he had been as happy as he
had been in the last few weeks. Outside of a few good night kisses and
cuddling up when they watched movies at her apartment or his, he hadn’t
been very aggressive in his showing his affection for her. He had
definitely been holding back. He was having a great time with her; he
didn’t want to move too fast and spoil it.
Seeing the long look she got as she came out of her apartment building
made him see that he had better make his intentions known. He was
through waiting; he just didn’t know where to begin.
“Jen…I know that you’ve noticed that I’ve been taking…it kind of slow…”
This was just not coming out right. “I just want you to know that…I…”
Jen stepped closer to him and slipped her arms into his jacket and
around his waist, making him swallow hard. She meant to reassure him but
she literally felt his heart rate speed up.
“That you mean a lot to me…you’re special…I…” Gunny was looking at her
mouth, he just wanted to kiss her senseless.
Jen kissed him quickly and drew back. “Victor, you talk too much.”
She kissed him again, and he deepened the kiss, pushing her back against
the side of the truck. She pulled him even closer; this was what she had
been waiting for. She had begun to think that Victor wasn’t attracted to
her this way, that she was just someone to spend some time with.
But his kiss was putting all of those thoughts out of her head; his
embrace molding his body tightly against hers told her everything she
needed to know.
Victor Galindez’s apartment
Jen was startled awake by an alarm clock, and nearly bolted out of the
bed. She was disoriented at first and didn’t remember where she was. She
pushed the button on top of the alarm and stepped back from it. Then
realization came, and she calmed down, placing her hand on her chest and
slowing her breathing. Where was Victor? The apartment was quiet; she
could smell coffee brewing, though, and thought he was in the kitchen.
She wrapped herself in a sheet from the bed and went to look for him.
She padded into the living room and looked into the kitchen, then into
the open door of the bathroom. He wasn’t there. Jen’s heart sank. She
didn’t really know what to think. Last night had been…wonderful. She
thought he had enjoyed being with her too. She walked further into the
kitchen, deciding that she might as well make a cup of coffee. Neither
of them had slept very much and she would need it, so she figured she
could even handle Victor’s strong coffee today.
She walked to the counter where the coffee pot sat and noticed a note
with her name at the top, sitting next to a clean coffee cup. It read:
Sorry I had to get out of here early.
I didn’t want to wake you.
I forgot that I’m supposed to meet the general for a run this morning.
Last night was great.
Meet me here at 1800?
She smiled to herself, feeling foolish for the panic she’d felt. She
should have known he wouldn’t have just walked away without saying
anything. She poured herself a cup of coffee and walked to the window to
look out. She saw that Victor’s truck was gone and then she realized
that she didn’t have her car.
‘Oh my God,’ she thought – how was she going to get to work? Something
else Victor had forgotten about. Calling anyone from work was out of the
question. She scrambled to the phone, praying that her roommate was
still there. Alicia answered, and after much begging and promises of
fresh bagels for a week she agreed to leave early, pick Jen up and let
her get her car.
Later that morning, Jen was walking into the bullpen from the elevators
and passed Victor on her way to her desk.
“Did you enjoy your run?” She smiled at him sweetly.
“Yes, I did.” He gave her a knowing look.
“I had a busy morning too.” She turned to walk toward her desk. “I had
to go get my car.”
Gunny had already started walking toward his desk when he froze in
place. He had completely forgotten. He turned and started to follow Jen
when he heard General Creswell call for her. Jen turned to walk into his
office and noticed Gunny’s expression. She gave him a quick wink and
stepped into the general’s office.
When she had finished with the general she gave Gunny a call at his
“Gunnery Sergeant Galindez…what seems to be the problem with your memory
She leaned forward so that she could see him from where she spoke on the
Gunny smiled into the phone. “My apologies, Petty Officer. I think I’m
being distracted by some of the naval personnel here. One petty officer
in particular has caused several lapses in memory lately.” He looked in
Bud walked into the bullpen and noticed Gunny talking on the phone and
looking in Jen’s direction.
Gunny snapped his head toward him. “Yes, sir?”
“I need a word with you after staff call. I’m going to need you to
follow up on a few things for me.”
“Yes sir.” He still had Jen on the line. “I’ll talk with you later,
“Yes… you will.” She smiled smugly and hung up her phone.
Mrs. Rabb pulled her Jeep up the drive way and parked it in front of the
house. Today had been a very long day. Jack O’Reilly had had a stroke.
She had been at the hospital for the last two days. Sam had called her
early Saturday morning asking her to come to the hospital in Altoona.
Jack was her oldest and dearest friend. He had known her husband and his
parents. It was almost as though he was her link to her past, her happy
She got out of the vehicle stiffly and walked toward the house. She was
being reminded just now that she was not as young as she used to be. She
had been sleeping on a cot to be near Jack, to reassure Sam and also
herself, if truth be told. She placed a hand to her back, heaving a
heavy sigh, and walked up the steps to her porch.
The therapist in her wanted to get Jack moving as soon as he was
conscious. His doctors said he would be evaluated in the next 24 to 48
hours. He had come out of the stroke without apparent permanent damage.
He had seemed so much frailer, though. He was weaker on one side but was
testing out well with sensation on both sides. Jack had recognized her
and had spoken to her in the last 24 hours, but Mrs. Rabb knew she was
losing him because he was more frail than he had ever been.
She walked into her house and started her coffee, and suddenly she felt
so lonely. She felt as though she had been left behind and that all the
people who shared her memories were gone. She shook herself mentally and
thought, ‘Get hold of yourself, Sarah.’ She knew she was just feeling
sorry for herself and that this was no way to be. She had her health,
she had Harm and Sarah and the new baby coming this summer. She even had
that old rascal Jack Keeter, when he would slow down long enough to
visit. Mrs Rabb was pulled from her thoughts by the telephone ringing.
“Hello?” Her voice sounded gravelly from emotion.
“Grandma?” She didn’t sound like herself at all.
“Harmon, yes…how are you, son?” She cleared her throat.
She sounded distracted and Harm was concerned immediately. “Are you
“Yes…I’m fine. I just got in; I guess I should have called.”
“What’s going on?”
“It’s Jack…he had a stroke…two days ago.” It seemed more like a month
“My God...Is he all right?” Harm knew that his grandmother and Jack
O’Reilly had a special friendship.
“He’s recovering. I’ve been at the hospital in Altoona since Saturday.”
“You must be exhausted. I can call back later if you like.”
“No, no. To be honest with you, I needed to hear from you today. You
must have radar, son.”
She smiled in spite of herself. She loved her grandson. The very sight
of him or the sound of his voice could lift her heart. “What’s happening
with you, anyway?”
“I was just going to let you know that Mac went back to work today and
she’s fine.” Harm looked at Mac, who was sitting at a chair in front of
his desk. She was frowning with concern as she listened to Harm’s side
of the conversation.
Mrs. Rabb was relieved; she had been worried about her since Harm’s
phone call last Wednesday. “Oh, that’s good to hear. Let me speak with
her for a moment.”
Harm reached across his desk and nodded toward Mac. “She wants to talk
to you.” He handed her the phone.
“Sarah?” Mac stood in front of Harm’s desk.
“Hello, Mac. Tell me something good and then I’ll fill you in on what’s
going on with me. I know you must be wondering after listening to Harm.”
“Yes I am, and I did go back to work today, although I’m feeling like a
lightweight these days. No more running for me per doctor’s orders, but
I can keep exercising, just not as vigorously as before.”
“It won’t last long, Mac – that baby will be here before you know it.
Are you still having any pain?” She sounded more like the clinician than
the grandmother just now.
“No, I really am fine. Harm’s been hovering like an old mother hen.”
She gave him an indulgent smile and he returned it with a wink. Harm
knew Mac was teasing and that she appreciated that he was there for her.
“Okay, Sarah, I told you about me, now tell me what’s going on with
Mrs. Rabb told her about Jack but tried to put her usual positive light
on the situation. Mac knew her well enough to know that she wasn’t
telling it all. Something was getting her down; she could hear it in her
“Will you be going back to the hospital soon?” Just then Mac had visions
of Mrs. Rabb lying uncomfortably on a waiting room sofa trying to sleep.
“Yes, he will be evaluated for physical therapy in the next couple of
days.” Sam had insisted she go home until Wednesday and then she could
alternate days with him and his wife Kathie.
“So you’re just making sure they do it right?”
“Something like that.” She grinned sheepishly.
“I was going to suggest you come and visit; I thought it might be nice
to get you into the city for a couple of days.”
“Don’t worry about me, Mac, I’ll get out of this funk I’m in. I just
need a little rest and then to get back to the hospital.”
“Worrying about you is my prerogative as your granddaughter-in-law. I
still want you to consider it, Sarah…after things are settled with
“I can’t argue with that…granddaughter-in-law.” She liked the sound of
They ended the call shortly thereafter, with Mrs. Rabb promising to keep
them posted on Jack’s progress.
Washington Navy Yard
A picture of a beautiful young woman was taped to the top of Special
Agent Gibbs’s desk, placed dead center. It was a picture of the then
Danielle Smith. On the back was written in fading blue ink:
With all my love,
There was also a verse written on the back of the picture as had been
with the two previous pictures that Gibbs had received.
‘Nevertheless I have this against you,
That you have left your first love.’
The cleaning crews were the only people who had access to the office
after hours. One of the crew members had been approached by a young man
one afternoon at the beginning of his shift who’d asked him to help him
play a practical joke. He placed the picture at the designated desk. The
young man had said that he and a man who worked here had been college
friends; he had paid him fifty dollars for his trouble. This was the
second time he had done this for him. It was an easy way to make a
little extra money and harmless as far as he was concerned. He was well
dressed and had seemed sophisticated. He was surprised the man had even
spoken to him; the cleaning staff was invisible to most people.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Dani walked into the kitchen to get her coffee before taking what had
become her daily walk on the beach. She took a sip of her coffee and
walked to the sliding glass doors off of the kitchen. She was startled
by an object that appeared to be taped to the glass. Taking a closer
look, she saw that it was a picture of her and Jethro.
It had been taken at one of her family gatherings. She and Jethro were
sitting on the beach. She sat between his legs and he had encircled her
in his arms. They were looking lovingly into each other’s eyes. Another
forgotten picture, but one so intimate she wanted to grab it and hide it
from anyone who might see it. She was embarrassed, even though no one
else was in the room. She reached for it but then realized that it was
taped to the outside of the glass.
She immediately opened the door and took the picture from it. It dawned
on her then that someone had been this close to her parents’ house,
someone who very well could have murdered her husband. Commander Rabb
had not said that the pictures and her husband’s murder were related but
that they might be. She considered calling Special Agent Todd but then
thought better of it. She would call Commander Rabb at JAG; they were
working with NCIS. She didn’t want to deal with Jethro, not even
indirectly. She had just buried her husband – she didn’t need this now.
Composing herself, she brought the picture inside. She saw the dark
writing on the back of the picture and turned it over to read it. One
part of the writing had been what she had written: ‘September 1978 at
Mom and Dad’s’ in fading blue ink. The rest was written in stark black:
‘For love is strong as death,
Jealousy is as cruel as the grave’
Dani had the most terrible sense of foreboding. She reconsidered her
decision to call Commander Rabb immediately. What if someone were to
kill Jethro too? She couldn’t let ancient history be the cause of
someone else being killed. She went to her purse and took Special Agent
Todd’s card out of her wallet.
Falls Church, Virginia
Major McBurney followed Commander Coleman back to her office after staff
call. He and Lieutenant Vukovic had been assigned to a case out of San
Diego. It was a court martial of a Marine accused of killing a
Nicaraguan civilian during a humanitarian mission. He would be
prosecuting and the lieutenant would be defending. They would also be
attending the annual JAG conference along with Lieutenant Tali Mayfield.
She had been welcomed aboard on Monday.
Faith turned to look at Mike as he sat down, taking in the scowl on his
“Aren’t you looking forward to San Diego?”
“No, not really.” He looked away from her, not wanting to make eye
“Care to elaborate?” She thought it might be about his apparent dislike
of Lieutenant Vukovic.
He looked at her directly. “You know why I’m not looking forward to
going out there. I might as well have been designated ‘babysitter’ with
Vukovic and now the new lieutenant.” He rolled his eyes. “They’ve got
some kind of history, from what I understand… maybe I should be
designated the chaperone too.”
Faith was surprised; she knew that Michael thought Lieutenant Vukovic
was a pain in the ass, but this looked like real resentment. “Is there
something you’re not telling me?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s nothing.” Mike sat forward, resting his
forearms on his thighs.
“Okay…now you’re starting to worry me. What is it?” She folded her arms
across her chest.
“All right…remember the night we… the night we went to McMurphy’s. The
night he came in as we were finishing dinner?”
“Yes.” The color started to rise in her cheeks. She would never forget
that night as long as she lived. She had never been kissed like that in
her life – and she had never kissed back like that before, either.
“The few times we have been alone in the same room, in the break room or
in my office, he keeps bringing that night up. Just stupid little
details that no one would even think about. Like how warm the weather
was that night or how great the steaks are at McMurphy’s. Once he even
said something about the parking lot being dark and that they should
have it lighted better.”
Faith sat forward in her seat. “Why didn’t you say something?”
“What would I say…that he commented on the weather?”
He sat back and looked at Faith for a long moment. He hadn’t wanted to
tell her because it took her so long to let anyone close. He believed
his hunch about something not being quite right with Vukovic had been
correct. He also thought Vukovic was just the kind of person who could
send Faith right back into her shell.
Faith returned his look. “You didn’t think I could handle it…did you?”
Mike looked away from her. “I just didn’t want to go back to the way it
was before, Faith.” He looked at her. “I have really enjoyed our time
Faith was touched that he felt that way, but didn’t like it that he
thought she was that fragile. “I appreciate that, Michael, but I’m not
as fragile as you think.”
He looked at his watch. “I have to get going. I have to be at Andrews by
1300.” He stood and walked toward the open door. He turned and looked at
her. “I should have talked with you about this. I’m sorry.”
She smiled at him; he could get under her skin faster than anyone she
had ever met. “Apology accepted.”
As he started out of the room, he said, “I guess I need a little
more…Faith.” He couldn’t keep from chuckling when he heard Faith’s sharp
intake of breath. He walked briskly back toward his office.
“All right, McBurney.” She stood and walked around her desk to follow
him when Commander Rabb appeared in her doorway.
“Commander Coleman, we just got a call from Special Agent Todd. We are
to be at NCIS headquarters by 1000.”
Faith stopped immediately and returned to her normal closed expression.
Her face was still flushed, so much so that the commander asked her if
she was all right. She had picked up her cover and closed her office
door. She assured the commander that she was fine as she secretly glared
at Michael across the bullpen.
Washington Navy Yard
Gibbs walked into the office swiftly. Kate could feel him walk into the
room without having heard or seen him. He was furious and she knew why.
He had somehow found out about the picture that was left at his
ex-wife’s parents’ house.
“Kate?! Where the hell are Dinozzo and McGee?”
Kate calmly closed the file she had been reviewing and started to stand
up. Gibbs was in her face before she even had a chance to push her chair
“You’d better have someone covering Dani’s family in Virginia Beach,
Kate. What the hell are you doing? Are you going to wait till someone
kills them, too?”
Before Kate had a chance to answer or react they both heard the booming
voice of their director.
“Special Agent Gibbs!”
Gibbs backed off from Kate and looked up to see his boss waiting.
Gibbs looked back at Kate for a moment. “This isn’t over.”
Director Morrow heard what had been said. “Special Agent Gibbs….” He
turned to walk toward his office, and Gibbs followed him.
Director Morrow walked to his desk and sat down. “Close the door.”
Gibbs did as he was asked. He was silent as he sat down in front of the
“You have been advised to stay clear of this investigation, Gibbs.”
“It’s difficult to do when I keep getting thrown back into the middle of
it.” He looked at his boss directly.
“I’m aware of the situation; however, I am only going to tell you this
once more. Stay out of Special Agent Todd’s investigation.”
“Director Morrow, I…”
The director raised a hand to stop him. “I heard your…concerns as you
stated them earlier to Special Agent Todd. There is a security detail at
Mrs. Graham’s parents’ home. There has been since the incident at Little
Creek. Special Agents Dinozzo and McGee are following up with Mrs.
Graham as we speak.”
He paused for a moment, knowing that Gibbs would realize that someone
had seen him at the Smiths’ residence immediately after he had been
directed not to stay off this case.
“Yes, you were seen there, but since you did not approach Mrs. Graham
and up until this morning have not involved yourself, I was willing to
let that go. I will not, however, tolerate anymore of this behavior,
Special Agent. I want you to go home; as a matter of fact, I want you
out of here for at least three days. Do whatever you have to do but stay
out of this case, understood.” The director leaned forward on his
desktop and raised his brows.
Gibbs was barely controlling his anger, but he would do ask he was
asked. He would stay out of the office, for three days, anyway. He
nodded an affirmative.
“That will be all then, Special Agent.”
Gibbs stood and left the office. He walked directly to the elevators and
met Harm and Faith coming off of them. He brushed past Harm, nearly
knocking him backward.
“Nice to see you too, Gibbs.” Harm turned and brushed the sleeve of his
Gibbs looked at him but said nothing as the elevator doors closed. Harm
arched an eyebrow and looked at Faith. “Not an easy person to deal with,
is he, Commander?”
“No, sir.” She gave him a pained smile. The special agent could be a
great guy to count on in a tough situation, but more often than not, in
the everyday, he was a bastard.
Harm and Mac’s apartment
North of Union Station
Harm lay awake listening to Mac’s restful breathing as she slept. He had
been mulling over the Graham case in his mind. He just couldn’t put
Gibbs into the middle of this somehow. The pieces just didn’t fit and
yet they were linked.
He and Mac both lay on their sides, spooning as usual. Mac leaned into
him slightly and he pulled her closer. She drew a deep breath and seemed
to slip further into sleep. He reached down and softly caressed her
stomach, scooping his hand low to hold the baby in his hand. Mac was
showing a bit more now, but she still carried this pregnancy well. She
was as beautiful as ever to him and he had told her so. He felt a light
thump under his hand and couldn’t keep from smiling. He was still so
fascinated with the fact of the baby. He couldn’t wait until her next
ultrasound; he wanted to see how much the baby had grown and that she
was all right.
The phone rang, startling Harm and waking Mac.
Harm answered, “Rabb.”
“Commander Rabb, this is Special Agent Todd. There has been a huge break
in the Graham case. Meet me at headquarters NCIS in an hour. I don’t
think Commander Coleman should accompany you – she may not have
“I’m sorry to sound so cryptic, Commander, but it is necessary, and once
you have the details I’m sure you will understand why.”
Harm looked at the clock. “I’ll be there.”
“Great.” With that she ended the call.
“Harm?” Mac wiped the sleep from her eyes.
“It’s about the Graham investigation. I have to meet Special Agent Todd
at NCIS.” He frowned. “This should be interesting.”
He dressed quickly and kissed Mac, who followed him to the door and
Jethro Gibbs stood sipping his bourbon from his coffee mug, taking a
rest from his boat building…in his basement. His cell phone rang and he
picked it up. “Gibbs.”
“Special Agent Gibbs?”
“Fornell?” He recognized the voice of FBI Agent T.C. Fornell.
“That’s right. How quickly can you meet me at headquarters NCIS?”
“What do you have?”
“Let’s just say I have some information that will tie up Special Agent
Todd’s case along with the JAGMAN investigation.”
“I have been given specific instructions from my superior not to involve
myself in this case.”
“The director will be here as well. He is aware that I’m calling you.”
“I’m on my way.”
Washington Navy Yard
Director Morrow stood just inside the glass doors of the building,
watching Special Agent Gibbs walk toward him. The director knew that he
was not going to take what he would learn tonight, well. There was no
way around it: they had gotten a hell of a break, though the source may
not be to the special agent’s liking.
Gibbs joined his boss and each gave the other an acknowledging nod. He
followed the director into the building and onto the elevators. When
Morrow pushed the button to the basement and the morgue, Gibbs frowned
at him, seeming to question him.
“It is our most secure area for this meeting, Special Agent,” he
The elevators opened, and Gibbs saw Kate and Commander Rabb just inside
the doors to the morgue. Gibbs was beginning to feel cornered. Something
about this did not feel right. It seemed as though everyone was in on
the story but him and he didn’t like it at all. He walked inside the
doors, glancing for a few seconds at Harm and Kate but not acknowledging
Harm and Kate looked at each other; Harm had already been briefed before
Gibbs had arrived.
He looked back at the director. “Where is Fornell?”
“He will be here momentarily.” The director looked toward the doors
leading to the basement garage which housed all vehicles used by the
As though on cue, the doors opened and T.C. Fornell walked in, followed
by a man dressed in business attire, his eyes shielded by the position
of the hat he wore. As they approached the group, Fornell raised his
hand and the man accompanying him stopped.
“We have the individuals responsible for the arson and murder at Little
Gibbs looked hard at the man who had yet to look up and allow his face
to be seen. “Is this your informant?”
Fornell nodded the affirmative.
“Do you mind if I question him?” Gibbs’s voice was taking on a sarcastic
Just then the man began to look up and he spoke. “You may ask me
anything you like, Special Agent Gibbs.” He recognized the man’s smug
and mocking smile right away.
“Ari…” Gibbs held his temper but he took one step toward him. Harm and
Agent Fornell stepped closer to Gibbs.
“Why the hell would you do anything to help us with this?”
Ari had taken Kate hostage in this building, and he had shot and wounded
one of his people – Jackson had still not returned to full duty. He had
not been able to prosecute him due to his Mousaad/ Hamas double agent
status. Gibbs had been able to repay Ari to a degree; he had given him a
shoulder injury much the same as Ari had given Jackson.
Ari feigned offense and said, “Why would I not help you, Gibbs? We are
friends, are we not? We have so many…shared experiences.” He returned to
his mocking smile.
“Enough Ari.” Kate turned toward Gibbs. “The pictures were not related
to the arson and murder at Little Creek.”
He looked at Kate as though he did not believe her, but said nothing.
Kate looked at Ari.
“It was part of a game he was playing.”
Ari answered, “You should not have shot me…I was in a great deal of pain
for many weeks.”
“What the hell are you talking about? If you knew about this, why didn’t
you come forward before Master Chief Graham was killed?” He was stepping
“I was made aware only after the fact, Special Agent Gibbs.” Ari placed
his hand on his chest. “I would never withhold that kind of information.
We are on the same side my friend, brothers in arms…in the war on
“Brothers in arms don’t shoot or torture each other…my friend.” Gibbs
returned his apparent sarcasm.
“Who got access to those pictures and why were they sent to me and to my
Ari smiled. “Ah…yes…Dani, such a lovely woman.” His voice took on the
same quality it had when he taunted her about Kate or Jackson.
Gibbs understood then that it had been Ari who tormented him…them. He
had used this opportunity to get back at him. Gibbs did not believe him.
He swiftly stepped closer and Fornell and Harm stepped up, keeping Ari
out of Gibbs’s reach.
“Why the hell should we believe him?” Gibbs wanted to break his neck.
Ari stepped back, enjoying the effect of his taunt on his nemesis.
Kate spoke up. “The evidence we gathered at the crime scene is directly
linked to the individuals that Ari informed us of.”
“That doesn’t mean that he is innocent. There is more to this. “He could
feel it in his gut. He knew that Ari wasn’t doing this out of the
goodness of his heart. Harm and Fornell had backed off slightly,
allowing Gibbs to see him.
“Your lack of faith wounds me, Special Agent Gibbs.”
He had gotten what he came for that night. He had seen the result of the
torment he was able to place in the special agent’s mind.
“I must say, though, that your perseverance in your investigation
impressed me. Although I do hope your superiors will look into security
lapses in this building. You never know who might be able to breach it
and get all the way in, even into your office, Special Agent Gibbs.”
Gibbs had reigned himself in and decided to return the jab.
“Is your shoulder healing nicely, Ari?”
He would never regret shooting him; he wished he could have done more.
He hated double agents. The only thing their existence proved was that
there were people who had no loyalty, other than to themselves. In
trusting them there was a 50% chance that you would be the one betrayed.
With so much at stake, he didn’t think that percentage was high enough
to warrant his trust.
“I’m doing very well, thank you for your concern.” The false sentiment
hung in the air.
The director spoke. “This is over. Fornell, get him out of here.”
Fornell and Ari had turned and were walking toward the doors with
Gibbs’s piercing gaze following them. Just as Ari walked out the door he
looked over his shoulder at Gibbs; his sarcastic and smug smile
continuing to taunt him. This was not over, and they both knew it.
“Commander Rabb, you will advise the Judge Advocate General of what has
transpired here, with the proper discretion. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir.” The director’s implication was that Ari’s role in the
capture of the suspects would never be officially acknowledged.
The director looked at Kate. “If you and the commander will excuse us?”
Harm and Kate began to walk toward the elevators.
“I will expect a full report on my desk by 1300 tomorrow, Special
Kate acknowledged his request and they exited the room. She walked with
Harm to the entrance of the building.
“You understand now why Commander Coleman could not accompany you?”
“Yes, I do.” He paused just inside the doors before walking out. “Sounds
like its pretty personal between Ari and Gibbs.”
Kate nodded. “We had an incident last year. Ari took a hostage and
wounded a member of our forensics team. Gibbs never really got over
Ari’s ability to walk away from the incident with impunity due to his
double agent status.”
“Spy games.” Harm shook his head and looked at the special agent,
suddenly glad he was at JAG and not playing spook anymore.
“Yeah.” She wasn’t really wild about them either but they were a fact of
“I have to agree with Gibbs, though; I don’t think Ari did this out of
the goodness of his heart. It has been my experience that no spook ever
does anything if there isn’t something in it for him and all the other
players in the game be damned.”
Kate looked at Harm without answering, her expression guarded.
“The arson of the home and the murder of a SEAL who –happened- to be
Gibbs’s ex-wife was no coincidence, Special Agent Todd. Someone seems to
want to make this personal, very personal for Gibbs.”
Kate couldn’t say any more without feeling like she was betraying Gibbs.
He and the commander weren’t enemies, but there was no love lost between
them, either. She extended her hand to shake Harm’s.
“Thank you, Commander.”
Harm smiled slightly, understanding and appreciating her discretion.
“Anytime, Special Agent.”
At that same time in the morgue…
The director and Gibbs stood between two autopsy tables facing each
other, each man leaning against one of them.
“Special Agent Gibbs, I have never considered myself an unreasonable or
rigid man. I have always given you a certain amount of license in your
investigations, within the law.”
Gibbs knew what was coming. He had to have heard about the amount of
investigating he had done on his own. He crossed his arms and waited.
“You already know what I am going to say.”
“Yes.” He was going to volunteer anything but he did know.
“You contacted Agent Fornell; you followed up with the other members of
Master Chief Graham’s SEAL team…. I could go on.” He had not expected
this from Gibbs; the man might have bent the rules more than once, but
until now, he had never broken them.
He held his hand up to stop him. “I have no choice but to place this in
your personnel file. You were warned more than once and yet you
continued to interfere.”
Gibbs decided that if it was going into his personnel file, he may as
well say what was on his mind.
“We don’t have the whole story, Director Morrow. You know it and I know
“Special Agent Gibbs, there was more at stake here than the incident at
Little Creek. The arrests of the individuals responsible will be in the
media tomorrow, but we were able to get more substantial intel than
They had been able to arrest 4 young men from a cell there in Virginia.
They had been attending a ‘jihad academy’ not 30 miles from Washington
D.C. They had the men responsible for the death of Master Chief Graham
and a door through which they would be able to infiltrate terror cells
here in America.
Gibbs still knew in his gut that they would regret this. He did not know
how, but he knew they would.
“Will that be all, sir?” There was no point in pursuing this, since he
wasn’t going to be told more than he already had been.
The director nodded in the affirmative.
Gibbs turned and left the room without a backward glance. He knew he was
already on thin ice with the director but at this point he didn’t give a
damn. He took the elevator up to their office level. He saw Kate
standing in her office space perusing a file. When he approached her she
was startled. A picture fell from the file folder. It was the one that
had been taped to the door at Dani’s parents.
Gibbs picked up the picture and looked at it impassively. “Do we still
have a security detail covering Mrs. Graham?”
“Yes, but after the arrests are announced the FBI will take over.”
Gibbs thought that was at least one positive. Fornell would keep him
posted if anything should come up. He nodded and then walked away,
taking the picture he had picked up from the floor with him. Kate
thought about stopping him – the picture belonged in the case file – but
she thought better of it. This had been difficult for him.
She didn’t blame him for not wanting the picture to be part of a file
kept in this office. It was highly personal and Gibbs was a private
person. It had made her uncomfortable to even look at it. It was just a
couple obviously in love and in a loose embrace. What had made it so
intimate and therefore uncomfortable for her was the unguarded love and
desire on his face. She hadn’t seen Gibbs as being capable of showing
that kind of emotion and it embarrassed her for reasons she could not
If there were any questions about the missing picture from the file she
would handle them. It wasn’t worth it to pry further into Gibbs’s life
than she had to for the purposes of this investigation.
Gibbs took the elevator to the ground floor and walked out of the
building. He unlocked his Intrepid, got in and reached into his breast
pocket, taking out the picture. The lights from the parking lot allowed
a clear view. He remembered that day clearly: it hadn’t really been
anything special, just a visit with her parents, an unguarded moment
captured in an instant. Had he ever been than young…had she? Suddenly he
felt a loss that he had never allowed himself to feel. He felt a tug on
his heart toward something he knew that there was no road back to. Gibbs
replaced the picture in his pocket, then started his vehicle and put it
He thought that the vehicle was suddenly too quiet and so he decided to
turn on the radio.
“Classic Rock…WCAP…Jackson Browne.”
It was a song from their time, his and Dani’s, so Gibbs leaned forward
and turned it up.
‘Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer
I was taken by a photograph of you
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more
But they didn’t show your spirit quite as true
You were turning ‘round to see who was behind you
And I took your childish laughter by surprise
And at the moment that my camera happened to find you
There was just a trace of sorrow in your eyes.
Now the things that I remember seem so distant and so small
Though it hasn’t really been that long a time
What I was seeing wasn’t what was happening at all
Although for a while our path did seem to climb
But when you see through love’s illusion there lies the danger
And your perfect lover just looks like the perfect fool
So you go running off in search of a perfect stranger
While the loneliness seems to spring from your life
Like a fountain from a pool
Fountain of sorrow, fountain of light
You’ve known that hollow sound of your own steps in flight
You’ve had to hide sometimes, but now you’re all right
And it’s good to see your smiling face tonight…
Gibbs reached back into his pocket and looked at Dani again, her sweet
smile and the love so evident on her face. He was glad she had come
through this all right; she had always been stronger than he had ever
believed. He gave her picture a sad smile and returned it to his pocket.
It was time to listen to something else. He pushed seek on his radio,
and it sang out “Shot gun…shoot em ‘fore he run now...” Junior Walker
and the All Stars…..now –that- was music. It also seemed appropriate
when he thought of Ari. He smiled at the thought of his being ‘in a
great deal of pain for many weeks.’
“All right…that’s better.” And with that Gibbs accelerated to a rate of
speed that matched his music.
Harm had been on the interstate for just a few minutes when a vehicle
blew by him. Although it was dark, he recognized the vehicle. It was
Gibbs speeding down the highway; he looked as though he were going 90
miles per hour.
He shook his head, thinking that he didn’t envy him tonight. Gibbs had
had a personal stake, although indirect, in this spy game. He had stood
there and watched his superior pull the rug right out from under him,
knowing there was nothing he could do about it.
He had been there, only to go home alone with nothing and no one there
for him. It had taken Paraguay for him to really see what he could lose
and how terribly tired he was of all the games, spy and otherwise.
Where had he been a year ago tonight? It occurred to him how completely
his life had changed in the space of one year. The last six months had
been unbelievable. He had experienced nearly unbearable pain and
inexpressible joy, and through it all Mac had always been there.
He was suddenly so grateful that he would be returning to his apartment
to find her sleeping in his bed. Harm knew when he slipped under the
covers she would turn automatically into his arms, barely waking, to the
place they both knew she belonged.
No, he did not envy Gibbs tonight at all.
Faith Coleman’s apartment
Faith was surprised by a knock on her door. She looked through the
security lens to see Michael waiting. He was in uniform. She unlocked
and opened the door.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call first, Faith. I just got back in from San
Diego. Do you have a few minutes?” He clearly had something on his mind.
“Sure, come on in.”
“Thanks.” He took off his cover and walked into her apartment.
“Yeah, that would be great.” He seemed distracted and more than a little
Faith went into her kitchen and began making the coffee and getting
their mugs down from the cabinet. She had a studio apartment and the
kitchen was open to the living area.
“Tell me what’s going on, Michael – you have me worried.” She looked at
him with concern. She knew this had to have something to do with
“It’s a long story; maybe I had better wait till you’re finished with
the coffee.” He was walking back and forth between her kitchen island
and the window. He was more preoccupied than she had ever seen him.
Faith finished the coffee and brought their mugs to the dining room
table and sat down. “What happened, Michael?”
Mike sat down and placed his fingertip on the coffee cup rim. “I had
another –altercation- with Lieutenant Vukovic. It wasn’t only that,
though – God… I don’t know where to begin, Faith.”
She was starting to get angry; he was still treating her like she was
going to shatter at any moment. She gave him a direct and impatient
glare. “Tell me.”
Mike looked down at his cup. “You know that I said I didn’t trust
“Yes.” She had been right.
“In the case we were trying, the government ended up dropping the case
against Corporal Duran when new evidence was discovered. I made the
motion after I did some investigation with the help of a Lieutenant
Graves at North Island.”
“Lieutenant Graves?” Faith had never heard about her before.
“Yes, she came highly recommended to General Creswell. She may join us
at JAG in the near future.”
“I’m sorry, go on.”
“After the case was dismissed, we were all at TJ’s. It was Friday and
the bar was packed. I didn’t really know anyone there except Vukovic,
but I went anyway, just to keep from spending most of my night in a
He shook his head and pushed his chair back. He wished he had never gone
to that stupid bar, especially in the company of a snake like Vukovic.
He stood and walked toward her living room, then turned to look at her.
“We had a few drinks… when an old acquaintance of Vukovic’s shows up.”
Faith didn’t like the sound of this. Was it a woman that he wanted to be
the one to tell her about first? She waited a few moments and then
impatiently said, “Go on.”
“His name was Mark Robbins.”
Faith stood up and walked into her kitchen and stood at the sink with
her back to him. He had been Lieutenant Mark Robbins. The man who had
tormented her and embarrassed her before she left JAG San Diego.
“Faith, I didn’t want to tell you, but I have to, because there is more.
I know this has to be hard for you, but you’re my friend and I need your
She heard the pleading sound in his voice, something else she had never
heard before. If she didn’t want him to treat her like she was fragile,
then she needed to stop acting like it. She turned and looked at him and
realized how hard it must have been to come here today.
“I’m all right, Michael. Tell me the rest.”
“Robbins is still a lieutenant, and he and Vukovic were coworkers at one
time. I didn’t place him until Vukovic said we had a mutual
acquaintance. I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. Vukovic
mentioned your name and they both…”
Mike wouldn’t go on and repeat what they had done. It would hurt her,
and he wasn’t going to do that.
“I could have broken them in half.” He paused for a moment. They had
given each other a knowing look. Mike could still see Robbins’s
“Knowing Mark, I can only imagine what was said.” She looked at him, her
countenance clear and determined. “Go on.”
“I thought that Vukovic got that I had had enough, but then he began to
talk about the case. He did as he had before, bringing up some of the
details of the case, some details were minor…others were not. When he
spoke, it was almost as though every other point had a double meaning.
Then it occurred to me: at one point while we were negotiating a
possible plea agreement, he seemed ready to deal, then out of the blue
he had no interest in a deal of any kind…It was as though he knew the
case against his client wouldn’t stand up in court.”
“I don’t understand. Do you think he tampered with evidence?” Faith
thought he surely couldn’t be that stupid.
“I can’t prove it, but yes, I do.” He looked at her directly. “There is
one more thing.”
She wondered what more there could be.
“I hit him.” Mike looked at her and then away, suddenly ashamed of his
lack of self control, especially in the presence of an officer he
respected and one he wanted to respect him.
Faith was surprised. They were junior officers, and either of them could
cause him a great deal of trouble. “You hit whom?”
“I hit them both, actually.” He turned away from her completely, looking
out the window at nothing, his mind still reeling with the probable
consequences of his actions.
“Faith, I don’t think it’s necessary to tell you every detail.” He again
wouldn’t repeat the callous and hurtful things that had been said and
Mike had decided to walk away. He wasn’t playing Vukovic’s game, and he
had wanted to retrace his steps on his investigation so that he could be
sure evidence hadn’t been tampered with. He’d gotten up from the bar
stool and started to leave, when Lieutenant Robbins decided to volley a
“So how is the ‘iceberg’ ... I mean. Commander Coleman?” His voice
dripped with sarcasm and contempt.
Mike had turned to look at him when Vukovic decided to chime in. “Oh,
the iceberg has melted – just ask the major.”
Something in Mike had snapped, and he’d had Vukovic by the shirt before
he knew it. He’d wanted to bash both their sleazy faces in, but he’d
settled for bashing Lieutenant Robbins in the face with Lieutenant
“Were you in uniform?” She hoped not.
‘At least there is that,’ Faith thought. She walked over to where he
stood and looked at his hands. They didn’t bear the marks of fighting.
She took them in both of hers and asked
“What did you hit them with?”
Mike was still feeling pretty ashamed of himself. He was looking down
when he told her.
Faith suddenly pictured the scene with Mark’s face being smashed by
Vukovic’s head. She let go of his hands and covered her mouth with the
fingertips of one of her hands to keep from laughing out loud.
“You hit Mark with Vukovic?”
He heard the smile in her voice. “Hey… it’s not funny.” At least –she-
wasn’t angry with him.
“I know, I know it isn’t, but I….:” She had to walk away for a moment;
it would be funny if they didn’t have to worry about what both those
sleazes would do.
He turned to look at her, and she looked back at him and smiled. She
walked back to him and stood directly in front of him. She realized then
how terribly tired he looked. He probably hadn’t slept at all since this
happened. She also realized that his reaction to them both had a lot to
do with her. She was overcome by the need to pull him into her arms, so
she gave into it and did just that.
“Thank you, Michael.” She drew back and he gave her a tired smile.
“You’re welcome.” He pulled her back into his embrace. He hadn’t
realized just how much he needed this just now.
Faith held on for just a few more moments, and then she slipped out of
his embrace and picked up her telephone.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m calling someone who can help us.”
“This is not your problem, Faith.”
She looked back at him directly and said, “Yes it is, Michael.”
The person that she was calling answered his phone.
Mike sat across from Faith, trying to figure out just what he was going
to say to Commander Rabb. This was going to be so awkward. He wouldn’t
have agreed to this if Faith hadn’t already called him.
“I still can’t believe you called him about this, Faith.”
“Michael, we have to take care of this before tomorrow morning. You know
Vukovic will probably have contacted the general already. I think you
should be proactive on this. He is counting on our keeping silent about
“But the commander?” He noticed that she said ‘our’ She spoke of this as
though she were in it too. He wasn’t alone in this situation.
“You said yourself that he was a fair man.”
He nodded in agreement; he did say that. He just hadn’t known at the
time that his career might be riding on that belief. He looked up at
her. He hated that they would have to explain Lieutenant Robbins’s
remarks, or at least that he would have to tell the commander about
them. How was she going to react to that? Had she even thought about it?
“Are you going to be okay talking with the commander about the….personal
side of this?”
She hadn’t given it very much thought. Until just now. This wasn’t going
to be easy. All she had been thinking of was how to make sure that
Michael would be in as little trouble as possible. She looked away from
him, watching the light Sunday traffic pass outside the window.
“I think so.” She looked down at her coffee. “We can keep the discussion
pretty generic.” She looked at him. “I can be pretty good at that.”
Mike gave her a knowing smile. “Yes, you can.” It had taken her forever
to tell him what had happened. He was so glad to have her trust,
She looked at her watch. “We’d better go if we want to be there on
time.” The commander told them to come at two o’clock.
Harm and Mac’s apartment
North of Union Station
Harm and Mike sat at the dining room table, and Faith stood back from
them, leaning on the kitchen island. Mac had offered them coffee, and
she brought two mugs for Harm and Mike and placed them in front of them.
Tension was thick in the air.
Harm nodded toward Mike. “Maybe you’d better begin, Major.”
Faith without thinking had stayed near the kitchen; somehow feeling less
conspicuous if she wasn’t sitting there facing the commander too. Mac
seemed to sense this and decided not to sit down just yet either. She
busied herself in the kitchen as the major began.
Mike leaned forward in his chair. “Sir…I…”
Harm could see small beads of sweat forming on Mike’s brow. “Relax,
McBurney – it can’t be that bad.”
“Just tell him, Michael.” Faith couldn’t stand watching him struggle
with this. She wasn’t exactly sure how the commander would react, but
she knew they stood a lot better chance of being heard fairly if they
spoke with him first.
Mike did finally begin. He started with Vukovic’s odd behavior just
after he had seen them at McMurphy’s. He left out the part about
thinking that Vukovic may have seen him kissing Faith in the parking
lot. He told him about his suspicions about Vukovic tampering with
evidence. Mike started to tell Harm about Lieutenant Robbins, but
hesitated. He didn’t want to say anything that would make Faith
uncomfortable so he looked at her as though he were seeking her
Faith decided this part was her story to tell, so she began.
“Apparently Lieutenant Vukovic and a lieutenant with whom I served at
JAG San Diego are old acquaintances.” She folded her arms across her
chest. “This lieutenant…Robbins and I have a history.” She was silent
for a moment.
Mike picked up the rest of the story…there was no need for her to say
“Some comments were made about the commander personally and about
myself. Most things that were said could be taken either way. I had
intended to walk away. I was going to follow up on my concerns about the
case.” Mike folded his hands on the table. “I would have, but as I left
their parting comments became more insulting and accusatory to the
commander and myself. I lost my temper.” Mike was quiet for a moment.
“And?” Harm gave him a questioning look.
“I hit Lieutenant Robbins.”
“And Lieutenant Vukovic?”
Mike looked down at his folded hands and then at Faith. She nodded,
telegraphing ‘go on’.
“I....hit Lieutenant Robbins with…Lieutenant Vukovic.”
“What?” Harm leaned forward, frowning, but Mac could see the amusement
dancing in his eyes. Suddenly this struck her as so comical that she
turned to open the refrigerator door for a bottle of water, just so that
she could hide her smile.
Faith had pressed her lips together in a tight line so that she wouldn’t
smile. She knew that as funny as this all sounded, it was very serious.
Harm looked up at Faith, knowing she was probably biting the inside of
her cheek to keep from smiling.
“I have to say, McBurney... that was creative.” He looked back at Mac
and raised his eyebrows. She covered her mouth to keep from laughing.
Harm stood up and walked over to where Mac was standing as she composed
herself. He leaned against the kitchen sink and folded his arms.
“I’m glad you both came and talked to me about this, although you will
have to see the general. If he doesn’t summon you first.”
“Yes, sir.” Mike still sat rigidly in his chair.
“There are a lot of things at play here.” He looked at Faith and Mike.
“I think you should deal with the things we know are true first.”
“Yes, sir.” He had not moved.
“I think you should talk to the general only about what happened at the
bar in San Diego. If what you believe about Lieutenant Vukovic’s conduct
is true there will be serious consequences. You need to go in there with
more than a gut feeling. You have to be able to prove what you believe.”
Faith looked at him still sitting almost rigidly in the chair. She
furrowed her brow and said, “Lighten up, Michael.”
With that comment everyone in the room looked at her and the room fell
silent. Faith’s face flushed red with embarrassment and the irony of the
situation struck Harm. Commander Coleman was telling someone to ‘lighten
up?’ It made him laugh out loud, and Mike and Mac joined him. Faith’s
face broke into a smile.
“Not at all, Faith. I think that’s good advice for the moment.” Harm
hoped that they would both relax more when they were in his and Mac’s
presence, at least outside the office.
The tension in the room came down to a tolerable level. Mike and Faith
didn’t have the same comfort level with the commander and the colonel
that most people at JAG had, but they were both breathing easier now
that this was out in the open. Mike stood and looked at Faith, silently
thanking her for her good idea. She smiled at him.
“Sir, we won’t take any more of your time.”
Harm walked up to him and shook his hand. “Not a problem – I’m glad I
could help. I hope you understand I’m not saying I don’t believe you
about the possibility of evidence tampering. You just need to be
prepared if you intend to pursue this.”
“I understand, sir.” He looked at Mac, who had joined them walking
toward the door. “I should have been prepared for this, given his
behavior toward the colonel the first time he was before her in court.”
Harm opened the door to the apartment and Mike and Faith passed through.
Harm frowned and asked, “His behavior toward the colonel?” He looked
from Mike to Mac.
Mike knew immediately that the colonel had never told him about
Vukovic’s inappropriate behavior the first time they had been before her
in court. He looked at Mac, and she gave him a tight smile. ‘Oh
God...what have I done now?’ he thought.
Mac walked up beside Harm. “A minor problem; but we handled it, didn’t
we, Major?” She looked up at Harm and then at Mike.
“Yes, ma’am.” Mike’s face turned pale.
Mac looked at Faith and then back again at Mike. “I thought you were
told to lighten up.”
They all laughed at that, and Mike and Faith made their escape. Faith
decided that if she were to become a friend of anyone at JAG besides
Michael that the colonel would be the person she would choose.
Harm closed the door and turned to look at Mac. “What kind of problem
did you have with Vukovic in your courtroom, Mac?”
Mac turned to walk back to the kitchen.
“Oh, the lieutenant had a little eye problem and I spoke with he and the
major about it.” She looked back at him. “I haven’t had any problems
with him since.” She raised her brows and smiled at him smugly.
Harm grinned at her. “An eye problem?”
“It’s not a big deal, Harm.”
“If it’s not a big deal, tell me.”
Mac placed her hands on her hips and gave him an exasperated look. She
hadn’t told him about this because she didn’t want Harm to hold it
against him. She saw Vukovic as an immature but harmless person who just
needed a bit of time to grow into his position. The general seemed to
feel that he had a lot of potential. Though, given what McBurney had
just told them, what kind of potential he had still remained to be seen.
“It was Vukovic’s first case before me – he sat second chair to
McBurney. After court adjourned one day, I happened to look in his
direction and he…winked at me.”
“What?” Harm narrowed his eyes. He didn’t look angry; disgusted would
have been a better word.
“I called them both into my chambers and informed the lieutenant that I
noticed his ‘problem’ with his eyes. I advised him that if he didn’t get
the ‘problem’ taken care of that his fellow officers and subordinates
might misunderstand his actions. He got the message, end of story.”
Harm raised his eyebrows and a grin spread slowly across his face. “I
would have liked to have seen that.”
“Oh, yeah?” She laughed.
Harm closed the distance between them. “Yeah.” He pulled her into his
“So, do you want to go out for dinner or stay in?” She smiled at him
He kissed her and lifted her slightly off of the floor, walking her back
toward their bedroom. “Mmmm… let’s stay in.”
Mike sat with Faith in front of her apartment. He did not turn off the
ignition. He knew he had better get back to his place. Suddenly he felt
self-conscious about being alone with her. He felt as though someone
might be watching and misconstrue even the most innocent display of
“You’re not coming up?” She gave him a hopeful look.
Mike looked at her, trying to convey his friendship and something else
that he hadn’t been able to name as yet.
“I think I’d better not, Faith. I’ve already compromised you in that I
made you a part of this stupid fight.”
“It wasn’t a fight, Michael. You only hit them once.” She tried to joke,
but it hadn’t come out right.
He tried to smile but tomorrow was weighing heavily on his mind.
Faith reached over and placed her hand over his on the steering wheel.
“It’s going to be okay, Michael. You’re a good officer and an excellent
attorney. You have an exemplary record. That has to count in your
He looked at her, feeling so grateful for her support and her belief in
him. “Thanks, Faith.” He covered her hand with his own.
“You only have to tell the truth.”
“The truth is I lost my temper and I struck a junior officer. I fully
intend to tell the truth. I just don’t know how the general will react
“A good man once said, ‘the truth is all that matters,’ and I think
that’s true in this case.”
Mike smiled at her. “I know.”
Deep down, Faith felt responsible for this mess. He had been goaded into
that altercation because of his friendship with her.
“Michael, I’m so sorry that I even told you about Lieutenant Robbins. I
hate it that your friendship with me has gotten you into this mess.”
“Hey, my temper got me into this mess. Don’t blame yourself.” He turned
toward her, keeping her hand in both of his.
Faith looked into his eyes and saw the warmth, sincerity and honor that
had drawn her to him in the first place. She didn’t even realize she had
begun to lean toward him.
Mike saw what was coming, and he would have liked nothing more than to
kiss her. Her touch was comforting to him, soul deep. He looked at her
lips, and as he started to lean in to kiss her, but then Vukovic’s nasty
comments about his melting the ‘iceberg’ echoed in his head. He drew
“I had better go, Faith. If I don’t, I won’t keep my word to you or
myself that I’m not going to do anything to make this situation worse.”
Faith recovered quickly, leaning back into her seat. “I know.” She
squeezed his hand. “Good luck tomorrow.” With that she got out of the
Mike put the car in reverse and backed out of the parking space. Faith
watched him leave and waved to him in his rearview mirror, and he
returned a salute. She felt as though her heart were going with Michael
as he drove away. ‘Oh God… no….I love him.’ She turned and placed her
hand on her chest as she walked up the steps. She all at once felt so
happy that she thought her heart would burst and so terrified she wanted
Harm and Mac’s apartment.
North of Union Station
Mac placed her coffee mug in the top rack of the dishwasher and closed
it. “Come on, Sailor. I don’t want to be late today.”
Harm was coming down the steps from their bedroom. He straightened his
tie and picked up his uniform jacket. “Yes, ma’am,” he teased.
They were on their way in less than a minute. Since they had been
married Harm hadn’t been late for one staff call or appointment. It
didn’t even seem like the natural order of things anymore. He and Mac
were once again a beautiful team. Harm smiled at the thought.
“What are you smiling about, Sailor?”
Harm was pulling away from their apartment building. “I’m thinking about
what a great team we make.”
“I have to agree.” She was thoughtful for a moment. She was thinking of
another ‘team’ just now. Major McBurney could be in a good deal of
He had gotten into a fight with not one, but two junior officers. He
hadn’t had the luck that Harm and Mic had with Bud. He hadn’t blamed
either of them, and had even defended them to both of their superior
officers. Somehow she didn’t think that would happen in this case.
Harm noticed that her expression had turned serious. “What are you
thinking about, Mac?”
“I’m thinking about Major McBurney. I don’t envy him today.”
Harm raised his eyebrows. “I don’t either. I am glad he came and spoke
to me about it before seeing the general today.”
“I think Commander Coleman had a lot to do with that.”
“Yeah, I think they make a pretty good team too. I mean…they’re not
exactly like we were but they do seem pretty close.”
Mac was quiet for a moment. “They do remind me of us, in a way.”
“Maybe.” Harm was looking in his blind spot as they merged into traffic
on the Beltway.
“They seem to bring out the best in each other. I know that I see
Commander Coleman in an entirely different way than I did when was first
in my courtroom.”
“I agree; McBurney seems a little less full of himself and Faith is a
little more approachable on a personal level.” She had been a good
partner on the Graham investigation.
Mac nodded. “They are both excellent attorneys.”
“She seems more squared away than he does most of the time.” She was one
of the most by-the-book naval officers he had ever met. Mac was pretty
squared away, but that didn’t count; she was a Marine.
“That’s another reason they remind me of us.” She gave him her best
Cheshire cat smile.
He looked over at her quickly. “Hey, not funny, Marine.”
Falls Church, Virginia
General Creswell finished staff call by asking Lieutenant Vukovic and
Major Mc Burney to report to his office immediately following the
Vukovic followed McBurney out of the conference room. Harm hung back
purposely to observe both officers.
“Well, I wonder what that is about.” Vukovic passed McBurney, smirking
McBurney looked at him and said nothing. He went to his office and left
his case file on his desk. He looked across the bullpen into Faith’s
office. She gave him a reassuring look and a secret thumbs up. Vukovic
was standing near Jen’s desk, waiting to go in to see the general. He
saw the look that was exchanged between Mike and Faith.
Mike walked up to Jen’s desk. “The general is expecting us.” He did not
acknowledge Vukovic at all.
“I’ll let him know you’re here, sir.” She buzzed his office. “I have
Lieutenant Vukovic and Major McBurney for you, sir.”
“Send them in.”
Mike and Vukovic came to attention in front of the general. “At ease.”
He stood and folded his arms looked intently at both men. “I received a
call this morning…from NLSO North Island. The commanding officer there
reported to me that not one but two of my judge advocates were involved
in an altercation with one of the judge advocates under his command.”
He was silent.
Mike remained eyes forward. He knew his whole future hinged on his
behavior in this moment.
Lieutenant Vukovic’s turned his head sharply toward Mike and then to the
“Sir, I was not the aggressor in that fight. I did not strike anyone.
The major...” His voice died in his throat when he saw the look on the
“Snap to, Lieutenant.” Vukovic came to attention. The general walked
over and stood in front of him. “Did I ask you a question, Lieutenant?”
“No, sir.” He swallowed hard. This was not going to be as easy as he
thought it would be.
“You will remain silent, Lieutenant, and speak only when you are spoken
to: is that understood?”
He walked over to where Mike stood and looked at him directly. “I
expected more from you, Major.”
“What do you have to say about this?”
“I have no excuse, sir.”
“Have you spoken to anyone about this incident?”
“I spoke with Commander and Colonel Rabb about this yesterday.”
Vukovic turned to look at him but did not speak. The general gave him a
stern look and he resumed eyes forward.
“May I ask why you thought that was necessary?”
“I spoke with Commander Rabb upon the advice of Commander Coleman.
Colonel Rabb was present when I spoke with him.”
The general walked around behind his desk.
“I was ashamed of my conduct, sir, and concerned about its consequences;
Commander Coleman believed that Commander Rabb would give me good
counsel on the best way to proceed.”
The general listened and considered what he had said.
“Lieutenant Vukovic, you may –now – report your side of this situation.”
“Sir, I had gone to the bar with the major in what I thought was
friendship and he attacked me for no reason at all. The major took
offense to a remark that was made by and old acquaintance of mine. He
attacked both of us afterward.” He looked at Mike with a self-satisfied
sneer. “The major seems to be a bit sensitive when it comes to Commander
Mike did not return his look but he visibly clenched his jaw. ‘That son
of a bitch!’ he thought. Mike closed the fist that he held behind his
back as he stood at ease.
The general studied the lieutenant for a moment and then looked at the
“Is that true, Major?”
“Sir, the commander is a close friend and fellow officer. The remarks
made were very personal and derogatory. I admit that I overreacted to
Vukovic interrupted before he could continue. “I never said anything
about the commander, you did over react and you are –a lot- more than
–close friends-. I saw...”
“Lieutenant Vukovic!” The general was right back in his face. “You will
He looked at the lieutenant with an almost incredulous expression. This
was no time or place for gossip and innuendo. The general did not want
to know too much about anyone’s personal life here. His only concern was
the way it affected this office. Even in this situation there were
personal things that he didn’t care to know.
This was a side of the lieutenant he had not seen. He had believed the
young man had the makings of a fine officer, but his behavior in this
situation was beginning to make him reconsider that assessment.
The general walked back around his desk and stood behind it. He looked
at both men for a long moment.
“I will consider what actions will be taken regarding this incident.” He
folded his arms across his chest. “Make no mistake, gentlemen. There
will be consequences. You are dismissed.”
They came to attention. “Aye, aye, sir.”
Without a look at each other, both men left the general’s office.
The general sat down at his desk. He leaned back in his chair and
steepled his fingers.
He leaned forward and buzzed Jen’s desk. “Petty Officer Coates, have
Commander Rabb report to my office ASAP.”
“The commander is in court all morning, sir.”
“What do I have this afternoon, Coates?”
“You have a meeting with your chief of staff at 1400 and you are clear
“Have the commander report to my office at 1500.”
Mrs. Rabb sat on her front porch steps. She had just come from the
hospital. She sat her purse and keys on the porch next to her because
she just did not want to go indoors. She had been sitting there for some
time. The day was overcast and a bit cool. It seemed fitting because she
had just lost one of her oldest and dearest friends. Jack O’Reilly had
died and she was heartbroken. They had thought he had been turning a
corner in his recovery, but he had suffered another series of strokes
from which he could not recover. She was still in shock; she’d thought
Jack would go on forever or at least as long as she did.
She did not want to go inside that quiet house alone. Since her friend’s
stroke she had felt more and more lonely. She had never had a problem
being alone before; she relished her own space and time to do what she
wanted to. Now she felt she understood the phrase ‘the silence is
deafening.’ Now when she switched on a radio or heard her own voice in
the house it seemed too loud.
It was not like she and Jack spoke every day – it was more about knowing
he was there, that she had known him almost all of her life. He was the
last person in this community who remembered her David. He was as real a
person to Jack O’Reilly as he was to her. He was just a picture to
anyone else, even to his own grandson.
She heard someone driving up the gravel driveway. Kathie O’Reilly,
Jack’s daughter-in-law, pulled up in front of the house. She got out of
Mrs. Rabb got up from the step and brushed the seat of her pants off.
“Are you all right, honey?” Kathie O’Reilly’s brow furrowed with
Mrs. Rabb thought that she must not look very good. She remembered just
then that she had been at the hospital all night.
“Yes, I’m okay.”
“How long have you been home?”
She looked at her watch. “About an hour, I guess. Do you want to come in
for some coffee?”
Kathie was beginning to worry about Mrs. Rabb. She would go in with her
to make sure she settled in and then she would call her grandson. She
wasn’t acting like herself. Kathie didn’t think this community could
stand to lose both her father-in-law and Mrs. Rabb.
Falls Church, Virginia
Harm walked up to Jen’s desk. “The general is expecting me.” Jen buzzed
the general, and he told her to send him in.
Harm came to attention. “At ease, Commander, be seated.”
“Sir.” Harm sat down.
“I have spoken with Lieutenant Vukovic and Major McBurney about an
incident about which you may be aware.”
“Yes, sir.” Harm sat forward on his chair and knitted his fingers
“What is your assessment of the situation?”
“I think the major engaged in bad conduct when he was in San Diego and
he deeply regrets it. He has accepted his responsibility in the matter,
The general considered what he said for moment.
“The major said as much this morning. Lieutenant Vukovic sees the whole
incident as being the major’s responsibility. However, the lieutenant
also demonstrated some difficulty this morning with military decorum,
which leads me to believe his statement may not be entirely true. ”
Harm listened, thinking that the general had missed his first apparent
breach long ago. He was beginning to think Mac should have busted him
then. The more he heard about this guy the less he liked him.
“I had considered having you take the lieutenant under your wing.” The
general looked at Harm directly. “Then I reconsidered it.”
Harm stomach knotted at the thought.
The general got up from his desk and walked toward the fireplace.
“The lieutenant, if he is to become a good officer, is going to have to
learn to be more disciplined in his conduct. While you are a good
officer and have contributed much to this office…” He turned back toward
Harm. “You have been rather unorthodox in your methods.”
Harm could not keep from smiling. “Yes, sir.”
The general walked back to his desk and stood behind it. “I am
considering giving this task to Commander Turner.”
“Excellent choice, sir.” If anyone at JAG was by the book without
question it was Sturgis.
“Thank you for your input, Commander. You are dismissed.”
Harm stood came to attention and left the room.
Falls Church, Virginia
Jen buzzed Harm in his office. “You have a call on line 6, Commander.”
“Thank you, Petty Officer.” He picked up the handset. “Rabb.”
“Harmon?” The voice on the other end of the line didn’t sound familiar
or sure of herself.
“This is Commander Harmon Rabb, yes.”
“I’m sorry – I’m Kathie O’Reilly, Sam’s wife. I’m sorry to bother you at
work but I thought I should call.”
Harm remembered her now. “That’s not a problem. How can I help you?”
“I think you know my father-in-law, Jack O’Reilly. He passed away early
“I’m sorry to hear it.” Jack had been his grandmother’s oldest friend.
“Thank you, but the reason I’m calling is your grandmother.”
“What about her?” Harm remembered his last conversation with his
grandmother; he had been worried about her since then.
“She just seems to be taking this harder than I thought she would. She
has always been so strong. I never have seen her like this. She is not
overly emotional – that’s not her. It’s like she’s disconnected from
us…I can’t explain it.”
Harm sat forward in his chair and looked at his calendar. “When will the
funeral be held?”
“Wednesday. I was hoping you and your wife could get away. She just
lights up when she talks about you two. She’s not sick or anything,
Harmon, I just…I just don’t want to lose her too.” She had known Mrs.
Rabb better than she had her own mother-in-law.
“I understand. We may not both be able to get away, but she won’t go
through this alone.” Harm paused for a moment. “Thank you for calling me
about this, Kathie.”
Harm managed to get in to see the general before he left for the day. He
had gotten two days’ leave beginning Wednesday. Mac hadn’t wanted to
request it since she had been out for so many medical problems. Harm
understood and he knew his grandmother would too.
Falls Church, Virginia
The general followed Harm out of his office and they both saw Major
McBurney still at his desk in his office. Harm walked back to his office
to get his cover and secure for the day.
“Major McBurney.” The general’s voice carried loudly across the mostly
Mike looked up quickly. “Yes, sir?”
“See me in my office.” With that the general walked back into his
office, leaving the door open.
Mike stood and walked into the bullpen, closing the door to his office
behind him as he went. He looked up and saw Harm as he was leaving. Harm
nodded as he left, hoping to telegraph some reassurance. Harm knew there
was no way he would walk away from this without something in his record.
But surely his exemplary conduct so far would ensure that he would be
given some leniency. Mike returned the nod and walked into the general’s
office to meet his fate.
Mike drove toward his apartment in solemn silence. He seldom drove
without the radio or CD player on. The last three days had taken their
toll on him. He had barely slept, and the level of stress he had been
feeling kept him from relaxing anywhere. He would not be going to mast.
No charges would be leveled against him.
Mike had known it was the general’s discretion as to how they would
proceed. He would have a letter of admonition in his record. He had
hoped that would be the case, instead of charges being leveled by the
general or the commanding officer at NLSO North Island. After he learned
the general’s decision, he was relieved but also ashamed that that would
be a part of his personnel file for the rest of his career. He’d made
the decision to knock Robbins and Vukovic’s heads together; he deserved
the admonition. He just felt as though he had let his family and himself
down by letting this happen. The tradition of service in his family went
back for generations.
Mike pulled the keys from the lock on his door and closed it behind him,
exhaling loudly. He felt as though he had been holding that breath all
day. Tossing his keys on the counter, he headed straight for the shower.
He would call Faith after he finished. He showered quickly and picked up
his handheld phone, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. He lay back on
the bed for just a moment and before he realized it he was asleep.
Falls Church, Virginia
General Creswell replaced the receiver on the handset of his phone. JAG
Ops was deserted with the exception of himself. He had just spoken with
Captain Stevens, the commanding officer of NLSO North Island. He had
informed him of his decision in the matter concerning their ‘fighting
Apparently Lieutenant Robbins had been a significant problem to the
captain’s command for some time. He had failed to advance the last two
times he was eligible. He had barely escaped dismissal in another
incident involving a possible conduct unbecoming charge. During the past
year the DOD was doing what amounted to ‘cleaning house.’ You had to do
what the old Marines he’d come up with had advised: ‘fill your uniform,’
or expect to be processed out. The general definitely did not see this
as a bad thing.
The general turned off all the lights in his office but his desk lamp.
He called his wife to let her know he would be later than usual and sat
down with Lieutenant Gregory Vukovic’s personnel file. He was sure that
the lieutenant had great potential – a man with ‘fire in his belly.’ He
had not given up on the young man just yet. He would, however, ensure
that he was supervised more closely. Vukovic would have a letter of
counseling placed in his personnel record. Commander Turner was going to
supervise some EMI for the lieutenant on military decorum.
He had seen the lieutenant as a kid from the streets that had pulled
himself up by his bootstraps and made something of himself. He admired
his ambition, and knew that this ambition could affect him one of two
ways. Which way it would eventually go did not seem clear at the moment.
Faith paced back and forth inside her apartment. She would look at the
phone periodically, trying to will it to ring. Why hadn’t Mike called?
She had been beside herself worrying about him and had not heard one
word. She thought that they were becoming closer in their relationship.
He could at least let her know what the general had to say. They were
friends, after all.
She paced for another half an hour when she couldn’t take it anymore and
dialed Mike’s number. It rang a few times, then she heard someone pick
up and then the sound of the phone hitting the floor.
“What the hell?....Owww!” Mike had been startled awake by the phone and
had no lights on in the house. He had picked up and promptly dropped the
phone on his foot as he sat forward to stand up.
“Michael?” She hadn’t even thought that he might be asleep.
“Faith?” His voice was still gravelly with sleep. “Oh, man, I was going
to call after I got out of the shower. What time is it, anyway?”
“It’s nearly nine o’clock.” Faith couldn’t seem to shake the visual of
him wrapping a towel around his waist and falling back on his bed.
“I was going to call you as soon as I got in. Some friend, huh?”
Faith felt entirely ashamed of herself for thinking he had been
inconsiderate. In truth he had been exhausted.
“You are a good friend, Michael. I was just worried about you. What did
the general have to say?”
Mike told her about his letter of admonition and that he wouldn’t be
going to mast. He knew she would be relieved about that; she had said
over and over how responsible she felt.
“What about Vukovic?”
“I don’t really know what the general has planned for him. I would like
to think he would get no less punishment than I did. I was just glad to
get out of Creswell’s office with my skin.”
“I have to say it – Vukovic’s a weasel, Michael.”
Mike chuckled deep in his chest. “I can’t argue with that. I don’t think
he did very much to recommend himself during our meeting this morning.
Whatever good impression Vukovic had made with the general appears to be
in serious jeopardy.”
“Good,” she said definitively.
Mike yawned hugely. “Man, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, I’m sorry I woke you up. Go back to sleep.”
“I will, but I’m glad you called, Faith.” He lay back on the bed again,
his eyelids already getting heavier.
“I had to. I couldn’t stand the suspense.” She laughed nervously. When
he said her name it sounded like an endearment.
“Hey, there it is, she’s still laughing.” He sounded so sleepy.
“Seriously, thank you… for everything.” He yawned again, making Faith
“Stop it, Michael. Hang up and go to sleep.”
They ended the call, both feeling better about their future at JAG but
resolved to keep a wary eye on Vukovic.
Interstate 76 west
Somewhere in Pennsylvania
The Chrysler 300 C class seemed to be gliding down the highway and
around the curves that seemed to come out of nowhere. Jack Keeter looked
over at his friend and former shipmate. Harm looked pensively out the
window at the dark landscape.
“You okay, Harm?”
“Yeah, just thinking about my grandmother. You know I forget that she’s
over 80 years old sometimes.”
“Maybe you should bring her back with you for a while, Harm. It couldn’t
“Our apartment is so small. It’s just right for us, but there really
isn’t a lot of room for having company overnight. I wouldn’t feel right
having my grandmother stay alone, even someplace like the Willard.”
“She’s your grandmother, Harm. I would think about it if I were you.
Sometimes when older people lose someone close to them like that…they
fail really quickly. She’s all alone out there, Harm.”
“You’re worried about her too, aren’t you?”
“She’s independent, Keeter – if she thinks were managing her she will
kick us out of there so fast it will make our heads spin.”
“What happened to the old Rabb charm?” He gave him a sidelong glance.
“It doesn’t work on other Rabbs.” He never could get anything past his
grandmother. The younger Sarah Rabb had always been hard to charm too.
Harm and Keeter walked on each side of Mrs. Rabb. They had just returned
from the graveside service. She was supporting herself all right, but
she seemed to need someone to guide her along. Kathie O’Reilly had been
right. Harm had never seen her like this before. He looked over her head
at Keeter, who returned his look.
“Grandma, why don’t you come back to Washington with us?”
She looked at him and frowned. “No, Harmon…You don’t want me underfoot.
You and Mac are so busy you barely have time for each other.”
“She just doesn’t want to ride back to Washington with me, Harm.”
Keeter was trying to get a rise out of her and he gave Harm a wink. He
was willing to try anything to get her to talk to him like she used to.
Jack hadn’t realized how much he enjoyed the lighthearted barbs they
threw at each other, or how much he missed them.
She looked up at Keeter and smiled sadly. “Rascal,” she said in a soft
voice. She hadn’t said it with her gentle pinch on the arm or tap on the
Keeter gave Harm a worried look behind her back. “Hey, I know…I’ll let
you drive the Chrysler again. You know you can’t turn that down.”
Harm gave Keeter a sharp look; he didn’t want to take those curves out
of nowhere with his grandmother driving.
He said quickly disagreeing, “Oh, Keeter, I don’t think she would want
His grandmother had stopped and looked at Harm with her sad smile still
in place…”I’ll think about it, Harm.”
She touched his arm lightly and walked up the stairs of her porch. She
knew what they were doing. Everyone had been fussing over her. It was
almost embarrassing but she was all right. She was mourning her friend.
She had to admit she had been distracted, but she would be fine.
Keeter and Harm stood on the stone pathway to the house watching Mrs.
Rabb go inside. Harm looked at his friend.
“You were right, Keeter. I am not leaving her here alone.”
Falls Church, Virginia
Petty Officer Coates was restocking the last of the staples for the
break room. She was standing on a small step ladder. Lieutenant Vukovic
walked into the break room, startling her. She dropped a box of Sweet
and Low packets, sending them flying everywhere.
“Oh! I’m sorry, sir.” Jen stepped down and immediately began picking
“Not a problem, Petty Officer.” He looked at her from behind, admiring
Jen stood and replaced the packets in the box. “I’m all thumbs
“Oh, I’ll bet you’re really good with your hands, Petty Officer.” He
stood a bit too close and winked at her.
Gunny had been walking toward the break room to get his second cup of
coffee of the afternoon. He heard the last part of this conversation. He
froze just before he rounded the corner into the doorway.
Jen had seen Vukovic’s type before, and she had developed a sure fire
way of rebuffing that kind of behavior. She stepped slightly closer to
the door and spoke a bit louder than necessary.
“Why yes, sir, I am good with my hands.” Jen made sure her voice would
carry outside the room. “I have been able to get my typing speed up to
90 words per minute.” She smiled demurely. “That’s what you meant, isn’t
Vukovic had not charmed the petty officer as he thought he would. He
cringed as he imagined who in the bullpen had heard her repeat his exact
words. Her voice carried very well in the tone she had used.
“Yes, Petty Officer, of course.” He just wanted to end this conversation
as quickly as possible. All he needed was for Commander Turner to pop up
out of nowhere. He had been doing that a lot lately.
Outside the break room as Gunny considered whether or not to interrupt
this ‘scene.’ A grin spread slowly across his face. Jen handled that
with grace and not a little humor. He chuckled under his breath. They
were definitely going ‘out’ for dinner tonight. He turned to go back to
his desk. He would wait until the lieutenant cleared the break room.
Jen looked at the lieutenant sincerely. “Will that be all, sir?”
“Yeah...I mean yes, Petty Officer.”
She nodded, offering a quick “Sir,” and left the room.
She rounded the corner and passed Gunny on his way back to his desk.
They looked at each other for a moment and their eyes locked. She then
passed him and walked on to her desk. Jen knew Victor wanted their
relationship kept completely out of the office and she understood.
Gunny went to his desk and called her. He said only “McMurphy’s tonight,
“Are you buying?”
“In that case, I’ll be there.”
“By the way, I just wanted to say I -heard- about the great job you did
getting the break room squared away.”
“You did?” Jen understood his meaning. She was hoping –someone- had
“I did. Outstanding, Petty Officer.” Gunny was grinning from ear to ear.
“Thank you, Gunnery Sergeant.”
They ended their call, giving each other a quick glance before carrying
on with their day.
Harm stood in the kitchen and replaced the handset on the telephone. He
had just spoken to General Creswell. He was to return to JAG first thing
tomorrow morning. He would be flying back to the Persian Gulf. There had
been an incident involving Iraqi fisherman approaching an oil platform.
Since a similar situation last year resulted in an insurgent attack with
a number of American and Iraqi casualties, the ROE needed to be
revisited in this situation.
Harm shook his head as he turned to walk into the living room and tell
his grandmother what he had to do, and then it occurred to him. He could
ask his grandmother to stay while he was away. Since Mac had that little
episode of pain at her incision site, he had worried more about her. He
had hoped that he wouldn’t have to leave her for an extended period of
time until after the baby came. He knew his grandmother would step right
in and assume the caregiver role, however minor. It was as much a part
of her as flying was to him.
Gunny Galindez’s apartment
Jen lay on her side, watching Gunny sleep. They had gone out to dinner
at McMurphy’s, danced, and had gotten back late for a week night. He had
seemed more open with her tonight than he had ever been. She knew he
cared for her and there was no doubt of his attraction to her. Tonight
there was something more, something she couldn’t quite put her finger
They had talked about what had happened with Lieutenant Vukovic. He had
said over and over how impressed he was with how she had handled the
situation. When they sat at their table, he sat closer to her. He was
more openly affectionate, holding her hand, leaning in closer when he
spoke. Something was definitely going on here.
She had strong and very special feelings for Victor, though she wasn’t
quite sure if there was a future in them yet. She was going to be
cautious because she didn’t want to be hurt anymore by anyone. She knew
that he was a good guy but she just wasn’t sure it was worth it to risk
her whole heart.
She watched him sleep. He lay there on his side, facing her. He looked
handsome even with the slight frown he had on his face. His arms were
folded across his chest, slightly forward, almost shielding his face and
upper chest. She wondered if he ever slept any other way. He had
probably done that to be able to sleep anywhere he had to be, she
thought. In a barracks, on the ground…with someone he wasn’t sure he
wanted to let in too closely…maybe it was a way to keep someone at arm’s
She thought she might just lean across and kiss his arm or touch him.
Suddenly she wanted to so badly, but then she though she had better not.
He was a Marine, after all.
Gunny took a deep breath as he began to wake and opened his eyes
“Hey, I’m sorry I woke you. I couldn’t fall asleep.” She smiled at him
and leaned forward, tucking her hand inside his folded arms, kissing his
He smiled at her sleepily.
“I was thinking about doing that while you were asleep but I was afraid
you might think I was a scorpion and kick me out of bed.” She laughed
He unfolded his arms and gathered her in.
“Oh…I don’t think you have to worry about that.” He kissed her and
rolled her onto her back. He clasped both of her hands in his own as she
slipped beneath him.
“So… you’re not sleepy?”
He dipped his head down, kissing her neck, opening his mouth to taste
the skin from below her ear to her shoulder to her collar bone.
“Mmmm, no…no, not really.” Her breathing deepened and she knew without a
doubt that she was becoming addicted to this man. She’d never believed
she would, but she felt an attraction for him that she hadn’t felt for
any man before. He was the most decidedly masculine man she had ever
met. He was her complete opposite, and when they made love she had never
felt more whole in her life.
“Round two?” He returned to her lips, nipping them and grinning at her
“Mmmm …don’t know…” She couldn’t believe how much she wanted him. They
had made love, showered and gone to bed just an hour ago. Yet for all
she felt for him she could have been without him for days. He was truly
ruining her for anyone else.
He stopped kissing her and looked directly into her eyes. “Oh I think
An hour later they slept; this time Jen was tucked into Victor’s arms,
where she remained until they woke the next morning.
Interstate 76 east
Somewhere in Pennsylvania
Jack Keeter focused on the road ahead. He was paying more attention than
usual, as the morning fog had not burned off yet. He glanced every now
and then in his rear view mirror to check on Mrs. Rabb.
She had barely said a word that morning. She was up before they were,
with coffee made and her bags packed. It was the first time Keeter could
remember that she hadn’t baked anything or tried to feed them both more
food than they would ever need, though. She had agreed to come with Harm
and stay while he was away, only on the promise that Keeter would bring
her back to the farm as soon as Harm returned. She hadn’t wanted to be
‘in the way.’
Harm was lost in his own thoughts that morning. He and Keeter had
remained quiet so that Mrs. Rabb could sleep. She had fallen asleep not
long after they left the farm, or so they thought. Mrs. Rabb had leaned
back and closed her eyes only to keep Harm and Keeter from feeling like
they had to entertain her. She knew she was truly blessed to have them,
to have Mac and the new baby on the way. She knew she needed to shake
this off and go on. Her friend Jack O’Reilly would have said the same
thing. She smiled at the thought. She and David and Jack had been a
handful when they got together. After she had lost David, Jack had been
her mainstay in those first few years. He stepped in as a father figure
after Harmon Sr.’s grandfather passed away. She sighed heavily.
She opened her eyes slightly to see Keeter looking at her in the
“Jack Keeter, stop spying on me, young man.” She teased, feigning
Jack was startled. “Oh…I’m sorry, Mrs. Rabb.”
Mrs.Rabb chuckled and Harm laughed at him. Mrs. Rabb reached over the
front seat and rested her hand on Harm’s shoulder.
“You two stop worrying about me. I’m all right.”
Keeter laughed at himself along with them. “Okay, I’ll stop
worrying….when you start giving me a hard time again.”
She folded her arms across her chest and turned toward the car window on
her side of the vehicle. She put her head back and closed her eyes.
“I’ll think about it.” She thought for a moment. “You two stop being so
quiet. It’s not normal.”
Harm and Keeter looked at each other; each with a sheepish grin. Keeter
turned the radio on, and as they sped toward Washington, Mrs. Rabb fell
into a peaceful sleep.
Falls Church, Virginia
Harm strode down the hallway toward Mac’s office hoping that he would be
able to see her before he left. He had gone home, gotten into his
uniform and picked up his gear. He didn’t think he would be away for a
very long time but lately you just never knew. Mac turned the corner on
the opposite end of the hall and when she saw him she gave him a radiant
smile. She was starting to show now, even in uniform. Somehow, the
knowledge that this smart, accomplished and beautiful woman was his wife
and that she was carrying his baby made him walk a little taller and
push his chest out a bit further.
She had opened the door and waited for him to come inside. She closed it
behind him and leapt into his arms. “I missed you.”
“I missed you.” He kissed her hair and her neck. He pulled back to look
at her. “I’m sorry, I have to go again. And I’m sorry about bringing my
grandmother back with me on such short notice.”
“It’s all right, Harm. From what you’ve told me I’m glad we could be
there for her. I’ll never be able to repay her for what she did for me,
Harm.” Her expression was serious. “Will she be okay while I’m here, do
“She’s not that bad, Mac. She’s just so quiet. You’ll see what I mean
when you see her. Keeter is going to take her to lunch and show her some
of the sights.”
“Oh, poor Sarah.”
They both chuckled at that but then the urgency of the situation came
back to the surface. He had to go. She hugged him close again.
“Do you think you’ll be able to get your F/A-18 quals out of the way?”
She pulled back for a moment, waiting for the gleam to show up in his
eye. She wasn’t disappointed.
“You can’t wait, can you?”
He smiled in spite of himself. “I am looking forward to getting back to
a carrier for a while. You know me too well for me to deny it.”
“I don’t want you to deny it, Harm.” It was just another part of Harm
that she loved.
“Bud says I have a very large inner child.”
“I would have to agree.”
She laughed at him and her laughter drew him in like a magnet. He kissed
her goodbye and all thoughts of military decorum left him. It was a kiss
he wanted to keep with him until he got back.
When he broke the kiss, she kissed him again. She said, “You know,
you’re going to have to stop kissing me like that when I have to go to
He loosened his embrace and stepped back from her.
“I will if you will.” He kissed her forehead and took one last look. He
walked back down the hallway and out of the building. He was due at
Andrews by 1300.
An hour later, Harm waited to board the C-130, starting the long trip to
the Kennedy in the Persian Gulf. He remembered that he hadn’t told her
he loved her before he left. He looked at his watch and thought he might
catch her before court resumed. Mac answered on the first ring.
“Hey, I forgot something.”
He smiled sheepishly and turned around so that his fellow passengers
might not hear him. He suddenly felt as though everyone in the group
waiting to fly over could hear him.
“I was wondering if you would remember.” Mac sat at her desk in her
chambers, waiting until she was ready to go to court.
“Ah…now I’m in the middle of a crowd of people”
Mac knew why he called. “When are you going to board?”
“Well, honey…what is it?” She feigned ignorance.
“Stop giving me a hard time, Marine. You know why I called.”
She laughed at him, enjoying one more little zing before he left.
The group had started to board and he followed, hanging back slightly.
“Okay, I love you. Got to go, bye.”
“Love you.” Mac heard him end the call. She already missed him.