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Chapter 7

 

“First thing, before I tell you anything, you have to promise me you won’t go crazy with any Star Trek theories about space time continuum stuff.” Harm looked at Bud sternly.

“That would more likely be Quantum Leap, sir,” Bud corrected.

“Whatever, Bud! Just don’t go all Sci Fi on me. Promise?”

“I promise, sir. What’s the matter?”

As briefly as possible, Harm explained to Bud the direction he remembered his life taking after Australia. With the exception of Baby Sarah and Paraguay, Bud’s face remained expressionless. When Harm got to the part about being woken up that Saturday morning by two children he didn’t recognize, Bud’s eyes grew visibly larger in identical increments with the large gaping hole formed by his open mouth.

“Wow, sir.”

“Is that all you have to say?” Harm asked.

“The possibilities are awesome!” Bud’s look of surprise changed to sheer delight in a fraction of time.

“Bud, what I need is for someone to fill in the blanks of this world, not contemplate the awesome possibilities,” Harm emphasized through a forced smile.

“Yes, sir, right. But don’t you want to figure out what happened?” Bud was like a six year old with a new toy at Christmas.

“Bud, please. We’ve only got a few hours left until we land and I have a lot of questions.” Harm was thankful that at least Bud didn’t think he was hitting the sauce, or worse, crazy.

“I’m sorry, sir. What do you need to know?”

“Mac is with the Department of Defense now?”

“Yes. She’s a special advisor to the SECDEF. She’s actually pretty important, sir. She was head honcho on that investigation into the new AA weapon’s testing accident that brought down the airplane returning from a short hop to Catalina with the Ambassadors from England and Russia, and Senators Bixby and Hoffman on board.”

“Does she like it?”

“From what Harriet tells me, she misses the courtroom sometimes, but yes, she’s very happy.” Bud was relieved to see the contented smile spread across Harm’s face.

“Where does Matt go to preschool?”

“The Lamplighter School on Park and Riverdale.”

“Where’s Susie’s daycare?”

“Hm, I think you’re still using our old daycare. Kindercourt on Central and Dickson.”

“You wouldn’t happen to know my kids favorite foods, would you?” Harm chuckled, not expecting a response.

“Matt loves spaghetti with extra sauce, and Susie likes to gnaw on broccoli and ranch dip.”

“Well, at least one of my kids eats healthy. Allergies?”

“None that I know of, sir. I also know Matt’s more of a carnivore and Susie seems to like anything mushy.”

“How old is Ginger?”

“I don’t remember sir, maybe four. I think you got her just before or after Matt was born.”

“How long have we lived in that house?”

“That’s easy. You moved in Christmas of 2000, just after Sarah was born,” Bud smiled.

“What did I do with my apartment?”

“It’s rented. The Colonel wouldn’t let you sell it, said it was almost part of you,” Bud chuckled remembering Harm sanding the floors so many years ago.

“Okay, what about the office. Why didn’t I see Sturgis’ name on any of the files? Is he at JAG?”

“Oh, yes. Commander Turner came in the fall of…let’s see…2001, right after Mattoni left.” Bud counted on his fingers a moment to make sure he had that right. “He moved to the judiciary about a year later. There was a shortage of judges. You and he served on a few cases. He liked it and eventually requested a transfer.”

“Is he married?”

“No, but he is dating a really nice singer named Varese Chestnutt. Ever hear of her?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, Sturgis is dating her in my world too. It looks like, except for moving to the judiciary, Sturgis’ life is pretty similar.”

“Why do you suppose that is?” Bud was fascinated with the entire concept of parallel universes.

“In 2002, Mac and I did temporary stints on the bench. If Mac left after we got married to work for the SECDEF, that would have made Sturgis the other senior attorney, and obvious choice for temporary judge in your 2002.” Harm smiled to himself. He was amazed at all the lives affected by a few single choices in his life.

“Who replaced Turner at ops?” Harm continued.

“Commander Imes was reassigned. She’d been stationed in Europe,” Bud offered, just in case things had been different in Harm’s time.

“Anybody check her credentials lately?” Harm teased.

“I beg your pardon?” Bud was completely confused by that remark.

“Never mind, inside joke.” Harm probably was going to have to check her records when he got back, after all…

“What do you know about Tiner and Renee?” Harm’s brow contorted with curiosity.

“Not much. From what the Colonel said, right after we’d all come back from Australia, you apparently neglected to mention to Renee that you were now involved with the Colonel. While you were stuck in Iceland, Renee showed up at JAG for a previously arranged date. When Mac told her you weren’t there, Renee took Tiner out instead.” Bud shifted awkwardly in his seat. His legs beginning to ache from the long flight, he wished he could just remove his prosthesis.

“How did Tiner wind up a lawyer at JAG so soon?”

“So soon? I don’t know what you remember, but when he and Ms. Peterson started dating, she insisted he take classes to finish his degree. As soon as he finished, he convinced the Admiral to recommend him to law school. The Navy sent him to Georgetown law full time. As soon as he finished, he and Ms. Peterson were married. He’s been back at JAG for just about a year. As you probably saw, she’s pregnant, twins I think.” Bud rolled his eyes. “You really dated her in your world?”

“Yeah, I really did,” Harm shrugged.

“She just doesn’t seem your type.”

“And she does seem Tiner’s?” It seemed more plausible to Harm that he would have dated Renee than Tiner.

“Point taken, sir,” Bud chuckled. “If it makes any difference, Jason does seem happy, sir.”

“Well, I’m glad for that. Renee wasn’t all that bad. Actually, if I’d been more committed, she would have probably been really great.”

Harm let out a slow deep breath. “There’s so much Bud. What’s the General’s yeoman’s name?”

“That would be Petty Officer Smythe.”

“Smythe?” Harm repeated.

Bud nodded his head.

“How long?”

“Since Jennifer went on maternity leave.”

“I thought it was Coates married to the Gunny.”

“Yes, sir. They met at our Christmas party a few years ago. I’m not sure how it worked in your world, but Jen stayed with you and the Colonel during her court case back in 2001. Since she didn’t really have any family to spend the holidays with, you had invited her to spend the 25th with you again the year Gunny came.”

“And since Gunny stayed with us that Christmas he was snowed in, they got… close.”

“Yes, sir. The admiral barked a little, but, so long as they kept it out of the office, I think he was secretly pleased.”

“In my world Gunny didn’t spend Christmas in DC that I know of. Any idea how he wound up at your house?”

“It had something to do with the SECDEF’s office. Gunny was either taking some reports, or making a report. That’s why he stopped in DC at all before going home. Anyhow, when he bumped into the Colonel, he was planning on waiting the weather out at the airport. Colonel MacKenzie convinced him it could be a while and to join us instead. We were delighted to see him.”

“What about Aldridge? He was always such a…” Harm was at a loss for words.

“He still is, sir.” Bud swallowed a chuckle. “But when the Colonel left at the same time as Lt. Imes, we couldn’t afford to lose him. We’ve just sort of been stuck with him ever since.”

“Who’s chief of Staff?”

“You are, sir.” Bud had to stifle a laugh at the shocked look on Harm’s face, or was it more panic?

“Great,” Harm mumbled to himself.

“You’re very good, sir.” Bud wasn’t sure why he felt the need to reassure him.

“Thanks,” Harm replied, half-heartedly.

“Would I be correct in assuming if the Colonel was never engaged to Commander Brumby, then I never took a dip in the drink hurrying back to the wedding?”

“No. That I know of, you’ve never crashed in the ocean. Your RIO did, or at least your old RIO did,” Bud corrected.

“What do you mean?” A sick feeling suddenly rose in the pit of Harm’s stomach.

“You had a RIO who was flying home on weekend leave in a storm to see her fiancé. She and the pilot crashed in the ocean. They were never recovered.”

“When was this, Bud?” Harm prayed it wasn’t that same storm.

“It was the same weekend as your anniversary party at the Admiral’s.”

“May 25, 2001,” Harm dictated from memory. He’d never forget that date. If he and Mac had been married on May 20th, the anniversary party should have been around the same time as Mac’s wedding to Brumby in his world.

“Yes, sir. That sounds right.” For the first time during this unusual conversation, Bud felt really badly for him. Harm’s face showed true agony.

“She and I ejected on May 25th. They found her first, it took them a while to find me. When they did I was so hypothermic they almost lost me. Skates saved my life.” Harm fought back the tears that filled his eyes.

“I’m sorry, sir.” Bud had no idea what else to say.

Harm sat quietly for several minutes letting Bud’s words sink in. So far, everything different in this world seemed to be for the better. This was the first truly sad change he’d stumbled across.

“Did you say anniversary party at the admiral’s?” Once he’d regained his composure, Harm continued his quest for information.

“Yes.”

“That’s rather ironic.” Harm shook his head again. He’d been doing that a lot on this plane ride. “A couple of weeks before the wedding, Mac and Mic had an engagement party at the admiral’s. It was a very ‘revealing’ event.”

“Well, it was just lots of fun in our world, except of course that you and the Colonel spent the better part of the evening on the admiral’s front porch,” Bud smiled inwardly.

“You’re kidding?” A slight air of lightheartedness had returned to Harm’s voice.

“No, sir. I wouldn’t kid you about a thing like that, honestly.”

“I guess the universe does have a sense of humor, Bud.” Harm couldn’t believe in either world, he and Mac spent most of the night together on the porch.

“I guess this is as a good a time as any to ask. How did Sergei wind up with Lauren?” Harm tried not to let his disappointment show.

“Ah, yes. Your favorite sister in law.” Bud let out an almost sinister chuckle.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

“Why don’t you tell me about your brother in your world, and I’ll just point out whatever I know to be different.” Bud was more than a little curious to hear more details about the world Harm left behind.

“Fine with me.” Harm hesitated before starting, “I was sent to Russia in the fall of 2000 to help evaluate and make suggestions for improving the ‘new’ justice system.”

“Same here, except the Colonel went with you. She said it wasn’t safe to set you loose alone in Russia.” Bud made a small spitting sound in an attempt to not laugh.

“She eventually showed up in my world too,” Harm continued, ignoring Bud’s undignified response, “but it had more to do with Webb and an espionage case she was trying.”

“Hm, I bet that was the case Mattoni prosecuted. He had a big treason case somewhere around that time,” Bud mumbled to himself, his amusement under control.

“Anyhow, we got into lots of trouble, Sergei was framed for murder and treason, and found guilty. I lost my temper and wound up in jail as well. We eventually escaped. I tried to convince him to come to the States but he wanted to fight the war in Chechnya, to follow in our father’s footsteps and all that. The next year he was captured when his helicopter crashed. He used to fly choppers.”

“He still does. He flies for the local CBS news affiliate,” Bud interrupted.

“Really? Is he happy?” Inwardly, Harm crossed his fingers. In his world Sergei was so...lost.

“Looks it to me,” Bud smiled.

“That’s really good to hear,” Harm smiled in earnest. “I don’t think he was ever happy here in my world. After we discovered he was being held in a Chechen prison camp, Webb pulled some strings to get him out in a trade deal and delivered him to me at the wall on Christmas Eve that year.”

“Well, in our time, the three of you went through some hairy stuff and managed to escape, even though Mac was having a little trouble with morning sickness.”

“Morning sickness! She came to Russia pregnant!” Harm spat.

“Sir, the original travel plans didn’t include getting involved in treason, murder, attempted assassinations and winding up in jail, ” Bud countered rather sarcastically. “Anyhow, it sounded to me like Mac’s being pregnant was the reason Sergei agreed to come back to the states with you. He wanted to be here for the birth of his first niece or nephew.”

“So he came back with us that fall?” Harm seemed really surprised.

“Yes, he stayed with you and the Colonel, and more importantly, he joined you at our house for the Christmas party.”

“Why more importantly?” Harm shifted in his seat.

“Well, sir. That’s when he and Lt. Singer slipped away from the party.”

“And?”

“I don’t know, sir. It didn’t look to us like anything had come of it, but two months later we received invitations to their wedding in two weeks.” Bud shrugged apologetically. “You were SO upset.” Bud’s humorous glint vanished at Harm’s hard glare. “Looking back, I suspect you stopped trying to talk him out of it when he told you about the baby. We didn’t realize it at the time, we just assumed you gave up. Of course, it wasn’t long before most of us put two and two together.”

“One stop shop,” Harm mumbled.

“Excuse me?”

“In my timeline, Sergei and Singer hooked up before Singer deployed to replace you on the Seahawk. Sergei referred to it as a one stop shop.”

“Lt. Singer never replaced me on the Seahawk. Commander Turner did at first, then Commander Manetti replaced him.” Bud suddenly got a puzzled look on his face. “Did you say, one stop shop?”

“I think that was Russian for one night stand.” Normally, Harm would have chuckled at that if it didn’t mean Lauren was now his sister in law. “So then what?”

“It was a small ceremony followed by a reception at your house. Everyone seemed to have a good time.” Bud noticed Harm rolling his eyes. “Well, it was a nice wedding, sir. And they really did seem happy. From what I’ve noticed through the years, Sergei seems to really… ‘understand’ Lauren, and she seems to… ‘appreciate’ that.”

“What about her goal to be the first female JAG? How come she hasn’t clawed her way to Chief of Staff?” Harm wasn’t sure what to make of this yet.

“That’s hard to do if you resign your commission,” Bud shrugged.

“She resigned!” Harm hadn’t meant to shout, but this surprised him more than Tiner and Rene.

“Shortly after the baby was born. I don’t think she found military life conducive to raising a child in the style she wanted to.” Bud hoped he hadn’t overstepped his bounds.

“So where is she now?”

“She’s a junior partner at Roth, Findley, and Chesterton.”

Harm let out a long whistle. “Ooh, swimming with the big fish.”

“Yes, sir. They have a VERY nice house not too far from you. Apparently, Lauren wanted to buy near Georgetown, but Sergei insisted on staying close enough that the boys would be in the same school.”

“And Sergei won, I’m impressed.” Harm was going to have to reconsider his attitude towards Sergei and Lauren.

“I mean it, sir. I think they’re happy. They’re… well suited to each other.”

“The photos at home imply we’re all close.” Harm hoped it was more than just an appearance.

“You are. The boys are like two peas in a pod. They get along great and spend a good deal of time with each other. Not always at your house either. You and Sergei are very similar in that way. Very hands on kind of fathers, despite your busy schedules. And Lauren, she loves being related to the ‘Chief Special Advisor to the Secretary of Defense’. She’s been known to use that to her advantage a time or two.” Bud had to chuckle. Mrs. Lt. Singer Zhukov Rabb had mellowed, but not all of the old Singer had faded away.

“That reminds me, Sergei goes by the name Rabb now,” Bud interjected.

“He does?” Harm didn’t think he could be more surprised.

“Your mother insisted,” Bud shrugged.

“My mother? She wasn’t too happy with the idea of Sergei in my world.” Harm’s eyebrows were practically touching the ceiling.

“Well, here, she was cradling your son in her arms the day he was born, when she looked up at Sergei and said, and I quote because Harriet and I were standing next to you, ‘Frank has always loved Harm as his own son. His love for me never begrudged me loving another man first. I don’t see any reason why this should be any different. My love for your father should never begrudge him loving another woman after me.’ She handed Mac the baby, smiled, and said, ‘you really should use your father’s name if you’re going to live in this country.’ Then, calm as could be, she went downstairs and bought everyone a celebratory cappuccino.”

“Wow.” Harm sat back, truly impressed with his mom and the bond they’d all formed.

Bud waited to see if Harm had any more questions for him before venturing to change the subject.

“Sir, are you sure you don’t want me to look into the possibilities of what’s happened to you?”

“Bud, my money is still on: I’m going to wake up any minute and this will all, including this conversation, have been a wonderful dream.”

“But, sir, there are so many possibilities. You could have indeed found some kind of black hole, doorway if you prefer, through the … you know what.” There was no way he was actually going to say space - time continuum.”

“Bud.” A slightly patronizing tone was evident in his voice. Still, he couldn’t help but think it would be nice to understand what happened.

“I’ve read of a theory that there is an infinite number of alternate realities. Some of the realities or alternate universes could be almost identical, some drastically different. That would explain why so much is the same in your two worlds and yet different. I mean, sir, do you realize you could even have been abducted by aliens! Maybe they beamed up all the Harmon Rabbs in parallel realities and accidentally switched the two from this world and yours, putting you back in the wrong bodies,” Bud rambled excitedly.

“All the Harmon Rabbs? Bud…”

“You could be the final proof people have been looking for that there really is intelligent life in another galaxy somewhere!” Bud continued rambling, undeterred by Harm’s lack of enthusiasm.

“How intelligent could they be if they put us in the wrong bodies?” Harm couldn’t resist interjecting the obvious.

“Good point, sir. But still…”

“But still nothing, Bud. As far as I’m concerned this is all a dream and I’m just going to enjoy it while it lasts. Thanks for the help.” Harm took a second to make sure Bud was powering down. “Don’t be surprised, though, if you get a phone call now and then asking for a little more background.” This was going to be a lot easier now that he had Bud as an ally.

“Yes, sir.” Bud replied, obviously deflated.

Harm sat back taking a few minutes to process the information Bud had given him, without the science fiction addendum. His mind ran through a list of all the questions he’d had the last few days. He was pretty sure he’d covered all of them when another thought popped into his head.

“What ever happened to Clayton Webb?”

 

Chapter 8

 

“Nothing,” Bud shrugged nonchalantly.

“Bud. What’s Webb doing now?” Harm was definitely getting tired.

“Oh, yes, sir. He’s with the CIA.”

“BUD.”

“Sorry, sir.” Bud was also showing signs of tiring. This conversation was draining for both of them. “You said before that he and the Colonel had gone undercover in Paraguay together?”

Harm nodded.

“Although he was assigned to South America,” Bud affirmed, “I’m not sure if it was Paraguay or not. Classified, you know.” Bud rolled his eyes at Harm. Neither one of them was very fond of the CIA’s tendency to hide everything under the blanket heading of ‘classified.’

“I doubt seriously anything about Sadik’s life changed because Mac and I got married.” Harm commented, more to himself than Bud.

“I wouldn’t know about that, but I do know that whatever Webb did, he did it with an MI6 agent named Elizabeth Carson, not the Colonel. I don’t believe the Colonel has helped out in any of Webb’s schemes since you’ve been married. Whatever did happen in South America though, apparently built a bond between Webb and Elizabeth similar to the one you described between him and the Colonel.”

“Why is that?” Harm interrupted.

“They were married six months ago,” Bud stated matter of factly.

“Was he ever tortured?” Harm hesitated to ask.

“I wouldn’t really have any way of knowing that, but when he did return from South America to introduce us all to Elizabeth, he looked fine. He actually looked...human. You know, like a normal guy in love.” Bud already regretted his choice of words.

“Gunny didn’t go to South America with Webb, did he?”

“Not that I know of.” Bud was trying unsuccessfully to silently follow Harm’s train of thought. “What are you thinking, sir?”

“If Gunny wasn’t undercover working for Webb, and Mac didn’t go in as Webb’s pregnant wife, then there was no marine left behind for Mac and Webb to rescue.”

“Which means no one was captured and tortured,” Bud finished for him.

“Exactly, Elizabeth and Webb must have just gotten chummy playing the happy couple.” Harm was actually pleased, not that he had reason to be jealous of Webb now, but Webb had been a good friend in his own way, and Harm didn’t wish torture on his worst enemy.

“Then why didn’t Webb die, or not die, in that storm you mentioned?” Bud interjected.

“Without the torture, he probably wasn’t so fixated on Sadik and his cohorts. At least, that’s all I can assume.” Some things were just easier to understand than others.

Harm hadn’t realized how many hours had passed since they began talking. His brain was ready for a short repose. Resting his head back against the seat, he closed his eyes. The next thing he knew, Bud was tapping his shoulder.

“Sir, we’re getting ready to land. You need to fasten your seatbelt.” Bud pointed with his eyes to the unfastened restraint.

From the moment he stepped into the terminal, Harm’s eyes scanned over the tops of the crowds until his eyes fell on the one person he’d been looking for. Susie was hanging on one hip, while Matt squirmed intently, his foot toying with some unknown object on the floor despite his beautiful, brown eyed mother’s unwillingness to release her hold on his hand.

Glancing at Harriet a few feet away chasing after AJ, Harm couldn’t help but remember something he’d once heard about having three children: ‘you’re always one arm or one parent short.’ By the time he and Bud made it to their respective wives, Harriet had all three children corralled and waiting for their father.

Whisking Matt up into his arm, Harm enveloped his wife and daughter with his other arm, a heartfelt attempt at a group hug. Kissing each one on the cheek, “I missed you guys. Very much,” Harm whispered to his family between kisses.

Matt and the Roberts’ children were jabbering away nonstop, shuffling about as the two families walked out to the parking lot. Harm took in the surrounding scene as though he were admiring a Rembrandt painting. This sudden picture of domesticity was everything he had ever really wanted in his life. Noisy traffic and all.

When Mac squeezed his hand tightly, Harm realized she’d been talking to him. “I’m sorry. Long flight, I think I’m fading. What did you say?”

“I said you and I have a few things to talk about when we get home.” Mac’s eyebrows were raised in frustration.

Harm wasn’t sure, but he thought he was about to have his first taste of marital discord.

It was well past the kid’s bedtimes when they finally made it through the front door. Having some practice at picking Harm up at the airport late at night, Mac had bathed and dressed the children for bed before leaving the house. All they had to do was carry the two sleeping children into the house, remove their coats and slippers, and tuck them into bed.

Not sure what to expect, Harm turned to Mac in the hallway. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Yeah, that would be nice.” Mac smiled appreciatively and followed Harm down to the kitchen.

Whatever he’d done, it couldn’t be as bad as it sounded at the airport or she wouldn’t be smiling at him now. Would she? Maybe this being married wasn’t as easy as he’d thought.

“Sturgis called me at work the morning you left on assignment. He wanted to know how you were feeling.” Mac turned to pull two mugs from the cupboard.

“Why would he do that?” Harm asked, filling the kettle with water.

“I assumed he was checking on how you survived alone with the kids. He said something about your head not being as hard as you think it is and he was glad to see that maybe that thick skull of yours came in handy for something else.” Mac opened a small white canister and removed two tea bags.

Harm shifted to face his wife. “What did you say to him?”

“I said, ‘you know Harm, he thinks he can do it all. Never asks for any help.’ That’s when Sturgis said, ‘well, I’m glad he called me Friday night. I was happy to help’.”

All the color drained from Harm’s face. He had no idea what he and Sturgis had done Friday night, he didn’t wake up in this world until Saturday, and he just knew what Mac’s next question would be: What happened with the kids that he needed to call on Sturgis, a bachelor, for help? At least, that’s what he was wondering.

“Anyhow, I thanked him for being there for you, chatted about a few different things, which reminds me, he and Varese are coming for dinner Saturday night.” Mac took the two mugs with the tea bags over to the table.

Harm was thanking his lucky stars she hadn’t asked him any details about that Friday night.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Mac asked, now seated at the table.

“Tell you what?” He should have known better than to think he was that lucky. Harm had no idea how he was going to get out of this.

“About the Friday night before I came home, and the car.” Mac was hoping he had a good reason for hiding this from her, though she couldn’t think of one. Harm had always told her everything, at least as far as she knew.

“What car?” He may not have remembered Friday night, but on Monday he’d driven the vette to work and watched Mac drive off in the van.

“The Lexus.” Mac was trying to stay calm, but she was beginning to lose patience.

“I still have the Lexus?” Harm let slip.

“Apparently, not.” Mac said somewhat cynically.

“What do you mean, apparently?” It was bad enough he was on unsure footing, this double talk wasn’t helping.

“Petty Officer Smythe called me today to tell me the garage where you had the Lexus towed called to tell you the frame is bent, but the insurance company adjuster wouldn’t total the car. What did you want him to do?” Mac was about to rail into Harm when the whistle sounded on the kettle.

Harm turned off the gas and carried the kettle over to where Mac was sitting. As he slowly poured the water, his mind rushed through his options. He still had the Lexus, and he or someone he knew, was obviously in some sort of accident with it. Accident! Red lights started flashing in his head. Had he been in an accident that Friday night?

“Aren’t you going to tell me what happened?” Mac practically screamed.

Walking over to set the kettle down on the stove, Harm turned slowly towards Mac. Looking directly into her eyes, he whispered, “I don’t know what happened.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Mac suddenly felt numb. What kind of an answer was that? What did he mean he didn’t know? Desperately trying to read his almost icy stare, Mac realized she believed him.

“We got a bill the other day from the daycare for the extra three hours Friday night. I just assumed court had run late, or some other work related event had presented itself. When I heard from Petty Officer Smythe, I started putting two and two together. Harriet’s comments about your odd behavior Saturday morning, Sturgis’ strange conversation about your head, and why you drove the vette to work in the middle of January.”

“Why wouldn’t I drive the vette in January?” The comment was a knee jerk reaction, one Harm regretted the minute he saw Mac’s jaw tighten. He’d seen that look too often just before she exploded. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking,” he tried to appease.

“Harm, what’s going on?” Mac’s jaw slackened and her eyes filled with worry.

Taking the seat next to her, Harm reached over and took her hand in his.

“I honestly do not remember.” Harm debated how much of this mess did he really want to tell her. Bud was an easy mark, she might have him committed.

“Amnesia?”

“I... I hadn’t thought of that?” His eyes opened wide with the possibilities. Did he have amnesia? Was there a legitimate, scientific reason for his new world?

“What do you remember?” Mac asked, her voice dripping with concern.

Taking a deep breath and letting it out very slowly, “Nothing after Sydney.”

“Australia!” A cold fear gripped her heart.

“Yes,” Harm nodded.

“Do you remember proposing to me on the Ferry the night before we left?”

Harm shook his head no.

“The wedding?”

His head continued shaking.

“Matt, Susie?” Her voice was getting desperate. Harm just continued shaking his head.

“That’s why you didn’t know about making lunch, and didn’t want to take the kids to school. You didn’t know where to go.” Her eyes opened wider. “You really didn’t know we have a third car?” Mac was completely horrified.

“No, when there was only one car in the two car garage, I checked the single garage next to it. Knowing how much the vette means to me, I just assumed I was the one who didn’t want to park it near all the junk in there. It never occurred to me there was a missing third car.”

“All the photo albums on the table?”

“I was trying to find out what I had missed out on.” Harm’s heart sank to his stomach at the look of shear terror that had flickered across his wife’s face. He had to tell her the truth, he knew her husband would never have lied to her, not about anything, and certainly not about this.

Harm reached forward to wrap his arms around his wife, wanting to erase all the pain he’d just brought upon them. Before he could pull her close, she jumped up out of the seat.

“I’m calling Sturgis.”

Harm watched Mac hit the speaker phone button, viciously stabbing at the defenseless numbers on the apparatus.

“Turner,” Sturgis’ deep voice resounded through the room.

“Sorry to call so late, I hope I’m not disturbing you?” Mac tried to maintain a calm tone of voice

“No, not at all. What’s up?” Sturgis inquired.

“We’re a little sketchy on what happened the Friday night you helped Harm,” she continued.

“I’m not surprised. I tried to get him to let the ambulance take him to the hospital,” Sturgis responded.

“Ambulance?” Mac’s face flushed a lovely shade of green as another wave of sheer terror washed over her.

“When I first got there, he was pretty shaken up, he had a hard time answering questions for the paramedics. Do you know he actually told them Ronal Reagan was the president?” Sturgis chuckled softly.

Harm pulled a chair over to the counter, convinced if Mac didn’t sit down she would fall down. He had to forcibly nudge her shoulders, but she finally acquiesced, almost stumbling into the chair.

“By the time the police arrived, and the wreckers arrived, and the other driver’s mother arrived, it had been a couple of hours and he was a bit more lucid. At least he remembered who the correct president was.” Harm and Mac could hear the humor in his voice.

“Driver’s mother?” Mac asked.

“Yeah, the driver was only seventeen, they needed an adult to sign some releases for not taking her to the hospital, and instructions for where to tow the car.”

“Was anyone else hurt?” Harm asked this time.

“No, the girl was more scared about having hit you, it was her fault. She was looking to her right trying to get across traffic and drove directly in front you. I suspect it could have been a lot worse if it weren’t for those pilot reflexes of yours.”

“You’re sure she was okay?” Harm asked again.

“Yeah. This sounds like your recollections are less than just sketchy. What’s going on?” The concern in Sturgis’ voice was clear.

“Harm doesn’t remember anything at all,” Mac managed to say.

“I can understand why. It was quite a crash, both airbags went off. The young girl wasn’t wearing a coat and her forearms were scratched and burned from her airbag. The cars were crunched. The front end of the Lexus was in pieces. I’m sure he had at least a concussion, that’s why I stayed with him until almost six in the morning.”

“You were here till six?” Harm asked, clearly surprised.

“Yeah buddy. You seemed better as the evening progressed, but I thought I should at least make sure you didn’t pass out, or have seizures or something. You didn’t kill me for waking you up every two hours, so I concluded all was well. I’d have stayed longer, but I had to be at Norfolk Saturday morning for that judicial conference. That’s why I couldn’t check on you till Tuesday.”

“Thanks, Sturgis. Thank you,” Mac repeated.

“I hope I helped,” Sturgis responded, his voice still a little wary.

“You did. Give our love to Varese. See you Saturday,” Mac said into the phone before pressing the disconnect button.

“WOW. This sure explains a lot of things.” Harm dragged his hand across his chin and took a seat at the table. Laughing quietly, he looked up at Mac.

“You know, Bud is going to be awfully disappointed if I haven’t been abducted by aliens.”

Even Mac couldn’t help but smile at that comment. “What?” she sputtered.

“He thinks one of the reason’s I remember a different life these last five years is I might have been abducted by aliens and they accidentally switched my body with another Harmon Rabb.” Harm raised his brow in amusement.

“A different life? You remember a different life?” The color was washing out of her face again.

Standing up, Harm reached out, extending his hand to his wife.

“Come on, let’s go to bed and I’ll tell you all about it.” Harm raised a corner of his mouth in a meager attempt at a smile.

“Shouldn’t we take you to the hospital or at least call a doctor, call Sidney?” Mac reluctantly took hold of his hand.

“It’s waited this long, the doctor can wait till morning.” Turning off the lights, and locking the doors, Harm escorted his wife to their room.

It had taken Harm hours to rehash all the events of the last five years in his world, and the last ten days in this one. First thing in the morning Mac called Sidney. She recommended a private neuropsychologist for Harm to see in order to keep any potentially damaging information from his record. They had managed to recount a considerably abridged version of the situation to Dr. Westdyke. The conclusion: post-traumatic retrograde amnesia. Harm had forgotten the start of their relationship in Sydney and everything following up to, and including, the accident.

The problem they faced was that ordinary islands of memory should have begun surfacing within 72 hours. No recollection of any kind in over a week was an indicator of severe brain damage, or in Harm’s case, an indicator that he really was in a dream world. Especially since no recorded type of amnesia included substituting different memories for lost ones.

At this point he was almost willing to believe Bud’s theory, maybe he had been abducted by incompetent aliens.

 

Chapter 9

 

When Saturday night came along, Harm and Mac were still walking on eggs. Harm felt as though he were under a microscope. Every time he did something, anything, he could sense Mac watching him, waiting for some sign of recovering his memory. He knew it was killing her knowing all the intimate details of their lives were lost to him.

Mac woke up every morning, hoping, praying he would remember any of the years they’d spent together. Harm woke up thankful he was still here, and terrified this was simply a cruel game fate had played on him and tomorrow he would wake up in his loft, alone and lonely.

Having Sturgis and Varese over for the evening was a welcome change of pace. For the first time since his return from Afghanistan a few days ago, Harm and Mac were functioning as a well oiled machine. Anyone watching would be clueless to their inner turmoil. Even they had managed, for a short while, to forget their fears.

“I have to admit, you guys always serve the best dinners. That chicken Florentine was out of this world!” Sturgis patted his tummy.

“Anybody up for coffee?” Mac asked, getting up from the table.

“Please,” Varese nodded.

“Me too,” Sturgis chorused.

“Make that three. Guess you’d better just put on a full pot,” Harm smiled, leading his guests out of the kitchen.

“YOU should not drink coffee at night.” Walking towards the living room, Sturgis waved his finger at Harm.

“Why not?” Varese wondered out loud.

“He talks too much in his sleep, add a little caffeine and Letterman would have late night competition,” Sturgis explained rather animatedly.

“What do you care? You don’t have to sleep with him.” Varese looked at Sturgis as if he’d finally lost his mind.

“Don’t believe me, ask the lovely lady.” Sturgis pointed to Mac as she joined her friends in the living room carrying a tray with cups, cream, spoons, and sugar.

“Coffee will be ready in a few minutes, and ask the lovely lady what?” Mac placed the tray on the coffee table.

“Doesn’t Harm talk too much in his sleep to drink caffeine at night?” Sturgis waved at Mac, anticipating the impending confirmation.

“He doesn’t talk in his sleep.” Mac sat in the big easy chair, giving Sturgis an odd look.

“Well, you could have fooled me.” Sturgis rolled his eyes, as if to say, ‘yeah, right’. “That night after the accident, he tossed and turned, and babbled all night long.”

“Oh, REALLY?” Mac teased. “Do tell.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Harm insisted, a slight blush rising in his ears.

“Sure it will,” Varese giggled.

“That’s right, Sturgis. You go right ahead, I’ll take notes,” Mac chuckled merrily.

“Well, he talks in fragments, so it’s hard to make out the plot, but at first, he spent a good deal of time mumbling about ‘right hand, almost engaged,’ and he often repeated, ‘she can’t marry Bugme.’ I’m still wondering what a Bugme was and why would anyone want to marry it.” Sturgis smiled at his own cleverness.

Mac and Harm both snapped their heads at hearing the name Bugme.

“There was one time when you were thrashing and waving your arms so much I had to get off the bed. You kept pulling at your throat and repeating, ‘she’s not a strong swimmer, I promised, meet you down there.’ That one was intense. When you started screaming, ‘can’t breathe, so cold’, I decided to wake you up, even if it hadn’t been two hours yet.” The humor was gone from Sturgis’ voice.

Harm was starting to feel a little lightheaded. He could remember every second of what it felt like forced under water by wave after wave, strangled first by the parachute and later by the water itself.

“Hey buddy, you okay?” Sturgis asked noticing Harm’s paled complexion.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

Deciding to move on to something less intense. “I’m not sure what you were dreaming about next, but you kept mumbling ‘I’ll be gentle, I’ll be gentle.’ And then, out of nowhere you shouted, ‘Mac watch out for the goats, kaboom.’ You actually had me laughing on that one. Something about Butch and Sundance too. I would have liked it if you hadn’t mumbled so much. That sounded like an interesting one. I don’t suppose you remember it?”

“Actually, yes. Mac and I were riding along in Afghanistan and we ran into a herd of goats.”

“You and me?” Mac interrupted, somewhat amused by the possibilities.

“During the Kabir thing. While Sturgis here was off chasing Sean Connery...”

“Hey, wait a minute. I thought we decided your playing Superman trumped my Hunt for Red October,” Sturgis chuckled, glad the conversation had taken a lighthearted turn.

“Well, according to all of us stuck stateside at NAVCOM, we definitely enjoyed your portrayal of Alec Baldwin,” Mac giggled at Sturgis, then winked knowingly at Varese.

“As I was saying...” Even though it was now clear to him that in this reality, Mac stayed stateside and only he and Sturgis wound up involved in the tribunal and hunt for Kabir, he continued with the explanation of his dream. “There was this herd of goats which forced us off the road and into a mine field and...”

“Kaboom!” Sturgis interjected.

“Yeah, that about covers it,” Harm snickered, then noticed the stricken look on Mac’s face.

Varese looked up, noticing Mac’s expression as well and opted for some distraction. “Would you like some help with the coffee?”

“Oh, no, but you’re right, it should be ready.” Mac sprang up and darted out of the room. Thoughts of the significance of Sturgis’ revelations were swimming in her head.

Harm was flustered by all Sturgis had said. He was definitely describing times in Harm’s life. When Mac was sort of engaged to Brumby, when he ejected into the ocean with Skates, and when he stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan. Had it all been a dream? Could it be his ‘real’ world was the nightmare, and this dream was his real life? But if this was his real life, why couldn’t he remember any of it?

Mac came back with a pot of coffee and began filling everyone’s cup.

“I was in a whimsical mood and picked up some Vanilla Hawaiian Mocha coffee at the specialty shop today,” Mac smiled, almost apologetically. “I hope you like it.”

“I find it hard to imagine Marine Colonel Sarah Rabb as whimsical,” Sturgis teased.

“Oh, come on, Sturg. She can’t always be a marine colonel. Surely, Sarah Rabb does whimsical stuff from time to time.” Varese turned to Harm for back up.

“Don’t look at me, I like sleeping in a bed, that sofa is lumpy,” Harm laughed, pointing with his chin to the sofa Varese and Sturgis were sitting on.

“What if I can be whimsical about more than coffee? There’s nothing wrong with that, is there dear?” Mac turned to Harm for validation.

“Oh, yes, Dear.” Harm swallowed a grin. “Especially, when you get the bright idea to paint our bedroom pink,” he grinned at his wife. Maybe the sofa wasn’t as lumpy as he thought.

“It was not pink, it was dusty rose, and I knew right away it was too ‘girly’ for a Navy Commander,” Mac huffed, while trying to stifle a laugh.

“Oh, really? Then why did I feel like I was sleeping in a powder puff for almost a month?” Harm chuckled back.

Sturgis and Varese chimed in with occasional chuckles, and giggles, enjoying the banter these two were so famous for.

“Alright, so it took me a little while to choose a not so whimsical color –but hey it’s the element of surprise that keeps you on your toes.”

“I’ll say, I’ve been on my toes ever since that last night in Sydney when you showed up in that incredible red dress, and then surprised the hell out of me by agreeing to marry me.” Harm took a sip of the coffee, “Hey, this is pretty good.”

“Why did it surprise you she agreed to marry you?” Varese asked a little confused. Why would anyone propose if they thought the answer would be no?

“Because she had just read me the riot act for being polite to some lady who dropped her purse when she walked past us,” Harm expounded.

“It wasn’t just some lady, it was a leggy blonde, and she didn’t ‘accidentally’ drop her purse at your feet, she was checking out her options. With your history with blondes, I wasn’t going to take any chances.” Mac suddenly froze, a wide-eyed look in her eyes as she put her coffee cup down on the table and turned to Harm.

“You remember?” Her voice came out so softly it was barely audible.

“Of course, I rem...” Harm stopped, looked at his friends in the room and their odd expressions, then turned to look at Mac.

“I remember, Mac.” Harm smiled broadly at his wife.

“All of it?” she prompted.

“I think so.” He nodded, standing up to move closer to her. Before he could reach where she was sitting, Mac flew into his arms, kissing him all over his face.

“Do you really remember?” she asked, almost afraid of the answer.

“I remember it all, Mac. The red dress, the walk back to the hotel, the look on the admiral’s face when he saw the ring. You coming down the aisle on his arm in a satin gown. The day you threw up on Aldridge’s shoes,” Harm chuckled.

“Yeah, he probably still remembers that too.” Mac felt as if she was suddenly floating on a cloud.

“Just how much did you forget with that bump on the head?” Sturgis asked, acutely aware of the significance of Harm’s ramblings.

“Too much, but it’s all flowing now.” Harm couldn’t stop the silly grin from exploding on his face, or his lips from descending upon his wife’s, kissing her as though they were the only two people in the room.

Within a few minutes, they were. Quietly, Sturgis and Varese set down their coffee, retrieved their coats and left quietly closing the front door behind them.

“Do you think they’ll be upset we left without saying goodbye?” Varese asked carefully maneuvering her way across the icy walk.

Turning back to look at the impassioned silhouettes of his two friends through the window.

“Nah, it’ll be a while before they even remember we were here,” Sturgis chuckled.

“Maybe you’re right.” Varese smiled knowingly, glancing at the window, then climbing into the car.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

“How?” Mac finally stopped kissing Harm to ask.

“I don’t know.” Harm thought for a minute, then he noticed they were all alone. “I think we chased our guests away.”

“Huh? Oh, dear,” Mac blushed. “I’ll have to call them in the morning and apologize.”

“Somehow, I think they’ll understand.” Harm leaned over briefly to kiss his wife again.

“What else do you remember?” Mac needed to know more.

“The day Matt was born, the christening, the first time he walked across the room to me. The day you told me you were pregnant with Susie.” The twinkle in Harm’s eyes grew as he continued to recount important events.

“How we almost didn’t get you to the hospital when she was born because you didn’t want to wake me up at three in the morning to tell me you were in labor. How when you finally woke me up at six, it was almost too late.” Harm leaned over and kissed her on the nose. His heart swelling with love and pride at all the memories of his beautiful wife and family.

“Sorry about that. I had no way of knowing I would only be in labor for four hours.” Mac leaned up and kissed his chin.

“Yes, so you’ve explained before.” Oh, it felt good to be able to say that! “I remember the day Matt carried one week old Susie down the hall when we weren’t looking, and boy do I remember our anniversary cruise last year when mom came and stayed with the kids.” The memory of the long steamy days, and even longer nights was suddenly testing Harm’s patience, more than his heart was beginning to swell.

“Why do you think you can remember it all now after so long?

“I’m not sure.” Harm considered her question, the wheels in his head spinning possibilities. “The doctor declared it post traumatic retrograde amnesia because of the minor head injury during the accident.”

Mac nodded her head yes.

“He also ruled out other possibilities because there was no psychologically traumatic event that could have triggered my memory loss.”

“Without your memory, you couldn’t know, but I assured him there wasn’t. If all the times you were targeted by Palmer, chased by nuclear warheads, or confronted by the Admiral didn’t cause any traumatic after effects, nothing the kids and I did would have.”

“Maybe the nightmares themselves were the traumatic event.” He paused a moment to let that idea sink in.

“Perhaps I was so afraid of losing what we have and winding up in that world, that my own fears prevented me from remembering the truth until Sturgis showed us my fears were nothing more than a concussion induced nightmare.” Harm shrugged his shoulder. They’d have to talk to Dr. Westdyke about this theory.

“Like hysterical amnesia?” Mac asked, carefully.

“Maybe. Does it matter? I’m back, all of me, forever.” Harm leaned in to kiss his wife when he spotted a flash of red out of the corner of his eye. A few seconds later Matt was standing at their feet tightly holding his sister’s hand. Susie sniffled in several short breaths, evidence of recent tears still resting on her cheek.

“She was crying,” he announced, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

“How did you get out of your crib?” Mac scooped her baby into her arms, completely baffled as to how she managed to escape.

“I helped her,” Matt announced proudly.

“You did?” Mac wasn’t sure if she should be upset with her son, or proud of him. “Thank you for taking care of your sister.” Proud won over.

“I think it may be time to lower the crib another notch,” Harm whispered in Mac’s ear. Even when discussing something as mundane as crib heights, the feel of his breath on her neck sent shivers down her spine.

“I think we all need to go back to bed.” Harm picked up his son who immediately folded into his chest. “I’m proud of you too, champ.” Harm kissed the top of his head. “You’re a good big brother.”

Extending his free hand for Mac to take the lead up the stairs, Harm gave her a short wink. He was finally home.

Neither of them were sure what had woken Susie up, or why no one had heard her crying besides Matt, but with a few kisses and a short story, both children were soundly asleep.

Harm was well aware of how much he loved and wanted Mac before when he thought this was something he might never know again. Now that he remembered everything, he was amazed to discover he loved and wanted her all the more.

Holding hands, they strolled back to their bedroom. Both were contented to just enjoy the normalcy of an apparently boring bedtime routine.

When they reached the door, Harm bent over and slipped his arms under her arm and knees. In one swift move, she was cradled against him and being carried over the bedroom threshold. His lips captured hers, lingering, teasing and caressing. He took his time savoring every taste, every feel. The urgent need to consume all at once was no longer there. He could love his wife slowly for the rest of his days.

Setting her down on the bed, Harm kicked off his shoes, and climbed over Mac.

“You realize, one of us is going to have to break the news to Bud that you haven’t been abducted by aliens,” Mac giggled softly, the feel of Harm’s breath teasing her neck.

“I’ll flip you for it... later.” Harm partially smiled before their lips met in a sweet caress.

Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. never returned to his nightmare life.

He and Sarah Rabb had one more child, a daughter Elizabeth. She was named after Harm’s one time RIO and friend, Elizabeth ‘Skates’ Hawkes.

Lauren gave birth to Sarah Kathleen Rabb seven months after what the family humorously referred to as the ‘alien’ ordeal. As it turned out, having Lauren Singer for a sister in law wasn’t anything like Harm had feared. The only time any trace of Lt. Witch emerged was when someone made the foolish mistake of upsetting or endangering her children. The teacher who thought David’s stories of two Uncle Harm’s indicated need for psychiatric testing was demoted to clerical work and was still answering phones for the school board twenty years later.

Matt eventually married his college sweetheart after he graduated from medical school. They had three children, all boys. Susie followed in mom and dad’s footsteps and went to law school, at Stanford. She and her husband settled not too far from Grandma Trish in La Jolla and raised two children, Harmon James, and Sarah Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the squid in the family. She graduated from Annapolis near the top of her class and went on to be a fighter pilot like her dad. Without ever trying, she managed to break all of Harm’s records, except for outrunning a nuclear missile. She even found the time to raise two sons with her marine husband. There was little doubt the Rabb genes would not be in jeopardy for some time to come.

Harm and Mac shared the house they loved so much until they retired to the family farm on his 70th birthday.

Forty-five years after what was still called the alien ordeal, all of the Rabb children and grandchildren, along with Lauren and Sergei Rabb, gathered together in Bellesville Pennsylvania to celebrate Harm and Mac’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. Among the honored guests were their dear, life long friends, Jennifer Galindez, the Roberts, the Turners, and the Webbs.

 

The End

 

 


Author’s notes – hey if it worked for Dallas and Newhart- Why not me?

For those of you too young to remember…

After having been killed off two seasons ago, Bobby Ewing of the TV show Dallas was shown in the opening shot of the season premiere taking a shower, much to the shock of his wife Pam, making the entire previous horrible season a dream.

At the end of his Newhart series, Bob Newhart woke up in bed with his wife, Suzanne Pleshette, from a previous series the Bob Newhart show making the entire TV show Newhart a dream. It was hilarious.

At the end of the last episode of Quantum Leap – a short blurb was rolled before the credits: Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home…

 

 

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