North of Union Station
May 22, 2004
Slamming his door behind him, Harm paused to say a silent thanks to the
fact that Mattie and Jen were out of the apartment. With a sigh he
walked over to the fridge to grab a bottle of water. After Meg left last
night he couldn’t get to sleep, and then when he finally did he couldn’t
stay asleep. So two hours ago he’d given up and went out for his morning
run earlier than normal. He’d actually looked forward to it as a way to
get his head cleared so he could think about what was said last night.
If he was forced to be completely honest with himself he was still a
little in shock at Meg’s little revelation.
Pulling the cap off his water Harm put a hand on the countertop and then
tipped his head back to drink the contents of the bottle in one go.
Tossing the bottle into a recycle bin Harm moved to sit down at the
table, unconsciously taking the seat Meg had sat in last night. All
through his run he’d tried to get his head around what Meg had said last
night, but the whole time he’d been dwelling on it a certain chocolate
haired Marine had kept intruding. He couldn’t even stop thinking about
her, even when he was trying to make sense of another woman’s feelings.
With a wry snort he shook his head. If he was going to be completely
honest with himself, it really wasn’t any different with Jordan, or with
Renee, or even with Bobbi. Hell, it really hadn’t been any different
with any woman he’d met since Mac had walked into his life; ever since
that day in the rose garden she’d become his standard by which he
measured any other woman. At first it was because of her uncanny
resemblance to Diane…but it didn’t take long before Diane faded to the
background to be replaced by Mac alone.
He thought back to the very first kiss they had shared that night on the
Norfolk pier. She’d said she knew he was kissing Diane; if only she knew
that that may have been how it started out…but it definitely wasn’t how
it ended. He had been very much aware that he was kissing then Marine
Major Sarah MacKenzie, and not a ghost from his past. God how he wished
he could tell her how much that kiss meant to him, how much he’d wanted
to repeat it. Naturally his thoughts then turned to the kiss they’d
shared that chilly spring night on the Admiral’s porch. How a simple
“may I kiss the bride?” had turned into so much more. But all that
didn’t seem to mean much to Mac anymore, if it had meant anything to
Harm’s reverie was broken by the ringing of his phone. Running a hand
through his still damp hair he was reminded of his morning run and how
much he was in need of a shower. He had pushed himself a little harder
than normal this morning. Reaching out Harm grabbed the handset and
answered the phone.
“Harm, it’s Mattie. I didn’t wake you did I?” came Mattie’s voice over
“Hey Mattie…no I just got back from my run. Is everything all right?”
Harm asked, concerned that his ward would be calling so early. Glancing
at the clock he saw that it was just before six.
“No everything’s fine. Jen and I just wanted to let you know how much we
appreciate you lending us your car for the weekend, it’s making things
so much easier. And we wanted to let you know that we’re ok and
everything is going good.”
“Thank you Mattie…that’s very considerate of you. And thank Jen for me.”
“Why do you want me to thank Jen?” Mattie asked in her best ‘I’m
innocent of all charges, sir’ voice.
“For ‘reminding’ you to make this phone call. Although I have to admit
I’m surprised both of you are up at the crack of dawn. I didn’t think
even the bears out there would be able to drag you both out of your bags
There was a slight pause before Mattie answered. “A raccoon peed on our
tent.” She said disgustedly.
Doing his best not to laugh Harm bit his tongue. “It happens sweetie.
Anyway, I really need to get into the shower…thanks for calling and
letting me know you guys are ok.”
“Yeah…you really stink Harm, I can smell it all the way out here.”
Mattie said with a laugh. “Oh and Harm…”
“The boys really like your car too. Bye” Mattie said with a laugh and
then hung up.
Hanging the phone up Harm shook his head. If there was one thing he
could trust, it would be that even head over heels over some guy, Mattie
would keep him on his toes; especially with Jen there to look out for
her. Good, he’d needed that call to take his mind off things. Just as
Harm started walking towards the shower a knock at the door stopped him.
Man, who could it be at this time of the morning? No…not her. Anyone but
Walking over to the door he opened it up to reveal Sturgis in his
“Hey buddy, glad I got here in time. You looking for some company on
your run this morning?”
“Come on in Sturg. Actually I just got back a little while ago.”
“You’ve been running already?” Sturgis asked as he closed the door
“Yeah…I couldn’t sleep and needed to sort a few things out.”
“One blonde and the other one brunette?” Sturgis asked with a wink.
“Now is not the time buddy.” Harm warned with a frown.
Holding up his hands Sturgis smiled at Harm. “Look buddy, you know I’m
not going to put my nose where it doesn’t belong. I’m just saying
scuttlebutt at the office has you spending a lot of time with a certain
blonde Lieutenant Commander. The same scuttlebutt has a certain brunette
Lieutenant Colonel slamming her door a lot more than usual. Not to
mention a few headless Petty Officers and Lieutenants who made the
mistake of crossing her path. And one very sorry Marine guard.”
Dropping down on his couch Harm gestured Sturgis to grab a seat as well.
“I guess I am spending a lot of time with Meg, but damn Sturg, it's been
eight years since we’ve seen each other.”
“Do you love her?” Sturgis asked.
Raising an eyebrow Harm looked Sturgis in shock. “That’s a little fast,
even for me isn’t it? Sturg…I haven’t seen Meg in eight years.”
“I wasn’t talking about Meg Harm. Look buddy, ever since your trip down
to South America things have been bad between you and Mac; a lot
stranger than normal. I’m worried about you two, and I’m not the only
one.” Sturgis said seriously.
“The Admiral said pretty much the same thing the other day.” Harm said.
“What are you going to do about it?” Sturgis asked.
“What am I going to do about it?” Harm repeated. “I don’t know if
there’s anything else I can do about it buddy. I threw away my career
for her…I risked everything because I knew she needed me. And what does
she do? She tells me it’s never going to work between us that way and
then runs to Webb’s arms. Hell, just last week she was pumping that MI 6
agent…Simon? Yeah Simon…anyway she was trying to get a better insight
into how Webb’s mind worked so she could have a better relationship with
“You haven’t answered my question Harm…do you love her? I know you care
for her…anyone can see that. But do you love her?”
Getting up Harm started pacing his living room, not looking at Sturgis
as he spoke. “You know Sturg…it’s funny. I went for a run to clear my
head this morning and if anything I confused myself even more. Whenever
I tried to think about Meg Mac kept popping into my mind. And just now I
was thinking about the times that Mac and I have…” Harm broke off and
cleared his throat. “Well the times that I’ve kissed her. Not that
there’s been a lot of them…anyway. To answer your question counselor, I
thought it would be clear how I felt about Mac. Apparently however, my
throwing everything away for her hasn’t registered on too many people.
Everyone asks me if I love her, but I would have thought my little trip
to ‘paradise’ spoke volumes about my feelings. I guess I’m the only one
who gets it.”
“Whoa there partner.” Sturgis said, standing up and putting a hand on
Harm’s shoulder. “Slow down. I know how you feel about Mac…we all do.
The fact that you were actually willing to give up everything to save
her spoke more than loud enough for us. But brother…I gotta tell you
something. And I’m not an expert by any means…but Mac may not be
watching your actions any more; she may be listening to hear how you
feel. You’ve acted pretty damn heroically in the past…when she was and
wasn’t involved. I hate to say it brother, mostly because it will
probably swell your ego, but you’re something of a legend…and death
defying acts of heroism are turning out to be your stock in trade. Maybe
she’s chalking this up to another cruise missile. Or maybe she just sees
herself as that girl Harriet and Bud told me about, DarLin…someone you
save because they need saving. Like I said brother, I’m no expert, but
maybe that’s what’s got Mac all angry and hurt. She’s a tough woman
Harm…and a proud one. I can imagine that she just doesn’t like feeling
like she needed to be rescued, even by you. She doesn’t want to be
another DarLin or…and don’t get mad when I say this Harm because I know
she means the world to you…another Mattie to you.”
“Speaking of Bud, how are you guys now that he’s got you off that
idiotic racial bias charge?” Harm asked, wanting desperately to change
“Don’t be trying to put me off brother…it won’t work. Bud and I are
working things out, and I’m grateful for the way he handled that. But
we’re not talking about me and Bud here. Sit down Harm.” Sturgis walked
back to the couch and sat down.
“She’s not just someone I saved because they were in trouble Sturg. She
knows that. And she’s not just one of my ‘obsessions’ as she calls them.
Damn it Sturg, I do love, I’ve always loved her. It’s just not going to
work out…you can’t love someone who doesn’t love you back. And I think
it’s time I got that through my thick skull.” Harm said bitterly.
Reaching out Sturgis put a hand on Harm’s shoulder. “Look buddy…have you
told her how you feel? I know you think you have with your actions…but
have you actually told her you love her?”
“We’ve…talked.” Harm said simply.
“Yeah…and knowing you two, nothing was actually said. Listen bro…you’ve
got to tell the lady how you feel.”
“What about her and Webb?” Harm asked.
“Don’t worry about Webb…I have a feeling he knows how much you feel for
Mac…as much as any of us at work. I’ve got the impression the Admiral
doesn’t like Webb much…and if he gives you any problem you can always
let the Admiral handle Webb.”
Thoughtfully Harm stared off into space for a minute. Should he tell
Sturgis what Meg had said last night? It didn’t invalidate Sturgis’
advice about him and Mac, but it did complicate things. “What about
Meg?” he finally asked.
“What about her? I thought you guys were just friends.” Sturgis said
with a raised eyebrow.
“Well we are…but you never know how things will turn out. And we do
have…I wouldn’t call it a past together, but we do have a history.”
“Let’s just say no matter how tempting it may be to be in your shoes
right now considering the women you’re struggling over, I wouldn’t take
the chance. You’re between the devil and the deep blue sea brother if
you feel you have something to decide when it comes to the two of them.”
Chuckling Harm nodded his head. “Listen Sturg…and don’t think I’m trying
to change the subject…when do you and Bud leave on this latest trip?”
Laughing Sturgis said “Tomorrow morning. We’re supposed to report to the
base commander Monday afternoon.”
“Think Bud’ll be up to a guys only afternoon? I don’t know about you,
but I sure could use one.”
“Sounds like a plan. Why don’t you set something up with Bud and call me
at the office. I’ve gotta get some paperwork off my desk before we leave
so I’ll be there for most of the morning. Now if you’ll excuse me, I
need to take a run…alone.” Sturgis said with a laugh as he stood up and
moved to the door.
“Sorry man…you should have been up with the real men at three. And
“Thanks for the ear.”
“Anytime, brother. I know I haven’t exactly been myself of late…but I’m
working on it. And you know you can always come to me if you need
someone to talk to.”
“I know man. Thanks though; I really needed to talk to someone about
things. I really need to get my head clear about this.”
“We’ve all been there brother. Anyway…I’ll see you this afternoon.”
Harm closed his door behind his friend’s departing back and then finally
made it to the shower.
Harm, Sturgis and Bud entered the dark tavern laughing. All three were
dressed in shorts and t-shirts and were sweaty and tired, but they all
felt great. A long afternoon of basketball was just what the doctor
ordered. Taking a seat in the corner they all ordered beers from Tony at
the bar. They sat there laughing and chatting until the waitress brought
the beers over and then each took a long pull from their drinks.
“God I needed that.” Harm said with a sigh. “Or at least something cold.
I can’t believe you got me on that three point jumper Bud.”
“Well sir, the Commander and I have been playing a lot of ball lately.
And he’s shown me a lot.” Bud said with a laugh.
Harm would never tell him because it would just embarrass him, but to
Harm Bud was the definition of the word hero. To have taken such a blow
and then bounce back to become not only the man he was, but in a lot of
ways an even better one if possible was nothing short of amazing. Harm
knew a lot of the credit lay not only with Bud but with Harriet and the
love they shared that allowed Bud to come back from losing his leg. Not
to mention the boys. Harm knew a lot of people viewed his salvaging of
his career after his ramp strike as a miracle, but he also knew that
what he did was nothing compared to what Bud had done. The fact that Bud
could still laugh, could still smile at the little things continually
“Great, now I don’t only have to worry about Turner passing me on the
court, I gotta worry about you too. Thanks Bud.” Harm said smiling.
“Anytime sir.” Bud said with a smile before he took another drink of his
beer. “So…how’s the Colonel sir?”
“I don’t know Bud. Ask Webb.” Harm said as his smile faded.
“I’m sorry sir…I didn’t mean to upset you…I just wasn’t thinking.”
“It’s ok Bud…really. And for the last time, we’re not in uniform…call me
Nodding slowly Bud took another drink from his beer. “It’s just that
you’ve both got us worried sir...and to honest I don’t know if I’m going
to be able to keep Harriet calmed down. Sir, can I speak freely?”
“Bud we’re not in uniform…say what’s on your mind.”
“Sir…Harm…we all know you and the Colonel don’t exactly have
an…orthodoxed relationship. Half the time we don’t know if you hate each
other or…well you know. But you guys have always been able to talk to
each other. What’s been going on just isn’t normal sir.”
“Well Bud, nothing Mac and I have ever done could be considered normal.”
Harm said wryly.
“You can sure as hell say that again.” A deep, familiar voice said from
Looking over his shoulder he saw Admiral Chegwidden dressed in jeans and
a long sleeved cotton shirt.
“Sir.” Harm said starting to stand, only to be stopped by the Admiral’s
hand on his shoulder.
“Keep your seat Harm…we’re not in the office.”
“Aye sir. Sir, if you don’t mind me asking…”
”What am I doing here? Don’t mind at all son. I happened to be driving
by and saw Mr. Roberts’ van outside. Naturally I was curious what one of
my officers was doing here in the middle of the afternoon, and when I
come in I find not one, but three of my officers. Does Harriet know
you’ve kidnapped her husband to get him drunk in the middle of the
afternoon?” AJ asked in a mock serious tone.
“Aye sir. Well she knows Sturgis and I ‘kidnapped’ him…as for the
getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon, no such luck sir. Just a
quick beer after a game of hoops.” Harm said with a laugh. “Have a seat
“Don’t mind if I do. Thanks.” The Admiral said as he sat down on a stool
next to Harm. “I’ll have one of what they’re having.” He said to the
“Harm…I couldn’t help but hear what Bud was saying when I came in. You’d
be wise to listen to him.”
“I have to agree Harm, but you know that.” Sturgis tossed in.
Nodding Harm frowned thoughtfully.
“Harm, I need to ask you something. If you’d rather we can do it
privately.” The Admiral said after taking a sip of his just arrived
“I think I know what it’s about sir, and I don’t mind if Sturgis and Bud
“Is there something between you and Lieutenant Commander Austin?”
Shocked Harm rocked back on his chair. That wasn’t what he was
expecting. “Sir?” he asked.
“I don’t mean to pry son, and technically she’s not in my direct chain
of command so it’s none of my business if you and her are involved, but
I can’t help but notice that you’ve been a bit more cheerful since
Lieutenant Commander Austin arrived earlier this week. Don’t get me
wrong Harm, you know I always liked the Lieutenant Commander…you know
I’d kill any man who hurt her or any of my officers.”
Nodding Harm couldn’t help but think back to the Admiral’s “Screw 'em.
Steal their thunder.” speech of eight years ago when Meg was laying in a
coma induced by getting shot in the head. “Actually sir, she was under
the impression you never thought much of her.”
“Well she’s just wrong, that’s all. Now answer the question son. Is
there something between the two of you?”
“Not that I’m aware of sir.” Harm answered somewhat truthfully.
“Good. I wouldn’t want there to be any tension between the Colonel and
“Sir?” Harm asked, not sure where the Admiral was going with this.
Sturgis and Bud had just sat there silently sipping their beers as the
Admiral and Harm talked.
“I’ve decided to change the assignments for this coming week. It’s a
good thing I found you two.” The Admiral said looking at Bud and
Sturgis. “Your assignments have been changed; you’re both to remain in
the office this week. Lieutenant Commander Austin and Mac are going to
be going in your places. That way the office is only short two senior
Confused Bud looked at Sturgis before speaking. “Two sir? I don’t
understand, if the commander and I are out of the office, then we’d only
be short two…”
“You’re forgetting Commander Rabb, Lieutenant.”
”Sir?” both Bud and Harm said in confusion.
“Commander, I received a phone call last night, at my home. The SecNav
and I are both aware of you having qualified on a number of additional
aircraft recently, but your annual Tomcat quals will need to be
“Aye sir, but that won’t need to be done for a few months at least.”
Harm said with some confusion still.
“Not exactly true Commander. The SecNav feels, and I am forced to agree,
that with escalating tensions in the Middle East it would be best to get
you checked out at the earliest opportunity. The Patrick Henry is
docking in Norfolk tomorrow night and you will report on board Monday
morning. You will be TAD to the Captain for the duration of your stay on
board. Unfortunately they will not be stateside very long as they are
refitting and then heading back to the Gulf within 62 hours of docking.
You will obviously not have completed your quals by then so you will
remain on board until they are completed. Once you are finished we’ll
find you a ride back to Pax. Normally I wouldn’t feel the need to say
this Harm, but with you I just feel I have to. Don’t do anything stupid
while you’re there. I’ll have the orders cut and bring them by your
Finishing his beer the Admiral stood up at the end of his speech.
“Gentlemen, have a good weekend. Commander, Lieutenant I will see you
Monday morning. Commander, I will be by later tonight with your orders.”
“Afternoon sir.” All three said as the Admiral turned to go.
Harm sat there in a bit of a confused fog as he thought about what the
Admiral had said. Why would the SecNav want him to check out four months
earlier than necessary? And why was he doing it on a ship that was on
fast track turn around? Not that he minded checking out on the
Henry…he’d developed a close relationship with a lot of the pilots and
officers onboard, but if she was steaming to the Gulf three days after
he got on board he wouldn’t be back stateside in under two weeks.
“Well sir I’m sure you’re going to be happy to be flying again so soon.
Sometimes I envy you.” Bud said with a smile.
“Thanks Bud.” Harm said.
“I hate to say it, but the Admiral did have a point, sirs. If I don’t
get home soon Harriet’s going to have my ears, and that doesn’t even
matter if I’ve been drinking or not.”
Smiling Sturgis shook hands with the younger man. “Say hi for us Bud.
And give AJ a hug for Harm.”
“I will sirs. Thanks for the afternoon.”
“You’re welcome Bud…and tell Harriet and AJ that I’ll be by tomorrow to
spend some time with my godsons before I head to sea.” Harm said
“They’d like that sir, and so would we. We’ll see you tomorrow then.”
After Bud left Harm looked down into the last of his beer thoughtfully.
“Penny for your thoughts buddy.” Sturgis said.
“What? Oh…just thinking. And no it’s not about Mac and Meg. Why would
the SecNav want me to do my quals early? And on the Henry, which is fast
tracking back to the Gulf?”
“Neither you nor I know buddy, but there’s no point worrying about it.
You’ll be back stateside long before they get to the Gulf.”
“You’re probably right Sturg. Thanks for the games.” Harm said before he
finished off his beer and then stood up.
“No problem buddy. You gonna let Mac know before you go?”
Stopping Harm thought for a minute. “The Admiral will tell her if he
hasn’t already.” He said without turning around.
“You sure that’s the best way for her to find out? And what about Meg?”
Shrugging his shoulders Harm looked over his shoulder at his friend.
“What else can I do Sturg? She’s probably with Webb right now. They were
supposed to be going to some fund raiser tonight.”
“Your choice buddy. Try not to annoy Captain Ingles too much when you’re
Laughing, Harm waved once and then left to make his way home to pack his
Sunday May 23, 2004
Harm turned off the engine and then sat looking down at the two
envelopes the Admiral had dropped off the night before. One was
addressed to him and contained his orders for traveling to Norfolk to
board the Patrick Henry and begin qual testing. The second was addressed
to himself and the Captain of the Patrick Henry, Captain Ingles. This
one could not be opened without both officers present and had to wait
until the next day when he boarded the Patrick Henry. Harm couldn’t help
but be puzzled by the need for a second, sealed set of orders. He had a
feeling that this was more than a simple early qual cruise. This had
something to do with the CIA, he would bet his life on it. And that
meant Webb was involved, Harm could just smell him all over the sealed
orders and the rapid turn around timeframe.
Sighing, Harm slid the two envelopes inside his jacket pocket. From the
time the Admiral dropped off the orders last night to the time Harm
boarded the Patrick Henry he was accountable for the documents and could
not let them out of his sight. Stepping out of his car he noticed for
the first time Mac’s corvette parked on the street. He wasn’t expecting
her to be here…it would complicate things at best.
Walking up to the front door Harm put on a relaxed smile as he knocked
on the door. Might as well try to put a good face on things he thought.
“I’ll get it honey.” Bud’s voice sounded from behind the door.
As soon as Bud opened the door Harm knew something was up, he could just
tell by the look on Bud’s face. In the courtroom Bud could surprise
anyone, but outside the courtroom he was an open book.
“Commander. It's so nice of you to come by.” Bud said, a little louder
than was needed. Dropping his voice to a whisper he added “I’m so sorry
“Bud. Something wrong?” Harm asked warily.
“I didn’t know the Colonel was going to be coming by this morning sir,
Harriet asked her to come by. And well…I might have let it slip that you
were going to sea for awhile.”
Great. Mac knew he was going out for quals, and she always got that way
when he flew. Ditch a couple jets and people start to get nervous about
you driving a tomcat. Patting Bud on the shoulder as he entered Harm
said “It’s ok Bud. I’ll talk to her.”
“Commander!” Harriet said cheerfully as she came out from the kitchen.
Smiling Harm wrapped Harriet in a great big hug. “How’s my godson
doing?” he asked.
“Oh he’s doing fine Commander, he’s out back playing right now. Bud, do
you think the Commander would like an ice tea?”
“I’m sure he would honey, I’ll go get it.” Bud said right away and
followed his words up by going to the kitchen.
Turning back to Harm Harriet’s smile slipped into a cute little frown.
“Harmon Rabb Jr. I can’t believe you didn’t tell the Colonel you were
going to sea for your quals.” She said tapping her foot.
“I thought the Admiral might mention it when he talked to Mac about her
change in orders.” Harm said lamely. Even to him it sounded lame, now.
It hadn’t sounded so bad when he was telling himself it would be ok last
“That’s not the same thing Harm. You know she worries about you when you
fly. You’ve given her enough frights, don’t you think?”
“Yes mom.” Harm said with his best Flyboy grin.
“Don’t take that tone with me Harmon. She's out back with little AJ, and
I think the two of you need to sit down and have a talk.”
“I will Harriet. I promise.” Harm said as Bud came back from the
“Here you go sir.” he said with a smile, completely unaware of the
scolding that Harriet had just given Harm.
“Thanks Bud. Harriet tells me my godson is out back? I’ll go say hi.”
“Uhh…sir…Colonel MacKenzie’s out there with him.” Bud said cautiously.
“I know Bud. I guess I need to say hi to her too.” Harm said as he set
his shoulders and walked out to the back yard through the kitchen.
“UNCLE HARM!” little AJ’s voice squealed as soon as he caught sight of
Catching the blond cannonball that rushed into him Harm lifted him up
into the air laughing.
“How’s my favorite godson doing?” Harm asked.
“Good uncle Harm. Mommy said you’re going away again.” AJ said going
from happy to sad.
“I am buddy. But it's only for a couple weeks, and then I’ll be back.”
“Are you going to bring me something?” AJ asked hopefully.
“AJ!” Harriet said in shock as she walked outside to hear AJ’s last
Sitting down on a bench on the patio Harm set AJ on his lap. “I sure
will buddy. How would you like a hat?”
“Ummm. OK.” AJ said doubtfully. Suddenly he started squirming. “I’m
having a birthday party.”
“I know buddy. And I’m gonna try real hard to be here for it.” Harm said
“Aunt Mac’s here. She’s over there.” AJ said, pointing out to a bench
that Harriet had put out in the garden. When he looked over there Harm
saw the back of Mac’s head as she looked out over the garden.
“What do you think buddy…should I go say hi to her?”
“Uh-huh” AJ nodded.
“All right AJ. I will. But you need to help your mommy if she needs it,
ok?” Harm asked.
“OK!” AJ said enthusiastically.
Putting AJ down again Harm smiled at Harriet and then walked across the
lawn to the garden.
“Hey Mac.” he said softly.
“Harm.” was all she said in reply.
“Mind if I join you?”
Silently she shrugged her shoulders.
Sitting down beside her he looked out at the garden. Harriet had done a
wonderful job laying it out and things were really starting to bloom. In
a way it sort of reminded him of the rose garden he had met Mac in.
“I always seem to find you in gardens.” He said with a smile, attempting
to lighten up the mood. Glancing over when she didn’t say anything he
saw a hint of a smile play across her lips. God, how he loved those
lips. “So, I guess you’ve heard.”
With a sigh Mac looked at Harm with sad eyes. “At first I was mad Harm;
why wouldn’t you tell me something like this? You know I worry when
you’re flying at sea. But you know what? I’m tired of being mad at you
Harm; it just doesn’t seem to serve any point any more.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“This…you, me, the bickering and fighting. I’m too tired to go on Harm.”
“You know Mac; I’ve been thinking the same thing. It's just not as fun
as it was when we were younger.” He said with a smile. Right away he
could tell it was the wrong thing to say, even before he finished
closing his mouth, by the tightening around her eyes and the way her
frown deepened. Great! Open mouth, insert leg.
“Well I’m sorry I don’t amuse you the way I did when we were younger
“That’s not what I meant, and you know that Sarah.” He said. At his use
of her given name he saw her look at him quickly. He supposed it was odd
for him to use her Christian name instead of calling her Mac. He
couldn’t remember the last time he’d called her Sarah.
“So how long are you going to be gone?” she asked after a lengthy
silence broken only by the squeals of laughter that AJ let out as he
played with Bud.
“The Admiral didn’t say, but because the carrier is steaming back out to
the Gulf on a tight turn around, I figure two weeks to get the quals
done and transit back.”
Nodding silently Mac continued to look at the garden and not at Harm.
He had to ask her, maybe she knew something about it. “Mac…I know you’re
probably going to take this the wrong way, but where’s Webb?”
“He said he was going to Germany, why?” she said, finally looking at
Pausing Harm thought for a minute about what he was about to say. If he
wasn’t careful it would send Mac off again. “It’s just that there’s a
second, sealed set of orders that I’m supposed to hand deliver to
Captain Ingles and then open when I’m on board, and I don’t like the
feel of them.”
“So automatically you assume Clay has something to do with them?” Mac
said with an edge to her voice. “Damn it Harm, why can’t you trust him?”
“I didn’t say that Mac..”
“But you were thinking it. I know you Harm, and you were thinking it.”
Mac voice said rising.
“All right, maybe I was, but so what? You know as well as I do that Webb
has a habit of using you and me like we’re his own personal agents. I
mean look at what happened…”
“Don’t say it Harm.” Mac said standing up suddenly and crossing her
“Sir…ma’am…would you like more iced tea?” Harriet asked from across the
“No thank you Harriet.” Mac said with a smile in her friend’s direction.
Turning back to Harm her smile instantly melted into a frown. “Listen
Harm…we’re not going to fight today…not here. For the sake of Harriet
and Bud and AJ.” She said sternly.
Sighing Harm nodded in agreement. “That’s probably the best. Look, Mac.
Mattie is coming home this afternoon from camping and I need to talk to
her about my being away. Why don’t you and I try having lunch again and
we can talk about this.”
Shaking her head Mac couldn’t stop looking at Bud and Harriet and their
smiling son. “I promised Harriet I would spend the afternoon helping her
around the house…I just needed to be around people who love each other.
Besides I don’t think we have anything else to say to each other.”
“Are you sure? I’m sorry I didn’t tell you last night when the Admiral
dropped off the orders…really I am Mac. I wanted to…but you were out
with Webb and I just didn’t want to worry you.”
“Don’t make excuses Harm, it's not very becoming of you.”
‘God she’s beautiful, no matter her mood’ he thought. Suddenly he found
himself trying to pull her into a hug. For a moment she struggled,
trying to pull back but then she gave in and let Harm pull her close.
“I’ll be ok Mac…it’s just a simple cruise to get my quals done early.”
Harm said holding her close.
”You’re not due for four months Harm. Why are you doing it early?” Mac
“I don’t know Mac. The Admiral and the SecNav felt it was something that
would be best to be done early…that Admiral said something about the
escalating tensions in the Middle East.”
“Are you changing your designator again?” Mac asked softly.
Shaking his head Harm couldn’t help but become overwhelmed at the smell
of her hair. Vanilla and roses. Sighing Harm squeezed her a little
tighter. “No…I’m back at JAG to stay Sarah. I’ve been down that road,
and I’ve been other places, and JAG is the only place that feels right.”
He didn’t add that the only reason any place felt right was because she
Breathing a big sigh of relief Mac pushed herself out of Harm’s embrace
to stand silently beside him. Somehow both Harm and Mac missed the sight
of Harriet hugging her son tightly as she smiled broadly at the two
people she loved most next to her husband and son.
Harm spent another couple hours with Bud, Harriet and Mac playing with
AJ. Finally he shook Bud’s hand and gave Harriet and Mac hugs and then
with one final ruffle of AJ’s blond mop Harm went back out to his car.
Looking once more at Bud and Harriet standing in front of their door
holding each other and AJ, Harm’s eye were drawn to the lonely figure of
Mac standing off to the side a little bit. Biting his lip Harm started
his car and with a wave backed out of the driveway. Why couldn’t they
have what Bud and Harriet had? Why couldn’t he give her that?
North of Union Station
Harm set the last plate on the table when the knock sounded at his door.
Turning around he saw Mattie walking in.
“Hey Harm!” she said with a tired smile. “You expecting someone?”
“I am actually.” he said with a smile. “I have a date tonight.”
“Really?” Mattie asked. Pausing her eyes narrowed as she looked at Harm.
“Mac or Meg?”
“Neither actually. Although, I did ask Meg to come by later so that we
could talk about something.”
“Harm! You’re a bad, bad man. Having a date and asking another woman
over later. What kind of example is that to set for me?”
“Well…I don’t know…I suppose that’s up to my date. How do you feel about
“Wait…me?” Mattie asked in surprise.
“If you don’t already have plans I would be honored to be joined by the
beautiful Ms. Grace for dinner. We need to talk about something.”
With a small frown Mattie looked around the apartment, taking in the
early dinner and then when her gaze traveled over the living room she
saw Harm’s packed sea bag. “You’re going away again.” She stated sadly.
Sighing Harm sat down at the table and beckoned Mattie to come and sit
beside him. “I am sweetie, but it's only to do my quals. I don’t think
I’ll be gone longer than a couple weeks. I’ll leave my credit card with
you and that way if you and Jen need anything you can use it.”
“Really?” Mattie’s eyes lit up as she sat beside him.
“Within reason Mattie. Within reason.”
“Does Mac know?” she asked looking at Harm closely.
Nodding Harm thought about the aborted and strained discussion him and
Mac had that afternoon. “I talked to her about it earlier.”
“How does she feel about it?”
“Well hon, that’s between me and Mac. What I want to know Mattie, is how
do you feel about it? I know we’ve talked about my going away in the
past, but you know I don’t like leaving you.”
“Even to go flying?” Mattie asked in a little girl voice.
“Even to go flying. You’re a part of my life now Mattie, and that’s
important to me. I’ve had to take a good look at my life the last few
months; look at what I have, and what I don’t have. It’s forced me to
evaluate what I want for myself, and you’re a part of that.”
“Gee Harm, that’s touching…I think I’m going to cry.” Mattie joked, but
Harm could see the glistening of moisture at the corners of her eyes.
Smiling he ruffled her hair he gave her a hug. “So are we ok?”
“Yeah, we’re ok. Can Jen and I have a party while you’re gone?”
“No.” Harm said firmly.
“Can’t blame a girl for asking.” Mattie said with a smirk.
North of Union Station
Harm opened the door with a smile to see Meg standing out in the hallway
wearing a pair of faded boot cut jeans and an old navy sweatshirt. “Hey
Meg, thanks for coming by.”
“Do you think I would miss a chance to spend time with my favorite JAG
lawyer?” Meg asked with a smile. Stopping beside Harm she gave him a
little hug and a peck on the cheek.
Closing the door Harm followed Meg into the apartment. “Can I get you
some wine?” he asked when they were at the kitchen.
“Sure.” She said then watched silently while he poured a single glass of
white. “You’re not having any?”
Handing her the glass Harm smiled at her. “Can’t. They frown on going
from the bottle to the throttle.”
“You flying?” Meg asked with her confusion showing.
“Yeah. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. The Admiral dropped
off some new orders for me. I’m heading out to the Patrick Henry to do
“When are you going to be back?” Meg asked after taking a sip of her
“It shouldn’t be more than a couple weeks. The Henry docked today and
after they take on provisions and run a maintenance check they’ll be
turning around and heading back to the Gulf. Gives me the wave time I
need to get all my traps in and then I’ll be coming back…probably by
Meg frowned into her wine glass before she looked back up at Harm. “Well
that stinks. I just got here and you’re going to be gone for two weeks.”
“Aren’t you going to Lejeune with Mac?”
“Yeah, but that shouldn’t take more than a couple days. I was hoping we
could do some stuff this week.”
“You’ll still be here when I get back right? Don’t worry Meg…I want so
spend a lot more time with you before you go back to Pearl.” Harm said
with a smile. “We’ve got eight years to make up…and only a couple weeks
to do it in now.”
Setting down her wineglass on the countertop, Meg moved to stand behind
Harm and began to massage his shoulders.
“Whoa there Meg…” he said in shock.
“What, you don’t like it?” she asked.
“Well, it’s not that I don’t like…I just wasn’t expecting it is all.”
“So do you want me to stop?” she asked following up her words by holding
her hands up.
“Meg Austin…you’ve definitely changed.” Harm said with a low chuckle.
Standing up he turned to face her with his big smile. Reaching out he
pulled her into a close embrace and looked down into her blue eyes.
Somewhere in the back of his mind he couldn’t help but notice they
weren’t the deep brown eyes he always saw in his dreams. Lowering his
head he brought his lips to hers in a deep kiss.
At the sound of a knock at the door Harm and Meg sprang apart just as
Mattie walked in. “Hey Harm…” she said. “Oh…hi Meg. Sorry, I didn’t mean
to interrupt anything.”
“It’s OK Mattie. Meg and I were just talking about my quals.” Harm said
with a smile.
“Hi Mattie.” Meg said looking everywhere but at Harm.
“Yeah…right.” Mattie said doubtfully, looking at them closely. “Anyway…I
forgot to give these to you earlier and I guess you’ll need them to get
to Norfolk tomorrow.” And with that she tossed Harm the keys to his
Deftly catching the keys Harm smiled at his ward. “Thanks hon. What are
you and Jen up to tonight?”
“I think we’re just going to pop in a movie and veg out. We’re both
pretty beat after the camping. Speaking of which I should get back or
she’ll put on one of those mushy movies she likes.” Mattie said
wrinkling her nose. Waving she closed the door behind her.
“Don’t let her fool you.” Harm said with a smile. “She watches those
movies just as often as Jen.”
“I don’t think we fooled her.” Meg said.
“She’s a sharp one; I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t.” Harm said
with a chuckle. Glancing around nervously he made a show of looking at
the clock on the wall. “I should probably get to bed soon, I need to be
up early to get my run in and then drive out to Norfolk.”
“Yeah…I should probably go too. Lieutenant Colonel MacKenzie and I are
flying out tomorrow morning.” Meg said nervously running her hand
through her hair.
“Let me walk you down to your car.” Harm said.
“It's ok…really. I’ll be fine Harm.” Meg said as they walked up to the
“You sure?” Harm asked.
Nodding Meg smiled at him. “Uh-huh. Listen…stay in touch when you’re out
there ok? Send me emails or something. Let me know how things are
“I will, I promise. Good night Meg.” Harm said holding the door open for
“Good night Harm.” Meg said. Rising up on her tiptoes she placed a small
kiss on his cheek. “Be good out there.”
“Always.” Harm said with a grin. As she walked down the hallway he
closed the door and brought his forehead down to the door’s surface.
“What are you doing Rabb?” he asked himself thinking not of Meg but of a
certain Marine who kept popping into his head. Even when he was kissing
Meg he couldn’t stop thinking of her…and she didn’t even want to be with
Shaking his head he went to clean the wineglass and then sat down on his
couch to read a little before going to bed.
North of Union Station
Monday May 24, 2004
Harm jogged up the steps leading to his loft. He’d had a good run to
start the day, but his knees were starting to complain more and more
after every run. He couldn’t wait to hit a nice cold shower to wash the
sweat from the run off. As he hit the landing of his floor he slid to a
stop. Standing in front of the door to his apartment was Mac. Holding a
finger to his lips he nodded to the door of Mattie and Jen’s apartment
then went and unlocked his own, letting Mac enter first.
“What are you doing here?” he asked quietly.
“Nice to see you too.” She said. “I thought I’d give you a ride to
Norfolk and that way you wouldn’t have to leave your Lexus out there
while you’re deployed.”
“It’s a two week hitch Mac, not the six month spread. Regardless though,
I appreciate the gesture. Thank you.” He said tossing the towel he wore
around his neck over the back of a chair. “You could have let yourself
in you know, I wouldn’t have minded. Want some breakfast?”
“You shower, I’ll make you some toast. We need to be on the road in
twenty minutes if I’m going to make it back in time for my flight to
Lejeune.” She replied apparently ignoring his statement about her
letting herself in.
Nodding Harm walked off to his bathroom to get that shower he was
thinking about. It was just too bad he was taking it alone. With a grin
he looked over his shoulder at Mac. “Sure you don’t want to join me?” he
“Ah gee. And I’ve already got my uniform on. Can it Flyboy, you’re
running out of time. Eighteen minutes and forty seconds.” Mac said as
she slid a couple slices of toast into the toaster.
Chuckling Harm finished the short walk to his bathroom. When he came out
five minutes later wearing nothing but a pair of loose cotton pants Mac
had two slices of toast and a glass of orange juice sitting on the
counter waiting for him.
Sitting down on a stool he smiled at Mac. “Thanks Marine. I meant it you
know…I really appreciate that you want to see me off.”
“Don’t let it go to your head.” Mac said with mock sarcasm.
“You know…” he said between bites of toast and then he paused. He was
about to tell her about the weird dream he had had the night before but
he stopped. He wasn’t sure if she’d want to hear about a dream where he
was some medieval knight on a quest to rescue her as a princess who’d
been captured by an evil sorcerer.
“You know what?” Mac asked.
“Umm. Nothing…don’t worry about it.” He said evasively. “Hey…do you want
to take the Lexus? Your ‘Vette isn’t exactly luggage friendly.”
“Do you have anything more than your sea bag?” Mac asked with a raised
“No…but I was just thinking you’ve probably got your bags for your trip
“Just an overnight bag and my suit bag. It’ll be fine. Besides, just
think what everyone will say when you’re dropped off at the ship by a
Marine in a red Corvette.”
Harm could just imagine what people would say…him getting dropped off at
the pier by the most beautiful woman in the world in a red sports car.
And he probably wouldn’t say anything to dissuade their speculations. He
was just glad they weren’t fighting this morning. Smiling he polished
off the rest of his juice and then went to his room to put on his
“So what’s in Lejeune for you and Meg?” he called out to Mac.
“Nothing much…a couple UA marines. One of them is claiming that his
absence was authorized and the Admiral felt it should be investigated.
Why he’s saddled me with Austin I don’t know.”
“Look at it as a chance to get to know her better.” Harm said as he tied
his shoes and then grabbed his cover and walked out to the living room.
“Seriously Mac…you both mean a lot to me, and I’d like for you two to
“We’ll see. You ready to go?” Mac said from the door.
“Yeah. Just let me slip this under Jen and Mattie’s door.” Harm said as
he picked up his sea bag and grabbed an envelope off the desk. “Can you
do me a favor while I’m gone Mac?”
“You want me to look in on her?” Mac asked as Harm locked up his
“If you wouldn’t mind, it would mean a lot to me.” Harm said as he
walked down the hall to the door to Mattie and Jen’s apartment where he
slipped the envelope under the door.
“No problem. What’s in the envelope?”
“A quick note and one of my credit cards.” Harm shrugged. “Make sure she
doesn’t empty my bank account before I get back?”
Laughing Mac nodded and then led the way down the stairs.
Norfolk Naval Yard
Harm grabbed his sea bag from the back of Mac’s corvette and stepped
back from the car. “Thanks for the ride Mac.” He said with a smile.
“Just be careful out there Harm. Don’t do anything stupid.”
“You know, the Admiral said the same thing. I’ll be fine. It’s just some
routine flights and some more notches on the greenie board.” Harm said
with a grin.
“Well, just try not to ditch any aircraft this time.”
“I’ll be careful Mac. Hey…do you think you should give me a kiss for
luck?” Harm asked with a grin, fully aware that the duty officer at the
top of the gangplank and his non-comm where watching.
“In your dreams Flyboy. In your dreams.” Mac said with a laugh. “Come
“Yes ma’am. See you in a couple weeks.” Harm said and then he turned to
walk up the long gangplank to the ship. Saluting the flag he turned to
the Ensign on duty.
“Permission to come aboard?” he asked formally.
Saluting the commander before him the ensign checked his clipboard of
all arriving personnel. Only one pilot was listed. “Commander Rabb?
Welcome aboard sir. The Captain would like to see you on the bridge.”
“Thank you Ensign. I know the way.”
“Aye, aye sir.”
With that Harm walked back into the world that could make his whole body
hum. Shortly he found himself walking into the command centre of one of
the most powerful seagoing vessels on the planet.
“JAG on deck!” rang out as soon as Harm passed through the hatchway.
“Commander! Good to see you again.” Captain Ingles said as he turned to
the newly arrived officer.
Saluting Harm stood to attention. “Thank you sir, it’s good to be back.”
Holding out his orders Harm waited until the Captain had taken them and
then stood at ease. It wasn’t until then that Harm noticed Clayton Webb
standing over by the chart table. What the hell was he doing there?
Hadn’t Mac said that he’d be in Germany?
“Commander, join me in my state room. Mr. Webb, join us.” Captain Ingles
said as he looked at Harm’s orders.
“Aye, aye sir.” Harm said as he came to attention once more. He then
followed the Captain down three decks to his wardroom. As the hatch
closed behind Webb, Harm came to attention again.
“At ease Commander. Harm, as you know you’re to fly your quals after we
set to sea in a day and a half. But I’m sure you can guess by now that
you’re here for more than your quals.”
“Yes sir. My annual quals aren’t for four more months, and the sealed
“Well, why don’t we just open those now?” the Captain asked and then
broke open the sealed envelope. After a quick glance he handed them to
Looking down Harm read the orders quickly. His designator was being
changed to return him to active flight status. He was to be attached to
the Patrick Henry’s flight group for a period of not less than three
months. Looking back up at the Captain he said “Sir, permission to speak
“Sir, I don’t understand. Why is my designator being changed? Why am I
being returned to active flight status? I have duties at JAG, and I was
under the impression this was a two week hitch to bring my quals up to
“Not my idea Commander.” The Captain said with a look at Clayton Webb.
“It was my idea Harm.” Webb said with a smirk.
Gritting his teeth Harm continued looking at the Captain.
“Harm…there’s something else. My CAG had mechanical problems two days
out. He had to punch it and had a bad landing. His leg is fractured in
six places and he’s being sent to Bethesda. His XO doesn’t have your
flight hours or your time in the thick. We need someone with your
experience running the show. While you’re here you’ll be acting CAG.”
The Captain said with another glance at Webb.
“That was also my idea Harm. This does not leave this room, but we need
a CAG we can trust to replace the old CAG.”
“Why was he one of ‘yours’?” Harm asked sarcastically.
“Actually he was. Sort of. He was one of the few naval personnel we feel
we can use when the situation requires it, much like yourself.”
“Who was it? Keeter?” Harm asked flippantly thinking of the time Keeter
flew the Stealth for the CIA. There was no way it would be Keeter.
“Actually it was.” Webb answered with yet another smirk.
“What the hell are you playing at Webb? And why the hell aren’t you in
“I’m not ‘playing’ at anything Rabb. What we’re doing here is deadly
serious, and you would do well to remember that. Did Sarah tell you I
was in Germany? As far as she’s concerned I am, and if you must know I
told her that so that she wouldn’t worry about me. Now if you’ll excuse
me Captain? I have a helo to catch. Rabb, I’ll be in touch.” Webb said
and then without waiting for the Captain’s dismissal turned and opened
the hatch and left.
Sitting down the Captain gestured for Harm to do the same. “I don’t like
him any better than you appear to CAG. He makes me very nervous for some
“He gets good people into problems they shouldn’t be in sir, and they
usually end up dead. I don’t like it sir, but you know I’ll follow
orders. Does the Admiral know?”
“I’ll be speaking with him later today. He doesn’t know what was in the
sealed orders…those came from the SecNav. It appears that Mr. Webb’s
boss and our boss are very good golfing buddies. Son, there’s something
fundamentally wrong with the SecNav letting the CIA have our pilots
whenever they ask.”
“You’ll get no argument out of me sir.”
“Well Commander, I’ll let you get settled into your stateroom. Report to
me on the bridge in half an hour.”
“Aye, aye sir.” Harm said coming out of his chair and standing to
attention again. Taking two steps back he turned around and was in the
process of opening the hatch when the captain spoke again.
“And I trust you won’t be landing anything bigger than a tomcat on my
“No sir.” Harm said with a smile.
Twenty minutes later Harm was hanging his flight suit in the locker in
his stateroom. His helmet followed the flight suit into the locker, the
front facing out so that ‘Hammer’ was visible to all. He still couldn’t
get over the gift that the Raptors had given him last time he was with
them. Taking a last look in his sea bag he decided everything he would
need in the next little while was put away and the rest could wait.
Tossing the sea bag into the bottom of the locker he closed the door and
looked around the stateroom. Nothing else to do here, he might as well
head up to the bridge. It was a shame he had stay in uniform; he would
much rather be wearing the flight suit but seeing as flight operations
were suspended while in port there wasn’t much point in it. Soon enough.
While he made his way to the bridge of the carrier Harm began to wonder
about things that were going to surely come his way. If he were to be on
the carrier for at least three months he would be doing more than his
quals; he would be flying combat missions, and in all probability
writing letters home to unknowing families. Growing more and more
pensive Harm was cursing Webb for once again reaching out and plucking
him from JAG when he came to a sudden stop in the passageway nearly
causing an accident as numerous sailors desperately tried to avoid
running over this tall, broad shouldered Commander who had suddenly
stopped in the their way. Harm however had no time to notice the looks
he was getting from those going around him. What if this was simply a
ploy by Webb to get Harm away from Mac? Could Webb pull enough strings
to get Harm sent into action for half a standard cruise? He couldn’t,
could he? As he pondered these thoughts Harm felt his anger rising. If
he found out that Webb was simply trying to separate him and Mac then
the spook would find he had waken the tiger.
It was a slightly confused and brooding Harm that stepped onto the
bridge for the second time that day. “Ah CAG…all squared away?” Captain
“Aye sir, reporting as ordered.”
“Good, good. Seeing as we’re not engaged in flight ops while in port,
you should have ample opportunity to go over any of the personnel
records of anyone unfamiliar to you. You’ll find them in your office,
along with copies of previous flight rotations and maintenance
schedules. By the time we get underway in two days I want you to have
the next month’s rotation done up. I’ve kept your crews on board for the
time being…if you feel the need to let them off ship before we get
underway feel free to give them passes. As long as they’re on deck and
sober when we leave port everything will be fine. Any questions?”
“No sir. I’ll get on that right away with your permission?”
“Carry on Commander.”
An hour later Harm leaned back in his chair pinching the bridge of his
nose. Spread out on the desk in front of him were the numerous personnel
files of young pilots he had no pervious contact with. He had noticed
that Skates and Tuna were still flying with the Raptors, along with a
number of other pilots and RIOs he’d flown with in the past. He liked
the look of his squadron; lots of them had stick time in the thick.
Looking up at a knock on his hatch Harm smiled to see Lieutenant
Elizabeth “Skates” Hawkes standing there smiling.
“Skates…come in. I thought you were trying to fly dry?” he asked,
referring to her plans to transfer to a land bound duty station to be
closer to her fiancé.
“Well you know sir…I have salt in the blood and jet fumes in the lungs.
If the landing strip is too big and doesn’t pitch there’s just no fun in
it. Besides, none of those drivers know how to fly.” Skates said with a
smile. “So we’re stuck with the Hammer again are we?”
“Good to see you again Liz.” Harm said with genuine feeling. This woman
had helped bring him back from death’s door three years ago. “So who’s
“Well sir, it seems I don’t have one right now. I broke the last one,
and they told me I’d have to wait for the new CAG to decide what to do
with me.” Skates said with mock seriousness.
“You broke your last one? Wait…you were riding backseat for Keeter?”
Harm asked. That reminded him, he wanted to get down to sickbay and see
if Keeter had been sent to Bethesda yet. Damn...he probably had been.
“Damn right she was.” A familiar voice called from the hallway, followed
by an odd thumping noise. A few moments later the sight of Keeter
thumping his way over a knee knocker on crutches hove into view. “Damn
it Hammer, give me a hand will you?”
Laughing Harm stood up from behind his desk and squeezed past Skates to
help Keeter over the knee knocker. “I thought they were strapping you to
a bed in Bethesda?” he asked once Keeter was fully into the office.
“Oh they will…just wanted to come by and make sure you don’t screw up my
squadron first. And her…” he said nodding at Skates. “All she can talk
about is Hammer this and Hammer that. You’d think she saw you walk on
water buddy. I tried telling her about that time we snuck off campus to
see those twins, but even that didn’t tarnish her Hammer worship.”
Laughing Harm helped Keeter into a seat and then sat on the edge of his
desk. “Well I’m not sure what she saw…I was pretty much out of it with
hypothermia the last time I was in the water with Skates.”
“Well sir, I’m just sorry you missed that wedding.” Skates said with
“What wedding?” Keeter asked curiously.
“Mac’s…but it never happened.” Harm said evasively.
“You still haven’t married that Marine? What’s wrong with you buddy? You
slowing down in your old age?”
“It’s not that easy buddy. Anyway…rest assured I won’t mess up my
squadron while you’re out of commission. And who am I to mess with the
way of things, I guess I’ll take Skates as my RIO.” Harm said with a
smile for Skates. “One of the best I’ve ever chauffeured.”
“Skates…now that you know he’s going to keep you in his backseat, can I
speak to the Commander in private?”
“Aye, aye sir.” Skates said coming to attention. “Sirs.”
As she left Skates made sure to dog the hatch shut so that Harm and
Keeter had the privacy they needed.
“She’s going up before the next Lieutenant Commander board. It’s just
too bad I won’t be here to see her get it.” Keeter said with a sigh.
“She is a hell of a RIO…damn glad she came back where she belonged.
Harm, listen….about this whole thing. I’m sorry…I was involved in
bringing you in.”
“What do you mean?” Harm asked looking at his friend.
“Well I’ve been helping out the Company with in country jobs while we
were in the Gulf…and if that damned roll SAS hadn’t gone out on me on
the last patrol you’d still be comfy in your JAG office. But it did, and
I got this.” Keeter said thumping his cast. “So the Company needed
someone they could trust. That’s when we all thought of you.”
“I’m through with the Company Keeter.” Harm said stubbornly.
“You’re never through with the Company buddy, you know that. They may
have given you a pat on the head and sent you back to JAG, but they
didn’t cut all the strings. They’ll still make you dance when they need
you. And this is one of those times. Hell, Webb asked for you for this.”
“I’ll just bet.” Harm said bitterly.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“He’s probably just looking for a way to get me away from Mac for
awhile. Finished what he started after Paraguay.”
“What do you mean buddy?”
“Him and Mac are dating.” Harm said simply.
With a low whistle Keeter shook his head. “Well I didn’t know about
that, but I do know if they can’t have me here, they might as well have
the second best.”
“Second best my ass. I’ve never let Martin Baker beat me up that bad.”
Harm said with a laugh looking at Keeter’s cast. For a moment Keeter had
managed to get his mind off of Webb and Mac.
“Look buddy…here’s how it’s going to work. Webb will come back on board
once in awhile to task you with a new mission. Sometimes they’re hops
that you can give to someone from the squad, sometimes they’re dark.”
Harm knew that when Keeter said dark he meant black ops, stuff only he
could handle. “How dirty?”
“Some of them get pretty bad brother. I’d suggest going to see the
Chaplin for confession once in awhile to get some of it off your soul.”
Keeter said somberly.
Sighing Harm cursed the day he met Webb all those years ago. Ever since
then he just couldn’t seem to get away from the CIA. A knock at his
hatch brought him out of his reverie.
“Enter!” he called.
Slowly the hatch was undogged and then swung upon. A young ensign poked
her head in. “Sirs? The Captain was wondering why Commander Keeter was
‘loafing around his ship’. Your ride to Bethesda has been dockside for
half an hour sir. And CAG, the Captain said if you need to let anyone
know of the change in plans you are cleared to use the comm centre.”
“Thank you Ensign….” Harm said, waiting for the young lady to provide
“Tollari sir. I’m the PRO here on the Henry.” She said with a smile.
With a smile and chuckle Harm said “I’ll take the Captain up on that and
make sure that Commander Keeter catches his cab. Remind me some time to
tell you about another young Public Relations Officer I knew on the
“Aye sir. Excuse me sir?” Ensign Tollari said respectfully.
“Carry on Tollari.” Keeter said as he struggled to stand up from the
chair. “Well I guess that’s my cue.”
“Let me walk you down to your ride.” Harm said.
After numerous struggles and some near fatal misses Harm finally got
Keeter off the ship and down the gangplank to the dock where an
ambulance was waiting.
“I don’t need any stinking ambulance.” Keeter grumbled when they were
finally at the vehicle.
“I know buddy. Humor the Captain.” Harm said. Giving Keeter a quick hug
he followed up with a gentle shove in the direction of the ambulance.
“Get better soon buddy…I’ve got a job to do that isn’t yours.”
“Three months buddy. That’s what their saying it’ll take me to heal up
and rehab. Look for me on a COD in three months.”
As the ambulance drove down the dockside and disappeared around a corner
Harm turned back to the carrier that would be his home for the next
three months. There was just something about this cruise that Harm
didn’t like…something felt wrong. With a sigh he started up the
gangplank once more. Now for the hardest part of the whole mission…he
needed to phone Mattie and tell her that he wouldn’t be home in two
weeks. The Admiral would take care of letting everyone else know, but
Mattie needed to hear it from him.
Somewhere over the Arabian Sea
Saturday June 5, 2004
"Raptor 1 this is Henry Control. We have you on approach. Handing off to LSO."
"Roger Henry Control, handing off. Henry LSO this is Raptor 1." Harm
said into his helmet mic.
"Raptor 1 this is Henry LSO, call the ball."
Looking at his HUD Harm lined up for a landing. "Well Skates…this will
get the paperwork out of the way." Harm said, referring to the fact that
this was the last trap he needed to complete his quals.
"You going to make another perfect touchdown Hammer? You know, with you
that sort of thing gets a little boring and predictable." Skates said
from the backseat.
With a quick glance in his mirror Harm flashed his RIO a smile. "You
prefer to go swimming?"
"Water's a little cold. Maybe next time we have shore leave."
"Right." Harm said then keyed his connection to the LSO. "Henry LSO,
Raptor 1. Ball."
"Roger Raptor 1, we have you in the glide path. Bring her on home."
Watching the tiny dot of the aircraft carrier get larger by the second
Harm couldn't help but pause and think about how much he loved this.
Skates was right…flying off of anything other than a carrier was a bit
"Tail hook down." He called to Skates.
"Roger, tail hook down." She called back hitting the switch to lower the
"Raptor 1, Henry LSO. You're a little low, give her some power."
"Relax guys. I know what I'm doing." Harm said to himself eliciting a
laugh out of Skates.
Minutes later Harm caught the number 3 wire and slowed his Tomcat to
taxi over to the staging area clear of the runway. Cutting the engine he
released the canopy and pulled off his helmet.
"Well that was another one for the Greenie Board Hammer." Skates said as
she took off her own flight helmet. "You gonna give any of the rookies a
chance to catch up?"
"Nah. They'll have their chance when I'm gone."
"Riiiight. Let me buy you a coffee in celebration of finishing your
quals CAG?" Skates asked as they dropped to the deck from the ladders at
the side of the F-14.
"Sure, but we have a debriefing first." Harm said as the young PRO came
to attention beside him. "Ensign." He greeted her.
"The Captain would like to see you immediately CAG." The Ensign said
looking at Harm with a touch of awe in her gaze.
"Thank you Ensign. Looks like that coffee will have to wait Skates. Tell
the boys I'll be down in a couple minutes."
Grabbing his plane captain as he walked to the hatch in the side of the
tower Harm looked back at his Tomcat. "Check the hydraulics in the
starboard ailerons Chief. She seemed a little sluggish coming in."
"You bet sir." The Chief Petty Officer said. "Do you ever miss the gold
"A couple times…but you don't want to be around when I do Chief…it’s not
pretty." Harm said referring to his ramp strike nine years before.
Nodding the plane captain ran out to look after his Tomcat while Harm
made his way to the bridge.
"CAG on deck!" rang out as Harm stepped through the hatchway to the
"Over here CAG." The Captain called from the chart table where he was
standing beside Clayton Webb.
Frowning at Webb Harm moved over to stand next to the Captain. "How was
the patrol CAG?" the Captain asked when Harm was next to him.
"It was quiet sir; nothing to report."
"Another notch on the greenie board for you though. And now you're done
"Aye sir." Harm simply.
"Good, good. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can get down
to business. Mr. Webb?"
"Indeed Captain. I've got a job for you Rabb." Webb said as he called up
an image of the Yemen coastline. "I need you to provide air cover for an
extraction operation that will be taking place here." He said pointing
to a specific point on the coast.
"Who's being extracted?" Harm asked.
"It’s need to know Rabb."
"If you want me to do my job, I need to know. How are they being
"Helo." Webb answered tersely.
"Night time extraction I'm guessing?"
"Why do you need us?"
"Iraqi dissidents have been reported flying over Yemen out into the
Gulf. We need that helo to return safely, it is imperative to our effort
here in Iraq."
"Tonight…you leave in three hours. And you'll be alone…we're only
tasking you and your RIO for this. You'll have a refuel point here."
Webb said pointing to another spot on the chart out to sea. "And if
needed you will be refueling there on the return leg."
"What kind of resistance can we expect?" Harm asked seriously.
"We expect no to light resistance."
"Which is why you need me to fly shotgun on this op?" Harm asked
"Look Rabb, just fly your plane and do your job. Leave the rest up to
me." Webb said angrily.
"That's what I'm afraid of." Harm said with a frown. "Now, if you'll
excuse me Captain, I need to debrief the boys from the last patrol."
"Dismissed CAG." The Captain said with a knowing nod.
"Rabb." Webb said before Harm made it to the hatch.
"Yeah?" Harm said looking over his shoulder.
"I'll be here to debrief you on your return then I'll be heading out
again. I might have another mission for you to fly while I'm away."
"Oh goodie." Harm said as he turned back to the hatch and made his way
down to the ready room.
Walking into the ready room Harm noticed right away everyone from the
Raptors was present, not just the crews that had returned from patrols.
Narrowing his eyes he looked around the room. "What's going on here?" he
asked in his best command tone.
"Well CAG, we have a little something for you." Skates said as she
stepped out of the press of bodies with her hands behind her back. As
she got close to Harm she brought her hands out from behind her showing
a silly plastic toy crown. Reaching up she placed it on Harm's head and
then stepped back. "All hail the King of the Greenie Board!" she called
"Hail to the King!" everyone else yelled out.
Pulling the crown off his head Harm looked around at his squad trying
not to laugh. "Great. Just great guys…now you're making me King? Anyone
want this?" Harm asked holding out the crown.
"Sure sir." Lieutenant Dan 'John-boy' Hillers said with a smile. One of
the newer pilots Hillers was still getting used to his new CAG.
Pulling the crown back from Hillers' reach Harm gave him a wicked smile.
"Then show me what you've got up there son." He said as he pointed to
the Greenie Board showing everyone who'd made a number 3 trap. John-boy
was up there, but with only two notches to his name; the boy had a habit
of catching the number 2. Harm meant to drive him harder now that his
own quals were out of the way; him and everyone else in the squad.
"All right...enough of that." Harm said stepping behind the podium.
"Anyone have anything to report about their last patrols?"
"Nothing CAG." Tuna said looking around at the two other pilots that had
just returned with him and the CAG. They both shook their heads in the
negative as well.
"Well, don't think this means we can get soft. The next patrol goes in
one hour, and the next one after that half an hour after their return.
Skates and I will be going out with the second patrol."
"We will sir?" Skates asked with confusion. She and the CAG weren't up
in the rotation for another sixteen hours.
"I asked the Chief to look at the ailerons on my bird and I want to
check them out. They didn't feel right coming in just now and I don't
want to find out there's a problem in the thick." Harm explained, hating
having to lie to his squad. Well, it wasn't exactly a lie, but it was a
convenient excuse. Damn Webb, he was even starting to think like a spy.
"Those going up in the next mission report to the flight deck. Those
others going up tonight, report to the flight deck in two hours.
Coming to attention the pilots all began filing out of the ready room to
either get some rest or report to the flight deck. Picking up his helmet
Harm started walking back to his stateroom but thought of something
else. It was only two in the afternoon in DC, and while he had time
maybe he should call Mattie and see how she was doing. Turning around
Harm made his way to the nearest public phone. Slipping his calling card
into the slot Harm dialed Mattie and Jen's number.
After a couple rings the phone was picked up. "Hello?" Jennifer said on
the other end.
"Jen, it’s me." Harm said with a smile. "How are my girls doing?"
"Commander!" Jen said excitedly. "We're good sir. How are you?"
"Just did my last trap to bring my quals up to date." Harm said. In the
background he could hear a commotion of some sort. "What's that noise?"
"That's your ward attempting to murder me to get the phone sir. It was
good hearing from you Commander…I'll put Mattie on now."
"Thanks Jen…oh and Jen?"
"How's…everyone back at JAG?"
"They're doing good sir. We're all missing you, but we know you'll be
coming back to us when this is all done." Jen said and then paused.
Plunging on she continued "Colonel MacKenzie misses you sir…she hasn't
said anything, but we can all tell. I'll tell her that you called and
that you're safe."
"Thanks Jen." Harm said and then waited for Mattie to grab the phone.
"Harm!" Mattie screamed in excitement.
"Hey there kiddo. How you doing?"
"School sucks Harm. Why are you making me go?"
"Because you need to sweetie. Now what's so bad about school?"
"It just sucks. So when are you coming back, do you know?"
"I still don't know sweetie, but it won't be for two and a half months
at least, you know that. Are you being good for Jen?"
"Yeah Harm…and for Mac."
"She's looking in on you?"
"You know she is…she comes by almost every day to spend time with us.
She really misses you Harm."
"Nah…it’s probably Webb she misses."
"How did you know he was gone Harm?" Mattie asked suspiciously.
Cursing himself Harm thought fast to cover his slip. "She said he was
going to Germany before I left…I just assumed he was still gone."
"Oh….yeah he is. She's been getting all these stupid German toys from
him while he's been there…it’s really gross how mushy it is."
"Hang on Harm…someone's at the door. You getting that Jen?" Mattie
called to her roommate. "Hey Mac….Harm's on the phone…you want to talk
to him?" Harm heard her call to someone in the room. "Gotta go
"All right Mattie…thanks. I miss you hon."
"Ah that's sweet Flyboy." Mac's voice said over the phone. "I didn't
know you felt that way."
"Very funny Marine. How's it going? I hear you've been watching out for
my girls for me."
"Things have been fine Harm, I've been keeping them on the straight and
narrow. How's being CAG treating you?"
"It’s good…" Harm said as he realized this was the first time he'd
talked to Mac since he deployed. "Things are good Mac."
"Damn it Harm, you told me you weren't going to change your designator."
Mac said quietly. "You promised me."
Biting his lip Harm cursed the fact that he couldn't tell Mac everything
about why he was on the Henry. "I didn't request it Mac…the SecNav did
it without consulting me. If I had my way I'd be on a COD back to a
Saudi airbase right now so I could hitch a ride home."
"You finished your quals?" Mac asked.
"Half an hour ago. And no I didn't ditch any birds this time before you
say something about that."
"Well that's good." Mac said with obvious relief.
"How's Meg?" Harm asked without thinking. He could almost count the
seconds of quiet before Mac answered.
"She's fine I guess. We haven't seen much of her lately because she's
been too busy at the Pentagon." Mac said in a tone that could have
"RABB!" someone down the passageway call to him. Turning to look over
his shoulder he almost swallowed his tongue when he saw Webb coming
towards him. As much as he'd love to hear Webb explain to Mac why he was
on a carrier in the Arabian Sea instead of in Germany, Harm's better
judgment told him that wouldn't be good.
"Listen Mac…someone's calling me so I gotta go. Give Mattie a hug for
me…and tell her I miss you guys." He said without noticing his own slip.
"Was that Clayton?" Mac asked obviously having heard Webb's shouted
"Uhh…no. It was my plane captain…I asked him to check out some stuff for
me when I trapped last."
"It sounded like Clay…and since when does a plane captain address the
CAG by his last name?" Mac asked shrewdly.
"Uhh…he does a damn good job…I've been going easy on him lately, but you
have a point Mac. I'll have to speak to him about his discipline.
Anyway…I gotta go. Bye Sarah." Harm said as Webb walked up with his
mouth open to say something. Upon hearing the name of his girlfriend he
closed it quickly.
Hanging up the phone Harm turned to Webb with a smirk on his own face.
"I really would have enjoyed listening to you explain to her why you're
out here with me and not in Germany like you told her."
"I would of thought of something." Webb said absently. "What were you
doing calling her anyway?"
Shrugging Harm started walking down the passageway to his office
expecting Webb to follow. "She's a good friend Webb, you know that."
"Doesn't explain why you were calling her." Webb said following closely
"If you must know I was calling Mattie, and Mac happened to come by. I'd
asked her to check in on the girls for me from time to time. Now, what
can I do for you Webb?"
"I'm going to have to leave earlier than I thought so I won't be here to
debrief you on your return…someone else should be here. Here's the
details of the other mission I told you about." Webb said shoving an
envelope against Harm's chest. "Open that when you get back tonight."
Shrugging Harm tucked the envelope into one of the pockets of his flight
suit. "I'll get it done Webb, you know that."
"Well, I'm so relieved. I'll see you in four days Rabb."
"I look forward to it Webb…really I do." Harm said sarcastically as Webb
turned off to head up to the flight deck to catch his helo.