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Chapter 5


USS Patrick Henry
Saturday June 19, 2004
0915 Zulu


In the two days since he'd seen Mac Harm had been walking around with a "big goofy grin" as Skates was calling it. He just couldn't help it...after the last year and all the awkwardness and strain that their relationship had been under he was finally starting to feel good about where he and Mac were heading. He valued her friendship more than anything outside of his relationship with Mattie and he'd just been too blind to see what needed to be done. Glancing at the clock on his computer Harm thought he'd check to see what email had come in...he'd been a little wary of reading anymore email after getting the last blistering lecture via Mattie's most recent email. His ward was extremely vocal about the worry he'd caused her. Apparently Mac had kept in touch with her during his confinement to keep her apprised of everything that was going on. He'd also learned that Jen and Mattie had been relocated to the Roberts residence by a very worried Harriet.

Double clicking on the icon to start his email program Harm was somewhat shocked to see that he only had one email, and this one was from Mac. Clicking on the little envelope to open the message he couldn't help but feel his grin grow even bigger when he read it.

        We're back in DC early this morning, Bud has now been recruited into watching over your daughters by Auntie Harriet. The Admiral's Dining Out has been planned for next Saturday, wish you were here. What anniversary? – Mac

Smiling Harm clicked on the reply button and started a quick email of his own.

        Happy you and the Admiral and Bud made it back. A Dining Out? Who's the Master Vice? Make sure that 'Auntie Harriet and Uncle Bud' know that I want my daughters back when I come home; they'll probably try to adopt them behind my back. See you when I get home. – Harm

Glancing over the email before he sent it off he grinned when he thought of Mac's reaction to him deliberately ignoring her question about the anniversary. He knew that she knew he wasn't answering it just to irritate her. Chuckling he clicked on the button to send the email off and then got down to work. Yesterday the Captain had put the crew through their paces by simulating an attack on the ship. Half his flyers had been up playing aggressors and half were defenders. While in the most part both teams had done well, Harm had some plans for pushing his people a little harder. He had to be careful though...too much of an edge can be as bad as not working hard enough. He didn't want to tire his people out when they were needed most.

Leaning back in his chair Harm pinched the bridge of his nose before he realized he was unconsciously mimicking the Admiral. With a wry chuckle Harm went back to easing the pressure he felt building up into a minor headache. Maybe this was why he'd put off looking for a command position until now. A headache and it wasn't even 1000 hours. Standing up Harm stepped out from behind his desk and decided he'd head to vulture's row for a bit. Exiting his office Harm made his up to the tower to make his way out to one of his favorite spots on the ship. Casually he returned the salutes that were given to him by the crew members he passed on the way, stopping to chat with those who he'd gotten to know over the weeks he'd been on board, plus his last tour here.

Half an hour later he was standing with his arms folded over the rail watching the incoming Cats trap. As much as he wasn't sure if the deck of a carrier was where he belonged anymore, he had to admit there weren't many places he'd rather be than on a carrier watching the traps, the sunlight off the waves, the ocean open before them. There were only two things missing and he felt their absence acutely. He knew Mattie was going to kill him when he got home...she'd promised it in her emails, and he had no doubt she was going to try and make good on her threats; especially since she'd assured him that Mac would probably help her get ready. 'If he wasn't careful, Mac was going to turn a perfectly good Navy prospect into a Marine' Harm thought with a smile.

He heard the hatch bang open and glanced over his shoulder down the stretch of deck to see the Skipper step out onto the row. Looking towards him the Skipper gave a brief nod and then moved towards him. Harm looked back down to the deck and saw them move a Cat into position in the port catapult.

"Skipper." Harm said with a nod. Ingles was a good man; Harm respected him almost as much as he did the Admiral.

"CAG. Nice day for flying; thought you'd be up today."

"I'd love to be Skipper, but this job you found for me when I came on board has too much paperwork. Almost like being a lawyer." Harm said with a short laugh. "Needed some air to clear my head I've been staring at so many forms."

Smiling, the Skipper stood beside Harm and watched the prepped Cat blast off the deck. "Your kids are good CAG, better even than Keeter had them. Don't get me wrong, Keeter's a good man, good CAG. But you've got something about you CAG...the kids respond to it like nothing I've seen before."

"Thank you sir." Harm said simply. Wasn't much he could say to that.

"They're going to miss you when you're abbreviated tour is done."

"We've had word on Keeter?" Harm asked, wondering where the Skipper was going with this.

Nodding the Skipper squinted into the sunlight. "He's been released from Bethesda. Sounds like he's doing well. Docs figure two months."

"That's good Skipper. Keeter's a good man as you said sir. It’s tough on him not to be flying I'm sure."

For a moment the Skipper just looked out into the waves and sunlight. "I'm sure it is CAG." He finally said. With a deep sigh he turned to look at Harm. "I watched you walk off this ship once CAG, it’s going to be a shame to see you do it again. You know you belong with us Harm...you belong where you are, doing what you are doing."

"I'm honored you feel that way Skipper." Harm said honestly.

"What I'm trying to say Harm, is if you decide that you'd like to extend your billet here...perhaps something could be arranged. If you decided to not return to JAG that is."

"Not sure I could step back into the ranks sir. I know it's just a temp duty sir...but I've had a taste of the CAG's dinner so to speak."

"I know that Harm...you don't belong in the ranks. You belong at the front, right where you are."

"Thank you sir, but as we both know, Keeter will be returning in time."

"Yes he will be Harm. But other ships need CAGs as well. As much as I'd hate to lose you, I'm sure I could find something for you."

"Skipper...I don't know what to say." Harm said honestly. As touched as he was by the Skipper's offer, his thoughts about how he didn't really belong on a carrier anymore were still fresh in his mind.

Reaching up Ingles placed his hand on the younger man's shoulder. "You don't have to make a decision yet Harm. But you know there are a lot of people who are willing to make this happen. Any man who can nose a wounded bird to safety belongs where we are."

Nodding Harm turned to look back out over the waves. He smiled wryly to himself...well at least his life was rarely boring.

Patting the younger man's shoulder Ingles stepped back and made his way back to the hatch to give Harm time alone to think.

Harm barely even noticed the Skipper's departure as he thought of his words. He loved flying...he could never stop that. The thrill of shooting off a deck propelled by the cats was unlike anything else Harm had ever experienced...some things came really close...but not much was better. The bond that a squadron of pilots shared...that was something else Harm had never felt anywhere else. Sure, his friends at JAG were almost family...some even as close as one could come without blood. He couldn't help but think of Bud as his younger brother...he always had. And from what he remembered of his father, the Admiral was a good stand in for that job. Jen was as much his daughter as Mattie was...they joked about it...but they both knew the other felt the same way. But there was something about the group of men and women who faced death together every day that forged a bond unlike any other. Now that he was back, could Harm ever really give it up again? As Harm stood there lost in thought it came to him that he knew the answer. He could never accept the Skipper's offer, no matter how much he might want to, no matter how much he appreciated it. The reason for this floated in his mind, sharp enough that he could actually see it, floating above the waves. A smiling face framed by curly auburn curls with sparkling mischievous hazel eyes. He'd just found Mattie...he couldn't leave her now. This half rotation was hard enough, what would six months out over twelve be like? In his mind's eye he saw another face, behind Mattie's. Someone else he wasn't ready to leave behind, not this time, never again. Soft brown hair framed the deep brown eyes he longed to lose himself in for an eternity and more. He and Mac needed to find a way to make it work as he'd told the Admiral when he'd made much the same offer the Skipper was making.

Stepping back Harm turned to head back inside and stopped again. For the first time in a long time someone had come up on him and he hadn't heard them. Halfway down the row Meg stood leaning against the rail much as Harm had just been. Walking down the row he stopped beside her and leaned against the rail again.

"Meg."

"Harm."

"Just up for the view?"

"Went by your office and couldn't find you there or in the ready room. I thought I'd find you up here. Just wanted to say goodbye, but you didn't answer when I came up, and you looked so thoughtful I didn't want to interrupt you."

"Thank you for that Meg. There were some things I needed to work out in my mind. Wait a minute...goodbye?"

Smiling, Meg looked over at her onetime partner. "Picked up on that, did you? Yeah...I got word that the real replacement weapons officer is on his way out on tomorrow morning's COD. I'm leaving when it heads back."

"Your investigation is done then?"

"No...it’s just leading me somewhere else. Listen Harm, I think what happened to you is connected to what I'm following...watch your six, please?"

"What do you mean?"

"I..."

"You can't tell me. Right...need to know. You sure you never met Clayton Webb?"

"I'm sorry Harm...I wish I could tell you. All I can say is that while I think you're going to be all right here, there are no guarantees. Just ask Riley about that." Meg said bitterly.

"How long did you know each other?"

"Four years. He was my senior partner when I got tapped for Naval Intelligence. Showed me everything I know." Meg said solemnly as she started out at the waves.

"I'm sorry Meg...I know it sounds trite, but I really am."

"Thanks Harm." Meg said quietly after a moment. Over all the normal noises associated with a ship at sea Harm could barely hear her.

Something struck Harm as he watched Meg stand there lost in her own thoughts. "Meg?"

"Yeah?"

"When you were in DC...was it because of your case?" Harm asked intently.

"Partly. But I really did want to see you again Harm...I've thought about you a lot over the years."

Smiling at her, Harm couldn't help but be flattered. Any man would be if a beautiful woman had admitted to thinking about him.

"Harm?" Meg said hesitantly.

"Meg." Harm answered.

Biting her lip Meg looked closely at Harm before she answered. With a deep breath she plunged on. "Harm...everything I said...I meant it Harm. I just wanted you to know that."

Raising an eyebrow Harm stood there for a minute, trying to think of what he should say. Before he could answer her Meg turned around and walked back to the hatch. When she had it opened she stopped and looked back at him. "Watch your six Harm...I'd hate to lose you again." And then she was gone, and Harm still hadn't said goodbye to her. It wasn't until he turned back to watch out over the deck again that it struck Harm how similar Meg's last words were to what Mac had said to him.

 

USS Patrick Henry
Wednesday August 4, 2004
1400 Zulu

 

Harm popped the cockpit canopy as his turbines spooled down. The squadron had been on high alert for the last 36 hours, and they all needed sleep bad. Thankfully they hadn't lost anyone in the flurry of danger that made the alert level necessary. Intel had indicated that an attack on the carrier group was planned by dissident forces, but it had never fully developed. What they had faced had been more than enough.

Stepping wearily to the deck Harm motioned the rest of his just returned pilots inside. Once they were all off the flight deck he followed them into the ready room. Leaning heavily on the podium at the front of the room he looked over the tired faces before him. Good kids one and all, they'd all proven themselves to him and everyone else more than they should have had to. Even the rookies had the look about them now.

"All right people, the fun level seems to have tapered off in the last six hours. We're going to stand down to having two elements in the air for the foreseeable future. New patrol schedule is 2 and 4 element, then 1 and 3 element, with 5 and 6 bringing up the tail. I want 5 and 6 in the air in thirty minutes. The rest of you are to grab a shower, grab some grub and then hit the racks. 1 and 3 you go up in three hours. If things remain as they are we'll stand down to regular 1 element patrols in 12 hours. Any questions?"

"Yeah CAG…why aren't you taking first patrol?" Tuna asked with a smile. He led the fifth element and just had to take a poke at his CAG.

"Because I'm an old man Tuna. And you young kids don't need as much sleep as me." Harm said with a smile.

As the laughter died down he held up his hand. "All right folks. Let’s get some rest."

"Aye, aye CAG" a chorus of voices answered his order. He smiled fondly as they all filed wearily out of the ready room, still with that swagger in their step. No matter how tired, how wore down, his kids would have that swing to their step. As he followed them out of the ready room, Harm decided to stop by his office and file his after action report and just get it out of the way. No point in putting it off if he could get away with it. Stretching a kink out of his neck he hauled open the hatch to his office and stopped in shock.

"Jesus buddy, you look like hell." The man sitting behind his desk said.

"KEETER!" Harm said with a smile. "Thought you weren't gonna be out for two more weeks."

"Nah. They got tired of me hitting on all the nurses when I went for my physical at Bethesda." Keeter said with a grin as he stood up from behind the desk. "Came in on that COD the kids escorted in an hour ago. Ingles said I was to wait for you here."

"Good to see you buddy." Harm said as he grabbed Keeter into a backslapping hug. "Let me get this report written and then we'll head down for some chow. The kids are all filling up right now…I'm sure they'll want to see you."

"Sounds good." Keeter said simply as he plopped down in one of the two chairs in front of the desk. Harm couldn't help but notice his friend still had quite a limp.

"Seen ol' Doc Johnson yet?" Harm asked referring to the flight surgeon who'd need to clear Keeter back to an active flight status. Sitting down heavily behind his desk he fired up the word processor and started on his report.

"Not yet…he said he'd see me in the morning." Keeter said and then sat silently as Harm typed up his report and then sent it via email to the Captain.

Leaning back in his chair Harm looked at his old friend. "Damn I'm tired Keeter. It’s been a long three months."

"That's what I heard. I also heard you've handled yourself pretty damn well…especially with that whole inquiry thing." Keeter said. "The Company keeping you busy?"

"Not really…haven't heard from them since that 'whole inquiry thing'. Guess two appearances on the evening news was enough for them." Harm said wryly. "Not that I mind…I got enough flying for them long ago."

"You'll miss it buddy, trust me. I have." Keeter said with a wink.

"Not this time buddy. It’s about time I got back to Mattie…she's been sending me four emails a day asking when I'm coming home."

"Is this the Harmon Rabb Jr. I went on my Segundo Cruise in Spain with? Harmon Rabb Jr. wanting to get home to spend time with…his ward?"

"My daughter Keeter. I'm going to petition to adopt her as soon as I can. I was going to do it in June, but coming out here kinda put a hold on that."

Shaking his head Keeter looked at his oldest friend in shock. This was not the Harmon Rabb Jr. he remembered. "She must be something if she can wrap you up like this."

"She's everything Keeter…I can't imagine my life without her anymore." Harm said with wonder. "She's…you wouldn't understand buddy."

"Try me."

"I don't know if I can put it into words buddy. She's…my life. As much as she would be if she was my own flesh and blood. I couldn't love her any more than I do if she was. I want to be there for every joy, every pain, every moment she has, and I curse the fact that I didn't get to be part of the first fifteen years of her life."

"Listen to yourself buddy." Keeter said in amazement. Where was the freewheeling Harmon Rabb he loved to go cruising for women with?

"I know…amazing isn't it?" Harm said with a smile. "Seriously buddy, check these out."

Harm fired up his email client and pulled up a couple messages Bud and Harriet had sent. Pictures of Mattie were attached to each and he opened them all up. Mattie at AJ's fifth birthday, Mattie with the Roberts family at the JAG summer barbeque, Mattie with Mac and Jen at Christmas. Grinning like the proud father he felt like Harm showed all the pictures of Mattie that Bud had sent for him while he was on board ship.

Shaking his head Keeter simply put a hand on Harm's shoulder. "I'm happy for you buddy. You've got something special in that girl." He said as he looked at the pictures. "So how does she feel about Mac?"

"She loves her…Mac and Mattie have something special…ever since Mac helped me get custody last Christmas." Harm said with a small smile as he stared at a picture of Mac hugging Mattie outside the Falls Church offices. He could feel the moisture start pooling in his eyes again. If he wasn't careful he was going to start crying…in front of Keeter no less.

"Come on buddy, let’s go grab that grub." Keeter said softly.

"Yeah…that's a good idea." Harm said quietly as he sat staring at the picture for a couple more minutes before closing his email browser and all the open pictures.

"So I went out for some beers with Sturgis last week." Keeter said as they made their way to the wardroom.

"How's he doing? I haven't had an email from him in awhile." Harm asked.

"Good…he kept talking about this singer he's seeing." Keeter said. He winked at Harm and then asked "So you sure you want to go back to JAG? I hear the interim JAG is a real nut buster. Even Sturgis was bitching about her."

Harm had heard that an interim JAG had been appointed while the selection committee made their final decision. Mac had run the office for almost a month after the Admiral had retired before the interim had been able to move out to Falls Church. Harm was a little shocked that Mac hadn't been given the position, and a little angry. He still didn't know who the interim was…no one at the office would tell him, and honestly he'd been a little busy to find out on his own, and if he was going to be completely honest with himself, he hadn't really thought about it. Somehow who was running the JAG office really didn't matter when he was flying sorties off the deck of the Henry.

"CAG to the bridge immediately. Commander Rabb please report to the bridge immediately."

Well there goes some grub. "Guess I better go see what the old man wants. I'll catch you in the wardroom when I'm done…go let the kids know you're home." Harm slapped Keeter on the back and then set off for the bridge.

"CAG on the bridge."

"CAG. I take it you've been to your office?" the Captain asked looking up from a print out that Harm saw was his report.

"Aye skipper."

"Looks like Keeter was a bit anxious to come home."

"Looks that way sir."

"Have you thought about what we spoke of a couple months ago?" Captain Ingles asked referring to his offer.

"I have Skipper. And I'm honored that you would make the offer to me. But to be honest sir, I'm getting a little old for this game. And I've got a little girl waiting for me to come home and adopt her." Harm said with a smile. The Captain smiled back having seen all of Harm's pictures of Mattie and having listened to Harm talk for hours about his ward.

"I have to say I wish you would stay on out here CAG, but I didn't expect to win against that girl of yours."

"I'm glad you understand sir. She means the world to me, and I've been away too long as it is."

"At her age Commander, you miss a day you miss a year. She's what? Sixteen?"

"Fifteen sir…almost sixteen."

"Dating yet?"

Rolling his eyes Harm thought back to the numerous emails Mattie had sent him describing in detail the dates she'd gone on. Part of him hoped she was just pulling his leg, but he knew she'd have boys flocking to her. "Apparently sir. She did however wait until I'd been deployed to mention that fact."

"And you didn't highjack one of my Tomcats to get back to her? CAG you have more restraint than I do." Captain Ingles said with a laugh. Setting the report down on the chart table the Captain picked up an envelope that was sitting there. "I figured that would be your answer CAG, I know what you've got to go back to. So I had these cut in case you said you'd like to go back."

Harm took the proffered envelope and opened it to find orders for him to return stateside and report to JAG. "Tomorrow sir?" he asked seeing the date the orders were effective for.

"On the afternoon COD. That should give you time to square away and see whoever you want to before you leave. I'm assuming Doc Johnson clears Keeter for flight status, but even if he doesn't Keeter can fly a desk for awhile."

"That would drive him nuts Skipper." Harm said with a  smirk.

"I know…I just might have Doc Johnson keep him behind that desk for awhile anyway. Wouldn't be the first non-flying CAG, probably won't be the last. I spoke to the interim JAG…you don't have to report until Monday morning. You should be back Friday night or early Saturday morning, so you should have plenty of time to reunite with your daughters and anyone else you may wish to see upon your return Commander." Captain Ingles said, well aware of the unique family the Commander had developed. A teenager and a Petty Officer for daughters…and perhaps a mother on the way.

"Thank you for that sir." Harm said, grateful the Captain understood. Harm stood to attention and saluted the Captain. "With your permission, sir?"

Returning Harm's salute the Captain nodded. "Of course Commander. Join your kids in the wardroom, they're probably worried you passed out from exhaustion somewhere. The last thing I need is the Raptors tearing apart my ship looking for their lost CAG."

Harm smiled a little sadly. He wouldn't be their CAG much longer. "Thank you sir."

As Harm reached the hatch exiting the bridge the Captain called out "Commander?"

"Yes sir?"

"Do you ever do anything the easy way?"

"Excuse me Skipper?" Harm asked confused.

"Well normally people find a wife, then have kids. You've had the kids first, but I need to ask Commander. Are you going to provide those girls with a mother any time soon?"

"I hope to sir. I've got someone in mind…just need to talk her into it." Harm said with a smile.

"Good to hear son. Make an honest woman of her already, will you?"

"I mean to sir. I've already had an Admiral order me to do so, would you like to add your order to his?"

"The Admiral's a good man son. If it means anything, consider yourself so ordered."

"Aye, aye skipper." Harm said with a smile and then stopped. "Skipper…did the JAG say if she told anyone else I was coming back early?"

"Didn't say anything about that."

Harm nodded satisfied, he had people he wanted to surprise, then stopped again. "Did you happen to catch her name Captain?"

"I did, but she ordered me not to tell you. Said it was a surprise."

A little shocked Harm stepped off the bridge without another word and made his way down to the wardroom to let his kids know he was going home. The Captain's comment about the JAG and the order not to tell him the name was quite strange.

 

North of Union Station
Friday August 6, 2004
0100 Zulu

 

The cab pulled up to the front of Harm's apartment building. He'd known that if he'd called Jen or Mac or Bud and Harriet would have come to get him when he flew into the airport, but he wanted to surprise a few people. He paid the cabbie and then got out and waited for the driver to pop the trunk to grab his bags and a large duffel he'd picked up on his way back. It was stuffed with more gifts than he thought he could carry. Stuff for little AJ and Jimmy and stuff for Jen and stuff for Mattie. Not to mention a few things he'd picked up for Mac he thought with a wicked smile. Unlocking the side door Harm made his way up the stairs until he was standing outside the door to Mattie and Jen's apartment. Setting his bags down softly he reached up to knock on the door.

After only a couple moments he heard Mattie's muffled voice call out "Pizza's here Jen…where's the credit card? I'll get it."

"It’s on the coffee table." He heard Jen call back. Smiling he waited until Mattie opened the door.

As the chains and locks were thrown he tried to wipe the smile off his face but failed. When the door started to open he heard "How much do we….." and that was it. The door swung free as Mattie saw him standing there, and her mouth hung open in mid-sentence.

"I hope there's room left on that credit card young lady." Harm said in mock severity. When Mattie still hadn't said anything Harm smiled and motioned to her still open mouth. "You know that can become permanent if you leave it like that long enough."

Finally Mattie closed her mouth as a big grin split her face. "HARM!" she cried and then nearly bowled him over as she jumped up into his arms and hugged him. As she buried her face against his neck Harm could feel the tears flowing freely down her cheeks.

"Mattie what is it? Is everything….Commander!" Jen said as she came out to see what her roommate was up to. Harm had to be careful not to fall over when the next wave hit as Jen ran up to wrap him a hug as well.

They stood there, Harm and the two daughters of his heart, for almost fifteen minutes as he wrapped them both in the biggest hugs he could. "Hi guys." He said softly.

"When did you get back?" Mattie asked. "Oh…just now I guess." She added when she saw his bags.

"Can I come in?" Harm asked with a laugh and was pulled in from both sides as Jen and Mattie each grabbed an arm and pulled. Once he was inside fully Jen went out to the hallway and grabbed his bags.

"Do you want me to take these to your place sir?" Jen asked.

"Jennifer." Harm said in a warning tone of voice.

"Yes Harm?" Jen answered in an innocent tone of voice.

"Just bring them in. There's a few things for you guys in there too."

"Really? What'd you bring us?" Mattie asked eagerly.

"Airline peanuts." Harm said jokingly as he sat down on their couch. Both girls climbed up, one on each side of him and snuggled close. It had been far too long since he'd seen his girls. Wrapping an arm around each one he was completely content.
Quietly the three just sat there on the couch until there was a knock at the door. "That'll be the pizza." Jen said. "I'll get it."

As Jen went to pay for the pizza Harm grabbed the duffle on the floor and opened it. "Let me see…what do we have here?" Harm asked as he pulled out a large stuffed bear wearing a flight jacket. He'd seen it in the shipboard PX and knew he had to get it for Mattie. It even had a Raptors squadron patch on the jacket.

"For me?" Mattie asked in a little girl tone of voice.

"For you sweetie." Harm said with a smile. Then he pulled out a Patrick Henry ball cap and plopped it on her head as she was examining her bear.

By then Jen had returned with the pizza and was just standing there smiling as Harm brought out his gifts for Mattie.

"What are you smiling at Jen? Sit back down and we'll get to you next."

"Me sir? You shouldn't have sir…"

"Nonsense. You're one of my girls. I couldn't come home without something for you." Harm said as he pulled out some first edition books he'd found that he knew Jen would like. "I know it’s not a fighter bear, but when I saw these I thought of you honey."

Looking at the books Jen couldn't help but smile. First edition Jung and Freud, along with a couple copies of some of Plato's works to add philosophy to the mix. Reaching out she wrapped her arm around Harm and pulled him close. "Thank you sir….Harm….dad." she added with a smirk. Harm reached into his bag and pulled out another cap he plopped down on Jen's head just like he had to Mattie.

"So." Mattie said. "Mac's wearing a jacket just like this lately. A lot." She added holding up her bear. "Know anything about it?"

"No…can't say I do. But you know what? Some no good lowlife stole my flight jacket. Couldn't believe it. I bet it was Tuna." Harm said with a straight face.

"Liar!" both girls yelled as they started tickling Harm.

After they had tired of tormenting him in that way Mattie looked at him with her head cocked to the side. "Have you seen her since you got back?"

Harm didn't have to ask who 'her' was. "No…I came right home to my girls. I'm going to head over there when you guys kick me out."

"Got anything in there for her?" Mattie asked curiously as she started to grab Harm's duffle.

"Maybe. Most of it is for AJ…" Harm said evasively. With a warning glance at both girls he slowly zipped the bag up to keep them from snooping.

"Want some pizza dad?" Mattie asked as she suddenly remembered their dinner.

"Ah…I can smell the meat on there from here. I think I'll pass. I'll let you two have your dinner. I have another stop to make before I can rack out for the night."

"Come back soon?" Mattie asked in her little girl voice.

"I'm back honey, and I'm not going anywhere for awhile."

 

Mac's Apartment
0230 Zulu

 

Harm had been standing outside Mac's door for ten minutes now. He'd been trying to think of what he should say…what could he say? Finally he steeled himself and raised his hand to knock on the door and then stepped to the side, knowing she'd use the peephole and ruin the surprise. He knew he was chancing her not opening the door when she didn't see anyone there, but he had a feeling. Leisurely he leaned up against the wall with his arm resting at an angle behind his head.

Slowly Mac's door opened and he heard her say "Yes?"

"Hey Marine." He said softly. "Looking for a good time?"

"Harm?" he heard her whisper as she stepped out into the hallway and looked at him. He barely had time to notice she was wearing his jacket as he was suddenly once more under assault as someone barreled into him and wrapped him in a hug. Man she could get up a lot of speed from a complete stop. Wrapping his arms around her he pulled her even closer and rubbed his hand gently up and down her back. He raised his other hand to her hair and softly stroked it as he said "Hey there."

"You're really home?" she asked softly into his shoulder.

"Really, really." He answered.

Suddenly he felt her shake as she broke out sobbing. "I can't believe you're finally home!" he heard her whisper fiercely.

"Sarah, as nice as this is…do you think we should take it out of the hallway?" Harm asked and then was forcibly pulled into Mac's apartment and the door was slammed behind him. Then he found himself in exactly the same position as she pushed into him for another hug.

Looking down at her smiling face as she looked up at him Harm reached up and gently wiped the tears from her eyes. "Hi." He said softly.

"Hi." She answered just as softly.

"Nice jacket."

Smiling Mac blushed as she said "I missed you and it reminds me of you."

Smiling at the twinkle he saw in her gorgeous eyes as she said that Harm slowly bent to touch his lips to hers as he murmured "I missed you too Sarah."

Silently Harm stepped away from Mac and just looked at her standing there wearing his flight jacket over a pair of Marine sweats. She was, at that moment, the most beautiful woman he'd ever know, and would ever know. He knew she had her flaws, lord knew he knew that he had his share of flaws. Somehow though, he had to make her see that he was ready to make it work.

"When did you get home?" she asked softly.

"Got in a couple hours ago. Stopped off to see Mattie and Jen to let them know I was home and then came over here." Harm answered just as tenderly. It was almost as if they were both afraid to speak too loud for fear of waking from a dream.

"You could have called for a ride you know?" Mac said reprovingly. "I would have come to get you."

"And ruin the moment we just had…never." Harm said with a smile.

"So we just had a moment did we?" Mac asked with an arched eyebrow and a smile to show him she was only teasing.

"We did." Harm confirmed seriously. The silence that followed his earnest statement could almost be felt, touched.

"Harm…" Mac said.

"Mac…" Harm said at exactly the same time. "I'm sorry, you first." Harm sat down on her couch and patted the couch beside him.

When Mac had sat down on the couch beside him and curled her feet up underneath her she finally looked up at him. Wiggling herself a little bit on the couch Mac managed to move right up to him and rest her head on his shoulder with a small sigh of contentment. "So you didn't lose anymore of the government's aircraft?" she asked with a sly smile.

"Ah…no. But I'm sure the Iraqi dissidents are going to be looking for some replacements soon." Harm said. Lifting his arm he reached over and pulled Mac even closer and left it lying on top of her shoulder. "Is that what you wanted to tell me?" he prompted softly.

"No." Mac said quietly into his shoulder. She looked up at him and he could feel her lips brush against his neck and send a jolt through his spine. He was sure she hadn't meant to do that, but all the same it was thoroughly enjoyable. "Harm…what is this?"

"What is what Mac?"

"This…you…me…this?"

Harm thought about that, really thought about it. What was what he and Mac had? Was it friendship? In a way. Was it love? He knew he loved her, and he hoped she could love him one day, but that wasn't what it was either.  Harm really couldn't answer that question to himself. "Mac…Sarah. I don't know what this is. But I've had the time to think about a couple things. Honey, I know things haven't been easy for you lately." He said avoiding mentioning Webb's death and their difficulties directly. "Things have been wrong between us for too long Mac…I don't want to let you face anything alone…not anymore."

"Harm…" Mac said with a catch in her voice.

"Mac, please let me finish…I've been trying to think of what to say to you for so long…I just have to say it now or I'll never get up the nerve to say it again." Harm said pulling her close. "I know we've got a long way to go to make things right…we've come a long way…together and apart. I've spent the better part of the last six months wishing that you and I could have what we once had Mac."

Harm could feel her low, bitter laugh more than hear it. "Me too Harm."

"But Mac, that Admiral said something to me at Al Basrah that made sense. Mac, he told me that we can't live in the past, that you and I have changed too much for that. We're not the people we once were. And that makes sense to me."

"What are you saying Harm?" Mac asked with a note of something almost unfamiliar to him in her voice. Fear.

"Mac…I'm not sure what I'm saying. All I know is that whatever we do, I want it to be an ‘us’, a ‘we’. I want to make things right between us."

They both sat there quietly thinking about his words for a long time before Mac answered. "Harm, I miss him." She said and then she started to sob quietly. He knew instinctively that she wasn't referring to the Admiral.

"I know you do sweetie." Harm said softly as he held her while she cried. If he had to put money on it, he would have guessed that Mac hadn't cried for Webb yet. Harm waited patiently for her to finish crying on her own, it was too important for her for him to interrupt.

"What are we going to do Harm?" she asked finally. Immediately following her question her stomach growled loudly.

Raising an eyebrow Harm looked down at the woman in his arms. "Is that a Marine meal call I hear?"

With a little smile Mac just said, "Well you know me."

"Always hungry. Want to order pizza?"

"You read my mind. Half and half?" Mac asked recalling he'd told her earlier that he hadn't eaten with Mattie and Jen.

"Sure…my treat." Harm said as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket.

"Not on your life Flyboy. You come home from three months at sea and won't let me buy pizza? I won't stand for that." Mac said with mock severity. He knew better than to argue with her and simply handed her the phone.

An hour later they were looking over the devastated remains of what was once a large half meat lovers, half vegetarian pizza. Mac had a contented look on her face as she snuggled close to him once more. Sensing that Mac wasn't quite ready to resume a serious conversation Harm instead started to tell her stories about his weeks and months on the carrier and the people he had served with.

"Harm?" Mac asked interrupting one story about how Tuna had filled Skates' locker full of dry oatmeal on her birthday.

"Yeah?" he asked quietly. His long flight had finally caught up to him and he was starting to wear down.

"Is it true you called Skates by my name?" she asked quietly. She was obviously just as drained as he was and starting to tire out as well.

"Where'd you hear about that?" he asked surprised she knew about it.

"Skates and Tuna told me in Al Basrah."

"Well she said she took it as a compliment and I agree with her." He said giving her a squeeze.

"mmm. That's nice of her to say." Mac mumbled.

"Well she knows how I feel about you Mac." Harm said quietly. When he didn't get a response he looked down and saw that she'd fallen asleep. With a small smile he laid his head back and closed his eyes giving himself to the weariness pulling at him.

 

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Monday August 9, 2004
1247 Zulu

 

Harm smiled to himself as he walked into the building. For the first time in a long time it felt good to be coming to work at JAG. He and Mac had talked some more Sunday morning when they'd woken up on the couch in Mac's living room. Most of their conversation was light hearted and trivial. She'd let him in on some of the office gossip, but had also refused to tell him who the new interim JAG was, saying she would be in "direct violation of a direct order" if she did. Now he was really curious; but he was trying his best to not let it show. He and Mac had also touched on their relationship a little, and Harm had decided that he wanted to move slowly for now…Mac had been through a lot lately, with Webb dying. Harm didn't want to make it look like he was just looking for a rebound. First, he would work on rebuilding his friendship with her, gain her trust back. Nodding to the few people who greeted him on the way to the elevator Harm smiled when he saw Mac waiting for him.

"Good morning Colonel." He greeted her with a smile.

"Early for a change? I'm impressed Commander…or is this some trick? Did they send a robot back from the Patrick Henry instead?" Mac teased.

"You've been spending far too much time with Bud." Harm said with a smile. "Speaking of Bud, I'm going to go over to Bud and Harriet's after work…spend some time with AJ and Jimmy. Care to join me?"

"Sure…sounds like fun." Mac said with a smile as the elevator got to their floor and the doors opened.

"Great…want to grab lunch today?"

"I'd love to Harm." Mac said happily.

"All right…I'll see you later? I need to report to the mystery JAG."

"Bye." Mac said as she moved towards her office.

Harm turned around to find Bud and Harriet standing in front of him.

"Good morning Lieutenant Commander, Lieutenant."

"Commander!" Harriet squealed with obvious joy and a huge smile. "Welcome back!"

Bud just stuck out his hand and smiled. "Welcome home Commander."

"Thanks guys. Hey listen…I was wondering if I could stop by…"

"Commander Rabb. I will have you in my office. Now."

Harm stopped and closed his eyes. He knew that voice, and he was more familiar than he wanted to be at the low and sultry way it was pitched. Krennick. It had to be Krennick. He tried his best to ignore the double meaning of her words…knowing Krennick she'd phrased it that way on purpose. He caught sight of Mac and the shocked look in her eyes and knew she'd caught the sexual overtones as well. Well…one more thing to talk to Mac about.

Turning towards the JAG's office Harm came to attention and simply said "Aye, aye ma'am." Turning back to Bud and Harriet he saw the pitying looks on their faces…and a hint on mirth in Harriet's eyes. "Laughing at a superior officer is an offense Harriet. Anyway…I'll come find you guys later and talk. I want to see Jimmy and AJ tonight…I brought them back some gifts."

"Oh they'd love that Commander." Harriet said with a big smile.

"Good…now I need to go see how long I'm going to live." Harm said wryly and moved towards the Admiral's….Krennick's office. When he got to Coates' desk a through struck him. Turning abruptly to face Jennifer he smiled at her. In a low voice he asked "Jen…in five minutes could you buzz in and say I have an important call?"

"Sir?"

"I need you to spring me Jen." Harm said with a wink. Suddenly a thought struck him and he grinned evilly. "Say that it's a Maria Elena Carmen Gutierrez, and that I have to take it."

"Commander, are you trying to get me in trouble?" Jen asked with a disapproving tone. Only the sparkle in her eyes gave away the mirth that was always lurking below the surface with her.

"Not at all Petty Officer, I'll take whatever heat there is."

"All right sir, but it’s going to cost you."

"Bribery Jen?"

"Mattie and I need some new DVDs…the ones we have are getting old…sir."

"Petty Officer, where is Commander Rabb?" Krennick's voice came over the intercom.

Picking up her phone Jen answered "He's on his way in right now ma'am." And then winked at Harm.

Shaking his head Harm set his briefcase and cover on Jen's desk. "Could you put those in my office please?"

"Aye, aye sir. Good DVDs too. We'll make a list."

With another wry shake of his head Harm set his shoulders and marched in to face the dragon lady.

Coming stiffly to attention in front of her desk Harm said crisply "Commander Rabb reporting as ordered ma'am."

Slowly Krennick's gaze rose from the file spread out on her desk. A quick glance showed Harm that it was his own service jacket. This should be interesting.
"So, the golden boy has returned from his joyride. It’s been a long time Commander. Have a seat."

"Thank you ma'am." Harm said simply. He wasn't going to say anything more than he had to get out of this. A quick glance around the office showed how bare it looked without the Admiral's touches. That would take a lot of getting used to.

"Admiral Chegwidden still speaks highly of you Commander, but I've been going over your service record since we last saw each other and I must say I am slightly shocked."

"Shocked, ma'am?"

"Shocked. An automatic weapon in the courtroom? Defending the man who stole the Declaration of Independence? A hospital full of terrorists? It appears your penchant for attracting danger has increased if nothing else over the last few years Commander."

Harm just sat there silently, there wasn't much he could say. It’s not like he went out looking for the danger, it just usually found him.

"Two more DFCs, one of them awarded for your actions while flying with the CIA no less? Resigning your commission to go down to Paraguay to rescue Colonel MacKenzie and a CIA agent named Webb? Playing tag with a dirty nuke? I can't even go on Commander, there's more in here than we have time to talk about today. Is this the sort of behavior I can expect from you in the future?"

Harm bit his lip to keep himself from making a sharp retort. "I merely do my duty ma'am. In the past that has unfortunately sometimes required me to take extreme steps."

"Indeed." Krennick said seductively as she stood up from behind her desk. With slow steps she walked around her desk and sat on the edge facing Harm. "As I said Commander, it has been a long time."

"Yes ma'am."

"Commander, I understand that you've been away temporarily assigned to the Patrick Henry. Your caseload has been placed in your office and I would like to know your thoughts on the cases assigned to you. Say, tonight over dinner."

"Ma'am, I regretfully will have to decline. I have a pressing previous engagement this evening."
"What is it?"

"I'm having dinner with my godson and his brother at the Roberts'." Harm said swallowing the lump that was suddenly in his throat. Keep it together Rabb…you're not a young Lieutenant Commander being chased by this woman now.

"We'll make it a late dinner then. Don't eat too much at the Roberts'. And yes Commander, that is an order. Get my address from my yeoman…" Krennick was interrupted by the sound of her intercom buzzing. Leaning across her desk she punched a button and said "Yes Petty Officer?"

"I'm sorry to interrupt ma'am, but there's an urgent phone call for the Commander. A Maria Elena Carmen Gutierrez ma'am."

"What?" Krennick shouted.

"A phone call, for the Commander ma'am. I'm told it’s urgent and he needs to take it." Jen said nervously.

Harm had to keep from smiling when Krennick whirled to face him with her anger plain on her face. "That…that…that woman!" she hissed, forgetting that her intercom was still active.

"You remember her ma'am?"

"You still talk to that woman?"

"Yes ma'am…I really should get this call, I'm sorry ma'am. If I may be excused."

Krennick took a moment and visibly calmed herself down. "Very well Commander. You are dismissed. Remember, we'll discuss your case load….later." she said in a low pitched voice.

Coming to attention Harm took two steps back turned and started for the hatch. He needed to get out of here, now. As he reached the hatch however Krennick called out to him again.

"Commander."

"Yes ma'am?"

"It will be good to have you beneath me again."

Surprised at the heat he felt rising in his face Harm simply nodded and left the room. As he got to Jen's desk he couldn't help but notice the shocked expression on her face. Obviously Krennick had neglected to turn off her intercom before her last comment.

"Sir…a question?"

"Yes Jen?"

"Lieutenant Commander Roberts said you used to call her the dragon lady. Is that true?"

"All the time Jen, all the time." Harm said then made his way to his office.

Two hours later as he leaned back from his desk Harm looked up to see Sturgis standing in his office doorway.

"Hey buddy."

"Welcome back buddy. I take it you've met our interim JAG, Captain Krennick."

"Unfortunately I knew her years ago. She used to be the Admiral's aide."

"Oh I feel a story here."

"More than you know buddy."

"And your thoughts on having her back?"

Harm paused for a moment and then answered wryly. "I'm thinking I should have taken Captain Ingles up on his offer to let him find me a CAG position with the fleet."

 

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church Virginia
Tuesday August 10, 2004
1300 Zulu

 

Harm sighed as he got off the elevator and made his way to his office. Last night had been up there in his "nights from hell". He'd had a great time playing with AJ and Jimmy…he couldn't believe how big Jimmy was getting. Just thinking about the time he spent with the boys and Mac brought a smile to his face. If there was one place he and Mac could relax with each other completely it was with the boys. Dinner was a light pasta filled affair that Harriet had made in honor of Harm's return home. No meat in sight much to Mac's despair. He was touched by the whole evening, not to mention Harriet's inability to stop from tearing up every time she saw him playing with the boys. AJ wore his Patrick Henry ball cap everywhere…which was nothing new according to Bud. Apparently there had been some calls from preschool about his refusal to remove it because it came from his Uncle Harm who was away fighting the bad men.

And then the hell portion of the evening's entertainment started. He'd given Mac a long hug and promised to call her later and then headed over to the Dragon Lady's lair.
Flopping down on his chair Harm dreaded the staff meeting he knew was coming up soon. A little knock at his door caused him to look up and no matter how bad his mood, seeing Mac standing there brought a smile to his face.

"Come on in Marine. And close the door."

"How was your second dinner last night?"

"Hellish, thanks for asking."

"That bad?"

"Well…I tried to keep it on work, but she had other ideas. It was getting bad enough around the time she finally brought food out that I was seriously considering shooting myself in the foot when I got home."

"You just want us to come visit you in the hospital again." Mac said with a wink.

"I wish. At least that way I wouldn't have had to come in to work with her for awhile."

"Poor baby. What time did you leave?"

"Not that late actually…thankfully Mattie called just as Dragon Lady was serving dessert. She sounded really worried and said she needed me home right away. You should have seen Krennick's face when I told her my daughter needed me to come home right away." Harm said with a grin.

"Is Mattie ok?" Mac asked in a worried tone. He knew she cared for the girl almost as much as he did and was extremely touched by that.

"She's fine. Apparently Jen let slip some of the things she accidentally heard when Krennick left her intercom on yesterday during the last part of my meeting with her. Mattie decided that I needed rescuing and figured that a daughter in distress would be a good reason for me to leave. They actually just wanted to know which movie I thought they should watch. I now have to find a suitable way to say thank you to my new heroes."

Smiling Mac looked up when there was a knock at the door. Jen poked her head in and said "Excuse me sir, ma'am. Commander, Captain Krennick would like to see you when you have a moment."

"My hero!" Harm gushed as he batted his eyelashes at Jen.

"Heroine sir." Jen said with a laugh and a wink and then left.

"So what are you going to do?"

"Buy them a new TV." Harm said absently.

"Excuse me?" Mac said in surprise. She knew that Harm felt most TV was a waste of time. He refused to buy himself one, and now he was talking about buying the girls a new one when he'd bought them one at Christmas.

"They wanted DVDs, I figured a new TV would be better for them. Something bigger than they have."

"That's nice Harm, but I was referring to Krennick. From what I've seen already, she's dangerously close to crossing the line Harm. I can't believe she'd act that way…even if she wasn't interim JAG."

"Well the selection board sits next month, hopefully we'll have some good news. If she gets voted in, I'm requesting a transfer." Harm said without thinking.

"Don't say that Harm." Mac said softly. "You just came back to me."

Harm knew she was talking about more than his just returning from his duty station aboard the Patrick Henry. The steps they were taking in resolving their relationship issues were a delicate subject with them both. Standing up he walked over to where she sat before his desk and placed his hand on her shoulder. To everyone outside it just looked like he was comforting her, but he knew it was more than that. Squeezing gently he said "I told you I'm not leaving you Mac…and I'm not going to. I made a promise."

Mac smiled up at him sadly and then nodded. "Well…you'd best go to visit our JAG."

Rolling his eyes Harm nodded and then opened the door to his office. He then stood aside and waited for Mac to exit before him and then wandered through the bull pen towards Krennick's office. When he got to Harriet's desk he stopped and cleared his throat. She looked up at him with a smile.

"Yes sir?"

"Could you ask Lieutenant Commander Roberts to see when he gets a moment Lieutenant?"

"Aye sir. Can I tell him what it’s regarding Commander?"

"TVs." Harm said simply.

"Are you looking for one for yourself Commander?" Harriet asked in mock shock, she as well as everyone else knew his views on televisions.

"No, I'm thinking of getting one as a gift for some people I know." Harm said and then excused himself to continue his trek into the lair.

Pausing at Jen's desk he looked at her and said wryly "Could you tell the Captain I'm here now Jen?"

"Aye, aye sir." Coates said with a sympathetic look in her eye. As much as she'd like to do something about Krennick and her predatory behavior towards Harm, she couldn't do much because Krennick was a Captain and she was only a Petty Officer 1st Class.
"You can go in sir."

Stopping in front of Krennick's desk Harm came to attention and said "Commander Rabb reporting as ordered ma'am."

"At ease Commander. Why didn't you tell me you had a daughter."

"It's a part of my service jacket ma'am. I assumed since you were examining it yesterday you would have read about Mattie."

"I did not, I was more interested in your duty related entries. Is everything all right with her?" Krennick asked, obviously not worried in the least bit what his answer was.

Thinking carefully Harm answered "It is now ma'am. She just needed to discuss some things with me that she felt were important." He said. Well it wasn't exactly untrue, Mattie and Jen had placed great stress on what movie they picked last night.

"Commander you must have made quite an impression on Captain Ingles. He's put you through for a commendation because of your actions while serving as CAG."

"I'm honored the Captain felt my service warranted such ma'am." Harm said simply. He'd never been comfortable getting any of his awards. He simply did his duty and didn't understand why people kept pinning medals on him for doing it. It’s not like there weren't thousands of other servicemen and women doing the exact same thing all over the world right that instant.

"Commander I just got off the phone with SecNav. Can you guess the nature of his call?"

"I would not attempt to ma'am."

"Oh sit down Commander, I always hated having to look up at you. Well, the first thing the SecNav asked me was how you were settling back at JAG…apparently you have a friend in this SecNav."

Harm remained silent after he'd taken his seat and just looked impassively at Krennick. She wasn't even that attractive to him. He was sure some men found her attractive, but why couldn't she take the hint and leave him alone?

"The Secretary then went on to discuss with me the possibility of reopening the investigation of the death of…Lieutenant Commander Riley. I asked the Secretary if he didn't think that was better left to NCIS and do you know what he said to me?" Krennick asked in an incredulous tone of voice.

"No ma'am, I wouldn't begin to guess the SecNav's response."

"He said, and I quote 'Rabb can do a better job.'. He went on to say about how you were there at the time and that would provide invaluable insight. He also recommended I send Colonel MacKenzie with you. Why would he do that Harm?" Krennick asked suspiciously.

"The Colonel and I have worked well together many times in the past ma'am. We were partners for years and understand how each other works." Harm said truthfully.

"Partners like you and Meg?" Krennick asked archly.

Harm nodded slightly. "Mac and I work well together, much as Meg and I did ma'am."

"You know Harm, she once admitted to me that she'd thought about sleeping with you."

Harm didn't know which one, Mac or Meg, Krennick was referring to so he didn't say anything. As far as he knew Mac had never met Krennick before she came to keep the big chair warm, but he wasn't going to give Krennick any more ammunition than he had to.

"It was while you were being kept by the Chinese. Sad really. She never would have admitted that to me if she was sure you were alive. I was shocked she gave up on you so easy Commander. I on the other hand knew you were made of…stronger stuff."

Meg then. Harm thought. With a shock he realized he'd never really told Mac about that incident. He'd wanted to forget it so much, and had until Krennick brought it up again.

"Speaking of Austin, I heard she was here for awhile before you shipped out. Did you two…reacquaint yourselves?" Krennick said with her innuendo poorly veiled.

"Red light Captain." Harm said tersely.

"Oh Harm, I'm only teasing you. So, do you think I should send you and Colonel MacKenzie on this investigation?"

"That decision is up to you and the Secretary ma'am. If you feel that the investigation could benefit from my talents, or those of the Colonel, then I would be more than happy to tackle it."

"Well the SecNav certainly appears to have an interest in you taking this on, so consider it your first priority. Have MacKenzie leave her files with that Coates girl…and you do the same. I'll reassign the priority ones. For the time being this is the only case the two of you are working on. Oh and Harm?"

"Yes ma'am."

"I've been hearing some things about you and Petty Officer Coates. Are you being improper Commander?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

He couldn't believe it. This sexual predator was asking him if he was being improper with a person in the office. What right did she have? It took him a moment to get over his shock and shake his head. "No ma'am. Petty Officer Coates helps me look after my daughter ma'am. She's a good friend and colleague." Harm said coldly. It was none of her business the depth of the relationship he shared with Jen.

"Is she the mother of your daughter Harm?"

Harm couldn't help but laugh. And he couldn't stop for a few minutes, even though Krennick was staring at him like he'd gone nuts. "The mother of my daughter Captain? No. Mattie's fifteen ma'am, and Jen's only twenty six."

"Fifteen Commander?" Krennick asked in shock.

"Respectfully ma'am, even though it is none of your business, I am working on adopting Mattie. Now, if that will be all I will get Colonel MacKenzie and start this investigation."

"Dismissed Commander."

"She asked what?" Mac asked sharply.

"If Jen was the mother of my daughter." Harm said indignantly. Even though he saw the humor in Krennick making an ass out of herself with the question, he was insulted she would even think to ask that question.

"Oh my." Mac said blinking her eyes in shock.

Before Harm could respond there was a knock at his door followed by the ever cheerful Lieutenant Commander Roberts.

"Lieutenant Sims said you wanted to see me sir? Sorry it took so long, court ran late this morning."

"It’s all right Bud, come on in…take a load off."

"Thanks sir." Bud said gratefully and then sat down in the chair next to Mac.
"Commander…I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am."

"Sorry Bud?"

"That you have to put up with Captain Krennick again. I know how much you had to go through when she was the Admiral's aide."

"Not your fault Bud, you didn't send her here. And you have to put up with her too."

"Not in the same way as you sir. If I may speak freely Commander?"

"Go right ahead Bud." Harm said with a smile. No matter how much he tried to get Bud to relax around him, Bud always seemed so formal.

"Why don't you get an investigation started against her Commander?"

"On what grounds Bud?" Mac asked. Harm was sure she knew the answer, but he hadn't really told her everything about Krennick so she was probably looking to formulate how things would go in her head.

"Sexual harassment ma'am. Meg told me about all these times that Captain Krennick would show up at Harm's house after going for a run looking to use his shower…or the time that she set up an officer's retreat for just her and the Commander." Bud said, his disgust evident.

Mac just sat there in shock for a minute and then rounded on Harm. "Why didn't you do anything about this before?" she demanded, anger evident in the very way she now held herself.

"Krennick's too smart for that Mac. She's a lawyer, she knows the loopholes and knows how to get away without leaving a trail."

"Damn it Harm, there's no way she deserves to be sitting in the Admiral's office if that's how she behaves. You could have done something about it."

"You think I'm the only one she's done it to? I'm sure there's dozens of men out there she's slept with or tried to sleep with in her insane quest to gather as many trophies as she can." Harm said bitterly.

"That doesn't matter Harm." Mac fumed. If he wasn't careful, Harm knew this conversation would send Mac into Krennick's office looking for blood. "Or don't you care?"

"You know me better than that Mac. She disgusts me, the way she keeps throwing herself at me. You think I like that kind of thing?"

Taking a deep breath Mac notably struggled to get herself under control. "Anyway…what are you going to do?"

"Nothing for the time being. I'm hoping finding out about Mattie scared her away. Oh Bud, that's why I wanted to see you. What's a good TV to get Mattie and Jen?" Harm said glad he could change the subject.

"You're buying them another TV sir?" Bud asked excitedly.

Harm couldn't help but smile. Bud enjoyed all things electrical, even if someone else was getting it. "They…pulled me out of the fire last night and I've decided to reward them."

"How big is the one they have now?" Bud asked thoughtfully already apparently going over the catalogue of electronics toys he kept in his head.

"About this big." Harm said vaguely holding his arms apart.

"You don't know sir?"

"No…I just had the salesperson pick one out. I want to get them something nice though Bud. They have no idea how much they saved me last night."

"How about a 32 inch? It’s not a big screen, but it's a good size."

"Is it good for watching movies on?" Harm asked thinking about the primary use his girls put their TV to. Besides, he was known to wander over there for the odd screening.

"It’s not bad sir. Not as good as a big screen, but I'm not sure you could get one of those into their apartment anyway."

Nodding at what Bud had said Harm sat there thinking about how he wanted to spring this on the girls. Maybe it would work best if he could get it in there while they were out somewhere, but how could he ensure that both Mattie and Jen were out of the apartment when he needed them to be? And then it came to him and he smiled.

"OK, two things. You two want to go shopping with me later?"

"I'd love to sir!" Bud said with a huge smile.

"Boys and their toys." Mac muttered. "Sure, you two will need a woman's advice or you'll end up getting them something for watching sports on. You said two things though?"

Harm smiled his best Flyboy smile at Mac. "I need a favor from you Marine."

"What do you need?" Mac asked warily.

"A diversionary strike." Harm said with a grin. "While Bud and I are setting the TV up I need you to keep the girls occupied."

"What did you have in mind?" Mac asked with narrowed eyes.

Harm sighed. He knew he didn't really have to convince Mac to spend time with the girls, but he thought that she might appreciate getting something out of it too. "As much as it pains me to say it….maybe you could take them out for dinner. Maybe some…" here he shuddered dramatically "Beltway Burgers."

As soon as he uttered the magic words Mac smiled blissfully and her eyes lit up. If only he could figure out how to make her do that when it involved him. "I'm in!" she said enthusiastically. "Tonight?"

"Yeah…and you and I can talk about the investigation while we're at it." Harm said.

"Need me to bring anything?"

"Just yourself and a smile." Harm said with a wink.

"Yellow light Commander." Mac replied with an exaggerated frown.

Neither one of them noticed the smile on Bud's face as he looked from one of them to the other. It had been far too long since he'd seen his two friends this relaxed around each other.

 

North of Union Station
2355 Zulu


"They'll be home any minute Bud. How we doing?" Harm asked Bud as he watched his younger friend play with some wires behind the TV. Not only had they bought the girls a TV, but the salesperson at the store had recommended a digital theatre surround sound speaker system and Harm had decided to spend a little more on his girls. Not to mention the eight DVDs he had ended up buying at the last minute. Some of them actually looked like movies he'd enjoy…especially that one 'The Usual Suspects'. Bud said it was a great movie, and agreed that Harm and Mac would enjoy it.

"Just about….done!" Bud announced triumphantly as he stood up straight behind the new TV. Working his way out from beside the wall he and Harm slid the TV back up against the wall and then organized the speakers according to the chart provided in the box.

As Bud cleaned up the boxes and Styrofoam Harm had an idea. Running into the girl's kitchen he tossed some popcorn into the microwave. He'd never eat it, but if what he was expecting to happen happened he knew the girls and Mac would. Even full of that Beltway sludge. Going back out into the living room Harm tapped Bud on the shoulder. "Want to stay to watch a movie Bud?"

"Sure…just let me call Harriet." Bud said happily. He always enjoyed spending time with Harm and Mac and the girls.

Nodding to Bud Harm handed him the phone he'd figured Bud would need and then started looking through the stack of new DVDs. Why not go with the one Bud had recommended? Pulling the cellophane wrapping of the DVD he inserted it into the player and then went to grab the popcorn from the microwave. Setting it on the coffee table he sat down on the couch and grabbed the remote. Bud settled himself into one of the mismatched chairs the girls were famous for and Harm turned on the TV. He had to admit, it did look a lot bigger. As the movie started the door opened and the girls all walked in.

"Harm? What are you doing here?" Mattie asked when she saw him sitting on the couch.

"Bud and I decided to watch a movie." Harm said casually. "If you ladies aren't too tired you're welcome to join us."

"Well gee dad. Thanks for letting us watch a movie in our own…what is that?" Mattie asked sharply.

"What's what? Oh…the movie." Harm shrugged trying to keep a straight face. "Bud and I went and picked up some of the movies off that blackmail list Jen gave me."

"No not the movie…what is that!" Mattie demanded pointing at the TV.

Harm looked at her and feigned concern. "Mattie, sweetie, that's a TV."

"That's not our TV."

Harm took a moment to look around. "We are in the right apartment aren't we Bud?" he asked his friend casually.

"I thought we were sir." Bud said playing along.

"Maybe we're in the wrong apartment. But wait…that doesn't explain what you're doing here." Harm said to Mattie struggling to keep his face straight.

"Harm." Mac said in a warning tone.

"What?"

"Play nice." Mac said raising a hand to hide her own smile.

"Explain sir." Jen said as she moved up to stand next to her roommate.

"Excuse me?" Harm said with mock indignation.

"Sir…we're missing the movie." Bud said with a smile.

"Why, I think you're right Mr. Roberts. We are missing the movie. All because these two girls can't figure out that they are the proud new owners of this fine TV."

"Don't forget the speaker system sir." Bud said.

"Thank you Mr. Roberts. And the speaker system."

"Speaker system?" Mattie and Jen asked at the same time. Then they both jumped on Harm "Thank you dad!" they both chorused sweetly.

"So are we going to watch a movie?" Harm asked after his hugs were done.

"Yeah!" Mattie called and then moved over on the couch to leave Mac room. "Mac?"

"Harm, weren't we going to work on the investigation?" Mac said with a smile.

"Later. Let's spend time with the girls." Harm said patting the couch next to him. "At least this time I'm not outnumbered too badly." he added with a wink at Bud.

As Mac sat down on the couch Mattie poked her hard in the arm. "Owe! What was that for?" she asked.

"You were in on it." Mattie said.

"Excuse me?"

"You were in on…this." Mattie accused once more.

"I will neither confirm, nor deny that counselor." Mac said with a smirk.

"Thank you." Mattie said and then she wrapped Mac up in a big hug. "Look, he even made us popcorn. Are you sure they sent the right Harmon Rabb back when they got tired of him?"

"You know I've been wondering the same thing Mattie. I think the real Harmon Rabb stayed on the Henry." Mac said poking Harm in the arm.

"Can't we just watch the movie?" Harm asked in a pained voice. Even with Bud there they still ganged up on him.


Harm's Apartment
2330 Zulu


"Chegwidden." The familiar voice said on the other end of the line.

"Admiral. I hope I'm not disturbing you." Harm said respectfully.

"Damn it Rabb, I retired. If you don't call me AJ, we're not going to have this conversation."

"I'm sorry sir, it's a hard habit to break." Harm said with a smile.

"Understandable. And don't sir me anymore either. I'm going to tell you something I couldn't tell you before because of our working relationship Harm. I've always looked on you and Bud as the sons I've never had, but you don't need to go spreading that around. Now what's on your mind son?"

"I'm not interrupting anything am I AJ?"

"Just about to have dinner with my daughter Harm."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you two…I can call back another time."

"Out with it Harm. You wouldn't have called me while I'm in Chicago if it wasn't important."

Taking a deep breath Harm just let it all out. "It’s Krennick sir."

"She's still treating you like a piece of meat isn't she." The way AJ said it didn't make it question.

"You could say that. To be honest I'm shocked at that kind of behavior in someone who is for all intents and purposes the JAG."

"As you should be son. How bad is it?"

"Bad enough that people around the office are noticing."

"Anything that can be substantiated?" AJ asked intently.

"Not really. Coates overheard something when Krennick got flustered and left her intercom on, but it was a very ambiguous statement. Nothing that she couldn't brush off if needed."

"Are you going to be all right Harm?" AJ asked, the concern noticeable in his voice.

"I don't think I'm in any danger AJ…not the kind you're worried about anyway."

"How's Mac taking it?"

"She's shocked…and appalled."

"I'm guessing she hasn't killed Krennick yet, I haven't seen anything on ZNN."

"Not yet. She…doesn't know everything yet."

"You never slept with Krennick when she was in the office before, did you Harm?"

"No sir! I've never slept with her period, nor will I ever." Harm said sharply. "It’s not that. I just haven't given Mac all the information about how Krennick acted before."

"Don't you think you should son? I mean you two are working on getting things right between you aren't you?"

It was weird having the Admiral express open curiosity about him and Mac. He knew the Admiral was fully aware of the feelings the two have shared for years, but he'd never really came out and said anything because of the regulations. "We are sir. It’s going to take time…I don't want to force her into anything."

"Don't take too long Harm. One time you'll let her get away once too often. I know they say if you love something set it free, if it loves you it will come back. But damn it Harm, don't keep forcing her away."

"I'm not the only one who's done the forcing AJ."

"I know son, and if she was there I'd tell her the same thing. Anyway, back to Krennick. What do you want me to do?"

"I'm not sure AJ. I guess I was just hoping for some advice?"

"Well I guess it won't hurt to let you know something. One of the reasons I had her reassigned eight years ago was because of the way she was treating you. I thought she would get the message, but I guess now that she's the one on top she figures she can play her games. Just watch your six son. I'm going to call a few old friends and make some quiet inquiries. I'll be in touch."

"Thank you sir." Harm said with his voice full of relief. It was good to know he could still go to the Admiral if really needed. "Do I want to know what kind of inquiries AJ?"

"Just about Krennick and her deportment at past postings. Usually there's a pattern to this sort of behavior…if she saw you as a sort of conquest, chances are she acted on this sort of thing at other stations."

Thinking back to his conversation with Mac and Bud Harm unconsciously nodded even though he knew AJ couldn't see him. "That's what I was thinking too. I was going to talk to a friend and have them check up on it…but if you're going to sir, I won't bother."

"Have your friend check as well. You know as well as I that you can never have too many people looking at something."

"Can do AJ. Listen I should really let you get back to your dinner." Harm said and then smiled. He really couldn't resist. "Give Francesca a big hug and kiss for me."

"Rabb! Just because I said I thought of you as a son, doesn't mean I won't review my SEAL training with you."

"Just kidding sir. Seriously, give her my best and apologize for me please."

"I will son. Take care of yourself…and watch your six with Krennick."

"Aye, aye Admiral." Harm said with a smile. Even though he was retired AJ was still tossing out orders.

"Goodbye Rabb."

"Goodnight AJ." Harm said and then pushed the button to hang up his phone. As he was putting it back down on the table he heard a knock at the door. Looking at the clock he smiled. That would be Mac to talk about the investigation. He went over to the door and opened it to reveal Mac in his flight jacket and a pair of jeans. "Hey gorgeous. Come on in." he said with a smile.

"I bet you say that to all the girls." Mac said with a return smile.

"You seem to be wearing that quite a bit. Mattie mentioned that when I first got back." Harm said looking at his flight jacket. Mac just blushed and smiled without saying anything.

"Got the files?" she asked after he'd taken the jacket and hung it up for her.

"On the table. Want something to drink?"

"Water's fine."

"Coming right up. So what's your take on this Riley murder?"

"Other than what I know from the shipboard JAG and NCIS' investigations, not much. Signs of struggle, but not much in the way of clues. No prints, no sign of a murder weapon. A pretty dead end investigation." Mac said as she sat at the table and started opening case files to look over reports. "Defensive wounds on his hands, so he fought whoever killed him. Autopsy results point to blunt force trauma as cause of death. Thanks."

Harm handed her a bottle of water and sat beside her. Unconsciously he started rubbing her back when she opened the file with the pictures of Lieutenant Commander Riley after he'd been found in the supply locker. He felt her put a hand on his knee and squeeze softly in thanks before she started flipping through the photos.

"I just don't understand why he was murdered. There's no apparent motive. He was new on board ship, there's no report of anyone having previous contact with him…no grudges that we're aware of."

Delicately Harm coughed and Mac looked at him curiously. "I can add two points to that Mac. Don't get mad…this is the first time we've talked about the case. One, someone on board knew him previously. His partner."

"His partner?" Mac asked confused.

"Meg. Riley and Meg are Naval Intelligence…they'd been partners for four years." Harm said in a rush.

"Wow." Was all she said.

"Meg told me when she was on board…that's why she was there. Her and Riley were doing some kind of investigation…she wouldn't tell me what. She just said they were NI."

"Well that changes things. Did NCIS know?"

"I would assume so." Harm said with a shrug.

"So now we have a possible motive. Someone found out he was NI…maybe the person they were looking for." Mac said making notes on a legal pad Harm had put out with the files.

Giving Mac's back one final rub Harm stood up and started to pace, trying to think his way through the murder. He was so absorbed in his pacing that he didn't notice the first time Mac asked him a question.

"Harm?"

"Hmm? Oh sorry…was trying to get a grip on this thing." He said with an apologetic smile.

"It’s ok Flyboy. I asked when the last time you saw Riley was before he was found dead."

Stopping his pacing, Harm thought about that. "The sixth, just before the mission." He said, mentioning the infamous day. He noticed Mac tense up at his mentioning the date. Without a word he reached over and squeezed her shoulder and felt her squeeze his hand with her own. "You know I don't blame you for that, right Mac?"

"I know…but I blame myself. I think I should have asked to be removed from the case because of bias. I was so worried you'd hate me."

"I could never hate you Mac. I may get mad at you…actually I get furious at you sometimes. But after all we've been through? I could never hate you." He said gently.

"Good." She whispered in reply. "So…you saw him on the sixth. Any time after that?"

"No. I didn't really have a chance. Once we were rescued we were brought on board, sent to the bridge, then to our quarters. Once we were confined, it was pretty much quarters or head until the trial." He said with another squeeze of her shoulder. She was now gently rubbing his hand with hers, and he didn't want her to stop.

"Meg said something to me once about how she had a hunch that what she was investigating was linked to my difficulties."

Mac stopped writing notes at Harm's mention of Meg. Looking up at him she bit her lip and then said "Harm, can I tell you something?"

"You know you can Mac. I don't want us to not talk, not anymore." He said with a smile but inside he remembered that he needed to tell her about Krennick. Just not right now.

"It’s about Meg."

"OK." He said warily.

"I'm…or rather I was jealous of her. That night we all had dinner here." She said in a big rush.

"Whatever for?"

"It’s silly…you'll laugh." Mac said self consciously.

"I promise, I won't." Harm said earnestly. "Tell me Mac, whatever it is will be ok."

"I was jealous because you two talked to each other so easily…you were finishing each other's sentences, laughing at each other's jokes, telling all these old stories about each other. The way you and I…used to. I was so mad at her because she had that with you and I didn't anymore. It hurt me so much to see you sharing something that we had had with someone else."

Harm didn't laugh; in fact he didn't say anything at first. All he did was step closer behind Mac and wrap his arms around her. "Mac…it hurt me that we'd seemed to have lost that too. You have no idea how many times I wanted to tell you something that Mattie had said or done, or even just talk to you about your day, but I couldn't because…well just because." He finally said careful not to bring up her relationship with Webb.

Swallowing a lump in her throat Mac reached up and gripped Harm's arms where they wrapped around her. "It’s ok Harm…you can say it. Because I was with Clay." She said softly. "I know you don't mention him because you don't want to cause me pain, and I appreciate that, really. But if I'm going to accept it, I need to acknowledge the fact that it was a part of me. I can't ignore it, and neither can you."

They stayed like that for a few minutes, neither one wanting to say anything, just wanting to be next to the other. Finally Mac asked "Do you think we should interview Meg?"

"That's a good idea…if we can find her. She left the Henry before me, and I don't know where she went from there." Harm said feeling guilty because he was glad they could get off the topic of Mac and Webb's relationship.

"Well, someone has to know where to find her." Mac said.

"Wish we had Gunny here. I bet he'd be able to track her down in a morning." Harm said with a smile.

"Yeah, but if he was here, he wouldn't have found you in Iraq." Mac said pointedly.

"True. Maybe Bud can dig something up. He's almost as uncanny as Gunny at getting information together."

"Good idea, if his case load leaves him any time."

Sighing Harm looked over Mac's shoulder at her notes and the case files. "We'll need to talk to the agent who did the investigation for NCIS…and contact the JAG onboard the Henry. Do you think it would do us any good to go back out there?"

"I'm not sure…the crime is over two month's old. There's nothing there in the way of evidence…NCIS didn't find any when the scene was fresh. But I guess it wouldn't hurt to speak to the crew about it. Someone might remember something, especially if the mighty CAG was there to scare it out of them." Mac said with a smile up at him.

Reaching up Harm gently mussed her hair and laughed. "Just the mighty JAG lawyer now. Keeter's back in the driver's seat."

"Do you miss it?" Mac asked softly. That was the question she hadn't asked him since he returned.

"A little. But I did some thinking while I was there. I don't think the deck of a carrier's where I belong anymore. It just didn't seem right."

"What seems right to you?" Mac asked.

"This." He said softly as he gave her a gentle squeeze again. "Mac…Captain Ingles offered to help me get a CAG billet on another carrier if I wanted it. I turned him down because I needed to come back."

"To JAG?" she asked quietly.

"To you. We need to work things out Mac, and I can't do that out at sea."

With a little smile Mac reached up and stroked his cheek. Catching her hand in his Harm turned her hand over and placed a soft kiss on the inside of her palm.

"I'm glad you came back." She whispered.

"So am I. Like I said, we need to talk about the anniversary we shared this year as well." Harm said with a wicked smile.

"You never did tell me what you were referring to."

"It’s not time for us to talk about it yet...but soon. I promise."

Mac didn't look happy at his evasion, but she nodded. "And you keep your promises. Fine." She said as she pouted.

Softly Harm ran the tip of his finger over her bottom lip as it stuck out in her pout. She looked so sexy when she pouted like that…and he longed to kiss the pout away. Before he could however she giggled and the pouting lips were gone.

"So we should go out to the Henry?" she asked nervously.

"Looks like it. I'll talk to Dragon Lady in the morning…get her to clear us to fly out." Harm said and then stopped as he saw her frown. "What's up?"

"Krennick. God I'd love to knock her on her ass." Mac said fiercely. Something had riled her Marine anger.

"What did she do?" Harm asked with a sinking feeling.

"She asked me if we'd ever slept together today. The nerve!"

"What did you say?"

"That we hadn't of course." Mac said as she stood up and disentangled herself from his arms. Now she was the one pacing about his small dining area, with her arms crossed over her chest. "The nerve of that woman is mind boggling. First she all but undresses you in the office, and then she's going around asking every woman in the office if they'd ever slept with you."

"What did you say?" Harm asked sharply.

"You didn't know?" Mac asked incredulously.

"That's she's hunting for someone who's slept with me? No." Harm said still shocked.

Suddenly Mac stopped and smiled. "I thought Harriet was going to grab her by the hair and drag her outside for a knock ‘em down drag 'em out beating."

"What happened?" Harm asked in alarm. For Harriet to get physical something big had to have gone down.

"Krennick was interrogating Jen about why she's helping you with Mattie, and why she lives down the hall and a bunch of other crap, trying to find out if Jen was trying to…ahem. 'Get in your pants' I believe is the term she used. Harriet happened to be close by and just about went off the deep end at the way Krennick was drilling Jen. Don't get me wrong, Jen was doing a good job of expressing her own indignation, but you know what Harriet gets like when someone she cares about is threatened."

Harm stood there silently with his arms crossed chewing on his bottom lip. The nerve of that woman, to launch a witch hunt in the office, and attack Jen for being his friend…for being someone he cared about. The more he thought about it, the angrier he was becoming. He didn't care about her throwing herself at him…it disgusted him, but if she wanted to make an ass of herself, that's her choice. But to go after the people he cared about, to look for someone who'd slept with him…why she would….

"She wouldn’t." he whispered.

"She wouldn't what?" Mac asked.

"Nothing…just thinking. AJ was right…I need to watch my six with her."

"You spoke to the Admiral about this?"

Nodding Harm motioned vaguely towards the phone. "Tonight before you got here. I needed his advice…she was his aide after all."

"What did he say?" Mac asked curiously.

"To watch my six, and that he'd get some old friends looking into if there was a pattern of behavior."

"Are you going to make a complaint?" Mac asked.

"I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know?" Mac asked incredulously.

"I don't know. It's complicated Mac."

"No Harm, it’s not. She's harassing you, make a complaint."

"Mac…it's not that easy. Can you imagine the bad press this would bring? I can just see the headlines now 'JAG Gate – Interim JAG a man eater.'" Harm said with a snort. "The Navy doesn't need that right now…the military doesn't need it right now. Those prisoner abuse allegations are too fresh in people's minds. The last thing we need is a scandal of this magnitude."

Harm was so wrapped up in what he was saying that he didn't notice the way Mac was staring at him shock. "I don't believe you Harmon Rabb. This is just like you…you and your damn nobility." Mac said furiously.

"What are you talking about?"

"You can't see it, can you? You are so in love with the Navy that you would offer yourself up as a sacrifice so that the Navy doesn't suffer. Do you think anyone would thank you? Do you think anyone would care that you didn't make a complaint so that a scandal could be avoided?" Mac asked working herself up into a frenzy.

Harm looked at her with his confusion written on his face. "Mac…slow down." He said as he stepped up to wrap his arms around her.

"You would let that…that….harpy get away with this just because you don't want the Navy to suffer? I don't believe you Harm." She said as she shrugged off his attempt to hug her. Going over to his closet she pulled out his flight jacket and put it on. "You just don't see, do you Harm?"

 And with that she was gone again as the door slammed behind her.

 

JAG Headquarters
Falls Church, Virginia
Friday August 13, 2004
1200 Zulu


Harm absently swirled his coffee around his mug while he leaned against the counter in the break room. He'd been waiting in here for ten minutes, hoping to catch Mac as she showed up for her second cup of coffee. Her door had been closed when he got in this morning, and he hadn't seen her yet. She hadn't talked to him any more than she absolutely needed to the day before, and he was afraid she was still mad at him.

Jen poked her head around the door breaking into Harm's thoughts. "Hey Jen." he said with a smile.

"Morning sir. The Captain would like to see you." Jen said with rolling eyes. Part of Harm wanted to bring her to task for her obvious disrespect for the interim JAG, but could he really blame her? Krennick hadn't exactly acted in the most professional manner lately, and he knew Jen kept her feeling to herself with just about everyone else. It was a measure of how close she felt to him that she felt free enough to relax her discipline enough to do so.

"Thanks Jen. Hey, have you seen Mac?"

"She drove out to Norfolk this morning sir. The Captain had something she wanted the Colonel to do out there. Sorry." Jen said apologetically.

"It’s OK Jen. Guess I better go see the Captain." Harm said trying to keep the disappointment he felt at Mac's absence out of his voice.

It was funny, he thought. Harm could strap on a Tomcat and get shot out of a cannon off the deck of a carrier, could play with the big boys up where the air was rare and death came fast and hard, and yet he hesitated to walk into his own boss' office.

Walking into Krennick's office Harm came to attention in front of her desk. "You wanted to see me Captain?"

"Yes Commander, have a seat." Krennick said with her voice pitched low. "I was wondering how the investigation into the Riley murder was progressing. I received your request for orders to take a hop out to the Patrick Henry to interview the crew. Is that really necessary Commander? NCIS and the ship's JAG officer already did that and you have access to all the interviews."

Sitting down Harm looked up at the woman behind the desk. He'd been thinking on what Mac had said, and he was still struggling with her accusation that he was simply willing to make himself a sacrifice so that the Navy didn't suffer. He wasn't so sure it was that simple, but he wasn't going to discount what Mac said completely out of hand.

"Commander? Am I to assume that your silence is an agreement to my question? Or shall I simply assume you are merely struck speechless at my beauty?" Krennick added in a throaty tone.

Putting on a smile to hide his discomfort Harm laughed at her joke. At least he hoped it was a joke. "Neither ma'am. I was just trying to structure my thoughts into a suitably worded answer. It is my opinion, and that of Lieutenant Colonel MacKenzie that it is necessary to go back out to the Patrick Henry to re-interview some of the crew members. We're working on the assumption that NCIS or at the very least the shipboard JAG were unaware of the fact that Riley was Naval Intelligence."

"Riley was NI?" Krennick asked in surprise. Obviously the Admiral had left a few things out of his reports when he returned from Harm's trial.

"He was. He and his partner were in the middle of an investigation when he was murdered…and that could provide a possible motive. Originally NCIS and our man out there couldn't pin a motive on this murder, hence the write off as a crime of anger. However if someone, perhaps the very subject of the investigation, found out that Riley was NI then I can see a definite motive for killing him. We think that a different set of questions needs to be asked based on this information, questions that NCIS and our man didn't ask because of their lack of information."

"How is it that you have this information and NCIS does not?" Krennick asked suspiciously.

"I stumbled upon it during my time aboard the Patrick Henry ma'am. As for why NCIS did not have it, they didn't approach me at all. I guess they figured because I was not aboard the ship for most of the period in question and under guard for the rest that I would know nothing."

"And you didn't feel you should have volunteered this information?"

"I believed NCIS already had the information, but nothing in the files of the investigation indicates this was the fact."

"Can't you just have the ship's JAG re-interview the people you wish to question and have him send you the transcripts?"

"Respectfully ma'am, the men and women on the Patrick Henry know I'm JAG, but they don't think of me that way. They think of me as one of them…one who's served on their current cruise. To them I'm one of the pilots, the CAG. They might answer questions differently for me than they would for the ship's JAG."

"Very well. You and the Lieutenant Colonel fly out Sunday morning from Dulles. You'll fly commercial to Saudi and then catch a COD out to the Patrick Henry. I'll have Coates book the tickets." Krennick said after a moment's consideration.

"Very good ma'am."

"Commander…there was something else I wished to discuss with you. How would you like to be my aide?"

"Captain, Lieutenant Colonel MacKenzie was the Admiral's chief of staff, and she has done an outstanding job at it." Harm said uncomfortably. The last thing he wanted to do was piss Mac off by taking on her job at the office. Not to mention how close it would require him to work with Krennick. If things were bad now, they'd be intolerable if he had to spend most of his days with the harpy as Mac called her.

"I'm sure she has. But sometimes the office needs to be shaken up every now and again, and I'd like to send the message that no matter how fine a job Admiral Chegwidden did, I am not him. This is my office now."

"That is true ma'am, however I think you would be wise to keep Lieutenant Colonel MacKenzie in the role of chief of staff…between her and Lieutenant Sims as Office Manager I don't think you'll find a better team for running the office."

"Well that may be your opinion Commander, but I have yet to make mine. Think on it Commander…you can let me know later. Just don't think on it too long."

"Aye, aye ma'am. With your permission Captain, I would like to get back to my review of the case files."

"Very well Commander…you may leave." Krennick said with a negligent wave of her hand. Well, good to see the power hadn't gone to her head as he feared it would Harm thought with sarcasm. Standing he saluted and left her office.

He spent the rest of the morning reviewing the Riley files looking for something that the previous investigator could have missed. At noon a knock on his door brought his head up expectantly. Seeing Sturgis there he smiled…he wasn't Mac, but he was a good friend. "Come on in Sturg. How was court?"

"Bud kicked me around the courtroom. Sometimes I think you and Mac taught him too well."

"He's a hell of a lawyer…and he does seem to get better the more children he has. I think he and Harriet have a secret there." Harm said with a smile. Every time Bud and Harriet had a child it seemed to settle and mature him that much more.

"Well then we're all in trouble when the twins arrive."

Laughing Harm couldn't help but agree. "What's on your mind?"

"Whatcha doing for lunch?"

"Well I was hoping to talk Mac into getting a bite with me, but as far as I know she's still out at Norfolk. Care to stand in?"

"Second best am I?" Sturgis asked in mock shock

"I can think of worse things to be." Harm said as he stood up and grabbed his cover. "So?"

"Why not. Why don't we go to that little Italian place just down the street."

"Sounds good."

Ten minutes later Harm and Sturgis were seated and had placed their orders at a cozy little six table Italian restaurant not far from the office. Harm had ordered the linguini and a light cream sauce, and Sturgis had opted for spaghetti and meatballs.

"So…are things as bad with Krennick as they look?" Sturgis finally asked.

"Well she hasn't grabbed my ass yet." Harm said wryly.

"She certainly has a thing for you."

"I'm the one that got away."

"So It's true she tried the same thing before?"

Nodding Harm sipped his water. "When she was AJ's aide. She thought of me as some sort of conquest…a trophy for her wall."

"You ever do anything with her?"

"God no. I had my eye somewhere else."

"That was when Meg was your partner, wasn't it?" Sturgis asked with a grin and a wink.

"Yeah."

"I gotta ask you buddy, how do you always get paired with great partners like that? First Meg, then Mac? Lucky man."

"Don't forget Kate." Harm said with a smile.

"Kate?"

"Lieutenant Kate Pike. She was my first partner…before Meg. She and Meg were actually friends from way back." Harm said with another smile at the memory of Kate Pike.

"Was she as gorgeous as the other partners you've had the pleasure of serving with?"

"Of course." Harm said smugly. It wasn't every guy who could say he'd served with three of the most gorgeous lawyers in JAG. As Sturgis was framing a retort their food arrived and they both set to quietly. Harm was glad he'd been able to move Sturgis off of the topic of Krennick…he still wasn't sure how he wanted to handle that. They both finished their meals shortly with a little more small talk and then walked back to the office.

 

North of Union Station
2200 Zulu


Harm was in the midst of cutting up some vegetables for a snack plate for himself when he heard a knock at the door. Probably Mac or one of the girls…they had probably gotten bored of waiting for him to prepare something he could eat while the four of them enjoyed some movies. Mattie hadn't been too happy when he called to tell her he and Mac were going back to the Patrick Henry for a week or so. As a sort of peace offering he'd made plans to stay in with her and Jen to watch some movies tonight and then he'd take the girls out shopping in the morning. He'd been pleasantly surprised when Mac had agreed when he asked her if she wanted to join them when she'd returned from Norfolk late in the afternoon.

Grabbing the tray of veggies he made his way to the door.

"I'm coming, I'm coming. Keep your shorts on." He said with a smile as he opened the door.

"Oh, I'd rather we found something more interesting to do with them." Krennick said with a smile.

When he took a step back in shock at her being at his door she followed him into the apartment.

"Captain Krennick…" Harm fumbled for what he should say next.

"Commander." Krennick said as she stepped closer and ran a hand down his shoulder onto his chest. "Going somewhere?" she asked looking at his veggies.

Nodding Harm took another step back and gestured in the general direction of the girls' apartment. "Ah…red light Captain. I was just going to watch some movies with Mattie and…"

"Oh Harm, let the kiddies have their movies…we'll play here." Krennick said seductively, ignoring his warning.

Harm was trying not to swallow his tongue when he heard someone clear their throat. Looking at the door he saw Mac standing there with her arms crossed. "Mac!" he said relieved he wasn't alone with Krennick anymore.

"Harm. We were wondering what was taking so long so I thought I'd come see if you needed a hand…I can see you've got enough already though."

Krennick took a quick step back from Harm and turned towards the door. "Lieutenant Colonel." She said coolly.

"Captain." Mac said in an even cooler tone. Harm was amazed he didn't get frostbite from the chill in the air. He knew by the anger in Mac's eyes that she'd heard Krennick's comment about 'playing'.

"Well." Harm said with a smile and a nervous laugh. What the hell should he say? He was at a loss…why couldn't everything in life come with an ejection seat?

"I didn't know that you were here Colonel." Krennick said with an arched eyebrow.

"Obviously. Now if you're done harassing the Commander his daughter and her roommate would like to spend time with him before he has to leave on Sunday."

At Mac's mention of the word 'harassing' Krennick's eyebrow rose even higher. "Was I harassing you Commander? Perhaps I should ask what you're doing here Colonel MacKenzie. Is there something the two of you would like to share with me?"

"Captain, I really don't think that is any of your business." Harm said indignantly. How dare she question who he spent time with. He was on the verge of defending his relationship with Mac when he had the realization that it was none of her damn business. Stepping around Krennick Harm put a hand on Mac's shoulder and turned back to face Krennick and reached out to open the door wider.

"Are you kicking me out Commander?"

"No, I'm not Captain, because you were never here. If you had been here tonight, then I would have to raise questions about sexual harassment."

Harm could see the struggle clearly on her face. "Good night Captain." He said in an effort to help her make her decision.

"If I were to ask if you and the Colonel were involved Commander, I wonder what the answer would be." Krennick asked archly.

"The answer would be no Captain. We are not involved in the way you are hinting at, but we are very close…as friends and partners. Now if you would excuse me Allison, I am expected to spend the evening watching movies with my daughter and some friends."

"This is not the end of this Commander." Krennick vowed.

"I think it is Captain. My friendships outside the office are none of your concern, nor is how I spend my evenings."

Without another word Krennick glared at Harm and then stormed out of his apartment. He couldn't hold back the feeling that life was about to become a lot more interesting.

"It’s about time you stood up to her Harm." Mac said quietly putting her arms around him and resting her head on his shoulder. "You know she's going to try and make trouble for us Harm."

"She can try. She can't prove what hasn't happened."

"Hasn't it Harm?"

"Mac, we haven't broken regulations…god knows it’s been hard at times but we haven't." Harm said quietly.

"Haven't we?"

"No Mac, we haven't. I'd know if we had…because…"

"What?" Mac asked softly.

Harm looked down at her and smiled slightly. "You think I'd forget if we did something to break regulations? You think I wouldn't remember a dream coming true?" he asked huskily.

"Harm…" Mac whispered as Harm reached up and ran his finger along her jaw. Slowly he lowered his lips to hers in a passionate kiss. Neither of them noticed the plate of vegetables hit the ground when Mac let it go.

"Mattie and Jen will come looking for us soon." Mac said breathlessly when they both had to come up for air. Harm smiled at the slightly flustered look on her face and stroked her cheek with his finger.

"Maybe we can tell them to go ahead and watch the movie on their own." Harm said with a little grin.

"Harmon Rabb. You are a wicked, wicked man." Mac said with a soft laugh. "But you promised Mattie that we would spend time with her and Jen before we left. And…"

"Yeah, yeah. I always keep my promises." Harm said with a sigh. "I suppose we should go back."

"You might want to get some more vegetables." Mac said wryly with a nod at their feet.

Pulling her close Harm gave her another hug and then went back to the kitchen to get more food.

 

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