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Chapter Three—"Candle in the Window"

...And even as I wander, I'm keeping you in sight You're a candle in the window on a cold, dark winter's night And I'm getting closer than I ever thought I might...

"Can't Fight This Feeling" performed by REO Speedwagon, copyright 1984.


 


1245 ZULU
THE MALL
WASHINGTON D.C.

After spending a few more emotional moments in silence at the Vietnam Memorial, Harm had suggested a walk around the Mall and Mac had readily agreed. She knew Harm had taken a big step emotionally today and she was perfectly willing to let him set the pace in their relationship. She had waited too long for this—they both had—to make him uncomfortable by pushing him too far too fast. Now that she knew for sure how he felt about her, she knew she could afford to be patient, to let him find his way.

"Hey, you're very quiet over there," Harm commented as they walked close together, their hands occasionally brushing, up Constitution Avenue towards the Capitol building. Harm wanted to take her hand, but they were still in uniform, so a certain amount of decorum did need to be maintained.

Mac smiled as she looked up at him, a brilliant smile that lit up Harm's heart and soul. "Just thinking," she replied.

"Good thoughts I hope," he teased as his hand brushed against hers, sending a spark of electricity through them both.

Mac wrapped her fingers around his for an all too brief moment, not quite ready to let go of the heat of his touch, then dropped her hand. "Hmmm. The best," she answered dreamily. "About this incredibly handsome Navy Commander who finally got his head out of his six and decided that he loves me."

How could one man be so lucky? Harm thought. After nearly 37 years of wandering alone through life, he had found everything he could ever have hoped and dreamed for right in front of him. "I hope this Commander realizes what a special thing he has and takes care of you and loves you the way you deserve."

"Well," Mac answered, a seductive grin on her face, "I think he did a pretty good job of that last night."

Harm's face lit up in a sexy grin that made Mac go weak in the knees as he remembered the incredible night of love they had shared. "It was his pleasure," he said softly. "And he plans on taking care of you and loving you like that for a long time to come."

What had she been so worried about? Mac asked herself. Harm did not appear to be having any problems moving full speed ahead with their relationship. "A girl could get spoiled with all this care and loving," she replied, a gleam in her eyes as she considered the possibility of many more nights like the one they had just experienced. "I just hope he's up to the challenge."

Harm laughed. She was a bold one, his feisty jarhead. This was definitely a challenge he would enjoy taking on. "I think he can handle it," was his reply as he looked into her eyes and saw all the love he had denied himself for all these years.

Mac laughed as she hooked her arm in his. "Good, because now you can meet the challenge of feeding your hungry Marine, flyboy," she teased as she pulled him towards an ice cream cart just up the sidewalk.

Harm shook his head. "You and your stomach," he commented as he followed her lead.

She punched him playfully as she retorted, "Hey, I didn't get any dinner last night. Or did you forget that?"

"I don't recall hearing you complain at the time," he joked, ducking slightly as she threatened to punch him again. "And you want ice cream at nine in the morning?"

"I want food," she pouted. "Are you going to feed me or not?"

Laughing, Harm waited patiently while she looked at the poster on the side of the cart, pondering her choice. After a moment, she told the vendor, "I'll take two ice cream sandwiches."

Harm shook his head as he fished some money out of his pocket. She has the strangest eating habits, he thought. "I'll take one, too," he said, holding out his money.

The vendor handed over the three sandwiches as he took Harm's money. Mac grabbed a few napkins before they walked off, Harm handing her two of the sandwiches. Mac unwrapped one and took a bite. "Mmmm, good," she said, licking a dollop of ice cream off her lips.

Harm felt his breath catch in his throat as he watched her, wishing they weren't in such a public place so that he could taste the ice cream on her lips. He tried to force the thought from his mind as he unwrapped his own sandwich and took a bite. Not bad, even if it was a little early in the day for ice cream.

They continued their walk up Constitution Avenue, stealing glances at each other as they ate, both of their minds wandering down highly erotic roads as they imagined licking the ice cream off each other.

"Hot today," Mac commented idly. God, she wanted to get him out of here. His place, her place, she didn't care at this point. She just wanted.

"Very," he replied, both of them aware that they were not discussing the weather. Harm finished his sandwich and tossed the wrapper in a nearby waste bin as Mac tossed the wrapper to her first sandwich away and began on her second. "We need to get out of here," he added, causing Mac's heart to leap into her throat.

"Yes," she breathed as they did an about face and headed back towards the Washington Monument, where they had parked earlier. They forced themselves to keep a calm, steady pace, not drawing attention to themselves, even as their hearts were racing in anticipation of what was to come.

"Harm, Mac," a familiar voice called out to them. Startled out of their seductive thoughts, they saw Congresswoman Bobbi Latham heading in their direction, another woman at her side.

"Good morning, Bobbi," Harm greeted her as she reached them. "It's been a while."

"You know how it is up on the Hill," Bobbi answered. "Harm, Mac, this is my colleague on the House Armed Services Committee, Congresswoman Beth Jamison. Beth, this is Commander Harmon Rabb and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie from the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps."

Beth held out her hand and first Mac then Harm shook it. "Bobbi has spoken very highly of both of you," she told them. "Especially you, Commander. She said you were really the driving force behind uncovering the truth a few years back behind that saran gas incident during the Gulf War."

Mac tried to remain calm. She knew Bobbi had once been attracted to Harm. Hell, she probably still was. After all, a woman would have to be dead not to be attracted to the tall, handsome Navy Commander. Despite the rationalization, Mac couldn't help the slight twinge of jealousy in her heart.

"It was important for the Marines involved that the truth come to light," Harm replied, surreptitiously squeezing Mac's hand, sensing the direction her thoughts were headed. "I was just happy to play a part in making that happen."

"From what Bobbi has told me, Commander," Beth commented, "you're not really the modest type. You surprise me."

"I was just doing my job, Congresswoman," he replied shrugging, trying to resist the urge to be rude and cut the conversation short and take off with Mac. Why did they have to run into someone they knew? Why right now, of all times?

"Actually," Mac interjected, teasing. "He is being more modest than usual. He's usually quite arrogant."

"She knows you too well, Harm," Bobbi joked, watching the undercurrents flowing between the two officers. She had always thought there was something between those two. Maybe she was right after all.

Harm laughed, glad that Mac seemed to have tempered her initial reaction. "Much too well, I think sometimes," he replied. "As well as I know her. And on that note, we probably should get going before I have an angry, hungry Marine on my hands."

Bobbi and Beth laughed at the joke. "Have a good Memorial Day, you two," Bobbi said as Harm and Mac continued their walk towards Harm's SUV.

"What's up with those two?" Beth asked, watching the two officers leave.

"I don't think anyone's ever figured that one out," Bobbie replied, "least of all them." If only she knew how untrue that statement now was.

1415 ZULU
HARM RABB'S APARTMENT
NORTH OF UNION STATION
WASHINGTON D.C.

Harm pressed Mac against the door, shutting it with a bang as his hands moved possessively over her body, their mouths fused, drinking hungrily of each other. The fifteen minute drive from the Mall had been the longest of their lives as they fought a losing battle to keep their hands off each other, finally giving up the fight in the elevator up to Harm's apartment, their hands boldly caressing each other through their uniforms as the elevator slowly ascended, their mouths and tongues meeting in a frantic dance. They had managed to maintain their kiss, Harm's hands leaving Mac's body only long enough to fumble with the key in the lock and to push the door open.

Mac groaned as Harm's body molded against hers, his arousal pressed against her abdomen as his hands moved between them to swiftly unfasten the buttons of her uniform jacket then her blouse. "Harm," she pleaded against his mouth as his hands moved over her bared skin before cupping her breasts still encased in cream-colored lace, his thumbs flicking over the hardened peaks. Then his mouth was on one breast as his hands pushed her jacket and blouse down her arms, his fingers fumbling with the buttons at each wrist before he was able to push the clothing off.

His mouth moved to her other breast, tugging at the bronze nipple through the lace as his hands moved behind her, unfastening her bra's clasp, his mouth leaving her body only long enough for her bra to join her other clothes on the floor.

Mac's questing fingers found the buttons on his white uniform jacket, marveling that she could have ever declared dress whites and gold wings to be overrated, running her fingers over the wings on his chest before pushing the jacket off him. Harm stepped back from her as she pulled his t-shirt over his head, tossing it on the floor behind him as she wrapped her arms around him, pressing her breasts against his bare chest as his hands moved behind her again to slide down the zipper of her skirt, pushing it down her hips and to the floor.

She stepped out of the skirt and kicked off her shoes as his fingers slid under her panties, finding her center wet and ready for him. Mac balanced herself by clutching his shoulders as he slid first one finger, then another inside her, biting back a groan of his own as he felt her muscles tighten around him, imagining that it was his shaft that her sheath was tightening around. Unlike last night, he found he didn't want to drag this out, he needed to be inside her now.

Mac was growing more impatient herself as her hands roamed over his bare torso, coming to rest on the button of his pants. She tugged the button free then slid the zipper down, her fingers following to caress his arousal through his boxers. "Harm, now," she insisted as she began pushing him towards his bedroom.

They weren't going to make it that far, Harm knew, the fire threatening to consume them. Lifting Mac up, he set her on a bar stool before stepping back to remove his shoes and the rest of his clothes She leaned back against the kitchen counter, clutching the edge with her hands as he lifted her hips slightly to remove her panties before moving to stand between her spread legs, the tip of his shaft brushing against her slick heat.

Mac wrapped her legs around his waist, guiding him inside her, shuttering as she released a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding, biting back moans of pleasure as he began thrusting inside her, his pace frantic as neither one held back their desperate desire to consume each other.

Harm let himself go with a strangled cry against her throat, spilling himself inside of her and collapsing against her as she let out her own harsh cry of release. As their racing hearts gradually slowed and their breathing returned to normal, they both wondered silently if they could ever get enough of this, of each other.

1900 ZULU
HARM RABB'S APARTMENT
NORTH OF UNION STATION
WASHINGTON D.C.

Somehow, although both would swear that they didn't know how, they managed to make their way to the bedroom, collapsing into each others' arms for a short nap before awakening to make love again, the second time slow and tender.

Still shuddering from their second go around, Mac snuggled into his arms, resting her head above his rapidly beating heart. "A girl could definitely get used to this," she commented idly as her fingers traced circles over the firm muscles of his chest and stomach.

"You're not the only one," he chuckled as he wrapped his arms tighter around her. If truth be told, he would be content to lay here with her in his arms forever. But there was still so much they had to work out, together.

Mac took a deep breath and echoed his thoughts. "There's so much for us to discuss, though," she remarked. "So many issues that we need to work out."

"Brumby," Harm stated.

"Yeah," Mac replied. "I never wanted to hurt him, but I'm afraid it will, no matter how much I try to soften the blow. Of course, there's also Renee."

Harm laughed, "Who actually is a non-issue." At Mac's confused look, he added, "We broke up Saturday, quite amicably. I'll fill you in on the details later. I think you'll find it quite amusing."

Mac didn't think so, but she let the comment slide. "And work," she added. "This could have a huge impact on our careers."

"I can't imagine having to face you in court, especially if I keep coming back in my mind to where that tattoo of yours is," he teased as his hand moved down her body to caress the spot.

Mac playfully swatted him. "Cute, squid," she retorted, then sobered. "All kidding aside, there are some real issues there, which is why," she paused, taking a deep breath, "I think we should keep this quiet for the time being. As much as I want to shout it from the rooftops that I am in love with Harmon Rabb, Jr., I think we need to make sure we are fully prepared to face the consequences before we go public with our relationship."

"You're reading my mind, Sarah," he replied, sending a shiver through her at the use of her first name. "I want to shout it too, but I agree that it is best to wait, at the very least until after we have carefully considered all the issues involved. I do think one of the first things we should think about is how to inform the Admiral."

Mac agreed, "He's done so much for us, for our careers. It's only fair that he be informed so that he can be prepared to deal with any fallout. But we can think about that later."

"As I said last night," Harm replied, "we've got all the time in the world."

0915 ZULU
SARAH MACKENZIE'S APARTMENT
GEORGETOWN
WASHINGTON D.C.

Mac returned from taking Jingo for his morning walk to find Harm, already dressed in his uniform, at the stove making breakfast. She walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around him. "Good morning, sleepyhead," she greeted him.

Harm turned his head to look at her as he flipped the omelet he was making in the frying pan. "You know, you could have woken me," he said. "We could have taken Jingo for a walk together."

"Together," Mac said wistfully. "You know, I could get used to that word. And to all this ... falling asleep in your arms, waking up lying next to you, you making me breakfast ... "

"I never figured you for the mushy, sentimental type," he teased as he took the pan off the stove and slid the omelet onto a plate already waiting on the counter.

"What can I say," she sighed as he turned to face her, wrapping his arms around her and kissing the top of her head. "You have turned me into a hopeless romantic."

"I think I could really enjoy getting to know this new side to Sarah Mackenzie," he said as they walked over to the table. Harm held out a chair for Mac, then placed the omelet in front of her.

"Aren't you having any?" she asked as he went back into the kitchen.

Harm returned a few seconds later carrying a glass of what looked like a milkshake. She wrinkled her nose as a look of disgust crossed her face. "I don't think I want to know what is in that."

Harm laughed. This wasn't the first derogatory comment she had made about his healthy eating habits. Nor would it be the last. "Just lots of stuff that is good for me," he told her. "You should try it sometime."

"I don't think so," she said emphatically, taking a bite of the omelet. "Mmmm. This is good. Much better than Harm's meatless meatloaf."

"Hey!" he retorted in mock indignation, then he sobered suddenly. "I was thinking while you were out. Have you thought about how you are going to tell Brumby?"

Mac looked down at her omelet, pushing it around on her plate with her fork. She had spent a lot of time on her morning walk thinking about that very subject, when she hadn't been thinking about the man waiting for her back in her bed, that is. "I was going to call him later today," she admitted, "see if he will meet me at McMurphy's after work. I just don't know what I'm going to say."

"Would you like me to go with you?" he asked, concerned.

Mac shook her head sadly. "As much as I would love to have your support, I don't think that's really a good idea. I don't want you two to beat each other up again on my account." She put her hand on his arm and smiled at him. "I do appreciate the concern, but this is something that I really need to handle on my own."

Harm covered her hand with his other hand and squeezed gently. "Just remember I'll be here for you when you need me," he said.

"I know," Mac answered, leaning over to kiss him. "I know."

1055 ZULU
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

"So, can you get away for lunch?" Mac asked as Harm turned his SUV into the parking lot at JAG Headquarters, both of them saluting the Marine guard at the gate. "I need to go buy a new tire so that I can finally get rid of that flat on my car."

"What, you don't like riding into work with me?" Harm teased.

Mac laughed. "Coming into work together every morning and leaving together every night isn't exactly keeping quiet about our relationship," she reminded him.

"Oh, yeah, we did say we were going to keep quiet, didn't we?" Harm sighed as he pulled into his parking space. He turned off the ignition and leaned back in his seat. "The logistics of this are going to be a lot harder than we thought."

"I think it will be kind of fun," Mac commented, her tone light and teasing, "sneaking around to see each other, carrying on a mad, passionate affair behind everyone's backs."

Harm shook his head, chuckling as they got out of the car. "I don't know about you sometimes, Marine."

"It's a good thing to keep men guessing," Mac retorted, a mischievous gleam in her eyes.

Harm was about to reply when he saw Bud and Harriet approaching them out of the corner of his eye. "So what time did you want to go pick up that new tire for your car?" he asked her, raising his voice slightly for their friends' benefit.

Mac looked at him, startled, then turned slightly and saw the other couple approaching. Playing it up, she replied, "How about 1100 hours? Does that work for you?"

"Works for me," he told her as Bud and Harriet stopped in front of them. "Good morning, Bud, Harriet."

"Good morning, Sir, Ma'am," Harriet answered enthusiastically, while she eyed her friends, looking for any sign of hope for the two of them. Bud echoed her greeting while his wife added, "Thank you for coming to the park with us Sunday. It really meant a lot to us and to little AJ."

"It was our pleasure," Harm answered. "Any opportunity to spoil our little godson."

"Yes," Mac added, "it seems that we haven't been able to do that much lately."

"How about spending some more time with your godson?" Harriet asked, making a spur of the moment decision, as the foursome walked into the building. "Bud and I were thinking of going to a movie Friday night. If you don't have other plans, how would you two like to watch AJ?"

Bud was about to interject that they hadn't made any plans for a movie until Harriet surreptitiously elbowed him, effectively quieting him before he could say something that would ruin her plan. Bud smiled at Harm and Mac while promising himself that he would have a long talk with his matchmaking wife later.

Harm and Mac looked at each other and shrugged. "We'd be delighted," Harm answered for both of them. "Enjoy yourselves at the movies."

Harriet forced herself to refrain from jumping up and down for joy, which would have been near-impossible given her pregnancy, but she was definitely thrilled about this development. "Thank you very much, Sir, Ma'am," she told them. "This really means a lot to me and Bud." And someday you will thank me for this, too, she promised silently.

Harm and Mac headed for their respective offices while Bud practically dragged his wife into his. Harm turned to look back at Mac before entering his office, his eyebrow raised. "She was a little transparent out there, wasn't she?" Harm commented.

"Just a little," Mac replied, "but I don't mind at all. Not at all."

In Bud's office, Harriet was standing patiently in front of his desk, a satisfied grin on her face while Bud paced nervously behind his chair. "I can't believe you just did that," he said, shaking his head. "What possessed you?"

"Oh, Bud," Harriet responded, sighing. Men could be so obtuse sometimes, she thought. "Didn't you notice?"

"Notice what, honey?"

"The Colonel," Harriet answered excitedly. "She's no longer wearing Commander Brumby's ring!"

1505 ZULU
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

Harriet had gone outside for lunch right at 1100 hours, so she had seen Harm and Mac leave together a few minutes later. Harriet smiled as she watched the two of them brush hands as they walked to Harm's SUV. Obviously, they weren't going to need to much of a nudge into each other's arms, she thought as she took a bite of her sandwich. She watched them until they drove out of the parking lot, then turned to find Carolyn Imes standing over her, holding a lunch tray from the cafeteria in her hands.

"Mind if I join you, Lieutenant?" Carolyn asked, indicating the empty seat next to Harriet.

"Go ahead, Commander," Harriet replied. "Bud's working through lunch, researching his new case, so I could use the company."

"So, Harriet," Carolyn began as she took a sip of her coffee. "Did you notice Harm and Mac at the ball Friday night?"

Harriet smiled. Maybe she could convince Carolyn to join her as a co-conspirator. "You mean that dance they shared?"

Carolyn nodded. "Exactly. Sometimes I wonder how two people so smart can be so stupid at the same time," she commented.

"My thoughts exactly," Harriet agreed. "But did you notice the Colonel's hand this morning?"

Carolyn shook her head, then began to smile as understanding dawned. "She took off the ring?"

"Yes," Harriet responded, excited. "We talked about the ring once, and I said that it helped if you were sure. She wasn't sure that Commander Brumby was the one. How could she be? It's so obvious that she has strong feelings for Commander Rabb."

"You know," Carolyn added conspiratorially, "I once asked Mac what he was like, well, you know. She insisted that nothing had ever happened between them. But I could see the look in her eyes, the one that said that maybe nothing had happened yet, but she would definitely like it to."

"Well," Harriet said, lowering her voice to almost a whisper, "Bud and I had a little family day at Rock Creek Park Sunday and invited them along, as AJ's godparents. Things were a little tense at first, but it was so apparent how they felt once they relaxed around each other."

Harriet took a deep breath and continued, "Bud and I are going to the movies Friday night. Guess who's going to be babysitting little AJ together?"

Carolyn laughed. "You're quite the little schemer, aren't you?" she teased.

Harriet nodded, a smug grin on her face. "I just happen to think those two are perfect for each other. If I can help out by giving them a little nudge in the right direction, what can it hurt?"

Carolyn patted Harriet's arm. "If you need any help, just let me know. They'll never know what hit them."

1620 ZULU
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

Mac sat at her desk, staring at the phone for a long moment, dreading the phone call she knew she had to make. It wasn't that she was not feeling confident in her decision. She had never been more sure of anything in her life. But Mic was so kind and sweet. She hated having to hurt him.

Sighing, she picked up the phone and dialed the number to Mic's room at the Doubletree in Arlington. He picked up after the second ring. "Hello, Mic," she said, fighting to keep her voice level, "it's me."

"Hello, luv," Mic answered. "I was hoping you would call."

Mac took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, steeling herself. "Can you meet me at McMurphy's after work, say around 1630 hours?" she asked. "We need to talk."

"That we do, luv," he replied. "I'll see you there."

Before Mic could say anything else, Mac hung up the phone. She didn't want to drag this out any more than necessary. She looked up to find Harm standing in the doorway.

"Are you okay?" he asked, the concern evident in his eyes.

"Why is it that I know I've made the right decision," she said softly, "but it's still tearing me up inside?"

Harm stepped into the office and closed the door. He wanted to hold her, do everything in his power to convince her it was going to be all right. But he couldn't, not here. "Because you don't want to see anyone get hurt," he responded, "and you know this is going to hurt Mic."

Back in his hotel room, Mic stood staring at the phone in his hand for a long moment before placing it back in it's cradle. That was it, then. There was only one thing left for him to do, he thought as he pulled the phone book out of the nightstand drawer and began flipping through the pages.

2025 ZULU
MCMURPHY'S BAR
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

Mac sat at a corner table, nursing a club soda, while she waited for Mic to arrive, going over in her mind what she was going to say to him, how she was going to say it. How many times had she wowed judges and juries with her brilliant legal arguments, yet she was having a hard time finding the words to tell Mic that it was over? She could really use Harm's strength right now, she thought.

Harm had offered to drop her off at the bar and wait around the corner for her, but Mac had vetoed the suggestion. As much as she wanted—no, needed—his support, she wasn't about to kick Mic while he was down by having him see Harm there waiting for her. So Mac had walked the short distance to the bar, Harm waiting for her back at JAG, using the extra time to try to find the right words.

Mic entered the bar at exactly 1630 and immediately saw her sitting by herself, staring down at the scarred table top. The thought crossed his mind that he was surprised Harm wasn't with her, to gloat, but then Mic shook his head as if to clear the thought from his mind. Mac wouldn't do that to him. He slowly made his way to her table, as if he could delay the inevitable.

Mac looked up as Mic sat down across from her and smiled weakly at him. As much as she didn't want to hurt him, she did want to get this over with. "Mic, I have something to tell you," she began slowly, searching for the words.

"You've made your decision," he stated. It wasn't a question.

She nodded as she retrieved his ring from her purse and handed it out to him. "I'm sorry, Mic," she apologized, "I really am. But I can't marry you."

Mic took the ring and squeezed his hand into a fist around it, as if trying to block out the pain in his heart and soul. "I think I knew what your answer was going to be," he said sadly. "I think I've known since Friday."

"I'm sorry," she repeated. She didn't know what else to say.

"Sarah," he began. She looked at him expectantly as he took a deep breath to steady himself. "Be happy."

Mac stood and leaned down to kiss his cheek. "You too, Mic," she said softly as she turned away from him and everything he could have given her. "You, too."

Mic ordered a beer after she left and downed it quickly, motioning to the waitress for another one. He couldn't dwell here too long, he knew. After all, he had reservations on the next flight to Los Angeles and then on to Sydney, Australia.

1900 ZULU
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

Mac arrived back at JAG to find Harm sitting at one of the tables outside, waiting for her. He rose and wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight against him, while Mac buried her face in his chest.

"Are you going to be okay?" Harm asked, rubbing her back gently.

"I didn't think it would affect me this much," Mac admitted, her voice breaking. "This is what I wanted, so why do I feel so lousy?"

"You hurt someone you care about," he replied, pulling back a little so he could look into her eyes. "I'd probably worry if you weren't upset."

"But you don't even like Mic," she pointed out.

"True, but I can imagine what he is feeling right now," Harm replied softly, "I know what it is like to lose someone you love."

"Diane," Mac stated. She mentally added the topic of Harm's dead love to the list of things she eventually needed to discuss with him.

"Yes, but I wasn't talking about her," Harm explained. "I nearly lost the person I love because of my stupidity. My actions pushed her into the arms of another man."

Tears welled up in Mac's eyes as she realized that he was talking about the night on the ferry, when she had worn her heart on her sleeve and he had pushed her away. "Maybe we should talk about that night," she suggested softly. "I don't know, maybe we need to go back to that night and figure out what ... no, why ... we acted the way we did. I think there are still some lingering issues that need to be resolved between us about that conversation."

"Fair enough," Harm said. Not that he really wanted to go back to that night—the pain still cut through his heart every time he thought about it - but he could see her point. There were still some lingering issues. "Why don't we go back to your place and order in? We can sit on the couch, eat pizza, and talk. Just like old times."

"It has been a while since we had one of our dinners," Mac commented. "I would like that. Dinner and a talk."

2010 ZULU
SARAH MACKENZIE'S APARTMENT
GEORGETOWN
WASHINGTON D.C.

Mac fed Jingo his dinner while Harm placed the call for their pizza. "Remember, half of that is supposed to be meat lover's," she called out to him while he waited on hold for the pizzeria to take his order.

"Yes, ma'am," Harm shot back, giving her a mock salute.

Mac stifled a laugh as she put fresh water out for Jingo. I missed this, she thought, the teasing, the playful banter. As thankful as she was to finally have Harm's love, she was equally thankful to finally have her best friend back.

She left the kitchen and walked up behind Harm as he was hanging up the phone, wrapping her arms around his waist and standing up on her toes to kiss the back of his neck.

"Hmmm, what was that for?" He asked as he covered her hands with his own.

"Do I need a reason to kiss the man I love?" Mac teased. After a moment, she added, "I was just thinking how glad I am to have my best friend back. I've missed him so much."

Harm turned around in her arms and pulled her tight against him. "He's missed you too," he replied softly. "He missed you so much that he's never going to let you go again."

Mac sighed as she rested her head on his chest, listening to his heart beat. "A lifetime of being held by Harmon Rabb, Jr.," she said wistfully. "I could definitely get used to that."

Reluctantly pulling away from her, he walked over and flipped the stereo on. Recognizing the song the was just beginning, Harm walked back over to her and held out his right hand. "May I have this dance, Sarah?"

Mac smiled, holding out her own hand. Harm pulled her back into his arms and they moved as one across the living room to the music.

How can I convince you what you see is real
Who am I to blame you for doubting what you feel
I was always reaching, you were just a girl I knew
I took for granted the friend I have in you

I was living for a dream, loving for a moment
Taking on the world, that was just my style
Now I look into your eyes
I can see forever
The search is over
Love was with me all the while

Can we last forever, will we fall apart
At times it's so confusing these questions of the heart
You followed me through changes and patiently you'd wait
Until I came to my senses through some miracle of fate

"I'm just sorry it took so long," Harm whispered, so softly Mac barely heard him, "for me to come to my senses."

"Me too, sailor," Mac whispered back. "Me too."

I was living for a dream, loving for a moment
Taking on the world, that was just my style
Now I look into your eyes
I can see forever
The search is over
You were with me all the while

Now the miles stretch out behind me
Loves that I have lost
Broken hearts lie victims of the game
Then good luck it finally struck
Like lightning from the blue
Every highway's leading me back to you

I was living for a dream, loving for a moment
Taking on the world, that was just my style
Then I touched your hand
I could hear you whisper

"The search is over," Mac sang softly along with the radio. "Love was right before my eyes." She wove her fingers through his hair and pulled his head down towards hers.

As their lips met, Harm pulled her tighter against him, his arousal pressing against her stomach as his mouth left hers to blaze a trail across her jaw and down the side of her throat.

Would they ever be able to get enough of each other? Mac wondered silently. God, I hope not.

Her hands moved down his back and pulled his uniform blouse from the waistband of his pants. She then slid her hands underneath and caressed his back through the cotton t-shirt he wore underneath his uniform.

"Mac ... Sarah," he whispered hoarsely against her throat. "The pizza ... be here soon."

"I know," she whispered back. Slowly, she stepped out of his arms, reluctant but knowing she must. She avoided looking at him; that would just send her right back into his welcoming arms.

Nervously, she laughed softly, "What is it about you?" she teased. "You make my internal clock go all haywire, you make me forget about food ... "

"Is this a bad thing?" he shot back, his breathing ragged, just as careful as her to keep his distance. If he didn't, he knew they would be back in each other's arms, falling to their knees, lost in each other, before they could even think about what they were doing. Never before had Harmon Rabb, Jr. ever felt so out of control, so lost in the blazing inferno of passion, yet he knew that with this woman, he wouldn't have it any other way. "I think I'll just go take a shower ... a cold one."

Mac nodded as he headed for the bathroom, not trusting herself to speak, trying not to think of him in the shower when she wanted nothing more than to join him in it. She waited until she heard the shower running, then headed for the bedroom to change out of her uniform.

She emerged a few minutes later wearing white shorts and a midnight blue button-down shirt. A few moments later, Harm joined her back in the living room, toweling his hair dry, dressed in shorts and a Navy t-shirt he had retrieved from the bag he had brought over last night.

Mac sat down on the couch, while Harm sat down on the opposite end, keeping as much distance between them as possible. They stared at each other, then after a moment started laughing. "Look at us," Harm pointed out.

"We manage to stay away from each other all day at work," Mac added with a grin, shaking her head, "but as soon as we're home, we can't keep our hands off each other."

Harm shot back with a grin of his own, "Maybe it's to make up for the time lost at work when we couldn't have our hands all over each other."

"And this was only our first day at work together since everything happened," Mac sighed. "God, are we in trouble."

"You say that as if it's a bad thing," Harm complained, shooting her a mock glare.

Mac picked up the throw pillow under her arm and tossed it at him, hitting him square in the chest. "Being loved by you?" she retorted, laughing. "Never!" After a moment, she calmed herself and looked at him. "It is a little bit scary though," she said seriously.

"Scary?"

"I'm not sure if I can explain it," she said, moving over closer to him on the couch, taking his hand in hers. "It's thrilling and exciting and all so new and different. I've never felt this strongly about anyone before in my life and that's the scary part. What if I screw this up? My track record with relationships isn't exactly the best."

"Oh, Sarah," Harm sighed, pulling her close to snuggle against his chest. "You're not the only one feeling this way. And what's worse for me is that I already have screwed up with you, that night on the ferry. It scares the hell out of me that I might do something like that again, only this time you'll go away and you won't come back."

"Are you planning to cheat on me?" she asked.

"Huh? Of course not," he replied emphatically. "What kind of question is that?"

"Then I don't think you have to worry about me going away if you screw up again," she explained. She raised her head slightly to look him in the eye. "Harm, we'll both make mistakes. We'd be fooling ourselves and each other if we tried to convince ourselves otherwise. What's important is that we learn from them."

Harm's response was cut off by a knock at the door. "Pizza's here," he said, getting up to answer the door. "Why don't you get us some drinks?" He grabbed his wallet off the coffee table and went to answer the door.

"What would you like?" Mac asked as she headed for the kitchen.

"Water is fine," he answered as he pulled the door open. He took the two pizza boxes and handed the delivery boy some money. "Keep the change," he insisted as he closed the door. He set the boxes on the coffee table and settled down on the floor in front of the couch.

Mac returned a moment later with two bottles of water and two plates. She eyed the two pizza boxes. "I didn't know you were ordering two," she said, setting one of the plates in front of him and handing him a bottle of water.

"You said you wanted to talk," he shrugged. "That could take a while, so I thought the more food, the better. You're the one who's been complaining that I've been making you forget about food."

"You're spoiling me," she sighed as she opened the box in front of her and pulled out a piece of pizza, taking a bite. "So, do you want to start or should I?"

"Go ahead," he told her, taking a swig of water. "This was your idea." Seeing the look of disappointment on her face, he quickly added, "Don't worry, I have plenty to say. I'm not avoiding this. I can't. Not anymore."

"Okay," she said, taking a sip of water herself. Taking a deep breath, she began, "I felt something the first moment we met, but I've always been hesitant about trust, and you seemed very uncomfortable about me at first. Then you stood by me in the Arizona desert and I knew that I could very easily fall for you. You didn't have to do it; you barely knew me, but you still put yourself on the line for me. Maybe that's why I found it so easy to tell you about my alcoholism. Then after that night when we were stranded in the mountains, I knew for sure that I had fallen, hard. You literally saved my life out there and when I was ready to give up, you pushed me to keep going," she said.

"I felt it too, that first day," Harm admitted. "But it scared me because I wasn't sure if it was only because you looked so much like Diane that I was attracted to you. She had only been dead a few months at that time and the pain was still fresh. Then you opened up to me and I began to see you as Sarah Mackenzie and not just Diane Schonke's ghost."

"I wish you had told me about her in the beginning," Mac said quietly, "It would have explained so much."

He reached over and clasped her hand in his. "I know," he said quietly. "I just wasn't ready to open up about it, not to anyone, but especially not to you."

"I understand. I just wish ... " she trailed off, uncertain.

"That I could have told you about her sooner," he finished for her.

"Yes," she admitted. "Maybe things would have been different between us if you had. I don't know. Maybe I could have helped you deal with it."

"But you were there for me when I needed it," Harm told her, "even after I tried to keep you out of it."

"Would you have done it?" she asked. "Shot Holbarth?"

"Honestly," he replied, looking away. "I've asked myself that very question so many times since that night. I still don't know the answer and I doubt I ever will. One of life's great mysteries, I guess."

Mac leaned against his side and gave his hand a comforting squeeze. "You don't have to deal with it alone, not anymore," Mac told him. "To be honest, you never did."

"I know that now," he replied. "Not to change the subject, but I thought we were going to talk about Australia?"

Mac laughed nervously. "Eventually," she said. "I guess I just need to work up to it. Or maybe it's easier to discuss everything in chronological order." She shrugged. She had never been this open with anyone in her life, aside from her Uncle Matt. It was scary.

"This isn't easy for either of us, is it?" Harm asked, apparently reading her mind.

Mac laughed in reply, "Maybe that's why we're working up to talking about Australia."

"As long as we're working up to that topic," he suggested. "Why don't we talk about Chris Ragle in the meantime?"

"That's an easy question to answer," she said. "I was ashamed. I was weak and a drunk when I married him. I'm not proud of the person I was back then. You've seen me drunk, so you have an idea of what I was like."

"Why didn't you divorce him?"

Mac looked down at their joined hands. It was a question she had asked herself many times. "I don't know. Maybe I thought that if I just ignored it, the problem would go away. One of life's great mysteries, I guess," she said, echoing his earlier response.

"Then when I was on Okinawa," she continued, "John Farrow was so nice to me. He was really the first man that I found that I could look up to aside from my uncle. I think I was seduced by that. I know it's not an excuse for what I did, but I wasn't the same person then that I am today. I may have still been too close to my past, to that time when I had no self-worth."

"But you have changed," Harm pointed out. "You've learned from your mistakes. What you learned from them has made you the person you are today."

"And you stood by me," she said in wonder. "You didn't have to do that. Hell, most other men would have run in the other direction. Even when you felt I had betrayed you by my omissions, you still were behind me one hundred percent."

"Like I said before, you made mistakes," he responded firmly. "I've made mistakes of my own. It would have been hypocritical of me to judge you for your mistakes. Hey, you stood by me when I was accused of murder and my brig break didn't do a lot to make me look innocent."

"I just knew you were innocent," Mac stated. "I didn't need the evidence to tell me that. I knew you. That was enough for me."

"It was enough for me too," Harm replied, "when the tables were turned and you were the one being accused."

"Okay, next topic," Mac said quickly. She had really had enough of talking about the mistake that had been her marriage. "How about your leaving JAG?"

"I thought you understood that was something I needed to do," Harm said, a look of hurt in his eyes. "I needed to know that I could still make it in the air."

"No, it's not that," she reassured him, resting her head against his shoulder. "In fact, I think it is because you left that I finally decided that I loved you and wanted to be with you."

"I'm not following."

"It hurt so much when you left," she admitted, tears forming in her eyes at the memory. "I threw myself into my work and kept asking myself why it was bothering me so much. After all, we're in the military. People get reassigned all the time. Why should this be any different?"

Mac tightened her grip on his hand, as if drawing from him the strength to continue. "Then when I found out you were coming back," she continued, her voice cracking. "I told myself that I wasn't going to let you walk away from me again without telling you how I felt. I only wish that I'd had the courage to do that the day you left JAG, even if it wouldn't have made a difference."

"It would have made a difference," Harm replied, reaching up to brush a stray tear from her cheek. "Not in my decision to leave, but ... I don't know. Maybe leaving wouldn't have hurt so much if I'd known that you were back here waiting for me, not as a friend or a partner, but as the woman I love."

"I never knew it hurt you to leave that much," Mac admitted, leaning her cheek against the palm of his hand. "I thought you were happy to going back to what you had been born to do, had trained half your life to do."

"You weren't the only one crying," he said softly. "I just did it where you couldn't see. Being happy about getting back in the air didn't mean I wasn't sad about leaving you."

"We've wasted so much time."

"Speaking of which," Harm continued, "if it took my leaving then coming back for you do make the decision to tell me what you felt, why did you wait until Australia to do it?"

"Would it have made a difference if I'd told you before then?" she asked quietly.

"Honestly," he said sadly, "no."

"Maybe I was afraid of that and didn't want to risk our friendship," she tried to explain. "Or maybe it wasn't the right place, the right time. Then we were in Australia and away from Washington and JAG and I guess I hoped that away from everything, we would finally be able to let go and love each other."

"Then you accused me of not being able to let go," Harm added. "Do you remember what my response was?"

Mac nodded. "I remember every word, every feeling, every shattered dream I left behind on the ferry that night. I remember the look in your eyes and the sound of your voice as you broke my heart. I remember everything. 'Not yet.' That is what you said."

"I couldn't find the words to really explain everything," he told her. "And the words I did find made it all wrong. When I said that, I wanted you to be patient, to hold on for just a little longer, to be there for me when I finally could let go. When you showed up at the airport wearing Brumby's ring, I thought that was your answer, that you weren't willing to wait."

"All I heard was your agreeing that you couldn't let go," she said, tears beginning to stream down her face, "and I decided that I couldn't wait for eternity for you to finally love me. How ironic. What I saw as your rejection of me pushed me into Brumby's open arms and what you saw as my rejection of you pushed you to Renee."

"Both of us were talking that night, but neither one of us was listening," he responded as he released her hand so he could pull her into his lap, into his comforting embrace. Mac buried her face in his shoulder, wrapping her arms around him, while Harm, his own tears threatening to fall, rested his head against hers. They sat together like that for a few moments, crying for lost chances and shattered dreams and for three months wasted.

Mac finally looked up, her face wet with tears still falling. "Promise me that we will never go through that again, that when we talk, we will really listen and hear the feelings behind the words and not just the words themselves," she insisted.

"I swear," he replied brokenly. "I don't think I could stand the pain of living through the last few months again."

"Neither one of us can," she qualified.

"And I love you too much to put you through that again," he promised.

"Then we have to hang onto that," Mac said, looking into his eyes. "No matter what happens or what we say or do, if we just remember that we love each other, then we can get through it. Together."

FRIDAY
1905 ZULU
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

"Ready to go, Flyboy?" Mac asked as she stuck her head in his office.

Harm glanced up from the paperwork he was going through and gave Mac a warm smile. "Just going over some reports for the Admiral," he said. "Give me about five minutes?"

She entered the office and sat down in the chair in front of his desk, watching him as he intently studied the reports in front of him. As she watched him, her mind began to drift and she wondered what it would be like for him to study her as intently as he was studying his reports. Right there, on his desk. Unconsciously, she licked her lips ...

"Red light, Colonel," Harm teased, having looked up from his work to see the impassioned look in her eyes. How many times had he seen that look in her eyes in the last five days? He hoped he would never stop seeing it. But he had been having a hard enough time forcing himself to concentrate on work this past week without having the object of his desire sitting right in front of him, a sultry, come-hither look in her eyes.

"Red light?" she asked softly, raising an eyebrow at him. What, was he able to read her mind now? Or maybe he was thinking the same thing. "Haven't we moved past the need for traffic signals by now?"

"Not here," he replied, forcing himself to look down at his reports and not at her. "Not with that look in your eyes."

Mac leaned forward in her seat so that she was leaning over his desk, a smile on her face as she saw his hand tighten around the pen he was holding. "And just what is wrong with the look in my eyes?" she whispered.

"Mac ... " he pleaded.

She sat back in her chair and sighed contentedly. She did love to tease him, even if it was at work where they couldn't act on the longing gazes, the soft touches that passed between them all day long. It gave them something to look forward to when they went home at night, when they could finally release all the pent-up passion kept locked inside their hearts throughout the day. "Fine," she retorted, a smile on her face, "I'll behave. Until later."

"Much later," he reminded her as he signed off on the report. "We're babysitting tonight, remember?"

"I remember. But I can look forward to us being alone together after that, can't I?"

"What am I going to do with you?"

"I have a few ideas," she teased.

Harm laughed as he considered what her ideas might entail. Who would have ever thought that beneath the proper Marine lay an passionate, insatiable woman? And why had he waited so long to allow himself to look beneath the surface? He pushed the thought from his mind. They were together now. That was all that mattered. "I look forward to hearing your ideas, Counselor," he teased back.

~~~~~~~~~~*

Out in the bullpen, Carolyn Imes was passing by Harm's open office door when she heard him laugh. She glanced inside the office to see Mac leaning over his desk with a look on her face that Carolyn could only describe as seductive. Hmmm. Maybe they weren't going to need that much of a push towards each other after all. Deep in thought, she wandered over to Harriet's desk, where the younger woman was gathering her things together before calling it a night.

Harriet was about to head over to her husband's office when she saw Carolyn approach. "Did you need something, Commander?" she asked.

"Have you taken a peak inside Commander Rabb's office," Carolyn asked, her eyes sparkling with mischief, "say within the last few minutes?"

"No," Harriet replied, curious. "Why?"

"Well," Carolyn began, her voice dropping to a whisper, "Mac's in there right now and let's just say that the look I saw her giving Harm would melt ice."

"Really?" Harriet asked calmly, while her eyes betrayed her excitement. "Maybe they don't need that much of a push towards each other," she added, unconsciously echoing Carolyn's earlier thought.

Carolyn was about to respond when Sydney Walden walked up to them. "Good afternoon, Harriet, Carolyn," she said as the two officers jumped back, the look on their faces that of children caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

"If you're looking for the Admiral," Harriet said, trying unsuccessfully to cover her embarrassment. "I believe he's still in his office, Dr. Walden."

"I'll just wait for him out here, then," Sydney replied. "I wouldn't want to disturb him while he's working." She looked from one officer to the other and commented, "You two look guilty as hell. I wonder what you two were busy whispering about when I walked in."

Harriet and Carolyn both shrugged. Just then, Harm and Mac walked out of Harm's office, briefcases and covers in hand. They paused by Harriet's desk on their way out.

"We'll see you later, Harriet," Mac said, "say around 1830 hours. Good night, Carolyn, Dr. Walden." The three woman watched as the pair headed for the elevator.

"What's happening tonight?" Carolyn asked Harriet, forgetting for a moment that Sydney was still there.

"Bud and I are going to the movies tonight," Harriet replied with a smile, retrieving her cover from the corner of her desk and setting it on her head. "The Commander and the Colonel are babysitting little AJ."

"Good plan," Carolyn responded thoughtfully. "Give them a little taste of what they're missing."

Sydney laughed as understanding dawned. "You're playing matchmaker," she exclaimed. At the guilty looks that crossed over their faces again, she said, "Don't worry. I think it's a great idea. I may not know everyone all that well yet, but from what I saw a week ago at the ball, those two seem like they would be perfect together."

"You noticed it too?" Harriet asked. Hey, Harriet rationalized in her mind, if someone who was almost a stranger could see it ...

"You know," Sydney said thoughtfully, "AJ and I have been talking about having a barbeque at his place one Saturday soon and inviting everyone from JAG. Could be the perfect opportunity for some more matchmaking."

Harriet and Carolyn looked at each other, identical smiles on their faces. "It couldn't hurt to get them to interact in a more casual setting," Carolyn agreed.

"Agreed," Harriet added. "That was my idea behind tonight's plan. More of the same couldn't hurt."

"Those two will never know what hit them," Sydney said, winking as AJ came out of his office and headed for them.

"Good evening, Commander, Lieutenant," he said as he held out his elbow for Sydney to take. "Are you ready for dinner, Sydney?"

Sydney linked her arm with his. "Definitely," she said, then turned back to the female officers. "Good night, you two. It was nice talking to you again."

"Good night," Harriet and Carolyn both called after the pair as they walked out.

"They make a nice couple, too, don't you think?" Harriet asked.

Carolyn smiled. She could almost see the wheels turning in Harriet's mind. "And they seem to be moving along fine without our help," Carolyn responded.

"True," Harriet admitted as she finally headed for her husband's office, "but it couldn't hurt to let the Admiral know from time to time how highly we all think of Dr. Walden."

Carolyn laughed as she headed out herself. It's a good thing I'm not seeing anyone right now, she thought, else Harriet might start planning my wedding.

2025 ZULU
THE ROBERTS' RESIDENCE
ROSSLYN, VIRGINIA

Bud answered the door and ushered Harm and Mac inside. "Good evening, Commander, Colonel," he began before breaking off at the look on their faces. "Sorry, Harm, Mac ... it's nice of you to baby sit AJ for us."

"Not a problem, Bud," Mac responded. "We're always happy to spend time with our favorite godson." Just then, AJ rushed into the room, throwing himself at Harm and Mac's legs.

"Unca Harm, Aun Mac," he cried out, excited. "Up."

With a laugh, Harm obliged, scooping the little boy up in his arms. "How's my favorite little sailor?" he asked as Mac leaned over to kiss AJ's cheek.

"Ungy," AJ replied, laughing as Mac tickled him gently.

"Hungry, huh?" Harm replied. "We'll have to see what we can do about that."

"Are you sure you don't mind feeding him?" Harriet asked as she came out of the bedroom. "We usually eat together, but since Bud and I decided to go out to eat after the movie ... "

"Don't worry about it," Mac said, smiling. "Neither of us had time to eat before coming over here, so he can eat with us."

"Good," Harriet answered, relieved. "If anything happens, Bud will have his cell phone with him. Also, the number of AJ's pediatrician is in the book by the phone."

"Relax, Harriet," Mac told the younger woman. "You and Bud go have fun and don't worry about a thing. We've got everything under control, right Harm?"

"Right," he agreed. "Everything will be fine here."

Bud and Harriet paused to kiss their son goodnight before heading out. "Don't hesitate to call us if you need anything," Harriet reiterated.

"We'll be fine," Harm laughed. "Don't worry."

Mac laughed as Harm closed the door behind the Roberts. "You'd think we'd never been alone with our godson before," she commented as she followed Harm into the kitchen.

"I thought it was a mother's job to worry," Harm shot back as he handed AJ to her before rummaging through the cabinets. "Hmmm, how do you feel about spaghetti for dinner?"

"Do I get to have meatballs with that?"

Harm laughed as he opened the freezer. "I think I can manage to make a few," he said, pulling out a package of ground beef, "just for you." He unwrapped the meat and put it in the microwave, setting it to defrost.

"Ooh, you're too good to me," she commented as she wrapped her free arm around his waist, pressing herself to his side. "I love you, squid."

"Love you, too, jarhead," he shot back, capturing her lips for an all too-brief moment before reluctantly pulling away so that he could gather the rest of the ingredients for their dinner.

Mac carried AJ out into the living room and settled down on the couch, cuddling him in her arms as her thoughts drifted back the man in the kitchen. "I could get used to this," she whispered. "A good man to take care of me, a family to come home to."

Her thoughts drifted to the day AJ had been born, when she and Harm had stood on the steps outside JAG and had made their deal to go halves on a kid. When he had first made the suggestion, she had been shocked at the absurdity of it. But she had agreed and over the last week, she had found herself thinking a lot about their deal. Wondering what a child of theirs would be like. Imagining all the things they would do together. More and more over the last seven days, she had found herself wanting Harm's child and she didn't want to wait four more years for that day to come either.

Harm came out of the kitchen and gazed longingly at the scene in front of him. Mac looked so content, sitting there snuggling with little AJ. He sat down next to her and put his arm around her shoulder. "Penny for your thoughts," he said quietly.

"Just thinking," Mac replied, leaning close to him, "about how happy I am."

"Getting sentimental on me again, Colonel?" Harm teased.

"If I am, it's all your fault, Commander," she shot back, her eyes bright. "You make me go all mushy and sentimental."

"I think I like this new sentimental Colonel Mackenzie," he told her. "I hope she decides to stick around."

"You can count on that, Flyboy," she said softly, tilting her face up towards his, "because you're going to be stuck with me for a very long time to come."

"Is that a promise, Sarah?"

"Definitely," she answered as he lowered his lips to hers for another all too brief kiss before they were interrupted by an insistent voice.

"Aun Mac, Unca Harm, ungy," AJ demanded.

Harm laughed as he pulled away reluctantly. "Sounds like our godson has your stomach," he joked.

"Yeah, and we're both hungry," she retorted. "When are you going to feed us?"

"Well, unless you want to forgo the meatball," he pointed out, "it's still going to be a while. I can't make the meatballs until the ground beef is finished thawing."

"Then why don't we see if we can find a small snack for AJ in the meantime," Mac suggested. "I don't think we want a fussy baby on our hands."

Harm got up and held out his hand to pull Mac up. He headed back into the kitchen while she got AJ settled into his high chair in the dining room. After a moment, Harm came out with a small bowl of cereal and a spoon, setting them on the tray in front of AJ. He happily dug into the cereal with his fingers, ignoring the spoon.

"Ground beef is almost ready," Harm told her. "After I make the meatballs and put them in the sauce, everything should be ready about half an hour later." He noticed that Mac didn't appear to be listening to him and was instead staring at AJ with a longing gaze in her eyes. "Hey, earth to Sarah," he said, putting his hand on her shoulder.

"Hmmm?" she replied, distracted.

"What are you thinking about?" he asked.

"The day AJ was born," she replied, a smile on her face. "That was quite a day, wasn't it?"

"It sure was," he replied, sitting down next to her. Was this going where he thought it was? "Want to talk about it?"

"Remember the deal we made?" she asked, turning her head to look into his eyes.

"How can I forget?" he responded softly. He had been thinking about it a lot since Friday night. "What about it?"

"Well, I was just thinking ... " she trailed off, uncertain about how he was going to feel what she was about to suggest.

"About the time table for our deal?" he finished.

"Sunday, when we were at the park," she began, fiddling with her Marine Corps ring, "I was watching you with AJ right after we arrived and I couldn't help but think about what a wonderful father you are going to make one day. Later, when we were playing with AJ at the sandbox and that lady assumed that we were his parents, I wished that we could have been there with our own child."

"I've been thinking much the same thing," Harm admitted, taking a deep breath. "On Saturday, I was looking at a picture of us at AJ's christening and I was wondering what a child of ours would be like, thinking about the things we would do together. Sarah, I don't want to wait another four years for that day to come." He took her hands in his and squeezed them gently.

"Harm, I don't want to wait either," she said, tears forming in her brown eyes. "I want to have a family with you."

Harm pulled her into his arms, holding her tight. "I want that, too," he whispered against her ear.

AJ reached out and brushed his hand against Mac's wet cheek. Smiling, she pulled away from Harm and took AJ's little hand in hers. "What do you think, AJ? A little one with his looks and my brain," she remarked, a faraway look in her eyes as she imagined the child they would create together.

"Hey," Harm retorted, laughing, "what about one with your looks and my brain?"

"Either way," Mac said, smiling at him, "our child would be very special wouldn't it?"

"Look at us. Barely together a week and we're already planning our children," Harm teased. "What about marriage?"

"Marriage? Is that supposed to be a proposal?" Mac shot back. Mrs. Harmon Rabb, Jr. She could definitely get used to the sound of that.

"Ummm ... " Harm trailed off, uncertain. His mind tried to point out that perhaps things were moving a bit too fast, but his heart was having none of that. After wasting the last four years, how could they possibly move too fast? If anything, his heart argued, they weren't moving fast enough. They had so much to catch up on. "Let's call it a promise of things to come," he suggested.

Mac smiled impishly as she remembered their conversation the day AJ had been born. "Don't make a promise you can't keep," she said.

Harm gave her one of his dazzling flyboy grins as he replied softly, "I haven't yet."

2235 ZULU
ROBERTS' RESIDENCE
ROSSLYN, VIRGINIA

"I think someone's about ready for bed," Harm commented. AJ, sitting in Harm's lap on the couch, was leaned back against his chest, fighting a losing battle to keep his eyes open.

"No," AJ retorted drowsily, his eyelids fluttering closed.

"Oh, yes, I agree with Uncle Harm," Mac said. "Definitely time for bed."

They got up from the couch and Harm carried AJ into his room, Mac trailing behind. He set the baby on the changing table and began undressing him while Mac pulled out a new diaper and a t-shirt for AJ to sleep in.

"You look so comfortable doing that," she pointed out as she watched Harm change AJ's diaper. "You're going to make a wonderful father someday."

"Now you've really lost it, Marine," Harm teased. "You're getting sentimental over diapers now? Is your biological clock going off that loudly?"

Mac swatted him playfully. "Let's just say that I'm finished hitting the snooze button," she replied with a smile. "Within a year, I would like us to be expecting a baby, our baby."

"A year, huh?" he mused as he carried AJ over to the crib. "I think we can manage that. But are you sure you can wait that long?"

"When did you have in mind? Now?" she teased quietly as she leaned over the crib, wistfully watching AJ sleep.

"Not right this moment," he replied as he led her back into the living room. "But I was kind of thinking of maybe a six-month timetable."

Harm was continually surprising her, Mac mused to herself. A few months ago, he had been hesitant to express his feeling towards her and it had nearly cost them everything. Now he was jumping into this full steam ahead. Was he trying too hard to make up for lost time? she wondered. Hesitant, she voiced the thoughts aloud.

"I wouldn't put it quite like that," he said, settling back onto the couch and pulling her into his lap. "But have you thought about where we might be today if we'd had the courage to speak up sooner? In a way, maybe I do want to make up for lost time. But I love you so much and now that I can finally say it, I just want so much to be with you, to build a life together, to build a family together. I love you, Sarah Mackenzie and it hurts to imagine the darkness that was my life before I opened up and let you in."

"Now who's turning sentimental?" she teased, then added seriously, "I love you so much, too, Harmon Rabb, Jr. I think that what you just said is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me."

"Get used to it," he told her. "Because I intend on telling you those things for the rest of our lives."

0245 ZULU
ROBERTS' RESIDENCE
ROSSLYN, VIRGINIA

"Bud, next time I get the bright idea to go to the movies while pregnant," Harriet complained as her husband ushered her into their apartment, "please remind me that theater seats were not built with pregnant women in mind."

"Yes, Harriet," he sighed. He refrained from reminding her why she had wanted to go to the movies in the first place. He was startled by a soft gasp from his wife.

"Oh, Bud, look," Harriet exclaimed softly as she indicated the couch, where Mac was still curled up in Harm's lap, both of them sound asleep.

Bud's mouth dropped open in surprise as he took in the sight of their superior officers wrapped in each others' arms. Maybe Harriet was right, he mused.

Sensing their presence, Mac stirred in Harm's embrace, blinking her eyes, blushing as she realized just where she was. "Harm, Bud and Harriet are home," she whispered, nudging him gently in the ribs as she extricated herself from his arms and stood.

"How was the movie?" Mac asked as Harm came fully awake. They noted the shocked look on Bud's face and the delighted one on Harriet's and realized that this scene was probably going to be all over JAG come Monday morning.

At a stern look from his wife, Bud managed to close his mouth and mumbled, "Fine, just fine."

"AJ's been asleep for a couple hours," Harm told them. "I think it's time for us to get going."

"Yes, definitely," Mac agreed quickly. Definitely time for a retreat. "It was really great spending this time with AJ, but it's late and we really should go."

"Thank you for staying with AJ," Harriet said, a little too brightly, her voice betraying her excitement. Forget Monday, Mac thought, Harriet was probably going to call everyone she knew first thing tomorrow. So much for keeping things quiet for a while.

"It was our pleasure," Harm assured them as he ushered Mac to the door. "We'll see you both later."

"Bye," Harriet told them as she saw them out the door, closing it behind them.

As they walked out, Mac turned to Harm, "I know we haven't talked about it yet, but we probably should start thinking of what to say to the Admiral."

"And we've got two days in which to do it," Harm added.

0305 ZULU
SARAH MACKENZIE'S APARTMENT
GEORGETOWN
WASHINGTON D.C.

"Well, at least we don't have to worry about how to tell all our friends anymore," Mac pointed out as they headed down the hall to her apartment.

"No," Harm agreed, "Harriet will have taken care of that for us before we arrive at work on Monday. We still need to talk to the Admiral in person though."

"Agreed," Mac replied as she unlocked her door. "There could be some fallout from all this, professionally speaking, anyway."

"True, but we've got all weekend to think about that," he told her as he lifted her up into his arms and carried her into the apartment.

"Harm!? What are you doing?" Mac laughed, reaching out to push the door closed behind them before they gave the neighbors a show.

"Practicing," he replied, a suggestive gleam in his eye, "for that baby we've been talking about."

"Practicing, huh?" Mac replied, wrapping her arms around his neck. "I think I might enjoy that. After all, practice makes perfect and this may require a lot of practice. Think you're up to the challenge, squid?"

In her bedroom, Harm set her on her feet, pulling her against him. Mac grinned appreciatively. "Feels like you're up to it," she said suggestively as she reached between them to unfasten his shorts. He bit back a groan as her fingers brushed against his erection. "Definitely up to it," she murmured.

"Sarah," he whispered as his hands moved over her, pressing her fully against him as he nuzzled her ear.

"Wait," Mac said as she reluctantly pulled away from him, a gleam in her eye. "My turn."

"For what?"

"Remember Sunday?" she asked, her hands moving over his chest, as he bit back another groan.

How could he forget the day she had finally become his? He was definitely going to enjoy where she was taking this, he thought. His hands moved over her back for a moment before she pushed them away.

"No way, flyboy," she said with a sultry grin that would have melted the polar ice cap. "Your only duty here is to relax—okay, maybe relax is the wrong word—and enjoy. Think you can manage that, squid?"

He nodded with a frustrated sigh. He wanted to touch her, but was willing to play along. For now. He just wasn't going to make any promises about how long that was going to last. "Yes, ma'am," he retorted, giving her a mock salute.

Mac bit her bottom lip, fighting back another grin as an idea came to her. Oh boy, was she going to have fun with him. "I am your superior officer, correct?" she asked, using her best Marine in command voice.

"Only by three months," he pointed out. Where was this going? he wondered.

Mac sat on the edge of the bed, leaning back on her elbows as she eyed him appreciatively. "Still, I am your superior officer and if I give you an order, I expect it to be obeyed," she stated firmly. "Is that understood?"

"I will obey any lawful orders you give, Colonel," he replied smartly.

She smiled as she recalled a similar conversation, words spoken in the line of duty, on the USS Patrick Henry. "I'll try to keep all my orders lawful, Commander," she replied as she stood, circling around him slowly, her eyes moving up and down his body as if conducting an inspection.

Moving back around to stand in front of him, she ordered, "Unbutton your shirt, Commander. Slowly, as if you're teasing me. Start at the bottom and work your way up."

Who's teasing whom? he thought idly as he complied, watching her lick her lips as his fingers worked their way up, exposing the firm muscles underneath. As he reached the top and started to remove the shirt, her hands covered his, stilling them.

"Not yet," she instructed. "I want to do that." He let his arms fall back to his sides as hers moved over his torso, her fingertips tracing the outline of his muscles, brushing against his nipples. Her hands caressed his broad shoulders then pushed his shirt down his arms, letting it fall to the floor behind them. "Nice," she murmured. "I wonder how you taste?"

"Hmmm, good," she murmured against his skin as her lips moved over his upper chest, her tongue tracing the outline of his collarbone before moving lower to circle around a nipple.

"Sarah ... " he whispered harshly. How much of this slow torture could one man take? He bit back a sigh of disappointment as her lips left his skin.

"That's Colonel or ma'am to you, sailor," she insisted, pressing against him as she reached up to nibble on his ear. "Think you can remember that?"

He nodded, unable to form a coherent thought much less speak it, as he fought the urge to wrap his arms around her and end this delicious torture, a fight he nearly lost as her lips brushed over the firm line of his jaw.

"I didn't hear you, Commander," she stated as she leaned back slightly to look into his passion-clouded eyes.

"Yes ... ma'am," he managed to reply her lips finally met his, her hands clasping his, their fingers intertwining. His fingers tightened their grip on hers as he poured himself into their kiss, drinking from her like a man dying of thirst in a desert. Without realizing it, he began moving her backwards towards the bed.

Mac shook her head as she broke off the kiss. "I don't recall giving you an order to do that, Commander," she said, putting special emphasis on the word order. Releasing his hands, she took a step away from him and ordered, "Remove the rest of your clothes. Slowly."

With a groan of frustration, he complied as he fought a losing battle for control. He toyed with the idea of saying to hell with it and calling an end to this game she was playing and taking her where they both wanted to go. But he managed to hold back. Barely.

Mac had to force herself to breathe. In and out, she reminded herself as she fought her own battle for control, nearly ready to put an end to this herself as she wondered who was being tortured more by her game, him or her. But, damn, this was too much fun, she reminded herself.

Slowly, she fell to her knees in front of him, her hands moving over the firm muscles of his thighs, carefully avoiding the one place where she knew he most wanted to feel her touch.

"Sarah ... Colonel, please," he softly pleaded as her fingers inched closer, but not close enough to what he wanted, the satisfaction he craved, his plea turning to a moan of pleasure as she relented, her fingers finally finding him, moving up and down his swollen shaft slowly, torturously. Then her mouth replaced her hands on him and he was forced to grip her shoulders to steady himself as he came closer and closer to losing the battle as her tongue circled around his tip, drawing him closer to the release he sought, the ecstasy he craved that only she could give him.

Mac was rapidly losing her own battle for control as she lost herself in the scent and taste of him, in the knowledge of the affect she had on him as she sensed his own control slipping. She gasped with surprise as he pulled her roughly up against him, his mouth demanding and insistent on hers and his hands moved roughly over her, yanking and ripping off her clothes. With one swift thrust, he was inside her slick heat as they fell back onto the bed.

"Oh, Harm," she cried out as she met his thrusts with an equal passion, her fingernails digging into his shoulders as they swiftly reached their climax together, their harsh cries echoing in the room as they held onto each other, utterly spent.

A few moments later, Mac somehow summoned the strength to turn her head and look at Harm, his head resting beside hers, his eyes closed, his breathing still ragged. "You know, we need to work on your ability to follow orders, Commander," she teased softly.

"To hell with orders, Colonel," he groaned, unable to gather the strength necessary to even open his eyes. "To hell with them."

SATURDAY
1420 ZULU
AIRFIELD HANGAR
LEESBURG, VIRGINIA

"Harm, we need to talk about what we are going to say to the Admiral," Mac reminded him, not for the first time that morning, as she looked at him across the wing of his Stearman. Harm was in the process of disassembling the engine for cleaning and routine maintenance and had not spoken very much at all, except to ask Mac to pass him one tool or another.

Mac was getting more and more frustrated with each passing moment of silence. They had spent nearly a week opening up to each other about the feelings between them and he was suddenly shutting down again. Men, she thought with a sigh. Or maybe it was just this man in particular. Well, one way or another, Mac was determined to get him to open up to her.

"Harm, I know we had discussed this before and had decided that we didn't want to go public quite this early in our relationship," she began, forcing herself to remain calm even as he remained focused on his work, refusing to look in her direction. "But after last night, the cat does seem to be out of the bag and we have to deal with it. Harriet has probably already started going down the JAG phone roster, passing on this juicy piece of gossip."

"I'm aware of that," he stated, still concentrating on his engine work. At least he was speaking to her. That was a start.

"Then what's the problem, Harm?" Mac asked gently. "Why can't we discuss this?"

"I don't know," he said quietly. "It's just ... " He trailed off, his tone betraying his discomfort.

"Just what?" she prompted, careful to keep her tone soft and gentle. After everything they had been through, the last thing she wanted was to send him running from her again. They now had too much to lose. "Harm, come on. It's me, Sarah. Please don't shut down on me now. Not after we've come so far in the last week. Please."

Harm's hands stilled and he sighed. Even though she was moderating her tone, he could hear the frustration and hurt just below the surface. He hated that he was the reason for that hurt, but even after the events of the past week, he was still a bit uncomfortable with talking about all these deep feelings they were now exploring. Sometimes he was just able to hide it better than others. Sometimes he just didn't feel like talking and needed to be alone with his thoughts. But he could try to open up. For her.

"I guess I'm just not comfortable with our private lives being the subject of the office grapevine," he finally said, looking down at the engine part in his hands. It was easier than looking at her, easier than looking into her eyes and seeing the hurt that he knew was there, hurt that he was causing.

He's still not looking at me, Mac thought, but at least he's talking. It was a start and would suffice—for now. She just had to go slowly and get him to open up a little more. "This is not the first time either one of us has been involved in a relationship that has been the subject of gossip at work," she reminded him. "So why is this different?"

"It just is," he replied, finally setting the engine piece he held on the ground and moving to stand across the wing from her, his eyes downcast. "I don't know if I can explain. It's just ... maybe I feel that there is more at stake here. We've both already made so many mistakes with each other. I'm just ... "

"Scared?" she finished, prompting him to finally look up at her. He marveled that he couldn't see any traces of hurt in her chocolate eyes, but the small smile on her face did warm his heart.

"Harm, do you really think that I'm not scared too, even a little?" she asked. "Sometimes, when I first wake up in the morning, I find myself thinking that this is all just a dream, a fantasy life that I have to leave behind, going on with my same old confused reality. Then I realize that I'm still in your arms and that I'm finally living every dream I've ever had about the two of us.

"Or we'll be at work, just talking or maybe we're in court," she continued. "It will seem like the same old routine as before. Then we'll brush against each other or our hands will meet under the table and I'll remember what we now have and how new and exciting it is. You're right. There is more at stake here. I know that I've never felt like this about anyone before."

"I haven't either," he admitted, taking her hands in his across the wing. "Do you remember when you asked me if eternity was how long we were going to have to wait?"

Mac nodded, unable to speak. Even after they had talked about that particular misstep, it still hurt to think about it, to even mention it.

Harm squeezed her hands gently. "After this past week," he explained, "Eternity now has a different meaning. Before, you thought that was how long you were going to have to wait for me. Now, it's how long I want to spend with you."

"Oh, Harm," Mac exclaimed softly, a slight tremor evident in her voice, tears filling her eyes.

"Come on, Marine," he teased. "You're going to give the Corps a bad name."

"I don't care," she insisted. "You're getting really good at saying these incredibly sweet things to me. Before you know it, I'll be a weepy mess all the time."

"I don't know about the weepy mess part, but if I ever stop saying those sweet things to you, you have my permission to kick my six for being such an idiot again." They both laughed at that, the tension of the moment finally relieved.

"Seriously," Harm continued, feeling more relaxed. "I just don't want what other people think to affect us in any way."

"I would hope that our friends would be happy for us," Mac answered, all traces of frustration gone. Then she laughed again, "Or if they're anything like Harriet, they'll probably think that it's about time that we got our heads out of our sixes."

"Okay, point taken," Harm laughed, but then he sobered quickly. "But what about the Admiral? AJ Chegwidden, our friend and mentor, may be happy for us, but what about Admiral Chegwidden, our boss? The military doesn't exactly jump for joy at this type of situation."

"True," she admitted, "but he was able to work it out so that Bud and Harriet could remain at JAG together. Maybe he can do something like that for us. If not, then I guess we can deal with that when it happens. Let's not torture ourselves worrying about something that might not come to pass. Please?"

"Can we deal with it if one of us has to leave JAG?" Harm asked, his voice uncertain.

"We love each other, right?" she countered. "We'll still have each other, even if one of us does have to leave. Keep that in mind and I think we can make it through this."

"I'll try to remember that," he conceded.

"You'd better," Mac retorted. "Now, don't you have a plane to work on?"

"Yes, Colonel," he retorted, tossing her a mock salute. He turned back to the engine parts scattered around them. "Speaking of my plane, I was wondering ... do you think you'd like to take a few days leave around the Fourth of July and maybe fly up to Pennsylvania with me and meet my grandmother?"

Mac stared at him in wonder. He wanted to take her to meet his grandmother? This one simple request meant just as much to her as all the tender gestures and the times he'd said 'I love you' the past week. Feeling nervous suddenly, she answered hesitantly, "I'd love to meet your grandmother. I'd be honored."

1450 ZULU
THE ROBERTS' RESIDENCE
ROSSLYN, VIRGINIA

"Bud, we really need to go shopping and get AJ some new clothes," Harriet told her husband as she came out of the nursery carrying their son. "He's growing like a weed." She stopped short when she saw Bud, dressed in his summer khaki uniform, picking up his briefcase, his cover already in hand. "I didn't realize you had to work today."

"I'm sorry, dear," he apologized, crossing the room to kiss both his wife and son. "Lieutenant Singer called while you were in with AJ and said she finally got in contact with that witness we've been trying to track down for the Lardon case, but he is only available to talk to us today because his daughter's getting married tomorrow. We really have to go do this interview now. The trial starts on Monday. Why don't you call and ask Colonel Mackenzie to go shopping with you?"

"Bud," Harriet reminded him, "she's probably, you know ... spending time with Commander Rabb. I wouldn't want to disturb them."

"Well ... " Bud began, interrupted by the phone ringing. Harriet, settling AJ on her hip, picked it up and said, "Hello, Roberts' residence."

"Hi, Harriet, it's Carolyn Imes."

"Hello, Commander Imes," Harriet replied. "Did you need to speak to Bud, ma'am?"

"Actually," Carolyn answered, "I called to talk to you. You know, about our little project?"

Harriet put her hand over the mouth piece and told her husband, "It's for me." Returning to the phone, she said, trying to contain her excitement, "Yes, that project. I have some news on that very topic."

Bud looked at his wife curiously, then shrugged, assuming that Harriet was working on some aspect of a case for the Commander. He put his cover on his head and waved to his family before leaving. Harriet distractedly waved back, her mind on the conversation with Carolyn.

"I was wondering if you'd like to have lunch with me today," Carolyn suggested. "We can discuss how to proceed with our little operation."

"That would be great," Harriet enthused. Here was the perfect chance to share her news with someone before she burst. "I have to go out anyway and shop for AJ. He's growing so quickly that he's outgrowing his all his clothes."

"Why don't I join you, if you don't mind?" Carolyn offered. "I wouldn't mind spending time with that little angel."

"That would be great," Harriet replied. "Bud has to interview a witness today with Lieutenant Singer, so he can't go with me. He suggested I ask the Colonel, but ... well, I can explain that when I see you."

Harriet's last statement piqued Carolyn's curiosity. What was going on with Mac? she wondered. Maybe it had something to do with the news Harriet said she had. "Just tell me where to meet you," Carolyn said. This was one outing she could not wait for.

After telling Carolyn to meet her in front of Macy's at the Pentagon Mall in an hour, Harriet said her goodbyes and hung up the phone. With a smile, she kissed her son. "Isn't it great, baby, that everyone's so happy?" she said softly, her eyes shining.

1545 ZULU
THE PENTAGON MALL
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA

Harriet exited the elevator in the parking garage and turned the corner pushing AJ's stroller to find Carolyn standing on the sidewalk outside Macy's waiting for them.

"Hi, Harriet," Carolyn greeted her, then bent down to look into the stroller. "Hi, AJ."

"Hello, Commander," Harriet replied as AJ waved his hand and smiled at Carolyn.

Straightening, Carolyn insisted, "We're off-duty and I don't see any uniforms here, Harriet. It's Carolyn."

"Sorry, ma ... Carolyn," Harried said. "The Colonel keeps telling me the same thing. Force of habit."

"Understood," Carolyn responded as the women walked into the mall. "I guess it's hard to forget the things that are ingrained into you from the very first day you enter boot camp. So do you want to shop first or eat?"

"Let's eat," Harriet answered. "It's almost noon and I am, pardon the expression, eating for two."

"Come on, then," Carolyn said. "The food court is downstairs."

A few minutes later, Carolyn and Harriet were settling down at a table in the food court with their food. Harriet pulled some food she had brought along for AJ out of the bag at the back of his stroller. Carolyn didn't wait long before starting her interrogation.

"So, what is your news?" Carolyn demanded. "You sounded so vague on the phone, but you said it had to do with Harm and Mac ... "

Harriet held up her hand, laughing. "I'm beginning to think you are more excited than I am about this." She paused, enjoying leaving the other woman hanging just a little bit.

"Harriet! Come on!" Carolyn pleaded. "What's going on?"

"Well," Harriet began slowly, "you know that Bud and I went to the movies last night and Harm and Mac babysat AJ, right?"

"Come on, Harriet, I already know all this," Carolyn said, realizing that whatever news Harriet had, it must be big for her to be drawing out the moment the way she was. "Just cut to the chase. The suspense is killing me."

"Well, when Bud and I got home," Harriet continued before pausing another moment for affect, "Mac was curled up in Harm's lap and they were both asleep with their arms wrapped around each other."

"Oh my," Carolyn said, a wide smile on her face. "Not quite the same as catching them, you know, in the act or anything ... "

"Carolyn!"

Carolyn laughed. "But still, pretty incriminating circumstantial evidence," she added.

"Especially since they were acting a bit embarrassed and left rather quickly after we got home," Harriet revealed.

"Although we didn't really get to do any matchmaking here," Carolyn said. "I do have to say that is about time those two figured out what was right in front of them."

2143 ZULU
MCMURPHY'S TAVERN
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

After a long day spent at the airfield while Harm worked on his plane, he and Mac decided to stop off at McMurphy's for a quick bite to eat before heading home. Making their way through the Saturday evening crowd, they grabbed a table in a back corner of the bar, out of the crush and where they could have a bit of privacy.

After a waitress came with menus and took their drink orders, Mac commented, "You know, this is a milestone for us. This is the first meal we've had in public as a couple."

"Well, as you said, the cat is apparently out of the bag," Harm said, shrugging. "Don't you think it's about time we got to go out in public?"

"Definitely," she replied firmly, leaning across the table. "No more hiding how we feel."

"No more hiding," he agreed as the waitress returned with their drinks. Lifting his glass, he suggested, "Why don't we drink to that?"

Smiling, Mac lifted her glass and touched it to his. "To no more hiding our feelings."

Across the room, Lieutenant Lauren Singer was playing darts with another young woman with almost the same shade of blonde hair and a similar appearance. "So tell me all about your big job as a lawyer, Cousin," the other woman said. "It's been so long since we've had a chance to trade war stories about work."

"Jess, you are a doctor in an emergency room," Lauren replied. "In your case, those war stories are almost literal."

"And you are in the military," Jess reminded her. "War is your business. So any big cases going on?"

"None that I'm trying," Lauren said, a trace of bitterness in her voice. "My major case right now is a dereliction of duty that I'm prosecuting with Lieutenant Roberts. Decent attorney, but he's not really my kind of attorney. Doesn't seem to exhibit any real ambition. Almost too nice and so is his wife. And the case is kind of dull. Open and shut. Bor-ing."

"Well, I'm sure an attorney with your talents will soon be handling the big cases," Jess assured her. "After all, aren't you the one who plans to be the first female JAG?"

"I'm trying," Lauren answered, "but there's almost this favoritism thing going on. The Admiral has his favorites and they are like the blessed few."

"So you need to get in good with this Admiral, right?" Jess asked.

"Not that easy," Lauren told her. "You know that Lieutenant Roberts I mentioned? He's one of the favorites at JAG."

"He's a full Lieutenant?" Jess questioned. At her cousin's nod, she continued, "So you're the same rank. What's his secret?"

Lauren replied sarcastically, "His mentors were Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie, who are the Admiral's golden children. I mean, recently there was this case where the Colonel got a hold of some information that wasn't allowed to be used in court. Privileged information. So she tries to use it and it comes out that she's seen this report that she wasn't supposed to. You know what happened to her? Barely a slap on the wrist. Almost anyone else probably would have been transferred out of Washington so fast, but not her."

"So this Colonel is big competition at work," Jess mused. "What about this Commander Rabb? Maybe you can get on his good side."

"Been there, tried that," Lauren sighed. "He's an excellent attorney, confident, a bit arrogant ... "

"Sounds like your kind of attorney."

"But a tough nut to crack," Lauren continued. "And he does most of his cases working with one of two attorneys."

"Let me guess," Jess interrupted. "Colonel Mackenzie or Lieutenant Roberts?"

"Exactly," Lauren said, glancing around the bar. "Hmmm, what is this?" she murmured to herself as she caught sight of Harm and Mac at the back of the tavern.

"What?" Jess asked. She moved slightly to see what had Lauren so transfixed. "Who's that? Cute guy. Friends of yours?"

"Hardly," Lauren snapped. "Meet the infamous Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie."

"So they're the top dogs at JAG," Jess commented. "They look rather cozy back there."

"Yeah, they do," Lauren replied thoughtfully. "Interesting. I know the Colonel is no longer wearing Commander Brumby's ring; it's been the talk of the office this week. But as far as I know, Commander Rabb still has a girlfriend. At least, I haven't heard anything about them going their separate ways."

"Doesn't the military frown on this kind of thing?" Jess questioned, indicating the couple.

"It does," Lauren answered, the wheels in her mind turning. "It does indeed." This could be very powerful ammunition. The question was how the ambitious young attorney was going to use it.

MONDAY
1058 ZULU
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

Harriet walked into JAG that morning wide awake and in a very good mood, despite the still early hour. Bud had grumbled a bit about Harriet's intention to head into work early, but she was anxious to get to work after the events of the weekend. This promised to be a very good day.

As the pair waited for the elevator, Carolyn Imes joined them. "Good morning, Lieutenant," she greeted them.

"Good morning, Commander," Harriet replied. "In a bit early today, aren't you, ma'am?"

Carolyn laughed. "I'm not the only one, Lieutenant. I'm just really looking forward to work today."

What had his wife been up to? Bud wondered. "Harriet?" he asked.

"Yes, Bud?" Harriet countered, sensing what he was thinking.

The elevator arrived, cutting off Bud's response. The three officers entered and Carolyn pushed the button for their floor. Just as the doors were about to close, a voice called out, "Hold the elevator." A few seconds later, Alan Mattoni joined them and the doors shut behind him.

"Commander, Lieutenants. Seems like everyone wants to get a early start this Monday," Alan commented as the elevator rose.

Harriet looked over at Carolyn, a question in her eyes. Carolyn shrugged. "I had lunch at Alan's yesterday so we could discuss a plea bargain in one of our cases. So I told Alan and Jackie."

"Jackie was thrilled to hear that," Alan commented. "She's commented before that those two would make a 'cute' couple. And I'm very happy for them."

"I think it's nice to see our friends be happy with each other," Harriet said, shooting her husband a stern look before he could think of scolding her for being such a gossip. Bud sighed. He wasn't sure how the couple in question was going to feel about their private lives being made so public.

The four stepped out of the elevator and headed into the bullpen, finding Lieutenant Singer and Gunnery Sergeant Galindez already at their desks. Everyone exchanged good mornings before the new arrivals headed for their respective desks or offices.

~~~~~~~~~~*

A few minutes later, Bud was in the kitchen getting his morning cup of coffee when Gunny walked in, a look of concern on his face. "Gunny, is there a problem?" Bud asked.

"I'm not sure, sir," Gunny replied. "Have you heard anything recently about Ms. Peterson, Lieutenant?"

"She's back in California as far as I know," Bud replied, not revealing that Harm had told him that he and Renee had gone their separate ways. "Why do you ask?"

"Well, sir, Lieutenant Singer was asking about her, if she and Commander Rabb were still seeing each other, that kind of thing," Gunny explained. "I normally don't discuss such things at work, but I thought I should mention it to someone. It sounded rather odd to me."

"It does sound strange," Bud agreed. "That you for telling me, Gunnery Sergeant. I'll handle it."

"Thank you, sir," Gunny replied, pouring his own cup of coffee before heading back to his desk.

Bud was still standing in the kitchen, his coffee cup in hand, when his wife walked in a few minutes later. "Bud, what's wrong?" she asked, noting the distant look on his face.

Bud shook his head. "I'm not sure, but Gunny said Lieutenant Singer has been asking questions about Commander Rabb and Ms. Peterson," he told her, keeping his voice down so people passing by wouldn't hear.

"That's strange," Harriet said. "Didn't the Commander tell us early last week that they were no longer seeing each other and that she had gone back to California?"

"Yes," Bud said. "But the question is, why would Lieutenant Singer care about Commander Rabb and Ms. Peterson?"

"That is a good question, Bud," Harried replied thoughtfully. Harriet tried to think nice about everyone, but something told her that Lieutenant Singer was up to no good.


~~~~~~~~~~*

By the time the Admiral entered JAG Headquarters at half past seven, two very different stories about Harm and Mac's relationship had already spread like wildfire throughout the building. By the time he reached the bullpen, the Admiral was very concerned and a bit angry with what he had been hearing in the hallways.

"Admiral on deck," Gunny called out, everyone snapping to attention as the Admiral entered.

Instead of the customary 'As you were', the Admiral paused for a moment and looked around the bullpen. "People, this is a military establishment, not a gossip convention," he said firmly. "Let's get to work, people. Leave the gossip outside." With one more glance around the bullpen, the Admiral finally added, "As you were."

Continuing on to his office, he paused at Gunny's desk, leaning close so only he would hear. "When Commander Rabb and Colonel Mackenzie arrive, please inform them that I would like to see them in my office," AJ ordered.

"Yes, sir," Gunny replied. He too had been hearing bits of the gossip floating around the building and with the questions that Singer had been asking earlier, he had the feeling that she was behind the more malicious of the two stories. Since he had informed Lieutenant Roberts of the questions, Gunny felt confident that the Commander and the Colonel would be informed as well. He truly liked both officers, and after the disaster a few months earlier with Tiner, Gunny had learned to keep his nose out of the private lives of his coworkers and to never assume anything about said private lives.

~~~~~~~~~~*

Harm and Mac finally made their appearance just before eight, they were surprised at how quiet the bullpen was. As they glanced around, they noticed that everyone seemed to be avoiding looking at them - or at each other, for that matter. They shot each other a questioning glance as they headed for their respective offices.

Off to the side, Mac noticed Gunny motioning to them and she changed direction to head for his desk. After a moment, she rejoined Harm, who had paused just outside his office to wait for her. "The Admiral would like to see both of us in his office," she quietly told him.

"You don't think... ?" Harm asked, just as quietly.

"I don't know, but something's going on around here," Mac replied, "and I think we're about to find out what."

After stashing their covers and briefcases in their respective offices, they headed for the Admiral's office together while, across the bullpen, Lauren Singer noticed and allowed herself a small satisfied smile.


~~~~~~~~~~

Harm and Mac were told by Tiner to go straight into the Admiral's office. Entering, they found their commanding officer standing behind his desk, looking out the window, and came to attention in front of his desk.

"Commander Rabb, Colonel Mackenzie, reporting as ordered, sir," Harm said sharply.

"At ease," AJ said, turning to them and taking his seat. He looked them over for a moment before starting. "Now, I normally do not involve myself in my officers' personal lives, as long as they come to work and do their jobs. But I've been hearing some things this morning that, to be honest, are a bit disturbing."

Harm and Mac exchanged a quick glance before Harm began, "Admiral, I think I know ... " before AJ held up his hand.

"Please, let me finish, Commander," he insisted. "Now, as I was saying, I normally don't involve myself in the private lives of my officers. But, given some of the things I've been hearing, I feel I need to ask a few questions in this particular case."

Standing, he walked around the desk to stand in front of them. Looking at Harm, he asked, "Commander, what is the status of your relationship with Ms. Peterson?"

Mac glanced at Harm out of the corner of her eye. She had the sinking feeling that she knew where this was heading. Someone had been spreading stories about them, she feared, and it wasn't Harriet. Her breakup with Mic was public knowledge since everyone had noticed she wasn't wearing his ring anymore, but as far as she knew, Bud and Harriet were the only ones besides her who knew about Harm's breakup with Renee. She vowed privately that whoever was doing this was going to be very sorry for calling into question Harm's integrity.

"Sir, Ms. Peterson has returned to California, I believe," Harm replied carefully. "She and I parted ways the day after the Surface Warfare Ball." He also had the feeling that he knew what this was about and was very curious to find out who was behind it. He was furious that someone would try to make Mac sound like 'the other woman'.

AJ nodded, inwardly relieved. He had known both Harm and Mac too long to believe that particular story which was making the rounds, but as a commanding officer, he did need to make sure it would not interfere with his command. And he suspected that they would uncover who was behind that story and deal with him or her.

"Good," he finally said. "Now that we've gotten that out of the way, is there anything that you feel the need to tell me?"

"Actually, there is, Admiral," Harm answered. "You see, Mac and I ... well, sir, we are seeing each other. Socially, I mean." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mac give him a reassuring smile.

"I see," AJ said, not really surprised. Even before what had happened at the Sydney Airport in Australia, he had known that there were feelings stronger than friendship between them. Hell, he'd half been expecting something like this ever since he had first introduced the two and warned them not to get involved. As a friend, he was happy for them, but as a commanding officer, he did have to worry about running an efficient office. Not that he expected there to be any problems. They were both too professional to let that happen.

"And you don't expect this 'development' to interfere with your work in any way?" He still did have to ask.

"No, sir," Mac answered this time, the first she'd spoken since they entered the office. "It hasn't so far." Inwardly, she breathed a sigh of relief. The Admiral seemed to be taking this very well.

"Good," AJ replied. "Then as I said before, as long as it doesn't interfere with work, I don't interfere with my officers' personal lives." He paused, looking from one to the other before continuing, "However, if you two decide to make things permanent, shall we say, then we will need to revisit this discussion."

They both nodded. "Understood, sir," Mac replied, echoed by Harm. "You'll be one of the first to know when we make any decisions about our future," Harm added.

"Very well," AJ told them. "That will be all."

Harm and Mac snapped to attention, saying, "Aye, aye, sir," before turning to leave. As they reached the door, AJ called after them, "Commander, Colonel, just one more thing."

They paused, Harm's hand on the doorknob. "Yes, sir?" he asked.

"Try not to have any fights in the office," AJ told them. "Then I won't have to confine you to a submarine for two weeks as punishment."

Harm and Mac almost smiled at the reference to their previous experience on a submarine together, which had come on the heels of a very public blowup between the two at work. Definitely not an experience either was anxious to repeat. "No, sir," Mac replied as Harm opened the door.

In the outer office, they both exhaled, glad that they were over that hurdle. "That went fairly well," Mac pointed out.

"Fairly," Harm agreed, "but I'd really like to know where that other story came from."

"So would I, Harm. So would I."

1710 ZULU
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

Harriet had spent the morning fuming on her best friends' behalf. She had been hoping to do something nice for Harm and Mac by showing them how much all their friends approved of and supported their relationship. Now all that had been twisted and perverted by the vicious rumors that had been swirling around the building and Harriet was almost one hundred percent sure who was behind it. Despite the Admiral's warning about the gossip this morning, Harriet had still heard things floating around every time she had ventured out of the bullpen. She hoped that Harm and Mac knew that their real friends were behind them. She just hated the fact that there were people who still lent credence to that particular story by continuing to repeat it.

Harriet saw Carolyn Imes exit the building with her lunch and motioned her over to the table she was sitting at. Taking the seat opposite Harriet, Carolyn jumped right in with, "I can't believe some of the things people have been saying this morning!"

Harriet shook her head sadly as she toyed with her sandwich's paper wrapper. "I just wanted everything to be perfect for them, Commander," she commented sadly. "I wanted them to know how happy we all are for them."

Carolyn put her hand on Harriet's arm and squeezed gently. "It's not your fault," she tried to reassure Harriet. "No one can fault you for being happy for your friends. I just wish I knew for sure who could even think such things about Harm and Mac, let alone spread such stories."

"I'm pretty sure I know," Harriet admitted, "but I don't want to say anything until Bud has a chance to talk to the Commander and the Colonel."

Carolyn understood completely. "It's up to them to deal with it and the last thing we need today is any more gossip and innuendo making the rounds. Anyway, if I were to lay odds, I know where I would place my money."


~~~~~~~~~~

Mac popped her head into Harm's office as he was closing the file on one of the witnesses they were going to interview this afternoon for the sexual harassment case they were prosecuting. "Hey," she said brightly, hoping to lift both of their moods, "are you about ready to go to lunch?"

Harm looked up and gave her a weak smile. The morning had been a long one for both of them. They had spent most of the morning sequestered in one of the conference rooms conducting interviews, but they had noticed the funny looks and the halted conversations every time one of them stepped out of the room. They had tried to ignore it, but it bothered both of them that this beautiful relationship they were managing to build with each other had been lowered by some to the level of cheap and tawdry. "I'm finished here," he said, getting up from his chair and grabbing his cover. "What do you have in mind?"

"Nothing really special," she replied. "I just thought we could grab something from the cafeteria and take it out into the courtyard. It's a nice day outside."

Harm quirked his eyebrow at her, a questioning look in his eyes. He wasn't so sure that was a good idea and had been thinking more along the lines of driving somewhere else to eat. "Are you sure?" he questioned.

She knew where this was coming from. Hell, she had even tossed around the idea of disappearing for an hour herself. But no, they needed to face this head on. "We have nothing to hide," she added firmly. "I'm sure our friends know us better than that. As for everyone else, I feel sorry for them that they can't see how special this is."

Harm took a deep breath and sighed. He knew she was right. It was just that this was everything bad he had imagined over the weekend in living Technicolor. But if it would make her happy ... "Okay, the courtyard it is, Ninja Girl," he finally said.

As they headed downstairs, Mac reminded him, "Remember, we're trying not to let other people's opinions affect us. We will get through this."

Harm was about to reply when he noticed Bud heading in their direction, slightly out of breath. "Sir, Ma'am," he started, turning and falling into step beside them. "I'm glad I caught you before you left for lunch."

"Actually, Bud, we are staying here for lunch," Harm told him. "What is it?"

"Gunny told me something this morning that I think you both should hear."


~~~~~~~~~~

Harm was furious as he, Mac and Bud walked outside with their lunches. He had known she could be devious. After all, he just knew that she had been the one to put that file in Mac's car a few months back, the one that could have resulted in professional misconduct charges against Mac. But that was work. This particular incident was personal. That made it worse.

"Harm, try not to think about it," Mac whispered. "Let's try to enjoy ourselves, please?" She knew he was angry; she was herself. But there wasn't a whole lot they could do about the situation at the moment. Best to let it go for now.

Harriet saw them and motioned them over to the table where she and Carolyn were chatting about a case with Alan Mattoni, who had joined them just a few minutes earlier.

After the three officers sat down, everyone was quiet for a long moment, no one quite willing to be the first to speak. Finally, Harriet took a deep breath and said to Harm and Mac, "Sir, Ma'am, I want to apologize ... "

Mac smiled and quickly jumped in to reassure her friend, "You have nothing to apologize for, Harriet. You're not the one who is responsible for everything that is being said this morning. Don't worry about it."

Harriet didn't look convinced, so Bud took her hand and squeezed gently. She smiled weakly at him. "I just feel so bad," she murmured.

"We all do, Lieutenant," Alan added. "I can't believe anyone could even think some of the things I've heard this morning. If someone can repeat such lies about Harm and Mac, who's next?"

Mac sighed. So much for not talking about it, but she knew Alan had a point. This attack could have just as easily been aimed at someone else, especially considering the source. She glanced at Harm and he nodded slightly. He had come to the same conclusion. "We should probably tell all of you this," she started. "Alan does have a point. We're pretty sure we know who started it and you should all be warned, just in case."

"How sure is pretty sure?" Carolyn asked. She was curious to know if her suspicions were correct.

"We don't have anything concrete," Harm replied, speaking up for the first time, "but there is enough circumstantial evidence to be very compelling." He paused and looked around the table before continuing, "It was Lieutenant Singer."

While Bud and Harriet had already known, being privy to the same information as Harm and Mac, neither Carolyn nor Alan showed any shock or surprise either. "This is not the first time that woman has pulled a stunt like this," Alan said. "The list is long, but this has to be the worst. After all, everything else she has pulled has been work-related. This is a personal attack on two highly respected and dedicated officers."

"Alan is right," Carolyn added. "Who is she going after next? If she can repeat such lies about you two, she could come after any one of us, too. She has made no secret of the fact that she intends to be the first female JAG."

"Only if everyone forgets that both you and the Colonel outrank her," Harriet pointed out firmly. "That woman will never be half the attorney or person that the two of you are." As far as insults go, that was probably the worst thing any of them had ever heard Harriet say about someone else.

Mac looked at Harm and smiled as she clasped his hand in hers. She was beginning to feel better knowing that they did have the support of all their friends. He smiled back at her warmly. "True," he agreed with Harriet, "but how do we put a stop to this in the meantime? I don't think we all want to spend all our time watching our sixes."

There were nods all around the table. Nobody was safe as long as she was up to her tricks. "I hate to point this out," Bud said hesitantly, "but what if she goes outside of JAG with the story about the Commander and the Colonel? Especially since there is a relationship. I assume the Admiral was pretty understanding about that aspect, but others might not be. She just might do that if confronted about this."

"Damned if we do, damned if we don't," Harm said quietly. This was turning into an impossible situation. If they said or did something, Singer could cause even more trouble for them. If they didn't, then it would be like giving her free rein to go after others at JAG whom she saw as standing in her way.

"At the very least, we can all stand together," Carolyn pointed out. "Protect each other's sixes, as it were. We don't stoop to her level by being petty or vindictive, but we keep our eyes and ears open and try to head off anything else she might try. Strength in numbers."

There were murmurs of assent all around. Six against one did present a lot better odds. If she came after one of them again, she risked the wrath of all of them. "And I know I speak for the rest of us," Alan added, looking at Harm and Mac, "when I say that if this does go outside of JAG, all of us will back the two of you up one hundred percent. It will be harder for people to believe her if she is the only one making her ridiculous claims. Anyway, anyone who really knows you two is probably thinking 'It's about
time.'"

Everyone found themselves chuckling at that last statement. It was about time. Harm and Mac looked at their friends gratefully. "It's nice to know we have such good friends," Mac said. "It means a lot to us. I just wish I knew how this all got started. What made her decide to suddenly start this rumor?"

"Yeah," Carolyn added, "and what about the timing? Is it just a coincidence that this rumor started at the same time that a relationship really developed between you two, or could she have possibly seen something innocent that she twisted for her own purposes?"

"It is hard to believe that this could be a coincidence," Mac stated, "but I don't know what she could have seen that she could have twisted to use against us. Until today, we've been careful to keep our relationship out of the public eye."

"Bud," Harriet said, turning to her husband, "when you were working with her on Saturday, did she say anything that even hinted that she was planning something against the Commander and Colonel?"

"Except about the case," Bud replied, "we didn't talk at all. We met, interviewed the witness, then parted."

"What about you two?" Carolyn asked Harm and Mac. "Did you go anywhere this weekend where she might have seen you?"

Harm and Mac looked at each other, comprehension dawning as they realized where she could have seen them. "It's possible," Harm told her softly.

"I know," Mac replied. "A lot of us from JAG hang out there. She could have been there and we just didn't see her."

Noticing the curious looks from everyone else, Mac explained, "We spent Saturday at the airfield while Harm was doing maintenance work on his plane. On our way home, we stopped at McMurphy's for dinner."

"So she could have seen you there, put two and two together and put her own spin on it," Carolyn pondered.

"Yes," Mac admitted, "but as far as the possibility of her seeing anything that she could use against us, we were just having dinner. We've been friends for years and it's hardly the first time we've had dinner alone together. As far as circumstantial evidence goes, it's pretty weak."

"Especially compared to Friday night, huh?" Carolyn added, getting a laugh out of everyone present, even Harm and Mac. Neither was surprised. They had known Harriet would pass on that tidbit to a few of their friends. They just hadn't expected everything else that had happened.

1900 ZULU
JAG HEADQUARTERS
FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA

"Admiral, Dr. Walden is here to see you," Tiner said over the intercom.

"Send her in, Tiner," AJ said, grateful for the distraction. Aside from the unpleasantness of this morning, he'd had a long meeting with the SecNav and had been fielding requests from media interested in the sexual harassment case Harm and Mac were trying.

He got up and came from behind his desk to greet her with a kiss on the cheek. "Sit down," he offered. "It's good to see you. What brings you by?"

Sydney smiled. "You sounded a little down when I spoke to you on the phone at lunch, so I thought I would stop by on my way to a consult and say hi, maybe cheer you up a little bit."

AJ sat back down behind his desk with a sigh. He had definitely been lucky to find Sydney. "I had a long meeting with the SecNav and I've been fielding phone calls all day, both about a sexual harassment case going to trial next week. And there have been rumors going around all day long about two of my officers," he said.

"Rumors?" Sydney asked.

"Untrue rumors," AJ replied, "but troubling just the same, especially for the two officers involved if they go outside this office."

"I'm sorry," Sydney said. "How do you feel about dinner later?"

Before AJ could respond, Tiner interrupted on the intercom. "Sir," he said, "Colonel Mackenzie is here to see you."

"Send her in, Tiner," AJ replied. After Mac had entered and come to attention in front of his desk, he asked, "At ease. What can I do for you, Colonel?"

Mac looked at Sydney. She hadn't meant to interrupt. "Sir, I can come back if you're busy," she said.

"That's not a problem, Mac," Sydney assured her. "I can wait outside if you need to speak with AJ alone."

"No, it's okay, Dr. Walden," Mac responded. "It's nothing major. I just needed to clear something with the Admiral."

"Go ahead, Colonel," AJ stated. At least she wasn't in here to tell him things were already falling apart between her and Rabb.

"You remember my little sister Chloe, Sir?" she asked. At his nod, she continued, "Sir, she's coming to stay with us on Saturday for a month. She has expressed an interest in watching us work and Harm and I do have a case going to trial on Monday, so we were wondering if it would be a problem if we brought her with us to work."

He caught her use of 'we' and 'us'. What, are they already living together? he wondered. That was fast. He did think it was a positive sign that Mac was already thinking of them as a unit rather than two individuals. It boded well for their future together. He smiled at her as he replied, "I don't see a problem with that. Hell, she'll probably be better behaved than a lot of the media that will be attending the trial."

Mac smiled at that as she thanked him and left. Sydney watched AJ for a moment and wondered about the smile on his face. "What are you smiling about?" she finally asked.

AJ shrugged. "I was just thinking that it's about time."


~~~~~~~~~~

Harm looked up at Mac as she entered his office after leaving the Admiral's. "So, did he run in terror at the thought of Chloe gracing this office with her presence again?" he teased as she sat down.

"No," Mac replied, smiling, "he actually said she would probably be better behaved than most of media planning to grace the trial with their presence. He gave his okay for her to come in with us on Monday."

Harm nodded. "Speaking of the media," he said, picking up a stack of phone messages Gunny had handed him after their last interview and showing them to her. "They've been calling all day requesting information, interviews, seats at the trial."

"Sexual harassment in the military is still big news," she reminded him. "Especially when it involves high-ranking officers such as Colonel Mayhill. Look at that case with the Army that's been all over the news recently."

"The one with the female three-star general? That case involved two generals. This one involves a Marine Colonel and a 1st Lieutenant," he said. "Unfortunately, this is simply the kind of incident that seems to go on everyday in the military these days."

"Then again," Mac pointed out, "this one did take place at the Pentagon. That's sure to bring a lot of exposure to the case. And judging from the amount of time Admiral Chegwidden spent at the Pentagon this morning, the SecNav is all over this case, too."

"Just what we need," Harm complained. "The SecNav breathing down our necks."

"Not the first time that's happened," Mac started.

"Yeah, nor will it be the last," Harm finished. "I know."


2335 ZULU
SARAH MACKENZIE'S APARTMENT
GEORGETOWN
WASHINGTON D.C.

"I am just so glad this day is over," Mac sighed as they entered her apartment, having stayed late at work going over witness interviews for the Mayhill case then stopping off to pick up a pizza. "It can only go up from here, right?" She reached down and patted Jingo on the head as she went with him into the kitchen to feed him.

"Let's hope so," Harm replied as he put their food on the coffee table before heading for the bedroom to change out of his summer whites. "Unless something bad were to happen, say like Palmer escaping from Leavenworth, I don't think things could get any worse."

"Harm, don't talk like that," Mac called out. "I don't want to think about to think about psychotic ex-DSD agents, back-stabbing lawyers or high-profile cases. I just want a nice, quiet evening at home. Think we can manage?"

Harm came up behind her, now dressed in shorts and tank top, and wrapped his arms around her, nuzzling her ear. "Are you sure you want quiet?" he teased, a grin on his face. "After all, you're usually pretty noisy ... " he trailed off when she pulled out of his arms and swatted him playfully.

"I don't think you need to complete that thought, Flyboy," Mac insisted. "Think you can manage to behave and get us something to drink while I go change?"

Harm pulled her back into his arms for a quick kiss. "Only if you promise to hurry back," he vowed as he pressed her against him.

"Sorry, squid," she replied, "you're very tempting, but I'm hungry for food right now." She pulled out of his arms again and with a sultry glance backwards, she head for the bedroom.

Laughing, Harm got two bottles of water from the fridge and settled down on the couch to wait for her. "She's crazy, isn't she?" he told Jingo as the dog sat beside him, resting his head on Harm's leg.

"Aw, don't you two look cute together," Mac teased as she came back out, now dressed similarly to Harm. "I think he really likes you."

Harm raised an eyebrow at her as she sat down next to him. "Probably a good thing since I'm pretty much living with you," he pointed out.

"Pretty much?" Mac shot back as she grabbed a slice of pizza. "Let's see, we've ridden into work together every day for the last week. We've gone to bed together and woken up together every day, also. Half of your wardrobe as well as all of your summer uniforms are currently in my dresser and closet. I don't see where 'pretty much' comes into it."

"Are you declaring us as having moved in together?" he asked, laughing, as he grabbed a slice of pizza himself.

She looked at him seriously as she swallowed the pizza in her mouth. "Do you have a problem with us living together?" she asked.

"Practically speaking," he replied, "it does make sense for ... "

"Forget practicalities for a moment," Mac interrupted, setting her half-eaten slice of pizza down and wrapping her arms around his neck. "Do you, Harmon Rabb, want to move in together with me?"

Who could possibly think about anything practical with Sarah Mackenzie leaning close and looking incredible, her white shorts and tank top setting off her olive skin? Not me, Harm thought. "I'd love to live with you, Sarah Mackenzie," he replied softly, gazing into her eyes.

"You don't have a problem with living here instead of at your place?" she asked.

"It doesn't matter," he promised. "Anyway, with Chloe coming for a month, it's probably best to live in a place where our bedroom is behind closed doors."

"Agreed," she said, pulling away and picking up her pizza again. "Although Chloe is going to get a kick out of this. You know, she told me just before AJ was born that I was in love with you." Quickly, she recounted for him the conversation she and Chloe had the evening he had told her he was thinking of returning to the air.

"'Harm and Mac, sitting in a tree', huh?" Harm said, laughing. "I always knew I liked that girl. I've been wanting to ask her what fantasies you told her about me."

Mac laughed, blushing, as she remembered what Chloe had said when she had first introduced her to Harm. "You remember that!?" she exclaimed. "I couldn't believe that she said that. I had wanted to strangle her at the time."

"Believe me," he replied, grinning, "I definitely wanted to know more."

"Yeah?" she shot back, wrapping her arms around him again, grinning herself, "Play your cards right, Flyboy and I just might share some of them with you sometime."

"Yeah?" he echoed, intrigued. "How about right now?"

"How about we finish eating?" she countered.

"You and your stomach, Marine," Harm teased. Suddenly, he yanked her into his lap as she squealed. "Are you sure?"

"Hmmm, tempting, Sailor," she said, pretending to ponder the question for moment. "How about a deal? You let me finish eating and I'll share a few of them with you."

"And if I don't agree?"

"Well," Mac replied, pressing herself against him, "then I'll still finish eating, you won't get to hear any of my fantasies and we'll find out how comfortable you find the couch tonight."

"Ouch," he complained. "You drive a very hard bargain, Jarhead."

"Are you complaining, Squid?" she shot back. "Don't think you can take it?"

"Not a chance," he replied. "I can take anything you can, Marine. Okay, deal, but on one condition."

"Which is?"

"One kiss," he told her. "You give me one kiss and I promise to let you finish eating."

"Okay," she agreed, leaning forward to kiss him, intending to give him a quick peck on the lips, but he was too fast for her. With a moan deep in her throat, she opened up to his kiss, losing herself in the taste of him, the feel of his tongue gently invading. After a moment, he broke it off and looked at her.

"You weren't trying to be cute there, were you?" he asked. He knew exactly what she had been planning to try.

Mac raised her eyebrows. "I don't remember you specifying specific parameters for your request, Counselor," she pointed out.

"Fine," he retorted, pushing her off his lap back onto the couch as she giggled. "Eat. Just remember to keep talking."

Mac sat sideways on the couch, her back against the arm, her feet resting in his lap. He pushed the pizza box down the coffee table so that she could reach it from her position. "So, does this only work one way?" she asked, grabbing a slice of pizza. "Or do I get to hear some of yours?"

"I don't remember anything in our deal about my fantasies, Counselor," he reminded her. "This is supposed to be about yours."

"Can't I renegotiate?" she pouted.

After teasing her by pretending to think about it for a moment, he relented, "Fine. For every one you tell me, I'll tell you one of mine. But you go first."

"Fair enough," she replied. "Let me see, which one should I start with? Ummm ... what are you doing, Flyboy?"

"Massaging your feet," he answered. "If you don't like it, move them. There was nothing in our deal about no touching. I was only supposed to let you finish eating."

How the hell am I supposed to finish eating with him touching me? she thought before reminding herself that she was a Marine and could take anything he could dish out. Besides she had a few ideas of her own. "Fine," she retorted. "Now where was I? Which one? I suppose I could start with the first one I ever had about you."

"Do I get the specifics about when and where you had this little fantasy of yours?" he asked.

"Hmmm," she sighed as his hands continued to move over her feet. That felt so good. "I suppose I can tell you the when and where. That night in the Appalachian Mountains."

He knew immediately which night she was referring to and was a bit surprised. Not about the fantasy. Hell, he'd had one or two of his own about her too that night. But she had been the one who had been shot and running a fever. "Fantasy or fever-induced hallucination?" he teased.

She laughed. She had wondered that herself before and shrugged, "Who knows? But I remember it, so it probably wasn't a hallucination."

"Details," he reminded her as his hands moved to her ankles, still massaging.

"Okay, we go up in your plane," she recounted. "No mechanical problems this time. We land and hike through the woods a bit until we find this cabin. We decide to stop and rest since we have been hiking for a while. It's fall, so it's a little chilly out. You build us a fire. We're sore from hiking, so we take turns giving each other massages. Finally, we make love and fall asleep in front of the fire. We do that all night long. Wake up and make love, then fall asleep again. Sometimes it's slow and tender, other times it's intense and fast."

"The floor wouldn't be very comfortable all night long," he pointed out.

"I don't think practicality is a requirement," she replied, rubbing one of her feet along his thigh, payback for the distracting foot massage. "This is a fantasy, remember? Anyway, didn't we spend that night sleeping on the ground?"

"You slept," he said. "I spent most of the night lying there watching you sleep. I was worried about ... by the way, what are you doing?"

"Hey, if you can touch, so can I," she retorted as she continued to move her foot up and down his thigh.

"Fair enough," he replied. He just didn't want her to stop. "Is it supposed to be my turn now?" At her nod, he started, "Well, you started with the Appalachian mountains, so I guess I'll start with that day, too. I remember arriving at the airfield that morning to find you already there. You were standing next to the plane, running your hands over the fuselage. I wanted you to touch me like that. I was almost afraid to touch you when I helped you into the plane, because all I could think about was taking you into my arms and taking you right up against the plane."

Mac licked her lips as she pondered the idea of fast sex up against Harm's plane. Might be a bit uncomfortable, but the idea had definite intriguing possibilities. "I don't know," she said slowly, "the hanger might be a bit public, but maybe the next time you take me flying, maybe we can find someplace a little more private ... " she trailed off.

"Maybe we can find a cabin where we can explore your idea also," he added, gazing into her eyes, fighting the urge to pull her into his arms again.

"Hmmm," she murmured as she stole a quick glance at his lap. This was definitely having the same affect on him as it was on her. His reaction was just a little more, um, visible.

He saw where her gaze was directed and looked back up at her. "Are you finished eating yet?" he said softly.

She was tempted, but the devil in her felt compelled to drag it out just a little bit longer. "No," she said simply, grabbing another slice of pizza as his hands continued their slow journey up her legs, working over the muscles of her calves.

"Are you sure?"

She nodded. "Sure," she insisted. "Anyway, don't you want to hear another one?"

"If you insist," he replied.

"Well, you know," she pouted, "I don't have to talk. I could just finish eating."

"No, please continue," he replied quickly. Listening to her was just as arousing as her hands and mouth moving all over his body.

"Let me see," she pondered, her foot 'accidentally' brushing against his erection as he bit back a groan. "Well, there was the one about the dress whites, but we kind of indulged in that one last Monday after we wore our dress uniforms to the Wall."

"I thought you said they were overrated," he reminded her.

"So I lied," she said, licking her lips as she remembered their near kiss in Colombia. "Although I would like to see what we could do with mess dress. Remind me the next time we go to a black tie function. What else? Well, there is the one about the quarters on an aircraft carrier."

"Very cramped," he told her. Seeing the jealousy flash in her eyes, he quickly reassured her, "So I've been told. That's not from personal experience."

"Are you trying to tell me that the great Harmon Rabb has never snuck a girl into his quarters on a carrier?"

"Never," he chuckled. Since it wasn't his turn, he wasn't going to mention right now that he'd definitely had fantasies about her aboard them.

"Well, I'll have to see what I can do about that," she said, licking her lips again. "Maybe I'll pay you an unexpected visit the next time we conduct an investigation aboard one."

"And if I have a roommate?" he asked, his hands busy moving over her thighs just below the bottom of her shorts. He was definitely looking forward to their next visit to a carrier.

"We'll just have to make sure he's on duty and won't be back for a while," she replied. "Okay, your turn."

"I've got one, but I feel a little bad about it considering the circumstances surrounding it," he said. At her questioning glance, he asked, "You remember the night we thought Clay was dead?"

Immediately, she knew exactly what he was talking about and blushed. "You mean that question I asked as you were getting ready to go back to bed?"

"Let's just say that one question inspired some pretty spectacular dreams the rest of that night," he told her. "I had to force myself to go back to bed after you said it."

"They probably compare to the thoughts that popped into my head as soon as I said it," she returned. "And it was very difficult not to think like that when you came out into the living room looking the way you did."

"What was wrong with me?"

"Nothing was wrong," she insisted. "But seeing you in boxer shorts definitely made it hard to think about anything besides how much I wanted you. So is there any more to this fantasy?"

"Not really," he admitted. "I wasn't really thinking in specific terms that night. I just wanted you."

"So I guess that means it's my turn," she said. "Good." She changed positions, moving back onto his lap, this time straddling him. "Harm?"

"Hmmm?" he murmured. Who would have ever thought just talking could be as arousing as the standard kisses and caresses of foreplay? he thought. Or maybe it was the subject matter. Maybe that was why some people got so turned on by phone sex.

"I'm finished eating," Mac said, slowly pulling her tank top over her head and tossing it to the floor, her bra quickly following.

His hands moved over her stomach then cupped her breasts, his thumbs brushing against her taunt nipples. "Here?" he managed to whisper. He sure as hell hoped so. He didn't think he could wait long enough for them to make it to the bedroom.

"Here," she confirmed as she stood up, keeping her eyes on his as she removed the rest of her clothes.

After staring at her for a long moment, just taking in the sight of her standing before him, before he finally stood and removed his own clothes. Pulling her firmly against him, he laid down on the couch, pulling her on top of him.

Mac adjusted slightly so that she was straddling him, leaning forward to rest her hands on the couch just above his shoulders. She looked down at him for a long moment before moving over him, slowly taking him inside of her.

Slowly they moved together, wanting to draw it out as long as possible, even as they knew they were already too far gone for it to last too much longer. Not this time.

His hands on her hips to guide her movements, Harm watched as she bit her lip, her muscles tightening around him as her climax overtook her, his own swiftly following.

Harm's hands left her hips and moved up her back, pulling her down against him, her head resting on his chest. "We'll have to do this one again," he said quietly.

"Hmmm? The fantasy storytelling?" she murmured against his chest. She smiled as a memory came to her. "Maybe I'll tell you sometime about the night you broke out of the brig. I had some pretty hot fantasies about you and this couch."


SATURDAY
1957 ZULU
REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA

"Since Chloe is under the age of thirteen and traveling alone," Mac told Harm as they waited at the gate for the passengers to deplane from American Airlines flight 1688 from San Diego. "She'll be one of the last off the plane. A flight attendant will escort her and I'll have to show some ID so that they know I'm the one who's supposed to pick her up."

"After a six and a half hour flight from California," Harm joked, "she will have either charmed everyone around her or they'll be begging us to take her off their hands."

"Harm! That's terrible," Mac said, laughing.

"She is quite a handful," he reminded her as his eyes scanned the gate area. "She should be here any minute. It looks like most of the passengers are off."

By the door to the jet way, Chloe stood behind one of the flight attendants, searching the crowd for Mac. Due to his height, she caught sight of Harm first.

"Oh, Harm's here," Chloe said happily. Mac has to be somewhere near him, she thought, as she continued looking.

"Who's Harm?" the flight attendant asked.

"Oh, he's just the guy my sister is in love with," Chloe stated. "She just won't admit it." Finally, the crowd parted enough so that Chloe finally saw Mac. "Yes!" she cried exuberantly as she took note of Mac's arm around Harm's waist and the one he had draped over her shoulder.

"I think I hear her," Harm said as most of the people in the gate area turned to look in the direction of the shout. Harm led Mac through the crowd towards the doorway. Finally, they saw Chloe standing by the information desk next to a flight attendant. She was practically jumping up and down, she was so thrilled.

"Please tell me you finally came to your senses? Please?" she begged as she threw her arms around Mac and Mac pulled away from Harm to hug her while Harm laughed. She is worse than Harriet, he thought.

Chloe turned away from Mac and hugged Harm while Mac pulled out her military ID to show the attendant. "It's about time," Chloe teased.

Harm rolled his eyes as he sighed, "If I had nickel for every time I've heard that this week ... "

Chloe laughed with him at the joke as Mac finished with the attendant and turned back to them. "Come on," Mac said, taking Chloe's carry on bag from her. "Let's get you out of here before you say anything else."

"Hey," Chloe retorted as they walked towards baggage claim, "I'm the kid sister. It's my job to embarrass you."

"Yeah, well, do it in private at home," Mac insisted.

"Oh, yeah?" Chloe said, her eyes shining. "So where's home, your place or his?"

Harm and Mac shot each other a look over Chloe's head and sighed. This could end up being the longest month of their lives.

30 JUNE
1740 ZULU
I-270 NORTH
MARYLAND

Actually, Harm admitted to himself as the three of them headed north towards Pennsylvania, the past few weeks with Chloe had been fun ... if one ignored all the pointed hints that she been dropping. She wasn't simply content with the fact that Harm and Mac were finally happy just being together. Over the last three weeks, hints had been continually dropped about when they were going to pick a date for the wedding. Or Chloe would 'suggest' how happy she would be if she were to become an aunt. Her latest obsession was house hunting, being convinced that neither Harm's nor Mac's places were big enough for a growing family.

Right now, Chloe was seated behind Harm, Jingo's head in her lap, a real estate magazine in her hands. "How about this one?" she asked. "Only twenty minutes from DC, four bedrooms, three baths, one acre of land. Lots of room for kids."

"Chloe!" Harm exclaimed. He shot a quick glance at Mac, but she was dozing, her head resting on the passenger's side window. He lowered his voice as he added, "When we are ready to make those kinds of decisions, we will make them. Until then, I appreciate the concern, but we are just fine the way we are."

"But this is a really nice house," Chloe insisted. "Close to DC, lots of room to grow. Come on, just humor me."

Harm sighed. He adored Chloe. Like Mac, he had grown to think of her as a little sister. But she could be a bit much at times and this was one of them. This is going to be a long drive, he thought, especially since I'm the one who has to amuse Chloe. He decided it couldn't hurt to humor her just a little, at least until Mac was awake and could take over.

"Okay," he conceded. "Which side of DC?"

"It's in Virginia, Harm," Chloe said. "You really think I would look for a place on the other side of DC when you work in Virginia? Let's see, according to this map, it's in a town called McLean. It's not that far from the Potomac and not that far from Falls Church either."

"I'm familiar with the place," Harm replied. "The Admiral lives in McLean." Which is a good incentive for not living there, he thought.

"The Admiral," Chloe said brightly. "Cool. Wouldn't that be neat to live near him?"

"Not necessarily," Harm said slowly. "But it is close to work. It's something to consider ... eventually."

"Eventually?" Chloe questioned. "Come on, Harm. You two need to start thinking about the future. You know I only have your best interests at heart ... Hey, why are we stopping?"

As he slowed the SUV, Harm stuck his head out his window to look out over the stalled traffic in front of them. "I can't tell," he answered as he pulled his head back in. "It looks like there might be some construction up ahead."

"How long have we been on the road?" Chloe asked, leaning over Harm's shoulder to gaze at the traffic.

"Forty-eight minutes," Mac answered sleepily, stretching as much as she could within the confines of the vehicle.

"Nice of you to join us, sleepyhead," Harm teased, taking her hand and squeezing gently. "I was beginning to worry. It's almost fourteen hundred hours."

"I haven't been getting a lot of sleep lately," Mac said simply, returning the squeeze. This feels so nice, she thought, a family outing. It couldn't be more perfect.

"Gee, I wonder why?" Chloe asked sarcastically. At the slightly startled looks both Harm and Mac threw her way, she added, "Come on. The three of us have been living together in the same apartment for almost three weeks. You don't honestly think that I believe you've just been sleeping in your bedroom. I'm almost thirteen. I know about the birds and the bees."

"We are not having this conversation," Mac insisted.

"We aren't?" Chloe countered innocently.

"No!" Harm and Mac answered in unison.

Chloe laughed. "Okay, I'll back off, for now," she promised. "How much longer until we get to your grandmother's, Harm?"

"Well," he replied, "if it weren't for the traffic, I'd say about three hours. Now, who knows?"

"Great, now what?" Chloe asked. "I love you guys, but being stuck in traffic with nothing to do ... "

"There should be an exit coming up here soon," Harm said. "We just get off the interstate and take a side road until we clear the traffic. Not a problem."

"Why don't we turn on the radio in the meantime?" Mac suggested. "Find a good radio station with songs we can sing along to, try to have a little fun."

"Sounds great to me," Harm quickly agreed.

"You just don't want to listen to me go on about this house I found," Chloe teased as Harm turned the radio on and sampled stations.

"House?" Mac echoed, looking from Harm to Chloe in confusion.

Harm shrugged. "See what you miss when you're asleep?"


2125 ZULU
SARAH RABB'S FARM
BELLEVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

"Finally!" Chloe exclaimed as Harm parked the SUV in front of his grandmother's house and killed the engine. Harm and Mac couldn't help but agree. They had lost nearly an hour due to construction on the interstate and everyone was tired and sore and hungry. Even Jingo had started softly whining for his supper about half an hour earlier.

Sarah Rabb had been watching out the window for them, and stepped out onto the porch as they all climbed out of the vehicle. Harm quickly crossed the short distance to the porch and pulled his grandmother into a hug, Mac and Chloe following behind.

"Hi, Gram," Harm said quietly. "It's good to see you again."

"It's about time you found the time to come visit your old grandmother," she teased lightly. "Just a few hours away by car, even less by that plane of yours, and I still hardly ever see you."

Harm laughed, "Sorry. The Navy keeps me pretty busy. Anyway, since when are you old?"

"Really sweet boy, this grandson of mine," Sarah commented, smiling at him.

Mac felt a slight twinge of jealousy. Neither of her parents had been very close to their own parents, so her grandparents had not been a very big part of her life. It was obvious that Harm shared a very close relationship with his grandmother. Mac had figured as much when he had finally told her who his plane was named for.

"Gram," Harm said, reaching out to pull Mac to his side, "this is Sarah Mackenzie."

"Hello, Mrs. Rabb," Mac said, holding out her hand. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you."

Sarah ignored the outstretched hand and pulled her into a hug. "First of all," she told Mac, "I'm Gram around here. I don't want to hear any of this Mrs. Rabb stuff. And it's a pleasure to finally meet you, also. You're just about all Harm has talked about for the last four years."

"Okay, Gram," Mac agreed as she returned the hug, smiling at the thought of Harm tell his grandmother about her over the last few years. Too bad she couldn't have met Sarah Rabb earlier. Maybe she could have helped Mac get through to Harm a lot sooner.

"And you must be Chloe," Sarah said, turning to her for a hug. "Harm's been telling me a lot about you too the last few weeks."

"It's nice to meet you, Gram," Chloe said. "You have a nice farm. It reminds me a lot of my grandparents' place."

"Good, then you should fit right in here," Sarah said. "Now, after being on the road for so long - God knows, Harm isn't used to having to drive up here - I'm sure you all are hungry. I've got dinner just about ready if you want to come on in and leave your bags for later."

"Sounds great," Mac agreed. "I am hungry."

"You're always hungry, Marine," Harm reminded her as they walked into the house holding hands.

"You leave her alone, Harmon Rabb," Sarah teased. "Nothing wrong with a woman with a healthy appetite."

"Of course not, Gram," Harm quickly agreed as Mac smiled. She was definitely going to enjoy the next few days with his grandmother.


~~~~~~~~~~


"Hey, you okay, Sarah?" Harm asked, joining Mac on the porch where she was standing, just looking out over the farm.

"I'm fine," Mac replied, shrugging off his concern. "Your grandmother's really great, Harm. She's very loving, a great cook ... I can't remember the last time I had a home cooked meal like that."

"Thinking about your own family?"

"Do you realize how lucky you are?" she asked. "Even without your father, you have the kind of family I only ever dreamed of having. I barely knew my own grandparents and my parents were hardly poster children for family values."

"I know," he replied quietly, pulling her into his arms, her back to him. Despite his father's death, he had been lucky, even if he hadn't always realized it or wanted to admit it.

"I'm sorry," Mac apologized, "I usually don't like to dwell like this on everything I didn't have growing up, but your grandmother has been so kind and welcoming. Maybe it's a bit overwhelming."

"I understand," Harm said. "I'd probably feel the same way in your position. Gram's always been really good about letting people in. Everyone thinks very highly of her around here."

"I can see why. She's been treating Chloe and me just like her own grandchildren. It's as if we've known her for years," Mac pointed out.

"She knows how much you mean to me," Harm said simply. "In her eyes, that makes you family already."

"I could get used to this," Mac replied quietly, trying unsuccessfully to hold back a yawn.

"You've been more tired than usual recently," Harm observed. "You sure nothing's wrong?"

"I guess the Mayhill case, along with the excitement of Chloe being here, has just taken a lot out of me," Mac explained. "After all, when was the last time I had a vacation?"

"You mean, aside from when we've played hooky to go flying?" Harm teased. "I don't think I can remember the last real vacation either of us has had."

"See," Mac insisted, "we're both probably tired and just really need the break."

She does have a point, he thought. But still ... "Are you sure?"

"Positive," she said.


~~~~~~~~~~

"How much longer are you staying with your sister?" Sarah asked Chloe as they sat in the living room, watching an old movie, Jingo stretched out on the floor at their feet. Every so often, one or the other would glance out the living room window at the couple on the porch, who had finished their talk and were now settled in the porch swing, Mac sitting in Harm's lap.

"I go home a week from Sunday," Chloe replied. "I miss my dad and I'm looking forward to going home, but staying with them has been really great and I'm sorry ... oops, maybe I shouldn't have said that!" she exclaimed, covering her mouth with her hand as she realized that she had let slip that Harm and Mac were living together. Sure, Sarah Rabb had been great and seemed cool, but some people were old-fashioned about that kind of thing.

Sarah waved off her concern. "So they're living together," she said. "Big deal. It's about time my grandson woke up and saw what was right in front of him. So what if they're living together before they get married? Better that than sneaking around trying to see each other all the time."

Chloe smiled. It was nice to know she wasn't the only one who had been rooting for those two to get their act together. "Now he just needs to put a ring on her finger and everything would be perfect," she pointed out.

"Well," Sarah said quietly, glancing out the window again to make sure Harm and Mac were still out there, "I've got a few ideas about that. We all have waited four years for them to get together. I don't think any of us want to wait another four before they finally decide to make it official. We just need to make sure they get a little 'nudge' in the right direction. I'm not getting any younger, you know. I want to see my grandson settled, and maybe have a great-grandchild or two to spoil."

"I like the way you think, Gram," Chloe said, laughing. Great minds think alike, she thought. "What do you have in mind?"

Chloe's smile grew wider as Sarah explained her idea. "That would be perfect!" she exclaimed. "Who could resist that kind of incentive?"

"If he uses half the brains God gave him, not my grandson," Sarah replied firmly.

"So, have you actually arranged all this yet?" Chloe asked, taking a quick glance out the window again as she smiled smugly. They would never know what hit them.

"How would you like to take a ride into Harrisburg with me Sunday afternoon?" Sarah asked.

"So this is a definite, already-arranged plan that just needs to be executed, huh?" Chloe countered, giggling. "Cool. I can't wait to see how this one plays out. So, how are we going to get away from Harm and Mac for an afternoon?"

"We'll just give a young couple in love a chance to be alone together for a few hours," Sarah explained. "They probably won't even notice we're gone."

Chloe burst out laughing. "Like I said before, Gram, I like how you think."

Sarah started laughing with her and this was how Harm and Mac found them a moment later when they walked back into the house, carrying the luggage they had just retrieved from the SUV.

"What's so funny, ladies?" Harm asked as he set the bags he was carrying down.

"Nothing," Chloe replied quickly, "Gram and I are just getting to know each other better. Right, Gram?"

Harm and Mac just looked at each other as Sarah nodded her agreement. They could just imagine what those two were talking about. "I'm a little tired," Mac explained, deciding to drop the previous subject as there were some things she would rather not know, "so if you can just let me know where my room is, I think I'll head up for the night."

"Harm knows where it is," Sarah replied. "Second door on the right up the stairs." At Harm's look of shock, she added, "You're sharing a room. So what? Some of us want to sleep tonight, not listen to one of you sneaking into the other's room. Harmon, I'm old, not blind."

"Well, then," Mac said, a bit stunned, "I guess we'll just say goodnight. 'Night, Chloe, Gram. Come on, Flyboy." She took his arm and pulled him towards the stairs after he picked up their luggage. The last thing they heard as they climbed the stairs was Chloe's laughter following them.


SUNDAY
1430 ZULU
SARAH RABB'S FARM
BELLEVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

"Come on, sleepyhead," Harm urged, nudging Mac gently, "rise and shine."

Mac rolled over sleepily so that she was facing away from him, pulling the blankets tightly around her. "I'm tired, Harm," she complained. "Go away."

"Gram left some breakfast for us," Harm said, ignoring her dismissive tone. "She and Chloe are getting ready to leave for their shopping excursion into Harrisburg. We'll want to get it before it gets too cold."

"Not hungry," Mac murmured.

"Not hungry?" Harm questioned incredulously. "I never thought I'd ever hear those words out of your mouth, Marine. Talk to me. You're starting to worry me." Gently, he rolled her back over so that she was facing him again.

"Harm, like I said before," Mac replied, "I'm just tired. There was a lot of pressure on us during the Mayhill court-martial, plus keeping up with Chloe, plus a new relationship. Look, we're on vacation here. I think I should be able to sleep in without you making federal case out of it."

"Come on, Sarah," Harm insisted. "You're almost an insomniac, you get by on so little sleep. It's ten-thirty already and you show no signs of even wanting to get out of bed."

"Harm!" she exclaimed, a bit exasperated. Taking a deep breath, she continued, a bit more calmly, "I appreciate the concern, but maybe my body just needs to play catch up." Seeing the concern still evident in his eyes, she added lightly, a smile on her face, "Besides, you have been doing a rather good job of keeping me up at night the last few weeks."

Harm smiled a little at that. They had been going ... the thought trailed off as something clicked inside his head. "Other than being tired, how are you feeling?" he asked.

"Never better," Mac confirmed, a bit puzzled. "I'm not sick, if that's what you're thinking."

Harm shook his head. "No, I wasn't thinking that, exactly," he explained. "Um, Sarah, when was ... I'm not sure how to ask this ... um ... " Harm's voice trailed off as his face turned a nice shade of pink.

"Harm? Are you okay?" Mac asked, wondering what he was having such a hard time asking her.

"Yeah, fine," Harm quickly assured her. Taking a deep breath, he asked, "When was your last period?"

"Harm? Is that what you were embarrassed to ask me?" she asked. "You don't have to be embarrassed about that. We're in an intimate ... " she trailed off herself as it clicked in her own mind what he was getting at. "You don't think ... ?"

"When?" he asked again.

Mac thought back, trying not to get her hopes up. After all, there could be numerous other explanations for her fatigue. Finally, she remembered and she answered quietly, "Just before the Chaddick appeal."

"That would be about what now - seven weeks ago?" Harm asked, trying to keep his voice level. He could be wrong, even as he hoped with everything in him that he wasn't.

Mac nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She wanted this so much, praying desperately that they were both right.

Harm took one of her hands in his and squeezed reassuringly. "Do you want to go into town today," Harm suggested, "pick up one of those tests?"

"Yeah," she replied, "I want ... no, I need to know. And I can't wait until we go back to Washington to find out."

Harm took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Me, too," he agreed. "If you can finally manage to get out of bed and get dressed, we can go now."

Mac climbed out of bed and began rummaging through their suitcase for something to wear. She began putting her clothes, asking Harm, "Do you mind if we wait until Gram and Chloe have gone? I don't know ... I just want to keep this to ourselves, at least until we know for sure."

"Understood," he agreed as she sat down next to him on the bed. "I don't want them to get their hopes up, just in case ... "

Mac put her hands over her abdomen, biting her lower lip nervously. "Harm, what if I'm not? I want this so much, but I'm afraid we'll be disappointed."

Harm moved slightly so that he was behind her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her back against his chest, his hands resting over hers. "It will be okay," he promised. "If it doesn't happen now, we've got plenty of time to keep trying. And I'll be there with you. We'll get through this, no matter which way it goes."

Mac closed her eyes and sighed. How had she gotten so lucky? "I love you, Harm."

"I love you, too, Sarah."

1910 ZULU
SARAH RABB'S FARM
BELLEVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

Harm and Mac's determination to know for sure had not taken long to turn into fear that they wouldn't like the answer. So they had delayed. First, they had eaten a leisurely breakfast while Gram and Chloe had departed for Harrisburg. Then they had driven into town but they took a long walk around before finally going into the drug store and buying the test.

After driving back to the farm, the test sat in the bag from the drug store while they watched 'A Few Good Men' on television, spending the next two hours while the movie was on debating the inaccuracies in the movie. As the end credits rolled, Harm finally brought up the subject they had spent the last few hours avoiding. "Delaying isn't going to change the results," he pointed out quietly.

"I know," Mac replied softly. "I'm just nervous."

"Me, too," he agreed, grabbing the bag and handing it to her, "but if we get this over with, at least we will know for sure."

With a sigh, she took the bag and went into the bathroom, returning a moment later with the stick from the test, which she set on the coffee table. "Okay, we'll know in four minutes and thirty-two seconds," she said nervously as she sat back down on the couch beside him.

Harm began counting down in his head, wishing again he had Mac's ability with time.

After a moment, Mac insisted, "Talk to me, Harm."

"About what?" he countered, losing count in his head and resisting the temptation to ask her for the time remaining so he could start again.

"I don't care," she answered. "Just talk. The silence makes it seem longer."

"Okay," he started, taking a steadying breath. "I wonder what Gram and Chloe went to Harrisburg for."

"Chloe said they wanted to shop," Mac said.

"But in Harrisburg? That's pretty far away for just shopping."

"I guess," she agreed. There was another moment of silence. As she noticed Harm glancing at his watch, she supplied, "Two minutes nineteen."

"Thanks," he said. "I'd been trying to keep track, but you're better at that than I am. Say, are you ever planning on telling me how you do that?"

"Like I told you in Colombia, Harm," she replied, "it's a Marine thing."

"You planning on telling our kids?" he countered.

"Of course."

"What, I don't rate?" he complained.

"We Marines don't share our secrets with lowly squids," she teased.

"What, are you saying that our kids are going to be Marines?" he shot back. "What if they want to join the Navy?"

"Oh, I'll do my best to talk them out of that," she insisted.

"Oh, you will, will you?" he questioned as he pulled her into his lap and started tickling.

"Harm!" she exclaimed, trying to pull away. After another moment, she managed to get out through her laughter, "Harm! It's time!"

They both stopped and looked at each other for a long moment before Mac reach over and picked up the stick, careful not to look at the results until they could look together. "Are you ready for this?" she asked quietly.

"Not really, but let's take a look," he replied as she held the stick out in front of them so they could both see the results.

They simply stared at the stick for a long moment, then looked at each other. "Oh, God ... " they both started.

"We're having a baby!" they shouted simultaneously.

"You're what!?" exclaimed a voice from the doorway. Mac turned to see Chloe and Gram standing there with two other people she didn't recognize, stunned looks on all their faces. Who... ? she thought, then she put together the people with faces she had seen only in pictures just as Harm managed to get out weakly, "Mom! Frank!"

"Not quite what I had in mind when I planned this surprise," Gram said as she ushered the stunned Chloe, Trish and Frank into the room. "Everybody sit down. Mac, you can start breathing now. You're not going to do that baby any good if you pass out. You either, Harmon. Trish, stop acting like you're the first woman to find out she's going to be a grandmother. That would be me. Frank, Chloe, sit down. Now let's all back up a little bit here."

"Mac," Gram started, "I'd like you to meet Frank and Trish Burnett. Frank, Trish, this is Sarah Mackenzie."

"Nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Burnett," Mac managed to say. Of all the scenarios she had imagined for this moment, Harm's parents walking through the door had not been one of them. That explained the trip to Harrisburg. It was probably the closest city with a major airport. At least Gram and Chloe hadn't found some way to make her Uncle Matt magically appear here from Leavenworth.

"Mr. and Mrs. Burnett?" Trish said. "You're going to be the mother of our grandchild. I'm Trish, or Mom would be better, and this is Frank."

"Okay, Mom, Frank," Mac replied. She liked them both already.

"See, Harm, I always said I thought Mac seemed like a nice girl," Trish pointed out.

"Mom!"

"Harmon," Sarah said, "just because you were blind doesn't mean the rest of us were. Don't take it out on us. Mac, how are you feeling?"

"Like I'm on a roller coaster."

"That's natural," Sarah replied. "I remember that feeling well when I first found out I was going to have Harm Senior."

"Now I guess we know why someone's been so tired recently, huh?" Chloe added.

"Chloe!" Mac exclaimed.

"Chloe, give your sister a break," Sarah insisted. "She's entitled. Any nausea, dear?"

"No, other than the fatigue," she answered, "I've never felt better."

"Good, keep your fingers crossed that it stays that way," Sarah said. "Now, Chloe, why don't you and I take Frank and Trish upstairs and get them settled. Harm and Mac look like they could use a few minutes to themselves."


0015 ZULU
SARAH RABB'S FARM
BELLEVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

"It's been quite a day, hasn't it," Trish said as she stepped out onto the porch.

"Yeah, I guess it has," Harm replied as he turned to look at his mother. "So what are you doing out here? Gram didn't tell us you and Frank were coming, which of course was probably her intention."

"Well, it wasn't originally so that we could find out we are going to become grandparents," she said, laughing. "She called a couple weeks ago and said that you were coming up here for the Fourth with Mac and suggested that it would be a good time for all of us to get together. Plus, she thought it was time that I gave you something."

"Gave me what?" he asked, puzzled.

"In a minute. I want to find out how you're feeling first," Trish insisted.

"Thrilled, stunned, excited, a little scared," he replied. "There's so much going through my mind right now. I'm not even sure where to start."

"That's all natural," Trish said. "Your father felt pretty much the same way when we were expecting you. I found out I was pregnant not long after he had deployed. It had happened just before he left. I really wanted to tell him in person, but it wasn't like I could just show up on the carrier and announce it."

"So what happened?" he asked.

"The ship docked in Hawaii for liberty about halfway through the tour," she continued. "I decided to scrape together some money and fly out there to surprise him. I didn't want to wait until the tour was over since it would be obvious by then that I was pregnant. I was waiting on the dock when he got off the ship. He hadn't known I was coming, so he was surprised. He lifted me into his arms and he just knew. I wasn't showing all that much and I was wearing loose clothes, so you couldn't really tell unless you were looking close. I guess when he held me, he could feel that my body wasn't quite the same shape as before. He started shouting for anyone to hear. Finally, Tom Boone walked up to us and suggested, 'You can be quiet now, Hammer. I think the whole island heard you.' So he calmed down for all of about five seconds, then he insisted that we had to leave, I needed to get off my feet, was I eating right, etc."

Trish was quiet for a moment, wrapped up in the memories, before she added, "When we walked in there earlier, the look I saw on your face was the same one I saw on your father's when he figured it out."

"Mom ... " he began, but Trish held up her hand.

"I'm fine, Harm, really," she insisted. "It's just ... he's here with us, you know. Looking down on us."

"I know," Harm said quietly.

"Anyway, the reason we came out was because your gram thought it might be time to give you this," Trish said, pulling a folded handkerchief out of her pocket and handing it to him. He opened it up to find a silver diamond engagement ring inside.

"The way you've always talked about Mac," she continued as he stared at the ring, "all of us have wondered if she might be the one. When your grandmother said you were bringing her with you this trip, we thought you might eventually need this. Your grandfather gave this to her and she passed it on to your father to give to me. Now it's your turn to give it to the woman you love."

"I don't know what to say," he replied softly. "This means so much."

"All you have to tell me is when the wedding will be, once you decide," Trish insisted.

"Thanks, Mom."

Harm carefully folded the handkerchief and put it in his pocket as Mac came out onto the porch. After the public announcement of her pregnancy, he wanted to propose someplace private with just the two of them. Plus, there was something else he really needed to do first.

"Hey, you guys going to stand out here all night?" Mac asked, wrapping her arm around Harm's waist.

"I was just telling Harm how happy I am for both of you," Trish said, smiling at the younger woman.

"Thanks. I know it was a bit of a shock, the way you found out," Mac stated.

"Don't worry, I'm used to it," Trish explained. "I was just telling Harm about a similar scene when his father found out I was pregnant. So, what about your family?"

Mac was quiet for a moment before she finally said, "My uncle is the only family I have left." Which was true, as far as she was concerned. Her mother had lost the right to be called family a long time ago.

"The one in Leavenworth?" Trish asked. Harm had told her previously about the first case they had ever worked together.

"Yeah," Mac answered. "I think he will be happy, but I just wish he could be here with me."

Trish sensed that this might not be the best topic for conversation, so she changed the subject. "So what's going on in there?" she asked, nodding towards the house.

"Let's see," Mac replied, smiling. "Gram has pulled out photo albums and is regaling everyone with tales of three generations of naval aviators, Chloe is trying to figure out how to convince her dad to let her skip school and come to DC when the baby is born and Frank is talking investment options for the trust fund he wants to set up for the baby."

"Mac, I just want you to know that if you ever need anything, don't hesitate to ask any of us," Trish insisted. "We would all do anything for you and that baby."

"I know and thanks. It means a lot to me. To both of us."

WEDNESDAY
1905 ZULU
OB/GYN CLINIC
BETHESDA NAVAL HOSPITAL
BETHESDA, MARYLAND

Harm looked at his watch for what seemed like the hundredth time and wondered what was taking so long. It was just a simple blood test. How long could it possibly take to come back from the lab? He sighed in frustration as Mac squeezed his hand gently. They had rushed back from Belleville that morning for an afternoon appointment at Bethesda, only to have to wait for the test results to come back.

"You know, looking at your watch every few seconds is not going to make the results come back any faster," she teased.

"Aren't you anxious?" he asked. She seemed so calm about it all. Harm was temped to ask her how she did it.

"Harm, I'm so tied up in knots the butterflies in my stomach have butterflies," she replied. "It scares me that the home test might have been wrong, that this isn't real."

"Hey," he said, putting an arm over her shoulders and pulling her close, "if it is, we'll deal with it. Remember, we weren't exactly expecting this to happen quite this soon."

"I know, it's just that as much as I have said I wanted this," she explained, "I never truly realized just how much until we suspected that I might be pregnant. I just want it to work out."

"I know, Ninja Girl," he said softly, pressing his lips to her temple.

"Colonel Mackenzie," a nurse called out from the door leading back to the doctors' offices.

"I guess this is it, Flyboy," Mac said as they both stood and headed for the nurse. She led them to an exam room at the end of the hall and ushered them inside.

"The doctor will be in to examine you in a few minutes," she told Mac. "There is gown behind the screen for you to change into."

"Does that mean the test is positive?" Mac asked nervously.

"The doctor will talk to you when she comes in," the nurse said as she left the room, closing the door behind her.

"Oooh!" Mac exclaimed in frustration as she went behind the curtain to change. "At least she could have told us the results."

"Just a few more minutes," Harm reminded her. "Anyway, would the doctor want to do an examination if you weren't pregnant?"

'Just a few more minutes,' he says, Mac thought as she pulled the hospital gown on. Wasn't he the one who couldn't stop looking at his watch? As she came out from behind the table and climbed up on the exam table, she answered, "How would I know? I've never done this before, remember?"

Harm pulled one of the stools in the room up next to the table and sat down, taking one of her hands in his. "Listen to us," he joked, "we're driving ourselves crazy here. Maybe we should take a deep breath and try to relax."

"You relax, Flyboy," she retorted. "I'm staying on pins and needles ... "

"Colonel Sarah Mackenzie?" a woman asked from the now open doorway, startling them both. Neither had heard the knock at the door which had signaled the doctor's presence. "I'm Commander Lisa Calder. And you are, Sir?"

"Commander Harmon Rabb," he replied, his grip on Mac's hand tightening. They were so close now. Mac looked down at him and smiled.

"Well, Dr. Calder, what's the verdict?" Mac asked, her voice slightly shaking. Please, God, she thought.

The doctor smiled widely at them as she simply replied, "Congratulations."

"Thank God," Harm whispered in relief as Mac leaned over to kiss his forehead. "We're going to have a baby."

"I know," Mac whispered back, tears glistening in her eyes, releasing a breath she hadn't realized she was holding.

Dr. Calder stood to the side and waited. Confirming a pregnancy was often overwhelming for the parties involved and many needed a moment or two just to deal with the new reality of their lives. So she busied herself studying Mac's chart, her back to the couple to allow them a moment of privacy.

"Um, Doctor?" Mac asked nervously after a minute. "So what now?"

Dr. Calder turned back around and pulled up the other stool to the edge of the exam table, Mac's records in hand. "I'll go over a few things with you, try to answer any questions that you have and do a pelvic exam just to make sure there is nothing to be concerned about," she replied. "According to your chart, the first day of your last period was 16 May, correct?"

"That's right," Mac confirmed.

"That would place conception around Memorial Day, give or take about forty-eight hours," Dr. Calder told them.

"That would be about right," Mac said softly, looking down at Harm as she remembered that glorious weekend when they had finally become one.

The doctor cleared her throat. "Okay," she continued. "That would make your due date around 20 February 2001. Of course, only five percent of babies are born on their due dates, so we could be looking at maybe a week or more in either direction."

"So just about any time from the middle to end of February?" Harm mused. "Makes a nice Valentine's gift, doesn't it, Ninja Girl?"

"Around Valentine's Day?" Mac replied. "I'd like that."

"Before we move on to the exam, do you have any questions?" the doctor asked.

"About a million of them," Mac said. "It's kind of hard to know where to start."

"That's understandable, particularly in the case of first pregnancies," Dr. Calder said. "If it helps, maybe you might want to make up a list of questions. As more questions come to you, you can write them down to ask at your next appointment. Or if you have friends who have children, that is always a good resource."

"A very good friend of ours is expecting her second child in November," Harm said.

"That's good," the doctor replied. "Although every woman is different, it helps to be able to talk to someone who is going or has gone through this before."

"What about work?" Harm asked. "There tends to be some travel involved in Sarah's job - both of our jobs, actually. Are there any limits to how much she can travel."

"What is it that you do, Sarah?"

"I'm a lawyer at JAG Headquarters in Falls Church," Mac replied. "Sometimes we have to travel on investigations, although we do spend a fair amount of time in the office and in court."

"We?" Dr. Calder asked, puzzled.

"Sorry, Harm and I are partners at JAG," Mac explained. "We usually travel together."

"One of the most important pieces of advice that I can give you is to listen to your body," the doctor explained. "If you don't feel well, or something feels uncomfortable, then don't do it. I can't tell you for sure how you will react to being on a plane or a car trip. As a general guideline, if your pregnancy progresses normally, there is no reason why you can't continue to do the things you are used to doing within reason. Later in the pregnancy, you may want to cut back on the travel, but we'll play that one by ear. When you are in the office, you'll probably want to get up and walk around a little bit every couple of hours just to keep the circulation going."

"Okay, I think I can live with that, although I think the submarines and aircraft carriers will be out for the duration," Mac teased, shooting Harm a look.

"What are you looking at me for?" Harm exclaimed. "If I had my way, you would take it easy as much as possible for the next eight months."

"I'm a Marine, Harm," she reminded him. "I can handle it."

"Which brings me to another point I like to make with expectant parents," the doctor interrupted. "One of the most important things is to keep the lines of communication open. There are going to be a lot of changes in your lives and it's important that you are both open with your feelings. You might not always agree with each other, but talk about it."

"Okay, that's enough of the psychology pep talk," she continued as both Harm and Mac laughed nervously. They knew they still needed to work on issues with communicating. It had been the root of most of their problems. "Why don't I go ahead and examine you, just to make sure everything is fine. I'll also do a pap smear so we can rule out any infections or other problems."

After the exam was finished, Harm staying by Mac's side the entire time, they walked out of the hospital holding hands. "This is really happening, isn't it?" Mac asked in awe.

"It is," Harm replied, placing his free hand over her stomach. "It's like a miracle, everything that has happened over the last few weeks."

"I never thought that anything could be this perfect," Mac said, then laughed. "Listen to me, I'm getting all mushy and sentimental again. Harm, can I ask you something?"

"What is it?" he asked, concerned.

"How do you feel about keeping this to ourselves for a while longer?" she asked. "Your family already knows and I would really like to tell my Uncle Matt if possible. We do need to tell the Admiral as soon as possible, since this will have an effect on work. But I'm not sure I want to tell all our friends just yet. I'd like a little time to get used to all this before we let the rest of the world in on this."

"Even Bud and Harriet?" he questioned. "You know, Dr. Calder said it would help to have someone to talk to who had been through all this."

"I don't know," she replied honestly. "I would like to be able to share all this with another woman and I don't have many women friends. But on the other hand, I kind of like the idea of this just being between us - for the most part, anyway - for now."

"We don't have to decide that now," Harm pointed out. "We can talk about it some more. When do you want to tell the Admiral?"

"As soon as possible," she answered. "If this does get out, I don't want him finding out through the grapevine like last time. Maybe we should call him and see if we can meet with him this evening. That way we can keep it out of the office for now."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive," she stated. "Why don't we call him on the cell phone when we get back to the car?"

"We're there," Harm pointed out as he fished his keys out of his pocket and unlocked the passenger door.

"I wasn't paying attention," Mac said in surprise as she climbed into the SUV while Harm walked around and got in on the driver's side. Looking at her for a long moment, he picked up his cell phone and dialed the Admiral's number at JAG.

After a brief conversation, he clicked off the phone and told Mac, "He suggested we meet him at his house at eighteen hundred hours."

"His house," Mac said, taking a deep breath. "I'm not sure I'm ready for this."

"I'll be there with you," Harm reassured her.


2155 ZULU
ADMIRAL CHEGWIDDEN'S HOUSE
MCLEAN, VIRGINIA

Harm rang the doorbell while Mac shifted on her feet nervously. He gave her a reassuring smile as the door opened to reveal Sydney Walden. "Harm, Mac, how nice to see you," Sydney exclaimed. "What brings you by?"

"We need to meet with the Admiral," Harm told her as he clasped Mac's hand. "I hope we're not interrupting anything."

"He's not home yet. Would you like to come in and wait?" Sydney asked, holding the door open for them.

"Thank you," Mac said as she followed Harm into the house. "It's pretty important that we speak with him."

"I can make myself scarce if you'd like," Sydney assured her as she led them into the living room, "if you'd like some privacy when you speak with AJ."

Mac considered. Her resolve to not tell anyone was weakening. It would be nice to have someone to confide in. Of course, she did have Trish and Gram, but they were in California and Pennsylvania respectively. Plus, Sydney was a doctor. "No, it's fine," she finally replied as Harm shot her a puzzled look. "It's nothing top secret."

"Are you sure?" Harm whispered as they sat side by side on the couch.

Mac nodded to him as Sydney asked, "Would either of you like something to drink?"

"I'll just have some water, thanks. Harm?"

"No thanks, I'm fine," he replied. After Sydney went into the kitchen to get Mac's drink, he asked, "What happened to not telling anyone aside from the Admiral?"

"I know what I said," Mac tried to explain, "but I've been thinking about it and I feel like I'm going to explode if I don't talk about it. I don't know if I can keep it a secret. I'm sorry, I know I should have talked to you about it."

"Don't worry about it," Harm laughed. "I can understand about the wanting to explode part."

When Sydney returned, it was with AJ in tow. "Harm, Mac, it's good to see you," AJ greeted them as he sat down. "How was your vacation?"

"It was ... interesting," Mac said, smiling. "Actually, something happened while we were gone that we need to discuss with you."

AJ was puzzled. They both seemed excited about something, but a quick glance at Mac's hands revealed no engagement ring, although he knew that didn't necessarily mean anything. "What is it?" he asked.

"Well, Sir ... " Mac began nervously, trailing off. It was one thing to say you were ready to reveal the news, another to actually do it. With an encouraging smile from Harm, she managed to continue, "I'm pregnant."

A smile spread over Sydney's face, but she said nothing, waiting for AJ to react. He looked from Harm to Mac, then finally said, "I see. And when is the baby due?"

"20 February," Harm answered, "give or take."

"And how will this affect your duties?" he asked, his voice neutral.

"I haven't been sick, just more tired than usual," Mac told him. "The doctor said everything looks fine. As long as everything continues to go well, she said there isn't any reason why I can't keep up my normal schedule within reason. I just need to make sure I get plenty of rest. Some things should probably be out, however - aircraft carriers, submarines, things like that. Mostly, the doctor said I should just go with whatever feels comfortable."

"You will keep me informed, Colonel," AJ told her. "If you feel the need to cut back, let me know immediately. You will not overdo it, understood?"

"Yes, Sir," Mac said.

"Well, then," AJ continued, "I supposed congratulations are in order, Harm, Mac." He smiled at them warmly.

"Thank you, Sir," Mac said as Harm relaxed visibly beside her. He had been getting a little concerned about their CO's reaction.

"Yes, congratulations," Sydney echoed, smiling also.

"Thank you," Harm said. "We're very happy about all this. We just wanted to make sure, Sir, that you found out about this from us, rather than from office gossip."

"I can understand that, after the last time," AJ said. "Speaking of our earlier conversation, I should let you know that I have had a few 'hypothetical' discussions with the SecNav."

Oh, boy, Harm thought. The SecNav was hardly one of their biggest fans. "And?" he asked.

"The details have yet to be finalized, but I reasonably sure that something can be worked out so you both can remain at JAG," AJ replied. "I may owe him for his for the rest of my career, but ... "

"We'll owe you, Sir," Mac finished as she looked at Harm.

"Exactly," AJ confirmed. "I did leave out names, but he did say 'This is about Rabb and Mackenzie, isn't it? I've been expecting this.'"

Harm and Mac both laughed. "I guess we really were transparent," Harm said, "if the SecNav saw it ... "

"So are you planning to keep this to yourselves for now?" Sydney asked.

"We're still discussing that," Mac answered. "This is a lot to get used to. We've been discussing keeping it quiet for now."

"Well, if you need anything, please let us know," Sydney said. "We'd like to help in any way we can." AJ nodded his agreement.

"Thank you, Sydney, Sir," Mac replied.


 

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