...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.
Harm nervously fiddled with the visitor's badge hanging from the pocket of his khaki uniform as he waited for the guards to return. As sure as he was of what he wanted, he was a bit nervous about winning the approval of the most important man in Mac's life. He glanced at his watch and wondered what was taking so long. He had visited here before and it had never taken this long to bring someone out. Or was it just his mind playing tricks on him? Harm took a deep breath and willed himself to remain calm.
After what seemed like an eternity, the door leading to the cell block finally opened and the two Army guards entered leading Matt O'Hara. Automatically, Harm stood and came to attention in front of the senior officer while the guards snickered at the thought of anyone showing respect for a prisoner. Harm shot them a look and they both became stone-faced as they awaited a rebuke from the Navy Commander. He said nothing, simply giving them a stern look that dared them to show their disrespect for the Marine Colonel again. What did they know? They were just prison guards. They probably didn't care about the stories of the men they guarded, even one who had done something very wrong for all the right reasons.
"As you were, Commander," Matt said as he gestured for Harm to take a seat at the table in the center of the room, sitting down himself in the seat across from Harm. "It's good to see you again, Commander Rabb."
"It's good to see you, too, Colonel O'Hara," Harm replied. "How are you doing here?"
"I suppose I can't complain," Matt replied. "They tell me I'm a model prisoner. I simply see it as doing my duty yet again. How's Sarah?"
"Sarah's fine," Harm answered, his voice steady. "She's been talking about coming out to see you, but work has been keeping her very busy."
Matt noticed the younger man's use of 'Sarah'. Every time Harm had visited previously, it had been 'Mac'. Was there something going on after all these years between his niece and Rabb? He had wondered if there were strong feelings between them ever since he had asked her where she had found 'this sailor' and had heard her answer. He let the questions slip to the back of his mind as he turned towards finding out the reason behind this mysterious visit. "If you don't mind my asking, what brings you to Leavenworth, Commander?" he asked. "I can't imagine there is anything going on with my case. That's been over and done with for a while now."
"Actually," Harm replied, "I'm not here on official business, so maybe you should call me Harm."
"Okay, Harm, but you still haven't answered my question," Matt reminded him.
"Sorry, sir," Harm tried to explain, "I'm just not sure where to start."
Matt was surprised. He had never seen the Commander at a loss for words—not in Arizona, not during his court-martial and subsequent appeal. If anything, Harm Rabb had always appeared to him to know the right words to say at the right time. What could this possibly be about? His first thought was that something was wrong with Sarah, but hadn't he just been told that she was fine? Matt smiled as he tried to put Harm at ease by suggesting, "Why don't you call me Matt and start at the beginning?"
What beginning? Harm wondered. The very beginning, in Arizona? No, Matt had been there for that part of their story. The beginning of their new relationship? No, that would leave out a lot of the back story. As the idea of where to start came to him, Harm tried to banish the thought, but he kept coming back to it. It was painful, but maybe he needed to start there to explain how they had arrived where they were in their relationship.
"I supposed it starts with a mistake I made several months ago," Harm began, looking Matt in the eye as he took a calming breath. He could do this. He just had to keep telling himself that. "A little over a year ago, I left JAG to return to flying. It was a difficult decision to make; after all, I do have a lot of friends and fond memories there. Eventually, I returned, but nothing was the same. I had a hard time at first fitting back in and even my relationships with my closest friends seemed to have suffered."
"You mean Sarah," Matt said. It wasn't a question. He knew some of this from his conversations with his niece, but not from this perspective.
"Yes," he replied. "She was very upset when I left, even though she says now that she understands why I did. When I returned, I guess I was expecting things to be as if I'd never left and it was very hard to deal with it when they weren't. Also, I found out some things—things that had nothing to do with JAG—that affected me personally and I had a hard time dealing with them. Then everything seemed to fall apart when I was in Australia to try a case."
"I remember hearing about the case," Matt said, still puzzled as to where this was going. "Sarah told me a little and there was a lot of coverage of that case in the newspapers. A US sailor allegedly killed an Aussie sailor and took over his identity, as I recall."
"That's the case," Harm confirmed. "Although it was really peripheral to everything else that was happening at that time." He paused, wondering into how much detail he should go into about the next part. He finally decided to start off vague and fill in the blanks if Matt requested it. After all, he had no idea how much Mac might have told her uncle. "One night, we were on our way to the murder scene and Sarah said some things that I wasn't ready at that time to hear. I tried to explain that to her, but what I said did not come out right and she read a different response behind my words than what I actually meant. She did something—she now says it was a direct result of how she had interpreted what I had said—that together with what I had said nearly destroyed our friendship, even more so than my leaving JAG had."
"I'm afraid I don't understand," Matt said. "Sarah didn't really tell me anything about that trip to Australia aside from details about the case you tried."
Harm had to force his mouth not to drop open in surprise as something began nagging at the back of his mind. He decided to feel Matt out to find out how much he might know before continuing. "Did Sarah ever mention a man named Mic Brumby to you?" he asked carefully.
"Aside from the fact that he was here from Australia as a part of an officer exchange program with their Navy," Matt explained, "she never really spoke of the man."
His suspicions confirmed, Harm this time was unable to keep the surprise from his face as he considered the implications of what Matt had just said. Mac had never told her uncle that the man had proposed marriage? The thought staggered Harm as he thought again of wasted time and lost opportunities.
"Harm? What is it? What does this Mic Brumby have to do with all this?" Matt asked.
"I shouldn't be the one telling you this," Harm said. "This part should have been Sarah's to tell, but you need to know so you can fully understand everything that has happened." He took a deep breath before continuing, "Mic Brumby proposed to Sarah while we were in Australia, Matt."
Matt stood, his palms flat on the table, leaning over Harm as he exclaimed, "Excuse me? Are you trying to tell me that my niece considered marrying a man that she never even hinted to me that she was involved with? I can't imagine Sarah not telling me something like that."
"I can't either," Harm said quietly, hoping his own steady tone would help calm Matt down. "That's why I was so surprised when you said you didn't really know anything about Brumby. You're right; it's not like Sarah. I just wish I had known that several months ago."
"Wait a minute," Matt said, sitting back down, "You said that something you said and she did nearly destroyed your friendship. I don't know what you said, although I think I am beginning to get a good idea, but the thing she did had to do with this Brumby's proposal. She didn't actually accept, did she?"
Harm shook his head as he quickly reassured Matt, "No, but she did accept his ring and wore it on her right hand for three months while she considered his proposal."
"I take it she did eventually turn him down?" Matt asked. At Harm's nod, he continued, "Let's back up a minute. You said earlier that what she did was a reaction to what you had said in reaction to something she had told you. You tell me if I'm right. She told you something along the lines of her feelings for you being more than friendship and you rejected her."
"That's exactly how she saw it," Harm answered quietly, "although that was far from how I meant it. We've both since agreed that both of us were talking, but neither of us was listening to what the other was saying that night."
"Then how exactly did you mean it?" Matt asked, a hint of anger in his voice. Not that Harm could blame him. He'd certainly been angry enough at himself in the months following that disastrous ferry ride.
"As I said before, there was a lot going on, both professionally and personally, leading up to that point," Harm explained, "I was not at a very good place in my life and I was not ready for what she wanted, even if I wanted the same things, too. I tried to explain that to her, tried to ask her to be patient and wait for me, but ... " he trailed off, uncertain.
"You've never struck me as a man at a loss for words, Commander," Matt said angrily as Harm visibly flinched. A part of him suggested that maybe it would have been a better idea to skip over all this and jump right into wanting to marry Mac. But he needed Matt to understand what was between them, even if parts of the story painted a less than flattering portrait.
"I know," Harm replied quietly, "but this was just different."
"Okay," Matt stated, "so then what happened after what happened in Australia nearly destroyed your friendship?"
"For a long while," Harm continued, "things were very tense between us. I became involved—well, more deeply involved - with someone else, a reaction to Brumby's proposal. It sounds shallow, but there was no emotional attachment. I just wanted to forget everything that had happened. Occasionally, there would be brief flashes of the old spark, but it was almost as if we were strangers."
"You said Sarah turned down the proposal," Matt reminded him. "What changed?"
"The Friday before Memorial Day, everyone at JAG was attending a ball to watch the Admiral receive an award," Harm explained. "Mic Brumby showed up suddenly. He'd been back in Australia for several months, but he said that he had gone into the Reserves so that he could move to Washington to be near her. For months, I had tried to avoid thinking about the fact that she was nearly engaged to another man and she had been avoiding making a decision."
"But now your hands were forced, as it were," Matt said.
"Yes," Harm said. "As we were going into the ball just after Brumby had made his announcement, she looked at me and she looked ... I don't know how to explain it. Lost, terrified, confused? It was like she was begging me to help her get out of this impossible situation. We later shared one dance and it was as if we were the only two people in the world, as if the last year had never happened. It opened a lot of eyes, particularly our own, as well as those of the people we were with.
"My girlfriend broke things off the next day, telling me that I needed to go after Sarah. At the same time, Brumby decided that he couldn't be content playing second fiddle and he told Sarah to step back and discover whether or not she could put him first in her life. In addition, one of our friends decided to play a little matchmaking. One thing led to another and we finally able to truly open up with each other," Harm concluded.
"So you two became involved?" Matt asked.
"Yes," Harm answered, "and we have been since that weekend. That's why I'm here. I want to propose to Sarah, but I really want your blessing. You are the most important person in Sarah's life and I need to know that we have your approval."
"Tell me this, Commander," Matt said. "After everything you've just told me, why should I approve? You hurt someone very precious to me."
"I know and I can only tell you how sorry I am," Harm replied. "I know that may sound lame and a bit like 'too little, too late', but Sarah and I both know we have made mistakes. And after everything we've been through, how we almost lost each other, we both know how precious this is. I don't blame you for thinking what you are thinking right now. I suppose if I were in your shoes and if I had a daughter who was hurt as much as Sarah had been hurt, I would probably react the same way."
Matt leaned back in his chair and studied Harm for a long moment. "Let me tell you exactly what I am thinking," he suggested. "Yes, you did hurt my niece and perhaps that would be unforgivable, but there are other things to consider here. First, you do seem to be shouldering a lot of the blame yourself, even though it seems from what you've told me that Sarah may be as much at fault in this situation as you. Second, you are not trying to convince me to feel a certain way. You have simply laid out your case and are letting me make up my own mind based on the evidence.
"Finally, and perhaps most importantly," Matt continued, "it took a lot of courage to come here today and tell me all this. A lot of men probably would have skipped over all of the painful explanations and jumped right into 'I want to marry your niece.' I do have to admire that in spite of everything you have just told me. You must love my niece a lot to have risked my wrath like that."
"Yes, I do love her," Harm replied quietly. "And she loves you and respects your opinion. That is why I came here today. It's important for me—for us—that you are on our side."
"Let me ask you a few things," Matt suggested. "What about work? Being a military man myself, I'm aware of the regulations."
"We both love JAG and would rather not leave," Harm said. "Fortunately, our CO has been understanding and has been willing to try to work things out so that we can both remain at JAG. If it were to ever reach a point where one of us would have to leave, I don't know what we would do, but we would work it out somehow. After years of being married to the military, I know that what I have with Sarah is far more important than any job. I can always find another job as a lawyer, even if it means leaving the Navy. But I'll never find another Sarah."
"Which also speaks very highly of you," Matt pointed out. "Although I'm sure if asked, Sarah's response would be similar. What about a family? I assume there are children in your future. How will that affect your careers? You both travel a lot in performing your duties."
Harm took a deep breath as he considered how to answer. Mac had not told her uncle about the pregnancy yet, preferring to tell him in person. She just hadn't been able to get away from Washington recently. He had been able to get away this weekend partly because Mac had been out of town all week with Bud on an investigation while he had been required to stay behind to tie up some loose ends in a court-martial. But Matt would find out about the pregnancy eventually and he would be able to count the months. He didn't want to take away from Mac the chance to tell her uncle the news, but he wanted Matt to understand that he wasn't proposing because of the baby.
"Actually, Sarah and I are already expecting a baby in February," he told Matt. "We've known for a month, but she wanted to tell you in person. That's why she has wanted to come out here to see you. I wanted her to be the one to tell you, but I don't want you to think that this will be a shotgun wedding. As far as how we will work our careers around our family, we haven't reached any firm decisions yet, but we both want to take off some time when the baby is born and we have already had some discussion with the Admiral about cutting back on the amount of travel that we both do. We don't want to be strangers to our own child that he or she only sees on the weekends."
"You're already expecting a baby, yet you insist this won't be a shotgun wedding," Matt mused. "Forgive me, but a lot of people would find that very hard to believe."
"Actually, Sarah and I have discussed from the beginning of our relationship wanting to have a child and sooner rather than later. We've also informally discussed getting married. We didn't quite expect the baby quite this soon, but we are thrilled about it. It was quite something to find out that Sarah is pregnant."
"I see," Matt replied. "You have given me a lot to think about, Harm."
Harm relaxed at the other man's use of his given name again. Maybe Matt would be able to get past his anger. He certainly hoped so. Harm didn't want her uncle's disapproval to be a sore spot between Mac and him. "I understand if you need some time to think about this," he finally said.
"Well," Matt replied, "if you had asked me a few minutes ago, I would definitely have to have disapproved. Now, to a lot of people, that may not mean a lot. Sarah certainly doesn't need my permission to get married."
"No, but your approval and blessing is very important to her," Harm interrupted, "to both of us."
Matt held up his hand to silence him. "Let me finish," he insisted. "I have always admired you, ever since Arizona. You didn't have to stand by me, stand by my niece, the way you did, even after it appeared that Sarah had turned on you. You didn't even know us. And as I said earlier, it took a lot of guts to come here today and tell me what you have. I can see that you really do love my niece."
"That being said," Matt continued, leaving across the table to look Harm in the eye, "if you ever hurt my niece in any way ... "
"Understood, Sir," Harm replied. Matt didn't need to complete the threat.
Matt leaned back in his chair again and smiled. "Then I guess we have an understanding," he said. "Please tell Sarah that I love her and to take care of herself and the baby."
"I will, Matt, and thank you," Harm said, holding out his hand, which Matt shook. Harm stood to leave. "With your permission, Sir."
"Just take care of Sarah, Harm," Matt said, standing.
"Aye, aye, Sir," Harm replied, coming to attention before pivoting to leave. As he was about to walk out the door, Matt called out to him.
"You will let me know as soon as you set a wedding date," Matt said.
"You'll be one of the first to know," Harm promised. "I know some people who might be able to arrange a furlough. It would mean a lot to Sarah if you could be there to walk her down the aisle."
"It would mean a lot to me, too," Matt replied. "Thank you and best of luck to both of you."
"Come on, we're going to be late," Harm called out from the kitchen as he checked Jingo's food and water dishes to make sure he had enough for the day.
"I'm moving as fast as I can," Mac complained from the bedroom. "I have to put my rank and medals on my new uniform blouse. Anyway, where do you get off complaining about me running behind, Squid?"
Smiling, Harm walked over and leaned against the open bedroom door, watching while Mac, dressed only in her new maternity uniform skirt and a bra, removed her medals, ribbons, and rank insignia off her old khaki uniform blouse to put on the new one.
"You've had most of the weekend to do that," Harm pointed out. "You got back from Quantico Saturday night."
Mac looked up at him and shot him her 'I'm a Marine; don't mess with me' look. "Come back and talk to me when you have to buy all new uniforms because none of your old ones fit," she said.
"This isn't going to be one of those 'I'm a man, so I can't possibly understand' speeches, is it?" Harm teased.
"If the shoe fits," Mac retorted as she removed the last of her insignia from the old blouse and began positioning it on the new.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Harm asked, concerned, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "This is about more than just your new uniforms, isn't it?"
"I'm fine," Mac replied sharply, then sighed. He had always been so good at reading her. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you. Maybe I'm just starting to feel a little overwhelmed."
"How so?" he asked.
"I don't know," she replied quietly. "I've known I'm pregnant for over a month, but maybe now that I'm actually starting to show it is becoming—I don't know—even more real, I guess. I'm gaining weight, soon the baby will start moving, my moods have been all over the place and I'm wondering what kind of mother I'm going to be."
Ah, Harm thought, now we're getting to the bottom of the problem. "Come here," he encouraged, pulling her into his lap. "Just because your parents weren't the best in the world doesn't mean you're going to be as bad as they were. I can't ever imagine the Sarah Mackenzie I know and love ever abusing, belittling or willingly abandoning her own child."
"How do we know that?" she asked, tears in her eyes. "I've never been a parent before. I don't know how I'm going to react. There's so much I don't know that it scares me sometimes."
"This is new to me, too," he reminded her. "I guess all we can do is learn as we go along. And remember what Dr. Calder said about communicating? You tell me all your doubts and fears and I'll tell you mine. Deal?"
Mac smiled slightly, wondering not for the first time how she could have gotten so lucky. She had a great career, lots of shoes that were pretty comfortable for the time being, the best man in the world plus a baby on the way. How lucky could one woman be? "Deal," she replied, giving him a quick kiss before pulling out of his arms and grabbing her blouse to put on. "Now weren't you saying something about being late?"
Harm shook his head, grinning, as Mac finished getting dressed. After everything they had been through, both together and separately, everything was looking up for them.
Carolyn walked into the kitchen to find Mac inside preparing her morning cup of coffee. "Alan and I spoke to our client this weekend and he doesn't want to deal, Colonel," Carolyn said. "I guess we're going to trial this morning." At the look of disbelief Mac shot her, she added, "I know, the deal is a gift, but Sergeant Johns wants to take his chances."
Mac shrugged as she turned around, coffee in hand. "Then we'll see you in court, Commander," she said. But Carolyn wasn't paying attention, instead she was staring at Mac.
"What is it, Commander? You act as if you've never seen a pregnant woman before," Harriet teased as she entered the kitchen to put away her lunch. Harriet exhibited no surprise to suddenly see her best friend show up at work in a maternity uniform.
"I just wasn't aware that the Colonel was," Carolyn replied. "You've been holding out on us."
"How long have you known?" Mac asked Harriet.
"I've suspected for a couple of weeks," she answered. "There is something to the idea of the 'pregnant woman glow'. I figured you would let everyone know when you were ready."
"Or we would all figure it out when it became obvious," Carolyn added, her excitement growing. "So, give us details. How far along are you? When is the baby due? What's it going to be?"
"Twelve weeks as of tomorrow," Mac answered, smiling, "20 February and we don't know yet. It's still a little too early to tell even with ultrasound."
"So, what does Harm think?" Carolyn asked.
"We're both very excited," Mac replied. "We've just bought a house that we're moving into this weekend so we'll have plenty of room for the baby."
"So Chloe finally talked you guys into house hunting?" Harriet asked. When she had been visiting, Chloe had tried to get all their friends on the house hunting bandwagon.
"Chloe, along with a little help from Harm's parents and grandmother," she answered. "They're all on cloud nine about the baby."
"So when are you two finally going to get married?" Carolyn asked.
"When we decide to," Mac responded, still smiling, "and that's all I have to say on that topic for now." Or as soon as he finally asks me, she thought.
"So what about you, Harriet?" Carolyn asked. "Any idea what you're going to have yet?"
"Bud and I found out at my appointment last week that we're having a girl this time," she replied.
"Harriet, that's wonderful," Mac exclaimed as Carolyn gave Harriet a hug. "Any ideas on names yet?"
"We have a few," she replied mysteriously. Actually, they had found the perfect name, they just wanted to wait until they could get all their friends together before they announced it.
The three women walked out of the kitchen, Harriet headed for her desk and Carolyn and Mac headed for the Admiral's weekly meeting. "Colonel, would you like to have lunch?" Harriet asked.
"I'd like that Harriet," she replied. "I've been wanting to ask you some questions."
"I'll meet you at noon in the courtyard," Harriet said.
"That'll be great. Thanks," Mac confirmed as Harriet headed for the bullpen.
"So what's this about a house?" Carolyn asked as they continued towards the conference room. "What's it like?"
"It's a very nice house," Mac told her. "Four bedrooms, an acre of land, all new appliances. It's in McLean."
"The Admiral lives in McLean," Carolyn reminded her.
"Actually, that may be the only drawback to this place," she said. "It's right across the street from the Admiral."
"Sounds like a nice place, but I can't imagine living right across the street from our CO," Carolyn said, laughing.
"Well, Chloe had seen an ad in a real estate magazine," Mac explained, "then Sydney said that she had seen the 'For Sale' sign in front of the house."
"Almost like something was telling you that this was the house to buy," Carolyn pointed out.
"Exactly," Mac confirmed as they entered the conference room to find only Alan and Lauren present. "Really, despite that one tiny drawback, it is perfect."
"What's perfect?" Alan asked, smiling at them in greeting, as the women took their places at the table. Lauren appeared to look disinterested, but she studied Mac out of the corner of her eye.
"The house that they just bought," Carolyn replied, nodding her head in Mac's direction.
"Buying a house now, huh?" Alan commented. "So when's the wedding?"
"As soon as we decide, we will let everyone know," Mac said firmly. That was the second time someone had asked her that question in just a few minutes. Damn, if Flyboy doesn't get moving, she thought, I may have to ask him myself.
"You mean like you let us know about your other news," Carolyn teased.
"That was a little bit different," she said.
"Only in that you can't keep that news a secret anymore," Carolyn pointed out.
"So, Colonel," Lauren asked, "how is that going to affect your work? You're not going to have to cut back or anything, are you?"
"The baby?" Mac replied as Alan and Carolyn fought to keep from snickering at Lauren's obviously false concern. "The doctor said that if everything continues to go well, I should have no problems at work."
"That's good to hear," Lauren said, masking her disappointment. It would have been a good opportunity for her to pick up some extra work.
Fortunately for Alan and Carolyn, who had been about to laugh, the Admiral's entrance, followed closely by those of Harm, Bud and Alfred, brought all conversation in the room to a halt as the four officers already seated stood up, coming to attention.
"As you were, people," AJ insisted as everyone took their seats. "I'll try to make this brief. The Johns court-martial?"
"The defense rejected our plea offer," Mac replied, "so trial starts this morning."
"You should have accepted," Harm told Alan and Carolyn. "An offer like that doesn't come along every day."
"Well, our client decided against it," Carolyn said. "He didn't like the idea of spending the next fifteen years at Leavenworth."
"Then I guess we'll see how he feels about spending the rest of his life there," Harm pointed out.
Carolyn shrugged. The Johns case was unfortunately one of those where the client, charged with beating a man to death in an off-base brawl in a bar, was obviously guilty and she wished for not the first time that he could have afforded to retain civilian counsel. Unfortunately, she and Alan were stuck with the case and had to defend their client to the best of their abilities.
"Moving on," AJ said, looking down at his list, "the Lawson investigation."
"Marine Gunnery Sergeant Lawson was accused of sexual harassment and indecent exposure. Charge sheet has been prepared based on our investigation last week," Bud answered.
"Fine, until the Colonel is finished with the Johns court-martial, you will handle all the pretrial details alone," AJ instructed him. "Lieutenants Singer and Aldridge, you will defend."
"Yes, Sir," they both replied.
"Going back to the Johns case for a moment," AJ said. "I spoke with Captain Sebring and he said that if the Johns case went to trial, which it apparently is barring some last minute miracle, then he would be willing to recess court at fourteen hundred hours on Wednesday. Colonel, Commander, that should give you enough time to make your fifteen hundred appointment."
"Thank you, Sir," Mac replied.
"Finally, there will be a party Friday night at McMurphy's," AJ continued. "As some of you may have heard already, Petty Officer Tiner has been selected for Officers' Candidate School and then after that the Navy's Law Education Program so everyone please come out and show your support for him. That will be all, people."
As everyone got up to leave, Carolyn turned to Mac and asked, "What appointment?"
"Doctor's appointment," Mac answered with a smile.
Smiling in return, Carolyn said, "See you in court later," as she headed for her office.
Harm walked up behind Mac. "Looks like everyone is figuring it out," he commented.
"Hard to miss when I'm wearing a maternity uniform now," she pointed out, distracted.
"Hey, you okay?" he asked.
"Fine," she replied. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"I don't know. You just sound like you've got something on your mind," Harm said.
Only wondering when you're going to ask me to marry you, she thought. "Just thinking about the case," she answered.
"Positive," she replied. "I'm going to go over the witness statements one last time in my office. Join me?"
"In a minute," Harm told her. "I need to ask Harriet something first."
Mac headed to her office while Harm headed for Harriet's desk. "Lieutenant, can I see you in Bud's office for a minute?" he asked.
"Yes, Sir," Harriet replied as she followed Harm to Bud's office. He ushered her inside, closing the door behind them as Bud looked up at them in surprise. "Bud, Harriet, I need your help with something."
"What can we do for you, Sir?" Harriet asked.
"Mac and I are going to be moving into a new house this weekend," Harm explained.
"The Colonel mentioned this morning that you had bought a house," Harriet said.
"I want to have a special dinner Sunday night," Harm continued, "celebrate moving into the new house among other things. I just need you to get her out of the house for a few hours that afternoon so I can set everything up. Maybe you can invite her over for lunch and a visit with AJ."
"Or we could go shopping together," Harriet suggested, excited. "I'm sure the Colonel needs some maternity clothes. That could fill an afternoon. 'Among other things'—you're going to propose, aren't you, Sir?"
"Harriet!" Bud exclaimed. "You shouldn't ask the Commander a question like that!"
"It's okay," Harm said, laughing as he pulled out of his pants' pocket the ring he'd been carrying around since his mother had given it to him in Belleville. He showed it to Harriet. "Do you think she'll like it?"
"It's beautiful, Sir," Harriet said as she studied the ring. "It's old, isn't it?"
"My grandfather gave it to my grandmother back in the 1930s. Then she passed it on to my father to give to my mother," Harm explained the history behind the ring. "Now my mother has given it to me to give to Sarah."
"Then she'll definitely love it, Sir," Harriet enthused.
"Bud, it may be a little early to ask," Harm said, "but once she says yes, would you do me the honor of being my best man?"
"Sir, are you sure you don't want to ask Commander Keeter?" Bud asked. Although he and Harm were good friends and Harm had been best man at his own wedding, Bud knew that Jack Keeter had been Harm's roommate at the Academy and their friendship went back nearly twenty years.
"I'm asking you, Bud," Harm said. "Although Keeter and I have been friends a long time, you and I have been closer these last four years and you've been here through my relationship with Sarah. Keeter will certainly be in the wedding if he's available, but I'd really like you to be my best man."
"Then I'd be honored, Sir," Bud replied.
"Thank you, Bud," Harm told him. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to see a certain jarhead about a case we're prosecuting. Oh, and by the way, I'd appreciate it if you could keep this under your hats until after I've proposed."
"You can count on us, Sir," Harriet replied enthusiastically. "Good luck and congratulations on the baby."
"Thank you, Lieutenants," Harm said as he left the office.
"I'm so happy that everything's working out for the Commander and the Colonel," Harriet exclaimed. "They really do deserve all the happiness in the world."
"Boy, am I glad this morning is over," Carolyn said wearily as she, Alan, Harm and Mac left the courtroom for lunch recess. The morning had not gone well for the defense, as Harm and Mac had called the bar owner and five patrons to the stand, all testifying to essentially the same thing. The defendant had come into the bar belligerent over not being on the latest promotion list and this was before he had gotten drunk. After a considerable number of drinks, he had then picked a fight with the first poor soul unfortunately enough to cross his path. He beat the victim without provocation, continuing to pummel the man even after he was incapable of defending himself anymore.
"This all would have been over by now if your client had just accepted our deal," Harm pointed out. "Go to Leavenworth, take a lot of anger management classes and go home in fifteen years."
"Harm, the man does not want to deal," Alan reminded him. "Unfortunately, nothing we've said has changed his mind."
"Maybe you'll have better luck convincing him in light of this morning's testimony," Mac suggested. "Right now, the only thing that might persuade the members to reduce the sentence to anything less than life in prison is the lack of premeditation."
"Please remind me again how we got stuck with this case," Carolyn said with a sigh.
"I believe the Admiral was making a point about every defendant being entitled to the best representation," Alan said.
"Anyone ever notice how the Admiral always seems to make that point whenever we come across the defendant that nobody wants to defend?" Mac asked.
"Funny, isn't it," Carolyn responded. "Why couldn't Singer have volunteered to take this case?"
"Because defending and losing with a guilty client would not look good on her resume," Alan answered sarcastically.
"By the way, Mac," Carolyn added, "have you told Harm about her interest before this morning's meeting in how your pregnancy will affect your job performance? She's probably hoping to pick up a few extra cases when you go on leave."
"It's lunch time, guys," Mac pointed out. "Can we talk about something besides Lieutenant Singer? You don't want to ruin my appetite."
"Commanders, Colonel," Captain Sebring greeted the foursome as he walked by on his way to lunch. "We wouldn't be discussing a plea, would we?"
"There's an offer on the table, Sir," Mac replied.
"Good," he replied, "carry on."
"The judge sounds as enthusiastic as us about this case going to trial," Carolyn said once Sebring was out of earshot.
"Don't tell me the prosecution is still trying to play 'Let's Make a Deal'?" a voice called out in the hallway. All four officers turned to see Sergeant Johns being escorted out of the courtroom by two Marine guards. "You two are my defense lawyers; defend me."
"Gunnery Sergeant," Alan said, addressing the senior of the two guards, "why don't you take Sergeant Johns to get something to eat."
"Yeah, just dismiss me, push me aside," Johns said angrily, gesturing wildly as he took a step towards the officers. The guards quickly flanked him.
"Sir, if you don't calm down, we'll have to cuff you," the Gunnery Sergeant warned as he pulled a set of handcuffs off his belt.
"Gunnery Sergeant," Captain Sebring ordered as he neared the group outside the courtroom, pushing his way through the crowd that had gathered at the commotion, "why don't you get Sergeant Johns out of here. Now."
"No," Johns cried out, "I will not be dismissed." Before anyone in the hallway could register what was happening, Johns had pushed one of his guards aside and made a grab for the guard's holstered pistol. Gun in hand, he began firing indiscriminately into the crowd as the people gathered began hitting the deck or running for whatever safe haven they could find, desperately praying that this was all just a nightmare that they would wake up from.
After a few moments, it was all over. Johns had emptied the gun, then had taken advantage of the chaos and fear to run. Everyone in the hallway held their breaths for a long moment before it finally sank in that there would be no more shots.
"Is everyone okay?" Alan asked as he pulled him up off the floor where he had dropped, pushing Carolyn down with him.
"I'm fine ... I think," Carolyn answered as she took slow, deep breaths to calm her frayed nerves. "Harm? Mac?"
"Harm?" Mac said weakly, gasping for breath, from her position beneath Harm on the floor.
Harm breath a sigh of relief. "Glad to hear you're still with us," he teased as he moved to push himself up, his right hand slipping as it came into contact with something wet on the floor. Puzzled, he lifted his hand, his eyes going wide at the sight of the crimson liquid staining his fingers. His shock quickly turned to horror as he realized the source of the blood. "God, no," he cried as he gently rolled Mac over onto her back, revealing blood spreading across the right side of her uniform blouse.
"Dear God!" Carolyn gasped as Alan quickly stripped off his uniform blouse and handed it to Harm.
"Here, use this to press down on the wound," Alan instructed. Harm quickly folded the shirt and pressed it to Mac's chest.
"Hang on, Ninja Girl," he whispered to her. "Help's on the way."
"Hurts ... breathe," she gasped.
Carolyn moved over to her left side and grasped her hand. "Harm's right. Help is on the way. Try to relax," she said with a calmness in her voice that she surely did not feel. "Has anyone called for ambulances yet?"
"On the way, ma'am," Gunny Galindez said, coming out of the bullpen, his trained cop's eyes surveying the scene. As soon as he had heard the shooting start, he had called for help, not waiting to see if anyone would even need an ambulance.
Seeing that Mac was being taken care of, he moved over to Captain Sebring, who was leaning in a sitting position against the wall, his hand clutching his left shoulder. "Captain, how bad?" Gunny asked.
"Just my shoulder," Sebring managed to reply through gritted teeth. "I think it hit the collarbone. Gunny Dinkins is dead." He nodded to the Marine guard who lay still facedown just a few feet away.
"So is Petty Officer Hall," Gunny said softly, gesturing towards the entrance to the bullpen where a young woman lay curled on her side. "From what I've seen, four other people shot including yourself."
Sebring nodded. "Where's Chegwidden?"
"Downstairs," Gunny replied. "Tiner went to get him."
"Good," Sebring answered. "Check on the Colonel. She looks the worst off."
Gesturing to a nearby Petty Officer to keep an eye on the injured Captain, Gunny scooted on the floor the few feet to where the four lawyers were, Harm concentrating on stopping the blood flow while Carolyn whispered words of encouragement and Alan hovered nearby.
"How is she?" Gunny asked quietly.
Harm ignored him, concentrating on Mac while Alan answered, "She was shot in the chest and is having difficulty breathing."
Gunny nodded. He had seen many gunshot wounds during his years as a cop. The greatest danger was probably a collapsed lung. "Ambulance should be here in a few minutes," he reassured Harm as they all began to hear the faint scream of sirens through the building's open windows.
Within moments, Admiral Chegwidden made his way through the hallway, careful not to let the horror he was feeling show on his face, closely followed by the first of the paramedic teams. Gunny waived them over.
Going automatically into cop mode, Gunny began rattling off his observations of the scene. "Two dead," he said, fighting the shaking in his voice, "four more injured. This one appears to be the most serious. Gunshot wound to the chest, possible collapsed lung. She's ... how far along is she? Commander?"
"Twelve weeks," Carolyn answered for Harm, who continued to ignore everyone around him. "She said this morning it was twelve weeks."
"She's three months pregnant," Gunny continued as Alan and Carolyn moved aside to let the paramedics in, one of them gently pushing Harm out of the way so they could get a look at the wound. Harm slumped back against the wall behind him as AJ moved beside him, clasping his hand to Harm's shoulder.
"She'll be okay, Harm," he said. "She's always been a fighter." Harm still said nothing, staring down at the blood that stained his hands and uniform in a daze. He would have given anything to have been the one lying there.
Swiftly, the paramedics prepped Mac for transport and gently lifted her onto the gurney. Finally, Harm managed to find his voice.
"I'm riding," he said shakily, his eyes daring anyone to argue with him.
One of the paramedics had been about to do just that, but stopped when she saw the look in his eyes and nodded. Harm followed them down the hall to the elevator silently, praying harder than he ever had in his entire life.
"Alan, Carolyn," AJ said to them, "follow the ambulance to Bethesda. Keep an eye on him."
"Major trauma incoming," the head nurse called out, having just gotten off the radio with one of the incoming ambulances. "GSW, four victims. Let's prepare some trauma rooms, people."
Within moments, the gurney carrying Mac was speeding into the emergency room, Harm almost running to keep up with it. Quickly, a paramedic rattled off Mac's stats to the attending physician, "Thirty-two year old female, GSW upper right chest, possible collapsed lung, twelve weeks pregnant, BP ninety over sixty-two, resps twelve."
"Okay, let's move her into trauma one," the physician instructed. "Get me an intubation tray and a chest tube kit. Also need a surgical and obstetrical consult. Sir, you'll have to wait outside." He tried to close the door to keep Harm outside, but Harm stopped the door with his foot.
"My fiancée ... " he began brokenly.
"We'll do everything we can for her," the doctor said firmly. "You need to wait outside and someone will come see you as soon as we know anything."
"Harm!" Carolyn called out as she and Alan rushed into the emergency room, having broken every speed limit between Falls Church and Bethesda. "Come on, let's go sit down." The two officers led their friend to the waiting area. As Harm and Carolyn sat down, she suggested, "Alan, why don't you go get us all some coffee."
"Okay," Alan agreed, clasping Harm's shoulder briefly before leaving.
"Harm, she'll be okay," Carolyn tried to reassure him. "Mac is one of the strongest, most determined people I know. And I imagine that baby is too; look at who he or she has for parents."
"The baby," Harm whispered. "Dear God ... "
"Harm! Carolyn!" a familiar voice called out. Carolyn looked up to find Sydney Walden rushing towards them. "AJ called me and I rushed over from my office," she explained, out of breath, as she sat down on the other side of Harm. "How is she?"
"She's in a trauma room right now," Carolyn explained. "Something about a collapsed lung, intubation, chest tubes. Nobody really explained very much."
"I'm a doctor," Sydney reminded them, patting Harm on the shoulder. "Why don't I talk to one of the nurses and see if I can find out a little more?"
"Thanks," Harm whispered weakly as Sydney headed for the emergency room desk.
"Can I help you, ma'am," a male nurse asked Sydney as she stood in front of the desk.
"I hope so," she replied. "My name is Doctor Sydney Walden and a good friend of mine was brought in with a gunshot wound. Patient's name is Colonel Mackenzie."
"Mackenzie?" the nurse asked. "Let me check." He glanced at the patient board and found the name, smiling to himself. "She's in trauma room one. Why don't I go in there and see what I can find out?"
"Thank you very much," Sydney said gratefully. "I know her boyfriend will be relieved. We'll be over in the waiting area."
The nurse walked into the trauma room, smiling to himself as he confirmed the identity of the patient. This was too perfect, he thought as he studied the activity in the trauma room. She was intubated and on a ventilator. The attending was busy inserting a chest tube in her right side while another doctor was studying the readout on a heart monitor, this one showing a rapid pace of 130 beats a minutes. He looked confused until the doctor at the heart monitor turned slightly and he could make out the letters OB on her name tag. An obstetrician. Quietly, he moved next to one of the trauma nurses and inquired about the Colonel's condition before heading back out to the waiting area.
Pausing just outside the waiting area, he stuck his head around the door and looked for the doctor who had approached him a few minutes earlier. He saw her in a back corner of the room with a red-headed Navy Lieutenant Commander and a very familiar face. Commander Rabb, he thought as he pulled a surgical mask over his face. Rabb shouldn't recognize him, but it didn't hurt to take precautions plus the mask would serve to disguise his voice. He entered the room and headed for the trio.
"Dr. Walden?" he asked.
"Thank you for getting back to us," Sydney said as Harm and Carolyn looked up expectantly.
"They are preparing to take the Colonel up to surgery to remove the bullet," he informed them. "According to the x-rays, it's lodged in one of her back ribs."
"X-rays?" Carolyn asked.
"It's okay," Sydney reassured everyone. "They have special precautions they take with pregnant women."
"She's on a ventilator for now," the nurse continued, "but that's only a precaution due to the injury to her lung to help her breath. And there are no signs of fetal distress at this time. An OB is in there now monitoring her condition."
"Thank you," Sydney said. "Harm, that's very good news. The longer she goes without showing signs of fetal distress, the better the probable outcome."
"What about the surgery?" Harm asked quietly.
"They'll take precautions there, too," Sydney assured him. "There are special mixes of anesthesia for use with pregnant patients."
"Yes," the nurse agreed, "and the surgeon consulting on the case, I am told, has operated successfully on pregnant women before. Everything is looking good considering everything."
"Thank you very much for the help," Sydney said grateful.
Back outside the waiting room, the nurse leaned against the wall, a wide smile on his face. He couldn't have planned this better himself. Rabb obviously cared more for the Marine officer than he had previously thought. This was good for him. Very good.
AJ sat down at his desk with a heavy heart. This was the part of the job he hated most, notifying families that their loved ones had either been killed or injured in the line of duty. It was something he had done many times before, but usually in times of battle. What had happened today was just so ... senseless. But he did need to make the notifications and he needed to know why it had happened. He hit the button on his phone for the intercom.
"Gunny, my office, now," he barked. Gunny must have been waiting for the summons, for he was rushing through the Admiral's door within seconds carrying several folders, coming to attention in front of the desk.
"Reporting as ordered, Sir," Gunny said, his face not showing any of the turmoil of the last hour and fifteen minutes.
"Get me the personnel folders on the victims," AJ stated. "I want names and phone numbers of who needs to be called. Then I want you to get the captain of the guard in here. I want to know how the hell this happened!"
"Folders already pulled, Sir," he replied, handing the Admiral the seven folders in his hand. AJ flipped through the folders, pausing at one of them, a question in his eyes.
"I thought you would want to call the Commander's parents, Sir," Gunny explained as he glanced at the name on the folder that held the Admiral's attention.
"Right," AJ replied sadly, tossing all of the folders on his desk. "Now get me the captain."
"Aye, aye, Sir," Gunny said, rushing out of the office without waiting to be dismissed. Only once he was outside the Admiral's office did he allow the impassive mask to drop, his face showing his grief for the dead and the injured who were colleagues and friends.
"Would you care to tell me, Captain Dawson," AJ said angrily, "how the hell a defendant who was supposed to be under guard managed to grab the gun of one of those guards and start shooting? Why the hell hadn't he been restrained?"
"I don't know, Sir," the captain replied.
"'I don't know, Sir.' That is not an acceptable answer, Captain," AJ retorted. "I have two people dead and four more injured. I can't very well tell their families that we don't know how a guarded defendant managed to get a hold of a gun. You will find out who screwed up here and you will do it now or I will have your bars, Captain. Am I making myself clear?"
"Yes, Sir," Dawson replied, swallowing nervously. Everyone knew the ex-SEAL did not make idle threats.
"Gunny, you will assist the MPs in their investigation," AJ said, turning to Gunny.
"Gladly, Sir," Gunny replied, thankful that he could help in some way to find out why this had happened.
"Dismissed," AJ said in disgust as he sat back down to call the next of kin. As he picked up Mac's personnel folder, an idea came to him and he punched the intercom again.
"Tiner," AJ ordered, "get me Webb."
Within a few minutes, AJ was on the phone with an impatient Clayton Webb, who was grumbling about being pulled out of a meeting with national security implications. Impatient himself, AJ cut off his complaints with a sharp, "I don't give a damn what your problems are, Webb. You owe me many times over and I am calling in one of those markers right now."
"Look, AJ," Clay tried to remain calm, but he and AJ had a way of always pushing each others' buttons, "I can't just walk away from this ... "
"Damn it, Webb," AJ interrupted angrily, "as much as you owe me, you owe Harm and Mac even more."
Clay was quiet. If this was for Harm and Mac, he'd do everything he could within reason. AJ had been right when he had once said that the two officers were the closest thing that Clay had to friends. One didn't make many friends in his line of work. "What is it?" he asked wearily.
"There's been a shooting at JAG," AJ explained, his tone more moderate. "Mac's been hurt; I don't know how bad at this point but what I saw did not look good."
Clay understood instantly. "You want me to get Matt O'Hara here," he said.
"I want him in the air as soon as possible," AJ stated.
"Look, AJ," Clay answered, "you know I'll do everything I can, but it's not that easy. I can't just walk over to the Pentagon and Justice and ask that a prisoner be furloughed from Leavenworth. Are you sure it is that bad that he needs ... "
"Mac is pregnant, Webb," AJ said.
"What?" Clay exclaimed. "How... ?"
"You're an intelligent man," AJ retorted, "I'm sure you can figure it out. In the meantime, I want to hear from you within an hour that Matt O'Hara either has boarded or is preparing to board the next vehicle with wings and an engine heading East. Understood?"
"AJ, I don't know if I can arrange anything that fast," Clay said even as he mentally began preparing a list of people to call for assistance.
"One hour, Webb," AJ repeated, hanging up the phone.
AJ finally made his way to the hospital to check on his people after finally receiving assurances from Webb that Matt O'Hara had been taken by helo to Whiteman Air Force Base, where he would board a military transport for Andrews, where Webb had promised to pick him up and deliver him to Bethesda personally. Harm's parents were flying in by private jet from California, but it was nearly a seven-hour flight, so they weren't expected until late in the evening. All the other victims had families in the area and all were already at the hospital checking on their loved ones.
AJ was directed by the emergency room personnel to the surgical unit on the second floor, where he found most of his staff milling around, waiting for news. Harm, Alan and Carolyn were in one corner with Gunny, who was taking their witness statements for the MPs. Bud and Harriet were in another corner conversing with Alfred Aldridge and Lauren Singer, who appeared very shaken by the day's events. Sydney was hovering near Harm, keeping an eye on him when she saw AJ out of the corner of her eye. She walked over to him and gave him a quick hug.
"What's the word?" he asked softly.
Sydney glanced at her watch. "She should be out of surgery any time now," she replied. "Fortunately, they are very optimistic about her chances."
"And the baby?"
"No signs of fetal distress," she answered. "Her OB is observing the surgery."
"Thank God," AJ breathed a sigh of relief. "Harm?"
"AJ, I'm scared for him," she admitted. "I don't know how he will react if he loses either one of them. He's so devastated."
AJ nodded in understanding. After everything Harm and Mac had been through before they had found their way to each other, it would be the ultimate cruelty for them to lose each other now.
AJ noticed Harm look up and he turned around, finding a figure in surgical scrubs entering the room.
"Dr. Calder?" Harm asked, recognizing Mac's obstetrician.
"She is being moved to ICU," the doctor said, smiling, "and both mother and baby appear to be doing very well considering. We'll continue to monitor them both. I'm cautiously optimistic, but we should know more in about forty-eight hours."
"I'd like to see her," Harm said, allowing himself to hope for the first time in hours.
"Someone will come get you as soon as she's settled," Dr. Calder informed him before she left the room.
As a spontaneous display of joy and hope spread through the room, another figure in surgical scrubs stood just outside the doorway, watching silently. It was almost time.
Harm had stayed by Mac's bedside for the last two and a half hours, holding her hand while he waited for her to open her eyes, the only sound in the room the steady hiss of air being pumped through the ventilator and the rapid blipping of the fetal heart monitor. The surgeon, a Captain Newman, had stopped by shortly after Harm had begun his vigil. He had explained that the ventilator was a precaution due to the collapsed lung, but that if everything went as expected, they would begin weaning her off it tomorrow.
Dr. Calder had stopped in three times to check on Mac, reassuring Harm each time that no news was very good news where the baby was concerned and that her chances of miscarriage diminished with each passing hour. Harm had simply nodded, not quite ready to believe that everything was going to be all right until Mac woke up.
Nearly everyone from the office had stopped by the ICU also, each being allowed by the ward nurses five minutes to check on their colleague and to try to convince Harm to get something to eat or to change out of his blood-stained uniform. Even Captain Sebring, who had been admitted due to his own wound, had stopped by accompanied by a nurse to offer his encouragement and well wishes.
Harm ignored the sound of yet another person entering the room, focusing his attention only on Mac, brushing a stray lock of hair off her forehead. He was understandably startled when a familiar voice spoke.
"Harm, I was sorry to hear about what happened," Clay said as he stood just behind Harm, looking down at Mac.
"This is just so senseless, Clay," Harm said quietly, the most he'd said to any of the previous visitors.
"I know," Clay responded.
"What are you doing here anyway?" Harm asked. Not that he thought Clay didn't care; Clay just wasn't one to spend his free time at someone's bedside.
"Checking on a friend and doing a favor for AJ," he answered. "I heard they caught the guy who did this."
"Yeah, he tried to run and ran right into the guards at the gate outside," Harm recounted the story which Gunny had told him an hour earlier during his visit.
"Anyway, Harm, there's someone here to see you and Mac," Clay said, motioning towards the door for his companion to enter.
"Clay, there's been nothing but a constant parade of people ... " Harm started before he looked up and recognized Clay's companion. "Colonel O'Hara!"
Matt was shocked at the sight of the man in front of him, such a contrast to one who had traveled to Leavenworth two days earlier. He looked like he needed someone to take care of him even more than Sarah did.
"Harm," Matt greeted him, putting his hand on Harm's shoulder. "Clay arranged a furlough for me so I could be here for Sarah ... for you."
Harm turned to Clay with gratitude in his eyes. "Thank you," he said gratefully.
"It was the Admiral's idea," Clay insisted. "I just carried it out."
"Harm, how long have you been sitting here?" Matt asked, concerned.
"Since she came out of surgery," he replied, "about two and a half hours ago. Sarah would be able to tell you exactly ... " he trailed off.
"Look, you're not going to do anyone any good, especially Sarah and your child, if you run yourself into the ground," Matt said firmly. "On our way over here, Mr. Webb and I stopped at your apartment and picked you up a change of clothes at Admiral Chegwidden's insistence. Now, you are going to get out of that uniform, put on some clean clothes and come down to the cafeteria with us to get something to eat."
"I don't want to leave until Sarah wakes up," Harm insisted.
"Do I have to make it an order, Commander?"
"Admiral Chegwidden already tried that one," Harm replied.
"Well, as family, I'm going to insist," Matt countered, "even if Webb and I have to drag you out of here. Am I making myself clear?"
Harm sighed with resignation. Honestly, a change of clothes would not be a bad idea, the sight of her blood all over his uniform just one more unwanted reminder of how he had almost lost her. After that, well, he would see about the rest. "Okay," he acquiesced. "But I don't want to be gone too long."
"Acceptable," Matt agreed. "We'll even let the nurses at the desk know where we will be so that they can page you if there is any change."
Harm stood and kissed Mac on the forehead and pressed a hand to her belly before following Matt and Clay from the room. He headed into the nearest men's room to change into the clothes Clay handed him while the other two men waited for him at the desk, letting the nurse on duty know that they would be in the cafeteria.
A figure in hospital scrubs watched the three men leave, then slipped into Mac's room, making sure no one was looking his way. Walking up to the side of the bed, he set down the tank he was carrying and leaned over the bed.
"Good evening, Colonel," he said pleasantly. "I was beginning to think your Commander Rabb was never going to leave. Good thing someone finally talked him into it. I was not sure I was going to get to come in and visit with you."
He turned to the ventilator. "Looks like it's time to change the oxygen tank," he said calmly. "We don't want you to run out and develop breathing problems, do we? Of course not. We're all here to help you."
"There will be a brief interruption of airflow for just a few seconds while I switch the tanks," he explained as he disconnected the hose from the tank attached to the ventilator and hooked it to the tank he had brought in with him. "There. All done. Now everything will be fine, Colonel."
"Take care, Colonel," he said as he turned to leave, carrying the old oxygen tank with him. "I'll see you again soon."
Careful to make sure there was still no one watching, he slowly headed for a nearby janitor supply closet and slipped inside. Pulling off the latex gloves he had been wearing, he tossed them in a waste bin and grabbed a few towels to wrap around the oxygen tank. He would have to smuggle it downstairs to dispose of it. A tank in the supply closet would raise too many questions. He glanced at his watch. He estimated he had about ten minutes before Mac's oxygen levels dropped low enough to set off the alarm on the ventilator, especially since he had taken care to dial down the respiration rate on the machine before he had left. Everything was proceeding according to plan.
After going to the first floor to dispose of the tank, the nurse returned to the ICU, this time not caring who saw him. He stopped at the ward desk and introduced himself.
"Hello, I'm Nurse Eustis and I work down in the emergency room," he said, smiling at the nurse on duty. "I was on duty down there when they brought that JAG Colonel in and I was just wondering how she was doing. I have a sister who's pregnant, you see, so I've been interested in how the Colonel is doing."
"She's doing fairly well," the desk nurse replied. "She came through the surgery very well. She's still unconscious, but she's suffered a severe trauma. It's probably to be expected."
"Is the baby okay?" he asked, glancing at his watch. Any minute now ...
"Dr. Calder says she's very hopeful," the nurse replied. "She's been up here ... dear God, that's the Colonel's room!" she exclaimed as a piercing alarm went off and a red light lit up on her panel.
Eustis followed the desk nurse to Mac's room. He made a show of checking the ventilator while the ICU nurse checked the rest of her vitals. "Oxygen levels are too low," he reported. "I'm dialing up the respiration level."
The alarm continued to wail as Eustis studied the unit. "It's not working," he said.
"Check the hoses," the ICU nurse ordered as she pressed went to the intercom to page Dr. Newman.
"Hoses look fine," Eustis said, moving around the back of the machine. "Damn, the wrong tank's hooked up to this machine! She's getting CO2 instead of O2. Find another tank! Quickly!" The nurse rushed out to get a spare tank out of the storage room while Eustis began reassuring the unconscious Mac.
"See, I told you it would be all right, Colonel," he told her. "I found the problem and it will be fixed momentarily. You're very lucky."
The ICU nurse returned with a fresh oxygen tank and handed it to him. Eustis quickly hooked it up as Dr. Newman rushed into the room followed by the head ICU nurse. Finally, the alarm stopped as the ventilator started pumping fresh oxygen into Mac's lungs and everyone in the room breathed a sigh of relief.
"What happened here?" Dr. Newman demanded as he began checking Mac over.
"The alarm went off," the ICU nurse explained. "Nurse Eustis here from the emergency room had come up to check on the Colonel and came in here with me to check the alarm. He found a CO2 tank hooked up to the ventilator instead of O2."
"Congratulations, Nurse Eustis," Dr. Newman said, "you may have just saved this patient's life."
"I was on duty downstairs when she was brought in," he explained modestly. "I was just curious to see how she was doing. I was just in the right place at the right time, I guess."
"Well, I'm sure the Colonel will appreciate the coincidence," he said, looking down at Mac to find her eyelids fluttering. "Well, looks who's decided to rejoin us. Remain calm, Colonel. It will be more painful for you if you struggle against the ventilator."
"I'll go page her family," the head ICU nurse said, heading for the intercom by the door. "Commander Rabb, Colonel O'Hara, please return to ICU stat. Commander Rabb, Colonel O'Hara to ICU stat."
Mac blinked, trying to focus on the unfamiliar faces surrounding her. Her eyes finally focused on the older gentleman leaning over her.
"Colonel Mackenzie, I'm Dr. Newman," he told her. "Since you can't speak, just nod or shake your head to answer my questions. Are you in a lot of pain?"
She nodded yes, patting the right side of her chest with her left hand. "Understandable," Newman replied. "Do you remember being shot?"
She began to shake her head, then slowly nodded. It was all a blur in her clouded mind, but she vaguely recalled the sound of gunfire, Harm pushing her to the floor.
"That's okay," he said to her look of confusion, "some initial confusion upon regaining consciousness is to be expected. Things will clear up eventually."
Mac placed her hand over her stomach, her fingers brushing the monitor belt attached, and looked at Newman expectantly. He moved aside slightly so that she could see the fetal heart monitor. "Fetal heart rate of 132," he informed her. "No signs so far of fetal distress so far. I'll have Dr. Calder paged so she can discuss your pregnancy with you." He nodded to the nurse who had paged Harm and Matt and she picked up the intercom again.
Mac glanced around the room, expecting to see Harm, her eyes falling on Nurse Eustis. She looked confused as she studied him for a moment. He seemed very familiar, but dark hair, dark beard? Something didn't seem right.
At the question in her eyes, Dr. Newman explained, "Nurse Eustis was on duty in the ER when you were brought in and he came up to see how you were doing. It's a good thing he did, he found that problem we just had with your ventilator."
She looked into his eyes and it finally clicked in her mind. She recognized his eyes. And the name. It wasn't his name, but it was one she recognized. Frantic, she began struggling while Dr. Newman tried to calm her. "Colonel," he explained, "you have to remain calm and not struggle. Your gunshot wound caused a collapsed lung. It will get worse if you strain yourself."
Eustis began backing out of the room, sensing that she recognized him. At least she wasn't able to talk with the invasive ventilation and he nearly smiled at the irony. "I need to get back on duty downstairs," he explained. "I hope you get better soon, Colonel."
Eustis walked slowly down the hall, pushing the down button for the elevator. Patiently, he waited for one to arrive, forcing himself not to react when one did, opening up to reveal Harm, Matt and Clay. But none of them noticed him, so intent on reaching Mac's room were they, and he breathed a sigh of relief as he got onto the elevator and the doors closed behind him.
Harm breathed a huge sigh of relief as they entered Mac's room and his eyes locked with Mac's. The doctor moved out of the way so that Harm could sit on the edge of the bed, Matt standing behind him, while Clay quietly excused himself to find the rest of the JAG staff.
"Nice of you to rejoin us, Marine," Harm teased as he leaned over to kiss her forehead.
"Hello, Sarah," Matt said, taking one of her hands in his. "It's good to see you again."
She looked from one to the other, silently cursing the tube in her throat that blocked all speech. She had to talk to Harm, to warn him. She tried to plead with him with her eyes, but he misunderstood.
"It's going to be okay, Sarah," he said quietly, pressing her other hand against his cheek. "The doctor says you should be fine and they're optimistic about the baby."
She shook her head, wishing she could make him understand, but she was so tired. She just wanted to drift back into the warm cocoon of sleep. No, she had to stay awake, try to communicate with him somehow. She finally removed her hand from Harm's cheek and made a motion with it. He shook his head in confusion. She repeated the motion a little slower.
"You want to say something?" Harm asked. At her nod, he turned to the others, "Does anyone have a pen and paper that she can write with?"
"I have some at the desk," the desk nurse replied. "I'll go get it."
Matt turned to Dr. Newman. "Doctor, my niece seems agitated about something," he said.
The doctor sighed. This wasn't exactly the kind of thing you wanted to tell family members whose loved one had just regained consciousness. "We had a slight problem with the Colonel's ventilator," he explained, "but an ER nurse who had stopped by to check on the Colonel found the problem and it was quickly fixed."
"What kind of problem?" Matt demanded.
"The last time the O2 tank was changed," he answered, "someone grabbed the wrong tank from the storage room and hooked up CO2 instead. Fortunately, Nurse Eustis was here and helped resolve the problem." At the angry looks Harm and Matt shot him, he continued, "In my twenty-three years of medicine, it's the first time I've ever heard about something like this happening, but I suppose a mistake like this is possible."
"Possible?" Matt exclaimed. "I'd like to know who is responsible for this 'mistake', Captain."
Newman picked up Mac's charted and studied it. "This is odd," he said. "The last record of the tank being changed was seventeen thirty hours, but it wouldn't have taken that long for the machine to pick up the oxygen deprivation. There had to have been another tank change after that time that wasn't recorded on the chart. What time did you leave the room?"
"Eighteen fifteen hours," Matt answered.
"Hmmm," Dr. Newman murmured as the nurse returned with a pad and pen for Mac. Slowly, Mac scratched out a single word and handed the pad to Harm. As he read the single word, his face drained of color.
"Dear God," he whispered. "How did he get out?"
"When was he ... " he began, then it clicked in his mind. "Doctor, what was the name of that ER nurse you said was here during the problem with Sarah's oxygen?"
"What? Nurse Eustis. Why?" Newman replied.
He smiled at Mac reassuringly. "I'll take care of it. I promise. Matt, can you come with me please?"
"Where are we going?" Matt asked as the two men headed for the elevators.
"Down to ER to have a talk with Nurse Eustis," Harm replied as an elevator opened to reveal Clay and AJ.
"Where are you two headed off to?" Clay demanded. "Is Mac okay?"
"Someone tampered with her ventilator," Harm informed them. "We're going after the person who I'm sure did it."
"Then we're coming with you," AJ insisted as Matt and Harm entered the elevator. Harm pushed the button for the first floor as the doors closed.
"It's not Palmer again, is it?" AJ asked.
"No," Harm answered as Clay added, "He's still in Leavenworth. I checked when I called earlier to arrange for Colonel O'Hara's release."
"Well, the person we're going after is supposed to be in Leavenworth," Harm told them. "After this is all over, I want to know how the hell he got out without Sarah and I knowing about it."
"Who's supposed to be in Leavenworth?" Matt asked as the elevator deposited them on the first floor down the hall from emergency.
Harm didn't answer the question as he rushed to the emergency desk. "Excuse me," he said hurriedly, "I'm looking for Nurse Eustis. Can you tell me where I can find him?"
"Nurse Eustis just left for the day," the nurse on duty informed him.
"How long ago was that?" Harm demanded. It couldn't have been that long ago if he had recently been in Mac's room.
"Not even five minutes ago," the nurse replied. "He's probably on his way to the employee parking lot as we speak."
"Where would I find that?" Harm asked.
"Go down the elevator to sub-basement two," she told him. "What's the rush? He's due in to work tomorrow."
"He saved my fiancée's life up in ICU," Harm quickly explained. "I just wanted to thank the man. Can you tell me what he looks like?" Harm assumed he might be in some kind of disguise.
"Dark hair, kind of wavy, average height. Good luck in finding him," the nurse said as the four men took off for the elevator.
"Who's this Eustis and what would he have against Mac?" Clay asked.
"Eustis isn't his real name," Harm explained as they descended in the elevator. "It's Chief Petty Officer Hodge."
"Hodge?" AJ mused. "The name sounds familiar. I'm assuming he was a client or someone you prosecuted if he was in Leavenworth."
"Actually, Mattoni and Imes prosecuted since Sarah and I ended up as witnesses in the case," Harm continued. "Corpsman Hodge was on the USS Watertown."
It clicked for AJ as he remembered the case he had sent Harm and Mac on after a public disagreement about another case. A submarine had surfaced in the middle of a Norwegian sailing regatta after the entire navigation watch had taken ill. "That was that case with that syndrome, Munch ... "
"Munchausen by proxy, Sir," Harm completed the thought.
"Wait a minute," Clay said. "Isn't that where someone makes a person sick so they can take care of him?"
"Yes," Harm replied. "He tampered with Mac's oxygen so he could come in and play the hero."
"But how did he even know she was here?" Matt asked.
"It was probably just a coincidence," Harm suggested. "He would have already had to have infiltrated the hospital before today. Bud had said he did a tour here at Bethesda before he became a submariner. He changed his looks slightly, probably created a false resume and signed on here as a civilian nurse."
The elevator deposited them in the parking garage. Damn, Harm thought, he could be anywhere. He turned to the others and suggested, "Let's split up. We all heard the description so we know who to look for. We'll cover more ground if we separate."
Harm began moving quickly through the garage. He hoped he would be the one to find Hodge. This was the second time he had nearly lost Sarah to this monster. He shivered slightly at the thought as he remembered frantically performing mouth to mouth on Sarah on the Watertown after Hodge had nearly strangled her. As he spotted a figure in hospital scrubs up ahead, he slowed his pace. He hoped to have the element of surprise on his side. Hodge might not know that he had been made. Then again, it might not be Hodge at all.
"Excuse me," Harm said in a friendly tone of voice as he reached the man. He was nearly positive it was Hodge. "I'm looking for Nurse Eustis from the ER. I wanted to thank him for saving my fiancée's life up in ICU."
"I'm sorry," Eustis replied calmly. "I don't know a Nurse Eustis. It's a large hospital."
"Well, now that's funny," Harm continued in his friendly voice. "You look just like the description I was given of the man." It was a bluff; the description had been vague enough that it could probably fit any number of men who worked at the hospital.
"I'm sorry I can't help you," Eustis said genially as he reached to unlock his car door. Before he knew what was happening, Eustis found his back pressed against the car, an arm pressed against his throat.
"Nice try, Hodge," Harm said angrily. Eustis remained outwardly calm, but Harm had seen the brief flash of recognition in his eyes when Harm had called him by his real name. "Obviously, you didn't learn anything from our last encounter. Just because she can't speak doesn't mean she couldn't ID you."
Hodge kicked out, using one of his legs to sweep Harm's out from under him. As Harm tumbled to the ground, Hodge ran, Harm swiftly rising to give chase. He grabbed at Hodge, but he turned and swung at Harm, knocking him against the hood of a nearby car. He gasped in pain as his ribcage hit the corner of the car, knocking the wind out of him momentarily. As Harm struggled to get back up, Hodge started running.
Then Harm heard a single gunshot and looked up to see Clay reholstering his gun under his suit coat and Hodge lying facedown. The sound of the gunshot brought Matt and AJ running and Matt reach down to help Harm up as the younger man grasped his side in pain. AJ checked Hodge's pulse and said, "He's alive. We should get some medics and the MPs down here. I want this man back in Leavenworth where he belongs."
"I'd be interested to know how he got out in the first place," Harm said between gasps for breath.
"I'll have Gunny and Bud on that first thing in the morning," AJ told him. "How are you?"
"I feel like I've been kicked in the ribs by a mule," Harm said ruefully. "I think they're just bruised, though. I want to get back upstairs."
"Come on," Clay said. "Let's get you back to your fiancée."
"Don't tell her I said that," Harm warned. "I haven't officially asked her yet."
"Why the hell not?" Matt demanded. "Isn't that what your visit to Leavenworth on Saturday was about?"
"I had plans for this weekend after we moved into our new house," Harm explained, "but now that is obviously on hold. So now I guess it's time for plan B."
"What's plan B?" Clay asked.
"When I figure it out," Harm said as a laugh quickly turned to a grimace of pain, "I'll let you know."
Mac sat back with a smile as she watched her Uncle Matt get further acquainted with Trish and Frank Burnett. To her and Harm's delight, the three had hit it off immediately upon meeting Monday night. All three had hovered protectively nearby the last two days, probably as much to watch over Harm as her. After all, that damned squid practically had to be dragged away to eat or sleep. She sighed, carefully not to take to deep a breath, still recovering from the collapsed lung. Fortunately, the ventilator and intubation tube had been removed the previous night, so she could at least talk, even if her voice was a bit hoarse.
"What are you thinking?" Harm asked, watching her watch their families interact. Matt was relating the tale of Harm's hanging from the helo skids in the desert.
"How lucky we are," she said in a hoarse whisper.
"I know," he whispered back. They both looked up at a knock at the open door. Sydney stuck her head in.
"I can come back later if it's a bad time," she insisted, taking in the already crowded room.
"It's okay," Harm said as Mac motioned her in.
"How are you feeling?" Sydney asked.
"Throat hurts," Mac complained hoarsely, "and an elephant sat on my chest."
"I guess that's normal," Sydney laughed.
Before anyone could reply, Dr. Calder entered the room, pushing a cart with equipment on it in front of her. "I guess with all the excitement of the last few days," she said, "you forgot about your appointment this afternoon. We were supposed to do your first ultrasound."
Harm and Mac looked at each other. They had forgotten. Everyone else began making excuses to depart, but Mac held up her hand to stop them. "Please, stay," she croaked.
Harm looked at her and understood. Their families probably needed reassurances about the baby as much as the two of them did. He nodded and everyone settled back down.
"You too, Sydney," Harm insisted as she moved to leave. He knew Mac and Sydney had grown closer in the weeks since Belleville, almost like the mother Mac had always wished she had.
Trish moved out of the way to make room for Dr. Calder as the doctor moved the ultrasound machine into position and Mac pushed the bedcovers aside, pulling her hospital gown up above her abdomen. Calder spread the gel over Mac's abdomen, Mac shivering slightly at the coolness. Making sure the machine was operating, she began moving the wand over Mac's belly.
"That's very good," Calder said as she studied the image. "Everything looks normal for twelve weeks gestation. I can see the sac and ... " she paused, looking closer at the image on the screen as Mac clutched Harm's hand, suddenly afraid.
"What is it?" Mac asked in a hoarse whisper. "Is something wrong with our baby?"
Dr. Calder turned to them and smiled widely, moving slightly to the side, so they could see the screen for themselves. As she did, Sydney gasped, the doctor in her recognizing what the image on the screen meant. Mac and Harm both looked at her, concerned, but she simply smiled at them.
Pointing to the screen, Dr. Calder began to explain what everything meant for all the non-medical personnel in the room. "Here is the amniotic sac and this little blur here would be the baby inside," she explained.
"So tiny," Mac said in awe.
"Don't worry," the doctor assured her, "it will get bigger. Much bigger."
"Then what's this other circle over here?" Trish asked, indicating another portion of the screen. Everyone looked at where she pointed as Dr. Calder and Sydney's smiles grew wider.
"That would be the other baby," the doctor replied. "Congratulations, Sarah and Harm. You're going to have twins."
Dr. Newman had finally deemed Mac well enough to move into a regular hospital room, which was done first thing Thursday morning, but not without a little grumbling from the patient about being woken up early for the move. The move was finally accomplished by both Matt playing the role of drill sergeant and Trish reassuring her that she could go back to sleep once she was settled in her new room. That accomplished, Matt and Trish had both departed to catch up on some of the sleep they had been missing themselves the past three days, Matt to Mac's apartment and Trish to Harm's where Frank was waiting for her.
Mac was lightly dozing just past eleven hundred hours when she was woken up by a knock on her door. She opened her eyes to find Sydney sticking her head in.
"I didn't mean to wake you," Sydney apologized. "I can come back later if you'd like to get some more sleep."
"No, it's fine," Mac assured her. "I should probably get up anyway. I've been sleeping most of the morning." She pressed a button to raise the head of the bed so that she was propped up in a half-sitting position as Sydney pulled up a chair next to the bed.
"I see AJ finally was able to order Harm back to work," Sydney commented.
"With a little help from me," Mac admitted. "I told Harm that I was going to kick his six from here to the Adriatic if he didn't stop hovering and that if I couldn't do it, I'd get Uncle Matt to do it for me."
Sydney laughed at the image that created in her mind. It wasn't hard to imagine the feisty Marine doing just that despite being injured and pregnant. "I'm sorry," Sydney gasped at Mac's puzzled look, "the image that just created in my mind ... "
Mac smiled herself, careful to head the doctor's warning to watch the laughter due to her healing lung. "I can see why that would be amusing," Mac said dryly. "So what brings you here?"
"My last morning appointment cancelled so I thought I'd take a early lunch and stop by to see you," Sydney explained. "I was curious to see if yesterday's news has sunk in yet."
Mac picked up a book of the nightstand and handed it to Sydney, who read the title aloud. "'Twins! Pregnancy, Birth and The First Year Of Life'," she said. "Who picked this up for you?"
"Harm did," Mac replied. "He stopped off at a bookstore on his way home last night and dropped this off this morning on his way to work. Trish said he bought a copy for himself, too."
"He's really getting into the idea of having two, isn't he?" Sydney asked.
"'Getting into it'?" Mac echoed. "Cloud nine is more like it. Not that I have any experience, but I've never seen a man more excited. Let's see if he can manage to keep the news to himself."
"Are you still planning to wait to tell everyone until you get out of the hospital?"
"Yes," Mac confirmed. "With everything that's happened the last few days, I would feel better if we waited until after I got out of the hospital just in case anything happens."
"As a doctor and a mother myself," Sydney said, "I can understand that. You've been through a trauma and you're still healing. I'd probably do the same thing in your position."
"It's just a little scary," Mac explained softly. "With everything that's happened, I'm lucky I didn't miscarry. Now I find out there are two. You know, when people talk about twins, it's natural to think 'high-risk' pregnancy."
"I don't have any practical experience with the topic," Sydney tried to reassure the younger woman, "but I had a friend many years ago who had twins and her pregnancy was perfectly normal except for gaining more weight than a woman would with a single baby."
"But did your friend get shot then have her ventilator tampered with by a psychopath?" Mac asked.
"No," Sydney answered, putting her hand on Mac's shoulder, "but you and the babies have made it this far. The hard part was getting through the first forty-eight hours. Now, the odds are definitely in your favor. Anyway, look at who these kids have for parents. Some of the stories AJ has told me about you two ... "
"I can imagine," Mac said, smiling at the memories of four years of tight spots and life-or-death situations. She sobered quickly and added, "Sometimes I'm just afraid to hope for too much in my life. So much has happened to me, especially when it seems like everything is going my way."
"Look," Sydney said, "I don't want you to talk too much now. You're still recovering from that collapsed lung. But if you ever want to talk about any of it, I'll listen."
"Thank you," Mac said sincerely. "Outside of Harm and my uncle, there are a lot of things that I've never talked about with anyone. Maybe it would be nice to talk to someone who is outside of it all."
It had been strange for Harm to return to work after everything that had happened. Walking through the hallway outside the bullpen, where all hell had broken loose on Monday, Harm could see in his mind's eye the bullet holes that had been in the walls, the blood staining the floor and walls, even though crews had been in Monday evening to repair the damage as soon as the MPs had given the go ahead.
It had been hard getting back into the swing of things that morning, his mind constantly drifting back to the horror three days earlier. The only thing that kept him from wallowing completely in the despair of what had happened had been the knowledge that Mac was on the mend and the baby they were expecting had turned out to be twins.
Twins. When they had made their deal over a year ago to 'go halves on a kid' and every time he had imagined having a child with Mac since then, he had never imagined it being anything like this. After all the stops and starts, miscommunication and misunderstandings, twins just seemed like the perfect beginning to their new life together. He smiled at the thought.
"After everything that's happened," Trish said from the doorway, "it's good to see a smile on your face again. Thinking about yesterday's news?"
Harm looked up from his paperwork to find his mother standing in the open doorway with Frank and Matt behind her. "Mom, Frank, Matt," Harm greeted them, waving them into his office. "It's great to see you, but did Sarah put you up to this?"
"What, we can't stop by at lunchtime and see if you would like to eat with us?" Trish asked in mock indignation. "I'll tell you, kids these days ... "
"Very funny, Mom," Harm said dryly, leaning back in his chair. "But it's a logical assumption given her insistence that I not 'spend the entire day staring at the four walls of my office.' She's the one in the hospital and she's worrying about how I'm doing."
"That's how it works, you know," Trish pointed out. "When you love someone, one of your first considerations is always how the other partner is feeling. Are you going to sit there and try to tell me that you haven't spent a good portion of your morning worrying about her?"
Harm sighed. His mother was right. This was just still so new to him; he felt as if he was driving a new route and constantly trying to look at the road map. Only problem was, most relationships didn't come with road maps to help you find your way when you got a little lost or confused. "Okay, I won't tell you that," Harm finally replied. "And I would love the company for lunch. Actually, this gives me the perfect opportunity to ask for your assistance with something that I want to plan."
"See, Trish," Frank said. "Your son can be sensible when he wants to be." Trish had suggested to her husband and Matt that it might take a lot of persuading to talk Harm into lunch with them. "So what do you need our help with, Harm?"
"Let's just say that it's time to work on 'Plan B'," Harm replied mysteriously as he grabbed his cover. Frank and Trish looked at each other confused while Matt smiled, remembering the conversation Monday night after Hodge had been captured.
The foursome decided to stay at JAG and eat in the courtyard after Harm had assured everyone that the cafeteria food was halfway decent. They all sat down with their food, everyone looking expectantly at Harm.
"I had this big plan in mind to propose to Sarah this weekend after we moved into our new home," Harm began, only to be promptly interrupted by his mother.
"Why haven't you proposed yet?" Trish asked, astonished. "I gave you that ring back in Belleville over a month ago. I noticed in the hospital that she wasn't wearing the ring, but I thought that it might have been taken off when she went into surgery."
"A month ago?" Matt added. "And it took you that long to come see me in Leavenworth?"
"Give Harm a break," Frank suggested, trying to act as the voice of reason. "After dragging their feet the last four years about getting together, does it really surprise you that they are dragging their feet about getting married?"
"You have at least discussed the topic of a wedding with Mac, haven't you?" This was from his mother, who was wondering how her intelligent son could sometimes make such unintelligent decisions.
"In general, non-specific terms only so far," Harm said, then quickly added due to the look shot him by his mother, "I wanted it to be special. After we got back from Belleville, we had several investigations and court cases that took our attention, then I went to see Matt to discuss my plans with him last Saturday. I was going to do it this weekend, but ... "
"I'm sorry," Trish said. "We don't mean it to sound like we're criticizing you. I just want to see my only child finally settled down with a family of his own."
"And I want the same for Sarah," Matt added.
"Why don't we start this whole conversation over?" Frank suggested. "Harm can tell us what he has planned and what we can do to help. Okay?"
Everyone nodded their agreement. "Good," Harm said. "Now, the first problem is that Sarah and I were supposed to move into our house this weekend and she needs to be out of her old apartment by the end of the month. I don't want to wait until after she gets out of the hospital to move. She should be taking it easy still, not worrying about moving into a new place, so I would like to get everything moved before she gets out of the hospital. It would be a nice surprise for her to come home to 'our' house."
"Sounds good," Trish said. "What can we do to help?"
"Since I'd like it to be a surprise," Harm continued, "it would be a little suspicious if I was completely absent from the hospital this weekend. So I'd like some help supervising the movers—especially since we've got two apartments to move out of and Sarah's not here to supervise the activity at her place."
"We can do that," Matt said. "One person at each apartment to supervise and one person at the house when the stuff starts arriving. Do you have an idea where you want everything to go?"
"We have worked on that the last couple of weeks and we made some notes," Harm replied. "I'll make sure you have them."
"What about paint, wallpaper, things like that?" Trish asked.
"There is a little bit to be done on that front," he said. "We definitely wanted to re-paper one of the bathrooms. The nursery will need to be done, but we've got several months to worry about that. There are also a few places that need some touch up paint. We talked about putting in some shelves in the room we are going to turn into an office. I was also going to work on that this weekend, also."
"Harm," Frank suggested, "what if we get some of your friends here to help? From what I've seen this week, they care about both of you a lot and would be happy to help."
"I don't know ... " Harm said.
"Well, there's AJ and Sydney," Trish pointed out. "Why don't we ask them and see what they think? AJ! Sydney!" Trish waved the couple, who was heading back into the building from lunch, over to their table.
"Hello, everyone," Sydney greeted them when she and AJ reached the table. She leaned over to give Harm a hug. "How are you doing?"
"I'm doing okay," Harm said. "Trying to keep busy and my mind off of things."
"We were just discussing with Harm the plan for getting his and Mac's stuff moved into their new house before she gets out of the hospital," Trish told them. "There's a little bit of work that needs to be done in the house also and we suggested to Harm that his friends would be willing to help with the work and organizing the move. What do you think?"
"We'd be happy to help," Sydney said. "You know, their house is right across the street from AJ. AJ, you know the rest of the people here better than I do. Do you think they'd be willing to come out and help, too?"
"Most of them have been waiting for this as long as they've known those two," AJ said. "Happy to help? Just try and keep most of the people here away."
Sensing that Harm still needed convincing, Sydney added, "Bud and Harriet? Harm and Mac are their best friends."
"And Gunny?" AJ continued. "Mac got him his job at JAG."
"What about Carolyn? She and Harriet ... " Sydney was interrupted by Harm.
"Okay, you've made your point," he conceded. "I'd be happy to accept any help that is given. I just want to make this perfect for Sarah."
"AJ, why don't you put together a list of those who are closest to Harm and Mac and the rest of us can talk to them," Sydney suggested. "If it came from you, they might see it as an order."
"Maybe we should all get together," Matt suggested, "plan what everyone will do."
"When and where?" Sydney asked. "We can run it by everyone when we talk to them."
"Harm, do you have access to the house already?" Trish asked.
"Yes, I finalized everything on Friday while she was in Quantico," he replied.
"Then why don't we meet there tonight," Trish suggested, "say around seven if everyone's free? Then everyone can get a feel for the layout of the house and you can show us what needs to be done and where everything needs to go."
"What about that other matter, Harm?" Matt asked. "What are your thoughts on that?"
"Well, the original plan was a nice intimate dinner Sunday night in our new home," Harm revealed.
"I assume we're talking a proposal here," Sydney said. "Sounds romantic and I don't see any reason why you can't still do that."
"No," Harm admitted, "but I was thinking of modifying the original plan slightly." Harm paused a moment to gather his thoughts. He was normally a very private person, so public displays like the one he was thinking about were not really his thing. Then again, it would be good practice for the eventual church full of guests. "After everything Sarah's been through the last few days, we've really gained an appreciation of how much our friends here at JAG are like a family to us. Everyone has really been there for us and we both appreciate it. Besides, as the Admiral pointed out, most of our friends have been waiting for this day for a long time. So I was thinking ... how about a dinner party? We can celebrate moving into our new house plus an engagement."
"Are you sure?" Trish asked. "Maybe you'd like something a little more private?"
"I think ... no, I know this is how I want to do it," Harm said. "And we can announce our other news then also."
"Other news?" AJ asked. AJ was the only one present who didn't know the results of the ultrasound as Sydney had agreed that she wouldn't tell anyone, not even him.
"We'll find out with everyone else," Sydney said evasively, smiling at him. "Harm, have the doctors said when Mac is actually going to be released?"
"When I stopped at Bethesda this morning," Harm replied, "Drs. Newman and Calder agreed that if all continued to go well, she would be released Monday. It was supposed to be in the morning, but she said—and I quote—'I'll be damned if I'm going to sit at home all day Monday while Harm hovers over me.' So Sarah decided that I would go to work on Monday and pick her up on my way home."
"Sounds like my niece," Matt commented.
"So instead of taking her to the apartment, you bring her to the house and everyone is there waiting to welcome her home," Frank said. "Sounds like a plan. Anything else?"
"What about the dinner menu?" Trish asked. "Harm, what kind of foods does she like?"
"Dead cow," Harm replied dryly, eliciting laughs from Trish and Frank and puzzled expressions from everyone else.
"Sydney," Trish suggested, "why don't you and I work on that? Let's see if we can satisfy both my son the vegetarian and Mac the meat eater."
"Fine," Sydney replied, laughing, "we can come up with some ideas today and discuss them when everyone gets together this evening. This should be interesting."
"I think that's everything," Harm said, "so I need to get back to work. Mom, Frank, Matt—I'll see all of you tonight."
"Commander, I'd like to see you in my office when you get a chance," AJ said.
Harm could see in his eyes that it was important. "How's right now? Nothing pressing waiting for me in my office except paperwork," he suggested.
"Good," AJ said. "Goodbye, everyone. I'll see all of you tonight. Sydney, I'll see you after work."
Everyone said their good-byes, then Harm followed AJ back into JAG.
AJ took his seat then said, "Take a seat, Harm."
His commanding officer's use of his first name gave Harm an eerie feeling. He had a feeling that this was about Chief Hodge, a suspicion that was confirmed when AJ began, "Lieutenant Roberts and Gunny delivered their preliminary report on Hodge as I was leaving for lunch."
"What did it say, Sir?" Harm asked, trying to keep his voice calm.
"Basically, that Hodge was released from Leavenworth three months ago on a technicality," AJ said, then glanced at Harm. The younger man was fighting a losing battle to control his temper. "Somehow, some papers were filled out wrong, not all the I's dotted or the T's crossed and his lawyer was able to pull some fancy maneuvering, find a sympathetic judge and get him released."
"Are you telling me that this man was convicted of two murders, two attempted murders, numerous counts of assault and endangerment and he served only a year in prison?" Harm demanded, his voice taking on a hostile edge. "And why the hell are we just now finding out about this?"
"Harm, I wish I knew the answer to that," AJ said wearily. "Roberts and Gunny are still digging. They also discovered that Hodge has a sister in this area, which is why he ended up here. Also, since he had previously been stationed there, he was familiar with the hospital."
"Any idea why he did what he did, Sir?" Harm asked. "I don't mean the switching of the tanks and coming in to play the hero. That fits his previous MO to a T. But he tried to kill Sarah before, on the Watertown. Why not this time?"
"Apparently, Hodge's sister is pregnant," AJ revealed. "Maybe that got to him in some way and he discovered that he couldn't kill her. With a psychopath like Hodge, who can honestly say? The man should probably have been in a hospital somewhere getting help, not in Leavenworth."
"Probably," Harm said quietly. He didn't really agree, but it wasn't his decision to make. "What's going to happen now?"
"His sister retained a lawyer for him," AJ answered, "who is talking of an insanity plea. I'm still looking for someone from one of the other JAG offices to come in and act as prosecutor. After what happened with Mac, officials at Bethesda have discovered some similar incidents that they are investigating, so no one can really say at this point how this will all play out. Although he would probably be better off not going back to Leavenworth since Matt O'Hara is there."
"Speaking of Matt, has Clay said when he'll have to go back to Leavenworth?" Harm asked, changing the subject. Although he had wanted to know how Hodge had come back into their lives, he didn't like the answers he had gotten. Then again, there probably was no answer he could have gotten that he would have been happy with in this situation.
"By prior agreement, Colonel O'Hara is here at least until Mac is released from the hospital," was the reply. "I need to have a talk with Mr. Webb anyway. I'll see if he can give the Colonel until the end of next week. I'm sure Mac will be happy to spend some time with her uncle once she's out of the hospital."
"Yes, she would like that," Harm agreed. He stood to leave. "Thank you, Admiral—for everything. I appreciate it."
AJ nodded. "Dismissed, Commander," he said.
Harm came to attention and replied, "Aye, aye, Sir."
Harm, along with his mother, Frank and Matt, were the last to arrive. Before he had left work, he had given AJ a key to the house, so any early arrivals could wait inside until Harm could get away from the hospital. When they entered the house, Harm was surprised to find not only AJ, Sydney, Bud, Harriet, Gunny and Tiner present, but also Bobbi Latham and Clayton Webb. Honestly, Clay's presence wasn't that much of a mystery. Although he had been very lenient about it given the circumstances, technically he was responsible for Matt's whereabouts.
"Hello, Harm," Bobbi greeted him. "AJ called me and asked for my help. How is Mac doing?"
"She's getting better everyday, or so the doctors tell me," he replied. "Bobbi, these are my parents, Trish and Frank Burnett and this is Mac's uncle, Matt O'Hara. Everyone, this is Congresswoman Bobbi Latham. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee."
Greetings were exchanged all around and everyone took a seat on the living room floor while Harm pulled out the notes he and Mac had made based on the floor plans for the house. He spread the plans out on the floor while everyone gathered around to plan.
After everyone from JAG left, Harm stood alone on the porch, staring out into the night. He didn't turn around when he heard someone approach behind him.
"You've got some very good friends at JAG," Frank commented as he stood beside Harm at the rail.
"Yes, I do," Harm said quietly. "You and Mom getting ready to go back to the apartment?"
"In a few minutes," he replied. "I told Trish I wanted to talk to you first."
Harm turned his head and looked at his stepfather. It was a hard realization that he had never given Frank enough credit for everything he had done for Harm, especially in Russia. After all, if things had turned out differently in Russia, it might have cost Frank his marriage. "Do you mind if I say something first?" Harm asked.
"I never really thanked you for everything you did when Sarah and I went to Russia," Harm started. "A lot of men in your position would have tried to discourage me. But you never did."
"Harm, all I've ever wanted is for you and your mother to be happy," Frank explained. "If that meant finding your father alive and bringing him home, then I was willing to live with that. That's part of being in love with someone—putting their needs ahead of your own."
"I'm beginning to realize that," Harm said. "I just ... I don't know. Maybe now that I'm about to have a family of my own, I'm beginning to realize a few things that I never wanted to admit before now."
"The importance of family, I guess," he replied. "I was so wrapped up in the past that I never really appreciated the one I had."
"Harm, I ... " Frank began, but Harm held up his hand.
"Let me finish," Harm requested. "I had this idealized image of who my father was and it hurt not long ago when I found out that he was human and had made mistakes. After I found that out, it took me a while to get past that, to let go of my childhood ideals. I had always placed him on a pedestal and you could never live up to that image in my mind. Now that I can admit that, I wanted to say that I'm sorry. You did the best you could, just as he did. I guess I'm ready to accept that now."
"Harm, I've always known that I could never take your father's place," Frank said, "but I've always been willing to be a friend if you'd let me."
"I know that," Harm admitted. "I always have. I guess now that I'm going to have kids of my own, I wanted to make sure that I settled any differences remaining between us. I don't want any friction between us to get in the way of my children being close to the only grandfather that they'll ever know."
"Thank you," Frank said quietly, holding out his hand. Without hesitation, Harm took it as Trish and Matt joined them on the porch.
"Are you ready to go, Frank?" Trish asked, smiling. It warmed her heart to see the two people closest to her finally put aside their differences.
"Yes," he replied, "Harm and I are finished here."
"Good night, Mom," Harm said, pulling her into his arms for a hug.
"Good night, and thank you," Trish whispered, kissing him on the cheek. "We'll see you later."
Harm and Matt stood on the porch and watched them leave. "That was a good thing you just did," Matt said.
"How long were you two standing at the door?" Harm asked.
"Long enough," he replied, "to hear you give your children a chance at the family Sarah couldn't have and the one you wouldn't allow yourself to have."
"Sarah was right when she said I couldn't let go, back in Australia," Harm admitted. "But now, because of her and our children, I finally can."
Mac sat on the edge of her hospital bed, waiting for Harm to arrive to take her home. She had already signed her discharge papers and received her instructions from Drs. Newman and Calder, along with an order to take at least another week off from work and a restriction from long trips for another two weeks after that.
Flipping through the book on twins that Harm had bought her, she found the section covering twelve to sixteen weeks and began reading to pass the time. After a moment, her head jerked up when she heard several sharp whistles coming from the hall.
"I never realized what that saying about dress whites and gold wings meant until now," she heard a voice exclaim as Mac smiled. She shook her head as she wondered what was up with the dress whites. Surely he hadn't worn them to work.
"Ready to get out of here?" Harm asked, standing in the doorway, his cover under one arm and a bundle of roses cradled in the other. He handed the roses to her as he came to stand in front of her.
She inhaled the rich scent of the flowers as she sighed, "You really know how to make an entrance, don't you?"
"I remember someone saying once that she 'always was a sucker for dress whites'," he teased. "You look very nice, Sarah."
"Harriet brought this for me yesterday," Mac explained, gesturing to her dark blue silk pants and top. At the time, she thought it was a bit dressy to wear home. Now that she had seen Harm in his dress whites, she had a feeling something was up, but she was willing to play along for a while. Especially if this was going where she hoped it was. "She thought I might need something to wear home from the hospital that actually fit."
Harm smiled. He was glad she appeared to like it. Harriet had picked out the outfit, but he had chosen the color. It had reminded him of the dress she had worn to the Sudanese embassy two years earlier. He held out his free hand to her. "Are you ready to go?"
Mac took his hand and allowed him to help her up. "I've been ready," she stated.
"Just a moment, Colonel," a nurse said, pushing a wheelchair into the room as Mac shook her head.
"Humor her," Harm whispered to her as he led her to the chair. "It is hospital policy, unless you want me to carry you through the hospital a la Richard Gere."
Mac smiled at the image that created in her mind. Maybe another time, she promised herself. "I don't think you could carry me in my current state," she teased, gesturing to her expanding middle.
"Are you calling yourself fat?" he shot back.
Mac laughed lightly as she sat in the wheelchair. "Take me home, Flyboy."
Mac said very little as Harm drove, even when he bypassed the exit to head back towards DC and Georgetown and headed instead for the American Legion Bridge across the Potomac into Virginia. She had a feeling all weekend long that something was up when she didn't get many visitors. Not that she had expected her friends at JAG to drop their weekend plans and spend the hours keeping her company, but Trish, Frank and Matt, who were in town specifically for her, had been absent but for a short time Saturday evening. And then they had all appeared tired and hadn't stayed long. Something told her that her hospitalization had not put the move into their new house on hold.
Harm glanced around as he pulled the SUV into their driveway. Everyone had agreed to scatter their cars up and down the street. A bunch of cars parked in front of their house would have given everything away and parking at the Admiral's across the street would have been equally suspicious. After parking, he exited and came around to her side, helping her down from the car before leading her back out of the garage instead of into the house through the connecting door.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
"Front door," Harm replied. "Trust me?"
"I'll play along—for now," she said. "Just don't keep me waiting."
"I'll keep that in mind," he teased as he opened the front door. Before she could enter the house, he swung her up into his arms, careful not to jar her injury.
"Harm!" Mac exclaimed as she wrapped her arms around his neck. "What are you doing?"
"What's it look like?" he countered as he carried her in. "I'm carrying you over the threshold of our new home."
"But we're not married yet," she reminded him, her anticipation building.
"Not yet," he agreed as he set her on her feet in the foyer. "But how do you feel about doing something about that?" Even suspecting that something was going on, her heart nearly stopped at the words as he took the bundle of roses out of her hands and placed them on a nearby table, then fished a handkerchief out of his pocket, carefully unfolding it in front of her to reveal a ring.
"My grandfather first gave this to my grandmother Sarah almost seventy years ago," he explained quietly. "Then forty years ago, it was passed on to my father to give to my mother. Last month, the day we found out we are going to have a baby, my mother passed it on to me.
"Sarah, I can't begin to tell you everything you've meant to me," he continued as he dropped to one knee in front of her. "You've been like a candle, bringing light into my life, even during the darkest days. Thanks to you, I've finally found the strength to let go. Eternity is not how long we're going to wait. It's just the beginning of how long I want this to last. Sarah Mackenzie, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Mac couldn't stop her hands from shaking or the tears from falling as she reached out to brush his cheek with her fingers. Trust Harm to turn the foyer in their home into the most romantic place imaginable. She didn't need a fancy setting with all the trimmings; all she needed was her sailor. "Oh, Harm," she said softly. "I can't say anything except ... yes, I will become your wife."
His own hand shaking, he took her left hand and slowly slid the ring onto her finger then stood, pulling her into his arms. "Thank you," he whispered as he lowered his lips to hers for a slow, tender kiss to seal their engagement.
"I love you, Harmon Rabb," she whispered back after she broke off the kiss, stepping back startled as the lights came on in the hallway behind her and all their friends and family broke out in applause. Mac turned around to look into the faces of everyone she loved, then glanced back at Harm, amazed that he had finally not just let go, but that he had done in front of everyone. Taking a deep breath, she turned back to their friends and teased, "What would have happened if I'd said no?"
"Before or after we had taken you back to Bethesda to have your head examined?" Harriet shot back as everyone laughed. "Anyway, that wouldn't have happened, not after everything."
Mac smiled. Their friends had waited for this as long as she and Harm had. Somehow, having them share the moment made it even more special. She looked back at Harm, a question in her eyes as she patted her stomach. He nodded, smiling. "Since we're celebrating tonight," she began, turning back, "Harm and I have an announcement to make. Wednesday, I had an ultrasound done. Now, before anyone asks, we don't know the gender yet, but we did find out ... " she trailed off.
"We're going to have twins," Harm finished, wrapping his arms around her from behind as everyone applauded again.
Mac smiled as she turned over the memories of the evening in her mind as she studied the diamond on her left hand. She had waited so long for this day and Harm had done everything imaginable to make it perfect for her—the dress whites, the roses, his grandmother's ring, and most of their family and friends to celebrate with. She had imagined a nice quiet evening alone for their first day in their new home, but somehow this was so much better.
Harm was still downstairs doing the last little bit of clean up. As soon as the last person had gone out the door, he had shuttled her up the stairs to their room, insisting that she get ready for bed while he straightened up. She'd had a protest ready on the tip of her tongue, but had changed her mind. She would get ready for bed, she'd even get into bed, but sleep was not exactly what she had in mind at the moment.
Kneeling in front of the dresser, she opened the top right drawer and found that it still held her lingerie. They must have left the clothes in the drawers during the move, she thought. Rummaging through the drawer, she found the nightgown she had picked up at the Marine Corps exchange during her trip to Quantico a few weeks earlier, hoping to surprise Harm with it one night. The bodice was ivory lace which stretched just enough to accommodate her larger breast size. The ivory silk skirt that fell from the high waist was just full enough that she hoped it would accommodate her expanding middle for at least a few months.
She had been inspired to buy the gown after a discussion with Sydney a few days after she and Harm had announced the pregnancy to Sydney and the Admiral. Sydney, a mother herself, had invited Mac to lunch that Saturday to allow the younger woman a chance to ask any questions she might have. Mac, who found herself wishing that her own mother had been more like Sydney, had eagerly accepted. Feeling comfortable talking to Sydney, it hadn't taken her long to admit that she was a little concerned about how Harm would view her as her body got bigger.
Sydney was quick to assure her that while those kinds of feelings were natural, being pregnant did not necessarily equate to being unsexy and that sexiness was mostly a state of mind. Anyway, Sydney had confided, some expectant fathers found pregnancy to be very appealing sexually.
Mac had thought a lot about that during the following weeks, and when Bud had wanted to stop in the exchange at Quantico during their trip to find a toy to take home to AJ, she had wandered over to the lingerie department and had found this gown, which was actually a plus size gown rather than maternity wear. After staring at it for a few minutes, she had finally broken down and bought it, hoping the look on Harm's face would be worth it.
There was only one drawback to the gown, she realized as stood up and took off her blouse. The spaghetti straps did nothing to hide the healing wound just above her right breast, an obvious reminder of everything she'd been through in the last seven days. Perhaps I should wear something a little more concealing, she thought. No, she decided, as she removed the rest of her clothes and pulled the gown over her head. If this evening went the way she wanted it to, concealment wasn't going to be an issue. Anyway, it wasn't like that was the only scar on her body. She did have a similar, healed mark from the gunshot wound she had sustained in the mountains the first time Harm had taken her flying.
Grabbing the matching robe from the same drawer, she pulled it on and tied the belt around her waist, turning to study her reflection in the mirror above the dresser, smoothing the robe over her stomach to emphasize it. Maybe Sydney had been on to something. There was something appealing about her new figure. Maybe it was simply the knowledge of the love that had conceived these children.
She smiled as she saw Harm's reflection behind her in the mirror, the bundle of roses he had given her earlier and a water-filled vase in his hands. Setting both on the dresser, he wrapped his arms around her from behind and gently pulled her back against him. "You're very beautiful," he whispered as he nuzzled her ear.
"Hmmm," she murmured, relaxing against him.
"We forgot about your roses," he reminded her. "I thought you might like to put them in some water."
Curious as to why he hadn't done that himself, she pulled away from him and carefully unwrapped the roses, slightly startled when a card fell out of the bundle and fluttered to the dresser top. "You didn't tell me there was a card," she said as she picked it up and turned it over.
"I was waiting for you to find it," he remarked, waiting with baited breath for her to read it.
"Whoa," she said softly as she read the words printed on the card and the handwritten ones underneath. "What ... Is this serious? How?"
"Of course," he replied as she set the card down and arranged the flowers in the vase. "It seemed appropriate."
"But roses from the White House Rose Garden?" she asked. "How did you accomplish that?"
"I had mentioned it in passing one day to the Admiral," he explained. "I thought that it would be make this even more special. I think Clay and Bobbi actually handled the logistics of obtaining them."
She sighed. "You keep surprising me tonight, Flyboy," she said.
"How could I have ever imagined that the same man who a few months ago couldn't find the words to convince me to wait for him," she replied, "would propose to me quite publicly in front of our families and friends? Or that he would have gone to Leavenworth while I was at Quantico to ask my uncle's permission?"
"He told you about that, did he?" Harm asked.
"Yes," she answered. "And now the roses. You almost seem different."
"I'm not different," he insisted quietly. "I just have finally learned to let go completely. Everything became so clear last week. I almost lost you twice in one day and that scared the hell out of me."
Mac turned around so that she faced him, her hand on his cheek. "Harm," she replied, "I'm fine and so are the babies. You didn't lose us and you're not going to. You're stuck with us for a very long time to come—for eternity."
"I don't look at it as being stuck," he teased.
"You know what I mean," she retorted as she leaned against him, wrapping her arms around his waist.
They stood there for a few minutes, just holding each other. Finally, Harm asked, "Are you tired? There's been a lot of excitement today."
"I'm not really tired," she replied. "I guess I'm too keyed up to sleep. You're right, there has been a lot of excitement. But you know what I'd like to do right now?"
"What would that be?" he murmured against her hair.
"Have a private celebration with my fiancé," she told him, sighing. "I like the sound of those words—my fiancé. But you know what would sound even better? My husband."
"Is that supposed to be a hint?" Harm teased. "Are you trying to tell me you want to get married as soon as possible?"
"Well, I know this has hardly been your conventional relationship," Mac admitted as she moved one of her hands to his chest and began moving her fingers over his gold wings and ribbons, "but maybe I want to be a little bit old-fashioned and get married before the babies are born. Actually, I'd like to get married before I'm too big to fit into a wedding dress."
"I think you would look beautiful in a wedding dress and very pregnant," he told her sincerely.
"Flattery will get you anything you want with me right now," Mac teased, laughing.
"Oh, I thought the gold wings were supposed to do that?" he teased back, moving his hands up and down her back, gently massaging.
"Hmmm," Mac murmured as she leaned into his touch, "that too. Don't stop doing that; it feels so good."
"The back rub?" he asked. At her nod, he continued, "I read that pregnant women tend to get backaches. Massages is supposed to be very good for that."
"Well, my back isn't bothering me now, but don't you dare stop that," she ordered him. "I'll take a massage from you anytime. Anyway, you've been doing a lot of reading since we found out I'm pregnant."
"I just want to be prepared as much as possible," Harm insisted.
"I don't think that's possible," she countered lightly. "But you don't know how much it means that you're taking an active interest. Too bad you can't gain the weight, be tired all the time and deal with the water retention."
Harm laughed, "Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. As for the interest, why shouldn't I be interested? As I recall, it took both of us to make these babies."
"I seem to recall that, also," she replied in a seductive whisper. That weekend brought back a lot of memories. "I don't know. I've just heard that some men seem to think of pregnancy as the woman's situation to deal with."
"That won't be me," he promised. "I want to share as much of this with you as possible."
"Hmmm. Well, do you know what I want right now?"
"You," she said softly, taking a step back out of his arms as she untied the belt around her waist and let her robe fall open. "You like?"
"Very beautiful," he responded with an appreciative gleam in his eye. He'd never given much thought before recently to how beautiful pregnancy could be. "But are you sure... ?"
"Don't tell me you're worried about hurting the babies," she said. "Did I miss where we became celibate between the time we found out I was pregnant and now?"
"That's not it," he insisted. "I'm worried about hurting you. You did just get out of the hospital." He reached out and skimmed the skin around her healing wound with his fingers, his eyes clouding with the painful memories of a week ago even as he avoided looking at the wound.
"If it makes you feel any better," she told him as she stepped towards him again, "I did talk to the doctor while I was waiting for you to pick me up. As long as we're careful ... Anyway, do you realize how long it's been since we made love the last time?"
"Hmmm ... over a week," he answered distractedly as he wrapped his arms around her again, gently pulling her against him.
"Seven days, twenty-three hours, nineteen minutes ... " she began.
"Too damn long," he interrupted, his voice a harsh whisper as he moved them back towards the bed, pulling away from her slightly so she could undo the buttons down the front of his jacket.
"Definitely," she agreed as she pushed the jacket off his shoulders. He let go of her so the jacket could fall to the floor, swiftly followed by the t-shirt and dog tags she pulled over his head. "Harm, kiss me."
He eagerly complied, his tongue tracing the outline of her full lips before slipping inside to explore the sweet taste of her mouth, his hands pushing her robe off her shoulders and tossing it to the floor. His lips left hers to leave a trail of heat along her jaw line and down her throat.
Her hands blindly found his belt, one hand unfastening and pulling it free of the belt loops while her other hand slowly caressed his hard length through his pants, eliciting a harsh moan from him while his hands slid under the straps of her gown and pushed them down off her shoulders. Then nothing.
Mac's hands froze on his body when she realized that he was too still. She knew without looking at his face what he was looking at, what he was thinking. "Harm, there was nothing you could have done," she whispered, desperately wanting to put his mind at ease.
For a long moment, he said nothing, simply staring at the scab on her chest. Maybe if he stared at it long enough, it would just go away and they would both wake up to find that this last week had just been a terrifying dream. But that wasn't going to happen and both of them were painfully aware of that bitter truth.
"Harm, don't think about it," Mac urged. She lifted his chin with her hand and gazed into his eyes, praying that he would see the complete love and trust, hoping he knew that she didn't blame him for not being able to protect her.
With a harsh cry, Harm pulled her against him, careful not to hold her too tight because of the babies, because of her wound. Mac stepped backwards, bumping into the edge of the bed, and sat down, pulling Harm down next to her. He rested his head on her left shoulder while Mac held him. Everyone had mentioned it to her—how Harm had stayed by her side most of that first day in the hospital while she had been unconscious, how strong he had been, always keeping his emotions in check. But everyone had their breaking point. And finally, after it was all over and they were all safe, Harmon Rabb had reached his.
After a long moment, he finally managed on a shaky breath, "I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me."
"Shhh," Mac whispered. "Nobody can be strong all the time, not even you, Harm. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not really," he answered brokenly. "It's just ... I almost lost you, almost lost ... "
"Harmon Rabb, listen to me," she insisted firmly. "You can't always protect me, no matter how much you want to. Damn it, I'm a Marine. Do you think I haven't wondered, while I've been lying in that damn hospital bed this past week, if there wasn't something I could have done differently that day? Could I have moved just a little bit faster? For nine months, these babies are going to grow inside of me, depending on me to protect them and I couldn't do it. I could have lost them and do you think that doesn't tear me up inside?"
Harm tried to think of something to say in response while Mac took a deep breath to try and steady herself. Finally, she continued, her voice calmer, "We can't dwell on it. It will just tear us to pieces if we do. We have to concentrate on what we have and on these new lives that we are bringing into this world."
Taking one of his hands, she pressed it against the firm mound of her belly and continued, "We have to find a way to get past this, for them. What good is it going to do them if their parents keep beating themselves up over a bunch of 'could've, would've, should've' questions that have no answers? We deal with it and move on."
"I know," Harm finally whispered. "It's just easier said than done."
"I know," Mac agreed softly. "But we have to try." She took another deep breath and suggested, a trace of sorrow in her voice, "Why don't we just go to bed? We can talk about this tomorrow."
"Fine," he said flatly, pulling away from her and getting off the bed. He slowly gathered up the clothes scattered on the floor and disappeared into the walk-in closet while Mac pulled back the bed covers and climbed under them. She rolled over onto her left side, pulled the covers up under her chin and closed her eyes. After a moment, she could sense the lights being turned out and she felt the bed shift slightly as Harm climbed in. She could sense him settle in behind her and bit back a sigh of disappointment when he didn't snuggle up to her.
Harm propped himself up on his left elbow and he looked down at her, shifting slightly to try to ease his discomfort. He knew she had wanted tonight to be perfect, a celebration of their future together. Damn it, he berated himself, you sure picked a hell of a time to freeze up and start dwelling on what happened. With a soft sigh, he put his hand on her hip, slowly caressing her in circles through the soft silk of her gown. "Sarah?" he whispered.
"Hmmm?" she murmured, his light touch fanning the flames still burning inside her.
"I'm sorry," he said softly as his hand moved lower, finding the hem of her gown and sliding underneath to caress her soft skin.
"Me, too," she answered as she shifted, rolling onto her back, her legs slightly parted to allow him greater access to her body. Slowly, she opened her eyes and saw him looking down at her. In the twilight filtered into the room through the curtains, she could read the concern and love there. "Harm?"
"Shhh," he whispered. "No more talking." His hand slid between her legs, caressing the sensitive skin on the inside of her thighs before his fingers lightly brushed against her folds, finding her already slick. Slowly, his eyes never leaving hers as he slid one finger inside her, the pad of his thumb brushing lightly against her clit. Watching the emotions flit across her face, he slid the single digit in and out of her slowly, feeling the tension build as her muscles contracted around him.
Sensing she was close, he reluctantly pulled away from her, the bed shifting again as he stripped off his boxers. He came back to her and looked down at her for a long moment. "Sit up," he said, gathering up her gown in his hands. She pushed herself up, careful not to sit on her nightgown, and he pulled it up and over her head, tossing it to the floor, pulling her into his arms.
"How?" he asked softly as he nibbled at her ear.
She understood. The last few weeks, they'd begun experimenting for the day when her comfort was going to be a primary concern in their sex life. Of course, neither of them had even thought that a bullet wound and a sore spot where a chest tube had been inserted would factor into the equation as well.
"This is fine," she said with a soft smile as she laid back down on her back, pulling him down on top of her. Propping himself up on one elbow, he was careful to keep as much of his weight off her as possible as he positioned himself at her entrance, slowly sliding inside her as she wrapped her legs around him.
"Oh, Harm," she moaned as he slowly moved inside her, being careful not to jar her too much. With a sigh, she moved her hands up and down his back as he continued the slow, torturous thrusts. Her hands stilled and her fingernails dug into his back and she gasped softly as the climax overtook her. A moment later, one more slow thrust and he joined her over the edge, her name escaping his lips on a labored breath.
With a sigh, he rolled off her and he stretched out to her right on his side. Rolling onto her side as well, she shifted until she was snuggled up against him, their bodies spooned together, his right arm draped over her, his hand resting on her abdomen.
"I love you, Sarah," he whispered as he began drifting off to sleep, secure in the feel of her body pressed against his.
"I love you, too," she whispered back as she closed her eyes, content that she was finally back in the safety of her sailor's arms.
Chapter Five—"Throw Away the Oars Forever"
...And I can't fight this feeling anymore
"Can't Fight This Feeling" performed by REO Speedwagon, copyright 1984.
Mac sat on the couch, lost in thought and idly doodling in a notebook while conversation flowed around her. She couldn't get her mind off the awkwardness the previous night when she and Harm had gone to bed, only for Harm to start feeling guilty the minute he had to look at her healing wound. She'd had such high hopes for her release from the hospital and though they had eventually gotten past the moment, the damage had been done and she couldn't shake from her mind the look in Harm's eyes, the guilt over her injury. Just as she couldn't shake the guilt in the pit of her own soul for allowing herself to be injured, an injury which had threatened the lives of their babies.
Mac jumped slightly when she felt a hand on her arm, then relaxed when she realized it was just her future mother-in-law. "I'm sorry, Mom," Mac said weakly. "What were you saying?"
Trish looked at the young woman she'd come during the past weeks to love as a daughter. She'd seen the haunted look in Mac's eyes and she was concerned that though the physical wounds of her attack were healing, the emotional ones would continue to cause them pain for a time to come. It reminded her of the look she'd seen in her son's eyes during the week that Mac had been hospitalized.
"I was just wondering if you are okay, Mac," Trish said lightly. "You looked like you were off in your own little world there."
Mac looked up from her notebook to see everyone's eyes on her - Trish, Frank, Matt and Sydney. Come on, pull it together, Marine, she admonished herself as she said aloud, "I'm sorry. I was just thinking about ... everything."
"Would you like to talk about it?" Sydney asked.
Mac tried to smile, hoping to ease their concern. She did want to talk, but the one she really needed to talk with wasn't present at the moment. "I'm fine, really," she insisted. "I thought we were here to talk about a wedding."
Matt looked at his niece for a long moment, then looked at the others, shaking his head. They were all equally concerned, but four on one was probably not the best way to approach it. It might appear, despite their good intentions and concern, that they were ganging up on her, trying to force her to talk about whatever was bothering her. "We are," Matt agreed. "Probably the first thing to be decided is when and where you want to get married. Have you and Harm talked about that at all?"
"We did agree last night that we wanted to get married as soon as we possibly can," Mac revealed. "After all, before too much longer, I won't be able to fit into a wedding gown. And I don't want to wait until after the babies are born. As for where, I don't really have a preference. I've never really seen a place that jumped out at me, making me think I wanted to have my wedding there."
"What about Harm?" Sydney asked, looking from Mac to Trish and Frank. "Has he ever said anything about wanting to get married any particular place?"
As Mac shook her head, Frank jumped in, squeezing his wife's hand, "When we took Harm to Annapolis for college, he was fascinated by the fact that Trish and his father had been married at the chapel there. We haven't been there since Harm graduated, but I do recall it being quite beautiful and there is the family history factor."
"I never thought of that," Mac said thoughtfully, "and the family history aspect would be important to Harm. If you don't have a problem with it, Mom, I'll discuss the idea with Harm when he gets home."
"Why would I have a problem with it?" Trish asked. "I have very happy memories of my wedding day in that chapel. I think it would be perfect for you and Harm."
"Okay," Mac agreed. "I will mention it to Harm this evening. If he agrees, then I would love to get married at Annapolis. But maybe I should call and find out what is the earliest date the chapel is available. Discussing it with Harm may be moot if it's not available."
Trish picked up the cordless phone from the end table and handed it to Mac. "There's no time like the present," she said.
Mac took the phone and quickly dialed a number from memory. "Gunny, it's Colonel Mackenzie," she said when the phone was picked up on the other end.
"Good afternoon, ma'am," Gunny replied. "How are you doing, ma'am?"
"I'm fine, Gunny," Mac answered. "Could you find me the number for the chapel at the Naval Academy?"
"Sure, just give me a minute, ma'am," Gunny said as he began punching keys on his computer. After a moment, he found the number. "It's 410-293-1100, ma'am."
"Thank you, Gunny," Mac said. "Is Commander Rabb there by chance?"
"No, ma'am," Gunny answered. "He left the building for lunch."
"Okay," she said, sighing. "I'll just talk to him later. Thank you, Gunny." After his own goodbye, she pressed the flash button and dialed the number for the chapel at Annapolis.
After the third ring, a woman's cheerful voice answered, "Thank you for calling the Naval Academy chapel, this is Lyla. How may I direct your call?"
"I'm not sure who I need to talk to," Mac said, a hint of nervousness in her voice. "My fiancé is an Academy graduate and I'd like to find out about the possibility of getting married at the chapel."
"Let me transfer you to Mary, our wedding scheduler," Lyla said. "She can help you with anything you need."
"Thank you," Mac replied as hold music came over the phone. Placing her hand over the mouthpiece, she told everyone, "I'm being transferred to the wedding scheduler."
After a moment, another woman's voice came over the line, "This is Mary, the chapel wedding scheduler. I understand you'd like to inquire about holding a wedding here. Is either the bride or groom an Academy graduate?"
"Yes," Mac answered, "my fiancé graduated in '85."
"Have to ask that," Mary explained. "We only allow Academy graduates to hold their weddings here. The names of the groom and bride?"
"Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah Mackenzie," Mac said.
There was a pause while Mary wrote down the information. "Colonel, do you have a specific date in mind? I should warn you that certain times of the year are easier to book than others."
Mac took a deep breath. She hadn't thought of that. She mentally crossed her fingers, hoping that early fall was not a busy time of year for the chapel. "We haven't really discussed a specific date," she said, "just that it be sooner rather than later. See, I'm expecting twins in February and we'd like to get married before too much longer."
"I understand completely," Mary said. "Let me look at the calendar and see if we have any openings coming up. Um, looks like we have an opening the morning of 30 September. Although, depending on how big you want this, six weeks may not be enough time to prepare."
"Well, neither of us has much family," Mac considered, "so most of the guests are going to be friends and people we work with. With most of those people being military, some of our friends might not even be able to make it due to location. I don't see six weeks being a problem. Hold on a second, please." Mac put her hand over the mouthpiece at a gesture from Trish.
"Honey," Trish said, "don't worry about how much time until the wedding. Since you're still recovering, you're probably not in the best condition to be planning a wedding. I'm sure it will be no problem getting all your friends to chip in to help plan everything."
"I don't know ... " Mac trailed off.
"Sarah," Matt jumped in, "all your friends came together to get you moved into your home in a day. I'm sure between everyone, we can all put together a wedding in six weeks." Trish, Frank and Sydney all nodded their agreement.
Mac nodded in return as she returned to the phone call. "Sorry about that," she apologized. "I was just discussing planning with our families. 30 September looks like a good date."
"Good date for what?" Harm asked from the doorway.
"A wedding!" Mac answered, her voice excited, as she waved him over to the couch. She said into the phone, "Sorry about that again. My fiancé just walked in. Let me put you on speaker phone." She pressed a button on the base of the phone.
"Mary, this is my fiancé, Commander Rabb," Mac said. "Harm, this is Mary, the wedding scheduler at Annapolis." Mac knew from the way his face lit up that Annapolis was the right choice for their wedding. He sat down next to her on the couch and squeezed her hand, a brilliant smile on his face.
"Harm, Mary was just saying that the chapel is available the morning of 30 September," Mac told him. "Six weeks doesn't give us a lot of time, but everyone seems to want to chip in on the planning."
"30 September sounds perfect," he said softly.
"Okay, Mary, I guess you can put us down for 30 September," Mac said. "What else do we need to know or do?"
"Most importantly," Mary said, "we insist on a session with one of the chaplains. Kind of a pre-marital counseling and information session all rolled into one. Do you have a preference on denomination?"
Harm and Mac looked at each other for a moment before Harm answered, "Probably should keep this non-denominational."
"That's not a problem," Mary said. "Let me see. How far are you from Annapolis?"
"We're in DC," Mac answered. "Distance is not a problem if we have to come to the Academy before the wedding."
"Then I have an opening this Friday at thirteen hundred hours," Mary said.
"I don't know," Harm said to Mac. "You did just get out of the hospital and you're not supposed to go on long trips for a few weeks."
"I don't think an hour to Annapolis can be considered a long trip," Mac pointed out. "Anyway, it would be good to do the counseling session before I have to return to work next week, that way only one of us has to ask the Admiral for the afternoon off."
"Still, I would feel better if we talked to Dr. Newman before we agreed to go to Annapolis on Friday," Harm said.
"Why don't I go ahead and schedule the appointment," Mary suggested, "and you can just call and reschedule if necessary."
"That will work," Harm said as Mac nodded her assent.
"Decorating the chapel is not something you need to worry about," Mary said, "other than what colors and types of flowers you want. We have a group on campus that does the decorating for all weddings at the chapel."
"We'll have to think about the colors," Mac said, smiling at Harm, "but the flowers are easy. Roses, definitely." Harm returned the smile.
"You know, Colonel," Mary pointed out, "roses aren't exactly in season the end of September."
"If it's a problem," Mac said firmly, "we can take care of obtaining the flowers and your people can decorate. But it has to be roses."
"Sorry," Harm said, "it's a 'when and how we met' kind of thing. Roses are very important to us. The wedding wouldn't be right without them."
"Understandable," Mary replied. "As far as the reception goes, there are several places on or off-campus that it can be held at. If you do make it here on Friday, I can make sure an information packet is put together for you. If you call and have to reschedule, then I can just mail the information to you."
"That will be fine," Mac said. "Anything else?"
"Right now, no," Mary answered. "Let me give you my direct number if you need to call for anything, for instance rescheduling your appointment on Friday." Mac wrote down the number Mary gave her in the notebook and clicked off the phone after thanking her for her help. She looked at Harm expectantly.
"Thank you," Harm said, "but are you sure there isn't some place important to you where you'd like to hold the wedding? We don't have to have it at the Academy just to please me."
"Well, I think getting everyone to Red Rock Mesa would be a logistical nightmare," Mac said, pretending to ponder the idea, "and I think it would just plain be a nightmare to try and hold the wedding at the Rose Garden where we met. Hence, Annapolis."
Harm laughed at her logic, "You win. Annapolis it is."
"What's this about a rose garden?" Sydney asked. "I haven't heard that story."
"The Admiral didn't tell you?" Mac asked, surprised. When Sydney shook her head, Mac explained, "I was pulled off a double murder investigation to work this mail holdup as a temporary assignment out of JAG headquarters. I was ordered to meet with Admiral Chegwidden at this ceremony he was attending at the White House. The ceremony was Harm receiving his first Distinguished Flying Cross."
"The White House?" Sydney asked. "You mean you met in *the* Rose Garden?" At Harm and Mac's nods, she laughed, "The way you met, it sounds like fate that you would get together."
"Only took them four years to realize it," Frank added.
"While everyone else realized it almost from the beginning," Matt continued. "You know, I asked my niece, not long after I met Harm, 'Where'd you find this sailor, Sarah?'. After she said 'In a rose garden, Uncle Matt,' this look passed between her and Harm. Seemed obvious to me."
"You should have heard some of Harm's calls to me after they met," Trish revealed. "All I heard was 'Mac this, Mac that'. Then, once, I make an innocent little comment about how Mac seemed like a nice girl and you'd think I was suggesting they go pick out china patterns from the look on Harm's face."
"You know," Mac interrupted, "if this is going to turn into a 'let's talk about what idiots Harm and Mac have been for the last four years' kind of discussion, we can leave you to it and find a nice quiet place to have lunch by ourselves."
Everyone laughed. "Okay, let's leave Harm and Mac alone," Sydney suggested, making a mental note to pump AJ for information later. "We can save the 'what idiots Harm and Mac have been' stories for the engagement party."
Harm and Mac almost groaned as everyone laughed. "You know, I'm beginning to think elopement is sounding pretty good," Mac whispered as she leaned against Harm.
"Are you kidding?" he whispered back. "They'd kill us if we cheated them out of the wedding they've been waiting for all this time."
"Are you okay?" Harm asked as he parked his SUV in a lot just down the street from the chapel.
"I'm fine," Mac insisted. "Just as I was fine the last ten times you asked. Harm, I've just been sitting in a car for the last hour, not running a marathon. Don't worry about me. I'm getting better every day and I do go back to work on Monday."
Harm looked down at his hands gripping the steering wheel, unsure what to say. How could he explain something he didn't completely understand himself. He'd always looked out for Mac, as she had always looked out for him, but this was so much different. He'd never cared this much about anyone before and it scared him.
Mac was silent for a moment, waiting for him to reply. When he didn't, she continued, "Obsessing over my well-being isn't going to turn back the clock and undo what happened. And that's what you've been doing ever since I got out of the hospital on Monday. Every time you look at my wound, every time I have to stop and catch my breath, I see that look in your eyes - the one that says you can't stop thinking about what happened. You can't watch over me twenty-four hours a day, every day. Harm, I don't want to become another one of your obsessions."
"I'm sorry," he said softly, shrugging. "I just don't know ... how to get past this."
She cupped his chin in her hand and turned his head to face her. "I don't have all the answers either," she said firmly. "But shutting each other out isn't the answer. I thought we would have learned that, if nothing else, from what happened on the ferry. Anyway, we have survived so much together. We can get past this too, but neither of us can do it alone."
Harm gave her a wan smile. "I know," he said. "I just wish it were as easy as it sounds."
"Me, too," Mac agreed, quickly brushing her lips against his. "Now, since we're early and you did say something about getting lunch down here, how about it? I'm starving."
Harm had to chuckle a little at that. It was comforting the way some things never changed. "The O Club is on the other side of the parking lot," he said. "How does that sound?"
"It will sound better once I have food in front of me," she replied.
After a leisurely lunch at the Officers' Club, they still had time to kill before their thirteen hundred appointment, so Mac insisted Harm give her the grand tour of the campus.
"Are you sure you're up for it?" he asked. "I don't want you to over do it." At the stern look Mac shot him, he shrugged and added, "I know, I'm hovering again. Promise you'll tell me if you need to take a break."
"Promise," she said, smiling. "Now, come on. I want to see everything and don't forget to include the stories of all the trouble you got into while here."
Harm raised his eyebrows and grinned at her, a 'Who, me?' look in his eyes, while he made a mental note to find out what Keeter might have told her about their college days during the two days they had spent in the Iranian desert.
Pushing the thought aside, he launched into his role as tour guide. "Over there, just past the lot where we parked," he said, pointing to a large field to their right, "is Worden Field, the Academy parade grounds. Midshipmen are graded on their performance in parades and drill work and based on those marks, the Color Company is chosen."
"I assume most, if not all of these buildings are named after Naval heroes," Mac said.
"Of course," Harm replied. "In this case, Rear Admiral Worden was commander of the USS Monitor."
"The Monitor and the Merrimack," Mac murmured.
"You know your history," he commented.
"So do you," she returned. "What, do they teach you the history of the Academy and all its buildings and who they're named after?"
"Of course," he said, joking. "Naval History 101. It's amazing when you think of all the famous people who walked these grounds - Leahy, Halsey, Nimitz."
"Tell me this," Mac asked, "is there a single building on this campus named after a Marine?"
"At the Naval Academy?" he teased.
"Which Marines attend," she retorted. "Does that mean no?"
"Actually, there is one building named after a Marine," he told her. "Lejeune Hall is named after ... "
"General John A. Lejeune," Mac continued, interrupting, "the first Marine to command an Army division."
"Very good," he said. "He graduated from the Academy in the 1880s, I believe. Lejeune Hall is the phys ed center and also houses the Athletic Hall of Fame."
As they walked towards the bay, Harm didn't comment on several buildings on their left. Mac figured they would get back to them, as she was almost positive one of them was the chapel. He pointed out Lejeune Hall on their left as they passed it. They then turned to the left once they reached the bay and walked along the water front.
"It's so beautiful here," Mac commented, rubbing her arms.
"Cold?" Harm asked.
"I know it's August," Mac said, nodding, "but there is a bit of a chill in the air here. But it feels good."
"That's the wind coming off the bay," he told her. "It can get quite windy here. It's nice during the summer to ward off the heat, but can be very uncomfortable during the winter."
"You've never really talked a lot about your life at the Academy," Mac said. "Aside from the little you told me in Iran about going UA, that is."
"I don't know why," Harm said. "I loved it here, but I think I was so focused on becoming a Naval officer, on following in my father's footsteps, that it wasn't often that I stopped and allowed myself to enjoy life here. Maybe that's why it all got to me and I began doubting myself and I went UA. Anyway, you've never talked much about your college days either."
"Probably because I was still picking up the pieces of my life after drying out," she pointed out, stopping to lean against the barrier along the waterfront as she stared out over the bay. "I think I kind of cut myself off from everyone and just about everything. I was so determined to get my act together, to join the Corps, to prove to myself that I was worth something. I was very lonely during college. I didn't really have a lot of friends, not like you did with Keeter and Diane."
"Thank you," Harm said, coming over to stand next to her.
Mac turned to look at him, a puzzled look on her face. "For what?" she asked.
"For helping me get past her death," he said quietly. "Thanks to you, it doesn't feel like a knife in my gut every time I hear her name. Your friendship helped me get past the pain of her death and that allowed me to fall in even more in love with you than I already was. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been there for me."
Mac felt the tears stinging her eyes. Once, it had hurt to think of the woman who had her face who had held Harm's heart for so long, but not anymore. "That's what friends are for," she said simply, reaching over to clasp his hand in hers.
"Not just friends, not anymore," he said, resisting the urge to ignore the uniforms they both wore and to take her in his arms.
"I don't think you could ever quantify what is between us as 'just friends,' even back in the beginning," she pointed out.
"True, but our friendship was the foundation for everything that came later," Harm said, smiling at her.
"You know," she said, "I can't imagine anything better than having fallen in love with my best friend."
After a few moments standing by the water in companionable silence, discreetly holding hands, they continued their walking tour of the 'Yard,' while Harm continued with his narration of the history of the campus and buildings, adding several anecdotes from his life at the Academy.
"I knew you had to have pulled some pranks at the Academy," Mac teased, trying hard not to laugh, after he explained how, on a dare from Keeter, he had snuck out of Bancroft Hall, the Academy dorm, one night and decorated the statue of the Indian chief Tecumseh - which stood at the entrance to T-court, the dormitory's courtyard - with shaving cream.
"Keeter thought I needed to lighten up a little bit," Harm justified.
"Did they figure out who did it?"
"Nah, got away clean," he said proudly. "It wasn't the first or last time the statue got bathed in shaving cream. I think they expect something to happen to the statue at least once a term."
Finally, Mac saw the Officers' club and the parking lot where they had parked off to their right and in front of them the three buildings Harm had bypassed earlier. "On the right is the Administration building," Harm said, "where the Superintendent and Academic Dean have their offices. On the left here is the super's house."
"Very nice," Mac said idly, staring at the building directly in front of them. "Is that ... ?"
Harm took a deep breath. He'd seen the building every day for the four years he'd been at the Academy, but this time was different. This time he was seeing it through the eyes of a man planning to marry his love there. "Yes," he replied, "that's the chapel, the Cathedral of the Navy."
"It looks very beautiful from the outside," Mac said softly. "Can we go inside?"
A bit nervously, Harm took her arm and led her up the steps to the chapel door. They paused just outside the open door, not quite ready to go in. "I can't believe how nervous I am," Mac said in awe. "We're really getting married here, aren't we?"
"I know what you mean," Harm agreed. "Ready to go inside?"
At Mac's nod, he led her inside, stopping at the rear of the chapel. Mac turned slowly, staring at the huge chapel in awe. "It's beautiful," she whispered, mindful of the people scattered in the pews, praying. "I didn't realize how big it is."
"I think it holds 2500 or something like that," Harm commented.
"Twenty-five ... ?" Mac asked, incredulous. "Good thing we're not expected to fill this place."
"So what's the verdict, counselor?" he asked, sitting down and gesturing for her to join him. "Want to get married here?"
"It's perfect," she said softly. "I'm glad Frank made me think of it. He's the one who first mentioned that your parents got married here."
"We'll both have to thank him," he said, no longer surprised at what Frank would do for him.
"Excuse me," a voice beside them said. Harm and Mac both turned to see an older gentleman in summer whites, captain's stripes and chaplain corps insignia on his shoulder boards, standing at the end of the pew. "Do you need any assistance?"
"We've got a meeting in ... " Harm began.
"Twelve minutes," Mac cut in as Harm went to look at his watch.
"To discuss getting married here," he finished.
"Commander Rabb, Colonel Mackenzie? I'm Captain Duncan, the command chaplain here," the chaplain said, holding out his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
Harm then Mac shook the offered hand and the chaplain sat down in the pew in front of them, turning to the side to face them. "It's good to meet you, too, Captain," Harm said, idly playing with the Marine Corps ring on Mac's right hand. "So what exactly happens at this meeting?"
"We just discuss what you want for your wedding, things like that," Duncan said. "Nothing earth shattering, so you can both relax."
Both Harm and Mac laughed a little at that. "Sorry," Mac said, "I think it's just hitting us that we're really doing this. It's been a long time coming."
"Too long, if you ask our family and friends," Harm added.
"Why don't we go back to my office and see if Mary's there yet?" the chaplain suggested. "When I checked a few minutes ago, she hadn't returned from lunch yet."
The three officers stood and Harm and Mac followed the chaplain back to his office. He gestured for them to take a seat while he took his chair behind his desk. They made small talk for a few minutes until there was a knock on the office door.
"Enter," the chaplain called out.
"Sorry I'm late, Reverend Duncan," the woman said as she entered the room. "I had a phone call about another wedding just as I returned from lunch." She turned to Harm and Mac, extending her hand. "Commander Rabb, Colonel Mackenzie, I'm Mary," she introduced herself as they shook hands. "We spoke on the phone a few days ago."
"It's nice to meet you," Mac said. Taking a deep breath, she looked at Harm nervously before asking, "So what now?"
"First, let's discuss the date," Duncan suggested. "Mary told you that we have an opening the morning of 30 September. The start time for the ceremony is up to you, but you should keep in mind that there is a home football game that day at noon, so there will be a lot of traffic around the Yard leading up to game time and after the game."
"I'm not sure," Mac said. "I guess it doesn't really matter what time the ceremony starts. We've been thinking about spending the night before up here anyway, so that we don't have to rush to get here in the morning. How long would the service take?"
"Well, since you said you wanted non-denominational, it would just be the wedding ceremony itself, instead of a full-blown church service," Duncan said. "Depending on how many readings are done, if you say your own vows to each other, that kind of thing, I'd say about forty-five minutes for the ceremony itself, give or take. Then, of course, there's the arch of swords, getting everyone over to the reception location and the reception itself."
"It might be best to keep the reception on campus," Harm said to Mac. "Then we don't have to fight the traffic arriving for the game."
Mary handed him a large envelope she had brought in with her. "Here's the information I told you about on possible reception sites," she said. "If you'd like to hold it on campus, you would coordinate it through the Officers' Club, no matter which location you'd like to use."
"What is available on campus?" Mac asked.
"Aside from the O Club, there's the Alumni Hall, the Alumni House - which is actually just outside the Yard, the Crown Sailing Center is good if you're looking for something small and intimate, or the Boat House on College Creek has nice waterfront balconies," Mary told them. "The most popular site is the O Club, mostly because it is just two buildings away from the chapel. The club can accommodate up to 200 guests."
Mac leaned closer to Harm and said quietly, "If we start at ten hundred, the ceremony would run to ten forty-five. That would leave us fifteen minutes to do the arch and get everyone over to the O Club, assuming we can hold the reception there. I'd say then a minimum of three hours at the reception before we leave. That takes us up to fourteen hundred hours. That should give us a chance to get out of here before the game ends, so everyone can avoid most of the traffic. A place that accommodates 200 should be big enough for what we want."
Harm nodded then turned to the chaplain and asked, "How does ten hundred sound? That should give us enough time to work around the game traffic, yet it's not so early that everyone has to drag themselves out of bed to get ready."
"Okay, ten hundred it is," the chaplain said as he wrote it down on a notepad. "We also need to discuss the format you want for the ceremony, specific personal touches you want to add and things like that."
Mac smiled wanly and shrugged, "Sorry. I knew part of this was supposed to be a counseling session, but it still bothers me to talk about some of this, especially with outsiders. Hell, I couldn't even face telling you about Chris until it was too late and I'm closer to you than anyone. But here I had to discuss my disaster of a marriage with a complete stranger."
"Well, I suppose as someone who unites people in marriage," Harm said, "it's the chaplain's duty to make sure that the people involved know what it will take to make the marriage last. And that includes discussing mistakes made in previous marriages."
"I guess," Mac replied, "but I would have rather just said the entire marriage was a mistake that never should have happened and left it at that. Instead, I have to get into specifics about why it ended." She broke off and laughed a little. "I'm the one who doesn't want to talk about it, yet here I am going on about it."
"Why don't we get out of here?" Harm suggested. "We can go home, relax and I'll make you dinner later."
"Make me dinner, huh?" Mac mused. "No meatless meatloaf, though."
"Are you doggin' ... ?"
Mac smiled as she jabbed a finger in his chest, teasing, "I think I want a prenup. You are forbidden from making Harm's special meatless meatloaf at any time during our marriage. Violation of that clause will bring about dire consequences."
"Dire consequences?" he repeated. "And what would those be?"
"Push it and you'll find out," she promised, a gleam in her eyes. She started down the steps, then turned back to him, a serious look on her face. "We're really doing this, aren't we?"
"Getting married?" he asked. "Yes, we are - six weeks from tomorrow."
She stepped back towards him and, disregarding military protocol, wrapped her arms around him, holding him tight Startled, it took Harm a moment to recover, but then he returned the embrace, trying to ignore the looks they drew from several passersby.
Mac pulled away and laughed nervously. "Sorry about that," she said. "I'm just overwhelmed. I can't believe this is finally happening. I love you so much."
"I love you, too, Sarah."
"Admiral, Sydney, I'm glad you could make it," Mac said as she ushered the pair into the house. "Everyone's out back."
"Mac, please call me AJ," he insisted. "And we're glad to be here. How are you feeling?"
"Ready to return to work tomorrow," Mac replied with a laugh.
"I can understand that," Sydney said. "How was the trip to Annapolis Friday?"
"It was very productive. I'll fill you all in out back," Mac said as she led them through the house, stopping in the kitchen. "What would you like to drink? We've got beer, sodas, water, tea and coffee."
"I'll take a beer," AJ said.
"I'll just have water," Sydney said as Mac opened the fridge. She pulled out the requested drinks and handed them to AJ and Sydney. As she handed Sydney her bottled water, a glimmer on Sydney's left hand caught Mac's eye.
"Is that what I think it is?" Mac asked.
Sydney held out her hand to show off her ring, smiling widely. "AJ proposed last night," she said. "We're thinking about a wedding next summer. I've always wanted to have an outdoor wedding."
"Congratulations," Mac said, hugging Sydney before turning to kiss AJ's cheek. "I'm very happy for both of you."
"Thank you, Mac," AJ said, putting his arm around Sydney's shoulder.
"Mac, I was wondering if you would do me the honor of being my matron of honor?" Sydney asked. "I consider you to be a very good friend and I can't imagine anyone else I would rather have stand up for me."
"Thank you," Mac said, hugging Sydney again. "I'd be very honored. You've been a very good friend to me too the last few months and I appreciate that. In fact, I wanted to ask you if you would be a bridesmaid at my wedding and stand in as kind of a 'mother of the bride' during the preparations."
"I'm honored that you're asking me," Sydney said, tears in her eyes. "Thank you."
"Hey, are you okay?" Harm asked, coming into the kitchen from the back porch as Mac and Sydney pulled apart, wiping tears from their eyes.
"Fine," Mac said, taking his hand. "Sydney was just sharing some good news."
"I asked Sydney to marry me last night," AJ said, "and she accepted."
"Congratulations, Sir, Sydney," Harm said, shaking AJ's hand then turning to hug Sydney. "I know you two will be very happy together."
"Thank you, Harm," AJ said. "And please, it's AJ. Especially since I'd like you to serve as my best man."
"Well, Sir ... AJ, I'm honored that you would ask me," Harm said. "Thank you."
"I have some more news," AJ said. "I had a meeting with the SecNav yesterday afternoon while you two were in Annapolis. Commander, do you remember when you temporarily served as a military liaison to the House Armed Services Committee?"
"Yes, Sir," Harm replied warily, feeling deep down that he knew where this was going.
"Well, to solve the problem of you and Mac serving in the same chain of command, it was suggested by Bobbi Latham that we revive that position on a permanent basis," AJ said. "The SecNav, after due consideration, agreed. Now, I did invoke Admiral's privilege and insist on a few conditions before I would sign off on it."
"And those would be, Sir?" Mac asked, glancing at Harm with sympathy. She knew he had not been very pleased with the way his first assignment as House military liaison had gone.
"The first would be that Harm would maintain his office at JAG and work out of there unless circumstances required his presence either at the Pentagon or on the Hill," AJ informed them. "Second, and most important, whenever Harm is not busy with the duties of his new position, then he would be 'on loan' to JAG to work as an investigator and trial counsel."
Harm turned to Mac and asked, "What do you think?"
"It sounds like the best solution we could hope for under the circumstances," she said, clasping his hand. "I know you weren't exactly happy with your last tour on the Hill, but at least you are aware of what the job entails. You don't have the stress of learning a new position. Plus, you still do get to work as a lawyer at JAG. It sounds like the best of both worlds. The chain of command problem is solved, yet we still get to work together whenever possible."
Harm nodded then turned back to AJ. "I have to agree," he said. "It probably is the best possible solution for this situation. So, I accept the position. When would it start?"
"I figured you would," AJ said. "We all agreed that things would remain as is until after you return from your honeymoon. That will give you a chance to wrap up any cases you currently are working on. After you return, then we will work on integrating your workload on the Hill with any new cases you are assigned at JAG."
"Thank you, Sir - I mean, AJ," Mac said, smiling. "It means a lot to both of us that you would work out something like this for us."
"Well, from a command standpoint, we uphold regs but I don't have to choose which one of my best attorneys that I am going to lose, nor do I break up the best team JAG has," AJ explained.
"Thank you, AJ," Harm said.
"Good. Now that we have settled that," AJ said. "why don't we go join everyone else out back? I believe we have a wedding to plan."
The foursome stepped out onto the back porch. Frank and Matt were manning the barbecue grill at one end of the porch while Trish looked on, offering cooking suggestions. Jackie Mattoni and Harriet were keeping an eye on little AJ playing with Jingo at the other end of the porch while watching their husbands toss a Frisbee with Aldridge, Tiner and Gunny. Carolyn and Singer, sitting on the porch steps, were also watching the game.
Singer said something to Carolyn, who turned and shot Mac a look as if to ask 'Why did you invite her?' Mac shrugged as she sat down on the step just behind them.
"You have a very nice house, Colonel," Singer said politely, taking a sip of her bottled water.
"Thank you, Lauren," Mac replied with a smile. Louder, so that everyone could hear, she said, "Please, no ranks today. Since everyone was kind enough to come here today to help us plan our wedding, I think we can dispense with protocol for the afternoon."
Harm wandered over to the grill and asked, "How are we doing on food and supplies?"
"We could use some more sauce," Matt said, holding up a nearly empty jar of barbecue sauce.
"I think we could use some more chips, too," Trish said. "Also, last time I checked the fridge, bottled water was running low. As hot as it is today, we could probably use some more."
Mac, who was listening to the conversation, jumped in, "Harm, as long as you're planning a run to the store, Carolyn made a good suggestion. How about some frozen drink mix? That would be perfect on a hot day like today."
"Virgin frozen drinks, of course, out of respect for the mommies-to-be present," Carolyn added.
"Anything else, ladies?" Harm asked with a sarcastic grin.
"Well, while you're at it ... " Mac began sweetly.
"Don't tell me," he said with a sigh. "Something with chocolate."
"You got it," she said, smiling.
Little AJ, noticing that Harm was preparing to leave, toddled over and grabbed onto Harm's leg. He looked up and asked hopefully, "Go bye-bye?"
Harm swung the little boy up into his arms and rubbed his nose to AJ's. "You want to go bye-bye, huh?" Harm asked. "Let's see what mommy has to say."
"Are you sure you don't mind taking him, Sir... sorry, Harm?" Harriet asked. At Harm's nod, she signaled to her husband and motioned for him to join them. "Bud, why don't you give Harm the keys to the minivan? He's going to the store and AJ wants to go along. That way he has the car seat for AJ."
"How much do you need to get, Sir?" Bud asked. "I could go with you to help out."
"Okay," Harm agreed. "And please call me Harm, Bud."
The men made their goodbyes and walked around the side of the house to the garage. Watching them go, Carolyn commented to Mac, "Harm's wonderful with little AJ. He's going to make a wonderful father."
"He is, isn't he?" Mac said wistfully.
"By the way, what's with the request for chocolate?" Carolyn asked.
"I need chocolate," she replied.
"Cravings, huh?" Sydney teased, leaning against the porch railing. "I remember when I was pregnant, I wanted ice cream all the time."
"Ice cream seems like a normal enough craving," Lauren commented.
"Not in the middle of winter, it isn't," Sydney said dryly.
"At least Mac hasn't gotten the urge to clean out the refrigerator at JAG because she thinks there are things growing inside," AJ teased, causing Harriet's face to go beet red.
"I'm never going to live that one down, am I, Sir?" she asked.
At Sydney's questioning glance, Harriet explained, "When I was pregnant with AJ, I got this urge to clean. One day, it was the fridge at JAG and I threw out everything, including the risotto the Admiral had brought for lunch that day."
Everyone laughed, even Harriet after a moment, as she added, "At least I've been resisting the urge this time around. This time my urge to clean has centered on messy desks."
"I'm surprised Harm hasn't tried to get you to straighten up my desk," Mac said. "He once compared it to a free fire zone."
"Who says he hasn't?" Harriet shot back as everyone laughed again.
Mac pressed a hand to her right side and suggested, "Maybe we should talk about something else. It still hurts a little to laugh."
"When do you go back to the doctor, Mac?" Sydney asked.
"Wednesday morning," she replied. "I have to go see Dr. Newman to check on how my wound is healing and Dr. Calder wants to see me also. After everything that's happened, we have discussed doing an amnio for peace of mind."
"It will be okay," Sydney said, patting her shoulder reassuringly. "You and the babies have made it this far. I'm sure everything will be fine."
Mac patted Sydney's hand. "Thanks," she said. "I just keep trying to tell myself that."
"These may help, too," Harriet said, grabbing a couple of notebooks sitting next to her on the table and holding them out to Mac. "Jackie and I both brought our wedding planners with us today. They contain all the information on florists, musicians, things like that which were used at our weddings. It should give you an idea where to start."
"Thank you, Harriet, Jackie," Mac said, accepting the books. "I'm sure these will be a big help."
"Why don't you start, dear, by telling us about your trip Friday?" Trish suggested. "Did you settle on a time for the wedding?"
"As I'm sure you've all heard by now," Mac began, "the wedding will be the morning of 30 September at the Academy chapel in Annapolis. After taking into consideration several things, including the fact that there is also a home football game at Navy that day, we decided that the ceremony will begin at ten hundred hours with the reception beginning immediately afterwards at the O Club."
"With the wedding being in the morning, were you planning on driving up that morning or staying overnight Friday?" Sydney asked.
"Since we will have the rehearsal Friday afternoon," Mac replied, "we thought it would be best to go ahead and book rooms in Annapolis Friday night. We got some information on local hotels, including several that will offer a discounted rate if we book a block of rooms, so if anyone wants to stay in Annapolis Friday night, please let Harm or I know so that we know how many rooms to book."
"On second thought, Mac, why don't you let me take care of that?" Harriet asked. "As matron of honor, it's my job to take care of the little stuff so you can concentrate on the big stuff."
"Thank you," Mac said gratefully. "Okay, everyone, change of plans. Anyone who wants to stay in Annapolis the night before the wedding, sign up with Harriet. Harriet, you can go ahead and put down rooms for me and Harm, Uncle Matt and Harm's parents."
"I take it you mean separate rooms for you and Harm?" Sydney teased.
"Separate rooms," she said with a sigh, shooting Sydney a 'do I have to?' look.
Harm leaned over and whispered to Mac, "Doesn't mean I can't sneak in to see you, does it?"
"You know," Carolyn said with a laugh, "we'd better make sure Harriet, as matron of honor, has plenty of money for Friday night."
"Money for what?" Frank asked, mystified.
Mac, Carolyn and Harriet all laughed as Mac explained, "For bailing the groom, the best man and the Admiral out of jail." AJ shot them all a quelling look, while Harm and Bud looked embarrassed, but the women only laughed harder.
"I'm afraid to ask what this is about," Matt commented.
"Good," AJ said. "Then don't."
"Speaking of wedding disasters, Mac," Carolyn continued, doubling over with laughter. "You might want to put a guard on Harm's dress whites this time."
Mac laughed even harder, clutching her side as she remembered the debacle with Harm's dress whites before Bud and Harriet's wedding. Harm shot her a dirty look and nudged her, but she only laughed harder.
"It wasn't that funny," Harm complained.
"Yes, it was," Carolyn managed through her own laughter. "Especially that picture ... "
"That wasn't me!"
"Let me guess," Trish cut in. "Something else we're better off not asking about?"
"Yes!" Harm exclaimed.
Mac leaned around Harm and whispered to Trish, "I'll tell you later," earning her another dirty look from her fiancé.
"Let's move on, people," AJ cut in, using his best 'command' voice.
"Maybe we should make a list of everything that went wrong before my wedding," Harriet suggested with a laugh. "Then we can take steps to avoid the same things happening this time."
"Lieutenant," AJ said in warning, shooting her a stern look while she tried to wipe the smile off her face.
"Speaking of dress whites," Mac began, earning yet another look from Harm. "No, I'm serious this time. This wedding will technically be in the fall. Whites will be out of season." She frowned at the thought of not getting to see Harm standing at the altar in his dress whites and gold wings.
"Well, local command does have the authority to decide when to implement the uniform regs," AJ began as Mac shot him a hopeful look. "I think that for the purposes of the wedding, we can declare whites to still be in season."
Mac breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you," she said gratefully.
"Now that we've settled what the men will wear, what about the women?" Sydney asked.
"I don't know," Mac admitted. "It's kind of hard to dress a bridal party where both the bride and matron of honor will be pregnant."
"Why don't you let me take care of that?" Trish suggested. "I have some contacts with designers. I'm sure I can find one who can accommodate you and Harriet."
"We need to make sure whoever it is will be available for a last minute fitting," Mac reminded her. "Neither of us will look like we do now in six weeks' time."
"Done," Trish promised.
"Trish, if you have problems," AJ said, "let me know. My daughter works for a fashion magazine. She can probably suggest some designers, also."
"Thank you, both of you," Mac said. "Now that we have that situation under control, let's move on to the flowers. We want roses, which will also be slightly out of season."
"Why don't you let me handle that, ma'am?" Gunny suggested.
Mac smiled at him and nodded. Gunny had all kinds of contacts for finding all kinds of things. She had no doubt he could come up with roses for the wedding.
"Mac, why don't you let Bobbi handle the flowers for the bride's bouquet?" Harm whispered.
"You mean, like the flowers when you proposed?" she asked.
At Harm's nod, she told Gunny, "You just need to worry about the flowers to decorate the chapel and reception hall. We've got another source for the bride's bouquet." Gunny nodded his acceptance.
"What about colors, dear?" Trish asked.
"I was thinking of something like a dusky rose," Mac said. "Gunny, I'll get a color sample to give you so you can arrange for flowers in similar shades. Also, Mom, I was thinking of a lighter shade for the bridesmaid dresses and a darker one for Harriet. You should probably mention that to the designer so that he or she can have color samples for us to choose from."
"How many attendants are you having?" Matt asked.
"Four," Mac answered. "Harriet is matron of honor and Sydney, Carolyn and Jackie have agreed to be bridesmaids. On the groom's side, we've got Bud as best man and AJ, Alan and Keeter, Harm's Academy roommate, as groomsmen."
"God, we haven't seen Jack Keeter in years," Frank said. "Have you gotten a hold of him?"
"Clayton Webb is working on that," Harm said.
"I just thought of something," Mac exclaimed. "What is Uncle Matt going to wear when he walks me down the aisle?"
"I can just wear a suit, Sarah," Matt said. "It's not a problem."
Harm realized what Mac was getting at. "Why don't I check on that?" he suggested. "Your punishment didn't include loss of rank, only a fine and prison time, so you may be authorized to wear your uniform."
"I agree," AJ concurred. "We should be able to work something out on that point."
"Okay," Mac said, relieved. "Next big item on the list is food for the reception."
"I was wondering when you were going to get to the food," Harm commented dryly.
"Why don't you let me handle that, ma'am?" Lauren suggested. "Remember the friend I mentioned who works for the Joint Chiefs? He coordinates the catering for all their events. I can find out who he uses."
Mac had to force herself to be polite. She had not forgiven or forgotten Lauren's previous transgression, but she could hardly publicly turn down such a generous offer of help. "Thank you," she managed to say, forcing a smile, while Harm squeezed her hand under the table. "That would be appreciated."
"Not a problem, ma'am," Lauren said sweetly, while more than one person at the table struggled not to roll their eyes.
"I guess she figured she could get further with honey than vinegar," Carolyn whispered to Harriet.
By the time the food was gone, everyone had one or more tasks to handle and they all agreed to meet again the following weekend for a status report. Mac leaned against Harm's shoulder while everyone chatted around them. "We're so lucky to have such good friends."
"That we are," Harm agreed.
"I wish we could stay longer," Trish said as she and Frank prepared to board their private jet heading back to California. "But we both need to get back to work."
"Not a problem, Mom," Mac said. "You've done so much for us the last two weeks. You two need to get back to your own lives."
"Don't forget that you are part of those lives," Trish insisted. "If you need anything, just call anytime. And I'll call you once I have a line on a designer for the dresses."
Mac hugged the older woman, tears in her eyes. "Thank you again for everything," she said. "I love you, Mom."
"I love you, too, dear," Trish returned. "Take care of my son and try to keep him out of trouble."
"I try," Mac replied as they broke apart and Trish turned to her son.
"And you take care of Mac and those babies," she told him. As Harm pulled her into his arms, she whispered, "Your father would be so proud of you."
"I know, Mom," he whispered back.
"Like Trish said," Frank told Mac as they hugged. "You call us anytime if you need anything. Take care of Harm, yourself and our grandchildren."
"I will, Frank," Mac promised. "Thank you for being here for us."
"Yes, thank you, Frank," Harm said as he offered a rare hug to his stepfather, while Trish and Mac watched misty-eyed. "I'll never forget everything you've done for me, for us."
"You don't have to thank me, son," Frank said, his own eyes watering. "I'd do anything for you."
"I know that now," Harm replied softly. They pulled apart and Frank picked up their carry-on bags while Harm pulled Mac to his side, holding her tight as they watched his parents board their plane.
"Do you know how lucky you are to have had two fathers who loved you?" Mac asked quietly after Trish and Frank were gone.
"I do now," Harm replied. "I do now."
Two hours later, Harm and Mac said another goodbye to family as Matt prepared to board a C-130 on the way to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where he would be taken by helo back to Leavenworth. Clayton Webb was present also, having decided to offer a personal escort.
"I love you, Sarah," Matt said as he hugged her tightly. "I look forward to seeing you again under far better circumstances."
"I'll be counting the hours until you return," she promised as Matt pulled away and turned to Harm.
"I don't have to tell you ... " Matt began.
"No, you don't," Harm interrupted. "I'll always take care of your niece."
"Don't worry, Uncle Matt," Mac said. "He always has taken care of me before."
"I know," Matt said, shaking Harm's hand. "But as family, I'm entitled to make sure."
"Goodbye, Matt," Harm said as Clay stepped up to the group, having held back a polite distance while they said their goodbyes. "We'll see you at the end of September."
"I look forward to it," Matt said. To Clay, he said, "I'm ready to go."
"Okay," Clay said. Before they could head for the plane, Mac put a hand on Clay's arm to stop him.
"Thank you, Clay," she said, "for arranging this. I'll never forget it."
Clay paused, a flip comment on the tip of his tongue. Instead, he simply smiled and nodded as he and Matt turned to leave.
"Harm," Mac said, pushing the button for the elevator, "please do me a favor today."
"What?" he asked, looking at her curiously as they waited for the elevator to descend from the third floor.
"Don't take this the wrong way," Mac said, her hand on his arm. "I know you're concerned. But please don't hover over me today. After everything that happened here, today is going to be hard enough without - I don't know - feeling self-conscious because you're constantly watching me."
"Sarah," Harm said softly, "I just ... "
"I know. You worry about me and about the babies. But I'm fine. We all are. And remember, I'm a Marine. I can handle this," she said firmly, giving him a brilliant smile.
Harm wasn't convinced, but in the hallway waiting for the elevator was hardly the best place for this discussion. He promised himself that he was going to keep a close eye on her. She might insist she was fine, but he still remembered the first day he had walked back into JAG after the shooting, how everything had come flooding back to him full force as he had walked through the hallway where the shooting had occurred.
Mac quickly pulled her hand away from his arm and Harm turned to find the Admiral walking towards them. "Good morning, Sir," Harm said, nodding in the Admiral's direction.
"Good morning, Commander, Colonel," AJ replied. "I trust your families got off okay."
"Mom called and left a message that she and Frank had gotten back to California okay," Mac said as the elevator opened in front of them and they all stepped on. "Clay called this morning to inform us that Uncle Matt is back at Leavenworth."
"That's good to hear," AJ said. "And how are you doing, Mac?"
Mac noted his use of her first name. Obviously, Harm wasn't the only one who was going to be worrying and watching over her. "I'm good, Sir," she replied. "I'm glad to be back to work."
"Well, good, Colonel," AJ said as the doors opened to the hallway in front of JAG Ops. "I've got a couple of cases for you already. It's good to have you back."
"Thank you, Sir," Mac said. "I look forward to jumping back into working on cases, especially once my travel restriction is lifted."
"One thing at a time," Harm said, his eyes on Mac as they walked through the hallway. But Mac kept her eyes focused on the bullpen in front of them, never looking at the spot where she had been injured. The three entered the bullpen as Gunny called out, "Attention on deck."
"As you were," AJ said as he turned for his office while Mac headed for hers with Harm right behind her.
"Are you okay?" Harm asked as he followed Mac into her office. She set her briefcase on her desk and stored her garrison cap in a desk drawer before sitting down and booting her computer. Harm stood in the doorway, watching her.
"I'm fine," she insisted. "Just happy to be back at work. Really. You should go to your office and read your mail before the staff meeting this morning."
"Trying to get rid of me, Marine?" he said in a teasing tone, trying to lighten the mood.
"I don't need the distraction," she teased back. "I have a lot of catching up to do since a certain person wouldn't let me keep up with my cases while I was out on leave."
"Because you needed to concentrate on getting better," Harm pointed out.
"And now I need to concentrate on getting caught up," she retorted with a smile. "And I'm sure you have some work waiting for you since you took Friday afternoon off."
"Excuse me, Sir, Ma'am," Gunny said from the doorway.
"Yes, Gunny?" Mac asked.
"Welcome back, Ma'am," Gunny said. "Commander, you have a telephone call from Congresswoman Latham."
"Thank you, Gunny. It's good to be back. Why don't you just transfer the Commander's call in here?" Mac suggested.
"Yes, Ma'am," Gunny replied, heading back to his desk. A moment later, the phone on Mac's desk rang and Harm picked it up.
"Good morning, Bobbi," Harm said into the phone while Mac busied herself reading her e-mail. "What can I do for you? ... Hold on a minute and I'll ask."
Covering the mouthpiece of the phone with his hand, he said to Mac, "Bobbi wants to have dinner one night this week with her counterpart from the Senate Armed Services Committee so that I can meet him. She wants to know what night this week is good for us."
"Us, as in you and me?" Mac asked, looking up from her monitor.
"That's what you get for wanting to marry the military liaison on the Hill," he teased. "You have to go to boring dinners with politicians."
"Sounds like fun," Mac muttered sarcastically. At the look Harm shot her, she shrugged, "I should probably take a few evenings to go over some case files, so later in the week would be better."
Removing his hand, Harm said into the phone, "How does Friday night sound? Mac will probably be taking some work home at least the next few nights while she gets caught up ... Fine, Le Tours at nineteen hundred hours. We'll see you there ... Yes, I'll tell her you said so. Goodbye, Bobbi."
He hung up the phone and turned back to Mac. "Bobbie said she's glad that you're feeling better and back at work," he told her. "And, as I'm sure you heard, we have a dinner date Friday night at Le Tours."
"What's the dress code?" Mac asked.
"Dress whites for me, a nice dress for you," he said.
Mac smiled at the thought of Harm in his dress whites, then frowned as she remembered that most of her really nice clothes no longer fit. "I suppose that means I have to go shopping for a new dress," Mac complained.
"I could help you," Harm said suggestively.
"I'm sure you could," she replied with a laugh. "But I'd probably get more accomplished if I went with Harriet or Sydney."
"But it wouldn't be as much fun," he joked.
"Red light, Commander ... at least here," Mac said softly. "We can continue this conversation tonight at home later."
"I look forward to it," Harm said, a grin on his face.
"Sir, Ma'am, sorry to interrupt," Bud said, entering Mac's office. "Colonel, here's the case file on the Lawson court-martial. The trial starts next week. Since the case was continued anyway, I suggested to the Admiral that maybe you should still be lead counsel on the case."
Mac took the file gratefully, thankful to have an actual case, an actual court-martial to work on. She had been a bit worried, before AJ had assured her otherwise earlier, that she might be assigned administrative duties upon her return. "Thank you, Bud," she said. "Why don't we get together after the staff meeting to go over the case?"
"Yes, Ma'am," Bud replied. "Welcome back, Colonel."
"Thank you, Bud," she said. Bud departed, leaving Harm and Mac alone again.
"If I were to receive a nickel every time someone says 'Welcome back' or 'It's good to have you back' today," Mac joked as she turned back to her e-mail, "I wouldn't have to work." She studied the list of messages that had just finished downloading and smiled. "Over two hundred messages while I was gone and it looks like about half of them are from the same person. Maybe I need to have a talk with someone about the proper use of the government e-mail system."
"Hey, most of those are legitimate, work-related messages," Harm defended himself. "Keeping you up to date on pending cases, things like that."
With a chuckle, Mac read a few of the messages. He was right, many of them did pertain to cases. "I guess that's one way to get caught up on cases," she murmured as she click on another message. She read the message she had just opened then looked up at Harm. "Most, but not all," she pointed out.
Harm leaned over the desk to get a better view of the monitor and read the first few lines of the message. "Singer was in my office at the time, going on about this case she wanted to help me on," he explained. "I needed the distraction to keep from falling asleep listening to her drone on."
"You know, if you were talking about anyone else," she said, "I'd say that was mean. But since it's Singer, I'll let it slide. It doesn't surprise me she would try to weasel her way into some extra cases while I was gone."
"Actually, it was just the one case she wanted in on," Harm said, shrugging. "She's been acting a little strange for a while now. Now that I think about it, her change in attitude goes back to the shooting."
Mac looked at him for a moment, trying to determine if he was serious or not. Finally, she asked, stunned, "Are you trying to tell me that Lieutenant Singer, who would cross the Admiral if she thought it would help her get ahead, was actually concerned about someone besides herself?"
"Well," he pointed out, "she was kind of nice, almost pleasant even, at the cookout yesterday. And she did hang around the hospital with the rest of the staff that first day."
"I still don't trust her as far as I could throw her," she said.
"I don't either," Harm said firmly. As little too firmly, as it turned out, which resulted in Mac giving him a strange look. He never had told her about his suspicions that Singer had put that mishap report in her car a few months ago. Fortunately, Singer had, with the exception of that little rumor a while back, pretty much behaved herself since. Maybe she had taken his promise to heart. "Look, let's not think about that, okay? You need to concentrate on getting caught up."
"And you need to get to your office and get to work," she reminded him.
"Fine," he said, "I'm going. Lunch later?"
"Of course," she replied. "See you at the meeting."
After Harm left her office, Mac turned back to her computer and started working her way through her mail. Not even a minute had passed when the phone rang. Picking the phone up, she answered, "Colonel Mackenzie."
Mac leaned back in her chair, stunned. Of all the people, this was the last person she expected to call her. She hadn't heard from him since ...
Taking a deep breath, she said, "Hello, Mic. What can I do for you?"
"I had called a few weeks ago," Mic explained, "and one of the Petty Officers said that you were in hospital after being shot. I thought I'd call and see how you were doing. I checked and found out you were coming back to work today. I debated about calling you earlier, but didn't think it was a good idea to call you at home or the hospital. Never know who might answer there."
"Thank you," Mac said, "and I'm fine. Just glad to be back at work." She was careful not to say too much. She had no way of knowing, unless he brought it up, just how much he knew about her current situation.
"And Harm?" he asked hesitantly.
"Harm is fine," she replied. She didn't need to tell Mic how worried Harm had been about her, about the wedding coming about, about the babies. She couldn't love him the way he had wanted her to love him, but she didn't want to hurt him any more than necessary either.
"That's good to hear," he said. Both of them were silent for a moment before Mic continued quietly, "Are you happy, Sarah?"
"Yes, I am," she said without hesitation. She knew that probably wasn't the answer he wanted to hear, but she didn't want to give Mic any reason to think that he might still have a chance.
"Good," he said dully. "I'm glad for you. Are you planning to get married anytime soon, start a family?"
Mac did hesitate this time. Was he just fishing for information or was he simply confirming something he had already heard? She wasn't sure she wanted to get into this with him.
"Sorry," Mic said. "I shouldn't ... well, when I called before, the Petty Officer mentioned something about a baby."
"I'm due towards the end of February," she admitted softly. There was another pause on the other end of the line. Mac felt bad and briefly wondered who the nameless Petty Officer was, then decided that it didn't matter. If Mic had called, saying he used to work at JAG, whoever he had talked to may not have known who he was and may have just assumed that he would be interested that a former coworker, who just happened to be pregnant, had been shot.
"Well ... I guess congratulations are in order," he said sadly. He had been hoping that his information about the baby was wrong, that maybe there was still a chance, however remote, that things would not work out between her and Rabb. "I suppose there's a wedding in your future, too."
Does he really want to discuss this, she wondered. But maybe it was better that he knew that there was no reason for him to hold out hope. "The last day of September," she said. She looked up to find Harm standing in her doorway again.
"It's time for the staff meeting," he said, noting the sad expression on her face.
"Is that Harm I hear?" Mic asked. "I'd like to speak to him a moment."
Her eyes still on Harm, she replied, "I don't know if that's such a good idea."
"No fighting," he promised. "At least on my part. I would just like to say something to him."
Mac sighed. "I'll ask if he wants to, but that's all I'll do," she insisted. Before he could respond, she put her hand over the mouthpiece and motioned Harm into the office. "Um, Mic is on the phone and would like to speak to you."
Now her expression makes sense, he thought. Softly, he asked, "Has he upset you?"
"Not in the way you think," she responded, just as softly. "I'll explain later. You don't have to talk to him if you don't want to."
After thinking about it for a moment, he said, "No, I'll talk to him."
Hesitantly, she held out the phone to Harm, who took it only after closing the office door. "Hello, Mic," he said politely as Mac continued to watch him. He was determined to make this conversation as civil as possible.
Harm said nothing, just listened to Mic on the other end. After what seemed like forever to Mac, he said, "Yes, she is. No, I understand. Yes, I'll tell her. Goodbye, Mic." He handed the phone back to Mac, who hung it up then waited for him to speak.
"He just wanted me to confirm that you really are all right," Harm explained, "and to tell me to take care of you." At her disbelieving expression, he added, "Really, that's all he said, aside from congratulating us on the wedding and the pregnancy. It was very civil, considering everything."
"You'd tell me if there was something else?" she asked as she got up and moved towards the door.
"Yes, I would," he promised as he opened the door and they both headed for the staff meeting.
"You wanted to see me, Admiral?" Harm asked as he entered AJ's office and came attention in front of the desk.
"As you were and take a seat," AJ insisted as he signed his name to some papers in front of him. Once finished, he looked up at Harm. "How is Mac doing being back at work?"
"She seems to be doing fine so far," Harm said. "She's been busy this morning trying to get caught up."
"Good," AJ said. "Now, I called you in here because we have a situation that requires your assistance. At NAS Ft. Worth, an Air Force F-18 and a Navy F-14 collided at the airfield, one taking off, one landing. Everyone ejected safely, fortunately. Since you used to be a pilot yourself, the local JAG office has requested your assistance with the investigation. You and Lieutenant Roberts will be on a flight in the morning out of Andrews."
AJ held up his hand before Harm could protest. "I know the timing on this is not the greatest," he admitted. "I admit that I had second thoughts about sending you, but you are the best person for this investigation and it can't wait. I hope it will make you feel better to know that Mac has a lot of friends here who will be there for her if she needs anything."
"I don't know if 'feel better' is the right phrase," Harm said, "but I suppose I don't have a choice."
"No," AJ said, "such is life in the military. We don't get to choose our assignments and with Mac doing better and back at work, I don't see a compelling reason to turn down the request. I hope you understand, Commander."
"I do, Sir," Harm replied. He didn't like it, but he understood.
"Good," AJ said. "Dismissed."
Harm stood and come to attention. "Aye, aye, Sir." He turned and left the office, heading straight for Mac's, where he found her pouring over a case file.
"Got a minute?" he asked, sitting down in one of the chairs in front of her desk.
Mac smiled at him as she looked up from the file. "Sure," she said, rubbing her neck. "I could use the break. I've been going over files most of the day."
"When was the last time you got up and walked around?" Harm asked, concerned. "That chair is probably getting a little uncomfortable."
Mac smiled. "It could definitely use some more padding," she replied. "I wonder what the Admiral would say if I put in a request for a new chair. Anyway, to answer your question, not since lunch."
"Come on, then," Harm said. "Let's take a break and walk outside. That will fulfill your requirement to get up and walk around every so often and I need to talk to you about something."
Mac grabbed her cap from the desk drawer and followed Harm to his office, where he quickly grabbed his cover. They were silent as they descended in the elevator and walked outside. As they began walking around the grounds, Mac finally broke the silence and said, "Something's bothering you."
"The Admiral called me into his office just now," he said. "There was a crash at NAS Ft. Worth involving an Air Force jet and a Navy jet. The local JAG office has requested that I head up the investigation, due to my aviation experience."
"When do you leave?" Mac asked.
"Bud and I leave tomorrow morning," he replied. "I don't know how long it will take. Could take a while depending on how well we get along with the Air Force investigators."
"You don't really want to go," she said.
"That obvious, huh?"
"Probably not to the average person," she said, "but I know you too well."
"I suppose you do," he said with a sigh. "You're right, I'm not happy about going away. Not now, anyway. You just did go back to work today."
"Harm, I'm fine," she replied. "If I wasn't fine, the doctor never would have cleared me to come back to work. Anyway, I'm sure that while you're gone more than one person will be checking up on me, just to make sure that I am okay."
Harm laughed a little. "The Admiral did make the point that you have a lot of friends who would be there if you need anything," he told her.
"Probably beginning with the Admiral himself and Sydney," she added. "They've both been really supportive since - well, since we told them about the pregnancy. Besides, I am a Marine and am perfectly capable of taking care of myself for however long you are gone. Doesn't mean I won't miss you, though."
"I'll miss you, too," he said. "I'll try to come home as soon as possible."
"You said you leave tomorrow, right?" she asked, smiling suggestively. When he nodded, she added, "Then I'll have to make sure to give you a proper send off tonight."
Harm grinned at her. "Just what do you have in mind?" he asked.
"I'm glad to put today behind me," Mac said as Harm pulled into their driveway. "You know how hard it is to get back into working when you've been pretty much lying around for two weeks?"
"How are you feeling?" Harm asked.
"Good, but a little tired," she admitted. "I spent most of the day hunched over case files, couldn't sit in my chair for more than an hour at a time without my back hurting and I had a somewhat uncomfortable phone conversation with the man who moved halfway around the world because he wanted me to marry him."
"Sound like what you need is a good massage," Harm suggested as he waited for the garage door to open. "I ... Sarah, do you know whose car that is?"
Mac looked in the direction he was looking and saw an unfamiliar mid-sized sedan in the driveway in front of the other side of the garage. "I didn't even notice that car there," she said. "I don't recognize it."
There was no one in the car, so Mac looked around and caught sight of two figures on the front porch. "There are two people on the porch," she began, then her voice rose with excitement as one of the figures looked towards them and Mac recognized the people waiting for them. "Harm, it's Chloe and her grandmother," she exclaimed as she climbed out of the car and walked as fast as she could towards the porch while Chloe jumped off the porch and ran into her arms.
"Mac, it's so good to see you," Chloe exclaimed, her words running together. "You've gotten so big. Gram and I went to Hawaii with Dad and we thought we'd stop by for a quick visit on our way back to Vermont. Hi, Harm. Have you asked Mac to marry you yet?" She called out to Harm as he got out of the car and headed in their direction.
"Chloe!" her grandmother exclaimed as Harm and Mac laughed.
"It's okay, Martha," Mac said through her laughter. She showed her left hand to Chloe. "He finally asked me last Monday."
"Finally?" Harm teased as Chloe released Mac and hugged him. "It wasn't my fault it took me some time to be able to get away to see your uncle."
"Martha, this is my fiancé, Harm Rabb," Mac introduced them. "Harm, this is Chloe's grandmother, Martha Anderson."
"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Anderson," Harm said, holding out his hand to her.
"Please call me Martha," she insisted as she shook his hand. "Chloe has told me so much about you. She really enjoyed spending that month with you two earlier this summer."
"Call me Harm," he said. "Chloe talks a lot about you, too. It's a pleasure to finally talk to you in person."
Chloe smiled and started on Mac again. "Remember my dream I told you about almost a year ago? I said you guys were gonna get married. You've gotta make me your flower girl now so the dream really does come true," she insisted excitedly.
Mac laughed as she remembered the phone call during which Chloe had told her about that particular dream. "Well, who else would I have?" she teased.
"Yes!" Chloe cried as she hugged Mac again.
"Why don't we take this inside?" Harm suggested. "We have some more news to share. How long before you have to head home?"
"We don't want to impose," Martha said.
Harm and Mac exchanged a look and silently agreed. They would have other times when they could be alone together. "Don't worry about it," Harm said. "I have to fly to Texas tomorrow for an investigation, so Sarah could use the company."
"Harm, I don't need a babysitter," Mac whispered to him as they all entered the house.
"I wasn't thinking that at all," he whispered back. "Okay, maybe I was, just a little. But mostly, I was thinking that you would like to spend a few days with your little sister."
"Sorry," she replied. Louder, she said, "Why don't you make yourselves comfortable. Would either of you like anything?"
"We're fine," Martha insisted after sharing a look with her granddaughter. "I'm sure you two would like to go change out of those uniforms."
"If you're sure," Mac said. At Martha's nod, Mac continued, "Then we'll be back in a few minutes."
As they changed out of their uniforms and into casual clothes in their bedroom a few moments later, Mac said, "Thank you."
"For what?" Harm countered. "Insisting that Chloe and Martha stay? Sarah, they're important to you, so that makes them important to me. We can be alone together another time."
"You're so good to me," she said, wrapping her arms around his waist.
"I love you, that's why," he said. "Why don't we go back and join our guests? I'm sure they will be thrilled to hear about the twins."
"We might want to wear ear plugs," Mac joked. "I can just imagine Chloe's reaction. We also should probably tell them about the shooting since we weren't able to get in touch with them while they were in Hawaii."
A few moments later, Harm and Mac were back downstairs. "Before we share our good news, we have some not-so-good news to share," Mac began as she tried to get comfortable on the couch. Harm handed her a throw pillow which she placed behind her back. "Two weeks ago, there was a shooting at JAG and I was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the chest."
"Dear God," Martha exclaimed. "Are you okay, Sarah? What about the baby?"
"Well, it was pretty serious," Mac said gently, "but it definitely could have been a lot worse. But we're fine. In a few days, my OB wants to do an amnio, just to rule out any complications due to the medications or anesthesia from the surgery. But everything does look good. Today was my first day back at work."
"The Admiral tried to contact you," Harm continued, "but I didn't know you had gone to Hawaii."
"It was a last minute trip," Chloe explained, tears in her eyes. "Dad got some leave unexpectedly and suggested the trip. I wish I could have been here."
"It's okay," Mac reassured her. "Everything did turn out fine in the end and we even found something unexpected out while I was in the hospital." She took a breath and smiled at Chloe. "I had an ultrasound while I was in the hospital. There isn't just a baby, there are two. We're going to have twins."
"YES!" Chloe screamed and all the adults resisted the urge to cover their ears. "So, do you know what you're going to have yet? Have you picked out any names?"
"Not yet," Mac replied, "but if we want to know, the amnio will tell us. And no names yet. We hadn't even thought about a name for a single baby and now we have to pick out two."
"Congratulations," Martha said, patting Mac's hand. "That's very good news, considering everything that's happened. So when are you planning on getting married?"
"30 September," Harm replied, "at the chapel at the Naval Academy."
"So, what day is that?" Chloe asked, then thought a moment. "It's a Saturday, right? I assume there'll be a rehearsal the day before. So Gram, I guess I'll just have to miss school, huh?"
"Chloe Madison," Martha began, but Chloe quickly interrupted.
"Come on, Gram," she insisted. "This is Harm and Mac. As flower girl, I have to be involved in the rehearsal."
"We'll see," Martha said, shaking her head. She knew she'd eventually agree to missing one day of school, but she didn't want her granddaughter to think she was giving in too easily.
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